First, it’s a girl.
Sweet, lovely, blonde and foreign, fluent in Japanese and smelling like roses, she draws attention the moment she walks into Kitagawa Daiichi’s halls halfway through second term.
Hajime first catches sight of her on a Monday morning, walking into the school’s entrance. He’s at his locker, slipping on his shoes, a hand stuffed in his pocket and idly smoothing over the grooves of his keys when she walks in. He stares as long as any other person would, which is to say, a lot.
This might be Hajime’s first year, but even he knows they hardly ever get transfers this late, nevermind foreign transfers.
She’s got her hair in two loose braids and her uniform is worn perfectly down to the crisp shape of the bow that sits demurely at her neck. There’s an easy smile on her face and a pleasing tint of pink on her lips and cheeks.
Overall, very pretty. Hajime guesses she’ll have a fanclub by the end of first period.
His eyes drop down at a slight movement in the edges of his vision and finds them landing on her hands. They’re clutched tight around the straps of her bag and the skin around her knuckles are red from the October wind and Hajime thinks of the mittens in his bag, the ones Tooru forgot at his house last night.
The girl catches his gaze, and they blink at each other, both a little off-kilter with that awkward air of two strangers meeting. Then, she smiles, small and shy and Hajime nods back.
“You’re new? Do you need help finding your class?”
“I’m telling you, Hajime—”
“Will you shut up already—”
But Tooru just barrels on, loud and annoying, like that freaky-looking blue train with a face from that TV show that Tooru’s baby nephew keeps watching. “I saw her looking my way during class when she turned around to pass on the papers!”
Hajime slurps noisily from his juice box, mouth pursed around the straw and a dark frown on his face. He’s thirty seconds away from head-butting Tooru out the window. It’s lunch break. Lunch break is for relaxing, a chance to wind down before he has to spend a whole hour doing math. Not for listening to your idiot friend prophesizing about his star-crossed love with the new girl.
“Iwaizumi, look over here.”
He turns, still frowning, and a cheerful camera click goes off. He blinks, scowl falling away.
A phone lowers and Shimura Mikoto smirks at him, tapping away at her phone.
“I’m setting this as my lockscreen—anyone tries to open it? Gets the ultimate death glare, courtesy of one Iwaizumi Hajime.” She shows him the photo and cackles, rice stuck to her chin.
Hajime rolls his eyes, but he’s gotta admit, it does look pretty funny.
“You guys aren’t listeniiiiiingggg,” Tooru whines, flopping his upper body onto Hajime’s desk, barely missing the empty lunch boxes teetering at the edges. Hajime sighs and goes to put them away before they fall.
Shimura tucks her phone into her skirt—pocket, skirt-pocket, Hajime doesn’t know, he doesn’t pretend to know anything about how the girls’ uniform works—and props her chin in her hands, giving Tooru the fakest grin he’s ever seen.
“You have my utmost attention, Oikawa-sama. Please, proceed.”
Tooru narrows his eyes at her, lower lip jutting out. He looks stupid. Stupider.
Hajime stuffs everyone’s lunch boxes back into their bags, leaning to his right and throwing them on the two desks next to him. To his left, Shimura and Tooru have started a staring contest and Hajime eyes the doorway at the back of the class. He can make it before the two idiots notice. Probably.
“Don’t even think about it, Hajime. You haven’t listened to a single word of my story so I need to retell it and you’ll listen this time.”
Hajime groans, slumping back into his seat. “What’s there to tell? You met the new girl on your way to the teacher’s lounge and said hi and now you think you two are meant to be. Even though she’s clearly out of your league.”
Tooru gasps, “Hajime, how dare you!”
“No, he’s right.” Shimura says, and her eyes are locked onto something—the new girl, Hajime realizes, following her gaze.
The girl—Rebecca, he remembers her saying, walks into the classroom, lunch box swinging from her hand, laughing freely and surrounded by a couple other classmates. Hajime guesses they’re the ones who’re responsible for the simple half-updo Rebecca sports and the flowers woven into her hair. Altogether, the colours of the flowers, the rich gold of her hair, and the soft lilt to her laugh easily makes her the brightest thing in the classroom.
“Waaayyy outta your league, Oikawa.” Shimura says.
Hajime glances over at Tooru and nearly busts a gut. The idiot practically has his jaw on the floor, his hands still poised in one of his over-blown gestures, sauce on his face and staining his shirt. His brown eyes are opened wide and—wait. Are they sparkling? They’re sparkling. What kind of shoujo bullshit—
“I’m gonna ask her out.” Tooru breathes.
Hajime throws his crushed juice box at Tooru’s head.
Tooru does ask her out. The next day, in fact. And by the end of lunch break, Hajime and Shimura are watching from behind a tree as Tooru and Rebecca walk back to the school entrance, hand in hand, Rebecca holding a stuffed teddy bear and a box of chocolates.
“So. He’s the first to get a girlfriend.” Shimura says, picking at a scab on her arm.
Hajime blinks. “Oh. Right.” He hadn’t realized, too caught up with thoughts of their upcoming practice match. He still hasn’t really got this volleyball thing down, yet, but Tooru said it’d be fun.
Shimura gives him a strange look, and stands, smoothing out her skirt. “I’m betting…hmm…end of term?”
“End of—ohh.” Hajime smirks. “After Christmas.”
That earns him a sour glare. “That could mean anywhere from a day after to ten years after.”
“Fine. In the week following Christmas.”
“Six days’ worth of meat buns?”
“Ehh. Three days.”
Hajime goes to spit in his hand, but Shimura wrinkles her nose. “Just a normal handshake, you animal. I’m not doing that weird spit-shake you and Oikawa do. Unsanitary.”
Hajime rolls his eyes, but sticks out his hand and they shake on it.
Kitagawa Daiichi’s power couple lasts until just before New Year’s, like Hajime guessed, and it’s Tooru who tells them when school starts up again, crying nonstop and blubbering incoherently, butchering half his words, that Rebecca had to move away. Apparently her family does that a lot.
Hajime doesn’t know what to do but they’re on the street and the old ladies are starting to frown at them so he starts dragging Tooru by his collar back to Hajime’s house. Shimura dutifully follows after them with their bags, Tooru’s because he threw it to the ground during his fit of dramatics, and Hajime’s because he has to use both his hands, his entire upper body and maybe his teeth, to get Tooru’s butt through Hajime’s front door and onto his couch.
“Iwaizumi, I’m leaving your bags here, okay?” Hajime turns to see Shimura leaning the bags by the coat-rack, a foot already out the door.
Quick as lightning, Hajime slides across the floor in his socks and grabs her by the wrist, eyes blazing. “You are not leaving me alone with him.”
Shimura tugs at her wrist and hisses back, “You’ve known him since he was in diapers, you know how to deal with him the best.”
“Not this! First girlfriend, first breakup—what the heck am I supposed to do? Hug him and sing a lullaby?” Hajime whispers furiously.
“Yes? I don’t know! I know even less than you—let go of me, I’m going while I’ve still got the chance, man, c’mon, don’t betray me like this.” Shimura slaps at his arm.
“I’m not the one doing the betraying here!”
“Guys? What are you doiiiingg??? I’m in pain here! I can’t believe my friends left me here to DIE, I’m DYING, this is so cruel.” A loud sniffle.
Shimura drops her head. Hajime closes his eyes. There is a beat of silence in the Iwaizumi household and then, like a two-month infant, Tooru starts wailing again, little whimpers of “Rebecca, I will never forget you” and “How do I move on.”
