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When Tooru wakes up, the first thing he notices, blinking bleary eyes, is that there’s a distinct grey smudge on the pale blue ceiling—quite like the alien faces of those late night sci-fi reruns he used to watch as a child, in fact. Huddling under a blanket, staring at the television with heavy eyes even as he refused to go to bed…it’s a fond memory, and he can almost recall laughing next to a black-haired little boy, and if he thought back a little harder…but, ow.

The second thing is that his head feels like it’s about to split upon. God, what did he even drink last night? Judging from the size of his headache, it was way more than the few glasses of wine he usually indulged in. His mouth feels as if a squid had indulged in a very thorough excavation of it. He runs his tongue around his teeth, gingerly. It feels both crusty and slimy, somehow.  Tooru groans and decides to forego any kind of mental gymnastics in favour of clutching his head and going back to sleep on his nice, soft…oddly uncomfortable bed.

He sits up in alarm. This isn’t his blank, white ceiling. This isn’t his bed either—it’s a sofa, in fact (which has probably done awful things to his hair), and despite the soft blanket that’s evidently been thrown over him and how he’s still dressed in yesterday clothes, he can’t help the rising swell of unease that rises past his throat—

“Oh, hey, you’re awake,” someone says, and Tooru swivels around to size up his nefarious kidnapper—who…looks more grumpy than evil. The motion is too fast to be comfortable for his throbbing skull and he moans, rubbing at his temples. Fingers enter his field of vision and uncurl to reveal an aspirin tablet.

“Take this,” says probably-not-a-kidnapper, who’s grasping a bottle of water in his other hand. Tooru takes both gratefully and tries to wash down the taste of something dead.

“Who are you? And why am I here?” That sounds much better than his first thing he thought of, Tooru decides, which was going to be how dare you drag me away to do outrageous things to my body. “What day is it, anyway,” he adds with a groan, as he’s reminded of how horrible it would be to have to show up in front of his boss and all his coworkers (including Ushijima, who would probably just take this as an opportunity to steal another case from him, the bastard).

“I’m…Iwazumi Hajime,” says unlikely-abductor, who has black, spiky hair and thick eyebrows. He seems quite tall, even when judging from Tooru’s admittedly skewed vantage point, with a broad back and strong shoulders. When he turns, Tooru can see an odd imprint on the back of his neck, like he’s just taken off a thick, flat, choker—he lets out a involuntarily giggle at the image of this surly-looking man doubling as a visual kei guitarist in his spare time.

“You passed out in front of my flower shop last night, dead drunk, and you managed to knock over a few pots as well. I couldn’t just leave you there, so I took you back to my place, in Minato.” He punctuates this with a frown, as if to emphasis the egregiousness of the situation, before turning around and leaving the room. “And it’s Saturday!”

Tooru winces and tries to ignore the ignobleness of having to be rescued by a stranger. He’s a terribly soppy drunk, too…he presses his lips together. “My sincerest apologies for troubling you,” He calls into the empty hallway. At least he won’t have to go into work like this.

Squinting, he continues, curiosity getting the better of him, “Might we know each other? I’m Oikawa Tooru, by the way. Normally I’d be doing this under less embarrassing circumstances!” He laughs a little, wry. The man seems oddly familiar, somehow, even though Tooru can’t for the life of him recall where he might know an Iwaizumi Hajime from.

“I know,” says Iwaizumi, returning from what seems to be the kitchen. He’s wiping his hands on a towel, the sleeves of shirt rolled up to his elbows. “It says right there on your suit.”

Tooru looks down to see that indeed, his name is pinned to his now very wrinkled, yet still very expensive suit. Gazing at the upside-down, neatly printed characters, he’s hit with a rush of the memories from last night. Some part of him wants to die with their return. Everything’s still hazy, but he can remember drowning his sorrows in several shots of liquor, all alone and feeling like the world was crumbling around him. He has no idea how he ended up stumbling from a bar in Hibiya to Minato instead of home, in Shibuya—he must’ve taken a different train than normal, because both are direct routes. In any case, even though he can’t quite remember how he got back, he does remember the sensation of falling, noise like the crackling of fireworks and a sharp pain in his right temple. So Iwaizumi was telling the truth—it certainly would explain why his hangover is so much worse than normal. Tooru even remembers what led him to drink in the first place—he shakes his head, determined to ignore his problems for the time being, even as Iwaizumi continues to speak.

“And…ah, I’m not sure if you’d remember, but we used to be friends when we were younger? Or neighbours, at the very least. I was going to just leave you at the police station, but it’s about the same distance from the shop as my house…and I was pretty sure I recognized you, so…” Iwaizumi shrugs, looking distinctly uncomfortable now. He fidgets with his hands as he gazes at the television, although there’s nothing showing up on the blank screen. Unbidden, Tooru remembers aliens, and television, and bug catching and laughter and a scowly little boy and...“Iwa—chan!?”

Iwaizumi twitches, apparently in a reflexive move, and Tooru wants to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. As it is, his half-smothered snicker receives a stern glare. “Should’ve known you wouldn’t have grown up,” grumbles his would-be savior before he disappears again.

“Aw, don’t be like that, Iwa-chan! If I recall correctly, I was your favourite person!” He suddenly feels buoyed—a little lighter, in the way that liquor couldn’t make him feel.

“If that’s what you remember then all that alcohol must’ve done a load of damage to your brain,” a voice calls back, slightly muted. Tooru can hear the soft banging sounds of pots and pans and the soft scrape of a knife. His stomach rumbles on cue, undeterred by his near death experience from inebriation.

“How very rude! It must be fate that brought together again, you should be happy, Iwa-chan~”

Tooru can hear Iwaizumi’s snort from here. “Fate should be satisfied I didn’t kick you out on your ass, Shittykawa.”

