Chapter 1: Clandestine Meetings
Rain always came as unexpectedly as did most of the events that happened in Iwaizumi’s life. For all his preplanning and caution, it was something that he hadn’t accounted for at all. Neither had the school, it seemed.
With the school grounds soaked in the pre-summer shower, it was almost impossible to hold the graduation ceremony in the open air. A part of Iwaizumi was silently thankful since he didn’t think he could have managed to stand in the sticky heat with his eyes near watering as the graduating class representative would deliver his speech.
Iwaizumi wasn’t a sentimental person—at least not in the most bookish of terms. No, normally he could hold his own and pretend that the prickling he felt behind his eyes was just from an oncoming headache and not from some overly sentimental reason such as the main character in his favorite series dying. That stuff was better left for Oikawa, after all.
Graduation, however, was one thing that unexpectedly ended up in the small list of things that did make Iwaizumi sentimental. It was his own graduation after all. No more silly games with his classmates, no more casual chats in the cafeteria, no more training sessions with his ex-teammates.
No more classes to be skipped to spend time on the rooftop with his obnoxiously, endearingly cute best friend.
It was weird then, Iwaizumi thought, that despite all his reservations about attending graduation, he was actually a little bit disappointed when the ceremony was postponed until the rain spell died out.
“Aw, you were totally ready to bawl your eyes out too, weren’t you, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa laughed, a hand going up to push back his wet hair that had fallen onto his forehead.
Iwaizumi, for all his embarrassment, knew that there was no point in arguing with Oikawa when he knew him so well.
“Sh-shut up!” he said anyway because that was the way he’d always answered him. “You would have cried too if the ceremony had actually happened.”
Oikawa simply grinned and continued to walk along the sides of the low-rise metal roof on the outskirts of the school building. Walking back home was going to be a bother with the rain pouring hard enough to make their surroundings nothing but a mess of mud. He could hear the loud metallic ring of rain on rocks.
“You don’t really know for sure if I would have cried.” Oikawa mused thoughtfully. “Besides, we’ve already established that I’m not the one who’s the crybaby here, right?”
Iwaizumi immediately caught on to what Oikawa was referring to and he scowled, knowing full well that it was just another one of Oikawa’s lighthearted jokes. They’d already retired from the volleyball club and talk about their last match as a team didn’t really hurt either of them anymore. But it was still a bit of a sore topic either way.
“Really now?” asked Iwaizumi, nudging the boy with his arm and pulling him away from a puddle of water that looked a little deep. “As far as I remember, you were crying just as much after we went home.”
Oikawa clicked his tongue and shook his head slowly, almost dramatically. “Always one for pitiful attempts at a comeback, aren’t you Iwa-chan?” he said, actually managing to sound pitying. “If you must know, I was just trying to comfort you!”
Iwaizumi grinned “Comfort, my ass.”
The metallic ringing slowed down as they walked away from the shelter and neared the gate. They stopped by the edge and simply exchanged looks before rushing out into the rain, schoolbags clutched tight to their chests.
It was simple habit, probably, that had led them to this conclusion, or it might have been the knowledge of so many raining where they had run together just like this. Running towards home, just two boys who knew each other like the backs of their hands.
When they finally paused for breath near the park halfway between school and home, neither of them said a word. Their feet automatically brought them to the shade underneath the slide where they dumped their bags on the ground and huddled close together to stop their teeth from chattering.
For some reason, the rain almost felt cold and unwelcoming right now and Iwaizumi was glad for the temporary reprieve from it.
Pushing aside the hair plastered to his forehead, Iwaizumi finally turned to look at Oikawa who was busy shaking off the excess water dripping from the tips of his hair and clothes.
“It’s been a while since it rained this hard,” Iwaizumi said quickly, unable to explain the sudden warmth that felt in his chest and beneath his skin. He chalked it up to the fact that despite how cold the rain was, it was, in fact, summer.
But he knew better than that. Oikawa smiled and stared out at the trees that were still under siege by the onslaught of rain. A few stray leaves had found their way under the slide as well and Oikawa picked them up to examine casually.
“I think it’s been a few months, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa finally said. “Not that long ago.”
“It feels like it’s been a lot longer,” Iwaizumi said, unsure –at this point—if he was still just referring to the sudden rain.
Oikawa met his gaze and a part of his smile vanished, taking on a more nostalgic look.
“You’re right.” He said, not looking away from him. “It feels like forever doesn’t it? Knowing each other…doing stuff like this.”
A part of Iwaizumi was surprised that Oikawa had acknowledged what he had been implying and another part of him felt oddly endeared in knowing that he wasn’t alone in feeling like this. Both of them must have felt that a part of their childhood –their forever—was going to vanish for good.
“But it’s not really a sad feeling, is it?” Iwaizumi smiled. He sat down on the ground while his back rested against the slide’s wall.
Oikawa mirrored his motion and the two of them sat face to face, their knees knocking slightly.
Instead of acknowledging Iwaizumi’s –mostly rhetoric—question, Oikawa wrinkled his nose. “We’re getting too old to be sneaking under this tiny slide, Iwa-chan.”
