Actions

Work Header

Swallowing Hydrangeas

Work Text:

“And finally, to her grandson, Oikawa Tooru, she leaves the care and ownership of her house, and garden property.”

 


 

“When I leave this world, I want you to take care of this garden.”

Tooru glances up at his grandmother, volleyball strategies and exam grades momentarily forgotten as he scrutinises her with narrowed eyes. He contemplates denying that she will ever die — after all, he cannot imagine a life where this place, this sanctuary of hers, is taken care of by anyone else. Especially not him.

But the reality of her situation, the tubes linking her nose to the oxygen tank that she has begun to wheel around in a small, rickety cart, hits him in full force. He glances away from her, vision zeroing on the sagiso flowers, bunched in small, rounded patterns to his left. He settles for the second logical argument.

“Why would you want me, of all people, to take care of this place? I don’t know how to garden.”

His grandmother smiles down at him, the hem of her dress fluttering softly in the summer breeze. “I have made countless memories here. Some good, some bad, but they are all ones I will cherish long after my death. This place… it is special to me, Tooru-chan.”

Tooru looks back at the diagram he’s just drawn, an arrangement of spikers on their side of the net represented by crosses, ready to attack, and then at the flowers to his right. He isn't quite sure he'll ever have the time to garden, to spend his time taking care of each flower with the amount of love and care that his grandmother does. She shifts, snatching his attention.

"I learned how to garden with your grandfather," she explains. "He taught me everything there is to know about how to care for and love plants. He taught me the importance of showing everything around you just a little bit of love, how that goes a long way, how they repay me every day."

She gestures to the flowers, blooming in an explosion of colour around them, gently swaying in the spring breeze, dancing to a song completely unheard.

“I want you to make good memories in this garden, Tooru-chan. I want you to learn to treasure this place, too.”

 


 

Tooru sighs as he scans the vast expanse of plants, ranging from colours green to red to blue, stretching out before him. He vaguely remembers the name of some flowers, remembers there’s a large patch of shion flowers somewhere within the maze of flora, remembers there’s a sakura tree tucked away in the corner of the garden. From his time here, he remembers that there are some flowers that require special nutrients, and some that require cover during the night.

The realisation hits him as suddenly as the inheritance had, despite the many times his grandmother . He places both hands on his hips, heaves a loud sigh, and does his best not to externally panic, despite the flurry of his thoughts.

He has absolutely no idea how to care for all of this.

 


 

It’s 5 in the afternoon, on a Saturday mid-June, when Tooru sees him again. Despite it having been a little bit over 6 months since the last time they saw each other, Ushijima’s speech on his pride still fresh in his mind, Ushijima does not look much different.

Tall, broad shouldered, stoic facial expression, lips perpetually tugged down in a frown, brows furrowed.

Tooru wants to punch him.

His gaze travels down the plain, black T-shirt that Ushijima is wearing, to his hands, where he is tightly holding a pink, flower-patterned watering can.

Tooru snorts, laughter escaping him in his surprise. “Why if it isn’t Ushiwaka-chan,” he sneers, making no effort to hide his disdain. “Can I help you?”

Ushijima looks down at him, where Tooru is crouching by a patch of tiger lilies.

“You are killing it,” Ushijima points out, gesturing to the flower. Tooru glances down at his hand, at the way he’s subconsciously started squeezing the stem, crushing it against his palm. When he uncurls his fingers, the flower droops sadly toward the floor. They never looked like that when his grandmother took care of this place.

“Well maybe,” Tooru snaps, “if you didn’t interrupt me in my work, I wouldn’t be killing them.” He lets the flower go, and it falls to the ground, petals folding against the soft dirt.

Ushijima, as always, does not seem deterred by Tooru’s hostility. “I see you’ve started to frequent this garden quite often.”

“Why, that might be because it’s my garden.”

Ushijima frowns, confused, and Tooru is half tempted to pluck these lilies out of the ground and throw them at him. He doesn’t, though, because as angry as Ushijima’s face makes him, this is his grandmother’s legacy, and he is determined to keep it in the best condition possible. Not that he's doing such a great job of it right now, but he's learning.

“You do not know how to take care of them,” Ushijima notes, and Tooru freezes mid burying a small hand trowel into the dirt beneath the lilies.

“I’m learning,” he bites, dropping the tool where it is. He dusts himself off, and stands up, so he does not have to legitimately look up at Ushijima any more than already he has to. “This is— It wasn’t originally mine. I’ve never gardened before this and I—“

“This was Oikawa obaasan’s garden,” Ushijima interrupts.

Tooru’s eyes widen. “You knew my grandmother?”

Ushijima nods. “We would often work on this garden together. She allowed me to help her with the more difficult flowers. Her Erikas are particularly stingy.”

Tooru glances around the garden, trying to spot the flowers that Ushijima could be referring to, but he has absolutely no idea what an Erika flower looks like in the first place. After a moment of him looking again and again, a hand comes into his field of vision, pointing toward a small bush covered in tiny, rounded, pink flowers.

“These are the Erikas,” Ushijima states, and his voice is much too close for Tooru's comfort. Tooru turns back to him, crosses his arms across his chest in petulance.

“Well,” he snaps, “unlike her, I don’t need your help with this.”

“Don’t you?” Ushijima retorts, and Tooru’s jaw tightens. “I could help you take care of the garden. It is a large amount of work after all, especially in inexperienced hands, and I could also teach you how to take care of them, if you wish.”

At the word ‘inexperienced’, Tooru’s mind takes a hard turn left, to the way Ushijima has always had it better than him, in volleyball, in opportunity, and it seems, even socially. He thinks of Ushijima spending weekends and holidays alongside his grandmother. He thinks of the way her soft smile would be directed at him, the way she most likely baked him sweets and offered to share her dinners with him.

She probably told him more of her stories than she had Tooru, and probably trusted him with more information than her own grandson.

All that because Tooru had never made time for gardening, for spending time with her outside of the odd weekend where he'd decide to shack up in this house, to do his homework in peace.

Those thoughts, combined with Tooru’s usual irritation at Ushijima’s blunt and slightly condescending behaviour, intentional or not, has bitterness rising in his throat like bile, and his anger clouds any rational thoughts he could possibly conjure.

“You-” he starts, before deciding better of it and turning away from his impromptu guest. He doesn't want Ushijima to see the trembling of his chin, of his lips. He doesn't want him to see the tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. “I’ve never needed your help. Not in volleyball, not here, not anywhere.” He does not conceal the venom in his voice. “Go away, Ushiwaka-chan.”

He hears a soft sigh, and then, “As you wish. The offer will still stand tomorrow, Oikawa, and the days after that.”

Tooru doesn't turn around, even when Ushjima's footsteps begin fading into the distance as he rounds the corner of the street, and keeps walking, leaving Tooru entirely alone with the crushed stem of a tiger lily, and an entire garden he's too afraid to kill.

It’s when he’s alone in that garden, the only reminiscence of his grandmother, that he breaks down for the first time since her death.

