Most nights of the year, Oikawa Tooru finds himself beside the Kanda River, but that is a story for another time.
Because tonight he’s the slightest bit tipsy, spinning on his heels off Isojiman sake, alone at a local temple just in time for new year’s blessings. He’d resigned to spend time with himself in the big city, because his parents had decided to spend the winter in Hokkaido, his friends in Miyagi, all other acquaintances scattered to the winds—but it's perfectly fine, he thinks. He feels light enough in his steps anyway, meandering past all the closed shops in the neighborhood. He even tries his luck with the convenience store lotto, before making an obligatory call to his mother on the way home. Soba for dinner. Then said bottle of Isojiman sake. He walks to the temple after. He tries not to think of him through prayers.
(He fails, when he thinks he sees him in the crowd.)
It's not him. And when it’s not him, that’s when he decides, more on impulse than anything, that this is the year to forget. He brings up an empty note on his phone, determined to start anew, and takes a deep breath; he sees the huff of it through half-shut eyes. He sees the title without a struggle.
HOW TO FORGET ABOUT IWAIZUMI HAJIME
An Ongoing List by Oikawa Tooru
This is the first thing he writes to himself for the current year, and it's something he’ll keep telling himself until it sticks. 1. You don't miss him that much.
Because this is a new year, with new places to go, and he can’t.
2. Besides, Iwaizumi Hajime is not that great. This is the first thought Oikawa has upon waking in the new year, because it’s true, and he feels lightness in his thumbs when he types out the words. What is there even to miss? It’s Iwa-chan! He snores, and takes too long to tie his shoes, always double-knotted. He’s way too good with children and big dogs (and maybe even small dogs, too, when they’re not too yappy). He has a weird obsession with aquatic animal books and superhero movies, and has insisted on keeping the same hairstyle since he was five. Sometimes, he’d even wrap Oikawa’s knee guard too tight. He used to wrap Oikawa even tighter, when they both went to sleep for the night, and it’s a wonder he didn’t suffocate in his dreams.
So again, Oikawa asks himself. He takes this question with him on his first run of the new year, along the Kanda River, and after the first 100m, he remembers how Iwaizumi used to do them with him, too. Stupid Iwa-chan. Oikawa curses him for slower-than-usual personal times. To make up for it, he sprints until he can’t feel his calves anymore.
This is when he remembers how Iwaizumi never used to slow down for him, either. “What good would that be for either of us?” he used to ask Oikawa with the slightest hint of a smile, just the slightest, and they’d race alongside the Kanda River, a challenge and a comfort against the ages.
3. (Hm. Maybe you’re better off not thinking about him at all.)
4. Answer your friends with a smile when they ask.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Oikawa?” they always inquire, and Oikawa always follows the same three step process: you must nod, breeze right through them, and end up on top . ( You’ve always wanted to pierce the stratosphere, right? he asks himself. This is your chance.) He tells them about everything else in his life as of late, the nice things like a killer apartment in Sumida, or the fancy new haircut he got a week after New Years, that new wool coat he’d worn out for coffee today (that might be just a tad too thin, but he’ll never admit it).
Still, Oikawa can tell Mattsun and Makki-chan aren't buying it, judging from the unsavory forehead wrinkles and the attempt at lopsided grins. He presses on anyway, because this is a game of endurance, and Oikawa will not lose this one to concerned faces and his own urge to break. Tilt your head and smile. Win, and win them over. Watch them stretch into the ease you create. Oikawa winces a little, when he realizes how much he sounds like a self-help book.
When Iwaizumi arrives for lunch, late by a halted train from Sangenjaya, Oikawa flinches but only in small magnitudes. He says it, “hi, Iwa-chan,” one of the handful of times since breaking up, not sure if Iwa-chan is even the appropriate manner of address, and Iwaizumi only pauses once before giving it right back.
“Hi, Oikawa.” There’s a warmth it, a small treasure hidden in the dunes. Oikawa pretends not to notice it.
5. From there, you act natural. Always act natural.
(Iwaizumi, on the other hand, is natural, and Oikawa’s not sure why this makes his stomach churn like none other.)
Oikawa goes for another run after that, right along the Kanda again before going back home. He hates running in the winter, because he’s convinced that the burn in his throat isn't worth the endorphins that may or may not exist post mortem, but he does it anyway. Practice resumes tomorrow, and it'd be a tragedy not to keep in shape.
Besides, the one part about running Oikawa doesn't hate is how the mind tends to wander. He dreams, through memories past and faded or maybe quite vivid. From there, they intermingle with the wildest possibilities, like making that Olympic team and getting a dog (maybe) or meeting someone new in a random place like a flower shop or the Saturday sale at his local supermarket.
(And at once, ever so briefly, Oikawa wonders what it'd be like to fall in love with someone else.)
He imagines that this will be much clearer once he go on more runs, so he comes up with another new resolution, one to write down later:
6. Go running everyday, no matter how much you hate it.
Maybe Oikawa will finally be rid of him, this way.
From there, Oikawa ignores the tiny voice in his head that says, “hey, don't overdo it, okay,” all cooed and private like he used to say, especially on winter mornings like this, when he was rolling out of bed before sunrise and Iwaizumi was still under the covers with one annoying arm around his waist. He’d pull Oikawa close, but never keep him, and he swore to the heavens that his steps didn’t feel lighter on the path.
But Oikawa doesn't think of such things anymore.
(7. So please stop!)
8. And even if your first memory may be of him, but that doesn’t have to mean anything.
Don’t all monuments crumble, and memories fade? Oikawa swears he read that in a pamphlet once (or was that his older brother, talking about his ex-fiancee? He doesn’t remember.) Either way, this is something he tells himself as he wanders down the supermarket aisle for the usual Saturday sale, and it works until he gets to produce.
Iwaizumi’s standing there by himself, empty basket in one hand and a red apple in the other. Good for him, being nutritionally responsible about things, but of all the supermarkets in Tokyo, he just had to be at this one, and Oikawa wonders why he isn't running away at the first sight of him. Instead (and because he is a gawkier mess than anyone gives him credit for), he crashes into a display of packaged yakiniku flavored crisps, back-first and tumbling. He hears a duo of old ladies bemoan this city’s generation. Past that, Iwa-chan sees Oikawa at once, partially buried amongst brightly colored cellophane bags.
(In that moment, Oikawa thinks of that first memory, again. Five-year old Iwaizumi Hajime sits in a flowerless field, butterfly net against a small shoulder, and reaches towards him, always reaching. He says he has a glass blade stuck to his cheek, and Oikawa does not stir when he goes to pick it off.)
Back in the present he laughs, and goes to Oikawa immediately.
Oikawa does not stir here, either. Hands come together like they always have, and Iwaizumi lets go as soon as he helps him up.
9. You count the time like currency.
Oikawa thinks, well, I haven't been alone-alone with Iwa-chan for a year, so it should be okay by now. He knows how to be careful. He even takes note of the distance between them on the sidewalk, all with tape-measured steps, and goes to widen it before coming to a proximity he can't take back. Oikawa also pretends not to notice how broad a twenty year old’s back can be. He spots the secret mole at the base of Iwaizumi’s hairline, little oasis-shaped thing, hidden by the run of absentminded (or very-minded) fingers.
