Did you know that love can kill you?
Not being able to die is definitely a superpower, so is ridiculous amounts of dying and coming back to life kind of the same thing?
Oikawa ponders this; is it a superpower only if you can control it? Coaches used to always tell him about his serves in the context of control. It may be impressive, it may have potential, but what good is it if you can’t control it? It only matters if it stays inside the lines.
Life is such a box, sometimes. And, Oikawa supposes, he’s always liked to toe things to the edge.
Now past teenagehood, he’s had enough time to figure out the details of when or who or what or how, but the ever satisfying answer to why he keeps dying remains illusive.
“Do you want the regular daifuku or the strawberry one?” Iwaizumi asks, then hands over the strawberry one without waiting for him to answer.
Oikawa tenses up where he’s curled up on the couch, his brain giving a mighty whirl. Blinking quickly to mask his dizziness, he grins, hoping his vision will go back to normal soon, or at all, because he’s been having the loveliest month with 0 Iwaizumi incidents to report, and he doesn’t want to break what has so far been the longest streak of continuous life he can remember.
“So sweet, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa teases, cupping his daifuku to his chest, “you’re going to be the death of me.”
Iwaizumi glares at him over his shoulder, still fiddling with the laptop to find a movie for them to watch. He would normally say something irritable to Oikawa at this point but Oikawa’s just had a really, really hard Thursday practice, and he can’t bring himself to. It’s rare for Oikawa to regress to his junior high habits in volleyball these days, but it does happen. If practice was somehow just off-kilter for the day, or his coach said something particularly mean and particularly true, or if his best teammates couldn’t hit too many of his tosses, even though they’re good enough to play on the national team, it leaves Oikawa with no option but to blame himself.
Oikawa regards the grumpy but worried frown on Iwaizumi’s face, heart picking up speed just to be the object of Iwaizumi’s undivided attention for so long. “Iwa-chan,” he says, laughing, all strain, “I’m honestly fine. Put the movie on.”
“You can tell me what’s on your mind, you know,” Iwaizumi mumbles, cheeks filling with heat.
Oikawa sucks in a shallow breath, his own face starting to burn. “Iwa-chan,” he says in warning, but then Iwaizumi says something about caring about him, he doesn’t even get to catch it all, and Oikawa’s eyes roll back to whites and he tips right over off the--
“Unffggghh!!” he moans, facedown on his bedroom floor. What nice hardwood, how lovely that he’s chosen to get this tiny, modern, well-furnished apartment. There’s no better hardwood to smash his face into at 7 in the morning.
“Goddammit, Iwa-chan,” he hisses to himself, wiggling backwards until he’s kneeling, blearily staring at his bed. When was the last time he fell out of this thing?
Oh, that’s right. A month ago. So much for that streak.
“I swear to god,” Oikawa grumbles some more, snatching his phone off the bed just to double check. Not that it needs confirmation.
Thursday, November 10th.
Now he has to live this hellish day with that hellish practice all over again.
At the cusp of turning 11, on a hot, golden summer afternoon, Oikawa drops dead for the first time.
Well, it’s the earliest memory he can trace it to. Your memory is so shit, probably because that empty cavern where your brain should be is filled with nothing but volleyball, Iwa-chan used to say. It’s partially true; Iwa-chan just doesn’t know that Oikawa’s head is also filled up with thoughts of him.
Iwaizumi had caught a super big beetle, just the biggest, and he had stood atop a rock like a ruler of conquered lands, beetle feebly struggling in his hand. It had been the coolest ever...but Oikawa hadn’t liked it all that much because it was just too big to be comfortable.
Despite not saying anything, Iwaizumi just seemed to know, and though he had pouted, he had also wordlessly dropped it far away from Oikawa before telling him that they were going back to his house for dinner.
“But what about--” Oikawa starts.
“You look hungry,” Iwaizumi says without turning around, and maybe they were getting a bit too old be holding hands like this, it’s just the park down the street and not the wilderness of some exotic jungle, but Oikawa squeezes his hand and dutifully follows. “Do you want hamburg for dinner? I can ask my mom to make some for us.”