Silently, like war-weary soldiers, Hajime and Shimura start towards the closet and the kitchen respectively, for blankets and ice cream, suffering and despair written in the slump of their shoulders.
Later, after a truly horrendous marathon of old alien/monster movies and snot-soaked tissues, of awkward back rubs and mumbled assurances, of ice cream dripping onto floors and couches, Hajime finds himself lying on the floor, gazing at a crack in the ceiling, just taking the moment to breathe.
I’m never having kids, he thinks. If it’s anything like the past few hours? He would rather fling his grandmother off a cliff.
The TV is still on, the credits of the last movie scrolling up the screen, ominous music playing. It’s 8pm and his parents are home, muffled voices coming from the master bedroom. They didn’t even blink when they walked through the front door and saw Tooru wrapped up in blankets on their couch and going to town on a tub of ice cream.
Shimura had fled then, taking the opportunity to make small-talk with Hajime’s mom before bolting out the front door like the devil was on her heels. The traitor.
At least he’ll get those four days’ worth of meat buns, starting tomorrow. He narrows his eyes. He’ll make sure of it.
Tooru is spread out on the couch, a foot on the back of it and the other in his hands, picking at the dead skin. He’s so gross. His face is scrunched up and a sliver of tongue peeks out behind pursed lips. They’re stained white and pink because the dumbass refused to eat anything but the vanilla and strawberry blocks of the Neapolitan ice cream. Hajime hates it when Tooru does that because he ends up having to finish off the chocolate and it’s not like he hates chocolate, but it’s unfair, he wants the other flavours too.
“What are you making that ugly face for, Hajime?” Tooru lets go of his foot and it lands back on the couch cushions with a fwump. Hajime thinks of all the dead skin flying into the air and scowls harder.
“I’m not making any faces.”
Oikawa turns on his side, an action that shouldn’t involve as much wiggling and flailing as it does. “You are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes. You. Are.”
“I’m not the one with boogers hanging from his nose!” Hajime sticks out his tongue at Tooru, who slaps a hand to his nose, glaring at Hajime. He moves it an inch away from his face, going cross-eyed as he stares down at his palm.
Then he jerks his head up, voice accusing, “You lied! I don’t have boogers on my face!”
“So? You’re pretty much a booger anyway.” Hajime faces the other way, nose turned up.
Tooru screeches, high and grating, and leaps from the couch in a flurry of pillows and blankets, landing on Hajime’s stomach, legs on either side of him. Hajime wheezes, arms coming up to bat at Tooru’s head. Tooru swipes back at him, eyes narrowed against Hajime’s swinging arms and yelling, “Take that back!”
Hajime grunts, kicks his legs and squirms violently, trying to dislodge Tooru. It doesn’t work, and Tooru ends up hitting Hajime a few more times on the face before Hajime uses his trump card and tickles Tooru right on the stomach, soft flesh giving way under his stubby fingers.
“Noooo!!!” Tooru goes down, kicking and screaming. Hajime can finally breathe.
They both lie there, on the unforgiving hardwood floor, panting. The credits have ended by now, and the VCR whines quietly on the TV stand. They’re both still in their school uniforms, wrinkled and stained from the day’s activities. The portable heater buzzes by the couch, and the warmth dissipates just inches away from their frozen toes.
“Rebecca was really nice.” Tooru says.
Hajime hums, a faint acknowledgment.
“She had really pretty hair and her fingers were small and she had a dog named Biscuit and I bought her takoyaki and hair clips with the money I was going to use for that volleyball magazine and it’s fine, I don’t mind because she was all smiley and pink, and then we went bowling on Christmas—her idea—and it was fun, but we were supposed to go to the temple on New Years but we didn’t because she’s gone and we forgot to exchange numbers, Hajime, I forgot and now I’ll never talk to her again—” Tooru breaks off in sniffles, covering his face with his sleeves.
A single tear travels from the corner of his eye to the shell of his ear, curving around the shape of it. Hajime stares at it, at the wet streak it leaves on his friend’s face.
He lifts his hand, the one closest to Tooru, and lays it tentatively on Tooru’s stomach, fingers curled slightly. Tooru’s breath hitches, and Hajime feels his cheeks warm and he’s about to pull away when Tooru reaches down and grips his hand shyly.
Tooru’s face is still covered, now with an arm flung across his eyes, and Hajime can’t look away, can’t move because they’re holding hands and it’s different from all those times they did it as kids, dragging each other and running around.
Tooru’s grip is soft at first, but it gets tighter as his lip starts wobbling again.
There’s still ice cream on his mouth.
They lie there on the cold floor, heater whirring away and TV static in the background, Tooru crying silently and Hajime offering wordless comfort, until it gets late enough that Tooru has to stay over.
The next one is in senior high, and it’s also a girl.
Rebecca is the only relationship Tooru has in junior high because he gets hooked on volleyball soon after she leaves, and suddenly, there’s no time for anything but practice practice practice. No time for anything but becoming the best.
And in the beginning, Hajime can barely keep up, can feel himself gradually falling behind. But then that thing with Kageyama happens and something finally clicks between Hajime and Tooru, and Hajime’s so damn relieved because now it’s about becoming the best team.
So the rest of junior high is spent trying to beat this pretentious-ass school and every damn time they fail, Hajime grinds his teeth, gets back up again and again, Tooru right there with him.
But it still burns when they lose the last match, sweating and panting, Ushijima barely breathing any heavier than a light jog and oh, does it grate on Hajime’s nerves. He’s shouting and cursing in his mind, vowing to beat them and beat them hard.
At least Tooru gets the Best Setter award.
Afterwards, Shimura takes them out to eat ramen.
“You’ll get them in senior high,” she says, slurping her noodles.
Hajime watches Tooru try not to cry at that, at the faith and surety of her words, and nods. “Yeah. We will.”
Tooru’s definitely not sniffling from the heat of the ramen now.
Hajime hides a smile behind his chopsticks, but catches Shimura flicking a smirk his way. He doesn’t know why but he scowls, and she only grins wider.
Something flicks across her face, then, and she looks down, expression sobering, pushing at the vegetables in her bowl with her spoon. Hajime feels the heaviness in his gut grow.
“I’m not going to Aoba Johsai, though, so you’ll have to let me know about your matches, since I won’t be there to see them.” She says, forced casualness in her voice.
Hajime blinks and beside him, Tooru’s noodles fall out of his mouth. “You’re—?”
“Yokohama. Mom’s got a job offer.” Shimura reaches over and nudges Tooru’s mouth closed.
“Oh.” Hajime swallows, unbalanced.
“Wha—but, Micchan, who will suffer with me under Hajime’s cruel, unyielding rule? He’s going to mother me until I die from it.” Oikawa jabs his chopsticks in Hajime’s direction, and just like that, the weirdness in the air dissipates.
Shimura shoots back, eyebrows raised, “Why do you think I’m leaving? It was nice knowing you, Oikawa-sama.”
The day ends in noodles being flung and yelling chefs, but the loss of the match recedes to the back of their minds.
In April, Tooru and Hajime enter Aoba Johsai, their gakuran uniforms exchanged for blazers and ties, blue swapped for teal. Shimura moves away and in her place comes Matsukawa Issei and Hanamaki Takahiro.
They’re not as loud as Shimura, but just as full of deadpan snark as her and when all they do in the face of Tooru’s general weirdness is just squish his cheeks and coo, Hajime feels the four of them fall in together like they’ve known each other all along.
