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call me a fool to love you (but i want nothing but you)

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Tooru couldn't remember a time when Hajime was not there with him, for him.

Every time he looked beside him, he was there. A steady light, a guide for when Tooru didn't know what to do in his darkest moment. A pillar to lean on when nothing went right with all the things he did, when he was frustrated with himself and with everything surrounding him.

Hajime was permanent. Constant. But that changed, or at least Tooru knew it was about to change, when he realized he was in love with his best friend.

It happened on a late afternoon, a rather normal one where they were walking home together after club like they often did. They just rounded the corner that led to a narrow bridge, laughing at something silly Tooru was saying. The last rays of sunset glowed behind Hajime, brilliant orange and golden yellows with hints of purples and blues indicating that night was on its way to take over. The effect made Tooru stop and stare. There's something about the twilight that changed Hajime's appearance in front of him. And as Hajime's laughter died upon noticing Tooru's blatant gawking, the other felt heat rushing to his face and he was forced to look away from the breathtaking sight before him.

When he looked back though, the glow was still there, and Tooru didn't understand it then – why his heart was thumping loud, wanting out of his ribcage, nor was he flushing, and his hands trembling. He was confused, flustered. This was just Iwa-chan, so why?

He jolted when Hajime nudged his shoulder lightly, telling him to quit staring, weirdo. Tooru laughed it off then, coming back with an insult that had Hajime's arm suddenly encircling his neck and his fist on top of Tooru's head.

They went their separate ways when they reached their block, Hajime waving as he crossed the street opposite Tooru's house, where his own two-storey home was, tile roof navy blue and wooden fences white, a site Tooru had been familiar with for as long as he remembered.

“Let's play Smash Brothers after homework,” Hajime called before he jumped over the fences, not bothering to open the kissing gate. Tooru nodded with a wave and a little smile.

Yelling a quick “tadaima”, Tooru rushed up to his room, his back pressing his door closed and breathing a sigh of relief in the solitude it provided. Only when he watched Hajime entered his house was he able to breathe properly, heartbeat simultaneously going back to normal. He placed his cool palms onto his heated cheeks and looked around his cluttered room, canvas and paints scattered all over the floor. An easel stood right beside the window overlooking the front yard, overlooking Hajime's room which was adjacent to his own. When they were little, around seven or eght, they used to take their whiteboards and markers to the window and talk that way, big letters written and silly drawings were made for each other when they were past their curfews to play. They were provided with phones and computers now, so the game seemed useless now when they could easily communicate with just a couple of taps on a screen.

Sitting down on his bed, he breathed yet again another sigh, his fingers tapping on his slacks. He had the urge to paint, his dainty fingers itching to touch his brushes. Gathering his materials, he sat down in front of the vacant easel and grabbed a blank canvas, mixing paint and preparing water right beside it. He didn't bother changing out of his school uniform, he couldn't care less. He needed to do this now. He looked out the window, across the street and at Hajime's window. The beige blind was down, and he was sure his best friend was still downstairs and eating dinner. Hajime would most like do his homework right after, because unlike Tooru, Hajime liked to follow his schedules diligently. Tooru was spontaneous, impulsive. If he needed something, wanted something to be done, he had to do it then and there, no more waiting for later. And right now, he needed to paint, needed to let this confusing emotions out.

He closed his eyes and thought of what he wanted to see on the canvas in front of him. The images his mind conjured was all of Hajime's, beautiful Hajime; from the first time they met when the Iwaizumis newly arrived in the neighborhood; to their elementary days; their first firework festival together sans their parents when they were nine; to when Hajime decided he would be attending the same middle school as Tooru; to the moment he became the volleyball club's ace, the proud smile he offered Tooru when the latter won his first art competition; the moment he cried so hard when their team lost the prefectural finals, losing their chance at the nationals, his snots and tears staining the front of Tooru's favorite Area51 shirt until he fell asleep. That one time when they won and he looked around the crowd for Tooru, and waved at him the moment his sight landed at his best friend, his eyes twinkling so bright Tooru could see it from where he was standing at the second level of the gymnasium. The glowing look he had under the sunset that afternoon, just a little less than an hour ago.

Tooru opened his eyes, realized what he had to realize, and started painting that very last image. It was the first painting of Hajime that he did. Hajime, his best friend, his partner, his first love.

They were in the last year of middle school when Oikawa Tooru realized he was in love with Iwaizumi Hajime.

“Iwa-chan, hurry up!”

Tooru was bouncing on his feet, practically buzzing with excitement as he stood waiting on the Iwaizumis' porch for his best friend to come out of the door. It was their first day of high school, and though it was a bit early, the opening ceremony not starting until an hour later, Tooru was rushing to get to their new school, where they would be creating new memories and learn a whole new set of things for three years. Aobo Johsai High School was just a fifteen-minute walk away from their homes, but Tooru was eager. A part of him knew it wasn't because of their new school, but because Hajime chose the same high school as he did, so they would still be together for a while.

“Since when are you excited to go to school?” A grumble. Hajime walked out the door, and Tooru had to stop himself from wooshing out loud. It was unfair. No one should be that handsome in a normal high school uniform.

“Mean, Iwa-chan. I'm always excited to go to school!” He retaliated, stepping closer to his best friend. “Here, your tie is crooked.”

“Thanks.”

Tooru grinned, admiring his best friend openly. He was wearing the same thing as Tooru, a pale lavender dress shirt, dark red tie, cream sweater vest and white blazer, but Tooru didn't think he looked as good as Hajime did in them. And his light brown slacks hugged his hips and backside in all the right ways and puberty was kind to Hajime and it was just so, so unfair.

He wasn't exactly insecure of himself, in fact he was confident with his looks. A lot of girls in middle school were proof of how good-looking he was, to say the least, receiving confession after confession, but of course he rejected them all. He just didn't see the point. Over the summer he grew taller than Hajime, and he started using hair products, and his older sister taught him how to use skin care products as well to 'maintain his soft, creamy-white skin'. It was unfair how Hajime didn't need to use anything like that but still looked effortlessly beautiful.

“We're going now!” Hajime called out as they went down the three steps off the porch, only to be stopped by Hajime's mother, who was holding a bento wrapped in green silk. She handed it to Hajime with a soft smile.

“Good luck on your first day, Hajime,” she said before looking at Tooru with a brighter smile. “My, my, did you grow prettier, Tooru-chan?”

Tooru giggled, hand moving to the back of his head. “Thank you, Iwaizumi-san. Taller too!”

“You did, huh! You're taller than Hajime now. You can take care of him better now, I bet.”

“Of course!”

“Stupidkawa, you can't even take care of yourself.”

“Rude!” Tooru stuck his tongue out at him, but Hajime already turned his back and started walking out of the fence. “Hey! Wait up!” Turning to Hajime's mother, he waved, “Later, Iwaizumi-san. We'll be going now!”

“Take care, you two!”

“Iwa-chan! Wait up!”

Hajime slowed his pace until Tooru caught up with him, and they walked side by side. The morning was still cool, and the flowers are still blossoming, the scent lingering in the air, fresh and soothing. They chatted idly on the way, random things like hey do you think our homeroom teacher is nice or are we even on the same class and of course we are because if we we aren't Iwa-chan will be super sad added by Shittykawa, who would even miss you.

When they reached the school, students are piling in too, and there were marshalls ushering the students to line up by their classes. Tooru hurriedly pulled Hajime to the bulletin board, searching for their names.

Iwaizume Hajime – Class 5
Oikawa Tooru– Class 5

“Yay! Iwa-chan, we're classmates!” Tooru exclaimed, relief and more excitement flooding his chest. A year with Hajime together, he silently thanked his lucky stars.

“Yay,” Hajime mumbled.

“Hey now! What's with the lukewarm response?” Tooru pouted, but instead of answering, Hajime pulled his hand and led them to where Class 5 was queued. They were joined by other students and they all waited for the principal to welcome them with a speech.

“Say, Iwa-chan, are you still joining the volleyball club?”

“Of course, why do you even ask?”

“Nothing, just making sure.”

“What about you?” Hajime asked in return. “Are you still joining the art club?”

“Of course, why do you even ask?” Tooru mimicked, sticking his tongue out playfully. Hajime rolled his eyes at him, and then his expression turned serious.

“Are you sure you made the right decision though? Shiratorizawa offered you a scholarship—“

With a sigh, Tooru waved him off. “Iwa-chan, we've been over this. Seijou has an amazing art program and is one of the best in the prefecture. I'm going to be fine. In fact,” he grinned, “I'm going to be the best, just watch, Iwa-chan, you'll see.”

“I know, I'm always watching,” Hajime replied, and it did things to Tooru's heart. “It's just that, I know this school is one of the best, but Shiratorizawa is the best, and I just think you're wasting the chance to be—“

“Shush, Iwa-chan, it's starting!” Tooru put his finger to his lip, effectively shutting up his all-knowing best friend when he saw the principal climbing up the podium to start the ceremony.

He knew why he was here, why he chose this second-best school over the most prestigious one in the prefecture. It was not because of the art program, nor the system. No. It was because of Hajime himself. If Tooru were to attend Shiratorizawa, he had to move out and be at the boarding school. He'd be away from his family, from his Iwa-chan, and he couldn't bear even just the thought of being separated from his best friend. He didn't care if he was sacrificing his talent and potential for this. He needed to be with Hajime, in any way he could.

Tooru was aware that his feelings might remain forever hidden, afraid that if he were to let it out and tell his best friend, he'd be rejected and the other would severe their ties. He might not want to be with Tooru, might be disgusted with him. Tooru, over the summer vacation after realizing he felt more for Hajime than just friendship, tried his best to forget about the feeling, to dismiss it, but he just couldn't. Every day it grew, stronger, potent. His sketchbooks were filled with drawings of Hajime, painting inspired by him. It scared Tooru how much he felt for his best friend, and that this feeling might cost him the friendship he very carefully treasured. He reached the decision to never tell Hajime then, and just stay by his side, loyal and kind to him, until they were forced to go their own ways. Until then, Tooru would hold on to his feelings while maintaining the relationship they built and cultivated ever since they were young.

The transition from middle school to high school was a lot easier than Tooru had expected. The classes, albeit more advanced, were not as grueling as their senpais had warned them. The teachers were kind, their classmates familiar as most of the kids in Kitagawa-Daichi ended up attending Aoba Johsai. The art club was excited to have the prodigy Oikawa Tooru under their wings, welcoming him with heart-warming smiles and praises – they've all seen his art works from before. The attention they gave him was that of someone important, like a celebrity, and instead of being overwhelmed, he loved it. Tooru basked in their attention. It was a nice feeling, being acknowledged for something you do, something you're good at.

He was given his own desk in the art club, positioned beside the wall just right beside the door. He wanted the desk beside the window, as there's better lighting there than anywhere in the room, but his senpais were there. He needed to be in second or third year before he could sit by the window then. Tooru set up his art materials in his desk, an old easel standing to the left of the wooden table. Grabbing one of his many paint brushes and a tube of paint, he began mixing colors in a pallete and stared at his blank canvas. He had two hours to spare in this room; he promised Hajime they would go home together. Dipping his brush onto the paint, Tooru worked on the one image his fingers itched to draw. Moss green for the eyes, raven for the hair. He smiled. Another piece of Hajime was coming to life through his canvas.

