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Genuine source: https://archiveofourown.org/works/25402684
Italy is different. Italy is big and grand in ways Miyagi wasn’t. In ways the entirety of Japan wasn’t.
The people, the language, the culture; how most of the people Tobio has met since he moved here are tactile and affectionate in ways that go beyond the touches Tobio has learned how to tolerate and welcome over the years.
He was used to the high fives Tanaka-san taught him, and the myriad of pats and hugs that Bokuto-san and Atsumu constantly pulled him into when the national team members were within the vicinity of each other.
The way Shouyou or Kourai would try to jump on his back after a hard-won match, thighs squeezing Tobio’s waist as they try to ruffle Tobio’s hair. The way Wakatoshi would place a hand on his shoulder, sometimes even giving a quick double-pat followed by a nod if he thinks Tobio's outdone himself.
The ways his ex teammates sought and gave comfort; how Tadashi’s hand, cold and sweaty, used to circle around Tobio’s wrist before their every match during the final year they carried Karasuno's name. The way Kei’s fingers would briefly curl around Tobio’s nape in the middle of the court, his palm warm and heavy against his skin, anchoring Tobio to the present and preventing him from spiraling away with his thoughts.
He grew used to Hitoka’s way of saying goodbye when the group parted during the nights they met after they graduated - her lips pressing against their cheeks before reaching up to pat them on the head with a ‘send a message in the chat when you’re home, ok?’ like she’s afraid they’ll get lost.
Italy is lovely and his new team is great and they’re welcoming and inviting and Tobio has never been touched this much before in all his life.
There are quick air-kisses on the cheeks when they say hello and when they say goodbye.
“Left first,” their libero, Samuele, instructs on the second night they manage to get Tobio to join them for after practice drinks. Samuele pulls Tobio closer and demonstrates how to greet with il bacetto properly. “Then right.”
The other starting members grin at Tobio’s shocked face, chortling at the bright red of his face after they too exchange hugs and air kisses with the others.
Two of the other imports that came before Tobio — an American wing spiker named Aaron, and a Filipino middle blocker named David — chortles loudly and pulls Tobio in.
“You’ll get used to it,” they say placatingly before moving towards Giovanni, their opposite hitter, and doing the same. “Bring our youngest home safely, Gio! Ciao!”
Tobio is wine-tipsy and leaning his weight on the opposite hitter he's just starting to get used to as they make their way to Gio's car.
The floaty way he's feeling reminds him of the the first time he got drunk. Sixteen, and they've just stolen a bottle of sake from Kei's older brother. Sixteen and blaming himself for the match they lost, effectively placing them on third place and ending their collective dream of becoming champions playing with thisteam next to these people.
He remembers the loudness of Shouyou’s laughter against his ribs as the four of them stumbled towards Tobio’s house. The way Tadashi hissed at them to keep their voices down as he tried to concentrate on sticking the keys he pried from Tobio’s pockets into the keyhole of Tobio’s big empty house in Miyagi. The way Kei raised both middle fingers up the air to the neighbour who peeked at them, deftly keeping Tobio up with an arm around his waist.
But Tobio isn't in Miyagi. He isn't in Japan.
Tobio is wine-tipsy in Italy and it isn't Kei's arm supporting him and there isn't a hint of Shouyou's laughter, nor is there a hiss from Tadashi, or a promise of paracetamol from Yachi the next day.
"Fuck," he whispers under his breath after Gio helps him slide down the passenger seat. Tobio squeezes his eyes shut and swallows the sudden lump in his throat as he leans against the cold surface of the window.
"What's that mean, Tobio?" Gio asks, shifting the gear to reverse and pulling them out from the parking space after Tobio typed his address on Gio's Waze app.
"Fuck," he repeats in English this time, drained of everything and suddenly too tired. "It means fuck."
Gio snorts quietly, his eyebrows raising in disbelief as he briefly tilts his head so he can face Tobio. "You shouldn't swear, mio caro."
"Mio caro?" Tobio asks after a moment, curious of the word he hasn't heard before. "Means?"
"My dear," Gio says before grinning at him conspiratorially. "And you can say che palle instead of fuck. Means—how they say—ugh! Like bad day and it sucks balls."
"Che palle." Tobio repeats and Gio gives him a thumbs up in approval accompanied by a pat on his shoulder.
They take a right on Via San Silverio and the Waze voice says 'Arrivati' just as Tobio motions for Gio to stop on the left by the small unassuming door of the complex.
He almost face-plants on the sidewalk as he steps out of the car and gestures to Gio in a way that he hopes conveys I'm okay, don't switch off the engine.
"Oyasumi," Gio says haltingly to the half-opened window a few seconds after Tobio manages to stand outside without needing to lean against Gio's car.
"Uh," Tobio says dumbly, his lips curls up in a surprised smile. "Buonasera."
He's still standing there like an idiot when he feels his phone buzz in his pocket. And when he taps the notification curiously, he finds that he's been added to the Ali Roma group chat, his new teammates bidding him goodnight.
Tobio has friends!
Tobio settles in nicely over the next couple of months. His sets are getting more and more accurate for his spikers. His tongue doesn’t stumble between L’s and R’s as much as he did before, and his teammates have pried all the Nihongo swear words they could learn from Tobio’s limited vocabulary in exchange for the swear words they taught him.
He says “ciao” and learns to say “pronto” upon picking up the phone. He doesn’t really socialise much, but he relents once in a while, knowing how important it is to build relationships with his teammates beyond the usual banter in court.
He regularly gets aperitivo with the team once a week and finds that he’s grown a little used to having vino with every meal. Once a month, one of his teammates will invite them over to their own homes for dinner.
David, the only other Asian in their team, laughs at the look on Tobio’s face when Tobio sees properly cooked rice next to a dish that looks a bit like curry on the dining table in David’s house.
“Rice?” David offers teasingly, taking the bowl of rice from the centre before Gio and the others can get their greedy hands on it.
Tobio nods eagerly, and proceeds to quietly declare David as his favourite and agrees when David jokingly says Tobio better give him all of his sets.
The last batch of his things from Japan arrives in his new two-bedroom apartment a day before he’s meant to leave for Milan for his first official match as Ali Roma's setter. The box is eight whole months late because his sister was too lazy to actually do him the favour of getting it picked up from his room at the Adlers’ dorm after Kourai and Sokolov voluntarily packed it for him.
He’s a little wary of them voluntarily doing things so he takes a moment to stand there and stare at the box, wondering if he should ignore it for now.
Five minutes of him failing to concentrate on packing and folding his jerseys later, he throws in the towel and gets a knife from the kitchen so he can tear through what seems to be five layers of packing tape that he’s sure Kourai and Sokolov cackled upon.
Then he sees that each of the contents in the box are bubblewrapped and he grits his teeth in annoyance.
Shitheads, he thinks, knifing through the packaging again until everything is neatly packaging-free.
He sorts through his stuff mixed with what he assumes are Heiwajima’s socks, a stiff and gross Adlers towel that probably belonged to Kourai, a book on gardening that probably belonged to Wakatoshi, a porn magazine from Hirugami, his old and loose Setter Soul shirt that Sokolov wore after Wakatoshi threw up on him when they once got shitfaced in Tobio’s hotel room in Hong Kong, and a tiny snow globe from Rio that he remembers once resided in Romero’s locker.
He’s going to gut Kourai and Sokolov next time he sees them.
Then he looks at the four framed photos and his hand trembles. He looks at his hand in betrayal wondering if something’s wrong with it. Maybe he needs more potassium?
Tobio spends about a minute just looking at the frames before standing up and placing them side by side on the empty console table facing the front door. Then he gets back to packing his things, ignoring the warm feeling blooming from his chest.
Three days and a match successfully won later, he stumbles into his apartment and freezes when he sees the framed photos again.
The faces of the Adlers look up at him from one of the frames, all of them surrounding and pointing at where Tobio was apparently sleeping with his mouth open while leaning heavily against Wakatoshi’s shoulder. Wakatoshi was the only one kind enough to settle with a thumbs up. Everyone else looked fucking dumb.
He should probably text Kourai and Sokolov and his sister that the box arrived.
Next to the Adlers’ photo sits the frame that has Karasuno’s VBC members from the first nationals that they ever attended during Tobio’s freshman year. The same photo that Tobio printed out after officially joining the Adlers because he wanted to have Karasuno in there with him or something.
The next one is a photo of them on Tobio’s second time representing Japan in the Olympics, the shirts blazing red, and their faces lit up with victory from a hard match against Argentina. Shouyou was clinging to him, looking up at him in awe from where his arms are wrapped around his torso. Atsumu has a hand on his head. Tobio remembers the way Atsumu screamed when Tobio won them the match with a setter dump, Tobio’s eyes meeting Oikawa-san’s from across the net.
And the last one, the biggest one, is a signed photo of Kourai and Sokolov making dumb duckfaces that they probably took on the day they packed Tobio’s things. It has ‘To Tobio, For your spank bank. Kourai & Tatsuto’ written on it in English.
Tobio tilts his head to the side then nods to himself. He's going to do this. Yup.
He drops his duffle bag, toes off his shoes, and carries the framed photo to his bathroom and places it on the counter.
He pulls out his phone, takes off his shirt, shorts, and underwear, then takes a frowning mirror selfie with Kourai’s framed photo conveniently covering his junk. Then he fires the selfie off to Adlers group chat followed by a “Thanks, bitch,” so Kourai and Sokolov know how appreciative he is of their bullshit.
When he wakes up from his 10 hour nap the next day, his phone has half a dozen more notifications than normal from the 5 separate group chats with his new and old teammates and from the previously inactive Setters 201X that he has with Akaashi-san and the other setters he met during camp over the years.
“Shit,” he mutters, quickly scrolling through his group chat with Kei, Shouyou, Hitoka, and Tadashi looking for what triggered the barrage of LOL OMG . There he finds multiple linked articles with his name on the headlines, and a screenshot that Shouyou sent over about six hours ago. He ignores the messages of his dipshit batchmates in the group chat that are just variations of laughter and taunting.
The screencap is of the three hundred thousand likes on Kourai’s new instagram post proudly displaying the mirror selfie Tobio sent him with a caption that says “Miss you too, honeybunch!”.
He sees Iwaizumi-san's comment on the post within the screenshot, a brief "Oh no, what have you done to my kouhai?" followed by the crying-with-laughter emoji.
Then he sees Oikawan-san's comment that just says "WTF". Below it is a "Tobio, are you alright?" from Wakatoshi.
“Hoshiumi Kourai, I will kill you,” Tobio hisses into the voice recording that he sends to the Adlers group, but the effect is lost when he couldn't keep the laughter from his voice. "I will kill you."
On a random week sometime in his 9th month living in Italy, Tobio finds himself unable to sleep for the third night in a row.
This has never happened before. Not even when he was supposed to be experiencing jet lag during the first few days after he moved.
He feels vaguely frustrated about it, tossing and turning uselessly in his bed and trying to ignore the oddly specific things he’s been craving for and how for some odd reason, the cravings were the reason why his brain won't let him rest.
Two nights ago, it was udon and not just any udon that Tobio can easily substitute with food from some Japanese restaurant in Rome. No. It was the specific bowl of beef udon with raw egg from that random hole-in-the-wall in Shibuya that Kei brought them to when the Sendai Frogs team were in Tokyo.
Tobio groaned into his pillow, annoyed at himself as his brain supplied him with random bits and pieces of that day. Like the phone call from Kei in the afternoon where Kei pompously declared ‘I know you’re free tonight, King. Let’s get udon’ before texting Tobio very detailed instructions on how to get to the restaurant inclusive of a Google Maps link.
Things like the colour of the jacket Tobio put on as he walked out of the Adlers’ dorm at 5PM.
His brain even generously supplied him with the loud offended squawk from Kourai when Tobio staunchly told him he’s not invited.
He remembered jogging from the station to the restaurant where Kei and someone vaguely familiar met him by the entryway.
Remembered Kei reintroducing Kyoutani to him as they made their way to the table.
How Kyoutani started to relax after Tobio exchanged a few friendly jibes with Kei over their second bowl, and how Tobio barked out a surprised laugh when Kyoutani shared the story of Hanger Tooru after Kei retold the story of that one time Shouyou and Tobio knocked the wig off of their high school principal’s head.
“You weren’t even there,” Tobio grunted before stealing a gyoza from Kei’s plate in retaliation.
Kei had shrugged, his mouth curved into a grin as he gracefully put two more gyozas from his meal on Tobio’s plate.
That particular udon wasn’t even delicious and Tobio didn’t get why he lost sleep craving for it.
The next night - the night before, he wanted Pretz so badly he ended up ordering a whole box of them from Amazon before aggressively swiping the app away when he noticed that it won't arrive on his doorstep until five days later.
He complained to Tadashi about it on the group chat and received three different photos of boxes of Pretz sitting idly on the shelves of three different Family Marts.
He really doesn't know why he's friends with these dumbasses.
He was about to respond with a haha when Shouyou butted in with a voice message.
A second later, Shouyou's I MISS YOU ALL SO MUCH echoed in Tobio’s bedroom, quickly followed by a text that says ‘Bakayama, why are you awake at 5am? ’
Tobio rolled his eyes and tried to mentally convey his disdain from Italy to Brazil then texted Shut up, Hinata Dumbass.
He watched even more of their responses as they came, the light of his phone the only spot of brightness in the darkness that blanketed his bedroom.
He got zero amount of sleep again and paid for it when he missed 95% of his sets during the practice match.
“Dude, what the hell?” Aaron yelled after the 12th time Tobio fumbled the ball within the one game, Aaron having to adjust mid-air. Tobio’s pretty sure that Aaron is sort of a 201cm tall, blonde-haired, blue eyed American frat boy version of Kourai and resolves to do everything necessary to never let the two meet.
Tobio glared at Aaron then apologised to him and the team after they get trashed by the visitors with 2-0.
"You owe us dinner," Aaron said, eyes narrowed. "That was a shit play."
Tobio nodded, tensing at the thought of not being able to go home immediately.
"Not tonight, Tobs," Aaron huffed, the irritation bleeding out of his posture as he reached out to ruffle Tobio's hair. "You look like shit. I'm driving you home."
Gio and Samuele parts from them when they reach the car park, wrapping their tired arms around Tobio and Aaron before moving towards Gio's car.
Two hours later, David dropped by his apartment and shoved two still-warm Tupperwares into Tobio's hand by the doorway.
"It's Pork Adobo - a Filipino staple. With properly cooked rice." David explained before Tobio can ask. "I used my fingers and everything."
"Oh," then Tobio remembered his manners and stepped away from the door to invite David in. "Want some tea?"
"Nah, I already ate my fill," David replied with a knowing look on his face. "Forgot that the missus and the kids are back home and not, you know, here in Italy with me so there's a lot of leftover. Figured only another Asian brother would appreciate it."
"Ah," Tobio said, vaguely remembering how far David's condominium is from there. He tries to process the fact that David probably drove a whole 30 minutes just to drop food off for Tobio. Food that he cooked. "Thank you."
"Sure, Tobs. Try to get some sleep, huh?" David whispered, leaning forward so that he and Tobio can go through the whole routine of one-armed hugs and left-first-then-right air kisses on the cheek goodbye.
Tobio is still thinking about the entire exchange five hours later when he drops his exhausted body in bed after a long hot bath.
That, coupled with the sudden willingness to strangle someone for some Sakanoshita Store meat buns at that very moment, convince Tobio that he probably won't get to sleep for the third night in a row.
Tobio stomps his fist on the bed in frustration and yanks his blanket over his head like a child.
The peace doesn’t last.
He spends a few more minutes wondering what he’s done in his past life to deserve this before he gives up and kicks the blanket off until it falls off to the floor.
He stares at the ceiling and tries not to think about the meat buns and how the air smelled like in Miyagi on evenings when they walked down the hill after practice. How their footsteps sounded as Shouyou trudged down next to him, and the faint creaking of his bike as he pedaled away after they part at the fork of the road.
Groaning in frustration yet again, Tobio blindly fumbles for his phone and swipes up to unlock the screen. The familiar amount of notifications disappears as the Line app pops up.
His thumb hovers over the list of group chats with their perpetual number of unread messages and ends up tapping the one with Shouyou, Kei, Tadashi, and Hitoka in it.
He stares at the last messages sent on it for a while, wondering if he should text ‘I can’t sleep’ following Tadashi’s long rant from two hours ago.
He mentally calculates the time difference between Italy, Japan, and Brazil and decides not to risk having them call him. They’re all bound to be awake.
Tobio ends up swiping back to the main menu and tapping on the Adlers group chat instead.
There are new people in it, notably the setter that replaced Tobio and the new OH that replaced Wakatoshi. Both of them still addresses Tobio with Kageyama-san even after Kourai and Sokolov joined forces in stripping the dignities of Wakatoshi and Tobio by sending multiple embarrassing photos of them on the group chat right when the new members were added by Fukurou-san.
Tobio scrolls down to the latest messages and sees that Wakatoshi shared a photo just a few hours ago. He clicks on the thumbnail and is greeted with Wakatoshi’s face and torso, the word Schweiden stretched across the front of his shirt as he points at the monument behind him.
‘CHOPIN!’ reads the enthusiastic text from Toushiro right below the thumbnail. Followed by ‘I hope you’re enjoying Warsaw, Wakatoshi-kun.’
Tobio taps the photo again and eyes the Schweiden on the shirt, aware that there isn’t a time difference between them so Wakatoshi is bound to be asleep.
‘I miss Japan’, he texts quickly before sliding his thumb down to close the app only to freeze when he sees the Last Online 4 Hours Ago under Wakatoshi’s name switching to Online.
‘Hello Tobio’, the text reads. Then: ‘As do I’.
He looks at the little timestamps and sighs when he sees that it’s currently three-thirty in the morning for the both of them and Wakatoshi should really be asleep by now.
Then he almost drops his phone when it vibrates with Wakatoshi’s name flashing on the screen.
“Hello,” Tobio greets warily.
“Tobio, how are you?” There’s a rustle of clothing and Tobio thinks Wakatoshi is probably in bed as well. Then he tries not to think about it.
“Missing Japan,” Tobio answers curtly, twisting to the side to stare at the curtain fluttering gently with the breeze from his half-opened window. He imagines the weight of a meat bun on his palm and the way Daichi-san and Sugawara-san used give him an extra piece of his favourite. “And you?”
“The same. I have not found a sack of rice that’s suitably sticky,” Wakatoshi replies. “I would like to eat something filling that isn’t bread.”
Tobio closes his eyes and thinks about the giant container of home-cooked Hayashi rice that Hitoka sent the team when Tobio was in Tokyo, training for the Olympics for the first time and the others are driving in town for university tours. He thinks about Wakatoshi watching him from across the table with a curious look on his face as Tobio bulldozes 3 bowls in quick succession, before quietly mentioning how Tobio reminded him of his younger brother.
“Tobio?” Wakatoshi inquires after a moment.
“There’s rice here,” Tobio says as he grips the phone tightly. He makes a mental note to ask David where he bought rice and another mental note to ask Hitoka to teach him how to make the Hayashi rice over facetime. “Good ones. Just like home. I can try to send some over.”
Wakatoshi makes a contemplative sound. “Your birthday. It’s soon, is it not?”
“In two months, yes,” Tobio says after quickly checking the date on his phone.
“Okay,” Wakatoshi says. “Perhaps I might be able to visit. You should rest, Tobio.”
“Right,” Tobio grunts out, accepting the dismissal as it is.
He hears Wakatoshi’s “Tobio! Wait!” right as he’s about to end the call, then presses the phone back to his ear.
“I am always available to listen to you,” Wakatoshi states after a pause. Clear, concise, and brooking no argument nor judgement. “I understand and feel the same.”
“Thank you,” he manages to say as he tries to process the fact that Ushijima Wakatoshi not only understands but feels the same. “And likewise.”
The entire conversation lasts about 15 minutes and Tobio finds himself falling asleep soon after. He dreams of eating his curry bun but he doesn’t ache for it as much.
The udon place in Shibuya they ate at.
Tobio and Shouyou, a birthday tradition borne out of long-distance friendship, and an introductory peek to The Oikawa Situation.
November 9 16:00 of that year finds Tobio standing in his kitchen with a whole set of kitchen… things that Samuele randomly gifted him after finding out that Tobio’s been using forks and spoons on the non-stick pans that came with the apartment.
Samuele said it’s ‘cause he can almost hear his husband yelling at him for allowing Tobio to continue living like a dumbass.
Next to the kitchen things are some fresh ingredients for Yakisoba on the counter — some of which required planning just so they would arrive in time for this scheduled Zoom call with Kei, Tadashi, Hitoka, and Shou.
He has his laptop propped open a few feet away with his friends’ faces filling 70% of the screen while the other 30% displayed a website that has the recipe from Tadashi they’re meant to follow.
The five of them have been on call over half an hour, idly talking as they start prepping for their own respective meals.
“Julienne the carrots? ” Shouyou says in english, squinting at the Nest Hub propped on Shouyou’s own kitchen counter in Brazil where Tobio presumes the recipe’s displayed. “What does julienne even mean? Isn’t that a name?”
“Eh? Are you already on the carrots?” Hitoka asks in disbelief, the kitchen in her rental in New York City gleaming in the background.
“No, still about to start on this,” Shouyou says, holding up an onion to the camera and showing it to the group.
“Then why are you asking about the carrots now, idiot?” Kei drawls sounding tired as shit.
“What, I can’t ask, eh, Saltyshima? Oi! Tobio! What ingredient are you on now? Tell me!”
“Stai zitto, idiot,” Tobio mutters and doesn’t even bother looking up from where he’s just finished neatly slicing his onions and is about to start on the shiitakes. Then he smirks victoriously and says “I’m on the mushrooms. Keep up, loser.”
“What? Already?” There’s a clanging heard from Shouyou’s end before they all hear him groan. “This is so unfair. The instructions are all in english. Eu não falo Ingles!”
“Flexing your recently learned languages won’t magically make us forget that you’re both idiots,” Kei says smugly as he hands Tadashi a cabbage. Both of them are cooking from Tadashi’s condo where Kei’s just arrived a few hours prior.
“I’m only an idiot in english, Saltyshima,” Shouyou grunts out, the thud thud thud of his knife against the plate he’s using as a chopping board making Tobio wince. “Tobio, this doesn’t count on our tally!”
“What! Why?” Tobio shouts. “You’re a fucking cheater. It’s not my fault you’re—”
“Remember,” Tadashi smoothly cuts in as he eyes the label of what looks like Bulldog Usuta Sosu, “back in June when you sent us that recipe when it was your turn to choose?”
“You four loved Cozido though,” Shouyou says unbothered. “Don’t even lie.”
“The recipe you sent was in Portuguese,” Tadashi sighs tiredly, “we had to choose between depending on your translations or depending on Google Translate”
“Both of which were bad,” Kei comments.
“I still don’t know how pirão is supposed to taste like,” Hitoka says, seeming to wince at the memory of her failed attempt.
“Why are you all conspiring against me? Ugh, fine, fine, you win,” Shouyou says as he begrudgingly starts chopping again. “You guys know that I literally just got home from a match, right? I literally can’t feel my arms.”
“I don’t think ‘literally’ means what you think it means, shrimp,” Kei drawls, starting to slice the meat into thin strips. “By the way, ace of Asas São Paulo, that was a beautiful serve to your teammate’s head the other day.”
“Wow,” Shouyou squawks indignantly as Tadashi and Hitoka chortles. “It’s not my fault that the ball was slippery!”
“You just suck,” Tobio chimes in as he slices through the scallions.
“And also what about you, Mr saltyshima it’s-just-a-club san,” Shouyou bulldoses on, ignoring Tobio’s comment, “let’s talk about how you definitely cried on camera after winning versus Osaka last week”
“Hitoka,” Tadashi cuts in again before the conversation devolves into trash talking like it normally does. Tobio sees him glare at Kei. “How’s New York?”
“Big, loud, and scary!” Hitoka replies without hesitation before Shou can complain. She’s in two months out of five in America for a big design project her agency’s working on Nike with. “My colleagues took me to MOMA yesterday though! It was so nice. I wish you were with me. What about you, Tadashi? How’s the thing with, you know…?”
“Still terrible,” Tadashi groans and they all wince when he chops what’s left of the cabbage with murderous intent. “They’re still too busy kissing the boss’s ass to notice that the patent hasn’t even been submitted yet. Sometimes I just want to ask Tobio to spike a volleyball to their faces.”
“Might want to ask Shouyou instead,” Kei suggests and ignores Shouyou’s offended Hey!
Tadashi jibes Kei in the rib with his elbow.
“How’s Brazil, Shou?” Hitoka asks as determined as Tadashi to stop the squabbling.
“Hot,” Shouyou answers without hesitation while raising a strip of carrot to peer at it. “Is this Julienne?”
Tobio sees Hitoka squint into her screen before nodding.
“Sao Paulo’s hot and humid,” Shouyou continues, julienning the carrot with a single-minded focus that he usually reserves for matches, “I think my electric bill will bankrupt me this month. Wait, that reminds me. You’re still gonna visit next month, right, Hitoka?”
“I’m not sure yet,” Hitoka’s wok clangs as she places it on the stove. “I want to. I think I can try to get them to book my flight back home so the stopover is in Sao Paulo, but that’s not until March next year.”
“Aren’t there direct flights from New York to Osaka?” Kei asks, adjusting his glasses before moving towards Tadashi’s stove. “I don’t think your plan will work.”
“I guess I can just book my own flight to Sao Paulo for a weekend,” Hitoka says hesitantly over the hiss of the heated oil.
“Oh. Plane tickets are expensive during December though,” Shouyou says with a hint of sadness in his voice. “You don’t have to. We can see each other next time.”
Shou’s quiet for a bit before he nods to himself and continues with, “Oi! What’s the plan for your birthday, yamayama-kun?”
Tobio licks his lips and swallows around the sudden lump in his throat because it occurs to him that they really haven’t seen each other in person in a long time.
He shakes off the empty feeling in his stomach before taking the chopping board to the sink.
“Well, Tobio?” Shou prods. "Plans?"
“Wakatoshi said something about visiting,” he answered, moving away from the camera’s view and squatting down to look for something that can work as a wok from the cabinets below the counter. "And I think I'm going to host dinner for Ali."
Tobio stretches his arm to grab what he thinks is called a skillet and decides that it probably wouldn’t burn down the house.
“Ushijima-san’s visiting you from Poland?!” Shouyou asks in disbelief as Kei snorts loudly from his end of the call.
“I don’t know. Maybe.” Tobio says as he stands up to place the skillet on the induction stove before tapping the On button followed by a telltale beep . “What are you laughing about, Tsukki?”
“Nothing,” Kei taunts as Tobio watches him toss the vegetables and the pork in a wok.
“Kei,” Tadashi chides.
“It’s just that I can imagine how the Grand King would react when he hears about Ushijima visiting you for your birthday.”
Tobio pauses from where he’s reaching for a bowl to prepare the Yakisoba sauce in as he waits for the skillet to heat up and looks at his laptop with a confused furrow in his eyebrows.
“Oikawa-san?” Tobio asks, wondering how he’s related to the conversation.
“He asked you too?!” Shouyou laughs.
“Asked me what?” Kei says, ignoring Tobio. “Kyoutani just likes to complain about the weird shit that happens on their Seijou group chat, is all.”
Shouyou’s boisterous laugh crackles on Tobio’s speakers. He makes the executive decision to ignore them and starts in on preparing the sauce instead.
“Ha!” Shouyou continues. “Iwaizumi-san complains about that too. Tobio this, and Tobio that.”
“Who asked you what, Shou?” Tadashi asks curiously at the same time Tobio yells: “Why would Iwaizumi-san complain about me?”
“Iwaizumi-san isn’t complaining about you , stupid—”
“Who asked you what , Shou?” Tadashi repeats.
“Oikawa-san!” Shouyou says. “Oikawa-san asked me for Tobio’s number. Only he didn’t ask directly and just said blah blah blah Tobio-chan is so annoying I still have to get him back for that disgusting setter dump he did. How dare he do that in the Olympics to my face. I think he thinks that I don't know about him and Tobio's, you know—”
“That was disturbing,” Kei declares, probably pertaining to Shouyou’s frankly accurate mimicry of Oikawa-san’s voice.
“Right?” Shouyou grins. “And anyway yeah, he’s still thirsting for Tobio’s—”
“Don’t!” Tadashi snaps and Shouyou’s mouth splits into a wide grin that makes Tobio want to book a flight to Sao Paulo just to punch him in the face.
“—receives . He’s thirsty for Tobio receiving his serves.”
“Recei—?” Tadashi starts before wisely shutting up. Meanwhile Kei remains standing next to him with a look of utter glee on his face, quietly pouring hot water into a bowl that has the yakisoba noodles in it.
“What the f —”
“Tobio!” Hitoka squeaks out in alarm, “your skillet!”
Tobio almost drops the bowl of sauce in haste as he steps toward the stove where the skillet is hissing menacingly. He quickly taps the buttons to turn the heat down a little before throwing the pork strips in as per the instructions.
“What does Oikawa-san asking for my number have to do with Iwaizumi-san and Kyoutani complaining about me?” Tobio asks, giving up on trying to pretend he’s not curious. "And what does that have to do with Wakatoshi visiting me for my birthday? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Wow, Tobio, say it with your chest!” Shouyou laughs, thumping his own chest with a spatula in his fist.
“Who hates Ushijima the most?” Kei asks before Tobio can continue.
“Oikawa-san.” Tobio answers automatically as he starts tossing in the onions and vegetables. “And?"
“Wait, stop, why did Ushijima-san say he’ll visit you for your birthday?” Hitoka asks, raising her hand up to the camera and waving it around. “When did this happen?”
“Uh,” Tobio temporises, ignoring Shouyou’s screeching and Kei’s mocking laugh. He starts working on the Yakisoba noodles as the vegetables cook on the skillet. “Wakatoshi called me last month after I texted him. He said he hasn’t found good rice in Warsaw. I said there’s a place in Roma that sells good rice so he asked me when my birthday was and when I said December, he said he might visit.”
His own explanation sort of confuses him so he continues with: “But he hasn’t confirmed yet.”
There’s a heavily judgemental silence that follows his explanation.