It’s not a surprise when they become the best first years on the volleyball team.
What is a shock, though, is that, with that status comes admiring glances and interested classmates. Hajime himself gets a couple of guys coming over at lunch to ask about his spikes and he ends up telling them about the training regime he’s trying out. And there’s a few girls he knows from junior high who drop by with a nice word or two.
But it’s nothing compared to the hoard that slowly but surely builds up around Tooru in their first year.
It starts with people from Kitagawa Daiichi, with their teasing remarks about how Tooru’s finally grown into his skills, and then it’s bright, shiny-eyed girls, with their sweater paws and “Tooru-kun’s” and suddenly it’s like the awkward, nerdy kid from Kitagawa Daiichi is gone. Buried under amazing tosses, under limbs that no longer look gangly but slim in dress pants, and messy hair now coined ‘wavy’.
What the heck is wavy?
It’s like Hajime is the only one that remembers the Tooru that cried as loud as the rest of the junior high volleyball team when they lost, the Tooru who had snot streaming from his nose. The Tooru with the shitty personality—shitty enough that he could still issue out a setter vs setter challenge to thirteen-year-old Kageyama while holding the Best Setter award.
The only consolation Hajime gets is that Tooru looks just as bewildered as him, flushing and sputtering under Hanamaki’s playful pokes and Matsukawa’s sly smile.
But through all these changes, Hajime-and-Tooru remain constant.
Like clockwork, they’re at Hajime’s house every day after practice, studying or throwing a volleyball around. Still living out of each other’s pockets, fighting over food, pushing each other into the mud and laughing.
They still call each other’s parents “Auntie” and “Uncle” and don’t pay attention to how it sounds more and more like “Mom” and “Dad” with each day that passes.
Don’t pay attention to the looks Matsukawa and Hanamaki send them sometimes, when the four of them are joking around and Tooru gets clingy and whiny, flopping all over Hajime with his octopus arms. Don’t see the fond, indulgent smiles that flit across their teachers’ faces, or hear the whispers of “How adorable.”
First year in senior high and they’ve yet to grow out of being Hajime-and-Tooru.
So it’s something of a shock when one day, Tooru shows up to school with a beaming Ito Chiharu holding onto his arm.
Oh, right. Dating is a thing. Hajime chews on his pork and rice, cataloguing the faces Hanamaki makes behind Tooru’s back, mocking his embellished story of how Ito confessed to him. Hajime’s half-tempted to just whip out his phone and record it.
How does he make his face twist like tha—ooookay, that’s disgusting.
“Hanamaki, you are disgusting,” Matsukawa says.
Tooru whips around, tie swinging and Hajime shoots out a hand and catches it before it can land in Tooru’s noodles. “Makki, are you making fun of me???”
Hanamaki freezes, two fingers up one nostril and a hand halfway into his mouth. “…Nnnwwoo.”
“Unbelievable. None of you are listening to me!” Tooru flops backwards over his chair, a hand to his forehead.
“She confessed to you because when she came to support us at the Spring Tournament Prelims, she thought you were so cool, and you accepted because you’re vain and now you two are dating,” Hajime says, and yanks at the tie in his hand, jerking Tooru up in his seat so a classmate can walk by. Tooru coughs, a confused little noise.
Shoving another piece of meat in his mouth, Hajime flicks the tie over Tooru’s shoulder. “Eat your noodles and for God’s sake, don’t drop your tie in the bowl.”
Tooru huffs, cheeks oddly red, but picks up his chopsticks obediently.
“Okay, that.” Hanamaki points a finger at the two of them, expression unreadable. “That, right there. What is that.”
Hajime blinks. What?
Without looking up from his notes, Matsukawa slaps at Hanamaki’s hand. “You’re being rude.” To Hajime, he says, “What the idiot means to say is that, since we met, you and Oikawa have acted like you’ve been married the moment you came out of your mothers’ wombs.”
“I would rather fling my grandmother off a cliff than marry Tooru.” Hajime says instantly. Hanamaki chokes on his spit and crumples to the floor. Hajime: 23, Hanamaki: -8.
Tooru slams his chopsticks on the desk. “Wha-Hajime!”
Hajime doesn’t look over at him, because he knows there’ll be the puppy eyes and the exaggerated frown and the scrunched up nose and he really doesn’t need to see that. It makes his stomach ache.
Matsukawa just flips another page of his notebook and scribbles something down. “That’s kind of excessive. He can’t be that bad.”
There’s soup splatter on Tooru’s cheek, so Hajime grabs a napkin and smacks it on his face, rubbing harder when Tooru whines and tries to turn away. “No. No, you don’t understand—one time he went through a break-up and ate all my ice cream but only the vanilla and strawberry parts—”
“Oh my GOD, are you still not over that??”
“There was only chocolate left, Tooru, I had to eat all of it. ALL of it, with no break for some strawberry or vanilla—”
“It was a rough time for me, okay??”
“Do you know why they make Neapolitan ice cream the way they do, Tooru? Do you?”
“Hajime, just shut up—”
“It’s so you can taste three flavours at once and then you don’t get bored of it, Tooru. That’s why. And guess what I was when I only had choCOLATE TO EAT THAT DA—”
Hanamaki stares unabashedly from the floor, “I’ll never get tired of this. It’s like watching a cat and a dog fight.”
“Alright, alright, you two, break it up,” Matsukawa snaps his notebook shut, whapping them on their heads with it. He points to the doorway. “We’ve got a visitor.”
The rest of them turn to see Ito hovering just outside the class, holding a light blue bag. She goes bright red when they lock eyes on her and she tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. It’s clear she doesn’t know where to look, and having the full attention of her…boyfriend and his friends seems to unnerve her. But Hajime watches as she takes a deep breath and raises her head to meet Tooru’s gaze, imploring and demanding, all at once. Like she wants something but knows that she shouldn’t have to ask for it.
She’s cool. Hajime muses. How’d Tooru get someone like her?
“Ooh, look at that face, you should get going, lover boy.” Matsukawa reaches across the desk and nudges Tooru in the shoulder. His fingers are long, knuckles prominent under the skin, and Hajime thinks, lazy, when he sees them. They look nothing like Hajime’s own thick-skinned ones, or Tooru’s soft, reliable setter hands.
“I-Yeah.” Hajime glances up at Tooru through his lashes. He’s got that dumb, sloppy smile and the twinkly eye thing going on. Ew. “I’ll see you guys later?”
Tooru leaves without waiting to hear their response. Hajime watches him go; feeling irrationally annoyed with the way he practically skips to the door.
“Ah, puppy love.” Hanamaki leans back in his chair, balancing precariously on the back legs. “I think I can see his tail wagging.”
“How long do you think until he gets to kiss her?” Matsukawa asks idly.
“Ehh, a week.”
“You have too much faith in our bumbling boy, Hiro.”
A flick of a wrist and a piece of fried shrimp flies into the air. Hanamaki leans back and catches it in his mouth. Show off. “Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be Ito who gets a kiss out of Tooru. She’s way more forward than him.”
“Hmm, I guess so.” Matsukawa cocks his head, peering over at Hajime. “What do you think? You’re the resident Oikawa expert.”
Hajime shrugs, wipes his mouth with a tissue. “Don’t know. Don’t care.”
His friends exchange a fleeting look and for some goddamn reason it ticks him off and he clears his throat, stamping down on the irritation buzzing in his chest.
“Do either of you know how to solve polynomial functions?”
