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Oikawa returned to his apartment, physically and mentally exhausted. He didn’t even have the energy to change out of his work clothes before he slumped onto his mattress, groggily pulling the blankets up above his face.

It was 4:46AM, and he’d finally made it home after a long night at the host club.

Tokyo was nothing like what he’d expected it to be. With it’s high rise buildings, clusters of people and more pollution than Oikawa could wrap his head around, it seemed as if the Tokyo he saw on TV back home in Miyagi had been some sort of optimistic vision.

Of course, that was what it was, and Oikawa had, in fact, known it.

How could it forget it, those exact words his parents had told him when he said he wanted to move to Tokyo for college?

“Tokyo?” his father had scoffed. “You don’t to live there, Tooru. Your mother and I moved out here to specifically escape that kind of lifestyle. The city here is big enough, and we have everything we need. What could you possibly want to go to Tokyo for?”

But they didn’t understand.

Growing up in Miyagi had been fine; as they had said, there were plenty of people, cities and it wasn’t so entirely backwards that he had trouble with anything at all. In fact, Oikawa seemed to excel at many things, whether that be study, sports or human interaction in general.

Except, that was exactly what was wrong. Miyagi was big, but not big enough. Oikawa had dreams of the city. Of too-small 1DKs, of the bustle of people and the stench of public transport. He wanted to know how it felt to be out of his comfort zone, of the too-peaceful nature that was his hometown.

Oikawa Tooru craved adventure.

Soon after graduation, Oikawa left home having already been accepted into a small-scale University of the Arts in the inner parts of Tokyo city. With the money he’d saved up from his part time job and the naivete that came only with youth, Oikawa believed himself to be above the tantalizing warnings of his parents and relatives.

A couple of hours on the shinkansen, convenience store lunches and nights spent in capsule hotels. It was rough at first, but Oikawa could feel the life pumping through his veins as he marveled at the parts of the city so far from home.

He finally felt it; felt alive. He was here, independent, and able to live the way he wanted. No longer did he have the quiet countryside holding him back from excitement, and the small apartment he’d leased himself turned out to be not that bad. With plenty of money and enthusiasm to boot, Oikawa’s life couldn’t have been better.

Somewhere along the way, however, things started to go wrong.

University wasn’t as great as he thought it would be. Oikawa was a dreamer, and the problem with that was that it left him with no idea of what he wanted in the future. Pamphlets and sheets had been stacked on his kitchen table that needed to be read; he needed to think of his units, his majors, his minors and electives. But there were simply too many.

Arts. Fine arts. Acting. Media. The options were endless, but Oikawa wasn’t. In a fit of daring more akin to idiocy, he penned down whatever and sent the sheets back in, deciding that if he didn’t like the units, he could always change the next semester.

Luckily enough, the units didn’t suck. He took history, English and an elective unit of drama, all subjects he felt at ease with. But things were different in Tokyo, and OIkawa found himself surprised at how quickly he fell behind in his work. So, time had to be put into keeping up with work - that was fine.

But time also had to put into keeping the funds to live here; after all, Tokyo wasn’t a cheap city.

When he wasn’t at university, Oikawa worked at the convenience store close to his apartment. The days were spent stocking items and helping customers, while the nights were slightly more garish and the cops were frequently called to deal with drunken patrons. But it was bearable, and more often than not he was able to take home leftover bentous and day-old bread from the display - a pitiful ordeal, but helpful nonetheless.

On the weekends, Oikawa taught volleyball in the city gymnasium to children under 12. Honestly, Oikawa looked forward to these days. To him, volleyball was an escape from the tiring hell his life was slowly descending into; being able to hit the ball so familiar and calming to him was keeping him sane and grounded.

He couldn’t even complain. After all, this is what he wanted, and given the choice, he still wouldn’t turn back.

At least, that’s what he’d told himself.

Halfway through the year, things got worse. As the cold weather set in, Oikawa found his apartment to be lacking in the heat department. It couldn’t he helped - the building was rather old, and admittedly, cheap. Heating just wasn’t something that could be expected from a simple brick and tatami layout. Heaters and radiators were invested in, and as such, the electricity bills began to rise far beyond what he could afford.

Soon after came the flu, and Oikawa spent a week in bed. Unable to work, Oikawa found himself unable to pay for his rent for the first time. His landlady, an older woman, seemed slightly sympathetic as her eyes dawned on the gallow frame of her youngest tenant, and told him that she’d put off collection until he recovered.

It took him a long time to get better. As soon as his body seemed to be on the cusp of recovery, Oikawa would break himself catching up to his studies and working himself to the bone - it wasn’t long until he collapsed, his body no longer to keep up with the stress he was exerting unto himself. There came the two weeks of strict bed rest ordered by the doctor. Unable to work, Oikawa found himself once more unable to pay his rent, the landlady slightly less sympathetic this time.

The hospital bills weren’t particularly friendly, either. Oikawa had no choice but to suspend his studies for half a year as he worked full-time to make the money he seemed to be owing everyone.

Finding a job had been hard; the convenience store only paid so much, and he could only work there for so long. Retail seemed to be only accommodating for girls, and he had no other qualifications to work in hospitality or otherwise.

Frustrated, he’d found himself wandering the night-time area of Shinjuku one night, when his eyes caught on a white placard posted up on the windows.

Job opening

Wanted:
Male host, 18+ years of age.
No experience necessary.
Inquire within.

Oikawa laughed in spite of himself, as he walked down those steps for the first time. The place was empty, the employees few, but the atmosphere itself was relaxing. Oikawa could feel himself relax in an instant, the dim lights of the bars and sound of piano in the corner doing wonders to his worries.

His life by no means increased in enjoyment, but rather, it had plateaued. And Oikawa was fine with that. He by no means needed to be going up in any direction whatsoever; it was just avoiding going down that he needed so badly.

It was his breaking point; every night, Oikawa would fall into bed, exhausted and wondering where the Tokyo of his dreams had escaped to.

Sometimes, he’d think that it never existed in the first place.

 


 

“You look like shit today, Oikawa,” an annoying voice chirped as Oikawa walked into the employee-only section of the restaurant, dropping his bag down onto the table.

He did - his eyes had dark bags on them, and his face seemed sunken slightly. “You’re looking good yourself, Kenji-san,” Oikawa smiled back, tying an apron around his waist. Facing the mirror, Oikawa picked up one of the tubs of hair product from the counter and began smearing it in an effort to control his messy bedhead. It was actually kind of embarrassing to still have bedhead at this time of the day, but when you slept at 5am on a regular basis, these kinds of things became less and less of a surprise.

“Mika-chan’s out there, by the way. She’s requested you.”

Stopping for a moment, Oikawa let out a sigh. “Already? It’s only eight-thirty.” Mika was one of the frequent customers of the host club, and ever since OIkawa had started working there, her visits had increased twice fold. The manager was ecstatic about it, of course, and now it had become sort of an unspoken rule that Oikawa was the club’s new golden boy.

It wasn’t a bad thing, per say, except that she was incredibly… needy. A host’s job was to entertain, listen and generally be friendly. Not to have sex, and certainly not to date.

Yet, it seemed that every time she came, she would pester Oikawa for these things exactly.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Oikawa straightened himself out before shaking his head. He could do this. What made this day different from the past six months that he’d been working here?

Heading up the stairs, he was greeted by the arms of his most regular customer once more.

“Say, Tooru,” she drawled, pulling Oikawa’s arm closer towards her. “That girl’s been staring at you an awful lot today, hasn’t she?” Oikawa followed her gaze towards the bar, where a girl with long black hair was sipping a drink. She had no host with her, but her eyes scanned the club as if she was searching for someone.

“Really?” OIkawa replied, turning to look back at Mika. “I hadn’t noticed. I was too busy looking at you, after all,” he smiled, and Mika gave a coy smile in return.

She turned to face him properly, her makeup reflecting off the dim light of the club. “Tooru, why is it that you still won’t agree to meet up with me outside the club?” she asked him, pouting slightly.

Oikawa stiffened. Not this again. He let out a small sigh. “Mika-chan,” he told her gently, “you know I’m not allowed to. And besides, you have a boyfriend already! It’ll only end up in heartbreak for me, you know?”

But Mika kept frowning. “I’d dump him for you, you know that right?” she told him. “You’re so much better than him. He can’t even cook me breakfast after six months!”

Oikawa let out a fake laugh. “He probably wants you to make it for him, then. There’s nothing better than waking up to breakfast made by the one you love, after all.”

The sound of a phone ringing interrupted the two of them, and Mika scowled. “That’s Seiya-kun, I set this tone specifically so that I know it’s him.” Oikawa has to hold back the urge to laugh - the tone she’d selected was an emergency sound played in movies when things were going into meltdown.

After a minute of conversing with her... boyfriend? Sugar daddy? Honestly, Oikawa had no idea what the guy was to her, because she seemed to hate him yet returned to his side no matter what. Regardless of who he was, he was important enough for Mika to gather her belongings and let out a huge sigh. “I have to go, Tooru,” she said, her voice a high pitched whine.

Oikawa put on his best disappointed face, “You’ll come see me again soon then, right?” he asked her. He hoped that she would - after all, this woman gave excellent tips.

She grinned. “Of course, anything for my Tooru-chan,” and she pecked him on the cheek. And with that, Oikawa watched her form pay at the counter before disappearing up the wooden steps.

It had been hardly two minutes since Mika had left that Oikawa found himself tapped on the shoulder. Turning around (and slightly annoyed, as he had been about to take a break) he found himself face-to-face with the black-haired girl who had been alone at the bar. “Excuse me,” she said, staring up at him.

Looking down at her, Oikawa could see that this girl was… extremely beautiful. Her thick, black hair was tied neatly back into a ponytail, showing off her face in its entirety. Her blue eyes were accentuated by well-applied makeup - a black wing of eyeliner on a bed of pink eyeshadow, and long lashes framing all sides. Her lips were a shade of pink that gave her the touch of innocence, while her thin, black glasses gave her the sexy, thrilling older woman air. Oikawa could feel his breath hitch in the back of his throat just looking at her.

“Sorry if this is sudden,” she says, pulling out her purse. “But would you be interested in-”

“No,” Oikawa said, holding up his hand. His voice had been a little sharper than he’d intended, and the girl blinked in surprise. He sheepishly raised a hand up to the back of his neck. “I-I don’t do that kind of thing.”

There was a beat of silence, and the girl’s lips upturned into what seemed like a smile, if for only a second. “Sorry, you misunderstand me,” she said softly. “You are quite handsome,” she said, her eyes returning to his face. “And you’re tall, to boot. Have you ever been interested in modelling?”

Oikawa blinked. “Modelling?” He raised his hand to point at himself.

She nodded. “My name is Kiyoko Shimizu and I run a magazine called Tokyo Style. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?”

“I.. I have, it’s that… the fashion one, right? City fashion.”

Of course he’d heard of it. After all, Oikawa had worked in a convenience store for months. Admittedly, Japan had many magazines. Hundreds, even, but as he served customers each day, he’d noted that Tokyo Style in particular was quite popular. He’d flicked through it once, out of curiosity - a back issue that they’d have trouble selling. The pages were spread out nicely, documenting all sorts of fashion styles from the latest, upmarket brands in Shibuya to the more underground, alternative grunge that was Harajuku.

It wasn’t exactly Oikawa’s style, being from the country himself, but he could definitely appreciate the effort people here put into presenting themselves in such a way.

Kiyoko handed him a business card. Taking a quick glance, Oikawa saw that she was indeed the head editor of the magazine. He quickly placed it in the front of his apron.

“I know it’s quite an odd suggestion, but I really think you’d be a great model for our magazine. Please, give it some thought.”

It was kind words. Oikawa knew that he was handsome - of course he had to be, he was a host. But that aside, back home in Miyagi he’d certainly been the centre of many girl’s attentions. Even here in Tokyo, he knew that he was an object of interest to the slightly more… picky tastes of girls raised in luxury. But modelling had never crossed his mind, even once.

From across the room, Oikawa saw his manager give him a curious stare. Kiyoko wasn’t his customer, after all. Oikawa glanced nervously at the girl. “Um, my managers… looking this way. I’m sorry, but uh…”

Shimizu nodded, “When do you finish? I’ll wait for you, if you want to talk about it some. I don’t mind.”

Oikawa couldn’t fathom the idea of the girl waiting that long - he finished at 3:00AM. “Absolutely not,” he said, and when she looked surprised, he clarified. “I don’t finish for ages. Um... I’ll uh, call you. After I decide. Is that okay?” he asked her, and Kiyoko nodded.

With a final thank you and plea for him to think about it carefully, Kiyoko turned and left the club.

That night as they closed down the club, Kenji shuffled over towards Oikawa. “Psst, ya’know that black haired beauty you were talking to? The one with the glasses?” he asked.

Oikawa gave a grunt as he wiped the tables to acknowledge that he was listening.

“What was she after? She didn’t designate you or anything. Does she know you from somewhere?”

Oikawa paused and looked over at Kenji carefully. To be honest, the whole modelling thing had been bothering him the rest of the night. The whole thing could be a sham, for all he knew. Sighing, Oikawa pulled out the chair and sat down.

“Do you know anything about uh… the magazine called Tokyo Style?”

Kenji rolled his eyes. “Do I? That’s the fashion magazine, ain’t it? My sister reads it religiously. It’s not bad, I’ve had a look through it myself…” he wrinkled his nose. “Not really my style, though.”

OIkawa scoffed. For a boy who’d grown up in the city, Kenji was worse than Oikawa when it came to his habits. His clothes, along with his youthful face, made him just look like an overgrown middle schooler.

“Why, what about it?”

“It’s just… that girl was from there. She said I’d make a good model.”

There was a pause. “Well.. she’s not wrong,” Kenji supplied. “We’ve been so busy since you came here. The boss will probably cry if you end up leaving.”

Oikawa blinked. “You don’t think this is all some sort of scam?” he asked.

Kenji shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. You wouldn’t know ‘til you try though, right? You interested at all? It might not be too bad, although you might get a li’l bit famous because of it…” he mused the thought as he mopped the floor. “What was her name?”

He pulled the card from the front of his apron and read it aloud. Kenji came over and took a quick look. “It look’s pretty legit if you ask me,” he said, shrugging. “Why not call her? And even if it’s not, she’s a total babe!”

That she was, although Oikawa didn’t quite swing that way. Not that relationships were at the forefront of his mind right now - survival was, really.

Oikawa just laughed politely. “We’ll see, I guess.”

 


 

If Oikawa’s past self could see him now, he’d certainly be laughing. At 19 years of age, in the middle of Tokyo alone and desperate, he’d given Kiyoko a call a mere 2 days later. It was safe to say that after she’d approached him, his mind had run wild with thoughts and ideas of a shot at fame.

After all, Oikawa was a dreamer. He had always been.

“I’m glad you considered it,” Kiyoko said, smiling as she greeted him at the front door.

At the sight of Kiyoko, her casual attire gone and replaced with a crisp, fitting shirt and matching suit jacket, Oikawa felt apologetic for ever doubting her legitimacy. Gone was the girl from the other day, a mysterious beauty alone in the club. In front of him was Kiyoko Shimizu, head editor of one of Japan’s most popular fashion magazines in the flesh.

Furthermore, the building itself was huge. Glass lined every side of the building, and pictures of models and photoshoots were hung on the walls. In the ten minutes since he’d gotten there, a steady stream of workers had made their way in and out of the elevators to the left of them, busy with cell phones and printed documents in hand.

It was… impressive, to say the least.

“Ah,” Oikawa said, slightly embarrassed. “I-I’m still not sure yet. I just… I thought I’d come and have a look for myself. It might help me change my mind.”

Kiyoko nodded enthusiastically. “Of course. I’m not going to force you into anything, but… I agree, showing you would be the best option. Today, there is a fashion shoot happening on the second floor; if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to see it.”

“Of course,” Oikawa said, nodding his head. After all, that was what he was here for. To see it with his own eyes, and to make his own decision. Although admittedly, the adventurous (or perhaps reckless?) side of him was already heavily leaning towards one particular option.

“Please,” she said, bowing her head slightly, before ushering Oikawa towards a room on the other side of the floor.

The first thing Oikawa could see was cables.

Lots and lots of cables. There were huge lights set up everywhere of varying sizes, as well as laptops, cameras, video tapes and more. People were everywhere, all crammed into this one tiny room - makeup artists, photographers, managers and models were all together, trying to get as many things done as they possibly could at once.

“Oh, Kiyoko-san!” a voice said, and Oikawa turned to see a small, blonde girl face Kiyoko. In her hands was a large, professional looking camera.

“Ah, Yachi-san,” Kiyoko smiled. “Let me introduce you. This is Oikawa-san,” she said, gesturing.

At the sight of him, Yachi’s eyes baulked. “T-Tall,” was the first thing she uttered, before shaking her head. “I-I mean, it’s nice to meet you,” she bowed stiffly, the camera fumbling in her hands.

Oikawa smiled a little. “Nice to meet you too. Photographer?” he asked, and Yachi nodded.

“Is he a new model?” Yachi inquired, and Kiyoko shook her head.

“No… not yet,” she gave Oikawa a look. “He’s just having a look first. I found him in a host club the other day, and thought he’d be perfect for the job. Don’t you think?” she asked.

Yachi’s eyes scanned over Oikawa once more, and he shifted slightly, unsure of what to do. It took a couple more seconds, but she nodded affirmatively. “Yes. Height is quite good. Face structure is nice too. You still have a good eye for them, Kiyoko-san,” Yachi said, an air of appreciation in her voice.

“Still?” Oikawa asked, before he could stop himself.

Kiyoko glanced to the side. “I don’t… I haven’t scouted people. For a while.”

“Three years!” Yachi piped, before clapping her hands over her mouth at the alarmed look Kiyoko had suddenly attained.

The idea of himself being the first personal scout of the head editor in three years sent Oikawa’s mind spinning. “Oh,” was all he could say numbly, unsure of how to respond. He swallowed nervously and clasped his hands. Oh, shit.

“Anyhow,” Kiyoko interrupted, breaking the awkward atmosphere. “We can’t keep you here any longer. You should start shooting so Oikawa-san can see how it works.”

Yachi nodded. “Of course!” she said, and with a smile she returned over to where the models were now lined up and waiting. They stood in front of a white screen, which Oikawa guessed could double as a green screen. Behind them were a large array of objects - large potted plants, signposts, lamps and other various furnitures. To his amusement, there was even a large cardboard cutout of a giraffe. Everything about it was extremely professional, but Oikawa had expected no less.

The models themselves were gorgeous. Oikawa could tell at a glance that this was for a more up-market brand; the girls were pale with long, styled hair. Their heights were most definitely beyond average, and their deathly heels did nothing but wonders for what seemed to be endless legs. The clothes themselves were overly dressy. Leather jackets, wide brimmed hats, silken shirts and ankle skirts. At a glance, it seemed like an odd jumble of pieces that nobody would wear in real life, but when assembled by these professionals, they left Oikawa without even a rational thought in his head. In that moment, he could feel his appreciation for the fashion industry blooming erratically.

It took a surprisingly long time, but eventually, the shoot ended. Perhaps it had been all the equipment in the room, or perhaps it had been nerves, but Oikawa found himself quite exhausted by the end of it, despite doing nothing.

Seeing the models at work had instilled something inside of Oikawa. Everything about them, from the way they moved to the way they posed screamed independence, and that they owned who they were. Even as the clothes changed and makeup was fixed, they were still defiantly them.

It left Oikawa stunned. It was like a switch was flipped. Modelling had never been a thought of his, but now, Oikawa had nothing in his heart but the urge to do it. That level of self-control and belief was something that every part of his body craved.

Eyes narrowing, he turned himself to face Kiyoko.

He dropped into a low bow.

“Kiyoko-san, please let me join as a model.”

Chapter Text

“If you’d please just sign here,” Kiyoko said, sliding a piece of paper towards Oikawa.

It had only been one day since Oikawa’s initial tour of the building. Ecstatic at Oikawa’s acceptance of the offer, Kiyoko had sent him home with a preliminary copy of the contract to read over for himself, in case he held any last minute concerns.

This was it. He was going to become a model.

Nodding, Oikawa picked the pen up from the desk and took a final look over the details. Then, with a hitch in his breath, he signed his name in one smooth motion.

“Thank you so much, Oikawa-san. We’re more than pleased to have you on board our team,” Kiyoko said, bowing low.

Flustered, Oikawa did the same, lowering himself towards her. Then, with a smile, she turned to face a man who had been standing by the entire time.

“Asahi-san, would you please take Oikawa-san to get his profile set up?” she asked.

Asahi was a very tall guy. He towered above Oikawa, which wasn’t something he saw very often (in Miyagi, at least. In Tokyo, he found it slightly more common, but not by much). His hair was long and brown, tied back into a bun, and he had a dusting of facial hair covering his face. He looked quite intimidating, actually; like a yakuza den leader, or something. Was he Kiyoko’s secretary? Or perhaps a bodyguard, with a look like that.

“Oikawa-san, if you’d please,” he said, his voice surprisingly meek.

It took a second for Oikawa to register the voice as actually belonging to the man. After getting over the initial shock, he gave a final thank you to Kiyoko before following Asahi out of the room “So where exactly are we going?” Oikawa asked, unable to keep his questions to himself any longer.

“Ah,” Asahi said, turning to face Oikawa. “Since you’re new, we have to take some preliminary shots of you to send out to prospective companies. If you were a transferee from another company, we’d usually just compile some of your old shoots. Since it’s your first one, though, it’ll be pretty simple - just casual clothes and suits, probably.”

The two of them entered the elevator, and rode up to the seventh floor - the top floor. Stepping out, it was another glassy building. The excess of light made the room extremely well-lit.

“This is our personal photography studio. When we do in-company shoots, they take place here.”

It was fairly empty, so Oikawa assumed that furniture and props were brought in and out as necessary. Inside was nothing but a bunch of white leather sofas and assorted, colourful rugs.

“He~ey! Asahi!” a voice cried out, and Oikawa turned to find themselves approached by a woman. Next to Asahi, this woman was incredibly short. That fact didn’t seem to deter her, however, from jumping up and slinging her arm around Asahi’s neck, causing the taller man to practically hunch over attempting to accommodate to the disparity in their heights.

“I haven’t see you around here for ages! What’s the deal!” Saeko frowned, eventually pulling her arm off Asahi and standing up. “And who’s this dude?” she asked, jerking her thumb in Oikawa’s general direction. If Oikawa’s eyebrows weren’t busy floating off his forehead, perhaps he might have taken the opportunity to be offended at this girl’s sense of tact, or lack thereof.

“Kiyoko-san’s newest recruit, Oikawa-san.”

Saeko turned to finally look at Oikawa properly, her eyes scanning his figure up and down. Oikawa shifted uncomfortably. Was this something that he’d have to be getting used to? Having people constantly checking him out and comparing him against their unknown standards?

“Well aren’t you just the dearest pretty boy I’ve ever laid my eyes on?” she asked, her lips curling up into a smile. “The name’s Tanaka Saeko, TS’s best makeup artist. It’s nice to meet you.”

Oikawa gave her a once-over. Her hair was cropped short, messy and blonde, and she had quite a few piercings peeking out from the gaps in her layers. She wore thick black eyeliner and dark purple lipstick, and her face seemed to be constantly turned into a wicked kind of grin that made Oikawa swallow at the thought of letting this girl have her way with his face.

“Alright, pretty-boy, come with me. I’ll make that pretty face of yours even prettier.” And before Oikawa could even question what she meant, he felt his arm being pulled along by Saeko, who held a surprisingly strong grip in that small frame of hers.

Settling down on a swivelling bar chair (an odd choice of seating, Oikawa mused to himself), Saeko pulled a wheeled trolley beside him, which was packed to the brim with cosmetics of all kinds.

Seeing his hesitation, Asahi almost laughed. “Saeko-san is our company’s best in-house makeup artist,” Asahi explained, pulling up another chair to watch Oikawa’s imminent transformation take place. “She’s really good with matching looks to the models, so don’t worry - you’re in safe hands.”

Saeko laughed loudly, swatting her hand away for a dramatic effect. “You butter me up, Asahi. You want me to do you next?” Asahi looked fearful for a moment, and Saeko only laughed more before turning back to Oikawa. “Now, pretty boy, you’re gonna have to be extra still for me now unless you want me to poke this stick of makeup right into your eye, you hear me?”

This girl’s voice was buzzing with so much excitement and energy that Oikawa’s hands tightened on the side of his chair, now suddenly extremely fearful for his safety.

First came the foundation. “Your skin is pretty pale, Oikawa,” Saeko noted as she slathered some strange smelling cream across all points of his face. “You don’t go outside much?”

Oikawa noted that this woman had already dropped the ‘-san’ from his name - had she even said it to begin with? “Actually, I go running outside pretty often,” Oikawa corrected her, trying his best not to move his face as he spoke. Saeko’s hands, after all, were holding a suspiciously pointy and stabbing-capable object.

“Eyes closed,” she said, before putting that long, stabby object too close for comfort. “Athlete, then?” she asked, before pausing. “You do look pretty fit, I guess.”

“V-Volleyball,” Oikawa managed to mutter as Saeko’s fingers dabbed bits of brushes and powder across his face. He almost coughed as he accidentally breathed some in, but the pure fear that was grounded in his body had somehow rendered him into an immovable statue.

"Oh, really? I can see those arms of yours... you aren't just a casual player, huh?" she said, more of a statement than a question. "My little brother plays volleyball. He’s pretty good - wing spiker." Saeko’s hands paused on his face for a moment, and her eyes looked far away. It was only for a second, though, and as soon as Oikawa looked curiously at the girl’s frame, he found himself attacked by a huge powder brush.

“And, you’re all done!” Saeko grinned, holding out a mirror in front of Oikawa’s face.