Tooru pouts. He’s forgotten what a big bully Iwa-chan used to be, even as a child, and now as an adult, it seems. He gets up to reply, indignant, but his feet get tangled in the blankets and he falls off the sofa—only his quick reflexes save him from crashing into the nearby table, but as it is he ends up knocking his head against the floor.

Today is the worst, thinks Tooru mournfully, as he waits for his head to stop beating out the rhythm to a rap song.

He hears Iwaizumi call, “Want to stay for breakfast?”

Well, it’s not all bad, he supposes.

 

---

 

Conference meetings are surely punishments wrought by demonic powers, thinks Tooru. It’s hour two into what’s appearing to be a super long, super boring case preparation meeting, and he’s seriously considering the demerits of just taking a nap, right there. The office chairs are rather comfortable—all that black, smooth leather—and technically, he doesn’t even need to be here right now. It’s really only Ushijima’s case that needs serious consultation, since it’s coming up soonest, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to let Ushiwaka-chan get one over him. Besides, he’s spent all night researching details for his medical malpractice suit, which is much more interesting than a divorce trial, thank you, no matter how many times Ushiwaka insists his client’s wife is trying to blackmail him.

He stares at the space behind Ushiwaka’s animated head, trying to see if he can spot a dark spirit hovering about. It would certainly explain why he’s as horrible as he is. On the other hand, that does seem like giving too much credit to something else for what is surely just inborn awfulness. He doesn’t know what could be worse than finally landing a job at a well-known firm only to come face to face with your highschool volleyball rival. In many ways, Tooru has grown up (despite what his closest friends say), but it had still felt a little like he was 16 again and staring up at an insurmountable mountain. This time, though, they’re working under the same roof, so to speak, and he’s learnt to appreciate what few charms Ushijima has. Besides--it’s still a ways off, but when the time comes, Tooru’s determined to beat him in making partner.

“And here,” interrupts Ushijima, jabbing forcefully at the photos spread out on the table in front of him, “you can see Ogura-san, sitting in her car right outside the apartment of her soon-to-be ex-husband—now, recall that she’s already moved out, which she means she has very little reason to be there unless—”

Currently, though, he’s not feeling very charitable—why must Ushiwaka-chan have to talk so much, he wonders. Twisting a pen between his fingertips, he glances around to see that even his boss looks rather bored, and Sawamura—usually the most earnest of their lot—is starting to look a little dead in the eyes as well. Tooru just wants to go home and take a nap. Maybe go out for drinks with Mattsun and Makki-chan, if he’s up for it.

He’d really like to visit Iwa-chan’s flower shop, actually. Sometimes it isn’t entirely awful to come across something you thought you’d left behind, thinks Tooru wryly, slanting a look at Ushijima. Baiting Iwaizumi, watching him scowl and flush in response, and even shooting Tooru the rare crooked grin—it’s like the best parts of being a child again, an uncomplicated pleasure not dissimilar to sending a perfect serve across the net in volleyball, or snatching a victory right from the under the nose of his opponents in court. The way he’d felt about life before Friday night—or the way he thought he had felt before his girlfriend had left him and he’d realized that all he felt was emptiness.

“—now, thank you, Wakatoshi-san,” his boss is saying. “Oikawa-san, do you have input regarding your malpractice case?” He looks like he wishes Tooru will say no, and he almost feels bad that he can’t indulge him.

“Why yes, Yamada-san,” replies Tooru, slanting a smug look at Ushijima, who just stares back with no change of expression. Typical. Well, he has spent a considerable amount of time researching for this assignment and it is important information that his fellow lawyers will need to know—and if he also gets to one-up someone he dislikes, well. Iwa-chan’s always said he likes nothing more than to show off.

 

---

 

“You guys are the worst,” says Tooru accusingly as Hanamaki and Matsukawa slide into the seat across from him, one after another. The bar is as loud as usual, this late in evening, but he’s been here long enough that the raucous voices from individual conversations have melted into background noise. As it is, he has to raise his voice to be heard over the clamour.

Hanamaki rolls his eyes. “We’re only fifteen minutes late, Oikawa, calm down. Besides, I got held up at work.” He takes off his coat and tosses it over the back of the booth seat, behind him. Matsukawa just sighs and says, “traffic,” by way of explanation and picks up the menu, although it’s not as if any of them really stray from their usual orders.

Tooru pouts, unsatisfied. “That’s no way to speak to your captain, Makki-chan! Besides, fifteen minutes are a lot of time. That’s 900 seconds, you know. A lot can happen in just a few seconds.” He’s joking, but there must be something in his voice anyway, because Hanamaki looks up from his phone to give him a sharp look. Tooru inwardly grimaces—under pain of death, he might admit that he does love his friends, but sometimes he really hates how perceptive they are.

“High school was a long time ago,” says Hanamaki lightly, his assessing gaze never leaving Tooru’s. Matsukawa is quiet, just watching the two of them. He doesn’t actually say what’s wrong, just like he doesn’t say, you were only our captain for a year and a half, but Tooru knows them as well as they probably know him.

“What’s with that face,” says Matsukawa instead, tossing a crumpled napkin at him. Tooru snatches it before it can hit him and laughs half-heartedly. He looks at the glass of wine on the table, opting to spin it around in his hands rather than answer the question he knows they’re really asking.

“If you’re wondering how I got to be this beautiful, I’m sorry to say it’s all natural, Mattsun,” he says, flicking his eyes up. After a moment, he sighs. “Fumi-chan dumped me,” he says quietly. They all sit there for a moment, letting the sounds of strangers wash over them.

Matsukawa then says, “Your girlfriend broke up with you? Is this why you were so devastated last week?”

