Hanamaki is staring at him.
Hajime tries to focus on his lunch instead of his friend’s eyes boring into his skull from across the table, but it’s difficult when the atmosphere is like this. Hajime has only experienced this kind of tense, uncertain air with Hanamaki a few times over the almost-two years that they’ve known each other, just enough to count with only one hand, yet even that limited experience is enough for Hajime to know that Hanamaki is about to tell him something either really important, or really ridiculous.
He’s just trying to decide whether he should go ahead and ask or wait for his friend to speak first when Hanamaki finally, very loudly, takes in a breath.
Hajime stops frowning down at his lunch tray and looks at Hanamaki’s oddly serious face.
“So. Remember that favor you owe me?”
Hajime lifts an eyebrow, but nods. This is important, then.
The previous semester, Hanamaki saved his ass – and his grades – from utter failure when Hajime fell bedridden for a week due to an annoyingly high fever in the midst of finals month. Hanamaki had meticulously copied lessons for him in the classes they shared, which is saying a lot considering Hanamaki hates writing while in the middle of a lecture, and he even went through the trouble of contacting some of the people he knew from Hajime’s other classes to photocopy notes and sweet-talked some of the stricter professors into letting Hajime make up for the quizzes he missed.
It was stupid, because Hajime gets sick maybe once every five years. But when he does it’s always as though someone has poured cement over all of his limbs, baked him underneath the sun, then put his brain in a blender. For days. Hanamaki might also have needed to stay clear of their room for a while.
Overall, it was just really inconvenient for everyone involved, which is why Hajime is still grateful for all of Hanamaki’s efforts until now. Once he was finally able to drag himself out of bed, he thanked his friend with a thump on the back and a week’s worth of dinner with dessert, along with a promise to help him out whenever he needs anything in the future.
Hanamaki had told him that it was fine, but Hajime insisted on letting him know in case Hanamaki ever needed anything – and by anything, Hajime means just about anything sans murder.
So for Hanamaki to bring that up now, when he had been so adamant on not needing to be repaid, means that something pretty serious is going on.
“I know I said you didn’t have to pay me back and that the food was more than enough, but.” Hanamaki rubs the back of his neck, mouth twisting as though he’s not sure about how to g about whatever he has to say next. “I really need your help.”
Hajime is slightly concerned now.
Hanamaki must have seen it in his face because he amends, “Okay, it’s not – I’m not actually the one who needs your help.”
Hajime’s concern morphs into confusion. “I’m… not following?”
Hanamaki glances around them for a moment, before clasping both of his hands on top of the table and arranging his expression into something akin to determination. “Do you know Oikawa Tooru?”
Hajime blinks, even more confused. None of this conversation is making any sense so far. Weren’t they just talking about Hajime returning the huge favor Hanamaki did for him a few months ago? What does Oikawa Tooru have to do with any of this?
Nevertheless, Hajime finds himself nodding, because of course he knows Oikawa Tooru. He has only properly met the guy a grand total of three times, and each one had been a variation of not-quite-pleasant-but-not-quite-unpleasant-either. It’s just that, on top of his rather overwhelming personality, the guy has a knack for giving people weird nicknames. The last time they’ve talked – which was two months ago at the start of term, when their dorm organized a welcoming party for the freshmen who would be boarding and Hajime was forced to attend because you’re going to be their upperclassman, Iwaizumi, this is step one to responsibility – Oikawa kept saying, “Iwaizumi-san is too long to say, isn’t it?”
Fortunately, a group of girls from their sister dorm building stole Oikawa’s attention before he could come up with a god-awful nickname, and Hajime had managed to make his escape.
“Right, I knew you’ve met, just.” Hanamaki unclasps his hands and starts waving them around. “Just making sure.”
“Hanamaki,” Hajime starts, eyes narrowing, “just get to the point.”
Hanamaki stops flapping his hands uselessly, lets out a breath, and then stares at Hajime. Intensely. “I can’t tell you the details exactly, but Issei owes him a favor.”
Hajime makes a frustrated noise. “I thought we were talking about how I owe you a favor, not Matsukawa and his roommate.”
“Let me finish.” Hanamaki holds up a finger. He looks vaguely like a stern high school teacher assistant telling students off for running in the hallways. “Oikawa needs someone to do something for him. Someone he can trust. Obviously, the best candidate would be Issei since, aside from being roommates, they’re actually close friends. But for reasons I can’t tell you yet, that would displease me very much.”
Hajime doesn’t like where this is going.
“I would volunteer myself, since against my better judgment Oikawa has also become a friend to me, but then that would displease Issei very much.” And then Hanamaki grins, and Hajime’s first instinct is to get up from his seat and make a run for it. But best friend duties keep him in place, and it’s with a heavy feeling of dread that he listens to Hanamaki finish, “So obviously, the next best candidate for this particular favor – someone who I can vouch for is dependable and trustworthy – is you, Iwaizumi.”
Hajime was wrong. This is ridiculous.
He gapes at Hanamaki for a minute, trying to process this information. Well, there isn’t really much information to process, since Hanamaki has been incredibly vague about the entire thing so far. But it’s enough for Hajime to understand that whatever Hanamaki is setting him up to won’t be a good thing. After all, both he and Matsukawa refused to play the part.
“So, let me see if I understood this correctly,” Hajime says, slow and careful like he’s still waiting for some kind of punchline. “You want me to help Oikawa Tooru, a guy I barely know, because your boyfriend owes him a favor?”
“And you owe me a favor,” Hanamaki adds helpfully.
“That doesn’t even make any sense!”
“Sure it does.” Hanamaki’s smile widens. “Issei and I are practically the same person by now, anyway, so whatever favor you owe me, you also owe him. And by repaying me, you are repaying him, and in turn he is repaying Oikawa. Think of it as, like, the transitive property of equality. A equals B equals C. A equals C.”
“I know what the transitive property of equality is,” Hajime snaps, glaring back down at his lunch. “Also, no.” He stabs a piece of deep-fried chicken rather forcefully, which he knows is a childish thing to do since the food has done him no wrong. Still, it’s better than reaching across the table and whacking his supposed best friend across the head.
“Aw, come on, Iwaizumi. Please?” Hanamaki sounds slightly pleading now. “You know I wouldn’t be asking you if it weren’t super important, but I really want to help Oikawa out. I’d do it myself if I could, but – well. Can you at least hear him out?”
Hajime shoves rice into his mouth to avoid answering.
Hanamaki lets out a sigh and rearranges his features into an expression that he knows Hajime can’t refuse. “Please?”
Okay. So maybe it is both, after all.
Hajime looks up and shoots his friend a glare, who makes a peace sign in return. “Fine. I’m not saying I’ll do whatever it is that needs to be done, but I’ll listen to him.”
“Great!” Hanamaki pumps a fist in the air. “I’ll let him know you agreed to a meeting. Give me your phone, I’ll put his email in so you two can arrange when to meet and stuff.”
“Can’t you just tell him to meet me in the common room?”
“Your phone, Iwaizumi.”
Grumbling, Hajime takes his phone from his pocket and hands it over to a triumphant-looking Hanamaki.
* * *
The coffee shop is a quaint little place tucked in a nondescript corner of the nearest shopping street, mostly hidden by the more modern establishments and shops of bigger buildings lining the busy street. Hajime hadn’t even known of this place’s existence before today, dubiously following the directions Oikawa messaged him until he found himself carefully pushing open a polished wooden door that smells vaguely of the earth after a storm.
Now he’s sitting by a corner table of the quietly-charming shop, fiddling with his phone and waiting for Oikawa to arrive. He jumps slightly when a cup of tea is placed in front of him, and he looks up to find one of the two girls working behind the counter smiling down at him, a tray hugged to her chest. Her name tag reads ‘Alisa’.
“Um,” he begins, blinking up at her then at the cup, “I didn’t order anything?”
“It’s on the house,” she says, smiling prettily. “It’s your first time here, right? Not a lot of people come in, and the ones who do are usually regulars, so I would know.”
Hajime just nods, feeling rather shy and self-conscious. He thanks her for the tea, trying not to glance at his phone to check the time. She flashes him another smile and turns back around, returning to the counter where her blond co-worker is flipping through a magazine.
Hajime is halfway through finishing his tea when the door finally opens and Oikawa steps in, looking rather chipper for someone who is three minutes late. Not that Hajime’s ever seen him in any other state. They’re acquaintances at best, just two college students who happen to be living in the same dormitory with a handful of common friends. They don’t exactly run in the same social circles, especially since Hajime’s state of having a social life to begin with is questionable most of the time, but Hajime has heard and seen enough to get a sense of what Oikawa is like.
“Ah, Tooru!” the blond behind the counter waves, putting her magazine down. “It’s been a while since I last saw you!”
“Saeko-chan, Alisa-chan,” Oikawa greets both girls, smiling in a way that seems familiar. He’s probably a regular here, Hajime realizes. “How have you two been? Will there be a wedding date anytime soon?”
Hajime sips on his tea and busies himself with staring at one of the art pieces decorating the wall, since it’s not in his nature to eavesdrop.
“Iwaizumi-san,” he hears after a while, just as his cup goes empty. He puts it down and looks up.
Oikawa is standing there, holding what Hajime guesses are milkshakes in both hands. He sets one down in front of Hajime before sliding into the seat across from him, smiling in a way that reminds Hajime vaguely of businessmen about to settle into a meeting over… business. Or whatever.
“Thank you so much for coming here,” Oikawa says, twirling the straw of his own milkshake and dipping a finger into the foam. He puts it on the tip of his tongue and makes a small, pleased noise. “Ah, this tastes as good as I remember. You should try it! It’s one of their specialties.”
Hajime stares at the milkshake Oikawa has given him. On one hand, he isn’t too fond of overly sweet things, but on the other hand, Oikawa did go out of his way to buy him this. Or maybe he got it for free?
Hajime just settles on making a mental note to pay Oikawa for however much this costs later. Clearing his throat, he straightens up in his seat and pushes the tall glass aside so he has an unobstructed view of Oikawa. “What do you need?”
“Straight to business, I see,” Oikawa says, tone casual. “No, how are you, Oikawa-san? Or how are your classes going, Oikawa-san? I’m fine, by the way, and my grades are way above average, as usual!”
Hajime refrains from rolling his eyes. “You say that as though we’re friends.”
At this Oikawa pouts. Hajime has no doubt that this is a well-practiced expression on Oikawa’s part. “Rude, Iwaizumi-san.” His nose crinkles, as though he doesn’t like the way Hajime’s name comes out of his mouth. “But I guess you’re right. We’re not friends, which is why you’re perfect for the part!”
Hajime still has no idea what this part is supposed to be. He tried to wheedle the information out of Hanamaki, but his friend only shooed him away and told him to ask Oikawa about it. Hajime doesn’t like suspense, particularly when it directly involves him – especially when he’s the one at the butt of it – and this entire thing is proving to be incredibly shady already.
He just reassures himself with the knowledge that he had only agreed to hear Oikawa out, and not actually participate in whatever scheme he’s planning.
“I still don’t know what I’m doing here, exactly,” he says, trying to take control of the conversation. “And I really don’t understand why we had to meet here when we could’ve just discussed whatever this is in the common room. We live on the same floor.”
“But that’s boring,” Oikawa says, like that’s a perfectly acceptable reason to drag Hajime at an unnamed café on a goddamn weekend.
“I knew you were the dramatic type.”
Oikawa smiles at that. “A little flair makes everything more exciting, don’t you think?”
Hajime doesn’t really agree, but they’re getting off topic. “Just get to the point.”
“Alright, alright.” Oikawa takes a long sip of his milkshake, until only half of it remains in the glass. Hajime is slightly horrified, but refrains from commenting. “So. I asked you to come all the way here because I can’t really risk anyone overhearing what we’re going to talk about. It’s quite a delicate matter and requires the highest level of secrecy, so I’m willing to take whatever measure there is to ensure that none of this gets out and reaches any of my family—”
“Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?” Hajime interrupts, feeling his patience beginning to run thin.
Oikawa looks like he wants to retort, but thinks better of it. Instead he sighs and slumps back against his chair, which is a bit of an odd sight. From what Hajime has seen, Oikawa always seems to hold himself up, all bright smiles and confidence, wherever he goes. For the first time, Hajime wonders whether all of that is actually just false bravado.
He doesn’t get to think too much about it, though, because Oikawa finally seems to have decided on what to say. “My grandmother is having her 70th birthday in two months.”
Hajime blinks. “Okay…”
“I have a big family and a lot of relatives to top it off, and we always go all out during celebrations. There’s a reunion or some other family thing every couple of months, honestly, I’ve lost track of how many birthdays I’ve been to.” Oikawa flicks the straw of his drink, frowning. “The thing is, all the older people usually bring their… significant others. Except for me. Because I’ve never really been serious enough with any of my previous relationships to bring them with me.”
Hajime is having a hard time believing that Oikawa Tooru, of all people, has relationship troubles. He’s also starting to get nervous with where this conversation seems to be heading.
“And like,” Oikawa continues, frown deepening, “I don’t really care about not having anyone to introduce to the family yet. I mean, it’s pretty stupid, isn’t it? I’m only 20 years old! And I can handle all of my cousins poking fun at me and teasing me about how I never put my dashing looks to good use, usually. That’s whatever.”
Hajime suspects that it’s not just whatever, judging by the expression on Oikawa’s face and the subtle bitterness he detects in his tone, but he decides not to interrupt.
“But my grandmother, I love her a lot, yeah? She’s a sweet lady, and I really care about what she has to say or what she’ feeling. The last time I saw her, she seemed rather sad? Or worried, I guess, that I still didn’t have anyone. So, stupidly enough, I promised her that by her next birthday I would bring someone home.”
Externally, Hajime’s face remains passive. But internally, he’s already making a mental list of things to do to Hanamaki once he gets back to their dorm, because he already knows what Oikawa is going to ask and Hajime did not sign up for it.
Oikawa slumps down on the table, words coming out muffled against the polished wood, “But I might have forgotten about that promise, and, well.” He makes a few unintelligible sounds, and Hajime considers bailing out while the other isn’t looking.
Common decency keeps him in place, and he lets out a ragged sigh. “So you’re telling me you don’t have anyone to introduce to your grandmother.” Oikawa peeks up at him, nodding. Hajime still holds out hope that maybe Oikawa needs his help for something else, so he says, “What do you want me to do, then? Be your wingman? Introduce you to people? Because I’m pretty sure you know a lot more than I do.”
“No, that’s not – no.” Oikawa lifts his head and stares determinedly at Hajime. “Forcibly starting a relationship isn’t going to work out, especially since I don’t really have any intention of committing myself to one. At least, not at the moment. But.” He falters for a moment, before straightening resolutely. “That wouldn’t be an issue if it were a fake relationship.”
Hajime stares. When it becomes clear that Oikawa isn’t going to say anything more until Hajime does, he very slowly clasps his hands on top of the table, pointedly maintaining eye contact. “So, you’re asking me to…”
Oikawa steadily meets his gaze, looking like a man on a mission. “I’m asking you to be my fake boyfriend.”
* * *
“Shut up, Hanamaki. I’m not interested in talking to you.”
Hanamaki actually has the audacity to pout at him.
Grumbling underneath his breath, Hajime kicks his shoes off and moodily pulls his arms out of the sleeves of his jacket. He carelessly tosses it onto the back of his desk chair, sending his supposed friend a glare before falling face-first onto his bed. He wonders if he can just stay here forever and become one with the sheets. That sounds like a really good option right now.
Seconds later, he feels a finger digging into his arm. “Come on, man. Talk to me. How did it go?”
Hajime ignores him.
“At least tell me you let Oikawa explain?”
Oh, Oikawa did explain. He explained a lot, particularly as to why he thought Hajime would be a good choice for a fake boyfriend.
Apparently, Oikawa is the type of person who is good at (creepily) observing other people, and he specifically asked Matsukawa to ask Hanamaki to ask Hajime. Because he’s observed Hajime. And Hajime seemed like a very ideal guy – that is, he’s polite, he’s focused on his studies, and he has his priorities in order. Hajime was a little freaked out, if he were to be honest, as he listened to Oikawa list off some of his supposed better qualities. He guessed there was some accuracy to them, at least on a surface level, but Hajime still wasn’t convinced why it had to be him, specifically.
They aren’t friends, like he said. Oikawa, of course, proved to be clever and turned this fact into something that would benefit his argument. They aren’t friends, so there wouldn’t be any unnecessary attachment on either part. Once the whole ordeal is over, they could happily go on their separate ways and not deal with the awkwardness that is likely to come after pretending to be in love with each other. After all, there wouldn’t be any reason for them to continue seeing each other if they weren’t friends to begin with.
Hajime begrudgingly admitted that it made sense. When he asked Oikawa why he didn’t just go and choose someone from his admirers, more as a test of his personality than anything else, Oikawa looked slightly offended. “I wouldn’t go and ask someone who actually has some form of feelings for me, no matter how superficial! That would be like leading them on, which is not an okay thing to do. I’m not actually a bad person, Iwaizumi-san.” Which was a good answer, because at least Hajime knows Oikawa’s personality isn’t entirely terrible.
But then the idiot just had to tack on, “We still need to do something about that, by the way. Iwaizumi-san is just too long to say.”
Hajime promptly left after that without giving a definite answer.
Of course, he knows he’s not going to get out of it that easily. His phone buzzing with text after text right this very moment is proof to that.
Resigning himself to the fact that Oikawa Tooru is a stubborn ass who won’t leave someone alone until he gets what he wants – or at least, Hajime hopes, until someone forcefully puts him in his place – Hajime rolls onto his back and pulls his phone out of his pocket. There are 17 unread texts.
Obviously, all of them are from Oikawa.
Hajime doesn’t even bother looking through all of them and just reads the most recent five.
i know where u live btw, nothings stopping me from barging into ur room
but I’m actually not that rude so
iwa-chan isn’t responding to my texts!!
I just want to make obaa-san happy.
I hate that I have to lie to her, but she’s old and I know how much she wants to see me be happy with someone. So if I have to fake that happiness for her sake, so be it.
please think about it?
And Hajime must be going insane, because he’s actually considering it. The last two messages have obviously shifted in tone, and Hajime remembers how sincere Oikawa had sounded earlier when he first started talking about his grandmother, and how it turned somber when he mentioned his cousins introducing their partners to her. Hajime, being a family kind of guy himself, can understand Oikawa’s urge to make his grandmother happy.
But – it’s crazy. This situation is crazy, and what Oikawa is asking of him is sending off massive red flags in Hajime’s head. That doesn’t stop him from thinking it over, anyway.
“Oh, you’re considering it,” Hanamaki says, probably reading his face. “That’s good.”
Hajime scowls at him. The thing is, if any of Oikawa’s observations about him have been accurate, it’s that Hajime is nice. Too nice, sometimes. People tend to see him as a rather grumpy, maybe violent type, but that’s just his face. Hajime hates that. So he compensated for it by being extra helpful to the people he cares about, sometimes even the ones he doesn’t know.
But, the rational part of Hajime reasons, surely there’s a limit to that helpfulness? Faking a relationship might not seem that big of a deal, but it’s the lying that comes with it that makes Hajime feel uneasy. He would not only have to pretend in front of Oikawa’s grandmother, but in front of Oikawa’s entire family as well. Hajime just isn’t sure if he’s cut out for that.
Cursing, he opens the last text from Oikawa and types a reply.
I’ll think about it.
And don’t call me Iwa-chan, what the hell.
He gets a reply immediately.
yay~ I knew iwa-chan was nice!!!!!!
Hajime turns his phone off, groans, and doesn’t talk to Hanamaki for the rest of the day.
* * *
Actually hearing that cursed nickname rather than just reading it on a screen is, Hajime has just figured out, a thousand times worse. He ducks his head and frantically closes his textbook, cursing himself for choosing to study in the common room instead of the library in the Science building. It hasn’t even been two minutes. Hanamaki, who is sitting half on Matsukawa’s lap and half on the actual couch beside him, snorts in amusement.
Hajime allows himself the brief satisfaction of hitting his friend with his textbook, before the urgency to escape sets in, making him collect all of his notes into a pile. He stands up, just as the sound of footsteps fast approaching from somewhere behind him grow louder, accompanied by indignant shouts of how dare you ignore me, Iwa-chan—
Hajime escapes into the hallway opposite of where Oikawa is coming from, even though he knows that a) his room is on the other side and b) Oikawa’s own room is located in this wing. Hajime suspects that Oikawa tried to look for him in his room first.
It’s been three days since they’ve met, and Oikawa has been texting him nonstop since. Hajime rarely graces him with a reply, but it’s not like he hasn’t been keeping his promise. Hajime has been thinking about it. And his thoughts are still pretty much the same – the request is still ridiculous, but apparently not ridiculous enough for Hajime to dismiss entirely.
Anyway, Oikawa never set a deadline. Which is why he has no reason to be hunting Hajime down like this.
Of course, he reaches a dead end. Hajime tries to remember who the occupants of the room by the end of the corridor are, but draws a blank. He’s never been too familiar with which room belongs to whom in this wing, so he isn’t sure about the chances of one of them letting him hide just until Oikawa decides to leave him alone.
Before he can decide, however, a hand smacks him on the shoulder in a faux-friendly gesture. Hajime looks up at the ceiling and asks it, why me?
“Iwa-chan! I’ve been looking for you,” Oikawa says, overly-sweet. It makes Hajime grit his teeth.
“Can we please not do this right now?” he asks, trying not to lose his temper. He turns to face Oikawa, shrugging off the hand on his shoulder. “I have an important General Microbiology exam tomorrow that I need to study for.”
“I just need five minutes of your time!” Oikawa insists.
Hajime sighs. Oikawa is so demanding. “Five minutes.”
“That’s all I ask!” Oikawa claps his hands once, before jerking a thumb behind him. “My room’s actually over there.”