Eyes back on the ground, all militant in his devotion to not stare, he doesn’t realize they've wandered to the side of the Kanda River. Iwaizumi says it all soft, a mouthed “oh” Oikawa can barely hear, because he knows what this place means to the both of them. At the thought of last winter, Oikawa does nothing but take the railing under his palms. He stays light about it and says, “oh?” right back, practiced and obstinately unaware. “This old place? I’d nearly forgotten about it.” (But he would never, ever forget about it.)
At once, Iwa-chan knows this is a lie, but he does not say anything about it. They both live in the quiet of it, and it's comfortable enough but certainly weighted. The water rushes ahead, ever-flowing.
What an anomaly, Oikawa thinks, past everything else, and he wonders why some rivers don’t freeze over in the winter.
10. So keep counting the time like currency.
Oikawa spends precisely fifteen minutes with him alone, barely a word, before proclaiming that it’s time to leave and get on with his errands. Iwa-chan nods, and says he should do the same, though they both know it’s Saturday—Oikawa’s routine—which means getting everything done in the mornings to have the rest of the afternoon to himself. It’s an inevitability, the way Iwaizumi sees through him, because an afternoon to himself really meant holing himself up somewhere to get to a thousand practice serves (current record: four hundred and ninety-five). Oikawa’s even tempted to tell him about the time he invited a date on a morning sprint by the Kanda, only to have her say, “you want to run for your date? At six in the morning? You really have nothing but volleyball in that head of yours. I'm going home.”
But Iwaizumi does not go home. He only offers the usual like, “how about you practice with someone else for a little while?” and Oikawa nods along to it. From there, Iwaizumi usually follows that up with “because at this rate, your arm is going to fall off,” (but he doesn’t this time). Oikawa knows there’s no need for that second part—because they’re both in their twenties now, armed with some vague sense of restraint and responsibility. Oikawa stretches properly after practice. He never fails to measure his protein servings.
But still, he offers as much as Oikawa takes it, too. “Next Saturday,” he even proposes, because he thinks he's served your sentences for long enough, because that strange limbo between a breakup and being proper, proper friends again is no where he likes to be in the first place. Because you’re free, aren’t you? You’re free to do what you want, he tells himself, and he's tired of keeping himself in a sealed vault.
So Oikawa keeps counting the time like currency. He wonders if saved enough of it up, maybe, to not make a dent in his reserves.
(And that perhaps, maybe, it's time to spend some of it.)
11. But, whatever you do, do not mark the day on your calendar.
Oikawa tells himself not use the word, that word, to explain the slight rumble in his stomach. They aren't butterflies. Kill them, he decrees, and don’t keep them in jars. Because this isn't anticipation. This isn't like that first kiss he shared with Iwaizumi at seventeen, when everything was new and daring enough to be. The rain is not romantic, and it will only get a person stuck in places they shouldn’t be.
Because he knows he isn’t the person he was at seventeen. Oikawa had seen a whole galaxy’s worth of Iwa-chan since then—light years past the world he shared with him since the start—like the exact curve of Iwaizumi’s bare back when he lies on his stomach, or the way he sinks into his seat at any (repeat: any) movie ending, or every other odd thing one tends to learn about someone when they live with them for a year and a half. They are not world wonders. Oikawa remembers should be small and mundane in his mind’s eye, because it's just Iwa-chan, isn't it? Miyagi born and bred. A hometown occurrence. Just Iwa-chan.
Still, he stares up at his calendar on the wall before falling asleep that night. He touches the blank box with the tip of his finger, fall asleeps without writing anything down, and calls that the smallest victory. What will be, will certainly be.
Sometimes, Oikawa runs into Matsukawa Issei on the espresso line. He slings coffee at the spot he goes to sometimes after practice, and it's one of those mornings he swears he doesn’t want to talk to anyone (and that includes Matsukawa Issei). He's in a good mood nonetheless, an unavoidable quiet of a swell, because he's heard the news. “You two are hanging out again,” he remarks over a free milk bread and a flat white, more bemused than anything, and Oikawa just sits back in a semi-practiced shrug.
“Why shouldn't we be,” Oikawa says back to him, because it's true. He takes a sip, just to test the heat on his tongue, and looks out the window. He hides a smile behind his coffee cup, then his sleeve, before forcing it away altogether, reminders racing across his head. Then, comes a memory. Oikawa does not force it away this time.
(He’s seventeen, sore from practice, and alone with him against a bridge railing over a river not the Kanda. It’s a cooler Miyagi summer than most, but the fireflies have always found a way to dance under his nose, masters at the pleasant taunt. Iwa-chan swats them away though, having a discount convenience store bentou box, while Oikawa’s treated himself with a cup of vanilla ice cream, caught in the usual mix of chatter and silence. Oikawa remembers having something on his mind, probably uni stuff and scouting stuff and volleyball stuff, but Iwaizumi never frets at wrinkled foreheads and pleasant blabbering. They both ride the crescendo, like orchestra members, enraptured. Then, like nothing, like how the memory always plays, Iwaizumi has the nerve to pinch Oikawa just once, right on a bare forearm, when he looks too lost in thought. Because Iwaizumi always knows.)
Oikawa snaps out of it and pinches himself at the coffee counter this time. Matsukawa stares back at him like he’s finally rocketed himself, much too far into space.
“You all right there, Oikawa?”
Oikawa smiles back. “Perfect.”
“Really? Because I could've sworn I saw you pinch yourself.”
“Well, you must be seeing things.”
And at once, Oikawa thinks of another rule, because hanging out with Iwa-chan is no dream come true. It's not, because it's just Iwa-chan and his discount bentou boxes and small town sensibilities, pinches on the forearm and a reminder not to fly into something inclement. So Oikawa writes it down, one time, another time, before pressing on the backspace.
12. Don’t you dare get excited.
Don't you dare get excited
Don't you dare get excited!
(And like that, he forces himself to remember.)
13. It had been no one’s fault. Some things just come to a head. It had been a matter of space, and the kind you could call your own.
This is something Oikawa recalls, retells, when he goes to the movies alone on a Monday night, eyes too tired to keep reading textbooks for seminar and hands too sore to keep serving. Because Monday nights were always meant for breaks, Seijou VBC or not, and Oikawa found it hard to break some traditions.
(He glazes over, though, when he sees a woman slap a man across the face onscreen, because he knows it was never like that with them.)
Instead, Oikawa recounts that day in flashes, never one to try to remember it in fullest depth, but it was always there, in some form or another. They had both cried, because some realizations had a habit of coming all at once. There were problems everywhere—their first apartment was too small, and their queen-sized bed had felt too cozy, and suddenly they knew it wasn’t right, to spend so much time with each other. Because they were going to different universities, for heaven’s sakes, with a new set of friends all trying new things like tea ceremony and making ikebana flower arrangements; and playing on different teams was a gorge in itself, with Iwaizumi learning that good wing spikers were a dime a dozen (and that the bench and endless offensive depth was the sort of limbo he did not want to chase). And damn it—sometimes Oikawa still can’t believe he was the first to say it, but he was, and he still doesn't regret it: “I need a break,” came the words out of silence, an epiphany with a river running ahead of them that winter. The Kanda mourned with them. Iwaizumi did not flinch at any of it.
“Me too,” Iwaizumi had just said in return, with his arms around Oikawa, but not tight—like he was already trying to make the space for Oikawa to go. Like farewell, it had felt. Just for the time being.
