Ushijima is used to waking up feeling like a truck just drove over him, but it still takes a while to refocus, centre himself in the weight of his body, whole and uninjured except for the lingering sensations of whatever offed him last.
The voice is far too familiar, and Ushijima considers pretending to still be dead, but his treacherous eyelids flutter and he knows it's a lost cause when he can see the shadow of a figure leaning over into his field of vision before he blinks and Iwaizumi's face comes into focus.
"I didn't come back to life for this." His voice is scratchy, and he clears his throat. Much better.
He expects Iwaizumi to laugh a little, even if he is too serious most of the time, before he gets around to telling his whatever he wants this time; they both pretend that Ushijima does whatever he wants, but after dying gets old really fast and being on retainer for the Chief Detective isn't a bad gig.At least the deaths are interesting.
Ushijima grumbles, muscles and bones tugging back into place as he sits up on the gurney before glancing over at Iwaizumi who's still suspiciously silent. Ushijima opens his mouth, then closes it again. When Iwaizumi is in a mood, it's better to humour him, not because he'll lose his patience but because he won't.
Finally, when he's pulling on the sweater that was waiting neatly folded on the side table, and draining the glass of water sitting beside it with a satisfied gulp, Ushijima sets the empty glass on the table with a loud clunk and looks up to catch Iwaizumi's eye.
"I need a favour," Iwaizumi says.
"You need me to infiltrate the top pharmaceutical company's factory and get infected with the secret carcinogen they're testing? Get kidnapped by the newest serial killer on the block? Hug a suspected suicide bomber?"
Iwaizumi doesn't even twitch.
"I need you to need me to find Oikawa," he says quietly.
"Oh," Ushijima says.
Finally, he thinks.
It was always pretty obvious, at least if anyone was looking. Oikawa and Iwaizumi. Iwaizumi and Oikawa. Ushijima didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out, which was lucky since the closest he'd gotten to the science department was getting kicked out of Chemistry 101 for blowing himself up. The professor, strangely enough, hadn't been relieved when he came back to life a scant handful of minutes later.
“Nice,” Oikawa said, walking up to him in the student cafeteria. “I like it.”
“You like what?” Ushijima retorted, still off-kilter from his first Lazarus moment, and holding his composure together by the threads of his irritation with a now-former classmate.
“Your power,” Oikawa replied, elbowing him cheerfully in the ribs before tipping his head to knock back the rest of whatever he was drinking. It looks like swamp water, and Ushijima’s ribs were probably bruised from Oikawa’s vicious elbow.
“I'm a soul broker,” he added, probably in response to Ushijima’s trying-to-look-cool-but-still-totally-baffled expression. “I can do anything for a price.”
“Can you make this go away?” Ushijima asked, although the even as the words were slipping off his tongue he knew that there was no force behind them.
Oikawa looked at him a moment, his eyes dark. “You can't pay the price,” he said, and they let the subject drop.
“What’s in it for me?” Ushijima asks, he has to ask, because that's the way these things work. There are rules, and prices. He's the only one who comes back to life, and Oikawa can only broker other people’s souls.
Iwaizumi’s leaning against the wall of the morgue, the fluorescent lights overhead casting half his face into shadow. “Anything you want,” he says, and his voice doesn't break, but it catches before he swallows, like he's choking down glass, or holding a mouthful of nails.
There are no nails in my coffin Ushijima thinks, and hides a grin.
"You have to tell Oikawa," he says, and pretends not to see the way Iwaizumi's eyes widen; the way he looks away for a moment, hiding his face from view.
"Why," he says, when he turns back, but it's not a question because the answer is obvious.
"It's what I want," Ushijima says, and he can tell when it clicks because Iwaizumi gets that expression in his eyes, where there's something stronger than gravity that's pulling him in a certain direction.
"Come on," Iwaizumi says, turning his back as he heads for the door, not waiting for Ushijima to catch up.
Even when you're running towards him, you're still trying to run away, Ushijima thinks, hopping off the steel slab and sighing as he looks down at the rubber tire marks across his shirt.
When Ushijima walked through the doors, he could feel the wave of tension like a wall he literally had to wade through to get to the doorway of Iwaizumi's office.
"What's happening?" he asked, leaning against the doorframe. Iwaizumi glanced up, frowned, and then went back to staring at a wall, photographs tacked up with differently coloured pushpins over a map, string connecting them in different configurations that made no sense.
"Did you see Oikawa?" Iwaizumi asked, tracing the path of a white string with one finger, the map beneath showing the tracing path of a river through the southern district of the city.
"Oikawa?" Ushijima raised an eyebrow. "What does he have to do with this?" He knew they were, well not exactly friends, but something more messy with glances and words and tangled arms in the unofficial lunch time volleyball games.
"You didn't tell me he was a soul broker," Iwaizumi said, stepping around to his desk where he flipped through pages of files that Ushijima couldn't quite make out from where he stood. He ignored the obvious attempt at distraction, and crossed his arms across his chest.
"What do you need a soul broker for?" he asked, refusing to be side-tracked. "Whatever it is, you can solve it just like you've always solved them before."