Tobio glares at their dumb faces.
“Kageyama,” Shouyou begins, his face red with mirth. “Did you sleep with Ushijima-san too?”
It takes a few seconds for Tobio to process what Shouyou just said and Tobio feels a nerve in his brain twitch.
“Ha?” Tobio yells out in alarm, wondering where Shoyou even got the idea to even presume that. “Wakatoshi is with Tendou -san, dumbass! What the hell are you talking about?”
“He is?” Shouyou, Kei, Hitoka, and Tadashi ask in unison, each pausing from whatever step they’re working on.
“Uh, yes?” Tobio blinks at them. “They’ve been together since they graduated from Shiratorizawa.”
“How would you know that?”
Tobio puts his attention back to transferring his finished yakisoba in two separate bowls, one bigger than the other.
“Wakatoshi told us,” he says, carefully pushing the noodles into the larger bowl so nothing spills. “The Adlers. Plus, Tendou-san met us for lunch when we were in France for a friendly with the Paris Volley. It’s pretty obvious.”
“Huh,” Shouyou says, biting into his lip before cursing. “Oh crap, it’s almost time.”
They all simultaneously glance at their respective clocks and see they have less than fifteen minutes left. It effectively cuts off the conversation and Tobio quietly sighs with relief.
“This conversation isn’t finished,” Shouyou hisses at Tobio like he heard Tobio’s thoughts, raising a threatening finger at the camera.
“Right,” Tobio says, rolling his eyes.
“Shou, hurry up!”
Shou makes some indecipherable noises as they all watch him messily pour his noodles from his pan to a bowl.
Tobio sees Tadashi wisely elbow Kei to shut him up before whatever insult spills out of Kei’s mouth.
“We good?” Hitoka asks a moment later.
Tobio, Shouyou, Kei and Tadashi all simultaneously look down at their own bowls of Yakisoba before nodding in sync
“Great, let’s go,” Hitoka says before disappearing from view with her bowl. Presumably bringing it to her dining table before she comes back for her tablet.
The four of them quietly follow suit.
Tobio takes a placemat from the top of his fridge and carries it along with a pair of chopsticks to the bigger dining table that he had to purchase for the sole purpose of being able to fit some of the Ali Roma team when they join him for the whole dinner tradition thing.
Then he goes back to the kitchen for his laptop and, after a few seconds of staring at it contemplatively, a bottle of prosecco and a glass that Aaron said is a ‘champagne flute’.
They all settle in on their own respective tables just two minutes before the clock on Tobio’s laptop would flash 17:00, adjusting their devices so it shows both their food and their faces.
Kei appears from Tadashi’s camera carrying a small cupcake with a candle on it, and with Hitoka’s cue, the four of them attempt to sing Happy Birthday to Tadashi. They sounded as bad as they did when they attempted the same on Kei’s birthday. And on Hitoka’s birthday. And on Shou’s birthday.
None of that matters though, Tobio thinks as he hears the last caterwaul from Shouyou’s end.
At exactly 17:00 on Tobio’s time, midnight in Tokyo, noon in Brazil and New York, they watch Tadashi blow the candle on the cupcake, a big bright smile on his face as he gazes into their faces on his laptop after exchanging a quick hug with Kei.
Shou and Tobio and Hitoka all scream “Happy birthday, Captain!”
A moment later, Tadashi says “Itadakimasu!” and then they all dig into their own bowls of yakisoba.
Once everything’s done and they all say their goodbyes, Tobio thinks through the Oikawa-san parts of the conversation as he dries his plates and thinks of his options.
He definitely cannot call Kei because Tobio would rather eat Sokolov's socks than discuss the whole situation with Oikawa-san with him even if Kei knows all about it.
Hitoka would probably expire from anxiety.
Tadashi’s… Well, it’s Tadashi’s birthday and Tobio doesn’t really want to wake him up just so he can talk about this thing with Oikawa-san.
It leaves him with… ugh. He gets another bottle of prosecco and takes a huge chug before clicking Call .
“Hello , yamayama-kun,” Shouyou greets him with that smug tone of his. “What can I do for you?”
“Hinata, shut up,” Tobio grits out as he throws himself onto his sofa. “Just tell me what you know.”
“Do you want me to shut up or do you want me to tell you things? Pick one, you idiot.”
“Say that this counts as two wins for me and I will.”
“No!” Tobio yells down his phone. Two wins mean Hinata will be one victory ahead on their tally.
“Okay, bye bye then,”
“Point five,” Tobio grits out.
“Kageyama, we can’t bring decimals in on this because we’ll die .”
“Point five and I won’t tell Sakusa-san that you were the one who spilled spaghetti on his bed.”
“How about one and you announce on the NT group chat that I’m your favourite spiker among all of your other spikers?”
“Do you want Kourai to kill you?”
“—and I don’t forward the video of your little drunken escapade in the Argentina section of the Olympic village to Oikawa-san, hmm?”
Tobio chokes on the prosecco.
“That wasn’t my fault. Atsumu—”
“Excuses, excuses,” Shouyou hums smugly. “Do we have a deal?”
“Shit, fine, you gremlin.”
“You need to send your announcement as soon as we finish talking, ‘kay?”
Tobio agrees and then wastes a full hour listening to Shouyou chatter on about things.
“You’re such a dumbass,” Tobio says, cutting Shouyou off in the middle of his explanation on how Iwaizumi-san ranted about Tobio for apparently not replying when he asked for Tobio’s permission to give Oikawa-san his number. “And I don’t remember Iwaizumi-san asking. Do you think, uh, do you think he knows about… you know.”
“He did, idiot,” Shouyou tells him, the bag of chips that he’s eating crackling loudly in Tobio’s ear. “He sent it like a month ago on the NT group chat. And I’m pretty sure he knows about your sex thing with Oikawa-san.”
“I can’t believe I wasted the remaining hours of my day off to listen to this,” Tobio mutters, mourning the hour lost when Tobio could have been jogging instead.
“I don’t care,” Shouyou says dismissively. “I better get the notification of your announcement right after we end this call or that video where you’re—”
“Shut up!” Tobio says, his face heating up as he remembers the content of the said video.
Shouyou laughs at him from the other end of the phone clearly enjoying Tobio’s pain. “You’re too fun to rile up.”
“I’ll get you for this.”
“Hey Tobio,” Shou says after a lull.
Tobio blinks at the change of tone and tenses up.
“I’m still your favourite spiker, right?”
“Yeah,” Tobio breathes out, leaning his head on the back of the sofa. “Of course you are, dumbass.”
“Good. Cause you’re still my favourite setter.”
There’s a rustle of clothing from the other end before a slow exhale follows.
“I think I’ll just give you Oikawa-san’s number, then I’ll give your number to Oikawa-san so you can just ask him questions yourself, or you can wait for him to text you then you can ask him.”
Tobio blinks up at the bright white ceiling of his apartment and wishes he can run his fingers through Shouyou’s hair. “Yeah okay.”
“See you in the next match?”
“Right,” Tobio says, holding back the question of do you think this is still worth it? because he genuinely fears that in that moment of weakness, they’ll both say no. “Don’t lose until I can beat you.”
Tobio ends the call and drops his hand and his phone on his thigh.
A minute later, his phone flickers back to life from Shouyou presumably sending him Oikawa-san’s number and feels trepidation at the thought of Oikawa-san receiving his number in turn.
He taps up the Line app open, clicks on the National Team group chat and sends ‘Hinata Shouyou is my favourite spiker among all of my other spikers.’
Tobio finds that he sort of sincerely means it.
- Cozido, pirão, rice, + coca cola = fave meal of my brazilian pal. Shoutout to M. ♡
- Bulldog is an Usuta Sosu Japanese brand.
- Here's the recipe they followed for the yakisoba.
Some warnings: underage sex and some underage drinking
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Here are the things Tobio knows about Oikawa Tooru:
The colour of his eyes. His favourite food. The tiny scar on his chin from when he bumped it at the edge of a table when he was a child and had to get stitches. The power of his hard-earned reputation. The barely there tells when he’s prioritising force rather than accuracy right before he serves.
The way he texted when he’s exhausted. How he never answers the phone when it’s Tobio calling. The hard line of his cock. The telltale hitch in his breath when he’s about to come.
The way he leaves and leaves and leaves.
If someone asked Tobio to pinpoint the exact time with which he began feeling attracted to Oikawa Tooru, he’d say it was on a Wednesday afternoon when he was 13 years old. The streets were covered with petals from the cherry blossom trees that lined the hill leading up to his Kitagawa Daiichi.
He remembers running full swing to the volleyball court, his application form filled and clutched in his hands. He remembers the familiar sound of volleyballs hitting the court growing louder and louder as he gets closer to the gym.
He remembers the sheen of the polished wooden floor as he steps on it the first time, an excited “Hello!” ready to fall from the tip of his tongue only for it to get caught in his throat at the sight of a boy flying in midair with an arm raised high, the curve of his spine haloed by the sun filtering through the windows behind him.
“Hello,” He stammers out later, still in awe of the resounding bang of the volleyball as it met the other end of the court just barely inside the line. “I’m Kageyama Tobio. Please take care of me.”
“Hello Kageyama-kun,” the boy greets him with a pleasant smile on his face and a warm look in his eyes. “I’m Oikawa Tooru, very pleased to meet you.”
Tobio looked up at him, wide-eyed and filled with admiration, his grandfather’s promise echoing in his brain.
Tobio should have known better.
Tobio didn’t know what happened between them.
What turned Kageyama-kun to a mocking Tobio-chan, what turned Oikawa-san’s pleasant smile to a taunting sneer. What turned Oikawa-san’s warm gaze to a cold and hateful stare.
Tobio can’t recall when the changes began to take place.
Maybe it was after Tobio’s fiftieth please teach me how to serve. Or after the twentieth time Tobio didn’t look away when Oikawa-san caught him studiously observing the way his fingers moved as he directed the ball to the hitter.
He doesn’t know when or how it happened. Just that it did.
“I think Oikawa-senpai hates me,” He remembers whispering to Kunimi and Kindaichi as the three of them walked home in the evening.
“Don’t be silly,” Kindaichi had said at the same time that Kunimi responded with “It doesn’t matter.”
He remembers sharing a look with Kindaichi before they both turned to stare at Kunimi questioningly.
“You’ll be better than him,” Kunimi had said with conviction. “So it doesn’t matter.”
And maybe therein lay the problem.
The first time Tobio had sex with Oikawa Tooru, it was in an alley just around the corner of Tobio’s big empty house in Miyagi.
But Tobio’s not sure if it counts.
There were garbage bins filled to the brim just a few feet away, the nasty smell of rot drowned out by the overwhelming scent of Oikawa-san’s perfume as Tobio helplessly bucked against Oikawa-san’s thigh between his legs, holding him up just so that his toes could barely touch the ground.
He remembers the rough stone of the concrete wall scraping the skin of the small of his back. He remembers having an arm wrapped around Oikawa-san’s head, holding him in place, and the other was down the back of his shirt, digging into the muscles of his back, his shoulder, trying to pull him closer.
Tobio had felt like wailing, like screaming, could feel it build up inside of him, spread out from where the base of his cock met the unforgiving breadth of Oikawa-san’s thigh.
Tobio remembers wanting to dig his hands into him, bite into his muscles, run his tongue against his mouth, split him open, and find out what he is.
He remembers the frenzied look in Oikawa-san’s eyes as his blunt fingernails dug into the sharp jut of Tobio’s hips, the sinews of his arms stark against the pale skin as he supported Tobio’s weight as Tobio debased himself, desperate for more friction.
Remembers the way Tobio begged him, his breath hitching as he said ‘please please please', trying to lean forward to kiss him—to get more of Oikawa Tooru than he’d been willing to give. To wipe that look from his face.
He’d been flushed, sweating, felt like his nerve endings were exposed, raw; and the only reward for his effort was a cruel smirk and a mocking “Don’t be greedy, Tobio-chan”
He remembers hitting the back of his head against the wall and seeing stars, shouting as he came in his pants.
The second time Tobio had sex with Oikawa Tooru, it was in Tobio’s house with Tobio slamming him against the front door the moment he’d dragged them both in, Tobio’s teeth biting into the soft flesh of his exposed neck.
The bitterness of Oikawa-san’s come had drowned out the equally bitter taste of Tobio’s defeat in the match that decided the fate of his team that had lingered at the back of his throat.
He’d been waiting for Tobio earlier, a smug look on his face as he stared at him from the corner of the very same alley where Tobio had first begged him not too long ago.
Tobio knew just from his stance that he’d come to gloat, and he’d felt the surge of anger as it clawed up in his chest, the need to break that arrogant smile from Oikawa-san’s face chasing all the other thoughts in his head.
And so Tobio had grabbed him by the wrist without a single word, his grip unforgiving against the staccato of Oikawa Tooru’s pulse. He didn’t let him go as he fumbled for his house keys; didn’t let him go when he finally got it open, afraid that he’s going to run.
Tobio remembers the shocked look on his face when Tobio sank onto his knees, nosing at the hard line of his cock against the teal and white joggers, inhaling Oikawa-san’s heady scent. He remembers the way his hands trembled when he pulled down the clothing, eyes meeting Oikawa-san’s - challenging him to stop Tobio.
Greedy, greedy, Tobio-chan
Tobio remembers the weight of his cock on Tobio’s tongue the first time he’s ever tasted it. He remembers gagging as it hits the back of his throat. The feel of Oikawa-san’s body as it shuddered against him, his body curving down like a bow over Tobio. The hesitant way with which Oikawa-san ran his fingers through his hair with a look of wonder in his eyes.
Tobio remembers the way Oikawa-san breathed out his name, eyes squeezed shut as he spilled down Tobio’s throat, and then on Tobio’s face.
He remembers standing up and meeting Oikawa-san’s blissed out stare. The feeling of his fingers grazing the mess he’d made on Tobio’s chin, and the way he had shivered when Tobio caught his hand and pulled his messy fingers into his mouth, licking it clean.
The third time they had sex, something felt different.
Tobio had half expected him to wait after his last and final defeat against Karasuno but the corner of the alley was empty save for the cats and crows foraging food from the numerous trash bags propped against the wall where Tobio first writhed against Oikawa-san.
Tobio didn’t see him the next day when he’d still been flushed from victory over Shiratorizawa.
It happened instead after Tobio bumped into him at the station, fresh from Tokyo, and goodie-two-shoes , and all the promises it had for Tobio’s future.
“Tobio,” Oikawa-san had greeted him with a contemplative look on his face that Tobio couldn’t decipher. The way he’d said his name going straight to Tobio’s groin.
Tobio had looked at him blankly before managing to stutter out a greeting in return.
Tobio remembers following him outside the station as he led them outside to the frozen streets of their hometown, until the spindly winter trees that lined the sidewalk gave way to the rows of houses. He remembers standing outside a looming gate, just a couple of streets away from where Tobio lived.
He’d stood quietly as Oikawa-san slid the key into the door, then followed him in when he’d calmly motioned Tobio in. Tobio had expected to be pushed, or slammed, or bit into the second they were away from any prying eyes that might have followed them but Oikawa-san had only stood in front of him, toeing off his shoes.
Oikawa-san had waited patiently for him as he toed off his own shoes, before placing them neatly next to each other by the corner next to a woman’s heels and a child’s runners. Then they strode into the dark hallway that led to the rest of where Oikawa-san lived.
It was the first and last time he’d been to Oikawa-san’s house.
He remembers the creak of the stairs as they silently climbed up, the tasteful picture frames on the walls of the hallway that led to Oikawa-san’s bedroom door.
He remembers the bright white light being switched on, a tiny shelf pushed into a corner, the university brochures that littered a long desk next to a computer, and the luggage bags propped innocently against the wall.
Tobio remembers the gentle press of Oikawa’s palm against his cheek. The way the air rushed out of Tobio’s lungs when he felt his lips against his own and the sharp exhale when Tobio tilted his head and hesitantly bit into Oikawa’s lower lip.
It was Tobio’s first kiss.
He remembers careful hands stripping Tobio of his clothes. The way Tobio’s hand fumbled at the zip of Oikawa-san’s jacket. How good it had felt to run his fingertips against the hard planes of Oikawa-san’s body, only to follow its trail with the flat of his tongue.
He remembers being led into the shower, the warm water that pelted down their bodies as they kissed over and over. The heat that rose on Tobio’s face when Oikawa-san started lathering them both with soap. The way that he’d smiled when Tobio kept chasing for his mouth.
He remembers their slow descent to the tatami, how Oikawa-san looked when he’s looming over Tobio’s body, arms bracketing Tobio in. The wet slide of his tongue on Tobio’s collarbone. The impatient whine that came from Tobio as he pulled Oikawa-san back to where he could kiss him again, and the soft huffs of breaths that could have been laughter.
“Greedy greedy, Tobio-chan,” Tobio had heard before he chased the words away with his mouth.
He remembers how good it felt to have Oikawa-san’s body between his legs, how he’d tried to pull them closer, Tobio’s heels digging into the small of his back. The way they had moved, cocks flushed against the other. The slow and steady slide of Oikawa-san’s tongue in his mouth.
The way things grew more desperate, the noise that filled Tobio’s head when a hand circled the base of his cock, followed by the press of a finger breaching him. The way Oikawa-san had taken his time - the coldness of the lubricant against Tobio’s skin. The way it felt when a finger became two, then three. The way Tobio’s vision whited out when he felt the fingers twist.
The way Tobio begged again and again pleasepleasepleaseplease until Oikawa-san relented, biting into his mouth as he hitched Tobio’s legs up and apart, breaking him open.
The shuddering strength of Oikawa-san’s thighs when he finally slid into Tobio, the way he paused and waited until Tobio’s thumping his fist on Oikawa-san’s futon, arching his back and meeting the uncontrolled thrust with the same ferocity.
“Greedy,” Oikawa-san had said against his collarbone, with Tobio’s arms wrapped around him, over him, searing the shape of his body against Tobio’s fingertips, pressing him down and not letting him go.
And then he’d gone away to bigger and better things, blocking Tobio’s number, and disappearing from Tobio’s life.
The next time Tobio had sex, it wasn’t with Oikawa Tooru.
Nor the next.
Nor the next after the next.
It was also when he’d stopped counting.
Tobio’d found that while Citius Altius Fortius might have been the official motto of the Olympics, the real motto—the one that athletes had religiously abided by—was ‘what happens in the village stays in the village ’.
“Ushijima-san,” he’d slurred sheepishly as the man half-carried him out of the room where Tobio’d lain fucked out by a Team USA swimmer seconds before his captain found him. “Hello. Sorry.”
“Oh good, you found him,” Kourai had said from the entryway of the midrise their team had been staying in, before flanking Tobio’s other side as they made their way to the lift.
They threw him down the bed, Ushijima-san pulling off his shoes before pushing Tobio’s leg up until all of his body was up and horizontal.
“Atsumu?” Ushijima-san had asked, looking at the empty bed next to Tobio’s.
“Koutarou’s still looking for him. Why are setters so—”
Later, he’d found out that he’d been gone for two days.
By the end of Rio, Tobio’d been on first-name basis with almost everyone.
The next time he saw Oikawa Tooru in person, it was in the Olympic village in Tokyo.
Tobio had been tipsy, the beer he’d been nursing the entire night had grown tepid and flat but it had been enough to dissuade other people from offering him more alcohol.
He’d seen Oikawa-san around all day, introducing his team to Japan’s NT, stepping in and out of Tobio’s periphery but never once—not fucking once—did he acknowledge Tobio.
Tobio watched as he shook Wakatoshi’s hand, as he playfully slapped Atsumu-san’s shoulders. Watched the way he flirted with Kourai, with Bokuto-san’s roaring laughter getting louder and louder as the night progressed. Tobio watched him siddle closer to Shouyou, addressing him in a way that Tobio had wanted him to when he was in junior high and desperate for someone to teach him how to be better.
Wakatoshi had stayed seated next to Tobio, his presence enough to stop people from engaging too intimately with Tobio and to stop Tobio from doing something stupid, until Wakatoshi had to retire for the night, sending him a warning look over his shoulders before his captain had disappeared into the crowd.
He watched Oikawa-san flirt with throngs of people, exchanging kisses that varied from quick pecks to heated exchanges. He watched him as he slid between bodies, the way he wrapped an arm around his teammate’s shoulder. The press of his lips against dark skin.
Tobio had stood up then.
Shouyou peered up at him in surprise before following his gaze to Oikawa-san. “Tobs?”
“I’m… I’m gonna—” he’d stuttered, swaying a little on his unsteady legs. “I’m gonna get more drinks.”
“Oh, hell,” Kourai had cried out but Tobio’s already made his way over to a group where he saw vodka earlier.
He’d been three shots in, with someone’s tongue pressing insistently on the juncture of Tobio’s neck, when he’d seen Oikawa-san again. He was pulling someone with him towards one of the condominiums.
In hindsight, Tobio should have just let him be.
“Oikawa-san,” he called out, dislodging the man biting on his throat to chase after him. “Oikawa-san!”
He’d seen the way Oikawa-san falter, his steps halting where a woman’s arm is pressed against the small of his back. He’d seen the way Oikawa-san had looked over his shoulder, his eyes meeting Tobio’s briefly before he turned away, pulling the woman closer to him.
Tobio stood there, on the spot where he’d clearly been dismissed. Cast aside and ignored, just like he’d been all those years ago. Then he’d squared his shoulders and straightened his spine, before making his way to a random group and polishing off what he thought was tequila to the cheerful yells of strangers around him.
Soon, he’d found himself on someone’s lap, lazily rolling his hips as the man mauled his mouth. Then he’s being hoisted up, legs wrapping around the man’s waist.
“Morisuke, where's Tsumu—Holy shit, Tobio!” He heard someone yell from far away but Tobio’s being carried off, muffling the world where Oikawa Tooru wouldn’t look him in the eye.
Shou’d found him later, the dark early morning sky blanketing them as Shou patted his back whilst Tobio’s bent over by a tree, acid spilling out of his throat.
“Here,” Shou had said after pressing a bottle of water into his palm. “Come on, Hoshiumi-san’s looking for you.”
“Well at least he found his own way back this time,” Bokuto-san had said from the doorway of the room Tobio’s sharing with Shou after they’d made their way back into the suite.
Sakusa-san had left a couple of pills on the nightstand next to an unopened bottle of water before nodding at Tobio and leaving him with Shou, closing the door after him.
“I slept with Oikawa-san,” Tobio had whispered into the dark just as the sun was dawning into the horizon.
“Uh, that wasn’t Oikawa-san with you earlier.”
The last time Tobio saw Oikawa Tooru before moving to Italy, it was across the net.
Oikawa was flat on the court, his outstretched hand a few millimeters away from where the ball fell when Tobio dumped it.
Then Tobio strode away and never looked back.
Here are the things Tobio would have liked to know about Oikawa Tooru:
How he brings out the best from all of his spikers. The easy way he’s able to talk and fit in. What made him hate Tobio. What he looks like in the morning before he’s able to get ready. What it would feel like to receive his genuine smile. How his hands would feel when he’s imparting his skills in volleyball. The shape of his vowels in spanish.
What it would have felt like if he’d been as in love with Tobio as Tobio had been with him.
- The standing order for condoms in the Olympics is 100,000++ (sauce)
- Tobio definitely accidentally slept with Oikawa's teammate from Argentina's NT.
I know next to nothing about Pro VB so just pretend *shrug*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s early Saturday morning and Tobio is midway through vacuuming his apartment after spending the last week of November and the first week of December in Berlin for the first leg of CEV League rounds when the music playing through his bluetooth speaker abruptly stops before Siri dutifully announces Ushijima Wakatoshi.
He stands frozen in the middle of his living room for a second wondering if he’s done anything the last couple days that would’ve bothered Wakatoshi enough to call without texting first, then he promptly switched off his Dyson and ran towards his room where his phone was charging on its dock.
“Hello Tobio, are you busy?”
Tobio looks down at his socked feet, then to the mountains of laundry overspilling out of the basket by his bedroom door, then glances at his jerseys cycling violently in the washing machine underneath his bathroom’s sink.
“No, Wakatoshi, what can I do for you?”
“I have a favour to ask.”
Tobio makes an inquisitive hum as he starts walking to the kitchen while averting his eyes from the long list of groceries he’s supposed to buy and fills a glass of water from the sink.
“A… friend of mine is arriving in Rome on December 18th.”
“Oh?” Tobio asks, trying to remember what the date is.
“I was wondering if you can fetch them from the airport.”
Tobio blinks at the hesitant way Wakatoshi’s talking—something that Tobio’s never heard from the JNT captain, not even when he was telling Tobio the many benefits of safe sex after the whole thing in Rio and Tobio had to awkwardly accept the condoms Wakatoshi pushed into his hands.
“Ushijima-san,” he says with dread. “Please be honest with me.”
There’s a grunt from the other end of the line that tells Tobio that Wakatoshi is both amused and annoyed before Wakatoshi begins talking again.
“I did tell Hinata-kun that involving me in this wouldn’t work.”
Tobio grits his teeth and thinks about the best way to strangle meddlesome gremlins when they’re living in a completely different continent.
“Please,” He says, feeling the familiar twitch on his temple that signals an incoming tension-headache. “Start from the beginning.”
“Satori and I had initially been planning to visit you for your birthday and I had asked Hinata-kun for advice on what to give you as a gift.”
“He made me aware that someone you’d been looking forward to seeing is planning to surprise you for your birthday,” Wakatoshi states. “Hinata-kun asked me for my assistance so that they could execute this plan then convinced me that it would be the best gift we can give you.”
Tobio pulls out a chair from the 8-seater dining table that’s taking up the majority of the living room and sits down.
“This… friend. Is it Oikawa-san?”
There’s a brief hesitant pause from the other end. “I believe so.”
Tobio slumps onto the table and knocks his head on it a few times.
“I’m here,” he says, rubbing his forehead and sighing. “Will you and Tendou-san still be visiting? I know your team’s scheduled for a round until 17th.”
“If you’d still like us to. Satori mentioned wanting to experience one of those Christmas masses in Rome but he needs to be back in Paris by the 28th. What would you suggest?”
“Oh, I didn’t know Tendou-san’s catholic.”
“He’s not,” Wakatoshi shares with an exasperated air. Tobio decides not to ask.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing you and Tendou-san, if that’s alright, and I uh, live near the Basilica so I can show you around.”
“That’s good to hear. I’ll talk to Satori and give you the final details. And Tobio?”
“I’m beginning to realise that perhaps Hinata-kun had not been completely honest with his explanation to me, and I apologise for meddling even unknowingly.” Wakatoshi says, firmly and sincerely. “I’m unsure of where you stand with Oikawa but I am aware that he’s been trying to get in touch with you. If you’d like my help to stop their scheming, just say so anytime.”
“I—” Tobio croaks then clears his throat. “It’s ok, Wakatoshi. Thanks for, uh, just… thanks.”
“You’re welcome. See you soon, Tobio.”
I’m going to fucking kill you, he texts Shouyou privately before leaving his phone on its dock again.
He pulls out the clean clothes from the dryer, shoves the second load of laundry, then starts hanging some of the still damp clean clothes on the heated drying racks. When that’s done, he finishes vacuuming his entire apartment then mops the hardwood floor and vacuums it again as he waits for the third load of laundry to finish. Then he moves to the growing pile of freshly laundered items and starts sorting the bed linens from the kitchen towels and his clothes then neatly folding them into the closet.
By the time he’s finished, Tobio’s stomach is growling with hunger. He opens a couple of windows halfway to let some fresh air in even if it’s too cold outside, opting to leave the thermostat as it is. Moving to the kitchen, Tobio looks through the dwindling supplies of his cupboard and the equally pathetic slab of parmigiano-reggiano that Gio gave him before deciding to order from UberEats instead.
Having nothing else to do to keep him from doing any dumb shit he's probably going to regret, Tobio makes a frustrated sound and taps on the Messages app before scrolling down a few times until he sees the +54 that he’s been staunchly ignoring ever since it appeared on his inbox a few days after Tadashi’s birthday.
Tobio, the first blue bubble reads.
Tobio I know this is your number
You just replied to Hajime, I know you’re awake
You reply to Kin-chan and Kun-chan why not me
Don’t ignore me.
Why do you have the Read status on are u sociopath
Fine I don’t even wanna talk to you anyway
Then he reads through the most recent messages, ones that he’d easily ignored in Berlin when winning and playing volleyball took up 98% of his headspace.
Can we talk?
[Blurry low-res image of Tobio bowing to Oikawa-san all those years ago]
Tobio we should talk
Licking his lips to rid of the sudden dryness, he lets his thumb hover over the Call button contemplating the choice he's about to make. He’s mercifully interrupted by the doorbell ringing, which distracts him enough because he has to grab his keys, go to the door, lock the door behind him, run to the lobby, and then unlock the gate so he can get the box of pizza from the delivery guy and make his way back up.
Tobio washes his hands and pours himself a glass of wine from the bottle he opened the night before, idly wondering when he’s gotten used to having it almost every meal. Then settles on the dining table with the pizza and his phone.
He’s bitten through a pizza and a half before he gives up the charade, scrolling through his contacts for Oikawa Tooru before pressing call.
Tobio jumps when it rings through his bluetooth speakers and quickly tries to switch the audio back to the receiver but then his call is picked up and a hesitant “Tobio?” echoes in his apartment.
His back automatically stiffens and the hand holding his phone trembles. What was he doing? He hasn’t talked to Oikawa-san since High School.
Tobio slowly disconnects the audio from the speakers and presses the phone against his ear.
There’s a pause from the other end of the line. Tobio can hear raucous laughter and the clinking of plates and utensils.
“Con permiso,” He hears Oikawa-san say, muffled like he's covered the receiver. It's quickly followed by the sound of a chair dragging through the ground, the sound making him wince. “Tobio, I was in the middle of breakfast.”
There’s a familiar admonishment on the tone.
Tobio doesn’t really care for it. Doesn’t have the patience for it from this man. He forces himself not to apologise.
“You said we should talk,” he says gruffly. “So talk.”
“My, my, you haven’t changed at all, have you? Hello Oikawa-san. How are you? I'm sorry I didn't reply to any of your texts. So rude, Tobio-chan.”