(The rest of the movie runs its course, the ending lackluster and impossibly definite.)
14. And so you run. You run, you run, you run.
Oikawa even breaks a record for his best personal time that night, and he wishes the Kanda cared more about his successes.
15. When the day comes, look as casual as you can. Oikawa parts his fringe in a weird ponytail he ties up on his head sometimes, presses on glasses with sweat on his nose, and throws on an old thin t-shirt that Iwa-chan always harped on him for keeping. He leaves a few minutes later than he usually would when he meets someone for an afternoon together, and apologizes, breezily, for five minutes’ worth of tardiness. He wicks a stray hair away from his forehead with a smile, fashionably late, head craned at a certain angle.
“Iwa-chan!” comes the call.
Oikawa knows he's never been successful at willful ignorance. For better or worse, he's always paid privy to observation, a keen look at the other side, and a terrible bout of understanding the world around him. Not today. Today, he tells himself to ignore the finer details.
He ignores the way Iwaizumi lights up from his phone at the sight of him, like he's read a message Oikawa never meant to send.
He ignores the way Iwaizumi waves once, always just once, before lowering his hand (because he's always preferred the motions of closing the distance, anyway).
He ignores the way he says his name, “Oikawa,” like the syllables could mean hello and goodbye at the same time, and he doesn’t freeze at the sound of it.
He ignores Iwaizumi, walking alongside him, rhythm still in check as he tells him about a horrible morning, filler chat so he doesn't notice the staring (but he does anyway, because it's Iwa-chan).
He ignores the way he ties his shoes, double-knotted and sure.
He ignores the way he jumps up at his serve in the gym, flight patterns no one else has been able to replicate, a migration from the ground to a familiar planet in the sky—
(But the truth is, Oikawa doesn't ignore him at all—how could he, really—)
And Oikawa lands awkwardly on his ankle because of it, down on the ground, and Iwa-chan goes immediately to check on his knee like its instinct, and they’re so close they might as well be intimate again. He hasn't eaten yet, something Oikawa notices because of the vaguely minty toothpaste scent on his breath, and his face has gone red under the slight pigment of a faded winter tan.
“Oikawa.” Too close. He feels himself come to a dangerous orbit.
He says the name again, “Oikawa,” already filled with something like excitement and regret. Oikawa ignores all inclinations to back away from him when he tries to kiss him right the hell back, because of magnets and gravity and all those other higher forces people blame their problems on. Foreheads pressed together, they stay like this for a while, a non-kiss for the ages, the repel of two great forces, and Iwaizumi only moves by the hands cupping a face he knows best.
Oikawa considers moving moving out of the country, when they finally will themselves to separate. He tells Iwa-chan he’ll call him later. He’s not even sure what to say.
Because he really only knows one thing:
(16. That you are an absolute idiot, and that any more of this will end in hellfire.)
“It was a mistake, trying to kiss you,” he says to Oikawa over the phone, and he cannot help but agree.
It's Sunday evening when Oikawa calls, and he knows Iwaizumi’s outside somewhere from the racket on the other end, like blaring trucks and Sangenjaya food stand proprietors. He thinks he can even catch the howl of a train in the static, but it's not like he cares about his whereabouts in the first place. I really don’t. It would just be wrong to break promises—he said he'd call, so that's what he’s doing, perched over an electric stovetop, a boiling pot for soup stock, and an apron tied around his waist. He speed-walks from one end of the kitchen to the other. Lists build in his head, grocery and to-do. He rewrites them again. It is then when Oikawa pretends to hold the world record for busiest human being alive.
“It's casual, and you’re the near-last thing on my mind, Iwaizumi Hajime. You should be honored that I'm even calling.” This is what he tells himself, without saying into the receiver. (You are my favorite second thought, comes something more sinister, but Oikawa does not say this either.)
“I agree. Let's never do that again.” Oikawa swallows immediately after speaking, because it tastes like medicine on the roof of his mouth—all sorts of terrible, but necessary. Iwa-chan does not refute a bit of this.
Instead, a knock comes at the door, loud and with its own brand of bluster.
“Hey,” Iwaizumi continues over the phone. “We don't have to kiss again, or do anything ever again, but I did bring fried chicken.”
“What?” Oikawa says back to him. “Fried chicken?” Under him, a pot simmers into something ruined. This is when he thinks, wow, I’ve never burnt water before, but he figures it was a long time coming.
“I'm apologizing” —the first part is a rarity— “for even starting.” The way Iwa-chan says this goes against everything Oikawa knows—because Iwaizumi knows how to be quiet with good reason, like we just lost a game or I just lost my place on the university team, and the bench is nowhere to be if it’s endless, but this is different. Discerning. Oikawa cannot figure out the reason for the low volumes.
The knocking does not stop. Oikawa smiles, when he decides he doesn't want it to. He tells Iwaizumi to hold on, hangs up right after, and types up another note on his phone, instead:
17. When you answer the door and welcome Iwa-chan into your apartment in Sumida, please welcome him as a friend.
(The door, in return, isn’t as heavy as he thought it’d be.)
Oikawa knows the deal about keeping tabs. This is when he reckons that Iwaizumi still knows everything about him, too—because Matsukawa Issei and Hanamaki Takahiro have made for the most decent confidantes this year, messengers, and have filled the both of them in on most of the details.
Details like how Iwa-chan’s taken up sports medicine at his university, or that he's gone to live at an uncle’s empty house in Sangenjaya (and quite a fixer-upper, at that, which he enjoys working on during the weekend). Or like how he's been wanting to go fishing this summer somewhere, because the city gets too stifling by August (and Oikawa can’t help but think the same about that). For a second time, he hears about the flooded kitchen sink and the recent movies he's watched, because it's not like he could ever really have Iwa-chan out of his life, and it might be an inevitability, to know. He don't listen any less at the old news, and Iwaizumi does the same in return.
“You look well,” Iwaizumi says, out of nowhere, through some strange unwanted silence, and it's the only thing Oikawa doesn't like coming out of his mouth. It's too nice, for one, and much too unfamiliar. He does not return any such sentiment.
“Well, I’d say you're looking a little gaunt, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa retaliates, a signature tease mixed in the fold. He keeps his stares away too, because he knows the weird burn at the corner of his eyes more than anything. He doesn’t call it an urge to cry. Like trading masks, he even hides his face under a unfinished chicken wing before relenting. This is when he realizes it's not a matter of being upset. It’s more like swelling, and Oikawa can't help but smile when he feels Iwaizumi glower at him from the other side.
“Let's go running sometime, Iwa-chan,” comes the suggestion, on impulse but not the bad sort, and Iwaizumi rolls his eyes before telling Oikawa to knock it off.
(18. But don't knock it off. It's with brevity that you say it, with one breath held and released, like the words are the same as let’s be friends again. They might as well be.)
Iwaizumi tells him that he’ll be ready tomorrow night, at seven.
“Loser has to buy dinner.”
“Loser?” Oikawa asks, and he can't help but itch into a grin.
“Yeah, don't you know?”
Oikawa tells Hanamaki and Matsukawa about it the next day over lunch. He lets them sit together on the opposite side of the table together, shoulders to touch, because they’re new and gross and he’d rather not catch their germs, and they’re only really half-listening (but Oikawa might be secretly fine with that). He just tentatively sips at a diet cola in turn, still fending off the aftertaste, and tries not to sour at Matsukawa Issei’s next question.
