“Oikawa’s still single?”
Iwaizumi frowns at the pure incredulity filtering through his smartphone. “Is that weird?”
“Oikawa’s still single??” Hanamaki repeats, and in Iwaizumi’s mind, he can actually see his old friend bent over laughing. And it sounds like he’s laughing at Iwaizumi somehow, like that would make any sense.
“He’s too focused on volleyball, you know how he is,” Iwaizumi explains. It isn’t to be dismissive, it’s just the truth, as told to him by Oikawa himself.
“Let me guess, he’s the one who told you that?”
Iwaizumi frowns harder.
“Oh my god,” Hanamaki says, then starts laughing again, taking Iwaizumi’s silence for the answer. “I mean, could it be possible that there’s someone he likes, but he just hasn’t told you yet?”
“Why would he do that?” Iwaizumi would cross his arms if he wasn’t holding his phone. “I’m his best friend. We live together. If he had someone he liked, I would know.”
“Iwaizumi Hajime-san,” Hanamaki says gravely, “do you know what it means when people say that you can lead a horse to water, but you certainly can’t make it drink?”
The ever-present “problem” of Oikawa Tooru’s perpetual bachelorhood is not one at the forefront of Iwaizumi’s mind, but it is constantly floating about in his life, usually randomly directed at him like an accusation from mutual friends or complete strangers. Why him, he still can’t understand--why not just ask Oikawa himself?
Well, probably because Oikawa has the personality of a warm turd, and Iwaizumi isn’t a compulsive, evasive liar, so people are keener to get the truth from a reliable source. It would usually be a good tactic if Iwaizumi didn’t try to avoid the topic as often as possible himself.
In Iwaizumi’s world, Oikawa being single is preferable to any other situation. But it’d be strange to bluntly ask something as inane as, hey Oikawa, anyone special in your life lately?, because they’re not like that. Barring that, an undetermined marital status is still preferable to a determined status of lovingly taken by someone else, which is not something Iwaizumi should be so concerned over, but nonetheless is, because that’s how it feels when you’ve been in love with your best friend for the entirety of your meaningful life.
Tokyo is a puzzle of subterranean tunnels and blurred city lights, with restaurants of every cuisine stacked around more restaurants, all boasting to be home to Japan’s best ramen, extra big bowl, with a set of gyoza on the side for only 980 yen.
Iwaizumi’s take on Tokyo should probably be something more poignant, more special than that, but the enormity of it is too much for him to encapsulate in words. He had once thought with some awe that Sendai was huge, all those tall skyscrapers and fashionable, young people always seemingly in a rush to their next engagement, and Oikawa had laughed at him and called him a country bumpkin, but Iwaizumi hadn’t missed the stars in his eyes, either.
Different universities or not, different life paths or not, there hadn’t been any question about where Iwaizumi was going to go.
Across the street, Oikawa is standing and waiting for him so they can try the 67th number one ramen in all of Japan. He’s dressed down but he’s still all glamor. Iwaizumi doesn’t know enough about fashion to know why Oikawa is insistent about tweed or argyle or whatever the hell else he talks about sometimes, but he knows that Oikawa looks good, as frustratingly good as he always does.
The scramble light turns green and Iwaizumi sighs as he watches a girl tap Oikawa’s shoulder, a cute pink settled high on her cheeks. He slows down, witnessing this very same scene he’s seen a thousand times, with a thousand girls, and the feigned shock and humility and pleasure on Oikawa’s face as he waves both hands between their bodies while shaking his head, laughing a laugh that Iwaizumi has grown to hate so much he no longer cares to even hate it.
Careful, he thinks. Oikawa will steal your heart and never give it back. Think it over.
She looks genuinely embarrassed after Oikawa says something else, a kind, genuine smile on his face, and she leaves him alone after that, smiling herself.
“Iwa-chan, why are you always so slow,” Oikawa demands, yanking Iwaizumi the last few steps across the street as soon as he’s within Oikawa’s grabbing range. “Can’t you see my precious being is always accosted from all sides when your cranky face isn’t here to scare people away?”
“I was only telling Hanamaki literally yesterday that your personality isn’t as vile as before,” Iwaizumi informs, slightly stiff from the way Oikawa’s got an arm looped through his own. “Why do you make me such a liar to people I care about?”
“I mean, it’s not like I could’ve just ignored her, I had to make her go away!”
“Why?” Iwaizumi asks before he can help it, mouth immediately settling into a grim line. Damn it, he hadn’t meant to actually ask.
“Why?” Oikawa repeats, peering at him. Damn it, they know each other too well for Oikawa not to pick up on something out of the ordinary. “What do you mean why, it’s not like I’m going to go on a date with her?”
Iwaizumi sighs. “You could, if you wanted to.”
“But I’m having dinner with you?” Oikawa says, still in question form, and now he’s frowning, leaning even harder into Iwaizumi’s side.
“I wouldn’t have minded,” Iwaizumi says. Damn it, he would’ve, for himself, but he wouldn’t have as Oikawa’s best friend. He’s too many years beyond hoping for anything with Oikawa anymore.