Iwaizumi raised an eyebrow at the sudden change of topic but he nodded anyway. “Well you’re the one who liked sneaking in here in the first place, Assikawa!”
Oikawa had the audacity to gasp at Iwaizumi’s accusation. “That was when we were kids, Iwa-chan! It’s unfair of you to hold that against me!”
Iwaizumi chucked. “Is a seventeen year old considered a kid, then?”
Oikawa’s pout became even more exaggerated and Iwaizumi was entirely unfazed as the boy folded his arms across his chest and huffed. “I just thought it’d be fun, you know. Sneaking out and meeting here at night.”
Oikawa’s odd sentimentality was always something he’d been aware of, and as much as Iwaizumi liked to make fun of him for it, he couldn’t say he’d ever really disliked that part of him. Something about Oikawa’s romanticist personality had always been endearing.
Iwaizumi pinched Oikawa’s nose -more out of habit than any conscious realization. He was met with an exaggerated whined.
“You’re so dramatic, you know that?” Iwaizumi said “What was that word you used whenever you talked about us coming here? cla—“
“Clandestine.” Oikawa spoke up with a surprisingly bashful smile on his lips. “Clandestine.” He repeated, softer this time and Iwaizumi’s heart took that odd moment to stutter and then pick pace like a nearly dying car.
“Clandestine…what a funny word.” Said Iwaizumi, mainly because he had nothing else to say.
The look Oikawa had given him when he’d said the word had been nothing short of immensely private. Iwaizumi felt like he’d been given a glass box with some deep, unknown secrets to the world and a boy named Oikawa Tooru. He wasn’t really sure how to handle the glass without breaking it.
So, instead, he broke out into a cold sweat and waited for Oikawa to say something.
A sigh escaped the boy’s lips before they curled into a hopeful little smile. “I just thought it was a romantic word, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa said and suddenly Iwaizumi could feel a warm hand resting on his chest.
The cold fabric pressed against his skin but Iwaizumi could only think of how close Oikawa was. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, hoping it would stop Oikawa from noticing the pitter patter his heart was being subjected to.
“Oikawa…”he said softly, knowing he was already far too gone to care about what was going on. Harboring a crush on your best friend could only go so far before things either fizzled out or sparked into something greater. He hoped it was the latter.
“Is this another one of those clandestine meetings, then?”
Oikawa looked down but his cheeks were dusted a soft shade of pink. He still hadn’t retracted his hand from Iwaizumi’s chest and something about the gesture made hope well within him.
“Only if you want it to be, Iwa-chan.” He said and raised his eyes to look at him.
There was something so soft and vulnerable in that look, the soft brown of his eyes sparkling ever so slightly with a sense of hope.
Iwaizumi wondered why he’d never decided to do this before and a part of him cursed his own lack of initiative. Iwaizumi was a person who wasn’t very fond of change but he was willing to take a leap of faith just this once.
Awkwardly fumbling with the way they were sitting, Iwaizumi placed his hands on the ground and leaned forward. Oikawa’s hand cupped Iwaizumi’s cheek and his lips met him halfway.
It was soft and warm, and just a little bit cold as Oikawa’s skin touched Iwaizumi’s. Oikawa’s lips were softer than he could have ever imagined in his confused, teenaged dreams. There was nothing heated about the way Oikawa’s lips moved against his, and his heartbeat settled into a peaceful rhythm, slow –just like the rain that was starting to let up.
Oikawa’s hands pressed against Iwaizumi’s and almost of habit, Iwaizumi intertwined their fingers together. They kissed, close mouthed and almost innocently chaste, until Iwaizumi felt his face heat up and his breath leave him entirely.
They broke apart at the same time, panting a bit and looking anywhere but at each other. The rain had already stopped but neither of them acknowledged it.
“So!” Oikawa awkwardly broke the silence, looking at Iwaizumi through half lidded eyes. “Was that your first kiss, Iwa-chan?”
There was a hint of shyness in Oikawa’s voice and Iwaizumi was silently thankful for his best friend’s equal lack of experience in this.
“Y-yeah,” he said, flushing at the acknowledgement.
It was already common knowledge between the two of them anyway.
“Mine too,” Oikawa said, nodding intelligently at the ground. “Mine too.”
The way Oikawa repeated it to himself so seriously made Iwaizumi laugh. “I already knew that, Oikawa.” Iwaizumi said, finally looking at the boy. “Who in their right mind would want to kiss you, anyway?”
“Aw, Iwa-chan. That’s rude!” Oikawa huffed and quickly got up. “You seemed to like it a lot, don’t deny it!”
“That’s true, I guess.” Iwaizumi acknowledged, smiling to himself because he’d totally set himself up for that one.
Oikawa shuffled his feet on the ground in pensive silence. He was looking out at the surroundings again. “The rain’s let up, so why don’t we leave soon?”
Iwaizumi nodded and reached out a hand to Oikawa who grabbed it and pulled him up.
“Come over to my place to dry up first?” Iwaizumi suggested and Oikawa nodded, a relieved sigh escaping his lips.