“So,” Matsukawa starts over his soba, “are you guys back together, then?”
“No, of course not,” Oikawa answers, because that’s the truth and nothing more to it.
“We're just, just…” he starts without finishing, because that's the way it's always been with him, before he even knew what it meant to like (much less love) a person. He doesn’t have a word for it, and he thinks that maybe he never will, and he pretends to itch at the absence of official titles. Iwa-chan. Oikawa wonders, briefly, why that might be the perfect way to put it, instead. “It’s just Iwa-chan,” he says, like it’s everything and nothing, and the other two stare up with some glimmer of understanding.
“So,” Hanamaki starts. “Running with him. Reminds me of before.”
Oikawa sours. “How?” He asks, clicking his tongue through a bendy straw.
Matsukawa digs his chopsticks out of his soba, points them at Oikawa like the wave of some magic wand, languid. “Didn’t he ask you out that first time, over running? I remember the first years chattering on about it when they thought we couldn’t hear. Very annoying.”
“Sorta endearing,” Hanamaki concedes. Matsukawa relents a frown and the nod of the head.
“All silly rumors.”
“So, none of it is true, then?”
Oikawa neither confirms or denies, but remembers, instead. The memory hits like the passing of a centennial comet, its impact a small beat on the body. He’s seventeen again, right at the end of the summer rainy season, and he’s got rain in his trainers and a burning in his lungs, because he swears he’s never run this hard in his life and he might never again, cheeks burning (and not because of the sprint). But that’s the thing—he remembers laughing about it anyway, because he was racing against Iwaizumi that day, someone he’d sworn he’d never fall in love with, and neither one of them would let up long enough to widen the distance. Uphill, downhill, past back roads and alongside speeding trucks, they had made Miyagi theirs, and it had stayed theirs even when they fell down the hillside.
It had been a blur after that, finding Iwaizumi at the bottom of it.
He remembers calling “Iwa-chan, Iwa-chan,” through the scratchy chorus of rain, unhurt but a bit scratched up, elbows and knees, and seeing his head peek through a bramble of wilderness.
He remembers sitting down next to him, laughing still, because both of them had scouts on them and a foot out already into the world, and tripping up like this wasn't so bad once in awhile.
He remembers the way Iwaizumi had begun to laugh then too, always the most common phenomenon but right at home, hunched forward with arms thrown back to support him.
He remembers an Aoba Johsai jacket, raised over them like a canopy, and the rain slipping off leaves.
He remembers the way they'd both confessed at the same time, wordless but right in their intuitions. I'm going to kiss you now, they'd both agreed, a first by half-shut eyes and faces to merge, certainly a long time coming.
“Oikawa,” he had said, and it was the voice was just bruised as his knees.
Back in reality, Oikawa purses his lips together, a twitch into something lopsided, and decides not to think about his first kiss with Iwaizumi Hajime anymore. He fiddles with his phone instead, thinks of the impending storms and the places they might lead, and comes up with a new rule for himself. Hanamaki and Matsukawa merely look on, full faith in whatever may be, and keep eating their soba.
19. For future reference—don't get caught in the rain with him. No typhoon, no monsoon, no blizzard, no storm.
Iwaizumi Hajime keeps in shape primarily by the way of cardio, something Oikawa learns the hard way when he loses a race by the Kanda that evening. He's relentless, sprints made by scuffed up soles, a consistent system for even breathing, and the wild strides of someone looking to win. Oikawa stops short and falls on his face when he nearly crashes into Iwaizumi in turn, because who knew a twenty year old’s back could take up so much room (and no, Oikawa thinks, of course I'm not staring). Iwaizumi helps him up anyway, and he's got something smug on his face. Oikawa thinks of ways to wipe it right the hell off.
“So,” Oikawa starts, still out of breath. “Have you decided what you want for dinner?”
Iwaizumi looks up, perplexed. “What?”
“You won, didn't you?” Oikawa digs into the mesh of his pockets, pulling out just enough money for two bowls of ramen and maybe a beer, if Iwaizumi was feeling up to it. “I mean, we won't be able to eat like kings, I'm sure, but—”
“Hey, now, I was just kidding about dinner,” Iwaizumi tells him. “You can go home and burn water again, if you want.”
“So rude, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says. “But, anyway, what do you want to eat—”
“You really don't have to—”
“But I want to,” Oikawa says, maybe just a little too honest, urgent if not ugly, and Iwaizumi steps back for a bit before understanding. He sighs, curt enough, and digs into his pockets for extra money. He's insistent on at least paying for some of it, if not half, and Oikawa takes the offer with all the world’s grace. He lifts, maybe just a centimeter off his heels, before telling himself to beckon.
With head tossed to the sky, nose up at second thoughts (because Iwa-chan is definitely still a second thought), Oikawa writes down another point in his phone when Iwaizumi isn't looking:
20. It's just dinner. It doesn't matter who's paying, and where you go. It's just dinner.
(21. And for the millionth time, it’s just Iwa-chan!)
Up come the clubmaster sunglasses, lips on the edge of a bakery sandwich, when Matsukawa pulls Oikawa on the ear to snap him out of daydreaming. The grass has started to come in nicely for the season, okay enough to lie on in a local park, and it's a record high for a day in mid-spring. (Lounging weather, Oikawa surmises, even if lounging was only usually reserved for Mondays.) Hanamaki goes on playing with his dog while he and Matsukawa discuss the finer details of diplomacy with an ex, and he’s not sure whether to mention the extended weekend outings or the runs along the Kanda. Matsukawa doesn't seem to care about the details either way though, because it's too nice of a day to care; shades back on, this is when Oikawa learns that some standstills might be okay to stay in, at least momentarily. Heat on his nose, he breathes in the scent of an upcoming summer instead. In building nerves, he wonders how far off it is on the horizon.
“Say, so now that you two are talking again,” Matsukawa starts, “how about that trip we always meant to take? My aunt’s got a pretty decent house in Shimoda, right by the beach. We should go when it gets warmer.”
Oikawa sighs at the sound of that. “Shimoda? Isn't that a bit far? In Shizuoka?”
Matsukawa shrugs. “About three hours by car,” he says. “We can rent one for a week or so, I guess.” He goes onto talk about the other logistics, like having to fit everyone on the floor, and dealing with meals and how to not get sand in their shorts. When he drones on about it, Oikawa just nods along, and wonders what it'd be like to go on vacation, a real vacation, with Iwaizumi Hajime; it figures it'd come after they'd broken up, and Oikawa thanks all his lucky stars and rolls his eyes under tinted shades, mental notes made for a phone still in his pocket: first, you are an endless idiot, to say yes, and second, you are doing a terrible job at forgetting him.
Oikawa doesn't write any of those things down though, because, again, it's too nice of a day to fret. He just follows Matsukawa’s lead, settles his nerves, and rolls back with imagined tides. Clear days ahead, he supposes, with only the most cautious optimism, and it's a bit more of a pain, coming up with something to write next.
(So he doesn't today. Or the day after that.)
Oikawa keeps his hands folded over his knees when the coach tells him, head partially hidden behind a clipboard.
“Your life is going to change, if you make it,” he says, and he thinks he might be exaggerating; but Oikawa knows he’d be a fool if he didn't notice the Olympic rings on the corner of his notepad or the way his voice rings with pure gravitas. “Your life is going to change.” It's a Thursday evening when he hears it play over and over in his head, and he thinks of tentative dates and scouts and a trip to the top.
