It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Tobio wasn’t supposed to actually succeed in his attempts at being the best. Karasuno weren’t supposed to win. It was supposed to be him and Iwa facing off against Ushiwaka again.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
But things had an unfortunate habit of not going how Oikawa wanted. His parents divorcing. Getting replaced by Tobio in a match in middle school —and then letting it actually bother him. His father remarrying that witch of a woman who stopped them from seeing each other. His knee injury. This game.
And now he strongly suspected that he’d really been surpassed. Now, Iwaizumi was crying, the whole team was upset, even if they weren’t showing it outwardly, and they were looking to him to lead, to act like a decent captain and be strong like he ought to in times like this.
There is no time for him to be weak.
He grasps Karasuno’s captain’s hands, giving them a squeeze, and he opens his mouth like he wants to speak, wants to wish him good luck for their upcoming match, but he doesn’t. He can’t wish them luck against a team they weren’t even supposed to be playing. He can’t hope they win, for that means that Karasuno really are better, that they’ll have achieved something Oikawa himself couldn’t. It will mean that Tobio is better – for Oikawa is sure that his team is more put together than Karasuno, at least. Iwaizumi is better than their ace, Watari is almost certainly equal to that little libero with the wild hair, and his other spikers and blockers are all almost definitely equal to, if not actually better than their counterparts on Karasuno. If the teams are roughly equal, then it has to come down to setters, and if Karasuno win, well, that just means that Tobio is better.
He doesn’t know what he’ll do if Karasuno are better.
He can only scowl at Tobio when he sees him, remind him that this just makes them even. One match each. He hasn’t quite lost, not yet. He hasn’t won, either. Next time, next time will decide, if there even is a next time, though he’s sure of the outcome already.
He holds it together through Coach’s talk. He holds it together as he claps Iwa on the back before they thank the crowd for supporting them. He outright sneers as he’s cornered by his old enemy and he manages to come up with some pretty decent comebacks, though Ushiwaka’s words always linger and roll around inside his head longer than he’d like to admit. He doubts now will be an exception.
He holds it together through the mostly-silent bus ride home. He ignores the sounds of sniffling and sobbing as best he can. Makki and Mattsun seem to find some comfort in holding hands, at least, though he has no such thing himself. All he can do is look around and hope that everyone is okay. He can forget about himself for the time being. The first years seem okay, despite their earlier upset. The second years are similar, and thank goodness Yahaba seems to have the Mad-Dog —no, Kyotani – situation under control. Heaven only knows what he might do if someone didn’t have an eye on him.
Most of them seem alright, even if they’d been shaken earlier. They’ll get over this and work harder for it next year.
Iwa doesn’t look at him for the rest of the journey home. He just lays his head against the window and stares out of it. Oikawa so desperately wants to ask what he’s thinking, wants to know what’s going on inside that brain of his, but if he asks, he’s terrified of the answer he might get. Iwa’s already put himself down enough today. Iwa’s already been questioning his skill. If he asks, he’s terrified that all that’s going to come out is a string of self-insults and swearing.
He holds it together as he and Iwa walk home.
He loses it when Iwaizumi turns to leave him at the gate outside his house. Sobs shake through him, and he can’t move but to raise his hands to cover his face in a pitiful attempt to hide himself. He’s held it together this long, he’s been strong for his team. Now, though, the last one has turned his back, and he allows himself some weakness. He’s done his job, he’s been strong for them. Now is the time to let it out.
He can’t help it. This was his last chance. It was Iwa’s last chance. It was Mattsun and Makki’s last chance. The second years have two more shots at nationals. The first years have four. The third years have none, the four of them have no more chances and now they may never even get another chance to play together.
He sinks against Iwaizumi when he turns back, his strong arms wrapping around Oikawa’s middle. Oikawa has long stopped being ashamed of crying around Iwa, has long stopped caring about what it looks like or what people may think of him sobbing into his best friend’s shoulder when he’s upset. So he does it now, probably soaking Iwa’s shirt through in the process, but he’s never minded before. Why should he mind now?
“We did our best,” Iwaizumi tells him.