 

Tooru stood by the brick gate, his foot and back leaning against the wall. The sun was about to set, a beautiful purplish-pinkish sky. It would be nice to paint this. Maybe when he got home, after dinner he would. He went back to scrolling on his Instagram feed, sucking on a lollipop. Hajime was taking too long. Or were they extending their practice because of the upcoming preliminaries? He should ask him so he wouldn't wait here outside, he could have finished a painting or two in the club room while waiting instead of standing here looking like an idiot.

After a while, when the sky was darkened and blue, Hajime arrived. His shirt was ruffled and his necktie untied. His hair was still wet from the shower and he was yawning. Practice must have been awful.

“You look like hell reincarnate, Iwa-chan,” Tooru greeted cheerfully when he reached him.

“Shut up,” Hajime all but grumbled, walking ahead of Tooru. The other immediately caught up.

“Come on, I'll get you some meat buns.”

“Thanks. I'm starving.” The smile Hajime threw in his direction made Tooru's heart do a flip and he looked away, almost a hundred percent sure he was blushing. Damn cute smile dammit.

“Say, Iwa-chan, are you practicing for prelims now?”

“Yeah, actually. In the mornings, too, so I have to be extra early. About that,” Hajime looked at him. “I wouldn't be able to go to school with you and might not be able to go home too.”

Tooru pouted, “Ehh~ I can always spend extra time in the club room. Plus I can use senpai's spot near the window. Six am?”

“Six am,”Hajime nodded. “That's too early for you though. Classes won't start until eight.”

“That's okay! I always love the ambience in the morning. It's peaceful.”

“If you say so. But I won't wait for you if you're late.”

A scoff. “I'm an early riser!”

“Early riser, my ass. Whatever, get me that meat bun.”

“So bossy, Iwa-chan!”

 

The closer the date of preliminaries approached, the lesser time Hajime spent with Tooru. Their practices extended to eight in the evening and Hajime forced him to go home without him. Even on weekends, the team had to be in the gym for the whole day. They even had training camps, going to different schools overnight to train with other teams. It was awful. Tooru missed his Iwa-chan, but as petulant as he was, he couldn't complain. It was volleyball, afterall. And as Hajime's best friend, he must support him.

Even though they were just first years, Hajime was already part of the starting line-up. He was a dependable wing spiker so Tooru was not even surprised when Hajime told him. The coach knew Hajime's potential, and he was popular back in middle school too, making a name for himself through his skills. Nothing less from his Iwa-chan.

“You'll come, right?” Hajime asked him one time, when practice was cut short because the facilities need to clean the gyms. He and Tooru were walking home, popsicles in hand.

“Of course! When did I ever miss your games?” Tooru said.

“Yeah, well. That was before. What if you're extra busy now? Exams are coming up...”

Tooru laughed. “Are you worried your lucky charm won't be there, Iwa-chan? Don't worry, I will come! I will even make you a new banner,” With a wink and a grin, Tooru ruffled Hajime's hair, making the latter scowl deeply.

“You're not my lucky charm.”

“It's okay, Iwa-chan. No need to be shy—ow! Ow!” Tooru covered his head to avoid getting smack by his best friend. “Geez, Iwa-chan. Such a brute.”

“Just make sure to show your sorry excuse of a face at the game, got it?”

“Yeah, yeah. I'll be there with the prettiest banner.”

Suckling on his ice cream, Tooru did his best to hide his smile. It thrilled him that Hajime wanted him to be there, and even though he was brutal most of the time, he perfectly knew that that was just how Hajime showed his affection. His best friend was not the best when it came to showing his true feelings and emotions anyway so Tooru understood.

 

When the day of the games came, Tooru sat in the bleachers along with his schoolmates. He could see Hajime from his seat on the second floor, stretching and warming up with his teammates. It was the first official game of the year, and he wondered if Hajime was nervous. He had yet to see Tooru in the crowd, but that was okay. Tooru knew he had no choice but see him. He prepared the largest banner he could make so Hajime would see him immediately.

It was unfair, he thought, how Hajime looked so good in the teal and white volleyball jersey of their school. But Hajime always looked good in whatever he wore, in Tooru's very biased opinion. He was wearing number 10. It was only a matter of time before he got the number 4, the number of the ace, Tooru was sure.

There was the sound of whistle, and the starting players gathered on each end of the court and bowed before they went to their positions in the middle of the court. Hajime was looking at the bleachers, eyes scanning the crowd. Tooru's heart jumped in his chest and he gave his brightest smile when the player spotted him. Hajime gave him a thumb-up, which he returned, shouting 'good luck, Iwa-chan!' right after, making his best friend look away, hand on his nape. With another whistle, the game began. Tooru was focused as if he was also playing, shouting several nice receives, and nice kills, every time Hajime touched the ball. He knew how the game worked by heart, what with Hajime insisting on teaching him when they were little. Tooru knew how to play but not very well, just enough to pass gym class, but he knew the rules, the signals, and the violations from watching all of Hajime's games and the matches on TV with Hajime all the time.

The game went on, with both team earning a set each. Everyone was on edge, and the cheers in their side of the gym was getting louder and louder. The score was 27-28 in favor of Seijou and it was the last set. They needed to win to qualify for the next round so this game was important, everyone knew that. The pressure was on, and the players more than anyone were feeling that.

It was the opponent's serve and their team was able to receive it cleanly, the setter tossing to the left where the captain, another wing spiker, hit the ball. Tooru watched as the ball was blocked by two blockers, but their libero was able to save it and get it back for their setter. Tooru's heart was pounding when the setter tossed to Hajime. There were three blockers waiting on the other side of the net, but Hajime jumped without hesitation and spiked, the sound of his palm hitting the ball resonating across the gym, and getting the ball past the blockers. The other team's libero tried to save the ball with a flying receive but failed. There was a short whistle, and then a longer one. The crowd cheered. Tooru stood and cheered, shouting Hajime's name over and over again. They won.

In the middle of the court, surrounded by his teammates, patting his back and ruffling his hair, Hajime looked up to where Tooru was and waved at him, smiling the brightest, his eyes crinkling from excitement and happiness. Tooru waved back, and he was so proud of his best friend his chest was about to burst. On the floor, his banner was lying trampled and forgotten.

 

Tooru was packing up his things, ready to wait for Hajime in front of the school and go home. After the preliminary games, the volleyball team's practice sessions were back to normal club schedules so Tooru and Hajime were back to their routine too. Zipping up his backpack and standing up, he almost bumped into his club advisor.

“Oikawa-san,” Washio sensei said, a gentle smile on his face. “About to go home?”

“Ah yes,” Tooru smiled back. “Do you need anything, sensei?”

“No, no. I am glad I got to talk to you before you go though. About the competition next month, are you interested to join?”

“Is that the prefectural art competition?”

“It is. The theme for this year's event is Love and Destruction. Pretty interesting if you ask me. I would love for all my students to participate,” the sensei said.

Love and Destruction, huh. Of course, Tooru would join. Although he loved painting, it didn't mean he was not competitive. In fact, he was very competitive, always putting his best foot forward, always making sure everything he did is perfect. Hajime always told him that if he was an athlete, he would probably be the last to leave the gym because he would be practicing a lot. He never did anything half-assed.

“Oi, what took you so long?” Hajime said when Tooru arrived at their meeting place.

“Sorry, Iwa-chan. It was only five minutes, though.”

“What's the hold-up?”

They walked to their usual route. Usually, it was Tooru chatting about his day but he was quiet for once and it got Hajime's brow raising.

“You okay?” Hajime asked.

Tooru nodded. “Hm. Just thinking.”
The other snickered. “When did you ever think?”

“Mean,” he stuck his tongue out. Then a sigh, “The prefectural art competition is coming up and I was just thinking of what to paint this time.”

“Oh? Don't they usually have a theme or something?”

“Yeah, this year it's Love and Destruction. I'm not sure about that.”

“It's not the first time they decided on something with opposite things.”

“I know. Just, I don't know what to paint.”

“Idiot,” Hajime grumbled. “You literally knew what the theme is five minutes ago. Don't pressure yourself.”

“But usually, I know what to do already the moment I heard the prompt! Iwa-chan, what if I'm getting rusty? Oh my gosh, I'm losing my inspirations, oh no no no what if Ushiwaka wins this year instead of me?! Iwa-chaaaan!” Tooru whined, grabbing Hajime's arm and shaking it repeatedly. The other easily shrugged him off and then, making Tooru whine even more, he snaked his arm over the other's neck and drilled his fist on his head.

“Ow- OW! Iwa-chan, stop – STOP OH MY—“

“Shut up then, Idiotkawa.”

Finally free, Tooru pouted and stomped his foot, walking ahead of his best friend like a petulant child. “You owe me milk bread for being mean!”

Once Hajime was done buying a pack of milk bread for Tooru and meat buns for himself, they continued walking home. Tooru couldn't help but think, as he bit into his first piece of milk bread, how he was really spoiled by Iwa-chan because no matter how mean the other acted, he always gave Tooru whatever he asked and needed. He remembered that time when he was crying over his broken paint brushes which his nephew, Takeru, accidentally played with, and how he called Hajime to get him new ones because there's an art exhibit he was participating that weekend and his pieces were still not finished. It was eight in the evening and they were walking in the city, looking for any art shops that were still open. Tooru was still hiccuping and Hajime put his arm around him and consoled him.

In the end, they ordered him new brushes online that arrived the next day and which Hajime paid for as a gift to him. Tooru came up with a new painting of Hajime that night using his new brushes—one where his best frined was standing under the stars and the city sparkling behind him, a soft smile on his face.

“Oi, Oikawa. Are you listening?”

“Hm? Sorry, Iwa-chan. What is it?”

Hajime narrowed his eyes at him. “I asked when the competition is?”

“Oh,” Tooru said. “A month from now.”

“Plenty of time to think of something then.”

“Hm.”

Sighing, Hajime stepped closer and bumped his shoulder against him, smiling gently. “Don't worry about it too much. I know you'll come up with something amazing.”

Tooru was sure he couldn't breathe, but he still managed to respond. “Iwa-chan. You think so?”

“You always do.” A pat on the head. Tooru's heart stopped. “Surprise me, Tooru.”

Tooru smirked. He definitely would.

 

On the day of the competition, Tooru was a bundle of nerves. He kept checking his materials, if all his tubes of acryllics were complete, if all the colors he needed were there, if he had enough greens and blacks, if his brushes were all the right sizes. They were to paint on the spot, with five hours as their time limit. It was ridiculous, the time limit. Tooru usually finished a painting in full canvas overnight, with no sleep, or two days if he opted to rest. And these were high schoolers, even though they have more energy than a grown-ass adult, they still needed to rest and shit. He never understood their rules.

He's knee kept jerking up and down in nervousness, his palms sweating. He kept rubbing them dry on his slacks – they needed to wear their school uniform, another stupid rule. Beside him, Hajime sat. One look at him and Hajime scowled, putting a stop to his moving knee by resting and gripping his hand on his kneecap.

“Stop it, you're being ridiculous,” Hajime hissed.

“I'm fucking nervous, Iwa-chan. Can you see Ushiwaka in front of us? He looks so chill, the fucker.” Said fucker was sitting ahead of them, a few rows in front. He was also wearing his Shiratorizawa Academy uniform, looking oh-so relaxed. A red-head was sitting beside him, chatting animatedly. Tooru scoffed. Ushiwaka looked like a tree with his reactions.