He supposes Hanamaki’s words are eating at him more than he initially admitted to himself.
Oikawa stares at him for a long time, and when Iwaizumi finally gathers himself enough to meet Oikawa’s gaze, all he gets is blankness and a small frown. “Well, I wouldn’t do that to you,” Oikawa says, tone this side of clipped, “it’s important to me that we try all the best ramen in all of Japan, Iwa-chan!”
The tension breaks and Iwaizumi allows himself a small sigh. “Even if it’s the 67th?”
“Like they say, 67th one’s the charm!”
“No one says that, Trashkawa.”
“So mean, this is why you can’t get a girlfriend.”
“Idiot, did I say I was trying to get a girlfriend?”
Oikawa suddenly hugs his arm, a warm, real smile on his face. “No,” he says, leaning in real close before flicking Iwaizumi on the forehead, “you didn’t.”
The 67th bowl of ramen, like its 66 predecessors, is alright. Ringing endorsement, that. The broth is good, the ingredients are fresh for Tokyo, the noodles are firm, but Iwaizumi is left ever wanting a more familiar taste from home. By the melancholic pout on Oikawa’s face, Iwaizumi can tell he’s feeling the same.
They walk all the home because it’s better for Oikawa to unwind at night, after getting so hyped up on practice. University level is something different altogether and Iwaizumi envies him sometimes, for having the heart and fortitude to pursue it beyond high school.
It’s not like he hadn’t thought about it. He still loves volleyball, and he and Oikawa sometimes still play together on the weekends. But Iwaizumi has other paths he’s happy to take, and while he plays on his university team, too, he doesn’t breathe it the way they used to.
He lets Oikawa claw in enough breaths of pain and persistence and marvel and triumph for the both of them.
“Iwa-chan, what will you get me for my birthday?” Oikawa pries, a whole month too early.
“It’s a whole month too early to be asking that,” Iwaizumi says, “it was literally just my birthday.”
“And I baked you a whole cake and let you watch youtube videos with me on the couch until 4am!!”
“Buying 10 milk breads and sticking them together with whipped cream constitutes baking these days? And you were the one who wanted to watch those cat videos!”
“Are you saying you didn’t like your birthday!?” Oikawa wails dramatically, pulling on Iwaizumi’s arm.
Iwaizumi sighs. “No,” he says, even though he has to turn away, “it was a great birthday.”
Oikawa regards him quietly, then smiles, his pulling turning into more of a holding onto Iwaizumi’s wrist. “What’s gotten into you today, Iwa-chan?” he asks, an edge of nervousness under his bright words, “you’re being kind of weird.”
He could deny it. But what’s the point when Oikawa sees right through him anyway?
Iwaizumi runs his fingers through his hair, blush creeping up his neck. “Well, I’ve just been thinking...I mean, aren’t you seeing anyone? Wouldn’t you rather spend the day with them instead?”
Oikawa stops dead in his tracks, so sudden that Iwaizumi does a double-take. He turns back around, surprised at the expression on Oikawa’s face.
“I just mean, you’re almost 21, and people keep asking me why you’re still single, and I kind of keep wondering the same thing. Is it because we live together?”
“Iwa-chan, stop,” Oikawa says, forcing out a laugh as he grabs onto Iwaizumi’s wrist again, “you think me living with you is keeping me single?”
“How would I know?” Iwaizumi snaps, more agitated than he should be. He really hates this kind of conversation, and he hates that Oikawa looks upset, because he wants to interpret it a certain way, and that’s just not fair. “You- you’re more thoughtful than you want people to think, and I don’t want you to be wasting time with me out of consideration if what you really want to do is bring a girl home.”
“What are you even talking about right now?” Oikawa asks, forcing himself to smile. But Iwaizumi isn’t looking at him, which makes him crowd his best friend even closer, panic creeping into his voice. “Do you want to bring a girl home, is that why you’re asking?”
“No,” Iwaizumi says firmly, heart clenching to hear the unabashed, unmasked sigh of relief that Oikawa lets out. That’s not fair. “I want you to be happy, Oikawa.”
“I am happy,” Oikawa counters immediately, not meeting Iwaizumi’s eyes. He grabs his Iwa-chan by the inner elbow, like he always does when he has to be the one that leads, too clumsy to know how to do it with words the way Iwaizumi seems to.
But he will drag Iwaizumi along with him anywhere, everywhere, even if a time comes when Iwaizumi no longer wants to follow.
“What did you say to Iwa-chan the other day?” Oikawa asks, keeping his voice serene.
“Oh shit, are you mad?” Hanamaki asks, “Hey Mattsun,” Oikawa hears him saying over the phone, “Oikawa’s mad that I asked Iwaizumi about him!”
“I am not--”
“I mean of course,” Mattsun distantly replies, “Oikawa now has to live in a reality with the possibility that Iwaizumi’s going to get a girlfriend.” A pause. “Did you hear that?” Hanamaki asks, and Oikawa seethes, teeth bared in what is attempting and failing to be a cordial smile. A child sitting nearby in the cafe sees him and starts to cry.