Resigned, Hajime follows Oikawa into his room. He takes a second to observe his surroundings and try to see how this room is any different from his and Hanamaki’s.
Space- and furniture-wise, it’s pretty much the same, save for the addition of a mirror on the left wall. Hajime guesses that’s Oikawa’s side of the room. There’s a Star Wars poster above the bed on that side, along with what appear to be cutouts of articles and pictures from magazines. Upon closer inspection, Hajime realizes that they’re all about volleyball.
The bed is surprisingly neatly-made, if not for a few notebooks carelessly left open by the foot of it. Oikawa plops down on the edge and pats the space beside him, but Hajime opts to pull out the desk chair and sit down on it, instead. He drops his hastily-stacked notes onto the desk, and then stares expectantly at the other boy.
Oikawa has apparently already forgotten about his promise of only taking five minutes of Hajime’s time. He points at the books. “General Microbiology, eh? Sounds fancy. What are you here for, Iwa-chan?”
“Marine Biology,” Hajime answers. “Now get to the point.”
Oikawa sighs. “Why must I always take on the burden of leading the conversation?” He scowls, and it’s such a weird look on his face that Hajime is slightly taken aback, until Oikawa shifts into a gruff tone and Hajime realizes that he’s being mocked. “What about you, Oikawa-san? What are you studying?” He shifts back to his usual, chirpy tone, the one that Hajime is quickly learning to be made of plastic. “Why, I’m taking Film Studies, Iwa-chan, thanks for asking!”
“Can you just tell me why I’m here?” Hajime sighs. He can already feel a headache forming. “I don’t see the point of us making small talk.”
“But Iwa-chan,” Oikawa begins, in a tone that suggests he has something perfectly reasonable to say. Hajime is immediately dubious. “Isn’t it important to know all these small facts about your partner? After all, it’s the little things that truly count! So, why Marine Biology?”
Hajime ignores the question and instead asks one of his own. “Wait – partner? When exactly did I say yes to this?”
“You said you were going to think about it!” Oikawa actually looks worried now. “It’s been three days, and you still haven’t given me your decision.”
Hajime opens his mouth. Closes it. Opens it again. “This – it’s not easy, Oikawa. You’re asking me to lie in front of your entire family and pretend to be something we’re not.”
“I understand your intentions,” Hajime continues, ignoring Oikawa’s protest. “But please also try to understand that it’s not something I can just easily agree to. I don’t just lie to people.”
Oikawa seems to be at a loss for once. He stares at Hajime, eyes wide and pleading, and Hajime wonders just how many people have seen this side of Oikawa. He’s always been composed, even while being surrounded by his admirers or his group of peers, but Hajime is starting to think that maybe that’s just a front.
After a few more seconds of silence, ones that seem like they’ve stretched on for far longer than Hajime likes, he stands up and gathers all of his things. “If that’s all, I’ll be leaving now.”
Oikawa doesn’t offer a response. He’s not even looking at Hajime now, instead staring intently at the floor. He looks upset, but Hajime has a feeling that it’s not directed at him. It seems more like Oikawa is upset with himself.
Not knowing what else to say, Hajime heads for the door. The sound of it opening seems a lot louder than usual, squeaking hinges echoing in the silence of the room. He casts one more glance at Oikawa over his shoulder, before stepping a foot out into the corridor.
Just before the door fully closes behind him, he hears one whispered word float into the air, so silent Hajime wonders whether Oikawa meant for him to hear it. Whether Oikawa actually meant to say it out loud in the first place.
As he’s heading back to his room with feet that drag heavily against the tiled flooring, Hajime wonders why he’s suddenly feeling guilty, of all things.
* * *
He stares at his phone that night, thumb hovering over the send button of his phone.
He must really be going out of his mind. Hajime just chalks it up to being a decent human being, even if the morality of the entire thing is highly questionable regardless of good intentions. He hits send before he can start thinking too much about it again.
Alright. I’ll do it.
The reply he eventually gets seems to lack its usual bravado, instead making way for sincerity.
* * *
The milkshake really is good, if not a little too sweet. Hajime hasn’t really tried it the first time they went here, despite Oikawa buying one for him, since his mind had been occupied with something else.
But now here they are once again to discuss the specifics of their arrangement. And have brunch, apparently. Hajime is beginning to suspect that this is meant to be a pseudo-date.
“So.” Oikawa pushes his half-eaten plate of pancakes aside and pulls what looks to be a journal from his messenger bag. He flips through it and stops at a page near the end, before setting it down on the table and turning it upside down for Hajime to read. “I made a list of what you’re agreeing to, exactly. If you have objections to anything on there, let me know right now so we can work something out.”
Hajime pulls the journal closer to him and looks at the list. They’re pretty standard couple stuff, nothing that Hajime didn’t already expect. There’s must hold hands upon arriving at the reunion and must show physical contact when engaging in conversation with the relatives while in each other’s presence.
Oikawa points at that item in the list. “We don’t necessarily have to be stuck together for the entire night, since I do have to catch up with my cousins and I’d rather not hear them tell you any embarrassing stories about me—which, by the way.” He slides his finger further down the page and taps one of the asterisked items below the page. “If any of them reveal any blackmail-worthy material, you’re not allowed to tell anyone else. And you’re not allowed to make fun of me.”
Hajime clucks his tongue, pretending to be disappointed. “But where’s the fun in that?”
Oikawa pouts. “Iwa-chan, I’m risking revealing some of my less-than-grand moments to you. Be nice.”
“Can’t I at least make fun of you a little?”
Hajime snorts. He continues reading the list, not really finding anything to protest to, except—
“Do I have to kiss you at some point?”
Oikawa, who was sipping on his second order of milkshake, nearly snorts it out of his nose. He thumps himself loudly on the chest, coughing, and his face suddenly burns red. Hajime himself is blushing at his own question, but he had been wondering, since being in a relationship also entails that.
And besides, for someone who’s so popular with the girls – and even some of the boys, plus others who do not fall under the binary – in school, Hajime would think Oikawa’s reaction to his inquiry would be different. He’s always exuding off this persona of a confident charmer, after all, so Hajime’s been under the impression that Oikawa has some experience.
But then again. If that were true, then he probably wouldn’t be here right now with Hajime, talking about how they should go about their fake relationship.
It’s almost comical watching Oikawa gather himself and put on that confident, cocky smile Hajime always sees him with, especially after almost coughing milk out of his nose. “Iwa-chan, have you ever even kissed anyone? My family can be pushy and teasing, yes, but I’m certain you won’t have to worry about that – and on the chance that they do ask, I’ll just talk our way out of it. So don’t worry your grumpy little head about getting your first kiss stolen from you—”
“I’ve kissed people before,” Hajime interrupts.
Oikawa’s mouth snaps shut. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” Hajime picks up his fork and cuts into his own pancake. He just slathered some butter on it with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, unlike Oikawa’s pancakes drizzled in syrup, whipped cream, and at least three different kinds of fruit. He obviously has a sweet tooth, judging by his food choices.
“Have you been in a relationship, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks after a while.
“Once, in high school. But we broke it off before graduation since we were going to different universities.” He shrugs. “It wasn’t anything serious. I liked her well enough, but we both knew it wasn’t going anywhere.”
Oikawa watches him for a moment, and Hajime blushes slightly, wondering if he’s talking too much. He’s not much for conversation, usually, opting to listen rather than speak. But it’s not like what he just shared is anything too deep or personal, so the look Oikawa is giving him – like he’s just discovered something incredibly important about Hajime and is trying to process it – really isn’t warranted.
Finally, Oikawa smiles an odd smile, putting his elbows on the table and leaning his cheek against the back of his hand. “Looks like you have more experience than me, Iwa-chan.”
Hajime’s blush deepens. “I doubt that. It was one girlfriend, and a few people I’ve kissed in between then and now. I’m hardly the relationship expert.” He cuts up his pancake into smaller pieces, frowning. “Besides, you must have been in a relationship before, too.”
“Twice,” Oikawa admits, but he’s frowning. It’s like he doesn’t want to remember them. “But I was really young and not as insightful as I am now.”
Hajime takes a second to observe him. Then, to lighten the suddenly serious mood, he says, “You talk as though you’re already a sixty-year-old man.”
Oikawa squawks. “I’m just saying I’ve learned a lot of things my younger self didn’t realize back then!”
“Whatever you say,” Hajime says, grinning when Oikawa pouts at him.
The conversation then shifts back to the topic of their pretend-relationship, and Oikawa admits that okay, maybe we’ll have to kiss if my family teases us too much – they’re that kind of people, unfortunately. Oikawa cheerfully finishes the rest of his pancakes as Hajime goes over the list another time, and by the time he’s returning the journal back to Oikawa, the other has already drained the rest of his milkshake as well.
He sucks on the straw, obnoxiously loud, and Hajime sighs as he slides his half-empty glass across the table. “Here, have it. If you don’t mind that I’ve drank from it as well, that is.”
Oikawa blinks, before shrugging and accepting the glass. “Not a fan of sweets, Iwa-chan?”
“Not much,” Hajime admits. He pushes his chair back and stands. “I’ll just get myself a cup of coffee.”
“Oh, okay. Can you get me a cookie, too? The big, chocolate-chip ones!” Hajime nods. Oikawa adds, “You can get one for yourself, too. Don’t worry, Alisa-chan and Saeko-chan know you’re with me! I’ll cover it later.”
Hajime isn’t sure if he’s comfortable with the idea of Oikawa paying for all of their food. “I can pay for my half—”
“Nah.” Oikawa waves a hand. “It’s fine. You are doing me a huge favor, after all. If you’re really worried about it, just give me milk bread the next time we run into each other.”
Hajime snorts at that. “You should get your sweet tooth under control.”
“Shush.” Oikawa tilts his head and looks at Hajime upside down, bringing a finger up to his lips. “I brush my teeth properly, so you have nothing to worry about.”
Hajime rolls his eyes and heads for the counter. It’s Saeko, a woman with short-cropped blond hair and multiple piercings, who greets him. Hajime gives his order of coffee and Oikawa’s cookie.
“Alisa,” Saeko calls, and Alisa steps out of the door that Hajime assumes leads to a kitchen. “One coffee for this young man here.”
As Alisa prepares his coffee, Saeko scrutinizes the cookies, probably trying to deem which one has the most amount of chocolate chips in it. Hajime watches her take one cookie out with a pair of plastic tongs, turning it over carefully before shaking her head minutely and returning the cookie in the jar. She repeats this process a few times, before deciding on one and slipping it into a small paper bag.
Alisa clears her throat. “So, Iwaizumi-san, right?”
Hajime jumps slightly at the sudden mention of his name. He turns his gaze away from Saeko and sees Alisa slowly pouring hot water into a cup. “Uh, yeah. That’s me.”
“It’s not everyday that Tooru brings someone here,” Saeko says, casual as anything. Hajime has a feeling that he’s about to be interrogated. He’s not sure what Oikawa’s relationship with the two is exactly, but they appear to be quite close. Friends, Hajime thinks, though how they’ve met is anyone’s guess, considering that both Saeko and Alisa seem quite older than them.
“That’s true,” Alisa agrees, carefully placing the cup of coffee onto a saucer. She smiles at Hajime. “Do you go to the same university as Tooru-kun?”
Hajime nods, a little awkwardly.
Alisa places the coffee on a tray, along with the cookie. Saeko asks, straightforward, “Are you his boyfriend?”
And here, Hajime experiences a moment of slight panic. What does he tell them? Is this the start of him pretending to be Oikawa’s boyfriend? Oikawa obviously trusts them, since he chose to talk to Hajime in this place as opposed to their common room filled with gossipy college boys, but there’s still the question of whether they know anything.
In the end, he decides to tell them, “Ah, yeah. I am.”
Saeko blinks. Alisa stares. Hajime considers bolting out of the door.
And then Saeko’s lips slowly pull up into a grin, and Alisa claps like she’s delighted by this news.
Saeko reaches across the counter and ruffles Hajime’s hair. “That’s great! You seem like a good guy, though I guess I should still tell you this. Tooru is like a little brother to both me and Alisa, so if you break his heart, I’ll break your limbs.” She pulls her hand back and eyes Hajime’s biceps, a glint in her eyes. “Though that might take some effort because holy shit, look at those arms.”
It’s a well-established fact that Hajime is the undefeated arm wrestling champion of his high school, and even now, in college, he has never lost a single match against the other dormers. Hanamaki has challenged him a total of 47 times now – there’s an actual tally sheet pinned to the corkboard of their common room – and each one ended in victory for Hajime.
Despite this, he has no qualms whatsoever that Saeko can whip his ass to the ground if angered, so he nods hurriedly.
Alisa nudges Saeko with her shoulders, clearing her throat. Saeko tears her gaze away from Hajime’s biceps and laughs. “I’ve only got eyes for you, babe, don’t worry.”
At that Alisa smiles, pleased. Then she gets a dreamy look on her face. “You and Tooru-kun make a gorgeous couple, Iwaizumi-san.”
Feeling extremely flustered, Hajime manages an awkward thank you. Alisa giggles, probably finding it cute. Saeko takes two slices of strawberry shortcake from the glass display and adds it to the tray, ignoring Hajime’s feeble protests. “A gift from us, as a congratulations!”
“You make it sound like they’re getting married,” Alisa comments. There’s an underlying suggestion in her tone.
Saeko grins at her.
Hajime clears his throat. “Ah, um. Thank you very much, really. I’ll just, uh…”
Alisa gently shoos him away. “Don’t worry about it, just go get back to Tooru-kun before he becomes too impatient. He might start to think we’ve abducted you.”
Hajime is probably as pink as the shortcake by now. Nodding, he takes the tray and focuses all his attention into not dropping it onto the ground as he walks back to their table.
He catches Oikawa in the middle of reaching across the table, mouth suspiciously full even though he’s finished eating all his pancakes already. He quickly pulls his hand back upon spotting Hajime, smiling innocently like a kid who just had his hand down the cookie jar right before dinner.
Hajime looks at his plate and sees that his pancakes are now gone.
Sighing, he wonders whether it’s too early in their acquaintanceship to flick Oikawa on the forehead. They’ve only started regularly interacting a week ago, after all, so doing something like that might be too soon.
But then again, Oikawa’s already stealing his food.
Hajime goes and flicks him on the forehead.
“Ow, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa pouts. “You’re so brutal!”
Hajime sits down and rolls his eyes. “You already ate all your pancakes, Oikawa.”
Oikawa’s pout deepens. “But you were taking so long!” Then he looks at the tray and spots the cakes. “Oh, what’s this? Is Iwa-chan craving something sweet, after all?”
Hajime’s blush returns full force. “Uh, about that. Saeko-san and Alisa-san asked me if I was, uh. Your boyfriend.”
Hajime clears his throat and looks away. “I might have panicked and told them yes.”
Silence from across the table. Hajime is just beginning to wonder whether he’s fucked up when Oikawa suddenly bursts into a loud, unabashed laugh that sounds like it’s been startled out of him. Blinking, Hajime turns his head and finds the other holding a hand to his mouth in an attempt to muffle his laughter, eyes crinkling in amusement.
Hajime scowls. “What’s so funny?”
Oikawa shakes his head, lowering his hand slightly. “It’s just – you’re so grumpy-looking all the time, but you’re actually quite cute when you’re flustered. It’s a nice look on you.”
Hajime wonders whether it’s possible for his face to catch on fire. Glaring, he picks Oikawa’s cookie, still in its paper bag, and throws it across the table. That effectively stops Oikawa’s laughter, and he squawks in protest as he barely manages to catch the cookie in his hand.
“Iwa-chan, you made it crumble!”
“Shut up, it’s still edible,” Hajime mutters. Then he lets out a breath. “That won’t be a problem though, right?”
“Of course it will be! Just who would want to eat a crumbled cookie?”
Hajime kicks Oikawa under the table, feeling satisfaction at Oikawa’s pained squeak. “I didn’t mean the cookie, idiot. I meant me telling them we’re together.”
At that, Oikawa stops fussing over the cookie and gets a more serious look on his face. He’s smiling slightly, though, so Hajime deems he didn’t totally mess up.
“That’s fine, Iwa-chan. I mean, I trust Saeko-chan and Alisa-chan to keep this secret if I had told them beforehand, but this is also okay.” Then his smile widens, becomes a bit more mischievous. “You know what this means, though, right?”
Hajime frowns. “What?”
“Today is officially the day we fake-get together.”
* * *
Being Oikawa’s fake boyfriend is, surprisingly, not as much trouble as Hajime initially thought it would be.
For the most part, the two of them have been communicating through texts, sometimes briefly talking to each other when they happen to be in the common room at the same time.
Another thing that surprises Hajime is how Oikawa has been perfectly polite to him, letting Hajime have his space. He hasn’t really bothered Hajime after they covered the specifics of their arrangement, and a part of Hajime wonders whether this is because Oikawa doesn’t want to risk getting on his bad side. That would make sense, really, since technically speaking there’s nothing stopping Hajime from backing out of the deal at any given moment.
What Oikawa probably doesn’t know, however, is that Hajime is a man of his word. He’s going to see this through to the end, though he does appreciate Oikawa’s efforts into not throwing Hajime off of his established routine.
So of course, just as Hajime is thinking that their arrangement isn’t so bad after all, Hanamaki and Matsukawa come in to make his life a lot more complicated.
“Do you two honestly think you’d be able to pull this off?” Hanamaki asks him in a low voice one afternoon, in the library of the Arts and Humanities building.
Hajime ignores Hanamaki at first, eyes fixed on the text in front of him. He’s meant to do research on folklore for one of his electives and write some kind of reflection paper on it, but Hanamaki’s insistence on having a conversation is making doing homework extremely difficult.
Just then, someone slides into the empty seat on Hajime’s right, and when he looks up he finds no other than Matsukawa smiling lazily at him. Hajime suppresses a groan. “Are you two trying to corner me?”
“Nope,” Hanamaki begins.
“Because we already have you cornered,” Matsukawa finishes.
“I could leave,” Hajime says. “I could stand up right now and walk away.”
“But you’re not gonna do that.” Hanamaki grins for a split second, before getting an oddly serious look on his face. “Listen, Issei and I are only concerned about you and Oikawa, okay? But don’t tell him that I said that.” He makes a face. “The last thing I want is him thinking that I care about him.”
“Which you obviously do, because you’re the one who got me into this arrangement in the first place,” Hajime points out.
“Again, Oikawa doesn’t need to know that.” Hanamaki waves a hand. “But yes, back to my original question. Do you two really think you’d be able to convince everyone that you’re in a relationship if you keep this up?”
“Keep what up?” Hajime asks, already losing patience with the conversation. “What exactly do you mean by this?”
“Barely interacting.” It’s Matsukawa who speaks this time. “From what I’ve gathered hearing Oikawa’s stories about home, his family and relatives are a very nosy bunch. I don’t think you two are going to get away with just standing next to each other looking pretty the entire night, Iwaizumi.”
For some reason, Hajime feels slightly defensive. “We have been interacting, though. We even talked about the specifics, like what to do and what our story is.”
“Yeah, but can you make it believable?” Hanamaki asks. “I know for a fact that both of you have very limited experience in relationships.”
Hajime can feel a blush starting to come up. He frowns down at the book he’s been reading, trying to ignore the two and will the conversation to just drop. But he can’t make himself focus on the words anymore, mind already somewhere far away from folklore and academics in general.
Giving up, he closes the book and sighs.
“Issei, I think he’s ready to listen.”
“I think so too, Hiro.”
“Do we really need to have this conversation in a library?” Hajime asks, rubbing his temples. He’s already caught the librarian giving them warning looks from across the room. Maybe they should move to a table farther away from the checkout counter.
Hanamaki looks amused, but dutifully lowers his voice to avoid getting kicked out. “Listen, if you and Oikawa are going to get through the night convincing everyone that you’re madly in love with each other, then the both of you need to learn to act like it.”
“Are you, by any chance, a theatre kid?” Matsukawa asks.
Hajime blinks. “Uh, no.”
“Excellent, neither is Oikawa,” Matsukawa says.
“So, now that we’ve established that neither of you can really act—”
“I just said I wasn’t a theatre kid,” Hajime protests. “It doesn’t mean I can’t act.”
“Well, can you?” Hanamaki asks.
Hajime doesn’t answer immediately. “I’ve never given it a try, but I’m sure I can pull it off.”
Hanamaki shakes his head. “That’s not good enough, Iwaizumi. You need to at least get to know each other. What if one of the relatives corners you and asks you to list off your favorite things about Oikawa? How would you do that if you don’t know anything about him?”
“I know he likes movies and sweet things, and that he can be awfully demanding,” Hajime says, voice flat. Then he amends, “Though, he’s not as pompous as he appears to be.”
Hanamaki, however, is dissatisfied with the answer. He crosses his arms in front of him to mimic a giant X.
Hajime is so done with this conversation. “So what do you propose we do?” he asks, making sure that his tone is dripping with sarcasm. “Play 21 questions? Ask what our favorite colors are? Share our childhoods with each other?”
As expected, both Hanamaki and Matsukawa ignore his sarcasm. “Just spend more time together, for one thing. You’re bound to have more meaningful conversations face-to-face as opposed to texting.”
“But Issei and I thought that maybe it’d take a little more persuasion to get you to actually bond,” Hanamaki says, as though throwing Hajime into a fake relationship deal wasn’t enough of a hassle to begin with, “so I made a proposal to Oikawa this morning!”
Hajime stares at his friend, though that status is highly questionable at the moment, in slight horror. “What did you do?”
Hanamaki’s grin is wide and not-at-all pleasant, at least not to Hajime. “I suggested a double date this weekend, with me and Issei!”
They almost get kicked out of the library when Hajime loudly drops his head onto the table and muffles his screams into his borrowed book.