“I wasn’t devastated! I was just a little distraught. I mean, who in their right minds would ever leave someone as perfect as me?” He tilts his head back to stare up at the ceiling. The cheap yellow lighting burns imprints into his pupils, so that he can still see cyan starbursts after he closes his eyes. “And don’t think I forgot that you guys ditched me in my time of need! This is the real problem here, okay; the lack of commitment I’m feeling from you two.”

“So what, are you heart-broken?” says Hanamaki, ignoring the latter part. “You’ll just get a new girl in another week. For all your faults, Oikawa, you are inexplicably popular.” His voice is not unkind. Tooru knows he’s not the best at letting people close to him—probably because when he does, it’s always that much worse when they leave him.

He can still see Fumi-chan, backlit by that collection of lava lamps she’d loved so much, looking up at him with unshed tears. He’d liked that most about her—that she was so strong, and independent and kind and funny. You’re always working, she had said, and hadn’t that been just like a ball to the stomach; like he’s 16 again and his girlfriend is telling him how horrible it is that he can’t seem to care about an actual human the way he cares about an inanimate sport. He hadn’t known how to explain then, and he still doesn’t know now, how it’s not the game; it’s not the job. It’s the way he feels alive, in a trial or in a tournament, with the same shock of adrenaline running down his veins. How the taste of hard-earned victory never dulled, and that even when everything else was going wrong in his life, he could always forget, even for just a few hours—a court would never let you have your mind on anything but what was in front of you, after all.

“She is the person you’ve dated the longest, though,” says Matsukawa, pensive. Tooru takes another long drink of wine in lieu of replying.

It’s ironic, he thinks—he’d played for much longer than any girl he’d went out with and volleyball had left him too, in the end. He doesn’t know if he had managed to stop feeling empty since he quit, but nobody could touch how it had made him feel—not in highschool, and then not even Fumi-chan. They’d met at a fundraising gala for the Tokyo Bar Association; the first girl he’d dated since he graduated law school, studying fiercely all throughout university. You don’t even look at me, now, she had said, when she left; Tooru thinks he would have felt better if she’d been angry, but all she sounded was sad. Resigned.

“It’s not about how long we were together,” he says. “It was just…different. But you guys are probably right—I’m too amazing to be left on the market.”

“Anyway,” he continues, “can you guys believe I ran into my childhood friend last week! What a small world.”

He really does have good friends after all, he reflects, when they let him change the subject without comment.

 

---

 

Tooru yawns, stretching his arms out above him. He checks his watch to see that it’s already nearing 7:30pm. When he ducks out of his office, it seems that most of the rooms have their lights turned off—the majority of his coworkers must have left, then. He slants a look back at his computer. He’s not really making any progress, and he needs to wait until he gets that witness statement from the nurse, anyway, so he might as well head out for the day. Gathering his files and his briefcase, Tooru slides his coat on and locks his office door behind him. He says goodbye to all the lawyers still working into the night, their faces tired even as their hands and eyes are animated.

The streets of Hibya are just stilling their bustle, waiters and waitresses closing up cafes, storeowners bidding farewell to their last customers, neon signs slowly blinking once, twice, and then not at all. The sky is shrouded with purple clouds, dusk landing over the tall apartment buildings and skyscrapers like a gentle blanket. Technically, it’s not too late to head to a bar, nor is it out of the ordinary for him to call up Hanamaki or Matsukawa for drinks—they don’t exactly have a standing order, but they try to meet up once or twice a month, at least, a tradition that began in highschool and never really died out. Some part of him appreciates it, the fact that he’s been able to hold onto something for so many years, despite everything else that comes and goes in his life.

Somehow, though, Tooru’s feeling a little reckless, like he just ran a mile and the adrenaline’s still running through his veins—he’s never one to deny himself much of anything, at any rate. He makes a quick detour into a convenience store, exiting with a heavy plastic bag in one hand and his phone in the other, searching up directions. Just because he’d been there once, fueled by the magic, destructive powers of alcohol, doesn’t mean he can make it there again on memory alone.

A few train stops later, he’s at the door of Iwaizumi’s apartment. He’d followed a couple into the building, smiling charmingly at the security guard, who’d given him a narrow look but otherwise hadn’t made a move to stop him when he headed for the elevators. Fumbling for his phone, he switches hands to check his messages. He and Iwaizumi text sometimes, and while he’d asked if Iwaizumi was busy today, he hadn’t actually said anything about coming over. No, why? is still lit up on his screen, the message glaring bright in the dim corridor like an accusation. He swipes away to open his notes app, just to check if he’s at the right place; he’d stored Iwaizumi’s address and apartment number in his phone, after he’d left, the first time he was here. His place is actually really close to Shinagawa; moreso than Tooru had assumed when Iwaizumi had told him he’d then he  The same words are sitting there, as they’d been the previous three times he’d looked; a perfect copy of the building he’s currently standing in.

Tooru takes a breath, the little alcohol he’d imbibed suddenly feeling a little queasy in his stomach. He knocks anyway; the white paint on the door is a little chipped in some areas, like an angry visitor had taken it out on the wood with his boot. He smiles a little—he has a crystal clear picture of Iwaizumi doing just that, amusingly enough—

“Hey,” says Iwaizumi. He’s dressed in a simple white t-shirt that’s a little small, pulling at his arms even as he stretches to lean an elbow on the door frame, plaid shorts, and oddly enough, a pair of well-worn socks, one of them with a large enough hole that a toe peeks through. Tooru tears his eyes away from the strip of flat stomach that’s been revealed to stare at his feet. He’s inexplicably charmed.

“Oikawa?” Iwaizumi’s eyebrows furrow a little in surprise. Tooru resists the urge to poke the wrinkled skin there.

“Iwa-chan! Are you dressed in your underwear because you’re trying to seduce me? Because I have to tell you, you’re going to have to try harder than that.”