“Iwa-chan is not going to get a girlfriend!” Oikawa hisses, angling into the edge of his seat at his own insistence, “he’s not even into girls!”
“Wait, did he tell you that?” Hanamaki asks, surprise evident in his voice.
“Um, no,” Oikawa answers, now trying to mesh his face with the table to become one entity, “it’s just...obvious…”
“Okay, don’t look at me like that,” Oikawa says grumpily, able to just imagine Hanamaki’s judgmental face, glaring at the still-crying child. Jesus, Takeru was never that ill-mannered as a boy. “I kind of- I kind of have known for a long time?”
“So why didn’t you say anything this whole time?!” Hanamaki explodes, and although Oikawa won’t say that Makki sounds mad, he’s definitely not happy. It’s for Iwaizumi, and no matter how much adoration Oikawa drags out of people, Iwaizumi commands respect and unshakable faith. He really deserves all of that love.
Oikawa tries to become one with the table again, miserable and guilty. “I don’t want him to leave,” he says quietly, most of the truth.
“Why would he do that?” Hanamaki demands more, but his tone has gone from upset to concerned, unused to Oikawa’s honesty so plain and unargued.
Oikawa sighs, from depths where he’s buried so much longing that he can no longer fathom its bottom. Because I love him, and I’d rather have him in halves than not at all. “What do you know about being in love with your best friend, Makki?” Oikawa asks, though not unkind. “What if you’ve known him since you’ve known how to talk?” Oikawa smiles, banging his head on the table just once. “What if you try to find a single memory that doesn’t end with him, and can’t find even one?”
“I know that the answer definitely isn’t this,” Hanamaki says, serious and worried. Oikawa’s never said it in so many words but he wears his worship brighter than even his endless pride, and Hanamaki knows that Iwaizumi sees it. They thrum when they’re together.
There is no A without Un, Hanamaki thinks. The entire graduating class used to say that, because whatever begins with Iwaizumi, Oikawa is the end.
If only they knew how many people have already been on their side for years.
“To be honest, I didn’t think you would admit it so easily,” Hanamaki says, and that elicits a shocked he did?!from Matsukawa in the background. “You’re not subtle but you’re really good at making Iwaizumi think otherwise.”
“It’s because he isn’t sure,” Oikawa mutters, sounding very small. Hanamaki makes a noise over the phone, maybe protest, maybe pity. “Anyway, don’t worry about us, Makki!” Oikawa plasters a signature smile on his face, hopeful it’ll transfer to his voice. “And don’t say anything weird to Iwa-chan again, okay? You should talk to me more instead!”
There’s no winning this battle. Hajime and Tooru--the very definition of stubborn. “Loser, I text you literally every week.”
“Yes but you never call!” Oikawa complains.
“Oh my god, I call you all the time but you never pick up! And one thing about Iwaizumi and look, you call me for the first time in months. Do you know that you’re whipped?”
“Well then Iwa-chan is even more whipped since he would do anything for the great and righteous Oikawa-san--”
“Um, I’m certainly about to punch you in the face,” Iwaizumi interrupts, deftly taking Oikawa’s phone away in the middle of some wild gesticulating. “Hanamaki, you shouldn’t speak to trash, he’ll give you brain damage.”
“Iwa-chan!!” Oikawa cries, affronted and insulted and smiling at Iwaizumi like the sun came out just for him today.
Iwaizumi’s stomach flips into the back of his throat and he swallows around fire, silent to Hanamaki’s laugh and well-wishes of enjoy your date, you two. It doesn’t even make sense, he saw Oikawa maybe a grand total of six hours ago before school, and it’s not fair at all that he has such a death grip around Iwaizumi’s heart.
All this talk about girlfriends lately has been terrible. It’s all he can think about, Oikawa looking at someone else the way he looks at Iwaizumi, Oikawa saying anyone else’s name the way he says Iwa-chan, like a sweet to wrap his tongue around, Oikawa kissing someone--
Oikawa swallows, smile fading away, spine tingling right at the base of his neck, where he’s fantasized Iwaizumi’s mouth a thousand thousand times. The way Iwaizumi’s looking at him right now, the usual brown of his eyes almost black; Oikawa is suddenly caught.
Doesn’t Iwa-chan know that that isn’t fair? What is Oikawa supposed to do when there’s nothing more that he wants than this, but Iwaizumi won’t even confirm his feelings out loud?
It’s because he isn’t sure, Oikawa reminds himself. Oikawa knows, has known for some years the particular way that Iwaizumi loves him. It’s in his nature to know, and it was easy enough to see.
That time they went to Yoyogi Park in the middle of the night, to watch a supermoon, and Oikawa had made sure to look at everything but Iwaizumi, because Iwaizumi wasn’t looking at anything but him.
