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the universe called and said we're soulmates

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The first dream comes a month after they officially start dating.

In the dream, Rintarou is standing in the living room of an apartment he doesn’t recognise. It’s pretty high up and must have cost quite a bit if the view out the floor-to-ceiling glass windows is anything to go by. Actually, now that Rintarou looks out of the windows a bit more closely, he can see the unmistakable structure of the Tokyo Skytree. Forget the earlier statement; this apartment must have cost a fortune.

But that’s neither here nor there because Rintarou isn’t alone in this apartment. A pair of hands wrap around his waist from behind, and Rintarou knows who it is before he even turns around.

Osamu looks older. He’s definitely not the Osamu that Rintarou has barely just started dating. This Osamu has a few wrinkles where his Osamu doesn’t, and he’s also stopped dyeing his hair grey. He’s more filled out and built too, with more defined muscles, especially on his upper body.

Osamu grows up pretty well, Rintarou thinks dazedly.

“Finished unpackin’?” Osamu asks. He’s looking at Rintarou so tenderly, like he’s got everything he's ever wanted in his arms, and Rintarou kind of wants to run off and hide somewhere. He doesn’t think he can bear it—being faced with such adoration.

Instead, he finds himself humming noncommittally before replying, “Almost. Just a few more boxes to go.”

“Mm.” Osamu leans in for a kiss, a soft meld of their lips against each other’s. “How ‘bout ya take a lil’ break and just”—another kiss, shorter this time—“dance with me?”

An indescribable feeling balloons up in his chest. Rintarou thinks he might choke on it. “Dance?” His dream self is smiling so wide his face might split open. “There’s no music, though?”

“Who needs music when ya got me, yer personal radio?” Osamu replies cheekily. One hand remains on Rintarou’s waist as the other slowly trails its way up his torso, until it comes to a stop on his shoulder.

Osamu starts humming a song. It’s not a song that Rintarou knows, but his dream self must know it because nostalgia blooms in his chest as he laughs quietly, delightedly, and moves his hands to mirror Osamu’s.

And they slow dance like that for what seems like an eternity. Hips swaying slightly as Osamu leads them all over the living room space in some unnamed pattern, bodies slowly coming closer and closer, until they’re entirely pressed against each other. 

Rintarou is the one facing the windows and he watches the ephemeral golden rays of the sunset fall onto Osamu’s features, basking them in an ethereal glow that makes Rintarou feel like he’s flying.

This time, Rintarou is the one who initiates the kiss, closing the gap effortlessly, like he’s done this a million times over. Osamu kisses him back deeply, devotedly, like Rintarou is the only being he ever wishes to worship. When they finally separate, Osamu presses their foreheads together and continues humming where he’d left off, and Rintarou closes his eyes. 

They stay like that for a while, breathing in each other, content to simply exist in the other's orbit while their bodies sway to the invisible beat of a song Rintarou doesn’t know but trusts Osamu to lead him along anyway.

There are three words that neither of them say, but which Rintarou knows have already made a home for themselves in their bone marrow.

When Rintarou wakes up, there’s longing on his tongue like he’s never tasted before, and it’s the tang of a sunlit ray bursting to completion in his mouth. 



*



Rintarou doesn’t tell Osamu about the dream. It would have been pretty weird and also, how does one even begin a conversation like that? Hey, I had this dream of us the other day where we’re all grown up and also we kinda have an apartment in Tokyo together and we were slow dancing in the apartment and—

Yeah, that’s not going to happen. It’s been a month since they’d started dating; Rintarou is not going to say something borderline creepy and scare off Osamu.

So he keeps the memory of the dream in a little box locked away in his ribcage, where he’ll never lose it.



*



The next dream is a little weirder. Actually, scratch that—it’s much, much weirder.

It starts out with Rintarou being smack dab in the middle of a fight. His opponent? None other than Osamu, who’s looking at him so intensely that Rintarou thinks it’s a good thing he doesn’t have laser vision for a superpower.