 


 

Ushijima’s last words haunt Tooru. He doesn’t forget it, doesn’t forget the way he rejected a perfectly reasonable offer because his pride got in the way of his words, once again. Not that he would ever admit to that happening, but when he's lounging on the porch of his late grandmother's house, the lazy heat of the summer beating down on him, he allows himself to be honest about it.

He'd been reminded of it as he failed to uproot a few flowers in an attempt to make space for others, and ended up with dirt spread all over the cobbled path and crushed petals under his fingers.

He'd been reminded of it when he found himself soaked to the bone by a malfunctioning hose, having to wring the water out of his clothes all the while shivering uncontrollably any moment the evening breeze picked up.

He'd been reminded of it when he got stung by an angry wasp, when he spent two hours cleaning the dirt from under his nails because his gloves broke while he was mixing nutrients into the soil, when he sat on the grass and reads manuals, only to end up confused by the jargon and the amount of material and thought required for it. Of course he is capable of learning and taking care of this garden, after all, he wouldn't let something as simple as this defeat him. 

But Ushijima had taken care of this place before Tooru had even inherited it. He knows how the flowers work, he knows the equipment that his grandmother left behind, and Tooru will be damned if he lets the garden die before he can figure himself out. 

After a week of absolute torture and barely managing to save the few flowers whose lives he’d threatened with his clumsiness, he caves in and admits that he should probably swallow his pride.

 


 

He’s dialling Iwaizumi’s number before he has time to realise what a terrible decision he is making and stops himself.

“Iwa-chan!” he greets in a sing-song, the moment the ringing stops and the click on the other end of the line indicates that Iwaizumi’s picked up.

“Oikawa?”

“You wouldn’t happen to have that terrible Shiratorizawa reserve setter’s number, would you? What was his name again—“

“Semi?”

“Whatever,” Tooru says, waving a hand dismissively despite the fact that Iwaizumi cannot see his gesture. Knowing how easy communication is between the both of them, there is no doubt that Iwaizumi knows Tooru's gestures without even seeing them. “I need his number.”

“What in God’s name would you need his number for? And don’t tell me it’s for a prank or I will end you, Shittykawa.“

Tooru takes a deep breath, and braces himself, before he decides to, for once, be upfront with Iwaizumi, rather than lead him on over a series of taunts and jokes.

“It’s because I need to find out where Ushiwaka lives.”

There’s a long stretch of silence on the other end of the line, heavy, and Tooru can practically feel how worked up Iwaizumi is getting. By the time Iwaizumi speaks up again, his anger is almost palpable.

“Oikawa, I didn’t leave you behind in Saitama so you could start bullying—“

“It’s not that!” Tooru quickly interrupts. “Really, I promise I won’t do anything mean to him. Well, not much, anyway. I—“ The next few words taste foul, like ash in his mouth, but he forces them out anyway. “I need his help.”

There’s another pause, though this time Tooru knows it’s because Iwaizumi’s never been good at hiding his emotions, especially his surprise. Tooru is both swallowing his pride and admitting to needing Ushijima's help, of all people. That would evidently stun anyone who knew him. Iwaizumi takes a sharp inhale, and it comes across as a crackle of static through the phone's speaker. Tooru winces, pulling away from the device to let Iwaizumi gather his thoughts and assemble them into something coherent. He hums as he flips through a magazine. The page he's on is covered in photos of different types of fertilisers, and he has absolutely no idea where to start.

“His help," Iwaizumi finally says, so slowly that Tooru fears he may have broken his best friend. "You. You need Ushiwaka’s help.”

“It’s for the garden, Iwa-chan.”

The mention of his grandmother’s heirloom has Iwaizumi instantly calming down, knowing that the wound is still very fresh in Tooru’s heart. There’s a quiet, resigned sigh on the other end of the line.

“You’re going to go all the way to Miyagi for—“

“No, no! Iwa-chan don’t you remember how we overheard them talking about Ushiwaka’s dad, who lives in Tokyo? Ushiwaka-chan lived in the dorms at Shiratorizawa. He’s around here. I know it.”

Tooru conveniently leaves out the fact that he’d seen Ushijima, and he definitely doesn't mention that he’d yelled at him. Iwaizumi doesn't need to know about that specific detail. Tooru may love Iwaizumi, but if there's one thing he loves more than his best friend, it is his skin, and Iwaizumi is bound to rip it off if he finds out that Tooru’d let his high school grudge get the better of him again and ruined a completely civilised situation.

Iwaizumi sighs for the third time during their short conversation, but this time Tooru knows there’s a soft smile playing at the corner of his lips.

“I don’t know how you manage to simultaneously hate him, and know that much about him. It must be an obsession.” Tooru squawks in protest, but Iwaizumi interrupts him. “Look, I’ll ask Semi where Ushijima lives, okay? Just… don’t do anything stupid, Oikawa.”

“I won’t,” Tooru replies softly, letting his own lips curl upward in a shy smile. “Say hi to your parents for me! I know your mom must miss me terribly, being stuck with her grumpy son all day!” he singsongs into the receiver. Iwaizumi laughs on the other end of the line, and Tooru's shoulders relax just a tiny bit at the familiar, comforting sound.

“Fuck you, Oikawa.”

 


 

It is within three days of that phone call that Tooru finds himself standing before an unfamiliar house, after wrangling the address from Semi, tightly clutching a small piece of paper between his trembling fingers. It's a hastily drawn map, and Tooru's gotten lost three times trying to follow his own messy handwriting, but he's finally here. He hopes.

The gentle heat of the summer falls in waves against his back, and does not at all help the warmth rushing to Tooru’s cheeks as he uncurls his fingers from around the crumpled paper in order to ring the doorbell. He shuts his eyes, waiting for someone who isn’t Ushijima to open the door, and the inevitable ridicule that will follow his stuttered explanation. He half considers begging any deity out there that Ushijima is home alone, so he won't have to awkwardly explain his presence to someone who's most likely never heard of him.

It seems that his prayers are answered when Ushijima is the one to answer the door. He takes one look at Tooru, glances back inside his house, before stepping outside and shutting the door behind him.

“Oikawa,” he greets, giving Tooru a curt nod.

“Ushiwaka-chan.”

There’s a small pause as Ushijima considers whether or not to reprimand Tooru for calling him that horrible nickname. He doesn’t, however, opting instead to take a few steps forward until he stands before Tooru, with only the small gate acting as a separation between them.

“I didn’t expect you to know of this place,” Ushijima says, gesturing to the house. “Not many people know—“

“I found out through your setter.”

Ushijima eyes him warily, but doesn’t make to push Tooru for more information. Tooru clears his throat awkwardly, unsure how to continue the conversation without insulting Ushijima.

“Is there a reason for your visit?” Ushijima finally queries, breaking the terse silence between the both of them.

Tooru knows he’s supposed to apologise for his outburst the last time they spoke to each other. He knows that he should put his pride aside and consider Ushijima’s feelings, no matter how stone-faced he is.

He knows this.

But he's always had an issue around Ushijima. An issue that kept growing, each time he lost to Ushijima, each time Ushijima insisted that he would have done much better for himself had he swallowed his pride and attended Shiratorizawa. That issue had reached its limit last weekend, and exploded in Tooru's face, leaving him to his own desperate string pulling in order to somehow sew up the massive gap he'd managed to create between him and Ushijima.