They looked at each other and smiled and suddenly all of the tension between them seemed to vanish. Something was changing between them, like the slow shift of a wheel that had begun to rust, and it both frightened and excited Iwaizumi. He shrugged and followed Oikawa out of the park and back home, not letting go of his hand the entire way.
Because what did it matter if something really had begun to change? After all, the boy walking beside him was still his best friend and nothing –not even clandestine kisses stolen on a rainy day—could change that.
Chapter 2: The Glow of a Firefly
The boys graduate and decisions are made.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said slowly, like an afterthought and turned to look at Iwaizumi who was lying on the bed beside him. “Iwa-chaaaan.”
“What is it?” Iwaizumi asked, turning over and raising an eyebrow. The sheets curled around them and his arm brushed against Oikawa’s. He was glad they’d finally changed out of their wet clothes into softer, more comfortable ones and Oikawa’s warm presence by his side was soothing, lulling him into an almost sleeplike calm.
Oikawa smiled and shook his head. “…It just feels oddly peaceful today, doesn’t it?”
Iwaizumi hummed because he’d been thinking the same thing. “It’s a nice change of pace for once. You’re so noisy usually.”
“Rude! Iwa-chan let me off the hook just this once, won’t you?”
“We’re cuddling in my bed and you’re wearing my clothes,” Iwaizumi pointed out, moving his head to the left so Oikawa could run his fingers through his hair. “I’m already spoiling you too much.”
“But we always cuddle on rainy days, you know. It’s nothing new.”
That was true, Iwaizumi thought. He’d always been particularly weak to Oikawa’s relentless whining after they would get home soaking wet and cold. It felt like the natural solution to just let the boy huddle for warmth next to him but he couldn’t deny that he liked it just as much.
“Today was already new enough as it was,” Iwaizumi said softly, thinking about the kiss they’d shared just a few hours ago. It still didn’t feel like it was real even though a part of him had already taken it as something that was bound to happen eventually.
Oikawa snickered and wrapped his arms around Iwaizumi’s waist, pressing them together chest to chest, their limbs tangled up in each other. “Aw, were you still thinking about that?” he asked teasingly. “You’re such a maiden sometimes, you know?”
“Oi!” Iwaizumi said and pinched Oikawa’s cheeks. “Don’t act so full of yourself! It wasn’t that great.”
Oikawa gave him a pointed look that soon faded into a fit of giggles. “Liar. Iwa-chan you’re such a huge liar.”
“Probably learnt that from you.” Iwaizumi huffed, kneeing Oikawa in the shin. The boy groaned and kicked Iwaizumi back, in the stomach.
And just like that, both of them ended up kicking and tickling each other, feeling oddly childish as they tackled and made grabby hands while still lying on the bed. Both of them laughed and thrashed, and Iwaizumi managed to find Oikawa’s weak spot, tickling his legs and making the boy laugh even harder.
They stopped when their stomachs started hurting from laughing so much and Iwaizumi had to lie on his back to calm his breathing. Oikawa was in a similar state and looking at each other, they started snickering again.
“Dammit Oikawa you kicked me in the stomach and it still hurts.” Iwaizumi said once they’d calmed down enough to speak.
Oikawa pouted. “Not my fault. You were tickling me and you know I’m really ticklish, Iwa-chan.”
“Let me live, won’t you?”
Oikawa didn’t answer and simply hummed in acknowledgement. The room was silent again and Iwaizumi could hear the gentle pitter patter of rain and the chirping of birds outside his window. The light streaming in was faint enough that he could see Oikawa lying beside him, smiling serenely when their eyes met and Iwaizumi’s face felt warm and prickly again—but in a nice way.
“Hey…Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asked softly, his hand hesitantly reaching out to touch Iwaizumi’s.
Iwaizumi let it lie next to his, their fingers forming a bridge between the two of them. “Yeah?”
Oikawa didn’t speak for a while and he knew the boy was working something out in his head. “Doesn’t it…doesn’t it feel like everything’s moving by so fast?”
Iwaizumi shifted so he was facing Oikawa. “Is this about the graduation thing?”
Oikawa shrugged. “Graduation….going to university. Growing up in general. Us.”
Us. Iwaizumi noted how softly he’d said the last word and it made something warm settle in his chest.
He smiled. “You’re right. Everything’s moving on and we’ll move on too. The future’s right there, you know?”
“You still haven’t decided on what you’ll do after high school, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa huffed.
A knot of anxiety built up in Iwaizumi’s stomach and he tried to push it back. Truth be told, he still didn’t know what to do. “I’m still thinking about it. There’s still time.”
Oikawa looked like he had something to say but he closed his eyes and sighed. “I’ll be lonely in Tokyo without you, Iwa-chan.”
Of course, Oikawa being Oikawa, he stated his feelings outright. It wasn’t the first time he’d said it either but the fact that he would be leaving his childhood home to continue his dream of playing volleyball still made Iwaizumi feel irrationally guilty for not following after him.
“I still haven’t decided if I’m staying here or not, dumbass.” Iwaizumi said softly. There was still the option of studying in Tokyo and continue playing volleyball— but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to. “Don’t start missing me already.”