“You know there's nothing to be nervous about.” Hajime's voice was soft and it made Tooru look at him with narrow eyes.

“Nothing? Silly, Iwa-chan,” Tooru replied with an airy voice. “There's a lot to be nervous about. Like what if I forgot what picture I should paint, or what color I should use, or the image I wanted won't come out like what I pictured in my head—“

“Shh,” Hajime placed his hand on Tooru's lips. The other's eyes widened. “Shut up, you're so whiny.”
Well, Tooru couldn't talk now, could he?

“You practiced right?” Hajime asked. “You sketched for weeks and painted last night. You didn't even sleep enough. You think you're fooling me by pretending to sleep for the first two hours? I knew you went back to your spot on the balcony to paint when you thought I was asleep.”

Tooru removed Hajime's hand from his mouth, sniffing. “Iwa-chan, you were awake?” Hajime spent the night over at Tooru's because it was Friday and today was the one Saturday that they didn't have practice. It was perfect, Tooru thought, because he wouldn't miss Tooru's competition. He always went to accompany Tooru in his events.

“Of course I was awake, Shittykawa. You were moving a lot. I couldn't sleep.”

“Sorry,” Tooru murmured.

Hajime lifted his hands and placed them on both sides of his face, looking straight at him. “Still nervous?” he asked.

Yes, but for a different reason, Tooru thought. Out loud, he said, “Not anymore, no.”

“Good. Better treat me to some ramen after you win,” Hajime grinned before letting him go. He was so confident Tooru would win, it made Tooru confident too. It was always like that with them, believing and trusting each other. They were each other's strength. Tooru never wanted that to change.

 

His painting indeed won. Hajime waited for him for six hours, patient and calm. He hugged Tooru when the winner was announced, took a picture of him on stage when he received his plaque and prize.

“It was a beautiful painting,” Hajime had said after hugging him.

“You already saw that several times,” Tooru said, blushing a little.

“Yes, but not this one. This one is the best. Are you allowed to take it home?”

Tooru shook his head. “It will be displayed in the public gallery along with the other winners.”

“I'm proud of you.” Hajime said that with so much emotion in his eyes that Tooru was sure his face was flaming. He looked at his painting, now displayed on stage on an easel between the second and third placers.

The painting was composed of two half faces in side views. They have no eyes, their bodies starting from their noses and cheeks up to their bare torsos. On the female's head was a beautiful rain forest, a paradise, full of life and colors. On the male's side was a burning city, black and red and orange, the image of destruction. The two were almost kissing, holding each other. The judges said it was the perfect representation of the theme.

“I would love to have that in my room.” Tooru looked up and saw Hajime also staring with admiration at his painting, and he couldn't help but smile.

“I can always make a replica for Iwa-chan.”

“That would be nice.”

“Okay,” Tooru grinned. He would make it more beautiful for Hajime.

“Okay,” Hajime grinned back. “Now, that ramen.”

Tooru laughed, dragging him out of the venue and into the Sendai afternoon. Just in time for twilight, his favorite time of the day. It was especially when he was with Hajime. Because Hajime glowed when it's twilight, like he belonged there, orange and pink and purple and blue and he was so beautiful, and Tooru was just so, so helplessly in love.

“Come on, Iwa-chan,” he said when he found his voice, looking away from the beauty beside him. “I'll treat you to all-you-can-eat ramen because I'm awesome.”

Hajime snorted, but it didn't make him less beautiful in Tooru's eyes. “Sure you are, Shittykawa. Sure you are.”

 

 

Tooru couldn't remember how it began to crumble, everything around him.

Their freshmen year went by fast. The volleyball team got into Nationals, but was defeated by a high school from Tokyo after three rounds. Tooru was able to compete at all the art competition but wasn't able to get to the most prestigious competition because he had chickenpox a week before the scheduled date and Tooru thought it was the most ridiculous thing to ever stop him from doing what he loved. He and Hajime stuck together after those falls, attached to the hips, mourning their loses for a few days, allowing themselves some sulking but they eventually got back to their feet like they always did. They were, afterall, each other's strength and pillar.

But not for long, Tooru learned.

Sophomore year arrived and with it came Iwaizumi Hajime's immense popularity. He was declared Aoba Johsai's ace, a very rare occurrence for a volleyball club as the ace is often a title saved for the third years. The team nominated him, however, and Hajime had accepted it, humble and honored. The news broke, fast and school-wide, and girls and selected boys flocked to get The Ace's attention. It made Hajime adorable, flushed and stuttering, not used to attention and affection other than Tooru's and his family's.

It should made Tooru happy. He was proud of his Iwa-chan, he really was. But he couldn't always stomp the boiling jealousy he felt, the color so green it made the jades timid, every time a schoolmate pulled Hajime to a spot behind their school building, handing him a love letter and a token, head bowed in shyness as they confessed their undying love for Iwaizumi-san.

Hajime always came back empty-handed, a scowl across his face. It never failed to make Tooru feel relieved.

“Why the frown, Iwa-chan?” He asked one time, during lunch. Hajime just got back from another confession. Tooru saw a cute girl looking for Hajime just right after class so it must be that.

Said frown got deeper, and Hajime grumbled beside him, shoving a piece of octopus sausage in his mouth. “It's always hard to reject them. It makes me feel bad.”

Tooru stared at the wide soccer field in front of them. “Why not just accept one of them, then?” He really just wanted to kick himself right then.

A pause. A flock of birds flew above them. Hajime turned to him ever so slightly. “You think I should?”

Giving him his practiced smile, fake and awful, Tooru replied, “Why not? Iwa-chan is so popular, girls and gays clamor for you. You should give them a chance too, you know?” Why was he doing this, saying this, he wanted to yell at himself. He was so stupid. Stupidkawa.

Hajime looked down at his bento and hummed, as if considering. “Really?”

“Yes, Iwa-chan. Really,” Tooru said, voice stable. Deep inside, he was cracking. “I guess your superb volleyball prowess makes up for your horrible face.”

“Say that again, Shittykawa.” He saw Hajime lifting his chopsticks and threatened to stab him with them. Tooru laughed. This. At least he wouldn't lose this, right?

If he did, he wouldn't know what to do.

 

Hajime considered it. He considered Tooru's suggestion and Tooru was broken. It was only the beginning.

Her name was Sato Ayako. She's a sophomore like them, but in a different class. She had hazel eyes and copper blonde hair, just a couple shades lighter than Tooru's. She was in their cheerleading team, and that's how she and Hajime had gotten close. She was the one who confessed though, and after a game, a very good game that Tooru watched to support his best friend, Hajime went to find her amidst the celebration of their win and accepted her confession.

They kissed in the middle of the court and everyone cheered for them. Everyone except Tooru.

She was beautiful, of course she was. The cheerleading team didn't accept anyone that wasn't. Fair complexion, bright eyes, gentle voice. She's tall too, or at least tall enough that when Hajime hugged her, he could rest his chin on top of her head. Tooru saw him doing that to her once.

It was convenient, really, their relationship. The ace of the volleyball team and vice captain of the cheerleading squad were dating. A perfect match. The golden couple. They looked so in love.

Tooru hoped not.

He hadn't asked Hajime about that yet, afraid of what he might say. Hajime had never fallen in love before as far as Tooru knew. Iwa-chan would tell him if he had. He was so scared of this new development that he started distancing himself from Hajime. Not like Hajime really noticed. He was busy with his new girlfriend.

They haven't gone to school nor gone home together for weeks now. The usual sleepovers never happened. The texts dwindled down from every ten minutes of every day when they were not with each other to not even once at all. Tooru's paintings were filled with landscapes and other things that didn't include beautiful, intense green eyes and perfectly-tanned skins and gorgeous smiles.

It was hard. Tooru wouldn't allow himself to cry himself to sleep at night, but he was close to his breaking point. He wondered, if he didn't suggest it, would Hajime even be spending the night over at Sato's place tonight? He wondered if they would still be marathoning Tooru's stupid alien documentaries, snuggled in their silly blanket fort and chugging Dr. Pepper while pretending it's beer.

Tooru wondered how in just a snap, they seemed to have lost it all. And then he realized, it was only him. He was the only one who lost it.

 

Saturday mornings were for sleeping in, because Friday nights meant staying up and finishing a painting in record time, or rerunning all of Noragami's episodes available online while eating Cheetos.

So why, Tooru thought grudgingly, why were they standing on school grounds, wearing their stupid spring unforms at half-past five in the morning? Tooru yawned. They were headed to Onagawa for a field trip, visiting shrines and markets and art galleries and Tooru was ready to go back to sleep. The only thing he was looking forward to was the art galleries, and maybe, of course, sitting beside Iwa-chan on the bus and spending the day beside him. It was tradition. This couldn't be so bad.

But it could. It so could.

“Iwa-chan, over here!” Tooru waved from where he was seated, a huge smile plastered on his face. Hajime looked so beautiful in the morning light; Tooru's fingers itched to paint him.

“Oikawa.”

Tooru scooted closer to the window to give Hajime more space to sit on, hugging his backpack to his chest. “I'm claiming dibs on the window seat, as always. Oh, and I got us our boxes of Pocky. Which one do you want first? I say matcha.” He tapped the seat beside him, gesturing for Hajime to sit already.

“Oikawa.” Hajime was scowling, not at him, but at the floor. Tooru didn't like this one bit. “I'm sitting with Ayako.”

A slice. And then a crumble.

“Oh.” A gush of breath slipped past Tooru's lips. “Of course. Ha ha, of course. Go sit with your cute Aya-chan!” His voice was so fake and airy, Tooru wanted to stab himself.

“Are you gonna be okay?” Hajime's brows were still furrowed. Tooru waved him off, unzipping his backpack and grabbing his headphones.

“Yeah, yeah. Duh. Go away, Iwa-chan. Shoo.” He put on his headphones and connected it to his phone, selecting the loudest One OK Rock song he could find.

Hajime was saying something before he went to the back of the bus, but Tooru didn't hear him, already far gone with his thoughts.

Tradition, my ass.

Chapter Text

There were times when Tooru walked home with Hajime from school and the latter turned quiet, not saying a word at all. And that's completely fine with Tooru. Silence was comfortable. Their friendship was such that they didn't feel the need to fill all their moments together with mindless conversations and silly laughter. There were also times when they have endless banters, full of energy despite the tiring hours spent in class and clubs to the point that the two would stop in front of their house and sit on the curb to continue chatting, as if it were the last time they'd get to talk to each other. Moments like that were Tooru's favorite until their mothers put a full stop on it, yelling that dinner was set or that they needed to change out of their school uniforms.

Those were good times. And Tooru liked either the quiet moments or the rowdy ones. Tooru liked it best when he was with his Iwa-chan.

Unlike today.

Today, Hajime decided he'd walk Ayako to the train station and had Tooru went home by himself, even though Tooru waited for him to finish practice - albeit not a completely fruitless wait as he was working on his painting in the art club. Still, he wanted to go home with Hajime. It had been a while since they went to or from school and Tooru was getting annoyed with mostly everything. 

Hajime and Tooru's relationship continued to wither like flowers in autumn. Seasons changed. Before they know it it was autumn and volleyball practice was gruesome and the art club was demanding. 