Hold on a sec—

But Rintarou doesn’t get to finish his thought before Osamu leaps at him, swinging his fist out in a punch. Rintarou is lucky this is just a dream because he has no idea whatsoever on how to fight. 

His dream self barely manages to duck and avoid the punch, but Osamu seems to have anticipated this because he brings his leg up to kick Rintarou in the chest. The blow connects, knocking Rintarou back onto the floor a distance away.

That hurt like a motherfucking bitch—

It doesn’t end there, apparently, because Osamu starts advancing on him as Rintarou scrambles to his feet. 

“C’mon, Rin, ya gotta actually try if ya wanna beat me, y'know?” Osamu chuckles, an annoying smirk on his face.

"I am trying," Rintarou hisses. "In case you forgot, I'm a healer, 'Samu!"

"All the more reason ya should know how to fight," Osamu says amusedly. "What if ya get kidnapped one day just 'cause ya didn't know how ta fight back? I'm just preparin' ya in case."

Osamu's words have truth to them, but Rintarou thinks he's just being an asshole because who teaches someone how to fight by beating them up?

Rintarou doesn't even want to think about the rest of the one-sided fight that ensues. It's embarrassing and it ends with Osamu pinning him to the ground, looming over him with a wicked grin on his face, like he doesn’t have an elbow pressed against Rintarou's throat.

"I win," Osamu informs him helpfully. You know, just in case he had missed the memo.

“Get off me, you big oaf,” Rintarou mutters, though his words don’t have any actual bite to them. He’s mostly just nursing the big blow to his pride that comes with being pinned to the ground after being utterly beaten in a fight.

Osamu relents and pushes himself up and off Rintarou, then offers Rintarou a hand. Rintarou rolls his eyes but accepts it, letting Osamu haul him to his feet.

“Sooo,” Osamu begins, in that tone of his that he uses when he’s about to extort a disproportionate amount of money from Rintarou to buy food with, “since I won, ya gotta treat me to lunch today.”

“‘Samu, you literally make more than me,” he deadpans, dusting himself off. “‘Sides, it should be winners treating losers since you beat me up.”

“Huh? No way!” Osamu shakes his head. “‘S always been losers treatin’ winners. Y'know, ‘cause ya lost? So ya gotta do the winner’s biddin’ and all that.”

They start walking to the cafeteria. Rintarou is still sore in a few places but it’s nothing he can’t handle. Looks like his dream self is used to getting thoroughly beaten in spars.

“Well, like I said, it wasn’t even a fair fight,” Rintarou complains. “You’re a field agent and I’m a healer. You’re obviously going to be the one coming out on top if we have a physical fight!”

Osamu shrugs like he doesn’t give two damns about the injustice of the situation. “Ya agreed to it,” he reminds Rintarou. “Shoulda said no if ya thought it was so unfair but ya didn’t, so.”

Rintarou sighs. “Fine, you goddamn leech,” he mutters, thinking about his poor bank account balance. “But I’m limiting it to one meal and one dessert.”

Osamu positively beams at that. It’s so bright that Rintarou has to avert his eyes lest he go blind. Atsumu would have a field day if he were here to read Rintarou’s thoughts.

“Yer the best, Rin.” Osamu has a dreamy look on his face now and Rintarou doesn’t need to be able to read minds to know that he’s thinking about what to eat.

Rintarou shakes his head, muttering to himself under his breath, “I’m also completely whipped, apparently.”

This dream, Rintarou wakes up from with his heartbeat drumming so loud in his ears he can’t hear anything else. He presses a hand to his chest, as if that might help his heart slow down, but all it does is go thumpthumpthumpthumpthump even faster. His lips are dry so he licks them, almost subconsciously.

This time, longing tastes like warm butterscotch caramel melting on his tongue, soft, sticky, syrupy honey dripping down his throat.

 

*

 

Rintarou ends up creating a post on a discussion forum under an anonymous account.

I keep dreaming about me and my boyfriend in different settings. What does this mean?

He elaborates a little about it when asked, making sure to not include any detail that might give away his identity. Most of the replies just say that he's got a wild imagination and that it's normal to dream about your significant other.

