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It starts with a dream.

So, they’re in the gym during a match. Except it’s not their gym, it’s more like a weird shopping mall, but Tooru knows somehow that it’s supposed to be their gym. And the team they’re playing against is Karasuno except it’s not Karasuno, it’s just Tobio-chan in a bunch of different wigs playing all of the positions. He tries to tell the ref that, and he tries to get them disqualified because one guy can’t play all the positions (and still be winning, how in the hell is he winning?), but the ref is Ushiwaka, of all fucking people--

Are you kidding me, Tooru keeps yelling. Is this a fucking joke?

“No,” Ushiwaka glares down at him. “You’re the joke.”

And he lunges forward, but there are arms wrapping around his middle, pulling him off the court kicking and screaming through the department store’s perfume section where his mom and sister and second grade teacher are spritzing people with samples that don’t smell like anything (do they?)

He knows, before he even has the chance to look, that the person carrying him out is Iwa-chan. Except it’s not really Iwa-chan, and they’re not in the mall/gym anymore. They’re in homeroom, with no one else around, and Iwa-chan says, “I know you know what I really am.”

And Tooru says back, because it’s obvious, “An alien.”

It’s true. Somehow he knows it, without even having to question it. It’s just what makes sense. What doesn’t particularly make sense is that he’s wearing a girls’ uniform, and when a gust of wind picks up from nowhere and lifts his skirt, he realizes he’s not wearing anything underneath except for his thigh high socks.

“I want to feel how humans feel,” Alien-Iwa says, loosening his tie and leaning in over the desk. “I want to feel with you, Shittykawa.”

-

Tooru wakes with a start, heart pounding in time with the throbbing between his legs. He gasps, realizing he hasn’t been breathing, and blinks at his ceiling. He shifts, groaning--there’s a dampness inside of his boxers. He slams his eyes shut again, thinking, oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.

The phone on his nightstand buzzes, and when reads the screen, he’s somehow not even a little surprised that the text is from Iwa-chan, (IWA CHAN heart emoji, flexing emoji, angry face emoji). Get up we’re getting ramen and ur treating

The jizz in his boxers asks, how are you going to face him now?

He stares at his crotch for a moment. “Luckily my face is the best thing about me, so I’ll manage.”

-

He thinks to himself, trying not to focus too much on the way Hajime’s shoulders are stretching his t-shirt, that maybe the dream isn’t what started it. It probably started when Iwa-chan’s growth spurt hit last year--when he realized he wasn’t going to outgrow Tooru height wise and decided bulking up on muscle mass was the next best thing.

So suddenly all of Iwa-chan’s shirts and tanks and sweaters were practically bursting at the seams at the strain of his thick arms, his broad back and chest. Those patent basketball shorts and sweatpants started to stretch obscenely around his thighs, over the curve of his ass, and it wasn’t as if Tooru was the only one starring. There’s a secret group text between most of the third years on the team where they all try to take discreet selfies with Iwa-chan’s butt, and the most daring pictures get the most points. (Tooru had been in the lead for nearly six months into the game, naturally, when someone added Kunimi into the group. Fearless, deadpan Kunimi who got right up under Iwa-chan with a peace sign just as Iwa-chan was bending over to pick something up and his pants ripped. No one has been able to top it).

So yes. Everyone stares at Iwa-chan, including Tooru. The only difference is Tooru stares so much that it’s manifesting itself in his subconscious.

Yeah, Tooru thinks, staring into his bowl, it probably started then. And that means it’s definitely Iwa-chan’s stupid fault, but it also means it’s all like...physiological. It’s just his sensitive teenage body dealing with some sensory overload. It doesn’t really mean anything.

He types out a text in the group chat, has iwa-chan’s ass featured in anyone’s dreams lately? lololol

Iwa-chan finishes a long, unnecessarily loud slurp of noodles before going, “You’re being weird.”

“Am I?” Tooru asks, quickly erasing the message. “Hm.”

“You depressed, or something?”

He shrugs. “I guess I just didn’t sleep well.”

“You shouldn’t use your phone in bed. Or your laptop,” Iwa-chan scoots in closer, grabbing a shrimp out of Tooru’s bowl. “The light messes with the way your body releases melatonin, which is what helps make you sleep.”

“Iwa-chan, so smart,” Tooru sings, stealing a slice of beef from Iwa-chan’s bowl. “But I’d expect no less from a future physician.”

