“And you, you were the one I treated the worst
Only because you loved me the most”
- Grace, Florence and the Machine
He looks at him like he put the stars in the sky and Oikawa is terrified. Terrified of the weight of that look, of the weight of that love.
If he gave in, if he embraced Tobio in his entirety, how would he ever recover from the loss—the inevitable day when Tobio finally has enough, finally comes to his senses and realizes Oikawa was never that Grand to begin with.
He doesn’t think he’d be able to recover from a love like that. So he doesn’t try—try to return his feelings, reply to his texts, or stay past the night. He leaves Tobio waiting, wanting.
But Oikawa was never good at denying himself things. He keeps Tobio at arm’s length, close enough to play pretend but still let go the instant things feel too real, too close, too much.
Dating in high school was simple, no strings attached, college just around the corner. It was painless to let go the first time, to pack up his things and leave Miyagi and Tobio behind.
He doesn’t expect it to hurt so much the second time. It’s winter break, a short visit back home and coincidentally Tobio’s eighteenth birthday. He pops by, out of boredom, or perhaps old habit. Tobio opens the door on the third knock and Oikawa feels his breath knocked out of him with the gust of warm air. He’s taller, standing on equal footing now but his eyes are still the same sharp blue and his mouth a tight line that curls up at the edges when he recognizes him.
“Happy birthday!” Oikawa says, his voice a sharp falsetto once he finds his breath again.
Tobio leans in to kiss him and Oikawa lets him. He pulls back, cheeks red and flushed, perhaps in part from the cold air that seeps through the open doorway, where Oikawa still lingers. “I missed you,” Tobio says, the words breathy and full of longing and Oikawa swallows down the lump in his throat. “Come inside?”
Oikawa shakes his head, instead gives him a trinket, something small and inexpensive that caught his eye on the way out the airport terminal. He didn’t even bother to wrap it but Tobio takes it anyways, holding it in his hands like Oikawa’s given him the world.
It comes as no surprise when Tobio follows him to Tokyo the following year. It’s partway through the semester and Tobio is sitting beside him at the local cafe, their ankles tangled beneath the table. Tobio’s hand is warm atop of Oikawa’s, his fingers tapping along to the tune trilling through the speakers.
Tobio’s phone rings and he answers with, “I can’t hang out right now. I’m with my boyfriend.” The word slips past his lips so easily, the sound of it so sweet and sudden that Oikawa can no longer hear the speakers, just the steady thumping of his heart.
Oikawa stands, a forged excuse on the tip of his tongue and his feet running the second they hit the pavement. The blast of autumn air is the only thing holding back the wave of panic and nausea from hitting him in full force until he can collapse upon the entryway of his dorm.
He ignores Tobio for a month, turns his phone off after the first week and takes a calculated route to class, bypassing any of their usual haunts. He only dares to brave the bakery, his desire to eat the weight of his feelings in custard buns nearly overwhelming him. He hates himself for feeling disappointed when the shop door rings, and he turns around only to see a stranger.
He doesn’t expect it when Tobio shows up outside his class one afternoon, says Iwaizumi—that traitor—gave him his schedule. Oikawa realizes then that Tobio is still as persistent as that day in middle school, his eyes just as fierce as they were back then, with a volleyball clutched tightly between small hands.
Oikawa lies, it’s easy once you do it enough. He had finals, the flu, his phone broke. The list is extensive at this point.
They get back together—they were never broken up to begin with as Tobio would say. Oikawa thinks back to a Facebook post, a terrible meme of dogs thrown in a car trunk and excited upon their owners return, seemingly unaware they were the ones who put them there in the first place. He wonders when Tobio will catch on.
It doesn’t seem to be any time soon. It’s the fourth, maybe fifth time—he’s beginning to lose track—that he’s ended things. Oikawa storms out of Tobio’s apartment with hardly a word, simply stomps his way down the staircase and slams the door shut behind him. It’s Tobio’s fault this time, Oikawa thinks to himself, for going and ruining it all with those three little words.
“I love you.”
It stings, like an open wound, and Oikawa pours himself another drink, shooting it back like an antiseptic for his battered heart.
