“Tooru, contrary to popular belief, you are not an infant, and I do not need to hold your hand when you go grocery shopping.”
Oikawa pouts instinctually despite the fact Iwaizumi can’t see him through the cellphone, crinkling his nose and making the biggest boo-boo lip he can manage. “I know I’m not an infant,” he whines, purposefully ignoring the second half of Iwaizumi’s comment.
“I know you’re just ignoring the second half of my comment,” Iwaizumi grunts. “And your solution to the problem of me not coming with you is…to call me. Instead of manning up and doing something on your own.”
“It’s not a question of whether I can do something on my own,” Oikawa sighs. “It’s a question of if I want to.” Humming thoughtfully, Oikawa tucks the phone into the crook of his neck and shoulder and gives his cart a shove, hopping onto it as it picks up speed. The cart lets out a miserable squeal of protest. “See, I could go to the store and buy the food myself, or I could go with you and knock things off the shelves, blaming you, put laxatives in the cart, open the boxes before we buy them…”
He grins when Iwaizumi makes a choked sound of rage. “Isn’t that more fun, Iwa-chan?”
Iwaizumi exhales loudly, the sound crackling across their connection. “You know what you need? You need to settle down.”
Oikawa hops off the cart, his grin shifting into that vacant smile, no true mirth behind it. “I never said I was acting up, Iwa-chan; you should stop making such wild accusa—”
“You know what I mean,” Iwaizumi says. “Date someone. Get married. Have a family. You’re twenty-five; stop pretending you’re a kid, for god’s sake.”
The comment stings more than it’s meant to, probably because it’s true. Twenty-five years old, uni under his belt, and Oikawa is still playing around. Still playing fucking volleyball. The coaching job was supposed to be a part-time thing after his knee destroyed any chance Oikawa had at an athletic career. Part-time job led to depression, which led to intramural volleyball, which led to depression after university, which led to…full-time job.
A sports medicine degree was supposed to be Oikawa’s ticket to redemption, to helping people never have to feel like him, but it just made him miserable. He was and always would be a petty jackass who couldn’t watch others best him. Despite what Iwaizumi told him, Oikawa hadn’t grown up.
In reply to Iwaizumi’s demands, Oikawa mutters, “I hate kids.”
Iwaizumi snorts. “Uh, yeah, nice try. You coach kids. You work with kids for a living, every day, elementary schoolers in the morning, junior high in the afternoon, and private lessons on the weekends. You are the definition of ‘works well with kids.’”
“Okay, but that doesn’t mean I like them!” Oikawa laughs, caught. “I only like coaching them because I could crush them one-handedly if it came down to it.”
“That’s also not true,” Iwaizumi says fondly. “Like it or not, you’re getting soft, Oikawa. One day you’ll be coaching high school and shock us all.”
“Ugh, as if,” Oikawa snorts, rolling his eyes. “Could you imagine? With my luck, I’d end up coaching Waka-chan’s devil spawn.”
“‘You should’ve come to Shiratorizawa,’” Iwaizumi impersonates, lowering his voice dramatically. Oikawa barks out a surprised laugh.
“Do another! Another!” He crows, ignoring the dirty looks from other patrons.
This time Iwaizumi’s voice is flat, with just the tiniest hint of annoyance. “Hajime, dear, what did I say about moving the furniture around without my permission? The feng shui of this arrangement is abominable.” Oikawa cackles, throwing his head back and clapping a hand over his eyes.
“Don’t tell Keiji I said that,” Iwaizumi hisses into the receiver. “He’ll give me that look.”
“Aw, well aren’t you smitten?” Oikawa teases. “Don’t let the new house tear your marriage apart.”
“I’m not worried,” Iwaizumi says. “We can always bond over how intolerable our best friends are.”
“Hey!” Oikawa protests. “Kou-chan is so much worse than me!”
“Going to have to go with ‘no’ for that one, sorry Tooru,” Iwaizumi argues. “He can be endearing at times. Anyway, aren’t you supposed to be shopping?”
Oikawa puffs out his cheeks ineffectually. “It’s not too late for you to join me, you know…”
“No,” Iwaizumi says firmly. “Buy vegetables. Stay away from the sweets. Meet someone nice. Say ‘thank you.’”
“Hmph,” Oikawa grumbles, picking up a packet of tuna rolls and turning them over, wincing at the price.
“Put down the sushi,” Iwaizumi says, and Oikawa jumps, nearly dropping the packet in his surprise. He glances around suspiciously. Was Iwaizumi watching him? “You made that little noise of disgust when you see something too expensive,” Iwaizumi explains. “I’m glad college turned you into a bargain shopper, though.”
“Why can’t I have sushi?” Oikawa whines. “It’s healthy.”
“Yeah, but it’s also a ready-made meal,” Iwaizumi points out. “How are you ever going to learn to cook if you never actually cook?”
Oikawa throws the tuna rolls in his cart, just to spite Iwaizumi. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Iwa-chan. I’m putting broccoli in my cart as we speak.”
“You’ve never eaten broccoli in your life.”
“A whole quarter-kilo of this…stick-looking…stuff…”
“Please tell me there’s actually at least one real vegetable in your cart, Tooru,” Iwaizumi pleads.
“Ugh, maybe Iwa-chan should quit acting like such a mom to me, and go bother his husband instead,” Oikawa says.
“I can’t—last time we talked, we argued over the paint color for the egg’s room and he won overwhelmingly,” Iwaizumi confesses. “I can’t face him yet, I’m not strong enough.” Akaashi and Iwaizumi had taken to calling the guest room ‘the egg’s room’ in an effort to keep the image of their potential child gender neutral and also to keep away from the panic word. (The panic word was, of course, ‘baby,’ because neither of them were quite ready to become fathers yet and accept the daunting responsibility of a child.)
“What color is it going to be?” Oikawa asks.
Iwaizumi pauses. “Seijou green,” he admits. “Keiji told me he’s always loved the color and gold would be too much, so…”
Ouch. “Ouch,” Oikawa laughs. “Yeah, he really got you there.”
“And—hey! It’s your fault that I’m bugging you anyway!” Iwaizumi exclaims.
“Oh look! Oreos! Into the cart they go!” Oikawa cries in a sing-song voice. “Look at all this candy I’m going to get now that Iwa-chan isn’t here to stop me~!” Oikawa turns the corner of the aisle, a mischievous smirk on his face. Milk bread should be right—
Oikawa’s brain supplies the name of the person standing at the other end of the aisle before Oikawa can even register him, attuned to spitting out facts about other volleyball players on a second’s notice, even after all these years. Karasuno High vice-captain. 174 cm…no, more like 176 now. Skilled at raising morale and bringing an element of surprise to their strategy. Troublesome. Refreshing. Setter.
Not that Oikawa can really call him the enemy, since he’s been out of high school for six years and hasn’t seen Sugawara since. Different universities, different interests, no number to contact each other by…it wasn’t a big deal. They weren’t close. Oikawa hardly knew the guy. He doesn’t really care about him. Oikawa’s just going to grab his milk bread and get the hell out of dodge. Seriously, any minute now.
Iwaizumi is squawking about something on the phone, but it’s funny, because Oikawa can’t hear him at all. There’s an odd feeling in his chest, watching Sugawara Koushi. He feels as if all his sense were heightened, fixed on a single, solitary, silver point. He swallows unconsciously, and the motion is weirdly uncomfortable. Oikawa blinks and wipes his free hand on his pants, surprised to find it sweaty. This is weird, weird, weird.
Sugawara picks up a loaf of bread.
At this point, Oikawa wants to cry, laugh, or both, because he can’t look away from Sugawara. It’s so stupid—he’s just turning over a loaf of bread, a thoughtful smile on his face, brushing aside a strand of hair as it falls in front of his face, tucking it neatly behind his ear. Sugawara looks up from the bread, gaze distant, and picks up another, a whole-wheat alternative. He debates between the two loaves, brow pinched together and lip making a slight pout.
This is the most boring spying-on you’ve ever done, Oikawa’s brain supplies helpfully. There is nothing exciting at all about watching an old rival grocery shop, and yet you’re still watching. What the fuck, man?
Sugawara is dressed in a long coat, a lighter, loosely-fitting shirt, and a scarf that is—Oikawa’s heart jumps—just a little too dark to be Seijou colors. Oikawa is suddenly and keenly aware of how Iwaizumi must have felt when Akaashi suggested they paint their future child’s room his school colors.
Go talk to him, Oikawa’s mind suggests, as if that weren’t the worst and most horrific idea known to man.
Fuck no! Oikawa argues back with it. I’m not going to encourage any of this…this…this wayward thinking! Fuck Sugawara Koushi!
Or you could, you know, fuck—
“Ooookay,” Oikawa says aloud, drowning out any possibility of that thought being completed. “Okay, we talk to the hot boy and get the fuck out of here, buy takeout for the rest of our lives, and never leave the house again.”