Iwaizumi's fingers stilled for a moment, and he glanced up, the expression in his eyes something that Ushijima didn't want to look at for too long. "Hinata's father's been kidnapped and there's no ransom notice."
Everyone knew about Kageyama, one of Iwaizumi's star detectives, and how he and Hinata from forensic accounting definitely weren't dating.
Just like another two people I know.
Ushijima opened his mouth, even though he didn't know what to say, but a breeze against his neck was all the warning he got before Oikawa passed him in the doorway, tossing himself into the chair in front of Iwaizumi's desk.
"It's like the Antarctic out in the office," he grumbled, kicking his heels up on Iwaizumi's desk. Iwaizumi didn't complain, just walked around the desk to lean on it next to Oikawa's feet.
Oikawa looked unsettled at Iwaizumi's lack of protest at his rudeness, and Ushijima could see the freight train coming but was caught in the headlights.
The wind is chilly outside, and Ushijima laments his lack of jacket, but Iwaizumi is heading along the sidewalk like a man being dragged towards his damnation and upon second thought Ushijima just nods to himself and jogs after him. The tang of the sea hangs heavy in the air, and his lips feel crusted by the time they end up on the pier. The air hovering above the white caps is thick with fog, and he hopes they're not heading out to sea. Iwaizumi stops, staring down into the invisible depths, and Ushijima steps up beside him, rubbing his bare arms with his fingers to keep the blood flowing. Just because he can't die permanently doesn't mean he can't get annoying things like hypothermia.
It's been a while since Hinata's dad, and Ushijima still isn't used to the way Iwaizumi's power works, stepping back in surprise as a black submarine rises from the waves, but Iwaizumi just steps onto the black hull and climbs up the ladder along the conning tower to the access hatch, which pops open for him.
Ushijima sighs, pulls the access hatch shut behind him as he follows Iwaizumi down into the bowels of the machine.
"Do you even know how to navigate a submarine?" he calls after Iwaizumi, but there's no answer as usual.
At least it's not hijacking a passenger aircraft, he thinks, and heads for the bridge. The walls are stark in their whiteness, and the sound echoes strangely hollow as they sink down through the waves.
He stormed into Iwaizumi's office after the news broke, how Hinata's father had been found, one of the kidnappers giving himself up to the police in a garbled mess of a story that Ushijima hadn't bothered to read.
Chief Detective Iwaizumi Hajime, the star of the moment, was unavailable for comment.
The atmosphere of the office was completely different, loud and chaotic and Ushijima was pretty sure he saw a bottle of some kind of alcohol out of his peripheral vision but he was throwing the door open to Iwaizumi's office before the image even registered.
"Where's Oikawa?" he said. "What was the price?"
"The price?" Iwaizumi was slumped in his seat, a bandage wrapped around the finger of his left hand.
"What did you pay?" Ushijima knew he was too loud, wasn't explaining himself properly but all he could think of was Oikawa's response to his own question, so long ago.
"You can't pay the price."
"I told him I didn't care," Iwaizumi said, and his eyes flickered past Ushijima's body blocking his doorway to the joyful exuberance of the office.
"You utterly stupid asshat," Ushijima said, shouted. "What did you do?"
The submarine keeps going deeper, heading out into open water, and Ushijima watches the instruments—the view of the ocean floor through the screens—out of one eye while he examines Iwaizumi’s expression with the other. He’s pretty sure it’s not supposed to be possible to control a submarine singlehandedly, but Iwaizumi is in full swing and it seems like the submarine is steering itself.
It probably is.
Sometimes he wonders who has it worse, he who can’t die and keeps coming back to life, or Iwaizumi who can find anything but not for himself.
Probably Oikawa, he decides.
The screens flicker black with static, and then clear again, and Ushijima blinks.
Speak of the devil.
Iwaizumi flicks a switch, and a disembodied voice echoes around the bridge.
The outer emergency hatch is now open.
They’re waiting outside the inner hatch, watching the water drain from the airlock at what is probably a ridiculously fast rate but time seems to have slowed to a crawl before the hatch pops open and Oikawa steps out, completely soaked and grinning.
The grin, Ushijima notes, stepping back to lean against the metal wall of the corridor, seems a little thin.
“Long time no see,” Oikawa says, and lifts a hand to brush dripping hair out of his eyes. Iwaizumi swallows, his adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. Ushijima watches his eyes dart sideways, just a flicker back before he straightens.
“You didn’t tell me about the price,” Iwaizumi says, and Ushijima almost groans but manages to hold his tongue.
“I didn’t want to,” Oikawa says, and his eyes dip to land further down on Iwaizumi’s face before rising to once again meet his gaze, unapologetic.
“You didn’t tell me I would lose you,” Iwaizumi retorts, and it’s almost enough but not quite, as Ushijima grits his teeth.
“You found me again,” Oikawa says, tipping his head. A drop of water rolls down along the bridge of his nose, falling onto the floor with a soundless splat, but it’s enough to break the frozen tableau as Iwaizumi steps forward into Oikawa’s personal space and Oikawa lets him.
Ushijima turns away at the sound of lips meeting, wet fabric squelching, and rolls his eyes at the blank walls as he walks away.
“I don’t want to see something this stupid ever happen again,” he says, even though no one is listening.