Oikawa nodded, raising his hand upwards and staring at it like he was trying to reach out to the sky. “There’ll be so many things to miss here.” he said. “I feel a little bit nostalgic about it, Iwa-chan. We won’t be getting those days back anymore. We’re leaving a bit of us behind everywhere but we can’t take that back.”
Iwaizumi frowned. “Do you want to? Take back everything that’s happened so far?” he asked him even though he knew his answer already.
“Nah…It was just a passing thought.” he smiled and faced Iwaizumi. “I wouldn’t exchange anything in my life for what I have right now. And it doesn’t stop here.”
Iwaizumi looked at Oikawa and felt a surge of pride when he realized how much the boy had changed. He wouldn’t let the past hold him back anymore and a part of him was envious of him for that.
He grinned and punched Oikawa lightly on the shoulder. “No going back then?”
“No going back.” Oikawa said, giving Iwaizumi a meaningful look. He decided not to put too much thought into it for now.
“Stop copying me, Assikawa.”
Oikawa rolled his eyes. “And here I thought we were having a moment, Iwa-chan!”
“Well, you’re out of luck this time.”
Iwaizumi had been expecting some decent sleep that night. He’d planned on skipping classes and just showing up in time for the ceremony but as usual, nothing really went along the way he had expected it to.
For one, he ended up standing in front of the school gates –hours before the graduation ceremony—rubbing his still tired eyes as he regarded the painfully bright school building with disdain. He glared at Oikawa when the boy began dragging him inside, a Polaroid camera in his other hand.
“Tell me again just why we’re here in the morning when we have literally nothing to do?” Iwaizumi asked through clenched teeth.
Oikawa, who had been humming a song that was far too lively for Iwaizumi’s current state of mind, paused and waved the ancient looking camera in front of him. “To capture memories, of course! We’ve already been through this, Iwa-chan.”
“And why exactly didn’t you think of this before?” he asked as they stepped into the main hall where the chatter of students washed over them. It was too much for Iwaizumi to handle and he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Graduation’s in a few hours.”
“I don’t know…it didn’t feel very important at the time.” Oikawa shrugged and waved over to a few of the girls standing by their lockers. “Besides, I got a few underclassmen from the photography club to lend me this camera so it’d be a waste not to use it!”
“You’re just going to take pictures of your own face,” Iwaizumi grumbled. “Why did you drag me into this too?”
“Everyone’s coming, Iwa-chan! Show some spirit and celebrate with us. It’s our last full day of school…”
Iwaizumi had a feeling he’d come to regret it later if he didn’t go along with Oikawa’s wishes and –truth be told—he wasn’t sure if he wanted to miss out on whatever was going to happen.
“You better not make me regret this.”
Oikawa snickered and ran off across the halls to take pictures of the lockers and doorways. Iwaizumi was already starting to regret it.
Iwaizumi squatted behind the bush and swatted away the bugs that flew into his face. His skin itched and he was pretty sure something was rotting underneath the foliage. Trying to hold his breath so the stench didn’t get to him, he turned to Oikawa who had the camera propped and pointed towards the area overlooking the bushes.
“Alright, Oikawa I’ll give you three seconds to answer.” He said in a deathly cold voice. “Why the fuck are we hiding behind the bushes?”
Oikawa took those three seconds to stare ahead at the couple of students passing by, lunches clutched in their hands. His tongue was peeking out between his lips in sheer concentration and Iwaizumi had to wonder what exactly he was supposed to be seeing behind the camera lens.
“Seriously, what the—” he began and Oikawa shushed him with a quick wave of the hand.
Oikawa gave him a meaningful look and Iwaizumi followed his line of sight to see Kyoutani and Yahaba walking out of the cafeteria and into the school grounds. They passed by the bush the two of them were hiding behind and Iwaizumi felt sweat drip down his back.
He wasn’t even sure why he was sweating when he didn’t even know why he was hiding behind the bush in the first place.
Almost out of frustration, Iwaizumi made to get up when Oikawa grabbed his hand and pulled him back down again. He pointed a finger to his lips to keep him quiet and then grinned when Yahaba sat down underneath the shade of a tree.
Iwaizumi wasn’t sure what Kyoutani was doing with the boy when they weren’t even very good friends to begin with– especially given how badly they’d gotten along during the Spring High. But here Kyoutani was, looking almost fidgety as he came to sit down with Yahaba, lunch still clutched in his hands.
Oikawa grinned when Iwaizumi’s eyes met his. Iwaizumi quirked an eyebrow, feeling a little more curious to see what his kouhai were up to.
“Haven’t you noticed how Mad Dog-chan’s become a little more peaceful lately, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa said. “Look at how well they’re getting along.”
“That’s new. I’ve never seen them talk to each other that much.” Iwaizumi frowned, thinking hard about it. Oikawa suppressed a laugh and nudged his arm playfully.
“Aw Iwa-chan don’t tell me you’re jealous that Mad Dog-chan’s found someone else he gets along with?”
“Why would I be jealous?”