“Who the fuck are you talking to?” Iwaizumi asks, sounding decidedly irritated and confused.
“Gotta go, bye Hajime!” Oikawa squeaks, slamming the ‘end’ button as hard as he can.
Then, taking a steadying breath and recalling that yes, he is in fact the most gorgeous and smooth bachelor in this stretch of the Miyagi prefecture, Oikawa rolls his cart alongside Sugawara’s. Sugawara, against all odds, does not notice Oikawa’s charming and charismatic presence lingering behind him next to the saltine crackers. He coughs politely.
Sugawara turns around slowly, making a small questioning noise that turns Oikawa’s fake cough into a very real one as he chokes on his spit. He curls into himself, trying to contain it, and by the time he’s composed himself, Sugawara is reaching out a concerned hand, eyes wide and precious and that lovely shade of just-light-enough brown to turn gold in the light…
You’re in a fucking grocery mart, Tooru. The only light shining on either of you is cheap fluorescents and the sparkles and stars and hearts dancing around Sugawara’s face, you raging pansexual.
“So, come here often?” Oikawa asks, voice painfully high-pitched and far too casual for someone who had nearly choked to death.
“Are you okay?” Sugawara asks, still looking concerned, his hand hovering over Oikawa’s arm like he’s trying to decide how friendly he can be with a stranger.
“Yeah, yeah; it’s nothing,” Oikawa says, shrugging. “Happens all the time.” What the fuck. What the fuck! Are you trying to sound like a colossal imbecile?
But he must be doing something right, because Sugawara smiles and bites his lip (what the fuck), looking like he’s holding down a laugh. “If you say so,” he replies, raising an eyebrow playfully.
“You probably don’t remember me, but—” Oikawa starts.
“I remember you,” Sugawara says, cutting him off. “Oikawa Tooru, Aobajohsai’s incredible setter. You gave us quite the run for our money in our third year.”
“And I remember you, Mr. Refreshing,” Oikawa returns.
Sugawara laughs. “Mr. Refreshing? What’s that all about?”
“What? I think it’s a pretty fitting nickname for a pinch setter,” Oikawa defends, holding his hands up.
“Okay, but do you know my real name?” Sugawara giggles.
Oikawa taps his chin thoughtfully. “Hmm…Se—su—Sawamura Daichi.”
Sugawara punches him in the shoulder, and none too lightly either. “Asshole,” he says with a grin. “You know who I am.”
“Sugawara Koushi,” Oikawa relents, rubbing his arm. “The stories about your legendary punches have not been exaggerated in the slightest.”
“Aw, don’t flatter me now,” Sugawara says, batting his eyelashes dramatically.
Oikawa’s heart sings. We’re flirting. We’re flirting.
“So, I don’t see you for…six? Six years, and all of a sudden you show up at my local grocery mart. What’s up with that?” Sugawara asks, leaning against his cart like he’s ready for a long conversation.
“Whoa, hold up—this is my local grocery mart,” Oikawa states. “Get your own, you no-good dirty rotten grocery thief.” Sugawara rolls his eyes fondly. “Actually I’m here because Iwaizumi is tossing me forcefully from the nest.”
“Ah,” Sugawara says in understanding. “Force the little ones to grow up, huh?”
“Aw, come on,” Oikawa laughs. “What kind of bachelor would I be if I knew how to cook?”
“One with a leg up in the marriage business,” Sugawara teases, poking him in the chest. “How’re you expecting to get a wife if you make her do all the work?”
“With looks like these?” Oikawa flips his hair and poses. It’s the kind of dumb shit he would only do to antagonize Iwaizumi, and in public it’s a little embarrassing, but Sugawara’s giggle is worth it. “What about you?” Oikawa asks. “What have you been up to?”
“Japanese Literature degree with a minor in Visual Arts,” Sugawara says, shrugging. Oikawa raises an eyebrow in interest. Sugawara looks embarrassed. “My folks wanted me to get a business degree and work in an office like every hard-working breadwinner in my family, but…” He shrugs again. “I fell in love.”
“That’s understandable, though,” Oikawa says. “I can tell you firsthand that studying something you hate will only make you miserable.”
“What? Oh…yeah…” Sugawara agrees. “I thought you liked sports medicine.”
Oikawa blinks. “How’d you know I studied sports medicine?”
Sugawara shoots him a wry grin. “The ol’ volleyball grapevine comes in handy once in a while. I talk to Yaku, who talks to Watari, who is apparently the only one who bothers to stalk your team’s Facebook pages.”
“That seems pretty characteristic of him,” Oikawa laughs, but the conversation is slipping into somewhat uncomfortable territory. Both Oikawa and Sugawara seem to be college failures in different senses of the phrase—either way, it’s not exactly a happy topic. But the pause in conversation leaves Oikawa the perfect opportunity. “Listen, would you—”
The voice is soft and small and low to the ground. Oikawa wouldn’t have even reacted to it if Sugawara hadn’t. But at the pleading tone in the voice, Sugawara whips around to follow it to a person as tiny as his voice and Oikawa feels his heart sink to his feet. No, but that couldn’t—
“Yes, baby? What’s wrong?” Sugawara asks in an equally soft and gentle voice, the exact tone of a parent responding to neediness from their child.
Sugawara had a kid.
Furthermore, that kid wasn’t a baby—he could walk and talk and carry a box of Garigari-kun popsicles on his own. In other words: Sugawara Koushi was married, had been married for a while, and had a kid to seal the deal. He was so far beyond ‘off the market’ he landed right in the middle of ‘housebreaker’ territory if Oikawa were to pursue him.
“Can we have ice cream?” the little boy asks, blue eyes round as saucers and endearing to hell and back. Oikawa is disgusted and impressed by the skillful use of his cuteness to get what he wanted.
“Just this once, Tobio,” Sugawara gives in with little fight. He holds a finger up to his lips. “It’ll be our little secret.” Their little secret from Sugawara’s wife, who would surely find out and mock-scold Sugawara before he sweeps her into his arms and kisses her, scooping up Tobio and holding him between them, a happy little family…
Oikawa knows a dead end when he sees one. Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t leave Sugawara with a good impression. While Sugawara turns back to finally pick one of the two loaves of bread, Oikawa crouches down, eye level with his son. “Hi there!” he says cheerfully. “So your name is Tobio, huh? Can I call you Tobio-chan?”
Tobio eyes him quietly for a moment, in the way shy young kids do. Oikawa is almost certain he’ll hide his face behind the popsicle box, but he finally speaks up. “Are you a filthy cheating scumbag of a heartbreaker, too?” Tobio’s eyes dart around suspiciously and he leans closer. In a loud whisper, he asks, “Are you an ugly gold-digging bitch-man?”
Oikawa’s jaw drops. His mouth flaps open, closed, open, closed. He’s so beyond floored that his mind has gone completely offline. What the hell was he supposed to say to that?
Tobio’s eyes narrow in judgement. “So you are,” he says, practically hisses, and grips his box of popsicles like a weapon. “You better stay away from Papa and I, or, or—”
“Oh, this is Tooru-san, Tobio—ah!” Sugawara covers his mouth. “I’m sorry, that was a bit presumptuous of me.”
“No, that’s…that’s fine,” Oikawa says a little blissfully. His smile and doe eyes at Sugawara must have further incriminated him in Tobio’s eyes, because Tobio’s scowl deepens.
“Tooru-jerk,” he mutters.
Oikawa sputters, but Sugawara laughs. “He is kind of weird-looking, isn’t he? And smelly, I bet.”
“The smelliest,” Tobio agrees.
“Thank you for protecting me, Tobio,” Sugawara says warmly, “but Tooru-san is actually an old friend of mine, so be nice. He may have a scary face, but he’s a good guy.”
“My face isn’t scary,” Oikawa mutters, standing.
“He’s a little funny about men that smile at me,” Sugawara says. “Don’t take it personally.”
“Downright angel, that one,” Oikawa mutters again, and Sugawara laughs. Internally, though, Oikawa turns Sugawara’s words over in his head. Why would Tobio be suspicious of nice people?
Tobio sticks his tongue out at Oikawa and Oikawa, always one to give in to childish urges, sticks his tongue out at Tobio in return. Sugawara ruffles his son’s hair fondly and gives Oikawa a wry smile. “I think you’re just mad that he one-upped you,” Sugawara says.
“I—no! He did not!” Oikawa sputters.
“You’ll be great friends,” Sugawara crows. “Just the right age group.”
“Does that imply I’ll be seeing you again?”
Caught up in his own game, Sugawara flushes a pretty pink. Suddenly, he can’t meet Oikawa’s eyes. Tobio’s eyes widen as his head whips between the two of them.