* * *
It’s one of those oddly beautiful days out, not too hot despite the sun being high up in the sky, obstructed by just the right amount of clouds. There’s a steady breeze blowing, and it even helps that the professors seem to have collectively decided to give the students a break, for once, and assigned no homework for the weekend.
Hajime wants to go home.
It’s just his luck that the weather would be this good on the one day he had been hoping for rain, or a light storm, or anything, anything that would give him the excuse to not go out. He doesn’t know how he’s going to survive this afternoon without hurting something. Or someone.
Hanamaki, one of the candidates for said someone, clears his throat importantly. “Okay, so. Today the two of you are going on a double date with me and Issei, but we’re not just going to be walking around the entire afternoon. We’ll also give you pointers along the way, so you both better observe and take notes.”
Hajime rolls his eyes. Oikawa looks like he’s five seconds away from pulling out a pen and a notepad.
Hanamaki continues, “Rule number one—”
“Is that you gotta have fun?” Matsukawa cuts in.
Predictably, Hanamaki ditches whatever it was he was going to say and instead follows through with, “But baby when you’re done, you gotta be the first to run.”
“Rule number two—”
“—just don’t get attached to—”
“—somebody you could lose—”
“—so le-let me tell you—”
“Are you two done, or can I go home?” Hajime asks loudly, because Hanamaki and Matsukawa look like they’re about to break into some weird dance routine and people are beginning to stare. Hajime begins a mental tally of how many times he’s going to have to remind them that they’re in public.
“Also, I thought you two were going to teach us how to convincingly pretend to be in love,” Oikawa pipes up. “Not how to be a heartbreaker.”
Matsukawa grins. Hanamaki looks proud. Hajime begins walking away.
Expectedly, a hand grabs him by the arm. Technically, Hajime can easily shrug them off – again, being arm wrestling champion is a testament to his strength, so it’s not a question of whether he can physically get out of their hold or not. But. Just getting pestered by his friends (status still questionable) has left him positively drained, and he doesn’t think he has the energy to spare.
He sighs and allows himself to get pulled back.
“Right, okay. Time to get serious,” Hanamaki says. “Let’s get down to business—”
“To defeat the Huns?” It’s Oikawa this time, and Hajime wonders whether it is publicly acceptable to just lie on the ground and not move for ten years.
* * *
The arcade is definitely not an ideal place to go to for a date, Hajime thinks, yet here they are anyway. Immediately they’re greeted by the loud, animated sounds coming from different gaming machines, accompanied by the constant chatter of friends moving around in groups and token coins tinkling by the counter. Certainly not the most romantic and intimate of locations, but whatever. Hajime is tired.
Hanamaki proposes a contest. The place is lit well enough, but most of the space is occupied by the games and there are quite a number of people moving around, which makes it slightly difficult to navigate through. And also keep track of Hanamaki and Matsukawa, who begin walking off without any warning. Hajime suspects that they’re regulars here, considering how easily they slip through people and between machines, without even consulting the signs that point to where specific games are.
Hajime struggles to follow. Just as he’s about to turn a corner in order to avoid one of the multiple claw machines around the area, he feels a hand tentatively grip onto the edge of his shirt. Jumping slightly in surprise, he glances over his shoulder and sees Oikawa standing a few feet behind him, path blocked by three teenagers standing in front of some kind of rhythm game. His arm is fully extended in order to reach Hajime.
The teenagers, after a second, realize that someone is trying to pass. They shuffle slightly, creating just enough space for Oikawa to slip through. It’s a tight fit, but Hajime waits patiently, offering Oikawa a hand to steady himself with as he stumbles a step forward.
His fingers fall from Hajime’s shirt once they’re standing close enough.
“I think we lost Makki and Mattsun,” Oikawa says. His face looks slightly flushed, and he’s wearing an odd expression, eyes shifting every now and then. Hajime wonders if he’s feeling faint. Maybe he doesn’t do so well in such packed spaces.
“More like they lost us,” Hajime hears himself say.
Oikawa cracks a small smile, but he still looks fidgety. A girl their age mutters an excuse me as she passes by, making Oikawa take a step closer to Hajime.
This close, Hajime has to tilt his chin up just the slightest bit in order to look Oikawa in the eye. They just sort of hover in that moment, both of them waiting for Hanamaki and Matsukawa to realize that they’re gone and maybe come back for them. Hajime supposes they can always just go and look themselves, but – Oikawa.
“Are you okay?” Hajime asks.
Oikawa looks surprised at the question. He blinks slowly – and Hajime just now notices how long his eyelashes are, almost brushing the tops of his cheeks – before laughing shortly. It sounds nervous. “I’m fine. Just.” He waves vaguely around them, before dropping his hand back between them. “Sometimes when I’m somewhere new by myself, I get kind of restless? Like, parties are okay. I’m used to them. But I’ve never really been here before, so I don’t know what to expect. And I don’t know who these people are.”
Hajime carefully processes this information, which seems to contradict what he thought he knew of Oikawa. Right now, he doesn’t seem to be the social butterfly Hajime thought him to be, who can easily charm anyone in whatever situation he’s in. Hajime himself isn’t a fan of packed, unfamiliar places, but that really has more to do with him not being a fan of going out in the first place. When forced into a situation like this, though, he usually fares well enough.
But Oikawa – Oikawa doesn’t make much sense, Hajime realizes. Maybe not at first glance. There’s probably something else beneath it, a reason as to why Oikawa likes to put himself out there and surround himself with people, even though he just admitted to Hajime that new places and unfamiliar faces make him nervous.
He considers what the best thing to say to this is. He wants to ask, but instead he just decides to go for something comforting rather than questioning. “You’re not by yourself, though,” he points out, words slow and careful. “I’m right here with you.”
The light pink dusting Oikawa’s cheeks darkens. But this time, he manages a smile. “Yeah,” he says, sounding bashful. Hajime has never seen this side of him before, didn’t even think it existed. “You are.”
They stay like that for a minute more, before Oikawa lets out a quiet breath and takes a step back. He smiles, as if to say, it’s fine now.
Before Hajime can talk himself out of it, he reaches between them and wraps his fingers around Oikawa’s wrist. Oikawa gives him a curious look, but otherwise offers no protest, so Hajime leads them further into the crowd of machines and people. “Let’s go look for Hanamaki and Matsukawa.”
They find them by the basketball games.
Hanamaki waves them over. “Yo, there you are!”
Hajime frowns, picking up his pace. “Maybe slow down next time? Oikawa and I aren’t familiar with this place, you know.”
“Sorry,” Hanamaki says, not sounding sorry at all. Hajime wonders whether they did this on purpose so that he and Oikawa would have no choice but to stick together. “Issei and I forgot to go to the counter for some tokens, so we kinda backtracked.”
Hajime wants to argue more, but Oikawa says that it’s fine, so the topic is dropped. Matsukawa tells them to hurry up, that he’s been guarding two of the basketball booths for too long now and some of the other customers are beginning to glare at him. Hajime lets go of Oikawa’s wrist.
He doesn’t miss Hanamaki’s eyes dropping down to follow the movement.
“Losing team has to buy the winning team crepes later,” Matsukawa announces, handing Hajime two tokens.
Oikawa, true to his word, seems completely fine now. He holds himself up and smiles freely again, seeming completely unbothered by the loud atmosphere of the arcade. He leans close to Hajime, just enough to be heard over all the repetitive music and bad gaming sound effects, and says, “Iwa-chan, I think this is a good time to tell you that I hate losing.”
Hajime feels himself smile at that. “Good. So do I.”
Oikawa makes a face that looks something like approval.
They drop the tokens into the machine, and the three-minute timer begins.
The thing is, Hajime has always been athletic. He’s been actively involved in various sports clubs during grade school, before he finally decided to focus solely on volleyball come middle school and high school. He’s always the top choice in his class to participate in multiple events during sports festivals, and even though he no longer plays competitively in college, all those years spent on training and physical exercise haven’t gone to waste. So it’s not really a surprise that he’s managing to score points fairly easily.
What is a surprise, is that Oikawa is scoring just as many points. Hajime observes him in between shoots, taking in the look of concentration on Oikawa’s face which is so different from the usual expressions Hajime sees on him.
He shoots in an odd way as well, almost cradling the ball in his palm, and it looks as though he’s not used to the size and to the weight of it even though he gives off this air of knowing how to handle one. His arms are spaced wider apart than they should be, elbows pointing outward. When he throws the ball, both his arms move slightly with it, and all of his fingers twitch forward. The longer Hajime looks, the more familiar the action seems to become. It feels as though the movements are something that’s been ingrained into Hajime’s memory, something he’s seen countless of times before. It almost seems like—
And then Hajime remembers the magazine cutouts in Oikawa’s room. Suddenly, it makes sense.
The timer on the machine buzzes, and they win by a narrow margin. Hajime almost forgot that Hanamaki and Matsukawa had been players in high school, as well.
He turns to Oikawa. “You were a setter.”
Oikawa, for the second time that day, looks surprised. He nods. “How did you—”
“The way you were throwing the ball looked more like you were sending a toss,” Hajime explains. “And you have very accurate control. Plus I remember seeing Volleyball Monthly cutouts in your room.”
A smile stretches across Oikawa’s face, perhaps the most genuine Hajime has ever seen on him so far (he tries not to think about how he’s already learning to distinguish Oikawa’s real smiles from the ones he puts on for show). “You seem to know a lot about volleyball, Iwa-chan! Did you play, too?”
Hajime nods. “Wing spiker.”
Oikawa looks delighted by this new piece of information. “I bet you were the ace, too.”
Hajime can feel the beginnings of a blush coming on. “I was,” he admits.
Oikawa gets this odd look on his face. Hajime can’t quite describe it. His eyes widen slightly and his lips part, a somewhat breathless oh coming out, and—
“If you two are done, Hiro would like to know whether you want to claim your crepes now or look around more first. I have more tokens,” Matsukawa says suddenly, startling Hajime and Oikawa out of – whatever the hell that was.
Now Hajime can feel himself really blushing, but a quick glance at Oikawa’s face assures him that he isn’t the only one. Hanamaki looks curious while Matsukawa looks mildly amused, watching the two of them. Hajime wonders whether it’d be a smart move to yell at them, but then decides against it.
“We can look around some more,” Oikawa says, back to his normal self.
“Great, let’s have a dance-off next.”
Hajime and Oikawa lose that one, because Hanamaki and Matsukawa chose all of the songs and they practically have everything memorized. As a consequence, Hajime and Oikawa have to buy them sundae cones later.
They move to other games after that, the ones that give prizes and tickets. Oikawa, now fully comfortable walking around the arcade, spends about half of their tokens trying to get one of the stuffed animal prizes in the biggest claw machine. He’s been targeting the one that looks like a giant hedgehog, and he nearly gets it a couple of times before it slips and drops back into the fluffy heap of other stuffed animals.
The fourth time it drops back down to a place that’s near impossible to reach, Hajime decides to intervene. He pulls Oikawa away from the machine by the wrist, ignoring the other’s pout. “We’re leaving.”
“But Iwa-chaaan,” Oikawa near-whines, dragging out the chan until Hajime is gritting his teeth, “I still haven’t gotten a prize!”
Hajime debates with himself for a second. He managed to collect some tickets from the games he’s played, but he isn’t sure whether they’re enough to exchange for any kind of prize. Maybe something small, but definitely not enough to get him a plushie or anything that big. Besides, he doesn’t know how Oikawa would take it if Hajime did get him something.
In the end, Hajime finds himself standing in front of the counter where the prizes are displayed, anyway. He glares down at the ground, wondering when exactly his feet got a mind of their own and started betraying him like this.
“Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks, and yeah. Right. He’s still practically holding Oikawa’s hand.
He lets go quickly and pulls out the tickets from his pocket. There are at least sixty of them, he thinks, maybe even seventy. He lays them down on the counter. “What can I get with these?”
The bored-looking employee slips the tickets into some kind of counting machine. Numbers flash on the small screen attached in front of it, until it stops at 82. “You can get one of the keychains or phone charms here,” the employee says, pointing at the small knickknacks on the glass display that require 80 tickets.
Fighting a blush, Hajime nudges Oikawa forward. “Go on, choose something.”
Oikawa blinks. He looks at Hajime like he’s not quite sure what’s going on.
“You said you wanted a prize, right? I know it’s no plushie or whatever, but it’s not like I’m gonna use those tickets for anything, anyway.” Hajime tries to say this casually. He maybe fails, he’s not really sure. It doesn’t make sense why he’s feeling flustered about this, but then again Oikawa isn’t faring any better.
Blushing, Oikawa glances at the charms for a second or two, before turning back to Hajime. “You choose.”
Hajime frowns at that. “What? Why? It’s your prize.”
“Yeah, but you’re the one giving it to me,” Oikawa points out.
Hajime huffs. “Fine.”
He examines the display quickly, not really wanting to take too long. There’s a car, and a soda can, and a yellow circle thing with an English word Hajime doesn’t know carved onto it, all attached to small chains. Then his gaze lands on a charm with a small transparent star, and the choice is made. “That one, please.”
The employee hands it to him, still looking bored, and Hajime says a thanks before turning to an eager-looking Oikawa, wide-eyed and expectant.
“Here you go,” Hajime says. He rolls his eyes when Oikawa lets out a loud cheer, even though a part of him feels oddly pleased by this turn of events.
“Thank you, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa holds the charm up, light catching slightly on its surface. Hajime wonders whether it can act like some sort of prism and emit rainbow colors if held just so in the light. “I’ll make sure to treasure this.”
“You better,” Hajime says, because he doesn’t know what else to say.
Hanamaki and Matsukawa are waiting for them by the exit. The sun is still out, so they decide to head for the nearest park, which is a lot more date-like in Hajime’s opinion. Oikawa loudly wonders whether there are any crepes for sale there, which Hanamaki counters by suddenly remembering that he needs to buy more cup noodles, meaning they have to drop by a convenient store first, where they also happen to be conveniently selling sundae ice cream.
They find a spot underneath a tree once they reach the park (with a lot more food than they were supposed to get, but it’s not like any of them are complaining). Hanamaki opens a can of soda while Matsukawa settles down on the grass, head pillowed on Hanamaki’s lap. They begin listing off some pointers, like they said they would, and Oikawa listens attentively as he tears into his milk bread.
Hajime leans back against the trunk of the tree with some food of his own. Today didn’t turn out too bad, he supposes. In fact, it felt more like a group of college friends going out on a weekend as opposed to a double date. It’s, well. It’s nice.
Oikawa plops down onto the grass after finishing his bread. Hajime watches him for a moment; he looks a lot more peaceful like this, eyes closed and lips parted just the slightest bit. Hajime can’t say he doesn’t understand why so many people in their university admire Oikawa, even with his cocky, somewhat annoying disposition. He’s handsome and charming, even if Hajime wants to smack him most of the time.
He looks away after a moment, letting Oikawa take a nap, and catches Hanamaki watching him. Hajime frowns and Hanamaki just grins, shrugs, and goes back to carding his fingers through Matsukawa’s hair.
Hajime huffs and unwraps a pre-packaged sandwich.
* * *
“You two pass, by the way,” Hanamaki tells him back in their dorm, right before they’re about to sleep.
Hajime pauses, fingers hovering over the light switch. “What do you mean we pass?”
Hanamaki yawns, already stretching on his bed. “You two looked like you were actually out on your first date. It was pretty cute.” He pulls the blankets over himself, settling in more comfortably. “And you got to learn stuff about each other, too. Just keep it up, hang out more, and you’ll look like Couple of the Year. Goodnight.”
Hajime thinks about that. He wasn’t really putting any conscious effort into acting like a couple with Oikawa earlier, and he doesn’t think Oikawa was either. He doesn’t know what that might mean.
“Goodnight,” he says, quite belatedly, thoughts running. Hanamaki merely hums in response.
Hajime turns off the light and climbs into his own bed, ready to settle in himself when his phone buzzes with a text, then another.
iwa-chaaan, tell makki theyre still buying us crepes!!
also today was super fun~ goodnight
Hajime finds himself laughing at the texts. He closes his phone without replying, but he can’t seem to stop smiling even as his head hits the pillow.
* * *
Oikawa starts showing up a lot more, after that.
Or maybe he’s always been there, and Hajime just hadn’t been actively paying attention until now. Maybe he’s always been orbiting around Hajime’s small plane of existence, hovering just by the borders of whatever imaginary line there was that separated Oikawa’s world from Hajime’s. It’s just that now, those two spaces have overlapped.
Because now, whenever Hajime decides to take a break in the common room, either to play cards with the others or take a power nap somewhere other than his room, there Oikawa is. Some days he’ll be on his laptop watching one of his alien movies, because for someone who’s supposed to be studying Film, Oikawa definitely has a questionable taste for them. Some days he’ll be reading a book, curled up comfortably in a small corner of the couch with a pillow hugged to his chest. Some days he’ll be playing board games or cards with the others, his overly-dramatic exclamations disturbing the normally-quiet air of the room.
Today, it’s the last one.
Hajime walks into the common room to find all the couches pushed closer around the coffee table in a haphazard circle. A quick inspection finds Oikawa occupying The Armchair (which is this really comfortable armchair everyone used to fight over until Yaku suggested they took turns in using it – they even made a schedule and posted it on the common room’s corkboard), shuffling some cards and eyeing the others in a way that’s too serious for a simple game. His words from a few days ago ring in Hajime’s ears: I hate losing.
“Yo, Iwaizumi!” Hanamaki calls, spotting him.
He’s waved over to join the game, but Hajime finds that there’s not really any space for him to sit. The largest couch is occupied by Hanamaki, Matsukawa, Kuroo, Bokuto, and Yaku, which is already a tight fit, since the couch is only meant for four people. The other smaller couch already has Konoha, Ushijima, and Moniwa on it, so the only place where Hajime can squeeze into is maybe on the loveseat with Tendou and Semi.
“You can sit with me,” Oikawa says, probably sensing his predicament.
Hajime blinks and stares.
Actually, everyone does. No one ever shares The Armchair. Ever.
Still, Oikawa scoots closer to the left arm, creating just enough space that Hajime can maybe fit into. But – “We’re gonna see each other’s cards, dumbass.”
Oikawa pouts. “Mean! And here I was being nice to you!”
“Iwaizumi has a valid point, though,” Ushijima says.
“Shut up, Ushiwaka. No one asked you.”
Hajime sighs. “If I sit beside you, will you stop pouting? And bullying the others?”
Oikawa’s smile is the epitome of innocence, which only makes Hajime suspicious. “Of course, Iwa-chan! We can even play as a team, if you want. That way we can kick everyone’s asses together.”
Hajime rolls his eyes, even as he goes and squeezes himself into what little space there is on The Armchair, because if there’s anything he’s learned over the last few weeks, it’s that saying no to Oikawa is useless. It’s a tight fit, and the two of them have to shift around for a couple of seconds in search of a position that’s even remotely comfortable. Growing impatient, Oikawa lifts one leg and puts it over Hajime’s thighs.
Kuroo looks strangely amused by this. “Why don’t you just sit on his lap?”
Oikawa gasps, in a manner that suggests Kuroo is a genius who just made a life-changing discovery. “Excellent idea, Tetsu-chan!”
“Wait, wha—” Hajime gets a lapful of Oikawa before he can finish his protest. Everyone is staring at them oddly now, save for Ushijima who never appears to be bothered by anything. Flushing, Hajime shoves Oikawa to the side, but not completely off his lap.
“Right,” Moniwa says after a few beats, bewildered expression turning into a hesitantly amused one. “So, do you want me to take over dealing the cards? Since you look too comfortable to move and all.”
“Please and thank you,” Oikawa chirps, smiling sweetly.
Moniwa picks up where Oikawa stopped shuffling the cards. He distributes them shortly, expertly throwing a card to each player in a counterclockwise motion. Hajime suddenly realizes that he has no clue what game they’re playing, but he finds that he doesn’t really mind just sitting here and watching. Especially when Oikawa picks up their cards and starts laying down pairs, a look of concentration not unlike the one he got during the basketball game at the arcades settling over his features.
“Don’t you think we have too many players for this?” Konoha asks, also laying down a pair. He frowns at his deck after.
“Semi-semi and I can play as a team too,” Tendou chirps, “but he also has to sit on my lap!”
Semi pushes him off their seat, much to everyone’s amusement. His face is red. “I told you to quit that!”
Tendou climbs back up, looking completely unapologetic. “My bad, Eita!”
They begin once everyone’s got all their pairs down. Hajime gets an idea of what the game is when Yaku takes a card from Bokuto, starting the rotation. Then Bokuto takes a card from Kuroo, Kuroo from Matsukawa, Matsukawa from Hanamaki, then Hanamaki from Oikawa.
“Iwa-chan, you choose,” Oikawa says, once it’s their turn to get a card from Moniwa.
“Don’t blame me if I get the Joker,” Hajime warns, before randomly taking a card. He turns it over and sighs in relief when he sees that it’s not the Joker, but it also doesn’t match any of the cards currently in Oikawa’s hand. “This is going to take a while, isn’t it?”
It goes on like that for the next ten minutes or so. Tendou finishes first, rubbing his victory in Semi’s face by dancing obnoxiously because the last card he had been holding was the Joker, and Semi had been the one to get it. Next is Kuroo, who lays down his last pair on the coffee table with a catlike grin, looking far too satisfied with himself. Matsukawa finishes next, followed by Oikawa and Hajime, then Ushijima, then Yaku.
Somehow, the Joker ends up in Bokuto’s deck when it’s just down to him, Hanamaki, and Konoha. Hajime watches, amused, as Konoha avoids a card that Bokuto has purposefully stuck farther out than the rest in his hand. When he tries to pull a different card, however, Bokuto stubbornly won’t let it go.
Konoha sighs and just pulls the Joker.
“Kou-chan can be quite childish sometimes,” Oikawa whispers to Hajime, giggling.