“These are normal shorts, asshole, and I didn’t know it was you.”

“Wow, so you’re willing to seduce anyone that comes to the door? That’s awfully loose of you, Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi groans and wipes a hand over his face. “Just come in then, before you annoy my neighbours to death like you’re clearly trying to do to me. What are you doing here, anyway?” He grabs Tooru’s hand and pulls him in, shutting the door behind him—for a moment, he’s way too close to Iwaizumi’s body, and he doesn’t breath. Then he steps back and they’re both standing in his doorway, staring at each other. Tooru preoccupies himself with toeing off his shoes to avoid his gaze. Iwaizumi’s place is surprisingly messy today—the contrast with his straight-laced personality is almost funny. Shoes are haphazardly placed around the rack, as if Iwaizumi was in a hurry; there’s an assortment of color-stained cloths building on a chair, a lens cap lying on the floor.

“If you mean on this planet, Iwa-chan, sometimes I think I was born just so that people like you—”

“Why are you here,” intones Iwaizumi, enunciating each syllable as if he’s an idiot, which is very rude, Tooru had the highest graduating average out of his entire high school class—

He hands the plastic bag of beer to Iwaizumi in lieu of answering, pushing past him to flop down on the sofa.  “Takeru is home for Golden Week, and he keeps trying to make me play volleyball with him,” he sighs into the soft cushions, voice muffled.

“Too old for volleyball now, Oikawa? Actually, I think I can see your hair starting to turn a little grey at the ends there.”

Tooru can hear the smile in his voice, so he’s not too offended—he gasps anyway, mock-affronted. “My hair is perfect, just like the rest of me, I’ll have you know. And I’m not old. I just need my beauty sleep—it’s hard work being as pretty as me! Ugly people like you sure have it easy.” He receives a swat to the back of his head for that, and he laughs into the sofa. But then there’s a dip in the cushion next to him, and rough fingers carding through his hair. He hums a little in pleasure, the soft skritching at the base of his skull making his eyes close involuntarily.

“And besides,” says Tooru, after a comfortable silence. He flips around to look up at Iwaizumi, who’s sitting next to him, looking down with an absent-minded smile. The television is on but neither of them is watching it—just a quiet murmur of voices in the background. “I know you’ve missed me!” His thigh is warm and Tooru shifts to press his cheek against it, slightly tipsy from the two beers he’d had before he came here—that he’d had, in order to come here. Iwaizumi’s apartment is surprisingly flora-bare for someone who’s supposedly dedicated his life to cultivating the most beautiful arrangement of flowers on the planet (Tooru’s words, of course). There’s a single glass vase next to the TV stand, delicately cut, and then just three stalks of violets.

“Like a hole in the head,” replies Iwaizumi agreeably, before leaning forward to reach for something out of sight. He tilts back again, handing an open canned of beer to Tooru, who sits up a little so he can take a sip. He licks his lips, looking up just in time to see Iwaizumi’s gaze flicker to his mouth for split second before meeting his eyes again. Tooru swallows, ignoring the flicker of—something, running down his spine. He puts the can on the table and lies back down instead, rubbing his head against Iwaizumi’s leg like a large, particularly demanding cat.

“Ugh, he has so much energy, I’m tired just from watching him run around,” he whines. Iwaizumi’s hand is in his hair again, stroking his scalp. It’s warm weather for the end of May, but it’s late enough that the breeze carrying through the open window of the living room is cool, though somewhat humid. He can feel the slight stickiness of sweat clinging to the back of his neck. “Can you believe we were that boisterous?”

Iwaizumi doesn’t speak for a moment, and when Tooru looks up, he can see his eyes are closed, his head tilted back. The curve of his neck glows a little in the reflected light from the screen. Tooru’s vision lands on his Adam’s apple, and he follows its motion as Iwaizumi swallows. When he drags his gaze away, it’s to see that Iwaizumi is watching him through half-lidded eyes. The soft blue light catches on his scleras, and while Tooru isn’t anywhere as poetic enough to even think the word luminous, he still can’t look away.

Iwaizumi clears his throat and Tooru shifts so that he’s looking at the television instead. “I bet you were,” says Iwaizumi. Tooru can feel the thigh muscles tensing under his head when Iwaizumi speaks. “I was,” he replies smugly. “I was very athletic and I have many fans who can attest to my brilliance.” He grins lasciviously for good measure. Iwaizumi moves the hand that’s in his hair to try and choke him.

“I’m sure they can attest to something all right,” he replies. Tooru laughs softly. Iwaizumi’s palm is warm, his fingers callused—probably from planting so many flowers, Tooru thinks—where they’re curled around his throat; he’s not actually squeezing moreso than just lightly gripping his neck.

“Well, it only lasted until my second year, anyway,” he adds—it comes out more bitter than he meant it to. There’s a pregnant pause, and for a second Tooru’s afraid that he’s said too much; that he was too careless in a way he never was with Fumi-chan, that he revealed something that should have been kept hidden instead.

“What happened?” says Iwaizumi. His voice is deliberately neutral, free of the rumble of ire that he’s taken to adopting around Tooru. Like he’s asking, but only if Tooru wanted to give.

For a moment, his throat sticks. Highschool was a long time ago, he reminds himself—only some days, it feels like it was just yesterday: feet bursting off the floor, palms spread like the wings of an osprey, the opposing team with slowly blooming expressions of shock—he had known even without looking, heart floating inside his chest, that it was a perfect jump serve; that the ball would smack down just inside the edge of the court. And then he was falling and falling, until his line of sight edged past the tallest defender, past the bottom of the net, and then to Hanamaki’s red-stripped Nike shoes—where he’d landed with a sickening thud.