“I’m sure you’ll…see me around,” Sugawara says finally. Oikawa deflates a little.
Catching his dejection, Sugawara says, “It was really, really nice catching up with you, Tooru-kun.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for you,” Oikawa promises.
“You know where I shop,” Sugawara says.
They part ways with one more bitter glaring contest between Oikawa and Tobio. Tobio grips Sugawara’s hand tightly and sniffs. Oikawa feels both as if he’s floating and as if he’s made a mortal enemy. An interesting combination, considering they both (technically) came from the same person. He doesn’t waste any time in dialing Iwaizumi’s number, voice grossly breathless as he speaks.
“Hajime, you won’t believe who I just ran into…”
Oikawa is cursed. Actually, in this scenario, he would call it blessed.
It’d been a week since The Grocery Incident, as he had taken to calling it, punctuated by Iwaizumi’s groans and offers to get Sugawara’s number for him so they could just talk already. Oikawa refused every time. As if Sugawara’s no-doubt beautiful wife would appreciate a single and very interested man poking around in her husband’s business. Oikawa was totally going to get over his dumb crush, any day now.
And then he runs into Sugawara on the way to work.
This Sugawara is nothing like the easy-going, mild-tempered Sugawara he had seen at the grocery mart. This Sugawara is wearing a neat button-up shirt and slacks, balancing a coffee in one hand and an office bag and jacket in the other, cellphone tucked tight between ear and shoulder. His face is pinched in a frown and he’s speaking too fast into the cellphone for Oikawa to catch. Despite Sugawara’s preoccupation, Oikawa waves.
Sugawara squints, then his face opens up into a worn smile as he recognizes his old acquaintance. He waves his free shoulder in the only greeting I can manage. Oikawa’s now close enough to him to make out his words. “I know, Suzuki-san, but I only need one more afternoon, then—I know it’s her birthday, but please, just for one hour. I’ll end class early, please, I just need this on—okay…okay, I understand. Have a nice day too, Suzuki-san.”
A weight descends on Sugawara and his shoulders slump. Oikawa frowns. “What was that all about?”
Sugawara pockets his phone, shifting the bag over his shoulder. He runs a hand through his hair. “That was Tobio’s nanny,” he sighs. “She was supposed to be in town all this week, but she decided to leave early very suddenly. As in, that was the first and last time I heard about it.”
Busy family, Oikawa thinks, and hums sympathetically. It’s rough when both parents are working.
“I have to get to school,” Sugawara sighs, “but I don’t have a sitter for Tobio. He gets out from school earlier than I do, and with traffic…you know how it goes.”
Oikawa doesn’t, actually, since he works very close to home, but he’s sympathetic, and an idea is forming in his head. “When does Tobio get out of school?”
“Two,” Sugawara says. “A friend drops him home, and he has a key, but I don’t like him to be on his own for two hours.”
“My coaching doesn’t start until five,” Oikawa says hesitantly. “I mean, if you’re really in that much of a pinch, I could…”
“Would you really?” Sugawara asks, relief already bleeding onto his face.
“Sure,” Oikawa says. “Just text me your address and I’ll be there.”
“You have no idea how much of a help this is,” Sugawara says. “I’ll—I’ll pay you, I promise Tobio will be on his best behavior—”
Oikawa laughs. “No need for all that,” he says. “I work with kids too, you know.”
“At least let me treat you to dinner,” Sugawara says.
Oikawa’s stomach growls and betrays him. That pretty, mischievous smile returns to Sugawara’s face. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he says, sticking his tongue out just a little. Oikawa’s heart thuds.
“Whatever you say, Sugawara-kun,” he says.
“Please, call me Suga,” Sugawara—Suga—says. “All my friends call me that.”
Friends. “Okey doke, Suga-chan,” Oikawa says, this time with a sing-song edge to it.
“Gross,” Suga says, grinning. “And seriously—thank you so much.”
Thank you for the chance to get closer to you, Oikawa doesn’t say. He only nods and pats Suga on the back. “Get going, sensei.” Suga salutes him and hurries on his way. Oikawa really must be blessed.
Scratch that, he was right the first time. He’s cursed.
Tobio opens the door to his house, sees Oikawa reclining comfortably on the couch, and tenses. “No,” he says.
“Yaho, Tobio-chan!” Oikawa calls cheerfully. “Remember me? Your Papa asked me to look after you until he gets home.”
Tobio looks so horrified, one foot inside the house and one outside, Oikawa wonders for a second if he might run back out to his friend and their parent. Tobio actually glances behind him, and it occurs to Oikawa that Suga, in his rush, might not have let Tobio know about his change in nanny.
“Hey, Tobio, did your Papa—”
“Why’d he pick you?” Tobio seethes, finally stomping his shoes on the mat and stepping inside. He takes care when putting his shoes next to the bigger pair of slippers. Oikawa might have found the entire display adorable, if Suga’s son wasn’t a straight up brat.
“I offered,” Oikawa says, “because I wanted to help him.”
“I don’t like you,” Tobio says, as if it weren’t abundantly clear. And the feeling is mutual, Oikawa doesn’t say.
Tobio resolves to ignore Oikawa’s presence, taking his bag and marching over to the kitchen table to do his homework. Oikawa pretends to play on his phone, but he surreptitiously keeps an eye on Tobio. The kid’s bag is a mess of crumpled papers, milk straw wrappers, and chewed pencils. It’s endearing. Oikawa even forgets he’s hellspawn until Tobio catches him looking and glares at Oikawa with the intensity of a miniature demon rather than a seven-year-old boy.
“Where’s your mom, anyway?” Oikawa asks after he breaks eye contact. “Couldn’t she watch you?”
He doesn’t see Tobio’s shoulders hunch. “Don’t know,” Tobio mutters.
“Don’t know where she works, or don’t know why she couldn’t watch you?” Oikawa asks, feeding his cats on Neko Atsume.
“Don’t know,” Tobio says a little more harshly, and Oikawa’s mind clicks several pieces of the Sugawara-Tobio puzzle into place. He flips around.
“You don’t know who your mom is?” he asks, then slaps a hand over his mouth, realizing all the different reasons a mom could be gone, including death.
Luckily, Tobio seems to be more annoyed at Oikawa than his line of questioning. “No,” he sniffs. “Papa is my Papa.”
A different idea slips into Oikawa’s head. “Do you have another parent, Tobio?”
Tobio doesn’t look up from his work, and Oikawa notices he’s not doing homework, but drawing a picture of a terrifically ugly cat. “Daddy used to live here,” he says. “But he doesn’t anymore.” Tobio looks thoughtful. “Papa told me that he’s a…a—”
“A filthy, cheating, scumbag of a heartbreaker,” Oikawa completes for him. Tobio nods, and Oikawa whistles. “I don’t know if your Papa should be teaching you words like that.”
At the criticism of his Papa, clearly the saint in Tobio’s life, Tobio turns on Oikawa. “I love Papa! I hate you!” he exclaims.
Great, I’ve been upgraded, Oikawa thinks, but he feels bad. He had had no idea Suga’s personal life was this screwed up, and he had really pried at things that were none of his business. “I like your cat,” Oikawa says, a peace offering. Tobio promptly covers the drawing with the entire upper half of his body, and that ends the conversation pretty quickly.
Oikawa doesn’t put on the television because he’s not sure about the rules in this house, and he doesn’t put in earphones, because he doesn’t trust Tobio not to sneak up on him and strangle him to death. Tobio is pretty quiet after their failed attempt at conversation, working diligently on his drawing or his homework. Oikawa is content to scroll through his phone and text Matsukawa, until he remembers his trump card.
A smile slides across Oikawa’s face. What was the one thing children could never resist?
“Oh man, am I hungry,” Oikawa sighs. “So glad I brought a snack with me.”
Tobio’s ears might as well have tilted towards Oikawa in interest, given the way he stops writing for a full three seconds. Oikawa’s smile turns into a wicked grin. Hook, line, and sinker.
Oikawa takes his time walking over to his bag, making sure to rustle the plastic bag as much as possible as he pulls out store-made onigiri. As soon as he’s revealed the treat, catching Tobio watching him out of the corner of his eye, he counts the onigiri.
“Five?” Oikawa pretends to be confused by the number. “I can’t eat five. Silly Tooru, packing too much. Oh well, I don’t want to waste it, so I better eat it all. Too bad Tobio-chan won’t help me out because he hates me.” Oikawa turns around to see Tobio watching him shamelessly now. He flips around immediately upon being caught.
Oikawa lets out a dramatic sigh and flops back onto the couch, onigiri in hand. He eats one noisily, knowing Tobio was bristling right behind him. “Ugh, I’m practically full already. How will I eat the last four all by myself?” Finally, he hears a chair scrape against tile and Tobio pads into the living room with mismatched socks.