Rintarou knows those replies make sense, but they don't seem right to him. The two dreams he has had so far were both so vivid—it had been like Rintarou had somehow cut through time and space into some alternate universe version of himself.

And well— yeah, maybe that is what's happening. He's dreaming about him and Osamu in different universes. It's a terribly cringy thought and makes Rintarou think of cheesy romance concepts like the red string of fate and soulmates, but—

Oddly enough, he finds that he doesn't completely hate the idea.

 

*

 

There are several more universes Rintarou enters in his dreams. They're mostly anticlimactic ones taking place in a world that's different from his own, but not so much that he can't recognise the two of them at all. 

There's one where Rintarou coincidentally runs into Osamu at a cafe when they're both skipping the same university class. They end up exchanging numbers and Rintarou wakes with the familiar thrill of exhilaration running through his veins.

There's one where Rintarou works at the new bubble tea shop that just opened on campus and Osamu swings by without fail during Rintarou's shift every day. Osamu is the one who makes the first move in the end and asks Rintarou out on a date after his shift. This one leaves Rintarou giddy with excitement and heart palpitations.

There's even one where Rintarou attends a Tokyo high school and winds up meeting Osamu for the first time at Nationals. The next time they meet after that is years later, when Rintarou, now a professional volleyball player apparently, decides to check out the onigiri stand set up inside the stadium and is met with a familiar face. That one makes Rintarou feel like he's freefalling into love all over again.

Honestly? Rintarou isn't even that bothered by the dreams anymore. At this point, he's accepted them for what they are. If he's going to dream about him and Osamu in different lives, he might as well make the best of the situation and just enjoy the ride.

 

*

 

There are good dreams, and then there are bad dreams. Just like everything else in life, there's a delicate balance between the two. You can't have just the good without the bad; that's not how things work.

So it’s inevitable, really, that Rintarou eventually dreams of a universe where they break up.

It just so happens that the dream occurs on a night where he and Osamu are sharing the same bed, close enough to touch but not cuddling. Rintarou had spent the 20 minutes before he drifted off to sleep wondering if he should be the one to snuggle closer or if he should play the waiting game and wait for Osamu to initiate it. 

In the end, he falls asleep before either can happen.

One second he’s lying in bed and the next, he’s sitting in a coffee shop, the laptop in front of him opened to some project he’s working on. Rintarou blinks, then looks down at his phone, which is open to a text conversation with Osamu.

The most recent message is one he sent. It reads samu, where r u? and was sent over an hour ago. The little text underneath the text bubble informs Rintarou that Osamu hasn’t even looked at it yet.

Rintarou sighs. Resignation and disappointment greet him like old friends as he shuts his laptop and starts packing up his things. The coffee cup next to him is half full still, but Rintarou knows it has long since gone cold.

Just like his and Osamu’s relationship.

After Rintarou has finished packing up, he takes the subway back to his apartment. On the way back, he stares off into space listlessly, wondering just when it had become the norm for Osamu to disappoint him.

His phone vibrates. Rintarou unlocks it and sees a new message from Osamu.

sorry rin. i forgot.

Rintarou laughs bitterly. Well, at least Osamu is honest. He shakes his head and types out i can’t keep doing this anymore samu. let’s just break up.

He’s the one who initiates it, but when Osamu texts back if that’s what you want, he feels a pain in his chest so intense he wonders if he’s going into cardiac arrest.

It's this pain that forces Rintarou out of the dream and back into his world.

Rintarou wakes up crying in Osamu’s arms, the bitter taste of heartbreak fresh on his tongue. He’s not a pretty crier—a realisation that has him wanting to bite down and swallow the sobs escaping. He fails, though, because Osamu tightens his hold around him and starts rubbing Rintarou’s back, trying to soothe him.

“Shh, Rin, it’ll be okay. I’m here.”

Osamu is trying to calm him down, but this just makes Rintarou cry even harder. It’s just a stupid dream—it’s not even real. He and Osamu are perfectly happy and Osamu has never shown up late to a date and always replies to texts the moment he sees them. So why is this affecting him so much?