That issue is: he feels like an absolute idiot around Ushijima.

From the get-go, Ushijima has always been taller, stronger, more powerful, and more popular than him. No matter how handsome Tooru is, how popular he is in his own school, it does not rival the amount of girls that swamp Ushijima after their matches. More importantly, Ushijima has always been fortunate in his volleyball career, winning against Tooru like it was something easy, and Tooru never walks away from a loss without a million more creative insults to use against Ushijima.

However, Ushijima's general superiority to him is not exactly what makes him feel stupid. Tooru has tried a thousand times to get under the stone-faced idiot's skin. He's insulted him, from his playstyle to his personality, to his haircut, but Ushijima simply did not rise up to the bait. Instead, he would apologise, or agree and offer to better himself, and that would leave Tooru both looking and feeling like a complete idiot.

In instances like this, where Tooru feels backed into a corner, embarrassed and outplayed, he snaps. 

Now, with the way Ushijima is eyeing him, almost in suspicion, Tooru feels that embarrassment come back threefold, feels those metaphorical walls close around him again and he takes a heavy breath. He angrily glances to the side, bites the inside of his mouth to prevent himself from saying something mean to protect himself, because he shouldn't be. Not when the person whose help he needs is standing right in front of him.

Iwaizumi’s voice rings clear in his mind. Don’t say anything stupid. If you want his help you can’t shit on him. Which is fair enough, Oikawa thinks. Iwaizumi has always been more diplomatic of the two, despite the fact that they both badmouthed Ushijima an equal amount during their high school years. The moment the whistle had announced that not only had Karasuno beat Seijou, but also Shiratorizawa, Iwaizumi had told Tooru that he needed to do something. They waited outside of the gymnasium, Tooru refusing to witness the award ceremony, until the Shiratorizawa players started filing out one by one.

Iwaizumi had walked up to Ushijima, and thanked him for his rivalry, for those three years, calling him a respected opponent, and saying that he looked forward to facing him again, one day. Ushijima had taken the compliment in stride, and told Iwaizumi likewise. 

Seijou had been the highlight of Tooru's volleyball career, but he'd come to the conclusion that they made up quite a bit of the Shiratorizawa players' memories, too.

Tooru's eyes land on a few primroses, towering high above the rest of the flowers lining the edge of Ushijima’s porch, and he takes a moment to study them. They seem to almost glow in the soft light of the morning sun, each flower a smaller star in itself, bright, happy, healthy. This is what his garden is supposed to look like, he realises. A utopia of bright colours, of the sweet smells of plants that are loved and know they are loved.

It should look like when his grandmother cared for each flower separately, when she poured her heart and soul into that garden.

“Who takes care of those?” he queries, pointing at them.

Ushijima glances at the flowers.

“I planted them here last week.”

That settles it, Tooru thinks, swallowing thickly, thinking of his pride sinking down his throat along with his saliva and locking itself up somewhere other than his mouth, before he forces the words out.

“I need your help.”

Unlike what Tooru expected (although, he reflects, what had he expected?), Ushijima’s facial expression does not change. “With what?”

Tooru grits his teeth. “With the garden,” he grinds out. There is a slight pause as Ushijima shifts closer, resting his forearms on top of the gate.

“Of course,” he says, and Tooru heaves an imperceptible sigh of relief.

That had been surprisingly easy.

 


 

They plan to meet on the weekend, due to Ushijima having to spend time with his immediate family before his father returned to work. Tooru waits for him to appear on the porch of his grandmother’s house, or, well, his house, now, a soft drink in one hand and a book in the other.

When he first hears Ushijima’s footsteps, he makes sure not to look up until Ushijima stops in front of him. He keeps reading, although the words don't make sense to him at all, his thoughts entirely focused on the person loitering in front of him. Ushijima shifts on his feet for a few minutes, before he clears his throat awkwardly. That's when Tooru looks up.

“Ushiwaka-chan!” Tooru exclaims by way of greeting. He flashes Ushijima one of his trademark megawatt smiles, and snaps the book shut. Ushijima nods his own greeting. Tooru watches him stand there for a few minutes, before he uncrosses his legs, places the book down on the wooden planks of the porch, and takes a long sip of his drink before putting the bottle down as well. He pushes himself off the stairs and dusts himself off with a self-satisfied smile.

Ushijima feels awkward, and Tooru relishes in it.

“Where should we start?” Tooru queries, giving Ushijima his full attention. Or, well, as much attention as Ushijima deserves, anyway. Ushijima glances around before gesturing toward a large patch of purple flowers, arranged in a small arc around the corner of the porch.

Tooru glances at them, before looking back at him. “Do you know what they are?”

Bijozakura flowers,” Ushijima replies. Tooru tilts his head and looks back at the flowerbed.

“Do they need special care?”

“No, but starting with them isn’t much different from starting with any other,” Ushijima points out with a shrug, before he bends down and picks up a rake from the pile of equipment that Tooru had gathered that very morning. “We should water them. And make sure the soil has the proper nutrients, get rid of weeds, etcetera.”

Tooru nods. “Let’s do this, Ushiwaka-chan!” he sings, picking up a watering can and making his way over to the flowers.

He hears a soft sigh behind him at the nickname, but Ushijima does not complain about it, and so Tooru giggles slightly to himself and shuffles to the side, giving Ushijima space to kneel next to him.

 


 

Tooru learns a lot during their two first days of gardening together. Most of the information is on basic care, such as weeding, types of weeds, about mulching, about proper nutrients, about how long he should spend weekly on the garden.

Just as Ushijima begins explaining how long it should take to care for the whole garden, he pauses, hands freezing mid cutting a dead flower bud from the cluster of verbenas. “Where are you attending university?” he queries.

“What, Ushiwaka-chan, you don't know?" Tooru jokes. "I thought you'd always be aware of my whereabouts."

"I am not a stalker, Oikawa," Ushijima replies calmly, undeterred by Tooru's teasing. Tooru pouts, dropping yet another dead verbena flower into the pile that they'd made between them, over the last few minutes.

"Tokyo,” he grumbles, reaching beneath the flowers and ripping out another dandelion from the flowerbed. “I can get here by train in 30 minutes. It won’t be a problem to come back here during weekends.”

Ushijima turns to look at him. “What about practice?” he queries.

Tooru vaguely gestures to his leg. “I got a scholarship from Chuo with the condition that I take one day of rest a week, because of this.” He pats his knee lightly, drums his fingers along the hard curve of it, before clicking his tongue and returning to weeding. “Until it gets better, at least. And if I get too busy, my dad communes to Tokyo twice a week. He’s offered to water them when he comes over. I just,” he pauses, bites the side of his cheek, “this place was left in my care. I want to honour my grandmother’s wish, if just a little.”

"So she did leave this garden in your care, then."

Tooru nods. "She did."

I don’t know what type of memories I’ll be making here, he thinks bitterly, glancing at his lifelong rival. Ushijima has returned to silently cutting off the dead buds, lost somewhere within his mind. Especially considering my company. But I’ll try, obachan. I’ll try my best.