“Oh, hi, Tobio-chan!” Oikawa says. “I don’t suppose you’ll help me eat these onigiri?”
“Papa tells me to be nice to people, even—” Tobio makes a face, “—even the people I don’t like. I’ll…help you,” he decides.
“The ever-magnanimous Tobio-chan,” Oikawa laughs. Tobio eyes him suspiciously, most likely because he wasn’t sure what ‘magnanimous’ meant.
This time, Oikawa does put on the television, flipping to a family-friendly game show. Tobio makes sure to keep an entire person-length between them, but the two of them are able to watch the show in peace without any bickering. Until, of course, they reach the fifth onigiri.
And that’s how Suga finds them, squabbling over the last piece of food.
“You said you weren’t hungry!”
“I was lying! It was a trick! I’m really hungry!”
“Liars are bad people! Bad people don’t get food!”
“Oh yeah? Well actually, people with money get food! Do you have money, Tobio-chan?”
“Yeah! 500 yen!”
“I’m glad to see you two are getting along,” Suga says warmly, dropping his bag.
Tobio’s head whips around. “Papa!” he cries, running and crashing into his father, who nearly falls over from the force of the collision. “I missed you!”
“I missed you too, baby,” he says. Looking up at Oikawa, he says, “I see you had fun.”
“Maybe a little,” Oikawa admits. It was always nice to play the food trick on unsuspecting children.
“You’ll come back for dinner, right?” Suga asks.
“I—” For a moment, the scene is so domestic Oikawa can’t respond. Suga coming home from work—to their home—telling him to be home by dinner, their child between them. But this is not Oikawa’s home, and Tobio is in no way, shape, or form anything even resembling Oikawa’s child, so he offers a smile. “I can be back by seven?”
“Perfect! That’s when we usually eat,” Suga says, clapping his hands.
“I’ll see you then,” Oikawa says.
The junior high kids, unfortunately, are right at the peak time to start talking back to adults, and so it is with great glee that they take to taunting Oikawa about how he’s spacing out.
“Oikawa-san’s in love!”
“Oikawa-san has a girlfriend!”
…And various kissing noises, of course.
It doesn’t help that Kuroo eggs them on, telling them just what to say to get on Oikawa’s nerves. “I am your coach, you know!” he cries, but they giggle and scatter, only to reform.
“What’s up, Coach?” Kuroo asks. “You seem kind of spacey? Don’t tell me you actually have a date.”
“It’s just dinner at his house,” Oikawa says. “A thank-you.”
Kuroo wiggles his eyebrows and Oikawa punches him in the shoulder, a move he learned from Sugawara.
By the time he gets back to Suga’s house—conveniently located between work and Oikawa’s apartment—it’s already nightfall. Oikawa can make out the sound of music pulsing behind the door. He rings the doorbell and hears Suga call, “come in!” from what he assumes is the kitchen.
Suga is indeed in the kitchen, Tobio kicking his legs in his seat at the table, singing along to the upbeat song with Suga. It’s some popular song on the radio—the clean version, of course—and they’re very into it. Tobio sings into a spoon, not even acknowledging Oikawa’s presence.
“Am I interrupting something?” Oikawa says, leaning against a wall.
“Ah, To-oru-kun,” Suga says, spinning around and tripping over Oikawa’s name a little. His cheeks are pink again and he brushes off the simple kitchen apron he’s wearing. “Just in time to help cut the vegetables.”
“My favorite part,” Oikawa says, winking at Tobio, who snorts.
“So uncute,” Oikawa mutters.
“That’s alright, I didn’t hire you for your looks,” Suga says, and Oikawa’s jaw drops. Tobio giggles the malicious giggle of children.
“I volunteered!” Oikawa cries.
“And I am very grateful for that,” Suga says quietly, handing him a knife and two large carrots.
Oikawa turns to start chopping up the carrots, but is stopped dead by Suga’s fingers in his hair. He brushes back Oikawa’s bangs. “What—” Oikawa starts, but then Suga is wrapping a handkerchief around his head to hold his hair back.
“There!” he says, pleased. “Now we match.”
Suga puts his hands on his hips, his own handkerchief light blue and tied loosely. A single wisp of hair falls into his face. Oikawa imagines pushing it back, cupping Suga’s face. He imagines Suga’s hand resting over his and leaning in to—
“I…will cut the carrots,” Oikawa says, drawing himself out of the fantasy before he can get lost in it.
“I’ll take care of the rest of it, bachelor-san,” Suga snickers.
“Bachelor-san,” Tobio whispers under his breath.
“Hey! That’s not an insult, you know!” Oikawa says, catching him.
“Whatever you say…bachelor-san.” Tobio smiles into his glass of milk.
Oikawa chops the carrots with all the skill of a drunken college student. They’re angular and all sized differently, but he blames Suga for being so distracting. He hums along with every song, sometimes outright singing, Tobio joining him. Every time he fiddles with his handkerchief or apron, Oikawa is captivated by the movements of his hands, the slim, short fingers of a once-rival setter. How many volleyballs must have touched those hands, and yet how gentle and uncalloused they looked.
“You suck at cutting vegetables,” Tobio says.
“‘Suck’ is a mean word,” Suga chastises him.
“You’re bad at cutting vegetables,” Tobio revises.
“Thanks,” Oikawa says drily.
“Papa is the best at cutting vegetables, and cooking, and everything,” Tobio says.
“And Papa is wondering when the carrots are going to make it into the pot,” Suga says.
Oikawa swears under his breath and brings the cutting board over, gently scraping the carrots into the pot. Suga offers him a smile. “Why, thank you, Tooru-san,” he says.
“My pleasure, Suga-san,” Oikawa returns, bowing. It earns him a laugh.
“How spicy would you guys like this soup to be?” Suga asks. Oikawa and Tobio exchange glances.
“I like it spicy, just the way Papa likes it,” Tobio says.
“Well, I like it extra spicy,” Oikawa challenges.
“Extra extra spicy.”
“The ultimate spiciest!”
“The ultimate, über spiciest!”
“That’s cheating!” Tobio protests. “I don’t know what that word means!”
“Alright, alright, we’ll make it super-duper spicy,” Suga says.
When Suga lays the plates out on the table, Oikawa thinks that challenging Tobio to a spicyness challenge may not have been his brightest idea, considering he had a very low tolerance for heat. The only comfort Oikawa has is that Tobio looks equally unsettled by the food that is so loaded with spice, just smelling it make their eyes tingle. Oikawa and Tobio exchange glances, but this time it’s a look of mutual suffering.
“Itadakimasu,” Suga says, digging into his food with no problem. Tobio and Oikawa watch in horror, but eventually pick up their chopsticks and try it themselves.
Within seconds, Oikawa can’t feel his tongue. His eyes prickle with tears, but he holds them back. Tobio, with significantly less self-control, is openly tearing up, snot running from his nose. Still, they continue to shove noodles and vegetables in their mouths, both too fond of Suga in their own ways to not eat his cooking.
Tobio reaches shakily for his milk, and with that signaling defeat, Oikawa bolts for the kitchen sink, running his lips and tongue under the cool stream of water. Tobio promptly gulps down his milk and runs to the fridge for more. Suga, not having had any difficulty, notices their pained groans for the first time and rolls his eyes.
“If it was too spicy, you should have told me!” he tuts.
“We know now,” they say in unison.
Suga rises from his seat, smiling fondly, and fetches the Garigari-kun popsicles from the freezer and hands one to each of them. Tobio latches onto his like a lifeline, while Oikawa is able to take more delicate licks.
“I’m going to see Tooru-san out; brush your teeth after you finish eating,” Suga says, guiding Oikawa towards the door. They step outside and he offers an apologetic bow. “I’m sorry to rush you out, but too much excitement before bedtime and he won’t be able to sleep.”
“That’s alright,” Oikawa says. “I’m sure he’ll be happy that I’m gone.”
“He likes you,” Suga says, and Oikawa starts choking on his popsicle.
“I’m serious!” Suga says. “He likes you, but he doesn’t know how to feel about it.”
“I highly doubt that,” Oikawa says, recovering. “But, um.” He scuffs his foot. “If you need a sitter, I mean. It’s not far from work, so…”
“And what, I pay you with dinner?” Suga grins, obviously thinking Oikawa is joking. Oikawa keeps looking at him, and the grin falls away. “For real?”
“Aside from nearly killing me, you’re a great cook,” Oikawa says. “Maybe…hold the spices a little, but I don’t mind.”
Suga blinks slowly. “I wouldn’t mind cooking for three again,” he confesses. “I think…I think having a good role model would be good for Tobio, too. He hasn’t had the best luck with adults.”
There is so much Oikawa wants to ask, but it’s late and Suga has a kid to put to bed soon. “I’ll come by on Monday,” he says, squeezing Suga’s shoulder.