Hajime snorts. “Like you’re one to talk.”
“Mean,” Oikawa says, though the word has lost its heat at this point. “I am not childish. I am a perfectly mature individual.”
Hajime doesn’t point out Oikawa’s childish hostility against Ushijima earlier. Instead he says, “The truth can be hard to handle, Oikawa.”
Oikawa lets out a breath of a laugh. “The only truth I believe in is the one that’s out there, Iwa-chan.”
“Oh?” At this point Hajime has given up on pretending that he’s still paying attention to the game. He turns his head slightly and finds Oikawa already looking at him. Their faces are close. “And that truth is?”
Oikawa smiles, dragging the moment as though he’s getting ready for a grand reveal. He leans closer – so much closer that Hajime has to hold back the sudden hitch in his breath – and drops his voice. His eyes glint in the low afternoon light. “Aliens.”
A snort comes out of Hajime’s mouth, without any warning. Oikawa smiles widely at him, clearly satisfied with himself, and Hajime pretends to shove him off his lap and onto the floor. Naturally, Oikawa clutches onto him, and then he shoves Hajime back with a delighted kind of laugh.
Hajime is just about to retaliate when someone loudly clears their throat, and – oh. Right. They’re still in the common room.
“For those of you who weren’t paying attention,” Hanamaki announces, looking pointedly at Hajime and Oikawa, “Konoha lost.”
Bokuto is smiling, clearly satisfied. Konoha just shrugs, the very picture of a man who has been exposed to Bokuto Koutarou long enough to know that giving him what he wants is the best option. Hajime vaguely remembers Konoha mentioning before that the two of them had gone to the same high school.
“Let’s play something else,” Tendou says.
“How about we do bluff?” Kuroo suggests. “I’m good at telling when someone is lying.”
“Somehow I don’t doubt that,” Oikawa says. “But it’d be useless against Ushiwaka-chan. He only has, like, one facial expression.”
“I do not think that is accurate,” Ushijima says, looking like he might be frowning. “I am also capable of expressing other emotions through the use of my facial features.”
Oikawa opens his mouth, looking like he wants to argue with that, but Hajime stops him. “Just leave the guy alone, Shittykawa.”
Oikawa looks affronted at that, eyes widening comically and mouth falling open. The only thing missing is for him to put a hand to his chest, and Hajime is surprised he doesn’t. “I’m not sure which I find more offending – the fact that you’re taking Ushiwaka-chan’s side, or that you just called me Shittykawa.”
Instead of giving a verbal answer, Hajime just pinches Oikawa on the side, which gets him a very interesting response – Oikawa squeaks and squirms away, eyes widening even more, but now in panic. Hajime can feel a grin slowly creeping onto his face.
“Are you ticklish?”
“No?” Oikawa says, but it comes out as a question.
Hajime pokes him on the side. Oikawa bites back another squeak. “You are!”
“Nooooo.” Oikawa tries to get away, but since he’s still mostly on Hajime’s lap, it’s easy for Hajime to wrap an arm around his waist and keep him in place. “Iwa-chan, no, stop! I surrender! No more rude remarks from me. Or, well, I’ll try to hold them back, but Ushiwaka-chan is just hard to not tea – eek!”
“What was that?” Hajime asks, perhaps enjoying himself a lot more than he should.
Oikawa’s face is turning pink, but Hajime catches a hint of an actual smile on his lips. “I surrender!”
Slowly, Hajime edges his fingers away from Oikawa’s sides. His pulse, for some reason, feels like it’s racing underneath his skin despite the fact that he’s not the one who just got tickled.
“Who knew a boyfriend was all it would take to get Oikawa under control,” Semi observes.
Both Hajime and Oikawa freeze at that.
“I do commend Iwa-chan for managing the incredible feat that is keeping Oikawa Tooru in line,” Kuroo adds, another one of his catlike grins sliding across his face. “Can you please teach us your ways, oh great one?”
“Hey!” Oikawa protests, pointing a finger warningly at Kuroo. “Only I get to call Iwa-chan that!”
“Aw.” Kuroo pretends to pout. “But it’s cute.”
“No.” Oikawa’s eyes narrow. It’s hard to tell whether he’s just playing along or being completely serious. “Boyfriend privileges. Find your own boyfriend with nice biceps to call a cute nickname!”
Hajime doesn’t know what startles him the most: Oikawa getting defensive over a stupid nickname, Oikawa openly referring to him as his boyfriend, or Oikawa admitting that he thinks Hajime has nice biceps. It’s a little jarring, if he’s going to be honest, suddenly finding himself in this situation.
But then. Doesn’t that mean they’re managing to put on a convincing act? Are they even acting right now?
Hajime knows he isn’t. He can’t tell for sure how much of the Oikawa he’s seeing right now is crafted for the purpose of making it look like they’re in a relationship (and Hajime isn’t quite sure how he feels about that, thinking of Oikawa’s different personalities as something he’s crafted for different purposes) since they never talked about doing this in front of their peers.
Kuroo dramatically puts a hand onto his chest, as though he’s been mortally wounded. Bokuto pats him on the back. “I’ll let you call me a cute nickname, bro.”
Kuroo gasps. “My Kouta-chan!” Then he falls against Bokuto, clinging to his biceps. Yaku, who is sitting on Bokuto’s other side, looks extremely disturbed by the display.
“Well, things suddenly took a very gay turn,” Konoha remarks, calmly collecting the cards and shuffling them. “Now, what do we play next?”
* * *
Oikawa follows him back to his room.
Hajime doesn’t question it, even as he sits at his desk and watches Oikawa plop down onto his bed like he owns the place.
Briefly, it occurs to Hajime that this is the first time Oikawa’s ever been in his dorm room. It’s not much different from the others, since all the rooms are designed similarly – two beds, two study desks, and a shared cabinet – but Oikawa seems to take it all in with genuine curiosity, anyway.
Hajime doesn’t think his side of the room is much. He tries to keep things as orderly as one college boy can, so the only articles of clothing on his side are the shirt he just took off before showering that morning, the shirt that he normally sleeps in, and the hoodie that he usually pulls on whenever he has to go out for a quick errand. Everything else is neatly put away in the cabinet, and the only thing out of place on his desk is a half-empty container of potato chips.
It’s the corkboard that Hajime has attached to the wall above his headboard – with permission from the dorm heads, of course – that Oikawa takes the most interest in. Hajime watches him sit up and look curiously at the pinned photographs, trying not to feel too self-conscious about the photos, especially since he can’t gauge Oikawa’s reaction with his back turned.
Finally, Oikawa says, “You were a very cute kid, Iwa-chan.”
Hajime blushes. Good thing Oikawa’s back is still turned to him. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Too bad all the cuteness went away, since you grew up to be such a grumpy old man!”
“Is it that hard for you to compliment someone without insulting them immediately after?” Hajime asks, though it lacks the bite it normally would’ve had. He realizes, a bit shockingly, that he’s already gotten used to this – to bantering with Oikawa, to keeping up with Oikawa’s quick and sarcastic remarks with ones of his own, to Oikawa himself.
He turns his gaze away from Oikawa’s back.
The silence is comfortable. Hajime knows Oikawa wants to talk about something, and he has a good guess as to what, but he lets Oikawa broach the subject at his own pace.
Finally, after what is probably a full five minutes, Oikawa says in a quiet voice, “You never told me you were a family kind of man, Iwa-chan.” He’s still looking at the photos.
“I used to get homesick,” Hajime explains, shrugging even though Oikawa can’t see him. It’s not really a big deal, since he told other people about this before. Well, he told Hanamaki about this before. But somehow, telling Oikawa feels more of an exposing rather than a sharing, like he’s opening himself up for a thorough inspection instead of just telling an acquaintance a fact about himself. He’s glad Oikawa still isn’t looking at him.
Finally, Oikawa turns back around. His face looks soft. “I understand.”
Hajime watches him for a second, before standing up and joining Oikawa on the bed. He feels irrationally nervous as he does, so he reminds himself that this is his room, his space, and that there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing right now.
Feeling Oikawa’s eyes on him, he points at one of the pictures. It’s one of him as a child, sitting in the middle of an inflated kiddie pool with an older woman right behind him. They’re both smiling, but no matter how much Hajime stares at the picture, he can’t seem to see any resemblance between them.
“That’s me with my mom,” he says. “People say I have her eyes, but it’s hard for me to tell. I generally look more like my father, I think.” He points at another picture, this time of him with his father – Hajime holding a glass jar containing a stag beetle, and his father holding a large fish by the tail, the both of them looking triumphant.
Oikawa hums his agreement, before his gaze shifts to a picture with all three Iwaizumi’s. Hajime remembers this one well, since it’s the most recent photo he has out of everything he put on display – his parents both dressed smartly, her in a lovely green dress and him in a white polo tucked into dark slacks, with Hajime standing between them in his high school uniform, proudly showing his diploma to the camera. All of them are smiling wide enough to show their teeth, and it looks like the picture has been snapped at the tail end of a laugh.
Hajime feels himself smile, remembering his high school graduation and how proud his parents were of him.
“You have a lovely family,” Oikawa says, after a while.
“Yeah,” Hajime agrees. A voice in his head adds, You should meet then sometime, but thankfully his brain-to-mouth filter is still working properly. He doesn’t think about what that fleeting thought might mean. “I don’t really have a big family. I’ve only met a few of my relatives, mostly from my dad’s side, during a couple of reunions. My mom’s side is from out of the country.”
Oikawa cracks a joke, then, but his tone lacks the usual teasing quality to it. In its place is the note of a serious question. “Are you sure you can handle my army of a family, Iwa-chan?”
Hajime shrugs. “At this point, it doesn’t really matter whether or not I think I can. There’s no backing out now, you know.”
Oikawa hums thoughtfully. “I should introduce them to you, too. I have pictures back in my room.”
Hajime nods, but – “That can wait another time. You wanted to talk about something, right?”
Oikawa smiles. “See, Iwa-chan can be perceptive too, sometimes.”
“Shut up,” Hajime says, more out of reflex than anything.
Oikawa lies back down, occupying more than half of Hajime’s bed. Hajime scoots away to give him more room, but then he realizes he’ll fall off the edge if he moved any further, so he stays where he is. Close.
“About earlier,” Oikawa begins, and Hajime thinks, ah. “I didn’t really consider what we’d do if people from school thought we were dating. Or, okay. That’s not entirely true.”
Hajime considers that. “So you did think about it before?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I figured people already had this idea of me as someone who’s naturally flirty and charming, you know? So I thought, I don’t know, that maybe everyone was used to it? And that they wouldn’t call me out on it if I did act like that. That they wouldn’t think too much of it, or – I’m not making any sense, am I?” Oikawa pauses. He seems to be gathering his thoughts, so Hajime doesn’t say anything to disturb him, even if a part of him kind of wants to reach out and smoothen the furrow between Oikawa’s brows with his thumb.
He thinks he understands what Oikawa is trying to say, though. He’s seen Oikawa with his admirers in the courtyard directly outside their dorm before, with some of who Hajime supposed were his co-majors in the more general parts of campus, and with the other people in their dorm. Hajime imagines what his former self would think, the one who hasn’t been constantly hanging out with Oikawa these past few weeks.
Maybe he would’ve thought one of them was dating Oikawa, too. But he doesn’t think he would’ve mentioned it, even if they had been friends before this. Because, like Oikawa said, it would seem obvious. Natural, even. Definitely not something that he would bother bringing up, unless Oikawa prompted first.
Finally, Oikawa lets out a breath. “Do you mind it, though? Them thinking we’re together?”
Hajime blinks. Oikawa isn’t looking at him, staring intently at the ceiling.
“I don’t,” he says, more to get Oikawa to look at him, but the moment it leaves his mouth he realizes that it’s not a lie, either. He truly does not mind. Which is weird, since the main reason he was hesitant in the first place was that he would have to lie to people.
Oikawa, somehow, is on the same wavelength as him. “Didn’t you mention not wanting to lie to anyone, though? I mean, lying to my family is one thing, since they’re practically strangers to you.” Hajime realizes that Oikawa is putting effort into keeping his voice factual, words coming out slower than they normally do. “But lying to actual people you know is different, I imagine.”
Oikawa has a point. But – “Well, they were the ones who assumed, right?” He thinks about this more, adds, “And I remember the first time we met up, you told me you didn’t want to talk about it in the common room because you didn’t want to risk anyone overhearing.”
“I did say that,” Oikawa nods, still not looking at Hajime. “Ushiwaka is from the same place as me. We’re not friends or anything, we didn’t even go to the same school, but a cousin of mine is his kouhai.” He looks extremely displeased by this fact, expression morphing into something Hajime can only describe as unpleasant. “I’m pretty sure my cousin still contacts him from time to time to get volleyball advice for the team, which I don’t understand, because I can definitely offer better advice than Ushiwaka-chan when it comes to team sports.”
“I have a feeling this thing with Ushijima goes deeper than just a petty rivalry,” Hajime observes.
“It wasn’t petty,” Oikawa protests.
“Ah, so you admit there was a rivalry.”
Oikawa frowns. “I told you, I hate losing. And Ushiwaka once called my team weak, so. Whatever. Point is, Ushiwaka is blunt and doesn’t have any sort of filter, at all. So if he were to know that we’re only fake-dating, then he might spill it to my cousin, who will then tell everyone in my family.”
“So if we denied being together earlier, we might’ve gotten found out,” Hajime says.
“Yeah, pretty much.” Oikawa sighs. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“I already told you I don’t.”
Now Oikawa is looking at him. “You know, I never asked you, Iwa-chan. Are you straight?”
Hajime blinks at the sudden question. “I’ve always thought of myself as bisexual, to be honest.”
“You did mention having a girlfriend once,” Oikawa says with a nod.
“Yeah. But, well. I’ve never really had a boyfriend? I don’t really get easily attracted to people, in general. I think I can count all the real, proper crushes I’ve had with one hand,” Hajime admits. “But sometimes I find myself looking at a boy, and, well. You get the idea.”
Oikawa seems to consider what to say to this for a moment. And then his lips pull into a grin. “That’s too bad. That means there’s no chance of you having a sexuality crisis because of me.”
And just like that, the serious, slightly tense atmosphere is broken. Hajime lets out an undignified snort, mostly out of surprise, before grabbing one of his pillows and shoving it onto Oikawa’s face. Oikawa lets out a muffled squeak, flailing on Hajime’s bed, and Hajime realizes a second later that he’s laughing.
Oikawa sits up quickly once Hajime lets up, looking rumpled. His hair is in disarray and his cheeks are flushed, and looking at him sends a rush of something through Hajime.
I’m not gonna think about it, he tells himself, before throwing the pillow at Oikawa’s face.
* * *
Oikawa drops by his room almost everyday since then, claiming that it’s only normal since everyone thinks they’re dating, anyway. Hajime finds that he doesn’t really mind.
As a result, however, Hanamaki frequents their room less and less. Hajime doesn’t think this is particularly a problem, since Hanamaki seems to thoroughly enjoy the newly-granted privacy with Matsukawa that comes with the absence of the room’s other temporary-owner, but there’s also the fact that Hanamaki is incredibly nosy and Matsukawa is incredibly observant and Hajime may be getting incredibly attached.
Every afternoon, Oikawa will barge into the room with a loud cry of “Iwa-chan!” in place of a knock. Hanamaki will stand up from his bed or his study desk and bid them both goodbye, sending Hajime this look before disappearing down the hall. Oikawa will then either do homework on his laptop or take a nap on Hajime’s bed, which works well for Hajime considering he prefers to study at his desk. Then they’ll meet up with Hanamaki and Matsukawa in the building’s cafeteria for dinner, after which Oikawa will return to his room with Matsukawa and Hanamaki with Hajime.
It’s a pretty good arrangement, save for Hanamaki’s increasingly knowing looks and Matsukawa’s increasingly thoughtful hums and Hajime’s increasingly racing heartbeat whenever Oikawa gets too close.
But since none of them have verbally brought it up yet, Hajime figures he still has time left to not-worry about it.
Once, he goes out on a Saturday morning to buy more junk food in preparation for long nights of cramming, and he finds Oikawa napping on his bed upon returning. He’s hugging what Hajime thinks is a large book, the lines of his face seeming tired in the faint light.
Hajime gently nudges him on the shoulder. “Hey.”
Oikawa’s eyelashes flutter, before lifting completely to reveal brown eyes still glassy with sleep and half-formed dreams. Something in the general vicinity of Hajime’s chest clenches at the sight, but at this point, it’s nothing he’s not yet used to.
“Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks, voice coming out in a sleepy murmur. Then he seems to remember where he is, sitting straight up. “Iwa-chan! You’re back!”
Hajime smiles, feeling a little bit amused and a whole lot fond. “Yeah. I went out to buy some food for midterms.”
“Do you mean the studying kind, like peanuts and small bits of chocolate, or the comfort food kind, like unhealthy junk food and ice cream?”
Instead of answering, Hajime just lifts his plastic bag full of the latter. Oikawa nods after peering into the bag and going through Hajime’s selection, like he approves, and then his eyes widen when they spot a certain package. Hajime takes it out and hands it to him.
Oikawa gasps happily at the item. “Iwa-chan got me milk bread!”
Hajime gets on his bed and leans against the wall. “Just be careful not to get crumbs on my sheets or I’m kicking you out.”
“You don’t mean that,” Oikawa says, already tearing the plastic wrapper open. “We can always switch your sheets with Makki’s.”
Hajime waits until Oikawa’s eaten about half of the milk bread to ask. He points at the book – though upon closer inspection, he realizes that it looks more like an album. “What’s that?”
“Oh! Right.” Milk bread momentarily forgotten, Oikawa picks up the album. “I told you I was going to introduce you to my family, right?”
Oikawa shifts so that they’re properly sitting side by side, shoulders pressed together. He opens the album, and on the very first page is a picture involving at least 20 people. Hajime settles in, preparing himself for a very long talk about Oikawa’s various family members.
Not that Hajime minds, really. In fact, he never seems to mind anything when it comes to Oikawa Tooru, though he sometimes puts up the pretense that he does just to see Oikawa’s pout. Hajime tucks that certain thought away for future introspection, and makes himself focus on Oikawa’s family album for now.
Unlike Hajime, Oikawa obviously takes after both of his parents. He has his mother’s height and her charming smile, the kind that looks like she can convince just about anyone to do just about anything for her, and he has his father’s hair and his eyes, the kind that probably know a lot more than they let on.
Also unlike Hajime, Oikawa has an older brother and an older sister. The brother is a lot older than Oikawa, already married and with a kid. The sister isn’t much, having just graduated from college the previous year.
And then Oikawa goes through his many relatives – aunts and uncles and cousins, all somehow still in contact and on familiar terms with one another. Hajime loses track after the seventh name.
Finally, Oikawa points at a picture of an old woman sitting on a bench. Hajime isn’t sure, but it seems like she’s in a park, or maybe a large backyard, but there’s a lot of greenery around her, illuminated by an unseen sun. She’s smiling directly at the camera, expression as warm as the day in the picture. Her silver hair is cropped short, framing the roundness of her aged face, and she bears the slightest hint of a resemblance to Oikawa. It’s easy to tell that in her younger years, she had looked exactly like her grandson. In her hands is a single flower, the bright yellow of it standing out prettily against the backdrop of her baby blue dress.
Oikawa’s voice is endlessly fond when he says, “That’s my grandmother. This was taken on her birthday last year.”
Hajime observes the expression on Oikawa’s face. “You really care about her.”
There’s a light blush dusting Oikawa’s cheeks as he nods. In that moment, he looks bashful and impossibly young, hair sticking up in places where he slept on it, eyes bright and full of emotion. And when he smiles, Hajime feels like he’s been transported into the picture, feeling the warmth of the sunlight on his skin and the softness of the grass beneath his feet. Yet at the same time, Oikawa feels even gentler than that, like a caress in the shadows or a murmured goodnight before a long, peaceful sleep.
Briefly, Hajime remembers the phone charm he gave Oikawa. A star, just like him, bright and meant to be adored.
“I do,” Oikawa says, in response to a statement long-forgotten. “I really do.”
* * *
Before Hajime knows it, over a month has passed.
Midterms arrive in its usual deathly quiet, sweeping everyone into a frenzy of papers and exams. Hajime finds himself facing the very heavy reality of his major classes and electives in the form of Biology textbooks, Asian Literature readings, and Physics notes. The coursework sits on his desk in a rather intimidating pile, a constant reminder for him not to slack off.
As a result, he hasn’t been sleeping properly. His class schedule specifically isn’t packed, but all the free time he has is now spent either doing research and reading up on secondary materials in the library, or going over his lecture notes and flashcards in his dorm room, with one-hour power naps and coffee runs in between.
This is, without doubt, the busiest and most hectic semester of college by far.
But at the same time, he finds that it’s not so bad. And maybe, just maybe, that has something to do with the comforting near-constant presence in his room in the form of one Oikawa Tooru.
They don’t talk, not really, since Oikawa is busy himself with his own requirements. But he still goes to Hajime’s room when Hajime is there (and sometimes, Hajime suspects that Oikawa drops by even when he isn’t there, because there’ll be a little something out of place when he gets back from the library – like a book out of its stack or a pre-packed heated sandwich waiting on his desk or clothes he knows he left on the back of his chair suddenly folded by his bed, the sheets smelling faintly of the cologne Oikawa uses).
It’s another one of their unspoken arrangements. Hajime will work on his desk, typing papers away and muttering formulas underneath his breath, while Oikawa edits his video submissions and writes his own papers on Hajime’s bed. Sometimes Hanamaki will be there, tapping at a scientific calculator and muttering something about plates, but most of the time he’ll be off studying with Matsukawa instead.
So this is how Hajime makes it through midterms – in frenzied silence, but with a steady and constant presence by his side, a reminder that this will pass, and that there’s something else waiting for him after this week. Something bigger.
