Of course their relationship wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows after they got together. The fact remained that they still went to separate universities. Oikawa was on his university’s volleyball team, working as hard as ever. That usually meant early practices and training that ran late. His free time was limited.
Iwaizumi, on the other hand, was also busy. It was during his second year that he made a call. It became clear that, while he loved playing, he didn’t have what it took to keep up... Maybe it was self doubt or something more. He wasn't sure. It wasn't an easily made decision. He loved volleyball. But maybe it was the pessismistic side of him, or the realist, that rationalized that his volleyball career was over. He was good. It was never about being good. Good enough, maybe. (He understood Oikawa better in these moments of self doubt and self reflection.)
As much as he hated to admit it, Iwaizumi had been concerned about telling Oikawa. After all, their main way of bonding was through volleyball. When (not if) Oikawa’s career took off… would he still want Iwaizumi beside him in his life if he wasn’t with him on the court? Would he be upset? Could he forgive him for giving up their shared dreams?
They had video called about it. Iwaizumi didn’t feel comfortable dropping such important news without seeing Oikawa’s face. His boyfriend was a good actor but Iwaizumi knew how to read through his facades. If he was genuinely upset, Iwaizumi wanted to know.
At first, Oikawa was annoyed. He claimed he was giving up too easily, that he was just discouraged because he didn’t have “the marvelous and wonderful Oikawa” to set to him. Iwaizumi knew what he really meant: Oikawa didn’t want him to quit and he partially blamed himself for not choosing the same university. After all, when they were together, they were unstoppable.
There was a part of him, his pride mostly, that entertained the idea of switching universities. Iwaizumi could always transfer to Oikawa’s university and they could play together again… But he knew he wouldn’t. Couldn’t. There was a difference between giving up and knowing his own limits. There was nothing shameful in admitting his.
Oikawa told Iwaizumi to think about it a little longer, despite Iwaizumi having put plenty thought into it already. Iwaizumi said he would. He understood that this was a loss for the both of them. They had to grieve a little bit, even if it sounded childish and silly, for their dreams of being pros together…
Oikawa didn’t talk to him for a couple days after that. It was poor timing honestly. Practices were running longer and Iwaizumi had thrown himself into his work to distract himself. Exams were also around the corner so it made sense they were both busy. It was coincidence but it didn’t help Iwaizumi’s anxiety that Oikawa was suddenly less interested in him because of his decision.
Iwaizumi busied himself with his studies. While professional volleyball was out of the picture, he still loved the sport. He wanted to be involved somehow… He still wanted to support Oikawa, even if he wasn’t on the court with him. Sports medicine seemed like a good idea. He wasn’t as stupid as some people thought he was. His grades were good and he had the drive, the motivation. It’d be a lot of hard work, a lot of school, but he was sure he could do it. He’d tell Oikawa once their lives got a little less busy.
They could still be partners.
Life decided to remind Iwaizumi that things didn’t always happen in the timeline he wanted. He got a phone call after his last exam from his mom. She had been waiting until after exams to talk to him, not wanting to stress him out. Immediately, he was on edge.
It was a long conversation but… ultimately, finances were tough at home. Things had always been a little tight, even as he grew up, but he didn’t think it was that bad. Childish ignorance and parental shielding, it seemed. His mom felt horrible to even bring it up but Iwaizumi understood. He’d be taking a few semesters off to work, until they were in better financial shape. It was disheartening but… his family was important to him. He had to be there for them.
As he traveled back home, he called Oikawa to let him know. It wasn’t something he could easily hide or lie about…. But it also affected them. After all, when he started working, it’d be more difficult to spend time together. Their times off and holidays might not line up… It’d be a strain on their new found relationship. He said so, and gave Oikawa permission to back out if it’d be too much for him. (As much as it hurt him to say, he still just wanted Oikawa to be happy.)
This, of course, sparked a lecture from Oikawa.
“Iwa-chan! You can’t get rid of me that easily!” He whined. “You can still get time off work. And I can come and visit during my breaks. And I can stay at home during the summer so we can be together on your days off. And we can still call and text when we’re free. It won’t be too different from what we have now. Iwa-chan worries too much.” There was a pause, a slight shift of demeanor. All jest left Oikawa’s voice. “Hajime. We can make it work. It’ll be hard at first but we’ll be okay. It’s good that you’re helping your family. It’s admirable. You do what you need to, okay? I’ll be here. You’d be there for me if our roles were reversed, right?”
Iwaizumi cleared his throat, thick with emotion. “Of course.”
He could practically hear Oikawa nod. “Then there’s nothing to worry about. I love you.”
“I love you too.” Iwaizumi choked out, relief rushing through him.
And that was that.
The following semester was a bittersweet time for Iwaizumi. He’d gotten a job in a pharmacy because it paid well and it was the closest he could get to the medical field while not being in school. It kept him busy and he was actually learning a lot. If he focused just on work, his life was pretty good.
He was reminded of high school, oddly enough. He remembered applying to schools and comparing his applications to Oikawa’s. Iwaizumi wasn’t stupid by any means and he prided himself in being fairly logical. He knew that he and Oikawa had very different criteria when it came to universities. That didn’t stop him from feeling a little envious of Oikawa… That sense of envy that also brought on a sharp sense of loneliness, of feeling left behind.