Hajime pushes the door open and steps into the store. Above his head, the bell rings out and the cashier glances up with a smile. Hajime gives a wave and heads to the section where they keep the chips.
He adjusts his earbuds and hums quietly along to the song, grabbing a basket and filling it with three bags of chips, a couple of granola bars, a carton of juice, and some apples.
He places his stuff on the conveyor and fishes out his wallet, watching the prices as the cashier scans the items.
Through the clear glass walls of the store, the sun emerges from behind the clouds and filters through to land warm on Hajime’s back.
Something flashes at the edge of his vision, glaring and sudden, and he winces, turning to see what it was.
Hanging by the register are various candies, lighters, and charms. One charm in particular is what Hajime guesses shone bright enough to almost blind him, considering it’s coloured a solid bright magenta.
“Yeeaahh, I don’t know why we have that,” the cashier drawls when he notices Hajime staring at it. “It’s an angler fish, if you couldn’t see past the ugly-ass pink of it.”
“Is—is that a bell hanging where the glowing—” Hajime brings his hand up to his forehead and wiggles it around— “thing is supposed to be?”
“Yup.” The cashier bags the last of his stuff. “Is that everything?”
Hajime pauses, still oddly mesmerized by the ugliness of the thing. Why would anyone make a charm out of an angler fish. Who thought of that. Who looked at one of the weirdest organisms in the oceans and thought, I want to hang a small pink version of it on my bag.
And his mind goes, Tooru.
He grabs one of the damn charms and hands it to the cashier.
The next day, Hajime says to Tooru, “You should probably stop calling me that.”
Tooru looks up, the tail end of his sentence trailing off. He’d been talking about Ito again. For the seventh time in the past hour. “What?”
“You know.” Hajime dribbles the soccer ball, fixated on the pattern of black and white bouncing between his feet. “My name. You should stop.”
It’s P.E. and although it’s late October, it’s still warm enough that half the class is outside. The boys are doing soccer, warming up and practicing passes with their friends at various spots on the field, the occasional stray ball rolling around. The girls are inside the gym setting up the volleyball nets.
Hajime sighs. He wants to play volleyball.
Tooru stands up from his lunge, and the spot where his hands were braced on his thigh flush pink, the blood rushing back. Hajime dribbles the ball faster.
“You…want me to stop using your name?” Hajime would say Tooru looks hilariously bewildered except, oddly enough, Hajime isn’t in the mood to find things funny at the moment. “Are you getting it changed or—?”
“No, of course not. But. You know. You’ve got a girlfriend now.” The ball bounces off his toe awkwardly, and Hajime rushes to stop it with his foot before it gets away. It leaves him unstable, wobbling on one foot.
Actually, this whole conversation is leaving him teetering on an edge he can’t see.
“A girlfriend.” Tooru parrots.
“So I should stop—I don’t get it? Does me having a girlfriend somehow make you nameless?” Tooru kicks at the ground, a sure sign he’s frustrated.
“No, I mean, like—Hajime. You shouldn’t call me Hajime anymore.” The ball comes to a halt under Hajime’s left foot, and it’s quiet.
Everyone else is still playing, of course, still letting out noises of effort and scuffing their shoes on the dirt, but the air around him and Tooru seems crystalized, and it’s weird, silence shouldn’t ring in his ears so much that it dampens everything that isn’t his and Tooru’s breathing, but it does.
“You’re going to have to say more than that, Hajime, because I have no idea what’s going on here.” Tooru says flatly.
“Just—” Hajime flounders. “I don’t know, isn’t it weird?”
Tooru just stares at him incredulously and, alright, Hajime doesn’t really get it either, hasn’t let himself think too hard about why this bothers him so damn much, so he doesn’t know where to start, to begin explaining why he can’t bear the sound of his name of Tooru’s lips anymore. Just hearing it makes him freeze, makes him turn instinctively in the direction of that particular voice, makes his skin itch weirdly and his neck tingle.
How do you tell your best friend you hate the way he says your name?
“It…” Hajime bores holes into the soccer ball, frantically casting around in his head for something, anything, to say. “It sounds too childish. We’re almost sixteen, now, and in our first year at Seijou, not running around in my backyard covered in mud.”
He rolls his foot back over the ball before hooking it under and kicking up, sending it into his hands. He looks up, stares determinedly at the pale scar at the edge of Tooru’s hairline.
“Plus, wouldn’t your girlfriend mind if you’re on a first-name basis with someone other than her?”
I know I’d mind, Hajime thinks. I’d mind if he was on a first-name basis with someone els—
“That isn’t—but she—then what am I supposed to call you?” Tooru asks, and there’s something like panic in his tone but Hajime firmly banishes the thought.
He shrugs, drops the ball back to the ground. “Iwaizumi is fine.”
Tooru splutters, “Iwai—?!” but Hajime’s already kicked the ball across the field, running after it.
Practice after school is…awkward, to say the least.
Tooru won’t stop staring at him, a perpetually hurt and baffled twist to his features and Hajime won’t stop feeling like that guy who cheated on his wife in that TV show his dad watches. It skews with their rhythm, throws sand in their well-oiled gears and leaves balls dropping to the floor when they should’ve been spiked down. Leaves Tooru glaring at his hands like they’re somebody else’s.
By the end of it, Hajime is frustrated beyond words and everyone else is staring at them like they’re waiting for it all to blow, for the train to derail and crash. It really pisses him off.
It doesn’t help that Tooru has said all but one word to him since practice started and it was an attempt at saying “Iwaizu—” that cut short when Tooru blanched and visibly recoiled. Then he just turned and quickly walked away, gripping the volleyball in his hands so furiously the material squeaked, and Hajime had been left feeling like he’d been turned inside out.
They’re cleaning up the gym when Matsukawa corners Hajime in the back of the storage room, between the baseball equipment and the lifejackets. It’s abrupt and completely blindsides him. He can still hear the rest of the members in the gym, beyond the barely opened doors, a sliver of orange light and freedom that Matsukawa blocks out with his unfair height and build.
His eyebrows are doing that thing they do and Hajime already knows he’s going to hate this.
“Alright.” Matsukawa pokes him on the chest. “What’s up with you and Oikawa?”
“Nothing,” is Hajime’s unthinking, automatic reply.
“Right, and I’m wearing a thong.”
Hajime is horrified to admit that his eyes immediately drop to his friend’s crotch.
Matsukawa slaps a hand to his forehead. “Iwaizumi. I wasn’t actually serious.”
“I—right. I knew that.” Hajime pretends to be fascinated with the spider spinning a truly impressive web in the corner above his head. He crosses and re-crosses his arms, and Matsukawa just stands there, a worried tilt to his mouth.
“Look, I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say you and Oikawa sucked immensely at practice today,” he begins. “I’m not asking you to tell me everything, but me and Hanamaki just want to know if you two’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, he’s curious too, but we agreed it would probably freak you out if the both of us confronted you.”
Hajime casts a disbelieving look around the dark storage room. “Yeah, this is infinitely more reassuring, I’m so reassured.”
Matsukawa rolls his eyes and leans a hip against the shelf beside him. “You’re going to fix it, right? Whatever it is that you did.”
“What I—? Why would you think it was me that did something?” Hajime splutters.
Matsukawa doesn’t even dignify that with a response, just snorts and fixes him with a look, which is—so offensive, Hajime did not come here to be offended, in fact, he didn’t even want to be here in the first place, what the hell.