Tobio exhales. Thinks of volleyball. Of the pork curry with soft-boiled egg on top he’ll cook with his friends on his birthday. Of winning in Berlin last Friday. Of Kei, Tadashi, and Hitoka—but definitely doesn’t think of Hinata. He gathers as much patience and tolerance from these thoughts as he can so he wouldn't start yelling.
When he’s calm enough not to scream and give Oikawa-san the benefit of knowing the effect he has on him, he says “Right, okay. Goodbye.”
“Wait!” Oikawa-san says, the teasing lilt gone only to be replaced by something harried. “Wait, Tobio.”
Tobio lets a few seconds of silence pass.
"Just wait." Oikawa-san makes a frustrated noise. “Let me just— I don’t know how to talk to you. Why did you call?”
“You’re the one who said we should talk.”
“I know that!” Oikawa-san snaps. “I didn’t think you’d actually call. Give me a second.”
Tobio stares at the box of pizza in front of him, a slice and a half gone from it, then he glances at the empty glass of wine. He thinks of the akamiso and the curry powder that he has to order online this week for it to arrive on time for his birthday Zoom call so he stands and makes his way to the list stuck on his fridge, writing Akamiso and Curry powder on it so he won't forget. Then he reaches for the bottle of wine before making his way back to the table.
“Hajime said that I should talk to you and apologise.”
“For what?” Tobio asks as he pours a generous amount on his recently empty glass.
“How should I know!” Oikawa-san snaps then seems to collect himself. “How are you?”
“I’m ok. And you?”
Distantly, Tobio recognises how surreal it is that they’re trying for small talk when they’ve never spoken like this before, not even before Oikawa-san vanished all those years ago only to appear on a photo with Shouyou in Brazil of all places.
“I’m doing amazing. How’s, eh, how’s Rome or wherever you are? What team are you playing for again?”
“Uh,” Tobio says, knowing that Shouyou updates Oikawa-san so he definitely knows what team Tobio's playing. “Ali Roma.”
“Ah. You participating in CEV? They let you play? Did you make it to the quarterfinals?”
“Yeah. Um. Yes to all?”
A beat. “So?”
“Uh. So what?”
“Aren’t you going to ask how my team is?” Tobio can actually feel him rolling his eyes from Argentina.
“Right. How are you?” Tobio mutters. “How is, uh, CA San Juan?”
“Like you don’t still watch videos of me on Youtube. You don’t have to lie.” Oikawa-san snorts. “Tell me, Tobio-chan, how do you like my serves now? Still wanna copy?”
“Ok.” Tobio licks his lips, tired of the pleasantries and the dizzying turns of the conversation. He takes a huge gulp from his glass in preparation. “Why did Iwaizumi-san want you to apologise to me?”
“I don’t know! I’ve already told him multiple times that I don’t have anything to say sorry to you for when you’re the one who can't let go of the past but Hajime’s been after my nuts—”
“Right. Is that why you’re going to be here on the 18th? Because of Iwaizumi-san?”
“If you answered my texts, I wouldn’t have to! But noooo, you go and ignore me and have Hajime—” Oikawa-san stops. “Hold on, how do you know about that?”
“About you getting my best friend to go behind my back to plan thi—”
“Whoa whoa, back up, Tobio-chan!” Oikawa-san says irritably, his voice rising. “I didn’t ask Shouyou to do anything. What, did you think I wanted to see you? News flash, Tobio, it’s not normal to still be obsessed about your high school crush and tell everyone about your sad life story where I left you after we fucked and—”
“I didn’t—” Tobio bites out, seething and finding it a little hard to breathe from the sudden barrage of shit that spilled out of Oikawa Tooru’s mouth. “What do you want from me?”
“Nothing!” Oikawa shouts. “I want nothing from you!”
And Tobio’s back there again — in his bedroom in Miyagi, staring down his phone after the fifth time Oikawa-san’s number returns a busy tone. In front of the big looming gate of Oikawa-san’s place with a woman blinking down at him and saying “Tooru’s in Tokyo.” In Tokyo again, with the sinking feeling in his chest after Oikawa-san turned away.
Maybe he was obsessed.
“I’ll get Shouyou to back off,” Tobio says dully, ignoring the stinging in his eyes. Doesn’t want to think about this ever again. “I don’t know why Iwaizumi-san wants you to apologise to me but I’ll tell him you did. Don’t come here.”
He ignores the panicked spluttering he can still hear from the phone and clicks End call before switching the Do Not Disturb function on.
Tobio pours more wine into his empty glass and fills it to the brim, spilling some of it on the dark wood of his table as he takes several gulps. He closes the box of pizza and wipes down the mess he’s made before gathering everything and placing it on the kitchen counter, his legs shaky underneath his strangely weightless body.
He thinks of going for a jog and even gets as far as putting on a jacket before his knees crumple beneath him and he falls to the floor, his legs making a dull thud.
When he wakes up later, he’s back on his bed. The brief flashes of him crawling underneath his blankets gives a sufficient answer on how he got there.
He flaps his hand unseeingly around on the duvet until he finds his phone to look at the time.
19:02, his phone dutifully displays. Below it are the neatly bundled notifications:
17 Missed Calls from Hinata Shouyou.
1 Missed Call from Tsukishima Kei.
32 Unread texts from the group chat with Kei, Tadashi, Hitoka, and Shou.
18 Unread texts from Hinata Shouyou.
2 Unread texts from Iwaizumi Hajime.
3 Unread texts from the previously inactive group chat with Kunimi and Kindaichi.
1 Unread text from Oikawa Tooru.
And the familiar 50+ unread texts from various group chats.
He drops his phone on the bed and makes his way to the shower, feeling strangely empty. Like he’s floating and weightless and hollow.
On Sunday, he gets up early for a run. The cold winter air numbing his face as he jogs towards Vaticano, the homeless people still rucked up in their sleeping bags in the underpass that led to the side of Piazza San Pietro. He runs around it and through it, dodging the few smattering of tourists that stop to take photos of the sprawling structure.
He thinks he could find another route where tourists don’t flock as much, but the facade of stores are familiar, and the winding streets have ingrained themselves into his brain that he doesn’t have to think much without getting lost. He makes three rounds and stops at Mercato Trionfale, intending to buy some meat to cook for lunch only to remember that it’s Sunday and the shops are closed.
Tobio supposes he can give Aaron a call to ask if he’s available for a lunch out but he quickly dismisses the idea because they’ve all just been saddled together 24/7 for two full weeks in Berlin and he’s pretty sure they’re still sick of each other’s faces.
His earphones, which aren’t actually playing anything, announces Hinata Shouyou. He quickly taps it twice and the call abruptly ends.
Deciding to drop by the tiny Carrefour near his place to at least buy some groceries on his jog back, he makes a right to Via Gregorio VII and begins lowering his pace to wind down.
He makes it about halfway down the road before his phone announces Tsukishima Kei .
Tobio mutters some curses under his breath and goes to the side to stationary jog without blocking the sidewalk, grumbling a quick scusi to the stranger behind him.
“Oh, you’re alive,” Kei says in his usually snooty drawl.
“Yes, what do you want?”
“Did you get the tracking number Tadashi sent?”
Tobio stops jogging in place. “Ha?”
“The tracking number for your birthday gifts?” Kei says, tone very much making it clear that he thinks Tobio’s being an idiot. It’s a very familiar tone.
“Oh, no. Haven’t checked my inbox yet.”
“Tadashi sent it last week.”
“Well I was in Berlin last week!”
“What does that have to do with reading your texts?”
“Kei,” Tobio sighs, leaning on the wall behind him. The man standing by a table sipping espresso eyes him suspiciously. “I’m tired.”
Kei is silent for a while, and Tobio starts walking down the street again. He passes through Carrefour and hesitates by the entry before deciding to head in.
“What happened?” Kei asks finally.
Tobio pulls out the small packet of disinfectant wipes from his pocket - something that he’s taken to doing when he started training with Sakusa-san in JNT - and wipes down the handle before grabbing it.
Tobio walks to the dairy section and takes two bottles of milk.
“Oikawa-san called. Or no, I called Oikawa-san.”
Kei makes that particular sound he makes when he wants to strangle someone. “And ?”
“We talked. That’s all.”
“Talking to you when you're like this is like talking to a cheese grater. How did this talk go?”
God, Shouyou must have sounded pathetic to get Tsukishima Kei willing to talk about this shit with him. Tobio picks through some bananas and grabs a few mandarins, pears, and some kiwis.
“About as well as to be expected,” he says. “We haven’t talked since high school, how do you think it went?”
He wanders to the vegetable section and picks through the limited selection of cabbages, radicchio, and kale. The shrill voice of Ali Roma’s dietician saying perché non mangi la verdura?! ringing in his head. He does eat his vegetables, he thinks. Just not the shit kind.
“Is Ushijima still visiting you?”
“Yeah I think so. Him and Tendou-san. I think they want to spend Christmas here.”
“Are they staying in your apartment?”
Tobio stops, eyes bugging out and reeling. Holy fuck. Are they?
“Shouyou’s worried,” Kei bulsters on, switching the topic, unaware of the shit he’s just caused. “So are Tadashi and Hitoka. I’ll tell them you’re alive.”
“O.. yeah okay. Thanks. Shit, do you think Wakatoshi and Tendou-san will stay in my apartment?”
Kei chortles. “I don’t know, King. Maybe you should ask them?”
“I heard from Kyoutani that Iwaizumi-san went apoplectic.”
Tobio’s basket is a little too heavy now so he makes his way to the till and places the basket on the counter, smiling at the tired looking staff behind it.
“Apop— what’s that mean? Wait. I'm checking out.”
“Sachetti?” The man from behind the till asks.
“Si, due, grazie,” He answers politely and pulls out his credit card from the card sleeve in his pocket, waving it to the guy. “Posso pagare con la carta?”
“Certi. Carta o bancomat? Sono trenta e cinquanta.”
Tobio patiently waits until everything’s been sorted into the bags and quickly pays for everything with his card before making his way out to trek back to his apartment. He’s turning to the corner of his street balancing two bags before he manages to get back to the conversation they were having.
The click clack of the keyboard coming from the other end stops.
“Done with whatever that was?” Kei asks, amused.
“Yeah I had to get food. What were we saying?”
“Kyoutani. He said Iwaizumi-san’s angry on their group chat. I figured it had something to do with Oikawa-san. Shouyou’s texts confirmed it.” A pause. “Tobio, you know we’re not in High School anymore right?”
Tobio turns the lock on the entryway of his building and steps in, the metal gate and the glass door slamming shut behind him.
“Tsukishima. I am living alone in Italy playing for a foreign team where I’m away from Japan and everyone I’ve ever known. I played for two Olympic games. I’m very much aware of not being in High School anymore.”
"You're an arrogant fuck." Kei snorts. “Did I ask for an enumeration of your achievements?”
Tobio stomps up the stairs, not wanting to wait from the lift to descend from the 5th storey.
“I just meant, King, that you’ve been better at talking since you graduated, at least with us. Don’t revert back to your monosyllabic self just because your little Grinch heart grew and developed feelings. Shou shouldn’t have meddled, sure. But you should tell him and talk to him or yell at him as you usually do.”
Tobio reaches his door and kicks it open, placing the bags on the side and closing the door behind him before toeing off his shoes.
“I don’t care if you slept with the entire Argentinian team. Just don’t get silent. Or at least let us know when you want to get silent so we know not to expect a text or a seen so we don’t worry.”
Tobio looks at the photo frames propped innocently in front of him, throat closing up.
“Yeah. Yeah, okay, mom. For the record, I only slept with one Argentinian. Not sure about Rio though.”
“Shut up.” Kei mutters. “This is a gross conversation.”
Tobio laughs, breath knocking out from his chest. “You just told me you didn’t care.”
Tobio rolls his eyes.
“Tsukishima, do you think I should try talking to Oikawa-san again?”
“That’s up to you,” Kei says. “I think I’m going to break into hives.”
“Okay, tsundere,” Tobio grumbles, rolling his eyes again as he grabs the bags and makes his way to the kitchen. “Did Shou tell you he asked for Wakatoshi’s help in getting me to agree to fetch Oikawa-san from the airport?”
“He what? Wait. From which airport? Oikawa’s going to Italy?”
“Uh,” Tobio says as he starts sorting through his groceries, putting the bottles of milk in his fridge. “What exactly did Shou tell you he did?”
“He said you’re pissed at him because he gave your number to Oikawa but he didn’t say anything about Oikawa going there—that little shithead.”
“Your best friend’s really stupid. You belong with each other.”
“I know,” Tobio grunts, nodding in agreement. “I told Oikawa-san not to come here. He said I’m obsessed with him." A beat. "Kei, I think he’s right ”
“Is this how parents feel when their child’s walking to class on their first day of school? Are you finally growing up and becoming self aware?”
“Shut up, it’s not like you’re any better with Tadashi!”
“No," Kei drolls. "I’m out. That’s off limits.”
“Fine, sorry.” Tobio sighs, actually feeling sorry that he brought up the one thing he knows was shared to no one else but him. He pulls out the two bottles of prosecco he bought and puts them on the corner where other unopened bottles of wine are sitting, then he looks at the rows of empty wine bottles sitting discreetly on the floor next to the fridge and wonders if this is something he should be worried about. “Do you think I’m obsessed with Oikawa-san?”
There’s a sound of a sliding door opening followed by the telltale creaks of wood that happen when someone puts some weight on Kei’s tiny balcony overlooking Hirose. He imagines Kei standing there, the frigid winter air of Sendai rising barely a degree in the afternoon sun. He remembers helping Kei move during the short break he got while training for his first olympic stint, grunting as they tried to make a sofa fit through the narrow hallway that led to Kei's door.
“You’ve always had an obsessive personality but you haven’t brought him up until he was mentioned last month so I think you’re fine,” Kei dismisses airily. “But he’s certainly obsessed with you.”
There’s a snick and a sharp inhale and Tobio boggles. “Are you smoking again?”
“Yes, I am. I only smoke when someone mentions something that stresses me out.”
“Like how you’re stupidly in love with Tadashi?” Tobio asks, annoyed now. “Don’t smoke, Kei.”
“Don’t stress me out then.”
“I think I’m drinking too much wine,” he offers sullenly.
“How’s that working for you and your tolerance?”
Tobio flushes, sure that they’re both thinking about the Olympic Village story that Shou forced him to share with Kei, Hitoka, and Tadashi. “It’s not as bad.”
“Hmm. Were you in love with Oikawa?”
“Let him come to you,” Kei suggests, exhaling. “See what happens after. At least one of us should get some closure on our hang ups.”
“I’m not sure if he’s still coming after that call.”
“Oh, he is,” Kei says. “I’m sure he is.”
- Tobio's apartment is based on an actual apartment I've lived in when I was in Rome about 2 years ago but with some modifications (like the bigger dining room table).
- Most places mentioned in this fic are actual places within the vicinity of said apartment (mercato, carrefour, etc).
- Tsukki's apartment is also based on an actual apartment that I stayed in but it's in Kyoto, not Sendai (this is the balcony)
- CEV Champions League is an actual league. The last one was conducted in Berlin.
- I may actually extend this thing for a couple more chapters because these dumb idiots are dumb as fuck.
On gifts, bravery, and acceptance.
Y'all have no idea how many times I rewrote this chapter. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS WTF.
Here's more on Ali Roma!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
On L'Immacolata Concezione, Aaron buzzes him from the gate at six in the morning, bursts into his door carrying a recyclable bag with contents he refuses to disclose, makes Tobio and himself a sandwich from the numerous random stuff in Tobio’s fridge as Tobio gets dressed, and kidnaps him to Firenze.
Tobio doesn’t contribute much to the chatter as they merge into autostrada del sole, still a little out of it from being abruptly awoken.
“Got something for you in the backseat,” Aaron says with an easy grin, his eyes briefly meeting Tobio’s from the driver’s side.
“Just do it, dude, geez.”
Tobio blindly extends an arm behind him, twisting himself on the seat and blindly patting through the soft leather until he grasps something cool to the touch and wrapped around a kitchen towel.
“Where’d you get this?” Tobio says with wonder after he unrolls it from the towel, the familiar packaging of the milk he used to buy in Japan grasped in his hand. He’s searched for this everywhere on foot and online but Roma yielded no results.
He remembers offhandedly mentioning the brand before — months ago when Tobio sat in the same passenger seat, confessing to the consecutive nights caused by the oddly specific cravings. When Aaron had shouted ‘ that was a shit play! ’ to him after his trembling hands cost them the match.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s a birthday gift.” Aaron winks at him, blue eyes bright against the slate grey sky that rushes past the window. “You have about five more bottles of that in your fridge right now. Let me know when you’re about to run out.”
Aaron leads them to the winding streets of Firenze with a hand around his wrist, the smell of leather pungent in every corner they turn until the narrow lane widens and a river appears from their view.
“When I get lonely, I drive,” Aaron shares, the hand in his pocket gesturing to the dark water as they leaned against the waist-high concrete railing, arms resting on it and shoulders brushing. “I’m not really the type to go to museums to look at paintings of dead people, but this? This I can appreciate.”
Tobio follows his gaze to the distant bridge on their left, looking surreal as the fog wraps around it and through it. He thinks he may have seen it before in one of his books at school, but he never really bothered to look because he only cared enough to pass and to not have Kei’s wrath upon them.
“In my hometown—” He starts, looking to Ponte Vecchio on his right. “Our school is on top of a hill. After practice, you see the lights below and feel tall. I saw it everyday and didn’t care. I miss it now.”
He remembers a particular night with Shouyou, bumping their fists together, and making naive promises that they’re somehow fulfilling. Tobio always thought he’d be alone in chasing his dreams, but now Shouyou’s right there with him, keeping him on his toes and facing him head on. The competition that makes Tobio’s blood burn.
He thinks of I’m here and of never being alone again.
“You’re not going home for the holidays, huh?” Aaron asks, watching him.
Tobio shakes his head. “You?”
“Nah. I used to play basketball,” Aaron shares, burrowing lower into his scarf when the wind picks up. “Almost got drafted once but a teammate planted drugs in my bag. They didn’t even test before they rescinded the offer. I hated basketball so I went for a new sport. Got lucky enough to be good at it somehow.”
“Oh, that’s why you spike that way.”
Aaron laughs. “Like what?”
“Don’t know. It’s just different.” Tobio says, shrugging. “Do you miss America?”
“Nah,” he says. “I come from Bumfuck, Iowa. Nothing but rows of windmills in the middle of rows of cornfields. I miss my ex though. I left before she could leave me.”
Their eyes meet, Aaron smiling at him serenely like he knows something Tobio doesn’t. Tobio has never been good at figuring people out so he doesn’t bother. But he knows that out of the many players in Ali, Aaron’s the closest to his age - second youngest to the team next to Tobio.
Knows he’s one of the three people in their 18 man-team who’s not married or attached or something.
“How about your friends?” Tobio asks.
“I don’t have a lot of those,” Aaron says as he motions for them to start walking again. “Don’t have anyone close enough to miss. It’s different with this team though. ‘S nice. It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed.
When they reach the piazza, Aaron pulls him closer and wraps an arm around his shoulder. “Say cheese!” He whispers to Tobio’s ear, his warm breath fanning his cheeks before they both look up to Aaron’s phone with the towering green and white marble of the duomo behind them.
“I can’t believe you don’t have an insta,” Aarons says mournfully, selecting all photos he took—some of them, some of just Tobio, some of just him that Tobio took—and airdropping them to Tobio.
Tobio remembers the photo Kourai posted and shakes his head to rid of the memory. “I do, actually.”
“Yeah, Hitoka, my friend, made me one back in high school but I don’t remember the password. She made one just so she can tag me in her photos.”
“What’s your handle?”
Aaron rolls his eyes. “Your username.”
“I don’t know.”
“Ask your friend.”
Tobio glances at his phone, clicks the Clock app to check the time in New York that he saved after Brazil. He shakes his head. “She’s probably asleep.”
“Later, then. Is she single?”
“Mind if I post this on mine?” Aaron asks after a laugh, showing him a photo of them that they took, their cheeks pressed together. Aaron smiling widely with Tobio looking flushed and befuddled next to him.
“‘Kay,” Aaron says and expertly clicks on his phone and presumably uploads the photo before pocketing it again. “Come on, I’m freezing. let's get lunch then I’m taking you on top of a hill so can you tell me if it helps with your hometown homesickness.”
They make it on top of said hill later after Aaron takes him around whilst pointing out numerous trivias about streets and shoppes.
Tobio watches Aaron as he impishly insists on eating Gelato despite the temperature dropping as night fell. “What are you talking about? Gelato’s best during winter.”
Piazzale Michelangelo is blessedly quiet and empty, the cold probably chasing the tourists off so it’s just them and a couple who’s standing on the other end of the overlooking, probably as determined as they are to avoid each other.
“How does this compare to the view from your school?” Aaron asks, standing beside him as they at the lights of Città di Firenze twinkling below them. “You feel as tall?”
It makes Tobio feel alone, actually.
“Can I kiss you?” Tobio asks instead.
Aaron grins at him, slow and easy. So brave in ways Tobio’s still learning to be.
“Sure, why not?”
Just come here.
Tobio turns just as David approaches, running from the sports hall to where Tobio’s about to head towards Aaron’s car after practice. From the corner of his eye, he sees Aaron shrug before sliding down and shutting the door.
“Damn, you walk fast,” David pants, his breath fogging. “Lordy.”
“I can’t make it to your birthday,” David says after he catches his breath. “Booked my tickets last night when I found a cheap one, so I’m headed home on Saturday.”
“Yeah, yeah, come on,” he says, gesturing so Tobio would follow him where his car’s parked. “I got you the goods.”
David cranks open the trunk.
“My birthday gift, brother,” David smirks, his eyes crinkling at the corners as Tobio takes in the 4 5-kilo bags of Tsuyahime rice resting in the trunk. “Is the gift of rice. And a rice cooker.”
“I have a rice cooker,” Tobio states.
“Your rice cooker’s shit.” David declares proudly as he pats the box sitting next to the rice. “This one’s the real deal.”
The photo on the box reminds Tobio of the rice cooker in the Tsukishima household where he’s been tasked to prepare the rice during exam season. It’s the simple one that doesn’t require anything from you except pushing down a lever. The one that Tobio likes best.
“Right?” David grins proudly. “Come on. Get Aaron to back up closer so it’s easier to get it on his trunk.”
Aaron obliges, then complains loudly upon realising that he’d have to help Tobio bring it up his apartment later.
“Yeah, yeah, shut up,” David says, pulling them close as they each go through the whole left-first-then-right airkisses thing. “I’m making Afritada for the Christmas party on Friday. You better attend, Tobio.”
Aaron looks at him balefully. “Any chance for Lumpias?”
“Lumpia is strictly reserved for my birthday. Your lily white ass can wait ‘til February.”
Aaron sticks his tongue out.
“Oh and Tobio, sign two photos for me tomorrow, would you?” David says, walking him to the passenger side and opening the door for him. “They don’t believe me when I say I’m friends with Tobio Kageyama.”
“Sure. You can also, uh, facetime me when you’re there? If that helps?”
“God, yes,” David laughs. “They’d love that.”
AZ0681. Dec 12, 6:40am. T3.
“Oh Dio,” Samuele groans, wincing after the ball hits his arm before flying off the court. “Re di campo, abbi pietà di noi”
Tobio’s feet hit the ground from across the net to the cheerful yells of his teammates after landing his seventh consecutive service ace in a row and putting his team at match point, much to Samuele’s chagrin.
The friendly match among the members of Ali Roma was supposed to have ended 3 sets ago before it snowballed into full five sets, both sides refusing to back down and determined to win at the last match of the year before they parted for the holidays.
“Mou ippon!” Gio yells over his shoulder, the phrase sounding better on his tongue than they did in Berlin where Tobio had a little moment after seeing a bunch of red-wearing supporters from the crowd waving the Japanese flag amidst the sea of European flags. “Nice serve!”
The phrase still leaves an ache in his chest, remembering the many times he’s heard it from the sidelines led by Sugawara-san, cheering him on even if Tobio stole his position.
Samuele had approached him after that match in Berlin, carefully phrasing the questions to know more about Mou Ippon and Sakoi after seeing how Tobio had reacted to the phrase.
Tobio knows he spoke to Ali Roma about it when the team had started hesitantly using the words with Gio and Samuele quietly leading them.
“You bastard!” David yells from the other side of the net, bringing Tobio back into the present where he’s standing behind the service line. “Shit, Tobio, you absolute beast.”
“End their miserable lives, your royal highness!” Aaron jeers.
“Sakoi!” Samuele yells back, the libero meeting Tobio’s eyes from across the net. Daring him to back down.
The ref whistles and all his teammates tense, ready and waiting for him.
Tobio throws the ball up and flies.
Ok. I’ll see you at the airport.
Tobio thinks of all the teams he’s been in since Kitagawa Daiichi.
He thinks of Kunimi and Kindaichi sitting on the Adlers side of the court; the easy way a few exchanged sentences erases the bitterness born from immaturity and youth.
He thinks of the Karasuno group chat affectionately named Torino, still active on Tobio’s phone. Of generosity and kindness.
He thinks of Kourai, and Wakatoshi and the rest of the Adlers.
He thinks of the bright red colour of their jerseys, carrying the flag of their country.
He thinks of all the monsters flying up in the air to meet his every toss, meeting his every demand and demanding everything from him in turn.
He thinks of Kei, Tadashi, Hitoka, and of the thousand different ways they’ve quietly offered comfort.
He thinks of Shouyou and the first loud BANG that followed after Shouyou hit the toss that nobody bothered to hit before.
He thinks of his grandfather. Of the grief and devastation that was left behind.
He thinks of the empty house in Miyagi that he refuses to sell, vowing to make a home out of it someday.
Grandpa, he thinks. Are you proud of me?
About to board. See you in 16 hours.
- The first one is the text from Oikawa that Kags initially left unread.
- What Samuele said can be roughly translated to "Have mercy on us, King of the Court".
- L'Immacolata Concezione is a national holiday celebrated on the 8th of December. It's the unofficial start of the holiday season where people start putting up tinsels and holiday decor.
- Lumpia and afritada are amazing.
Shoutout to Mirella, my long suffering Brazilian friend, who isn't in the Haikyu fandom (yet) but was ready to translate for me anyway. A hero we all deserve. ♡
I'm also tryna respond to each comment y'all, thank you so much.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The night before Oikawa-san arrives, Tobio is unable to sleep.
He gets home from the christmas party, peels himself out of his suit, and steps into the shower fully intending on passing out right after, but sleep evades him.
After spending ten more minutes trying to force himself to sleep, he ends up grabbing his phone from the nightstand, swiping down and typing Line on the search bar and clicks the app until a familiar list of group chats fills the screen.
Tobio sees Hinata Shouyou is Typing in one of them.
It’s been days since he last spoke to Shou and not for the lack of Shou trying. Tobio thinks it’s the longest they haven’t spoken since the summer camp all those years ago. It bothers Tobio how easy it is to slip down the road of forgetting to keep in touch - they all have their own lives, they have new people who’ll take their attention, bills to pay.
Tobio doesn’t have as many new people in his life as Shou would undoubtedly have with the easy way he approaches others. He doesn’t want to be forgotten.
He clicks Call and waits as his screen clears until he’s staring at his own face, bathed in the shadows.
“Tobio?” Shouyou says after four rings. “Hello?”
Tobio frowns at the black screen before pressing the phone against his ear. He kind of wanted to see Shou.
“Shou,” he says.
“Hi!” is Shou’s enthusiastic reply, his voice echoey like he’s in a hollow room.
Tobio blinks. “Are you in the toilet?”
“What? No! Why would you—that’s disgusting.”
“That was one time,” Shouyou predictably says. “And you called so of course I’ll answer.”
“You were taking a shit. I heard the plonk.”
“You’re so ungrateful. Aren’t you glad to know that I’ll answer your call anywhere I am?”
“Listen,” Shouyou starts, then Tobio hears a screeching sound followed by a thunk, followed by loud chatter. “Oh shit. Wait, Tobio, gimme a sec. Pera gente, calem a boca, tô falando com meu melhor amigo!” There’s another thunk. “Ok, go open your cam, milk boy.”
Tobio takes his phone away from his ear and sees Shouyou’s dumb face and what looks like a court behind him with people milling around.
“Hi! I told you I’m not in the toilet,” Shou explains, grinning at him wildly. “How are you? Wait, let me just. Ei pessoal!!! Esse é meu melhor amigo e meu levantador favorito! Venham dizer oi!” The people nearby Shouyou all start coming closer with big wide smiles.
A bald-headed guy squawks indignantly on the left, rushing to the phone.
“What do you mean your favourite setter?” The guy says in english as he peers into Tobio.
Shou laughs, his hand appearing from the side of the screen as it pats the shoulder of the bald head. “Don’t worry, Santi, I still like your sets. Tobio, this is Santi. Setter for ASAS.”
Tobio hastily sits up, switches on the lamp, and tries to school his face into what can be considered a smile - the nearest it can get when it’s midnight and he’s in bed. He really fucking hates Shou, what the fuck.
“He—hello,” he stutters, waving awkwardly at the group. “I’m Tobio.”
He gets a couple of greetings back.
“You’re that setter that Shouyou’s been comparing Santi to!” Someone laughs, pushing Santi’s face away. “Pinpoint King!”
“Tobio would have gotten that to me,” another man says, presumably mimicking Shou. “Hi Tobio, nice to meet you!”
“Alright, alright!” Shouyou says, pulling his phone away until his face takes up the screen again. He looks to the side, “Vocês podem esperar aqui que eu vou trocar uma ideia com meu amigo?”
Tobio sees Shouyou start walking away, the bright lights attached to the steel rods slowly transitioning into a darkening sky.
“Hi Tobio,” Shouyou says a couple of seconds later, leaning against a white column.
“You’re an idiot,” Tobio snarls, “I’m in bed.”
“So? I just wanted to show them my grumpy old setter.”
“What did you say anyway? Why was, uh, S… Santi? Why was your setter angry?”
Shouyou snorts. “I told them to come meet my best friend and my favourite setter.”
“You really are a dumbass,” Tobio mutters with a smile, touched.
“Well, what? You are. I miss your sets,” Shou declares, then looks away, waving at someone before looking back to the screen. “Can we just use audio? My battery’s almost dead.”