He remembered thinking fondly, he always wears those shoes to a tournament game. The only thing that had registered in the blank haze of shock. “I tore my ACL during the Interhigh,” Tooru says, at length. “The doctors told me that I’d probably never regain the same level of mobility I had before without at least a year of therapy, and…there would be no point, anymore. I would have graduated.”

“You could have played in university,” says Iwaizumi. “You went to Seijou, right? There’s no way you wouldn’t have been good enough.”

Tooru finally turns to look at him. “I know,” he says. “But it wouldn’t have been the same, really…a lot of the team split up, to go to different universities….” He shrugs. “I guess I just didn’t have anyone I really wanted to play with, anymore.”

He yawns, involuntarily, and closes his eyes. “What about you, Iwa-chan? I doubt you were as amazing as me, but you might have been pretty good.” You have strong hands, Tooru thinks, and doesn’t say. He can imagine Iwaizumi smoothly twisting a volleyball between his palms, just as nimbly as he probably twists the stalks of his ikebana arrangements; like they’re weaving now, between the strands of his hair, the rhythmic motions as effective as a soporific.

“Ha, I was decent,” says Iwaizumi. “I only played until junior high, though—it was fun, and then I got interested in—something else…”

He trails off, but Tooru doesn’t notice, already half-asleep--he feels safe curling next to Iwaizumi; like they’re both children again, and all he has to worry about is if Kamen Rider will end up defeating the Gurongi and saving the world again.

“I probably would have liked playing with you,” adds Iwaizumi quietly. It’s so soft that Tooru can’t be sure he didn’t imagine it, but all the same—the corners of his mouth turn up, even as his consciousness fades.

 

---

 

“What,” asks Tooru thoughtfully, leaning against the wall by the entranceway, a mug clutched loosely in his hand, “do you get someone for their birthday?”

“Uh.” Sawamura looks at him with an expression of alarm, like Tooru doesn’t usually ask him odd questions out of the blue. Now that he thinks about it, they barely talk, which is clearly a tragedy that he should remedy at this very moment—no one should be deprived of the opportunity to bask in his clever wit, after all.

“It depends on who it is, Oikawa-san?” Sawamura replies, his voice lilting up at the end so that his answer comes out more like a question. He edges a little closer to the coffee machine with a wary glance at him, like he thinks Tooru will attack him if he doesn’t give a satisfactory answer. He motions Sawamura forward with a mock-bow, sweeping his arms grandly toward the caffeine.

“Is it someone you like, or a friend?” Sawamura looks much more relaxed with a cup in his hand and hot liquid in his throat, thinks Tooru idly. He hadn’t meant to say anything, really, but the way Sawamura had turned; the curve where his neck met his shoulder, that spiky hair—it had reminded him of Iwaizumi, a little. And then he’d remembered that Iwaizumi had offhandedly mentioned his birthday last time Tooru had been over and questioned him about a bright blue box, tied carefully with yellow ribbon, sitting on his table. My mom sent it, he’d said, and then returned Tooru’s horrified expression with a perplexed look. Tooru clenches his hand involuntarily; he cannot believe Iwaizumi had only told him about his birthday this close to it—and he wouldn’t even have without Tooru’s own intervention.

“It’s a florist,” he says instead, ignoring the question. Sawamura suddenly looks much more amused, which irritates him a little.

“Well, let’s say it’s someone you’re trying to woo. What would you give them, Sawamura-san? A little…nighttime surprise?” It’s almost too blunt, but Tooru’s gratified by the flush that suddenly suffuses his cheeks.

“Uh, probably not. Maybe flowers, or chocolates?”

Tooru sighs. “I can’t give a florist flowers,” he says dolefully. “But I guess there’s not much they would be guaranteed to like. I don’t know them very well,” he adds, only that’s not entirely true—he knows a lot about how Iwaizumi laughs, his crooked grin and deep voice; how he’s kind even as he’s being gruff with Tooru, how he listens to him, even when pretending to be annoyed. Compared to that, thinks you like just hadn’t ranked very high in terms of important knowledge, apparently.

“I don’t know anyone who hates chocolate,” muses Sawamura. “But you could always just get them a plant, if you’re set on that kind of thing. No one said it had to be flowers, right?” He raises his cup apologetically and then ducks around Tooru (who should also really be getting back to work), leaving the break room.

He bites his lip thoughtfully as he thinks about it.

 

---

 

The sun is just barely peeking over the horizon, washing the sky in pastel hues of orange and blue, when Tooru rounds the corner onto the street where Iwaizumi’s flower shop is installed. Minato Flowers, spells out the simple characters on an overhead plaque, the pale lavender awning waving gently in the morning breeze. Flowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors adorn the store front, peeking out from between wooden slats and hanging baskets, blooming out of glass vases and curling around the various displays. It’s unlike the neat, tidy, boutiques Tooru can sometimes spot from the high vantage point of his office window, and the whimsical, carefree nature of Iwaizumi’s shop is probably why he likes it so much. Well, its owner may also be a plus.

What he doesn’t like is how early the store opens. He supposes it’s convenient that he can stop by before he has to head off to work, especially since the commute there isn’t too much out of his way. Besides, he generally does too much overtime to see anything but the blinking signs of late night convenience stores and ramen stands by the time he staggers out of his office (and the one time he did get off work early, Tooru thinks ruefully, he decided to drink himself to oblivion); nonetheless, it does mean he has to get up an hour and a half earlier in order to spend as much time with Iwaizumi as possible. As it is, he’s only managed to get up in time twice this entire week—he’d made sure to set at least five alarms, though, just for today.