“Really, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa huffed dramatically. “Aren’t you just hiding the fact that you wish you were in Yaha—”
Iwaizumi shushed him by putting a hand on his mouth and shaking his head. When he cast a glance at Yahaba and Kyoutani again, the two were sitting shoulder to shoulder, hard at work on finishing the lunch in their bento boxes. Somehow, the sight was endearing enough that he felt himself smile and Oikawa seemed to be thinking the same thing.
“I wanted to take a picture of my adorable kouhai getting along,” Oikawa said, an honest and content smile on his lips. “It’d be nice to see them working together even after we’re gone, right?”
Just as Iwaizumi was about to nod in agreement, Oikawa took out the camera he’d been holding and pressed the shutter. Iwaizumi cringed when the flash resounded loud enough that boy the boys sitting under the tree snapped their heads in the direction of the bush they were hiding in.
Kyoutani looked ready to kill and Iwaizumi gulped, hoping they hadn’t been seen. It was embarrassing enough to be caught hiding behind a bush with Oikawa, but it’d be worse if they realized they’d been more or less spying on them.
Oikawa winced and lowered his head to the ground, folding in on himself as if it would hide his form from the boys. The Polaroid photograph slowly inched out of the camera, its slow mechanical buzz echoing suspiciously even after it dropped to the earth. Oikawa picked it up and shoved it into his pocket before Iwaizumi could look at the result of their ill-fitted snoopery.
“Oi, asshole, you could have at least taken off the flash or something.” Iwaizumi hissed as the boys finally directed their attention back to their lunches. “They almost saw us.”
Oikawa winked confidently and got up, pulling Iwaizumi along with him. “Never underestimate the Great Oikawa and his ninja-like skills!” he exclaimed. “Besides, what’s the worst that could have happened?”
Iwaizumi had half a mind to just grab the camera and throw it away before Oikawa got into something more extreme but he held back his urges.
Graduation was just a few hours away. He could hold on until then.
The camera flashed in Iwaizumi’s eyes and he ground his teeth before chomping down on the ice-cream hard. Hanamaki grinned and posed with the peace sign, the other hand still holding the ice-cream stick between his fingers.
Iwaizumi wasn’t sure why they were eating ice-cream on the rooftop— the third years from the Aoba Jousai team— but he was having a hard time keeping the vein near his temple from popping.
“Iwa-chaaan,” Oikawa wailed for the third time in the past five minutes. “Would it kill you to just pose decently for once? Even Mattsun and Makki looked nice but you ruined it with your scowling.”
“It’s too hot out here for me to be smiling for a picture, Assikawa.”
“Can’t you put up with this for once? Please?” Oikawa asked, brandishing the camera around his neck and waving it around exaggeratedly. “You used to smile a lot more in pictures when we were kids, Iwa-chan.”
“That was before I found out how annoying you are, Trashykawa.” Iwaizumi said, eating the last bit of the orange flavored ice-cream.
Realizing he’d taken a much larger bite than he’d intended, he scrunched his nose in preparation for the oncoming pain. The camera flashed yet again and Hanamaki broke into laughter.
The brain freeze never came but Iwaizumi was sure if he laid eyes on the –most likely—hideous picture that Oikawa had taken of him, his head would be hurting far worse than that.
“Oi! Don’t you dare show that picture to anyone else!” he yelled and got up to snatch the picture as it came out of the camera.
Oikawa deftly moved away and giggled. The photograph reeled out and Matsukawa snatched it quickly before either of them could get it.
“Too late.” he snickered and showed the picture to Hanamaki. Both of them laughed and Oikawa laughed too because of course, any picture with Iwaizumi looking dumb was bound to be funny.
“You look like you’re about to sneeze, Iwaizumi.” Matsukawa said and Hanamaki nodded.
“Or like he just saw something nasty and tried really hard to erase it from his memory.” Hanamaki said.
Iwaizumi rolled his eyes and glared at Oikawa. “Probably Oikawa’s sleeping face.” he ventured.
“H-hey! I don’t look nasty when I’m asleep!” he protested, running to take the picture from Hanamaki. “Iwa-chan, don’t lie!”
Iwaizumi shrugged, a slow smile forming on his lips. “Hurts to know you’re an ugly sleeper, doesn’t it?”
Oikawa pouted and folded his arms across his chest. “Well you would know, Iwa-chan.”
“Of course he’d know,” Hanamaki laughed and nudged Matsukawa with his elbow. Both of them had knowing smiles on their lips.
“Sleeping together must be awful, huh?” Matsukawa drawled.
Iwaizumi squinted, wondering what they were grinning about and when he turned to look at Oikawa, his eyes narrowed further. The boy’s cheeks were flushed and his mouth opened slightly before he snapped it shut.
Raising the camera to his face, he quickly snapped a picture of the two boys and huffed. “Making gross jokes won’t stop me from taking bad photos of you guys!” he said, cheeks still colored a light shade of pink that could easily be disguised as being caused by the summer sun.
Iwaizumi had a feeling that wasn’t the reason though.
“You keep taking pictures,” he said to Oikawa as he took another one of him. “But aren’t you going to run out of film soon?”
Oikawa tilted his head to the side in confusion and then opened the camera’s latch to see much was left.
Hanamaki and Matsukawa laughed, and Iwaizumi joined in when Oikawa screamed. There were only five more pictures left.