“It wasn’t enough.” He recalls every play, every toss that wasn’t quite perfect, every time they got blocked, every time a good spike got received with apparent ease, every messed up attempt at receiving.
He recalls the last play most clearly. He’d read it, he’d seen it, he’d figured out exactly where that ball was going to go and then – damn it, it had hit Kindaichi’s arm and he’d not been quick enough. He wasn’t quick enough, he wasn’t fast enough, he hadn’t done it right. Their own play before hadn’t been enough, literally flinging himself into harm’s way and giving himself bruises all over to give Iwa one last spike hadn’t been enough.
He wasn’t enough. He never was.
They could have done so much more.
They could have been so much more.
“We couldn’t have done anything more.”
“We could have. We can. We always can. You always tell us we can try harder.”
It wasn’t fair.
He isn’t sure how long he stands there for. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t really care. All he knows is that when Iwa offers to stay over to keep him company, he just nods because he needs it. Being alone is not an option.
They don’t talk much that evening. Usually their time is spent laughing and chatting. In the evenings, before they go to sleep, sometimes they ponder life’s mysteries and the meaning of it all and start asking deep, thoughtful questions. The topic of aliens is a frequent one.
They don’t do any of that tonight. No, Iwaizumi just takes his usual place on the futon beside Oikawa’s bed, and they lie in silence.
It is long after midnight when Oikawa whispers into the darkness.
“Iwa, I can’t sleep.”
They fall into silence again for some time.
“Get into bed with me. I don’t want to sleep alone.”
No answer, and Oikawa briefly wonders if he’s messed up, if he oughtn’t to have asked. The rustle of movement tells him otherwise, and soon Iwaizumi has slipped into bed beside him.
It feels almost normal, natural – but then, they used to share this very bed when they were kids and they didn’t want the monsters to get them.
How different the monsters are now.
“Don’t worry about it.”
They are still and quiet in the darkness for a while more, and anyone else would think they’d fallen asleep – but they know each other too well for that.
He’s tentative at first, as he moves to snuggle up closer. Sleeping beside each other is one thing, cuddling close is another entirely.
“What are we supposed to do now?” He mumbles into Iwa’s chest.
“We go to sleep.”
“No, I mean, we lost today. What now?”
“We hand the club to the second years and let Yahaba take over as captain.”
“Is that it?”
“What else would there be?”
“I still haven’t beaten Ushiwaka.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Iwa’s arms finally make their way around Oikawa’s middle. “We’ll get him someday.”
“I don’t know, but we will. Together. We’re a team, remember?”
All is quiet once more, but it’s comfortable. Oikawa contents himself with listening to Iwa’s heartbeat and his breathing for several moments.
“Do you think I really should’ve gone to Shiratorizawa?” The question has played on his mind for years, and even more so after today’s confrontation. Here feels like the only safe place to actually ask it.
“Do you mean that?”
“Oh. Thanks, Iwa. You’re the best.” He doesn’t expect any more discussion on the matter.
“I wouldn’t trade the last three years for anything.”
“You heard me. I liked playing with you. I wouldn’t want to change that. I’m glad you didn’t go to a different school.”
He can only smile as he answers again. “You’re secretly a big softie, huh?”
“Shut up and go to sleep or I’m never saying anything nice again.”
“Whatever you say, Iwa.”
Silence, once more.
“You know you’re supposed to be nice and say it back, right?”
“You. You’re supposed to be nice and tell me you’re glad you didn’t go to Shiratorizawa, dumbass.”
Aha. The insult means everything’s back to normal, at least.
“Oops! Well, I’m very glad I didn’t because then I wouldn’t have been able to spend time with my bestest friend in the whole world. That’s you, by the way.”
“And you called me soft.”
“I called you secretly soft. There’s a difference, silly.”
“Whatever you say, stupid.”
“Love you too, Iwa.”
“Shut up, I never said that.”
“Mm. Okay. Doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
There is quiet once more, and an angry huff of air followed by a short peck on the forehead.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say.”
“You mean I’m right and you do love me?”
“Shut up and go to sleep.”