He tucks his arm behind his back as he pushes the glass doors open—it won’t do to have Iwaizumi see it too early. Speaking of the devil, Tooru can see him sweeping the floors near the back end of the store, a rag slung over his shoulder, but he turns his head at the sound of the door chime. Spotting Tooru, he makes his way over. He’s dressed in a simple shirt and pants, but his attire is nearly engulfed by the phlegm-colored, khaki-green apron Tooru assumes is part of the mandated florist uniform. He winces just looking at it—it really is awful on the eyes.

“Good morning, Iwa-chan,” says Tooru—or tries to, with his voice breaking off in a yawn at the end of the greeting. He can’t help it; he’s as much definitively not a morning person at 27 as he was when he was in high school. Iwaizumi, on the other hand, is the picture of an early bird, all sprightly and bright-eyed and very much awake, thinks Tooru a little enviously.  Iwaizumi gives him a bewildered glance.

“Hey,” he says. He eyes Tooru with a frown, his head tilted. “You look kind of—tired.” Tooru decides it’s not his imagination that Iwaizumi sounds rather worried.

“Jealously is unbecoming of you,” replies Tooru, who had spent most of the weekend trying to figure out what he should give Iwaizumi; he ended up just taking Sawamura’s advice and hoping for the best. He grasps his decision a little more firmly, behind his back.

“Happy birthday,” he says triumphantly, producing his present with a flourish. “I brought you a cactus; it’s a rainbow hedgehog!”

Iwaizumi takes the proffered plant, looking down at it with a strange expression on his face—like he’s torn between thinking that Tooru is making fun of him, and thus reacting with appropriate anger, and pleasant surprise. “Thanks, Oikawa,” he says finally, and graces him with a lopsided, but genuine smile. “It’s beautiful.”

“To remind you of me,” says Tooru, preening, ignoring the way that Iwaizumi rolls his eyes. “Cacti are strong and enduring—as they have to be, growing in the desert and all, and they’re low-maintenance, so perfect for someone as lazy as you.” He beams, and doesn’t mention at all how these are traits that remind him of Iwaizumi—he doesn’t even know why he’s saying all these things aloud, anyway, since Iwaizumi is a florist and should know these things already, right? Then again, that one website he visited had also said that cactus flowers symbolized—other things. Involuntarily, his eyes are drawn to the curve of Iwaizumi’s neck, exposed by his shirt’s low hanging collar; Tooru hopes the rising heat in his cheeks isn’t as easily seen as it is for him to feel. He doesn’t—Iwaizumi isn’t—at any rate, the rainbow hedgehog isn’t even blooming, and—

I’m lazy?” says Iwaizumi disbelievingly. “You’re the one that can barely stand up on your own two feet. And I’ve been to your place, Trashykawa, you have no room to talk. It’s like a tornado tore through it.”

“I just have more important things to do than clean,” says Tooru indignantly. He leans on the store counter, sweeping his eyes over the room. Iwaizumi has been by his apartment once; he’d been returning from delivering roses to a customer in Shibuya when his car broke down. He called Tooru, who lived close enough that he’d invited him over to wait out the few hours until the tow trunk arrived. “And that doesn’t count, you dropped by before I was ready! Besides, it humanizes me to have some faults. I give the lowly masses something to aspire to rather than just simply worship—aren’t I generous, Iwa-chan?” He laughs and dodges out of the way when Iwaizumi tries to swipe at him with the towel, but he can tell that he’s trying not to smile.

In truth, Tooru is actually rather tidy, a habit wrought by virtue of having an older sister who hated to sweep and a mother’s insistence on fairness that delved right down into the division of daily chores (despite how much his sister liked to claim their mother always spoiled him more than her). He just hadn’t had the energy lately, what with work piling up, and—he always used to head over to Fumi-chan’s place, more than she came here. She’d asked if he wanted to get an apartment together, but he’d always waved her off, a weird curl of hesitation in his stomach—well, good thing in the end; at least he didn’t have to deal with that, now. 

He yawns again—he’s glad there’s no one around to see him like this, but then again he doesn’t know why Iwaizumi even bothers to open up this early. There’s rarely anyone here at the crack of dawn, like he is, and…actually, now that he thinks about it, he hasn’t really seen Iwaizumi sell someone a flower. He narrows his eyes and watches as Iwaizumi does something involving a trowel and a large pile of dirt, near the end of display. He wanders over, pretending to be interested in a pot of red lilies near Iwaizumi. He thumbs a stem and then leans in to inhale the scent. Iwaizumi ignores him, concentrating on packing in dirt at the perfect density, or whatever he’s doing.

“How’s business going?” Tooru asks casually. Iwaizumi looks at him, nonplussed. “Uh, fine? It’s kind of slow during the summer months—there’s a lot of…couples,” he says, with an odd glance at Tooru, “who want to send each other bouquets, but it’s nowhere as busy as it gets during wedding season..” He grimaces. Tooru wants to laugh; his face honestly looks like as if there’s nothing he dreads more.

Maybe everyone just visits during a normal work hour, like he’d originally thought. He doesn’t see Iwaizumi take any calls either, but it’s not like visitors would know the opening hours of Minato Flowers without actually seeing the store—it’s certainly unique, but it has an old-fashioned air, like it’s never known what modernity meant and nor did it mean to. He wonders if Iwaizumi even uses a computer regularly.

“Do you know what the internet is, Iwa-chan?” he asks.

Iwaizumi gives him another bewildered look, only this time it’s touched by a noticeable dose of irritation. “Obviously,” he says, turning to grab a giant pair of shears from a box beside him that has Tooru stepping back, not entirely of his own volition. Iwaizumi grins at him slyly, and then exchanges the shears for a smaller, more normal sized pair of clippers. “What’s wrong with you, anyway? You’re asking a lot of weird questions.”

“Don’t question what you’re not smart enough to understand,” says Tooru solemnly. He makes sure he’s wisely out of range of Iwaizum’s arm reach.

