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it takes a village

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The first time Tobio met Tooru’s mother, it’s on Tooru’s graduation back in Kitagawa Daiichi. She was a tall, lithe figure, towering over everyone when she stood along with their teammates as Tooru took to the stage to shake the principal’s hand and claim his diploma. Tooru had introduced her to them afterwards, eyes briefly meeting Tobio before hastily looking away with a huff and skipping right over telling his mother about Kunimi who bowed next to Tobio.

 

The second time Tobio met Tooru’s mother, it’s by the gate of their house. She was in what Tobio assumed was her work clothes, pressed button up shirt and a skirt that was covered by a frilly apron that had Best Dad Ever on it, and she’s looking down at him in confusion as Tobio hesitantly asked her where Tooru was.

 

The third time Tobio met his mother, it’s two weeks after he unceremoniously rang their house’s doorbell to ask about her son’s whereabouts. He’s about to go into the only reputable grocery store in the whole of their town when she sees her struggling with the numerous paper bags she’s carrying to her car and Tobio instinctively went and offered his help. She’d peered at him afterwards and asked if he’d like her help in picking vegetables. By the end of it, she’s managed to pry things about Tobio’s family he hasn’t shared with anyone else, and Tobio went home with three sandwiches in his bag without knowing how it got there.

 

The fourth time Tobio met his mother and the several times that followed, it’s on a Tuesday and the Tuesdays after that. She stands by the gate of her house and gives him a disposable bento — still warm in its wrapping. For lunch , she had said the first time as Tobio stood there with his mouth gaping open. Take care. The first time he opened the box in his classroom, he’d stared at the pikachu-shaped rice and the meticulously shaped viands around it with a lump forming in his throat.

 

The next time he sees her after he joins the Olympic team, it’s to him and Tooru standing by the Oikawa household gate as they’re dragging their luggages out of the taxi. She takes one look at them and pulls them closer, an arm around each of their shoulders. Welcome home , she tells them both, and perhaps it was because of exhaustion from a long flight to Abu Dhabi where Tooru and Tobio planned to meet, scheduling their layover from San Juan and Rome, then another long flight from there to Tokyo, followed by a long taxi ride from Tokyo to Miyagi — but Tobio couldn’t help the tears that stung in his eyes.

Welcome home, she’d said, and Tobio presses closer, bending forward to bury his face into her shoulder to hide whatever expression was on his face. He can tell that Tooru’s surprised - his hand warm and rubbing circles on his back. Worried.

When they get in the house— a house that Tobio hasn’t been in since the day Tooru invited him in — it smells of their favourite food. Tooru and Tobio’s. And she’s looking at them the way Tobio imagined his own mother would if she was alive. The way Tobio hoped she is, wherever her soul may be.



The time after that, it’s in the city hall of San Juan and Tobio’s struggling with his tie as Tooru and Hajime were idly chatting some feet away, waiting for their names to be called by the judge. She beckons him closer and wordlessly fixes the tie around his neck — he’s never learned how to tie a tie, you see? All the times he had to wear one, someone helped him with it: his grandfather’s funeral, Miwa. His graduation from Karasuno, Tanaka-san who’d been the first to arrive, barreling through the court and yelling Tanaka-senpai is here. Volleyball events after that, Wakatoshi.

Thank you, he whispers to Tooru’s mother, trying to find more words to convey how grateful he was not only for this, but for helping him out all those years ago and for everything she did afterwards. For Tooru, and for the happiness that he gave Tobio.

“Oh, son,” she says with a smile, eyes crinkling around the corners as she ruffles his hair. “Family never has to say thank you.”