And Hajime knows, because Oikawa has let it slip once in a conversation consisting of half-asleep murmurs, that Hajime’s presence has the same effect on him.
* * *
It’s five minutes before midnight when Hajime finally emails his term paper draft to his professor, barely making it before the deadline. He refreshes the page and clicks on the Sent tab, checking that the email has indeed been delivered along with his paper to the right person. When he gets a confirmation email from his professor some three minutes later, he finally breathes out a sigh of relief and turns his laptop off.
It’s Thursday night – technically almost Friday – and Hajime has made it through all of his exams in one piece. Ragged and exhausted, yes, but still alive. The only thing he needs to submit tomorrow is his Asian Lit paper, which he still needs to edit, but that can wait in the morning.
Stretching, he turns to ask Oikawa if he needs help with anything, but he freezes when he sees the other slumped over the edge of his bed. The last time Hajime looked, Oikawa had decided to relocate himself on the floor and use Hajime’s bed as a makeshift table, but now it seems as though he’s fallen asleep.
His notes are scattered all over – there are two open notebooks on the bed and a smaller notepad dangling over the edge, and there are handouts lying in a hasty pile on the floor. Hajime knows that they’re all for Broadcast History, Oikawa’s final midterm exam tomorrow.
It’s only because Hajime knows the exam isn’t until 2PM that he decides not to wake Oikawa up. And also because he thinks Oikawa has been getting even less sleep than he is. Keeping his movements careful, Hajime moves away from his desk and starts collecting all of Oikawa’s notes into a pile. He tucks the handouts neatly in between the pages of a notebook, and then he sets everything down on his desk.
He pauses just as he reaches over to retrieve a blanket. The position can’t be all that comfortable for Oikawa, with his back bent forward and his legs crossed underneath him. They’re definitely going to feel numb when he wakes up. His neck is also bent at an angle that Hajime is certain will give him a crick, and the floor in general just really isn’t an ideal place to sleep on without a proper futon.
And then he decides to transfer Oikawa onto the bed.
He slides his arms under Oikawa’s thighs, carefully easing his legs out. Then he gently pulls Oikawa’s upper body away from the bed, arm supporting his back. There’s a brief second where Hajime lets out a huff at the surprise of someone else’s weight suddenly on him, but then he easily regains his balance and finds that Oikawa, for all his muscles and height, isn’t that much heavier than Hajime himself.
He’s warm, though. For a moment he stirs, and Hajime thinks he’ll wake up. But then Oikawa murmurs something too faint to catch, eyelids fluttering but not opening, and then he shifts so that he’s burrowed against Hajime’s chest.
Hajime is suddenly extremely glad that Oikawa is asleep, because he doesn’t want to deal with having to explain the sudden erratic beating of his heart to him. Especially since Hajime doesn’t even want to explain it to himself. With much care, he lowers Oikawa onto his bed, ignoring how something tugs at his chest when Oikawa’s hand makes an unconscious movement towards him, like he’s reaching for Hajime.
Shaking his head, he takes a blanket and settles it over Oikawa, unable to stop a fond smile when Oikawa lets out another sleepy little murmur.
Once he’s sure that Oikawa is comfortable, Hajime returns to his desk and turns his laptop back on.
* * *
Someone had the idea of organizing a movie night for all the dormers in celebration of midterms ending. Hajime has a sneaking suspicion that that someone is either Bokuto or Kuroo (or possibly both), but it’s not like he’s against the idea. On the contrary, after a grueling week of nothing but revisions, everyone is in desperate need of a fun activity to take their mind off of the looming reality of midterm results.
Their dormitory building is the biggest one on campus, consisting of four floors in total. The second floor is for the first year dormers, the third floor for the second years where Hajime and Oikawa are, and the fourth floor for the seniors. The first floor is where the cafeteria, general visiting area-slash-lobby, study room, and function room are located. Hajime has only ever been in the cafeteria and lobby, save for that one time he was forced to attend the freshman welcome party that was held in the function room.
But now here he is once more in that very same room, sitting on the floor as Bokuto and Kuroo try to figure out how to set up the projector. They’ve pinned a large white sheet on one of the walls, pushed aside the few chairs so that everyone has room to sit down, and bought nearly all of the snacks from the cafeteria. Plastic cups full of orange juice are already being passed around, because the dorm head threatened to turn down their last-minute request to use the function room and projector if alcohol were involved.
“This is pretty fun, isn’t it?” Oikawa says around a mouthful of crumbs. He’s already nibbling on a cookie. “Watching movies with friends is always exciting!”
He and Hajime are sitting at the back of the room, as far away from the makeshift screen as possible per Hajime’s request. He normally gets headaches if he stayed close to large screens for too long, and he needs something to lean against to get comfortable. Oikawa had complained that it’ll be harder to see from the very back, but when Hajime pointed out that they didn’t necessarily have to sit together, he merely pouted and sat down beside Hajime with a huff, watching Bokuto and Kuroo begin to fumble with cords up front.
That was five minutes ago.
“Yeah,” Hajime says now, in response to Oikawa’s statement, “if they figure out how to start the damn thing, that is.”
“Do you know what movie we’re watching?” Hanamaki, who’s also sitting with them, asks.
“I don’t,” answers Matsukawa, because where Hanamaki is, he follows.
Eventually one of the first years stands up and takes over setting up the projector, looking absolutely done. Bokuto and Kuroo both step back, watching the first year intently, and after a minute it finally connects to the laptop. A black-and-white Neko Atsume wallpaper gets projected onto the makeshift screen.
“Akaashi, you genius!” Bokuto exclaims, looking like he’s about to throw himself onto the first year. Kuroo stops him with a hand on the back of his shirt.
“Thank you, Kuroo-san,” Akaashi says, and then Hajime sees him take his place back on the floor, sat against the left wall beside a blond first year busy with his phone.
“Konoha, go get everyone else!” Bokuto orders.
“You’re not the boss of me,” Konoha shoots back, even as he stands up and heads out of the room. He returns a few minutes later with more of the dormers in tow, and the room is suddenly full of young boys eager for a break, shouting movie titles that range from straight up explosion-packed action films to sappy tear-jerking romances.
“I already chose a movie!” Kuroo announces, but he hides the DVD case from them with a shit-eating grin. Hajime is immediately suspicious.
Most of the guys on their floor sit together. That is, near the back where they spot Hajime and the others.
Oikawa frowns when Ushijima sits two people away from him, turning immediately to Hajime. “Iwa-chan, switch with me.”
“Stop being childish,” Hajime says. But he switches places with Oikawa anyway.
“What are we watching?” Sawamura, one of the other second years, asks once everyone has settled down and snacks have been passed around.
“You’re all going to love this,” Kuroo says. Again, his grin makes Hajime think otherwise.
He’s proven right when Kuroo finally inserts the DVD into his laptop and pulls up the movie player, a title appearing onscreen: The Conjuring.
That gets a lot of interesting reactions from the gathered boys. Azumane, one of Sawamura’s friends, makes a sound like a dying whale while waving his hands frantically. Tanaka and Nishinoya, a pair of first years who never seem to be apart, cheer very loudly. There’s a hiss of ‘what the fuck’ that comes from Kyoutani, also a first year, followed by a ‘what, you scared?’ from another first year named Yahaba. Hajime remembers them well because every time he sees them, they’re either yelling insults at each other’s faces or aggressively holding hands. Sometimes both at the same time.
Komi, one of Bokuto’s friends, stands up. “You’ve betrayed me.”
“I never said we weren’t going to watch a scary movie!” Bokuto exclaims.
“Aw, come on guys,” Kuroo tells the room at large. “Live a little! This is going to be fun! Plus, getting ourselves into terrifying situations together will strengthen our bond.”
“Say that again when you’re trying to sleep tonight,” Yaku says.
“I have never seen this film before,” Ushijima says. “I am very interested to know what it is they are going to conjure.”
“That’s the spirit, Ushiwaka.”
“Is the spirit what they are going to conjure?”
“Oh my god,” says Oikawa. “Just play the stupid movie!”
The lights get turned off. Complaints die in favor of glaring at the screen, as though that will fight off whatever terrible, malevolent thing is going to appear.
Personally, Hajime is not particularly a fan of horror movies, but it’s not because he gets scared of them. He just prefers other genres. Like whatever genre Pacific Rim is, for example. Or animations. Hajime loves animations, because he secretly loves a good cry.
But generally, he’s usually fine sitting through two hours of jump scares or gore or whatever, so he isn’t all that bothered. As the movie reaches the ten-minute mark – with some of the others already hiding their faces behind their hands – Hajime reaches for some packaged popcorn. Oikawa jumps slightly beside him when he rips it open, the noise seemingly louder than it normally is due to the tense silence of both the scene and the room.
Hajime quirks an eyebrow, but doesn’t comment. Someone passes a bowl of chips to him. The movie continues.
Thirty minutes in, Hanamaki and Matsukawa get bored and start making out. Hajime shoots them a disbelieving look, but it goes unseen due to his friends’ faces being already occupied. Rolling his eyes, Hajime shifts away from the couple, pressing closer against Oikawa in the process, and that’s when he realizes – Oikawa is tense.
Now that Hajime thinks about it, Oikawa has been oddly quiet throughout the movie. Normally, during the few times Hajime has watched a movie with him on his laptop, Oikawa would be talking his ear off with highly unnecessary commentary. Whenever Hajime would tell him to shut up, Oikawa would just go off on a tangent about how, as a Film student, he should be exercising his skills of scrutinizing a movie even outside of the classroom, since every viewing experience is an opportunity to expand my learning, Iwa-chan!
But now, Oikawa has yet to make even one scathing remark about the film. In fact, his half-eaten cookie rests in his unmoving hand, and the only indicator that he hasn’t actually fallen asleep sitting up is how wide his eyes are, firmly fixed forward.
When a loud something happens onscreen – Hajime doesn’t know what, since he’s watching Oikawa instead – Oikawa very visibly startles, eyes looking like they want to squeeze shut but seemingly unable to. Another loud noise comes from the screen, this one so sudden after the last one that even Hajime jumps in surprise, but Oikawa doesn’t even twitch this time. Instead, he lets out a small strangled sound.
Hajime finally realizes that Oikawa is scared.
Before Hajime can think about it, he’s reaching out and wrapping an arm around Oikawa’s waist. Oikawa jumps.
“It’s just me,” Hajime says, keeping his voice down.
“Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asks, and he finally – finally – looks away from the screen.
Hajime pulls him closer. “Come here.”
Oikawa huffs. “Why? Are you scared, Iwa-chan?”
Of course he’s going to be stubborn about it. Hajime doesn’t even bother responding, just pulls some more until Oikawa gives in and leans against his side. Carefully, he places his head on Hajime’s shoulder, angling his body slightly towards Hajime and pulling his knees up to his chest.
Hajime doesn’t remove his arm.
It occurs to him that, despite having grown closer this past month, this is the first time that they’ve actually done something like cuddling, not counting the lap incident with The Armchair. Hajime finds that Oikawa’s closeness is surprisingly welcome, especially with the additional warmth his body provides. Briefly, Hajime wishes he brought a blanket to drape over the both of them, because even with the air-conditioning turned down, the room is still a little chilly.
Another horrible thing happens in the movie, and this time, Oikawa doesn’t remain fixated on the screen. Instead he turns his head and buries his face into Hajime’s shoulder, one hand coming up to clutch at the front of Hajime’s shirt. He shifts even closer, and Hajime just holds him tighter.
“It’s gone now,” he says, once things in the film have calmed down somewhat.
Oikawa takes a peek to make sure, then he lifts his head back up. He sounds slightly embarrassed when he says, “Thanks, Iwa-chan.”
“No problem,” Hajime says, feeling a strange urge to ruffle Oikawa’s hair.
Like this, he looks a lot younger than he actually is, hair unstyled and expression open. Shadows play on his face, disturbed by the flickers of light coming from the screen, and the way he curls himself smaller so as to fit against Hajime’s side makes something flutter in Hajime’s chest.
Eventually, the movie comes to an end. Someone turns the lights back on, and the room is filled with released breaths and loud sighs of relief.
“That was a horrible idea,” Bokuto says.
“Alright, bathroom break!” Kuroo announces from the front of the room. “We’re watching another movie, so be back here in ten!”
“You have an awful taste in films,” Daishou, a second year, comments cheerfully.
Kuroo’s face twists into something unpleasant. “Shut up, Snake. Your girlfriend broke up with you.”
“On the contrary,” Daishou begins, voice sickeningly sweet, “Mika-chan and I got back together. We’re working it out and it’s been going really well. I’m teaching her volleyball the next weekend.”
Kuroo looks like he wants to throw something at Daishou’s head for that. Daishou looks like he’s nonverbally challenging Kuroo to throw that something at him so that he can throw it back with twice the force. Kuroo glances quickly at Bokuto, as though he’s assessing the pros and cons of using him as a human shield. Bokuto glances back, smiling confusedly in a way that suggests he doesn’t know what’s going on but he’s willing to sacrifice himself for Kuroo, anyway.
Before things can escalate, as they normally do with the two, Sawamura loudly cuts in, “What are we going to watch next?”
“Can we please watch something happy this time?” Sugawara, another one of Sawamura’s friends, backs up, even though he seems entertained by whatever’s going on between Kuroo and Daishou. “As fun as it was seeing Asahi trying to muffle his screams, I don’t want him to actually faint.”
There are murmurs of agreement from everyone still in the room, followed by about three dozen expectant pairs of eyes turned Kuroo’s way.
“Fine,” Kuroo relents with a sigh. He inserts another disc into the laptop after ejecting the first one, and it feels like everyone collectively holds their breath as the screen loads.
The menu for Inside Out appears, and everyone cheers.
“I would like to revise my earlier statement,” Daishou says. “You mostly have an awful taste in films.”
Kuroo smartly does not grace him with a reply.
Hajime, who has been watching the entire exchange, beams once the attention of the room is brought back to their makeshift screen. “Oh, I love this one!”
“Iwa-chan likes kid films,” Oikawa says amusedly. He’s still curled up against Hajime.
“They have really good messages, okay,” Hajime defends. His arm is still around Oikawa.
Neither of them move away. Neither of them seem to mind.
“The first movie wasn’t that scary,” Hanamaki chirps, face suddenly hovering over Hajime’s shoulder.
“That’s because you and Mattsun were making out for, like, half of it,” Oikawa says.
“True,” Matsukawa agrees, completely shameless about it. He shoots Oikawa a lazy smile. “Too bad you can’t make out with Iwaizumi. He seems to like this movie a lot, so there’s no way he’ll miss any of it.”
Hajime blushes while Oikawa sputters, pulling himself away to properly face Matsukawa. Hajime tries not to feel disappointed at the sudden loss of warmth, but it must show on his face because Hanamaki looks at him weirdly. But then again, Hanamaki has been looking at him weirdly a lot recently.
Oikawa and Matsukawa are still bantering by the time Kuroo asks the lights to get turned off again. Someone shushes Oikawa, tells him that the movie is about to start, and then a hush falls over the room as the first emotion appears onscreen.
“Hey, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa whispers after a while.
When Hajime turns his head, he finds that Oikawa is closer than he thought. Their faces are only a few inches apart, close enough for Hajime to feel the surprised hitch in Oikawa’s breath. He probably didn’t realize that they were this close, either.
For a moment, not one of them moves. Hajime is struck with the realization that it’d be so simple, so possible, closing the gap between them. In the dark, it’s easier to let himself imagine – imagine cupping the side of Oikawa’s face in his palm, imagine feeling Oikawa’s stuttered breathing against his mouth, imagine tasting the surprised sound he’d probably make, imagine Oikawa.
Oikawa melting against him, into him. Oikawa all around him, consuming his senses.
In the dark, it’s easier for Hajime to admit that he wants to kiss Oikawa.
But then the light from the screen shines on Oikawa’s frozen face, and Hajime forces himself to remember that none of this is supposed to be real. Oikawa had chosen him because they weren’t friends. There wasn’t supposed to be any emotional attachment.
Hajime is already attached.
The realization should’ve hit him with the force of an incoming train, sudden and violent and earth-shattering. Instead it comes to him quietly in bits and pieces, like stepping out into the rain and feeling individual drops against his skin that gradually blur into each other, and before he knows it, he’s drenched.
It’s not unexpected. It’s a small voice in Hajime’s head going, oh, and suddenly it all makes sense.
But this isn’t part of the deal, the more rational part of Hajime interrupts, like lightning sharply cutting into the atmosphere. And maybe Oikawa remembers their situation at the exact same time, because his face recomposes itself into an easy smile. Teasing.
In the dark, with Hajime’s newfound realization, it feels more mocking.
“Which emotion do you think fits me best?”
Hajime clenches his hand into a fist, letting his nails bite into the skin of his palm. He clears his head, focuses back on the now, and says, “Disgust.”
Oikawa blinks. “Why?”
“Because you hate everyone.”
“Not true.” Oikawa pouts. I don’t hate you, is what he doesn’t seem to say, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. “I think I’m more like Joy.”
“Because you’re a selfish asshole who wants all the attention?”
“Hey.” Oikawa’s pout deepens. “And no, it’s because I’m a delight to be around and I make people smile!”
Not right now, Hajime thinks. “What about me?” he asks instead.
Oikawa laughs, and it’s a breathy sound that tugs at something in Hajime’s chest. “You’re obviously Anger, Iwa-chan.”
And then he turns back to the movie, leaving Hajime feeling like a small blue blob.
* * *
“I just saw Oikawa in the library,” Hanamaki says in lieu of a greeting as he steps into their room.
A part of Hajime feels weird referring to it as their room now. Because for the last couple of weeks, the walls have probably seen more of Oikawa than its other temporary-owner, and the evidence of his stay is scattered in bits and pieces all over Hajime’s space. There’s a DVD case for a foreign Sci-fi film on the bed, a handout from a class Hajime isn’t taking on the desk, a lone purple sock with a yellow star print on the floor, and an old copy of Volleyball Monthly peeking from underneath Hajime’s pillow.
They all just serve as a reminder of how, in the span of a month and a half, Oikawa has managed to wedge his way into Hajime’s life and made it seem like he’s always been there. They all just serve as a reminder of Hajime’s – most likely unreturned – feelings.
But it’s not like he can back out now, not this close to the date. Not when he’s already made so many plans with Oikawa, spent so much time getting to know him, spent hours talking about what their fake-story is (because that’s all this is, Hajime reminds himself again and again and again; this is all fake). Not when Hajime already cares.
It’s a little funny, maybe, because when Hajime agreed to all of this, it had never occurred to him to take care of his own heart. He never expected to get attached to Oikawa like this. They weren’t even supposed to get close in the first place.
And yet. And yet here he is.
The only upside to this entire realization is that he won’t have a hard time pretending to be in love with Oikawa anymore. He’s already well on his way there, like he’s on the edge of a cliff, and a single push is all it would take for him to completely tumble down.
Hajime thinks that maybe he wouldn’t mind the crash so much.
“He’s doing research for his Media Theory homework,” he says, finally, from where he’s lying perpendicular on his bed. It feels a lot colder without Oikawa there.
Hanamaki hums in response. He sits down on his own bed, leaning against the wall so that he’s facing Hajime.
Hajime knows he’s being watched. He knows that Hanamaki has been piecing things together for the last few weeks. He knows that his friend can see right through him.
Finally, Hanamaki lets out a heavy sigh. “I’m really sorry.”
Hajime wants to ask, for what? But he knows why. And Hanamaki knows he knows why.
So he says, “It’s not your fault.”
“It kinda is,” Hanamaki argues, laughing humorlessly.
Hajime snorts, keeping his gaze trained upwards, head nearly hanging off the edge of his bed. His ceiling looks bare, just a plain stretch of white with paint chipping off in some places. He remembers Oikawa suggesting sticking some glow-in-the-dark stars up there, once, so that it wouldn’t look so boring.
He smiles a little. “You’re not the one who developed feelings.”
“But I’m the one who pushed you into this.”
Hajime thinks about that. Maybe Hanamaki has a point. No, Hanamaki definitely has a point. But Hajime has never been the type of person to put the blame on others, especially if it’s something directly concerning himself. Especially if it’s about his own feelings. He takes it all upon his own shoulders, because in the end, the things that happen to him all boil down to just one person’s doing.
And that person is himself.
“You had no way of knowing that I’ll end up getting attached,” he finally says. He tilts his head back further to look at his friend upside-down. “Really, it’s not your fault.”
Hanamaki still looks troubled, though, like he can’t quite accept that he’s not to blame for some of it.
Hajime pushes himself up and off his bed, managing a smile. “Hey now, don’t worry about me. I’m an adult, and I can handle my own feelings.” He approaches Hanamaki and reaches out to ruffle his hair. “So don’t stress yourself out thinking about it, okay?”
Hanamaki stares at him for a second, before sighing. “Okay.”
“Good.” Hajime then steps away and puts his shoes on.
“Where are you going?”
“Just going out for some coffee.”
Hanamaki hesitates. “Do you want me to come with you?”
Hajime shoots him another smile. “It’s fine. Do you want me to get you anything, though?”
Hanamaki shakes his head.
“Okay. I’ll be back by dinner, then.” Hajime heads out, but not before throwing one last look at Hanamaki over his shoulder. “And stop thinking about it.”
Then he walks out of the room.
* * *
He changes his mind about the coffee and just ends up going for a walk.
There are a few shops near campus, just small family establishments meant to attract college students looking to alleviate their stress by spending on unnecessary objects, usually under the guise of treating oneself after a hard night of studying. Hajime has only been here a handful of times, usually when Hanamaki would drag him out of their room because if I see one more equation, I’m going to smash my calculator into my face, so he’s not really entirely familiar with what is being sold in which shop.