It doesn’t get the over the top reaction he was hoping for--wide eyes and spluttering and maybe some blushing. But Iwa-chan definitely flinches, just barely. “I haven’t even been accepted to the program yet. My grades...they’re alright. I probably should’ve focused more on them than I did volleyball, but.”

Why does that sting just the tiniest bit? Tooru rolls his shoulders, facing forward again. “They’ll accept you.”

Iwa-chan stares. “You really are being so weird right now. It’s kind of pissing me off.”

“Me being nice and supportive is weird?”

“So weird.”

“Rude!”

He shoves at Iwa-chan’s shoulder (broad, broad shoulder), and Iwa-chan shoves him back hard it enough to almost knock him off his stool.

-

He knows he’s dreaming, but he doesn’t know how to wake up. He’s not sure he wants to, because part of him has always thought there was something rugged about a fisherman’s lifestyle. Coupled together on a tiny boat, out at sea for weeks on end, at the whim of the elements--it’s all very grand and heroic sounding, but the biggest problem with this fantasy is that he’d have to grow a beard. All good salty boat captains have great, lush beards. He’s seventeen and he still can’t grow one, and when he tries it’s patchy and orange colored. This is probably the reason his dream has supplied him with a rowboat instead of a real fishing boat, and instead of a true first mate, he has Dream-Iwa.

“Are you still an alien?” Tooru asks, the boat beneath them rocking with the ocean tide.

“I don’t think so,” Iwa-chan looks down at his hands. “I think I’m just a human now.”

Tooru frowns. “Who did that to you?”

Iwa-chan’s eyes flicker up. “You did. You made me this way.”

The birds circling overhead squawk as he watches Iwa-chan pick at the skin around his fingernails, and Tooru realizes his feet are wet. The boat keeps sinking, but will stop and drain, then start sinking again. Tooru wishes it would either stop, or just sink, because he can’t take this back and forth anymore.

Iwa-chan asks, “Will you still love me even if I’m human?”

The boat rocks harder, and it’s now Tooru notices they’re not in the ocean. They’re in a giant bowl of ramen. He says, “I’ll always love you.”

Iwa-chan looks up, smile slicing across his face before he propels himself forward, tackling Tooru back. They break through the bottom of the boat and free fall into Iwa-chan’s underwater bedroom. Tooru is pinned, arms and legs under the weight of Iwa-chan’s, but the sensation of falling just won’t quit.

Tooru startles awake, limbs in a tangle of sheets and clammy with sweat. His alarm clock lets him know only 5am. Through his blinds the barest hint of light is trickling into the sky, and he sighs, exhaling all the air out of him. The heat in the house ticks and clinks through the radiator, and he lies there for a moment, rush of images streaming through his mind before he sits up.

He supposes it’s as good a time as ever to go out for a walk.

Both of his parents sleep like the dead--a trait that somehow skipped Tooru entirely. He’s pretty sure he might be the lightest sleeper on the face of the planet. “I hate when you sleep over,” Iwa-chan always says. “You never go to sleep, and if you’re awake, I’m awake.”

He takes out his phone and opens a text to IWA CHAN (heart emoji, flexing emoji, angry face emoji.) what if i don’t go to college and just become a fisherman instead

He jumps when he gets a response seconds later, phone buzzing in his pocket, and when he takes it out it reads. U r nowhere near rugged enough

RUDE

Tooru sits down on the curb. He loves that Iwa-chan’s awake right now, that he answered Tooru right away. He loves it especially because he knows it won’t always be like this.

you can’t even grow a real beard lolol u suck

He scoffs. The girl from down the street runs by, staring at him as she pumps her arms, workout clothes clinging, ponytail swishing over her slim shoulders. He barely spares her a second glance, doesn’t care if she thinks he’s weird sitting out on the curb at 5am on his phone, because he needs to let Hajime know he’s being so rude right now.

IWA CHAN STOP BEING MEAN IT’S TOO EARLY, he types back, and stares at the little bubble that lets Tooru know Iwa-chan’s writing something back. Something about how if it’s not too early for Tooru to be a brat then he’s not too early for Hajime to be--

if you became a fisherman i’d have to be one with you because you would 1000% die without me

Oh. Tooru clutches at the front of his shirt over his heart. Shit.

-

Maybe it didn’t start when Iwa-chan bulked up, or with these dreams. He knows it didn’t. He doesn’t think this thing plays by rules like having a start or an end--it just is, as sure as they just are. When he wracks his brain, rolling around on his bedroom floor with his phone, staring at Iwa-chan’s last text, the only thing his mind supplies is a memory. One of a tiny Iwaizumi Hajime talking to him as he helped Tooru limp home after a bad bike accident, one that left his knees and palms torn up, his eyes leaking. So Hajime kept asking random questions to distract Tooru from the pain.