Oikawa’s entire chest seems to squeeze and he’s overcome with dizziness. Is Iwaizumi trying to comfort him even though he isn’t even upset? Shouldn’t Iwaizumi be upset for letting that beetle go? It was a pretty big beetle, probably the beetle to win all beetle contests, if beetle contests existed.
“You look crappy when you’re not happy, Idiotkawa,” Iwaizumi grumbles, probably the closest an 11-year-old can come to expressing concern, and Oikawa faceplants into the dirt.
Except it doesn’t hurt, not until he opens his eyes and he’s suddenly in his PJs again, with his face in the floor and blankets all slithered around his legs.
What a crazy dream, Oikawa thinks. It was too mundane to be special but too real to be forgotten.
He’s preoccupied with it all morning, thinking about it ceaselessly until Iwaizumi knocks on the door and invites him to go outside to catch some beetles. Oikawa gives him a funny look.
“Hey Iwa-chan, do you know deja vu?” Oikawa asks. “Do you ever get it?”
Iwaizumi gives him a funny look back, kind of nervous. “Yeah, why?”
“I just got it really, really bad.”
Iwaizumi frowns at him, seeming to consider him much more seriously than usual. Oikawa squishes his cheeks.
“Let’s go get popsicles instead,” Iwaizumi declares, grabbing Oikawa’s hand to lead the way, like he always does. “It’s so hot, and I brought some popsicle money for both of us, anyway.”
Huh, Oikawa thinks. “You don’t want to catch some beetles?”
“Beetles will be there tomorrow and the day after.”
Huh, Oikawa thinks.
“Also, I finally found out why all the girls in our class have been folding so much origami. Did you know that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, apparently you get to make one wish, and it’ll come true?”
Huh, Oikawa thinks again. Maybe he should get to folding.
Oikawa had his suspicions. Sharing particularly delicious food, winning their first volleyball game and catching Iwaizumi’s eyes just so, getting visits from him while down with the flu, panicking in the boys’ change room at school when everyone started talking about first kisses and pretty girls and Iwaizumi had only quietly stated that there was someone he liked. The only pattern he had was Iwaizumi, always Iwaizumi, always when Oikawa loved him especially deep. Unfortunately for Oikawa, that seems to be at an uncontrollably high rate.
It wasn’t until their second year of high school that Oikawa really, truly figured it out. Having hints was one thing but to have to walk around the corner and find Iwaizumi alone with a girl in the middle of the hallway was enough to make his head spin so bad that he stumbled into the wall and almost fell out a window.
Long, straight black hair. Pretty face. Uniform sleeves pulled over her palms, fingers nervously wringing together. Class 2B, Ishikawa Yumi. Oikawa’s been at the receiving end of enough confessions to know what they look like.
“Iwa-chan,” he says, the syllables rushing out before he can help it, but it comes out such an ugly, terrible sound. Jealous. Angry. Oikawa tries to breathe, he tries as hard as he can, but when Iwaizumi looks up from her with a red face and inexplicable guilt in his eyes, Oikawa is grateful that the ground opens up underneath him and sucks him in.
For a handful of minutes, Oikawa stays on his bedroom floor, heart pulsing hard and stinging behind his eyeballs.
It’s okay if Oikawa flirts with girls. It’s okay if they confess to him. It’s allowed, because Oikawa never means it, it never matters, and he doesn’t care if that makes him a hypocrite.
“You can’t do this to me, Iwaizumi Hajime,” Oikawa whispers under his breath, willing himself upright to face the day. It’a blessing and a curse to have to relive the most awful days but today, he’s grateful for the chance.
Come lunchtime, when Iwaizumi gets up to go to the bathroom, Oikawa gets right up with him and crowds him particularly close.
“Trashkawa, why are you so clingy today?” Iwaizumi asks, scowling at him, but his eyes are gentle and he doesn’t shake Oikawa off. That just makes Oikawa lean even more of his weight along Iwaizumi’s side as they walk down the hall.