“It’s just a bad dream, Rin,” Osamu says. “It’s not real.”

I know, Rintarou wants to say, but another sob escapes him instead. 

He’s aware that he’s probably cried a wet patch into Osamu’s shirt and that it can’t be a very pleasant feeling at all. Yet, Osamu doesn’t seem to mind; rather, he cradles Rintarou’s head against his chest gently, patting him while his other hand rubs circles into Rintarou’s back. 

“It’ll be okay. I’m not going anywhere, so you just cry ya heart out if ya need to, okay?” Rintarou snorts a little at that, but his lower lip is still trembling. “I dunno what’s makin' ya cry so much but… if ya feel up to tellin’ me later, I promise I’ll beat it up for ya, Rin.”

The image of Osamu beating up another Osamu makes Rintarou giggle for real. He sniffles a little, then asks, his voice wavering, “What if it was you?”

“No exceptions,” Osamu replies without hesitation. “‘Sides, he deserves it if he hurt ya.”

Rintarou feels a bit better now. Crying truly is a cathartic process. He wipes at the tear tracks on his cheeks. “We broke up,” he says after a while.

“In yer dream?” Osamu asks. He hasn’t stopped rubbing Rintarou’s back despite his sobs subsiding.

Rintarou nods. “You—” His breath hitches in his throat, but he pushes on. “You fell out of love with me.”

Osamu is silent for a few moments. “Well,” he begins after a minute or so. “I think dream Rin’s been datin’ some sorta impostor then.”

He pulls back from hugging Rintarou to look him in the eyes. “Ya feel this?” He takes Rintarou’s hand and places it on his chest, over his heart. “For as long as it keeps beatin', that’s how long I’ll love ya for."

It's so cheesy. If this were daytime, Rintarou would have poked fun at him for saying it.

But it's some ungodly hour of the night and Rintarou has just woken up from a horrible dream crying his eyes out into Osamu's chest. He needs the cheesy declarations of love.

"Promise?" Rintarou asks despite himself.

Osamu nods, completely serious. "I promise, Rin."

Rintarou isn't someone who puts particular importance or weight on promises. Some promises he keeps and some he breaks—that's just how the world works. It's not very realistic to expect that every promise ever made can be kept.

Even so, he finds himself thinking, Please let this be one of the promises he never breaks.

 

*

 

The next morning, Rintarou wakes up with puffy eyes. It's a good thing they don't have any school or volleyball practice today because he looks like absolute shit.

He spends a good 5 minutes in the bathroom trying to get the swelling to go down and is contemplating doing a quick search on the internet for ways to do so when Osamu steps into the bathroom yawning, half asleep still.

“Mornin’, Rin,” Osamu greets, lazily hugging him from behind and resting his chin on Rintarou's shoulder. "Ya wanna talk about last night?"

Rintarou makes a face at the suggestion. It's a valid one though and probably the best course of action, so he sucks it up and says, "We probably should. But not right now, 'kay?"

Osamu nods. "'Kay. Just lemme know when yer ready."

They don't talk about it while both of them go through their morning routines. Still, the silence isn't awkward at all, if only because it's a bit hard to talk when you've got a mouth full of toothpaste.

After freshening up comes breakfast, also known as Osamu's first meal of the day. 

"How d'ya feel about tamagoyaki?" Osamu asks from where he's looking through the fridge. 

"'M not really a morning eater." Rintarou yawns halfway through reading the note his mom had left him. She's gone off to the market and won't be back for lunch, apparently. 

"I'm gonna save the lecture about how important breakfast is for after breakfast," Osamu replies. "Also ya have nothin' else to eat so tamagoyaki is yer only option."

Rintarou shrugs. "Works fine for me." Then he adds on, as an afterthought, “There’s leftover rice heated up in the rice cooker, I think.”

Silence falls again, interrupted only by Osamu cracking the eggs into the pan and the sizzling sounds that ensue. Rintarou watches Osamu's back move, wondering how he's going to talk about—or even bring up—last night.