Glancing curiously, Oikawa wasn’t… sure at all what Saeko had done, really. He didn’t have colourful lips or eyelids or anything. He looked… completely normal. Except he wasn’t.

Somehow, his featured seemed a lot more defined. His cheekbones stood out more, and his face had sharp edges to them that he had never noticed before. Had they always been there, or were they artificial?

Oikawa opened his mouth like a goldfish. “Um… wow,” was all he was able to say. Saeko propped her arms up on a counter and gave him a shit-eating grin.

“What can I say? I’m boss at my job. Now get over there,” she said, pointing towards the only white span of wall in the room. “Ryuu and Yuu will be here any moment to dress you up. Then good ‘ol Asahi here can start snapping you right up!” She gave Asahi a hard slap on the back, causing him to wheeze slightly.

It bewildered Oikawa, slightly, as to how a girl as small as this held such power over the tallest and most manly of men - himself included, of course.

“You’re the photographer, Asahi-san?” Oikawa asked as he took a seat on one of the white couches. Asahi nodded, and Oikawa noted that suddenly he had a camera in his hands. It was a big one, a digital professional SLR that he definitely hadn’t had on him on the way here.

Suddenly, the doors slammed open, and Oikawa braced himself for the incoming noise.

“Yo, sis! What’s up?” came a loud voice, and Saeko gave yell of a greeting back.

“Ryuu! Yuu! My two favourite boys!” she cried, pulling the two men who had just entered the room into a big hug. “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you two, what have you been up to?”

One of the boys, a really short one who was no taller than five foot three, bounced up and down on the spot. “Oh man, we’ve been busy in our studio lately, but we’ve made an entire new line of clothes that you’re gonna be ripping your skin to get a hold of!”

Saeko snorted. “Please, I hold big sister rights,” was all she said, and the other guy, whose skin was darker and hair cropped closely to his skin, let out a huge laugh. “Anyway, your job today is pretty boy over there.”

Being addressed, Oikawa stood up. The two men turned to face him, and they too, gave him that assessing look that seemed to be the first nature of everyone he’d met so far. “He looks familiar,” the short one noted. “Where’s he from?”

“He’s not from anywhere,” the other man said, elbowing the short one in the ribs. “That’s Kiyoko’s newest recruit! What was his name... Odawa?”

Saeko appeared the two of them and dunked their heads down into bows. “It’s Oikawa!” She shot Oikawa an apologetic look. “You’ll have to excuse these two. This idiot here’s Tanaka Ryuu,” she said, pointing at the shaven one. “My younger brother. And this one over here is Nishinoya Yuu. They’re… a bumbling pair of idiots who just happen to be creative geniuses.”

Nishinoya jumped at that. “I’m not an idiot!” he frowned, but turned to Oikawa. “But we are geniuses. Don’t you worry a single thing, buddy, we’ll have you looking absolutely charming for your profile shots. Don’t even give it a second thought!”

“They’re clothing stylists who work for our company,” Asahi told Oikawa as the two men started bringing large, wheeled trolleys into the room. There were so many pieces of clothing crammed onto each one that they looked like they were about to break. “They run their own business on the side, but get extra money by helping out with profile shots and advertisements.”

And without another word, the two of them worked their magic on him. In what seemed like a blur of fabric and madness, Oikawa soon found himself standing in front of a mirror in what were some of the tightest black jeans he’d ever seen in his life. On top, he wore a casual button up shirt with a geometric pattern of birds printed on it. They also gave him an expensive looking watch, which, Nishinoya told him, was fake and only for aesthetic purposes. The overall look was a little more flashy than anything he’d choose for himself, but then again, Oikawa didn’t dress himself for the camera.

His hair had been styled by Saeko, with copious amounts of both wax and hairspray now keeping his hair in what seemed to be a perfectly casual look - it was a perfect blend between the ‘I-Just-Got-Out-Of-Bed’ messy and the ‘I-Mussed-This-Up-On-Purpose’.

His jeans were rolled up at the ankle, and he was given a pair of yellow boat shoes to slip on.

“He looks like a hipster,” Tanaka said, his arms crossed as he inspected his work.

Oikawa had next to no idea what that meant, and from the tone of Tanaka’s voice, he couldn’t discern as to whether it was a compliment or not.

Nishinoya swatted at Tanaka’s arm. “Hipsters wish they could look half as good in this stuff as they think they do! Oikawa here has just the frame for it, though.”

“No, no, definitely a hipster. If he just had a pair of glasses on, he’d look exactly like those kids in that store across the street from us. Or a beard.”

Nishinoya gave Tanaka a steely look. “If you say that one more time I’m changing his entire outfit,” he warned, crossing his arms.

“Ah, never mind them,” came Asahi’s voice, who was sitting over on the white couches near the wall. “If you’d just come over here, I’ll get your pictures taken quickly so we can move on to the next outfit.”

Getting one’s photo taken wasn’t hard. Oikawa had his photos taken hundreds - maybe thousands, of times over the nineteen years of his life. Whether it was just family pictures or selfies with underclass girls, Oikawa had no problem posing for whatever occasion.

Except, he thought, when it was to become his job.

“Try and be a bit more, uh… natural,” Asahi encouraged, leaning back a bit. “You look really stiff and… well, awkward..”

Oikawa grimaced. “Sorry, I’m not used to this,” he mumbled. “Also, I thought the company’s photographer was someone else?” The question came out of his mouth before he even thought about what he was suggesting. “I-I mean, yesterday I met this girl… Yachi? She was short and blonde, Kiyoko-san introduced me…”

“Oooh, Hitoka-chan?” came Nishinoya’s voice from across the room. “Hitoka-chan isn't really a photographer… not anymore, at least. She used to be, but now she has a really busy time working with the magazine’s layout. She’s part of the design team with Kiyoko-san!.”

“Ah.. then yesterday she was…?”

“It was probably a quick favour, or something,” Tanaka said as he downed a bottle of juice. “She was really good, actually. People always ask if she’s planning on getting back into photography, but she just politely refuses every time. Says design is more her thing.”

“I think photography suited her more,” Asahi commented, before shutting his mouth and returning to his job.

It took a couple more minutes and more than a couple more awkward poses, but Asahi finally nodded. “Okay, get changed,” he said, before turning to his laptop to move the new images onto the hard drive.

Next was the formal look.

Oikawa had only worn a suit twice - once, for a distant relative’s wedding when he was fourteen, and the other at his high school formal. Both times, he was still growing and lanky in all the wrong places. He didn’t look bad, so to speak, but he didn’t have the well-groomed look that came to adults when they dressed up.

Obviously, since then, things had changed.

“Shit,” Nishinoya breathed as Oikawa pulled the suit jacket on. The suit itself was black, but underneath he wore a pale aqua dress shirt. “Should we put the waistcoat on him too?”

Tanaka glared at Nishinoya. “No! What is this, London?” he asked. “Nobody wears those anymore. He looks good enough as is.”

From her seat, Saeko wolf-whistled, and Oikawa could feel himself getting slightly embarrassed.

“Hey, you worked a host before this, right?” Saeko asked as she set to work at pulling Oikawa’s hair down into something more appropriate for his outfit.

Oikawa nodded sheepishly. “Yeah. Not a big fancy one or anything, though,” he added.

“Did you do like, cosplay themes then?” she asked, her eyebrows raised. “You look good in that suit. Almost like you were made for one.”

Ah, the compliments. Oikawa was used to getting compliments about his face and physique left and right from boys and girls alike during high school - but they were only regular people. To hear these, well, professional people who were used to seeing good looking people say these kinds of things left Oikawa feeling extremely flattered.

Oikawa scratched the back of his neck. “Not really, sometimes we dressed up for halloween or valentine's day, but usually it was just regular waiter costumes. White shirt, apron, that kind of stuff.”  

Nishinoya cocked his head to the side as he regarded Oikawa carefully. “In a way, modelling is a bit like cosplay. You change in and out of costumes, take photographs and do this and that… it’s the same kind of concept, isn’t it?”

In Oikawa’s experience of cosplay from work, they seemed entirely different. Modelling had the inherently professional atmosphere to it, while at work, it seemed entirely carefree.

Asahi, who was leaning in with the camera in his hands again, cleared his throat. “Stand up tall, please,” he motioned to Oikawa, who silently obeyed and straightened out his posture.

“What’s the next set of clothes?” Oikawa asked, handing back the suit jacket to Nishinoya. Due to the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere surrounding the shoot, Oikawa had relaxed considerably.That, combined with Oikawa’s natural body shape filling the suit out rather nicely, they had been able to get workable shots in an extremely small amount of time.

“Nothing,” he said, zipping up the suit jacket inside the plastic dust protector. “It’s time for your nude photos”

Oikawa paled. “Are… are you serious right now?” he asked. His hand dropped to his side.

There was a beat of silence, before Tanaka’s face broke into a grin. “Nah, just messing with you. In a way, at least. We do have to take shirtless photos, but you can keep your underwear on!”

 


 

 

“Oikawa-san, there’s someone I need you to meet. Can you come into the building today?”

After his photoshoot with Asahi, Kiyoko had instructed Oikawa to stay at home and study up on back issues of the magazine as they set up his portfolio and tried to find him work. It was something easier said than done.

He’d been advised to quit his other part-time employment, as models were required to fit their schedules to the shoots, not the other way around. While it made sense in theory, Oikawa was still brand new to the industry and realistically knew that he wasn’t going to be getting a lot of work any time soon.

Basically, he still had bills to pay.

Just over an hour after Kiyoko’s call, Oikawa found himself yet again back at the overly-glassy building that was TS. Scanning the employee card he’d been given earlier, the automatic doors slid open and Oikawa found himself in air-conditioned comfort once more. Upon seeing him, the receptionist girl smiled, recognizing him as that new model from before, personally chosen by the big boss herself, and for reasons clearly seen. Oikawa gave her a half-smile in return, and the girl flushed red.

“K-Kiyoko-san is waiting for you upstairs in her office,” she stammered out, and Oikawa gave her a nod of thanks before heading towards the elevator.

The building’s first floor was mainly reception and public space, while the second was set aside for photo shoots. The third and fourth floors were for the company’s general workers - the model’s managers, company accountants, sales managers and the lot. The fifth floor was the design hub, where the magazine itself came together. Kiyoko’s office was on the sixth floor - just one below the penthouse where Oikawa’s photos had been taken the other day.

Stepping into Kiyoko’s office made Oikawa uneasy. It was a place where many things happened - he could feel it. Probably where he was standing right now was where dreams were both made and broken, and the woman in front of him probably held more power between her fingers than he ever could with both arms.

“Ah, that was quick!” Kiyoko exclaimed, looking up from her laptop in surprise when Oikawa walked in.

Oikawa gave her a sheepish smile. He didn’t want to admit that he was actually really, really excited to be there, so he just gave a nonchalant shrug and lied that he was already in town.

“Is this the guy?” a voice said from behind him, and Oikawa jumped. It was the voice of a man, fairly deep and monotonous as hell. In fact, he sounded like he’d only just gotten out of bed. Turning, Oikawa found himself face-to-face with it’s owner.

He was fairly tall man with short, black hair - in fact, he seemed to only be several centimetres shorter than Oikawa himself. His dark eyes had a bored look to them, and in his hands was a manila folder that Oikawa could see had his name on it. “He looks gaudier in real life.”

It took Oikawa several seconds to register that the man was talking about him, but when it did, he felt himself getting annoyed very quickly. “Excuse me?”

“Oikawa-san, this is your new manager, Iwaizumi Hajime.”

Oikawa’s mouth fell open; this rude-ass man was his manager?

“Hey there,” Iwaizumi said, giving Oikawa a wry smile. “I’m your new god.”

There were two things Oikawa could tell about this man at a glance. One, that this ‘Iwaizumi’ guy was an asshole, and two, that he wasn’t going to hide that fact. Feeling himself grow hot at the condescending tone this man was taking with him, Oikawa shot him a steely look before lowering himself into a half-assed bow. “I’m Oikawa Tooru, I’m looking forward to working together with you.” Not.

“Iwaizumi-san hasn’t been a manager for anyone before, so I thought you two would be good together. You can tackle the ins and outs of the industry at your own pace, this way.”

From a company standview, Oikawa could see her logic. There was no point having an experienced manager spending his time on a new recruit who may or may not even succeed, while at the same time, it was unthinkable to have a high-profile model with a novice as their organizer. But still, Oikawa couldn’t believe that out of all them, this guy was the one she’d picked out for him.

“I hope you had a good couple of days off, by the way,” Iwaizumi said, pushing the manila folder into Oikawa’s hands. “I’ve got a job for you.”

Oikawa’s ears perked up at this. “Already?” he asked, opening the folder and, indeed, finding an outline for a photoshoot proposal.

“Kiyoko-san might have pulled a couple of strings here or there, but it’s a job nonetheless. Getting your first one is the toughest part,” Iwaizumi shrugged. From her desk, Kiyoko gave Oikawa a smile.

“I actually have a meeting to get to, right now,” Kiyoko said, lowering her laptop screen and getting up from her seat. “I’m sorry to chase you out like this, but I can’t really have you two standing in my office when I’m not around, so…”

“No problem, Kiyoko-san,” Iwaizumi said, putting his hand on Oikawa’s shoulder and turning him around. “We were just about to head out so we could talk about the job, anyway. Thanks for everything!” he said, and before Oikawa could even say his own goodbye to his boss, he found himself ushered back into the elevator by his manager.

Inside, they stood in a terse silence. Oikawa took another glance at Iwaizumi and furrowed his eyebrows. He didn’t look particularly old, per say - his mid twenties at most. Kiyoko also mentioned that this was his first job as a manager, so Oikawa found himself leaning more towards his own age.

“You’re going to get wrinkles if you keep scrunching your face up like that,” Iwaizumi stated, looking at Oikawa with a blank look on his face. “Then you won’t have anything left to you.”

Scowling, Oikawa looked away. “Where are we going, anyway?” he asked as the elevator came to a stop on the bottom floor.

“Somewhere we can talk,” came his curt reply, and before Oikawa could question him further, he’d stepped out the doors and into the lobby.

From the ten minutes Oikawa had known him, he’d come to the conclusion that Iwaizumi was someone who followed his own rules, despite Oikawa being the one giving him his job in the first place. Rolling his eyes, Oikawa found himself with no other choice but to follow behind him at a reasonable pace.

The two of them ended up in a small grassy enclosure a couple of blocks from the company. Sitting down on a park bench, Iwaizumi stared at Oikawa until he begrudgingly took the seat next to him, making sure to keep a decent distance between them.

“Since this is your first job, I’m going to need you to really go all out on it,” Iwaizumi said, staring directly at Oikawa.

Oikawa scowled. “What makes you say I won’t go all out on every job?” he asked.

“The first one is the most important, dumbass. If you mess this one up, how do you think you’re going to get any other job?” he asked. “Listen, in this industry, word of mouth is everything. You do well? The photographer will recommend you to others, and the company who hired you might pick you again. You do badly? You can kiss both our careers goodbye, and it’s back to the sticks for you.”

There was a beat of silence. “How do you know I’m from the countryside?” he blurted, before instantly regretting it. Iwaizumi had fed him an entire speech of advice, and the first thing to come out of his mouth was an idiotic and irrelevant question.

Iwaizumi waved his hand. “Kiyoko-san told me. All it means is that you’re some kid who’s come here with dreams of fashion and fame, right? Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but-”

“No,” Oikawa interrupted. “I didn’t come here for that. I came here to study, but shit happened. I just happened to get this job by a series of events.” He gave Iwaizumi a hard look. “Don’t talk like you know me, just because you’re my manager.”

Silence. And then, “... Sorry,” Iwaizumi said, blinking and averting his gaze slightly. He scratched his head as he stared down at the ground. “I’m new at this. We both are.” He let out a huge sigh and stared up at the sky. “I just need you to know that we both need to work hard, if we want this to work.” Turning his head, Iwaizumi set his eyes on Oikawa with an expression Oikawa didn’t think this guy was capable of.

“I know,” he said. Oikawa lowered himself and stared at the ground, resting his arms on his legs. “And you’re right. This is my last chance. If I don’t make it here, I really will have to go back home.” Oikawa wasn’t sure why he was telling Iwaizumi all of this. They weren’t here to get to know each other as friends, but as colleagues. But Oikawa wasn’t good at hiding his feelings, especially at things like this.

Besides, Oikawa knew that if things were to work with this guy as his manager, they’d both need to be honest with each other.

“Now,” Oikawa said, snatching the folder from the space between the two of them. “Just what’s this for?” he asked. Flipping to the front page, he started reading aloud. “Partnership offer… new clothing company in Harajuku… male model, blah blah blah....” Oikawa nodded to himself as he read. “So they were just looking for any random person to be their model, huh,” he said, turning to look at Iwaizumi.

Iwaizumi nodded. “And since they’re a new company, they’re being kind of, well…” he shrugged. “Frugal about it, I guess. Since they can’t be picky with the price they’re offering, Kiyoko-san must have thought it would be a good place for you to start.”

Oikawa leaned back and rested his hands behind his head. “That woman’s a smart one, isn’t she?” he muttered to himself. Kiyoko didn’t speak much, and when she did, it was always about work. But behind those blue eyes of hers, Oikawa had nothing but respect for that woman who really knew how to build her company into the successful corporation it was currently.

“It’s only one page of the magazine, so they’ll only be showcasing one set of clothes per model - one guy, and one girl. I’m not sure who the other person is, though,” Iwaizumi said, leaning over to look at the contents of the print out as well. “Probably won’t be anyone too famous, though…” he muttered absently.

“How did you end up with this job, anyway?” Oikawa asked. “Since you’re new and all. How old are you anyway?”

Iwaizumi sent a glare at Oikawa. “Kids these days,” he muttered. “Don’t you know it’s rude to ask for someone’s age?” He sighed, but leaned back into the chair slightly. “I’m twenty-three. And I saw the job online, that’s all.”

“Hmm,” was Oikawa’s response, and the two of them settled into a silence once more. If Iwaizumi was twenty-three, that meant he was four years older than Oikawa.

Oikawa’s mind skirted to the countless models he’d seen printed on the pages of the magazines over the past few days. So many of them had been mediocre, their faces blending together with others into one, regular and unmemorable. But then there had been the ones whose presence was electric, whose essence seemed to crawl from the pages and settle into your skin, a lingering thought in your mind that showcased perfection. Between the two of them, which one was he?

After a minute, Oikawa rose to his feet and faced Iwaizumi face-on.

“I’m going to work hard at this job,” Oikawa told him, his eyes trained onto Iwaizumi’s with feeling. “I’m going to work hard and succeed. And as much as I hate to have to say this, I need you to help me to make this work.”

Iwaizumi’s eyebrows raised in surprise at the last comment, before his lips curled into a slight smile. “Gotcha... .. and…” he paused, lacing his fingers together, before meeting Oikawa’s gaze. “Likewise. We’re both going to have to work our asses off, but I’ll do my best. So, I expect the same from you, okay?”

Oikawa flashed Iwaizumi a grin and gave him two huge thumbs up. “Of course! Do I look like the type of person to slack off?” he asked, putting a hand on his hip and posing dramatically. “I mean, I’m the definition of hard work!”

Iwaizumi made a disgusted face. “You know, I was about to say that you weren’t as bad as I expected you to be, but…” he rolled his eyes. “Looks like I’ll have to change my mind again. Are you that annoying on purpose?” he asked, wrinkling his nose in Oikawa’s direction.

Folding his arms, Oikawa made an equally disgusted face as he turned away. “Is that stick always that far up your ass?” he asked. “Are you going to be the grumpy kind of manager who doesn’t know how to take a joke?”

Iwaizumi rose to his feet. “I’ll be the kind of manager that I need to be to get you to succeed. And judging from what I know of you so far, yes. I’ll need to have the biggest stick I can find to beat some common sense into you,” he muttered, picking up the manila folder and sliding it under his arm. Then, without another word, he turned and began walking out of the park and back towards the main road.

It took a while for Oikawa to realise that Iwaizumi was just upping and leaving him there alone. “Hey! Iwaizumi-san!” he cried, “Where are you going!”

Oikawa jogged back up to Iwaizumi’s side and shot him a pout. “You’re so mean to me, Iwaizumi-san… Iwaizumi…” he mumbled. “Your name is too long.”

“Get used to it, then,” Iwaizumi replied, “You’re going to be saying it a lot, after all.”

“No,” Oikawa said defiantly. “Too long. My syllables are precious,” he grinned, before running ahead of Iwaizumi and stopping, blocking his path. Outstretching an arm, he pointed at Iwaizumi square in the face. “Iwa-chan,” he said firmly.

There was a small moment of silence as Iwaizumi realized that Oikawa was referring to him. “Excuse me?” he exclaimed, his jaw open in shock. “You know I’m older than you, right?” he asked.

“Eh, but Iwa-chan looks kind of like a puppy, you know. And you’re not that old that you need to be like all those stuck up businessmen, right?” he paused. “Unless you want to be, Iwaizumi Hajime-sama,” Oikawa said stiffly, his face blank as he extended his hand for a handshake..

Closing his eyes, Iwaizumi brought a hand to the bridge of his nose where he pinched it solemnly.

This guy really was going to be a pain in the ass.

Chapter Text

“You did a good job today,” Iwaizumi commented from across the table, a small smile gracing his features. Oikawa hadn’t seen him smile all too often in the period of time he’d known him (partly because Iwaizumi was often busy being irate at Oikawa, but that was beside the point), but from what he’d seen of it, a smile was definitely something that suited him quite well.

It was late in the evening and the two of them sat in a dimly-lit restaurant together, celebrating the success of Oikawa’s first official photoshoot.

 

Earlier that day, Oikawa had been a bundle of nerves. Jumpy and as pale as a sheet, Iwaizumi had compared him to a ghost, and honestly, he hadn’t been too far off the mark. Even after getting into his professional makeup and clothing - a light yellow sweater, white collared shirt and light brown chinos - Oikawa still managed to look like a clammy teenager going on his first date.

“You okay?” Iwaizumi had asked him, glancing up from his cellphone. He’d been glued to that thing all morning, checking and re-checking locations, confirming agreements and replying to emails from the higher ups. Honestly, Oikawa was rubbish at that sort of adult responsibility, so he was glad that was Iwaizumi’s job and not his.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Oikawa smiled up at him sheepishly. “Y-yeah,” he said meekly. “Couldn’t really sleep last night, that’s all.”

That was a severe understatement - Oikawa had been scared practically shitless for the past two days unable to sleep, and had honestly been feeling nervous for up to a week before that.

“I can tell,” Iwaizumi said, smirking slightly. “You look kind of… well, dead.”

Oikawa gulped. “Are you trying to make me feel better or not, Iwa-chan?” he wailed dramatically, waving his hands in the air. “What if I mess up my first ever photoshoot? I’ll have to go back home to Miyagi, I’ll be a failure on my family, they’ll cast me out and call me the failure-son and I’ll have to spend the rest of my life living on cup noodles and bent-”

“Shut up, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi said flatly, before sighing and softening his gaze. “You’re not going to fuck this up. And I’m saying that because I mean it.” He grabbed Oikawa by the shoulders and stared into him levelly. “Listen, you are new at this. You and I both know this - hell, even the photographer knows this. Nobody is expecting you to be perfect. There are literally no expectations on top of you right now, so what the hell are you afraid of?” he asked.

“I can’t help it, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa cried, putting on his best sulking face. He looked at Iwaizumi with a pleading expression in his eyes. “What if I ruin this and get fired on the spot? I’ll never get a job again! Not even Kiyoko-san will try and save my ass if I stuff up on the first go!”

“God damn it, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi growled, “stop it with this piss-level self-esteem you seem to have driven into your head. I don’t know where you’ve gotten it from, really!” He let out a sigh, before letting go of Oikawa’s shoulders. “You. Are not. Bad. At. This,” Iwaizumi said, his voice fierce.

There was a moment of silence, before Oikawa spoke, his voice quiet. “How do you know that, Iwa-chan?” he asked. “How can you tell? I’ve never done this before. You don’t know if-”

“I know you aren’t, Oikawa. You wanna know how I know?” he asked. Oikawa didn’t say anything, and Iwaizumi took it as a yes. “Because I believe in you.”

Iwaizumi’s gaze was dead sharp and sent a shiver down Oikawa’s body. His voice was forceful, and Oikawa knew enough of Iwaizumi to know that he didn’t say anything he didn’t mean.

Still, it was slightly unnerving to have someone stare at you so intensely and give you praise, so Oikawa averted his gaze in a few mere seconds.

“I…” he opened his mouth to say something, but words failed him. His mind was a blank slate, but somehow, he felt… untouchable. “Okay,” he said, closing his eyes and letting out a deep breath. “Okay,” he repeated. “I’m okay.”

Iwaizumi gave him a nod. “Good. Now hurry up and get over there, I think they’ll be ready any second now.”

He’d been right. The first few shots were awkward as hell, but seeing as it was his first time, the photographer suggested that the girl he was partnered with, Aya, went before him.

Aya was, for a lack of a better term, extremely cute. She wasn’t particularly tall, nor was she as skinny as the girls Oikawa saw usually lining the pages of the magazines, but there was something about her that made him want to just… sit her down and pull at her cheeks, or something. Her large eyes were fringed with long lashes, and she wore blue contact lenses that matched well with her pale complexion.

She wore a blue skater skirt with wedged sandals and a pastel crop top with an English word plastered along the front. It wasn’t anything extremely flashy, but she worked it well on her. Oikawa watched with fascination as she posed casually, tilting her head so her long hair would fall in particular motions and the varying facial expressions that all changed the premise of that shot.

However what stood out the most to Oikawa was how… calm she was. Despite the camera flashing constantly, the lights bearing down on her and the suffocation of people, she was nothing but composed. It was clear that she was leading the photographer, rather than the other way around.