He takes his time passing by their windows until one finally catches his eye. It’s an unassuming little place with a sign pinned to the door, welcoming customers in. Warm light from inside glows through the crack below the door and through the small window that has seen better days, oddly inviting. It reminds Hajime of another quiet little establishment, one that you wouldn’t find unless you already knew it was there.
There’s a burst of warmth as he steps in, pale yellow lights illuminating the room. There are two shelves pushed against either wall, a long table taking space in the center with the counter at the back. The place seems to be selling random objects – small potted plants and clay vases, handmade jewelry and bag charms crafted from shells and smooth stones, notebooks with hand-painted covers and wallets made of dyed cloth, and row upon row of odd little things that Hajime doesn’t know the exact use of.
There are a few other people having a look around, but Hajime doesn’t recognize any of them so he busies himself with browsing through the objects. He picks up a small notepad with a supernova painted on the cover and flips through its empty brown pages. He unfolds a shirt that looks like it’s been dipped in an explosion of dye and stares at the colors splashed across every surface in an oddly-shaped rainbow. He inspects a tiny succulent plant in a pale blue pot painted with tiny white flowers.
He realizes, after a moment, that everything he has looked at the most are things he thinks Oikawa would like. Sighing at himself in frustration, he turns to exit the small shop, when something else catches his eye.
Standing in a corner is a rack full of hats. Hajime approaches it and sees a price tag attached to the display. He reaches for the one that has specifically caught his eye, a baby blue sunhat with an artificial yellow flower pinned to one side. He can’t remember what it reminds him of, exactly, but the sight of it tickles at something on the very edges of his memory.
He stares at it, turning it over in his hands, feeling the softness of the material beneath the pads of his fingers. He imagines someone wearing this while out on a sunlit day, when the grass is green and the trees are spread out to provide much-needed shade. Maybe that someone is out for a walk in the park, wearing a dress that matches the blue of the hat.
And then it clicks. The picture of Oikawa’s grandmother, sitting on a bench, wearing a baby blue dress while holding a yellow flower.
Hajime pulls out his phone.
Hey, I know you’re busy right now but I have a question. Is your grandmother more of a stay at home knitting person or a walk in the park feeding birds person?
It takes a while, but he gets a reply.
the second, except she doesn’t really feed birds in the park!! she’s more like a morning walks and afternoon gardening kind of person
So she’s outside a lot?
p much!! why do u ask iwachan??
Nothing in particular. I’ll see you later.
Hajime puts his phone back in his pocket and buys the hat.
* * *
The party is next week.
Hajime and Oikawa have agreed on keeping the boyfriend part a surprise for until they arrive, but they’ll still be leaving early Saturday morning in case help is needed with preparations. They’ll return to campus the following day, and then after that they’ll go on their separate ways and return to their previous lives, just like they initially agreed on.
Just like how it should be.
But maybe if Hajime is lucky – or unlucky, he isn’t exactly sure – Oikawa might want to continue being friends with him. Maybe.
Maybe they wouldn’t have to pretend the other doesn’t exist. Maybe it wouldn’t be awkward between them. Maybe Hajime’s feelings would naturally disappear or simmer down with time, once they no longer have to put up the act of being together.
There are a lot of possibilities, really, but Hajime tries not to think about any of them too much as he attends his classes. It’s hard to push them aside, however, especially with how fresh the realization is, and it’s like there’s a constant murmuring in his head, trying to pull his attention away from lectures and homework and lab experiments. He feels a little more tired each day, but he’s good at hiding it by sticking close to a routine.
He sits through his classes and distracts himself by diligently taking notes. He joins the others in the common room for card games. He has dinner with his friends in the cafeteria. He goes to sleep with his sheets smelling faintly of Oikawa’s shampoo.
But sometimes, Hajime will return from the library or the laboratory to find Oikawa in his room, typing away on the desk or napping on the bed in one of Hajime’s shirts (because that’s another habit Oikawa has developed, stealing Hajime’s shirts and sweaters even though they’re slightly loose around the shoulders and hanging above the waist – Hajime still can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing). Sometimes, Hajime will be walking across campus grounds and Oikawa will be there all of a sudden, a hand on his shoulder and a smile on his face. Sometimes, even when Hajime manages to forget about his thoughts for a while, Oikawa will bring them back full force with his presence.
Hajime isn’t quite used to pining over someone, is the thing. The few times he actually developed serious feelings for someone, he confronted them head-on and confessed. It didn’t matter that only one of them ended in something other than a rejection. What mattered was that Hajime got the what-if’s out of the way.
But he can’t see himself doing that with Oikawa right now. For one thing, if he confessed now and got rejected, things would only get incredibly awkward between them at the party. No one would ever buy into their pretend-relationship, and Oikawa might get pushed into a corner by his cousins.
Plus, there’s also the fact that Hajime enjoys what he currently has with Oikawa, no matter how artificial or temporary it may be. He can let himself pretend, just for a little longer.
And then he’ll just deal with whatever happens next, when it happens.
Sometimes, Hajime wonders whether this is the universe’s way of playing a joke on him. He can honestly say that, when Hanamaki brought up Oikawa needing a favor that day in the cafeteria, he never thought things would lead to this. How could he when, at the time Oikawa made his proposal, Hajime was under the impression that he was another one of those pompous assholes who think they’re above everyone else just because they have a pretty face? When Hajime thought Oikawa was some kind of artificial king who got whatever he wanted with just a flash of a smile?
But Hajime saw the cracks, saw bits and pieces of what was underneath that smile, until he finally managed to get through and see Oikawa for who he really is.
That is to say, someone who is annoying and weird with an alarming need for sweets, questionable movie preferences, an obsession with extra-terrestrial life forms, and outrageous demands. Not quite the constantly-composed smooth-talker so many people think of him to be. Yet at the same time, he’s passionate and hardworking, and it’s obvious he would do anything for the people he most cares about. He’s smart and fun to talk to and charming in a ridiculous kind of way. He pretends, hides insecurities through false bravado, and makes up for it by working hard.
And he never stops. He keeps moving forward, always a step ahead, always driven by his ambitions.
In just over a month, he’s carved his way into Hajime’s life and made a space for himself there. No warnings, no knocks, no may-I-come-in’s. It’s like he’s always been there to begin with.
It had been so easy, Hajime thinks, falling in love with him.
* * *
Immediately, Hajime knows that something is up, because the person standing by his door is neither Oikawa nor Hanamaki, but Matsukawa.
They’ve never really had a conversation with just the two of them before. Even though they’ve formed a friendship of their own over the past couple of weeks, Hanamaki had always been there to act as some kind of middle ground. It’s not that Hajime has trouble getting along with Matsukawa on his own, really. It’s more because Hanamaki rarely ever leaves Matsukawa’s side now that Oikawa and Hajime are a (pretend) thing.
So to have him appear just outside of Hajime’s dorm room like this, without Hanamaki in sight, is rather alarming.
Hajime closes his book and sets it aside. “What’s up? Where’s Hanamaki?”
“Trying to talk reason into Oikawa,” Matsukawa says. Frowns.
Hajime also frowns. He tries to keep the concern out of his voice when he asks, “What do you mean?”
“He’s trying to bake a cake for his grandmother,” Matsukawa says. Unlike Hajime, he doesn’t keep the concern out of his voice. “And I imagine we can’t afford to repair another kitchen in the building so soon. Just last month, this Futakuchi kid a floor below us tried to cook something to surprise Ennoshita with, but he ended up completely scorching one of the walls. Think he broke some appliances, too.”
Hajime is well-aware of this incident, since the first years have been borrowing the kitchen on their floor while repairs were being done. It takes him a while to understand what that has anything to do with Oikawa though, but when it does, Hajime is suddenly alert.
“Oikawa can’t bake, can he?”
Matsukawa shakes his head. “Or cook. He’s a walking kitchen hazard.”
Hajime stands up.
Ten minutes later, he finds himself leaning against the sink and warily watching Oikawa lay out the ingredients on the worktop. He’s not really babysitting so much as making sure nothing ends up burning, or worse, exploding.
Oikawa, on the other hand, seems like he doesn’t have a single care in the world for the other people’s concerns. He’s even wearing a frilly peach apron he apparently found tucked away behind cracked bowls and giant wooden spoons in one of the cabinets while rummaging for utensils earlier, humming and swaying along to the foreign pop music playing from his phone. Hajime, upon first walking into the kitchen, nearly tripped all over himself at the sight.
Now he just watches as Oikawa scrolls through his phone for the googled recipe, double-checking whether he has everything ready. All potential kitchen disasters and unbidden heart attacks for Hajime aside, he’s glad to see that Oikawa genuinely looks excited at the task.
“Iwa-chan, are you really just going to stand there the entire time?”
Hajime shrugs. “That’s the deal.”
“You’re just like the rest of them,” Oikawa says, waving a whisk dramatically. “You have absolutely no faith in me!”
“This is just a precaution.”
Oikawa pouts. Then his face changes, expression rearranging itself into something more considering. “Hmm. How about you help me bake, instead? So it won’t be so boring for you!”
At that, Hajime blinks, not at all expecting the invitation. “Are you sure?”
“Well, yeah.” Oikawa makes a vague hand motion. “We can tell grandma that the cake is a gift from the both of us! And, well. You’re already here anyway.”
There’s something odd about his tone, though. It’s slight enough that Hajime can’t determine what it is exactly, but it’s definitely there, seemingly shy. And it might just be the lighting in the kitchen, or Hajime’s hopeful imagination, but it looks like Oikawa might be blushing.
Hajime steps closer towards where Oikawa is working, fighting down a blush of his own. “You’re really sure?” he asks again, just to be certain.
In response, Oikawa just leans down and opens one of the kitchen cabinets. He pulls out another apron, this one horrifyingly orange with a smiling cartoon sun printed on the front, and shoves it at Hajime. “This is the only other one I found. It’s ugly but it’ll have to do!”
Hajime sputters and holds the apron at arms’ length, squinting at it. “Isn’t this for a five-year-old? Why is this even there?”
Oikawa shrugs. “Beats me. But hey, it’s fine if it’s a little small. Iwa-chan is so tiny, anyway, so it doesn’t matter!”
“Say that again and I’ll shove you inside the fridge.”
Oikawa just laughs, picking his phone up once more, which is still blasting lyrics Hajime can barely understand, and loudly reading the instructions. Hajime notices that the star charm he gave Oikawa on their practice-date is attached to his phone case, catching the light as it sways slightly. A by-now familiar feeling flutters in Hajime’s chest.
After picking out eggshells from the bowl (“You can’t even crack eggs properly?” “I’ve got it all under control, Iwa-chan!” “Are your hands even clean?”) and whisking it rather aggressively, Oikawa says, “Thank you, by the way.”
Hajime, who is doing the mixing of the dry ingredients, pauses. “It’s not a problem,” he says slowly, considering. “I finished all my homework for the weekend, anyway, so it’s not like I had anything else to do.”
“No, not just this.” Oikawa’s voice is quiet. Sincere. Hajime forces himself to keep mixing instead of dropping everything so he can give all of his attention to Oikawa. “I mean, thank you for helping me bake, as well, but. Thanks for agreeing to do this entire thing with me, and for putting up with me, and for – for everything, really.”
Hajime thinks of all the things he could say to that. It feels too serious all of a sudden, too honest, and he doesn’t think he can survive being in this kind of atmosphere without slipping and opening himself up in some way. Not when Oikawa is being like this, all soft and genuine.
And it’s then that the small, hopeful part of Hajime thinks that maybe, maybe, Oikawa feels the same. Because Hajime gets hints, sometimes, in the way Oikawa presses close to him even when no one is looking, in the way he sleeps on Hajime’s bed even when Hajime isn’t there, and in the way he always seems to be looking for Hajime in the same way Hajime is always looking for him.
It could be so easy. Hajime could put the bowl down right now, take Oikawa’s face in his hands, and kiss him right against the counter. And maybe Oikawa would kiss him back.
But, the more reasonable part of him says, always overpowering, always present. He can’t risk it. Not now. Not when the party is tomorrow. Not when they’re so close.
So Hajime continues mixing, forces as much dry humor as he can into his next sentence. “Don’t get all sentimental on me now.”
When Oikawa smiles, it looks more like the ghost of a smile than an actual one, faint yet lingering around the edges. Like he knows. He nudges Hajime’s hip with his, takes over mixing the batter, and the two of them continue working in comfortable silence.
* * *
Hajime zips his overnight bag after double-checking its contents, sending a nod towards Hanamaki who is lounging by the doorway. He looks as though he’s unsure of stepping inside, and Hajime suddenly realizes that he’s not the only one who had been thinking that Hanamaki’s ownership of the room feels so odd now.
“Sorry,” he hears himself say, before he can think about it.
Hanamaki blinks. “For what?”
Hajime motions vaguely towards Hanamaki’s side of the room, left mostly untouched save for the wrinkled blankets and a single misplaced pillow.
“Aw, come on,” Hanamaki says. “It’s not a big deal.”
“I feel like I drove you away. From your own room.”
“Oikawa drove me away,” Hanamaki points out, but his tone is half-joking. “And I don’t mind, anyway. More alone time with Issei.”
“Right.” Hajime nods. He hikes his bag up his shoulder and picks up another bag that he’s been hiding underneath his bed.
“Nervous?” Hanamaki asks, still by the door.
Hajime considers, then minutely shakes his head. “Not yet.”
“Iwa-chan!” Oikawa arrives then, excited face appearing over Hanamaki’s shoulder. “Are you ready to go, Iwa-chan? Makki, get out of the way!”
Hanamaki rolls his eyes, but dutifully steps aside so that Hajime can step out. He slaps a hand against Hajime’s back and makes a peace sign at Oikawa. “Have a good time, you two.”
It’s a three-hour ride, so Hajime leans his head against the train window, determined to get at least an hour of sleep in. But the glass vibrates uncomfortably against his forehead, so he pulls back again, frowning.
There’s the sound of plastic being torn beside him. When he turns his head, he sees Oikawa munching on some kind of pre-packaged convenience store pastry, a bottled water resting on his lap. He catches Hajime looking and wordlessly offers him a bite, but Hajime shakes his head.
“I’ve had breakfast,” he says. He wishes he could’ve gotten some coffee, though.
Oikawa swallows, before taking another large bite of bread and whatever else is on it. Hajime watches him eat – watches the fullness of his cheeks because he’s stuffed too much into his mouth at once, the tight press of his lips to keep crumbs from falling out of his mouth, the pleased crinkle around his eyes. He’s like a chipmunk, Hajime thinks, except more annoying. Cuter, too.
Oikawa catches him looking again.
Hajime says, “You’re such an ugly eater.”
Oikawa chokes on his mouthful and loudly thumps on his chest at that, water bottle rolling from his lap and onto the floor. Hajime picks it up and waits for Oikawa calm down, fighting to keep his expression neutral instead of whatever fond look it is that’s threatening to break out on his face.
“You’re so rude, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says, once he finally recovers.
“Hmm,” Hajime hums, wordlessly offering the water. “I bet you’re an ugly crier, too.”
“Shut up!” Oikawa half-yells, even as he takes the water and goes back to munching on his bread, moodily this time.
Once the pastry is gone and Oikawa’s chugging down the bottle, Hajime asks, “Should I still call you Oikawa, by the way?”
Oikawa immediately stops drinking. “What?”
“Your last name,” Hajime clarifies. “Should I still call you by your last name, or are we supposed to be on a first name basis? I mean, it’d be pretty weird if I kept calling you Oikawa in a house full of, well, other Oikawa’s.”
Oikawa thinks about it for a moment. “That’s true. But I like calling you Iwa-chan, though.”
“Well,” Hajime says, considering, “that’s more of a nickname, right? So it’s okay for you to keep calling me that, I guess. Even if it’s stupid and embarrassing.”
“Hey! How dare you.” Oikawa puts a hand on his chest. “I’ll have you know that Iwa-chan is a perfectly good nickname! A nickname made of love, from Oikawa-san to Iwa-chan.”
Hajime makes a face of mock-disgust. “Stop referring to yourself in third person. It’s creepy as hell.”
Oikawa pouts. Hajime grabs his water bottle just to throw it at his face. Oikawa yelps.
He picks the bottle up where it fell on the floor after impact, brows knit together. He looks ready for revenge when he straightens back up, arm poised to throw the bottle back at Hajime, so Hajime tries it – the name that has been showing up in his thoughts, whether awake or asleep, real and ever-present. The syllables should feel foreign on his tongue. His lips would probably form weirdly around the shape of it, since he has never allowed himself to say it out loud before, until now.
So does Hajime.
The name, Oikawa’s first name, slid off his tongue and fell from his lips smoothly, as though Hajime’s been saying it his entire life. It should’ve felt weird, since all this time it’s been Oikawa this and Oikawa that, but. But it’s not weird.
So Hajime says it again, this time louder, “Tooru.”
Oikawa’s grip has slackened. The poor water bottle comes rolling down and clattering onto the floor once more, but this time no one picks it up. He stares at Hajime, eyes wide, lips parted in surprise and something else, an emotion yet to be labeled, cheeks flushed deeply. For a second, Hajime allows himself the fleeting thought that had they actually been together right now, he could just reach over and close Oikawa’s mouth with a hand on the chin, then pull him in for a kiss.
“You’re going to get flies in your mouth,” Hajime says, after a few more seconds of silence from Oikawa.
This seems to snap Oikawa back to reality, mouth closing and eyes blinking rapidly. He shakes his head, the tips of his ears burning bright, gaze darting around like he’s not sure where to look. Suddenly, a small part of Hajime just knows.
For a minute, it seems as though Oikawa is going to keep quiet for the rest of the ride. Hajime welcomes the silence, because it gives him a chance to organize his thoughts more. Tipping his head back against his seat and letting his eyes fall shut, he goes through their fabricated love story one more time.
It’s all too easy picturing it, the two of them meeting in the common room late one night, because they both couldn’t sleep and they didn’t want to wake their respective roommates up with their restlessness – Hajime lazily flipping through an old issue of a manga on The Armchair, Oikawa crossing towards the kitchen to get milk; sleepily talking to each other until the early hours of the morning, falling asleep side by side on the couch, and waking up the following morning with a crick in their necks and backs.
It feels so real, but Hajime knows that it’s not. Instead, what makes the illusion so easy to believe is that the experiences themselves aren’t foreign. A few times, in Hajime’s room, they’ve found themselves talking to each other about everything and nothing until the digital clock on the desk blared that it’s already 1AM, Oikawa curled on the floor or against the headboard or near the edge of the mattress, Hajime by his side – always by his side – with a random book propped open on his knee and an empty milk carton sitting on the desk chair, waiting to be thrown away once it’s properly morning.
It’s not so hard to imagine, actually being with Oikawa.
Hajime gets momentarily lost in his daydreams of freely holding Oikawa’s hand and falling asleep curled beside him, that he almost misses it when Oikawa says something, voice lacking its usual cheery tone and leaving nothing but a sensation that’s part curious, part hesitant, and part euphoric.
The syllables, when they finally register in Hajime’s brain, make his eyes shot wide open.
Oikawa just said his name, in a voice that’s not-a-whisper, but close. It sounds like how it would feel to jump from a high point with nothing but a helmet on your head and an elastic rope around your waist – a moment of uncertainty, then a second of bravery, a single push into the jump, a split-second of suspension in the air, and then falling all at once.
It was a brief pause, a barely-there stutter, and then syllables nearly tripping over each other in their haste to get out.
Oikawa isn’t looking at him, gaze fixed forward. His cheeks have returned to their normal color, but there’s something about his eyes and mouth that give him away, a kind of glazed-over wonder to them at the feeling of saying Hajime’s name.
It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is, both to Hajime and Oikawa. Both to Hajime and Tooru (even just thinking it, Tooru, sends a pleasant kind of thrill through Hajime).
And the part of Hajime that knows, that is trying to get the rest of him to acknowledge what it knows, grows just a tad bit bigger.
For the rest of the train ride, Hajime allows himself to consider.
* * *
Oikawa makes a grand gesture of sweeping his arms out and above him, a smile wide enough to show all of his teeth taking over his features. Right here, standing in the quiet sunlit street of his childhood home, he looks like one of those curiously wonderful faded photographs, the ones that seem like they’re hiding hundreds of stories beneath their worn-out edges. Hajime doesn’t think he would mind listening to all of those stories.
He turns his gaze away and examines the house. Or, what he can see of it, at least. There’s a fence that’s about two feet taller than Oikawa lining the edge of what is probably a front yard, allowing only a view of a second floor complete with a balcony a bit further back. The top of a tree peaks just slightly above the roof from behind the house, branches looking heavy with green. The place doesn’t look very traditional, but something about it emits a quiet and peaceful kind of ambience, easing Hajime a little.
Oikawa rings the doorbell once.
It doesn’t take long for someone to come to them. Before Hajime can even fully brace himself for his first meeting with one of Oikawa’s family, the gate quickly opens to reveal a young woman dressed simply in a plain white shirt and jeans. There’s something striking about her despite her modest outfit, evident in the way she holds herself up and her face breaks into a brilliant smile.
She looks like Oikawa, Hajime realizes. Not exactly in terms of physical appearance and face, though the similarities are there, but more so in the way she presents herself. A fleeting thought passes through Hajime, one that tells him that maybe, this is where Oikawa learned to project the confidence Hajime has seen him wear like an armor from.
“You’re here!” she shouts, delighted, before throwing herself onto Oikawa. She’s about Hajime’s height, skin kissed golden by the sun.
Oikawa hugs her tight for a second before holding her at arms’ length. “How was backpacking across Southeast Asia?”
“Fantastic,” she says, shooting a thumbs-up. “Got this tan in the Philippines. It was hot as hell.” Her eyes finally find Hajime, and they widen slightly, lips quirking up in interest. Hajime tries not to visibly tense. “And who is this?”