“Okay,” Suga says.
“Okay,” Oikawa says.
They hold each other’s gaze until they break into a fit of giggles and Suga shoos him away good-naturedly.
Oikawa becomes Tobio’s nanny, just like that. He wouldn’t call it his brightest plan, considering there was a seven-year-old ball of burning hatred standing between him and the man he was desperately crushing on, but in a way, Oikawa started to enjoy Tobio’s company.
Tobio was never a pleasant companion, and made no attempt to hide his distaste for Oikawa. But Oikawa could understand that distrust now, to an extent. Someone had hurt Suga, and by proxy, Tobio. That person had—once upon a time—loved Suga, and in Tobio’s eyes, Oikawa was no different. Oikawa didn’t feel particularly inclined to try and prove that he was a good person to the temperamental kid, but he didn’t mind arguing with Tobio.
(“You’re a…a…what was it?”
“A brainless protozoan. Here, this is how you write it…”)
But even more than arguing with Tobio or teaching him new words, Oikawa liked spending private time with Suga. Suga invited him over for lunch and an afternoon of gardening, and without any matches to set up or private lessons to direct, Oikawa had a free day. He hadn’t even known that Suga had a garden.
“Oh, it’s not much,” Suga says, gloves already covered in dirt by the time Oikawa arrives. “Just a bunch of herbs for the most part. But it saves money, you know? And Tobio likes to help out, too.”
Oikawa peers around and Suga snickers. “He’s taking a nap, never fear. Your nemesis is safely tucked away in bed.” He gives Oikawa a thoughtful look. “He’s been saying some pretty big words lately. Don’t know where he could have picked up those from.”
“Don’t look at me,” Oikawa says, shifting his eyes. His ears heat up under Suga’s knowing gaze.
Suga flicks some dirt onto his sneakers playfully. “Get down here, you big softie,” he teases.
Oikawa is a novice at this, like most everything else Suga does, so Suga has him pull weeds and pack dirt while Suga does most of the actual plant care. The work is methodical and soothing, and the two of them fall into a quiet rhythm. Suga’s wide-brimmed hat casts his face in shadow, turning his skin from cream to a soft pink, a couple shades greyer than his blush. He’s flushed from the work, and there’s a bit of dirt on his cheek.
“You were with someone,” Oikawa says, mostly in amazement that someone like Suga was in some way obtainable, that he could fall in love with the rest of the simple mortals that surrounded his almost holy presence. There was someone who wanted Suga, and who Suga had wanted in return.
“I was,” Suga says. It’s an abrupt answer, and it shakes Oikawa out of his trance.
“I’m sorry, that’s none of my business,” Oikawa says, looking back at the dirt.
“No,” Suga sighs, sitting back. “It was inevitable that it would come up, and that you would be curious. You’re my friend; you deserve to know.”
“I told you I fell in love,” Suga says, smiling wryly. “I was just too early and he was…everything. He was an upperclassman, had his life together. He liked me, and I liked that he liked me. Everyone thought that we were the perfect match, so we dated. And we didn’t stop dating.”
“Not a she, then,” Oikawa says.
“No,” Suga says. “Not a she.”
He stares off somewhere over the edge of his fence, maybe back to a time when things were different. “We got married.”
Oikawa thinks of Iwaizumi and Akaashi, moving in together and tiptoeing around the word ‘baby.’ He tries to imagine Suga and this perfect, beautiful man, and he can’t put the pieces together. “Why’d it fall apart?”
“It was perfect,” Suga says. “I was perfect, he was perfect, our house was perfect, our marriage was perfect. We adopted Tobio when he was three.” Suga’s smile turns sharp. “Tobio was a trouble child, threw too many tantrums for anyone to hold onto him for too long. He was too scary, too misbehaved. You know how kids can get chewed up by the system.” Oikawa nods. “I didn’t want that to happen to him.
“I guess he didn’t take to Tobio like I did. Tobio wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect to me. Kids are supposed to hold a marriage together, right?” Suga brushes at his eye, and Oikawa’s hand is in his free one before he knows what’s happening. Suga laughs wetly. “Sorry for yammering on. It’s not that interesting of a story. He put up with us for three years, cheated on me with a more perfect woman, and left us for her. He hasn’t been back to see Tobio and it’s been over a year since we divorced.”
“Suga-chan…” Oikawa says softly.
“Papa?” A third voice joins them. In the doorway to the backyard, Tobio rubs at his eyes. “What’s Tooru-san doing here?” He looks at Oikawa and Suga’s interlocking hands.
“Come here, baby,” Suga beckons, removing his hand gently from Oikawa’s. He pulls Tobio into a tight hug. “Papa loves you very much.”
“I love you, too,” Tobio says.
“It’s just the two of us now,” Suga says to Oikawa, but looks at his son. “We have to look out for each other, right buddy?”
Tobio nods. “Did you tell Tooru-san about Daddy?”
“Mmhmm,” Suga says.
Tobio turns that morsel of information over in his mind. “Tooru-san is smelly,” he says slowly, “but Daddy is the smelliest.”
He surprises a laugh out of Suga and a smile out of Oikawa. “I think I can live with that,” Oikawa says.
Suga’s eyes crinkle at the corners when he looks at Oikawa, leaning against Tobio, who pulls off Suga’s hat and puts it on himself. It’s so big it swamps him, and Suga pinches his nose gently, teasing. Oikawa watches them. He doesn’t feel envious, exactly. It’s a slow, blossoming heat in his chest when he sees them so happy with each other, smiling and laughing.
Protectiveness, Oikawa realizes. I am protective of this family.
Suga starts inviting him to more of their family outings, after that.
Oikawa goes with them to the local park often. Suga likes to draw the people and the scenery, and Tobio likes to run around in the grass and fresh air, so it’s a win-win situation. Oikawa adds a new element of competition to Tobio’s park experience. He wants to run faster than Oikawa, and climb better than Oikawa, and swing higher than Oikawa. The playground at the edge of the park is a perfect place to invent all kinds of games for Oikawa to play with him, with convoluted rules that ensure Tobio wins most times.
Suga watches them, a smile etched on his face. He draws them playing, and he draws the leaves in the trees and the wind on the pond. Oikawa thinks it’s a shame that no one draws him. When Tobio gets bored of their games, he settles down on the bench next to his father and pulls out his own sketchbook. Oikawa now understands why Tobio had been drawing the first day he watched him—he was copying Suga.
It’s obvious that Suga has a natural talent for art, and that Tobio’s natural talent for competition competes with his awe of his father. He has an intense frown on his face the entire time he draws. Amusingly enough, Oikawa notices that he’s drawing Suga.
“Excellent choice of muse,” Oikawa says to Tobio. Tobio pauses in his drawing, but nods stiffly instead of covering it up.
“If you want to draw, I can lend you a piece of paper,” Suga offers.
“And compete with you two artists? No way,” Oikawa says, grinning. “I’ll enjoy the scenery instead. Usually when I’m outside, it’s herding a group of junior high students.”
The wind feels nice in his hair and over his skin. The red-orange rays of the late afternoon sun turn every leaf golden and cast an almost sepia glow over the park. It’s nostalgic and beautiful, and Oikawa finds that he can’t erase the small smile on his face. Suga and Tobio are quiet, the only sound in the park the occasional bird call, the wind rustling leaves, and the scratch of pencil on paper. Oikawa is at peace.
He turns to ask Suga a question, but the words never clear his throat when he sees the sketch. It is absolutely and undeniably, him. He meets Suga’s tentative gaze with wide eyes.
“Sorry,” Suga says. “You looked so regal sitting there, I couldn’t help myself.”
“Should I stay here then?” Oikawa asks.
“If you want,” Suga says shyly. “I’ll finish shading.”
Oikawa is sure his cheeks are a bit colored after that, but the smile on his face is bigger than before.
As they get ready to leave, Oikawa gets a chance to look at his portrait. “Oh,” he says. “There’s no way I look this handsome in real life.” He had a very high opinion of himself, but this portrait was majestic, even as a sketch.
“I told you,” Suga says. “I couldn’t help myself.” Oikawa swallows thickly.
“Papa, look at mine,” Tobio says.
Suga pays the appropriate amount of attention to Tobio’s drawing, telling him how much he loves it, but also managing to squeeze in a small amount of critique that Tobio takes to heart—in a good way. Oikawa tries to imagine Tobio as a wild child, uncontrollable before Suga, and finds that the image is hard to grasp. How could this obedient, loving child have authority problems?
Well, Oikawa considers Tobio’s disrespect towards him.
“Ah, Tooru-kun—” Suga calls.
Oikawa turns from where he had been walking away.
“This is, um,” Suga stammers. “This is a personal, kind of odd request?”
“Can I…could I paint you, some time?” Suga asks.
“Paint, as in…?” Oikawa says.