(All hypotheticals, the coach had told him, but he had always been the worst liar.
For a word as elusive as national, it's never looked closer, and Oikawa’s light headed enough about it to trip up during your night run. “Hey,” Iwaizumi calls after him, trailing back, and he feels a bloody nose come on to match the gash on his forehead. He says he's noticed how much he's been spacing out all day. In turn, Oikawa just picks himself off the floor.
They both make it to the curbside after buying a box of band-aids from a nearby convenience store, and Iwaizumi smacks one over Oikawa’s forehead, less careful these days (and just like before).
This all reminds Oikawa of another time, Miyagi, when his head was swimming with the thought of attending Seijou. It had been an easy time, telling him at the on the side of the street then, because they both knew there was a good chance of him going there, too, and he did—but this here was a different curbside, one unfamiliar and on the verge of diverging paths. They hadn’t been on the same team for two years, now.
Iwaizumi Hajime does not play with you anymore. Oikawa presses that sentiment into his head, ready to write down later, while Iwaizumi presses a cotton ball to his nostril. Then comes the sigh, hand perched on Oikawa’s face, when he's the first one to say it. “I know what's on your mind,” comes Iwaizumi’s claim. “I may not be playing anymore, but I'm still around the team at school, and, well. Scouts.”
Oikawa peers up, drawing his knees closer towards himself.
“They're gonna be gunning for you, aren't they?” Iwaizumi asks, quiet but steady. Oikawa is tempted to lie and say no, because they should be scouting you, too, but he doesn't go with either. He just shrugs, head bobbing like it’s no big deal, and keeps on a pleasant course.
“Who knows if they'll even pick me?” Oikawa says back to him, modest as one can be about these sorts of things, and takes the cotton into his hands for himself. “There aren’t so many spots, you know?”
Iwaizumi breathes in deep, ducking in close and Oikawa prepares himself for the kiss; but he only presses his palm to his forehead, light again in the most inane of smacks. “Start thinking like that, and you won’t be picked for anything,” he tells him, and it’s timeless the way he says it. Like the stretch of it, Oikawa exhales. Iwaizumi, certifiably somber, goes back to digging around for more band-aids.
“Do you think I’ll make it?”
This is when Iwaizumi peers back up, whole in stature, demeanor, like someone who might understand beginnings and ends. And Oikawa finds it peculiar, how he can see every defeat they’ve ever faced together, every defeat Iwaizumi might’ve seen alone—right in the eye like something tangible and true and wow, this hurts; but it fades as all natural disasters do, cinders in a long-forgotten Great Fire. Iwaizumi rises instead, eyes bright but not garishly so. It’s a smolder in the dark, and a glint of some evening sun.
“I don’t think. I know.”
This is when Oikawa joins him, under the lights of the convenience store curbside.
(22. You don’t need him, to move forward. That’s something you’ve known, and something he knows, too.
It’s nice to know he believes in you.)
Oikawa spends more time with him than anticipated, but it's never for too long each meal. It's dinner here and there, plans made after silly bets along the Kanda like baby steps or training wheels (and every other similar metaphor). If I lose, I'll buy the yakitori, if you win, I'll get the cabbage rolls—it's how spring rolls in, and he might like it this way, because this season was always made for lightness, like the cotton of a sweat-free shirt, or the first dip into a cup of vanilla ice cream. He thinks Iwaizumi might feel the same too, judging from how much he lingers at the river, head pressed into the bend of folded arms.
“You lost today’s race, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa tells him, perched right up next to him on the railing, “so pay up,” comes the tease, and he mimics the way Iwaizumi’s leaned over towards the river. He even holds a hand out, palm open for payment, and Iwaizumi merely smacks it in a low-five. He shrugs like he isn't hungry. Oikawa waits for him to air his grievances.
“All we do is have dinner,” Iwaizumi says, like that's a problem, and Oikawa looks back, perplexed.
“And?” Oikawa asks. “What, are you sick of my company—”
“No, that isn't it.”
“It's just. I don't know. In Miyagi, we rode bikes and put away volleyball nets. Hell, even when we were here for that first year, we did more than go to dinner.”
Oikawa lowers his eyes, sly, and maybe just a little bit frank. “Well, Iwa-chan, I think the time for that is a little too late, if we're on the same page—”
“Get your head out of those places.”
“Sorry,” Oikawa apologizes, still in half a laugh. He looks out to the river. “Then what do you mean?”
Iwaizumi shrugs. He does not look Oikawa in the eye, keeping his sights like a drop into the water. “We were never good at just...sitting down and doing nothing, I guess.”
“Should we stop seeing each other, then?” Oikawa blurts out.
“No,” comes Iwaizumi’s answer, a bit too quick—but he never apologizes for it. He just keeps going. “I just don't want to sit still with you. I'm so used to chasing you around and getting into trouble with you, that it feels weird when I'm not.” He exhales out after this, huffy like he's waited a whole year to say it.
Oikawa inches closer, not sure how to proceed. He never knows how to proceed with Iwaizumi, and he wonders, maybe, if it's just a matter of letting things be. That is when he decides, like a new wind in a new season, the grand re-opening of some place on the corner, to chase after the currents. To uphold your motions.
(Iwaizumi peers over at Oikawa’s phone when he writes down a new point. He asks what he's typing, and Oikawa says nothing in return.)
23. Keep going, keep going, keep going—
24. And find new places to forget what you used to be.
At the top of the Ferris Wheel on a season’s opening night, no end in sight, Oikawa points out the distance between Sumida and Sangenjaya, and Iwaizumi tells him to quit pointing at random spots in the city.
Oikawa just laughs though, feeling another knot leave his back, the awkward sort one might get with an ex (so he's glad it's gone). This is when he thinks of the other things someone might get with an ex-something or another, like symptoms you can't quite shake even when the doctor says nothing's wrong. He examines wobbly knees (less wobbly) and clammy palms (less clammy), and decides, with a breath’s worth of gusto, that he has been cured of the ills called Iwa-chan.
(But no, that isn't right. But maybe that's okay.)
Because even if the urge to kiss an ex-something might never fade, Oikawa feels it lessen, and he thinks he might like what they call levity. He takes that with him, stays where he is, and lets Iwaizumi talk on about nothing. He enjoys his company, and there is no kissing to be had.
(But just like it always does, the world keeps spinning under them.)
Matsukawa finds the list while looking for that full tab Oikawa promised he’d keep, no tallies of flat whites or milk breads in sight. It might as well be payment, though, the way he saunters around the room, glazed over at numbers and actually reading them out loud. It’s a mix of amused and horrified and a bit heartbroken, the way he goes over the list, and Oikawa watches him stop short of the parade. Hanamaki just looks up from the floor, away from his architecture homework, and senses the keenest disturbance. “What do you have there?” he asks, all humdrum. “You look like I just broke up with you.”
“You know, I thought this was a joke but,” Matsukawa starts. “There’s a lot of forgetting-about-Iwa-chan on this.”
Oikawa crosses his arms, putting on his best impression of unbothered. He goes to crack open a window in the apartment, because it’s getting too hot in here, and in the city, and this small space in his rolled-down socks. “I mean, it was New Year’s, and people always say things they don’t mean on New Year’s,” he insists, thinking of all the wasted resolutions to read more books and write more postcards to his parents (who’ve permanently decided to stay in Hokkaido).