“That’s it!” the photographer called after what seemed like an impossibly short time, “Oikawa-san, you’re up next.”

All the nerves that had been accumulating over the week then, seemed to assemble into one giant punch to his gut once more. Opening his mouth, no words came out. He stood still.

“Oikawa!” came Iwaizumi’s gruff voice from behind him. Startled, Oikawa spun around to find his manager glaring at him. His head was raised, eyes boring down at Oikawa’s skull with a glare that could cut through steel.

Suddenly, Oikawa wasn’t afraid anymore. Rather, he felt himself suddenly more afraid of his manager than the thought of messing up the shoot.

From then on, it had been been a straight and narrow path to success.

Aya was friendly and gave OIkawa moral support from the sidelines, and honestly having such a cute and refreshing girl cheer him on gave Oikawa the sense of mind to put on his best smiles.

 

“You think, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asked, tilting his head as he leaned back in his chair. Iwaizumi nodded, and opened his mouth, ready to speak when -

A waitress stopped by the edge of their table, “Welcome!” she smiled, first at Iwaizumi, and then at Oikawa, where her gaze lingered for several seconds longer than necessary. Her smile grew even larger, and she blinked her eyes unabashedly. “What can I get for you two tonight?”

Holding the menu, Iwaizumi pointed at one of the listings. “Two of the chef’s sushi sets,” he told her, before flipping it around at the drinks listing. “And a beer.” The waitress nodded, pulling out a notebook from the front of her apron and writing the order down. She turned to face Oikawa for the second time and tilted her head innocently.

“A beer for me too!” Oikawa piped, shooting the waitress a smile. She nodded, moving to the pen to the book again when -

“No, don’t listen to him. He’s underage,” he said sharply, waving his hand at the waitress. Iwaizumi glared at him, eyes sharp. “Water will be fine.”

Oikawa frowned. “So mean, Iwa-chan! At least buy me a soda!”

Begrudgingly, Iwaizumi grumbled in agreeance, ordering Oikawa a diet coke before letting the waitress return to the back of the restaurant. “You’re too young to be drinking,” he told him flatly.

“Eh? But you’re too young to be this kind of boring adult, you know,” Oikawa told him, folding his arms and turning away. “Like you never drank in high school.”

Iwaizumi clicked his tongue at Oikawa. “That’s besides the point,” he muttered, and Oikawa internally gloated because yes, there was no way Iwaizumi could have been born as the seemingly stoic and fun-less individual he was now.

Now that Oikawa had the smallest of proof that Iwaizumi was a fun guy… he was going to drag it out of him, slowly but surely.

“So you did!” Oikawa grinned, leaning forward and resting his arms on the table. “What’d you guys do? Was it during school camp? Or maybe you sneaked a couple of cans from your dad’s cupboard while he was at work and brought it over to a sleepov- uhf!”

Iwaizumi swatted Oikawa across the head. “So noisy, you damned brat,” he muttered. Oikawa made a noise that sounded vaguely like a whimper, and Iwaizumi rolled his eyes before giving up in defeat. “It was my friend’s eighteenth birthday, he was the one who stole his dad’s beer. Happy?” he said, before huffing loudly.

Oikawa was indeed happy. Freakishly so, really, as his entire face lit up into a huge smile. “Ooh,” he grinned, “so even Iwa-chan has a dark past too. Who would’ve known.”

“Shut up, Oikawa.”

If there was one thing that Oikawa couldn’t quite understand about Iwaizumi yet, it was that this guy seemed hell-bent on keeping an extremely professional relationship between the two of them. He tended to ignore all of Oikawa’s attempts at making small talk or any sort of conversation. It puzzled Oikawa - if the two of them were going to be working together for a long time, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to at least become a little bit more comfortable with each other?

If there was disappointment on his face, Iwaizumi couldn’t see it, because he turned his glance away from Oikawa after a moment.

“Anyway,” Iwaizumi said, clearing his throat as he pulled his phone out of his jacket. Oikawa’s lips downturned into a frown. It was that thing again. As far as Oikawa was concerned, Iwaizumi holding his phone meant nothing other than work-talk. “What happens after this is that the photos are sent into the company, who work together with the contractors in organising what kind of image they want for the magazine. Then the design team with start making it work out.”

Oikawa wasn’t interested in discussing work in a setting like this, so he averted his gaze and let out a noise of disinterest. “Ok, but what does that have to do with me?” he asked, a bored expression taking over his face. His fingers drummed against the side of the table.

Iwaizumi blinked. “I- Sorry,” he said, pausing. “I just thought maybe… you wanted to know about how it works. Was I wrong?”

He was being a brat. Oikawa knew that. Iwaizumi was his own person, with his own life experiences and opinions and all that jazz. He did things differently to Oikawa. But despite how annoyingly strict and rude he could be towards Oikawa at times, there was something about him that made Oikawa want to be friends with him. Perhaps it was because he had no friends of his own here in Tokyo. Or maybe it was because he reminded Oikawa of someone back home, or maybe…

“Sorry,” Oikawa said, surprised at his own apology. “I… It’s just-”

“Excuse me, sirs! Your food! Two chef’s special sushi sets?” came a cheerful voice, and glancing to the side, Oikawa found it to be the overly-happy waitress from before. The tense atmosphere dissolved in a second. First, she let the plates of sushi down onto the table, before setting each man’s drink in front of them. She turned to Oikawa with another smile. “Is there anything else I can get for you two today?” she asked.

Oikawa gave her a warm smile and raised his gaze to her. “The company of a cute girl, perhaps?” he asked, falling back onto the tone of voice he’d previously only used as a host. It had been a few weeks since he’d last had to use it, but it didn’t seem to have lost its touch yet. The waitress flushed a bright red colour, before leaning back slightly and covering her face with her circular tray.

“I-I, um,” she stammered, “I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m-”

“Don’t worry about him,” Iwaizumi cut in, rolling his eyes. “Don’t take anything this guy says seriously while we’re here. Please,” he added, for good measure, shooting Oikawa a glare.

With a careful nod, the girl excused herself after giving one last fleeting glance in Oikawa’s direction, almost stumbling on a step on her way back to the kitchen.

“Do you always do that?” Iwaizumi asked, taking a gulp of his beer. He let out a noise of satisfaction as the carbonated beverage slipped down his throat.

Oikawa picked up his pair of chopsticks and picked absently at his plate of sushi. “Do what?” he asked, not letting his gaze wander from the salmon-and-rice combo that was suddenly extremely interesting. He turned it over a couple of times, gauging what was the most appropriate way to pick it up without having it fall apart.

Iwaizumi sighed. “You know what I’m talking about. Flirting with girls. She’s going to be slipping you her number later if you’re not careful.”

In one motion, Oikawa picked up the piece of sushi and shoved it in his mouth. It was alright - the place they were at was just your average downstairs quick-bite joint, so really, he didn’t expect much in the first place. “Does it bother you?” he asked, his mouth full of sushi. “Are you… jealous?” A smile lit up his face. “Iwa-chan’s jealous.”

With a snort, Iwaizumi placed his mug of beer back onto the table and picked up his own chopsticks. “Please. It’s just clear to me that you were making that girl’s job more difficult than it needed to be. Do you have a habit of being annoying when you’re in public settings? Because if you do, tell me now, so I’ll know to not let you go out on your own in the future.”

Oikawa sipped at his diet coke before looking up at Iwaizumi. “Iwa-chan, are you my mum?” he asked, tilting his head.

Iwaizumi scowled, shoving another piece of sushi into his mouth. “Don’t call me that,” he said, after he finished his piece. “I have utmost respect for your mother, having been able to raise a son like you”

“Because I’m so perfect, huh,” Oikawa commented, gazing past Iwaizumi’s frame. “Must have been hard to have people always telling her about what a great son she had.”

“Sure, sure,” Iwaizumi said, shaking his head and turning his attention back to his food. The conversation seemed to end there and Oikawa too, busied himself with finished the rest of his mediocre dinner.

Silence descended onto the table as Oikawa sipped his now flat diet coke. Iwaizumi’s glass of beer was still half-full, too, but bubbling significantly less.

 


 

“Which way are you heading back from here?” Iwaizumi asked. It was just after 10PM now, but it was still blisteringly cold at this time of the year. Oikawa pulled his scarf further up his face.

“I’m going to see if I can make the last train,” Oikawa replied, nudging his head in the general direction of the subway.

Uncertainty crossed Iwaizumi’s face. “Let me walk you there, then,” he said.

Oikawa laughed. “I’m not five, Iwa-chan. I’m a grown man, I’m sure I can take care of myself.”

There was a jumble of words that Oikawa couldn’t make out. Oikawa stared at him blankly, and Iwaizumi sighed, pulling his scarf down a little so Oikawa could hear him better. “I said, I’m your manager. It’s my responsibility to make sure you get home safely, okay?” He sounded slightly aggravated, but as Oikawa stared at him closely, Iwaizumi’s face was… slightly red?

It was still the early beginning of spring, though. Was it the beer? No, Iwaizumi was a pretty bulky guy (from what Oikawa could see, his shirts fit him like a glove), one drink wouldn’t make him flush. Oikawa chalked it up to the cold.

“Oh, so even Iwa-chan has a nice side to him, huh?” Oikawa joked, shoving his hands into his coat pockets, clamping them together in an attempt to keep them warm.

“Shut up, Bratkawa,” Iwaizumi muttered, already beginning to walk towards the station. “I’m just doing my job.”

Oikawa hummed as he walked behind Iwaizumi. Due to the weather, the streets were pretty empty, despite it not being that late on a Friday night. There was a strong wind blowing that chilled him to the bone. Oikawa found himself pulling himself closer together to keep himself warm.

“Oikawa,” Iwaizumi said after a while. He paused walking and turned to face the younger man.

Tilting his head, Oikawa stopped too. “What is it?” he asked.

There was a short silence, before Iwaizumi shifted his feet on the pavement. “How… how did you find it? Today, I mean,” he clarified. “I mean, it was your first one, obviously. I just… can you see yourself doing this for a long time?”

The question set Oikawa off-track. It was an entirely new experience for him, of course. But he hadn’t hated it at all. It was different, but he enjoyed it. “I… I can,” Oikawa said softly. He thought of how, despite the sheer professionalism of the company, everyone had the same goal in mind and worked together for it in sheer cooperation. He thought of Aya, too, just one of thousands - millions, maybe, of people just like him, getting out there and trying to make it big. This was his chance, and like hell he wasn’t going to take it. “I think I can.”

Iwaizumi stared at him for a while, before letting out a satisfied noise. “Good,” was all he said, before he kept walking.

Oikawa stuck out his tongue. “What, are you thinking that you can get rid of me this easily?” he asked. “The younger generation of today are a stubborn bunch, I tell you! You won’t be seeing the end of me for a long time!”

There was a scoff. “First you tell me I’m not that old, but now you’re acting like there’s a whole decade or something between us. What’s the truth, Oikawa?” Iwaizumi asked.

Oikawa snorted. “That depends on what mood you’re in, Iwa-chan. Sometimes, you’re so gruff and manager-like that I’d think you were a fifty year old man!”

“Oi! That’s got to be an exaggeration,” Iwaizumi grunted, turning to shoot a glare at Oikawa.

The taller boy just gave him one of those annoying peace signs in return.

“But really, can’t you be a little bit nicer, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asked quietly, after a moment. The sign for the station was in sight. It would be probably another thirty seconds walk.

Iwaizumi slowed his pace, but didn’t say anything. The two of them walked in silence, before coming to a stop at the steps of the underpass. Iwaizumi lifted his gaze to Oikawa’s face, and sighed. “If I was any nicer to you,” he said, “I’d be your friend, not your manager. That said, ‘Iwaizumi’ is fine.”

Oikawa shifted his feet, before meeting Iwaizumi’s gaze straight on. This time, his eyes weren’t on fire like they had been earlier that morning. Instead, they seemed soft. “Can’t you be both, then?” Oikawa asked, tilting his head, before digging into his jacket pocket for his IC pass. “Goodnight, Iwa-chan,” he said, giving him a small smile before turning away and into the subway.

 


 

Post his first shoot, Oikawa once again found himself in the throes of, well, boredom. With no work lined up for him, there was no reason for him to even head down to the building. As such, Oikawa found himself lounging at home in the silence of his run-down apartment. After a couple of days, frustration took course, and he found himself spending time in arcades and cafes, just so he could get away from the melancholy of home.

At the end of the sixth straight day of no news from the company, Oikawa groaned loudly into his pillow, kicking his legs against the mattress as he flopped about. Pulling his phone from his pocket, he had no other choice but to give Iwa-chan a call.

There were two rings before he picked up. “What is it?” came Iwaizumi’s voice, gruff and straight to the point.

Oikawa let out a sigh. “I’m so bored, Iwa-chan,” he whined into the receiver.

“And you’re telling me this why?” he asked. Oikawa could imagine the annoyed expression on Iwa-chan’s face at that exact moment. His eyebrows were probably pulled downwards and a large crease would be furrowed between them. Oikawa snickered. “Something funny?”

“Nup, nothing. Was just thinking about how angry you’d look right now,” OIkawa hummed.

Iwaizumi scowled across the phone. “If you have nothing to tell me, don’t waste my time,” Iwaizumi said.

Oikawa gave another high-pitched whine. “But Iwa-chaan, I’m bored! And since I’m bored, that probably means you’re not doing anything either,” he pointed out.

“Goodbye, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi said, and before Oikawa could even get another word through, the line dropped dead.

“That asshole!” Oikawa cried, locking his phone angrily. Lying down on the bed again, he stared up at the ceiling, contemplating counting the number of tiles for the seventh time when his phone began to buzz beside him. Looking at the caller ID, he frowned as it read ‘Iwa-chan~☆’, sliding his finger across the screen and putting it up to his ear. “Miss me already? That was quick,” Oikawa sung into the phone.

“Holy shit, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi said into the phone, his voice crackling slightly with static. “Holy shit!”

Sitting up, Oikawa frowned. “What is it?” he asked.

“Holy fucking shit,” Iwaizumi repeated. There was the sound of papers rustling, and then a high pitched yell. “You did it!”

“Did what? What did I do?”

“Your photoshoot! You did such a good job that the photographer recommended you amongst his circle, and now there’s a whole bunch of people offering to work with you!”

Oikawa could feel his heart hammering in his chest. “Are you… are you for real?”

“Where are you, Oikawa? Can you come to the office right now?” Iwaizumi asked him.

Glancing up at the clock, Oikawa saw that it was almost midday. If he ran out right now, he could probably beat the lunch-time break rush… “Forty minutes, maybe?”

“Great, I’ll see you then,” Iwaizumi said, and promptly hung up.

In his excitement to get to the office, Oikawa ended up forgetting his IC pass and had to return back home to get it, before finally getting on the train. In the end, it took him just under two hours to get into the office, but Iwaizumi seemed not to care.

“Look,” he’d told Oikawa as soon as he’d stepped onto the management floor of the building. The clothing company had sent over copies of the photographs from the shoot, already edited and ready for print. Oikawa took the tablet into his own hands and peered at it curiously, before zooming in on his own face. Sure, parts of his body were covered by bits of text, and yeah, they’d edited his features slightly to make him paler, brighter and a lot more colourful than he’d remembered, but still.

His eyes glazed over Aya, and saw that she’d been edited a little more heavily than him, with her body unmistakably stretched taller to give her a thinner appearance. Oikawa pursed his lips, but made no comment.

“You don’t need to look at it so closely, y’know. It’s not going to look that crisp on the paper.”

Oikawa rolled his eyes, “Of course I knew that. I was just curious to see what they’d done.” He gave the tablet back to Iwaizumi and grinned at him, swaying from side to side. “So? What are the new offers people sent through?”

Iwaizumi blinked, before turning and leading Oikawa to his small office cubicle. The walls were empty, with nothing but a clock hanging on the side. His desk was bare too, with just a stapler and a powerstrip sitting on the grey surface. “Well we’re going to be accepting them all, since we can’t afford to be picky right now,” Iwaizumi told him sternly, lifting the lid of his laptop.

“I know that, you don’t have to tell me!” Oikawa huffed, folding his arms over his chest. To be honest, he’d rather be worked to the bone than sit at home bored out of his mind, but he decided not to tell that to Iwaizumi.

“Okay,” Iwaizumi said, opening his email, “to be honest, I’ve already started working out a schedule for you, so as it stands, you’ll have another shoot this Friday.”

Oikawa paused, thinking. Today was Wednesday, so Friday was…

“Friday?” Oikawa gasped. “You mean, like, two-days-from-now Friday?”

Iwaizumi nodded, “The photographer said the only other day he could make it was, well, today. There’s no helping that one,” he shrugged.

“No, it’s fine,” Oikawa said, frowning.

“There will be weekend shoots in this job too, you know, and probably holidays. So don’t ahead and plan days out without consulting me first okay?” Iwaizumi paused. “When you get more busy, I mean. Now you could probably take a month off and it wouldn’t make a difference.”

Oikawa faked a gasp. “Rude! Iwa-chan, you’re so rude!”

And then Iwaizumi laughed. He actually laughed, and Oikawa felt himself stop and just stare.

Yeah, smiles definitely suited Iwaizumi better.

 


 

By the time Friday rolled around, Oikawa wasn’t nervous in the slightest. Rather, he felt ready. The fact that his first shoot had done considerably well despite his wreck-like state had been a huge moral boost to the brunet, who now felt nothing but energized and ready to take on his next project.

It was an effect that seemed to stack; with every new project, Oikawa seemed to only grow more and more confident, easily slipping into poses and expressions with the fortitude of someone who’d been doing it for years.

“Are you sure this guy is new?” Iwaizumi overheard one of the photographers whispering to his assistant, who shrugged in response. “His poses seem so natural… maybe he did acting in high school.”

Iwaizumi smirked before setting his eyes on his phone again. Scrolling through his contacts, he decided to tap out a message while waiting around.

>> To: Kiyoko Shimizu
Did you know he’d be so good at this?

He remembered somewhere in the back of his mind office gossip about how Oikawa had been the first personal recruit of Kiyoko’s in some amount of years, and he hummed thoughtfully. Out of curiosity, he’d asked around about who else had been personally selected by the high-ranking woman, and to his pleasant surprise, the list had been nothing short of only some of the well-known and sought after members of the company. Iwaizumi wondered what kind of sixth sense Kiyoko must have for picking out people with such a knack for this line of work.

In his pocket, his phone buzzed.

<< From: Kiyoko Shimizu
What do you mean?

Iwaizumi rolled his eyes. Shimizu was a humble person, that was for sure.

>> To: Kiyoko Shimizu
Well, it’s no coincidence that every single person you’ve recruited just happened to be a natural at modelling and skyrocketed to the top, right?

<< From: Kiyoko Shimizu
No, it really is a coincidence.

It was Iwaizumi’s turn to be confused. Frowning, he was about to reply when his phone buzzed with a second message.

<< From: Kiyoko Shimizu
None of them are naturals at their job. Rather, they’re all just hard workers.

Iwaizumi glanced up at Oikawa who was in the middle of getting his makeup retouched. Despite the upbeat mood of the shoot and the positive vibes the staff were constantly spreading, he could see that Oikawa wasn’t letting himself settle too comfortably into the atmosphere. Rather, his eyes were focused with concentration, his recent success most definitely not getting ahead of him.

<< From: Kiyoko Shimizu
Whenever I went to that host club, Oikawa-kun would always be there working the hardest out of all of them. It’s not easy to miss a work ethic like his. Even though he has a nice face and natural charm, he doesn’t slack off in any aspect. It’s the same with the others, too.

Reading this, it became clear to Iwaizumi that Shimizu had put a lot of thought into this boy. Feeling himself smile, he typed out one last reply before locking his phone and sliding it back into his pocket.

>> To: Kiyoko Shimizu
I guess I’ve been underestimating him all this time.

 


 

Despite being such a popular magazine, TS never used any models that weren’t contracted under their own label. As a result, readers were often used to the faces modelling the newest trends for the upcoming seasons, and each had their fair share of fans, too. Furthermore, it had been almost a year since the company had introduced a new face to the magazine, a tall man with a cheshire-like grin named Kuroo Tetsurou.

So naturally, when the first magazine to feature Oikawa in it hit the shelves two months later, Oikawa found himself with an exponential increase in publicity. Curiosity had gotten the better of him, and on the same day the magazine came out, he’d found himself scrolling through online fashion communities and fansites for reader’s opinions.

Honestly, the power of the internet was scary. WIthin hours, his full name and internet profiles had already been scoped out, and the number of posts about him was moving too fast for him to comprehend. Of course, there was a fair share of negativity, too, but Oikawa had never been someone to listen to the criticisms of random people too harshly.

At the office, Iwaizumi’s email had all but blown up, with the company’s management forwarding all expressions of interest towards him. Raising his eyebrows, he decided to send a quick message to Oikawa before he set to work in setting things straight.

>> To: Oikawa
I hope you enjoyed your quiet days, because I think they’re over.

<< From: Oikawa
y?

Iwaizumi took a screenshot of his inbox, where the number “32” was displayed nicely next to the word ‘unread’, and sent it to Oikawa.

<< From: Oikawa
is iwa-chan worried about me

<< From: Oikawa
i knew this day would come (๑˃̵ᴗ˂̵)و

But Iwaizumi was right - Oikawa’s schedule was now filling out considerably well. Oikawa had been well-liked by all the photographers who had worked with him, all agreeing that his natural charisma and willingness to work together (Iwaizumi laughed when heard that - laughed so hard that tears had begun to roll down his cheeks) had made him a great model to shoot. And in this industry, word of mouth trumped all else, especially when you were as new to it as Oikawa was.

Cherry blossom season came soon after, and companies were scrambling to take advantage of the beautiful backdrops the falling petals would provide for them. Oikawa found himself swamped with work, with shoots leading into one another and overtime a reality.

He was busy to the core, but for the first time in so long, Oikawa felt alive.

“You sure seem to have gotten the hang of this quickly,” came a voice, and Oikawa glanced up to find himself face-to-face with Kuroo Tetsurou. They’d been introduced once in the office several months ago, when the two of them happened to be taking a break at the same time. They hadn’t conversed much since aside from polite chit-chat, but whenever Oikawa could feel those cat-like eyes on him, he felt like they were tearing him apart.

Still, Kuroo was, for all intents and purposes, his senpai in this industry, so Oikawa hadn’t been too bothered.

Kuroo had a wild look to him, his black hair always messy and disheveled and the almost predatory glint in his eye menacing. In fact, Oikawa thought his look seemed to get more and more exaggerated every time he saw him. It was this look, however, that had made him a hit in all the places Oikawa wouldn’t - no, couldn’t reach. While Oikawa suited the preppy, college pretty-boy or pop idol looks, Kuroo was unrivalled in gothic street fashion and punk grunge.

In fact, Kuroo even had a sleeve tattoo spiralling up his right arm, an accessory that would be near impossible for anyone else to get away with.

So when an offer came for the two of them to be in a shoot together, Oikawa’s scepticism hadn’t been unwarranted. In terms of image, the two of them were pretty much opposites. But it turned out that that was the exact idea the photographer had been going for, and it had all worked out perfectly.

“You think so?” Oikawa asked, smiling brightly up at Kuroo. It was a fake smile, but it was a smile nonetheless.

Kuroo nodded. “When I first started out, I accidentally punched one of the stylists in the face,” he said, his voice airy with a sense of nostalgia. “I had to get on my knees and beg for forgiveness, because they almost decided to pack up right then and there.”

Oikawa’s eyes widened, his smile disappearing and being replaced by a genuine look of horror. “That’s... “ He couldn’t even think of an appropriate word to describe it.

“Still, your manager looks like he’s got a good head on his shoulders. A stiff one, but good.”

Their managers were sitting in the shade under a large cherry blossom tree, both with their eyes trained on their phones.

“Your manager looks the same,” Oikawa shrugged, “I mean, look at them. There’s all these goddamn petals flying all around, and yet they’re still buried to the nose in work.” Oikawa threw out his palm as if to make his point, and several petals grazed over his arm.

Kuroo snorted. “Work? You think Kenma over there’s doing work?” he asked incredulously. “Look, I bet you ten thousand yen he’s not working. Want to bet?”

Oikawa raised his eyebrows at Kuroo. Was this guy for real?

The two of them made their way over to their managers, Kuroo calling out Kenma’s name and Oikawa running behind Iwaizumi to knee him in the back.

“Not now, Kuroo,” Kenma muttered, his fingers jabbing at the screen at an alarming rate. Oikawa glanced over his shoulder to see that he was… tapping circles. Ferociously, at that. Oikawa had no idea what he was doing, but it definitely wasn’t work. He sighed.

“Iwa-chan, do you have ten thousand yen?” Oikawa asked, crouching down next to his manager.

“Huh?” Iwaizumi asked, finally glancing up from his screen. “Oh, it was you who was assaulting me. Should’ve figured.” Iwaizumi reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his wallet, before handing Oikawa a ten thousand yen note. “What’s it for?”

Oikawa snatched it up before Iwa-chan had the chance to change his mind, which Oikawa was sure he would when he heard the reason. “I lost a bet,” he shrugged, sticking his tongue out.

True to his guess, Iwaizumi leapt off the ground and grabbed Oikawa’s arms, trying to fish the bill back from him. “Idiot-kawa! Use your own damn money for that shit! I thought you needed a drink or something!”

The five centimetres of extra height Oikawa held over Iwaizumi was helpful in this situation, because he simply stood up on the tips of his toes and held the bill high up over Iwaizumi’s reach. “Silly Iwa-chan, I wouldn’t need money for that, they’re providing us with drinks over at the tent you know?” he sang, managing to wiggle free from Iwaizumi’s grip and run a few metres to safety.