“As in have you pose for me,” Suga says in a rush of words. “You’re a lovely model.”
“I don’t know how you resisted my charms for so long,” Oikawa says equally quickly, because he doesn’t know how else to respond besides anything for you.
Suga nudges him with his shoulder, but he’s only barely biting back a smile.
Suga clears a lot of the furniture out of the living room to make room for his easel and a stool for Oikawa to sit on. It’s padded with towels, so homemade Oikawa almost laughs.
“You can take a break once I get the initial sketch done,” Suga says. “Don’t feel like you have to lock your muscles in a certain position. Just get comfortable.”
“Any way I want?” Oikawa asks, settling on the stool.
“Sure,” Suga says absentmindedly, laying out his pencils and paints. When he looks back up, it’s just in time to see Oikawa yank his shirt over his head. If it weren’t obvious that Oikawa was a volleyball coach before, it was now extremely obvious from his fitness. He rolls his shoulders and flicks his hair back.
“I’m ready,” Oikawa purrs.
“Are you trying to seduce me?” Suga blurts.
Oikawa blinks innocently. “Of course not. Why, don’t you like a challenge?” he says, referring to the challenge of painting all of his muscle definition, since it was certainly very pronounced. For a moment, Oikawa thinks Suga might actually tell him to put his shirt back on, but Suga grits his teeth and starts his sketch.
Oikawa doesn’t look at him, mostly because that would be weird, but after a while, his stolen glances show that Suga’s feathers have finished ruffling. He looks quite content working on his art, tongue poked out the corner of his mouth. Oikawa is happy enough to bask in the sunlight streaming in through the windows.
He takes several stretch breaks, refusing to put his shirt on through any of them. He likes the feeling of walking around Suga’s house bare-chested, making it hard for Suga to look at him. It’s flattering that Suga finds him attractive enough to be embarrassed staring at him. It also makes Oikawa’s breathing catch when Suga does look at him, just for a brief, admiring moment.
“I’m done,” Suga says. “Well, I think so at least.”
Oikawa groans and stretches, making sure to pop his back and shoulders as much as possible. He hops off the stool and walks over to Suga. Suga’s as embarrassed as the first time he showed his sketch to Oikawa, but Oikawa doesn’t understand why. The painting is almost a carbon copy of him, from the shape of his face to the lighting across his skin.
“Suga…I…” Oikawa is lost for words. “It’s like I could reach out and touch it, for real.”
He is very, very aware of how close Suga is to him. Oikawa might have baited Suga, but now, he doesn’t know how to approach the situation. Imagine that. Oikawa Tooru, not knowing how to hit on someone.
“Can I?” Suga asks. Oikawa looks down. Suga’s hand is hovering close to Oikawa’s abdomen, hesitant.
“Yeah,” Oikawa murmurs.
His skin revolts at Suga’s touch, and they flinch away from each other, laughing nervously. When Suga touches him again, it is with both hands, more confident. He runs his hands up and down Oikawa’s stomach, along his sides, up his chest and across his shoulders…
Oikawa’s hands are at Suga’s elbows.
“Your heart is beating so fast,” Suga murmurs.
Oikawa reaches one hand out to run along Suga’s neck and cup his jaw. “So is yours,” Oikawa says. He leans forward so slowly, scared of scaring Suga. Suga’s eyelashes flutter and Oikawa can feel him tilt his chin up. Oikawa turns his head to the side, a breath from Suga’s lips.
And Suga bolts, shuddering and backing away, not far enough to be disgust, but enough to be rejection.
“I’m sorry,” he says hoarsely. “I can’t—Tobio—my ex-husband—I’m sorry, Tooru, I’m just not ready.”
Oikawa understands, not that it hurts him any less. “I understand,” he says. “It’s my fault for pushing the envelope. You have to look out for Tobio’s best interests as well as yours.” He doesn’t say, I’m not good enough for Tobio in your eyes.
Suga is full of apologies as Oikawa packs up his belongings and Oikawa is full of understanding. Their goodbye is so formal, it’s painful. Oikawa misses the punches to his arm and the hugs. He even misses Tobio’s parting taunts.
“Tooru—” Suga calls. “I’ll…I’ll see you Monday.”
Oikawa walks to Suga’s house early on Monday. He wants to do something, maybe convince Tobio to make cookies with him, something to say sorry to Suga. They had been married for six years—how could Oikawa have ever thought it was okay for him to intrude on something like that so soon after their divorce? Above all, Oikawa wants their friendship back, and he’s willing to be 100% platonic towards Suga to get it.
He doesn’t realize what’s going on until he’s a house down from Suga’s. His first thought is, how nice, Tobio is making friends. But then he thinks a little harder about Tobio and friends, and his pace slows. There are three boys around Tobio, who looks the smallest Oikawa has ever seen him. The ringleader has—god—he has a stick and appears to be prodding at Tobio, egged on by the other two boys.
“He’s not so scary after all!”
“Hey, king, why don’t you do something? Come on, pick a fight.”
“What’s the matter, not so tough now that Daddy’s not just around the corner?”
Tobio reacts to that one, eyes flashing almost violently. The boys flinch away, laughing at his reaction. Oikawa doubts they know the context of that word for Tobio, but either way, he can’t stand to watch this anymore. The frequency of poking increases, and Oikawa calmly and quietly walks behind them. The late afternoon light that was once so comforting to Oikawa now stretches his shadow into a menacing creature eclipsing the boys.
They turn around to see Oikawa looking down on them, hands stuffed in his pockets, lip curled. “If you boys are looking for a real fight,” Oikawa snarls. “Why don’t you pick a fight with a real king?”
Their faces go white and all the bullying bravado evaporates. Instead of fighting, they bolt around Oikawa and down the street. Oikawa watches them go, clicking his tongue. He turns back to ask Tobio if he is okay, but if Oikawa was expecting gratitude, he was dead wrong.
Tobio looks angrier at Oikawa then he was at the boys for mentioning the father who abandoned him. “I don’t need your help,” Tobio spits. “I had it under control.”
“Oh, really?” Oikawa snaps. “Curled up in a ball while they poke you like a wild animal?” He’s angry at the bullies, not Tobio, but his words come out badly.
“Get away from me!” Tobio howls. “I hate you! I hate you so much! I wish Papa had never met you!”
“Go inside, Tobio,” Oikawa says, suddenly so tired.
Fortunately, Tobio is not so immature that he locks Oikawa out, but he is immature enough to slam the door and march up to his room, refusing to come out. Oikawa doesn’t care. He melts against the couch and tries to erase the image of a scared Tobio from his mind.
He cools down after half an hour. It makes sense that Tobio would be upset at him. Tobio was prideful and competitive, against Oikawa like no other. No wonder he was so upset that Oikawa has seen him bullied. And yet, Oikawa couldn’t shake the image, couldn’t shake Tobio’s angry words.
He knocks on Tobio’s door and opens it slowly. Tobio has his head shoved under a pillow. “Go away,” he says in a muffled voice.
“Do you want to watch some volleyball games with me?” Oikawa asks.
No response at first, but then, “Volleyball?”
“If you want, we can watch your Papa’s team crush mine.”
That grabs Tobio’s attention. “You played volleyball against Papa?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Oikawa says. “He was a really frustrating guy to face.”
His promise of high school Sugawara Koushi draws Tobio from his room. His face is red and wet, and he’s still sniffling. Oikawa is careful not to mention it. He hooks his laptop up to the television and puts on his last high school volleyball match.
Tobio might not care, but Oikawa explains each player’s position, taking extra time on the setter, both his and Suga’s position. “The setter is the coolest,” Oikawa says. “He’s the control tower, the one that makes all the attacks happen and guides the team. He’s the most trusted player.”
Tobio doesn’t say anything, but his eyes never leave he screen of the television.
“Does Suga-chan know about the bullying?” Oikawa asks when he thinks it’s safe.
Tobio shakes his head.
“Are you going to tell him?”
Tobio shakes his head again. Oikawa sighs.
He has a whole spiel about how Tobio needs to tell his father so they can sort out the problem, how worried he and Suga will be if Tobio lets it go on and it gets worse, but Tobio interrupts his train of thought with, “Are you going to steal Papa away from me?”
It’s like the first time they met all over again. Oikawa can’t think of anything to say at first, because the idea is so absurd—
“Of course I’m not,” Oikawa says. “Oh, Tobio, your Papa loves you more than anything in the whole world. He would never leave you. Not for me, not for anyone.”
“I thought Daddy loved me, and he left,” Tobio says in the smallest voice.
“That may be so,” Oikawa says. “But your Daddy is a filthy, cheating, scumbag of a heartbreaker. And…what was that last part?”
“An ugly gold-digging bitch man,” Tobio sniffles.
“Of course. How could I forget?” Oikawa says. “And you know what your Papa is?”