Tooru thought that as their time together dwindled down to null, it would be easier to bury his feelings at the back of his mind and focus more on his art. But more than anything, Hajime was his inspiration. He was there in every color, every shade of green, every stroke of brush on blank canvas. 

How he had wished that he could forget his love for Hajime the way an eraser could erase a perfect pencil lining.

 

--

 

[Tuesday evening]

21:03 Iwa-chaaaaan I finally got the special Blu-Ray of Rogue One with the commentaries!
21:03 Let's go watch it
21:03 Bring popcorn will yaaaaaaaaaaa
21:04 Hello??????

21:11 sorry can't. I'm over @ ayako's

21:12 :(
21:12 It's school night

21:13 yeah brought my clothes so we can go 2gether to school tom

21:14 Aw okay
21:14 Have fun!
21:15 Night night iwa-chan~

 

 

[Friday afternoon]

12:24 Iwa-chan, where are you? Come on, lunch?

12:27 Ayako brought me bento
12:27 we're @ the quad tho, feel free to join us

12:28 Nah I already bought something from the cafeteria
12:28 And there's lots of bugs in the quad ew
12:29 We're going home together later right?

12:32 I promised Ayako I'd go with her to the bookshop

12:33 Oh okay then

12:36 next time

12:37 Sure

 

 

Next time became two weeks later and by that time Tooru just didn't have the energy to pretend he's happy that he's losing quality time with Hajime. Hajime never ran out of excuses whenever Tooru wanted to spend time with him, even though Tooru knew those excuses were valid. Hajime, after all, was in a relationship. It just frustrated Tooru that all the things they have been doing Pre-Ayako, all those traditions, have been parked somewhere at the very back of Hajime's priorities.

He was tired. So he decided to keep his distance. It was him who made exucses when Hajime wanted to see him. If Hajime noticed, he didn't say anything.

 

It lasted for another two weeks. And at one point, Tooru gave in and initiated contact with his best friend.

His competition was coming up and it would be held in Miyagi this time. A couple more art club members were chosen to compete with him so he was not going alone but as far as tradition went, Tooru always, always went with Hajime to his art competitions.

With determination and swallowed pride, he sent Hajime a quick text with the date and venue of the event.

The reply came almost instantly and Tooru opened it with pounding heart - only for his heart to momentarily stop and break as he read Hajime's reply. 
Hajime wouldn't be able to come; the event was simultaneous with Ayako's cheerdance competition and he had already promised to go with her.

Tooru bit his lower lip to stop himself from crying, calmly placing his phone on the nightstand before curling down on his bed, wallowing in self-pity.

 

--

 

On the day of the competition, Tooru glumly walked inside the hall with his co-members Yahaba and Kunimi, his backpack full of paints and brushes slung behind him. It was heavy, he realized idly. Hajime often carried his stuff for him in these events, wanting Tooru to feel relaxed and comfortable but alas, Hajime was not here with him today. Hajime was probably carrying his Aya-chan's girly luggage with a grumpy scowl on his face.
Shaking off his thoughts, he wandered to where their seat assigments were and to his disappointment, it was closer to Shiratorizawa than he would have liked.

"Oikawa."

Tooru huffed before turning around because he definitely recognized that voice. "Well, well. If it isn't Ushiwaka-chan."

Emotionless as ever, Ushijima Wakatoshi regarded him silently. Then, "I wish you the best today."

Rolling his eyes, Tooru lift his chin higher and crossed his arms above his chest. "I'm going to represent our prefecture even without your well wishes."

Ushijima, for his part, looked utterly confused. "Only one artist can represent the prefecture. You know that, right?"

Something snapped inside Tooru. Ushijima was so confident he was going to win over him that Tooru wanted to punch him in the gut. "I swear to God Ushiwaka you are so full of it! Iwa-chan, stop me or-"

Tooru stopped. Ushijima stared at him. His schoolmates cocked their heads to one side. 

There's no Iwa-chan here.

Breathing deeply, Tooru turned around and giving off the facade of fixing his materials. Hopefully Ushijima knew this as him being dismissed and his schoolmates wouldn't attempt to talk to him. Otherwise they might hear his voice break. He was in pain as it was already.

 

 

Tooru lost.

Technically, he's second place. But as he had always said, it's all or nothing. He wanted to win. Instead, it was Ushijima in the first place with his stupidly beautiful painting. He couldn't understand it, he thought his own painting was amazing. One of the panel's comments said it lacked confidence and soul. That's the reason he only placed second.

 

17:35 I lost

17:36 oh oikawa i'm so sorry
17:36 I wish I were there

17:37 It hurts so bad Iwa-chan
17:37 All those hard work
17:37 only to lose to fucking Ushiwaka

17:38 I'm sorry
17:39 if it's any consolation, our school lost too. Ayako's devastated and she hadn't stopped crying for 30 mins.
17:39 it was heartbreaking to watch

Something inside Tooru snapped.

17:42 Did you honestly think I care?

17:43 what?

17:44 I do not fucking care about your Ayako okay?? I couldn't care less even if she cried her eyes out Iwa-chan do you not understand this at all?!
17:44 I do not care about her

17:45 okay oikawa I get you're upset but you don't have to say things like that

17:46 No, Iwa-chan you need to hear this. I'm tired, alright? I'm tired of her monopolizing your attention, I'm tired of hearing about her and I'm tired seeing you spend all your time with her and I am mad I wish I haven't suggested you started dating Iwa-chan if only I knew this would happen!

17:47 oikawa...

17:48 Please stop talking to me I don't want to hear from you anymore

17:50 you don't mean that
17:51 come on, I don't understand
17:51 please
17:52 tooru

 

 

School was ending soon. Finals were coming up and Tooru was cramming his English and Science lessons, making sure he knew all the topics that were possibly included in the tests which was every single topic. He hated exams but he wasn't bad at it, he just preferred painting over reading textbooks.

The artclub lost to yet another competition and the volleyball team lost to another school in the prefecture. Tooru couldn't be bothered to go to the match but he knew from his classmates.

It was the first time he didn't watch Hajime play.

Hajime who wasn't talking to him anymore. Tooru knew it was entirely his fault and Hajime tried several times to talk to him in person but Tooru was good at avoiding him, even going as far as pretending he was sick to his mother so that she'd tell Hajime he couldn't see him when his friend went to his house after practice.

Sometimes he saw Hajime at school with Ayako and they still looked happy so he guessed he wasn't really needed. But then again, he wondered, when did Hajime need him? Wasn't it always Tooru who needed Hajime? So it wasn't like Hajime lost something when he stopped talking to him.

 

 

“Tooru, dear, can you come in here for a minute?” Tooru's mom called from the kitchen and Tooru dropped the remote on the coffee table.

His parents were looking at him expectantly when he reached the kitchen table, smiling.

“What's up?”

“Tooru, you received a letter of acceptance this morning. From Shiratorizawa Academy,” his mother began.

“We thought you should consider it, son,” his dad said. “It looks like they saw your potential from the last competition and want you under their art program.”

“I didn't even win...”

“No, but they knew you are talented enough so they offered you a spot for the next school year.”

His mom took a sip of her tea. “I know it's a boarding school, sweetheart. But I think it will be good for you. Lodging is provided and they offered you scholarship so it's basically free schooling for your senior year. And you know they are affiliated with major art universities, Tooru. Didn't you want to go to one in College?”

“Yes, mom but it's Shiratorizawa!” Tooru would die first before he set foot on that horrid school.

“Honey, you should consider it. It's a huge opportunity!”

“I know that but no, mom, dad, I don't want to go. I want to finish high school in Seijou.”

“Fine,” his mom sighed. “We still have a month but after that they expect to hear from us. Whatever your decision is, your dad and I will support you.”

“Thanks.”

Tooru went up to his room after that. He couldn't think of leaving his current school, his friends, his art club. He couldn't leave his parents. He couldn't even dare think of leaving Hajime. Not in a million years.

 

 

One week before school closed, Hajime approached Tooru. The bell just rang, indicating the end of the day and students filed out of the room. Hajime was able to catch Tooru by his arm, preventing the other to run away.

“We need to talk,” he said gruffly.

“What? No Ayako this time?” Tooru replied icily.

Hajime let go of his arm, scowlin at the floor. “We broke up.”

Tooru was startled. “Why?”

“It wasn't working anymore.”

“I thought you liked her?”

Hajime shrugged. “Walk home with me?”

“I see,” Tooru laughed. “Now that you don't have a girlfriend, you're going back to me. Jerk move, Iwa-chan.”

“Look, Tooru. I don't know what happened between us but I want to go back to what we used to be.” And then, softly, “I miss you.”

Tooru looked away, picking up his bag and throwing it over his shoulder. “That's unfair, Hajime.”

“Whatever I did, I'm sorry, Tooru. I didn't want this fallout. I miss you. Mom misses you.”

“Well, I miss you too.” Tooru wanted to kick himself – how was he so soft.

“Let's go? We can eat something at home, if you want?”

“'Kay.”

 

“So what really caused this avoid Iwa-chan forever game you were playing, Oikawa?” Hajime asked as they were walking home. They were almost to their houses, crossing the long bridge that had a pretty view of the sun setting. Tooru looked at the koi fishes at the river under the bridge. He decided to stop and lean on the wooden railing. The sky was a beautiful combination of orange and purple and pink, but Tooru didn't look at that. He looked at his favorite subject instead, of dark hair and hazel eyes and tanned skin and cherry lips.

Hajime copied his position and Tooru averted his eyes this time.

“I was jealous,” he said, very quietly. He felt like saying everything that he kept to himself. Every single thing.

“Jealous? Of Ayako?”

Tooru nodded.

“Why would you be?” Hajime asked, utterly confused.

“Yeah, why would I be, Iwa-chan?” Tooru retorted, smiling bitterly.

“Tooru...”

“You aren't very observant, Iwa-chan. And you are so dense too. How could you not notice?”

“I don't-”

Tooru stood straight, facing Hajime entirely and looking him in the eyes. “No, you don't. You don't know how I feel. You don't know why I'm suffering over this. You don't know how hard it was for me every time I see you with another girl Iwa-chan. You know nothing.”

“Oikawa-”

Breathing heavily and trying his best to stop the tears from falling even when his eyes were already blurry, Tooru said, “I love you, Hajime. For a while now. I'm in love with you.” He watched as Hajime's face changed, his expression going into shock, then confusion, anger, sadness, and sympathy.

“I'm in love with you, Hajime. I'm sorry I'm telling you this now but I thought you should hear it from me. I knew since that last day of middle school when we were walking home and the sunset colors hit your features beautifully. I couldn't look away ever since.” Tooru wiped his nose using the sleeve of his uniform, looking down at his shoes. This sucked.

Hajime looked in pain, as if any second he would throw up. He was pale already. Tooru knew, and yet it still hurt. So much. “Oikawa. I... I can't-”

“You don't have to say anything,” Tooru said quickly, his voice cracking. His heart cracking. “I already know what you're going to say and I don't want to hear it. I just wanted to tell you. And now that you knew, I'm finally going to move on.” With that, Tooru stepped away from the railing and walked, and then he was running, ignoring Hajime's calls.

When he arrived home, he went straight to the kitchen were his parents were seating for their late afternoon tea.