“You’ve been keeping this list for months, now, though,” Matsukawa counters.
“Why don’t we forget about this, huh?” Oikawa goes on, finicky with the ferns on his windowsill. “We have a dinner party to plan. It’s not everyday that we have old kouhai in Tokyo for dinner, you know? I was thinking stir-fry, which is kinda fun. Maybe a souffle, if we have time to make one—”
“No souffle. I’ll buy a cake,” Matsukawa muses while dangling Oikawa’s phone in front of him. They say nothing more about any lists, and Matsukawa pinches the line across his lips like the zilch of a pocket zipper. “Anyway,” he continues, lying down next to Hanamaki, “enough about all of that. We need to start planning for our trip to Shimoda. Did you hear they have fireworks every night on the beach?”
Oikawa sighs out the window. “Well, I’m not sure I can make it, now. I have games to play, a ton of extra practices.” He lets a genuine pout escape, because even springs here felt balmier, and it would’ve been nice to wade in the water. “It’s a shame.”
“I mean, one could argue that splashing around at the beach has more merit than playing the olympics, buuut I could see why you’re skipping. Shame it is, though. You would’ve finally gotten to meet Iwaizumi’s new girlfriend.”
Matsukawa holds Oikawa’s phone up, shows him the most delightful picture of a shiba inu puppy from his most recent text message, sent precisely three minutes ago. “He named her Chika. Cute, right?”
Oikawa settles down, flits away an index finger he didn't mean to raise, and smiles. “Sure. And when did he get Chika? I didn’t hear a thing about it.”
“Hm, well, I guess it was a whim sort of thing. You know, to keep him company in that lonely house in Sangenjaya. He was sort of talking about it anyway, and he's always been good with—”
“Yes, yes, good with dogs, I know,” Oikawa says with the roll of his eyes. “Anyway,” comes the deep breath, no girlfriend in sight, “great for him. Just the best.” He wears his contempt like a neat little bow tie, too tight under a starched collar.
At this, Matsukawa just smiles from the floor, and Hanamaki follows, equally sneer, while flipping a page. “Well, I owe you five hundred,” the latter says to Matsukawa, mock-mad and digging into his pockets, “because you were completely right about things, Issei.”
“Excuse me?” Oikawa asks.
“Oh, nothing,” Matsukawa singsongs, pulling Hanamaki lightly on the ear. “Don't you worry your pretty little head. Time to think about dinner. You're coming to that, right?”
Oikawa nods. “Wouldn't miss it.” He checks his watch, hears his phone go off in another text.
From the window, not too far from street level, Oikawa spots Iwaizumi with his own phone in hand, a bundle of grocery bags in the other, and a look up into the sky. Oikawa waves back when they find each other, window open to say, “hey! Iwa-chan, way to tell me about the new girlfriend!”
In turn, he just frowns before softening. He spins around, shows off his backpack, and lets Chika, the new love of his life, take center stage, and Oikawa just laughs with the shake of his head. He’ll just never admit he's just the slightest bit jealous. He greets Chika with a wave anyway, tells Iwaizumi to get inside, and leaves it at that; with nothing more than Matsukawa’s I-told-you-so looks and the first knocks of newly-arrived guests, Oikawa composes a new note for his phone:
25. Be happy for him.
And he might be. In a room full of kouhai later that evening, full-flushed from Isojiman sake and the merriment of a new pet, Iwaizumi is at the center, ever vibrant. When he raises Chika’s palm with a light wave of his own, Oikawa glues a grin to the back of his hand, hides the urge to burst into a mix of a bowl and a gush, and wonders endlessly.
A kouhai, Yahaba Shigeru, wanders over to him with the slightest caution, the utmost deference. “So, are you two still together?” he asks in drunkenness, and Oikawa can only answer in honesty.
“No, we're not,” he tells him, and it's comfortably adrift, like seeing him from afar. He watches Iwaizumi laugh over the table, a joy of his own, and wishes for more, tenfold.
(All at once, and ever so briefly, Oikawa wonders what it'd be like for him to fall in love with someone else.)
By summer, it's settled.
26. Don't go to Shimoda. This is what Oikawa writes on the day of his first extended team practice, early morning, a forlorn attempt at not grieving his first real vacation and his spot in a rental car to the coast.
He leans down to stretch instead, hands to his toes, music at high blast. A coach’s words ring through his head in turn, an echo through alt pop: on behalf of your knees, please avoid sprinting, Oikawa Tooru. He does what he's told, ignoring personal times for once, and feels himself sweat with the season, anyway. He curses under his breath when he feels himself go too slow, general form a mess, and succumbs to a brisk walk in temptation. He trudges through the honeyed air.
The Kanda, a shimmer and a taunt, waits on the side, never to tell. At once, Oikawa wipes his face off with the collar of his shirt, picks up his pace, and remembers to keep going. Stopping was never an option.
Oikawa takes this to new games, past tournament qualifications, and a crowd waiting to tear into him; but summer starts with a victory, when he sets to someone he's learned well enough, and the ball goes flying to the other side, in-bounds and untouched. It is a checkmate and a war cry, the way it rings, and Oikawa raises his hands into the air. He meets a wing spiker, the foreign ace, for the high-five, and it does not feel any sorts unpleasant.
He does this again for the next three days, in practice matches and private setting sessions, because he isn't about to keep any misfits on the team and it had been his job, anyway, to learn how to toss to everyone. It’s Monday when he decides to take his usual day of rest, right along the Kanda with Yahaba Shigeru on some brisk morning walk, because he had insisted on apologizing to him about the inappropriate questions; but Oikawa’s got those usual lists in his head, grocery and to-do, and he’d nearly forgotten about it. To call for a further peace—and because, really, it’s fine, don’t worry about it—he even invites Yahaba on a riveting round of yoga in the park, underneath the shade of a willow. Easy breathing with socks kicked off. Meditate and levitate. Yahaba casually brings up that it’s June tenth.
“What did you just say?” Oikawa asks, craning his head in a jolt.
“Oh, I was just saying, senpai, I can’t believe it’s already summer, you know? Seems like yesterday I was just at the shrine to ask for blessings and all—”
“No, I mean—what did you say after that?”
“That I wished for good health and prosperity?”
“No, after that.”
“That it’s...June tenth?”
Oikawa feels his whole being drop. “Oh, no.”
“Oh no, what?” asks Yahaba.
“I’ve been so busy that I forgot.” Oikawa gets up, rolls up his mat in a fury, and slips on his trainers without the socks. He digs out his phone, presses around for the nearest rent-a-car establishment, and looks to make sure he has a wallet on him.
“Wait, what did you forget?”
“That today is Iwa-chan’s birthday.”
“I thought you guys weren’t together anymore.”
“What does that have to do with forgetting his birthday?” Oikawa asks back, already distracted, and he thinks about texting Iwaizumi the usual HAPPY BIRTHDAY IWA-CHAN for starters. He doesn’t though, because he has a better idea than that, and it might be a rather frantic use of his Monday off, but it’ll be worth it. He thinks about the things already on his list, the latest point in trying to forget, and breathes out.
Don't go to Shimoda. Do go to Shimoda. But just for that one day. June tenth. Because it just happens to be Iwa-chan’s birthday, and you needed a break anyway, and what better way to spend it?