Tobio shakes his head.
“He’s a brave, funny, super dad,” Oikawa says. “His superpower is being awesome at volleyball and making everyone fall in love with him, and his super dad name is ‘Mr. Refreshing.’”
“That’s a dumb name,” Tobio says.
“You would think that,” Oikawa says. “But the point is, would a super dad ever abandon his favorite son for some smelly nanny?”
“You’re not actually smelly,” Tobio admits. “You smell really good.”
Oikawa is abruptly touched. An admission like that from Tobio didn’t come without some cost to his pride. His throat closes up a little.
“And I’m also not going to take your Papa away from you,” Oikawa promises. “Your Papa only likes me as a friend.”
Tobio shakes his head. “He like-likes you,” Tobio says. “He looks at you like he used to look at Daddy before they started fighting.”
Oikawa doesn’t know what to do with that information, especially because Suga hadn’t said I’m sorry, I don’t feel that way about you, he had said I’m sorry, I’m just not ready. “How would you like to come to work with me, Tobio-chan?” he says by way of distraction. “You can see real-life volleyball.”
Tobio thinks about it, furrowing his brows, but eventually nods after glancing once more at the television. They finish watching the game. Oikawa almost cuts off the video before it can pan to Seijou’s breakdown, but he remembers Tobio’s shame at his own reaction and he lets it play. Their crying faces, their frustration, their defeat—it’s all visible next to Karasuno’s celebratory dogpile.
Tobio is very, very quiet throughout all of it.
Oikawa puts one another Karasuno game after that, one that highlights Suga’s skill as a setter. Tobio asks him questions about their attacks and about the job of a setter, tugging gently on Oikawa’s sleeve. He sits flush against Oikawa, a tiny ember nestled against his side. The exhaustion of the day catches up with them, and being pressed so close to each other’s warmth, sleep hovers over their heads, inevitable.
By the time Oikawa’s eyes start to flutter Tobio has already passed out against him, a little bit of drool sliding onto Oikawa’s sleeve. “Gross,” he murmurs. Tobio nuzzles against him in response. Oikawa pulls Tobio into his lap awkwardly and lays back, the boy flopping onto his chest and burrowing into the crease between Oikawa’s body and the couch. Oikawa smiles and curls around him, closing his eyes.
He is woken later by the tinny sound of a camera snap. He blinks his eyes open blearily, aware that he’s sweating up a storm with a hot bundle in his arms. Tobio doesn’t stir, more resembling a rock than a boy. Oikawa rubs his eyes with the arm not trapped under Tobio, and finally lays eyes on Sugawara Koushi, bag and jacket still draped over his arm.
Oikawa can’t place the look on Suga’s face. He’s smiling, but there’s something delicate and sad in his eyes. Bittersweet. Oikawa tries his best to smile back at Suga.
“I wish…” Suga says, then shakes his head. “Nevermind. Will you be coming back for dinner?”
When he says it like that, Oikawa can almost forget that he tried to kiss him on Friday, and that everything has been altered. “Actually,” he says, voice thick, “I was wondering if I could take Tobio to practice tonight. He seemed pretty interested in the volleyball games.”
Suga makes a noise in the back of his throat. “You put on volleyball games for him?”
“Yeah, the ones that had you in it,” Oikawa says. He frowns. “Was I not supposed to?”
“No, no, that’s—” Suga takes a breath. “—that’s absolutely fine. I would love him to get into a sport. And it’s fine if you bring him to practice. I think he would like it.”
Oikawa checks his phone. “We’ll be heading out, then.” He sits up and shakes Tobio gently. “C’mon, Tobio-chan. Let’s go see some volleyball.”
Tobio rubs his eyes and looks at Oikawa. Oikawa thinks that he might protest at being so close to Oikawa, but he just blinks and then looks away, reaching for his father. Suga drops his bag and extricates Tobio from the clutches of the couch. “Go get your jacket, sweetheart,” he says. Tobio nods and pads to his room.
“About Friday—” Suga says.
“It’s okay,” Oikawa says. “I shouldn’t have done that. If you don’t want me to stay as Tobio’s sitter, I get it. But I promise I won’t do it again, so if you’re okay with it, I’d like to keep spending time with both of you.”
“I want that, too,” Suga says. He reaches out and squeezes Oikawa’s shoulder, and Oikawa does not think of cupping Suga’s hand with his own, of kissing his fingers.
Tobio walks out, zipping up his jacket, and sees them. His eyes flit between Oikawa and Suga, but where he would have normally pitched a fit, he just stands there.
“Ready to go?” Oikawa asks, stepping away from Suga. Tobio nods.
Sleeping in means that warm-ups have already started by the time Oikawa and Tobio arrive. Tobio’s eyes are comically wide, intimidated by the size and volume and splendor of the gym when faced with it for real. The junior high students aren’t as big as the high schoolers in the match Oikawa had shown him, but they’re still a great deal taller than Tobio. He clings to Oikawa’s jacket, hiding behind his legs.
“Oi, later than usual Coach-sa—oh my, who is this?” Kuroo calls to Oikawa, cutting off as soon as he notices Tobio. Kuroo sinks into a crouch. “Hello,” he says softly to Tobio.
“This is Tobio-chan, the kid I’ve been sitting,” Oikawa says.
“Hi Tobio-chan,” Kuroo says. “My name’s Kuroo, I’m a coach here with Oikawa-san.”
“Are you a setter, too?” Tobio asks quietly.
Kuroo shakes his head. “Nah, I’m a middle blocker, ‘cause I’m really tall.”
Tobio looks between the two of them. “I want to be a setter,” he says.
Kuroo laughs. “Well, in that case, we better do a special practice for setting and serving, shouldn’t we?”
“Really?” Tobio emerges from behind Oikawa’s legs, eyes practically sparkling.
“Sure,” Kuroo says. “If you’re lucky, maybe Oikawa-sama will do one of his killer serves.”
Oikawa rolls his eyes, but guides Tobio to the coaches’ fold-out chairs and settles him in it. Technique-based practice isn’t as physically demanding, but it involves a lot of guidance, especially for junior high students who don’t have the focus to listen to their coaches talk about volleyball for long periods of time. And yet, through it all, Tobio remains quiet and focused on the practice, better even than some of kids on the team.
He tracks Oikawa’s movements with an intensity that is reminiscent of scouts from university. Oikawa feels the same chill run down his spine, nearly flubbing the set he sent to one of the kids. He almost wants to tell Tobio to cut it out, but that’s what he brought him here for, right? To watch Oikawa and the other kids in action.
“Oikawa-san, killer serve!” one of the kids calls.
“Killer serve! Killer serve! Killer serve!” They take up the call and Oikawa has no choice but to acquiesce, waving them off and rolling his eyes.
“Alright, alright! But just one.” He glares at all the kids. “Don’t try to receive it. I won’t be responsible for bruised arms.”
Tobio watches with even greater intensity.
Oikawa holds the ball in front of him, commanding the court with a simple movement. The kids fall quiet and hold their breaths. He throws it up, eyes never leaving the ball, and then dashes forward, carrying with him the momentum of years of practice, years of services aces that stumped opposing teams. He leaps into flight and smashes the ball across the court, pounding it into the gym floor. He lands gracefully.
The kids erupt into applause, and even Kuroo claps slowly, a lazy grin on his face. Oikawa bows to his fans like the attention hog he is at heart and turns to Tobio.
Tobio is out of his seat, eyes shining and jaw dropped. It’s the most enthralled Oikawa has ever seen him. He looks at Oikawa like Oikawa was sure he looked at Suga sometimes.
“Well?” Oikawa asks. “How’d you like it?”
“Tooru-sa—Oikawa-san, you have to teach me how to do that!” Tobio exclaims, as if by calling Oikawa by a more formal name, he would convince him to coach Tobio in the ways of his serves. Tobio mimes spiking a ball.
“You’re way too young to learn that trick, Tobio-chan,” Oikawa says fondly, ruffling his hair.
Not to be deterred, Tobio says, “When I’m older then! Teach me how to play volleyball, Oikawa-san!”
“Oi, enough with the ‘Oikawa-san’ from you,” he scolds gently. “It’s creepy coming from such a rude kid like you. ‘Tooru-san’ is just fine.”
Tobio nods enthusiastically.
“Maybe,” Oikawa says with a sigh. “But you have to learn the basics first.”
Tobio nods again, fixing his gaze on the junior high students with such intensity that they shiver. It occurs to Oikawa, distantly, that he may be responsible for creating a monster in Suga’s son.
On the walk back home, Tobio drills Oikawa on the names of the positions, the attacks, and the techniques of volleyball. Oikawa doesn’t mind it. His tiny disciple is the happiest and most energetic Oikawa has ever seen him, fascinated by the power and skill of volleyball.