Or that time Oikawa had only joked about getting a girlfriend a few weeks after starting university, to tease, but it was a short-lived joke of only the breath it took to say it, because he never expected the sick hurt that would hurtle across Iwaizumi’s face.
Or even earlier, that time at graduation, still a couple of weeks too early for the sakura to be in bloom in Miyagi, but warm enough to be spring. Oikawa had given away all of his uniform buttons except the second one, even though that was all that anyone asked for. It’s tradition to give it to someone you love, and he eventually tore it off to give to Iwaizumi, just to save on the hassle of continually being asked, he’d said.
But Iwaizumi wasn’t faring any better, even his cufflinks were gone, and maybe that was the first time Oikawa really realized that no, he wasn’t the only one who could see what a wonderful partner Iwaizumi would be. He just had the privilege of Iwaizumi’s boundless loyalty, and the comfort of it rested solely on Iwaizumi’s decision to find him worthy of staying with.
Later that night, at home with raw eyes and a yearbook with bittersweet memories, Oikawa had found a uniform button in his bag. He never brought it up and Iwaizumi hadn’t said anything either, so Oikawa called it fair exchange, a button for a button, a heart for a heart, and to him at 18, that was already as enormous as he could imagine.
Maybe that’s when Oikawa really started being afraid of him. Your heart is a muscle, and muscles need training to get stronger. How is he supposed to do that when he doesn’t even remember giving it away? What good is an umbrella when he’s already drenched?
But he can’t help it if Iwaizumi is unsure of him. Oikawa doesn’t strike confidence into people’s hearts when it comes to staying in relationships. It isn’t unfounded, it’s probably completely true considering he’s married to volleyball, but Iwaizumi is obviously the exception to that rule. Oikawa would work at that. He wants nothing more than to make Iwaizumi happy, and he’s not so generous as to want that to happen by someone else’s hands.
“Iwa-chan,” he says, an attempt at levity, but it comes out too fond, too sick and soft around the edges. Oikawa takes a deep breath when he sees the hard bob of Iwaizumi’s throat. Just to lean over now, just a kiss…
“Did you wait long?” Iwaizumi asks, gruff and still standing, careful to keep the distance of the cafe table between them.
Oikawa shakes his head. He forces himself to uncurl his fingers from the fists he’s made on the tops of his thighs. “You’re early anyway. What, couldn’t wait to see me?”
Iwaizumi smacks the back of his head, but even that feels sweet, considering he doesn’t deny it. Oikawa keeps his head ducked until it feels like he doesn’t need to cry.
Truthfully, Iwaizumi has suspected that Oikawa has some inkling about his feelings. How much, he doesn’t know, and he isn’t about to ask, but it’s not as if Oikawa isn’t perceptive when it comes to him. He likes to act like a dumbass and deflect with crude words when the truth hits too close to him, but Iwaizumi has never known him to be ignorant of the people around him.
Considering Iwaizumi is around him literally all of the time of every day, it’s only natural that Oikawa has picked up on his feelings.
Is it normal for two young, active men to cohabitate the way they do, and spend so much of their free time together without it meaning something more?
Well, maybe. Sometimes best friends are like that.
But the way he and Oikawa are sometimes, the way they sit too close on the couch, or the way Oikawa snuggles into his lap as a pillow, or the brush of their fingertips when they’re both half-asleep under the kotatsu in the middle of a winter weekend, and countless more moments that lie like loud secrets between them; maybe that’s not so typical of best friends.
All the flirting though, and talk about pretty girls and confessions? Iwaizumi doesn’t put weight into the stupid things that Oikawa does when he flirts with girls, but Oikawa does flirt with girls, so Iwaizumi would rather die than risk a wrong word and have Oikawa run from him.
He’s already destined for greatness. Who knows how many years Iwaizumi really has with him before Oikawa outgrows their tiny apartment and Iwaizumi’s tiny comfort of home?
“Happy twenty-first!” Matsukawa cheers, throwing some confetti in Oikawa’s direction.
“You guys, you didn’t have to come all this way~!” Oikawa croons, batting his eyelashes, wiggling where he’s seated around the table.
“Are you actually kidding,” Iwaizumi asks, placing another plate of meat in front of Oikawa, “you’ve been whining about this nonstop for the past two weeks solid.”
“It’s cleaner in here than last time,” Hanamaki notes, looking around Iwaizumi and Oikawa’s humble apartment. “Did you guys clean for us?”
“Iwa-chan did. The great and righteous Oikawa-san can’t risk hurting his precious hands to clean like a peon.”
“Oh wow,” Matsukawa says, some flat amusement on his face, “I didn’t know Iwaizumi still punched you that hard.”
After a proper meal of barbecued meat and some poor attempt at vegetables, Hanamaki starts exploring the apartment for what must be the fifth time in as many visits, and Matsukawa sits on the couch with Oikawa, handing over some presents.
“This is from Kageyama with some input from Hinata, apparently,” Matsukawa says, handing over a new knee brace. Oikawa’s face does some strange stuff before settling on an expression that looks like condescending fondness. “You get so weird about Kageyama, how are you still not over it.”