“Ah!” Oikawa steps into place by Hajime’s side and takes his hand, slotting their fingers together. They haven’t properly held hands before this, only experienced a few grips on the other’s wrist or caught glimpses of fingers brushing briefly whenever they reach out at the same time, but the action feels effortless. Hajime doesn’t miss the way Oikawa’s sister glances quickly at their joined hands. “Nee-chan, this is Iwaizumi Hajime.”
Her face breaks into a grin. “No way.”
Oikawa just looks smug.
Hajime tries a smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“My, my, my,” she says. Her eyes practically glitter in the sunlight, excited and intrigued and delighted all at once. “Hello there. I’m Oikawa Kotomi, but you can just call me Kotomi Nee-san if you want.”
Hajime’s flush is mirrored on Oikawa’s face. “Nee-chan!” he protests, though there’s a laugh in his voice. “Don’t embarrass me.”
She puts a hand to her chest, eyes widening for dramatic effect. Hajime can definitely see where Oikawa got it from. “Why, never, little brother! As a matter of fact, I’m not at all looking forward to showing Hajime-kun here that one photo album from when you were four.”
Oikawa gasps. “You wouldn’t.”
Her grin, when it cuts through her pretty face, is sharp.
“Kotomi!” someone calls from inside. “What are you doing standing out there still? Is that finally Akane? Or is it Tooru?”
Before Hajime can try to place who the voice might belong to, another woman appears. The first thing Hajime notices about her is her height, towering even above Kotomi who is by no means short. And then Hajime takes in everything else, from her face to her clothes to her posture, and it’s not at all difficult to guess who she is. Even if Oikawa hadn’t shown Hajime pictures before, Hajime would still know with just a glance.
“Tooru!” Oikawa’s mother exclaims once she sees her son. “And—” Her eyes fall on where Tooru and Hajime are still holding hands. Her smile, when it appears, is not unlike Kotomi’s. “Oh, what do we have here?”
“Mom,” Oikawa says, and now Hajime feels it – the nerves, the brief flash of panic, the reality of what they’re trying to pull here – sudden and sharp like ice getting dumped down the back of his shirt. “This is my boyfriend.”
* * *
The first floor is mostly taken up by a spacious room void of most furniture, only holding a television set pushed against the wall and some rolled mats stacked neatly in a corner. There’s a glass sliding door leading to a narrow stretch of yard on the side of the house, where a small wooden table and two matching chairs are placed, then the rest of the floor consists of an equally large kitchen and a general bathroom.
“Rooms are upstairs,” Oikawa’s mother says. She took the news of her youngest child bringing home a boyfriend quite well, but not after a full minute of intense staring that made Hajime feel as though his soul was being sucked right out of his very being. And then she had given Hajime a brilliant smile – do all Oikawa’s have this kind of smile, Hajime wonders – and invited him inside.
“C’mon, Iwa-chan. Let’s put our things away before I introduce you to everyone else!”
Okay then. Here they go.
Meeting Oikawa’s father is less terrifying, for some reason. He doesn’t give Hajime the same scrutinizing stare Oikawa’s mother did, though he does shake Hajime’s hand even after bowing in greeting. Hajime recognizes what the firm squeeze he receives means, but with the introductions over with, they fall into an easy conversation about sports. Kotomi, overhearing their topic, jumps right in.
“Ah, a fellow ace!” she says excitedly, putting a fist up.
Hajime knocks their knuckles together.
Oikawa’s father says, proudly, “She was one hell of a wing spiker in high school. And Tooru won the Best Setter Award in his last year of middle school, too. They would practice together every afternoon in the backyard.”
“I miss it,” she says, letting out a sigh. “But I’ve been so busy doing everything else! Exploring the world, using my Photography degree for my own personal happiness instead of succumbing to capitalism.” She laughs. “But it would be nice to get back to it sometime.”
Hajime has no doubt that Kotomi is the kind of person that never stays in one place for too long, not if she can help it. She looks like someone who does big things as a pastime, who chases after adventures without ever looking back. She has that in common with her brother, really, the only difference being that Oikawa can do big things without ever having to leave or move places, because the adventure is happening within himself.
Oikawa’s mind is a vast, unexplored plane of thrill and surprises, full of turns yet to be discovered and places yet to be named. Hajime can’t wait to see them all onscreen, one day.
“We can organize a game sometime,” he says, not really thinking much about it.
Kotomi looks at him with bright, approving eyes. “That’d be awesome! Ah, I miss Tooru’s sets so much. Have you ever experienced hitting them?”
“Iwa-chan!” Oikawa appears before Hajime can answer, a man Hajime recognizes as his brother standing close by with who Hajime assumes is his own family. “This is nii-chan, Takaya, and that’s his wife, Shizuka, and their son, Takeru.”
Hajime excuses himself from the sports conversation to properly greet Oikawa’s brother, after which he’s dragged off to meet some cousins who have already arrived. Most have brought significant others of their own, just like Oikawa said they would, and they react in various degrees of excitement and surprise when Oikawa holds Hajime’s hand and introduces him as his boyfriend.
“Finally!” one of them says, giving both Oikawa and Hajime a hearty slap on the back. “Been thinking you’d never get anyone, Tooru.”
Oikawa pouts, twisting his arm behind him to rub his back. “I’m only 20, Yuta.”
“Still,” the cousin named Yuta says, smile bright. “Take good care of him, eh, Iwaizumi-kun.”
Hajime just smiles, and then Oikawa ushers him away. The house is slowly starting to fill with people, even though the party won’t actually start until 5.00 that evening. Some of them head straight into the kitchen to help with food preparations, while the rest gather in groups of three or four in the living room.
Hajime allows Oikawa to push him towards the sliding door, waving away relatives that try to stop him to talk with a smile. Outside, through the glass, Hajime can see a few children sprawled on the narrow strip of grass, digging at the ground with sticks and collecting rocks in their mud-covered hands. For a moment, Hajime thinks back to his own childhood, of summers spent wandering the trees behind his neighborhood for cicadas to capture. He never kept them for longer than ten minutes, though, knowing that they didn’t have a long life span and it would be cruel to have kept them trapped in glass jars for whatever little time they had.
No, it wasn’t about having proof of capturing the insects that mattered to Hajime, then. The point was the experience, the thrill of the chase.
He wonders if this time, he would be content with only having the experience, too.
Oikawa slides the door open, and they step out. The children wave at Oikawa and look curiously at Hajime for a second, before returning to their rocks.
“Let’s go around the back,” Oikawa says. And then, as easy as anything, he takes Hajime’s hand in his and leads him to the backyard.
The backyard is wider than Hajime expected. There’s a large tree in one corner, the same tree Hajime caught a view of while standing outside earlier, with some potted plants arranged around its roots. A manmade pond glitters in the sunlight, small flashes of color darting below the surface. Embedded into the ground are polished flat stones that make up a pathway of some sort, cutting diagonally through the rectangle of greenery and leading to a corner of shrubs that bloom bright flowers surrounding a bench, where an old woman sits.
Hajime finally realizes why the place looks so familiar. He had seen it already before. Part of it, at least, in a photo kept between the pages of Oikawa’s family album. The woman in the picture is the very same one sitting on the bench right now.
“Grandma!” Oikawa greets, letting go of Hajime’s hand to practically skip towards where his grandmother is. Hajime follows at a slower pace, mentally composing himself. He had expected the guilt to be present during this part, but he did not anticipate it to be this strong, almost to the point of overwhelming. Especially since he’s about to face Oikawa’s grandmother, the reason for all of this.
With purpose, Hajime takes that guilt and forcibly shoves it away to the back of his mind. He’ll let it eat at him later – after – when all of this is over and done with.
He fixes a smile onto his face.
“And who might this dashing young man be?” Oikawa’s grandmother asks, turning warm eyes towards Hajime. He bows politely. “My, Tooru. You’ve never brought a friend before.”
“Grandma,” Oikawa begins, placing a gentle hand on Hajime’s arm. His expression is soft, and it calms Hajime down a little, makes him feel more settled with himself. “This is Iwaizumi Hajime, my boyfriend. Iwa-chan, my grandmother, Touka.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Hajime says, completely earnest. “Tooru has told me a lot about you. He’s very fond of you.”
Oikawa’s fingers tighten for a second at the use of his given name, before relaxing again. Hajime gently pries his hand away from his arm, fitting their fingers together instead. He wishes it could always be this easy, holding Oikawa’s hand.
“Boyfriend,” Oikawa’s grandmother says, eyes brightening.
She pats the space beside her on the bench. The two of them sit, pressed close to each other on the limited space. It reminds Hajime of that time in the common room, Oikawa half on his lap and shoulders overlapping, while they played cards until sundown.
“Are you from the same university as my grandson, Hajime-kun?” Oikawa’s grandmother asks.
Hajime nods. “Yes. We also live in the same dorm.”
“No, ma’am, but on the same floor.”
Oikawa’s grandmother laughs gently. “Dear, you don’t have to be so formal with me.”
Hajime deflates a little. “Sorry.”
“It’s all good, dear. It’s all good.” She smiles. “How long have you two been dating?”
This, they prepared for.
Oikawa is the one who answers. “Iwa-chan and I haven’t really been together that long yet. It’s only been two months, actually! But we already knew each other before we started going out, though barely, since he doesn’t really do parties or hangouts much.” And here Oikawa shakes his head slightly, smiling. “Iwa-chan here isn’t the most social of people, so I really appreciate him agreeing to come here with me.”
“I hope the others don’t overwhelm him,” Oikawa’s grandmother laughs, but not unkindly.
Oikawa does as well, and Hajime says, “I’m managing.”
“I’m proud of you,” Oikawa tells Hajime, before returning to his story. “My roommate, Mattsun, is actually dating Iwa-chan’s roommate, Makki! So that’s how I knew him. But our exchanges were barely anything substantial, until a few months ago when I found Iwa-chan in the common room late one night.”
Hajime takes over, then. “I couldn’t sleep, I remember.” He doesn’t, but he pictures it, imagines an alternate reality where their fabricated story is actually how they met, and he forces himself into it. “My roommate was tired because of exams and I didn’t want to wake him up, so I decided to go to the common room. Maybe read something to help me feel sleepier. I haven’t been there for ten minutes when Tooru came out of his room as well.”
“I was going to get milk,” Oikawa chirps, to which his grandmother laughs. She has a warm kind of laugh, Hajime notes.
“I asked him if he couldn’t sleep, because it was already pretty late and I obviously lacked better judgment at the time.”
Oikawa playfully pushes his shoulder, before turning back to his grandmother. “Then I asked Iwa-chan if I could join him!”
“He did,” Hajime agrees, even though Oikawa did not. “And then we just got to talking. At first I figured it would help me sleep, because I thought Oikawa would be boring, but instead this idiot kept me awake until 4AM.”
“Hey!” Oikawa mock-protests. “You were keeping me awake, too!”
“You were keeping me awake more,” Hajime points out. “You talk too much, I think I’ve already told you this.”
“Mean!” Oikawa pouts. “And in my own house, too!”
Oikawa’s grandmother watches them with a half-fond, half-amused smile. Hajime smiles back at her and continues, “We just kept running into each other after that. Or, I guess we were always running into each other before, but we just…. became more aware of it.”
“Speak for yourself,” Oikawa says. “I’ve always noticed Iwa-chan. I’ve had a crush on you for ages!”
Hajime blushes, a genuine reaction on his part because he can’t remember this being part of what they planned. But then that makes it more believable when he asks, face probably bright red, “You did?”
“I still do,” Oikawa says. It almost feels like a confession, but then again, this isn’t real. “I am dating you, after all.”
“I don’t think that’s how a crush works,” Hajime says, recovering a little. “Isn’t a crush usually unrequited?” I would know, is what he doesn’t say.
“A crush is a certain kind of admiration,” Oikawa says.
“More like infatuation,” Hajime says. “And I don’t want you to be just infatuated with me. As a matter of fact, I don’t want you calling me your crush.”
“And why is that, Iwa-chan?”
Hajime rolls his eyes, like it’s obvious and Oikawa is an idiot for even asking. It’s so easy, playing this part, if he just ignored everything else. It’s so easy, if he just focused on the now and on Oikawa. “Because I’m already your boyfriend.”
This time, it’s Oikawa who gets caught off-guard. A flush spreads across his face, pink resting high on his cheeks. Hajime stares, because he can. Because he’s allowed to, in this moment.
Oikawa is the one who looks away after a minute. He clears his throat and says, in a voice that’s far too high-pitched, “Anyway. Iwa-chan properly asked me out two months ago, finally. And then it just…” he trails off, glances at Hajime out of the corner of his eye.
“It just happened. It just felt right,” Hajime finishes. Somewhere along the way, his hand has moved itself and found Oikawa’s fingers. They’re long and elegant, but still rough with years of practice despite no longer actively playing. Hajime can tell that they’ve gone through a lot. He never wants to let them go.
Oikawa’s grandmother breaks the brief silence, voice soft and sincere. “I’m happy for you, Tooru.”
Oikawa holds Hajime’s hand back, fitting their palms together. “Thank you, grandmother. I’m happy, too.”
* * *
Hajime examines himself one last time in the mirror, taking care to keep his hair as orderly as he can manage it to be. He applied some of Oikawa’s hair product to try and wrestle the usual spikes into place, sweeping his bangs back with slightly-sticky fingers. A knock sounds on the already-open bathroom door, done more out of courtesy than anything else, and Hajime watches in the mirror as Oikawa steps in, fixing his sleeves and looking as breathtaking as Hajime had expected him to be.
“Iwa-chan, are you done getting re – shit.” Oikawa stops in his tracks, both hands dropping to his sides as he finally takes a proper look at Hajime. He stares.
Hajime stares back.
Oikawa is dressed in dark pants that fit the shape of his legs quite nicely and a white collared shirt underneath a soft-looking beige sweater vest. His hair is swept more artfully than usual, and he’s wearing a pair of glasses that Hajime thinks are more for style than for purpose.
Hajime, on the other hand, is dressed simply in a soft teal shirt tucked into black slacks, the sleeves neatly rolled up to his elbows. He had thought he might be underdressed, but judging the way Oikawa is staring at him, Hajime thinks he’ll be fine.
“You look like a nerd,” he says, finally, breaking the silence.
Oikawa immediately snaps out of it, blinking rapidly as his mouth drops open. “Iwa-chan!”
“I’m just messing with you,” Hajime laughs. He turns the tap on and dips his fingers under the rush of water, getting rid of the remnants of hair wax. “You look fine.”
He can easily imagine Oikawa’s pout. “Iwa-chan doesn’t look so bad himself, I guess.”
Hajime turns the water off and shakes his hands dry. Oikawa is there by his side all of a sudden, handing him a towel, which Hajime accepts with a small nod of thanks. They spend the next five minutes pretending to fuss over each other’s clothes, brushing off invisible dust and smoothing out wrinkles that weren’t there to begin with, taking any excuse they can to touch the other.
Oikawa’s hand settles on Hajime’s chest, fingers playing with one of the buttons of his shirt. Hajime’s hands have somehow found their way on Oikawa’s waist, pretending to fix the hem of his sweater.
There’s a flush sitting high on Oikawa’s cheeks when he meets Hajime’s eyes. “You look really handsome tonight, Iwa-chan.”
Hajime laughs, brushing the compliment off, because he doesn’t really know what else to do with it. He reaches up with one hand and straightens Oikawa’s collar, fingers playing with the fabric for a second longer than necessary. “I could say the same about you.”
And then, as one, they let go.
* * *
“I can’t believe Tooru actually baked a cake.”
Oikawa pouts at his sister, settling the small cake down on the table they’ve pulled into the living room. It’s nearly-overflowing with so much food that they had to push plates aside just to get enough space for the cake, and Hajime almost can’t believe that there are more in the kitchen.
“Did you bake this by yourself?” Oikawa’s brother asks, squinting suspiciously at the pastry. “Is it safe to eat?”
“I am disowning the both of you,” Oikawa announces, before turning to his grandmother with a brilliant smile. “I’ve had some help from Iwa-chan with this, so it’s a happy birthday from the both of us!”
“Ah, nii-san, he had help from the boyfriend,” Kotomi not-whispers.
“That makes a lot more sense,” Takaya not-whispers back.
“Again, disowning the both of you,” Oikawa not-whispers in return.
Hajime laughs as both of Oikawa’s siblings lunge at him, a hand roughly ruffling his hair while another pokes repeatedly at his side. Oikawa yelps, then shrieks, and judging all the amused faces of the relatives watching the scene, this is probably a normal occurrence.
It must be nice, Hajime thinks, growing up with siblings.
“Hajime-kun, dear,” a voice calls for him, and he turns to see Oikawa’s grandmother smiling up at him. “Would you mind lighting the candle?”
She’s talking about the cake he and Oikawa made. Someone has stuck a candle into the center of it, and Hajime realizes that she wants to make her birthday wish on their small, homemade cake with probably questionable flavor (Hajime can’t say for sure that Oikawa didn’t add anything into it when he wasn’t looking) instead of the large, extravagant cake that Oikawa’s parents have bought for her.
Hesitantly, he takes the box of matches Oikawa’s father offers. “Are you sure?”
Oikawa’s mother smiles. “This is a special day! Of course, it’s mom’s birthday, but aside from that this is the first time Tooru has ever introduced anyone to us.” She motions a hand at the cake and someone gently nudges Hajime closer to the table. “So please, have the honor.”
Guilt stabs at Hajime, but only for a quick, passing second. He looks to Oikawa for confirmation, and when Oikawa – still caught in the clutches of his siblings – smiles at him, Hajime turns to the cake and pulls out a match.
Hajime strikes it against the side of its box, and someone dims the light. The candle burns brightly in the now-dark room as Hajime touches the flame of the match to its wick, and he steps aside once it catches fire to let Oikawa’s grandmother take her place. Everyone begins singing her a happy birthday, voices gentle in the softly-lit room, and the atmosphere shifts into something more quiet and personal.
Hajime waits for the feeling of being an intruder to arrive. When it does, it doesn’t choke him up as much as he thought it would, but it’s still very obviously present, settling heavily somewhere in his chest. He turns his gaze away.
And somehow, Oikawa is there, standing right by his side. Their eyes meet easily even in the dark, and Hajime wonders how much of his expression Oikawa can see right now, how much of what he’s feeling Oikawa can understand. It should terrify Hajime, how transparent he could be under Oikawa’s piercing gaze. But instead of gut-clenching worry, Hajime simply finds himself thinking, I hope you realize how I feel about you.
As though reading his thoughts, Oikawa blinks, lips parting slightly. He keeps his eyes shut for a beat longer, and when they open again, his lips pull up into the smallest smile Hajime has ever seen on him. It seems to say, I do.
Everyone claps, startling them out of the moment.
The lights get turned back on, and Hajime pulls his eyes away from Oikawa. The candle has been blown out, a thin tendril of smoke rising from the blackened tip. Hajime tracks its movement until it disappears into the air above them.
The room becomes alive once more with excited chatter as plates get passed out. Oikawa sticks close to Hajime’s side as people start getting food, politely waiting for their turn. Occasionally, he’ll point out a relative and whisper ridiculous stories about them into Hajime’s ear, hiding a mischievous smile by turning his head and nearly pressing his mouth against the side of Hajime’s head. Hajime laughs at all the right places, but mostly he’s just aware of the warmth of Oikawa’s breath and how close his lips are to brushing against his earlobe.
A glass full of what Hajime thinks is alcohol ends up in his hand, just as they’re filling their plates with food. He passes it to Oikawa, who passes it to someone else, and then the glass is out of sight. “Don’t drink?”
Oikawa hums. “Same here.”
They find themselves a small corner of the room. Chairs have been lined up against the walls, and Hajime takes two of them for him and Oikawa to sit on. A few curious relatives pass by to introduce themselves to Hajime, but for the most part, the two of them eat in comfortable silence. Hajime takes the opportunity to observe what Oikawa’s large family is like.
He spots a few people he remembers from Oikawa’s album. A lot of them are conversing with each other while kids run around, and there seems to be none of the usual awkward who-are-you-again’s that Hajime has personally experienced in the few family gatherings he’s been too.
“You’re all really close, aren’t you?” he asks.
Oikawa hums, like he’s thinking about it. “I guess. I mean, there’s still a lot of family drama going on behind-the-scenes just like any other family, but like I said, things like this have become tradition. So I guess it has a lot to do with being routine, as well.”
Hajime glances at Oikawa. “Is that so?”
“Yeah.” Oikawa looks across the room, blinking slowly. “Like with my cousins. They’re all alright and we get along just fine, but I’m one of the youngest out of everyone so there’s always been a bit of a disconnect with them.” He pauses, and it’s the kind of pause that Hajime knows will be followed by more, so he waits. When Oikawa speaks again, his voice seems quieter. “Especially when they started bringing their boyfriends and girlfriends along.”
Hajime remembers their first meeting in the coffee shop two months ago, how Oikawa seemed bothered by his cousins teasing him about a lack of a significant other even when he tried to play it off as nothing. It’s not a pleasant thought, imagining Oikawa feeling alone in that respect.
“But nee-chan and nii-chan would tell them to back off when they got too teasing, so it was okay!” Oikawa says, forcing cheer into his tone. If it had been anyone else, Hajime would have been convinced by it. But he knows Oikawa now.
“Are you sure it’s really okay?” he asks. Part of him wants to physically reach out to Oikawa, hold him by the hand or just place gentle fingers over his shoulder. But he holds back for now.
“Yeah, of course.” Oikawa smiles a little, this time. “It’s okay, honestly. They really don’t mean anything bad by it, just – you know how the youngest of the bunch usually gets teased?” He shrugs. “So don’t worry too much about it. The food is always great, and I do enjoy seeing most of my family! That’s all that matters. Plus, it gets pretty funny when the adults start getting drunk and spill each other’s secrets. I’ve got plenty of blackmail material thanks to them.”