“Oikawa. Hey, Oikawa, why do you like aliens so much?”

“‘Cause they’ve got big heads and bug eyes,” Tooru’d sniffled, then laughed. “So they remind me of you.”

He realizes the only reason Hajime didn’t hit him then was because Tooru was still bleeding so bad--weeks later, when the bandages came off, Iwa-chan delivered a swift strike to the gut, claiming, That was for the alien comment, you jerk.

In all honesty, his parents bought him a t-shirt with an alien on it, and it was just so soft it quickly became Tooru’s favorite shirt--his mom used to have to wrestle him out of it so she could throw it in the wash. He’d wear it for days on end, wore it past the point where he grew out of it, and his grandma cut out the front and sewed it into a larger sweater, and when he grew out of that it was sewn into a quilt that Tooru still has.

So everyone just assumed he loved aliens, and his world started to morph . Comforter, pajamas, toys--everything was space themed all of the sudden. Before he knew it, Tooru just kind of...loved them. They were weird and funny and so familiar. They reminded him of a lot of good times, a lot of good things, and now they’re just a part of him.

He flops onto his stomach, thinking, aliens definitely don’t have to worry about shit like falling for their best friends.

The little alien bobblehead on his shelf stares down at him, and offers to reply.

“Tooru,” his dad pokes his head in. “There’s another letter.”

Of course there is. “Could you just leave it on the desk?”

There’s a sigh, but his dad slips the thick envelope on top of his school books, and leaves. Tooru sits up, phone still open, thumbs hovering over the screen, poised and ready.

Iwa-chan where are you--

No, he shakes his head, erasing it. Too abrupt.

We’re in the flush of youth right now Iwa-chan and even though--

Tooru groans, flopping back. Iwa-chan would just think he’s being ridiculous and dramatic (which he never is), and he erases that message, too, rolling over onto his stomach. He tries, desperately, to find the words, tapping endlessly at his phone. He writes about wanting to always play volleyball together, and about how they’ve been friends for so long it’d be weird if they split up now, and that even if Iwaizumi doesn’t want to play volleyball anymore it doesn’t matter they’re still teammates in life, and--

Hell. No.

He erases it immediately, and writes in it’s place, Iwa-channnnn let’s hang out.

i cant, Iwa-chan sends back, i have a date.

Tooru stares at those words for the longest time, and flings his phone across the room. He grabs his pillow from off his bed and presses it against his face, mouth open and wanting to scream, but nothing comes out.

-

They’re waiting on Iwa-chan at the diner Saturday night, and Tooru keeps checking his phone for new messages that aren’t there--he’s been so busy with school he hasn’t had time to really talk to anyone besides the team and his mom. He pouts, because Makki and Mattsun have their own language where they have say things, interrupt each other, and then laugh. It’s infuriating, and! And! So inconsiderate!

When he says as much, Hanamaki folds his arms over his chest. “Don’t even--you and Iwaizumi are a thousand times worse.”

Tooru opens his mouth, about to argue that, when Matsukawa looks over his head

“Iwaizumi! Yo!” he says, waving an arm.

“‘Sup? Move over,” he hipchecks Tooru further into the booth, sliding in. “What’d I miss?”

“Nothing.” Matsukawa leans in, waggling his eyebrow as he asks, “How’d your date go?”

Tooru digs his phone out of his jacket pocket, opens an email addressed to no one, and just starts writing random shit because he needs distraction from this totally boring conversation. Honestly.

“Ah, you know,” Iwa-chan sniffs, his arm pressing against Tooru’s, knees bumping under the table. “She was cute an’ all, but we didn’t really click.”

“You don’t need to click. You’re seventeen. Who the hell clicks at seventeen?”

you know what i haven’t had in forever? Tooru types. ice cream in a cone. a cone just makes it so much better

“I felt like I had to tone myself down a lot so I wouldn’t scare her.”

what if instead of going to college i travel. hike mountains. live in caves. fight bears. never sit in a gross diner with greasy food and greasy boys ever again

“Man, you’re so uncool. That girl was hot. No one that hot is ever gonna be interested in you again.”

Hanamaki makes a noise. “And really, we both know the real reason he’s not going out with her again.”