With a phone gripped tight in his hands, he tells Yahaba to come along, and the day is set.
(Oikawa thinks he’s never really liked yoga, anyway.)
“If you don’t mind me asking, senpai, what exactly happened to the two of you?”
“I embarrassed myself at a game and ran out. He found me by the Kanda later that night and we broke up,” Oikawa answers plainly at the wheel, road still ahead.
“Seriously, though?” Yahaba asks, trying his best to write in a blank birthday card he’s made out of college-ruled notebook paper and mediocre classroom doodles. “It’s as simple as that?”
“Well, that’s the version I’m going to tell you about,” Oikawa answers plainly, and he remembers why he’s never liked riding with anyone on long car rides. He remembers the ones with his brother over hometown summers, a definite mark of adolescence when he started asking, “so, have anyone at school you like? Someone special?” and all he could think of, oddly, was Iwaizumi. This isn’t so different, he thinks, and he feels the same sort of warmth pinch him at the shirt collar. Stop it, he tells himself. Yahaba says no more about the matter. Oikawa drives on, foot on the gas and no where near a seasoned driver, memories like the clear outline of the mountains ahead.
Most nights of the year, Oikawa Tooru usually found himself right by the side of the Kanda River. That night had been no different. He had just come from a game—not his own, because he had played earlier in the day—and he was still fuming about it, because Iwaizumi’s team was losing and the coach had no intention of putting him in. It had been a whir (and he still barely remembers it to this day), but with hands over the railing, no intention of cowering against recent tensions in their apartment and the call for a reevaluation of their relationship—because they had made a promise that day after harukou—he had yelled, a blind fury, and loud enough for a hushed gym to hear. “Put him in,” he had shouted too loud, “PUT HIM IN,” because we were supposed to do this together. I was supposed to meet you on the other side of that court.
PUT HIM IN.
Iwaizumi’s coach, in turn, did no such thing.
And Iwaizumi had smiled up at him then, maybe just a bit hopeless and still on the bench, but Oikawa could tell something had burst, like this was the last stand. A catalyst for a cataclysm. Like you shouldn’t have had to see me like this. Oikawa remembers running away after that. Iwaizumi came to look for him by the Kanda, anyway, because it had been the first place they came to after moving everything in. (Fitting, that it should be their last, too, for the time being.)
At once, and back on the road to Shimoda, Oikawa remembers the Monday night movie, the slap across the face and the high drama; but when he recalls the rest of their time along the Kanda, it’s a scene of muted conversation, mouths moving, faces falling and rising and falling again. Iwaizumi hadn’t gotten angry. Oikawa had talked honestly without pretense. It was an airing of the grievances, blunt but needed, and he could’ve sworn their shoulders had gotten lighter as the night wore on. The rest, after that, was history, and Oikawa has an easier time swallowing it down than before.
“So, how long before we reach Shimoda?” Yahaba asks after a while. Oikawa looks at the time.
“Not long at all,” he says, and he presses his foot down on the pedal. An old asphalt rolls under them, rickety and unsure, before switching into something smoother. Brand new.
27. Remember Shimoda as a time when you got everything perfect.
This is what Oikawa writes down proudly when he’s got everything set up for the surprise, tents raised and bonfires made and table set up with an unlit ice cream cake. Yahaba’s gone off to (covertly, maybe) to tell Matsukawa and Hanamaki the news, and he can only imagine the smugness on their faces: ‘that kid always goes to the limits, doesn’t he?’ they might ask between the two of them, but Oikawa might be able to take the claim in stride, this time. “I’m just a good friend, a best friend,” he says to himself out loud, feet pressed in the sand, and bites his tongue when he begins to think otherwise.
Oikawa breathes in. When he exhales, the wind kicks up with him, foreboding, and the lawn chair goes with it. A passing mother drags her child from the shoreline not long after, and the latter points up at a darkening sky by the sea.
“It’s going to rain soon, onii-san,” he calls to Oikawa. “Take your birthday party inside.” He’s insistent about this, as children tend to be about birthday parties, and Oikawa’s petulant enough not to listen. He just crosses his arms, looks out to the shore, and seeks to defy the oncoming storm; from there, he takes the birthday cake from the table and battens down the tent until he hits the under layer of hearty sand.
Rain hits the nylon of his tent not long after, a pitter-patter of a challenge. Oikawa makes himself a shelter, huddled inside, and gets a call from Yahaba. “I’m so sorry,” he says over the line without a hello, “but they saw that it started raining and said there was no way they were going to go to the beach, so I had to tell them what was going on. He should be on his way now, to get you.”
“What? Who? Mattsun or Makki-chan?” Oikawa asks. “You didn’t tell him, did you?"
Oikawa looks up, hangs up his phone immediately, and drops it right to the side. Iwaizumi’s there, already partially soaked by summer rain, and he’s shaking his head like he can’t believe it; in turn, Oikawa just welcomes him into the tent, flashlights on for the lack of light. He smiles by a mouth, mashed closed. “Um.” A gulp. “Happy birthday?”
Iwaizumi sits down next to Oikawa and sighs. “You drove all this way to give me a cake.”
Oikawa frowns. “Not just any cake, Iwa-chan. It’s your favorite. Vanilla, with a layer of matcha in the middle, and it wasn’t even just a cake. I had a whole thing planned, and we can still have this party when the rain lets up, you know, because the evening is young, and we’re young, so we can stay up late and I’ll just drive back in the morning—”
“Oikawa.” The voice that comes isn’t in the mood for celebrating. “You drove all this way.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“You have practice tomorrow.”
“But in the afternoon,” Oikawa revises. “So it’s fine,” he says, chin hidden in the pop of his shirt collar. “It’s perfectly fine.”
“What’s wrong?” Iwaizumi asks, and the question catches Oikawa off-guard this time. “And don’t tell me nothing is wrong, because you’ll just be wasting your breath.”
Oikawa doesn’t answer at first. He traces the edges of each match in his pack instead, because they really ought to light this birthday cake already, especially if they were going to be the only two on his beach, and it’d be like making up for the birthday he missed last year, when things were distant and hazy and weird—but Oikawa remembers there’s no use in averting, forever. He just stares up, honest like he had been at the Kanda, and says it. “I forgot that your birthday was today,” comes the truth, and even Iwaizumi’s taken aback at the news. “I woke up, brushed my teeth, walked along the river, and thought about the rest of my morning without it even crossing my mind.”
“Oh.” Iwaizumi says this with a drop that falls farther than any grand canyon. “I mean, that’s fine. I get it. You’re busy, and there’s always going to be other birthdays. Hell, maybe I’ll miss yours right back, then."
“But you wouldn’t. Not ever,” Oikawa snaps back, but slight. “And I never have before today, either.”
“That doesn’t mean you should’ve driven all the way to goddamned Shimoda, Tooru—”
“But sometimes it does.” Oikawa gets close again, right in a proximity close enough to kiss him, and he does this time. It’s capricious at first, the way he misses his mouth, all noses pressed together, and he thinks it’s like forgetting how to breathe when he’s done it all his life. In turn, Iwaizumi kisses him right the hell back, thumbs strumming a temple and the edge of a heated ear. He whispers nothing but sighs, almost-questions like what the hell do you want and what the hell should we be doing—and the rain, in the humblest return, comes down harder over them, just like that first day and the beginning of everything. It taunts. His stomach turns. Oikawa stares on after separating, breaking into a laugh, lightheaded and maybe the slightest bit claustrophobic, and decides to light a single candle on Iwaizumi’s cake, instead.