Tobio reaches for his airpods and tucks them into his ear, dropping his phone on the charging dock before sliding back down until he’s flat on his bed.
“Why’d you not answer my calls, dummy?” Shou says a while later. “Are you still angry?”
“No, I just. Why’d you do that, Shou?” He asks quietly.
It was hell not to talk to Shouyou because he would have been the first one to hear about what had happened if he wasn’t one of the reasons why it did. Tobio had felt like he'd been turned inside out, the rug pulled beneath his feet. Because Shou was the first person he’s ever trusted that he thought wouldn’t—
“I don’t know,” Shou whispers sadly, the very same voice Tobio had heard from him once when Tobio called him on his birthday during his first year in Brazil. “I just thought I didn’t want you to be alone on your birthday.”
“Then you could have flown over yourself,” Tobio offers.
“You know I can’t. I’m— you know right? About…”
“Yeah, dumbass. Of course, I know about you paying for Natsu’s school and sending money back home and wanting to save. I know that.” Tobio sighs, pulling an arm up and tucking it under his head. “You could have let me pay for your flight, just this once. You won’t owe me anything. And besides, Oikawa-san? Really?”
“If he wanted to fly for sixteen hours for a booty call, who am I to stop him?” Shou says with a laugh. “I mean, it’s your birthday. I thought— I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
“You thought it’s my birthday so you wanted to give me dick?” Tobio deadpans.
Shouyou squawks. “You’re so crass. I thought you’d be happy to have someone to sleep with. You’re like, one year away from your slut season.”
“My slut sea— what? What are you talking about?”
“Your slut season,” Shou explains like he’s making sense and Tobio’s the dumb one in this conversation. “What? You don’t know about that? Hoshiumi and Atsumu explained it to me.”
“What did they explain to you? Atsumu has NO room to judge—”
“They said,” Shouyou careens forward, ignoring Tobio’s comment. “That when it’s Olympic season, you tend to, uh, relax with strangers. Athletes. In the Village. They kind of told me when I was looking for you in Tokyo? Remember? You disappeared only for me to see you making out with Argentina’s Ace like five hours later. Then you vomited all over the place.”
“You remember that big bulky dude you were climbing like a tree? The one in the video? That was their Ace,” Shouyou laughs.
“Fucking delete that video, Shou. You shouldn’t even have it. It’s the rule.”
Tobio remembers Shou showing him the video on his phone the following morning when they were mid breakfast. He could hear Shouyou’s sharp bark of laughter and Kourai’s outraged “Where’s Tsumu— Holy shit, Tobio! Not again!” in the background as the video showed Tobio very determinedly licking into some guy’s mouth with his legs wrapped around his waist as the guy carried him somewhere.
How was he supposed to have known it was an Argentinian athlete anyway? It wasn’t like they were wearing jerseys.
“—You should’ve seen Oikawa-san’s face when he heard about it.”
“Wait. What the fuck are you talking about?” Tobio says, focusing back into the conversation as Shou continues to whine.
“Yamayama-kun, you can’t actually be this stupid! I heard their ace, like, talking about you when we’re switching courts. He even tried to get your attention. Oikawa-san looked funny.”
“I don’t really… remember that,” Tobio says, turning his face to the side to groan into his pillow.
“Yeah, that’s cos you were busy looking anywhere else but Oikawa-san.”
“Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about, dumbass.”
“Sure I don’t. By the way, can you not ignore me again?” Shouyou says, his voice rising. “I… The next time you get angry with me, just yell at me like usual.”
“I don’t like not talking to you,” Shouyou admits quietly. “I’m sorry. Look I’ll get him not to go. I think he’s not going anymore but I’m gonna make sure he’s not. Okay? I’ll leave it alone. I’m never going to speak to him again. I’m sorry. Just don’t ignore me again.”
Tobio presses his palm on his face, his anxiety rising along with Shouyou’s panicked ramble. “He’s, uh, he’s arriving tomorrow. Um. I mean later. Oikawa-san.”
“I asked him to come.”
“Kageyama, what the HELL? You didn’t talk to me for days and now you’re saying you—”
“It’s not that, Shou. I’m not—you went behind my back. You had Wakatoshi try to lie to me.”
“Oh.” A pause. “I’m sorry.”
“Is he gonna stay with you?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Do you want him to?”
“I don’t know.”
Shouyou makes a frustrated sound.
“I was… I was in love with him,” Tobio confesses after a beat. The words are surprisingly easier to say out loud after he’s shared it with Kei. “We, uh. We had sex. Thrice, I think. It was stupid. He uh. He left. The last time. I didn’t know until, uh, yeah.”
“Oh. I—okay, wow, I didn’t know he broke your heart. I just thought—wait, when did this happen? I thought you just… um. Relaxed with him like, twice or something.”
Tobio snorts. “Relaxed? Really? How old are you?”
“Shut up. When did you even—”
“First year. Then he left. Oh and I didn’t say he broke my heart, stupid. It was nothing.”
“It was nothing,” Shouyou mimics mockingly. “You just said you were in love—ew— with him and now it’s nothing . Make up your mind, Bakageyama.”
“Huh, he’s arriving tomorrow? Isn’t it… just December 10?”
“11 for me. Why?”
“Hm. When I talked to Oikawa-san, he said he booked for the 18th.”
“That’s a really expensive bootycall, Tobio-chan.”
“I will fucking gut you,” he growls into the receiver. “Fuck. Wakatoshi’s also coming here.”
Shouyou laughs. “Holy crap. Holy crap they’re gonna see each other! Ushijima-san and Oikawa-san! You’re going to die.”
Tobio twists in his bed and buries his face into his pillow again.
“Where are they gonna stay? Holy crap do you think they’d stay in your apartment? Will Oikawa-san have to stay in your room? How long are they staying?”
“I DON’T KNOW, dumbass, stop asking.”
“How can you not know! You should have asked when you invited them!”
“It’s not like I’m used to people accepting my invites!”
“Quit whining, Kageyama-kun,” then Shouyou hollers. “You’re going to have the sleepover from hell.”
“Stop laughing, asshole. It’s not funny. Shit , I have to check if I have extra blankets just in case. I have to clean the guest room.”
“You’re so domesticated,” Shouyou gasps in between laughter. “Please tell me we’re still cooking on your birthday. I wanna see what happens.”
“Fuck off.” Tobio says then he hesitates. He twists his fingers around his blanket before kicking it off, wishing he can drink wine without accidentally sleeping through Oikawa-san’s arrival time. “Shou?”
“You know Aaron, right?”
“Tall American blonde from Ali?”
“Oh yea.” Shouyou says suspiciously. “I remember him. Why?”
“I, uh, kissed him last monday.”
“Kageyama!” Shouyou yells in outrage. “Hoshiumi was right, you are a slut!”
“Only seasonally,” Tobio deadpans. “And it’s okay, he’s straight. I think he only kissed me cos I asked.”
“I’m gonna tell Tsukishima about this. And Tadashi. And Hitoka. They’ll judge you judgily like you deserve.”
“Okay,” Tobio says, feeling light for the very first time in a while. “You do that. I’ll go clean the guest room.”
It turns out, Wakatoshi and Tendou-san are planning to book a hotel nearby.
“Oh, thank you,” He sighs to the phone with relief, Wakatoshi on the other end.
Tobio has a fitted sheet clutched into his hand, trying in vain to put it on the guest room bed with only one hand. He wishes he could use the vacuum but his neighbours will probably call the polizia on him since it’s four in the morning.
“You’re welcome,” Wakatoshi responds automatically through a yawn, probably not understanding why Tobio’s thanking him. “I must go back to sleep now, Tobio.”
“Okay. Sorry, Wakatoshi-san.”
“Anytime, Tobio. Good night.”
Aaron and Tobio make it to Fiumicino at approximately six twenty in the morning, Aaron grumbling about favours and Tobio owing him ten dinners or something.
“Why didn’t you ask for a car in your contract?” Aaron laments as they slide into a parking slot.
“I did,” Tobio informs him quietly, unbuckling his seatbelt. “I just don’t know how to drive on this side of the road.”
“That dumb FIAT Panda in the Sports Hall is yours? Nevermind, I’ll be your car service. Don't get in that death trap.” Aaron grunts, pushing his seat back and leaning the backrest until it’s almost reclined before closing his eyes. “Parking’s free for like, 15 minutes then you’re paying. Please also grab coffee in there if you see a bar.”
“You’re not going with me?” Tobio asks, blinking down at him.
Aaron opens an eye to peer at him. “No? Kind of thought you wanted to have a private moment.”
“Tobs,” Aaron sighs exasperatedly then closes his eyes again, melting into the leather seat. “Go get your ex. I’ll be here.”
“He’s not my—” Tobio quits halfway when Aaron sighs again, more pointedly this time. “Fine, wait here, please. Thank you.”
Tobio stands behind the railing of the Arrival hall, his hands in the pocket of his jeans as he watches the flight status for Oikawa-san turn to Arrived.
He sees the familiar tuft of his hair ten minutes later, towering over the other people stepping out around him. He has a coat dangling by the handle of his carry on.
Tobio tries not to tense. Tries not to fidget or look like he’s anything but a blank canvas. Tries to lower his heart rate. If it’s a carry on, he thinks. Then he’s not planning to stay long.
Then he thinks, good.
He doesn’t wave or bring Oikawa-san’s attention to himself. Just watches as he gets closer and closer to where he’d be able to see Tobio standing there in a black coat, shirt, and black jeans.
Oikawa-san still looks breathtaking after a long flight. Of course, he does.
Tobio watches Oikawa-san as his eyes fleet across the hall to look for him and Tobio can tell the exact second he does.
He watches the tick in his jaw when it tenses. The way he seems to hesitate before squaring his shoulders.
“Welcome to Rome,” Tobio greets when Oikawa-san is standing just a few feet away, his heart hammering against his ribcage.
“Hello, Tobio,” Oikawa-san says, his voice gravelly from disuse, stepping closer and closer until Tobio can feel his breath fanning his cheeks. “Long time no see.”
If you'd notice, I changed the end to 13 Chapters because holy shit
that's how long it took for them to finally benevermind.
+ when I write Aaron, I kinda picture Kise Ryouta a lil bit. So thats a visual for you, if it helps.
- Pera gente, calem a boca, tô falando com meu melhor amigo!
- WAIT, shut up guys, I'm talking to my bestie
- Ei pessoal!!! Esse é meu melhor amigo e meu levantador favorito! Venham dizer oi!
- This is my best friend and my favourite setter! Come say hi!"
- Vocês podem esperar aqui que eu vou trocar uma ideia com meu amigo?
- aight ima head out to talk to my pal in peace.
No way, Tobio-chan!
Italy is different. Italy is big and grand in ways Miyagi wasn’t. In ways that the entirety of Japan wasn’t.
Italy was supposed to be different, which was why he had picked it in the first place.
He remembers looking through the offers sent to him by his manager, emails over emails over emails until Tobio’s inbox had been full of nothing but a comparative list of choices he read over and over until his brain hurt so much that he had to call Tadashi, just to talk to someone smarter and better than him at planning things out.
He remembers sitting in Tadashi’s apartment long after Shouyou, Hitoka, and Kei had left, Kei glancing at him knowingly as he closed the door behind them.
It was just after the Karasuno alumnis’ impromptu reunion that swiftly followed the MSBY and Adlers game, with the five of them instinctively walking towards Tadashi’s tiny studio for a quick nightcap filled with Shouyou’s enthusiastic retelling of what had happened in Brazil.
He remembers the way Kei had looked at him when Shouyou casually mentioned meeting Oikawa-san, and how he smoothly stepped in when Tobio just stared blankly ahead and hadn’t reacted the way Shouyou had expected him to.
He remembers sitting down across Tadashi in his cramped kitchen, the overhead light burning brightly above them, as Tobio spoke about the options laid out for him. Tadashi had printed the offers along with the summarised version his manager prepared, telling him he has less than two months to decide.
“Why ask me, Tobio?” Tadashi had asked, putting his hand on top of Tobio’s briefly where it lay upon the swathes of printed invitations. “I’m hardly someone you can ask about volleyball anymore.”
Tobio flicked his eyes up to him, remembering all the ways with which Tadashi led Karasuno like a quiet force of nature. The way he’d never had to raise his voice for the team to follow his lead and the way he’d been able to anchor Tobio when he felt like he was splintering apart and failing as the team’s co-captain.
He had shrugged, wishing he could find words to convey just how much he trusted Tadashi’s judgement. That among all of them, it was Tadashi who’d been the bravest when it came to facing things head on, plan b to plan z ready when needed.
Tadashi, in the end, seemed to understand.
“So you have an offer in Italy, Brazil, USA, and Poland?” Tadashi stated and Tobio watched as his friend transformed from a successful college student to Tobio’s Captain with merely a miniscule shift in Tadashi’s expression. “Which one has the best stats?”
“Brazil’s leading this year.”
“Brazil also has Shouyou,” Tadashi offered, meeting Tobio’s eyes. “And you mentioned Ushijima-san’s thinking of picking Poland. How about the USA?”
Tobio shrugged. He briefly pictured himself living there and drew up a blank. “I don’t know.”
“You said Ushijima-san mentioned he saw Seijou’s Ace there?”
Tadashi made a humming sound, the same one he used to make when he discussed strategy with Coach Ukai. Tobio hears that sound and his body instinctively calmed— a reaction leftover from their days in the Nationals years ago when Tadashi expertly offered counterarguments to the plays Tobio and Coach Ukai suggested until there had been nothing left but the best way to decimate an opponent with Tadashi nodding approvingly at them.
“Tobio, I think you know what you want to pick already.”
“Then why ask me?”
Tobio looked away, biting his lip and trying to come up with an explanation that wasn’t just the need to be somewhere else. The need to be away — somewhere he can be better without the weight of who he is in Japan.
“It’s okay to be selfish and want to move on from whatever you want to move on from. It's okay to be selfish 'cos that's what makes us human,” Tadashi said as he pushed the paper with Ali Roma’s roster and player stats towards him. “I’d say pick Italy, they seem to be a great team.”
“Go, Kageyama-kun,” he says. That's what makes us human. “We’ll still be with you.”
Run away. Tadashi seemed to say. It’s okay.
It’s okay to pick as fresh of a start that Tobio could get without leaving volleyball behind and losing the thrill of finding better players than him. It’s not cowardice.
And so Tobio went, and his friends were right there along with him even distantly. Just like Tadashi had promised. It’s not cowardice to move on.
Italy had indeed been different. It is. In Italy, he’s still Kageyama Tobio of Japan, but more than that, he became Tobio of Ali Roma.
Tobio of Ali Roma made friends on his own without Shouyou forcing him to talk and socialise.
Tobio of Ali Roma has dinner dates and aperitivos - he gets invited to the homes of his friends, and whose friends he had cooked for and been cooked for in turn. Tobio of Ali Roma has an apartment that became acquainted with his team mates’ presence, enough that even the man in the bar below his building greets him and the others by name and meet their friendly grumble for slow service with a fond chi va piano, va sano e va lontano.
It’s okay to be selfish and to move on from whatever you want to move on from.
Looks like his time has run out.
Times up, Tobio thinks as he looks at the man before him. The mussed up hair, the tiny scar on the chin, the way he’s still able to make Tobio’s heart race. One loose end to go.
“Long time no see,” Oikawa-san says, bathed in the light of L’Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci, surrounded by the language Tobio of Ali Roma had come to learn.
Tobio looks up at him and sees everything that he wanted outside of volleyball, all those years ago. Whose hands carved a shape out of Tobio only to leave it behind to fester and burn.
“Welcome to Rome,” Aaron greets Oikawa-san as he slid into the backseat of Aaron’s car after Tobio had thrown his carry-on in the trunk and situated himself on the passenger side. “Hope the flight treated you well."
“Hello," Oikawa-san greeted with equally perfect english. “The flight wasn’t so bad. Thanks for coming to get me.”
Aaron nods. "Where'd you fly from?"
"San Juan. Argentina,” Oikawa-san replies with a tired smile. "Had a quick layover in Mendoza and now here I am."
Aaron whistles, "that's a long ass flight."
There’s a bit of an awkward pause where they both seemed to be waiting for something from Tobio, before Aaron chortles and reaches across to ruffle Tobio’s hair, his hand falling to cup Tobio’s nape until it’s squeezed between his skin and the leather headrest of the passenger seat.
“I’m Aaron Johnson, Tobio’s outside hitter,” Aaron says with a fond look on his face when Tobio meets his eyes questioningly. Aaron just smiles at him before twisting his head to look at Oikawa-san in the back. “Nice to meet you.”
Manners, King. The Kei in Tobio's head reminds him with a sneer. Tobio shudders.
“I’m Tooru Oikawa,” Oikawa-san says after a beat. Tobio gazes up the rear-view mirror and finds Oikawa-san looking back at him with an odd expression on his face. Tobio looks away. “Likewise.”
Aaron’s touch burns against Tobio’s nape, and Tobio only relaxes minutely after Aaron had to let go to start the car.
“Where to?” Aaron asks casually, throwing the question in the spaces between the three of them as the engine hums to life and the heater blasts on.
“My place,” Tobio offers quickly before Oikawa-san can say anything, like Tobio hadn’t just made up his mind a nanosecond after Aaron asked.
“Hmm, alright,” Aaron says with an amused tone as if he knows just what Tobio’s thinking. The car moves.
The sun, too bright for a winter morning, glares down on them through the windshield once they're out of the parcheggio. Tobio reaches up a hand to shield his face, his eyes squinted until Aaron huffs out a laugh and reaches across the dash to pick a pair of sunglasses from the glove box before offering to Tobio.
“Andare più piano o veloce?” Go slower or faster?
Tobio rolls his eyes and declines the sunglasses, reaching up to flick the visor down instead. “What kind of question is that? Just go the shortest route.”
“Ahh, in a hurry?” Aaron asks with a teasing grin as he puts the sunglasses on while merging into A91.
“He’s tired,” Tobio offers as an explanation, rollings his eyes again when Aaron continues leering. “Just go the fastest route, Ahron.”
“You do like it fast, don’t you, mio caro?”
Tobio glances at him in askance and Aaron raises a hand to wave Tobio off.
"So, Tooru,” Aaron says right when the city appears into view, breaking the silence with a friendly smile on his face. “How do you know Tobio?"
“He was my upperclassman,” Tobio says, cutting Oikawa-san off before something happens. “From school.”
“Oh yeah? Taught you how to play and all?” He asks Tobio before tilting his head. “Samuele would love to meet you then, Tooru. He’s the main libero of our team and Tobio absolutely obliterated him with his serves last week.”
“What's wrong with you?” Tobio mutters, feeling his face burn. He doesn’t understand why Aaron’s being unnecessarily prickly when he’s usually friendly - probably the friendliest among the Ali Roma roster. "Shut up and drive, Aaron,"
“Molto bene, signore, as you wish.”
The odd tension is still there when Aaron slides the car into the empty slot in front of Tobio’s gate. It’s still there when Aaron casually reaches to wrap an arm around Tobio for the bacetto routine, patting him in the back before Tobio can get the door open and climb out of the car.
“Caro,” Aaron yells through the opened window after Tobio and Oikawa-san finally manage to step out and make their way to the gate after grabbing Oikawa-san’s luggage from the boot.
Tobio briefly wonders why Aaron’s even addressing him the way Gio did when he’s never bothered before.
“What?” He asks, his keys dangling from his hand.
“Stammi bene!” Take care.
Tobio looks at him questioningly, confused at how strange his friend’s acting. “Ok? Anche tu.” You too.
“Nice to meet you again, Tooru! See you later,” Aaron says, then closes the window and leaves.
“Thanks.” Oikawa-san says, nodding before steps closer to where Tobio’s trying to maneuver the lock on the gate so that it budges easily.
Rome is frigid around them but all Tobio can feel is the warm weight of Oikawa-san’s presence next to him. Boxing him in.
“You’re shaking, Tobio,” Oikawa-san says right as Tobio’s able to twist the double lock open and pull the gate and the glass door until they can both step into the lobby. He elects to ignore the comment.
Their footsteps echo. Tobio debates on whether they should wait for the lift or take the stairs.
“I’m on the second floor,” Tobio explains, deciding to just push the button on the lift because Oikawa-san must be exhausted. “It’s a two bedroom. You can have the other one.”
“Okay,” Oikawa-san nods agreeably, still standing far too close for comfort.
They take a very short ride up to the second storey and Tobio rushes forward to open his front door as Oikawa-san follows him with a slower pace, tugging his carry on beside him.
“You smell like the airport,” Tobio states as they both step into his apartment.
“That’s because I was from the airport, Tobio-chan.”
Times up, Tobio-chan, Tobio thinks, his breath hitching.
Tobio wishes Tadashi’s there, or Kei, or Hitoka, or Shouyou. He wishes Aaron had come up with them. Just to have some sort of reminder.
Because right now in that doorway, with Oikawa-san standing there and looking at the frames perched on the console of his doorway, Tobio is not Tobio of Ali Roma. He’s not Kageyama Tobio of Japan. He’s not even Kageyama of Karasuno High.
He’s Tobio-chan again.
He’s Tobio-chan - that confused fucking kid whose voice got caught in his throat at the sight of a boy flying in midair in his middle school volleyball court. The boy who saw the way Oikawa Tooru played and wanted so very badly to learn from him.
No way, Tobio-chan!
He’s the kid who came in his pants after riding his senpai ’s thigh, the same kid who licked the come off of his senpai’s hand after Tobio had crashed into his knees and inexpertly swallowed around the first dick he’s ever tasted.
He’s the Tobio who fell into that futon all those years ago, tugging Oikawa-san close and wanting to crawl into his body and keep him right there where Tobio can reach him and have him the only way he could. The same one who sank into him and slotted their bodies together and made Tobio's heart race like it was going to fly out of his ribcage.
Greedy, greedy, Tobio-chan.
Italy is supposed to be different. It was big, and grand in ways Japan wasn’t.
Tobio had fucked around with people, athletes whose strengths outweighed his own. People who had given him all he could want and fucked him into the mattress until he’s seeing stars in his eyes and made him bite into pillows as he muffled his screams. People with brown hair or brown eyes or cutting smirks whose skin he’d raked, and whose cocks he’d choked on.
But here, now, thousands of miles away from Miyagi and its cherry blossom trees and that fucking alley that shaped him in more ways than anywhere ever could, Tobio feels like he’s right where he started.
I'm gonna crush you, Tobio-chan, so you better be prepared!
Don’t you know, Tobio thinks bitterly at Oikawa Tooru with his brown hair and his brown eyes and that tiny scar on his chin that Tobio had pinned his gaze on as he first came in his pants with stars in his eyes all those years ago. I look for you in everyone.
When Tobio was five, his family went to the beach and the tide took his mother away. There were fragments of that memory still living in their big old house: his father’s watch that stopped at exactly 9:36 AM with a dent on its bezel and sand in its chest, a trunk filled with shawls and dresses with shades the colour of Tobio’s eyes in the attic collecting dust, a pale pink porcelain cup that sat atop the highest shelf in the kitchen, and the chipped edge of the door that had splintered when their father left and slammed it shut behind him - his sister’s shrill voice begging pa, don’t go please.
When he was ten, he went to school with his face peppered by his sister’s salty kisses only to get home to his sister’s empty room. Grandpa where’s Miwa? he had asked, and his grandfather took his hand in his and led him back to his room with a sad smile. She’s just in college, Tobio.
When he was fourteen, he held his grandfather’s hand on the hospital bed as he promised that he’d show him the jersey bearing the number 2 when he visited the next day. His grandfather had smiled and brushed his feeble hand on Tobio’s cheek and told him okay. He rushed from his school, the blue and white jersey proudly clenched in his fist as he burst through the door that bore his grandfather’s name, but he’s already gone - body just a husk.
When he was fifteen, a boy two years his senior unknowingly defined his understanding of love and became a template of everything he will always love about other people. Maybe it was the way he made Tobio’s blood rush to his head, or the way his touch made Tobio feel. Or maybe it was because he was the first person he’d met when he really really wanted to love someone.
It took him weeks after that third time to gather enough courage to go back to the boy’s house, only to find out that he’d gone and made off with what was left of what Tobio had to give.
Tobio is twenty five, just a few days shy of being twenty six, and he’s now standing in the same room with the last man he had ever allowed to leave his life without saying goodbye.
For the first five days, they pretended to exist like this:
Tobio will wake up at six in the morning and he will knock on the door of his bathroom to ensure that it was empty. If it isn’t, Tobio will step out of his room, pour twice the amount of freshly ground Lavazza into the moka pot and wait until it boils.
By the time the espresso is halfway done, Oikawa Tooru would’ve already crawled out of the conjoined bathroom through the door he’s able to access outside of Tobio’s room, and will make his way to the kitchen. Tobio would then finally be able to brush his teeth and get ready for their morning jog.
Oikawa Tooru, or the man who’s pretending to be him, would then wait for him in the sprawling dining table with his sickeningly sweet milky coffee, and Tobio, now in his running clothes, would sit across from him where a tiny cup of pure espresso is ready and waiting to be sipped.
If the bathroom was empty when Tobio knocked, it would be him who’d be waiting by the table, sipping on an espresso that Oikawa Tooru had prepared - too strong or too bland, but at least he’s learned how to make it now unlike the first time he’d tried and almost burned down Tobio’s kitchen when he’d filled the wrong layer of the moka pot with water.
Sometimes they’d talk: the weather, their plans for that day, the places that Oikawa-san would like to visit, the restaurants Oikawa-san would like to try for lunch, and the food he’d like for them to prepare for dinner.
Sometimes they would let the silence linger as they each scrolled through their respective phones, and bit through the cornetto that one of them bought from Bar Ferrari downstairs.
They would run together, their earbuds the perfect excuse not to have a conversation even if they weren’t playing music at all. Tobio would lead them, their footsteps muffled by cobblestones as they ran the same routes Tobio had always run.
Once they’ve had their fill or if one of them motioned the other, they will make their way back to the apartment and Oikawa-san would be the first to shower because Tobio is a good host even if Kei would say otherwise.
There are two toothbrushes on Tobio’s sink, and Tobio’s bathroom counter is now divided into two sides with Tobio’s despairingly dismal toiletries on the right and Oikawa-san’s myriad La Mer bottles and jars on the left.
He’d walk into the bathroom with the scent of Oikawa-san’s shower gel, and his apartment would smell like Oikawa-san’s perfume by the time he would stumble out of the bathroom freshly showered.
At ten in the morning, they would make their way out and navigate around Roma to tick off the checklists on Oikawa-san’s itinerary, and Oikawa-san would let him lead their way unless it involved the Metro because he’d discovered how terrible Tobio is at directions after they’d gotten lost in Anagnina on his third day in Italy.
They’d spend their lunch outside, and Tobio would act as Oikawa-san’s translator on the menus that didn’t have inglese on it.
Tobio’s phone would usually ring at three in the afternoon, and Oikawa-san would avert his eyes when the name on Tobio’s phone would read Aaron Johnson . There’d be a slight tick in his jaw, and his coat would stretch as he tensed, but he’d keep his mouth shut and pretend he’s not trying to use spanish to translate the italian that would spew out of Tobio’s mouth.
By dinner time, they would be right back in Tobio’s apartment and they’d try to fit themselves in Tobio’s narrow kitchen as they both prepare dinner - Tobio’d be responsible for the meal, and Oikawa-san would prepare the rice.
They’d meet again on the dining table, and quietly eat their food before retiring for the night.
And then they did it all over again the next day.
The balance splintered like this:
Tobio is wine drunk on his sofa on a Wednesday night, day five of the strange existence, and Oikawa-san is sitting on the chair that he’d claimed as his own by the large dining table.
The lights are all off in the living room except for the tiny Ikea floor lamp bathing the walls with a warm glow from where it’s tucked in the far left corner beside the tv console table.
“Remember that alley?” Tobio asks out of nowhere, his socked feet flat on the ground and his body sunken into the leather.
The rain is pouring over Roma outside of the window and drenching the little metal chairs in the balcony where Samuele and Gio liked to sit and share a cigarette whenever they’re in Tobio’s apartment.
There’s a clatter from the table and Tobio looks up just in time to see the shocked expression on Oikawa-san’s face before he can replace it with something neutral.
He can count on one hand the amount of times he’s caught this man off guard. It feels good - great, like Tobio’s breaking out of a mold. See, see, I’m different now.
“Which alley, Tobio-chan?”
Tobio giggles, knocking back the last dregs of wine from his glass before carefully placing it on the floor next to the two empty bottles that Tobio had been imbibing since their shared dinner.
“That alley by my house, Oikawa-senpai.”
Oikawa-san purses his lips and turns back to whatever he was doing on his phone. He’s ignoring Tobio. Dismissing him like he did in Tokyo not too long ago.
Tobio can’t have that.
“How about,” he slurs, lifting an index finger up in the air, the shadow on the wall looms over him. “—my house? Do you remember my house?”
He gets no response.
Tobio bites his lip and makes himself more comfortable on his sofa, the leather squeaks as he spreads his legs apart and throws both of his hands back until he can reach both corners of the backrest and rest his wrists against them.
“Cos I definitely remember yours , Oikawa-senpai.” Tobio drawls, and tilts his face up until his neck is arched, tendons tensed under his skin. “No? How about Tokyo? Do you remember Tokyo?”
His pulse is drumming loudly in his ears and Tobio feels warmwarmwarm
“Do you?” Oikawa-san finally answers, his voice strained. He’s looking at Tobio now with a familiar look on his face - the cruel one. The one that Tobio had the privilege of knowing intimately.
There you are, you piece of shit.
“Do I what? Remember Tokyo?” he asks, the corner of his lips upturned sharply as he meets Oikawa-san’s eyes from across the room. “How can I forget that look on your face when you lost?”
“Tell me, Oikawa- senpai,” Tobio snickers, trailing a hand up his chest before running his fingers through his hair and pushing it back. “Was it worth it? To put so much effort in something only to realise that your efforts aren’t worth shit?”
“Aren’t you projecting a little, my Tobio-chan?” Oikawa-san seems perfectly composed. He’s betrayed only by his restless hands: tapping an arrhythmic beat on the table, fiddling with his own half-empty wine glass, worrying the edge of the coaster. If Tobio squints, Tobio can make out a tiny pale scar on the third knuckle of his right.