“Don’t forget that I’m the one with weapons at my disposal,” replies Iwaizumi balefully. He waves the clippers threateningly.

Tooru gives him a smug grin. “You would never hurt me, Iwa-chan, I’m too precious to you!”

“Precious as this piece of manure, really.”

“The way you’re touching that fertilizer says a lot about your tastes in the bedroom, Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi tosses a clump of dirt at him; it hits him in the leg and he cries out in dismay. “Iwa-chan, this suit is very expensive, you know! How could you!” He looks up to see that Iwaizumi is doubled over, laughing too hard to respond. Tooru huffs, displeased. “Your face,” Iwaizumi says, taking a breath to choke out the words.

Tooru stands there, looking at Iwaizumi, a small smile spreading on his own face. He thinks, distantly, how he’d told Matsukawa, back then, it was just different. Maybe he’d had nothing really special to compare it too.

Then Iwaizumi is wiping away tears of laughter, still red-faced, and Tooru is shoving him with his shoulder, and for a while, he thinks of nothing else; nothing at all.

 

---

 

The idea that he could like men isn’t as shocking as it should be, reflects Tooru, late at night. He stares up at the fluorescent stickers on his ceiling. He’d taken them down when he started dating Fumi-chan, and he never got a chance to put them back up before now. When he was younger, the constellation spread out above him had made him feel gratifyingly small—the fact that no matter how many mistakes he’d make, he was but one tiny speck of dust on a plastic star, themselves  littering the plaster universe of his ceiling. At this moment, though, it reminds of how alone he is—his apartment feels too empty, his bed too big for one person; the same way it had felt too small, before, when he thought of coming home to Fumi-chan.

Despite what she’d said, though, it’s not like he was a bad boyfriend, when it came down to it. He made sure to schedule a date every week despite his workload, at the movies, the aquarium, at that fancy new café; whatever he thought Fumi-chan would have liked. He noted down important dates and made sure to get her tasteful jewelry whenever her birthday rolled around. All in all, it had come to him naturally, dating Fumi-chan, and maybe that’s the crux of it; he’d approached their relationship like a volleyball game, analyzing how the pieces should fit and strategizing the most efficient ways to get there. He’d even thought about marriage in the same, mechanical way—he’d thought love was like that. He thought he was happy.

Maybe Fumi-chan was right, after all, he allows. The moonlight streaming through the window panes pools into a small pond in his bedsheets. Tooru has never been a coward, but he’s always been very good at lying to himself—at least, until he can’t, anymore. He doesn’t know what it is about Hajime that draws him in, but it’s an inexorable pull, nonetheless. He doesn’t feel obligated to spend time with him, but he wants to; he wants to know him, to touch him, to feel his heart beat in the same rhythm as his.

He swallows and closes his eyes.   

 

---

 

Two weeks later, he finally finishes his work early enough that it’s still light out when he leaves, shooting a disarming smile at Sawamura as he passes, who’s so used to him by now that he just waves back.

He takes the train to Minato. It’s a little strange, heading back to the district instead of departing from it. The route to Iwaizumi’s flower shop is familiar enough from the station that he can almost walk it eyes closed, at least; he’s pleased to see that there’s lights on from within. When he pushes the door open, he’s greeted with a cheerful hum of conversation—there’s quite a few people here; not enough for it to be a crowd, but noticeably louder than the earlier morning. For a moment, he searches for Iwaizumi amongst the bobble of heads. Spotting his spiky head, Tooru raises a hand in greeting when Iwaizumi turns and then carefully makes his way around the customers.

He nearly bumps into a girl carrying a bouquet of daisies—he flashes a grin at her, and flushes and hurries away. He’s close enough now that he can hear Iwaizumi mutter, “Disgusting,” under his breath, but Tooru chooses to ignore him out of politeness.  “Iwa-chan!”

“Ah, excuse me, do you work here?” a timid looking young woman interrupts them softly. Tooru spins around, lightly shoving Iwaizumi in front of him. “Alas, I do not, but this handsome young man does,” he says, definitely not whimpering when Iwaizumi deliberately steps backwards, right on his toe.

“Er, yeah, how can I help you?” asks Iwaizumi politely, in a nice, gentle tone he never uses with Tooru. He smiles at the young lady, smooth and automatic, and she shyly returns his grin. Tooru suddenly feels a little claustrophobic—he tugs at his shirt collar. I’ll be over there, he mouths to Iwaizumi, who waves him away as he points at the gardenias.

Tooru gets absorbed in the flowers for a moment—he’s never really stopped to observe them, and the blooming petals, unfurling like droplets of watercolor paints, are certain eye catching. He takes a breath to absorb the clean scent. When he turns around, however, Iwaizumi is no longer to be seen, no matter how much he looks.

He spots an old lady next to him, with that telltale green apron draped across her front as she shuffles from one pot to another. She moves surprisingly quickly for someone with so much silver shot through the hair and he hurries to catch her attention. “Ah, obaasan,” he says, beaming. He’s always been overly popular with older ladies. “Would you happen to know where the owner of this shop might be?”

She gives him a quizzical smile, as if he’s in on a joke that she doesn’t know the punchline to, and replies, “That’s me, young man. What’s the matter?”

Tooru hesitates, confused. “You own Minato Flowers? Not Iwa—izumi-san?”

“Iwaizumi-san? Oh, you must mean my grandson, Hajime-kun.” She chuckles to herself. “He doesn’t own this store—I’d say he barely has a green thumb at all, and he always looks so lost whenever anyone asks him what this or that flower means. Usually the most I could get him to do was to make deliveries for me, but now he’s helping around the store, and he even opens it for me too.” She reaches out to gently rub the leaf of an orchid, and then turns to wink conspiratorially at him. “They always get you in the end,” she says in a faux whisper, nodding at the various pots aligned in front of her. “Flowers are beautiful, yet hard to understand and even harder to take care of…but the joy in seeing a bud bloom is quite indescribable.”