Iwa-chan launches himself across the table and yanks Makki’s hood over his head, laughing all the while. Tooru furiously types, i ahte him i hate him i hate him IHATE HIM

“You boys settle down or I’ll kick you out, you hear!”

“Yes ma’am,” Hajime answers immediately, sitting back down as he gives Makki’s head one last shove. “And you, shut your mouth. The both’ve you.”

Tooru’s thumbs fly against the tiny keypad. i love him i love him goddammit i love him what the HELL

“Hey,” Iwa-chan’s there suddenly, his face so close. Eyes flickering down. “Who do you love?”

Without thinking, as he catches sight of some middle schooler’s t-shirt out of the corner of his eye, Tooru answers, “Bowser.”

There’s a bunch of slow blinking from everyone around him. Tooru starts to sweat.

“Bowser,” Iwa-chan says slowly, rolling the name around in his mouth. “Like...from the video games?”

“Yes,” Tooru flicks his hair out his face. “From the video games.”

A smile stretches across Iwa-chan’s face, and he tries to cover it with a fist he brings up to his mouth as he laughs. “You’re so weird.”

Tooru leans into him, striking a flourished pose to make everyone laugh, and says, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Iwa-chan ruffles his hair, snorting, and Tooru’s heart sings against his ribs.

-

That night Kunimi sends another pic to the group text of him and Kindaichi with Iwa-chan’s bare ass in the club room right behind them, and the miniature table they set up with plates of spaghetti and glasses of red wine, Kindaichi sweating bad and frozen with fear as Kunimi pretends to eat a forkful of pasta. It’s followed by the caption that’s one spicy meatball. There's a flood of texts from the third years freaking out.

Tooru scowls and just writes, kunimi if you put as much effort into volleyball as you do these ridiculous pics you’d actually be a half decent player.

He saves the picture, though, crops his underclassmen’s faces out, and pointedly tries to not think about sinking his teeth into the dimples in Iwa-chan’s lower back.

-

He goes out with this girl who works at the convenience store down the road from his house. She’s sweet and brings her hand to her mouth when she laughs this tiny, chiming giggle, and she’s the perfect way for him to get out of this rut he’s been in. Have some fun. Forget all about Iwa-chan and Iwa-chan’s lame date. Not that that’s something he’s been thinking about.

“This was really fun!” Tooru half-lies as he links their arms together. “We should do it again sometime.”

“It’s okay,” she stops dead in the middle of the sidewalk, and when he looks back at her she tilts her head, staring with huge endless eyes. “I know you would’ve rather been with him.”

Tooru yanks himself free. “What?”

“I know you would’ve rather been with him,” she points, and he spins, somehow still surprised when Iwa-chan is standing there, wearing his team uniform, the number four glaring back at him. Tooru whips back to tell her she’s wrong, but she’s turned into Iwa-chan, too. “Wouldn’t you rather be with me, Oikawa?”

Tooru slumps against the brick wall. “I--”

“I know you would,” hands plant themselves on either side of Tooru’s head. “You’re not exactly subtle, you idiot.”

“This isn’t real,” Tooru slams his eyes shut. “You’re not real.”

But when Hajime kisses him, it feels real. He feels the pressure of a warm mouth over his own, he feels Iwa-chan’s hand on his jaw and on his hip, weighted and burning. Hajime doesn’t just kiss him, he brands Tooru--his skin, his lips, his heart, every atom in every cell in Tooru’s crumbling human body.

When he wakes up, it’s not with a start. He doesn’t gasp and jolt upright and shout. His eyes simply slide open, instantly awake even though he feels so drained, and he pulls his covers over his head. The only sound in the room for a good long while is the sound of soft sniffling.

-

“Tooru,” his mom stands in front of the front door, stopping her son from leaving. He thinks to himself that she’d make an impressive middle blocker. “We need to talk soon. About university.”

“Mama,” he whines, “I’m gonna be late.”

She flashes a sympathetic look his way, bringing her slim hands up to cup his face. He grins, his sweetest, most adoring smile, and she smacks his cheek, not hard but swift enough to string. “You can’t avoid this forever.”

-

Walking home together, Tooru wants to ask if they can get dinner, but wonders if maybe Iwa-chan might be seeing that girl again. The thought of Iwa-chan telling him no, I have a date makes Tooru’s stomach twist sharply one way, and then again in another at the sheer hypocrisy of the thought. How many times has he ditched the guys, ditched Iwa-chan, to go stand around in some parking lot with a cute girl? He rubs at the back of his neck, thinking of how he should word it to make himself sound the least desperate and clingy.