“I won, Oikawa-san.”
His gaze drops down Oikawa-san’s mouth, trailing at the tongue that peeks out between his lips. He’s caught with the movement, and his throat’s dry. Thunder rumbles outside, rattling the glass panes that make up the sliding door of Tobio’s balcony.
When he’s finally able to remove his gaze from where it had lingered on the shiny spit-slick lower lip, Oikawa-san is looking at him with a mocking smile.
“Did you really?”
They collided like this:
Tobio corners Oikawa-san in the kitchen when he gets up from the table to fill his glass with water but they both know that’s nothing but an excuse to leave Tobio in the stifling heat of the living room.
Tobio mows forward, boxing the man in against the counter. His blood is singing and the world is pleasantly swimming in and out of focus.
“Is this what you want?” He hisses, leaning up to trail his tongue on the shell of Oikawa-san’s right ear, his hand cupping him through the grey sweatpants he’s taken to sleeping in. It’s been months since he’s been with anyone, and arousal is already clenching hard in his stomach.
“Shut up,” he grits out, biting at the soft skin of his neck and reaching up to tangle his fingers around Oikawa-san’s hair before tugging it back sharply to give himself more room,“Isn’t this what you want? To fuckme? That’s the goal, isn’t it? That’s why you’re here?”
I won i won i won i won
Tobio unties the string of Oikawa-san’s sweatpants, and slips his hand under until he’s met with the hot flesh of Oikawa-san’s rapidly hardening dick. He wraps his fingers around the base and lazily strokes up as his tongue is met by the salty tang of the man’s neck. Come on come on come on touch me
"Fuck me and leave because that’s all I'm ever good for, huh, Tooru?"
Tobio came apart like this:
Oikawa-san snaps from the numb-shock that he’s in, and slowly reaches up until both his hands are gently cupping Tobio’s face.
There’s a strange heartbroken smile on his lips Tobio finally manages to look him in the eyes.
Tobio stills, his hand stopping from where it’s still wrapped around Oikawa-san’s cock underneath the soft worn cotton of his sweatpants and his other hand unable to let go from where he’s clutching the edge of Oikawa-san’s shirt.
“You’re drunk, Tobio,” Oikawa-san says kindly. He’s straightening up and the movement forces Tobio to take a step back, to pull away from everything that is touching the man until there’s only the hands on his cheeks - two twin points of contact, a force to be reckoned with, alight with dangerous energy.
Why are you being kind who are you
A thumb lazily wipes a tear that makes its way down Tobio's cheek. He is off kilter, and twisted and hollow and he’s never learned how to deal with the tenderness that’s being afforded to him.
“Why are you here?” He asks, pleading. The last word cracking, splintering at the seams. “What do you want from me?”
Nothing! He wants nothing from you. Didn't he say didn't he already say—
There’s a brief moment of hesitation and then there's a soft brush of lips on lips. Brief, deliberate, and kind. Tobio tries to surge forward, to make it an even ground - to put them back into a familiar place where there are sharp incisors and tight grips and the loud loud cadence of skin slapping skin. He tries and tries but Oikawa-san doesn’t relent. Doesn’t bite at what Tobio’s offering him.
Instead, he is kissed again. A slow and gentle glide, a hesitant lick, almost shy. One hand lets go of his face and travels up until it’s cradling Tobio’s head, fingers twisting in the back of his hair, just heavy enough to anchor Tobio in. The other hand is still on Tobio’s face, cupping his chin and firm enough just to keep him still but loose enough that Tobio can step away if he wants to.
Tobio feels like he’s being pried apart and he sinks into him, like a puppet whose strings had been cut midway through a song and dance.
“Please,” he begs, eyes shut tight, colour high in his cheeks. There’s a fault running through his voice now, the hint of an impending tremor.
What do you want what do you want what else can I give you
Oikawa-san shushes him, pets his hair, and continues kissing him - lips tasting of wine, arms around Tobio's middle. They stay there for a while in Tobio's cramped kitchen until Tobio pulls away fits his head under his chin and settles.
Tobio is twenty five, just a few days shy of being twenty six, and he is as stuck in time as the rusted watch his father wore to the beach when the tide took his mother away.
I won, Oikawa-san.
He’s being led to the bedroom with a hand on his hip, his feet stumbling beneath him. He is warm in his bed and there’s a soft press of lips on his forehead. He is being left behind, the bedroom door closing behind the shape of Oikawa-san's body.
Did you really?
Tobio wakes up the next morning to the shrill sound of his phone ringing on the bedside table. He slaps blindly at the surface until his hand connects with it. It takes a few tries to get his fingers round it properly, but he manages it in the end, brings the ringing thing close and lifts his head just enough to squint at the screen.
Shit. Oh shit.
“Hello,” he says through the rotting carcass that had seemed to climb in his mouth. “Ushijima-san?”
There is a telling silence at the other end, the one that he knew his teammate used when he was contemplating what sordid mistakes Tobio could have made this time, and Tobio quickly backtracks and says “Wakatoshi?”
“Tobio, good morning.”
Tobio pulls himself up from where he’s been buried under a heap of blankets, and notices that the world outside of his bedroom window is too bright for it to still be morning. There are also faint traces of sounds filtering in through the gap underneath his door, along with the telltale scent of garlic on a pan, and espresso being prepared.
“Good morning, Wakatoshi, what can I help you with?”
“Satori and I have arrived in Italy.”
Tobio jolts up, his spine cracking at the sudden movement and he groans loudly, curving forward so he can twist an arm behind him and uselessly pat the sudden ache away. Did he just forget to pick up Ushijima Wakatoshi from the airport?
“We’re currently in Pisa,” Wakatoshi’s amused voice continues after a pause. “And we will be arriving in Starhotels Michael Angelo on the 21st.”
“That was mean, Wakatoshi,” he grumbles, leaning against the headboard slowly, the panic from presuming he’d forgotten to pick up his previous captain abating. “And it’s Michelangelo, not Michael Angelo.”
Tobio can almost hear the ‘that’s what you get for whatever it is that you’ve done that I don’t know yet but will find out soon enough’. He rolls his eyes and squeezes the bridge of his nose.
Wakatoshi has always been an expert in communicative silences.
“Oikawa-san is here,” he admits, tongueing at the gross bit of mortadella stuck between his teeth.
He’s never drinking again. Fuck.
“Yes, I’ve been informed,” Wakatoshi says in the same tone he would have said ‘your set was too low.’ and ‘why did you do that thing I explicitly implied not to tell you to do again’.
“Wakatoshi-san, I did drink last night but I am an adult,” Tobio informs him with a little bit of a whine in his voice. “Please don’t torture me.”
“It was Iwaizumi,” Wakatoshi answers the unasked question. “He is expressing some concern.”
“I knew you gossiped as much as Kourai and Sokolov,” Tobio snorts despite himself. “Oikawa-san’s fine.” Except when I mauled him last night.
“I’m aware of Oikawa’s well-being, but he is not the reason I mentioned this,” Wakatoshi states as though Tobio is an idiot. “Kourai and Sokolov are of a different specie, I highly doubt anyone can exceed them except perhaps Atsumu-kun.”
“I’m okay, Wakatoshi-san,” Tobio says, amused at the fact that the man didn’t deny that he gossiped. There’s a rough patch on the side of his mouth that he thinks could be dried drool and Tobio tries to summon enough willpower to swing his legs over the bed and stand so he can prepare to become human again. “Will you need me to fetch you from anywhere?”
“No, Tobio. We’ve hired a car to take us to the hotel in Rome.”
“Okay. See you on,” Tobio takes his phone away from his ear for a second to swipe down and check the date, then tries to calculate what day Wakatoshi will arrive. “Monday. See you on Monday, Wakatoshi.”
“Tobio,” Wakatoshi intones, followed by a pause that Tobio recognises as him trying to find the correct way to approach a situation. “It would do you well to remember to be kinder to yourself.”
“Yes , Captain,” Tobio says as he checks to make sure that the bathroom is empty before making his way in and reaching for the toothbrush on the right side of the counter. “Take care.”
“Of course. You too.”
“Tobio?” Oikawa-san calls out as Tobio slowly makes his way out of his room after a quick shower and a really really long debate with himself on how best to approach the situation after what he’s done the night before. “In here.”
Tobio follows the voice to his living room where a fresh-looking Oikawa Tooru is sitting by what Tobio had taken to calling as his chair on the dining table, holding his phone. There are two steaming bowls of yakimeshi on the table, along with two sunny-side eggs, a mug of milky coffee, and what Tobio knows is the last bottle of milk that Aaron bought him.
“Hung over?” Oikawa-san raises an eyebrow, a hesitant smile on his lips.
Tobio shakes his head and makes his way to sit across him. He glances at the clock perched on the tv console and winces at the 11:52 AM that glares back at him.
“Good morning,” he says, pushing his still wet hair away from his face. His gaze trails around the room, anywhere but the man in front of him. Don’t acknowledge it, Tobio. Don’t. “I’m sorry for last night.”
Shit on a stick.
When the silence that followed finally bothered him enough and he can’t take it anymore, Tobio hesitantly looks at the man sitting in front of him. The navy sweatshirt, the way his sleeves are bunched up probably because he cooked them lunch that can rival the food that Tadashi had started preparing for them when they were in second year.
There are freckles dotting the bridge of Oikawa-san’s nose now, the pale skin is tanner, and the scar on his chin is not as prominent. He looks kinder, as if his rough edges had been smoothed over by time. His jawline is sharper, and there are hints of laugh lines on the corners of his lips and the eyes.
“I think,” Oikawa-san says and Tobio watches how the words are shaped by the curve of his lips. “We should eat. And then we should talk.”
Tobio gulps, eyes going back to the food in front of him. He nods and they both prepare to eat.
They’re interrupted by the sound of a buzzer, and the bzzt bzzt bzzt of Tobio’s phone vibrating on the table next to his plate. Oikawa-san nods at him and he takes the phone call and walks to the door where the intercom is.
“Pronto,” he greets. A man from the other end informs him of a delivery through DHL, and that he’s waiting for him downstairs. Tobio buzzes him in, and waits until there’s a knock on his door.
“Kageyama Tobio! Wow. Hello, please sign here,” the man says in italiano, handing a tablet to him after he gently placed two parcels on the floor when Tobio stepped back. “Grazie mille. Would it be trouble if you would sign this as well? It’s terribly unprofessional but my son’s a big fan.”
The man’s gaze travels from Tobio to something behind him. He nods, and Tobio doesn’t turn. Merely smiles genially and accepts the photo the man pulled out of his wallet - its edges worn and folded as if it’s been pulled out and observed with love several times - and the pen he’s been handed.
It’s of a boy, perhaps ten or eleven years old. The boy is holding a volleyball and smiling proudly at the camera in a jersey that has 2 on it. Tobio’s smile turns warmer, and his anxiety eases.
“Your son, come si chiama?” he asks kindly.
“Matteo, signore,” the man proudly declares. “He’s a setter for his team and dreams of being as good as you are.”
Tobio writes Matteo, Io credo in te.Tobio. in the back of the photo and pens the signature Sugawara-san helped him practice all those years ago.
“He’ll be better than me soon enough,” Tobio says, handing the photo and the pen back to the man. “Thank you, sir. Have a great day.”
“You too,” he says, nodding at him and at Oikawa-san at the back before disappearing down the hall. Tobio shuts the door, breathes for a second, and crouches down the boxes. Oikawa-san steps forward and lifts the box Tobio’s about to carry from his arms before making his way to the living room with it. Tobio watches him a little before picking up the other box from the floor and following.
“Japan?” Oikawa-san inquires as they both head towards the kitchen to wash their hands at the sink, referring to the sender labels attached to both boxes. They methodically switch to rinse before heading back to the living room and sitting on the dining table to finish their meals.
“Yeah,” Tobio answered, putting his phone back on the table after texting ‘parcel arrived’ to both the Adlers group chat and Torino Crows group chat. “It’s probably uh, care packages? Gifts from the teams. We send stuff for birthdays.”
Oikawa-san’s face softens, a terribly fond look crosses his features. “Your teams love you.”
“Not all of them,” Tobio puts out with no malice, meeting his eyes. “It’s alright. I’m not who I was before.”
The corner of Oikawa-san’s lips get a little strained, but he nods in acquiescence. “Neither am I, Tobio.”
“Are we going to talk now?” Tobio asks, leaning forward and resting his head on the hand he’s placed on the table. His other hand is still holding on to the chopsticks, albeit a little looser this time.
“I think we should,” Oikawa-san answers with great reluctance as if it’s the last thing he wants to do. “Would that be okay with you?”
Tobio blinks at him. Surprised. “You never asked before.”
Oikawa-san makes a frustrated sound. His chopsticks clatter loudly against his bowl when he buries his face in both his hands.
“Give me a second,” Oikawa-san’s muffled voice says, the tips of his ears going red. There’s a bruise on the juncture of his neck - Tobio realises it’s his teeth mapped out on the tanned skin and flushes as well. “I’m doing the breathing exercises Hajime and my therapist told me to do when I’m getting worked up.”
“You have a therapist?” Tobio asks while trying to remain as impassive as possible despite the blush he can feel traveling up from his chest to his face from seeing another bruise peeking out from the neckline of Oikawa-san’s sweatshirt right next to where the other bruise is. “You probably shouldn’t cover your face during your breathing exercises.”
There’s a brief moment of silence as they both wait on Oikawa-san until the man finally removes his hands from his face and squares his shoulders, the look on his eyes reminding Tobio of what Oikawa-san looked like when they’re about to step into the court from opposite sides.
I'm gonna crush you, Tobio-chan, so you better be prepared!
“Tobio, I’m sorry.”
Tobio stiffens, eyes going rounder and wider and unable to look away from the look of determination on the man’s face. He swallows. “For what, Oikawa-san?”
“For what I did to you in Miyagi. In middle school too.”
“Middle school?” Tobio’s brows furrow, trying to recall what in middle school he was apologising for. “You didn’t have to teach me your serve, I get it now. Why you didn’t.”
“No, Tobio. Not that. From when I almost hit you.”
Tobio hesitates, straightening up and putting both of his palms flat on the dining table. Oikawa-san looks miserable, his face contorting from guilt. Tobio doesn’t want him to ever look like that.
“You already apologised for it then. It’s nothing.”
“It’s not nothing.”
“I’m saying it is, so forget about it.”
Oikawa-san looks away, huffing. “You’re still a stubborn little shit, aren’t you?”
“Miya Atsumu said I was goody-two-shoes?” Tobio tries to joke.
“When were you ever goody-two-shoes?” Oikawa-san whines, pitchy. “Anyway, fine, then I’m sorry for, uh, for— I’m sorry for taking advantage of you.”
“Huh? When did you do that?”
Oikawa-san stares at him in disbelief then falls forward until his forehead is resting on the table next to his empty bowl of rice, the chopsticks rolling to the edge of the table before falling to the floor.
Tobio tries to ignore them but ends up relenting to his innate need to clean that shit before it attracts ants or something and bends down to take the chopsticks off the floor. God, but did Miwa and his grandfather train him a little too well on maintaining neatness in the home.
“I cornered you. After Seijoh lost. Then for the other times.” Oikawa-san says in monotone, still hiding his face on the table, unaware of Tobio placing his chopsticks back into his bowl again. “I did a lot of thinking, you know? When I left. I— I still think about you every time.”
Tobio looks away from his hunched form and stares at the slate grey afternoon sky of Rome. It’s still drizzling, but the forecast of his phone says the rain will stop in two days, and maybe then they could get out of the apartment and not ever have this conversation.
“When I said you were obsessed with me when you called, it’s because I. I’m— I couldn’t get you out of my head. I’ve made peace with everyone except you and it wasn’t - I wasn’t in the best state of mind when it comes to you. I asked Hajime for your contact details,” Oikawa-san continues, a fond lilt in his voice when he says the name of his friend. “He said he’ll ask you first. So I asked Chibi-chan, then I asked Kunimi-kun and Kindaichi-kun on our group chat where they both told me to fuck off and die. Those two are extra feral when you’re involved, you know? No one on the chat wanted to give me your number after that.”
“Which I think is good. You should have people at your side,” Oikawa-san whispers to his table before finally looking up and tracing the line of Tobio’s profile with his eyes. “But Tobio, I already had your number.”
Tobio looks back at him in askance.
“I asked my manager to get in touch with yours but I didn’t use it. I guess I just wasn’t ready to talk to you then, so I didn’t contact you. I didn’t want to start a conversation but I let others know that I wanted to talk to you,” Oikawa-san gives a mirthless laugh. “I thought that if you’d hear that I wanted to talk, you’d reach out first.”
“I didn’t know how to talk to the kid I took advantage of. I didn’t—” Oikawa-san stops, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. “I’m really sorry. I was stupid, and angry, and jealous. I was scared that you’d surpass me and I wanted to hurt you. So I did.”
Tobio feels his eyes start to sting so he looks away again, clenching his lips shut and letting the words die in the graveyard of things left unsaid that lives in his mouth. Was that what it was? Was he taken advantage of? But he wanted it. It’s not—
“It felt good. It felt so good for a while. Fuck, I was so cruel, Tobio, I knew you wanted me so I used that.” Oikawa-san’s voice cracks. “I used that to make you feel bad. I don’t know how you can… I don’t know how you can stand me even now. Why you would be okay with me being here. I was so cruel and I got what I wanted and then I forgot about it and chased volleyball elsewhere because Japan already had you and I wanted to prove that I can be better than you.
“And then I saw you in Rio, and all I can think of was how stupid I was for not realising that I’ve been in lov—”
“Stop.” Tobio chokes out, his world tilting on its axis. “Stop.”
“Ok.” Oikawa-san says, pliant and subdued. Tobio doesn’t want that. He doesn’t know what to do with this version of Oikawa Tooru. He doesn’t know what to do with… “Okay, Tobio.”
Tobio looks at him in the stark, unforgiving glare of the overhead fluorescent. He can see the dark smudges under Oikawa-san’s eyes, the tense lines at the sides of his mouth. This thing between them - it’s been shit from the start. A twisted fuckload of shit, and Oikawa-san looks drained and unwell, his normally crisp edges worn soft and ragged.
This was Oikawa Tooru with Kageyama Tobio as they are now, and Tobio doesn’t know what to do with it. Doesn’t know how to navigate the strangeness of it all.
“I was in love with you too,” Tobio says, tasting the words in his mouth as it forces its way out of his chest. He’s carried this hurt with him for so long that it’s become a part of him, thrumming quietly in his chest all these years like a heart murmur. Innocent, until it’s not. “We didn’t do anything I didn’t want.”
“Tobio,” Tooru says, in a quiet uncertain voice Tobio has never heard from him before. He reaches for him, tentative; when Tobio doesn’t react, he lays a hand on top of Tobio’s on the dining table. Tobio wants to slap it away, and to hold it there, press it down harder until it leaves a mark.
“What do you want from me, Oikawa-san?” He says, quietly repeating the question that’s been plaguing him since the beginning. I'll give you anything you want I'll— “Why are you here?”
Oikawa-san looks away, his hand tightening around Tobio’s.
“I want to know who you are,” He answers. “But it doesn’t matter what I want. Not now.”
Tobio snorts, pulling his hand away and tucking it between his legs under the table trying to rid of the warmth that ghosted the skin of where they touched. “It’s always been about what you want. What you needed.”
“Okay,” Oikawa-san says, licking his lips. “Okay then what do you want, Tobio? Why ask me to come here? Why allow me to stay?”
There’s a sardonic twist in his stomach and he wishes he had wine with him, or something else to do with his hands to keep them from trembling, from reaching out and touching.
He thinks of what Kei said over the phone; so shaped by regret and the consciousness of not wanting to ruin an age old friendship, and how’d ceased to be the Tsukishima who loved Yamaguchi, and became Kei who’d chosen to ache quietly with only Tobio of all people knowing about it.
At least one of us should get some closure on our hang ups. Kei had said.
He thinks of the chest filled with his mother’s shawls, dusty and forgotten in the attic. Of coming home to his sister’s empty room. Of holding an aged hand without knowing it would have been the last time he’d ever feel its warmth. He thinks of never getting to say goodbye.
“Closure,” Tobio says instead. “I want closure.”
Oikawa-san looks away, a tremulous exhale haltingly released between his mouth. As if Tobio knocked the air out of him but he didn’t want Tobio to notice.
He meets Tobio’s eyes, gives him a brittle little smile, and nods.
“Tobio,” Oikawa-san says later after they’ve washed the dishes.
He’s on the floor of the living room with Tobio, sitting cross legged with two boxes between them that came all the way from where they both began.
“Yeah?” Tobio says as he starts knifing around the packaging tape and letting Oikawa-san pull it apart.
“Do you want me to leave?”
It’s silent for a few seconds, some peace before they titter off an unknown cliff. Swaying perilously with the wind.
“If I did, you wouldn’t be here.” Tobio meets his eyes, his hands halting over the box. “Stay. It’s only what, two weeks until January third. I think we’ll be okay.”
Don't leave me again, you fucking—
Oikawa-san exhales, lifting a trembling hand to the other box next to him, and starts trying to pry the packaging apart with his fingers. Tobio reaches out to touch, their skin warm at the point of contact. He wordlessly hands Oikawa the knife he’s holding and gets another one from the kitchen before sitting next to him again.
“Can you call me Tooru?”
Tobio gives him a hesitant smile. “Only if you stop calling me Tobio-chan.”
“You really do hate that honorific, huh?” Oika— Tooru teases.
“I’m the youngest in every team I’ve ever joined,” Tobio explains, pulling the flaps open on the box. “It gets tiring.” And it reminds me of you, he doesn’t say.
They work together quietly, and soon Tooru is brandishing two hastily wrapped presents in his arms that came from one of the boxes. Tobio snickers at the uneven edges.
“I guess you got the box from the Adlers,” Tobio explains. “That’s probably Kourai’s, judging from the way it’s wrapped.”
“Should you open it now?”
Tobio shakes his head. “They’ll want to watch. And Wakatoshi would tell on me if he thinks I peeked at what’s inside.”
“Waka—well I won’t tell Ushiwaka,” Tooru says, getting worked up. Tobio smiles at him fondly, glad that at least that hasn’t changed despite the way he greeted Wakatoshi in Tokyo once. “And what he doesn’t know, he couldn’t tell on you for.”
Tobio wants to laugh but he schools his face into a blank canvas and clears his throat.
Tooru looks at him in askance, stretching so he can put the gift wrapped items on top of the tv console behind him.
“I, uh, Wakatoshi will be joining us on the 21st.” Tobio pauses, trying to keep himself from laughing at Tooru who’s looking more and more mortified with every word that comes out of his mouth. “We’ll need to show him around Rome.”
“Nani the fuck?”
Tobio pretends to ignore him and digs into the box in front of him, an unwrapped frame made of macaroni and turquoise glitter with a photo of him and Natsu that Shouyou took when she’d bullied Tobio into putting her on his shoulders when she was still small enough to be carried. He was still wearing his uniform, mud drying from where Natsu’s little shoes were dangling on his chest.
Shouyou had been equally if not even dirtier than he’d been, playing volleyball before Natsu had asked if she could join.
There’s that little home in the background that Shouyou lived in - somewhere he’d steadily grown accustomed to. The backyard that witnessed several dumb practices that they’d do when they were both sent home by Tadashi, threatening to take Tobio’s duplicated key to the gym if he found out they’ve been playing too much overtime. He stares down at it in awe, wishing he could be there with Shou again. Eat dinner with him, and play that stupid tea game with Natsu even if it always ends up with Tobio and Shouyou looking like idiots from the pigtails that Natsu would clumsily pull their hairs into.
“Tobio, what do you mean Wakatoshi will be joining us? Wait, who’s th—” Tooru says, tilting to the side to peer at the frame over Tobio’s shoulder, their clothes brushing against the other. “Oh is that chibi-chan’s sister? There’s a note on the back.”
Tobio twists the frame in his hands and sees a little pink envelope with Tobio written on it in Kanji, the words rounded and coiled together gracefully. Natsu’d learned to write from her mother, it seems, and thankfully not from the chicken scrawl that had been Shouyou’s penmanship.
He carefully plucks it from behind the frame and pulls out a card, warmth blooming from his chest at the thought of Kei, who lived the closest, fetching the present from the Hinata household where little Natsu had prepared something for him.
‘Tobio-niisan’, the childish but strangely regal penmanship says. ‘Come back soon. Happy birthday! Don’t know how to wrap presents and I don’t want Kaasan to help’.
“Yeah, it’s his little sister,” Tobio raises his head and gives Tooru a watery smile.
He knows a twin of this frame with orange glitter rests on a bedside table in Brazil, along with the stupid snow globe of the Coloseo that Tobio’d shipped to Shouyou for his birthday and the little plaque he’d bought from a guy called Enrico Fiorentini that says ‘Ciao, y’all’ that he thought Shou would appreciate when he’d been in a ‘y’all’ phase.
He sees the way Tooru seems to pause and shake himself as he leans away, giving them both some space.
I want to know who you are.
“She seems sweet,” Tooru offers after a brief second. “Unlike her demonic brother.”
“She is, yeah, I—“ he pulls out his phone and checks the Clock up for the time in Japan. 21:00. “Can I call her?”
“I don’t see why not.” Tooru shrugs, going back to setting three other wrapped presents from Tobio’s box and setting it next to the others before carefully collecting the macaroni frame from Tobio’s trembling hands. “Should I put this on the mantle next to the others?”
Tobio nods, stretching a little as he looks for Hinata Natsu in his contacts. He hesitates then considers sending a text first, before scrolling a name below for Shouyou’s mom and opening an empty text field under her name instead.
‘Hinata-san,’ he types. ‘Please tell Natsu thank you for the present.’ then watches Delivered appear under the little blue text bubble before putting his phone down.
Tooru walks back into the living room and sits across him this time, watching him curiously with a strange look on his face that Tobio can’t decipher.
“Are you alright, Tobio?”
“Yeah,” he says, breathing out then reaching a hand out to silently request Tooru to help him up.
They quietly collect the remnants of the opened parcels and put the rubbish on the kitchen floor next to the bin.
“What do you want for dinner?” Tobio asks from the entryway, watching the breadth of Tooru’s shoulders flex as he moves in Tobio’s kitchen.
His socked feet, the unkempt hair, the way he seems to belong there surrounded by Tobio’s things. He wants to press his fingers at the two twin bruises he’d drunkenly bitten into Tooru’s neck just the night before in the very same kitchen they’re standing in now.
Closure. You want closure, not—
“It’s barely four, Tobio,” he says, smiling indulgently at him. The weight on Tobio’s chest intensifies. “And don’t think I’ve forgotten the little news of Ushiwaka visiting you dropped.”
Tobio’s phone vibrates in his pocket before he can answer, the bzzt bzzt quickly followed by a little chime that he’d set as a custom tone for the Ali Roma group chat.
Tobio reads the messages and clears his throat. “Would you like to play volleyball with my team, Oikawa-san?”
Tooru straightens, closing the door of the fridge. “Sure,” he says before sticking his tongue out to lick at the corner of his lip. “But I don’t have any gear with me.”
“I think my shorts and shoes will fit you. Just, uh, worry about your shirt,” Tobio offers, trying not to stare at the thick cords of muscles that bunch up under the sweatshirt whenever Tooru moves his arms. “And maybe bring a change of clothes. We might get aperitivo after.”
The honorific sounds affectionate this time, like an in-joke between then and not something used to patronise and hurt. Tobio’s chest tightens. If this continues, Tobio would need to get his health checked because it can’t be healthy at all.
I want to know who you are too, he wants to say. To confess. But it’s too late now, the window of opportunity has gone and left.
But at least, he thinks. He’ll get to say goodbye this time. That has to be enough.
Io credo in te. - I believe in you.
Oh my god, this chapter was an absolute pain to write. There's bound to be numerous typos. Ignore them. Pretend they don't exist. Also, why the fuck does Ao3 keep putting spaces before and after the italicised words??? I'm too lazy to fix them so also pretend they're not there. Ciao.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There is a distinct kind of exhilaration that Tobio only gets when he’s in court.
The squeaking of shoes around him, running up from the sides - Tobio, strange as it may seem, has learned to distinguish the differences between what it sounds like when it’s Gio’s, or when it’s Aaron’s or when it’s someone else. He can tell with his eyes closed who’s running up near the net, and who’s waiting behind the three-meter line even without the little whiteboard markers that guide their starting positions.
He still knows the heavy thump thump thump of Wakatoshi’s run up, and the swish bam of Hoshiumi’s. He knows the running footsteps of Tanaka-san, Asahi-san, and Daichi-san. He knows Ennoshita-san’s, Kinoshita-san’s, Narita-san’s, and all the other people who have since joined their team. He especially knows Shouyou’s.
He knows them all instinctively, even the differences in their steps that indicate what kind of kill they’re aiming for - his brain automatically picking up on their little ticks during practice and supplying him with information in every rapid fire rally.
He is a setter. It’s what he does.
He gets the ball where his spikers need it and just how they want it - but he also pushes them on, dares them to meet the steadily climbing threshold that Tobio gives them to spur them on so nobody falls behind.
If you get really good, I promise you—
When the ball gets on his side of the court, every squeak of shoes around him is a declaration of I’m here and a challenge of Get that ball to me . The absolute trust given to him makes him feel heady, content, and provoked and he is theirs for the taking.
It should have been different on the world stage but it’s not. If the stands are stripped down, and the noise is muffled, a volleyball game is a volleyball game is a volleyball game. The only thing that varies is the rhythm with which they play to ensure complete decimation of their opponent’s strategies.
—Somebody who's even better—
Volleyball still gives him the same blood rush no matter where he is or who he’s playing, maybe even more so now that he’s flanked by monsters who are even better than him.
It forces him to rise.
But right now, here, in an empty stadium that Samuele had cajoled their coach into lending them for half a day, he is reminded of why exactly he’s been unable to forget Oikawa Tooru despite a decade of separation.
Tooru in court is a provocation .
Every blur of motion is a gauntlet thrown, and every precise toss up is an ultimatum.
Every movement is a challenge that Tobio instinctively responds to.