Tooru turns back to the flowers and keeps working, humming softly to himself, side by side with a quiet Ushijima, and the comfort that it brings him should probably scare him more than it does.

 


 

“Same time next week, then,” Tooru says, watching Ushijima put away the equipment they used in a small shed, hidden behind the house. Ushijima pulls back from the small space, straightening up and looking down at Tooru.

“I thought you would have gotten the basics by now,” he replies, clearly confused. "You are clearly intelligent, Oikawa."

Tooru clenches his fists, grits his teeth and wills the heat in his cheeks to disappear. Stupid, he thinks. Who compliments others so sincerely? When Ushijima steps closer, Tooru averts his gaze, opting instead to glare at the batch of amaryllises behind him.

“I— this garden is huge, Ushiwaka-chan! You can’t possibly expect me to take care of all those flowers on my own, what with how much of an amateur I am.”

“You seemed determined to do so when we spoke to each other last time.”

“I can’t seem to remember last time, for some reason,” Tooru replies airily. "You must have dreamed that up."

“Is that so.” Ushijima looks skeptical.

There is a pause, a moment of charged silence that has the hairs at the back of Tooru’s neck standing on end, his fingers itching to grab Ushijima and yell in his face that he’s scared to ruin this garden. He has half a mind to actually say please, to swallow his pride once again and beg Ushijima to prevent him from being a walking natural disaster, from killing every single flower in this garden, God knows he's actually capable, but Ushijima turns on his heel.

“Same time next week. I will bring some food, too,” he says over his shoulder, before disappearing behind the large bush of lavender flowers and leaving Tooru to watch his retreating silhouette.

“Thank you, Ushiwaka-chan!” Tooru calls out after him, waving a hand high above his head. Ushijima doesn’t turn around to wave back, but Tooru feels gleeful when he watches the momentary tensing of Ushijima’s shoulders at the nickname.

 


 

Spending his holidays in his grandmother’s old home is a perpetually lonely experience.

It is entirely silent.

There is nothing moving in the house, no clocks, no radios, no screens. Tooru feels anxious, jumpy at his ever silent surroundings. The lack of a T.V is especially unnerving, since he cannot turn it on like he does back in his shared flat with Iwaizumi, for relaxing background noise. He calls Iwaizumi for as long as he can, ignoring his best friend’s complaints about eating up his time even when they’re not together (he knows Iwaizumi doesn't mean it, anyway), and when Iwaizumi is unavailable, he blasts any music he finds on full volume, desperately trying to fill the void he feels opening up within his heart and swallowing him whole.

Tooru spends his days wondering whether this is how his grandmother felt, living on her own with only an altar, a faded picture of her late husband, and her flowers to keep her company.

He opens his eyes, gaze flicking to the picture of his grandmother, sitting atop the altar next to that of his grandfather’s. The house is, as usual, silent save for the soft sound of the wind coming through the open window, and the occasional chirp of a bird.

Tooru gets up with a sigh, his knee lightly throbbing from having spent too much time pressed to the floor, and heads down to the kitchen to prepare breakfast, mind heavy with the thought that perhaps he could have made his grandmother’s life a lot easier, had he made the effort to.

 


 

“Did… Did you get along with her?” Tooru asks. Ushijima turns away from the pale yellow rose in his hand to scrutinise Tooru.

“Oikawa obaasan was a lovely woman. Kind, gentle,” Ushijima pauses, “willing to fill my silences with her words. Though I believe she was also quite lonely.” The words sting Tooru’s heart, rip open the wound that her passing had caused. “It was clear that she enjoyed any company she could get, too. She was full of stories, from her childhood to her adulthood, and always willing to share, were you willing to listen.”

Which I wasn’t, Tooru thinks bitterly. His mother’s words echo in the back of his mind. You never know what you have until it’s gone, she’s said, bent over his form as she iced his newly injured knee. Cherish what you have, Tooru, or it may slip right through your fingers.

Ushijima lets go of the rose, and it sways on its branch, before settling amongst the other buds.

Tooru bites his lip, worries it between his teeth, before he lets go of it, exhaling loudly. “Did you two-” he pauses, snaps a dead branch from the bush before he continues, “did she ever talk about me?”

Ushijima is quiet for what seems, to Tooru, like an eternity.

“Yes,” he finally replies. “She often spoke of you.”

At first, Tooru thinks of shoving it in Ushijima's face. Hah, he wants to say. Even in your presence, she still thought about me more than she thought about you! However, Tooru belatedly realises, with mounting horror, that she could have possibly mentioned his embarrassing childhood stories. She could have talked about the time when Iwaizumi convinced Tooru to believe that he was actually from outer space, and he’d ran to his mother accusing her of lying to the whole family, because Tooru obviously wasn’t human.

She could have mentioned the time when he’d broken his thumb trying to hang up lights on the christmas tree and had cried so hard the neighbours had come to investigate to make sure he wasn’t being tortured. Tooru's mother had been so sheepish, trying to explain that no, she wasn't doing anything dangerous, Tooru was simply very overzealous when it came to showing emotion.

She could have mentioned worse, and Tooru suddenly dreads to find out the extent of Ushijima’s knowledge of him.

“What did she say?” he queries, feigning nonchalance, despite the fact that his extended silence had probably told Ushijima everything he needed to know about Tooru's hesitancy to find out.

“She spoke of you,” Ushijima pauses, considers his next words, “lovingly. You seem worried. I promise that all she did was praise you.”

Tooru huffs out a bitter laugh. “I bet you hated that.”

Ushijima shakes his head. “I agreed with what she told me, actually. She compared you to herself a lot.” Tooru’s breath hitches at that. “A strong, determined person. One unwilling to let life’s circumstances get in the way of their goals. I admired her — and admire you — for those very reasons.”

Tooru feels heat spread across his cheeks like wildfire and turns away, shoulders hunching in an attempt to hide his embarrassment. “You piss me off, you know?” he snips. Ushijima frowns, opens his mouth to argue but Tooru beats him to the punch. “But I’m glad she had someone like you as company. Someone who would take her seriously, in a way that I couldn’t— that I didn’t.”

Tooru brushes his finger against one of the roses, feeling the smooth texture of the petal beneath his skin. He visualises his grandmother taking care of them, whispering soft words as she coaxed the flowers to blossom into something strong, bright and happy.

Tooru knows it was something that she tried to do with him, too.

“Was she happy here?” he asks, his voice barely above a murmur.

Ushijima turns back to the rosebush, cuts out another dying flower. “Yes, she was.”

“Did her smile light up this garden?”

“Yes, I would say so.”

Tooru strokes the rose with his knuckles.

“… Then that’s alright.”

 


 

“Oikawa?”

Shit, is the first word to run through Tooru's mind. Ushijima is early, much too early. Tooru swallows thickly, scrambling to get off his knees as he fervently wipes at his cheeks to hide the evidence that he’d been crying for a good hour, at least.

“O-Over here, Ushiwaka-chan!” he calls out, breath hitching mid sentence. He blinks back the remaining tears just as Ushijima rounds the corner.