“I keep having these weird dreams, lately.”

Tooru snaps his head around to stare at Iwa-chan, his profile outlined by the setting sun, and his mouth moves before the rest of him, going, “Me too. I’ve been having weird dreams, too.”

“I keep having dreams where you jump serve volleyballs at my face and knock all of my teeth out,” Iwa-chan folds his arms behind his head, staring forward. “It’s pretty common, apparently.”

Tooru swallows the lump in his throat, flipping the hair from his face and grinning. “Dreaming about me? I know.”

“Teeth falling out in dreams,” Iwa-chan reaches over and flicks his ear. “It’s supposed to mean fear of change or apprehension about the future, or something.”

“You think it’s true,” Tooru tries to keep his voice steady. “Meaning in dreams, or whatever?”

Iwa-chan shrugs. “I guess. I am pretty nervous about the future. Who isn’t?”

“Iwa-chan? Afraid?” Tooru opens his arms wide. “Impossible!”

Iwa-chan looks at him--a look Tooru cannot for the life of him begin to decipher, because even though he’s smiling so easily, moving under his well worn clothes, in his well worn skin, somehow it seems forced.

-

They’re staring at the pile of formal acceptance letters spread out on the coffee table. He has a lot of options--a lot of great options, in a lot of great cities.

His parents sit across from him, expectantly.

“You know which one has my vote,” his mom sighs. She’s talking about the one that’s only an hour away by train.

“I still,” his hands clench at the fabric of his pants, “don’t know.”

He’d always had this kind of grand vision, like he did with most things, of himself at university. Any time he factors Iwa-chan into this vision, it’s obliterated, because Iwa-chan isn’t going to put up with any kind of sophisticated and selfless air Tooru tries to put on. Iwa-chan knows him better than that, and the thought is both comforting and terrifying.

But he can’t...un-factor Iwa-chan. He just can’t see it.

“You’ve had a good while to think about this,” his dad crosses his arms. “You haven’t made any headway, at all?”

Tooru stands, collecting the letters off the table. “Just a little longer, please.”

-

“What are you so afraid of?”

Dream-Iwa shrugs. “Dunno. I’m a manifestation of your own fucked up feelings--I’m not privy to other people's’ thoughts. Just yours.”

“Well,” Tooru leans back in the boat. “You’re pretty useless then, aren’t you?”

Iwa-chan leans in, eyes set in a sly, flirty gleam the real Iwa-chan would never even think of trying. “We could kiss.”

Tooru makes a face, trying to pull away, but there’s not a lot of room in this tiny rowboat. “I don’t like doing that.”

“Yes, you do,” Iwa-chan puts a hand on either of his knees and pushes them apart, sliding between them. “You just don’t like waking up.”

“Is this punishment,” he says, watching Iwa-chan’s face draw closer. “For sneaking into Inception in middle school.”

A snort. “You’ve done way worse stuff than that.”

“Have not. I’m a good person.”

“Does a good person dream about fucking his best friend?”

He realizes that there clothes are gone, dissipated into thin air, Iwa-chan’s bare thighs straddling his hips. His hands, without his permission, move to grip Iwa-chans thighs, feeling the coarse dark hair, squeezing enough to probably hurt. Dream-Iwa doesn’t care about pain. He doesn’t really care about anything except tormenting Tooru.

“This is the last time,” Tooru leans back, licking his lips. “I swear.”

Warm hands slide down his chest, and Dream-Iwa laughs. “You’re so full of shit.”

-

“You look like shit.”

Tooru woke up when he heard the front door open and slam shut, and collected himself enough before Iwa-chan burst into his room. He groans. Well apparently I’m full of it, so…

There’s a foot against his side. “Get up. I wanna hang out.”

“No.” He yanks the blankets up over his head. “Nooooo.”

“How the hell are you a third year in high school?” there’s a kick to his hip. “Oikawa, get up.”

“You can’t make me, so nyeh.”

Such a mistake. Tooru knows before Iwa-chan grabs his ankles that it’s the worst thing he could’ve possibly ever said. Ever. Iwa-chan voice is eerily calm as he asks, “Any last words?”

Well. He might as well go for broke.

“Your forehead is so big,” Tooru peeks out from under the covers, “it should be called a five-head.”

And with that Iwa-chan whips Tooru’s body out of bed and sends him spiraling out into the hallway where he crashes against the far wall, upside down with his head on the floor and his legs up over it. His mother steps over him, not even looking up from the newspaper she’s holding as she does. “Boys, play nice.”