Sighing, Iwaizumi gave up and returned to his spot on the rug. “Whatever,” he muttered, “I’ll just collect that back later.” He glanced up at Oikawa and met him in the eye. “With interest.”

Oikawa’s mouth fell open. “How dare you, Iwa-chan! I’m the reason you have this money in the first place!”

Next to him, Kenma snickered. “Remember when you pulled that line on me, Kuroo?” he asked, finally looking up from his phone. Next to Iwaizumi, Kenma looked positively tiny.

Kuroo sighed and nodded. “Yeah, I remember. Every time you’d just remind me about how you saved me from losing my job forever when I punched that girl in the face. Good times.”

Iwaizumi stared up at Kuroo with a look of horror mixed with disbelief. “You what?”

“Kuroo’s a brute, he punched a stylist in the face while he was trying to show me a weird prop he found. They almost cancelled the shoot, I had to force Kuroo to beg on his knees for them to give him a second chance.”

Hearing the story from Kenma’s made the story make so much more sense to Oikawa. When Kuroo had told it earlier, Oikawa hadn’t been able to fathom the idea of Kuroo begging for forgiveness on his own accord. He should have figured that Kenma had been the one to force him; despite his tiny frame, he seemed almost like an animal tamer of some sort.

“It wasn’t just a prop, Kenma. It was a fucking buttplug that lit up in different colours when you pressed a button on the bottom!”

Kenma wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Yeah, then the manager told you that it wasn’t actually one of their props, so you actually just picked up some random person’s buttplug. It was probably used, Kuroo.”

Kuroo guffawed. “Would it surprise you then, my dear Kenma, that the thought of that doesn’t really bother me? I’ve seen many things stranger that in my life,” he declared, staring up at the sun with intent in his eyes.

Kenma didn’t reply, instead training his eyes back to his phone. Iwaizumi could have sworn that he saw Kenma’s lips curl around the word ‘disgusting’, though he kept that to himself.

 


 

Before OIkawa had even realized it, July had arrived, bringing with it the stinging heat of Summer that crept into his bones and drained him to exhaustion. Shoots were rarely outdoors during this season, with makeup melting off and clothes sticking uncomfortably before things could even get done. Oikawa was somewhat glad for this, as it meant he spent most of his day in the air-conditioned comfort and away from the evils of sun rays.

Today, however, the company who had hired Oikawa had their shoot scheduled for outdoors in a large park-like area. It was still fairly early in the day, with the temperature sitting at around 30 degrees, but the weather had been forecasted to rise up to 40 by the early afternoon.

“We’re so sorry, Oikawa-san,” the management had apologized, lowering their heads into low bows. Oikawa shuffled uncomfortably on his feet at the sight of these people being apologetic for something that was well out of their control. “We would have liked to reschedule today’s date to one with more… favourable conditions, but we’ve got an extremely popular model working with us today who’s schedule is absolutely hell to work with.”

“Ah, it’s fine really,” Oikawa said, raising his hands in an effort to calm them down. “I don’t particularly mind too much, plus this area is well shaded-”

The sight of a van driving into the area caught everyone’s attention, and it came to a stop close by to the tents the company had set up. Everyone watched in silence as the door slid open, and a suited man hopped out.

Oikawa stared. A suit, in this weather? And a full one at that, with his black pants long and suit jacket all buttoned up - he could feel himself start to sweat just looking at the guy. It didn’t bother him apparently, though, as he simply adjusted the glasses perched on his face before heading straight towards the management team to introduce himself.

The team met him halfway, leaving Oikawa and Iwaizumi standing alone in the middle of the path. “Is that the guy they were talking about?” Oikawa asked, squinting his eyes as he peered at the bespectacled, suit-crazed guy who seemed too uptight and haughty (and well, old) to be a model.

Iwaizumi furrowed his eyebrows, “No,” he said, turning his attention to the van. Oikawa followed his gaze back, and watched as another person exited the vehicle.

Oikawa took back his earlier question about the guy with the glasses. This guy was the model, he had to be.

Oikawa’s eyes widened as he took in the sight of the guy - he was incredibly tall. And not just tall as in Oikawa-tall, but closer to ‘holy shit, do people actually come in that size?’-tall. He stretched slightly, taking in the tall expanse of trees that surrounded everyone as he raised his arms above his head. As he turned, however, his eyes caught onto Oikawa’s gaze and he stopped.

Suddenly, Oikawa’s feet felt like lead, bolted to the ground as this man fought him with a gaze so intense it felt hotter than the Summer sun. His body felt numb, unresponsive and unmoving. It didn’t really matter, though, because this guy was coming straight towards him.

Beside him, Iwaizumi shifted on his feet, frowning as if he was trying to piece something together.

It wasn’t often that Oikawa had to look up to see someone’s face, but this guy was clearly used to looking down towards others. When they stood this close, Oikawa suddenly found himself feeling small and underpowered. His short brown hair was swept to the side, showing off his sculpted face which conveyed an expression of pure steel.

Those fiery eyes were then trained on his, and the man’s mouth curled downwards before he spoke sharply.

“Oikawa Tooru.”

Chapter Text

Iwaizumi’s fist landed on his palm as recognition flared on his face. “Ushijima Wakatoshi,” he said, and the tall man’s gaze turned to face Iwaizumi’s for the first time.

“Yes, that’s me,” he stated, frowning at Iwaizumi. “Who might you be?”

“Nobody that interests you,” Iwaizumi muttered, looking away from Ushijima. “What business do you have with Oikawa-san?” he asked.

“I’m simply here to introduce myself,” he said levelly, turning his eyes on Oikawa again. Oikawa stared up at him, and the pieces slowly fit together.

Oikawa hadn’t taken the time to look through too many magazines that weren’t created by his own label, but of the few he had seen, Ushijima Wakatoshi had been in them. Oikawa recalls an interview he’d read in one; Ushijima was by no means a veteran in the industry either, only having joined a year or so before Oikawa. Despite this however, his stunning looks and incredible work ethic had shot him to the tops of search engines in a flash of time. Within fashion-conscious social groups in the big cities, Ushijima Wakatoshi was akin to a household name.

“I guess I don’t need to introduce myself, though,” Oikawa tutted, meeting Ushijima’s pointed gaze. “You already know my name?” It was lilted as a question, although Oikawa was fairly sure he already knew the answer.

“I’ve seen your shoots,” Ushijima said. “You’re not bad,” he told Oikawa, his eyes drifting downwards from his head to his shoulders, to his arms, to all over Oikawa’s body. Usually when people gave Oikawa the once-over, he felt like they were assessing him. But Ushijima… his gaze felt more like he was… scathing. “Rather, you’re quite good.”

Oikawa blinked in shock. The sheer intensity of Ushijima’s face didn’t goad Oikawa into the idea that he’d be complemented by the taller man. “Oh,” he said, the surprise evident in his voice. “Well, uhm, th-”

“But you’re not better than me,” Ushijima interrupted. Oikawa stilled, before narrowing his eyes. “Beginner’s luck cannot surpass that which has been built over time.”

“Is that a challenge?” he asked boldly, stepping forward so that he was chest to chest with Ushijima. Oikawa’s entire body shook despite his outward showing of aggression. However, Ushijima didn’t waver, instead, sliding his hands into his pockets as he nodded sharply.

“We will see” was all he replied. Ushijima regarded him with one last gaze before turning and returning to the side of his suited manager.

A cold sweat had broken out over Oikawa at being confronted so bluntly by Ushijima. His words had not been those of a threat; they had simply been his interpretation in the rawest form. Whether or not he intended the ever-present feeling of unease that was washing over Oikawa, well...

“..wa.”

Oikawa swallowed thickly, only realizing then how large of a lump had formed in his throat. His mouth felt dry as he did so, and he ran his tongue across his chapped lips. Absently, he dug his hand into the back of his hair, scratching lightly.

“...kawa.”

Suddenly, Oikawa felt unsettled as his mind flashed back to an interview of Ushijima’s he’d chanced upon months back. He hadn’t recognized Ushijima at first glance, but now that he’d seen him face-to-face, he could suddenly remember every time he’d seen that man’s face over the passing months. The director of today’s shoot had called him ‘extremely popular’, and Oikawa hadn’t been blind to the many fansites open in his name.

‘Ushiwaka’, his fans called him. It was a cute nickname, Oikawa thought. A nickname that cute wasn’t befitting a man such as him.

“Oikawa!”

A jab to his side snapped him out of his thought, and Oikawa turned to find Iwaizumi staring strangely at him. Oikawa’s gaze shot towards Iwaizumi, who was staring at him with a strange expression on his face.

“Are you okay?” he asked him, and Oikawa realized that his eyes were blown open. Raising his hands, he saw they were shaking.

“Just peachy, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa grinned, forcing his face into a smile. He could feel Iwaizumi’s gaze lingering on him for several more seconds, searching for a crack in his composure before eventually turning away.

“We should get moving, they look like they’re getting ready to start.”

To say that Ushijima’s probing had caused a number on Oikawa would be a severe understatement; in fact, there was really only one word that could be used to describe how Oikawa had acted for the rest of that day.

Tense.

The shoot seemed to draw on forever, with Oikawa’s movements choppy and mind occupied, the voice in his head repeating the earlier conversation between him and the taller mind like a broken record. It wasn’t that Oikawa wasn’t aware of his mistakes either, but rather the opposite. He was too-quick to bow low, apologizing even for things that weren’t his own fault. He could feel Iwaizumi’s gaze on him like a laser, burning agitation into his body no matter what he did.

It was soon 3PM, the shoot having run into overtime. The staff had blamed the weather; it had caused machinery malfunctions, makeup-retouches, wardrobe adjustments. They were all plausible excuses, but Oikawa felt at fault regardless.

He didn’t let it show on his expression though, ending with small smiles and bowed heads all the same.

“I’ve called for a taxi,” Iwaizumi told him, his voice flat. Oikawa slid his eyes over to his manager, expecting him to lecture him any moment now. Iwaizumi only regarded him with the same expression he wore usually - nonchalance. “Why are you staring at me like that?” Iwaizumi asked, his eyebrows lowering.

Oikawa hadn’t even realized that he had been staring; he’d spaced out again. He quickly recovered, easing himself back into his usual carefree attitude. “Oh, nothing much. I was just wondering why you weren’t ripping my throat out.”

Iwaizumi’s frown deepened. “What are you talking about?”

If the atmosphere between them hadn’t been so thick, Oikawa would almost have had the audacity to laugh. “Iwa-chan, you’re so polite today,” Oikawa mused, “pretending that I didn’t just fuck around all day with a pathetic excuse for modelling.”

“Don’t say that,” Iwaizumi snapped, “don’t you ever-”

“Oikawa.”

The deep voice of Ushijima Wakatoshi interrupted them, and Iwaizumi stepped back in surprise.

“Oooh,” Oikawa crowed, “now Ushiwaka-chan is here to do the job for you.”

Irritation flittered over Ushijima’s eyes at the usage of his nickname, but it disappeared in a second as he glanced at Iwaizumi and opened his mouth. “May I talk to him alone?” Iwaizumi’s eyebrowsed raised, sceptical, but he stepped to the side out of earshot. Satisfied, Ushijima turned back to Oikawa and returned to his speech. “I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see your full potential today, Oikawa-san.”

Oikawa’s didn’t move. Then, “Excuse me?”

“It would seem that I intimidated you with my words,” he began, his eyes searching Oikawa’s face. “And for that, I apologize.” Confusion was etched over the shorter man’s face, and Ushijima gave an exasperated grunt. “Today,” Ushijima clarified. “That was not your best, anyone could see that.” He took a quick glance at Iwaizumi before returning his gaze and continuing. Anger pulsed inside of Oikawa.

“What would you know?” Oikawa suddenly spat, his right hand clenching into a fist. Ushijima’s words were not unreasonable by any standard, but for some reason he could not contain his irritation. “You don’t know anything about me. You think you’re so high and mighty, just because you’re go-”

“I thought it when I first saw you in that magazine,” Ushijima interrupted. This guy sure did a lot of interrupting, Oikawa thought, his eyebrows beginning to twitch from being furrowed for so long. He was so unapologetic (or perhaps unaware) of it, and that only served to further aggravate Oikawa. “You have a natural talent, one that not many people have,” Ushijima said, folding his arms over his chest. “But eventually, that natural talent will run out, and you will be unable to catch up towards others. That is the tragedy of human potential.”

A lump raised in Oikawa’s throat, but he didn’t let his expression waver. “So what makes you so much more superior, Ushiwaka-chan?” Oikawa asked, his lips forming spitefully around that nickname his fans so loved to give him.

Ushijima regarded him with a steely expression. “I never said anything of sort,” he said, cocking his head to the side. “I am simply giving you a fair warning. I hope that one day I will see you at your best. Now, excuse me,” Ushijima said, cutting the conversation short as he lowered his head into the smallest of bows.

Oikawa’s fingers dug into his palms, red crescents etched into his skin, watching with a honed gaze as Ushijima’s car drove onto the main road and out of sight. “Talent?” Oikawa repeated, the word tasting sour on his lips.

When Iwaizumi returned to his side, his face was dark. “What did he say to you?” he asked, his voice a touch nervous. He didn’t have to be a professional to read the atmosphere and know that Oikawa was brooding, his eyes drawn tight and mouth a hard, pressed line.

“It was nothing,” Oikawa dismissed, waving his hand. Instead, he let out a huge yawn and took a long gulp of water, turning his entire body away from his manager.

Iwaizumi tutted, “It’s not ‘nothing,’ asshole. Not only do you look like shit right now, but your entire performance today was not like you. So are you going to tell me what’s up, or am I going to have to call Ushijima’s manager and ask for a one-on-one chat?”

Oikawa blinked in surprise, “Calm down, Iwa-chan,” he said, glancing to the side. “You don’t need to get so… defensive.”

“I’m not defensive,” Iwaizumi dismissed, folding his arms. “I’m fucking annoyed. You’re a grown man for god’s sake, Oikawa, are you really going to let some stuck-up prick’s little ramblings get to you?”

“That’s not-”

“Then what is it?” Iwaizumi growled, his eyes narrowed.

“What can I say?” Oikawa snapped in return, “That some guy said a couple of words to me that hurt my precious feelings? I’m a big boy, Iwaizumi-san. I can take care of it myself.” Without realizing it, Oikawa had slipped back into Iwaizumi’s full name. The word felt foreign on his tongue.

Iwaizumi took a glance at Oikawa’s face, flushed red with irritation and sighed. “Look, I’ll let whatever he said stay between the two of you, but listen to me. Just because he’s been in this industry a little longer than you doesn’t make him some kind of all-knowing god. He’s human, just like you. And no matter what he says, you two are the same. There’s nothing about him that makes him any better than you. It will just take time for you to make others realize that.”

Silence built between them, Oikawa at a loss of what to say. Then, a small smile grew on his lips. “Iwa-chan,” he whispered, before looking to the floor and nodding his head.

Iwaizumi didn’t say anything in response, but Oikawa didn’t need him to say anything more.

From that day on, Oikawa mind was set into overdrive.

Despite how badly he’d performed in that one shoot with Ushijima, the pictures had turned out well, and he soon found himself inundated with offers left and right. Truthfully, Oikawa was merely sponging off Ushijima’s popularity, but when it came down to it, work was work.

But to Oikawa, just having the knowledge that he was currently desired was not enough.

Because while Ushijima was right in the sense that talent had a limit, he was also wrong in the sense that Oikawa had talent.

Oikawa scorned the mere idea of him relying on a gimmick such as that. The idea that someone was born with a superior ability in one particular activity was nothing but rubbish in his mind; no matter how great one’s predisposition to something was, it mean jack shit if they didn’t do anything with it.

In a moment of poor judgement, Oikawa found himself on the homepage of Ushijima’s largest fansite. It was an impressive thing, with tens of thousands of members and every single photoshoot and interview of his neatly documented into downloadable folders. Frankly, Oikawa could have spent days going through the sheer amounts of photos and messages that had been posted online.

But Oikawa wasn’t there to ogle at him. He was there to study him.

Fangirls were amazing in the sense that there were sites dedicated to scanning magazine shoots, uploading them to the internet and providing them all as convenient downloads organized by date. With the information practically throwing itself at him, it would be stupid for Oikawa to not take it.

He started at the beginning, the date nearing two years ago. As his download finished, Oikawa wondered what Ushijima was like when he’d first started out. Had he too been a nervous and overly polite rookie at some point?

Of course not.

Oikawa scowled as he tapped his way through the folder. There was practically no way of telling that this guy had just begun, in fact, everything about him seemed to scream the opposite.

Things only got more impressive as time went on, and Oikawa soon realized Ushijima was nothing short of perfect. While admiration bubbled beneath his skin, it was diluted by the irritation that had lingered in his blood since that shoot. Like a song stuck in his head, the conversation between the two of them had been dormant in his head, making itself known at various times of the day without mercy.

His mouth twisted into a foul grin.

So what if Ushijima had a head-start before him?

He’d just show him exactly where his ‘limited potential’ could get him.

 


 

“Oikawa-san, have you been sleeping well?” the make-up artist asked him, frowning as she peered at his face closely. “Your eye bags are really no joke! I’ve used so many layers of foundation on you that you’re beginning to cake!”

Oikawa’s eyes trailed up from his lap to the mirror, where indeed his eyes were set within deep bags that were beginning to darken at the sides. It wasn’t too obvious right now, with makeup covering his imperfections, but his complexion had most certainly dulled over the recent weeks. Oikawa had never had a problem with acne either, even through puberty, but as of recent was finding himself with small breakouts every other day.

“Make sure you’re taking care of your skin properly when you’re at home! Don’t wear too much makeup when you’re not working!” she scolded, her tone playful as she reached into her cosmetic bag and pulled out a stick of concealer, green to counter the red.

As he sat around waiting for his turn, Oikawa noticed a magazine on a glass table nearby. Curious, he picked it up, only to feel a sense of dread lurch in his stomach as he noticed who was on the front cover.

It was Ushijima Wakatoshi, looking as perfect as ever, as he posed for only the most prolific designer of the season.

It was an entire league above Oikawa’s, but he couldn’t help but feel irritation seep into his skin. Taking a quick glance at the date, Oikawa noted that it was a magazine that hadn’t yet been published.

Of course it had to be, if Oikawa hadn’t yet seen it. Taking a quick glance behind him, he found nobody around.

And with a quick swipe of his arm, he tucked the magazine under his jacket before slipping it into his bag for later.

 


 

For someone whose schedule was teetering on the brink of overflowing, Oikawa was coping extremely well.

At least, that’s what he thought.

When Oikawa woke up in the mornings, he was usually in an absolute rush. Shoots had the tendency to run into overtime, with retakes required and fellow models with their own conflicting schedules resulting in extended hours and complications. Sleep was a luxury, with an average of five hours per night.

Less, now that Oikawa had taken to reviewing over his shoots every night, identifying his weaknesses and the strengths of others.

Breakfast was too something Oikawa learned to live without, instead opting to spend those precious fifteen minutes running a shower to wake himself up from the depths of a death-like sleep, lest he fall back asleep and miss his train.

The warmth of the water did wonders for his body, his mind clearing and the last remnants of sleep circling down the drain. Perhaps it had been too good, however, because when he finally stepped out of the bathroom, a glance at his phone showed that he was most definitely going to be late.

Oikawa swore, quickly running to his closet and pulling out whatever clothes touched his hands first, praying to the gods that they would magically match. It worked well enough - black jeans and a sweater, nothing could be wrong with that. Hastily shoving his phone and wallet into his back pockets, Oikawa managed to grab a beanie from the rack on his way out the door to cover his atrocious excuse of post-shower hair.

It wasn’t until he was on the train with the doors closed behind him that Oikawa realized that he felt slightly off-balance. Wiping a sweaty palm on his jeans, Oikawa shook his head and averted his gaze from the too-fast scenery that sped out the window. Instead, he focused on his shoes, before closing his eyes entirely to block out the swaying movements of the train. When his stop finally arrived, Oikawa had to take thirty seconds to catch his breath against the station wall. He held his breath, fighting off a wave of nausea, before turning his head to find a vending machine.

Oikawa knew water would be the best option, but exhaustion rippled through his muscles, and almost instinctively his finger moved towards a can of chilled coffee. He muttered a silent apology to his body as he cracked open the can, taking in the now too-familiar taste of the bitter beverage.

“Coffee again?” Iwaizumi asked, spotting the can clasped between Oikawa’s fingers.

Quickly crushing it and tossing it into the recycling bin, Oikawa shrugged. “Machine was out of juice, and I felt really thirsty.”

“Coffee makes you more thirsty,” Iwaizumi commented, his eyebrows furrowing.

There was a beat of silence, then Oikawa laughed. It was a strained laugh, his eyes averting Iwaizumi’s gaze like his life depended on it. “That’s your imagination at work, Iwa-chan,” he said, his voice lilting cheerfully as he knocked his shoulder into the older man’s.

Grumbling, Iwaizumi reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle of spring water and shoved it into Oikawa’s hands. “Keep yourself hydrated, there’s nothing else more important than your health.”

Oikawa stared at Iwaizumi for a second, before cracking open the lid and taking a sip. Then, realizing exactly how thirsty he really was, down half the bottle in the next few gulps. “Ah~ I can always trust Iwa-chan to take good care of me,” he smiled, before returning the bottle to his lips and chugging down more.

Iwaizumi scowled. “You’re old enough to take care of yourself,” he told him, turning away. “You look a little bit pale today though. Do you feel okay?”

Oikawa nodded. “Just fine, Iwa-chan. Now hurry up, or we’re going to be late.”

“That’s entirely your fault!” Iwaizumi grunted, looking away. Then he paused. “Are you shivering?” he asked Oikawa, his face twisting in confusion.

Oikawa blinked, staring down at his hand to find that it was indeed shaking slightly. He shrugged, “It is still kinda cold I guess,” he told Iwaizumi.

“Oikawa, it’s still September. It’s going to be thirty degrees today.”

He stared down at his attire, which were all one shade of black or another. Then he stared up at the sky and saw that yeah, there wasn’t a cloud in sight.

But he was cold.

“Must have been the coffee, then,” he murmured, his hand crunching down on the water bottle. “Caffeine has the tendency to make people buzz, doesn’t it?” he asked, shrugging his shoulders rapidly.

Iwaizumi gave him another curious glance, before turning away. “Don’t go getting sick now, you’re too young for that,” he muttered, holding out his arm to stop a taxi.

Oikawa grinned, “Aw, Iwa-chan, are you worrying about me again?” he teased. “Don’t worry, if I get sick, I’ll be sure to pass it on to you so you can take time off too!”

With one quick movement, Iwaizumi elbowed Oikawa in the ribs, causing the younger man to cough as he hunched over, wailing.

It took everything Oikawa had to not collapse onto the pavement right there and then.

When the two of them reached the shoot location, Iwaizumi immediately left to speak to the director of the company. Oikawa was somewhat amazed whenever he saw Iwaizumi in work mode.

Despite his gruff exterior, there was something about the way he chose his words that gave people a sense of trust when they talked to him. It was like his entire exterior screamed responsibility, and that he was a man to be trusted.

Oikawa wondered what people thought when they saw him.

“Oikawa-san, it’s time for your makeup,” a voice called out, breaking him out of his reverie. Putting on his best smile, Oikawa greeted the make-up artist before sitting in front of the mirror and closing his eyes.

It only took a while, a minimal amount of product smeared on his face compared to some of the other shoots he’d been in. It was nice being able to look into the mirror and not perform a double-take at the face staring back at you; today, Oikawa looked much like himself. A more high-resolution, sharpened-round-the-edges version.

Something felt off, however. At a glance, Oikawa thought he saw the ghost of purple, dark splotches smattering his skin. Had his face gotten thinner? Oikawa blinked twice, and suddenly, he was back to normal.

He must have been imagining it.

 


 

It wasn’t until Oikawa had gone through some of the more exposing shoots he’d taken part in that the realization of his body’s physical state had hit him.

For all the praise Oikawa received from fans and foes alike, there was no doubt a fair share of criticism rolled into the mix. For every photographer that complimented his complexion or height, there would be one that had harsh words on their tongue, lashing out at his weight or his eye bags and other things that were well beyond his control.

It wasn’t that Oikawa was overweight; hell, Iwaizumi at times thought Oikawa could do with a little more meat on his bones. But Oikawa wasn’t by any means overly skinny, either. And it was of no surprise that his body had lost large amounts of the muscle he’d retained from sport in high school; with his schedule filling out and less time to himself, maintaining his exercise routine hadn’t exactly been at the forefront of his mind.

But now that the photos were there in front of him, it was easy to see that he was no longer in shape.It was a realization that bordered on obvious after he’d realized it that he almost felt like an idiot for not realizing it sooner.

Since then, Oikawa had taken to late-night runs, often nearing midnight as he tried to gain back some of the definition he’d had previously. Exercise had never been something he’d hated, but rather something akin to stress relief. It was for this reason that Oikawa had embraced the idea so enthusiastically; by spending his free time working out, he’d not only get his body back into shape (and possibly get those directors who had criticisms flying from their ass to shut up), but be able to unwind and take his mind off the gruelling everyday which was his new life.

“Are you losing weight?”

Oikawa blinked, his expression pulling into a frown at the sudden question. “No?”

Iwaizumi frowned. “You look skinnier than I remember,” he said, pulling back a bit so he could look at Oikawa better.

“Well, I’ve been doing a bit of exercise to try and gain some muscle. Remember Director Eyebrows?” he asked, referring to the man in charge of a shoot some weeks prior who had some of the bushiest eyebrows Oikawa and Iwaizumi had ever seen on a person.

Iwaizumi sniffed, because yes he did remember that guy. If only he’d spent as much time on getting his eyebrows under control as he did spitting insults to everyone he worked with, maybe he’d be a little less disliked within the industry.