“I’m going to crush Tobio-chan one day, that’s all. He can’t see that his kindness will lead to his own downfall.”
Matsukawa rolls his eyes. “You’re allowed to just say you like the knee brace.”
“Well that’s nice, but I don’t!!”
“I’m going to nominate Iwaizumi for a nobel peace prize for not murdering you in your sleep,” Matsukawa comments. “Also, this is from me and Hanamaki.”
“Codependency for Dummies,” Oikawa reads, receiving the massive book with a confused smile. “Are you trying to tell me something?”
“Uh, Hanamaki and I have been saying it explicitly to you for maybe five years at least?” Matsukawa asks, smiling with clenched teeth, “Can you guys please just make this easier on all of us and date already?”
“Makki, SHHH!!” Oikawa hisses, slapping his hand over Matsukawa’s mouth. “What if Iwa-chan hears you, how will I keep living with him?”
“Happily, I imagine.”
“Oh look, one photo of your family, surrounded by a thousand photos of you and Oikawa,” Hanamaki points out calmly, surveying Iwaizumi’s room.
“Hanamaki,” Iwaizumi says.
“It just bears repeating.” Hanamaki holds up his hands to show surrender, walking over to sit on the edge of Iwaizumi’s bed. His sheets are a deep blue and he can’t help but think of how well they would suit Oikawa. “You’re not Oikawa so I know I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already thought of yourself, but I really, really, really don’t think anything bad will happen if you tell him how you feel.”
Iwaizumi groans, leaning against his firmly closed door, thunking the back of his head into it. “I’m a coward, did you know? I’d rather not know than know for sure that the answer isn’t one I want.”
“Listen,” Hanamaki stresses, needing all of this to resolve, “please believe me when I tell you that I really don’t think it’ll be the answer you don’t want.”
Iwaizumi considers him from the door, taking in the earnest, encouraging look on his friend’s face. “I’ll think about it,” he concludes, which is what he’s always done but it’s also the best he can do. Hanamaki sighs at him, exasperation mixed with pity, but it’s well deserved.
“Hot in here, isn’t it?” Iwaizumi says, reaching out to open the door when it flies open and smacks him in the face.
“Iwa-chan!” Oikawa calls, bursting in, pausing just a moment when he locks eyes with Hanamaki on the bed. “Why do you guys have the door closed, what are you doing?”
“Relax, your boyfriend’s virtue is safe,” Hanamaki near cries, rolling his eyes so hard they almost fall out of his face.
“Tha- that’s not! I wasn’t--!”
But he was, so Oikawa shuts up. Makki is right, Oikawa is as jealous as they come, and he also doesn’t want to deny the label of boyfriend, so what else is there to say?
That night, Oikawa goes to bed and finds a small box and a card tucked under his blanket.
Happy birthday, Tooru.
That’s all it says, but it’s in Iwaizumi’s neatest handwriting, the one he uses to fill out hospital forms, like the time when Oikawa’s knee had given out again in the second semester of first year, and how tightly Iwa-chan had gripped that pen while Oikawa watched the breadth of his shoulders, hunched over the reception counter.
Or for writing congratulations cards, like the time they all found out with some surprise that Takeru was going to be a big brother, and it hadn't been enough to call from Tokyo, not when the Oikawas have always welcomed him into their home as a given member of the family.
Or for writing birthday notes now, apparently, that say Tooru.
Oikawa likes that. Very much.
He finds a rich blue bracelet in the box, something made with pearl cotton and reinforced so it doesn’t snap so easy, like his last one had in practice a few weeks back. Oikawa is always surprised by the little things Iwaizumi notices.
Or maybe it’s because Iwaizumi is always watching, and he can’t help but notice.
Oikawa doesn’t even know what he’s smiling about anymore, only that he can’t stop.
Increasingly, and with shorter times in between each question, Iwaizumi is noticing that the people around him are asking about the status of Oikawa’s love life with unparalleled interest.
In the swell of another hot, sticky, humid Tokyo August, Iwaizumi’s patience wears thin.
“Honest to god,” Iwaizumi says, giving his friend the most withering look , “why do people keep asking me?”
Naoya replies with an arched eyebrow and a flat press of his mouth. “Seriously? Remember that time when I asked you to bring Oikawa out for drinks with that group of girls from Ryo-kun’s friend’s university?”
Iwaizumi makes a vague noise, recalling only bits and pieces. “What about it?”
“Dude, for real?” He looks around himself, like he can’t believe he’s living the real life. “I was so pumped to have the super good-looking and almost-famous Oikawa-san attend with us because for sure a lot of pretty girls were going to come and stick around, but he spent the entire night glued to you instead!”
“He flirted...” Iwaizumi says, now unconvinced himself. He doesn’t actually remember Oikawa striking up conversation with any of the girls. He had also gotten quite drunk, to be fair, experiencing the first exam season of his university career and also the hell of making new friends at school. He’s grateful that Naoya’s stuck with him since their first class together. “Wait, what does any of this have to do with Oikawa’s singleness? Why don’t you just ask him instead?”