He knew it wasn’t true. He knew that Oikawa was staying by his side, supporting him, believing in him. It sometimes left a bitter taste in his mouth though. Especially on nights where Oikawa and he didn’t get to talk much. Sometimes it was because Oikawa had to sleep early because he had an exam in the morning or because he was out partying, or Iwaizumi had the morning shift the next day.
It left him feeling off. He was young, even among his coworkers. Most of them were either done with school or working while taking classes. He felt like he was stuck in an in-between. Not quite an adult making a career, not quite a student finding his way. He felt weird… and stupid for feeling weird about it.
Iwaizumi also had trouble talking about it. It wasn’t something he felt all the time, so it wasn’t like it weighed down on him constantly. He liked working and he liked his work. He liked being useful and he was more than happy helping his family, especially when they needed him. So it wasn’t like he’d change his mind if he could. But it didn’t mean that he didn’t feel sad sometimes about it. He had no idea how to talk about it. He didn’t know anyone who could relate to what he was going through, and the people he felt comfortable enough to tell would probably just tell him what Iwaizumi’s told himself: he’s doing the right thing, he’ll go back to school soon, there is no ‘right way’ of how to do life.
He was able to keep himself together for the most part. Oikawa helped. They still called and texted whenever they could, so it didn’t feel different than when they both had classes… Until once, Iwaizumi had to cancel their Skype date.
It should’ve been simple: he was scheduled until 5pm. By the time he was home and ready, he was planning to skype with Oikawa by 6. They’d planned to order dinner together and watch a movie. It was simple, sure, but it was important to them. But work was busy and one of his coworkers had called in sick. His boss had turned to him, asking him to stay a little longer… It’d be extra pay and the money was good… He had agreed, sending Oikawa a text to let him know he’d be late and that he’d keep him posted.
He stayed a couple hours longer, but that meant that traffic was worse by the time he got out. Then there was an accident which delayed things even longer. Iwaizumi texted Oikawa, letting him know what was going on… But it was getting later and later, their time together fleeting. By the time he finally got home, it was well past 9. It was too late for a movie, given their schedules for the next day. Oikawa had already ordered himself dinner, at Iwaizumi’s insistence. His mood had soured completely; their movie date had been the highlight of his week and it’d be a while before they’d both have time to do it again. He felt bad that he kept Oikawa waiting too…
His phone beeped, alerting him of another text from Oikawa.
Shittykawa <3: Can I call?
Iwaizumi sat down on his bed and took the liberty of calling Oikawa first. He picked up on the second ring.
“Iwa-chan!” Oikawa greeted, bright and cheery. He could tell it was a little forced.
“Hey babe.” Iwaizumi sighed. “I’m so sorry. Work just got so busy. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
“You’ll have to buy me a lot of milk bread then! You made the great Oikawa-san wait.”
He was joking. Iwaizumi knew he was just joking but his gut twisted in shame and guilt all the same.
“I know, babe. I will. I’m sorry. I won’t pick up extra hours anymore. I know we were both looking forward to this. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again, I promise. I-”
“Iwa-chan, hey, hey.” Oikawa cut in before Iwaizumi could continue. “I was teasing, love… What’s got you worked up?”
Iwaizumi hesitated. “I… I miss you. I miss spending time with you and it feels like work… it keeps getting in the way. And I know that cancelling plans is disappointing and I don’t want to hurt you, ever, and I just.” He picked idly at some loose threads on his comforter. “I’m also just upset. I really wanted to spend time with you tonight. It’s been tough at work and this was what was getting me through my week and I ruined it.”
He heard Oikawa sigh. “Hajime.” First name basis. Serious business. “Yeah, I was a little sad that you had to cancel. I won’t lie about that. I miss you too. But I get it, you know. Things happen. Things outside of our control happen. I know you didn’t want to miss our date. I know that you picked up the extra shift because you need the money. You still texted me to let me know what was going on. You didn’t ruin anything. We can reschedule. We can always have other dates.”
Iwaizumi laid down on his bed, soaking in Oikawa’s words. He never wanted him here, in his arms, more than right now. “I love you Tooru.” He hoped those words would encompass everything he wanted to say: Thank you, I’m sorry, you’re wonderful, you’re good to me, you’re good FOR me, what did I do to deserve your patience and understanding?
And because he was Oikawa, he understood. “I love you too. So stop worrying so much, okay? Sure, if you make this a habit, I’m going to be pissed. But you’re okay. We’re okay. This is what life is like.” He paused, suddenly flustered. “And… I want a real life with you. Not just when it’s pretty or convenient. This is what real life is like so. It’s good.”
Iwaizumi could imagine the look on Oikawa’s face: Eyes downcast, cheeks a fair pink, a small pout on his lips. He was adorable when he was embarrassed. He couldn’t help but laugh and feel some of the tension leave his shoulders. “It is good… Thank you. I love you so much Tooru.”
The smile in Oikawa’s voice was obvious and bright. “I love you too.”