“I told you not to call me that,” Ushijima says, just as monotonously as the other times, before he seems to double back slightly at the sight of Tooru, rose cheeked and bleary eyed.

“Are you,” there’s a pause as Ushijima studies the ruined tiger lilies, “are you crying?”

“Shut up,” Tooru snaps, tears beginning to gather at the corners of his eyes just at the sight of Ushijima, at the knowledge that he can’t hide behind a persona around here, where he'd always been at his most open, at his most vulnerable. “I— this garden is all that my grandmother left behind for me. Forgive me for mourning what’s-” he's interrupted by a hiccup, “what’s left of her.”

The corners of Ushijima’s mouth pull down. “I’m sorry,” he says softly. “I didn’t mean to insult you.”

Tooru shakes his head, averts his gaze back to the trampled flowers. “What could have even done this?” he asks, voice as weak as he feels, but he can’t bring himself to embarrassed. “I took care of them like you told me to. I—“ he hiccups once more and glares at the ground, frustrated. “I did everything,” he whines, bringing his hands to his face to hide the tears that have started spilling again.

Long, calloused fingers wrap around his wrists and Ushijima gently tugs his hands away from his face. “Oikawa,” he says, voice soft. “You have done nothing wrong.”

“Then why are they dead—“

“These are animal tracks,” Ushijima gestures to the crushed stems. “We can put protections around the flowers to make sure it does not happen again. You could not have possibly anticipated that this would happen before we got around to placing them.”

Tooru's breath hitches. He tries to argue but all that comes out is a warbled sob, and he leans forward to bury his head in his knees. He feels crushed, for lack of a better word, like those flowers. The sight of them in the morning had been enough to send his mind spinning out of control, to the sight of a ruined garden and it being his fault, always his fault. He wants this garden to stay alive, to keep his grandmother in their world for a little while longer, for as long as he can.

“I miss her,” he chokes. “I miss her so much.”

There is a moment of silence, only broken by Tooru’s sudden sobs as they wrack his body, before Tooru feels a hand press softly against his back. He hates that it’s comforting, but it is, and he leans into the contact, seeking more of Ushijima's warmth. The pressure trails upward, strong against the back of his neck, until fingers thread through his hair.

Tooru momentarily forgets any and all hostility toward Ushijima in order to lean into his frame, and for the second time since his grandmother has passed away, he breaks down.

 


 

What are you planting?” Tooru screeches, dropping the tools that he is holding and draping himself over Ushijima's back. Tooru grabs his hands, preventing him from burying the roots of the flowers into what had previously been the tiger lillies' flowerbed.

“This is to replace the ones that died,” Ushijima explains, gently extracting himself from Tooru’s death grip to save the flowers he’s holding.

“Oh,” Tooru replies softly, letting him go, opting to sit down on the soft ground next to Ushijima. He belatedly realises that he’s left crescent shaped marks in the skin of Ushijima’s forearms from squeezing so hard. Tooru thinks of apologising, but Ushijima seems to have already moved on from the misunderstanding.

“What flowers are these?” he asks instead.

“They are flowers.”

Tooru frowns, looking down at the white petals unfurling around the flower’s bud. He doesn’t recognise it, doesn’t even know where to begin to try to recognise it. To him, it looks vaguely like a rose, a white rose, but he knows that’s not the case. Roses grow on bushes, and these flowers do not.

“No need to be so cryptic Ushiwaka-chan,” he teases. "I can obviously tell that they're flowers. I'm asking what kind." He pauses. “Wait a second,” he slaps a hand over his cheek in mock surprise, “you’re not trying to tell me you hate me in hanakotoba, are you? You would. I bet you’re one of those people who hide hostility behind kind acts.”

Ushijima huffs, insulted. “Hatred is represented by tiger lilies in hanakotoba,” he states. “And I would never do anything so petty, especially not something that puts your late grandmother’s garden at risk. I respect her too much to do that,” he adds.

Tooru pouts, glancing back at the flowers. Of course Ushijima wouldn’t rise to the bait. He misses Iwaizumi, he misses earning a reaction from his teasing, he misses dodging volleyballs and hearing Iwaizumi's shouts of irritation echo around the gym.

“So, what are they?” he asks.

“Gardenias,” Ushijima replies in English. Tooru’s pout deepens, and he huffs, leaning into Ushijima’s personal space to jostle his arms.

“I don’t know what that means, Ushiwaka-chan! It sounds suspiciously like the English word for ‘hate’.”

Ushijima levels him with a dull stare from the corner of his eye. “It does not mean hate. It is the flower’s English name.”

“What did you say it was? Gera… Gera-something.”

“I’m not repeating it.”

Tooru huffs. “You’re being really weird about this.”

A tiny smile crosses Ushijima’s face. “I believe you’ve always thought of me as weird. How is this any different?”

Tooru hums, crosses his legs and watches Ushijima make quick work of the mulching beneath the gardenias. His shoulder bumps against Ushijima’s, and neither of them pull away from each other.

“Fair enough,” Tooru whispers.

 


 

“Don’t forget to mulch this part, Oikawa,” Tooru mumbles to himself, mockingly lowering his voice to copy Ushijima’s baritone, “otherwise there will be an infestation of weeds and that will kill your flowers.” Tooru scoffs. “You’re the weed, Ushiji—“

He pauses when he notices something move in his vision's periphery, and when he shifts his head just a fraction of a centimetre to the side, his gaze zeroes on what had just landed on his wrist. Tooru gulps. On his bare wrist (why had it not landed on his glove?) sits a wasp, casually stroking its antennas with its front legs.

“U-Ushiwaka?” Tooru calls out, the memory of the last time he got stung much too fresh. His ankle still hurts. He doesn’t move, too scared that any shift of his arm may anger the dangerous creature precariously poised on him.

There’s no answer, and Tooru can feel himself progressively begin panicking.

“Ushijima?” he calls out, louder this time.

There is still no answer. Tooru can feel a screech desperately crawling its way up his throat, and tears gathering at the corners of his eyes as he watches the wasp climb higher up his forearm. This is why he doesn’t garden. This is why he doesn’t go outside. He hates bugs, he hates dangerous bugs, wasps most of all and—

“Oikawa?”

Tooru feels relief flooding through him as Ushijima enters his field of vision.

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s a wasp,” Tooru gasps. “Please, for the love of God, get it away from me.”

Ushijima eyes the bug. “Just shake your arm. It will go away.”

“No it won’t! What it will do, however, is sting me.”

There’s a soft sigh next to him, and then Ushijima’s gloved hand is softly pushing the wasp off of Tooru’s skin. Tooru only mildly hates that the physical contact, even through gloves, has shivers running up and down his spine like an electrical current with no outlet. He doesn’t quite want to think about what that means. He doesn’t want to think about the effect that Ushijima has on him at all.

“Ushijima, are you kind to bugs because you share the same level of intelligence as they do?”

Ushijima doesn’t react, but it seems that Lady Karma did, because the wasp lands right back on his wrist, earning a wail from Tooru as he freezes up again.

“Ushiwaka!” he screeches. “Save me!”