“That’s certainly very true,” says Tooru, his mind turning furiously. “Thank you for your help, obaasan! I’ll be sure to come back more often if I can meet lovely ladies like you here.” She purses his lips at his blatant flirting and shoos him away, but her eyes are shining with mirth. She reminds him a lot of Iwaizumi, actually—the family resemblance is pretty clear.

Tooru finds him eventually, crouched near the floor with a notepad in his hand, chewing a pencil thoughtfully. He looks up when Tooru steps near him, nodding a greeting before turning back to look at his list.

“What does your grandmother mean,” says Tooru calmly, “when she says you don’t actually work here?” Iwaizumi visibly freezes and then stands up—a sudden motion that has Tooru nearly tipping over when he steps back too quickly. Iwaizumi grabs his wrist and starts to drag him towards the back of the store. “In here,” he insists, opening the door and pushing them both inside. It’s clearly a workshop, with flower petals and stems strewn about a desk, as well as ribbons and cloths of varying size and color littering the floor. There’s a row of vases placed on a high shelf, too; some delicate and beautiful, some looking as if a child had made them. Paper of a multitude of patterns spills out of several boxes, and several tripods lean next to the window sill. It’s about as messy as he expected from looking at the outside part of the store.

“Ow,” says Tooru, “Iwa-chan, you oaf! You sure have a penchant for manhandling me; careful, or I’ll read something into that.”

He’s joking—or at least he is until he sees Hajime tense, his back muscles drawing up in a stiff line, and then all of a sudden he desperately wants it to be true. The bulbs in the backroom too dim for him to make out the shadowed expression on Hajime’s face at first, but then he moves closer to the window. He’s still holding on to Tooru’s wrist, and so he follows; he hasn’t made a move to free himself.

“What if I want you to?” He says, roughly. He’s not looking at Tooru. In the glow of the setting sun, Iwaizumi looks beautiful, sharp shades of red and gold lighting up his features. Tooru wants to kiss him.

“Good,” he says—he’s never heard his own voice this deep before. Hajime half-shivers—just a small movement, but enough to send a frisson down Tooru’s own spine—then it’s tempered with surprise. He looks up Tooru, mouth open in a silent O, who takes this opportunity to press his lips to Hajime’s.

For a single, heart-stopping moment, neither of them move—and then Hajime is groaning and shoving himself at Tooru, who presses himself closer, licking into Hajime’s mouth. “Every time I saw your fingers,” he gasps, fumbling to get Hajime’s disgusting apron off—god, he’s so far gone, Hajime is still hot, even dressed like this—“strong and covered in dirt, I wanted them on me.” He’s pleasantly gratified by the flush that suffuses Hajime’s cheeks, and doesn’t even complain when he suddenly gets shoved backwards, Hajime bending him over the dirty work desk.

Much.

Hajime rolls his eyes. “Shut up,” he grumbles, even as he’s nipping at Tooru’s mouth, tongue sliding past his teeth, “you’re sure fussy for a giant pervert—”

“Iwa-chan! How dare you disparage my good character! I’ll have you know—”

And oh, now there’s a warm hand skirting down his pants—Hajime’s cheeks are still bright red where he’s mouthing over Tooru’s collarbones, the vampire, and he’s lost his shirt too, which means Tooru can see that bright flush disappear all the way down his torso. “I opened the store two hours earlier just so I could see you come in,” Hajime mumbles absentedly. “God, this suit….”

Tooru can’t help the quiver of delight he feels at that confession; his heart feels so full. “Iwa-chan, did you really? I’m so flattered at the lengths you’ve gone—”

Hajime interrupts his ramblings with another press of lips. He’ll have to think again if he believes that this will shut him up forever. He strokes one corner of Tooru’s lips, who parts his mouth almost involuntarily—he ducks his head to press gentle kisses to Tooru’s mouth, at odds with the fervent, intense look in his eyes. “You were such an asshole, but you were also funny, and sweet, and smart, and capable…” He says, in between breaths. He flicks his eyes up to meet Tooru’s. “And now you’re mine.” This last part is said with such a fierce certainty that Tooru feels his pants immediately grow tighter.

He slides his hand around Hajime’s back to rub at the base of his spine, his other hand absently thumbing  the nipple closest to him—which has the delightful effect of leaving Hajime shuddering in his arms.

Tooru decides, magnanimously, that he can be quiet for once.

 

---

 

(“So what do you do?” asks Tooru later, stretching indolently in Hajime’s bed. He feels very satisfied, and the way that Hajime’s looking at him, eyes gone dark and liquid, tells him he won’t be leaving for another hour at least. He grins back smugly, stretching up to press their lips together.

Hajime scowls as if he doesn’t want to tell him. Tooru pushes at the furrow of his eyebrows the way he’s always wanted to. “We’re in love now, you have to tell me,” he says pointedly, which has Hajime blushing immediately. It’s thrilling.

Then he sighs, and scratches his head, his other hand still stroking at the juncture where Tooru’s neck meets his shoulder like a promise. “I’m a photographer,” he says at last. “I used to only work in the shop in my days off, but then, some time ago, I couldn’t take pictures anymore…It was like something broke instead me. Nothing came out right. I thought, since I had nothing to do, I might as well help out my grandmother…and then, well, you came along.” He still can’t meet Tooru’s eyes when he says these things, which he finds utterly charming.

Tooru hums a little, thoughtful. “What are you going to do now, then?”

“Now?” says Hajime, cutting his eyes back. He’s looking at Tooru like he’s never seen anything more fascinating. “Now I’m thinking, it wouldn’t be so bad to try again.”)