They turn to the front of the room, where Tooru stands with netting in his arms, staring at them. Nobody says anything for a second, and then suspicion paints something twisted in Tooru’s eyes and he looks away, walking to the side to drop the nets onto a shelf. Beside him, Matsukawa shifts uncertainly, a miniscule action but the sole of his shoe drags on the dust and it might as well have been a siren in the dark, musty room.
Tooru pauses and Hajime tenses up but he has no idea why. In fact, this entire day has been him fumbling around and getting caught up in something he’s hopelessly lost in trying to classify.
But Tooru just turns back to the door, steps measured and the confusion he wore during practice is gone now, replaced with a carefully indifferent look. “Better hurry up and get changed, Mattsun. Iwa-chan.”
And then it’s just him and Matsukawa, again.
“Iwa-chan?” his friend says lowly. “Are you sure you didn’t do anything? He seemed pissed.”
And Hajime doesn’t say a thing.
Because he has never seen that expression on Tooru’s face before. In all sixteen years since Hajime’s known him, not once has Tooru tried to hide like that. From other people, sure. But never him.
Hajime’s reeling. He’s stuck on the memory of Tooru’s eyes in the dimness, and the tense slant of his shoulders juxtaposed against the arch of his eyebrows. He’s stuck on the way Tooru’s entire body language screamed “don’t touch me” and it’s like coming home to find all your furniture replaced with their plastic dollhouse equivalents.
It’s always been Hajime-and-Tooru, but now it’s “Iwa-chan” and “don’t touch me.”
(Rebecca might’ve been Tooru’s first relationship, but it’s Ito who sets off a slow slide of events that sends everything flipping onto its side.)
Tooru still comes over, but rarely nowadays.
After that thing in the storage room, there’s a hint of uncertainty that lines every interaction they have and Hajime’s not sure if he’s the only one who feels it. Because Tooru’s still smiley and loud, but this voice in Hajime’s head goes ‘wrong’ and it makes him want to punch something.
So, yeah, things are a bit weird.
Hajime guesses that’s why Tooru runs off to spend most of his time with his girlfriend, instead. He doesn’t mind, really, but it’s somewhat of a problem. He doesn’t know what to do with all this free time.
His life has never really been just his.
Even with practice and homework, he’s still got so much hours left before he gets into bed and it’s strange. He gets antsy and ends up calling Matsukawa and Hanamaki to hang out more and his grades start going up from all the hours spent reading his notes now that there isn’t a Tooru-shaped weight always flopping itself onto him.
When three weeks pass and Hajime has yet to come home with Tooru, his parents act like someone’s died. When he explains that Tooru’s got a girlfriend, they look almost…surprised. Like it was the last thing they expected. There were glances exchanged and Hajime has always admired the way his mom and dad could talk without actually talking but right then, it was just kind of annoying.
“Well…Try to get him over here in the next few days, the milk bread we bought is about to go bad.”
Hajime agrees, but there’s that voice in his head again and it’s whispering, isn’t that kind of odd, how he’s here often enough that we buy groceries for him.
So here he is, standing at Tooru’s locker. He feels silly and it pisses him off, and he’s got no idea why he’s pissed and that makes him angrier. He tries not to let it show, though, when Tooru walks through the doors.
“Iwa-chan?” Tooru’s…startled, and his eyes rove over Hajime’s face like he hasn’t seen him in years, and it’s ridiculous but it still warms Hajime cheeks. He forces himself not to look away, staring back evenly, and that’s when he catches sight of the circles under Tooru’s eyes.
He pushes off the lockers and walks forward, already scowling. Tooru backs up, hands rising in the universal sign of surrender. “Iwa-chan, I swear, whatever it is, it wasn’t me—”
“Oikawa—” and wow does that sound weird— “you idiot, are you not getting enough sleep?” Hajime asks, pinching Tooru’s cheek.
“Ow, ow, owww—” Tooru whines. “Iwa-chan, it’s not my faaaault.”
The sight of that familiar pout eases the tightness Hajime didn’t realize he was holding in his chest, and he lets go of Tooru’s cheek, unable to keep from pressing a quick finger into the redness. But it’s Tooru and he catches the action and sends Hajime a questioning look.
“The milk bread Mom and Dad bought is about to go bad and there’s too many to bring to school,” Hajime says, instead of acknowledging Tooru’s stare.
Tooru gets it immediately, and damn if it doesn’t make Hajime’s lip quirk up when Tooru bobs in place. If Hajime had known milk bread would fix this, he would’ve mentioned it earlier.
“After practice, then?” Tooru asks excitedly. “It’s been so long.”
Hajime nods, but he’s just a little confused. Has Tooru not eaten milk bread in a while?
Whatever, Hajime’s just glad things are okay.
“Sorry for the intrusion!” Tooru says happily.
“No one’s home, idiot, how many times have I told you, you don’t need to say that.” Hajime closes the door and flips the lock.
Tooru’s already flung his shoes and coat off, skidding down the hallway in his bright blue duck socks. Hajime looks up at the ceiling, waits a second, and mouths right along when Tooru yells, “I call Mario!”
Hajime walks into the living room and flops down onto the couch, dropping his bag on the floor in exchange for a controller. “Let me guess. Rainbow road?” he says, already foreseeing death and destruction.
Tooru just cackles.
“You’re a heathen, you know that?”
The countdown starts and they both turn to the screen, fingers poised over buttons. The time for talking is over. Hajime is going to kick Tooru’s butt.
They play a couple rounds, homework lying forgotten at their feet as the sun sinks lower over the horizon through the window.
The game gets paused for a snack run at one point and Tooru walks straight to the cupboard where the milk bread is and emerges with an armload of it, tottering on his legs back to the living room, head barely seen over the pile. Hajime side-steps him with the ease of practice and grabs two glasses, filling one with orange juice and the other with chocolate milk. He takes a bag of chips for himself.
“So, uh, how’s it going with Ito?” Hajime places the drinks and chips on the coffee table with the frankly horrendous amount of bread—why did his parents buy so much—and settles back into the couch.
“Fine,” is Tooru’s curt reply.
And Hajime must be imagining it but Tooru looks a bit…annoyed? But he can’t be, he was okay just a second ago. What could possibly have gone wrong in a second?
“Uh, that’s good.” Hajime pops open the bag of chips and props it against his leg. “Hanamaki told me you guys went to that new amusement park last week?”
Bringing the park up makes his mouth tighten, but it’s not like he and Tooru had made plans to go when they heard of its grand opening last summer or anything. It’s not.
Tooru just shrugs.
“…Was it fun—?”
Tooru puts down his bread and says, “Could we just, I don’t know, not talk about her right now?”
“Oh. Y-yeah. Yeah, of course. Sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize.”
Hajime wiggles his toes and looks away, feeling incredibly out of place. He slips his hands in the pocket of his hoodie and almost jumps out of his seat when they bump against something small.
Oh right, the charm. He wraps a hand around it, unreasonably aware of its weight.
The couch dips slightly, and Hajime feels more than hears Tooru sigh.
“It’s just. We’re supposed to be hanging out—” Oh. Hajime, you idiot, it was never about the milk bread— “It’s been so long since it was just us. I don’t want to talk about other people or homework or whatever. I want—” Tooru breaks off, picking up the controller and fidgeting with it.
“What’s wrong?” Hajime asks, because when it comes down to it, Hajime still knows when something’s off with his best friend, even when he’s not sure what.
Tooru stares down at the controller. “I miss you. I guess.”
“Oh,” Hajime breathes.