“Sorry, Auntie,” Iwa-chan sticks his head out into the hallway, and Tooru finally manages with right himself, groaning and rubbing at the back of his head. He doesn’t look up until a shadow settles over him. “Get dressed. We need to talk.”

Go talk with that pretty second year, then, he doesn’t say, sighing as he rises to his feet. “Fine. Whatever.”

He pulls open his closet and starts tossing things onto his desk chair that he wants to wear, and is about to peel himself out of his pajamas when he becomes poignantly aware that Hajime’s still in the room. He casts a coy look over his shoulder, pouting. “Do you mind? Some of us like to maintain an air of modesty.”

Iwa-chan shoots him a deadpan stare. “I have literally watched you get changed for practice practically every day of the last seven years, Oikawa.”

“You watch me get changed?” Tooru slaps a hand over each nipple. “Perv! Iwa-chan’s a pervert!”

It’s worth it to watch Hajime go red from neck to hairline out of pure anger, fists clenched at his sides before he spins on his heel and stomps out of the room. “Hurry up!”

-

So he’s not sure when it started, and he’s not sure if it’ll ever end. Tooru’s not sure if they’ll go to the same university, or even still be friends a year from now, five years from now, ten. He doesn’t know if Iwa-chan feels the same way he does, and he might never know, because for all his bravado, Oikawa Tooru is scared of a lot of things. Losing his best friend is pretty high up on that list.

Here’s what he does know: Tooru knows he’s a jealous person. A selfish, possessive, weird, needy, stubborn person. He knows that Iwa-chan realizes that, better than anyone. Calls him out on it constantly, takes every opportunity to knock Tooru down a peg, and the gets all huffy when Tooru starts hanging off of him, whining, it’s not true! Take it back! You bully!

He knows that if they go to separate schools, no matter how many other fast friends he makes, he going to feel a bone deep alone that’ll make it hard to even try to connect with other people. That he’ll call and text and visit so much it’ll drive Hajime up a wall. That if Iwa-chan ever really does fall in love with someone, it’s going to break Tooru absolutely. That in those moments he’ll feel every millimeter of how sad and clingy and human he truly is. That maybe those things will never really be “okay,” because some things never are.

That it doesn’t matter if it’s not okay, because they have to keep moving forward. That more than anything, Tooru wants Hajime in his life.

They wander around for a long time, but find themselves in in the convenience store parking lot just like they do on most days with nothing to do. Tooru turns his head away and coughs, trying to force out the feeling of wanting to cry. They haven’t said a word since they left Tooru’s house, and he thinks about saying everything that been on his mind for the entire walk downtown, but like every text he’s never sent and every weird thought he’s ever had, he holds it back, swallows it down.

“I’ll be right back. I need to get something,” Iwa-chan’s voice fades as he heads into the store, not even looking back as he does. He just assumes Tooru will wait, and he’s right.

His legs give out, and he crashes back against the curb with his head between his knees and hands stuffed into his hair. It’s going to be fine, he tells himself, eyes burning. Iwa-chan’s going to tell you he’s leaving and you’re going to smile and be happy for him.

“The hell’re you doing?”

Tooru whips his head up, Iwa-chan standing over him, ice cream cone in each hand. “What?”

“I got you ice cream,” he holds out a hand. “Chocolate and strawberry. Your favorite.”

Tooru’s not sure if he’s breathing or not. “Why?”

“Just ‘cause,” Iwa-chan shrugs, and hunkers down on the curb next to Tooru, their bare knees brushing. “So eat it before it melts.”

They sit and eat, the sun finally sinking below the mountains and Tooru’s gaze constantly sinking to Iwa-chan’s mouth, his tongue working to keep his ice cream from dripping down onto his thick fingers, and when it does he licks those, too. Tooru shovels the rest of his cone into his mouth and chomps, hoping that if the second it hits his belly it’ll kill the butterflies wreaking havoc there.

And it almost works until Iwa-chan says, “Where are you going after high school?”

He stares down at the very end of his cone. “I don’t know yet. I know I just...want to play volleyball.”

“Well, even with your shitty personality, I’m sure you’ve gotten offers from a lot of great schools.”

“You have too, I bet,” Tooru can’t help his voice from shaking.

Iwa-chan is silent for a moment, and Tooru wonders if maybe he’s dreaming again. If the concrete beneath them is going to melt into an ocean, if Dream-Iwa is going to make him crumble under a touch that feels so real and at the same time completely alien. He licks his lips, and he wants to say something, anything--

“AAAAAAAAHHHH.”