For all of Iwaizumi’s complaining, he couldn’t really bring himself to say anything to Oikawa once the graduation ceremony was about to begin. Most of the third years had already started leaving their classrooms to pool outside the school grounds, underneath any shade they could find from the blistering heat of the sun. Oikawa finally placed his camera in his locker and decided to call it a day.
Iwaizumi was ready to get it over with the ceremony as soon as he could and Oikawa led him outside with a single hand on his elbow to lead the way. They walked out in silence, listening to the soft sounds of their school band playing a nostalgic melody that made their chests wring just the slightest in pain.
The third years were all lined up at the front and the two of them joined in line, next to Hanamaki and Matsukawa, and looked towards the stage where their principal was standing, all smiles and bright eyes.
It was a simple enough affair, with them singing the national anthem and listening to speeches from their batch representatives. They said simple words of support and encouragement, and words that were meant to tug at their heartstrings. Iwaizumi could only smile as he thought of his years at Aoba Jousai, and the memories he’d made, all formed so effortlessly even though they were nothing special in retrospect.
Graduation ceremonies had been anything but memorable for him over the three years he’d spent in Aoba Jousai, but standing in the front row under the heat of the sun, everything felt different. He couldn’t really pay much attention to what was being said and his eyes glanced over the school premises and the students standing in single file- eyes glazed over, everyone lost in their own memories.
He’d never realized how many memories he’d made in the short time he’d spent here but maybe that was the thing about making memories. Most of them were just such simple, simple things that they could only hold a special place in the hearts of the people who made them. They were private and trivial things but held all the meaning in the world.
He looked over at the students standing next to him, hands pressed to their sides and heads held high, and knew that they were thinking the same things as him in their own way. He couldn’t bite back the smile that crept onto his lips and the fact that his heart clenched in his chest was something that he would never admit to himself, even in the days to come.
Oikawa met his eyes and even though he was smiling, Iwaizumi didn’t miss the way his eyes shone in pride and so many things unspoken and it was all Iwaizumi could do to stop himself from outstretching his hand to take Oikawa’s in his.
Hanamaki nudged Iwaizumi with his elbow and quirked an eyebrow, alerting him to the fact that the representative had left the stage. Everyone clapped and Iwaizumi found himself mimicking the action with all the excitement he could muster.
“Stay or leave, either an end
Think as mementos; so many
Corners of my heart, in one word
sing for peace.”
They sang the graduation song, the words coming out on instinct—words well rehearsed for years singing in so many ceremonies. They shouldn’t have made it feel like his throat was slowly constricting but he sang nonetheless, raising his voice as loud as he could to match everyone else’s and for just that moment, everything felt so simple and easy and the future felt like it was right in his grasp.
He looked at his friends standing beside him, teary eyed and smiling, and barely held back his own tears. The music blared on and the sun continued to shine and, Iwaizumi realized, nothing had changed after all.
“So, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa ventured as they walked back to class to get their bags. “How do you feel now that you’ve officially graduated?”
“Same as usual. Was I supposed to feel any different?” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking away from Oikawa’s knowing gaze.
Oikawa scrunched his eyebrows together. “I guess? After all, this was our last day in school. You’re supposed to be feeling sad at this point.”
“Like hell am I getting sad over graduation in front of you,” Iwaizumi said in a halfhearted attempt to disguise the vague feeling of loss on his chest.
He wasn’t entirely sad, if he had to describe his feelings in words, but it was close enough to that. A tense feeling of having lost something he could never get back.
He figured the sadness would come in due time. He just hoped Oikawa wouldn’t be there to rub it in his face when he did.
Oikawa laughed softly and looked down. “It’s alright to speak your mind, you know, Iwa-chan,” he said, entirely genuine in what he said, “I’m always here to listen.”
“I know,” Iwaizumi said “I will. If I ever need to.”
“You’re doing it again, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa whined as they grabbed their bags from the classroom and headed outside.
“I literally just said one word, Oikawa.”
“Well, it was the same word that I just said!”
“That makes no—” Iwaizumi began but he stopped himself when he saw a bunch of girls huddled outside the doorway.
Iwaizumi frowned, guessing why the girls were waiting there. They were all third years, he knew that much, and when Oikawa smiled at them, they were suddenly rushing in their direction. Iwaizumi took a step back and inched away from the horde of Oikawa’s fan girls, rolling his eyes when Oikawa started talking sweetly to them.
“I’ll be heading out first then.” He called out and left for the gate.
“Don’t wait for me, Iwa-chan~” he heard the boy say.
He laughed to himself because he knew he’d be waiting for him anyway and Oikawa was just as aware of that fact.
He was standing by the cold metal gate, his leg propped against the small bit of grating, as he waited for Oikawa in the heat of the sun. He was beginning to truly regret this habit of his and he had half a mind to turn and leave when he heard Oikawa call out to him.
“Did I keep you waiting, Iwa-chan?” he asked, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow. He looked like he’d run here and that brought a small amount of satisfaction to him.
“I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes, Assikawa. I was ready to leave.”
“I did say you didn’t have to wait for me so who’s fault is it now?” Oikawa pouted.