Tooru sinks back so far into his seat that Hajime’s surprised he doesn’t fall right between the couch cushions. “Nevermind. It’s stupid—”
“Hey.” Tooru glances over, and Hajime’s reminded of the little rabbit he saw on school field trip once. Wary but curious, with it’s wide, round eyes and brown colouring, it had been the cutest thing he’d ever seen.
I think I just called Tooru cute, what the heck—
Ignoring the warmth in his cheeks, Hajime takes his fist out of his pockets and offers it to Tooru, who stares at it suspiciously. His eyes flick back and forth between it and Hajime’s face, reaching out slowly and bumping it with his own fist.
Hajime sighs. “No, you idiot.” And before Tooru can take offense at that, he takes Tooru’s hand, turning it palm facing upwards and smooths it open, unconsciously taking in the colour contrast of their skin.
He opens his fist and the charm makes a tiny chime as it falls into Tooru’s waiting palm.
Tooru gapes down at the fluorescent pink angler fish, then at Hajime, and back again. He flicks lightly at the bell, and it rings gently. He closes his mouth and does something funny with his eyebrows, a puzzled little exhale leaving him.
Hajime flushes harder and scratches sheepishly at his neck. “I saw it at the corner store when I went to get chips, and I thought it was something you’d like.” He casts a slanted look at the thing. “It’s weird enough to fit right in with your alien figurines, after all.”
“I-Iwa-chan.” Tooru peers up at him with round, glassy eyes. “It’s so ugly.”
Hajime feels a vein throb in his temple and he goes to take it back. “Well, if you don’t want it—”
“No!” Tooru snatches his hand away and presses it to his collarbone, hunched protectively over it like it’s his kid. He unfurls his fingers and looks down at the charm, smiling wobbly. “No, I-you’re right. I do like it.”
“Good,” Hajime huffs, looking away from the happiness so embarrassingly obvious on Tooru’s face. He fiddles absently with the pillow in his lap, fluffing it up and then squishing it flat. It’s incredibly soft, worn down with use and the years past, colours faded and rubbed white in some spots.
He looks over at Tooru and then back down. Picks up the controller. Opens his mouth. Closes it. Opens it again, and gives up, opting instead to pick up the other controller where it fell from Tooru’s lap and throwing it at him. Tooru’s still fixated on the fish and yelps when it lands on his thigh.
Hajime doesn’t wait for him and presses play immediately, letting a pleased grin stretch across his face when Tooru groans about proper game etiquette while, on screen, Mario falls right off the road.
Tooru never gets around to finishing the milk bread still taking up precious space in Hajime’s kitchen cabinet but that’s okay, because he promises to come over again for them.
“Oh thank God,” is how Hanamaki greets them the next morning. He mimes wiping sweat off his face and slumps down in Hajime’s chair with dramatic relief. “You guys are back to normal. I know I made fun about you two being the same person in different bodies but this is so much better than the weird passive-aggressive thing that was going on.”
“I don’t understand you,” Hajime says, and kicks Hanamaki out of his chair. Hajime: 50, Hanamaki: -19.
“Geniuses are of another world,” Hanamaki proclaims and it’d be a cool line if he wasn’t face down on the floor. Tooru just steps over him to get to his seat, purposefully ignoring the pleas for help. Matsukawa is left to pick up the Hanamaki-shaped pieces.
“Speaking of geniuses, a certain bonehead is about to compete in the Spring High Tournament,” Tooru says offhandedly. Hajime knows that tone. He hates that that tone; it rarely means anything good.
“Is this about the thing you guys have against Ushijima?” Matsukawa asks, cradling a limp Hanamaki in his arms. He’s stroking Hanamaki’s cheek. Is that really necessary.
“Next year, we’ll beat them at prelims and be the ones to go to Spring High,” Tooru says, instead of answering the question and the easy air between them vanishes.
Hajime feels the vertebrae of his spine straighten and lock, a primal reaction to the raw force of Tooru’s words and his hard-edged stare. Even Matsukawa and Hanamaki look a little disconcerted.
Hajime forcefully relaxes his shoulders, reminds himself not to get caught up in Tooru’s aura, and whaps the back of Tooru’s head with a steady hand. “Of course we will. But that doesn’t mean you can go off and practice ‘til you drop again, Crappykawa.” He snorts.
“Crap—Iwa-chan, what kind of name is that?” Tooru whines petulantly and rubs at his head, throwing Hajime an affronted pout. From the corner of his eye, Matsukawa and Hanamaki quietly release their breaths, sending uncertain glances at Tooru.
Hajime doesn’t begrudge them for it. Tooru tends to have that effect on people.
“It fits you,” Hajime states.
“Fits m—are you guys just going to sit there while he attacks me like this?!” Tooru whips around to glare at their friends, who share a grin before saying in unison, “Yeah.”
The teacher walks in just as Tooru lunges across the desk at all three of them, screeching, sending everything to the floor in a truly mighty crash.
A few weeks later, Tooru walks up to Hajime during clean-up and he’s got this expression on his face that makes the voice in Hajime’s head go oh no.
And since Hajime’s a walking, talking Tooru-translator, he takes one look and knows right away it has something to do with the news that Shiratorizawa had made it to semi-finals before they lost.
But what comes out of Tooru’s mouth isn’t “Ushijima this, Shiratorizawa that,” but “Chiharu-chan broke up with me.”
Hajime’s grip on the broom slackens.
The word finally pops up in his mind and Hajime scowls, confused and feeling weirdly guilty.
Tooru swings the trashcan in his hands, face blank. “She said I wasn’t paying attention to her. Spent too much time on volleyball.”
Hajime thinks back to a few nights ago, when he had to physically sling Tooru on his back and lug him home at 9pm because the dumbass did indeed practice until he dropped. The next morning practice, Hajime had to let his captain know what happens when you give an over-eager Oikawa Tooru the keys to the gym.
“She doesn’t get it though,” Tooru says distantly, looking out over the field. “Shiratorizawa’s just going to get stronger, and if we’re going to beat them then I need to get better.”
Ah. There we go. Hajime knew his gut instinct was right. On one hand, Hajime’s glad the message of a team victory still resonates within his friend’s thick skull, but on the other, the idiot is still insisting on carrying the burden by himself.
“You didn’t try to explain it to her?” Hajime asks. He’ll address the damn hero complex later, at home.
“I did,” Tooru blows irritably at his fringe. “She still wouldn’t budge. It was either her or volleyball.”
Hajime hums. “Well, it’s kind of understandable that she’d want your relationship to be priority number one.”
“Then that’s good for her, she knows what she wants.” Tooru aims a skeptical look at him. “But do you really expect me to give up volleyball for someone I only got together with four months ago?”
Hajime quirks a smile because of course not, and it’s apparently enough for Tooru because the unsettling look slides off his face, replaced by a bright grin and warm chocolate-brown eyes.
Hajime’s heart trips and again, the voice in his head goes, oh no.
After Ito Chiharu is another girl, but number three only lasts the two months of summer in second year. Hajime spends those entire two months feverishly practicing his spikes and receives until the heat makes him drop. If he lets himself rest too long, the voice starts saying stuff again and Hajime’s not ready to hear it yet.
They don’t hang out. Hajime only sees Tooru during practice. He tried inviting Tooru to do things but always got a “sorry, can’t,” in return.
He stopped asking after a while because every time Tooru said no, every time he said, I can’t or I’ve got a date with my girlfriend and I already went to that restaurant or did that thing or watched that movie, maybe next time Iwa-chan—well.