“Why the hell are you going out of your way to work out just because a jerk like him decided you didn’t have enough arm muscles for his liking?” Iwaizumi barked, folding his arms. “What comes after that? You listen to the next shitty director who tells you you’re ten kilos overweight?” He rolled his eyes. “Oikawa, if you lose any more weight, you’ll probably disappear from this dimension.”

Oikawa tried to not shrink under Iwaizumi’s gaze, his expression dark as he scanned over Oikawa’s face with what seemed like too much interest. “Don’t be silly, Iwa-chan. I’m healthy as a horse, don’t you worry about me,” Oikawa grinned, pulling out his hand for a signature peace sign. He even pressed it to his face, letting the chubbiness of his cheek bunch up for good measure. “And besides, interdimensional travel hasn’t been invented yet.”

Iwaizumi stared at him for several seconds more, before breaking off and turning back to his computer with a shake of his head.

Oikawa hoped Iwaizumi didn’t catch the involuntary sigh of relief that slipped out of his mouth just seconds later.

It was a month later at a company dinner party that Oikawa found himself on the receiving end of Iwaizumi’s scolding once more. The entire restaurant was booked out celebrating the magazine’s fourth year of publication, with unlimited barbecue and drinks all put on the company’s tab.

It was a fairly large event, with all the company’s models and managers invited as a reward for their hard work.

The entire room was bursting with noise - Iwaizumi could hardly hear himself think, let alone hear the conversations buzzing around him. The glasses of beer he’d consumed did little to help his situation, but even under the effects of alcohol, he was a lot sharper than most people tended to be sober.

Oikawa sat across from him, his chopsticks placed neatly against his plate as he sipped on a cup of green tea. Reaching out, he grabbed onto Oikawa’s wrist.

“You are losing weight,” he told him. “You said you weren’t.”

Oikawa stared at him for a moment, before his face crumpled with laughter. “Are you drunk already, Iwa-chan?” he asked, pulling his hand back. “I checked my weight yesterday, it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been.”

Iwaizumi stared at him, his eyes steely. Oikawa averted his gaze.

“Okay, fine. I lost maybe a few kilos, but it’s not a bad thing!” Iwaizumi shot Oikawa the most unimpressed face he could muster, and Oikawa shrunk. “It’s not like it was on purpose! All the photographers tell me I could do with shedding a bit of weight anyway, since I don’t have the time to work out anymore.”

Iwaizumi shook his head, reaching across the table and planting a plate of sliced pork in front of Oikawa. “Eat that.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’ve hardly eaten the entire night, don’t think I haven’t noticed. Eat that before you leave.”

Oikawa shoved the plate away from him. “Iwa-chan, you’ve been distracted the entire night talking to the other managers. I’ve eaten enough, honestly, I feel like I’m going to die right now if I eat any more.”

“Oikawa, you look like literal shit right now. I haven’t said anything over the past few weeks because I thought maybe you’d grow out of it, but don’t think that I haven’t noticed the amount of coffee you’ve been ingesting on a daily basis. Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep, and green tea is not a substitute for sustenance. Now fucking. Eat.”

“Alright!” Oikawa snapped, picking up his chopsticks, before picking at the meat. It had been a while since it had been cooked, so it had reached room-temperature, but Oikawa seemed more interested in getting the ordeal over and done with than complaining.

Iwaizumi watched him with narrowed eyes until every piece had been cleared off the plate.

“Are you happy now?” Oikawa asked, downing the rest of his tea with a grimace. Iwaizumi nodded and Oikawa stood up, making his way towards the bathroom before Iwaizumi could pick on him over anything else.

For a restaurant that was packed to the gills, the men’s bathroom was completely empty. Oikawa sighed in relief, immediately heading towards the furthest stall and locking the door behind him.

He quite hated this part. Those seconds of dread as he raised his fingers, the slickness of saliva overflowing in his mouth, the spasms that would wrack his entire body as a wave of nausea would fill him, the dry heaving over the bowl.

He coughed harshly, breathing hard as his body convulsed. The acidic taste of reflux made him retch once more, before he leaned back and breathed out.

After what seemed like several minutes too long, OIkawa pulled himself up to his feet, legs shaky as he braced himself against the wall. A quick peek over the top of the stall showed the bathroom to still be empty, and he quickly headed over to the sink to rinse his mouth out.

The bathroom’s lighting was harsh, one of the strip lights above him flickering irregularly. As his eyes slid up to meet the mirror in front of him, Oikawa felt like all his bones were on display, the sallow skin of his cheeks almost pale enough to be seen through.

Then the light flickered, and he was back to normal.

The sound of the door being swung open almost caused him to jump, his hands immediately snapping out to turn the faucet off. It wasn’t until he caught the reflection of the intruder in the mirror that he felt a wave of relief wash over him, his shoulders visually dropping.

“Oikawa-san?” Kuroo asked, before his face pulled into a grin. “It is!” he cried, pulling the shorter man into a hug. Despite smelling strongly of smoke and sake, Oikawa felt somewhat comforted in the older man’s hold. They’d gotten quite close over the recent months, having exchanged phone number in that one shoot that seemed all too long ago now.

“Hey Kuroo, what’s up?” he asked, quickly wiping the side of his mouth with the back of his palm. “Is that tattoo new?”  he asked, pointing down towards Kuroo’s arm. The sleeves of his dress shirt were rolled up, and Oikawa noticed that his left forearm now bore ink he didn’t remember seeing.

Kuroo grinned, his smile lopsided and eyes slightly unfocused, a trait Oikawa pinned onto the alcohol. “Yep, got it done last month. Ain’t it sick?” he asked, holding it up so Oikawa could see it clearly.

It was several koi, each facing the same direction, as if they were making their way up his arm. Each was a different shade of red, blending seamlessly into each other, the water surrounding them in an intricate pattern.

“Very sick indeed,” Oikawa agreed.

“It’s cus you know how like, koi yeah? They swim up a river. They go against the current. Kind of like me.”

Oikawa stifled a laugh, because it wasn’t that the words Kuroo were saying were funny - no, that wasn’t it at all, but rather the way he was saying it. “It’s perfect for you,” Oikawa said, quieter.

And it was.

Kuroo, who was the embodiment of diferent, who would always face out in a way others couldn’t…

“Well shit man, I didn’t mean to keep you on your way,” Kuroo apologized, taking a step back and standing himself at a urinal, unzipping his pants. “Shoot me a text sometime though, yeah? Let’s catch up over lunch.”

A real grin grew on Oikawa’s face and he gave his friend a pat on the shoulder. “Sure thing. Take care of yourself,” Oikawa told him, before pushing open the door and heading back into the restaurant.

Several people seemed to have left in the time Oikawa was gone, and on the inside Oikawa secretly hoped Iwaizumi was one of them. Oikawa knew that he meant well, but Oikawa wasn’t a child who required the pandering of an adult, watching over his every move.

He could take care of himself.

“What took you so long?” a gruff voice asked him as he returned to his table, and Oikawa’s face pulled into a grimace. He was still here.

“Business,” Oikawa muttered, and instead of sitting back down in his seat, he grabbed at his coat and shrugged it on.

“Where are you going?” Iwaizumi asked him, frowning over another mug of beer.

I’m going home. You can stay here and enjoy your drinking party with everyone else, Iwa-chan. Tell Kiyoko-san thank you for me, since she’s not around right now.”

Iwaizumi stood up, blocking Oikawa’s path. “You do know that it’s rude of you to leave before your seniors have, right?” he asked.

On a regular day, Oikawa would have been afraid of Iwaizumi. But slightly intoxicated Iwaizumi was not regular Iwaizumi. While his face was the same, the furrowed expressions his face was so used to felt softer around the edges, and more likely to flip into something much more enthusiastic. It made something in the back of Oikawa’s head buzz, and it was dangerous.

“I feel sick,” Oikawa said dismissively, hoping that perhaps his face was still pale from earlier, making his story more believable.

There was a loud sigh, then the sound of Iwaizumi returning his cup to the table. Then, he stood up and pulled his own jacket on, before facing Oikawa. “Let’s go then.”

“What?”

“If you’re sick, you can’t go home by yourself. That’s how it works, right?” Iwaizumi asked him, tilting his head.

Oikawa scowled. “Why are you asking me if you’re not even sure yourself?” He turned his head away, not waiting for the older man and heading out on his own.

It wasn’t until thirty seconds later that Iwaizumi had caught up to Oikawa, his hand tugging on the taller man’s arm.

“What is it, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asked, his voice drippingly sweet. If there was word to describe him at that moment, it would be agitated.

“Where exactly are you going?” he asked pointedly, stopping on the pavement.

OIkawa let out a loud groan. “Just how drunk are you, Iwa-chan? I’m going home, where else?”

There was a beat of silence, then, “It’s two in the morning, I’m not sure if you know this, but trains don’t run that late.”

An involuntary gasp left Oikawa’s mouth, and he reached into his pocket to check the time on his phone. To his dismay, Iwaizumi was right, the numbers displaying a clear 2:07AM. “Great,” he muttered.

Iwaizumi shook his head, “Don’t worry, we can take a taxi.”

Oikawa wasn’t in the mood to share a taxi with Iwaizumi, but at this point he didn’t have much of a choice, heading to stand against the window of a closed store. “Why are you coddling me so much?” Oikawa asked, the last of his patience finally slipping away.

Iwaizumi stopped mid smoke, his face turning to stare at Oikawa. He exhaled, sending smoke in all directions around him. “What do you mean?”

“No, it’s nothing,” Oikawa muttered, turning himself away. Oikawa didn’t have much experience in talking to drunk people, but he didn’t need any to know that it was a near-impossible feat, even for him.

Neither of them spoke, Iwaizumi taking another drag of his cigarette. Then, “You’re really hard to talk to, you know.”

Oikawa scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Oh really, Mr I-Only-Want-A-Professional-Relationship? Didn’t know you were suddenly interested in becoming my friend.”

“It’s not that,” Iwaizumi cut in, before sighing and putting his cigarette out against an ashtray he pulled from his pocket. “It’s more like… you hide things. You don’t have to keep everything to yourself, you know. I know I’m just your manager, but that doesn’t mean I’m not worried about you.” Oikawa didn’t respond, and Iwaizumi continued. “Is it about work? Do you need me to get you more time off? Because I won’t know these things unless you tell me.”

“It’s nothing like that,” Oikawa told him. “I’m just… it’s nothing. Trust me.”

Iwaizumi wasn’t convinced, but he let out a sigh and turned away. “Well, don’t say I didn’t try…” he muttered, before stepping away, giving a much-needed distance between the two of them.

A pair of headlights flashed in front of them and a taxi pulled into the curb. Iwaizumi opened the door, and ushered for Oikawa to head inside. Oikawa frowned and tilted his head, but Iwaizumi simply pushed the taller man through the door, before telling the taxi driver his address. “Get home safe,” Iwaizumi told him, before shutting the door.

And before Oikawa could even say anything in return, the taxi pulled out and drove out onto the road, and Oikawa could only watch from the window as Iwaizumi’s figure grew more and more distant in the darkness.

 


 

“Ridiculous,” the director muttered, shaking his head as he spared Oikawa only several seconds of his gaze. “For all the hype I’ve been hearing about this one, he certainly doesn’t seem to be that much in person, does he?” he told his photographer, not caring that everyone in the room could hear every word from his mouth.

Oikawa sat in silence, his eyes trained on the floor as a young girl styled his hair.

He looked like a mess.

Oikawa had trouble sleeping lately, and he had no idea why; he felt absolutely exhausted. He knew that he looked the part, too, scaring even himself when he woke up that morning to find a face he no longer recognized staring back at him.

His cheeks were gaunt, the skin stretching over his cheekbones so thin that he could almost see through it. His eye bags, which had become almost a permanent fixture on his face as of recent, were so much worse than before. Rather than indicators of a lack of sleep, they looked more like bruises that wouldn’t fade and seemed to persist through layers upon layers of concealer.

The stylists had complained too, that his skin was dry and difficult to work with, and his hair was limp and brittle at the ends.

From across the room, Oikawa could feel Iwaizumi’s eyes on him, and he felt physically sick. Oikawa had spent the recent weeks avoiding Iwaizumi as much as possible, going out of his way to ensure that he didn’t spend more time with the man than he needed to.

Oikawa needed to be alone, because he was fucked up in a way that he couldn’t let Iwaizumi see him.

There was the crinkling of paper, and Oikawa glanced up to find a paper bag sitting in his lap. “Eat that,” Iwaizumi told him, his voice devoid of any emotion whatsoever. Opening the bag, Oikawa found a banana and a package of energy gel.

He must look absolutely pitiful, if it meant that Iwaizumi felt the need to coddle him so.

“You look like shit, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi told him, sitting down on the chair next to him. “And I’m fucking tired of this. You’re either going to tell me what the hell it is you think you’re doing, or I’m cancelling every job you have lined up for the next six months.”

“I’m not doing anything,” Oikawa muttered.

Iwaizumi’s hand shot out, and instinctively, Oikawa pulled back. But he wasn’t fast enough, as Iwaizumi’s fingers grasped onto his wrist and yanked it forward.

“My five year old niece’s arm is probably bigger than yours,” Iwaizumi told him, “and don’t you fucking think that I haven’t noticed you going out of your way to avoid me. How stupid do you think I am?”

“You’re not stupi-”

“That’s not the point,” Iwaizumi interrupted, letting go of Oikawa’s arm. He took it back quickly, pulling it under his sweater and out of sight. Iwaizumi scratched the back of his neck and sighed. “You heard what the director said,” he said, lowering his voice so that only they could hear it. “Whatever you’re doing, Oikawa, it’s affecting your work. So either you tell me, or I’m stopping you. Because this,” he waved his arm across all of Oikawa’s body, “has to stop. Please.”

Oikawa swallowed. “Iwa-ch-”

The sound of clapping interrupted them, and the director’s voice rang out across the room. “We’re going to start now,” he said, sparing a glance in Oikawa’s direction. “The sooner we get this started, the sooner we can end it. Yamamoto, can you please fix the lighting over here? I can’t see shit.”

“Don’t you dare go anywhere after this,” Iwaizumi told Oikawa, before heading towards the back of the room and out of the way.

In Oikawa’s opinion, modelling was certainly harder than it looked. The difficulty ramped up considerably, too, when you felt nothing but incessant pounding in your head and your legs felt like they were going to give out at any moment.

His arm latched onto the table on the set, glad that the first few shots would be taken of him sitting down. Mustering his best expressions, he posed for the photographer, feeling the camera’s flash burn into his eyes brighter than he remembered it ever being.

“Alright, stand up please,” the photographer said, and Oikawa did.

“Oikawa-san?” the photographer’s voice called, before he gasped in surprise.

“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa murmured absently, “I think… I think I’m…”

Oikawa didn’t remember what he said after that.

Chapter Text

The room was stark white.

Squinting his eyes open and shut, Oikawa roused himself from sleep, only to find himself unable to move his arms as he’d liked to. Shifting, he managed to focus his eyes on his surroundings, and it took him about ten seconds to realize where he was.

A hospital.

He felt a heaviness to his left, and turning his head he saw a person’s arms curled close to his legs, clearly sleeping. Glancing out the window, it was night time. Oikawa gave an experimental jerk to his leg, and the person at the edge of his bed sat himself up, rubbing at his eyes.

“Oikawa?” he grunted, before blinking the last remnants of sleep from his eyes. It was Iwaizumi, his short hair somehow ruffled from his earlier position. His face had red marks from being pressed against his sleeve for too long. Oikawa didn’t reply, instead just staring at Iwaizumi’s face. At that red mark that was so distracting.

Then, “Jesus Christ, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi groaned, lowering his head onto the bed again. “You scared the shit out of me. Do you have any idea how worried I was when you just keeled over like that?”

“I what now?” Oikawa asked, his tone incredulous.

Iwaizumi glared at him. “One second you were fine, then the next you were on the floor unconscious. Well actually, you weren’t fine to begin with, really. Do you want to hear what the doctor said?”

He really didn’t, but Iwaizumi continued on anyway.

“You have a cold,” he told him. Oikawa blinked, but Iwaizumi was clearly not done. “A cold, on top of a general neglect of health. And overwork.” Oikawa averted his eyes to the side. “And…” Iwaizumi hesitated for a bit, before continuing onto the last point. “He also said you’re severely malnourished.”

The words rang through Oikawa’s ears like tinnitus. “M...Malnourished?” he asked.

“He said your body is on the edge of collapsing - that he’s surprised you’ve lasted as long as you have. Tell me, Oikawa, how long have you not been eating properly?” he asked.

Oikawa pursed his lips. “I… I do eat…”

Iwaizumi glared at Oikawa, as if those words themselves were the biggest insults he could have hurled at him. “What kind of idiot do you take me for, Oikawa?” he asked. “You’re deficient in literally every vitamin under the sun, and your arms - “ Iwaizumi reached out and pulled on Oikawa’s wrists, looping his fingers over it. They fit snugly around the circumference of his thumb and index finger. “I bet I could snap this with a simple squeeze.” Iwaizumi held on to Oikawa’s wrist for a moment longer, before letting go and letting it fall back to Oikawa’s side. “How long?”

There was twenty seconds of silence between them, and Iwaizumi sighed. “Ushijima.”

Oikawa didn’t say anything, but there was no better way for Iwaizumi to know that he had hit the nail on the head. He sighed.

“I don’t really know what I can say to you about this…” Iwaizumi started, his mouth pulling down into a grimace. “Just… Don’t let him get to you.”

“How can you say that, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa finally asked. “How can you tell me to just act like he’s nothing? He’s so good - he’s incredible. He has everything that I don’t - experience, fans, the natural air of whatever it is he has that just makes him him,” Oikawa shook his head, his hand clenching into a fist at his side. “If i don’t push myself to catch up to him, do you really think I’ll go anywhere? I’d stagnate, and if I had to tell the truth, I’d rather quit than let it get to that.”

“And I keep telling you, you don’t have to be him.” Iwaizumi’s voice was firm, and he stared at Oikawa with a fire in his eyes so intense Oikawa could feel the heat.

There was some silence as Oikawa stared down at his hands, clasped firmly on his lap in front of him. “I’m sorry, Iwa-chan,” he said quietly. He had to say it quietly, because he knew that if he tried any louder, his voice would crack. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, idiot,” Iwaizumi muttered. “If anyone should apologize, it should be me. I should have been keeping a better eye on you.”

“No, Iwa-chan, it’s all my fault. I didn’t want to bother you, so I didn’t say anything about it… It was my own problem to deal with… not yours... “

Iwaizumi eyes widened and opened his mouth to speak, but as if the entire world was plotting against him, an announcement rang out overhead.

‘Visiting hours are now over. All visitors, kindly vacate the rooms. Thank you for your cooperation.’

Iwaizumi sighed. “Of course you’d pick the worst time possible to wake up,” he muttered, but there was a faint smile on his lips. His eyes were soft, although there was something about them that seemed tired. Was that Oikawa’s fault?

Oikawa held back the urge to apologize again.

“I… can’t be here for when they discharge you tomorrow, there’s a meeting…” Iwaizumi trailed off, averting Oikawa’s gaze. “So… I’ll see you in a few days.”

A few days. Would that be at work? Did he even still have work?

But OIkawa merely nodded, and put his hand into a wave as he watched Iwaizumi’s frame head out the door. Once he was alone, he lay back into the bed and shut his eyes. His head hurt.

But more importantly, he’d fucked up.

How did it get this bad? He cycles through the last couple of months in his head, but can’t pinpoint an exact moment where things had started to go wrong.

...Or maybe, everything had been wrong the whole time.

It didn’t matter anymore. He’d already ruined it.

For now, he could do nothing else but stare up at the tiled ceiling until he somehow managed to fall asleep once more.

 


 

OIkawa woke to the sound of the doorbell buzzing. His eyes were heavy with sleep, but the incessant sound refused to let up, and after the fourteenth ring he let out a loud noise of frustration as he hauled himself out of bed and towards the genkan.

He didn’t even have frame of mind to check and see who it was, simply unlocking the door and swinging it open, a huge yawn erupting from his mouth.

“Who knew that one of Japan’s most popular models wore alien pajamas to bed,” a voice said, and focusing his eyes, Oikawa baulked.

“Iwa-chan?” he murmured, rubbing his eyes. He glanced down at the time on his phone. 8:43AM. “What are you doing here?”

Iwaizumi stepped inside of Oikawa’s house, closing the door behind him. Oikawa opened his mouth to protest, but Iwaizumi ignored him and walked straight past, heading into his bedroom.

“Hey, Iwa-chan! Don’t just go through people’s belongings without asking! Were you raised on a farm?”

“Are you forgetting which of us actually grew up in the countryside?” Iwaizumi questioned, finally looking back at Oikawa. It was then that Oikawa noted that Iwaizumi wasn’t dressed for work today. Instead of the smart casual he usually wore, instead he wore a foreign band t-shirt and a pair of cotton sweatpants. “Where do you keep all your bags? Actually, a suitcase would be better.” Without hesitation, Iwaizumi started opening all of Oikawa’s drawers, searching.

It took a few seconds for Oikawa to process Iwaizumi’s requests, but turning, Oikawa reached under the bed frame and pulled out a single red suitcase. “Here, Iwa-chan.” A pause. “Wait, what for?”

Pulling the suitcase towards him, Iwaizumi immediately began taking handfuls of random clothes and shoving them inside. Turning to face Oikawa, he looked him straight in the eyes. “We’re going on a trip.”

“A… trip?” Oikawa repeated, his mouth curling into a frown.

Sighing, Iwaizumi stood up. “Yes, dumbass. We’re going on a trip because you’re fucking incapable of taking care of yourself. You look like shit, you’re malnourished and I think I could knock you over with a puff of air. So either we go on this trip, or you’ll stay here at home and rot away from the inside piece by piece. And as your manager, I’d be shit out of a job if that were to happen, so really, this is more for my own sake than yours.” He gave Oikawa a pointed glare, before returning to ransacking Oikawa’s drawers.

Oikawa sat on his bed, watching Iwaizumi go through his belongings. Then suddenly, “Wait, why the hell are you packing for me? I’m not four, I can pack myself!” he cried, shoving Iwaizumi out of the way. Glancing inside the suitcase, he could see that Iwaizumi had really just been shoving any old piece of clothing in there. Sighing, Oikawa tipped the contents out and sifted through the pile, picking for himself what he wanted to bring.

“Bring enough stuff for five days,” Iwaizumi said, before turning away and pulling his phone from his pocket. Oikawa wrinkled his nose at the sight of Iwaizumi on that damned thing again, and instead turned back to his task.

“Where are we going?” Oikawa asked as he was deciding which jumper to bring. There was the big grey one with the long sleeves that was extremely comfy, or the black one that was tighter in fit and made his chest look amazing.

“You’ll see,” Iwaizumi grunted, not looking up from his phone. “We’re catching the Shinkansen, by the way, so maybe bring something to entertain yourself.”

Oikawa’s mind drifted to the couple of books he’d accumulated over the few months. He hadn’t the chance to read a single one of them yet, so heading over to his shelf, he grabbed a couple and dumped them in his backpack. There was a clack at the bottom of his bag, and Oikawa frowned. He probably should have emptied it out before filling it up, but it couldn’t be helped now as he reached into his bag and fished around at the bottom.

His fingers curled around what had made the noise, and he froze. He took a quick glance at Iwaizumi, who was preoccupied with his phone, and quickly pulled the bottle of laxatives out.

Did pill bottle companies deliberately design them so that they made as much noise as possible when they were moved, regardless of the speed? Because as Oikawa shifted his arm, he could feel his insides collapsing as Iwaizumi looked up at the unmistakeable sound of pills in a plastic bottle.

There was no use hiding it now, and Oikawa simply avoided Iwaizumi’s gaze as he clasped the bottle tighter, heading over to the kitchen table to deposit them. Iwaizumi’s eyes trailed on him the entire way, and Oikawa knew that he knew what they were.

“What about my schedule?” Oikawa asked tentatively. In the back of his mind, he was wondering as to whether or not he’d even have a chance at getting another job after word spread around about his mishap. No, he couldn’t afford to think like that. He quickly ended that train of thought.

Iwaizumi waved his hand in the air. “I cleared it for the rest of the week. Any more questions, or are we going to get moving? The train doesn’t come all that often, you know,” he said, finally putting his phone back in his pocket. “Plus the cab’s still waiting outside.”

“Nope, all done, Iwa-chan. But are you sure it’s ok for us to just uh, disappear like this?”

“This trip was a direct order from Kiyoko-san, so yes,” Iwaizumi replied, sliding on his sunglasses and getting up from the floor. Then without another word, or even offering to help Oikawa with his luggage, he walked down the stairs and into the waiting car.

“Mean, Iwa-chan, mean!”

 


 

They took the Shinkansen to Kyoto, a ride that Iwaizumi fell asleep on, much to Oikawa’s amusement. Oikawa had insisted on taking the window seat, and had taken to staring out the window at the too-blurry scenery speeding past them halfway through the trip, his book forgotten at the bottom of his backpack.

In the car, Iwaizumi had told him that his collapse had been a shock to the entire company. Iwaizumi had also been clear, however, that while the shoot had been cancelled, his health was of the utmost importance. Kiyoko had already cleared the issue with them, compensating them to the best of her ability and ultimately leaving both parties satisfied with promises of the future. Kiyoko had also, with the steel finger of authority she held, instructed Iwaizumi to clear Oikawa’s schedule for the week and take him somewhere out of the city so he could properly recover. She also ensured that Iwaizumi gave him at least one day off a week for appointments with a counsellor, at least for the next few weeks.