It’s the same feeling from all those years ago when the pathway leading to the Kitagawa Daiichi volleyball court were lined with pink from the spring rain of cherry blossom petals, when all the words that were ready to fall from the tip of his tongue got caught in his throat at the sight of a boy flying in midair with an arm raised high, the curve of his spine haloed by the sun filtering through the windows behind him.
His presence is twisted into what Tobio has come to know about volleyball, and seeing him play feels like a victory.
—will come along and find you.
He stands there, now, flanked by Tobio ’s teammates and Tobio feels like he’s being summoned.
“Tobio, why have you neglected to disclose that a world league and grand champions cup multi medalist - not to mention the national setter for Argentina - is in Roma ?” Samuele asks later as he’s shrugging on a clean shirt in the locker room, steam flooding in from the shower room a few feet away from where Tobio’s sitting.
“Uh, you didn’t ask?” Tobio says sheepishly as he towels off his hair. “Aaron knew.”
“I only knew because you needed a chauffeur.” Aaron snorts beside him, blonde hair sticking to his forehead. “Besides, you didn’t tell me his name, dude. I had to pry it out from him myself. I only thought he was your ex, what with the way you were acting.”
“Who’s Tobio’s ex?” Gio asks, walking in from the shower with a towel around his waist as he makes his way in front of his locker. Then he promptly drops said towel to the ground before pulling one hairy leg up on a bench to start applying lotion on his shins. “Tooru is your ex, caro?”
“That thing’s a weapon,” Aaron grumbles looking at Gio’s dick as Tobio answers with “He’s not— ”
“That makes sense,” Samuele says nodding to himself before looking at Tobio’s horrified face. “You were acting differently during the Christmas Party. David said so. Even Ahron noticed.”
“The succhiotto on his neck,” Gio laughs in that deep rumbling sound laugh of his. “Tobio, sei una bestia.”
“Yes. Makes sense. Also, you have similar, eh, style.” Lukas—another Ali Roma Libero who Samuele had cajoled into joining them—says in halting english, raising his arm in an attempt to show what he meant and thankfully steering the conversation away from the hickies. “New serve is very, how you say… possente” Lukas tilts his head to Samuele in askance.
“Mighty,” Samuele dutifully translates.
“Yes, very mighty,” Lukas continues while nodding. “Your new serve is like BAM !”
“Tobio has a new serve?” Aaron blinks at them and they all shake their heads in exasperation at the ex basketball player. “What? He has a new serve?”
“Who has a new serve?” Tooru asks cheerily, the steam wafting behind him as he walks into the room with the towel draped around his waist. Tobio’s eyes fixate on a drop of water steadily making its way down from the bruises he’d left on Tooru’s neck to his pecs, then to his unfairly sculpted abs.
Tobio’s mouth dries.
Aaron thwaps his head lightly, snickering. “Tobs, ti devi calmare.”
“Tobio,” Samuele answers Tooru, raising his shirt to reach his armpits with the roll on. Tobio and the others have tried several times to get him to put deodorant first before putting on a shirt but no dice. “Tobio has a new serve. He used it earlier.”
Lukas nods as he fights his way into his jeans.
“He does?” Tooru looks at him curiously from where he’s digging through the duffel bag with both his and Tobio’s clothes in it. “You do?”
“Is not new,” Gio says, switching to the other leg and lathering it with lotion as he looks at Tobio. “Saw it before on Youtube. Your serve when you were younger. Different now. Stronger, more finessed, but same form.”
“Gio, for the love of fuck , please put your dick away,” Aaron complains, tugging his shirt on.
“You watched videos of me?” Tobio asks with wonder, then scrunches his nose. “I have videos on youtube?”
“Yes, caro, you do,” Gio sighs, turning away to finally put on briefs. “And Ahron , your cock is very small, is why you’re jealous. It’s okay.”
Lukas barks out a laugh. “Serve a compensare un cazzo piccolo piccolo?”
“I declare that we stop talking about dicks,” Samuele states, cutting off the Ali Roma captain and their outside hitter before they devolve into the familiar locker room bickering. “We have a visitor.”
“Scuso,” Gio apologises, abashed.
“It’s fine.” Tooru waves away the apology with an earnest smile. “I’ve heard worse. You should hear San Juan—”
“Oh right, you’re Tobio’s senior aren’t you?” Aaron asks before Tooru can finish.
“Andiamo, Aaron, non essere scortese,” Samuele scolds with a frown.
Tobio’s unsure why there’s still a strange bit of friction between Aaron and Tooru when Gio, Samuele, along with the other team members that attended their impromptu match had already warmed up to Tooru since they first hit his set. Which was predictable because Tobio knows how quickly Tooru seems to assimilate into a team despite the language barriers.
“Yeah,” Tobio nods, wordlessly handing Tooru’s jeans to him as Tooru grabs Tobio’s dirty shirt from where it’s draped on the bench and tucks it into a plastic bag along with his dirty clothes. “Yeah, he was my senior. I learned how to serve from him.”
“You taught him that serve?” Samuele growls with a mock glare aimed at Tooru before sitting down now on a bench across Tobio, probably recalling their last game where Tobio had steamrolled them with service aces. “You, Amigo , created a monster.”
“Nah,” Tooru chortles, looking a little strained around the edges. Tobio’s right shoulder brushes against Tooru’s thigh as Tooru tries to balance while putting on his briefs under his towel. “I didn’t teach him anything and he’s always been monstrous.”
Perhaps sensing the tension that’s beginning to rise, Gio diverts the conversation into the Argentinian team, smoothly prodding the rest to join in on the task to make their visitor feel welcomed. He reminds him a little of Daichi-san, except bigger, tanner, and bulkier - Tobio remembers how Gio had been the first to initiate learning little bits and pieces of Nihongo and Filipino and he feels lucky to have him as a captain.
Tobio watches Tooru’s profile as he spoke, moving around Tobio as he put his clothes on. There’s a fond smile on his face now that he’s talking about his teammates and sharing their antics with Ali Roma with feigned exasperation. It reminds him a little of Kei when he’s talking about the junior middle blockers he’d had to train, complaining about them to Tadashi after practice yet getting a really hard look on his face when someone else tried to talk shit about the kids.
Tooru and the team are still chatting amicably as they made their way out of the stadium, locking it up behind them and thanking the guard profusely for their patience in letting the bunch of them in despite technically being closed for the holidays.
Tobio sees Gio handing them a couple of euros before patting them in the back and walking toward their group again.
“Aperitivo?” Samuele predictably asks as they walk towards the parcheggio. It’s still drizzling outside causing the already cold temperature to drop further, the sunset taking what little warmth was left from Rome after two days of continuous rain.
Gio, Tobio, and Aaron nod while Lukas and the other players with them apologise, drawing each other in hugs and air kisses as they walk towards their own cars ready to get back home. Tooru’s shivering next to him, his fleece jacket no use against the wind. Tobio takes a conscious step closer until their arms are pressed against the other after Tobio’s done with the farewell ritual, a few of them greeting him for his birthday in advance.
Samuele, who’s been standing in front of them, gives Tobio a knowing smile before looking away. “I’d invite you home, but my husband’s mother is here for the holidays.”
Gio looks at his phone to check the time, “It’s nearly eight. Zuma?”
“A che ora chiude?” Samuele asks, making little jumps to keep warm on the wet pavement. “Shit, we should have talked about this inside .”
“They close late but their aperitivo ends soon,” Aaron replies to Samuele’s enquiry. “Parking’s a bitch in Centro at this hour though.”
“ Language , Aaron,” Gio chides, ever exasperated. “But I agree.”
“Language? You just said my cock —”
“Just come to our—my place,” Tobio says, cutting in just to get the conversation over with, praying to whoever was listening that they don’t hear the slip. Tooru’s shivering is getting worse. “We can get more prosecco from carrefour and I have some salame and mortadella left. Let’s go.”
Tobio’s already walking towards Aaron’s sedan before the rest can counter, Tooru following closely behind. There’s a definitive silence from Aaron that Tobio knows is him exchanging glances with Gio and Samuele. He wishes David was here to balance them all out.
They’re in the middle of listening to Samuele rant about his mother in law’s apparently dreadful English habits when Tobio notices that the seat next to him on the dining table - the one that Tooru has been occupying since they’ve arrived in the apartment an hour ago, is empty. He excused himself to go to the kitchen just a few minutes back to get a glass of water and he curiously still isn’t back.
“Where’s Aaron?” Gio asks, putting a finger up to halt Samuele’s story before blinking at the empty sofa where Aaron was previously draped on.
“Here!” Aaron yells, entering the living room and brandishing an unopened bottle of prosecco before dramatically bowing and offering it to Gio. “Your drink , mon capitano.”
“That’s french and italian,” Samuele informs him, rolling his eyes but quickly taking the corkscrew from where it’s sitting next to their third plate of cheese and cold cuts and filling each of their wine glasses. Tobio squints his eyes suspiciously at Aaron who just gives him a beatific smile.
Tobio sighs before sliding away from the table and excusing himself to check on Tooru.
He finds him hunched over the sink and using his hands to lean on the edge of the counter. There’s a hitch in his breath that Tobio’s heard just that morning when he’d boldly told him about the breathing exercises.
“Oika—Tooru?” He asks, quietly padding towards him until he is blocking him from view of the entryway.
Tooru looks up at him and gives him a frail smile, straightening up a little when he notices how close Tobio is. There’s a dejected aura on him that he’s sure Tadashi would be proud that he’d pick up on.
“Hi Tobio,” Tooru greets him softly in nihongo. “I’m, ah, getting water.”
Tobio watches the way he still seems to be trying to calm himself down. He frowns, moving forward to pry his hands from the counter lest they bruise from how tight he’s gripping them before letting them go so they’d fall on Tooru’s sides. He feels strangely protective of him, which is something that Tobio never encountered before.
Oikawa-san had always seemed so strong and solid. It’s strange to see him like this now.
“What did Aaron say?” Tobio asks bluntly.
“Nothing,” Tooru says, breathing out and closing his eyes, his hair falling softly against his forehead. He’d forgone the gel that Tobio’s seen him use since Rome, and Tobio wishes he could rake his fingers through it, just to check if they’re still as soft as they’d been after they’d showered together all those years ago.
“ Tooru ,” Tobio chides, trying to assimilate Wakatoshi’s way of prying information out of the others with just the tone of his voice.
“He said a lot of things. All of them true,” Tooru sighs, raking a hand through his hair and uselessly pushing it back only for it to stubbornly fall on his face again. “He said I hurt you.”
“Huh, how would he know that?”
“I don’t know. But I know it’s true,” Tooru smiles at him again, reaching forward with a hand and brushing his thumb against Tobio’s lower lip. Tobio can feel its weight resting there, the warmth spreading from that tiny bit of contact.
He remembers the last time Tooru brushed his fingers against his lips - how tantalising it looked when it collected the spunk around Tobio’s chin. How Tooru’s come tasted when sucked it off from his digits, and how Tooru had looked at him in wonder.
There’s that old churning in his gut now, his toes tingling as he reluctantly slips his tongue out to get a taste of the man’s skin, its taste familiar and embedded into Tobio’s senses. He finds his body leaning forward, shifting until he can almost hear the rapid fire beating of Tooru’s heart. He feels sick with longing, with want . With the carnal desire to possess.
The image of him earlier when Tobio’d seen him in the court again is heady, and he wants to devour him without guilt, and let himself be consumed by Tooru in turn.
He thinks of Tooru’s cock stretching him, filling him; Tobio’s legs spread wide and Tooru’s arms clenched around his shoulders.
He wants to press his teeth into the marks he left just the night before and never let them fade.
“Tobio,” Tooru warns, his voice a register lower, his eyes pinned on where Tobio’s tongue is peeking out between his lips, licking at the thumb.
Closure , a voice in his head says. You want closure . Tobio ignores it and lightly sucks on the finger, bringing it further into his mouth, wishing for the weight of Tooru’s dick on his tongue instead, Tooru’s hands guiding his head pressing him down down down —
“Caro! What is taking so lo– oops ”
Tobio and Tooru jump apart, taking a step away from each other guiltily. Tobio twists just enough to look at Gio standing frozen by the entry of the kitchen, his face red from both the alcohol and perhaps because of what he’d walked in on.
“We’ll be right out, Gio.” Tooru says congenially when Tobio’s lips refuses to speak. Gio nods at them and makes his way out, before returning to say “bring more prosciutto” then disappearing again.
Tobio looks back at Tooru, both their faces scarlet under the glare of the overhead light. He wants to step forward into the warmth again.
“We should go,” Tooru says, clearing his throat before looking down at the tent in his trousers sheepishly. “Or you go first, actually, I think I need to calm down.”
Tobio sighs, rubbing at his face then pulling Tooru’s hand to press it where his own equally hard cock is straining against his trousers before pushing it away with a look.
Tooru grins at him, amused at how Tobio’s been rendered mute, but he nods and they spend a couple more minutes just trying to look presentable to Tobio’s friends again.
The morning of Wakatoshi and Tendou’s arrival to Rome, consequently the day before his birthday, is a fucking mess .
Tooru is dramatically lamenting about it as Tobio drags him to the supermarket to buy the remaining ingredients.
“Tobio, can’t you just leave me in the apartment?” He whines as Tobio shoves the handle of the basket in his hands after staunchly wiping it with disinfectant.
“Shut up and help me look for bay leaves.”
The last couple of days have been strange , to say at the least. So strange that Tobio’s been more active in his group chat with both his Karasuno team and the NT team where Iwaizumi-san had taken to just reacting to Tobio’s messages with a variety of laughing emojis.
The strangest was how Kunimi had resurrected the group chat they have with Kindaichi that they created after the Adlers vs MSBY game in an attempt to actually set up some kind of dinner in an izakaya that never panned out because of their constantly conflicting schedules.
The conversation rotated around the two asking Tobio if he’d killed Oikawa-san yet and if he needed them to bail them out of some Italian cellar where he’s chained in. They’re… odd.
Tooru is… different, but sometimes Tobio would look up at him and he’d be hit by dissonance, the Oikawa-san in his mind interspersed with this man who lived in his apartment; the sharper jawline, the tanner sun-kissed skin that’s slowly fading as he stayed longer in Rome. The way he’d been able to fit into Tobio’s life in Italy as if he’d been there from the beginning.
Tobio has known him for years, had studied him over and over again until Tobio has the image of him spiking seared into his brain. But he’s never been given the opportunity to exist within the same room as him until now, 9 or 10 years later. He still wants to climb into him sometimes which is a strange thought. Maybe it’s why he became friends with Kindaichi and Kunimi in the first place.
The night when he’d sucked on Tooru’s thumb, Tobio felt like his dick was going to fall off from the amount of times he’d had to jerk off while biting into his sheets to keep himself silent just so he could sleep . He had been wanting to knock on Tooru’s door every night since then, wishing he can fuck himself on his cock or take him as far down his throat as he can.
Tobio wishes he had the patience to look for someone else to sleep with but his options were to either ask Aaron if he knew someone who will keep his mouth shut and who Tobio didn’t have to talk to or to go out, both of which were dreadful.
Tobio’s brought back to the present when he hears said man bark out a laugh from the end of the aisle, peering down at his phone.
“What?” Tobio asks as he approaches, tilting his head to get a look on the screen, his hair bunching up from where it’s touching Tooru’s shoulder when he reels back at the instagram post. He’s met with an image of him from long ago - Tobio remembers the day it was taken, when Kourai, Wakatoshi, and the other NT representatives have just arrived back in Japan after training in America for Rio for a couple of months.
In it, he’s wearing a fucking reindeer headband, completely naked except for the santa hat that was protecting the world from seeing his dick. Kourai, who was also wearing the same shit as him, was predictably cropped off. He fucking hates social media.
“What happened?” Tooru looks at him with unbridled glee. “What happened, Tobio-chan? What have they done? How many of these photos does Hoshiumi have on you?”
Tobio tries to pry the phone away from Tooru but Tooru’s reflexes kick in and prevent him from doing so.
“I should have just stayed with Japan. I could have seen this in person . It would have been worth it .”
Tobio elects to turn away from Tooru’s snickering, grabbing the basket from Tooru’s hand roughly and stomping towards the next aisle where the rice vinegar can be found. Tooru follows him unashamed of his little snort-laughs.
He pulls out his own phone and opens the NT group chat to hiss a menacing “Hoshiumi, stop delete that post or I will tell Sakusa-san that you were the one who set his pillow on fire in Rio. ”
The voice message was quickly followed by three dots next to the photo of Sakusa-san, and an “IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, SAKUSA-SAMA!” from Kourai.
He hopes Sakusa-san drowns Kourai in Lysol.
“Tobiooooo,” Tooru says, knocking his shoulder gently with his as they’re walking down the street with an armful of bags filled with groceries between them. Tobio has never been to the market this much until Tooru arrived and took with him his stomach, eating Tobio’s life savings out of his pocket.
“It was a dare, okay?” Tobio snaps, his shoulders pulling up so that the scarf would cover half of his face. “It was a dare that involved vodka and my tally with Shouyou.”
“Shouyou did say something about a running tally,” Tooru replies. Tobio didn’t have to look at him to see that he’s grinning. “But I didn’t think it would involve something like that .”
When they finally manage to make their way up to the apartment and set everything down on the counter, Tooru pulls him closer and plants a kiss on Tobio’s forehead.
“What’s that for?” He asks, peering up and feeling his ears grow warm at the tips.
“For being an adorable kouhai,” Tooru quips, digging into one of the bags that had pork in it and putting it inside the freezer.
“That’s creepy, Oikawa- senpai,” Thinking of the many times this kitchen had witnessed a variety of Tobio’s deteriorating sanity when he’d let Tooru walk back into his life.
If he thought he could embarrass Tooru, he’s wrong. Tooru just sticks his tongue out at him shamelessly before starting to put the vegetables in the crisper. Tobio sulkily takes a bag of his own and places the new bottles of prosecco and vino in their rightful place in the corner of the little table.
“Ushiwaka says he won’t be arriving until ten in the evening and will see us in the morning,” Tooru says a few minutes after disappearing from the kitchen, his tongue peeking out of his mouth as he stares down his phone by the entry. “Tobio, tell me, why did Ushiwaka add us into a group chat with that guess monster guy?”
Tobio peers up at him from where he’s on his knees, trying to reach a pot underneath the sink so it’d be ready for later. “I don’t know? Tendou-san’s with him.”
Tooru stares at him for a second, his mouth dropping open.
“What do you mean Tendou is with him?”
Tobio moves until he’s crouched instead of kneeling, holding a pot in his hands that can probably hold the amount of curry he’d have to make for the six people who’d be eating with them tomorrow, plus an extra serving of it for him and probably Tooru tonight.
“I mean they’re together?”
“Together as in here in Italy?”
Tooru runs a hand through his hair and exhales through his nose. It’s not the breathing exercise kind of thing so Tobio thinks he’s probably alright so he shrugs and stands up, putting the pot on the narrow bar attached to the wall behind him.
“Tobio, I am aware of them dating but I didn’t know there’d be two volleyball idiots from shiratorizawa joining us,” Tooru explains putting a hand on his waist and leaning on the entryway of the kitchen.
“I didn’t tell you?”
“No, you didn’t,” Tooru says with a sigh. “Wait, why are you getting that pot out? Are we making something for lunch?”
Tobio eyes him warily, wondering if he should lie because he uh, may have actually forgotten to inform Tooru about the birthday dinner tradition.
“ Tobio .” Tooru says with a perfect emulation of Tadashi, and Wakatoshi’s warning tone that Tobio can’t copy at all. Maybe it’s a captain thing?
Tobio averts his eyes. “I’m cooking tonight.”
“With Shouyou, Tadashi, Hitoka, and Kei,” he says, then quickly follows it up with “over Zoom! They’re not here.” when he sees Tooru boggle at him. Then he tries to explain the birthday tradition thing. “We, uh, we meet over Zoom for each of our birthdays. On the eve. We cook together using one recipe and eat together so we’re celebrating together when midnight strikes. For our birthdays. Then we open the presents from each other.”
It sounds pathetic when he says it like that, but it’s one of the things Tobio wouldn’t exchange for anything. Not when it was something he secretly looks forward to since it began on Shouyou’s first trip to Brazil. If anyone else thinks it’s sad or something, they can, in Hitoka’s terms, kindly fuck off .
Tobio looks back at Tooru when the silence gets more difficult to bear and he finds him staring at Tobio with another look that Tooru can’t decipher.
“What?” He asks, a little defensive now.
“Nothing,” Tooru exhales.
“Just tell me.” Tobio says, ready to fight Tooru for the birthday tradition of all things.
Tooru looks at him, at the way he’s probably radiating resistance, and shakes his head. “I’m just— I’m just constantly surprised by you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s not bad, I promise,” Tooru supplicates. “You’re just really…”
Tooru makes a frustrated sound, raising a hand to his temple and pressing down on it.
“Tobio,” Tooru starts, stepping closer and closer until Tobio has to tilt his head up to meet his eyes. Like this, he’s reminded of the difference between their height even if it’s just a mere few centimeters. Tooru leans down after a bit of hesitation, brushing his lips against Tobio before pulling away.
It’s barely a kiss, but Tobio’s heart is thudding against his chest. It reminds him of the night days ago, when Tobio had been drunk and desperate - the tenderness that was afforded to him. It’s all there again in the forefront of his mind. He looks away, eyes falling on one of the faded bite marks he’d left high on Tooru’s neck. Tobio takes one step back, afraid of what he’ll do.
Tooru clears his throat. “Hajime warned me about this, you know?” he says, the cheer in his voice painfully fake.
“Iwaizumi-san warned you about what?” Tobio asks, taking the lifeline thrown at him. He squints at Tooru.
“Your propensity to ignore details,” Tooru says, sighing again before turning around with a hand raised muttering about “Karasuno idiots” under his breath as he disappears from Tobio’s view.
“Oik-Tooru!” Tobio calls out after a beat of wondering what just happened.
“What?” Comes the yell from somewhere in the vicinity of the guest room.
“Join us later, okay? Nine thirty!”
There’s a pause and five whooshes that Tobio knows comes from texts being received through iMessage before a “FINE!” was yelled back.
Tooru disappears with his own laptop after a quiet lunch of provoleta that he made, taking Tobio’s keys with him out the door.
“Can you buy some mushrooms?” Tobio calls out as he’s making his way to his bedroom to nap a little after responding to a bunch of messages from the new group chat with Wakatoshi, Tendou, and Tooru where Wakatoshi’s letting them know they’d be okay with going to Tobio’s for birthday lunch the next day if they fetch them from the hotel.
Tobio still needs to get the fucking Hayashi rice recipe from Hitoka for Christmas dinner but he’s pretty sure he remembers the food having mushrooms.
He also needs to ask Tooru if he’ll be okay with having Aaron, Gio, and Samuele over for birthday dinner.
He really fucking hates what he’s life’s become when there’s no volleyball to be played.
There’s an annoyed snuff, followed by “Didn’t we just— nevermind. Fine!” then the click of the front door being locked.
“Tobio, why the heck did you not just pick a recipe that has roux on it?” Shouyou’s loud voice says the minute the Zoom call comes online at exactly nine-thirty in the evening. “Why are we making it from scratch?”
Tobio’s laptop is propped against the corner of the counter on top of some canisters containing the ground espresso and sugar just to ensure it’s the perfect height after that one time Kei had loudly complained about having to peer up Tobio’s nostrils for hours when they were cooking for Hitoka’s birthday.
“Inside voice,” Tadashi pleads in his pyjamas, looking tired as fuck in his kitchen in Tokyo where it looks like the only lights on in his entire studio are the ones in the kitchen, rendering his background dark and grainy. “It’s four thirty in the morning here.”
Kei, who looks ready to fucking murder someone, remains quiet, pushing his glasses up against his nose while wielding a knife.
“Guys, can you hear me?” Hitoka sounds in, looking harried as she looks at them. There are trees rushing past behind her.
“Yes, we can hear you,” Shou replies a little quieter this time, then startles when his Nest Hub responds behind him. “No, Google, I’m not talking to you. Shut up.”
“I’m running to my rental, sorry!” Hitoka pants, her phone shaking in her grip as she swivels from one step to the other. “I asked to get out 15 before five but that idiot from marketing held me back complaining about the size of stupid hero header and how it's slowing down the site. What am I supposed to do? What do I know about codes? Do I look like I know how to code? I’m a multimedia designer!”
“Jim guy again?” Tobio asks, moving to the fridge to start pulling out the ingredients listed on the side of his screen.
“Yes!” Hitoka says, turning left around a corner and screaming ‘ get out of the way! ’ at some tourists, judging from the way they were taking photos. “People are so stupid!”
“Starting to sound very new yorker there,” Kei comments, still holding a knife up but a serated one this time glinting menacingly.
“Why are you holding a knife up like that, Tsukishima ?” Shouyou asks from wherever he was outside of the view of his camera. There’s a loud clatter followed by an Ow.
“You are so loud ,” Tadashi complains, clutching his hair and leaning forward on the table where his laptop’s propped. “Hinata, stop screaming.”
“How come when it’s Hitoka screaming, you don’t complain? Is this girlfriend rights? Is she your favourite now? I see how it is.”
“Tobio?” Asks a voice from behind him. Tobio turns around and sees Tooru standing by the entryway looking at them with amusement.
“Is that—” Hitoka starts followed by horrified screeching as they all get a first person view of her phone falling to the sidewalk before the fading sunset of New York City appears into view. “ Oh my god oh my god please don’t be cracked please don’t be cracked.”
“Tobio, what is Oikawa Tooru of Aoba Johsai doing in your apartment in Italy in his pyjamas .” Tadashi asks sweetly.
“Hello, float-serve-chan!” Tooru greets, wriggling his fingers at the camera looking smug as fuck.
“It’s four in the morning!” Tsukishima hisses, taking one pad of the headphone he’s wearing away from his ear. “Quit your fucking squealing or I’ll—”
“Oh my god, it really is the guy who has the killer serves,” Hitoka says, her face finally appearing back into view. “Hello!”
“Hello, little manager chan!”
“Can we stop referring to people with nicknames from ten years ago?” Tobio grumbles, turning away from the camera to glare at Tooru.
Tooru sticks his tongue out at him before using his hip to push Tobio to the side so he can peer down into the laptop. “Hello, Kei, Hitoka, and Tadashi, and Dumbass,” he greets. Tobio realises he’s reading the little name tags below their videos on Zoom.
“You named me Dumbass on Zoom?” Shou squawks indignantly as he holds a box of baking soda.
“It’s cos you’re a dumbass, dumbass,” Tobio grunts.
“I didn’t give you permission to call me by my first name, Hanger Tooru ,” Kei says, ignoring Shouyou and Tobio.
“I’m going to throw Kyoutani out the window,” Tooru says sweetly as he leans away from the laptop.
“Tadashi, Tobio named me Dumbass on Zoom.”
“This is a mess, this is an absolute mess,” Tadashi chants before squeezing the bridge of his nose. “Hello Oikawa-san, please call me Yamaguchi or Tadashi, whichever works. I’m tired. And Tobio, change Shou’s name.”
“No, I won’t!”
“I’m less than 6 meters away from our entrance!” Hitoka squeaks, turning off her video. “I’ll probably get cut off when I go on the elevator. Don’t kick me out! And you can call me Hitoka, Tooru-san, I don’t mind!”
“See how nice people talk, Kei-chan?” Tooru intones. “I’ll be back,” he tells Tobio, ruffling his hair. “I need my glasses.”
“You wear glasses?” Tobio asks, surprised that he doesn’t know this. Tooru’s been living in his apartment for one full week and he hasn’t seen him in glasses. Tooru tuts as he leaves the kitchen after tapping Tobio’s nose with his index finger.
“Tobio” Tadashi says after Tooru leaves the kitchen, this time employing his captain-voice. “Why is Oikawa Tooru in your apartment in italy in the middle of the night and why did we not know?”
“Shou said he’d tell you!” Tobio says defensively.
“What!” Shouyou yells, pausing from examining a carrot. “When did I say that?”
“When you called me a seasonal slut!”
Tadashi blinks. “What’s a seasonal slut?”
“Tadashi, please don’t ask ,” Kei groans out at the same time as Tooru appears from behind Tobio again asking “Seasonal slut?”
Tobio turns around to look at him and swallows. He has glasses on. Nobody should look that good wearing glasses!
“It’s this thing where Kageyama-kun turns into Slutty ama-kun in the Olymp—”
“Shouyou! The motto!” Tobio yells in aghast as he twists around sharply to glare at Shouyou’s dumb face, pointing a threatening finger at him.
“Mou mou, they already know about it,” Shouyou answers smugly before his face splits into a feral grin. Tobio’s stomach drops. “And Oikawa-san’s an olympian too! I’m not breaking the creed.”
Hitoka’s camera begins to start streaming again, this time showing the smooth panes of white tiles of Hitoka’s kitchen. “What’d I miss?” She asks, her hair wild as she squints closer to the screen. “Is Tobio’s internet lagging? He’s frozen on mine.”
“Nah,” Kei says, this time sounding a little cheerful at the look of utter mortification on Tobio’s face and the curious glint in Tooru’s eyes.
“Guys, let’s just start,” Tadashi groans, raising a clove of garlic up. “We ready?”
Tobio will send him all the fucking pasta sauce he wants. Tadashi is a saint; he deserves to be canonised.
They all start working quietly together, the sound of different knives hitting different knife blocks filling Tobio’s kitchen as Hitoka, Tadashi, and Shou idly chat in the background about Rude Guy from Tadashi’s work, and Jim from Marketing.
Tooru walks closer, taking the potatoes that Tobio hands him and moving wordlessly to the sink to rinse them before making his way back next to Tobio and dicing them as Tobio himself starts working on mincing the numerous cloves of garlic placed in front of them.
“Shrimp, why are you still using a plate as a chopping board!” Kei snaps after a few moments of hearing some loud clanging of Shouyou’s knife hitting porcelain. “I sent you one already, for fuck’s sake!”
“You sent Shouyou a chopping board from Japan ?” Tooru says, looking at the laptop with amusement but still expertly chopping a potato.
“Are you an idiot?” Kei says as he slams the back of his knife on a garlic clove, “I ordered one online for him.”