Hajime shakes his head, but he’s smiling a little as well now. “You’re evil.”
Oikawa smiles like he’s proud of that. He bumps Hajime’s shoulder with his own. “And, well. I have you with me right now, haven’t I?” His shoulder stays where it is, brushing gently against Hajime’s when it shifts ever so slightly at an inhale. “So it’s fine. It’s better than fine, actually.”
There’s a sudden shift in atmosphere. Or, no, it’s not sudden. If Hajime were to be honest, it’s been gradually happening for the entire duration of their conversation. Maybe even earlier than that. The start of the evening, perhaps? Or the train ride here, when Hajime first called Oikawa by name?
No, Hajime thinks. Realizes. The changes started even before today.
It started with a scary movie, Oikawa curled up against his side, Hajime watching flickers of light chase shadows from his quietly-frightened face. It started with sheets that smell of someone else’s cologne, stolen shirts, and nights spent together trying to meet deadlines. It started with a chair not meant for two and shuffling cards, shoulders pressed too close and warmth accidentally shared. It started with a practice date and Hajime noticing for the first time how wonderful Oikawa’s hands are.
And all of those moments, all of those shifts, have been building up to this.
Hajime turns his head, heart one step ahead of everything else. Oikawa is already looking at him, wide eyes glimmering in the faint light, waiting.
“Hajime,” Oikawa says. Whispers. Mouths. Hajime isn’t sure. He feels the words more than he hears them, brushing over his skin like a hesitant but wanting touch. Oikawa is so close.
It’s so easy. Hajime could just lean in. It’s so easy. He could just kiss Oikawa right now, like he’s been thinking of for weeks. It’s so easy. The name slips past his lips, as natural as anything. “Tooru.”
Oikawa’s eyes flutter shut, lips parted expectantly.
Hajime leans in.
Something in the room crashes.
Startling apart, the two of them turn their heads to find the source of the noise. Near the table, a little girl, one of Oikawa’s nieces, is crying loudly, unable to move due to the broken porcelain surrounding her bare feet. One of the adults picks her up and scolds her gently, while another rushes out to probably get something to clean the mess with.
“I’ll handle this,” Oikawa’s father says, already kneeling down onto the floor, “don’t worry. It’s alright. I’ve got this.”
Hajime stares at the shattered plate, thoughts catching up to him in a sudden rush.
I almost kissed Oikawa. Oikawa was waiting for me to kiss him.
Oikawa’s father carefully picks up the larger pieces and drops them into a small bin someone has brought in. Hajime’s thoughts suddenly crash to a full stop, one realization standing out among the mess of barely-formed sentences and moments almost brought to existence dancing around in his head.
We both wanted to kiss each other.
But the moment has gone and passed. Hajime looks back at Oikawa, and the expression on his face looks suddenly faraway and uncertain. Guarded. Confused. It’s a combination of a lot of emotions, and Hajime knows he’s going to have to be careful navigating around him now, lest he cut himself on one of Oikawa’s sharp edges.
This wasn’t supposed to be real. This wasn’t supposed to happen so fast.
But it is, and it’s happening, and the both of them seem like they can barely keep up.
Oikawa stands up and gives Hajime a smile. It’s too wide, too bright, and too artificial. “I’ll just go catch up with some of my cousins for a bit. I’ll catch you later?”
Hajime nods once, not really having a choice. He watches Oikawa disappear into the rest of the people in the room, leaving Hajime seated.
Now he really feels like an outsider, without Oikawa by his side.
He gets up and walks out.
On the way to the room he’s sharing with Oikawa, he spots the door leading to the balcony propped open. Curious and a bit cautious, Hajime turns himself around and walks the other way instead, wondering if anyone’s sitting outside or if someone just accidentally left it open.
He pushes the door further and steps outside.
Sitting on one of the two wooden chairs placed near the railing is Oikawa’s grandmother, enjoying a slice of cake. She looks up at the sound of Hajime’s footstep, and Hajime flounders for a moment, unsure of what to do next.
Oikawa’s grandmother makes the choice for him. “Oh, Hajime-kun. Why don’t you join me?” She points at the empty chair with her fork, smile kind.
A little awkwardly, Hajime lets the door fall shut behind him. He steps further out, the cool evening breeze making him shiver slightly as he sits down.
For a moment, Oikawa’s grandmother just busies herself with eating her cake, humming quietly to herself in between bites. It reminds Hajime of Oikawa. A lot of Oikawa’s immediate family reminds Hajime of Oikawa.
Then, “I’m glad you could make it here with Tooru, Hajime-kun.”
Hajime manages a small smile. “I’m glad to be here, as well. You have a lovely family.”
“They’re a noisy and nosy bunch, aren’t they?” Oikawa’s grandmother laughs. Then she looks at Hajime with those eternally kind eyes. “You must make Tooru really happy.”
And there it is again, the guilt. He tries to push it away. “I sure hope so.” He goes for a laugh, trying to conjure every happy memory he has of Oikawa to make himself look convincing, and it is, surprisingly, not too difficult of a task. He thinks that he’s maybe fucked. “He makes me happy, too.”
It sounds so honest. Too honest. He thinks that he’s definitely fucked.
“You said you’ve only been dating for two months, dear?” At Hajime’s nod, Oikawa’s grandmother hums thoughtfully. “Then I’m certain you make Tooru happy. He already trusts you and cares about you this much, in the short time you’ve been together, to have brought you here. He’s had some trouble with relationships before, you know.”
No, Hajime doesn’t know. What he knows of Oikawa’s relationship history is composed of a vague it didn’t work out, since Oikawa never bothered to share the specifics, and Hajime never bothered to push. He wonders, sitting in this chair right now, if he’s allowed to hear about any of this.
But Oikawa’s grandmother goes on, seemingly lost in thought, “I remember when he first had a girlfriend. He was only 15, and I knew immediately that he wasn’t really happy. But Riku”—Hajime recognizes the name as belonging to one of Oikawa’s cousins, the one who is the same age as him—“had just gotten herself a boyfriend at that time, as well, and I think Tooru felt like he was getting left out. Or maybe left behind.”
Hajime doesn’t need to ask to know that the relationship didn’t end well.
“It was over before it really started.” Oikawa’s grandmother shakes her head. “But it also made him finally confront what he was trying so hard to pretend he hadn’t realized. I was the first person he told. He was almost 16 then, I think. Cried his heart out, and I didn’t stop holding him.”
It occurs to Hajime then that he really shouldn’t be hearing this. It seems so personal, something Oikawa himself has never even told him. Yet at the same time, Hajime finds himself leaning forward on his seat, helpless to stop himself from wanting – needing – to know Oikawa better. To understand him.
“He made me swear not to tell anyone else until he was ready, and I told him to take his time. The most important thing to me, then, was him knowing that he had my full support.” Her eyes have gained a faraway look now, like she’s seeing the memories playing out in front of her. Her tone changes into something else, something sad. “Not a lot of boys are as nice as you are, Hajime-kun. When word of his second relationship got out—” She stops, shakes her head.
At this, Hajime feels himself freeze with something like shock. Oikawa never gave any indications of having experiences like that in the past, so Hajime never thought about it. Never even considered it a possibility. Hajime’s own coming out process had been difficult – it took a while for both his parents to understand his bisexuality, and then even longer for them to fully be comfortable with it, though he doesn’t hold that against them – but he never had problems outside of his family. Or, at least, no one had dared confront him about it face-to-face.
He thinks back to all the conversations they’ve had about their sexuality and past relationships, and Hajime realizes that Oikawa never specified his. Hajime pretty much figured it out, but Oikawa had always been vague about it. Offhand. Now Hajime is realizing why.
“It’s a good thing he had his team,” Oikawa’s grandmother continues. There’s a ghost of a smile on her lips. “He fell in love a little with one of his teammates towards graduation, I think, but nothing came out of it. And I felt like after that, he just locked his feelings away.”
Hajime thinks of the Oikawa he first thought he knew – confident on the verge of being arrogant, charming, and never in a relationship despite being flirtatious with everyone. Hajime didn’t understand that, but now he thinks he does.
It was Oikawa trying to guard his feelings, put up walls around himself by pretending that there weren’t any walls in the first place. Despite being unsure in new situations with unfamiliar people, like that one time in the arcades, he would force himself into them anyway. Maybe he thought that would make his defenses stronger.
But Hajime got past that. By accident, maybe, but he got past that.
“For the longest time, I was worried he would never find anyone to love. Which is why I’m so happy he has you now.”
And just like that, it all makes sense. Why Oikawa seems to put on this mask of false bravado whenever he’s around people he barely knows. Why he was so adamant on finding someone to be his fake partner to introduce to the number one person who supported him during a time he was struggling. Why he had walked away from Hajime just earlier.
“That idiot,” Hajime says under his breath.
Oikawa’s grandmother looks curiously at him.
And there it is again, stronger than before. Guilt. Lying had never been his thing. He knows that. He knew that when he walked into this situation, all those two months ago.
He has to tell the truth.
“Touka-san,” he begins, taking a deep breath. “I need to be honest with you.”
She looks at him patiently, and something in her gaze hints that maybe she already knows.
It makes Hajime go on. “I’m not really dating your grandson.” The words both feel like a weight being lifted off his shoulders and a bucket of cold water getting dumped over his head. Oikawa’s grandmother just looks at him, ever-patient, ever-waiting, ever-understanding. “Two months ago, he approached me and asked for a favor. For this. Because he wanted to make you happy. Because he wants to make you happy. But we’re not together. I’m not his boyfriend, and he’s not mine. When I first agreed, I couldn’t believe that I actually did and I just wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. But—”
And here he stops. Tries to find the right words. There are simply too many of them, and he doesn’t know where to start.
“Oikawa has this really annoying habit of growing on people. We were barely friends. There weren’t supposed to be feelings involved in this. And it should’ve been easy, because Oikawa acts like a five-year-old most of the time and he just gets on my nerves with all of his demands. He can be very unreasonable and too dramatic for his own good. So it should’ve been easy, not developing any feelings for him.”
Below, some of the people have probably moved into the front yard, faint voices drifting up, words indecipherable. Hajime pushes on.
“But that wasn’t what was easy. It was something else. Because you get to know him, you get to see the person behind the cheery smiles and the ridiculous waves and the vain poses. And he’s smart, and observant, and thoughtful in his own ridiculous way. He’s sweet and he’s full of love and he’s – he’s a meteor.” Hajime curses Oikawa for all of the alien and space metaphors he planted into Hajime’s subconscious, but it feels pretty damn accurate of a way to put it, right now. “He crashed into my life without any warning and now I’m – I’m.”
Oikawa’s grandmother watches him, eyes glimmering with something like understanding. Hajime releases a breath.
“I’m in love with Oi – with Tooru. I’m in love with Tooru.” The words feel less like a punch and more like an unfurling of something inside him. Instead of falling, Hajime realizes that it’s actually flying. “What was easy was just being with him. What was easy was falling in love with him.”
There’s a smile on Touka’s face when Hajime finishes. “I thought there was something else going on.”
“I’m so sorry for lying,” Hajime says. “Please don’t be angry at him. He only wanted to make you happy.”
“Oh, I know that.” She gives a little laugh. “I’m going to pretend to be cross with him for a while, though. I’ll only let him pass with a lie as elaborate as this once. Now.” Her expression changes into something softer yet more serious at the same time. “What are you planning to do?”
Hajime doesn’t have to think about it for too long. “I’m going to break up with him.”
“Ah.” She makes a small sound of understanding, as though she picked up on the second, unspoken half of his statement.
Hajime stands and turns to her politely. “If you’ll please excuse me, I’m going to look for Tooru now.”
She nods and waves him away. But before Hajime can step back inside, she calls, “Oh, Hajime-kun?” He looks back at her over his shoulder, sees her lifting her empty plate. “Thank you for the cake, by the way. It was delicious.”
And then he goes back down to look for Oikawa.
* * *
He finds Oikawa in the backyard.
He isn’t alone, though. His sister is there sitting beside him on the bench, and a few kids are running around chasing after fireflies. Hajime hesitates for just a second, before deciding that this can’t wait until later, until tomorrow morning, until after. This has to happen now.
Oikawa’s sister sees him first, and there’s something odd in her expression. Hajime wonders if Oikawa told her the truth.
“Hey,” he says. Oikawa doesn’t look up at him. “Can we talk?”
Kotomi looks at her brother, then at Hajime, before nodding once. She stands up and pats him lightly on the shoulder, before ushering all the kids back inside to give them some privacy. Hajime makes a mental note to thank her later.
He sits down, and decides that there’s no point in beating around the bush. “You ran out on me back there.”
Oikawa’s laugh is humorless. “Yeah, I guess I did.” He rubs a hand over his face. “I messed up, didn’t I?”
“You’re going to have to be more specific,” Hajime says, “because you mess up all the time.”
Oikawa’s response comes as a reflex more than anything. “Mean.” He lets out a sigh. “I shouldn’t have asked you to come here. I shouldn’t have asked you to pretend to be with me in the first place.”
Hajime picks up a rock from the ground, turns it over in his hands just to give them something to do. “Do you regret it?” he asks, just so he can be completely, absolutely sure that he isn’t reading things wrong. “Do you regret pretending to be with me?”
“To be completely honest?” Oikawa stares resolutely ahead, refusing to meet Hajime’s eyes. “I don’t. Because somewhere down the line, I started liking it, being your fake boyfriend. That probably should’ve been a sign for me to call things off, but I didn’t. Because I didn’t want to end it.” He lets out a breath. “Being with you, I mean. I didn’t want to end being with you, even if it wasn’t real.”
Hajime nods once. “And now here we are.”
“And now here we are,” Oikawa echoes faintly.
Hajime tosses the rock up and snatches it out of the air, back into his palm. Then he drops it onto the ground. “Tooru.”
“Yes?” There’s a barely-concealed stutter in that single syllable.
“I’m breaking up with you.”
Oikawa looks at him, finally. There’s hurt, then there’s relief, then there’s hope, and Oikawa is trying so hard to push it all away, to put on an air of cheerful indifference. But his smile is worn around the edges, his eyes tired, his mask slipping.
Hajime makes sure to meet his eyes, steady and careful. He says, “I’m breaking up with you, so I can ask you to be with me. For real, this time.”
Once, during class, his professor pulled up a video of a flower in bloom to show to the class. Hajime remembers sitting near the back of the room, mesmerized, as brightly-colored petals slowly unfurled into something bigger, something more beautiful.
This feels just like that, watching the change in Oikawa’s expression. “Are you serious?”
Hajime’s heart is racing. “I am.”
When they finally pick up on where they left off in the living room earlier, Hajime’s pulse feels like it’s a second away from jumping out of his skin completely, tripping and stuttering. Oikawa’s cheek is cold beneath his palm, having been exposed to the evening chill for who-knows-how-long, but it gradually warms up at Hajime’s touch. There are little trails of heat spreading through Hajime’s skin like vines, coming from where Oikawa’s fingers rest on the side of his neck, and then they’re kissing, just a soft, tentative touch of lips.
Oikawa releases a shaky breath, a tinkle of a laugh attached to its end. Hajime answers him with another kiss.
Oikawa’s fingertips feel like pinpricks of heat. His mouth feels like the beginning notes of a well-loved song that hasn’t been played in ages. His teeth, when they bite down on Hajime’s lower lip in a gentle, teasing dance, feel like the low thrum of something electric.
Hajime pulls him closer, kisses him just a little harder, and soaks up the feeling of Oikawa melting against him.
Oikawa is the first to pull for air, but Hajime doesn’t let him leave completely. He places a flutter of a kiss against Oikawa’s chin, the corner of his mouth, his jaw, the side of his neck, just below his ear. Oikawa shivers pleasantly, and then Hajime just presses his forehead against Oikawa’s shoulder, holding him close, heart soaring when Oikawa’s arms tighten around him all the same.
They don’t let each other go for a long time.
* * *
After the both of them have said their goodbyes to Oikawa’s family the following day (“Thank you for the sunhat, dear, I’ll be sure to wear it.” “I can’t believe Iwa-chan bought grandma a gift without me knowing about it!” “Shut up.”), they head straight to the station and manage to make it just in time for their train.
The ride is mostly spent in silence, with Oikawa dozing off against Hajime’s shoulder, tired after a mostly-sleepless night brought on by the giddy rush of finally being open with their feelings for each other. There was a lot more giggling under blankets than Hajime would like to admit, muffled by lips that couldn’t seem to stop smiling. Just the memory of it makes Hajime smile.
Hanamaki is in their room when they get back to the dorm. He looks up, concerned expression quickly turning into one of wonder when he sees both Hajime and Oikawa in the doorway. The wonder changes into something more incredulous, accompanied by an eyebrow lifting, when he sees them holding hands.
“Well, hello there.”
“Makki!” Oikawa lets go of Hajime’s hand so he can throw himself onto Hanamaki. “You’re here!”
Hanamaki tries to push him off for exactly seven seconds, before giving up and letting Oikawa cling to him. He sighs. “Why wouldn’t I be here? This is my room, too.”
“Right,” Oikawa says. Hajime snorts in amusement and sets his bag down by the foot of his bed. “I forgot about that, to be honest. You should just really move in with Mattsun so I can stay here and have Iwa-chan to myself all the time!”
“Oh?” Hanamaki throws a meaningful look at Hajime over Oikawa’s shoulder.
Oikawa finally pulls himself away from Hanamaki so he can jump onto Hajime instead. “Iwa-chan is my boyfriend now! For real this time!”
Hanamaki stares at them for a long minute.
And then he stands up and walks out of the room, without even saying a single word. Hajime and Oikawa look at each other.
In retrospect, Hajime probably should’ve given Hanamaki an advanced warning of his and Oikawa’s latest development. He knows that his friend had been worrying about him over this, so he probably should’ve at least texted and told Hanamaki that everything was good now, since Hanamaki probably spent his entire Saturday and most of today worrying, which Hajime is touched by.
But, well. He was distracted.
“I guess we’re alone now,” said distraction tells him, pulling Hajime out of his thoughts.
He nods. “I guess we are.”
“Mm-hmm. Wanna make out?”
There are footsteps pounding down the hall.
And then Matsukawa is there, looking like he ran all the way from the other side of the building, Hanamaki right by his heels. Matsukawa’s eyes immediately find the two of them tangled up on Hajime’s bed, and then he’s pointing a finger in their direction, expression elated. “You bastard.”
“Hi Mattsun!” Oikawa greets cheerily.
Matsukawa bodily drags him away from Hajime and ruffles his hair. “I can’t believe you.”
“I can’t believe you”—Hanamaki directs this at Hajime—“didn’t even text me about this!”
“I’m sorry! It just happened.”
“I was worried sick, feeling all guilty because I could see you falling for this asshole—”
“Hey, Makki. Rude.”
“—and it would be my fault if you got your heart all broken!”
“Same here,” Matsukawa says, finally releasing Oikawa and shooting Hajime a thumbs-up. “Oikawa kept whining to me about how”—he raises the pitch of his voice to something that’s both unlike and similar to Oikawa’s, if such a thing were possible—“Iwa-chan probably won’t actually like me back, Mattsun, what do I d—”
Oikawa jumps at Matsukawa and attempts to cover his mouth with his hands. Meanwhile, Hajime remains on his bed, surprised. He hadn’t thought Oikawa was also actively and vocally pining over him, at the same time Hajime was pining over Oikawa, since he had convinced himself that it was all pretend to Oikawa despite the evidence suggesting the contrary – like him stealing Hajime’s shirts and getting too close even when no one’s looking and using the phone charm Hajime gave him, and—
Feeling the reality of their entire situation suddenly sinking in completely, Hajime lets out a short burst of laughter. Everyone stops fussing and turns to look at him.
He makes a vague motion with his hands. “We’ve been pretty stupid about this, haven’t we?”
“Yeah, you have,” Matsukawa says. Then he claps his hands. “Now, I’m taking Takahiro away to my room for some alone time. I’ll leave you two lovebirds here to – well, I don’t need to tell you what to do.” Then he grabs Hanamaki by the arm and drags him out of the room, not that Hanamaki is protesting.
The room falls quiet.
And then, “So. I probably wouldn’t like you back, eh?”
Oikawa’s face turns a brilliant shade of red. He smacks Hajime on the shoulder, whining in protest when Hajime laughs. The last thing Hajime sees is his pout, before Oikawa hides his face by pressing it into Hajime’s chest. “Stop making fun of me.”
“I’m not,” Hajime says, wrapping his arms around Oikawa. It still sends a giddy rush through him, knowing that he can hold Oikawa like this whenever he wants to from here on. “I think it’s cute, actually. And besides, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the same.”
Oikawa peeks up at him, but he still keeps most of his face hidden. “Really?”
Hajime can feel a blush of his own coming on. “Really. Hanamaki almost lost it when he realized, told me he was sorry and that he didn’t expect me to actually – you know.”
Oikawa’s fingers twist into Hajime’s shirt. “I can’t believe Makki noticed and I didn’t! I’m the one who was always with you!”
“You were probably too busy telling yourself you didn’t have a chance to see how much I like you,” Hajime says.
“You didn’t say anything either!” Now Oikawa sits back up so that they’re at face level, cheeks still a furious shade of red. Hajime wants to kiss him. “All this time I thought, yeah, no chance at all – and you were probably thinking the same thing too – and we could’ve so much sooner—”
Hajime kisses him.
“We’ve both been idiots,” he says, when they part for air, words coming out in a breathless rush.
Oikawa hums in agreement, puckering his lips. Hajime rolls his eyes, but obliges him.
“You’re a good kisser, not-fake boyfriend.”
Oikawa pretends to swoon. “Such a sweet-talker, too!”
“I’m going to kiss you again.”
Oikawa’s smile is pleased, and eager, and sweet. “Please do, not-fake boyfriend.”
So Hajime does.