“If I learned your serve, I could serve Akiyama and Suzuki and Mori in the fac—”
“Hey, what’s this about serving people in the face?” Oikawa breaks in. Tobio falls suspiciously quiet. Oikawa frowns. “Were those the kids bullying you today?”
Tobio doesn’t answer, which is enough of an answer in itself.
“You know,” Oikawa says, “volleyball is a team sport.”
Tobio makes a face.
Oikawa laughs. “I thought you might not like to hear that,” he says. “But you know what? As long as you’re on a volleyball team, everyone on your side of the net is an ally. A teammate. A friend.”
Oikawa smiles at Tobio’s scowl. “You won’t to have to fight on your own, on or off the court, if you have your team at your side. Friends are wonderful, Tobio-chan. And if you become a setter, it’ll be your job to pull everyone together.”
Tobio wilts. “I don’t know if I can do that.”
Oikawa slaps him on the back. “Well, you’ll never know until you try. And you’ll never try until you go out there and join a volleyball team. What d’you say?”
Tobio stares hard at his feet. He shrugs his shoulders. They’re standing just outside the walk up to his house. In the dim illumination of the porch light, Oikawa comes up with a brilliant plan.
“Tell you what,” Oikawa says. “I’ll make you a deal.”
Tobio looks up.
“If you join the volleyball team and make a lot of friends, I’ll teach you my killer serve,” he says.
Tobio’s eyes widen. “Promise?” he says, sticking out his pinky.
“Promise,” Oikawa says, and locks their pinkies.
Tobio brightens again, wearing that strangely wobbly and giddy smile on his face. He breaks from Oikawa and runs for his door, throwing it open and calling into the house, “Killer serve! Killer serve!”
Oikawa follows behind slower, standing in the foyer without taking his shoes off. Sure enough, Suga pops around the corner, wiping his hands on a towel. “There you are!” he says. “What’s this about a killer serve? Don’t tell me you showed Tobio your service ace.”
“Just a little bit,” Oikawa says, winking at Suga.
Suga looks at Oikawa’s feet. “Aren’t you going to join us for dinner?”
“I have to be up early tomorrow,” Oikawa says, smiling apologetically. “Besides, I think if I stayed, you’d never get that terror to bed.”
“You forget, I’m a setter, too,” Suga says, putting his hands on his hips.
“Don’t remind him of that,” Oikawa says in a stage whisper. “Once he remembers…good luck.”
“Get on out of here,” Suga says fondly, snapping the towel at Oikawa’s ass when he turns to leave. Oikawa yelps and shoots Suga a wounded look. Suga winks. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
…Maybe things weren’t as bad as Oikawa had imagined.
On Wednesday, a week later, Oikawa walks into the smell of cookies baking. He knows the scene that will be just around the corner without seeing it.
Sitting in his chair, Tobio is kicking his legs back and forth, bobbing his head in time to the girl group playing on the radio. Suga’s wearing his apron and a headscarf with yellow flowers, hips swaying to the sound. Tobio has a bit of cookie dough on the corner of his mouth, but it only makes his smile brighter when he turns and sees Oikawa.
“Tooru-san!” he calls. Oikawa wipes the bit of dough from his mouth and plants a loud, wet kiss on Tobio’s cheek. Tobio screeches and bats him away.
“Would you mind not harassing my son the moment you walk in the door?” Suga says, but he’s smiling.
Oikawa salutes. “Aye-aye, vice-captain…what’re you drawing, Tobio-chan?”
Tobio wipes grumpily at his cheek, but instead of hiding his drawing, he lifts it up proudly. “It’s you and me!” he declares. “We’re serving Akiyama and Suzuki and Mori right in the face!”
“Still on that, huh,” Oikawa says.
“And what did I tell you about volleyball being used as a weapon?” Suga asks, appearing next to Oikawa to stare down his son.
“…It’s not a weapon,” Tobio grumbles. “It’s a…team…sport.”
“That’s right,” Suga says, satisfied. “Even if they’re really mean, you don’t fight with punches or words. You just stare at them menacingly until they go away.”
“I don’t think that’ll work,” Tobio mutters.
“You told Suga about the bullying?” Oikawa asks in amazement.
“Apparently he had some encouragement,” Suga says, elbowing Oikawa gently. “He said you’d want him to tell me. Thank you for looking after him.”
“I’m also the one who showed him the killer serve, though,” Oikawa reminds him.
“Stop that,” Suga says. “I’m trying to think about you in a positive light.”
Oikawa grins and lets Suga get back to his baking. He crouches next to Tobio. “So where’s your Papa in this picture?”
Tobio hesitates. “Probably somewhere in the background, trying to stop us,” he says.
Oikawa laughs. “And what about the rest of your team? You started going to classes, right?”
Tobio pouts. “I guess…Akira-kun can go here. And Yuutarou-kun here.”
“You made friends?” Oikawa asks, excited.
“No!” Tobio protests. “…Maybe,” he amends. “But definitely not Shouyou-kun.”
“Oh? Shouyou-kun?” Oikawa smiles so hard his face hurts.
“He’s so annoying!” Tobio says. “He keeps asking for more and more tosses, even when my arms hurt from tossing so much. And we he sucks at spiking, and I suck at setting, so he hardly ever spikes it!”
“Finally met your match,” Oikawa says, but Tobio whips his head back and forth.
“No way! I’m not going to lose to him, ever!” Tobio vows.
“That’s right, you’re the toughest kid I’ve ever met,” Oikawa says. “Isn’t that right, Papa?” Oikawa looks up to find Suga staring at him and Tobio, face blank and eyes glistening.
“Date me,” he says, voice hoarse.
“What?” Oikawa and Tobio say in unison, eyes wide.
“You’re wonderful with Tobio, and kind to me,” he says, face red. “He doesn’t stop talking about you, even when you leave. He’s opened up more than I could have ever imagined.”
“Papa!” Tobio protests, embarrassed.
“You’re his best friend,” Suga says softly. “And you’re, you’re…to me, you’re—”
“Yes,” Oikawa says.
“What?” Suga says.
“Yes, I will date you,” Oikawa says, standing up and practically throwing himself at Suga. He picks Suga up at the waist and spins him around. Suga laughs and laughs.
“I will, but—your ex?” Oikawa asks, perplexed. “What made you change your mind? Isn’t this still too soon?”
“I was worried about Tobio,” Suga says. “I was worried having another male figure in his life so soon after his other father left would hurt him. But look, Tooru—you’re already part of our family.”
He sees his jacket, draped over the couch where he had forgotten it last night, his collection of volleyball game videos on the table next to the TV, his own crude drawing on the fridge next to Tobio’s. The man he loves in his arms. The boy he has come to adore sitting at the table, looking up at them shyly. And by the door, three sets of shoes in a row.
“Oh,” he says.
“Does this mean Tooru-san can come over more often?” Tobio asks hopefully.
“Oh, Tobio, of course it does,” Suga says. “Is it okay with you if Tooru and I start to see each other more often?”
Tobio looks at his drawing, at Oikawa, then at his feet. His cheeks turn pink. “I love Papa,” he says. “And…and Tooru.”
Oikawa releases Suga and scoops up Tobio instead, twirling him around until Tobio screams in joy. Then Oikawa holds him between him and Suga, and they smother Tobio in a tight hug that has him giggling.
“Can Tooru stay forever?” Tobio asks.
“Soon,” Suga says, locking eyes with Oikawa. “Very soon.”
Tobio wiggles out of Oikawa’s arms. “Good! Then he can teach me all the volleyball tricks, and his killer serve, and—oh, gross.”
Suga laughs into the kiss, hands at Oikawa’s cheeks. Hearing his breathy laugh at such close proximity, Oikawa can only pull Suga closer, desperate for a taste of that beautiful smile. He is as much of an artist in body and he is in mind, Oikawa thinks. His lips are soft and sculpted with the delicacy of a higher power, and to Oikawa, he tastes like a masterpiece.
Suga’s hands curl into his hair and tug gently, encouraging Oikawa’s grip on his elbows to slip to his waist, fitting his hands along Suga’s hipbones, laying claim. Suga bends into him like a bow, pressing himself warm against Oikawa, and Oikawa would have stood there for hours counting Suga’s teeth with his tongue if it weren’t for Tobio’s impatient throat clearing.
“Not in front of the kid,” Suga says breathlessly.
“The kid can hear you,” Tobio mutters. “You’re gross.”
“Bet you regret having me here now,” Oikawa teases.
Tobio crinkles his nose, thoughtful. “No,” he decides. “I still like you.”
Oikawa smiles so hard his cheeks ache. Suga rests his head on Oikawa’s shoulder, and Oikawa leans down to press a kiss into his hair, because he can, and because this broken but beautiful family is his to care for and protect now.
And he will. God, he swears he will.