“I dunno, Iwa-chan, I guess I must love you or something!”
Sorry, Yumi-chan, Oikawa thinks, watching her hesitate before passing them out of the corner of his eye. Her hair is perfect, she even has lip gloss on; Oikawa hadn’t noticed that the first time around.
But I’m not, really.
“Hey, you feeling okay?” Iwaizumi asks.
Oikawa looks at him in surprise, their faces too close for any good reason. “Yeah, why?”
“Yeah...it’s nothing,” Iwaizumi answers, and although Oikawa wants to know, he’s too relieved with this averted crisis to muster up the energy to pry.
“Oikawa, I wouldn’t have come this far without you.”
“It’s because you’re strong, Shittykawa. I never want to hear you say any different.”
“Stop crying, Idiotkawa. I don’t care what school you go to or I go to, Miyagi or Tokyo or Pluto, you’re having dinner with me at least once a week.”
“You look good in blue, you know.”
Oikawa sighs, climbing back into his bed, absentmindedly rubbing at his throbbing face. So many countless things Iwaizumi’s said to him over the years, none of which Oikawa’s ever been able to respond to. What a useless heart he has--can’t it withstand any amount of heartache at all?
“I wouldn’t be anywhere without you, Iwa-chan,” he says.
“I’m only strong when you’re here, Iwa-chan,” he says.
“I’d go anywhere you wanted, Iwa-chan,” he says.
“Well, yeah, it’s your jacket, Iwa-chan,” he says.
Oikawa sighs again. The ceiling resolutely says nothing back. With a groan, Oikawa rolls over, staring at the digital tick of his phone clock until his alarm goes off.
When will it ever be the right time for him to tell Iwaizumi how he feels?
Will he ever stay alive long enough to do it??
“Hey Oikawa, have you planned anything for the new year? It’s only three days away,” Hanamaki asks, reaching out for another mikan. He peels it and offers half to Matsukawa who just grabs a mikan on his own, so offers it to Iwaizumi, who takes it and breaks it into another half to offer a quarter to Oikawa.
“Oh my god, so dizzy,” Oikawa says, turning away with a hand over his face, desperate to get a grip. He hates winter. He especially hates dying in winter, because he has to live so many cold, miserable mornings over again, and he just isn’t here for that. “Ugghhh Iwa-chan, I’m so dizzy, stop it! It’s too cold out for this!”
“What the fuck,” Iwaizumi says, not even a question. He’s too used to Oikawa making no sense. “Do you want some mikan or not?”
“More like mi-kan’t, am I right, Oikawa?” Hanamaki teases, the grossest, most self-satisfied leer on his face, and Oikawa fobs a couch pillow at him.
At least his dizziness has completely gone away.
“You guys don’t really come back that often so we should do something,” Matsukawa suggests. “Maybe the shrine? When was the last time we went for new year’s? First year of senior high?”
Oh, that year I ended up wishing for good health for all my loved ones and the balls and life force to tell Iwa-chan how I feel, Oikawa thinks with some amusement, like literally every year before and since. He sighs, flopping onto the carpet.
They always do this in Matsukawa’s house because his family has a proper, family-sized kotatsu, and Oikawa never wants to leave it. They had invested in some obscenely soft, foreign brand, polyester microfleece blanket that Oikawa’s been trying to convince his mother to get for probably his entire life. He wonders if he can convince Iwaizumi to stay here with him forever. It’s warm and there are mikan, he’ll say, and I’ve been desperately in love with you since I was 10.
“Shrine sounds like a good idea,” Iwaizumi says, tilting from where he’s sitting to lean over Oikawa.
Oikawa’s eyes go big and round and he stops breathing, staring up at Iwaizumi, the ceiling lights haloing around Iwaizumi’s head. “What?” he croaks, only to have Iwaizumi shove a piece of mikan in his mouth.