Hajime’s jumped up onto his feet, terrible sound ripping out of his chest and bursting forward in a booming echo that makes Tooru fall back in shock, birds on the overhead telephone lines startling and zipping away, the sun refusing to flinch.

“I can’t take it!” Iwa-chan rubs his hands over his hair, face twisted and teeth bared. “I can’t take this anymore--this fucking ridiculous game where we both get really close to saying something but then don’t. I hate it!”

Tooru blinks. “Uh, Iwa-chan--”

Hajime falls against the concrete and grabs the front of Tooru’s shirt, yanking him forward. “I want to go to university together.”

Tooru stares, mouth parting.

“Or at least in the same city, or close enough by where we can see each other all the time,” he shoves Tooru back. “Get it?”

“I--” Tooru shakes the speechlessness and falls into a comfortable skin, singing. “I mean, of course. Personally, if I were you I’d be sick of my super handsome and amazing best friend constantly stealing the spotlight, but I guess it’s the age old tale of the moth and the flame.”

Iwa-chan looks disappointed, but not surprised. “You don’t get it at all, Assikawa.”

Tooru frowns, about to say something when a hand comes around and cups the back of his neck, pulling him forward.

If I’m dreaming, Tooru thinks, slamming his eyes shut as Hajime kisses him, if I’m dreaming don’t let me wake up.

Iwa-chan pulls back, his breath hot against Tooru’s face as he says, “Do you get it now?”

Tooru licks his lips as he leans his forehead against Iwa’s. “You might have to spell it out for me.”

Iwa-chan tries to rear back, about to yell or headbutt him or whatever, but Tooru beats him to it and kisses him, open mouthed and focused with the pure intent of making Hajime fall apart. Tooru strokes at stubbly jaw with his thumb, tilting his head just so and sucking gently on Iwa-chan’s tongue. They break, Hajime struggling to breathe, and Tooru just takes the opportunity to switch the angle and pull him right back with a kiss so ride and deep Tooru can feel the corners of his mouth splitting for the force. Iwa-chan makes these little whimpering choked sounds, and Tooru holds on for dear life.

Until a sweaty calloused hand is shoving his face away. “Cut it out--we’re in public.”

When Tooru finally pries that hand off, Iwa-chan is facing away from him with his own face buried in the crook of his arm, but Tooru can still see the bright red ear, the back of his neck. He reaches out, fingertips brushing the hair at the nape, and Iwa-chan swings his body back around, grasping Tooru’s hands in his own.

“You get it now, right?” he says, looking Tooru right in the eye. It’s not Dream-Iwa’s vacant stare that guts him, it’s alive and fiery and burning and consuming. His face is so, so red. Tooru’s gut clenches. “I-I want to to be with you. In every sense of the word. Get it?”

Tooru stares, and then it bubbles up. He can’t stop it. He snorts, then outright laughs until it wracks his entire body until he can’t breath.

“I can’t help it,” Tooru clutches his stomach. “I can’t help it, ahaha! You’re so corny. You must re-really like me, ahahahaha!”

“Oikawa,” hands cup his face. “Stop crying.”

At some point the laughter dissolves, and but his body keeps shaking and his eyes keep leaking. Iwa-chan wipes the tears away with his thumbs, gives Tooru a napkin to blow his nose into, and keeps lying, saying that Tooru’s such an ugly crier.

-

“So,” Matsukawa stares. “You’re going to school together.”

Hanamaki sighs. “Predictable. Literally everyone saw it coming.”

“Honestly. Why were we even indulging their teen angst by pretending they weren’t?”

Tooru and Hajime sit across the table from them, stone faced and seething with quiet, mutual rage.

“Oikawa, please,” Matsukawa clutches Hanamaki’s hand. “Don’t ever leave me. Play volleyball with me until my dying breath.”

“Oh, Iwa-chan,” Hanamaki turns, pretending to dab a tear from his eye with a hamburger bun. “I’d never leave you--you’re the one who will leave me. My overconfidence is just a defense mechanism for my crippling self doubt.”

“Oikawa...I don’t know what a defense mechanism is because big words confuse me, but I do know that I’ll never leave you.”

“Iwa-chan.”

“Oikawa.”

By this point they’re pretty wrapped up in each other, and Hanamaki’s got a leg up over Matsukawa’s shoulder with his head thrown back, Matsukawa holding him up while kneeling on the seat, hand splayed over his face.