“So rude, Megane-kun,” Tooru snipes back, a smile teasing the corners of his mouth. “And I thought I liked you seeing as you stopped Ushiwaka once.”
Kei smirks. The hairs on the back of Tobio’s neck stands. “Speaking of Ushijima-san, did you use all the condoms he gave you in Rio, eh, Tobio?”
“Kei!” Tadashi snaps with a scowl. Shouyou starts hollering from where he’s now using a lime green chopping board on his garlic.
“I’m sorry,” Tooru says turning to Tobio with a saccharine smile on his face. “Did I just hear that correctly? Did Ushijima Wakatoshi give you condoms?”
Tobio looks at him wide eyed. “I, uh,”
“Oh my god,” Hitoka crows mournfully. “I hate this conversation already and we’re just on the garlic . I’m so sorry, Tobio.”
“No no, I love this conversation,” Tooru says, then looks at the little window where Shouyou is chortling. “Shouyou, please explain.”
“Can we talk about Jim from marketing instead?” Hitoka offers, her face flushed with desperation. Tobio really appreciates the effort.
“There’s a running joke,” Shou starts after seemingly weighing his options. “That when it’s Olympic season—”
“Shou, I will slice you open with a spoon,” Tobio warns at the same time Tadashi yells “Shouyou! The rules of friendship!”
“—Just ask Tobio about it, Oikawa-san.” Shou ends quietly after jumping at Tadashi’s yell.
Tobio sighs in relief.
Tooru looks at him with a raised eyebrow but Tobio shakes his head.
“I— I’ll tell you about it some time.” Tobio offers, starting on the onions now and wondering where his life all went wrong and why didn’t he just become best friends with Sugawara-san when he could have at least a semblance of peace. “Just not now.”
“So anyway, Jim…” Hitoka begins, steering the conversation away for a while. Telling them about the many transgressions of Jim the asshole from the marketing department with them contributing sympathetic sounds and only Tadashi actually offering sound advice because he’s the only one who can relate to the corporate jargon.
Tobio sees Tooru reach for the mouse pad and watches him mute the mic from their end. “Megane-kun’s in love with Yamaguchi-chan, huh?” Tooru says when Tobio looks at him in askance.
Tobio looks up at him in shock before remembering Tooru’s unparalleled game sense. He guesses his observational skills aren’t just limited to the court. Tobio clears his throat, his eyes stinging from the onions. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Hmm, alright,” Tooru says, transferring the diced potatoes into a bowl before starting on grating the carrots. “Hey Tobio?”
“When you’re ready, can you tell me about the Olympics?”
Tobio moves to grab the pot from where he placed it that morning and put it on the stove, turning it on to low heat. “Huh? You played too.”
Tobio sighs, nodding. “I will.”
They work together side by side for a while, methodically following the prep instructions listed on a quarter of Tobio’s laptop screen.
“I,” Tobio starts after a few minutes, wishing to banish how sad Tooru is when Tobio refuses to share the Olympic thing with him. “I like you in my kitchen.”
Tooru gapes at him a little before giving him a bright smile. “Is that why you want to jump me here all the time?”
“Shut up,” he mutters, but he’s grinning.
“ King , why are you on mute?” Kei of all people asks after a while, placing a small pot in the stove that Tobio recognises as the one from the Kageyama household that Tobio brought with them a few winters ago when he’d helped Kei move. “What are you hiding?”
Tooru reaches forward to unmute. “You want to hear us? Very kinky, megane-kun.”
“I don’t wanna hear it,” Tadashi informs them in a singsong voice, his pan already hissing as he threw in the pork cubes.
“Kageyama! In the kitchen?! Really?” Shouyou says in mock mortification before squinting at the screen, wielding a knife that has bits of carrots on it. “Wait, are you starting to cook already?”
“Yeah, keep up, dumbass!” Tobio says with a smirk, moving his body to the left when Tooru brushes a hand on his hip so he can pour vegetable oil on the pot.
Shouyou squawks. “This is unfair! I am on my own and you have the Grand King helping you out! This doesn’t count as a win for you!”
“I still have 5 wins, who cares?” Tobio informs him with a smug tone, handing the bowl of pork cubes to Tooru. “I can’t believe you weren’t able to hit that set from Santi.” referring to the last match ASAS had that Tobio watched a week ago.
“You know Santiago?” Tooru asks, motioning to the wooden spatula in the stainless steel container sitting next to the laptop by the corner. Tobio reaches over and hands it to him as their pot hisses.
“Yeah, Tobio met him,” Shouyou answers as he starts pulling out his own pan. They all wince when it clangs against the stove. “Don’t worry, Oikawa-san, Santiago didn’t jump him. What’s left of Yamayama-kun’s virtue is in tact”
“Fuck you,” Tobio smiles at him, patting Tooru’s stomach with the back of his hand absently when it reaches for the clean plate on the other end on the counter, his arm brushing against the small of Tobio’s back.
“You kiss your mother with that mouth?” Tooru teases, smiling at Tobio from where he’s standing by the pot, the loud range hood rumbling as it sucks out the smoke.
“My mother is dead,” Tobio automatically says, deadpan at the same time Hitoka, Shouyou, and Tadashi say “His mother is dead” in perfect synchronicity with Tobio and equally deadpan.
“May she rest in peace,” Hitoka, Shouyou, and Tadashi follow robotically, still in unison, not even bothering to look up from whatever they’re working on.
Kei looks at the ceiling, exasperated and dead inside every time this shit happens.
Tooru, meanwhile, has a horrified look on his face, switching from staring at the laptop where the others are continuously cooking, to staring at Tobio who’s blinking back at him in question.
“I don’t know where to start on that,” Tooru whispers after a few seconds of stunned silence.
“Training camp in our third year at Fukurodani,” Tobio explains, reaching forward with the tongs to collect the cooked meat into the clean plate that Tooru placed next to the stove earlier then throwing in the ginger and garlic into the now empty pan. “There were, uh, 4 of us who didn’t have moms anymore. Lev, the russian guy from Nekoma? He, well, it’s a really long story but it snowballed into that.”
That being the little morbid ritual Lev deviced to stop or at least minimise the uncomfortable silence that followed every time someone unknowingly mentions a dead parent or close relative during and after the training camp.
Tooru looks at Tobio, then faces the camera, and says, “Gucci-chan, you were the captain correct?”
Tadashi nods, a distinct look on his face matching the one on Tooru’s face. “Unfortunately.”
“Just wanna say, ex captain to ex captain” Tooru starts, completely serious. “I’m sorry.”
Two hours and a half later, at exactly 23:58, they all finally manage to sit down by their own dining tables with their own respective pork curries, bowls of rice, and perfect 7-minute boiled egg.
“Oikawa-san!” Shouyou calls out at random. And Tooru appears from behind where Tobio’s sitting, carrying a long roll of strawberry shortcake with a tiny lit candle on top.
Kei, Hitoka, Shou, Tadashi start wailing “ ureshii na kyou wa —”, with Tooru leaning over his shoulder, caging him to his seat with a hand around the back of Tobio’s chair, and another on the table in front of him next to the roll of cake, mouthing the song next to Tobio’s right ear.
“Make a wish, Tobio,” Tooru whispers at him when the song ends. Tobio looks him in the eye, at the smile lines at the corner of Tooru’s lips, at the damp bangs sticking to Tooru’s forehead due to standing next to Tobio’s stove, helping him cook the meal.
Closure , he thinks. Then changes his wish at the last minute.
He blows the candle.
When the gifts from the others have been opened and the call ends, Tooru quietly takes his hand and leads him to the sofa, wirelessly connecting his phone to the tv.
“What?” He asks, when Tooru sits next to him, handing him a glass of prosecco in a champagne flute and closing the lights until there’s only the warm light from the floor lamp bathing the room.
“My gift,” Tooru whispers, then taps at his phone.
The tv starts playing a video, the faces of older Takeda-sensei and Coach Ukai filling the screen with the familiar volleyball court of Karasuno High behind them. “Hello Kageyama-kun! Happy birthday!”
The next is Daichi in his police uniform, grinning at the camera and greeting him. The clip fades, followed by one of Sugawara-san who’s standing in front of a classroom, the kids he’s teaching yelling “Happy birthday!” at the camera along with him. The next is of Asahi-san and Nishinoya-san in Hawaii, waving at him in a shirt that says “Setter Soul”. The next is of Tanaka-san and a pregnant Shimizu-san, sitting in what he thinks is their living room.
“Happy birthday, Kageyama-kun!” Tanaka-san yells, raising a fist. “You better be home for your godson’s birthday or else!”
“Happy birthday, Kageyama-kun, I hope you’re well,” Shimizu-san follows, smiling at him as she takes the Tanaka-san’s fist and shoves it down.
The next video is of Ennoshita-san, Kinoshita-san, and Narita-san in what Tobio thinks is an izakaya, merrily greeting him and raising their beer from where Ennoshita-san was holding his phone up.
It’s followed by a few of Tobio’s kouhais in Karasuno, all grown up now, greeting him cheerily and addressing him as The Best Senpai . Then it’s Iwaizumi-san, followed by Kindaichi and Kunimi and for some strange reason, Koganegawa-san and Kyoutani who are both wearing their Sendai frogs jerseys.
Tobio is unable to move even after the video fades to black. The air smells of home, of Sunday afternoon with his grandfather and sister all those years ago, the curry, the language they’ve all spoken - something that Tobio didn’t know he missed as much as he did until he was surrounded by it again, words shared warmly between his friends. Now this —
“Tobio?” Tooru asks hesitantly, leaning forward to check on Tobio who had bent forward at some point during the video, arms resting on his knees, trying to draw a breath from the tight feeling in his chest. His empty glass now sitting on the floor, forgotten.
Tobio looks at him, meets his eyes.
“You’re crying, Tobio,” Tooru informs him softly, before using his thumb to tenderly brush at the warmth imbuing Tobio’s cheeks.
“How?” Tobio managers to choke out.
“I asked Shouyou’s help,” Tooru whispers, then his face twists. “And megane-kun. I asked him through Kyou-chan. Shin-chan, a libero from Seijoh? I don't know if you remember him. But he pasted the videos together for me.” Tooru pauses for a bit, cupping Tobio’s cheek. “I didn’t know what to get you, so. Happy birthday, Tobio. I hope you liked my gift.”
He feels like his chest is expanding, like his brain is leaking out of his ears. He feels weightless, like he’s floating. Everything is blurring around the edges, the world swimming around him and Tooru. He has Tooru’s blood red sweatshirt in a grip, but he can’t feel his knuckles. It's like he’s melting and numb and overwhelmed at the same time.
“Tobio?” Tooru asks again, unsure. Like he’s afraid of how Tobio will react. Like he hasn’t just given Tobio this. Like he didn't fly over to Tobio, not knowing how he'll be received.
Somebody even better will come find—
Tobio surges forward and kisses him, his nose smushed against Tooru’s until Tooru manages to unfreeze and subtly tilt his head to the side, slotting their lips together firmly, cupping his face, his thumb drawing featherlight circles against Tobio’s jaw as Tobio licks into his mouth.
The floor is cold, he thinks.
The floor is cold, and hard and Tobio’s going to fucking bruise and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care as Tooru bites into his neck, his incisors grazing the juncture of his shoulder, lapping it up like he can’t help himself but taste. His hand, god fuck but he missed those hands.
His hand in Tobio’s pants and the air smells like home and Tobio feels so full, he is so human and hazy and Tooru is kissing him. Fucking into his mouth with his tongue like he would with his cock, like he did so very long ago - like he can’t get enought now, like Tobio tastes perfect.
That Tobio’s all he ever wanted. The only one he’s ever loved.
He feels full of life, the second hour of being twenty six and he’s writhing on the cold hard floor and he doesn’t care he doesn’t he doesn’t—
“Tooru,” he gasps out, looking up looking up up up to Tooru’s brown eyes when the hot wet slide of their mouths stops and Tooru’s above him and he’s looking down at Tobio with those eyes, the perfect ones, the real ones, not ones that were almost but not quite, not ones he’s tried so hard to think about when someone’s else is—
“Tooru, please,” begging, panting hot and heavy. He’s begging and there’s a knee between his legs and his back arches up, tries to get himself more purchase. Wants more, he wants more why won’t he why won’t
“Shh,” The man says. Tooru says because this is Tooru and not someone else and he may be tipsy but this man isn’t a stranger that he’s just met this is the real deal and he is slowing the kiss, a hand wrapping around his wrists pressing them down down down down on the floor above them until they’re flat on the ground and he can’t move, can’t touch, can’t— “ Shh, Tobio, let me.”
“Touch me,” he demands, needs more, needs to let him know how much he means to him, how much he wants, how much he’s been trying to get over him but he can’t he can’t he can’t, it’s been ten years, and he can’t can’t he can’t.
He tries to grind on the leg, tries to arch his back further, but the hand on his wrists is holding him down, and he wants to get more of that friction, get himself off like they’re in that fucking alley again. Tries to find purchase. Tries to he tries he tries— “Touch me, please.” pleasepleaseplease please
“Shh, you’re okay, let me,” Tooru whispers, his mouth hot against his neck, ear, collarbone; biting, sucking, tugging at the Tobio’s skin and it’s not enough why can’t he feel him on his skin why is there—“I’ll make you feel so good, Tobio.”
And the warm weight leaves his hands, slides down his middle and he wants to scream but the weight is sliding down down down and there are hands pulling his sweatpants off, but not entirely and his boxers are down his hips, and a hand is wrapped around the base of his cock and he scrambles up to his elbows when he realises he can, the bones digging into the cold hand floor
Because he wants to see, he needs to see brown brown eyes, the right ones, the correct shade, the correct shape, his hair, the soft texture he needs to know, to feel—
And then Tooru licks his cock, laps at the head with the tip of his tongue and plays with the skin just below, and he almost falls, his arms shaking and almost giving out it’s been so long and this time it’s him, it’s him him it’s Tooru.
“Look at me, Tobio,” he commands, the voice sending chills down his spine, the way he’d sounded when they were in a match, on court, and Tobio’s body instinctively listens and his eyes are on him when Tooru’s tongue wraps around his shaft and he tries to find leverage, fuck into it, fuck up into that wet heat and make him choke but an arm is pressing down his hips, and his cock is so wet with Tooru’s spit; he’s so hard he can see stars.
He tries to concentrate, tries to keep himself from flying off the hinges, reaches down until he can touch his hair, balances on an elbow so he can bend forward and twist his fingers through his hair, clutches it in his grip and make him take every inch of Tobio until he’s choking and can’t ever forget the taste of Tobio on his tongue and down his throat.
He does, he does and he’s perfect, he’s perfect because he’s real and he’s not someone else. He’s Oikawa Tooru and he has Tobio’s cock in his mouth, his lips wide and wrapped around the girth, his tongue flat against the thick vein, trying to swallow him in, trying to consume him, his throat making way for Tobio and his eyes meeting his and he’s here and a hand is pressing up his balls, pushing and pressing and he hums around Tobio and fucks his head up and down over and over and over oh my god oh fuck fuck fuck and Tobio’s gone.
He’s fucking gone and his vision whites out and his body almost contorts when the sucking doesn’t stop until the last of his come is spent then there’s a warm weight settling down next to him, sliding up his body and leaving his spent cock shamelessly displayed.
Tooru spears his mouth open with his tongue, finding it again and again and Tobio doesn’t remember closing his eyes but they are, and he can taste his own come, taste its bitterness mixed with the hot slide of Tooru’s tongue was just pressed against the vein of Tobio’s fucking cock and he can’t leave;
Tooru can’t leave Tobio again after this because Tobio can’t - he doesn’t think he can want anyone someone ever again as much as he wants— he tries to catch his breath, tries to breathe through his nose because he feels the telltale movement of Tooru’s shoulder as he pulls out his own cock and fuck into his own hand and Tobio wants to make him feel good too, he wants
He’s tearing his mouth away from Tooru and licks his own palm, wets it as much as he could, slides a hand between their bodies until his hand is wrapped around Tooru’s, their fingers meeting as they pump his cock. Tobio squeezes and swallows Tooru’s resulting groan, swallows the sound of his own name slipping out from Tooru’s lips, he bottles them up with the words he’s locked between his lips for so long;
Stay, please please stay , he thinks, tightening his hand further and quickening the pace to keep up with the staccato of Tobio’s pulse and Tobio forces his eyes to remain, wants to see Tooru fall apart, his brown brown eyes half lidded. Wants to watch him want Tobio, wants to see how much he can make him feel good and maybe maybe maybe it’ll be enough maybe he won’t leave this time maybe he—
Tooru’s hips are snapping forward, the browns of his eyes just ringlets around his dilated pupils, and he looks wild against the soft warm haze of Tobio’s apartment. Tooru’s hand lets go, surrenders himself to Tobio’s unforgiving pace, and uses it to keep himself from falling face flat against Tobio’s chest.
Tobio can tell he’s almost there, still knows what he sounds like when he’s about to come - the hitches of breath familiar as if he’s been hearing it every day of his life. Tooru’s cock is leaking over Tobio’s fingers now, and Tobio wants to taste, wants to see him ruined in ways no one has seen him.
Wants to be the first and the last.
“Come for me,” he whispers, and Tooru does.
Like he can’t not give what Tobio’s asked of him, like he’ll readily surrender anything anything Tobio’s asked and maybe they’ll
“Tobio,” his rasps reverently after they lay there quietly for a minute, an hour, a year, the gentleness hidden between the folds of who he was for Tobio and who he now is for Tobio coming out and Tobio feels like he’s meeting him for the first time again, like everything else doesn’t matter.
Tooru tries to shift away, tries to get his weight off of Tobio from where he fell like puppet whose strings were cut but the floor is hard and cold and Tooru is so warm and real and he doesn’t want him to go, not yet not yet please so he reaches up, wraps an arm around his neck and pulls him closer.
Kisses him, kisses him, and kisses him and Tobio thinks maybe if he kissed him enough he won’t ever want to leave.
His name is Kageyama Tobio and he is twenty six year old and he’s staying in an apartment in Rome with a man who left him once all those years ago.
“Hey,” Tobio says, calling out to him in the light of day when his bones are creaking and achy from passing out on the living room floor. He’s freshly showered in a black turtleneck and black slacks, water dripping down his forehead from his still wet hair and it’s almost twelve in the afternoon of his twenty sixth birthday and all he wants to do is stay in and let Tooru kiss him again.
He peeks into the guest bedroom and leans on the doorway as he scrunches his hair with a towel.
“Hi birthday boy,” Tooru greets back from where he’s sitting on the guest bed in clean threadbare sweatpants, glasses perched on his nose and munching on a croissant he’s bought from the bar downstairs. His thin grey still wet in spots from where he’d put it on in a rush after Tobio had insistently knocked on the bathroom door when he’d seen the time. “Still going out?”
“Yes, come with me?”
Tooru scrunches his nose and shakes his head, his phone vibrating repeatedly on the bedside. Tobio watches the notifications appear one after the other until Tooru calls his name again and hands him another piece of warm croissant, still wrapped with paper.
“Why do you hate Wakatoshi so much?” He asks, taking the offered pastry with a muttered thanks before taking a few steps back towards the threshold of the room. “He’s nice.”
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Tooru says dismissively, his phone already clutched in the hand not holding his pastry. “Samuele texted by the way.”
“He knows your number?”
“No, he guessed, obviously,” Tooru says before shaking his head at Tobio’s eye roll. “He says happy birthday, they won’t be able to make it tonight because of his evil mother-in-law and that he’s expecting the curry thru Uber, and uh, something in italian that’s for you, I guess.”
Tooru tries to hand him his phone but Tobio smirks, stays where he is and crosses his arms against his chest before leaning against the door frame with the towel still draped over his head. “What’s it say?”
“You’re lucky it’s your birthday, you little shit. He says, uh, andate a divertirvi, voi ragazzacci, promettimi solo che userai le protezioni?”
He bites his lip, his face flushing at the combination of Tooru’s halting Italian, Samuele’s message, and the way Tooru had rolled the R’s like he’s trying to enunciate the words in spanish.
“What does that mean?” Tooru inquires, watching him with amusement as he stands there like an idiot, unable to meet his eyes all of a sudden.
“I don’t know,” Tobio grunts, turning away and tossing his wet towel to the laundry basket in the bathroom before walking towards the front door. “Your italian is horrible so I couldn’t understand anything.”
There’s an indignant sound that echoes from the room but Tobio only grins as he crouches down to pull his leather ankle boots from where it’s placed next to Tooru’s oxfords then proceeds to wrestle it on.
“You’re not blow drying your hair before you go outside?” Tooru shouts when he hears Tobio’s keys jangling. “It’s winter, you’re gonna get sick.”
There’s a squeak of a spring followed by a rush of footsteps from the hallway then Tooru’s in his sight again, his hair wild and unkempt with his glasses perched on his eyes and huh, so that’s what he looks like.
Tobio peers up at him as he’s tugging his coat around his shoulders and swinging his thick wool scarf around his neck, both garments hanging from the hooks stuck behind the door. “Yeah?”
“Are we okay?”
This Tooru standing in front of him looks worried, and nothing like the person he knew before - like he cares about what the answer might be, and Tobio thinks fuck it. It’s his birthday, why the hell not.
“Kiss me again?” He requests with a wan smile, bundled up in the black tailored trench coat that Hitoka bought for him from Asahi-san (“with family discount and shared with Tadashi!” she’d said) right before he left for Italy, and the merino wool scarf that used to belong to Kei until he tossed it at Tobio’s face in Haneda just as Tobio’s about to walk towards the check in counters with “Rome” on the placard.
Tooru smiles, small and genuine, stepping forward to give him a peck. He’s about to pull away until Tobio pushes forward and kisses him deeper, palms pressing against the hard surface of his stomach through the shirt, wanting to feel the shape of that smile against his lips.
His phone buzzes in his pocket and he steps back, smirking triumphantly when Tooru makes an annoyed sound at his audacity, gaze falling on those cherry red lips still tilted into a small grin and thinks that’s because of me.
“I’ll be back for dinner with Wakatoshi and Tendou-san,” he warns, glaring at the way Tooru’s rolling his eyes again before opening the front door. “Please don’t set my apartment on fire.”
The strangest thing about walking with Wakatoshi on the cobblestoned pathways of Roma is that it isn’t strange at all.
Tobio has walked next to Wakatoshi more times than he can count, his constant presence grounding Tobio as they quietly followed the group, whether it be Adlers or the NT team exploring new cities during their downtime during away games. They almost always end up at the tail of the little group their team makes, Hoshiumi flitting in and out between them.
He’s so used to it, in fact, that he keeps expecting to hear a burst of boisterous laughter in front of them where Tatsuto and Nicollas would’ve been, followed by the exasperated Fukurou-san and Toshirou-san who usually try their best to contain the dreadful trio of Tatsuto, Kourai, and Nicollas.
“Have you eaten yet?” Tobio asks, peering at his captain as they leisurely stroll around piazza san pietro and towards the streets that will take them to Piazza Navona, their hands both tucked into their respective pockets.
Wakatoshi nods. “I had lunch with Satori in our hotel at noon.”
Tobio quickly peeks into the screen of his phone and winces when he sees that it’s half past one - fifteen minutes late of the planned schedule. “He’s not joining us?”
“The food didn’t agree with him earlier so he’d like us to have our time alone first and would join us later when we go back for your birthday dinner,” Wakatoshi says as Tobio leads them to take a right in Via di Porta Cavalleggeri. “You look very well, Tobio. It’s very nice to see you again.”
“I, uh, thanks, really, for coming here.” Feeling guilty and nervous for being late.
“Well,” Wakatoshi looks at him, amused. “You did promise rice.”
Tobio barks out a laugh.
He’s forgotten that this man has a sense of humour; no one believed him when he told Shouyou and the others about it, but Wakatoshi does have it. It’s just not the usual loud notion, it’s the kind that catches people off-guard - usually delivered unbiddenly and dryly right before a difficult match. The kind that has the shoulders of his team immediately untensing. Wakatoshi has a quiet power of setting his teammates at ease, his presence behind Tobio on the court is a challenge and a promise.
He thinks of the many ways in which Wakatoshi had shown his team just why he was made captain and how it wasn’t entirely just because of his skills. Whether it’s him aggressively wielding silence to ensure that Atsumu doesn’t disappear off into the night to find ways to quiet his own demons, or the way he’s the only one that Kourai wouldn’t yell at
Or how he can command the room without saying a word - the NT team automatically settling down to wait for his input on any disputes. And how Wakatoshi has taken the time to learn how to correctly approach a teammate, adjusting his tone to suit the other receiving end.
Tobio remembers how he’d sat him down in Tobio’s room one evening in Rio after Tobio had disappeared for two nights, Tobio sitting on the edge of his bed and Wakatoshi sitting on Atsumu’s bed, their knees just a few centimeters away.
How he’d told Tobio that he must remember to be careful, to be safe, that he has his dreams and he’ll be an idiot if he throws that away for someone to warm the bed, someone whose names he couldn’t even remember come morning.
How Wakatoshi had quietly handed him a box that they’d been given when they checked into the quarters, his entire allocation of condoms inside. The way Wakatoshi learned how to talk to him - straight and precise, no bells and whistles, taking the stress off of the usual puzzling ways the others would talk to him.
Like he trusts that Tobio would understand that he means well without the flowery decorations that he’d use on some of the second string.
They’re nearing the Fiume Tevere now - the stench of it wafting faintly in the air, and Tobio can see the arches of Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II in a short distance.
It’s the bridge that Tooru said was a historic one, pointing it out to him when they’d walked the same path on his second day in Rome. Tobio’s glad that it’s relatively better now between them, ten days after Tooru had set his feet down in Italy and chose to let Tobio decide how he’d be received, or if he'd even be received at all.
A leap of faith, Sugawa-ran would say.
“Are you joining us for christmas eve?” Tobio asks, stopping briefly to check for cars before leading them across the street. “I asked Hitoka, do you remember her? She brought me food in Tokyo once and the team ate it with me. Before we left for America?”
They traverse another crosswalk and take their time to stroll next to the river, the smell isn’t pleasant but the view is something he thinks first timers would appreciate judging by the numerous times Tooru had made him take photos of him in the same backdrop.
They walk quietly side by side for a few minutes, dodging when a bike flies past between them with the rider yelling Scusi as he rolls down the street to the left and disappears from view.
“I asked her how to make Hayashi rice,” Tobio continues from their earlier conversation, stepping over the cracked pavement where the root of one of the few trees lining the river had broken through the concrete. “I remember you liked it. I’m planning to, uh, prepare it for you and Tendou-san.”
There’s an upward slant on the corner of Wakatoshi’s mouth. “You’ve changed.”
He makes an inquisitive sound as he looks at the terracotta bricks lining the facade of Castel Sant’Angelo, nearing at a steady pace.
“Satori would say you seem lighter,” Wakatoshi intones, and Tobio distantly notes that their steps are in sync, the heavy thump thump thump that he’s heard in the court many many times before makes him wish, for a moment, that he can still set for Wakatoshi in the near future, “I would say you look more assured than you were. How is AR?”
“The team’s okay,” he says, leading them to the entry of the towering cylindrical castle, and pulling out his phone to show the guard the tickets he’d bought when he was on his way to the hotel, grateful that it’s a slow season for tourists. “They’re good people. And yours? I thought you had another match on the 17th?”
“They postponed it until January 12th so I immediately booked a flight to Pisa where Satori and I agreed to meet. Shouyou suggested we give you time alone.”
Fucking meddlesome shrimp.
“And your team? How’s Orzel treating you?”
Wakatoshi’s eyes flit across the angels lining the bridge that leads to the entrance as they walk, some tourists milling around and taking photos.
“It’s better now,” he confesses. “There was friction when I first returned after Tokyo. The man who’d acted as my temporary replacement was displeased of his demotion.”
“He deserved to get fired,” Tobio says, remembering the rare occasions when Wakatoshi did text the Adlers about what was happening - what his supposed teammate had been saying about his sexuality and using it to try and smear Wakatoshi’s fearsome reputation.
Tobio remembers how angry he’d felt when he read the messages, how much he wanted to go to Warsaw and physically hurt someone, that time echoing the threats of violence that came from Tatsuto and Kourai.
Wakatoshi nods in agreement then looks at the aged structure looming over them. “What’s this place?”
“Castel Sant’Angelo, the Ali Roma captain, Giovanni, took us here when I first joined. He said it’s the most interesting attraction in the city.” Tobio showed his phone to a staff member, flashing the biglietti and nodding gratefully when they were ushered in.
“It used to be a mausoleum for an emperor, then it became a prison, then a fortress, then a residence for the papa, and now a museum.”
They walk to the side, the rough wall of the castle next to them brushing against his coat when he’d had to step away to avoid colliding with someone’s kid.
“It has seven levels,” Tobio explains further, pointing up. “We’re on level two. There’s a passageway underground that leads to Vaticano that used to be a kept secret passed between popes. It’s really interesting but what I like most about this place is the view from the top.”
They steadily climb each floor, Tobio pausing to share some information about some of the rooms that was refreshed in his mind when he’d taken Tooru here and Wakatoshi listens attentively, pulling his phone out to take photos.
He points out the room that once housed the emperor’s ashes, which had been later turned into a prison where the prisoners were left to die. It was one of the eeriest rooms in the entire fortress, one that had resonated with him a little.
It takes them roughly an hour to get to the view deck, Wakatoshi surprisingly stopping every few minutes to take even more photos, then pausing at some other areas that gained his interest.
It’s 15:20, and the hazy sun doesn’t take the chill away. He’s grateful that he’s still used to the cold harsh winters of Miyagi all of a sudden.
“Rome is a beautiful place,” Wakatoshi says, standing beside him by the railing and looking at the innumerable domes littering the skyline of the city, the marble statue of Michele sprouting wings made of iron just behind them. “I’m glad I came to visit, Tobio. Perhaps I’ll show you Warsaw someday should you care to visit.”
“I—,” Tobio starts then pauses, his hand pulling his phone out of his coat pocket when it buzzes. Wakatoshi nods at him when he looks up in askance and Tobio presses the phone to his ear after quickly tapping Answer. “What is it?”
“Where do you keep your stupid detergent, Tobio?”