“Mom, I want to go to Shiratorizawa next year.”

Chapter Text

If someone told Tooru he would be studying at Shiratorizawa for his last year in high school, he would have laughed at that person's face and call them names because that would just be utterly ridiculous.

But now, as he walked out of his dorm room and off towards the main building of the prestigious academy, he could do nothing but accept his fate. No, this wasn't fate. He refused to believe so. This was all his doing and his decision. The result of his actions. A way to forget and start anew.

Something he wasn't very good at and didn't really want to do.

Why would he want to forget precious years of friendship and bond stronger than the mountains or brighter than the sun? Why would he move on from someone who exudes colours and drips hues that made his world rich and vibrant - to the point where he thought, "Ah. If I lose this person, everything will be grey."

But that's how his world was these days. Grey. Bland. Lifeless.

Because that person couldn't remain his friend.

Granted, Tooru didn't give him much choice, didn't even talk to him; Tooru just upped and left. Either way, that person couldn't accept Tooru's feelings. And Tooru, selfish Tooru, would never accept anything less now that that fact was out in the open.

Settling in in Shiratorizawa was surprisingly easier than Tooru expected. He was given his own room at the nearest dorm in the campus even though supposedly it could occupy two students. The dean said it was because Tooru was under scholarship and a special transferee case hence provided with utmost comfort, but the dorm monitor, a guy named Semi said it was because it's the last school year for the seniors and everyone already had their roommates. Tooru thought he didn't mind at all.

One thing he probably minded, as petty as it was, was his desk in the huge art club room, which was right in front of Ushiwaka. He often scoffed at the thought that the person he hated the most, his rival, was now his schoolmate and club mate. What's worse, Ushiwaka get to have the desk by the window. Sure, the fancy desk lamps Tooru had should be enough to light his work up, but natural light was always better than the artificial ones.

Not that he cared too much. His paintings recently sucked. He hadn't painted for the whole summer, focusing instead on finishing his video games and learning French, something he latched on randomly. So when he got back at the start of the school year, he was nothing but rusty. His paintings were lacklustre, dull. He scowled at the colour combinations he picked and the images in his mind just couldn't be transferred well into his canvas.

This was exactly what he was thinking about a month later as he sat on his desk, alone in the club room and earphones in, rock music loud in his ears. He was painting some flowers and not doing very good at it when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

Washijou sensei stood behind him, short by height but utterly huge by presence. Tooru wouldn't admit it out loud but this art expert scared the wits out of him.

"Sensei." He immediately pulled out his earphones and stood, bowing.

"Oikawa," the teacher said, staring at Tooru's canvas, his face devoid of emotion. "I have been meaning to speak with you."

"How can I help you, sir?"

"It's about your work." Tooru gulped. Washijou sensei was looking up at him but Tooru felt he was being stared down.

"What about it?" He asked, though he already knew.

"Oikawa. You were offered a scholarship because of your talent, your skills. You know how hard it is to be in this academy without any recommendation. I sent your name in so you can improve your gift and utilise it well. I don't just accept students in my art club, Oikawa. And I didn't just accept you. I made sure you get in. So prove to me that you deserve your spot. The works you turn in the past week are not up to my standards and I know you can do better than that."

Washijou sensei picked up a round brush from Tooru's pile, dipping it into the paint he was using and dabbing at the canvas for a few moments. When he put the brush down, Tooru's eyes widened as the flowers were so much more alive than before, and the teacher only worked on it for not even a minute. Did he use magic?!

"Send me another 8x11 painting tomorrow. I want something new from you." The teacher began walking out of the room, and Tooru was about to let out a breath when he spoke again. "This time I want something...inspired."

He was out of the room before Tooru could even speak, and the brunette slumped down his chair when he was alone again.

"Fuck," he muttered under his breath. He felt like he received the worst scolding ever, even though his teacher never once raised his voice. He stared at the yellow flowers on his canvas. Just a minute and then this? Just how good was Washijou sensei?

Tooru was pulling up Google when footsteps echoed in the room once again. When he looked up, it was the last person he wanted to see.

"Oikawa."

Tooru crinkled his nose. "What, Ushiwaka-chan?"

Ushiwaka blinked at him. "It's Ushijima."

God, he's so annoying. "I know that. Ushiwaka-chan."

Ushiwaka shrugged, then in a deadpan voice, he said, "I heard your conversation with Washijou sensei."

"My, my, what an eavesdropper."

"I didn't mean to. I'm here to get my supplies."

"Sure, sure." Tooru waved him off, tapping on his phone.

"Look, Oikawa. I know you think I am socially inept-"

"I don't think. I know."

"-and maybe I am but I just thought I could help you get back from your slump."

"I am not in a slump!"

Ushiwaka merely raised an eyebrow.

Tooru sighed. "Alright, fine. Maybe I am. But what is it to you?"

"Well, for one, I am the president of the art club and I have the responsibility to take care of my members and make sure everyone is doing their work okay."

"You don't have to."

As if not hearing what Tooru just said, Ushiwaka opened a drawer under his own desk. He then handed Tooru a watercolour palette.

"Take this. I have an extra set back at the dorm."

Tooru just stared at the palette. It's a pretty one but Tooru just stared at it.

"I have cold pressed sheets if you need them."

"I don't..." Tooru scowled. "I don't use watercolour."

Ushiwaka gave him the smallest of smiles and Tooru was bewildered. "You should try it. I think it's easier to manipulate than acrylic and it's relaxing to use. There are tons of watercolour tutorials on Youtube if you don't know how to use it."

Tooru wanted to ask him how he knew Youtube since he seemed like he was from stone age but didn't. Instead he said, "I know how to use it. It's just not my medium."

"It's always nice to try something new, Oikawa."

And with that, Ushiwaka left him, alone again but this time with a new watercolour palette.

 

When he got back to his room, his backpack felt heavy with his new paints and sheets of watercolour paper. He refused to ask Ushiwaka for some so he went to the nearest art store and bought the materials.

Sitting by the window, he set up his little studio, turning on his lights and filling up cups with water. He stared at the palette again. He never liked watercolour. It was fun back in elementary but ever since he discovered the beauty of oil and acrylic paints, he stopped using it. Watercolour dried faster, and for Tooru it was harder to manipulate. But he could try again. Maybe stoic-face-chan was right. It wouldn't hurt to try something new.

He could paint flowers again. Or a landscape. Twilight, perhaps...

No, he knew what he was going to paint. Just because he was moving on didn't mean he'd stop using his muse as his inspiration.

An hour later, Tooru decided he liked watercolour again. Tooru also decided that yes, he was, without a doubt, still very gay for his best friend.

Staring at Hajime's figure by the bridge and against the twilight of his painting, Tooru sniffed and rubbed his eyes at his long sleeve. He missed him. So fucking much. And great, there's a big lump in his throat and he wanted nothing more than to get on that train and go home and cross that street to knock at the Iwaizumis' residence and hug the life out of his best friend. Tooru's vision blurred and he was surrounded by intense longing.

Why did he have to suffer like this? He wished he didn't fall in love with the only person he considered his best friend. He wished they were young again so he didn't know things like crush or love or jealousy. He wished he didn't tell Hajime that it was alright to accept one of the girls' confessions. He was so dumb. Letting his feelings for Hajime ruled over his emotions was dumb. Dumbass.

He wiped his face and grabbed his phone. Going through his messages, Tooru felt dreadful. There were about fifty messages from Hajime from the day he left his house. The unreplied texts and missed calls lasted for a week until it stopped. When it did stop, Tooru had bawled his eyes out because he knew Hajime finally gave up and it was all Tooru's fault.

He didn't tell Hajime he was going to Shiratorizawa and based on the texts, he had only found out through Tooru's mother, who then contacted Tooru, completely confused as to why Hajime didn't know about his decision.

Tooru didn't receive anything from Hajime after that week. No contacts were made. Tooru was lonely and upset and guilty but he did it so he could move on. As futuristic as it was, Tooru couldn't accept seeing Hajime with another girl, getting married and having children while he stood at the sideline, watching and waiting for Hajime to give him scraps of his attention because by then Hajime's focus wouldn't be on Tooru any longer. And Tooru was too selfish to stick around and let that happen.

The last thing he knew about Hajime was the practice match Seijou had with Shiratorizawa. Hajime was the captain now and Tooru wanted to congratulate him but he couldn't face him. Seijou went to Shiratorizawa for the match but he didn't see the game, although he'd gathered from his classmates that they lost the match despite their captain and ace's nonstop scoring. Shiratorizawa was just too strong.

He took a deep breath to steady himself and hid the painting under his desk, deciding to start on a new one because he couldn't just submit it to Washijou sensei. It was too...intimate and personal and only for Tooru's eyes. He picked up his round brush and began a landscape the same colour as Hajime's emerald eyes.

 

"Much better."

Those were the only words the teacher said when Tooru handed him the painting the next day. He used watercolour again and while Washijou sensei raised a brow, he didn't say anything and Tooru sighed in relief.

 

"Thanks."

Ushiwaka - no, Tooru thought, he should stop being petty and start growing up. So, Ushijima, who was sitting in front of a large easel, looked up at him and stared. Tooru wanted to scoff. He just thanked him, he didn't tell him he killed a person. No need to look like that.

Ushijima coughed, reaching for the palette Tooru was handing him. Then, "you are welcome. Did you like the watercolour palette?"

"Yeah."

"I can tell you where to buy them if you like. Or I can just lend you mine. I have plenty of supplies."

Tooru said, "no, just tell me where the shop is."

He told him the name of the store. "It's at the city centre two stations away from here."

"Okay. Great."

"Do you want to come with me?" Ushijima, out of nowhere, offered.

"Huh?" Tooru said intelligently.

"I'm going there to pick up some titanium whites and half pans. Do you want to come with me?"

Tooru stared at the blank face. He wanted to decline. This was ridiculous. Him? Getting chummy with Ushiwaka-chan? Iwa-chan would laugh -

"Sure," Tooru blurted out before he even finished his thoughts. "Sure. Just let me get my things."

Trying his very best to focus on putting his stuff inside his backpack and ignoring the states from his club mates - they must have found it weird that he was being civil with their president, himself included - Tooru left the room with a nod towards Ushijima, hoping the man would follow and get this over with.

Chapter Text

Life at Shiratorizawa was surprisingly boring, Tooru thought as he juggled his arduous academic obligations, club activities, and a broken heart.

 

Granted, that last one he should have been over with now that he was almost halfway through his last year in high school; especially considering that his purpose in transferring to a new school was that very thing, but unfortunately for him, absence made the heart grow fonder. What he thought would be the solution to his problem just became the reason that said problem became bigger and bigger to the point where he barely kept his feelings under control.

 

Tooru hated that he was trapped in this sort of hyperawareness – he was privy to every emotion, to every movement he did that indicated he still felt for his (ex?) best friend. Every stroke of brush, every milk bread consumed, every Calculus problem unsolved (because he may have looked like a dumb brute, but he was a math genius – had helped Tooru countless of times when the artist struggled with numeric). He wanted to focus on the more important things: passing his exams, getting better at painting, preparing for college. That’s what his brain was telling him. But his heart had other plans. Tooru hated it.