“Stop it, you’re totally killing him,” Hanamaki points out, watching Oikawa pathetically curl up in the fetal position while hiding his face.
“I don’t even know why he is the way he is,” Iwaizumi complains. Hanamaki rolls his eyes at the gooey fondness in his voice.
“I don’t know why either of you are the way you are, but seriously, Iwaizumi, Oikawa’s about to have a seizure.”
“Let me kick my feet in peace,” Oikawa says, muffling the words into the palms of his hands. It’s some Christmas miracle he didn’t literally just die.
For a delirious couple of hours on new year’s eve, Oikawa sits in his childhood bedroom with serious consideration to putting on a kimono to go for the first shrine visit of the year. He hasn’t done that since he was a little kid, and only because his sister had insisted they do it traditionally that year, so thank god Iwaizumi had shown up in a kimono that year, too.
No, no, that would be lame. Makki would show up in jeans and some ugly, off-green pea coat and laugh at him for sure.
Oikawa spends a little extra time with his hair and finding just the right pair of glasses before he heads out. It hasn’t snowed yet, not so strange for December, but it is bitingly cold. Oikawa shivers, bundling deeper into his blue scarf. He’s not even quite up the street to Iwaizumi’s house yet when Iwaizumi appears in front of him, holding a pair of gloves in already gloved hands.
“I knew you would forget,” he says, rolling his eyes, but pulls Oikawa’s hand out of his coat pocket by the wrist so he can help him put them on.
Fuck, Oikawa thinks emphatically. Keep it together, Tooru, come on.
“Are you seriously just going to stand there and watch me do this for you?” Iwaizumi asks, pulling out Oikawa’s other hand, “I’m pretty sure this is trash even for you, Trashkawa.” Still, he makes sure to pull the gloves on tight over Oikawa’s numb fingers, and he says nothing when he looks up into Oikawa’s eyes, aware of the way he’s been staring.
How does Iwaizumi do that? How does he not get flustered at all?
They walk in silence towards the train station, shoulder to shoulder as they’ve always been. Oikawa’s taller than him now, like he has been for a long time.
Iwaizumi will always seem bigger to him, though. Just bigger than his whole life, too vast a presence for Oikawa to really understand. How can someone be everywhere at once in Oikawa’s world, so persistently there for him?
“Where are Makki and Mattsun?” he asks, just as his phone’s text ringtone goes off in his pocket.
Iwaizumi pulls out his phone too. “Hanamaki says he and Matsukawa decided to stay in and watch Crazy, Stupid Love,” he reads, eyebrows arching into his hairline, “...and that they’re going to follow it up with Say Anything.” Oikawa is punching Makki in the face very vividly in his mind. “Are they dating or what?”
Oikawa starts laughing and floats to the balls of his feet when Iwaizumi joins in, the rich depth of his laughter vibrating in the bottom of Oikawa’s stomach.
The line to the shrine is already a mess by the time they get to it. Kids are running around all over the place, excited to be up this late, and Oikawa is overwhelmed with nostalgia when he sees some kids in their Seijou uniforms in line, huddled together to keep warm. He’s not so far out from senior high yet but so much of his life has changed; his commute, his schooling, his house, his hobby that’s verging on career. Iwaizumi must sense his thinking because he slings an arm around Oikawa’s shoulders, grinning, their heads tilted together like Iwaizumi wants to share all of his secrets.
Oikawa supposes at the end of every changing day, there are still things that will never change. Iwaizumi is good at keeping promises.
Midnight passes without any countdowns or fireworks. Iwaizumi leaves him in line for 5 minutes to go buy them some hot sake from the food stalls. In that time, two different groups of people approach him for selfies and to offer words of encouragement, always that happy kind of starstruck to support homegrown talent.
People say he’s arrogant, sometimes--and maybe, but Oikawa carries a piece of pride for all the people, nameless and intimate alike, who’ve carried him this far.
“Happy new year, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi says, handing him a paper cup of sake. He looks at him, then smiles. “Did a small child ask for your autograph or did someone tell you you aren’t as good looking in real life as on TV?”