In the end, Rintarou decides fuck it and says, in what he hopes is an appropriately light and casual tone, “So… about last night…”

“Oh, ya wanna talk about it right now? While I’m makin’ breakfast?” Osamu turns around to level Rintarou with a flat stare. “I’m all in support of talkin’, really, but just lemme finish this so I can give ya my full attention.”

Plan failed, Rintarou mourns. He’d been planning to get it all out while Osamu was occupied with cooking so he was only paying half the attention he would otherwise. That way, he’d feel much less embarrassed about the whole situation.

I mean, who even gets so worked up over some stupid dream, Rintarou sulks.

The tamagoyaki doesn't take much longer to finish cooking and once it's done, Osamu places it right in front of Rintarou. Osamu must truly be descended from a cooking god or deity because Rintarou, notorious for never eating before noon, actually feels himself salivating at the simple tamagoyaki Osamu had prepared.

Osamu shuffles over to seat himself right next to Rintarou once he has piled up two bowls of rice and grabbed them each a pair of chopsticks. He hands them off to Rintarou, who accepts them and says, “Looks good, ‘Samu.”

They clap their hands together and pray and mutter itadakimasu, not too soft nor too loud. It’s not a fancy or big meal by any means, but as Rintarou lifts a piece of tamagoyaki to his mouth and watches Osamu dig in as well, an awfully soft thought crosses his mind. 

Rintarou thinks that if it’s Osamu, there’s nothing in this world he won’t do with him.

“So, last night,” Rintarou brings up casually again, after he’s eaten as much as his stomach can take. “I had a bad dream.”

Osamu, who’s in the process of wiping his mouth with a tissue, hums in response. “A bad dream where we broke up because apparently, ‘I’ fell out of love with ya.” He draws quotation marks in the air as he talks about the dream Osamu. 

“Well…” Rintarou hesitates, wondering where exactly he should even begin. “I guess, if you wanna understand why I had such a… big reaction to it, you should probably know that I’ve been having these kinds of dreams for a while now.”

Osamu blinks. “Like, dreams of us breakin’ up?”

Rintarou sighs. This is harder than he had thought it would be. “No, I meant like, these weirdly realistic dreams of the two of us in different… universes? Like, there was one where I attended a Tokyo school instead of Inarizaki and we met at Nationals instead.”

Osamu makes a small sound of surprise. “Wait a sec.” There’s a gleam of sorts in his eyes. “That dream ya said? Does it end with you becomin’ a pro volleyball player and meetin’ me again at the onigiri stand I set up inside the stadium?”

Rintarou’s jaw drops. “What the— How did you know? Don’t tell me…” His eyes meet Osamu’s, which mirror his simultaneous delight and surprise. “You’ve been having them too?”

Osamu nods earnestly. “Yeah, ever since, like, I dunno. Maybe a month or somethin’ since we first started dating?”

Rintarou laughs. It’s not his usual mocking laugh he does when Atsumu inevitably does something to embarrass himself—no, it’s bright and crystalline and genuine, the kind of laugh that becomes all you can think of. 

He smiles at Osamu. “And here I was, thinking I was the weird one for having seriously realistic dreams about my boyfriend. Turns out, you’re as much a weirdo as me, hm? ‘Samu?”

“Hmm, I dunno.” There’s a teasing look in Osamu’s eyes that softens as he continues, ”I wouldn’t mind it though. Not if it was with you. We can be two weirdos together.”

Rintarou looks at Osamu, who’s got the morning gaze of the sun falling feather-light upon him. It basks Osamu in this glow that reminds Rintarou of the very first dream he’d had of them—of an apartment so filled to the brim with melting sunlight he could taste it.

But it’s different, somehow. Rintarou thinks it probably has something to do with the fact that this moment isn’t one that he’ll have to give up soon enough—because he doesn’t have to.

It’s his. This moment belongs to him and Osamu, to this life, this world, this universe.

And Rintarou won’t trade it for anything.