“You never mean it when you say it, don’t you dare act like a saint now, Oikawa.” Iwaizumi said, grabbing his bag from the ground and hefting it behind his back.
Oikawa opened his mouth to argue but was interrupted by a voice coming from behind them.
“You’re still here too?” came Hanamaki’s voice followed by a confused “Iwaizumi-senpai?” that sounded vaguely like Kindaichi’s.
He turned around to see most of his ex-teammates standing there, bags hefted across their backs and smiles on their lips. He was surprised to see that Kyoutani was with them too, walking alongside Yahaba and Watari. That was a first.
“We got a little caught up, you see!” Oikawa said by way of explanation. “My fans wanted to give me reminders of their undying love for me!”
“Undying love?” Matsukawa echoed.
Oikawa grinned slyly and shoved his hands into his pockets to pull out a small pile of golden buttons. Iwaizumi had a feeling that’s what the girls had wanted to give him and he couldn’t say he was surprised.
“Their second buttons!” Oikawa exclaimed, brandishing them for everyone to see. “The ones closest to their hearts! Aren’t you a little jealous now, Iwa-chan?”
Iwaizumi scoffed. “About as jealous as I am of your trashy personality, dumbass.”
“About as jealous as your fan girls must be of Iwaizumi.” Hanamaki supplemented.
Oikawa pouted. “What’s the supposed to mean, Makki?”
Iwaizumi coughed, finally getting a vague idea of what Hanamaki had been trying to imply and feeling his face warm up at the thought of their teammates finding out about his relationship with Oikawa.
“So…um, how come you guys are still here?” he asked quickly, hoping to distract them long enough for Oikawa to stop pursuing the topic.
He heard the boy let out a deep sigh and shove the buttons back into his coat pocket.
Matsukawa grinned and lowered his schoolbag. Kindaichi and Kunimi did the same and Iwaizumi narrowed his eyes in confusion, wondering what they were about to do.
“We were actually looking for you, Iwaizumi-senpai.” Kindaichi said, grinning sheepishly as he opened his bag and took out something small that he hid inside his palm.
“Huh?” Iwaizumi asked. “Did I forget something in class?”
Kunimi shook his head. Hanamaki stifled a laugh and elbowed Kindaichi to get a move on. Oikawa glared in their general direction, wondering in the same way as Iwaizumi, about what exactly was going on.
“U-um, Iwaizumi-senpai…” Kindaichi began awkwardly. “We just wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for us. It’s really meant a lot to everyone in the team.”
Iwaizumi felt a flush of warmth on his cheeks at the sudden attention he was directed with. Everyone was looking at him with affectionate smiles and Iwaizumi didn’t know where to look. He didn’t deserve so much attention, especially after-
“We know you’re still beating yourself up over what happened during the Spring High, Iwaizumi.” Hanamaki said, shaking his head.
“What—” Iwaizumi wanted to protest but Oikawa put a gentle hand on his arm and smiled.
“Iwa-chan, everyone can tell you’re still not happy.” he said. “You don’t have to pretend.”
Iwaizumi looked at his feet, unable to meet their eyes. He didn’t think he’d be confronted about this and really, what could any of them say to make him feel better about it? He’d been given the title of the ace because they trusted him to follow through with their hopes. But the way things had turned out, he was no good to anyone.
“Iwaizumi-senpai!” Kindaichi said again, louder and more determined and Iwaizumi raised his head to look at the boy bowing to him, his hands outstretched. “Please accept this as a token of my gratitude for everything you’ve done.”
He could hear Oikawa trying to stifle his laughter as he reached forward to take what Kindaichi had been offering him. It was a single golden button and he stared at it, his mouth open just the slightest.
“A...A button?” Iwaizumi said blankly because he couldn’t really understand anything that was happening.
“The second button.” Hanamaki said, taking out one from his pocket too and handing it over to Iwaizumi.
Matsukawa mimicked the motion and winked. “The one closest to the heart.”
“What the hell?” Iwaizumi spluttered, sure that his cheeks were burning red from the embarrassment he felt. “Why’re you giving me your buttons?”
Oikawa pouted and took the buttons from Iwaizumi’s hands, looking at them with a funny sort of expression. Iwaizumi knew it was the one he wore when he was proud of something but didn’t want to show it.
“Trying to steal my thunder, Iwa-chan?” he asked, waving around the buttons and laughing. “You’ll have to try a lot harder than that.”
“Oi! Stop being a kid, Oikawa.”
Watari laughed and stepped forward to press his own button in the palm on Iwaizumi’s hand.
“Better have Iwaizumi-kun win then, right?” he said.
The rest of the second years followed suit and Iwaizumi felt like he was seeing the world through Oikawa’s –occasionally self-centered—eyes because there was no way something like this would happen unless he was imagining it.
He felt a slight sting in his palm when Kyoutani shoved his button in Iwaizumi’s hands and he all but teared up at the thought of their team’s Mad Dog-chan doing this for him.
“Really, you guys,” he said, hoping his voice wasn’t trembling too much. “This is just excessive.”
Watari shook his head. “We admire you a lot, Iwaizumi-senpai.”