It was midday when the two of them arrived in Kyoto, and despite Iwaizumi’s wishes to get on the next train as soon as possible, Oikawa adamantly refused, complaining that he was ‘medically malnourished and in need of local sustenance’. Iwaizumi had glared at him for making up bullshit stories as he pleased, but gave in several seconds later.

“I heard the mochi here is very famous,” Oikawa murmured, staring at the display of a small store located in the station’s underground shopping centre. Iwaizumi had stated that, if they were going to delay their destination at all, their gallivanting would be restrained only to the shopping precinct located within the station. At first, Oikawa had whined, complaining that he’d never been to Kyoto before and that this in itself was like a holiday to him, but upon seeing the sheer size of the shopping precinct, his complaints had easily faded away.

Behind him, Iwaizumi stopped to also look at the display. “You want to get some, then?” he asked, and Oikawa nodded. Iwaizumi watched as Oikawa stepped up to the counter and began chatting happily to the elderly woman seated at the front, putting on his most charming of smiles. But underneath the smile, Iwaizumi could see exactly how goddamn frail Oikawa looked.

Perhaps it was because of the harsh lighting of the station, but Oikawa’s face looked gaunt and bruised. His cheekbones had always been quite well defined, but this was a whole new level, looking like they were ready to pierce through the thin, pale skin of his cheeks.

Iwaizumi clenched his first and tore his eyes away. How did he let it get to this point? He’d fucked up so bad; Oikawa was literally his job. His one job was to take care of him, to be there for him, and yet here they were, heading halfway across the country because he fucking sucked at it.

“For you,” Oikawa said, interrupting Iwaizumi’s thoughts. A box was shoved into his hands, the clear packaging showing three pieces of mochi lined up in the centre and dusted lightly with starch. “I figured you were a green tea type of person. Am I right?”

Green tea was dark and bitter, but beneficial to the body and mind. It was a flavour Iwaizumi (and really, the rest of Japan) had grown up with on their lips. “Surprisingly,” Iwaizumi said, carefully placing the package into his bag. “What do you have?”

Oikawa showed Iwaizumi his box. He had three pieces of mochi in his too, all varying shades of pink. “Sakura, red bean and strawberry,” he smiled.

Iwaizumi looked at them for a moment before leaning back. “You like sweet things, huh?” he asked. “Come on, let’s get some lunch,” he said, continuing their walk down the shopping centre.

Oikawa grinned and followed suit, a paper bag with his mochi in tow.

They found a ramen bar on the top floor of the station that had a queue out the door. Iwaizumi took one look at it and turned around, obviously intending to find another place to eat, but Oikawa stood adamantly at the back of the line. “If there’s this many people,” he said, folding his arms as he made a pitiful face in Iwaizumi’s direction, “it means it’s the best one.”

“I knew you’d say that,” Iwaizumi muttered as he begrudgingly got back into line with Oikawa. “If we end up standing here for three hours, I don’t want to hear any complaining, got it?”

Oikawa waved his hand, “What makes you think I’ll complain? I’m not a little kid, Iwa-chan,” he said, before turning to stare at the menu that was plastered on the walls next to the queue. “They have so much variety,” he mused, leaning closer to read the signs better. “Which one do you think you’ll get, Iwa-chan?”

Glancing at the menu, Iwaizumi could tell that he wouldn’t be able to read it from where he was. “I don’t have my glasses on me, so I can’t read the menu,” he said, before looking away. His hand dug into his pocket and clasped around his phone.

Seeing this, Oikawa sniffed. “If you needed me to translate it for you, you could have just asked,” he teased, before opening his mouth to read every item off the menu. “Gyoza set, six hundred yen. Boiled egg, one hundred yen. Extra noodles, three hund-”

“Shut up, Oikawa! You’re annoying all the other customers!” Iwaizumi grunted, elbowing Oikawa in the arm. “And what the hell do you mean, ‘translate’? I can read Japanese just fine, you know?”

Oikawa grinned, “But doesn’t it all look like little squiggles to you? It wouldn’t make any sense, so of course I’ll have t-” Iwaizumi dug his elbow further in, reaching Oikawa’s ribs. “I’m sorry!” he yelped, jumping to get out of the way from Iwaizumi’s attacks, only to end up bumping into the woman in front of him in the process.

“Idiot!” Iwaizumi hissed, pulled Oikawa behind him by the neck of his shirt. He bowed his head towards the woman, closing his eyes. “We’re sorry for the disturbance,” he apologized, before standing back tall again.

The woman waved her hand, “Oh no, it’s fine. I’m not too bothered... “ she frowned as her eyes caught sight of Oikawa. “Say, have I seen you before somewhere?” she asked.

Oikawa turned to look at her, his head tilted to the side slightly. His hair was messier than usual, the result of having been dragged out of the house by Iwaizumi before he had the chance to style it, and he wasn’t wearing any makeup. However, Oikawa was a model of the natural look, so he never really wore too much in the first place.

Beside her there was a woman who Oikawa guessed to be of the same age. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of Oikawa, and her hands immediately flung into her bag, before pulling out a magazine.

The cover was all too familiar to OIkawa, and he found his breath hitching as she flipped through the pages. “It’s him!” she exclaimed, her eyes darting from the page to the man in front of her, “at least, I think it is…?”

A quick look at the photo the girls were looking at had Oikawa frown. It was from a shoot that he’d taken a little under two months before. Perhaps it was the makeup that he’d had on for the shoot, that made him look so unrecognizable. Or perhaps it was the thinness of his face, the sallow tone of his skin that could not be hidden, or the overall look of tiredness he apparently radiated.

He gave a small smile, “Ah, that guy,” Oikawa drawled. “I’ve been told I look a little like him, but he’s not me,” he told them, tone apologetic. “Sorry to disappoint.”

If the girls saw through his facade, they certainly didn’t show it. Accepting his apology, they turned around and returned to their own conversation.

Iwaizumi stared at Oikawa, curiosity in his gaze. But, he didn’t press it. Perhaps, since he was on break, Oikawa wished to separate his work life from that of his personal life. If that was the case, Iwaizumi certainly didn’t blame him.

Especially considering the toll his recent health had taken on his appearance.

“I think I’ll get extra egg in mine,” Oikawa said distantly, still staring up at the menu. “Or more chashu. How about you, Iwa-chan?” he asked, turning to face the older man.

Iwaizumi blinked. “Uh, anything,” he told him. “Egg sounds good.”

Oikawa frowned, staring at Iwaizumi as if he’d said something unpleasant. But, he soon turned his gaze back to himself, digging into his pocket for his cell phone, and the two descended into silence for the rest of their wait.

 


 

From Kyoto they took another train, and then another. It was a smaller, local train that stopped every station, and Oikawa noted that as they travelled, the stations became further and further apart.

The scenery changed as the passed, too. It was October, the weather turning for colder with each passing day. The leaves of the trees had long turned red, many fallen to the ground leaving their branches bare. At their peak, nature was full of beauty. But even they ran their course, eventually withering away and sacrificing their colours for the chance at surviving the bitter cold.

Oikawa dug into his bag and retrieved his book.

Throughout his childhood, Oikawa had loved reading. It was a habit he’d, however, shafted in favour of more acceptable pastimes such as volleyball and studying. He’d never been able to shake the comfort, however, of pages between his fingers and characters on the pages taking him someplace new.

As such, he’d acquired an awful habit of spending his free time in bookstores, frequently purchasing but never spending the time to actually read.

He’d chosen the books in his bag by random, and his stomach twisted into an awful sort of discomfort as he read the blurb of the one he’d pulled out. He’d bought it on a whim, and now, he thought, as he read the story of the foreigner brutally murdering for no reason, that his idea of good literature had become somewhat skewed.

They ended up at a seaside town, not too far from society that they’d be on their feet, but not so modern that they’d be reminded of Tokyo. The air smelled of the sea and the gravel crunched beneath their feet, and already Oikawa could feel himself fading into relaxation mode.

It was so far from his hometown, but Oikawa felt at ease. He’d only been in Tokyo for just under two years, but already he’d forgotten what it was like to hear more bicycles than cars. To not see everyone with their face hidden behind masks, fearful of illness. To have buildings with ample space between them, rather than the gridlocked and crowded concrete jungle he’d become accustomed to.

It almost felt like home.

The two of them were staying in a motel, most likely the only one in town. It was an old-style building run by an older couple, a woman who smiled at them as they arrived and promised them a homey breakfast every morning.

“Look, Iwa-chan,” OIkawa said as soon as they’d stepped into the motel room they were sharing. “Fusuma. This really reminds me of home.”

Iwaizumi held back a snort. “I haven’t seen these except on TV,” he told him, dropping his bag and suitcase into a corner of a room. Having grown up in the city, Iwaizumi was used to western-style buildings. Oikawa hovered awkwardly, unsure of where to put his things.

He was about to place his bags in the same place Iwaizumi had when the older man turned and opened the sliding door, revealing another room identical to the one they were currently in. “I wasn’t sure if you’d be okay sharing a room with me, so I booked a room with two,” Iwaizumi explained.

It wasn’t that Oikawa was entirely adverse to the idea of sharing, but he appreciated the sentiment. Thanking him, Oikawa trudged his way into the adjacent room and left his stuff in the middle of the floor. It was modestly sized, bigger than his room back in Tokyo. The floor was tatami and felt good under his feet. The window was tall and wide, letting in the fading light from the outside sun.

The light switched on overhead, and Oikawa turned to find Iwaizumi standing in the doorway. “I know we just got here, but do you want to go for a walk? We were sitting for most of the day, so…” he trailed off, watching Oikawa carefully.

Oikawa, who had been lounging against the windowsill with a (different) book in his hands, blinked several times before putting a bookmark in and closing it. “Sure,” he told him. “Just let me put on a jacket.”

The town was small.

“We could hire a bike to get around too,” Iwaizumi had said, but Oikawa decided that walking was the way to go. He estimated that they could walk from one side of the town to the other in just under an hour and a half, and Oikawa had expressed his excitement of trying that out.

They stopped at one of the three convenience stores in the entire town (Oikawa had laughed, because even back home in Miyagi, there were at least three kobinis in every street) and decided on simple things for dinner. Snacks. Sandwiches. Instant ramen. At first, Oikawa thought Iwaizumi was going to berate him for his choices, but at the sight of what he’d picked Iwaizumi had only smirked.

“You’re an adult, but you shop like a child,” he’d said, his tone not unlike that of a parent.

Oikawa shrugged, pulling out his card to pay for his items. “What are you buying then, grandpa?” he asked. “Ginseng? Herbal ginger root tea?” he rolled his eyes as he unwrapped a package of mochi ice cream, before taking a bite into the soft dessert.

It was sweet, unexpectedly so.

Or perhaps, it was Oikawa’s taste that had changed in the past few months. Regardless, he found himself enjoying it as he stuffed the rest of the mochi into his mouth, before picking up the second piece with his fingers. “Here, Iwa-chan,” he said, holding it up to the older man’s mouth.

Iwaizumi frowned. “Is it nice?” he asked, but he opened his mouth anyway. Oikawa made a noise akin to the sound mothers make when feeding their children as he guided the dessert into Iwaizumi’s mouth, before stuffing it in entirely.

“Hey!” Iwaizumi managed to squawk as he tried his best to not choke to death on strawberry ice cream. It took him several more seconds, but eventually he chomped it down and swallowed it, before turning a steely gaze towards Oikawa. “You trying to kill me?” he asked.

But Oikawa was giggling. “You looked really funny just now, like you were trying to decide whether you were having a brain freeze of a foodgasm,” he snorted.

Iwaizumi scowled, but didn’t say anything in response. The two of them made the rest of their short trip back to the motel in relative silence.

“Do we have anything uh, planned for tomorrow?” Oikawa asked as he stepped out of the shower, a towel in hand as he rubbed his hair dry. Iwaizumi was hunched over a laptop, and he looked up to meet Oikawa’s gaze.

“No,” he told him. “No schedules while were here. That’s too work-like.”

Oikawa frowned. “We’re going to be bored as hell, you know that right?” he asked.

Iwaizumi shook his head. “There’s plenty enough to do here,” he told him. “And if not, it’s the perfect chance to just take it easy and relax.”

“There’s a difference between relaxing and wasting time,” Oikawa said flatly, before turning heel and heading into his own room. It was just after ten, but he was nowhere near tired enough to head off to bed.

The book was surprisingly interesting, to the point where two hours had passed before he was interrupted by the sound of knocking on the sliding door. “It’s getting late,” Iwaizumi told him, “are you planning on sleeping soon?”

Oikawa nodded, putting a popsicle stick in the pages as a bookmark. “Yes, Iwa-chan,” he told him. Iwaizumi nodded, before waiting for Oikawa to shuffle the futon into place before climbing inside. “

“Goodnight, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi told him, before switching off the light.

Oikawa waited for the sound of the sliding door, and then the flick of Iwaizumi’s lights.

“Goodnight, Iwa-chan.”

 


 

There was not as much to do in the town as Iwaizumi had expected.

Half a day was enough for them to scour the town front and back, and Oikawa had suggested that they spend the rest of the day hanging around the beach. It was far too cold to swim, but Oikawa had insisted on them rolling up their pants and simply wading through the water.

They walked around the town again on the second day, stopping for an early dinner at a small family-run, extremely traditional restaurant. Oikawa was somewhat amazed at the array of small pickled dishes they served as entrees to the set menu, and, much to his amusement, the various faces of displeasure Iwaizumi made as he tasted them.

“I never liked picked food,” Iwaizumi muttered, pushing the small dish in Oikawa’s direction.

Oikawa eyed the small dish with a smile on his face, but his appetite still hadn’t recovered to the point where he could be eating for Iwaizumi too.

“What do you like?” Oikawa asked, placing his chopsticks down onto the table. He then busied his fingers with his cup of tea, so that Iwaizumi didn’t ask him to eat anything more.

Iwaizumi thought for a moment. “Tofu,” he replied.

“Tofu?” Oikawa repeated, frowning. It was a ridiculously simply answer.

But Iwaizumi nodded. “I like it because it’s versatile. There’s so many different ways it can be prepared, and there’s all the different types… agedashi is my favourite,” he added.

It was a shockingly practical answer.

But then again, Iwaizumi was a shockingly practical person.

 


 

“Is that… alcohol?”

Iwaizumi nodded, reaching into the shopping bag he’d just placed down onto the floor and pulling a can of beer out, cracking it open. It was still chilled from the fridge at the store. “Drink up,” he told him.

Oikawa raised his eyebrows. “I remember just a few months ago you were adamant on me drinking coke,” he told him, leafing open the bag and looking inside.

“Yeah, but you’re twenty now,” Iwaizumi said after taking a long gulp. The can crinkled slightly under his hold. “And, we’re going to get to know each other like friends today.”

“Like friends,” Oikawa repeated, sitting down next to Iwaizumi on the tatami floor. He inspected the can of beer in his hands, reading the labels, before eventually pulling the tab. It made a sharp hissing sound, before Oikawa lifted the can to his mouth and took a swig.

It wasn’t bad.

“I remember you telling me that you came here to study…” Iwaizumi started, staring down at the can in his hands. “Now that you’ve been a model for a while… do you hate it?” he asked.

Oikawa stared at him for a moment, before taking another sip of beer. “No, I don’t,” he said firmly. He really didn’t. “Sure, it’s hard at times,” he glanced away from Iwaizumi, knowing that he was probably rolling his eyes. “But I think it’s definitely… something that I shouldn’t give up.”

Iwaizumi nodded, before finishing his can. Then, as if it were no problem, he opened a second.

“What about you, Iwa-chan? You didn’t want to be a manager, huh,” he said.

Iwaizumi nodded again. “I’m surprised you remember,” he told him. “I studied music in college.”

Oikawa found himself sitting up straighter. “Music? What were you going to do with that?” It wasn’t until the sentence had come out of his mouth that he realized that perhaps his tone had been somewhat insensitive.

Maybe the alcohol was leaving him loose-lipped.

But he’d only had … half a drink?

But if Iwaizumi was offended, he didn’t show it. “My parents didn’t know,” Iwaizumi told him with a shrug. “They thought I was studying commerce and accounting. Which,” he added with a quick glance at Oikawa. “Was exactly the kind of job I did not want. Sitting in an office all day crunching numbers?” he made a face. “No thanks.”

Oikawa found himself laughing slightly at the way Iwaizumi phrased it.

“Not that this job is too different… I still sit in an office all day. Well, sometimes,” he corrected. “At least I don’t have to wear a suit.”

“So what did you want to do?” Oikawa asked.

Iwaizumi finished his second can of beer. Oikawa found himself impressed, and finished his can too, reaching out for his second. Iwaizumi swatted his hand out of the way, reaching into the bag and pulling out a bottle of whisky instead, leaning over to some glasses he’d placed on the floor and sloppily pouring the amber liquid in.

The taste was a lot stronger than Oikawa would have liked, but he had a feeling that he had a long night ahead of him. Closing his eyes, he downed the contents of the glass in one gulp, managing not to gag.

“My friends and I had a band in high school. We were convinced that we’d make it big and travel around Japan… didn’t work out.”

“You were in a band?” Oikawa gasped. “Wait, what kind of band?”

“Rock band,” Iwaizumi shrugged. “It’s in the past though. I gave it up years ago. And, now I’m here.” He gestured down at himself, who was lazing on a mat floor in nothing but an old, ratty t-shirt and a pair of drawstring pajama pants, a glass of whiskey in hand.

But despite the somewhat rag-tag look he had, Oikawa wasn’t going to deny that he looked damn attractive.

Earlier, Iwaizumi had mentioned that he didn’t like to wear suits. Oikawa found himself idly wishing that Iwaizumi did. He would fill one out well.

Suddenly, the room felt extremely warm. Oikawa tugged at the sleeves of his black sweater, eventually pulling it off and discarding it beside him.

“What instrument did you play? Iwa-chan looks like… a guitar man,” Oikawa drawled, watching as Iwaizumi refilled his glass.

There was a short laugh, and Iwaizumi shook his head. “No. I sang.”

Oikawa paused. “You sang? Iwa-chan can sing?”

“As good as the next person can…” Iwaizumi muttered, before meeting Oikawa’s gaze from the side. “Okay, maybe a bit better.”

“No way,” Oikawa said, “sing for me now!”

But Iwaizumi shook his head. “I’m not that drunk yet, asshole. Try again later.” He scoffed, and there was something in his expression that told Oikawa the real message: No.

Oikawa folded his arms. “Fine then, just wait until the company goes to karaoke. There will be no escape then,” he told him, and Iwaizumi had the nerve to laugh at that suggestion too.

“I don’t hate it, though.”

The sudden declaration pulled Oikawa out of his wall staring. “What don’t you hate?” Oikawa asked.

Iwaizumi turned to face him. “Sure, it’s been a hell of a job, but being a manager… your manager,” he added, looking into Oikawa’s gaze with a hard expression. “I don’t hate it.”

Oikawa continued staring into Iwaizumi’s eyes for what seemed like forever, until the older man broke contact to finish of the rest of his glass. Then, with a mischievous look, he turned back to the younger man.

“That’s all you can drink?” he asked, pulling at the bottle of whiskey again. “You’re going to have to do better than that!”

 


 

Eventually, the alcohol ran out, and with it, their energy. Oikawa still felt giddy as he climbed his way into his futon, the ebb of drunkenness still floating in his mind. The room was spinning. He couldn’t stop smiling. Iwaizumi was next to him.

....Iwaizumi was next to him?

“This ’snot your futon,” Iwaizumi drawled, leaning over to stare at Oikawa.

Oikawa stared back down at him, a frown on his face. “It’s not?”

Iwaizumi shook his head. “Other room,” he told him.

But Oikawa had already settled down into a comfortable position. “I can’t get up, my head hurts.”

Iwaizumi gave a muffled grunt of a reply, before he got up onto his feet and held out his hand to Oikawa. “Up,” he told him.

Like a child, Oikawa raised his arms above his head and giggled as Iwaizumi pulled him up.

“Iwa-chan is so strong,” he smiled, tipping over slightly as he found his center of gravity. He swayed slightly as he stepped, and the two of them slowly made their way into Oikawa’s room.

“Okay?” Iwaizumi asked, watching as Oikawa fumbled with the corners of his futon, but eventually the younger man crawled inside, resting his head onto the pillow.

Satisfied, Iwaizumi flicked off the lights.

It was about twenty seconds later when Iwaizumi was shuffling his way into his futon that his phone buzzed.

From: Oikawa Tooru
>> I cant bliv e you kikcked me out

The light was extremely bright in the darkness, and it took Iwaizumi’s intoxicated brain twice as long to decipher Oikawa’s drunken typing.

From: Iwa-chan~
>> it wa s too hot

From: Oikawa Tooru
>> i kow i am ;P

It was somewhat comforting to know that no matter how drunk he was, Oikawa was still as annoying as ever.

From: Iwa-chan~
>> shut up and go to sleep

From: Iwa-chan~
>> goodnight

Oikawa could hardly read the message, his eyes drooping shut. The night had been unexpected, with both he and Iwaizumi having extremely lengthy (albeit confusing to the intoxicated) conversations reaching a large array of topics. With the state of his head right now, Oikawa wasn’t even sure if he’d remember what happened that night.

But for some reason, he felt like the level of comfort he’d reached with the older man was something that would stay.

From: Iwa-chan~
>> goodnight iwa chan

Chapter Text

“Geez though, a tan in November?” Kuroo asked, his eyebrows raised as his eyes trailed up and down Oikawa’s frame. “You must have had a nice week.”

The two men were lounging in the company’s break room, Kuroo having returned from a trip to the nearby coffee shop. Oikawa had only requested a drink, but Kuroo had bought himself three sandwiches and was in the process of toasting them all at once.

Oikawa rolled his eyes, instead choosing to slurp at his iced coffee. “I didn’t get that tan, stop exaggerating,” he told him.

“Where’d you go, anyway?” Kuroo asked. “I heard it was the ocean.”

“Eh, kind of... “ Oikawa replied. Technically, they did go to the seaside. But, the weather had proven less than inviting for a dip in the sea, and both he and Iwaizumi had found themselves biking around the town and helping elderly ladies tend to their garden more so than anything else.

And, after he’d gotten over his stubbornness, having company-paid yakiniku every night wasn’t bad.

“Still,” Kuroo said, his voice lowering, “you look like you’re doing well.”

You’re doing well.

He understood the weight behind those words - you don’t look like the living dead anymore.

Oikawa found himself unable to give any kind of verbal response, instead mustering a small smile as he averted his eyes. He wasn’t quite sure how many people in the company knew the exact details of what happened to him, but he honestly would not have been surprised if it was… well, everyone.

The sound of the door opening startled both men, and they turned to see who had entered the room. It was nowhere near break time, with the two of them simply waiting for their managers, so the room was usually empty. Oikawa relaxed as he recognized the rather short yet sweet-faced boy named Sugawara, another model in the agency who had been working there for quite a while.

“I heard you haven’t been feeling well,” he told Oikawa, a frown etched on his features as he opened the fridge, taking out a bottle of chilled water. Despite his stature, his cute face and refreshing demeanour had him with unrivalled popularity, especially among teenage girls. Oikawa had even read an interview or two of his, and had been mildly surprised at how good he was at captivating the hearts of his fans.

Even Oikawa had felt himself falling for the guy a little.

“Don’t worry about it too much,” Sugawara said, joining the two men at the small table. “Believe it or not, things like these are extremely common in this line of work… In fact, the company sends all of us to mandated counselling sessions every once in a while, and more if they feel you aren’t coping well with stress.” There was an edge to his voice that suggested to Oikawa that perhaps he’d experienced it himself before.

Oikawa nodded. “Yeah, Iwa-chan told me about that. I have to see someone every two weeks for the next six months.” At first, Oikawa had been hesitant. At times, he still found it hard to agree that he had a problem; it was nothing he couldn’t overcome himself, right?

But Iwaizumi was extremely stubborn sometimes, and after a while, Oikawa had given in to agreeing that it was for the best.

Sugawara gave Oikawa a big smile. “That’s good, then. I’ve seen a lot of people go through issues in this industry, and the thing is… they’re either strong enough to get over it, or they’re not.” His eyes found Oikawa’s, and for some reason, the brunet could feel his entire being relaxing.

It was comforting, knowing that his friends were extremely supportive of him.

“Still,” Sugawara said, leaning back in his chair. “I wish Daichi would give me time off for a break.” He wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know if he has a relaxed bone in his body.”

Kuroo snorted, raising his eyebrows at Sugawara. "I'm sure he has one very relaxing bone in his body," he told him, voice so low that Oikawa almost didn't hear it.

Sugawara's face flushed red, even the tips of his ears turning slightly pink. He coughed into his hand and smiled brightly at Oikawa, making sure they didn't make eye contact. "Anyway!" he chirped, "Oikawa-san, are you going to be at the company's Christmas function this year?" he asked.

"Christmas function?" Oikawa repeated, frowning. He hadn't heard of such a thing - after all, he'd joined the company just that previous January, after the aforementioned holiday had already passed.

"Oh, you're going to love it," Kuroo said, his voice somewhat sarcastic. "We all go to some fancy ass hotel in the middle of the city and there's booze running like water. Better yet, a bunch of high profile photographers and companies are invited to make proposals to our managers…" he rolled his eyes at Oikawa. "It's not really a Christmas function. It's just a large business opportunity dressed up in a fancy, festive costume."

"Don't be like that!" Sugawara said, swatting Kuroo's face away. "While it's true it's a good chance to get yourself noticed by some of the higher-end companies, it is still a fun occasion. Really, you can just leave all the business stuff up to your manager if you want."

Oikawa hummed. "Well, since it's my first year I'll probably have to go… no, scratch that. I think I have to go…" While his condition hadn't caused any major issues in finding people offering to work with him, it had definitely caused issues internally. Oikawa would have to have been stupid to not realize that Iwaizumi was quite obviously lowering his work load.