He wonders, briefly, if Tobio has given up at last. His phone stops ringing after the third week. The second month passes and Oikawa walks the halls again without eyeing every doorway and campus corridor, looking for a head of raven black hair and fidgeting footsteps.
He happens upon him by mistake. Forgets to take an alternate route to the bus stop, turning the corner and stopping dead in his tracks. He sees Tobio smiling through the glass windowpane of the little Mom and Pop restaurant they used to frequent. His old Karasuno classmates are with him, the blonde girl and that boy with the glasses and permanent scowl sitting on either side of him.
Oikawa shifts his weight from foot to foot, observing him until Tobio turns in his bar stool, catching Oikawa’s eye in his peripherals. He thinks to run, to dart as far down the street as he can make it but Tobio is quicker, already standing in the doorway before Oikawa can move an inch.
“Oikawa?” Tobio’s voice is soft, reverent. His hand reaches towards Oikawa’s shoulder with a touch so light, it is as if he thinks Oikawa will shatter like an illusion beneath his fingertips.
“Tobio-chan,” Oikawa grins, unsure if it reaches his eyes.
He doesn’t know what possesses him to follow Tobio inside, his stomach perhaps, groaning in hunger as he hovers his finger along the menu items.
“The usual,” Tobio orders in his stead. “I’ll pay,” he says, placing his hand atop Oikawa’s when he reaches for his wallet.
Oikawa follows him home that night but he can come up with no excuse for the action this time, not yet willing to admit to the feeling welling up inside him as Tobio grabs his hand and leads him inside.
Tobio looks at him and he aches. He feels constellations bloom in the dark and dusty corners of his chest as Tobio brushes his fingertips along his spine. Bright beams of light burst from within him when their lips touch and dance behind his vision. He feels infinite, the depth of his feelings near immeasurable with each press of their bodies beneath the sheets.
Yet he awakens cold, small, and insignificant once more. The light of day leaving him washed out in a dull shade of melancholy.
He watches Tobio, his breath causing the rise and fall of his hair like blades of grass in the wind. He wonders idly how long they’ll last this time. Wonders if he’ll be able to quell the urge to run for long enough that Tobio will be the one to leave for a change.
Oikawa stays that morning, his first time watching the rise of the sun from Tobio’s apartment window. He traces the outline of Tobio’s jaw with the tip of his finger, the edges of him softer in the morning light, the harsh line of Tobio’s brows smoothed in slumber. He drops his hand, feeling restless lingering in a bed that is not his own.
He makes his way to the kitchen, familiarizes himself with the cupboards and the meager contents of the fridge. When Tobio finally pads his way into the hall, he greets him with a plate of eggs that weren’t quite expired and instant miso served in a tall glass since all the bowls lie abandoned in the sink. Oikawa’s heart leaps into his throat, when he notices Tobio rubbing sleep from the corner of his eyes with the sleeve of one of Oikawa’s sweaters that hangs loose across his shoulders and grazes the top of his bare thighs.
Tobio says a muffled, “Good morning,” his voice hoarse with the remnants of sleep and Oikawa leans in to steal his lips.
They settle into a rhythm. It starts unintentionally, small spontaneous visits after practice matches, a spare toothbrush left on the bathroom counter, an extra set of clothes upon the dresser. It’s not until half the contents of Tobio’s closet are Oikawa’s belongings and he is casually handing him a spare key over breakfast, that he realizes what is happening.
“No need to rush,” Tobio says with a kiss to his cheek, dropping the small piece of metal into Oikawa’s open palm. “Just lock up behind you when you leave.”
When his lease ends that year, Oikawa lets the question slip past his tongue, the cursory invitation weighing heavy on his chest as he awaits Tobio’s reply.
Tobio lifts a pile of boxes up the flight of stairs, the arch of his bowed back catching Oikawa’s eye as they take their first step into their shared flat.
“When’s the wedding?” Hanamaki jokes one evening when they’ve gathered for drinks with the old team. “You’ve been together what, over five years now?” Longer than that, Oikawa thinks, if he were to count their first kiss in the Kitagawa gymnasium.
He laughs off the remark, pulls his drink to his lips to hide the sudden frown as the realization sinks in.