“You’ve always been so kind to us,” Yahaba added with a quick nod, “We really appreciate how supportive you’ve been.”
“Ah?” Oikawa broke in. “Then what am I?”
“The annoying dog, probably,” Iwaizumi answered quickly because he couldn’t think of anything else to say to the rest.
“The cutest one, right?”
“I-Iwa-chan!” Oikawa exclaimed, placing a hand to his heart as if he’d been shot.
Matsukawa sighed. “As much as we all love how much you guys flirt, it’s a little inappropriate in front of the juniors, you two.”
Iwaizumi flushed and inched away from Oikawa. “I-It’s not like that!”
Oikawa stayed uncharacteristically quiet at that and wringed his hands together in a gesture of shyness. Iwaizumi smiled to himself as looked at the buttons in his hand. He didn’t know what to think of all of this but he knew the rest were waiting for a proper response and he couldn’t deny them that.
He scratched the back of his head and tried for a smile. It felt wobbly and he wasn’t sure if he’d spontaneously implode or just burst into tears. “I- It really means a lot to me, all of this,” he said, awkwardly gesturing towards the buttons in his hand. “I’m really thankful that I got to play alongside all of you.”
Kindaichi looked concerned. “Iwaizumi-senpai, I hope you won’t quit playing volleyball even after this.”
Iwaizumi frowned because he’d never really talked about his plans in front of his teammates and he wasn’t sure if should be proud that they’d seen right through his indecision or embarrassed that he’d been so transparent about it. He figured it was a given, knowing how closely meshed they’d all been as teammates.
Oikawa was smiling at all of them and Iwaizumi felt himself doing the same.
“I won’t quit,” he found himself saying and the simple act of actually affirming what had been in his heart all along made the back of his eyes prickle with something hot. “I won’t give up just because of this, you guys.”
“Exactly what we wanted to hear.” Matsukawa said, nodding proudly.
“Does that mean you’ll be going to Tokyo too, then?” Yahaba, the new team captain, asked curiously.
Iwaizumi shrugged lightly, knowing that Oikawa was watching him intently and waiting for his answer. “I don’t know…I haven’t thought that far yet.”
Oikawa huffed, clearly disappointed. “As long as you’re happy, Iwa-chan.”
“You say that but you want him there the most, don’t you?” Kunimi said, unexpectedly bold in his statement of facts that were rather obvious.
Everyone seemed to be just as surprised over his observation and a few –Hanamaki and Matsukawa in particular—had to hide their grins behind their hands.
“Now, now Kunimi-chan, that’s not a very nice thing to say.” Oikawa replied every ounce of good humor he could manage. Iwaizumi still noticed that he was blushing. “Iwa-chan and I aren’t joined at the hip, after all!”
“That’s what they all say…” Kunimi gave a withering sigh and pushed a strand of his hair behind his ear.
Oikawa whimpered and turned to Iwaizumi. “Iwa-chan, Kunimi-chan is being rude to his ex-captain!”
Iwaizumi thumped him on the back. “You’ll live.”
There was a beat of silence in which everyone turned to Oikawa, who looked as if he’d just realized something of utmost importance.
“H-hey!” he exclaimed “You’re all being so nice to Iwa-chan but what about me? Don’t I get any buttons?”
Everyone ended up giving Oikawa a packet of milk-pan each and that was enough to cheer up their overly emotional ex-captain in a heartbeat. It had been the intended gift for him anyway and somehow, Iwaizumi felt it was the best decision they had made so far.
“Who would have thought they’d treat me to milk-pan?” Oikawa said, taking a bite out of the bread as they walked back home. A few of the packets could still be seen from behind the half open zipper of Oikawa’s bag.
“They sure know us well, huh?” he said wistfully, thinking of how easily they’d seen through the reason for his indecision.
“We raised them well after all, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa said with a proud smile of his lips. “I feel like we’ve left the team in the right hands.”
Iwaizumi couldn’t help but agree. “They’ll make us proud.”
“Doesn’t it almost make you feel like a good parent?”
“Kinda.” he laughed “You’d be the obnoxious mom who sees right through everything.”
“Was that supposed to be an insult?” Oikawa asked in mock offense and bumped Iwaizumi with his hip. Iwaizumi pushed him back- hard enough that the bread almost fell from Oikawa’s hands. “Does that make you their dad then?”
“That would imply being married to someone like you.”
“Come on, Iwa-chan. Everyone seems to think we already are.”
Iwaizumi couldn’t argue against that so he just let the words hang in the air, like a quiet promise of things that could happen in the distant future. ‘Already are’ and ‘could be’ were words that had a weight to them that he didn’t need to think about right now.
It was fine just to walk alongside Oikawa for now—the boy who thought milk bread was the single most delicious thing in the world—and feel satisfied. Every thought about the future and the decisions he needed to make could wait just a few more hours. He had a feeling he’d already decided what he wanted to do the moment he’d been entrusted with the last button resting in his front pocket.
The button closest to Oikawa’s heart.
I was listening to this and got sad. Graduations are always a little bit nostalgic, aren't they?
Onward to Tokyo.