“I’m sorry,” Ushijima replies, turning on his heel and walking away. “It seems that I, with my level of intelligence, am too dumb to understand your request.”

Tooru gapes.“Ushiwaka, did you just sass me?!” he all but screeches, before he chases after Ushijima, squealing every time the wasp flies close to him again.

 


 

The following Saturday morning, Ushijima enters the garden with a basket hanging from his arm.

“What’s that?” Tooru queries, placing his book down to curiously eye the basket.

“It’s a basket.”

Tooru rolls his eyes. “You know that’s not what I was asking.”

Ushijima looks down at his hands.

“I made dinner,” he says simply, as if it made complete sense that two rivals should be planning to have a picnic together. “You live alone out here, and I thought eating someone else’s cooking may help your mood. I figured I could help. I have made bentos.”

Tooru snorts. “You’re just like a high school girl wanting to impress her crush,” he says, feigning wistfulness. In reality, Tooru doesn't quite miss the amount of attention the girls in Aoba Jousai gave him. Although he was grateful for each and every present he received, the amount of bentos they made for him, especially during his third year, were sometimes even too much for his whole team to finish.

Ushijima looks out at the garden. “I am not a high school girl,” he states, making his way into the house to place the food in the fridge. Tooru follows him, giggling to himself and not pointing out that Ushijima hadn’t denied the much more incriminating part of his teasing jab.

 


 

Tooru lays out the blanket on the grass, right between two patches of daffodils and bluebells, folding the corners of the blanket to make sure it does not disturb the flowers.

“I hope we don’t get bugs in our food,” he mutters, mind momentarily flashing back to the wasp that hadn’t stopped pestering him for hours the previous week.

“There’s a possibility that they will be attracted by the food,” Ushijima states as he lays out the food between them.

"You're not helping," Tooru singsongs, plopping himself down on the blanket. Tooru takes one look at the food, mouth watering at the sight of so many meals that he hasn’t had the luxury of eating, ever since he’d moved out of his parents’ home a year ago. Considering Iwaizumi's medicine major earning him a terribly busy schedule, and Tooru's own affinity to forego eating in order to practice more, neither of them had really had the time to truly spend time cooking the meals that they love.

“Well,” he says, picking up his chopsticks, and tapping them together, “time to see if Ushiwaka’s plan was to poison me all along!” Ushijima frowns, watching Tooru pick up an egg roll and stuff it into his mouth.

If I wanted to kill you, I would not do it here,” he says, but Tooru is too distracted by the food to come up with a witty retort.

It is delicious.

He hates it.

“What the fuck Ushiwaka-chan?” he snaps through a mouthful of food.

Ushijima quirks a brow at him. “Do you dislike it? Ah, I forgot to ask if you have any allergies, forgive me,” he almost-rambles, brow furrowing as he rifles through his bag. Tooru giggles, throwing one of his chopsticks at Ushijima to grab his attention. No matter how amusing it is to watch Ushijima get flustered, he has to deal with this issue first.

“Why didn’t you warn me that you were a good cook?”

“I don’t particularly think—“

“Shut up.” Tooru raises a hand, stopping Ushijima mid-sentence. “This is orgasmic, and I hate you for it.”

If he didn’t know any better, he’d say Ushijima smiles as he mumbles a soft thank you into the air between them.

 


 

It’s only when Tooru comes home and look at the date on his phone, the thirty missed texts and the two voicemails from Iwaizumi begging him to pick up the phone, that he realises it was his birthday.

"Stupid Ushiwaka," Tooru whispers, a dumb smile on his face, as he dials Iwaizumi's number to reassure him that he hasn't died over the course of the day, though from the strange pressure in his chest, he wouldn't be surprised if he actually did.

 


 

“What do Suikazura mean in Hanakotoba?” Tooru queries as he runs his knuckles along the side of the bush, the flowers tickling his skin.

“Generosity.”

“That’s appropriate,” he muses, thinking back to his grandmother. “If I had to appoint a flower to obasan, I think it would be these.”

Ushijima stays quiet next to him, and Tooru does not stop talking.

“She was very kind. Always giving. Always, always…” he tails off, shifts his gaze to the ground, then back at the honeysuckles. “And she never took back.” His breath hitches, his throat tightens and he feels the familiar burn at the back of his eyes, threatening to turn into yet another downpour of emotions. He doesn’t want to cry, but then again, he’s never had good control over himself. “I always wanted to be like her.”

He laughs, a hollow, quiet sound.

“But Iwa-chan ended up taking after her a lot more than I did. She practically raised him.”

He wipes his eyes, brushing away the tears before they can even begin slipping down his cheeks. The breeze picks up, ruffling his hair. He forgot to style it this morning, he realises. Ushijima probably saw his bedhead. How embarrassing, he thinks. First I cry in front of him, and now this. He shudders and wraps his arms around himself, looking back at Ushijima. The latter is watching him, expression carefully neutral.

“She was always there for me and I,” he hiccups, the first few tears escaping his mad attempts to keep them back, “I pushed her away.”

Ushijima shifts closer, places a hand on the small of his back, and that small gesture, that silent I am here for you is all it takes for Tooru to lean into the contact and crumble once again.

 


 

Not once does Ushijima mention Tooru’s breakdowns.

No matter how much Tooru expects the ridicule, the disrespect, the unabashed teasing… something that he realises, perhaps if he were in Ushijima's shoes, he would have done, it never comes.

 


 

“You get a surprisingly nice view of the sunset,” Tooru notes, looking out at the horizon. The grass feels cool under his fingers, and he wiggles them, relishing in how each blade tickles his skin, sends goosebumps racing across his forearms. From where he’s sitting, beneath the sakura tree tucked away in the corner of the garden, he can see the way the horizon bleeds into the sky, a palette of purples, pinks and oranges bathing the land around them in soft colours. Tooru feels like he's in a painting, a beautiful one at that.

“That is true. The skies look beautiful from here,” Ushijima replies.

“The skies are always beautiful, Ushiwaka,” Tooru snips.

Ushijima doesn’t retort, opting instead to lean forward and pluck one of the flowers from the bunch to their right. He pulls back, then, and places it behind Tooru’s ear. Tooru’s heart beats in his throat as Ushijima runs his fingers through the hair above the curve of Tooru's ear to secure the flower in place.

“It suits you, as I thought it would,” he says as he pulls back. Tooru has to force himself not to follow the warmth of Ushijima’s hand, now all too aware of the dropping temperature as the sun continues to disappear beneath the horizon.

“What’s this one?” he queries, lifting his hand to lightly brush against the petals.

Aijisai,” Ushijima replies. “They symbolise pride.”

Tooru snorts. “Of course that’d suit me, in your eyes. Worthless pride and all.”

Ushijima tilts his head, self-deprecation tucked away in the slight curl of his lips.

“I confess, I very clumsily handled our conversations,” he says, and Tooru can’t help the small “Hah!” that escapes his mouth. He quickly shuts it, however, when Ushijima meets his eye.