By the end of August, Tooru’s single again; his volleyball drive proving to be too much of a strain on things.
“Iwa-chan, come here!” Tooru’s irritating voice rises above the din of the squeaking sneakers and volleyballs bounced off floors. Hajime sets his water bottle on the bench and jogs over.
“What’s up?” he asks, slicking his hair back, sweat inching down his neck. Summer is doing him no favours and deep, deep, deep down, Hajime just wants practice to be over already. There’s an AC and orange-flavoured popsicles calling his name at home. He drags the bottom of his shirt up and wipes his forehead with it, feeling the warm, sticky air breeze past his bare stomach.
“I—uh. Serve,” Tooru says, voice thick with something. He better not be getting sick. “The serve I’ve been practicing. I think I’ve finally got it down.”
Hajime straightens, anticipation sliding up his spine and he jerks his head towards the court. “Go on then.”
Tooru nods and backs up, a few paces away from the back line. He closes his eyes and sucks in a deep breath, bringing the ball up to his forehead. And when those eyes finally slide open, Hajime hears blood rush through his ears and his knees almost give out.
Tooru tosses the ball into a calculated, graceful arc and takes three quick steps forward, jumps—higher than Hajime remembers, pulls his arm back and hits the ball as it comes down. He sends it flying, and it lands—crashes like a meteorite, really, onto the other side of the net and the sound, holy shit—the sheer power of it resonates through the gym like a gunshot.
Outside, a flock of crows caw out, flapping their wings.
Players pause in their own practice, even the third years, and their awe physically manifests in the thundering silence left behind even after the ball has bounced around and come to a stop at Matsukawa’s feet.
Hajime exhales raggedly, thunder-struck and feeling like he’s just witnessed the splitting of mountains and the fall of a nation.
He turns back to Tooru to find him already staring back, brown eyes sharp and waiting. Hajime reads them, takes the message in them and smirks, a small little quirk of his lips that’s filled with ferocity, because yes.
Yes, we can use this.
Shiratorizawa better watch their backs.
“Hajime!” Tooru’s grandmother cries out, catching Hajime in a hug the moment he walks through the door. “Oh, how you’ve grown, look at you! Tall and—are these muscles? Girls must be swooning.”
Hajime flushes. “Obaa-san, no—why would, no.”
Obaa-san smiles, gap-toothed and delighted, “And still as adorable as I remember, too!”
There’s a muffled laugh behind him and Tooru walks up to his shoulder, a hand covering the lower half of his face. He looks down at Hajime, eyes twinkling, and Hajime is once again reminded of how much he hates Tooru’s sudden growth spurt.
“Yup, our cute, prickly little Iwa-chan,” Tooru chokes out, “So endearing. Like a cactus.”
“I will end you,” Hajime says seriously, guiding Obaa-san to the couch.
“Thank you, Hajime, you’re so sweet.” She pats his head, and Tooru shakes violently at the side, arms crossed and head turned away.
Obaa-san beckons Tooru with a hand. “And you, my lovely grandson, come here. Let me look at you.”
“As you wish, Baa-chan,” Tooru says, disgustingly charming as usual. As he walks past Hajime, he wiggles his eyebrows and blows him an exaggerated kiss. As gross as it is, Hajime’s lips twitch.
Obaa-san gives Tooru the same scrutinizing once-over, squishing his cheeks and patting his stomach, rubbing at the skin of his hands and tapping the bones of his ankles. Tooru bears it all with grace and a fond smile. He’s always been gentle with his grandmother.
“Good,” she says finally. “You two are happy, yes? Volleyball and various teenage boy business? Harmless fun and the such—oh, and how are those two other ones, Hair and Eyes, you should bring them over more often, Tooru, they made me laugh so much last time.”
Hajime bites down on his lip and stares hard out the window. Hair and Eyes. Tooru lets out an indistinct noise and coughs once.
“Hair—um, Makki and Mattsun are. Doing great, they’re. Absolutely good, yes,” he says, and the veins on his neck strain with the effort of trying not to laugh. Hajime has to look away, or else he might burst into giggles.
Obaa-san’s eyes do that same twinkling thing Tooru’s does, and he knows right away they’re not fooling her. “Tooru, be a dear and grab the snacks in the cupboard for me, would you? You know where it is.”
“Of course,” Tooru says, and heads to the kitchen. Hajime watches him go.
When he turns back, he finds Obaa-san smiling widely, knowingly. And, don’t get him wrong, he loves Tooru’s grandmother, she babysat him for a good chunk of his pre-school years, but that smile looks too close to Tooru’s to mean any good. He inches back into his seat.
“You and Tooru are starting your third year soon, I hear.”
“Yeah, it’s, uh. Exciting, I guess,” he says hesitantly. “Oikawa’s gonna be team captain.”
Obaa-san nods, completely unsurprised. Everyone they told had been the same, and it lights something in Hajime’s chest that absolutely does not resemble pride.
“And vice-captain for you, of course,” she says.
Everyone else has assumed that too.
Hajime nods, rubs his hands on his slacks. What’s taking Tooru so long?
“Hajime,” Obaa-san begins slowly, “have I ever told you about that time you went to the hospital for a stomach virus and Tooru tried to run away?” There's that sly smile again.
“No,” Hajime says, leaning forward, suddenly no longer nervous but very, very interested. “No, you have not.”
“You were both seven, and I was babysitting for your parents while they went on their—double date, they called it. You ate something bad at school and the sickness kicked in an hour after I took you home.”
Hajime nods along. He remembers it faintly. Don’t eat sandwiches with green 'sprinkles' on them, he learned that day.
“Ambulances only let one person come with and I couldn’t leave Tooru at home or send you off on your own, so I called your parents and they hurried home to get you to the hospital. They wouldn’t let Tooru go, though, didn’t want him to catch what you got. So.” And here Obaa-san leans in, voice dropping into a conspiratorial tone. “You were at the hospital. I’d just gotten off the phone with your father. And it was too quiet in the house. I knew it was already too late when I turned around and Tooru was nowhere to be seen.”
Hajime frowns and Obaa-san nods. They both know the kind of uneasiness and foreboding you feel when you can’t find Oikawa Tooru.
“I looked everywhere. Couldn’t find him, the sneaky child.” She shakes her head, smiling wryly. “Almost worried me to an early death.”
“So what happened?” Hajime scoots to the edge of the cushion. “Did you find him stuck in a toilet somewhere?”
“No, that stopped happening after you found him and laughed at him for twenty minutes.”
There’s a clang in the kitchen and the two of them pause, listening to Tooru curse quietly and try to fix whatever he did, ultimately only causing more of a mess, judging by the noise.
Obaa-san shakes her head. “Kaeda-san saw him running down the street. Apparently, waiting until tomorrow to visit you was too long, so he’d gotten the idea to take the bus by himself.”
Hajime’s eyes widen, and he gives an aborted laugh. “The bus? Did he even know how?”
Obaa-san cackles, “No, of course not! He didn’t even know how much the fare was—just grabbed my bag and ran out the door. He asked the first person he saw to point him to hospital and luckily, they stalled long enough for Kaeda-san to call me. He tried running away when I showed up. You should’ve seen it, Hajime, a seven-year-old in power rangers pajamas, no shoes, and carrying a bright red ladies’ purse the size of his torso, running down the street like his life depended on it.”
That’s it. Hajime’s done, he’s gone. The image is too much—he’s spent his whole life with this guy, of course he can see in exact detail what Obaa-san is describing.