Naoya stares at him like he’s about to regress into a lesser life form. “Iwaizumi, are you trolling me? I don’t care if Oikawa’s single, I’m asking because I want to know when you’re going to make a move and finally start dating. You’ve left us all hanging for two years already, you’re even making me thirsty.”
“Are we playing a game?” Hanamaki asks, laughing over the phone.
“Why do you keep asking me if Oikawa is still single?”
Hanamaki chokes on his own laughter. “Um...because it’s hilarious and sad at the same time?”
“That he’s single??”
Hanamaki starts to laugh so hard it sounds like he’s going to pass out. “No, you loser, who cares? It’s hilarious and sad we just keep waiting for you to say something and he’s apparently stuck in the same boat. Dude, are you running?”
“Yeah,” Iwaizumi answers, feet pounding the pavement as he weaves between crowds. He’s panting hard, heart hammering in his ears, but nothing would slow him down now; how long has he already waited, made Oikawa wait without realizing he’d asked him to?
“Iwaizumi,” Hanamaki says.
“Hanamaki,” Iwaizumi replies, slamming his IC card down on the ticket gate, practically falling his way into the Metro.
“Is Oikawa still single?”
Iwaizumi checks how many stations he’s got left until Oikawa’s school. “No,” he says.
“Iwa-chan!” Oikawa exclaims, and Iwaizumi watches so many emotions flash across Oikawa’s face, from surprise and joy to confusion to worry to anxiety.
“It’s fine, nothing’s wrong,” Iwaizumi gets out between wheezing breaths, doubled over with both hands on his knees. “Sorry to interrupt you at practice, I just needed to...” What? He hadn’t gotten that far yet.
Oikawa assesses him, shifting his weight from one foot to another, fingers drumming anxiously on a volleyball. He looks to his teammates and they all wave to Iwaizumi; they’ve seen him often enough after late night practices when he inevitably shows up to take Oikawa home.
“Do you want to practice with me for a bit?” Oikawa offers, and Iwaizumi laughs, shaking his head.
This lineup is made of hopefuls for the national team. It’s not just official games--Iwaizumi knows that there are scouts who stand in the shadows just at practices, and half the time, there’s someone filming the whole thing.
“No, really, come on,” Oikawa insists, and he walks over to find Iwaizumi a pair of spare gym shoes. “You’re already sweaty from running in this heat, like the crazy idiot you are, so you might as well put it to good use.”
“Iwaizumi-kun, it’s fine,” one of the older members calls over, “we’re mostly finished for today anyway and Oikawa’s been especially annoying lately always going on and on about wanting to play with you.”
Iwaizumi stares at Oikawa in surprise, then starts to laugh at the blushing glower Oikawa sends his senpai. “Shittykawa, do you ever stop annoying people?”
“It’s your fault,” Oikawa mumbles, beet red in the face. He watches restlessly while Iwaizumi stretches, then calls over two teammates so they can practice setting and spiking. They take their places on opposites sides of the net and Oikawa feels very foreign to the sport suddenly, as if he hasn’t lived and breathed it since his age was still a single digit. “Iwa-chan, do you remember when you told me in our last year of high school that you would crush me?”
“I believe I said I’d take you down, not crush you,” Iwaizumi amends, bowing to Oikawa’s teammate. He and Oikawa play together sometimes, but it’s still weird to be facing each other like this instead of standing side by side.
“Well, I don’t think you could take me down,” Oikawa says, eyes never leaving the ball. He’s absentmindedly setting, too innate to mess it up, but he keeps thinking, no, no, higher, even if it’s just the first time you’ve played together, Iwa-chan needs higher tosses than that. How can you not see how strong he is when he wants to be?
Iwaizumi looks at Oikawa, his best friend since he could remember having friends, the only person he’s ever loved, from before he could understand what love was.
The next toss is good, high the way Iwaizumi likes, so he jumps and aims and gets good contact, a loud, familiar sting smarting the inside of his hand. The ball goes to the far corner and it’s a good hit, but Iwaizumi knows it isn’t close to his best. He tilts his head after he lands, grinning at Oikawa’s frown.
“What, did you forget your best friend plays volleyball, too?”
“No, no,” Oikawa says, “this is kind of weird.” He stalks over and grabs Iwaizumi by the inner elbow, dragging him onto the same side of the net. “Okay, Iwa-chan has to play with me.” He clears his throat. “Me,” he tries again more neutrally, “we’re going to practice like this instead.”
Oikawa’s teammates share a look and Oikawa ignores the way his cheeks burn with embarrassment. But Iwaizumi can’t ignore it, because he starts going red too, and he can’t understand why he waited this long anymore, not when it’s suddenly so obvious that Oikawa lights up most when Iwaizumi is around. Oikawa is electric with beauty, a jolt in Iwaizumi’s stomach that twists up to his heart every time Oikawa smiles, but Iwaizumi is the one who gives him that spark.