 

After staring at his textbook for fifteen minutes without comprehending what was in it, he decided enough was enough. Pulling out his easel towards the middle of his dorm room and grabbing a stool, Tooru sat down and began mixing acrylic paints, a canvas with a half-finished painting already set up. He painted mindlessly, as he often did when doing abstract pieces – this time with random shapeless flowers for the foreground and lopsided buildings as his backdrop. It was relaxing because he was painting for no one but himself. Sometimes he got frustrated when it’s for a club submission or conceptualisation for an upcoming competition because something was expected from him but this time was different. He had not done a piece for himself in a while – the last time was when he did a watercolour portrait of –

 

Cutting that particular train of thought before he burst in yet again another tear-induced episode, Tooru squeezed some more paint on his palette. He was running out of titanium white again – he often was. He should have gone to the art store. The monthly stipend the academy sent to him wasn’t due to come till the end of the month and he was left to budget a quarter of the allowance provided by his parents for five more days. Art supplies were truly expensive and Tooru wondered idly why he wanted to make his life miserable with his choices.

 

His last visit to the art shop was only two weeks ago but already his supplies were depleting. Grunting some, Tooru deliberated if it was acceptable to ask Ushijima for a tube since that guy never seemed to run out of materials but decided against it immediately. He didn’t want to owe the guy more favours than he already had.

 

Their first trip to the art store that one day was anti-climactic. Tooru was even surprised of how boring a company Ushijima was but he did reluctantly agree that it was only a tiniest bit fun. Ushijima was quiet in nature and he did not try to make small talks with Tooru, seemingly comfortable with silence. It somewhat irked Tooru, who loved conversations and craved attentions, but given the mood he was in that time, he decided that he liked the silence.

 

They ran several errands together after that, sometimes even going to the city centre not just to get their usual hoards but for other stuff too. They often visit mini-marts to buy foods that were not available in their cafeteria. There was a Korean convenience store one block away from the art store that they went to, and Tooru used half of his money to buy junk foods and developed a liking towards choco pies. It was a benefit of living on his own. He never had that kind of freedom before; he was scolded for eating junk foods by his parents and Iwa-chan was such a health freak –

 

“Dammit!” Tooru hissed as his upper stroke went a little too heavy on the canvas and the yellow ochre bled unflatteringly on the electric pink peony drying beside it.

 

He dropped his palette, making a colourful mess on his beige carpet before flopping down on his bed. The view outside was of the school garden, full of red and orange and yellow with random bursts of holly green. Autumn colours. It was so beautiful and relaxing. The season was almost over if the leaves on the ground and the bare trees were any indication. Tooru dreaded the upcoming winter. He was still undecided whether he would go back to Sendai or stay in this boarding school for Christmas break. He never spent the holidays away from home but maybe this year he would, if only to avoid seeing the people over there. His mother might throw a fit.

 

The thought of his mother made Tooru pick up his phone, thumbing it unlock to browse the unreplied messages – three from his mom, one from his dad and one from Iwaizumi-san’s, all checking in to see how Tooru was doing. The last message did something to his heart. He neglected so many things back in Sendai in order to move on, almost everything except his parents. Because of his selfishness, he forgot that not only his parents and that one friend he left were the only people who cared about him. Seeing Hajime’s mother asking how he was doing so far away from home unnerved him, guilted him through and through. He should have properly said goodbye to them too. It was only polite. But because he only thought of himself, he forgot. But did he really forget, or did he decide that they were not important enough for him to bid farewell to, even when that farewell was just temporary?

 

With a heavy heart, he dialled his mother’s number and waited a couple of rings before he got an answer.

 

“Tooru?” His mom’s excitement was evident over the phone. God, he should have called more often.

 

“Hi, mom. How are you and dad?”

 

“Oh, Tooru. We are doing good, better now that you have called. Your dad just left for a business trip but he’d be delighted you called. How are you, dear? We miss you terribly.”

 

Tooru’s grip tighten on the phone. Call more often, Tooru, he mentally chided himself. “I miss you and dad too. I’m doing good. Just about to finish another piece.”

 

“That’s wonderful, Tooru. You must have done a lot more paintings now that we’re not there to bother you! We can’t wait to see them.”

 

“I’ll send you some pictures, mom."

 

The conversation went longer than Tooru planned, but he did not mind at all because he too missed his parents. The guilt grew heavier. Tooru felt like crying, and even more when his mom mentioned Hajime.

 

“He had dinner with us last night. I invited him over because his parents are away for an onsen trip for the week. Can’t believe that boy grew taller again! I think he is almost as tall as you!”

 

“I doubt it, mom,” Tooru said, voice small.

 

“Hajime misses you too, dear. He said you rarely talk these days. You’re so busy you can’t make time for your best friend?”

 

He tried his best to talk over the lump forming in his throat and blocking his airways. Hajime was lying. They did not rarely talk these days because they never talk at all. “He was busy as well with volleyball, mom, being the captain and all.”

 

“Oh, yes. He did mention that. That kid, he has come a long way now…”

 

His mom blabbered on and on about Hajime, which she usually did, because he and Hajime could have switched places and their parents would never notice. Hajime’s parents doted more on Tooru instead of Hajime and vise versa. He let his mother talk until everything got too much. He did not need to know about how Hajime was doing well and how successful he was and how the university reps were scouting for him. He did not need to know anything about him at all.

 

“Mom,” he said when his mother began wondering out loud why Hajime hadn’t brought any girl home just yet since that pretty girl last year. He did not really need to know. “I have to go now, mom. I have to meet my clubmates in a few for a meeting.”

 

It was Saturday and the art club only met every school day. But he needed to stop hearing about his best friend.

 

“Okay, Tooru. Call us again when you are not busy, alright dear? And call Hajime too. I know something happened between the two of you but don’t let it be your fall out. You two are such nice friends.”

 

He pressed his palm to his eye, hard. “Sure, mom. Say hi to dad for me.”

 

“Take care, dear. Love you.”

 

“Love you, too.”

 

He hung up, tossed his phone to the foot of his bed and groaned, bumping his head on his window as he fell a little to his side. He welcomed the tiny pain on his temple, distracting him enough so he wouldn’t cry. Must Hajime lie to his parents to make them believe they were okay? The last time they talked in person was the end of the previous school year, Tooru’s confession. And he never received any text nor call from Hajime after he ignored him. He was not planning on communicating with him either, because what was the purpose of transferring if he was just going to talk to him after? His main goal was to extinguish any sort of feelings he had for his best friend and he had not even achieve it yet, so why add fuel to the fire once again? Their friendship was better off crumbling instead of it blooming again but suffering because Tooru couldn’t keep his emotions to himself.

 

 

--

 

 

“Hey, hey, any souvenirs you guys want me to get for you?” Tendou Satori loudly asked as he sat beside Ushijima, the contents on his tray jumping the tiniest bit as he slammed it on their table at the cafeteria. Tooru looked at him in question while Ushijima shook his head.

 

“I’m okay with anything, Tendou.”

 

“Ehh, Wakatoshi-kun. You’re no fun! What if I bring you a wooden dick?”

 

“Whatever floats your boat,” Ushijima shrugged as he continued eating which made Tendou laugh even more.

 

“Did you know, that idiom can mean two things? ‘Whatever makes you happy’ and ‘whatever stimulates you’, I read it in Quora once…the origin of this saying is crazy! So basically, it says there that the man is in a boat and the boat is the woman’s…”

 

Tooru half-listened to Tendou talking as he picked on his food, the after effects of his final exams catching up to him, exhausting him out of his wits. All he wanted was to go to bed and maybe sleep for seventy-two hours to make up for the all-nighters he pulled. He was thankful that he had Tendou in his little circle of…friends.

 

Tendou Satori, with his eccentric red hair and quirky movements, made up for Ushijima’s silence. The two were sort of a package deal, like a buy one, get one free even if he didn’t ask for it. They were apparently metaphorically attached to the hips, and even though Tendou didn’t have any club, he was a permanent fixture in the art club room, especially when Washijou sensei was not around. It surprised Tooru that he and Tendou got along just fine. Tendou made the awkward silence between Tooru and Ushijima unlikely to happen when he was around.

 

“Where are you going, Sa-chan?”

 

Tendou’s eyes sparkle, like they frequently did when Tooru used that little nickname. “Maldives! My parents decided they hated the Japanese winter this year so we are going to the beach for the holidays!”

 

“That’s nice! Take lots of pictures of the view for me please?” Tooru said.

 

“For reference, right? Of course!” The other boy yelled excitedly, and then he was bumping his shoulder against Ushijima’s. “You too? You need references too, right, artist-san?”

 

Tooru wondered back then if these two were together, but when he asked Tendou, the latter just laughed at him like a maniac and said that was impossible because Tendou only see Ushijima as a little brother he liked to tease endlessly, even though they were the same age. That was also the time Tooru heard from Tendou that Ushijima had a crush on a sophomore named Shirabu Kenjirou, that talented impressionist painter from their art club.

 

(“He has a crush?!” Tooru had asked, incredulous.

 

Tendou’s eyes gleamed with mirth when he said, “Our boy Wakatoshi has been throwing heart eyes at that kid ever since he entered the club last year! He just didn’t know how to properly ask him out because that pretty kid is so aloof, you know? Plus, Miracle Boy is shy.

 

Tooru did not know which was funnier then: Ushijima having a crush or Tendou calling him Miracle Boy.)

 

Ushijima scowled at his rice. “I guess.”

 

“I heard the sunsets are so colourful in Maldives. I’ll send one to you guys on the group chat! Every day while I’m there!”

 

“Thank you, Tendou,” Ushijima said sincerely. Turning to Tooru then, “What about you, Oikawa?”

 

“What about me?”

 

Tendou asked, “Are you going back home, or are you staying here?”

 

Tooru wrinkled his nose. “I haven’t decided yet.”

 

“Well, if you stay here it wouldn’t be so bad. There’s a Christmas party on the 24th at the commons, and everyone who doesn’t go home celebrate their Christmas there. It runs until the wee hours of the 25th and the school provides budget for food and drinks. But the real fun starts when the clock strikes 1am. Unlimited booze and lots of parties while the guardians go to bed!”

 

“Booze?” Tooru asked rather loudly.

 

“Shh!” Tendou hushed him, looking around to make sure there were no faculty members around. “Underage, remember?”

 

“Yeah,” Tooru whispered, “Exactly why…Booze?”

 

“The seniors managed to sneak them every year!”

 

“We are the seniors!”

 

“Oh, right! Time flies, huh?”

 

Tooru rolled his eyes. He still had not decided what he was going to do for the holidays but the choice was getting easier as the dates approached. He wanted nothing to do with Sendai if he was going to see Hajime, even if it meant not seeing his parents for Christmas. Selfish. Selfish. How selfish.

 

When he was finally back to his room, napping was the first best thing he thought of and he did just that, and when he woke up it was dark outside. Seven o’clock. He had a few texts from his mother. Squinting against the sudden brightness of his phone screen, he read the messages and got a headrush from abruptly sitting up. The messages said his dad had another business trip to Okinawa on the 22nd extending until the 5th of January next year and his mom was asking if he was going home for the break so that his father could arrange to include them two to his trip. Tooru typed a reply. It was perfect.

 

A minute after sending his text, his phone rang and his mother’s voice coloured with worry over the receiver.

 

“Honey, are you sure? You know I can stay at home with you if you’re coming back.”