“Won’t you make a wish, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks, because he’d like to make one of his own. “Won’t you, please?” It swells in his head, tells him to run, because he knows about the dangers of falling, again, for an ex-someone.
He presses another kiss on his cheek for good measure, tells him again, “happy birthday,” barely said, and runs out into the rain. Iwaizumi does not chase him.
(28. Never forget his birthday again. It only seems to bring you the worst luck.
Forgetting him, though—that might be another matter altogether.)
Oikawa returns to practice the next few mornings like nothing had ever happened, focus at the forefront with hands nimble against the ball and most of this tosses; he glides in with smiles and ignores the phone in his duffle bag (mostly used to only call his mother on weekends, and not much more). He goes to lunch with Hanamaki and Matsukawa on Mondays, and attends yoga sessions in the park. Summer rolls on like this, right into July, and it’s a flurry of casual dates and ignoring Iwa-chan (and Oikawa only feels a slight itch roll up his spine, when he knows how immature he’s being). Even Matsukawa has something to say about it, when they go out for beers one night, and it’s been much too hot to let them sit out for too long.
“So, it’s over then? This grand experiment of being friends with your ex?”
Now, Oikawa wouldn’t say that. “It’s just. Weird. Something.” He refrains from saying much else about it, because he’s been known to be every kind of drunk under the sun; happy, mean, and just a bit weepy, and Oikawa feels the latter coming on in a fury. He swallows down his beer instead, makes x’s and o’s over game plans for a game later in the week, and lets the rest of the conversation go into a blur. He taps his foot on the bar floor linoleum.
“Hey, so what were you planning on for your birthday this year?” Matsukawa asks, still holding strong.
“Huh?” Oikawa asks drowsily. He cuts himself off at the second Suntory, keeping a practice game in mind for tomorrow. “Nothing, I suppose.” He hadn’t really thought about it, but something small was beginning to sound appealing. “Why?”
“I mean, it is a month away.”
Oikawa shrugs, already feeling twenty years older. “I have an idea, actually,” he says with a smile, too wide-mouthed to care, and settles himself on the bar top. “Forget it, why don’t you?” comes the suggestion, and Matsukawa pats him, fully sympathetic, on the back.
“Not a chance, my friend.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because he’d kill me, if I did.”
29. Stop talking to him.
29. Don’t call him.
29. Stop being around him.
29. Promise that you’ll never kiss him again.
29. Remember that you have your own life to lead.
30. But don’t regret kissing him.
“I don’t regret kissing you,” Oikawa tells him at the bottom of stone steps, foreign to the neighborhood of Sangenjaya with the rest of the summer to go and a birthday in six days. Iwaizumi only agrees by the nod of his head, Chika growling from her leash at the top of the stairs, and it’s a miracle he’s even found him at all. Oikawa swallows when he makes the first part known, because he really hadn’t regretted a thing, and he’d do it again, if he could, just go right up the steps and plant one on him, but he doesn’t—he just says the next part, less exuberant, but needed: “but we both have things to do,” and people to be, and it would be a terrible detriment, to keep each other in sewn-shut pockets. Iwaizumi understands completely, shoulders lowered but unweighted by the fall.
“So?” He asks. “Is that it, then? Do we stop seeing each other?” Iwaizumi asks, more a matter-of-fact than anything.
Oikawa shakes his head. There’s a quickness to it, the type that might leave a person with a stiff neck in the morning, but he doesn’t care. “I don’t want that,” he tells him, and he breaks into a grin over the answer. Chika barks at him, probably jealous of a certain sync.
“Well, I don’t want that, either,” says Iwaizumi. “And maybe one day, that’ll be the last time I’ll wake up and think: I never want to kiss you again. But I think I promised that too soon, before,” he says, ever-honest.
“What, is this a confession of love, Iwa-chan?”
“I’ll let you imagine.”
“So, what should we do, then?”
Iwaizumi does not answer at first. The bleep of a nearby train, hearty and nagging, comes to say that Oikawa should be catching it back to Sumida soon, and he counts their time together until he realizes he doesn’t have to.
At this, they both peer at each other, careful never in the equation for too long, and release their guards and the last of their walls. Oikawa beats Iwaizumi up the stairs, ever light in his steps, and looks back at Iwaizumi along the way.
“We see where things go, to wherever we’re meant to be,” comes Iwaizumi’s answer, and Oikawa breathes easier, then easy, all the way to the station.
31. Whatever will be, will be.
Most nights of the year, Oikawa Tooru finds himself beside the Kanda River.
This is no exception even two weeks before the Olympics, because he’s nervous, and everyone’s forgotten his twenty-third birthday, so he might as well, because he didn’t need anyone, anyway. It had been a regularly uneventful afternoon besides that, with a phone call from his mother in Hokkaido, the hearty well-wishes from national teammates, a winning lottery ticket from the convenience store (and a whole five-hundred yen, at that). He takes this all the way to the river, runs at a respectable pace for the next hour, and throws his head up to the stars. Oikawa gleams, when he thinks they wave back; because there’s a light in the near distance, almost too small to make out, and he can’t help but chide, well, you’re missing out on a lot, aren’t you, Iwa-chan?
(He goes to follow it, proud of whatever he’s made for the past year and some months, and does not look back.)
Relenting, Oikawa gives Iwaizumi another call. When he gets his voicemail again, he considers throwing his phone into the Kanda as an offering. He goes on instead, picking up his pace into a sprint until he hears someone call after him. A dog. Chika, maybe. The light grows closer ahead and she shows up, a ghastly vision (and he can’t help but think how they’ve never really gotten along).
“Great, have you gotten yourself lost, Chika-chan?” Oikawa asks, stopping to pet her. She growls at him, as if to say, never, because I’m not you, and spits out a small note from between her teeth instead. Oikawa opens it, picking Chika up in his arms in the meanwhile, and walks along.
(When he reads the title at the top, he nearly trips over himself. In the near distance, he hears a match being lit.)
HOW TO BEGIN AGAIN WITH OIKAWA TOORU
An Ongoing List by Iwaizumi Hajime
He stops when he realizes the list is blank under this, not empty but limitless and maybe in need of a response.
Oikawa dares to look up after a while, gawking right at a group of old friends at a table by the Kanda, sparklers lit and birthday cake at the helm.
“Didn’t think we’d actually forget, right?” Matsukawa just laughs in the smallest motions, holding up the night’s forecast for clear skies ahead, while Hanamaki distracts Chika with a treat and a chair of her own at the festivities.
Laughing, mostly speechless, Oikawa goes right in, about the blow out the single candle on his cake before realizing. He looks to either side, to the river and to his friends, stumbling with the words before finding them. “Where’s Iwa-chan?” he asks, list still in his hands, knowing just what to say—that I’d very much like to see you too, past wherever they’ve been and where they might be, soon.
When he turns, sentiments heard across the city, Iwaizumi’s there to greet him.
It is with something spinning that Oikawa comes to close the distance, hands to fill the gaps, always to learn and always to do; and he thinks, maybe, that it was never about forgetting. Rather, starting anew.