It was a stunt that was pissing him off, slightly. Considering how he'd just returned from the verge of possibly losing his job, OIkawa didn't have the luxury of being choosey with what he did.  And, even more than that, he had just been in the peak of gaining popularity. A sudden decline in appearances would hurt his chances of ever standing up against -

He cut that train of thought off, turning to face his two friends with a grin on his face.

"I hope you two, ahem, veterans will be around to show me the ropes," he said, his voice sickly sweet as he gave them that face he'd made so many times at the host club when he asked for his clients to return. He'd been extremely good at it then, but it had been a fairly long time since then….

However, apparently it worked, because Kuroo's arm raised up to clutch at his chest, his face screwed up as he let out a high pitched noise. Sugawara, on the other hand, had adopted that almost motherly look he tended to have on occasion.

"Your ikemen stare, it blinds me," Kuroo moaned, slamming a balled fist to the table.

If anything, it was comforting for Oikawa to know that he was still good at his trademark expression.

 


 

"Your tie is ugly," Iwaizumi said, staring at Oikawa with distaste.

The brunet, who had spent at least thirty minutes tying and re-tying that stupid Windsor knot, frowned in protest. "Excuse me?" he asked, his hand reaching up to the tie.

"It's like… way too wide. Give me that," Iwaizumi muttered, reaching for the red silk and yanking it down. Oikawa's neck craned with the force, and he yelped as Iwaizumi didn't let up, simply yanking harder until he had it slipped off neatly.

"It was so long as well. Nobody is going to approach you if you look like a high school delinquent."

Oikawa scoffed, rolling his eyes at Iwaizumi as he continued to berate his incompetence at what Oikawa considered a useless skill. "Not like I ever need to wear a tie anyway," he muttered in response, instead turning to the mirror and checking his reflection. He'd spent the better half of the hour styling his hair. It had been rather frustrating at first, as it had been so long since he'd styled his hair himself. Furthermore, he found himself less appreciative of his own skills, too used to the styles given to him by the professional stylists as of late.

There was no doubt that Oikawa was somewhat conscious about how he looked tonight. He'd snuck a peek at the guest list on Iwaizumi's laptop a few days prior, and needless to say, his eyes had popped wide in surprise. While the names of the fellow workers in the company had been familiar (and some unfamiliar, really), the names of the guest officials had been too. They were name-brands, luxury brands, the brands Oikawa saw on television. The ones that walked down the runway and that were household names. His throat had run dry at the thought of him perhaps one day stepping into that world.

"See, the tie's an equal length now," Iwaizumi said, pulling the tie off himself and handing it back to Oikawa. Sure enough, when Oikawa fastened the stupid piece of silk around his neck, it sat at a suitable length above his crotch. He sighed.

"My Iwa-chan is so talented," Oikawa droned, rolling his eyes.

He'd thought it back in the motel, that Iwaizumi would look amazing in a suit. He hadn't been wrong. A quick glance at his manager showed that he too was dressed to impress - a navy blue suit and a black tie to match, Iwa-chan looked like a million bucks. Oikawa couldn't help but let his eyes linger on the way he filled it out so… fantastically. The pants clung to his ass in a way that left little to the imagination - an imagination that Oikawa's mind couldn't help but conjure.

He swallowed thickly and looked away, shaking any strange thoughts out from his mind. Ever since the two of them had returned to Tokyo from their trip, Oikawa had been looking at Iwaizumi a little… differently.

Of course, Oikawa wasn't an idiot. He wasn't the protagonist of some shoujo manga, and he knew his limits. And he knew that he really, definitely and could not afford to be catching feelings for Iwaizumi of all people.

But he couldn't help it. Perhaps it had been a side effect of throwing back all that alcohol, but Oikawa now felt that he knew Iwaizumi differently - as his Iwa-chan. That 'Iwaizumi' was just the face he put for work, and that the real and softer side to him was just hidden beneath the surface. It was an Iwa-chan that he'd caught glimpses of before, but now that he'd seen it in full force, he couldn't help but want for more.

"I think it's more that you're untalented," Iwaizumi muttered, checking his watch. For today, he wore the accessory on his wrist. After all, it would have been quite rude to constantly pull out his phone at the function whenever he wanted to know the time. "Come on, the taxi should be waiting outside by now."

The event was taking place at one of the largest, most up-market hotels in Tokyo city. Oikawa had passed it once or twice, but had never a reason to step inside even the lobby. But here he was today, dressed in a suit and tie, about to enter through the doors of what was arguably the fanciest ballroom in all of Japan. His fingers twitched at his side - how he'd love to take a few photos of the room to send to his parents.

"Iwaizumi and Oikawa, here for the Tokyo Style convention," Iwaizumi said to the doorman. The doorman, who was dressed in what was probably the hotel uniform, flicked through the small notebook he held in gloved hands before opening the door for them.

"Please, enjoy your night," he said, bowing his head slightly as the two men made their way inside.

It was not a seated event, rather a stand-and-converse style night with food tables set up and waiters perusing guests for more drinks and refreshments. The two had arrived half an hour into the event, but already the entire place was bustling with people.

"Amazing," Oikawa said, his eyes wide open as he took in the venue. Large Christmas decorations took up the room, with even an enormous Christmas tree sitting atop the stage. Was this to be expected of such a large-scale magazine as theirs?

"Listen," Iwaizumi said, pulling Oikawa in close by the arm. "Don't say anything stupid. And, if anyone makes you any offers, politely decline and tell them to talk to me instead. Try and be social - talk to other people in the company. But don't look overly desperate by draping yourself all over designers and companies, okay?"

Oikawa nodded.

"Stay with me for at least half an hour, though. We can make some quick introductions that way."

It had barely been ten minutes before the two of them found themselves interrupted by an outstretched hand. "Pardon me," the man said, straightening his back. He wore a light blue suit and, Oikawa noted, was extremely skinny. "Are you perchance TS's Oikawa-san?" he asked.

A quick glance at Iwaizumi met Oikawa with a nod, and Oikawa turned to face the man. He met the other man's handshake, before putting on his best smile. "Yes, that's me. Oikawa Tooru. It's a pleasure to meet you…"

"Yamato," the man said, "Yamato Hideki. I'm actually the head designer of Juku, perhaps you have…?"

Oikawa's eyes lit up. "Juku? As in, the shoe brand, right?"

Yamato nodded, and it took every nerve in Oikawa's body to not make a fool of himself right there and then.

"And you must be the manager." Yamato stretched his hand out to Iwaizumi too, who made his own introductions. The two talked for a few more moments, before exchanging business cards.

"I'm quite interested in having you model for next season's line of casual wear, would you be interested?" he asked.

Oikawa's mouth gaped open like a fish. "That sounds- " he felt Iwaizumi's gaze on his back, and he straightened himself up. "That sounds wonderful. I'm sure my manager and yours will be able to come to some sort of agreement."

The words felt so stilted and fake coming out from his mouth. If Yamato felt it, he didn't comment on it.

"Great. I hope to work together with you in the future, Oikawa-san," Yamato said, before bowing his head and making his way elsewhere.

Once he was sure they were alone, Oikawa let out a large breath of air. "You did good," Iwaizumi told him, "just don't go making any false promises to people."

Oikawa nodded. Then, in the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a familiar mess of black hair. "Excuse me," Oikawa said to Iwa-chan, before making his way over. It took a couple more seconds before he was sure, but when he was closer, there was no mistaking such a messy look for anyone else. “Kuroo!” Oikawa found himself grinning at the sight of his friend, raising his hand for a high five as he got closer.

Kuroo turned at the sound of his name being called, and before long he'd broken into a grin equally as large. "Hey, look who's here," he called. Kuroo slapped his palm onto Oikawa’s, a satisfying crack sounding out when their hands met.

Oikawa had never seen Kuroo in a suit before, so he took the time to step back and drink in the sight for all it was worth. The suit jacket was folded over his left arm, but the pants were pitch black and fit him like a glove. Oikawa couldn’t help but give his ass a second look because holy shit, his pants fit him so goddamn well. His white shirt was rolled up at the sleeves, showing off his tattoo, and he wore several silver rings on his fingers.

“Is that new?” Oikawa asked, pointing at Kuroo’s ear. Kuroo’s ears had been pierced from the moment Oikawa had met him, but Oikawa didn’t recall the silver bar that ran from the top of his ear down to the middle.

“The industrial?” Kuroo asked, moving his hand to cup at his ear. “Yeah, it hurt like a bitch. But I think it looks awesome, don’t you agree?”

Oikawa nodded. He’d never voice it aloud (because Boy, could Kuroo gloat), but he was actually somewhat jealous at the fact that Kuroo fit such a unique style of fashion so well.

“Maybe I should get one,” Oikawa mused, reaching for his own ear. “Should I get one up here? Or on the lobe?”

Kuroo hummed. “Lobe first, those heal the fastest. Cartilage ones are painful as fuck if you don’t know how to take care of them.”

Oikawa actually considered it for a moment, before scoffing. “I think Iwa-chan would rip my ear off if I did that,” he said wistfully, sighing and returning his hand to his side.

"Yeah, the dude's pretty rough, ain't he?" Kuroo mused. And, as if on cue, the two men turned their eyes to the left where Iwa-chan himself was smack in the middle of what looked like quite an important business meeting.

"Did Kenma not come?" Oikawa asked.

"Oh, he did," Kuroo said, before frowning. "He didn't want to, though. He doesn't like these formal events that much. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if he was locked up in the bathroom playing games on his phone." Kuroo let out a sigh. "Sometimes I think we should take our managers and mix them together, so that we can each have one that’s a perfect mix of serious and chill. Sometimes I wonder who's the real manager, me or him!"

Oikawa laughed at that. Then, Kuroo elbowed him in the arm.

"Hey, look over there. It's Suga-chan!" He pointed in front of them, and sure enough, Oikawa spotted the mop of silvery hair standing just a couple of metres away from them.

"Is that 'Daichi'"? Oikawa whispered, indicating towards the man with him. He was taller than Sugawara, and looked as if he could be a model himself. Well, if he were a little taller. If anything, however, Oikawa was drawn towards the way he looked to be ripping out of his suit.

"The man himself," Kuroo whistled. "Quite the sight, isn't he?" he asked. "He's got Suga-chan on a leash, though." A beat passed between the two of them. "Metaphorically, I mean," he clarified.

Oikawa snorted.

He was right, though. Sugawara seemed to be busy with company after company introducing themselves, and after a while, Oikawa and Kuroo decided that they were better off leaving the man alone.

Time passed relatively quickly, as the two men stood by the sides making small talk and occasionally chatting to the other models who passed by them. They'd had somewhat of conversation with Haiba Lev, a half-Russian model who Kuroo had known from high school. The man was a little strange, in Oikawa's opinion, but his oddities weren't so strange that Oikawa had found them annoying. Rather, he was somewhat refreshing, and, if anything, his cheerful demeanour infectious.

Unfortunately for him, however, his extra long limbs were somewhat of a social hazard, and with his vigour came the high probability of accidents. Oikawa almost cried from laughter when said overactive man had outstretched a long arm to his side, knocking over an entire tray of drinks carried by a now flustered waitress. Champagne and wine crashed to the floor, and Lev immediately flushed a deeper red than Oikawa thought possible.

"You idiot!" shouted a man who Oikawa could have sworn was nowhere even close to them ten seconds ago, "I take my eyes off you for ten minutes-"

And before their eyes, Lev was dragged away by a man no less than twenty centimetres shorter than him.

Kuroo clapped his hands together. "Anyway," he drawled, looking down at his watch. "It's been about an hour. I need to find Kenma, otherwise I'm gonna be jobless for the next few months. I'll catch you around sometime, alright?" Kuroo told Oikawa, and he nodded.

"Alright, good luck Kuroo," Oikawa told him, and watched his friend's figure retreat into the masses.

Now, he was alone. Oikawa pondered finding Iwaizumi for a while, but decided that it would be impossible. After all, he wasn't exceptionally tall, and every second person in the room seemed to have the same coloured suit and short hair that he wore.

Instead, he decided to grab a glass of wine from one of the passing waiters and relaxed into the wall. Despite the constant chatter surrounding him, he found the atmosphere somewhat pleasing. The wine didn’t really have any particular taste to it, although Oikawa chalked that more up to his lack of finesse on the subject more so than anything else.

"Oikawa-san?"

Oikawa’s train of thought was stopped short, whipping his head around to look for whoever had said his name. However, he frowned as he didn't see anyone he recognized.

"Oikawa-san!" the voice said again, and this time, Oikawa turned his gaze lower.

A pair of soft brown eyes set on his, and Oikawa took a step back.

"Y-Yachi-san?" Oikawa blurted, his voice coming out slightly low in pitch. "You look… wow," he blinked. She was somewhat unrecognizable wearing such a beautiful, white coloured cocktail dress, but Oikawa couldn't forget that girl he'd met what seemed like eons ago.

Yachi blushed slightly, averting her eyes and pulling a lock of blonde hair over her ear. Her downturned gaze only served to show off the pink dusting of eye shadow she wore, and Oikawa could feel his pulse hammering because she was just so goddamn cute.

"Oh, um, thank you," she replied, her voice a squeak. "You're looking very handsome yourself. Nothing like that confused man I met earlier this year. Are you sure you're the same person?"

Oikawa laughed. "It has been a long time since then, hasn't it? How goes everything on your side?" Oikawa recalled what Kiyoko-san had told him once: that Yachi had once been a well-known company photographer, but had eventually given it up in favour of the editorial department.

"Oh well, you know," she said, waving her hand through the air. "People not keeping to their deadlines, printing errors. All the usual stuff." She rolled her eyes as she said this, and Oikawa couldn't help but smile. "Kiyoko-san has told me some things about you."

Oikawa froze. "Really?" he asked, "What did she say?"

"She keeps pointing you out every time you're on the pages were working on. She doesn't look like it, but she's really gloating about how well you're doing. I guess that's to be expected though, since you're her hand-picked masterpiece." She raised her eyebrows at him, a small grin on her face.

It was Oikawa's turn to turn his head to the side, his eyes averted. "D..Did she now," he managed to say, a small chuckle escaping him. He couldn't really envision Kiyoko-san doing such a thing.

Yachi simply smiled, before taking another sip of her drink. It was a glass of red wine, and to Oikawa's amusement, her face was tinged slightly pink. Perhaps she didn't handle alcohol very well.

"Speaking of which, I actually have somewhat of a request for you, Oikawa-san," she  said, her eyes trained on her glass.

Oikawa tilted his head. What kind of request could Yachi possibly have for him?

"I was wondering if… well, if it's not too much of a bother to you, that is… I mean…" she stopped and took a deep breath. Then, she turned to face Oikawa. "Would you mind modelling for me?" she asked.

Oikawa stared. If there was anything he was expecting, it wasn't… that.

"Yachi-san," he said carefully, his eyebrows knitting together. "You don't photograph anymore."

"Well not officially," Yachi said, "but I really do miss it sometimes. And seeing the way that you've just, well… blossomed this past year is really quite amazing to me. It wouldn’t be official or anything, just something more for my personal portfolio - and yours too! If you don't want to, I don't mind, but if you would be so kind to maybe consider it…"

"No, Yachi-san," Oikawa said quickly. He didn't mean to make her think that he was disinterested - quite the opposite, in fact. After all, Yachi-san had been such a well-known photographer before her switch, and for her to go out of her way to photograph him of all people… His head spun. "I would be delighted - no, honoured to, I mean… you're such an amazing photographer, and I-"

"Oh, Iwaizumi-san!" Yachi said suddenly.

Glancing to his right, Oikawa found himself face-to-face with Iwaizumi. He was looking at the two of them with interest in his eyes. "Yachi-senpai," Iwaizumi said, his voice laced with surprise. "I wasn't aware that you were acquainted with this nuisance here," he said, flicking his head in Oikawa's direction.

Yachi let out a laugh. "As mean as always, Iwaizumi-san. Actually, Kiyoko-san brought him in to one of my shoots before he was officially a part of the company. I was just telling him how amazing it is that he's come this far, when just a few months ago he was still being convinced by Kiyoko-san to join!"

"Yes, well, it hasn't been easy," Iwaizumi muttered, folding his arms.

"I should ask you too, since you're his manager. What do you think of letting me photograph Oikawa-san sometime?”

"Oh? Picking up the camera again?" Iwaizumi asked.

Yachi shook her head. "Only as a hobby these days. I do get tempted sometimes, though…" she smiled. “It wouldn’t be an official work job, though. Just something for me.” On her arm, her watch beeped, and Yachi’s eyes grew wide. “Please, think about it. Now if you excuse me, I actually have to meet someone right now," she said quickly, before bowing her head and running off.

"Impressive," Iwaizumi said to Oikawa once they were alone, and the brunet rolled his eyes.

"I didn't do anything. Yachi-san is just… I don't know," he said finally. He still wasn't sure how he felt about the entire situation.

"Don’t worry about it," Iwaizumi told him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Yachi-san approached you herself. There's no greater honour for you, so just accept it and be proud. After all, someone of her calibre doesn't make mistakes."

It was honestly the most comforting thing Oikawa had ever heard from Iwaizumi's mouth.

 


 

“Pardon me for asking, Yachi-san, but would you mind telling me exactly why you decided to quit photography?” Oikawa asked as he stood against a pale green backdrop.

Oikawa had never been in a shoot like this. Rather than the clothing or accessories, the focus of the shots were OIkawa himself. All his surroundings seemed to be arranged in such a way that drew focus towards him. Not only that, but he wore barely any makeup, simply foundation and concealer for an even skin tone.

“Well, did you know that Shi- Kiyoko-san wasn’t always the head of the company?” Yachi asked him, pausing to look at the photos she’d taken on her laptop. She frowned, before stepping to the set and adjusting the lights.

“Oh, really? When did she start?”

Yachi waved her hand. “It was a bit before you joined the company, so it’s not strange that you don’t know. But Kiyoko-san used to be a part of the regular editorial department. Well, she was the department head, so just one step below the company head.”

She stepped back and snapped another photo. Then, she motioned for Oikawa to change his pose.

“Then the head quit to take up a position at an international company, and appointed Kiyoko-san as the new head. Nobody was surprised, really... Anyway, at that point I was already working sort of half-half as a photographer and editor, and Kiyoko-san asked if I’d like to take over as the department head. It was a pretty tough decision, but I still think it was the right one. I miss photography, but I can keep it as more of a hobby than anything else. And..” she trailed off, looking slightly embarrassed. “It means I can spend more time with Shimizu-senpai.”

Oikawa sat against one of the wooden blocks and stretched out his legs. “You really admire her, huh,” he murmured.

Yachi fidgeted, but nodded. “She’s just so amazing at every job she does… I hope one day I’ll be as great as her. Say, Oikawa-san, can you try and look really serious in this next photo?”

Oikawa furrowed his eyebrows together. “Like this?”

Yachi hummed, but ultimately frowned. “Not quite. That just looks more.. angry. Serious like… a determined man. Does that make sense?”

A determined man? Oikawa wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

He thought of his aspirations, his life, his job. He was determined in those aspects, wasn’t he?

But then the door swung open, and Iwaizumi made a sound akin to a whistle. “You have him looking like a centrefold,” he commented, a cup of coffee held tightly in his left hand.

Oikawa nearly toppled off the prop.

Of fucking course the person he needed to see the least would appear at this moment… as of late, his self control seemed to be waning. The first shoot he’d been to after the Christmas party had been somewhat of a lukewarm ordeal. Oikawa, on one hand, had been nervous about fucking it up that he seemed just slightly too rigid. At the same time, however, just knowing that Iwaizumi was in the room with him had set his nerves on fire. His body was going against every thought in his mind, instead driving him to stand taller, look stronger, gaze sexier.

And it wasn’t just a one time thing. Rather, it seemed to be something that stacked on more and more each time, with no tipping point in sight. Whenever Iwaizumi was around, Oikawa could feel his heart pump into overdrive, his skin tingling as he felt the other man’s gaze over him. It was somewhat of a positive, thought - Oikawa often, with no other alternative, would channel all this extra energy right into his work. And it worked out, like some kind of messed up homeostasis, with his nerves settled and career excelling - what was the downside?

Perhaps the constant misery and feelings of wrong I deal with, Oikawa thought, as the mere sight of his manager had his throat clenching.

“That’s perfect, hold that right there,” Yachi said suddenly, standing up and adjusting her lens.

It was like some kind of divine punishment, Oikawa thought, as he held his face. Of course, it wasn’t hard.

After all, this was the face he probably always wore when he thought about Iwaizumi.

 


 

“I’ll send all of these to your email,” Yachi told Oikawa as she packed up her equipment, “or maybe to Iwaizumi-san, and he can forward them to you?”

“Just to me would be fine,” Oikawa said quickly. Iwaizumi received copies of all the photos he took, but this one was kinda… extracurricular. It wasn’t a paid job, so therefore it wasn’t really work. By extension, it wasn’t Iwaizumi’s business.

Right?

Besides, Oikawa wasn’t sure how he’d feel letting Iwaizumi see the kinds of faces he’d made in this particular shoot. Thanks to Yachi’s commands, he’d spent almost the entire time picturing said manager in his mind.

“Would you two be willing to come unwind with me after this? I’ll buy us all a round, as a thanks,” Yachi said. Oikawa glanced at the time on his phone - it was just past eight o’clock.

“That sounds like a great idea,” Iwaizumi said, leaning forward in his seat. “You’re too kind, Yachi-senpai.”

Yachi simply waved her hand. “Don’t worry about it, you’ve both done me a large favour by agreeing to this. It’s the least I could do.”

Truth be told, Oikawa wanted to head home at that moment and douse himself under a giant downpour of cold water, but there was no getting out of this. Sighing, he succumbed to his fate and pulled on his winter coat. Yachi had told Iwaizumi the address, and would be meeting them there after she’d finished with her business.

“You looked really focused today,” Iwaizumi commented once the two of them were outside. The bar Yachi wanted to go to was nearby, so they opted to walk rather than take the taxi. It was less than ten minutes away by foot, but the blistering cold wind no doubt slowed them down. That, and the racing thoughts in Oikawa’s head were making the journey feel like ten slow years.

“Well, it was definitely less stressful than a paid job, I can tell you that,” Oikawa muttered.

“Really?” Iwaizumi asked. “You’ve been doing pretty well the past two weeks.” He frowned, before correcting himself. “No, not pretty well. You always did well. It’s more like… you’ve shifted to a more polished version of yourself. Does that make sense?”

Oikawa wasn’t in the mood to hear Iwaizumi’s praises, not when the words he says had the tendency as of late to stick around in his mind like a broken record. He was somewhat glad for the cold, as they provided an explanation for the shade of pink his face was no doubt turning. “Really?” Oikawa replied absently, “I hadn’t noticed.”

But Iwaizumi shook his head. “No, definitely. It’s like you’re a completely different person to who you were just three months ago… let alone this time last year.”

Well, Oikawa thought bitterly. I guess I should hang on to these decadent feelings of mine, for the sake of my job if not anything else.

They took a turn after that, before finding the black-painted door amongst the row of shops on the street corner. Turning the handle, Oikawa peered down the flight of steps towards a neon-lit sign - Section One. He could feel the warm blast of heating as he headed down the stairs, and suddenly he couldn’t wait to get inside.

Iwaizumi sat at one of the tables, and Oikawa realized he was struck with a choice. He either sat on the side next to Iwaizumi and feel suffocated by his feelings, or he sat opposite him, making the situation slightly awkward and leaving an even worse choice to Yachi-san.

He rolled his eyes as he sucked it up, sliding into the fake leather chair next to his manager.

A waiter came by not ten seconds later, and Iwaizumi leaned over. “A rum and coke,” he said, before turning his gaze to Oikawa. “What about you?”

Iwaizumi’s face was so close to his, he could feel the other man’s breath on his cheek. Suddenly, all alcoholic knowledge escaped his mind. “Um,” he said dumbly, before glancing at the waiter for help. “Um. I’ll just have the same,” Oikawa ended up saying, groaning internally. The waiter nodded, before disappearing to the bar.

“That reminds me,” Iwaizumi said suddenly, leaning back. “Did you want to take any time off sometime soon? You didn’t go home for new year, so I was wondering if maybe you wanted to take some time off now to go home or something…”

“Nah, there’s no need,” Oikawa said. “I didn’t exactly leave my house on the best of terms, so…”

Oikawa hadn’t called his parents since he’d left two years ago. He did receive a letter from them at the new year, telling him about the going-ons back home and about how his sister’s son had started high school, but other than that, he hadn’t exchanged anything with them. He didn’t even know if they knew he was working as a model.

“Ah, I see,” was all Iwaizumi said.

Then, Oikawa realized something. “Wait, does that mean you can’t take time off? Did you want time off?”

But Iwaizumi shook his head. “I’m from here, remember? I can head back home any time I want. But other than that, I’m mostly independent, so it’s not a big deal.”

Oikawa relaxed a little.

“Sorry to have kept you two waiting,” a voice said suddenly, and when Oikawa turned his head, Yachi was standing above their table. She slid into the seat opposite them, and let out a sigh. “It’s absolutely freezing outside!”

The three of them descended into small-talk, until the waiter returned moments with the two men’s drinks.

“Oh!” Yachi exclaimed, “I said I’d be buying, but you two went and ordered already. Can I please get a cosmopolitan?” she asked, before pulling out some bills from her wallet. “I’ll pay for these three.”

As their conversation drew on, so did Oikawa’s nerves. And, being the idiotic and inexperienced young adult he was, he attempted to drown out these nerves with the only thing around him capable of getting his mind off things - alcohol.

He’d just finished his third glass of scotch when the lights in the bar went dim.

“We have a great treat for you guests tonight,” the intercom blared, “with one of the city’s best bands here to play live. Please welcome, the Dead Ringers.”