They volley back and forth a few times, just to practice receives, when Oikawa plants his feet and turns to him, “Iwa-chan” on his lips as much as in his eyes.
Oikawa didn’t need to say anything, though. Iwaizumi knows, like he always has, if he would listen to himself more.
He runs for the net and jumps, knees bending back with the tilt of his shoulder, lungs bursting with air to carry him farther. He doesn’t need to look for the ball, he knows where it’ll go, and even if they’re rusty with each other after so many months on different teams with different teammates, there are things that you don’t forget, couldn’t learn to forget even if you tried.
For a moment, at the very crescendo, when time slows and Iwaizumi is almost cradling the ball against the curve of his palm, Oikawa thinks, fuck, I love him more than I love volleyball.
It’s just for a moment. He hears the deep, long exhale of breath from Iwaizumi’s mouth as he comes back down, but not before the ball slams into the gym floor to bounce off helplessly into the spectator seats. That satisfying, bright, ferocious snap of a well-aimed spike seems to have left a ring of roaring quiet in its wake. Iwaizumi blinks, looking to the side, a little self-conscious. The rest of Oikawa’s team is flat-out staring but Iwaizumi’s eyes inevitably settle on Oikawa, and he grins when he sees pride glowing so full on Oikawa’s face, his expression just brimming with it, chin quivering almost like he’s going to cry.
“Jesus,” Takeda-senpai says, “you wanna come play for us, Iwaizumi-kun? Even just to get Oikawa to shut the hell up once in a while?”
Iwaizumi laughs, shaking his head. “I’m sure wing spikers like me are a dime a dozen.”
“No! Iwa-chan is the best wing spiker, he’s completely my ace,” Oikawa blurts out, “I can’t tell you guys how many matches we’ve won because Iwa-chan and I are the best partners--”
“You’ve told us like a million times--”
“Iwa-chan should honestly be playing with me forever--”
“Shut up, Trashkawa--”
“He’s not wrong, Oikawa’s a great setter but it’s rare to see him toss that effortlessly--”
“Iwa-chan can honestly fly--”
“Oikawa I swear to god--”
“Enough!!” Takeda-senpai yells, amusement making his stern frown twitch at the sides. “Both of you go get a room somewhere that’s not here and don’t come back!” He pauses, looking Iwaizumi up and down. He’s well-built, steady in a way Oikawa isn’t, and very handsome. “Well, you can come back if you want, Iwaizumi-kun,” he adds, a wolfish grin on his face as Oikawa screeches protest. A senpai’s job is to always be there to help his precious kouhai, and obviously to troll the hell out of them.
“This is it, the auspicious 88th number one ramen in Japan,” Oikawa says, pumping his arms up and down. “It’s gotta be right this time, I can just feel it.”
Iwaizumi walks closer to him, jostled by the tourists and excited high school kids running around Shibuya. He hates and loves this place, charmed by its lights but irritated by its crowds, though he’s secretly a little obsessed with all of its messy backstreets and winding hills. He came here clubbing with Oikawa once, just once, and that’s how they ended up on this ridiculous ramen journey in the first place. Iwaizumi had gone out on a limb to try and dance with a girl, but he didn’t even get as far as to find a girl when Oikawa had suddenly, mysteriously started feeling unwell, claiming that only hot ramen would settle his stomach.
Iwaizumi can’t believe how dense he is. He’s not that stupid, but with Oikawa, it’s like he sees the opposite of the truth, even when the truth is what he wants to be seeing.
“Is it really okay that you left before practice was over?” Iwaizumi asks. It’s summer practice but it’s still important that Oikawa doesn’t skip out.
“Yeah, Takeda-senpai was giving me that ‘shut up, Oikawa’ look.”
“He has a look for that?” Iwaizumi asks, then sighs to himself. “Nevermind, we all have a look for that.”
“Iwa-chan!! So mean!!”
“Ah, it’s you!” A girl’s voice says, and Iwaizumi and Oikawa swivel together, suddenly face to face with a very familiar, very pretty girl.
“It’s you,” Iwaizumi says, surprised.
“What?” Oikawa demands, then blinks, turning back to her. “Hey, you’re the girl who tried to pick me up when Iwa-chan and I came here last time for ramen!”
Iwaizumi smacks him in the head. No grace, no manners, jesus. Thankfully she laughs and Iwaizumi relaxes, realizing now that he’s closer that while she’s very interested in Oikawa, it’s not really in the same way.
“Sorry, I want to apologize for that misunderstanding,” she says, bowing. “My name is Yamada Misaki and I work in recruitment for a modeling agency. I wanted to recruit you last time but I ended up blurting out that you were very handsome and I think it really came out the wrong way.”
“...O- Oh,” Oikawa stammers, turning deep, deep red.
“Yes, so I’m very sorry!” She turns to Iwaizumi with an appraising glance. “So you must be his boyfriend?”
“What,” Iwaizumi says.
“HA HA HA,” Oikawa shouts, “What!!”