He feels it. Feels the burn in his chest the next day when he sees Tobio draped across the back of the couch, his head tipped back to catch Oikawa’s lips as he walks into the room. The sound of the TV is muffled, some newscaster giving a rundown of a college game. They don’t speak, just sit shoulder to shoulder, their knees bumping as Oikawa plops down beside him, pulling out his phone and scrolling through his feed. Oikawa tries to remember what it was like, the silence that comes with living alone, but his memory is hazy.
Tobio pulls out a chair for dinner that night, the wood creaking in protest against the kitchen tiles. He hunches over, practically inhales his bowl of rice and it hits Oikawa, that he can’t imagine the seat unoccupied.
The realization feels irreversible, like he’s gone too far, swam too deep and can no longer see the shore.
His hands shake, his chopsticks clattering against the tabletop. Tobio calls after him, worry laced in his tone as Oikawa excuses himself and races to the bathroom. He falls to his knees, face pressed to the cool tile of the bathtub as his vision whirls. He doesn’t realize he’s sobbing until he feels Tobio’s arms around him, the edges of his sleeve damp with tears.
Tobio doesn’t ask about the outburst, perhaps finally immune after years of dealing with Oikawa’s odd behaviors. Although Tobio holds him just a little bit tighter that night, his presence both a blessing and a curse once Oikawa realizes he can’t imagine an empty bed, either.
Iwaizumi notices—the way Oikawa begins to rattle like a snake, too many nerves bundled together tightly. He confronts him about it over coffee one morning, his voice gruff and maybe a bit concerned.
“What’s up with you? You’re being weird—weirder than usual.”
“I love him,” Oikawa whispers into the rim of his mug. The first time he’s admitted it aloud. “I’m in love with him.”
“Then don’t fuck it up this time,” Iwaizumi growls, but there’s fondness behind his eyes.
Oikawa sighs, slumping across the café table.
He waits until Tobio is asleep that night, the words tumbling out of his mouth like a prayer.
He rolls over, throws the sheets across his face to hide the way his cheeks flare and burn with the admission. Fingertips pull at the edge of the blanket and a voice whispers so faintly he thinks he’s dreamt it.
“Say it again.”
Oikawa looks up to Tobio hovering above him, his eyes gleaming in the dark.
He licks his lips, and when he speaks his throat clenches around the words like he’s swallowing glass.
Tobio kisses him, fierce, ravenous with yearning.
It’s easier to say, when Oikawa’s breathless, near delirious with the taste of Tobio upon his lips. “I love you,” he gasps a second time and then a third.
The words pour out of him like a broken dam, cascading down his lips and into the crook of Tobio’s neck, each syllable punctuated with a kiss.
“I love you.”
Oikawa feels as if he is going to burst at the seams, explode right on the spot as he steps foot into the store. The rows of jewels sparkle at him mockingly, taunting him from behind their glass cases.
His hands shake as he points at the item behind the counter. The clerk eyes him wearily but hands him the box regardless. Oikawa feels the sense of finality as he swipes his credit card, the weight of the package in his pocket like a heavy stone plunging him into the depths of a river.
Oikawa forgets to breathe, the sky pressing down around him, as he takes Tobio’s hand in his own outside the stadium gates. He worries his lip, a part of him aware that if he doesn’t say it now then he never will. Their date that night is like any other, the match they witnessed forgettable at best, but something about the moment feels right—like the stars have aligned and given their blessing.
He ignores the crowds of people swarming by, a sea of empty faces compared to the startled look upon Tobio’s own as Oikawa gets to one knee. His hands are clumsy as he reaches for the ring in his pocket and he can’t steady the shake in his fingertips as he opens up the little black box.
Tobio is silent and he fears for a moment that he made a massive mistake, feels his legs tense with the old urge to run and hide. But Tobio buries his face in the crook of his arm, his voice hoarse as he croaks out the word, “Yes!”
Oikawa chokes on the nervous laugh that bubbles out from his chest. Of course he agreed. When has Tobio ever said no.
Oikawa wipes at his own eyes before chastising Tobio, “Don’t cry, you big baby.”
He feels like he’s been broken into a million pieces and soldered back together as Tobio takes him into his arms. He’s stronger, reformed into something new and worthy as Tobio kisses him in public, the shine of the ring golden like a victory upon his finger.