“Thanks for treating us, you guys,” Tooru stands, wiping his mouth with a napkin.

Hajime follows him. “Yeah. Really nice of you. You two are really upstanding friends.”

“Hey,” Hanamaki falls back onto his forearms, legs still up around Matsukawa. “You were the ones who--”

“Iwa-chan,” Tooru cuts him off. “Let’s get ice cream.”

“In cones?”

“Of course.”

Iwa-chan holds out his hand. “Let’s go.”

-

They make it halfway down the street before Iwa-chan starts yelling.

“And I know what a defense mechanism is!” he shouts at the sky, and Tooru throws his head back, laughing. “I hate those two.”

“Ha! Liar.”

“Yeah, well!” Hajime huffs, jamming his hands into his jacket pockets. “Whatever.”

Tooru feels his heart swell, the streetlamp glow just beyond Hajime’s head catching in his hair, on the slopes and curves of his face. “You’re cute when you’re angry--ow! Iwa-chan! Stop!”

He’s yanked the hood of Tooru’s sweatshirt up over his head, pulling down hard, making Tooru bend. “Don’t say that kind of shit without warning me!”

When Iwa-chan finally lets up enough for Tooru to right himself, he’s turned himself away, and Tooru knows immediately he’s trying to hide his face. He ducks forward, singing, “Iwaaaa-chaaaannn.”

“Shut up,” Hajime keeps spinning away from him as Tooru circles, trying to catch a glimpse of a rare embarrassed Iwa-chan. “Get away from me.”

“Let me see.”

“There’s nothing to see, you ass.”

He finally catches Iwa-chan by the wrist, pulling him around so they can finally face each other. “Yes there is! You’re blushing--”

He cuts himself when he finally sees the face--Iwa-chan’s mouth is in a thin, wavy line underneath the bright red across his cheeks, the bridge of his nose, up to his creased forehead where his eyebrows are knit together. It’s such a serious embarrassed face, (of course it is; it wouldn’t belong to Iwa-chan if it wasn’t) and it’s heart just so meltingly cute. Tooru feels his own cheeks warm just as Iwa-chan grabs Tooru’s hood on either side and pulls forward, and they meet sweetly in the middle. Tooru wraps arms around his boyfriend’s middle and holds nice a tight.

“So.”

Tooru’s blood runs cold, body going completely rigid. His face must look absolutely priceless--Iwa-chan’s face definitely does, and Tooru’d be laughing if he didn’t feel so caught.

Matsukawa sighs. “You’re together.”

Hanamaki chimes in. “Predictable. Literally everyone saw it coming.”

“Holy shit,” Iwa-chan grabs his hand and starts walking. “We’re leaving, good bye.”

Hanamaki and Matsukawa boo them from down the street, and when Tooru breaks out into a run, Iwa-chan is right beside him and never drops his hand.

-

Later that night he takes a picture over Iwa-chan’s shoulder of himself grabbing the ass that’s plagued his thoughts for so long, while his boyfriend is distracted sucking a huge hickey into his neck. He promptly sends it to everyone in the group text along with some tasteful emojis, turns his phone off, and kisses his boyfriend soundly.

Iwa-chan mutters against his jaw, “Is that for the weird group text you and the team have where you all constantly send each other pictures of my ass?”

Tooru’s balks. “Um.”

A snort, and Iwa-chan’s head drops against his shoulder. “You’re so weird.”

“Don’t let Kunimi take pictures of you anymore,” Tooru cards fingers through spiky hair. “He’s beating me by a lot. You know how I don't like to lose."

“And you’re jealous.”

“Seriously,” he locks his legs around Iwa-chan's waist. "In fact, no one but me gets to take pictures of your butt anymore."

“And you’re clingy.”

Tooru clings tighter. “Am not.”

There’s still a very large part of him that’s afraid he’s going to wake up any moment. He knows there are ways to tell, but he can’t remember any of them. The only thing he can think to do is hold on as tight as he can as he sits in Hajime’s lap.

He feels Iwa-chan huff against his shoulder, hand coming up to cup the back of Tooru’s neck. “If I didn’t like it I’d tell you. You know I would.”

How does he do it? Tooru marvels. How does he always know what to do?

He jerks back, slanting his gaze down to stare at Hajime. “Kiss me.”

Iwa-chan sighs through his nose, like it’s such a chore, and leans in. “You’re a pain.”

Real, Tooru decides, fingers tightening around the collar of Hajime’s shirt. So very incredibly beautifully real.

 

end.