Misaki blinks at them, turning to Oikawa with confusion. “Didn’t you say you couldn’t talk last time because your boyfriend was about to pick you up? And isn’t this who you walked off with?”
“I- he- I--” Oikawa stammers some more, but evidently isn’t making progress as all the blood in his body is now burning through his face.
“Um...” Misaki says, “have I said something wrong again?”
“No, it’s fine,” Iwaizumi says, the most helpless, happiest smile on his face. Misaki blushes--maybe she ought to recruit Iwaizumi instead. “I am his boyfriend, yeah.”
“We totally have couples shoots too!!” She blurts out, blushing as she fumbles for a business card, “I really think you two are perfect, so--!”
In the end, Iwaizumi walks away with a business card in his pocket and a bright red Oikawa trailing slightly behind him, fingers twisted into the hem of Iwaizumi’s t-shirt. He stays like that even as they decide to skip ramen and just go home, head ducked on the train, never meeting Iwaizumi’s eyes, but also never letting go of his shirt.
“Are you planning on being like that all night?” Iwaizumi asks without turning around. He sounds calm, and he is, actually. Even if his heart is beating right in his throat, even if he could float off into space if he so much as lifted his arms, none of this feels new.
As soon as Iwaizumi lets them in and shuts the door, Oikawa grabs him, needing a hug more than he can put into words.
“Does this mean you’re sure of me now?” Oikawa asks, voice shaking. He’s sure he’s going to collapse. The thought only makes him bury his face deeper into Iwaizumi’s neck. Oikawa doesn’t want to cry but he’s so relieved, and he’s been hurting so bad, he doesn’t even know what happy is supposed to feel like now that this moment has finally come.
“Idiot,” Iwaizumi breathes, hiding Oikawa in his arms. For someone so big, he seems so small. “I’ve always been sure of you.”
“Then why--” Oikawa pulls back only enough to look at Iwaizumi’s face, wanting to make sure he’s not lying. “Why did you never say anything?”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa pleads, like the notion is just bizarre, “you’re my pillar, when have I ever been able to do anything right without you telling me?”
Ridiculous. Iwaizumi sighs, locking his arms around Oikawa’s thin waist. But he’s also right. “Oikawa,” he says, voice like gravel. Oikawa shivers against him and Iwaizumi’s throat tightens. “Tooru,” he tries again, “I’ve always been sure of you.”
Oikawa can’t take it anymore. His chest is going to pop open and wouldn’t that be all of his satisfaction, to be a bloody, pulpy mess on the nice floorboards for Iwaizumi to cry over while he mopped it all up. He leans in and kisses Iwaizumi because he finally knows for sure that he can, not just that he should, because he always should have.
It’s nice, a bit clumsy, but nice. Then Iwazumi cups the back of his head and presses into him, an adult kiss where their hips press and mouths slot together wider, and it’s much, much more than just nice.
Oikawa tries to gasp and can’t even manage that, nails digging painfully into Iwaizumi’s back. He stumbles, falling toward the couch, not making a single sound of complaint when Iwaizumi lands heavily on top of him, trapping him there. Oikawa drags his fingertips down the long, curved column of Iwaizumi’s spine, stopping only at his tailbone, pressing him down harder. Insistent.
Iwaizumi growls against his mouth and Oikawa could scream, he’s just so overwhelmed. Distantly, he realizes the helpless, needy moans are ones he’s making himself. No, too preoccupied to be embarrassed. He arches into Iwaizumi more, hungry for more of his mouth, the wet heat of it, the press of Iwaizumi’s tongue against his lower lip, the validation of knowing fuck, Iwa-chan’s been fantasizing about this as long as I have. Oikawa hiccups a breath and a laugh, baring his neck for Iwaizumi’s teeth. He shudders, nerves on fire, and when Iwaizumi leans in again, Oikawa suffocates him with kisses, endless kisses with heat and affection and always love, and he decides he will never go anywhere else, not unless Iwaizumi is with him.
Not that that would be any different from now.
Later, months and years and years, whenever guests would visit them in Tokyo and ask for the best ramen recommendations, Oikawa and Iwaizumi would have nothing to offer but contradicting opinions. After nearly 300 establishments filled with mediocre ramen, it’s really too difficult to decide whether 256’s tonkotsu broth actually was any better than 38’s.
But privately, they both know that it had been the 88th place that they liked best. Just like Oikawa had said; auspicious, indeed.
“Iwa-chan, Hajime,” Oikawa laughs, his fingers laced with Iwaizumi’s under the kotatsu, “did Mattsun tell you? He’s decided to try and eat ramen with a fork from now on.”
“I’m going to be more globally minded,” Matsukawa declares, and Iwaizumi laughs, giving Oikawa’s hand a squeeze.
“Um, are you guys holding hands?” Hanamaki asks bluntly, “Oikawa’s making that disgusting melting wibbly face like he always does when he’s particularly in love with you, Iwaizumi.”
“What else is new,” Iwaizumi teases, but he meets Oikawa’s smile with great love, and great joy.