 

“No!” Tooru exclaimed, and then, calmer, “No, mom. I will be fine. You and dad enjoy the vacation, okay? It’s been a while since you last went to one.”

 

He could almost hear his mother blushing on the other line. “Well, it’s not much of a vacation because your dad will be working on most of it. But are you really sure?”

 

“One hundred percent!”

 

“Alright,” his mother sighed. “I will tell the Iwaizumis about our plan so they can take you in if ever you decided to go home.”

 

“Mom! You’ll just bother them!” Tooru hadn’t considered that.

 

“Nonsense! You know they are always happy to see you, Tooru. Besides, it will ease me to know you’re with them while we are away. Hajime loves taking care of you.”

 

Goddammit. Tooru grumbled his assent.

 

“Your dad and I are going to be sad you won’t be there with us this Christmas, honey. But I guess we should start practicing, no? Soon, you will be in university and we will see you even less and – “

 

“Okay, mom. I will miss you guys too! Don’t start crying on me please!”

 

His mom laughed and Tooru felt himself smile. They said their goodbyes and his mother made him promise to check in as often as possible.

 

Tooru sighed when the call was finally done. He genuinely hoped his parents would enjoy their holidays and while he was relieved that he found the perfect excuse not to go home, he was quite sad that he would not be seeing them until next year.

 

A little more than a week before Christmas. He still hadn’t done his Christmas shopping. Maybe he should get to it before his parents left and have their presents shipped before the holiday rush. He also needed to buy something for Ushijima and Tendou. And he saw a funny-looking Godzilla mug the other day at the city centre that he was sure Iwa-chan would like –

 

Burying his face on his pillow, he wailed and whined as he stomped his feet up and down his mattress.

 

 

--

 

 

21 DECEMBER

 

14:36: hello

14:36: ur parents are leaving tomorrow

14:37: heard u’ll be spending xmas at the boarding school

14:40: mom said u can come here to spend xmas instead

14:41: she didn’t want u to spend the holiday alone in ur dorm

14:47: I don’t want u to spend the holiday locked up in ur room alone either

14:50: thank u for the present btw. using it now

14:51: tooru

14:51: please

14:56: when are u going to talk to me again?

 

 

--

 

 

22 DECEMBER

 

09:23: ur parents just left

09:25: mom and dad are still expecting u

09:26 are u coming home?

 

 

 

22:08: did u get my present?

22:09: sent it the other day

22:12: just worried it got lost

22:12: do u like it?

 

 

--

 

 

23 DECEMBER

 

13:04: it’s snowing

13:05: don’t slip

 

 

23:40: tooru

23:57: come on tooru

 

 

--

 

24 DECEMBER

 

01:26: merry xmas

 

 

11:18: mom made hagashi

 

 

12:35: dad said we can have a little sake if you come home

 

 

16:43: fuck, tooru

16:42: i can’t do this anymore

 

 

--

 

 

The loud music was not helping Tooru sleep away his headache. Electric bass was in time with the throbbing of his temple and Tooru wanted to go down to the party just so he could yell at every one to please keep fucking quiet because he was suffering. He was angry, frustrated. At himself. At Hajime.

 

The messages were unexpected. Unwelcomed.

 

He dared text Tooru for days and expected a reply from him when he knew the situation they were in? He dared say he could not do it anymore right after four days of messaging him consistently, making Tooru jumped every time his phone dinged. Tooru almost hid his phone under his bed but it was ridiculous because he knew it was there and every time a text appeared he would check it like the lovestruck person he was. Tooru was utterly angry he could not stop the tears from flowing the moment he read that last text.

 

The initial plan was to celebrate the holiday with his schoolmates at the basement, just like Tendou suggested, so that he would feel less lonely, especially now that the former and Ushijima left for their own vacations. Tooru decided it would be healthy to mingle with other people aside from the two and the Christmas party was the perfect opportunity for that.

 

But after the texts from Hajime, he deflated back to his old self, the one who couldn’t feel anything but emptiness and loss, the one who couldn’t paint, the one who didn’t know how to communicate. He thought for a moment to chat Ushijima and Tendou in their group chat and tell them what was going on, but the two had no idea about him and Hajime so he decided to wallow in pain. Alone. Like the usual.

 

Was Hajime playing with him? After months of no interaction, out of nowhere, he was texting Tooru again as if nothing happened? And then he got mad because Tooru did not answered him? His best friend was so full of bullshit and Tooru was angry.

 

His pettiness overflowing now, he couldn’t help but think Hajime only messaged him again because his parents were pestering him. That’s it. That’s most likely it. He wanted nothing to do with Tooru the moment Tooru ignored countless texts from him when Tooru left Sendai.

 

On top of the heavy bass and cheers he was hearing downstairs and the loud thumping of his head, Tooru heard his stomach grumbled. It was half-past eight and he ought to eat now. He thought of going down to get some food but he hated the thought of human contact at the moment. God, didn’t he wish he were an alien instead and coffee as a diet was enough to get him by.

 

Ransacking his little pantry and fridge, he found a day-old loaf, a box of milk and cup noodles, sat on his desk and began eating. The food was not so bad, but it was bad because it was his Christmas eve meal. He should have at least opted for a pizza delivery given he could afford it with the extra allowance he got from his parents, but then again, human contact.

 

He was done eating in a few minutes and, resolving into sleeping early since his mind was not properly functioning for a Yuletide celebration, he showered and brushed his teeth, ready to go to bed by 9:15 in the evening. Pathetic.

 

Just as he was about to turn off his lights and bury himself in the comfort of his blankets, loud knocks were heard outside his door and he grumbled to himself and huffed as he slid his slippers back on. If his schoolmates were to convince him to go down to the party, he was willing to give them a sack on their balls as a Christmas present. He was just not in the mood.

 

“What – “

 

Pulling the door open, Tooru stopped whatever he was saying and stared. Stared. And stared some more. His eyes were wide and he was certain his jaw was slacked open. Splashes of ebony and forest green hit his eyes and his knees shook, one hand on the doorknob, knuckles white, the other in a fist as he tried and fail to control his swirling emotions, his loud heart, his tears.

 

“Hi, Oikawa.”

 

Tooru let out a whoosh of breath.

 

Hajime stood in front of him. Watching, waiting. Waiting to see if Tooru would move first? He’s bound to wait forever then, as Tooru couldn’t so much as swallow.

 

Was he this weak for him? One moment he was angry at him and the next he wanted nothing more than to throw himself at Hajime and hug him tight but he couldn’t. Oh, Tooru couldn’t. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Couldn’t.

 

Tooru watched, struggling, as Hajime licked his lips nervously, red, very red, from the cold, it must have been. His grip on the strap of his backpack was tight, Tooru could tell, among other things he could tell. Hair longer, eyes so green yet dark, cheeks flushed. Taller. Oh, he did grow taller, but still a couple inches shorter than Tooru. He had his other hand inside his coat pocket and his eyes darted from Tooru to his dorm room and then back to Tooru.

 

“Merry Christmas?” He said, but it came out more as a question than a greeting. Tooru sniffed.

 

“Can I come in?”

 

That seemed to undo Tooru from his current stupor. Blurting, “Why are you here?”

 

The tone was flat, a little broken. His eyes never left Hajime. The other fidgeted where he stood.

 

“You were not answering my messages. May I come in, Oikawa?”

 

“I didn’t want to see you.”

 

A flash of anger, and then Hajime was sighing. “I need to talk to you. Please.” He said it with so much sincerity, Tooru could feel another bout of headache rushing in. He slid the door open, wider, and gestured for Hajime to go in.

 

Motioning for Hajime to sit on a chair in the corner just beside his desk, he turned his back so that he was facing his pantry again. He did not know what was going on, nor what was about to happen. Was Hajime here to tell him to forget what happened last time and demand his friendship back? Was he here for closure? Was he here to emphasise that his feelings for Tooru were purely platonic again? As if Tooru did not know that?

 

“I don’t have tea, but I have coffee,” he said.

 

He could hear Hajime’s frown when he said, “Just water is fine.” Health freak.

 

Tooru served him a cup of warm water before turning up the heater. It was freezing outside. He hated that he had to sit on his own bed gingerly, Hajime just a bit to his left. He did not know what to do with himself.

 

“I brought some food. Mom insisted.” Hajime said after taking off his coat and placing them beside his backpack on the floor, leaving him on a gray shirt that was a little tight on his chest. Tooru wanted to look away, but before he did, Hajime handed him containers in bright red furoshiki and Tooru took it awkwardly, then awkwardly stood to unwrap them on the desk, only a foot or so away from Hajime. He awkwardly arranged the food inside the fridge before sitting back on the mattress.

 

“You’re not going to eat them?”

 

Tooru shook his head. “Thanks. I just ate.” He was sure the foods were delicious but for pride, he was not going to eat them. Not when Hajime was still here.

 

“Oh.”

 

The whole situation screams awkward and Tooru hated everything about it. His bedsheet was suddenly the most interesting thing in the world given how intently he studied it.

 

Hajime cleared his throat. “Mom…and dad. They miss you.”

 

Tooru was silent.

 

And then, ”I miss you.”

 

He looked up at him so fast he almost got a whiplash. But those words made Tooru angry again. He glared at Hajime.

 

“It’s true," said the other.

 

“Bullshit,” Tooru hissed, then demanded, “What are you doing here?”

 

“I came here to see you.” As if it was the most obvious thing.

 

Tooru dragged his hand down his face, hard. Frustrated, he could only shake his head minutely.

 

Silence. Again.

 

“You’re free to leave anytime,” said Tooru. He made to lie down but Hajime’s voice stop him.

 

He said, “Oikawa. Please.”

 

Tooru all but raised his eyebrow.

 

“I don’t understand how to deal with you when you’re like this. You were never like this. Can we please just talk?” Desperate, equally frustrated, Hajime’s gaze burned on Tooru’s.

 

“What do we need to talk about, Iwa-chan?” He said it sarcastically, Hajime flinched. Good.

 

“We have so much to talk about, Oikawa. It’s been months since we last talk. You exude so much hostility about you. You weren’t usually like this and I hate that you’re like this. And to think that maybe you’re like this because of me makes me so angry with myself. I also can’t comprehend – what happened to us?”

 

“Do you really need me to remind you, then, Hajime? Or did you have selective memory and can’t remember what exactly happened to us?”

 

“No, it’s not that – “

 

“What, then?” Tooru said, voice a little higher. He was shaking again. He did not know why he was like this too. He was angry and sad and upset. Here was his best friend, visiting him, seeing him after months, but he was just pushing him away.

 

“You know exactly what happened, why we can’t be friends again. It’s hard for me, this is hard for me. Why are you even here? I was doing great until you messaged me days ago. You didn’t have to ruin it for me. I was doing fine. I was doing just fine.” A sob. His whole body wracked with it. His tears were coming back and he couldn’t stop them from falling this time.

 

A second later and there were arms around his shoulders, his face buried to a strong chest, the smell of spring and warmth. So much warmth. He could hear the heavy, steady thuds of a heart beating over his loud cries and he held on to Hajime’s shirt.

 

God, I love him. So much.

 

“Iwa-chan – please.”

 

“What is it, Oikawa?” Hajime’s hand was up on his head, fingering brown locks while his other hand rubbed random patterns to calm him down. It was not helping.