Tobio snorts, remembering the jibe he got from being rude for not answering his phone with better manners not long ago. Hypocrite. “Uh, under the bathroom sink?”
“Yeah well, the box is empty,” says Tooru in an annoyed voice followed by the sound of a toilet seat banging close. “I meant where do you keep your stock of detergent?”
“Why would I stock on detergent? There’s a carrefour right there. Go buy some.”
“I’m your guest!” Tooru says shortly, affronted. “You should be washing my clothes right now and not fraternising with the enemy , it’s the rule. Didn’t your mothe— nevermind, don’t even thi—”
“My mother is dead,” he recites tonelessly, cutting Tooru off before he can finish. He waits.
There’s a frustrated sigh. “I’m in my last pair of clean briefs, I won’t fucking say—”
“You have to say it. It’s the rule.” He says mockingly, smirking at the mental image of Tooru sitting on the toilet in his briefs with that annoyed scowl of his.
“You Karasuno freaks are the worst,” Tooru snaps, then sighs again, defeated and giving in. “May she rest in peace.”
Tobio grins. “Just wear something from my closet and buy the detergent, Oikawa-san.”
“Yeah yeah whatever, text me when you’re on your way back, you useless twerp.”
He’s still grinning like an idiot at his phone when Wakatoshi clears his throat, an actual smile on his lips this time.
“How are you both?”
Tobio shrugs, turning away from the view so he can his hip against the black steel railing, shoving his hands back in his coat pockets. “I think we’re okay.”
“Iwaizumi tried to keep me abreast of the situation when Oikawa first arrived here,” Wakatoshi says while still facing towards the city. “He mentioned receiving a series of panicked messages from Oikawa and tried to foist him on me due to the time difference.”
Tobio waits for him to continue, looking down at the scuffed corners of his boots. Aaron would probably scoff at him in disgust and throw a shoe brush at him.
“I am not interested in interfering with your personal affairs, but I find myself concerned for your well being.” Wakatoshi pauses. “I understand how lonely it can get when you’re alone in a different country, and I wanted to ensure that no one else adds more of it on top of that. You know that I’ve come to respect you as a player a long time ago, but more than that, you’re also a valued friend. I believe I did say I see you as a younger sibling and I didn’t say that to belittle you.”
“I get it,” Tobio nods, eyes prickling at the sentiment, and wishes he could hear the same from Miwa. He immediately chases the thought off. “Thank you.”
“There’s nothing to thank,” Wakatoshi says dismissively. “However, I do have a favour to ask. A real one this time, not something Hinata asked for me to do.”
A bell peals from a distance and a flock of birds flees from their perch at the sudden ringing sound. Tobio watches as they fly in synchrony and thinks of the rush of footsteps running towards him, shoes squeaking as they leap from an old but well-polished wooden floor, all five of them trusting Tobio to set them free.
“I plan to ask Satori to marry me.”
Tobio’s head snaps to the side, eyes wide and shocked, unable to keep the look of pleasant surprise off his face as it breaks into a wide genuine smile when he sees the tenderness written on Wakatoshi’s face.
“That’s, wow, I—”
“My favour is that I’d like you to stand as one of our witnesses in our civil union, if Satori does say yes.”
Tobio blinks, surprised and suddenly overcome with a tide of fondness for his friend. “Of course,” he breathes out. “Of course, it’s an… it’ll be an honour, Wakatoshi. Just let me know when and where.”
Wakatoshi turns to the side to face him, his hand fumbling in his pocket before he pulls out a small black velvet box. Inside of it rests a simple silver band lined with muted gold. Tobio grins at Wakatoshi approvingly and watches as he returns the box back into his coat.
“I haven’t told anyone yet aside from you,” Wakatoshi says and smiles at Tobio’s acknowledging nod. “I’m planning to ask his elder sister for her blessing before our flight to Paris. If given, I’ll propose in Paris. If not, I’ll still propose in Paris.”
Tobio chuckles, his chest feeling like it’ll burst. “I’m very happy for you, Wakatoshi-san.”
“I am too.”
Tendou-san meets them by the glass doors of the hotel, stepping out the moment he sees them and shivering against the cooling temperature of Rome after sundown.
“Tobio-kun!” He calls out, leaning forward to wrap an arm around his shoulder and Tobio automatically tilts his head left and then right for the air kisses. “How long it’s been! How’s the monster Jr doing?”
“Tendou-san,” he nods politely and tries not to think of Wakatoshi’s plans. “I’m doing well. How about you?”
“Mou, of course I’m great,” Tendou says with a dismissive wave, then seems to remember that he’s holding two papers bags when they almost hit him in the face. “Oh! Happy birthday!”
Then Tobio has two paper bags shoved at him, one of them is red and has Eric Bompard embossed on it and the other is a simple matte black one.
“That’s from me,” Tendou-san says, pointing at the red bag. “I saw it while walking down the Champs-Élysées two weeks before we flew here and immediately thought of you.”
“I, uh, thank you, Tendou-san. You didn’t have to.”
“I did tell you to call me Satori years ago,” Tendou-san says, amused. For the life of him, it took him too long to figure out how the man worked and Tobio still gets confused on how to tread around Satori. “It’s no worry. Wakatosh considers you family.”
“Sorry,” Tobio says, then moves to the side sheepishly when he realises he’s blocking a family from being able to enter the hotel. “Thank you for the gift, Satori, let’s go?”
They’ve just crossed the street towards the road that’ll take them down to Tobio’s apartment when he realises that walking with Te–Satori isn’t a strange new thing as well, having met him in France a year before he left for Italy when they had a friendly with Paris Volley.
Wakatoshi had stoically invited the Adlers to the patisserie where Satori worked during one of their free afternoons, and the Adlers had all readily agreed, wide-eyed at being invited in the first place.
Satori guided them into a walk afterwards, cheerily leading them from Place du Tertre where the patisserie was, to Paroisse Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, then towards the steep stairs that led to the white domed basilica he’d said was Sacré-Cœur.
Tobio’d sat outside the church then, just looking at the massive structure as he waited for everyone to finish taking phones, before Satori had led them back down to have a hearty lunch in a restaurant called Le Poulbot.
“Are you really with Oikawa Tooru?” Satori asks, pulling Tobio away from his thoughts.
Then he remembers the—fuck. He quickly pulls out his phone, and fires a quick text to Tooru saying `almost there, 6 mins.’ Satori makes a crooning sound over his shoulder that Tobio relates to the Tendou Satori version of amusement.
“Ooh, forgot to remind him, eh?” He teases, red eyes peering into blue. “Let’s take our time then. Give him ten minutes.”
His phone buzzes again and he quickly glances down only to see five middle finger emojis on the preview. He rolls his eyes. “Nah, let’s hurry,” he says with an evil smile, Satori looking at him in bemusement. “The food will get cold.”
“Yes, must not keep the beautiful white rice waiting, ne, Wakatosh?”
They make it to Tobio’s gate in five minutes, and Tobio gets a moment of cognitive dissonance when he realises that he’s buzzing his own apartment. The intercom crackles to life on the left, framed by a bronze coloured plaque with apartment numbers embossed on the side of little round buttons.
“No one’s home,” Tooru’s crackly voice says sweetly.
“I’m freezing, open the gate.”
“Can’t hear you, no one’s home.”
The gate makes the buzzing sound which signals that it’s been unlocked. Tobio can almost hear Tooru’s eye roll all the way from here. He decides to wait for the lift this time, having been on his feet and walking the entire afternoon with Wakatoshi, and it’s now 19:20 in the evening, which means they’ve been walking for six hours barring the short break they took in one of the cafes in Piazza Navona.
When they get to the landing, he finds his door left ajar and rolls his eyes at Tooru’s antics before leading his guests in and shutting the door behind them. He’s faintly amused and grateful that he doesn’t have to awkwardly tell them to remove their shoes by the door, all of them automatically moving to find areas where they can crouch to remove them before neatly lining them up next to where the other shoes are.
The air smells of curry and freshly steamed rice again, and Tobio smiles despite the lack of Tooru around to greet them.
He quietly gathers the coats from Wakatoshi and Satori once he’s removed his, then hangs them on the hooks, wondering if they’ll give but he figures if it didn’t break after half of the 16 members of Ali Roma had piled their parkas on it, they can probably handle four.
Tobio motions for Wakatoshi and Satori to follow him into the living room where the dining table had indeed been set - steam still rolling off the rice placed in the large chartercurie plate that Samuele brought to his apartment after that one apparently horrible time when Ali Roma had to make do with repeatedly going back and forth to Tobio’s kitchen to refill the quickly disappearing cold cuts.
The curry is still in a pot, only it was smaller this time and not the giant tub-like pot that they’d initially cooked it in. Plus, the strawberry shortcake roll.
He looks back to where Satori and Wakatoshi are standing in front of the mantle just in time to see Satori brushing a finger against the macaroni and blue glitter frame that Natsu sent him, an amused smile on his face.
“She looks familiar,” he muses. “Orange Boy’s sister?”
Tobio nods at the question, but majority of his attention is on Wakatoshi who’s looking at the NT team and the Adlers’ frames sitting next to each other. Kourai and Tatsuto's pouty faces in the frame just to the left. His shoulders seem to untense the longer he looks at the photos.
“You’ve kept it then,” Wakatoshi says, waving his hand to the Adlers photo where Tobio had his mouth open as he slept soundly on Wakatoshi’s shoulder. “I thought you would have gotten rid of it. Kourai asked me to send the photo so he can print it.”
“You sent that photo to Kourai?” Tobio gapes at his captain, surprised at the implication that it was Wakatoshi’s phone that was used to take the photo. “You?”
Wakatoshi shrugs. “I asked Nicollas to take the photo on my mobile and they joined in.”
Tobio looks at Satori, who’s grinning widely at him, then looks back at Wakatoshi. The fact that they are together despite the seemingly distinct gap in their personalities dawning into Tobio and making him realise how secretly chaotic Wakatoshi really is.
“Surprised?” Wakatoshi asks, still stoically but Tobio knows that tone and he’s not falling for it.
“I… no, actually,” Tobio sighs. Then looks to the hallway leading to the rooms where he knows Tooru disappeared into, probably hiding in the guest room and sending many many texts judging from the multiple quiet whooshes coming from Tobio’s bluetooth speaker.
Tooru probably hasn’t yet realised his phone’s still connected to it. Serves him right.
“The kitchen’s over there, the bathroom’s there,” Tobio says, pointing to the hallway and wishing Tooru’s with him so he can help Tobio sort out the awkwardness of having to be a good host. Tobio’s guests tend to be Ali Roma who had no qualms in bursting into his apartment and making themselves comfortable without Tobio needing to say anything. “Uh, I’ll, uh, call Tooru then get you both something to drink then uh, dinner.”
“Of course,” Wakatoshi nods before folding himself into Tobio’s sofa next to Satori.
Dinner goes surprisingly well once Tobio was able to harangue Tooru into joining them and into functioning like an adult, occasionally contributing to the conversation that mostly revolved around Goshiki and Kiryu who are both being looked into as potential Japan players in the next Olympics.
Tobio’s in the middle of refilling his glass of red when both his and Wakatoshi’s phone rings at the same time, Tobio noting the custom tone Wakatoshi set for the Adlers’ GC instead of the generic Line ringtone that punches out of his. Satori continues munching on his third serving, waving them away and knowing what this was about already. Tooru, however, peers at Tobio curiously over the rim of his own glass.
Tobio sighs then shares a look with Wakatoshi. Right, his phone then.
He answers the call and sets it on the table, leaning it against his bowl of curry as Nicollas’ face fills half the screen, and the faces of the Adlers and Atsumu fill the rest all sharing one device, apparently. They seem to be in a hotel room and Tobio fears for the lives of the newest members who are both sitting quietly in the background.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Kourai yells along with others as Wakatoshi’s pulling a chair closer to Tobio’s right so they can both be seen on cam.
“Parabéns, queridinho,” Nicollas says with a wave, the diminutive rolling off his tongue and Tobio can almost feel him ruffling Tobio’s hair even if he’s home in Brazil for the holidays. His wife waves from the back then leaves the room.
Tooru, who’s sitting on his left just beyond the view of the camera, stiffens at Nicollas’s greeting. Tobio spares a second to look at him curiously but Tooru only shakes his head before gulping the rest of his drink.
“Atsumu,” Wakatoshi greets, “are you joining the Adlers?”
“Hell no, I was on vacation with my family.” Atsumu says. “Imagine my surprise when I see these clowns walking around Santa Monica. Kourai said they’ll be revealing the gifts soon and I, for one, am excited to see what chaotic shit Tobio-kun receives from these assholes so I left ‘Samu and went with them.”
Kourai chortles maniacally, then squawks when he hears Satori call out “Is that Pigeon Boy?”
“Who you calling Pigeon Boy, eh, Pennywise? Tobio! Show him! Show us Pennywise!”
Tooru chokes on his wine and Tobio wordlessly reaches over to pat him on the back as he coughs into his hand. Wakatoshi bows his head and gets a solid kick on the shin from Satori when he notices the faint shaking of his shoulders.
“See, can’t even face the music,” Kourai says smugly, his face coming closer to arrange push their device, probably a laptop, up so that it doesn’t cut off Atsumu’s head from where he’s standing at the back of the Tatsuto, Kourai, and Toshirou who are sitting in front. “Anyway, Tobio, did you like this year’s noods?”
“Depends, how much Lysol do you think Sakusa-san will drown you in when he gets his hands on you?”
“We’re in Los Angeles, baby, he can’t poison me from here.”
“I don’t know about that,” Atsumu comments. “It’s Sakusa.”
“Besides, posting your slutty photos is the only way I can get you back for the many times I had to take care of your giant Treebeard ass when you go on one of those dick-fueled rampages”
Atsumu and Tatsuto start laughing and the two Adlers players look let down as hell to be even in the same room as this conversation.
“Go on, Ratsumu, keep laughing,” Tobio warns. “I can get those photos from Shou anytime I want.”
Fukurou cuts into them before Atsumu can get another quip in. “Just get the presents, we need to get lunch.”
Tobio sighs then gathers the six remaining wrapped gifts from the tv console including the bag from Wakatoshi and thinks it’s safe to start with, so he pulls the hefty up on his lap after he sits on the chair again.
“Whose is that?” Tatsuto asks.
Wakatoshi raises a hand as Tobio tears the little black sticker pulling the lip of the bag together and pulls out a bottle of Goldwasser still in a sealed Duty Free packaging with the tiny golden flakes swirling. Tobio puts in on top of the table so the rest of Schweiden can see. Nicollas whistles.
“That’s so boring,” Toshirou comments. Wakatoshi pulls a hand up to signal for him to shut up as Tobio pulls out a rectangular black box, the same matte as the bag it’s in.
Tobio looks at Wakatoshi but he only nods encouragingly. Satori looks red in the face.
Tobio hesitantly places the box on the table, peeling off the seal before carefully lifting the cover up. Tobio’s head whips to the side upon seeing the content, blushing and looking betrayed.
“What is it?” Atsumu prods, leaning forward so he can peer closer even if the angle of Tobio’s phone prevents them from seeing into it.
Satori is laughing out loud now and Tooru’s trembling next to him, the places where their thighs are touching hot and vinous. Tobio spares one last glare at the absolutely blank-face expression on Wakatoshi’s face before lifting the large amber dildo up for everyone to see, the flag of Poland engraved on one of the balls.
“Fuck,” Fukurou wails, burying his face in his hands and choking on laughter. Tobio feels entirely cheated by the two supposedly mature captains.
Kourai is bent over, the top of his head taking the bottom part of the screen. “Oh my god, oh my god, this is the best day of my life. Thank you, Ushijima.”
Tobio hears the sound of a screenshot being taken of him still holding up the dildo mirthlessly, Toshirou’s hand falling away from the keyboard as Tobio quickly places the dildo back into the silk padding of the black box and closes the lid over it.
He takes another present from the pile he placed by his feet and pulls another gift the size of a cereal box and tears into the wrapping with aggression.
“That’s mine,” Fukurou says, the captain trying to recover from the previous gift.
Tobio breathes out a sigh when he sees the Ichiran on the label, three boxes of the ramen take home kit good for 9 servings. Tobio remembers blearily sending a text to gc some time ago about missing quality ramen that actually tastes how ramen should taste like.
“Oh shit,” Atsumu says, “Now I want Ichiran.”
“Thank you,” Tobio says to Fukurou with relief and gratitude.
Tobio goes through the other gifts and the last one, the one he’s dreading the most, is Kourai’s. Tobio takes the aforementioned gift on his lap and takes his time in unwrapping it. The present is in a flat box, A4 sized, and Kourai has his lips pressed together, biting into it looking mirthful.
The wrapper reveals a hot pink box, and Tobio slowly lifts the cover and.
Tobio raises two glossy photos, one of 2016 USA Olympic Swim Team and one of 2021 Argentinian Men’s VB Team, Oikawa Tooru standing in the middle of the group with his arms crossed. Both photos were clearly taken from official sources. Tobio peers down on two jockstraps still left in the box, one bearing the red white and blue with a star where the dick would rest, and one in light blue and white stripes with the Sun of May in the middle. Then there’s a bunch of individual packets of multi-coloured condoms littered around it.
The Tooru sitting next to him stiffens when he sees the photos and the contents.
“That’s custom made, Tobio, and the meals you’ve already partaken so you don’t get confused,” Kourai comments smugly, when Tobio dutifully shows the offending objects to the camera. “In 2024.”
“Jesus fuck,” Atsumu howls, bending forward and slapping his thighs, choking on his breath. The others not far along from him. “And I thought the Jackals were lawless, holy shit. I’ll take five Shouyous and four Koutarous before I take anyone of you.”
Tobio glares at his team, all of them too busy laughing to notice. Wakatoshi is looking at him, Tobio can see him in his periphery.
“You’re all useless,” Tobio intones, addressing everyone, his face burning. “Thanks for absolutely nothing.”
Wakatoshi and Satori leave not too long after the call breaks, thanking them for the meal and citing exhaustion as Tobio leads them to the door with a quick hug from Satori and a nod from Wakatoshi.
There’s an unease in the room from how silent Tooru is as they gather the plates and other used utensils and bring them to the kitchen, each making two rounds each before they both work on washing them off.
“Slut season,” Tobio says, clearing his throat and hating the fucking term with his entire fucking being. “It’s, uh, it’s a running joke.”
Tooru pauses from washing a plate down with the faucet sprayer before resuming again, methodically rinsing the suds.
“It started in Rio, when I, uh, the JNT, it’s mostly Kourai and Atsumu. I think they were the ones who,” Tobio thinks of the words Shouyou said, then wonders how he can address the whole thing and get it over with. “There’s a running joke with JN Men’s VB team that I tend to sleep around in the Village. It’s true, I do that, but I don’t see any reason why they keep bringing it up. I’m—”
“Well you don’t exactly seem like the type to whore yourself out,” Tooru declares, not meeting his eyes. “But that’s just because you’re very talented in keeping all the details to yourself, huh, Tobio-chan?”
Tobio halts from drying the wine glass, looking at Tooru’s left profile. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means exactly that.”
“What’s your problem?”
“Nothing,” Tooru says dismissively. “I don’t have any problem. Do you?”
“Yeah, I do, what is wrong with you?”
“You know it’s funny. Because I know more than them about your fucking slut season or whatever. Your so-called team family, Queridinho. That's disgusting. You're fucking kidding yourself. Do they know how much you like getting your dick wet? How fucking greedy you are? How much you like to beg—”
Tobio slams his hand on the counter, noticing too late that he was still holding the wine glass until it’s already breaking. The shards cut into his left palm and he numbly watches the blood drip from it when he raises it in front of his face.
He thinks of the cold hard floor and how warm he’d been just that morning, how he felt so happy. How he thought they were doing okay. How he’d fallen for this asshole all over again then get this– this fucking shithead back.
He feels a little dizzy from it, like his heart can barely keep up from the sudden rushing in his veins. The blood from his palm trickles down his forearm, and there’s ringing in his ears.
Someone’s hand is closing around his wrist, pulling him to the sink and washing the blood off, palm down so gravity would help remove any broken glass that might have embedded themselves into his skin.
Greedy, greedy, Tobio-chan.
Tobio sees the broken wine glass on the countertop, twinkling like the glitters on Natsu’s gift under the bright light of the kitchen.
There are hands, trembling ones, cupping his face, forming words that Tobio can’t focus on. Can’t keep his attention on. There’s those brown brown eyes in front of him, worried, peering into his, and there’s a thumb rubbing soft circles against his cheeks, the light reflecting the wetness that they’re wipe away.
The world swims back into focus step by step. First it’s the sound rushing back in—
“Tobio, I’m sorry, I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so sorry—”
Then it’s his vision, zeroing in on the curves of Tooru’s mouth as he chants the words over and over, lips shaping the consonants and vowels that make up the sound.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Tobio, I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry I’m sorry—“
Then it’s the sensation, the sting of his palm, the insides of the socks that housed Tobio’s feet, the warmth of Tooru’s hands on his face, and the cold. It’s cold, he’s so cold, and Tobio’s tired of it. Tired of feeling like this.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, Tobio, I got jealous, I’m so sorry.”
So is he, Tobio thinks. He’s sorry too.
Tooru leads him to his bedroom after cleaning his wound, it’s just a gash. A shallow one at that, but he pours the antiseptic on it and wraps it up with the gauze from Tobio’s first aid kit in the bathroom where his sink’s now divided between his things and Tooru’s.
He numbly climbs into bed after, hand reaching out to stop Tooru from leaving. Doesn’t want to see him with his back turned, doesn’t want to be cold and alone. He wants for them to be okay. To talk. Doesn’t want to make another ten years without feeling warm, looking for his ghost from other people’s skins.
Tooru gives into it, lying down next to him after lifting the covers. Wrapping himself around Tobio’s torso and resting his face on Tobio’s chest. Anchoring him to the bed, helping him not fly off and tear at the seams.
His left hand is prone on the bed, spread to the side to make way for Tooru’s warm body tucked next to his, there are fingers closed around his arm, and fingers tracing his collarbone through the shirt Tooru had changed him into, and Tooru’s ear is pressed against his chest right where his heart should be. Their legs are tangled, Tobio doesn’t care which limb goes where, just that they’re tangled as if they never want to leave.
A minute, an hour, or maybe even a year later, he notices a wet warm spot growing on his shirt, then notices the little hiccuping sounds coming from Tooru. Tobio can’t see his face. Just the top of his head, the brown brown hair is a mess - wrecked from where Tooru had threaded his fingers to a panic.
He lifts his right hand and presses it against the top of Tooru’s where it’s splayed on his chest. Pressing it down onto his shirt, before curling his fingers between Tooru’s.
Tobio thinks of how he’s loved him from the very beginning, but it’s different now. It felt different, at least. Like they’re on the cusp of something steady and lasting, they just need to sort some kinks through.
He thinks he’s never wanted anything as much as he wants for them to be okay.
To be able to make it through this and stand on the world stage as equals. Wants the feeling of competing with Tooru while being loved in return, knowing that there’s someone to come home to, even figuratively.
Even just in thought because he knows not one of them is willing to quit their passion for volleyball just yet. Not now when they’ve both made it. They might rest in the future, come home together somewhere and live as old men. But not yet.
Tobio decides to unstick his tongue from where it’s frozen, tries to talk. To be honest as much as Tooru had been with him days ago.
“This isn’t your fault,” he starts. Because that’s where he ought to start. There’s been enough guilt between the both of them, enough guilt in Tooru that could last them a lifetime. Enough guilt to bring someone to his knees if Tooru hadn’t been as courageous as he’s always been. “My hand. It’s not your fault. It was an accident.”
Tooru stiffens on top of him, but Tobio lifts his left hand wrapped in gauze and places it gently on his head, lets it rest there to give the same anchor that Tooru’s giving him now.
“Slut season is a stupid thing. I slept around. I like sex, you’re right. But I–" Tobio hesitates. “I thought of you. Each time.”
“I tend to forget to share things,” he continues. “Things I don’t see as important but are for others.”
He thinks of Asahi-san all those years ago saying it’s alright to share his opinions, and that he welcomes them even - just be kinder. He thinks of Tanaka-san, and Karasuno, of Tobio having years to learn them. To figure out how exactly he fits, and how to fit them into his life just like they did with him.
He thinks of Kei, and of Shouyou. He thinks of Tadashi, and Hitoka. Of them still learning new things about each other even now, shifting, accommodating, but never letting each other get away with their bullshit.
Tooru, he thinks, hasn’t been afforded the same. Not yet. But Tobio’s willing to learn him, to learn what he needs and what he wants, just as much as Tobio’s willing to let Tooru know him, no holds barred. The king of the court and Tobio, all of him.
The ugly side, the demanding side, he wants Tooru to know them; wants to know Tooru’s as well so they can see where they fit; what shape should they carve to make way for the other, what ways can they find to bend that accommodates both of them in the space that used to be just their individually. Not losing who they are, but being changed by them nonetheless.
“You can ask me questions any time, and I promise I’ll answer them. Just ask. When I forget to share, remind me until you don’t have to ask anymore.”
He still feels the tears soaking his shirt, warm ones, still fresh.
“My, uh, I don’t like being left without a word,” he confesses. Thinks of his dad, of his sister, and of the table in Miyagi where the photos of his mother and grandparents are. “I don’t like it when people leave without saying goodbye. So if you need some space to think, just tell me. I'm um, I might go to therapy too, like you. I think I should, maybe. I think it's better if we both work on it.
Then we can, uh, and I kissed Aaron once. I had sex with some people from the USA swim team. And I slept with a couple more others. Then I think I slept with your ace. I’ll tell you everything you want to know. But I need for you to understand that it happened and nothing can be done for it anymore.
“You asked for my forgiveness for those times in the past, and if that’s what you need, then it’s yours. You don’t need to keep apologising for them. I, uh, I think we were both different back then, and I think we— I think we need to let those go. Because we’re different now. You’re different now. And I want us to— I want you. I want you with me. I want us to work, I think. And if we can't do it on our own, we can ask for help. But I want to try with us first.”
He feels the bones of Tooru’s fingers shift beneath his, as the hand on his arm squeezes just a little bit. Tobio twines their fingers together.
“I want to try."
His name is Kageyama Tobio and he is twenty six year old and he fell in love with the same man twice.
But it’ll be different this time.
On Christmas eve, they have dinner - Hayashi rice and some steak with a green sauce that Tooru prepared, Chimichurri , he repeats when Tobio asks again.
They walk around, the four of them. Wakatoshi and Satori, Tobio and Tooru. Tobio leads them to the many basilicas in the city, his hand clasped in Tooru’s as they observe the many presepi, their eyes reflecting the twinkling fairy lights dotting every street.
He gets a call from David, his two children shrieking when Tobio’s face appears into view. Tooru ruffled his hair when he blushed over their innocent and genuine compliments. Wakatoshi separates him from Tooru, lets Satori slide by his side so their partners can talk.
A few hours later, it’s Kei on the line, and Tobio wants to reach through the screen and put a hand on his shoulder and squeeze. Tells him to accept the offer in London - allows him the kindness of having someone to blame for the decision just like when Tadashi afforded him his.
Tobio makes a note to set him up with the coach Gio knows. Kei had spat words at him - about not needing his help, and Tobio had nodded and said he knows, he knows but he’s offering him anyway. Because he’s Tobio’s friend.
On New Year’s eve, he gets a call from Wakatoshi, his face lit up with a grin, informing him that he’s engaged. And that he’ll tell Tobio when the date will be.
In the next ten minutes, his phone almost ran out of battery when he finally managed to get that password for his instagram from Hitoka, looking shocked at just how many people followed him despite the account having just one photo - the five of them on the floor in Karasuno, the same photo he knew once filled Shouyou’s screen.
He updates it with a photo of him and Tooru, his lips pressed against Tooru’s cheek as the Colosseo looms behind them, majestic in its stead.
They spend the days before Tooru’s departure just existing in Tobio’s apartment, a handful of words exchanged as they relearn each other.
And when it was time to leave, he cajoles Aaron into driving them to Fiumicino again, turning away from his face the entire ride home to give Tobio a veil of privacy as he tries to stop the tears rolling down his face.
He gets a text a day and a half later, ‘Back safe. Gonna sleep. Ttyl’, and then his phone pings with a notification of being tagged on instagram, and it’s Tooru updating his account with a photo that has Tobio’s bedhead, his back turned towards the camera, blankets draped around his shoulders.
It’s from the last day he spent in Tobio’s bed before he had to go again.
Ali Roma’s manager verbally eviscerates him for it, then pats his back and says congrats, then gives him a list of therapists that he asked for.
Here are the things Tobio knows about Oikawa Tooru:
The colour of his eyes when he’s bathed by the bedside lamp in Tobio’s room. His favourite food and how to make it. The tiny scar on his chin from when he bumped it at the edge of a table when he was a child and had to get stitches. The unending power of his hard-earned reputation. The barely there tells when he’s prioritising force rather than accuracy right before he serves. The number of sugar cubes he needs in an espresso, how many ounces of milk to pour before he considers it consumable.
How close he’s gotten to Aaron. The way he shares recipes with David. How funny he looks when he’s pulled into Il bacetto by the rest of Ali Roma.
The possessive brand of his hand on the small of Tobio’s back when he introduces him to his teams.
The way he texts when he’s exhausted. What he looks like on screen when he’s tired and just climbed in his bed. The hard line of his cock. The telltale hitch in his breath when he’s about to come. What he looks like in the morning before he’s able to get ready, hair wild and glasses skewed. What it feels like to receive his genuine smile. His breathing exercises.
The way he looks when he’s standing across the court from him, decked in light blue. How his mouth tastes like when they switch courts. How his tanned hands look against the red of Tobio’s jersey. What he looks like when he’s cuffed in the head by Iwaizumi-san on the world stage. What his body felt like under Tobio’s hand when they’re dancing in the middle of the square in an Olympic village.
The different kinds of silences. The depth of his intelligence. His ruthlessness.
How brave he is.
His determination in knowing Tobio. The way he gives 70% of the effort in times when Tobio can only afford 30% and vice versa. How it takes him five minutes to process something new about Tobio, ten if it’s something he considers detrimental. What makes him tick. How to calm him down.
How it feels like to love him, and be loved in return.