“I always spoke to you as if you were two-dimensional. As if winning in volleyball meant everything to you, and as if you hadn't learned anything in your time at Seijou. This— the time we spent together this summer, it has opened my eyes. I apologise, Oikawa. Although I do not think I was wrong, that Shiratorizawa could perhaps have been a great path for you, I disregarded your feelings in my attempts at expressing my admiration and respect for you.”

Tooru can’t help the way he gapes at Ushijima, the way his jaw drops and how he can’t seem to shut his mouth. He knows his eyes are open wide, but blinking seems like a faraway thought. After a moment, he forcefully tears his gaze away from Ushijima, opting instead to stare at the patch of violets currently brushing against his hand.

“At least you realised it," he says, softly. "We were both assholes to each other, Ushiwaka. I can’t count the amount of times I tried to ridicule you on both my hands and feet.”

Ushijima shifts next to him, their arms brush against each other, and Tooru doesn’t pull away, almost finds himself leaning into the contact.

“I suppose we both messed up,” Ushijima says.

Tooru laughs softly, lifts a hand to softly stroke the flower resting against his ear, an almost pacifying gesture.

“I suppose we have.”

 


 

“The roses need deadheading,” Ushijima notes as they walk past the bush of crimson flowers. He brushes his fingers along the wilting petals of one of them, and Tooru finds himself strangely jealous of the rosebush. That jealousy very quickly fades into shock, and then embarrassment. That same embarrassment that causes him to lash out before he can even think of shutting his mouth.

“Please put some gloves on before we begin, however. The thorns can severely—“

“Are you my mom, Ushiwaka-chan? I’ve already got Iwa-chan and a mother for this. I don’t need you on top of me.”

Well… his mind begins to argue, but he squashes the thought as quickly as it appeared, somehow more flustered than before.

"Oik—"

“I’ll do this without gloves, thank you!” Tooru singsongs. Ushijima levels him with an unimpressed stare and Tooru’s embarrassment triples. He snatches the gloves that Ushijima hands him, mumbling to himself.

“Tooru, you idiot. So snarky all the time. Can’t shut up, even after our little heart to heart. It’d be so much easier if I was sweet and selfless like Iwa—“

Ushijima interrupts him by handing him one of the roses. The petals have began darkening around the edges, slowly wilting, but the flower itself retains its vibrant red colour, so similar to Tooru’s cheeks. Tooru hesitantly reaches for it, slowly wrapping his fingers around the stem, mindful of the prickly thorns. It is only when Tooru's hold on the flower has steadied that Ushijima lets go.

“To cut the thorns from a rose is to remove half of its beauty,” he states simply, before standing up. “I’m going to get a trash bag for the deadheads. Please continue.”

Tooru watches Ushijima walk away, shocked into silence, before he glances down at the rose.

“Ah,” he whines, hiding his face in his free hand. “You’re so cheesy, Ushiwaka-chan.”

It’s at that moment that he realises he is undeniably, irrevocably, completely fucked.

 


 

“You know, Ushiwaka-chan,” Tooru says softly, rolling the chrysanthemum’s stem between his fingers, watching the white flower spin around, “you’re really not that bad.”

Ushijima doesn’t verbally reply, but there is a stutter in his movements, a tiny pause that mirrors his surprise, and Tooru feels a strange swell in his chest, full of pride at having earned such a blatant reaction from the one with the hard earned title of “stone-faced giant”.

 


 

Tooru wipes the sweat from his forehead on the back of his hand. “I need a drink,” he announces, dropping the small hand trowel on the floor before standing up. He leaves Ushijima behind, the latter clearly too engrossed in his activities to even hear Tooru walk away, and heads into the house.

“To think,” he mumbles to himself, passing the row of cacti that his grandmother had carefully placed in the windowsills, “that she had a garden in here too.”

He stops in his tracks, looks back at the small plants and hums. He isn’t actually sure how many times a year they need watering. The front door opens and closes, alerting Tooru of someone else’s presence within the cool confines of the house.

“Ushiwaka?” he calls out, not taking his eyes off the cacti.

“Yes?”

“Do we need to water these?”

“Water what?”

"The cacti."

He hears the sound of footsteps getting closer, and turns around to repeat himself only to end up facing Ushijima’s naked torso. His eyes roam down before he can stop himself, drinking in the sight of well cut muscle, slightly shimmery from sweat, of dark, coarse hair leading down to the seam of his jeans. Feeling heat flood his cheeks and down his neck, Tooru whirls around, fixing his gaze on the floor. “Put a goddamn shirt on!” he screeches, nervously tugging at the hem of his own clothing to appease the anxiety coursing through his veins.

“But it’s hot outside," Ushijima argues.

“I don’t care if it’s hot! Put a shirt on!”

Tooru deliberately focuses on the cacti next to him, as Ushijima walks past, honing in on the small, pink flower budding from the tip of it. It stares back at him, the flush of its petals almost taunting, because he knows it mirrors the colour of his face exactly.

 


 

It has been almost a month and a half since they've began gardening together, and the heat of the summer is beginning to fade into autumn's more mild climate. As the temperature drops, they slowly take to relaxing in each other's company during the days when the flowers did not need specific care, reading and doing summer homework together under the shade of the sakura tree, tucked away in the corner of the garden.

Ushijima had somehow understood Tooru’s unspoken plea for him to begin visiting the house daily instead of weekly, despite the fact that Tooru pretended to feel otherwise about his presence.

It is a simple problem, one that he wouldn't have were Iwaizumi here. But Iwaizumi isn't, and the constant companionship is lacking. The moment the house falls silent, Tooru feels his anxieties, his regrets, his worries creeping down his spine like vines and wrapping around him, squeezing him until he can’t breathe without wanting to cry. Ushijima’s presence is actually very welcomed, encouraged, even, and Tooru makes sure to theatrically whine and complain every time Ushijima mentioned going back home.

“Where are you going to university?” Tooru suddenly asks, closing his book with a loud snap. “I don’t think I’ve ever played against your team.”

“Keio. We never played against each other because your teams lost in the quarterfinals, and mine in the finals.”

“Shut up, I don’t want to hear about our losses.” There’s a pause as Tooru stretches out to place his head on Ushijima’s thigh. “You’re not too far from here either, then.”

Ushijima shifts his book away from Tooru’s head, giving Tooru more space to rest, before he turns his attention back to reading.

“No, I won’t be far.”

 


 

“Ah, Oikawa,” Ushijima says. He dusts the palm of his gloves against his legs, before he speaks up again. “These need wateri—“

He’s promptly interrupted by a stream of water hitting him square in the face. Tooru cackles, the sight of a speechless Ushijima much too entertaining for him not to splash him a second time, thoroughly soaking through his shirt. Ushijima does not react, simply stays there, frozen in a crouch above the freesias. Tooru is doubled over, on the other hand, the hose long forgotten at his feet, turning the grass beneath his toes into a swamp.

He's too busy laughing to notice that Ushijima has stood up, his face dark. When he finally looks up, Ushijima’s face is impassive, very much resembling Iwaizumi’s before he’d snapped like a rubber band for the first time.

In his hand is the pink, flower patterned watering can.