“Shut up, I’m not crying,” Oikawa sniffles, downing his cup of sake just to have something to do.
It’s almost quarter-past by the time they reach the front of the shrine to make their prayers. Iwaizumi pulls out five yen, like most normal people, then starts laughing at Oikawa for pulling out 5000.
“Got something big in mind?” Iwaizumi teases.
“I need all the help I can get,” Oikawa mutters, not laughing at all.
They throw in their donations and Oikawa makes his wish. For good health to all my loved ones, and for the love of all that is good, the balls and life force to tell Iwa-chan this year, because seriously, universe. How many times do I have to do this before you hear me? Bow, bow, clap, clap, wish, bow.
He escapes the line to find Iwaizumi already waiting for him, a funny look on his face. “What?” Oikawa asks, “did you think of a better wish already?”
“No, it’s not that,” Iwaizumi says quietly, taking Oikawa by the arm to pull him into a more secluded area. He seems nervous, anxious, and Oikawa is too in tune with him not to react immediately, nerves buzzing with anticipation.
“What, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa touches his shoulder, faces him as straight as he can. “Are you okay?”
“No,” Iwaizumi says, shaking his head again. He looks to the sky, then back at the ground, anywhere but Oikawa’s face. “Listen, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you for a really long time, but I’m...shit, I don’t know, I have a really bad feeling about it. But I think I should tell you. I- I’ve always wanted to tell you.”
Oikawa’s heart is pounding in his throat, a sledgehammer against his voice. “What?” It warbles unevenly and he grabs Iwaizumi with both hands, desperate not to give in to his rushing dizziness.
With a steady grip, Iwaizumi holds him by the waist, keeping him upright more than he probably realizes, and says, “Do you think you could be happy with me?”
“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says, a sigh of all the breath in his lungs, and he slides right out from Iwaizumi’s grip.
Awesome, I’m in Bali, Oikawa thinks.
He’s standing at the side of an aquamarine pool, so clear it almost looks two-dimensional. Where this would normally end with him facedown on his bedroom floor, he’s now apparently in paradise.
“You could stay here, if you wanted to,” a crane says to him, standing to his right.
“Why would I do that?” Oikawa asks imperiously, like he isn’t tripping on drugs or something, “Iwa-chan’s not here.”
The crane hops closer, studying him. “You know, you’ve died a thousand times for that guy. You don’t have to go back to it if you don’t want.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“You could fall out of love with him.”
Oikawa smiles, too beyond bitterness, or regret, or even simple anger. “And why would I do that, crane-chan?” he repeats, “it’s Iwa-chan.”
“Oikawa,” the crane says, “you’re really freaking stubborn.”
“Do you know why you’re here?”
“Because there were drugs in my volleyball and they seeped into my bloodstream through skin contact?”
“No, dumbass, because Iwaizumi folded a thousand paper cranes and wished for you.”
“Wha--” Oikawa starts, but the crane jumps up and kicks him in the face, and then Oikawa is flying back and away from paradise, a distant voice in his head saying,
And respect your timeless deities more, assface!
“Oikawa!” A cold, stiff hand on his cheek. “Tooru!”
“Iwa-chan,” he croaks, “my face hurts.”
There’s a beat of silence before Oikawa’s suddenly choked in an embrace, and he buries his face in Iwaizumi’s neck, breathing in as much of him as he can manage. “You just fell on it, you fucking dumbass,” Iwaizumi mumbles, kneeled in the dirt with a growing crowd of people gathered around him, “what the hell, Oikawa? I barely get through what I’m saying and you go fainting on me?”
“Well,” Oikawa counters smartly.
“Damn it, are you okay?” Iwaizumi asks again. Anyone else would think him angry, the tone of his voice is so harsh, but Oikawa knows what it sounds like when Iwaizumi is afraid. He doesn’t hear it all that often but that’s why when he does, he knows it’s got to be bad.