 

“Please, Iwa-chan. Let me be. Please.”

 

“Hm?”

 

Tooru’s fingers tighten on the front of the other’s shirt, despite himself. “Please. Leave me alone. I…I can’t do this. Please.”

 

The hands around him stopped, and Tooru thought, finally, and no, don’t stop. He was torn. Complete. Lost. Found.

 

And then the arms were back, embracing him tighter. “No.”

 

And Tooru was back to crying hard.

 

“Iwa-chan,” he managed to say. Then a little later, “If you leave now, I promise I will do better.” A hiccup, then, “We can be friends again. I just need time. Please. Just give me time. Promise. I'll forget. I'll forget."

 

He felt Hajime shaking his head against Tooru’s shoulder. The tears were not stopping.

 

“I can’t. I can’t do that, Oikawa. Don't do that. I miss you.”

 

“I can’t be friends with you.” Being friends with Hajime meant eternal suffering for Tooru. Suffering as they grew old and seeing Hajime settle down. A family, kids. A pretty house. Tooru watching from the sideline as his best friend kissed his wife hello and goodbye. He couldn’t. Couldn't couldn't couldn't.

 

“Don’t want to be friends with you.” Muffled against Tooru’s shirt. “I don’t want to be just friends with you, Tooru.”

 

“I’m sorry.” Tooru felt like an idiot for crying harder.

 

“No, you don’t understand.” Hajime pushed him away so he could look at Tooru’s face, tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes and snotty nose. He glanced at Hajime’s shirt; there was a wet mark on his chest. He had always been an ugly crier and Hajime teased him endlessly about it. But now Hajime did not look like he was going to tease him.

 

Hajime’s hands went up to hold his face, his thumbs brushing Tooru’s tears away from his reddened cheeks. Hajime’s expression was serious, his brows furrowed, making a v shape that Tooru had traced countless times before. His eyes glistened a bit, and he was biting his lower lip hard. Was he about to cry? Tooru wondered at the back of his mind.

 

Breathing in deep, then out, Hajime repeated, “I don’t want to be just friends with you. Will you listen as to why?” He searched Tooru’s eyes, and Tooru could only nod.

 

He already knew what Hajime was about to say. It was nothing he did not know before. He thought, this is it. This was how he was going to lose Hajime forever.

 

Hajime began, “When you confessed, I didn’t know what to do. I was stunned. I felt so many things at once and I was overwhelmed. And before I could respond, you were running away and you refused to talk and I got really distraught because I didn’t know what and how exactly to feel. When you said you love me – “ Tooru flinched. A pause. Then Hajime continued, “When you said you love me, the initial feeling I’ve had was joy. Then I got afraid. Confused. Then angry, because you kept it for so long. I didn’t understand why that made me angry so I got confused again and it felt like every single emotion was battling inside me. It wasn’t until I learned from your mom that you went to Shiratorizawa that I feel something else.”

 

Tooru had stopped crying. He was listening intently, but he couldn’t look Iwa-chan in the eye. He didn’t know where he was going with this.

 

“I texted you alot I thought you got annoyed that’s why you weren’t replying at all. But then it came to me: you needed space. You needed time. So, I gave you those things without actually telling you. At that time, I still haven’t figured it out completely. I focused all my energy in club and school. I made sure to train hard. Then we had a match with Shiratorizawa and I thought it was finally time to see you again and I promised myself that I would talk to you then. I kept searching for you in the crowd. I was hoping I would bump into you when I went for a quick walk around the gym’s gardens an hour before the warm ups. I was starting to worry because you weren’t there. Were you sick? Were you away? Out of town for a competition? I didn’t know. We were so out of loop with each other, I wasn’t used to it. I used to memorise your every day schedule, you know?” Tooru rubbed an eye dry before glancing up at Hajime, and the other let out a small smile.

 

“We lost. And everyone was down as I herded my teammates back to the bus. I was disappointed at myself, not only because we lost but mostly because you weren’t there. Just when I thought I wouldn’t see you, I found you walking across the street. You were on your Shiratorizawa gym uniform and I thought teal and white suited you better and I wanted to burn your jacket.” Hajime chuckled, voice deep and rich. Tooru felt breathless.

 

“I called you several times but you were wearing your headphones. You didn’t hear me as you crossed the street, closer and closer to me. You turned to a different direction, but before that I was able to see a glimpse of your face, much closer this time, and my heart broke.

 

“You were so thin, Tooru! What were you doing to yourself? Your cheeks were hollowed, lips cracked, there were dark circles under your eyes and your hair – your hair was unruly! You were so pale, I thought you were sick. I was about to run to you but then my coach called for me to get in the bus and that was when the guilt rushed in. I did that, I thought. You were like that because of me. My heart was throbbing because I wanted to hug you and I wanted to feed you lots of good food and take care of you until you were back to my old, dumbass Oikawa and that’s when I stopped. Because I called you mine inside my head which was ridiculous but it felt right – shit, I’m embarrassing.”

 

Tooru let out another breath, laughing a little. “Iwa-chan, get to the point please.” He watched as Hajime’s cheeks flushed.

 

“Right, so,” Hajime cleared his throat. “After that I went on to reflect on my feelings and my life – “

 

“Did you go to a shrine?” Tooru asked, eyes glinting.

 

“No, dumbass! Shut up.” His scowl deepened, then, “I think, to make this short, I want to say that you aren’t the only one feeling these things and that I may have felt these before, too. Even before you confessed but I decided to ignore it because I thought us being friends were enough but it was apparently not for you, and now it wasn’t enough for me too and I want something else and I’m sure you do too and if you would still have me? I know I should apologise and I really am sorry for putting you into this emotional shit and it’s hard. So, what I'm really saying is that if you still feel for me what I feel for you then I think it’s a good idea that we –”

 

“Jesus, Iwa-chan, just say you love me too!”

 

If Hajime was the only one blushing a moment ago, now Tooru was too.

 

“Well,” said Hajime.

 

“Well?” Tooru fought to keep his blush in check.

 

“You’re right,” Hajime said. “I’m that, dumbass.”

 

Tooru hit him with a pillow, but Hajime was an athlete and had fast reflexes, so he was able to catch the pillow, tossed it away and in one motion had his arms around Tooru again. Tooru could melt the amd there.

 

Whispering against Tooru’s ear, Hajime’s voice was lower, huskier, full of emotions. “I love you. I’m so sorry I am late. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that alone. I’m in love with you too, Tooru.”

 

His shoulders shook again, and he couldn’t help himself this time, he pulled away from Hajime only to crawl up the other’s lap and bury his face on the nook between his shoulder and neck.

 

“Don’t cry, please.”

 

“These are happy tears.” Muffled and breathless.

 

A kiss on his temple. Another whispered I love you.

 

“Should we go and sleep? All that crying must have been exhausting,” Hajime asked after a while, when Tooru was done crying and Hajime’s shirt was soaking wet.

 

“No, I want to stay awake. A little longer.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“Come on, let’s lie down.” He easily lifted Tooru off his lap, as if Tooru weighed nothing. Tooru could only stare as Hajime went under the covers and lifted one side, indicating for Tooru to follow.

 

“Are we going to have sex?” Tooru asked. Then, realizing what he said, balked. Hajime choked.

 

“W-what?”

 

“Ha ha, just kidding?”

 

“You dumbass!”

 

“Sorry!” Tooru went under the sheets, covering himself from head to toe. Then, shyly, he peeked out of it, exposing only his eyes. Hajime’s gaze was heavy on him, he discovered. Swallowed. Feeling his face warming, he murmured, “We haven’t even kissed yet.”

 

Hajime’s eyes widened, then narrowed. Tooru’s heart was beating fast and before he knew it, he was being pressed on the mattress with Hajime on top of him, hovering over his face, arms on either side of his head. Tooru gulped. Holy shit.

 

Their noses were touching, and Tooru’s eyes were almost double-crossed but he couldn’t stop looking at the minute greens of Hajime’s eyes, almost gone with how dark they’ve become. If Tooru moved ever so, their lips would touch, finally. Finally –

 

“I’ve imagined this so many times before,” Hajime said. Then, “Can I kiss you?”

 

Trying not to sound desperate, Tooru said, “Please.”

 

There was a pull, then they were kissing. And god, was it glorious. Heady. Tooru never felt anything like it. Were there fireworks? Angels singing? Flowers in the background? No, there were none. But it was extraordinary. It was more than those things.

 

More. More, Tooru wanted more. Hajime licked his lower lip, making Tooru gasped and then their tongues were touching. Warm. Hot. Tooru was feverish. He was pushing and Hajime was pushing and it felt good, so good. Tooru pulled on Hajime’s hair and Hajime groaned, angling his head to the side to kiss Tooru better, oh god it was so much better. And Tooru was gasping, panting, Hajime was pulling away from him only to come back and nip at his jaw, down his neck, licking the soft skin there then back at his lips again.

 

“Hajime,” said Tooru. Hajime gave him a peck. Then another. And another. To his cheek, his jaw, the back of his ear. Tooru bucked up his hips against the other’s and Hajime let out a groan, deep and vibrating and sending shivers down Tooru’s spine. It did something to him. Something. Tooru needed. Oh, Tooru needed.

 

“Hajime,” he said again. Gasped. “Hajime.”

 

“What is it?” Hajime murmured, busying himself on Tooru’s neck.

 

“I need – please.”

 

“What is it?”

 

Tooru whined, rocked his hips again. “Please.”

 

Then the warmth was gone. Hajime was gone. Tooru looked to his side and Hajime was seated to his left, a handspan away, breathing heavily. Staring at him. “What – " His voice broke.

 

“Iwa-chan…”

 

Hajime closed his eyes. “Tooru, no.”

 

“Why not?” Tooru heard himself whine. He’s embarrassing himself.

 

“Because.”

 

“Because?”

 

“It’s not right…?”

 

“Bullshit, Iwa-chan.”

 

“No, no. It’s right. I just. Are you sure?”

 

“Are you not?”

 

Hajime glared at him. “Don’t think I want this less than you do, Tooru.”

 

“Then why?”

 

Sighing, Hajime ran his fingers through his dark hair. It didn’t help Tooru’s predicament. Hajime leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Because I want to do this right.”

 

“What?”

 

Blushing, the other said, “We don’t have anything. At the moment. And we need those things. I think. If we’re doing this.” He coughed.

 

“Oh,” was all Tooru said, finally understanding.

 

“Let’s go to sleep.”

 

“What, no!” Tooru exclaimed. He didn’t want this night to end, and if he slept he’s going to do just that. End the night.

 

Hajime laughed. “Talk then.”

 

“Yes, talk. Then kiss. Some more.”

 

“That too.” Hajime said, “And if you still think it’s a good idea. We can do it tomorrow.”

 

Tooru’s eyes widened, then he grinned. “It? You mean – “

 

“Yes, that, yes! Geez, you’re embarrassing.”

 

Tooru laughed, and it was a happy sound he almost surprised himself. But not really. With Hajime here with him, happy was just right. Understatement.

 

“You haven’t told me if you like my Christmas present for you," said Hajime.

 

Humming and smiling cheekily, he nodded. He wasn’t thinking of the new artist grade paint set he got the other day. There was nothing to think about except the person beside him.

 

This. This was the most perfect gift in the world, Tooru thought.