Before Tooru can so much as justify himself, he finds himself doused in water. He gasps, laughter stopped short as he peels his (now soaking wet) shirt off of his torso. The fabric clings to his skin uncomfortably, and it is so cold, he's already shivering by the time he slowly, very slowly, looks back at Ushijima.

“You did not!” he screeches, bending down to pick up the hose in a counter attack, but before he can even try to, Ushijima’s picked it up and is pointing it at his face. Tooru sputters, the water flooding his mouth, and he falls backward with the impact, landing on his butt.

He tries to glare at Ushijima, makes a valiant effort to look the least bit threatening, but all he ends up managing to do is laugh, openly, head tilting backward and eyes closing in bliss. It's the first time since his grandmother's passing that he's managed to let himself be free, if only for a small moment.

There’s a soft huff from somewhere to his right, and Tooru opens his eyes to find Ushijima smiling down at him. It’s not an obvious smile, only a timid curl at the edge of his mouth, but Tooru sees the resulting dimple in his cheek and his heart does something that's most likely dangerous, if he has any idea on how the body is normally supposed to work.

“It’s not often people see you smiling, Ushiwaka-chan,” Tooru teases.

Ushijima’s smile doesn’t budge, even as he extends a hand for Tooru. Tooru gratefully takes it, letting Ushijima pull him back up to his feet. They don’t let go of each other, even as Tooru ends up with his chest pressed to Ushijima’s from the force with which Ushijima had pulled him forward. The wet fabric of their shirts stick to their skin, to each other, and Tooru should probably want to pull away. Should. Even as their faces get so close that he can feel each breath Ushijima takes, can hear his soft inhale before they’re leaning in, slowly, toward each other.

Before their lips can meet, however, Tooru throws his hand out with a squeak, pressing it against Ushijima’s face and pushing him back.

“What are you doing?” he squeals, forcing himself out of Ushijima’s embrace.

“I was going to kiss you,” Ushijima replies, prying Tooru’s hand away from his mouth. “Did I misread the situation?”

Tooru looks away, tries to hide his face because he can feel the heat spreading across his skin and this is bad, he thinks, this is very bad. He focuses his vision on the amaryllises in the corner of the garden, tries not to think about how he probably looks the same, with his red blush slowly spreading over his cheeks and down his neck.

“Yes! No! I don’t know—“

Then, he hears a soft sound, like the summer breeze brushing against his skin, and when he pulls his hands away from his face, he finds Ushijima’s shoulders shaking. He has a hand over his mouth, muffling the sound, but Tooru is pretty sure he's hallucinating. He must be. Ushijima doesn't laugh. Or so he thinks, until a soft snort erupts from behind Ushijima’s fingers and Tooru forgets where he is, who he is, for a moment, and almost tackles him, throwing his arms around Ushijima’s neck to prevent him from hiding.

“Are you laughing?!” he asks, and when Ushijima looks at him, it’s with a wide grin gracing his face. Tooru can’t help but think that a smile looks too good on Ushijima.

“Yes,” he replies, voice not the usual monotone but lilted with laughter. “I was. Am.”

Tooru can’t help but stare, open mouthed, as Ushijima clears his throat, chuckles softly a few more times before he straightens himself, placing his hands on Tooru’s hips. They're warm, compared to Tooru's wet skin. They're nice.

“I just did not expect you to get so easily flustered,” Ushijima confesses, and Tooru sputters, pressing his palm against Ushijima's cheek and pushing him away, despite Ushijima's arms being wrapped around him once more.

“It’s only around you!” he screeches. “I am the embodiment of suave around other people! I am popular, and smooth, and the ladies love me. More than they love you!

“Of course.”

“I am, you stupid—”

Ushijima then ducks away from Tooru's hand, before leans forward, pressing his lips to Tooru’s in a chaste kiss. Tooru is pretty sure he may faint from the amount of blood that suddenly rushes back to his cheeks. Ushijima leans back, begins apologising but before Tooru can so much as think about what he’s doing, he’s grabbed Ushijima’s stretched collar and tugged him back in for a kiss much clumsier and much rougher than their first.

Ushijima tilts his head, adjusts the angle, and—

Fireworks.

Or so Tooru thinks, because his mind is full of cotton and static at the same time, and nothing really makes sense to him. He forgets how to word his own thoughts, how speak Japanese, how to speak any language, really, because all he can process is how good Ushijima smells, despite being soaking wet, and how nothing else really matters when Ushijima’s lips mould so perfectly against his.

When they pull apart, breaths heavy and cheeks flushed, Tooru leans his forehead against Ushijima’s shoulder.

Tooru had definitely not expected him to be such a good kisser.

“Stupid,” he mumbles, burying his face into the crook of Ushijima's neck. “You’re so stupid.”

 


 

“Do you know why I inherited this garden?” Tooru asks, running his hand down the curve of Ushijima’s back, the tip of his fingers catching against the fabric of his t-shirt.

“No, I don’t,” Ushijima replies, voice slightly muffed by the pillow beneath his head. Tooru grins, before he shoves shoves his cold hands under Ushijima’s shirt. The latter jolts, and reaches out Tooru’s wrists, pulling them out from under his clothing with a glare. Tooru giggles, snuggling closer to Ushijima’s side.

“My grandma wanted me to make memories I could treasure here,” he says.

“And? Did you?”

Tooru nods, the motion rubbing his cheek against Ushijima’s clothed chest. “Yeah, I’d say so.”

Ushijima looks back up at the plain, white ceiling.

“Then, that’s alright.”

 


 

“Classes start next week, again,” Tooru says.

Ushijima hums in assent.

Tooru glances down at his right hand, where he clutches a small bouquet of forget-me-nots, the ones they’d plucked from the grass just a moment prior, then at his left hand, with fingers tangled between Ushijima’s.

“We should see each other during the week.”

“I think that can be arranged.”

“We should have coffee dates.”

“I think that can also be arranged.”

“Also we should go window-shopping.”

“…”

“Ah, and there’s the aquarium I want to see, but Iwa-chan didn’t want to go because he’s scared of turtles.” Tooru clamps a hand over his mouth. “Don’t tell him I said that,” he says, muffled by the skin of his palm.

“There’s turtles in the aquarium?” Ushijima queries, a curious quirk to his brow.

“A whole exhibit.”

"I see."

"Isn't it funny though? Iwa-chan loves reptiles but he can't stand turtles. Something about their faces, he says. Like they can see through you."

“I would love to go to the aquarium with you, Oikawa.”

“Good because I’m dragging you there anyway.”

He shifts, and brings himself closer to Ushijima.

“Will you come back here during weekends too?”

“If you’ll allow me to.”

Tooru tightens his hold on Ushijima’s hand.

“I’d like you to, I think. Come back here, I mean. Seeing you here on the weekends… it could be nice. Maybe. Well, not better than seeing you when I’m crushing your hopes and dreams on the court, of course, but it could be nice. Sort of.”

Ushijima meets Tooru's gaze, unwavering against Tooru's hesitant one. Tooru takes one deep breath, feeling like no matter how much he inhales, it won't be enough to make him feel grounded, and looks back to the sky.

“So,” he mumbles,“come back.”

“I will," Ushijima - no, Wakatoshi - promises.