He groans as Iwaizumi helps him back up, clinging onto him, giving polite nods and smiles to concerned passerbys. His cheek is really quite sore and Oikawa can’t help but wonder if he’s going to have a bruise in the shape of a crane footprint.
“I was somehow kind of expecting that, though,” Iwaizumi grumbles once they get farther away, wandering down a lonely path into the woods behind the shrine. Oikawa looks up at him, still hugging him around the waist as they plod along. Iwa-chan’s blushing. “I don’t take back anything I said, okay?”
“Technically, you haven’t said anything yet,” Oikawa points out.
“What if you pass out again?”
“I won’t,” Oikawa says, with such certainty that Iwaizumi finally looks him in the eye.
“I- I’m just not sure,” Iwaizumi says, and it twists Oikawa’s insides to hear his proud, confident, unshakable Iwa-chan sound so uncertain. “I keep- Oikawa, you don’t even know. It’s been so long that I can’t even remember when it started, but I keep having nightmares that you die every time I try to say something to you.”
No wonder he always did things differently the second time around, Oikawa thinks with some wonder. Popsicles, and unheard confessions, and not staying in Miyagi, even though Oikawa hadn’t even cried the second time Iwaizumi had told him about his university acceptances.
“Iwa-chan, do you remember telling me a long, long time ago that if you folded a thousand paper cranes, you could have one wish come true?” Iwaizumi’s eyes widen. “Today, just now, what did you wish for?”
Iwaizumi sets his mouth in a flat line and tries to turn away but Oikawa reaches out and cups his cheek, turning him back.
“You don’t get to look at anything that’s not me anymore, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says quietly, pressing his forehead to Iwaizumi’s temple. “What did you wish for?”
“You, you idiot,” Iwaizumi breathes, sigh harsh and hot against the side of Oikawa’s face. “I’ve never wished for anything else.”
“You’re the idiot,” Oikawa tells him, nosing along Iwaizumi’s cheek, “way to waste a free wish.”
“What’s this?” Iwaizumi asks, holding up the good luck charm with unhidden incredulity.
“It’s a crane, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa explains, rolling his eyes, “my goodness, you’re very dumb. How did it come to this?”
“Clearly been spending too much time with you,” Iwaizumi replies, shoving Oikawa over.
“Is this some twisted version of foreplay for you guys?” Hanamaki asks, nonplussed, sliding deeper into the kotatsu. “Can we ever have a normal new year’s again? You guys still have to make up for last year, I mean I almost died of fright when you both showed up back here all frozen and beat up and Oikawa had apparently cried for hours in the cold because his face was all red and blotchy--”
“Can we not talk about this again,” Oikawa suggests happily, reaching for Iwaizumi’s bag so he can tie the good luck charm on. He’d seen these couples good luck charms by chance the other day, just at some random stall on the street, and there was no way he wasn’t going to get them.
Iwaizumi lets him, then re-ties both the one on his bag and the one on Oikawa’s because Oikawa sucks at making sturdy knots.
“Woah, that’s so weird,” Matsukawa says, turning the TV up, “there’s a new year’s special on Japanese cranes right now.”
“What the hell is happening,” Oikawa says under his breath, scooting closer until Iwaizumi can comfortably wrap an arm around his waist.
...red-crowned crane, a symbol of luck, longevity, and fidelity, is said to live for 1000 years in popular legend. With a highly omnivorous diet...
Iwaizumi and Oikawa both look down at the crane charms on their bags.
“Hey,” Matsukawa says, looking out the window, “I think it’s snowing!”
On a sunny Sunday morning, half-wearing nothing but one of Iwaizumi’s shirts and listening to him talk about school, Oikawa explores the dusty top shelf of Iwaizumi’s closet and finds a shoebox bursting with squished, faded, beautiful origami cranes.
He doesn’t show Iwaizumi and he doesn’t say a thing--he just looks at them and puts them back where he found them, in the very back corner, and grins all the way back to bed.
A thousand little deaths, a thousand little moments where Iwaizumi was all that Oikawa loved.