“A-a man,” he wheezes, “on a m-mission.” There are tears in his eyes.
When Tooru comes back carrying a tray of snacks and drinks, it’s to his grandmother and his best friend crumpled in their seats, drowning in mirth.
He stops. Stares. “What.”
They calm down, take one look at him and burst into laughter again.
Tooru narrows his eyes. “You guys were talking about me, weren’t you.”
“N-not at all, Oikawa, what are you talking about,” Hajime says through clenched teeth. Tooru just sniffs and places the tray on the table, dropping onto the couch beside Hajime, making sure to elbow him at least twice trying to settle in. Hajime just grins, still stuck on what he’s just learned to be bothered.
“I’m telling Mattsun you bullied me again,” Tooru says. “He always takes my side.”
“No, he doesn’t. Just yesterday he stuffed his juice box down your shirt when you told him he couldn’t leave the class until he agreed to lend you the new issue of Shounen Jump. You had to wear your dirty practice clothes for the rest of the day and your fanclub wouldn’t go near you.”
“You know, Iwa-chan, sometimes I wonder how much I’d have to pay to hire a hitman to kill someone,” Tooru says, chewing threateningly on his cookie and Hajime wants to die because the idiot looks like a damn horse when he does that.
“Let me know when you find out,” Hajime smirks. “Could use one on a guy I know.”
Tooru’s chin juts out and a muscle twitches in his jaw. “Yeah?”
Hajime stares down his nose at Tooru, trying so hard not to laugh in his face. “Yeah.”
“Not that this isn’t one of my most favourite things to see, but I do hope this isn’t the only reason you came to visit me for.” Obaa-san calls out, amused.
They both jerk in their seats, startled, ears going red. They exchange a glance, laughing uneasily. How could they have forgotten…?
Obaa-san just smiles secretly at them from behind her cup of tea.
Later, when they have to get home before the buses stop running, Obaa-san stops Hajime just as he’s about to step through the door with a feather-light touch. Hajime waves Tooru on, and gives her his full attention, reading the sincerity in lines around her mouth.
She pats a motherly hand on his arm, and breaths in deep. Hajime waits.
“I’m glad you two came to visit me. You both look very happy, and it’s all I could ask for.” She looks up, smooths Hajime’s hair back from his forehead. Her thin, soft fingers shake slightly. “And as always, I’m glad Tooru has someone like you in his life.”
Hajime swallows past the pressure in his throat and leans forward to press a kiss to her head. When he turns around, Tooru is waiting under the lone streetlight in this quiet neighbourhood, hands in his pockets and face tilted to the stars.
“Am I a bad boyfriend,” Tooru asks half-heartedly, as he and Hajime watch Tooru’s fourth girlfriend stomp away. Ex-girlfriend now, he supposes. Tooru rubs gingerly at the red hand-print on his cheek and sighs.
Hajime snorts out an actual, amused laugh. “Is the sky blue? Is the Earth round? Is there dirt under our feet? Is water wet? Do you cry every time we watch Star Wars? Do you forget to take in the laundry when it rains? Is my name Iwaizumi Hajime? Do you have matching alien-print socks, underwear, and pajama set? Do you wear them five out of seven days? Did you pick your boogers so hard that one time that you gave yourself a nosebleed for two solid hours—”
“Alright, alright, I get it, oh my God! And that was one time, Iwa-chan! One-freaking-time and you’ve never let me live it down!” Tooru shouts, stomping his feet. He actually stomps his feet like a sulky five-year-old, that is fucking hilarious. Hajime clutches at his stomach.
“I think it’s pretty clear with your track record—minus Rebecca—that you are an absolutely terrible boyfriend,” Hajime says, wiping at his eyes.
“You’re supposed to be comforting me after my traumatic breakup, you know, you’re an awful best friend.” Tooru crosses his arms and sticks out his lower lip.
The rush of affection that sweeps through Hajime’s body at that expression is routine after all these years, and he pays it no mind, sliding a hand into Tooru’s silky smooth hair and mussing it up playfully.
“Well then, I’m a perfect fit for a shitty guy like you, huh?”
He regrets it the moment it leaves his mouth, wants a sinkhole to open up underneath him, for a car to run him over, for Bowser to come running and punch him into the sun but none of that happens and now he’s just stuck here with a hand in Tooru’s hair and those stupid, stupid words hanging in the air.
“So mean, Iwa-chaaaan,” is the predictable reply, and Hajime briefly closes his eyes in relief, lets his hand fall back to his side. Classic Tooru.
“I’m mean? Who was it that gave such an emphatic yes when asked by their girlfriend if volleyball meant more to them than said girlfriend?” Hajime says over his shoulder, walking back inside the gym.
“Well, I mean, it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?” Tooru grumbles, following after him with his hands shoved in his practice shorts. “We didn’t get to where we are by slacking off. Of course volleyball is important. Especially to team captain. I don’t know what she was expecting.”
Hajime snatches a stray volleyball out of the air, sends it back to Kindaichi. “For you to be as perfect as your crappy, fake-ass public persona suggests?”
Across the court, Hanamaki waves them over vigorously.
“What are you trying to say, Iwa-chan, I am perfect.” Tooru actually flips his hair, the bastard. Hajime slaps the back of Tooru’s head without missing a beat.
“You are a violent little man, Iwa-chan, I hope you know.”
“Do not call me a little man.”
“Oh, but violent is okay?”
“It’s an unfortunate side-effect of being around you too long. I heard it’s incurable.”
“You’re not funny, gorilla-man. Gorilla-chan.”
“I will kick your ass.”
“Could you guys stop being gross for one minute and come practice combos with your two best friends?” Hanamaki says with an unnecessary amount of suffering.
Abruptly, Tooru turns to him and says, “Hey, let me teach you my jump serve.”
Hanamaki actually does a double-take at that and Matsukawa shares a bewildered look with Hajime.
“I—okay?” Hanamaki says, and Hajime might or might not take pleasure in the rare occurrence of a stunned and confused Hanamaki. Serves him right for all those damn pranks. “Just, uh, what brought this on?”
Tooru gestures for Hanamaki to follow him, picking up a ball from a cart as he walks to the back line of the court. “Nothing much.”
Nothing much, my ass, Hajime thinks.
“But I heard Karasuno was invited to a summer training camp with some Tokyo schools.”
Fucking knew it.
“Why am I not surprised you know about that, as creepy as it sounds,” Matsukawa chuckles. He throws a ball up, receives it and sends it Hajime’s way. Hajime bounces it back, and they continue the basic passes on the side while Tooru demonstrates his jump serve to Hanamaki.
“My fanclub is wide and far-reaching, Mattsun, there isn’t anything they don’t know and aren’t willing to share with their lovely Oikawa-san.” Cue peace sign.
“Gross,” all three of them say at the exact same time, not a single stutter in their actions.
Tooru looks stunned for all of one second before he puts his hand on his hips and splutters, “Do you guys practice that or something?!”
“Well Oikawa-san, you give us so many opportunities, how could we not be synchronized by now.” Hanamaki flutters his lashes.
“Makki, do you want to my help or not, you slut,” Tooru hisses, finger pointed right between Hanamaki’s eyes.
“Mmmnope, that’d be you Oikawa,” Hajime says. “You’re the token slut.”
On the other court, Yahaba fumbles with his set and coughs violently, and the combined laughter of Watari, Matsukawa, and Hanamaki drown out Tooru’s anguished wails.
And then university comes and with it, Tooru’s fifth relationship.
…This time is the worst.