There was a short applause as three men took up the stage. One on keyboard, one on guitar, and one on a haphazardly set up drum kit.

“I want to sit closer,” Oikawa said, standing up. Iwaizumi watched, but didn’t move as the brunet walked over towards the stools by the bar, close enough to see the faces of the singers up close.

Oikawa watched, eyes fascinated as the man began to play. His voice was nothing like anything Oikawa had ever heard before, a low rumble that seemed to skate above his ears. It felt warm and familiar, like something sweet that he’d heard once before.

The first song ended, and Oikawa couldn’t stop his hands from pressing together into applause. The second passed just the same, as did the third. Before Oikawa knew it, their entire set was over, and the bar returned to it’s previous state of buzzing conversation.

“Like that, did you?” a voice said, and Oikawa nearly jumped from his seat. Turning to his right, he found the seat next to his occupied by a large man. It took a moment for his alcohol-muddled mind to process it, but it was most definitely the man who had just been on stage.

“You sound great,” Oikawa mumbled, his fingers fidgeting around his empty glass. It slid under his grip from the condensation.

“You look done, let me get you another.”

The man’s name was Kazuo, and he’d been playing the guitar since he was twelve. His band had been a regular around Tokyo bars for the past five years, and he sung like it was the only thing keeping him going.

And somewhere, amongst the glasses of alcohol and the squeaking of stools, the man’s hands had reached onto his.

His hands were cold, and Oikawa felt something sit inside of him. His lids were heavy from the alcohol, but when he gazed on Kazuo’s face under the bright bar light, realization hit him like a tonne of bricks.

He looked just like Iwaizumi.

Or perhaps he didn’t - he just shared that dark, messy hair, those downturned eyebrows and sly expression, the low rumble of his voice. They were such common features, but to Oikawa’s eyes, they blended to just one person.

He suddenly felt sick.

“I-” Oikawa began, but he was interrupted by the feeling of something hitting his head.

“Are you done yet, Shittykawa?” Iwaizumi asked, his voice streaked with irritation.

OIkawa’s eyes flew towards Iwaizumi in surprise, and he immediately pulled his hand from Kazuo’s. “Iwa-chan?” He glanced to his side, and noticed that Yachi was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Yachi-san?”

“She left shortly after you went exploring,” he said, “because some people know their limits and have responsibilities to cater to.”

“Hey, man. Take it easy-” Kazuo began, but Iwaizumi turned his head and shot him a glare.

“No, man,” Iwaizumi cut in, “I’m afraid it’s this little boy’s curfew, and I’m taking him home. Come on, Oikawa, let’s go.” And with that, Oikawa found himself hauled to his feet.

Its hard standing on your own when you’ve been sitting for a while - even more so when you’re tipsy. And, if it weren’t for Iwaizumi ready to catch a stumbling Oikawa, the taller man would most definitely have fallen to the ground.

“Can you walk?” Iwaizumi asked, and Oikawa nodded. “Geeze, getting drunk in a place like this, you ought to learn your limits.”

He felt extra warm, even more so pulled close against Iwaizumi. They stopped at the booth they’d been in before, and Iwaizumi handed Oikawa his jacket. He slipped it on, fumbling with the buttons for a while but eventually getting them right.

“Where are we going?” Oikawa asked, and Iwaizumi frowned.

“Home, where else?” he asked.

“Whose home?” The two of them made their way back up those wooden stairs that they’d descended down what seemed like years ago. The cold winter air bit into Oikawa’s skin like a whip. Oikawa wanted to open his mouth and say ‘yours?’, but even drunk Oikawa had the frame of mind to stop that thought.

“I’ll drop you off at yours, then head back to mine. I don’t trust you getting home by yourself in this state.”

As soon as they reached the main road, Oikawa found himself hauled into the back seat of a taxi. He sat on the side, the cold window doing wonders for his heated face as he pressed his cheek against it.

“I feel more like your babysitter than anything else,” Iwaizumi commented.

Oikawa watched the streetlamps passing them, and the numerous lighted billboards that continued to blink throughout the night. Then, he turned his head to face Iwaizumi. The older man was staring down at him with an indiscernible expression.  

Heat burned through Oikawa’s body, his fingers twitching at his thigh. He swallowed, mouth dry, his mind a hazy mess that was struggling to connect rational thoughts together. He felt giddy, as he gazed at his manager with a mind only half his own.

Then, with no voice in his mind to tell him no, Oikawa’s hand reached up to Iwaizumi’s shirt. He leaned up, as far as the seatbelt would let him go, before pulling the other man’s face closer to his.

Iwaizumi tasted like scotch still. Or was that him, tasting himself against his lips? Oikawa didn’t know, but he didn’t have the frame of mind to bother telling them apart, not when the surge of electricity running the course of his body jolted him back into reality. With one abrupt motion, he pulled back instantly, dropping his grip on Iwaizumi’s shirt and leaning as far back into the seat as physics would allow.

His mouth was moving, but his vocal cords did not. It was like that shock had restarted him, had recabled him and he could no longer function.

Oikawa’s eyes flew to Iwaizumi’s, but the other man wasn’t staring at him. It was like he was staring through him - those eyes were were on his, but they weren’t looking at him.

“Iwa-chan, I-”

“Get out,” Iwaizumi said suddenly. “We’re here.”

The door opened, and Oikawa found himself pushed out the door and onto a concrete block he could recognise as his own. Iwaizumi didn’t wait for him as he made his way up the staircase, and Oikawa had no choice but to combat the stairs on his own.

He must have taken a while, though, as an exasperated Iwaizumi returned moments later and pulled the drunk man’s arm over his shoulder, intending to help him make his way up the stairs. “Your key,” Iwaizumi said, his hand outstretched.

Oikawa dug around in his back pocket for his wallet, before pulling out a single house key. Iwaizumi pressed it into the doorknob, before leading the two of them inside.

“I’m really drunk,” Oikawa murmured as Iwaizumi took his arm off his shoulder, turning on the lights in his apartment.

“I know you are,” Iwaizumi replies, wrinkling his nose. “You stink.”

“I’m really, really drunk,” Oikawa said again, and Iwaizumi’s eyebrows pulled down.

“Yes, you a-” he began, before averting his eyes to hide a smirk. Oikawa was currently crouched down on the floor, informing his shoes of his intoxicated state.

“I had like, five glasses of scotch,” he grinned, before Iwaizumi got tired of the spectacle and dragged him back to his feet.

“Kitchen,” Iwaizumi told him, leading the gangly man with him, ensuring that he didn’t topple over and put a hole in his walls.

Oikawa stood like a disciplined child on one side of the kitchen bench as Iwaizumi reached into the cupboard and pulled out two glass cups. Oikawa watched as he, still clad in thick jacket and scarf, grabbed a bottle of chilled water from the fridge and filled the glasses to the top.

“Drink this,” Iwaizumi told him, pushing a glass towards Oikawa, before taking the other for himself.

“I’m not thirsty,” Oikawa said, eyeing the glass dubiously.

Rolling his eyes, Iwaizumi picked it up and shoved it into Oikawa’s hands, not caring that water spilled over the top of the glass and onto Oikawa’s shirt. “Drink it.”

Oikawa knew that it wasn’t a request - it was an order. Nodding, he picked up the glass with both his hands, not trusting himself to not drop it if he held it with just one. Then, with Iwaizumi’s electric gaze on him the entire time, he drank the cup down to the bottom.

“Good,” Iwaizumi said, before turning and filling it up once more. “Again.”

“Iwa-chan -”

“Drink it, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi growled. His hand had slammed down onto the table, causing the water to wobble in the glass. Oikawa gulped, before picking up the glass for the second time and drinking it, slower this time.

“You’ll thank me in the morning,” Iwaizumi muttered, refilling the bottle with water from the tap before returning it to the fridge, much to Oikawa’s relief.

“I’m gonna have to pee halfway through the night,” Oikawa murmured through the glass.

“Your bathroom isn’t too far from your bedroom, you’ll live,” Iwaizumi replied, as if he had been expecting the statement. “Come on, let’s get you changed.”

Oikawa nodded again, silently. He’d lost his will to speak, mainly because it didn’t seem like Iwaizumi was intent on listening to what he had to say anyway. He followed Iwaizumi into his bedroom like a puppy.

It was then that some of the cogs in Oikawa’s brain started to move.

He kissed him.

“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said quietly into the dark room. Iwaizumi had been shuffling through his cupboard for clothing, and returned with a pair of track pants and a t-shirt. He thrust them into Oikawa’s arms, ignoring his comment.

But Oikawa reached out and grabbed Iwaizumi by the arm, the older man stopping in his tracks.

“What is it?” he said, voice low. He didn’t turn around.

“I kissed you,” Oikawa said.

Iwaizumi didn’t reply.

“Iwa-chan-”

“I’m tired, Oikawa. Please, go to bed, so I can head home too.”

Even intoxicated as he was, Oikawa could hear the tone of Iwaizumi’s voice. He didn’t want to talk to him right now. Lowering his eyes, he nodded, taking off his clothing on the spot and changing into new clothes. He didn’t have the mind nor the care to get dressed in private - Iwaizumi must have seen him changing hundreds of times anyway.

“You don’t feel sick, do you?” Iwaizumi asked him. Oikawa shook his head. “I’m leaving the door to your bathroom open anyway. If you need to throw up, just go there.” Oikawa nodded.

Slowly, Oikawa made his way over to his bed, slumping against it. He could hear Iwaizumi sighing in the background, before a pair of warm hands were on his arms and rolling him over.

“Pull your quilt up. You’ll get sick if you don’t,” Iwaizumi said. Oikawa didn’t say anything, but let Iwaizumi fuss over him for a while. His head was spinning, but one thing was obvious - it felt nice to have him here with him.

But his mind protested against his body which wasn’t willing to cooperate. “Iwa-chan,” Oikawa murmured again.

There was a bout of silence, before he heard Iwaizumi’s voice closer to him. “We’ll talk when you’re sober, okay?” he said quietly.

Oikawa wanted to protest, to say no, that he needed to talk to him now, but he was finding it hard to even open his eyes.

The last thing he thought of before he slept was the distinct taste of scotch and the warmth of someone else’s lips.

Chapter Text

Oikawa, by some stroke of luck, did not wake up with the feeling of nausea looming over him like a storm. Rather, he woke up feeling oddly refreshed, cosy and warm beneath his blankets as his phone alarm went off next to him. Rolling over, the initial flash of his screen blinded him. It was just past 8AM.  

Checking his schedule for the day, he saw that he indeed had a meeting with a potential photographer at nine-thirty, so despite his wishes, he hauled himself out of bed and into the bathroom.

The first thing he noticed when he stepped onto the tiled floor was a sticky note smack-dab in the centre of his mirror. Frowning, he pulled it off, before reading the squiggly attempts at handwriting it bore. It was Iwa-chan's handiwork; he could recognize that scrawl anywhere.

'Wasn't sure if you'd need this, but it wouldn't hurt anyway.'

Glancing down, there was a solitary glass of water, as well as two painkillers on his bathroom sink.

It was almost comical the way memories surged through Oikawa's head, all coming back to him at once. The shoot, the bar, the talking, the singer, Iwaizumi -

Oikawa stumbled in his step, running a finger over his lips.  

Last night, he'd kissed Iwaizumi.

"Oh, god," he moaned, leaning back against the wall. That was it, wasn't it? The past few weeks had been absolute hell, with him trying to smother the feelings that were no doubt threatening to spill from him. It was like his mind was a dam, and a pretty shit one at that. Come the flood of emotions, and he was gone.

He closed his eyes as he pulled all his weight onto his arms, leaning against the sink. Then, he stared into the mirror in front of him. Who did he see?

Oikawa Tooru, 20 years old. Full time fashion model, part time friend.

And he was falling in love with his manager, Iwaizumi Hajime.

 


 

Oikawa's luck seemed to draw the line at that morning. A strong gust of wind had rendered one of the signalling machines useless, causing hour-long delays across nearly the entire train network. The city was in chaos, with people stranded left and right, and the cold winter's air not doing much to lighten their moods. Even taking a taxi was a far-off dream, with much of the roads in gridlock, and Oikawa had no choice but to suck it up and walk out the thirty minute trek to the company building.  

His earphones were shoved in deep, and the only thing keeping Oikawa's mind off the imminent death he faced when he arrived late to work to an Iwaizumi who may or may not hate him, was the sounds of the soft drums and guitars continuing like a mantra.  

The familiar building could not have come sooner; Oikawa all but ran to the front doors, scrambling through his pockets for his employee pass before pulling his earphones from his ears as he desperately tried to warm up his hands. A glance at his phone told him he was twenty minutes late, and cursing inwardly he made his way towards the elevators.  

He could count down the seconds before his emotional demise - his mind had been racing through the possibilities, and had narrowed them down to what would probably be the most likely course of action.

He'd get to the meeting room to find a furious Iwaizumi, who would then glare at an Oikawa whose mind is still addled with the events of last night. Oikawa would then apologize profoundly for reasons he wouldn't really understand, and maybe get hit on the head a couple of times by that clipboard Iwaizumi liked to carry around.  

But then Iwaizumi's eyes would go soft, and ask him if his headache was okay. If he'd eaten breakfast that morning, and whether or not he'd drank the water he left on his bathroom counter and then maybe they'd have a quick chat about it where Oikawa could clarify things and-

The doors opened, and Oikawa found himself face-to-face with a person devoid of emotion.  

"First things first, go put some concealer under your eyes - you look like you got into a fist fight. Now, Tsubaki-san has kindly postponed your appointment to 10:30, so you have fifteen minutes to think about what you want to say and how you're going to best win this guy over. Remember, Tsubaki-san likes energetic and light-spirited moods in his shoots, so try to put on your best smiles and whatnot. Also, later today you have a -" Iwaizumi stopped mid-sentence and stared at Oikawa, his eyebrows furrowing into a deep line. "Is something wrong? You're staring at me funny."

Oikawa blinked, before putting an exaggerated pout on his face. "Wow, I don't even get a hello?" He was joking, but he hoped that it was enough to cover the strange expression he was probably wearing.

Iwaizumi stared at Oikawa, expression blank. "You were late," he said simply, before returning his eyes to his tablet and continuing on.

Of all the possibilities that had run through Oikawa's head, this was not a response he had been expecting. His lips pulled into a frown for a second, but he soon pulled himself together. He didn't have the time to be moping, instead pulling himself into the bathroom to fix himself up for the morning. He wasn't fantastic at doing his own makeup, but today he only needed to cover any tiredness and blemishes he happened to be wearing.  

Staring into the mirror, Oikawa could see the dark circles under his eyes. Reminders of last night. He let out a sigh as he reached into his backpack, before covering them up as best he could.

But for some reason he couldn't figure out, these circles refused to disappear, no matter how many layers of concealer he piled on.

He couldn't concentrate throughout his meeting, either, his appearance as calm as ever but his thoughts a mess of situations and errors that were threatening to drive him mad. There was something wrong about the situation.

See, what Iwaizumi had said to Oikawa hadn’t been wrong , so to speak.

They were the words Oikawa had hoped he would say - the words that meant that Iwaizumi didn't look too far into the meaning, and that he wasn't weirded out by Oikawa. That everything between them was normal, or even just still okay . They were the words that would let Oikawa keep the fragile relationship he had, because just having Iwaizumi around, even if he didn't return his feelings, was enough.

It was exactly how he had wanted things to be.

But for some reason, they just weren’t right .

His skin grew cold, and his stomach churned. He almost felt like he was going to be sick. But of course, no good would come from that. Clenching his fists, Oikawa frowned and set his mind to work. He wasn’t going to sit around and let this situation dampen his spirits, no. Oikawa was not that kind of person - not anymore.

Hell, he was going to grab Iwa-chan by the arms and confront him about it, or at least have a damn conversation with the guy that would leave Oikawa with anything other than out-of-control speculation and overly-erratic heart palpitations.

For the first time in his life, however, Oikawa was faced with a grand predicament.

See, he wasn't sure whether it was intentional or not, but Iwaizumi was avoiding him.

It wasn't the sort of cold-shoulder, blatantly-ignoring-all-contact and shutting-you-out-of-my life ignorance, though, and that was what annoyed Oikawa the most. Rather, it was scheduling conflicts and genuine time constraints that had Iwaizumi at meeting after meeting and Oikawa busy with shoot after shoot, leaving him with no time to even breathe, let alone reminisce about events passed.

It was pure coincidence, and that was what made it a problem. It was like the universe was dead-set against relieving him of this situation by forcing him into a kind of messed up, never-ending feedback loop. He was causing his own symptoms, the very symptoms that prevented him from making it cease.

And, to make matters worse, Iwaizumi seemed to have no issue with this whatsoever. In fact, it seemed almost as if he was enjoying it. Oikawa was busier than ever, and Iwaizumi was working harder than he ever had before. He spent so much time in his office that Oikawa only ever saw him while he was at shoots, and even then, the man was busy typing away on his laptop or reading through contracts. It was almost as if...

...As if Iwaizumi had returned to being the person he had been when they first met.

And before Oikawa knew it, well over a week had passed, and with it, any and all changes he had to bring up the subject again had well and truly passed into the ever-increasing black void that was Oikawa's life.

The two of them sat in an izakaya, sipping glasses of beer while a talkative photographer chatted both their ears off. Iwaizumi was polite enough, nodding every so often when the social cues called for it, but Oikawa's eyes had wandered elsewhere no less than ten minutes into the conversation.  

Oikawa eyed the plate of appetizers that lay abandoned in the middle of the table, before deciding that he wasn't up for it. The atmosphere of the place itself was not bad - in fact, it was rather cosy - however, Oikawa felt like he was being suffocated. He stared down at his hands, his fingers grazing over each other as he fidgeted in his seat.

He couldn't look at Iwaizumi without the memory of that taxi ride playing in his mind on repeat. When the older man spoke, he remembered the way those lips felt under his, surprisingly soft even as they didn't move. It was driving Oikawa mad. And, if Iwaizumi was feeling the same, he definitely did not show it.

Oikawa had been caught multiple times staring at the man absently, his gaze flicking away always just a second too late to seem like a coincidence. Yet Iwaizumi never seemed to do the same. Each look of his was the same as ever, if not a little more distant. In fact, his gaze never seemed to linger on Oikawa for more than the necessary second.

It was a gesture that made Oikawa’s heart sink.   

Every brush and occasion was ultimately too professional. No longer did Oikawa turn to his left and see Iwa-chan, but instead Iwaizumi. He had retracted perfectly to the man he'd been before, and Oikawa had no idea how to get him back. He’d spent too many years building up walls, and Oikawa had nothing to tear them down with but his bare hands.  

"You're going to have to head off from here on your own tonight, Oikawa," Iwaizumi told him as he was getting his makeup done. Iwaizumi was frowning at his phone, alternating his gaze between the device and a folder he held in his hands. "I have an appointment to get to. Also, I won't be in the office tomorrow, so you'll have Watari-kun accompanying you through your shoots."

Oikawa nodded, only half-listening. It was something that had become more and more frequent as of late, and he'd almost become an expert and ignoring the tugging feeling in his chest. The make up artist pulled his face up to contour, and Oikawa immediately averted his gaze so that he would not see Iwaizumi in his peripheral vision.  

God, he was getting pathetic. Oikawa knew that perhaps all his anguish could be solved if maybe he just grew some balls and got it off his chest, but there was just something holding him back. Maybe Iwaizumi was acting distant because this is what he wanted. He knew that Oikawa would want to bring it up, but he didn't want to.  

And possibly worst of all was the constant, ever-present feeling that lingered in the back of his head that maybe, just maybe, Iwaizumi being distant was the better option of the two.

Oikawa snivelled as he made his way back to his apartment, his phone buzzing in his pocket. His fingers were too numb to pull it out without a high chance of dropping it, so he decided to jog a bit so he could get inside faster.

Not that the inside of his house was that much warmer than the outside, anyway. It had been over a year now since he'd gotten a (better) job, and he'd been paid quite well. Moving apartments, however, had not been something on the forefront of his mind. He thought about it as he took his shoes off in what was an admittedly small genkan, before dumping his backpack on the floor next to the dining table.  

He stared out at the tiny apartment before him, that held nothing but the bare necessities and was way past its prime. Moving would be so easy. He was paying his rent monthly, and he could at this point in time no doubt be able to afford something in a much better location. Maybe even somewhere closer to work.

But then Oikawa walked to the kettle to set some water to boil and stood still in his tracks. This was the kitchen Iwa-chan sometimes sat in when he came over late at night. They'd both sit at the too-small table drinking out of old, chipped mugs, like it didn't matter at all that their location was old and run down.   

There was the bed he knew Iwa-chan often helped him climb into, after having one too many drinks at client-hosted dinners. The couch they'd both watched a movie on once, together, with Iwa-chan berating him the entire time for his shitty choice in movies.

See, it was pathetic of him to admit it, but he was attached.

Attached to the apartment, and all the gut-wrenching, heart-breaking memories that came along with it.

Oikawa curled up on his bed, eyes closed, silently cursing his thrumming heart which had led him into this very mess.

 


 

Oikawa wasn't even late when he entered the building that morning, which is why he was confused when the receptionist waved him down with utmost importance the second he'd walked inside.

"Oikawa-san," she'd called, and Oikawa recognized her as Mai-chan, the one who sometimes left him candies in his reports.

He smiled as he approached the desk, before leaning down slightly to accommodate her height. "What can I do for you?" he asked.

"Kiyoko-san has requested that you meet her in your office as soon as possible," she said. Oikawa frowned.

"Did she say why?" he asked, but Mai shook her head.

"Boss never shares what we don't need to know... but it sounded like important news."

Oikawa's frown deepened, but he tried to not let it show on his face. "Okay. Thanks, Mai-chan!" he said, waving his hand before he walked towards the elevators.

The calm elevator music did nothing for his nerves as he made the trip up to the second highest floor. It had been a while since he'd talked to Kiyoko-san herself, so he wondered what the hell was going on. Iwa-chan hadn't told him anything about a meeting...

He was snapped out of his thoughts when the doors opened, and he was met with the sight of Kiyoko-san and Iwa-chan chatting happily at her desk. Their conversation came to a half when they saw him, however, immediately straightening and putting on a more professional air.

It made Oikawa slightly uncomfortable.

"Welcome, Oikawa-kun," Kiyoko said, bowing her head slightly.

Oikawa felt flustered, immediately dropping himself into a low bow. "H-Hey," he said, before berating himself internally for the idiotic sound he'd made. Kiyoko didn't seem to mind, however, and Oikawa almost thought he'd heard her laugh.

"So, I'm sure you know why I've invited you here today

Immediately, Oikawa frowned. He raised his hand up to the back of his neck and shook his head. "Actually, I don't... um..."

"Oh?" Kiyoko said, now frowning herself. "But surely you've noticed how busy Iwaizumi-san has been lately, and the reason for it?"

Oikawa's head spun. Yes, he'd noticed, but no, he didn't know why. Frankly, at this point, he wasn't even sure if there was a reason why besides a convenient way to avoid all physical contact with him.

“You mean you haven’t told Oikawa-kun about the Australia offer yet?” Kiyoko asked, eyes wide. Oikawa could see the shock in her eyes behind those rimmed glasses as she alternated her gaze between the two men.

“A-Australia?” Oikawa repeated, and Iwaizumi threw his hands up in the air.  

“You have to steal my thunder, don’t you, Kiyoko-san? I was going to leave it as a surprise…” Iwaizumi sighed, the first sentence he'd uttered since the beginning of this meeting. But seeing the murderous gaze in Oikawa's eyes had him know that there was no point in hiding anything anymore.  

“Well, it’s as you hear it. Summer’s coming up in a few months, and there’s a swimsuit company that wants to use you as the face of their new line. The thing is, it’s still damn cold here in Japan, so they’ve decided to have the shoot down in Australia where it’s summer.” He scratched his head, glancing at Oikawa nervously. “They’re doing it a few months in advance so they can spend the rest of it editing and preparing - hey, Oikawa?”  

Oikawa had turned as pale as a sheet, and he’d forgotten how to breathe. It took a few seconds for his body to remember that yes, that was a thing that was needed, and he forced himself to take in air. It was like a punch to his gut, and he turned to Iwaizumi, eyes sparkling.  

“You’re not kidding right now, are you? If you’re joking, I’ll kill you, Iwa-chan.”

But then Iwaizumi shook his head and pulled out a sheet of paper from the folder he was carrying. Oikawa took it with both hands and stared down at it. Iwaizumi hadn’t lied.

"I don't know if you noticed, but I've been ridiculously busy lately... more busy than usual, that is. I'm sorry I disappeared like that for so long, but I wanted it to be a surprise for you," Iwaizumi said.

Oikawa felt his heart swell. It was as if all the insecurities and thoughts he'd been harbouring for the past few weeks evaporated in an instant, leaving him feeling weightless and refreshed. Iwa-chan was taking him to Australia.

Okay, it was his job. But it was still Iwa-chan's doing.

"You don’t know how hard Iwaizumi-san has been working on this, do you Oikawa-kun?" Kiyoko asked. "He's been going from conference to conference trying to get you international offers, and he even took a day-trip up to Kyoto to meet with the head of the company to pitch his ideas..."  

It explained away all of Iwa-chan's distance. How he'd been constantly busy despite Oikawa's work not being any more difficult. Why he'd sudenly disappeared, leaving Watari-kun in his place sometimes... Oikawa suddenly felt like an idiot.  

And he couldn't keep the large smile off his face.

A small smile bloomed on Shimizu’s face. “So, Oikawa-kun, do you have a passport?”

 


 

Oikawa had been giddy the entire trip. It had been a long and tiresome day, with first a flight from Narita airport to Malaysia, a four-hour layover, and finally another gruelling seven hours on flight to Melbourne, Australia. The flight from Japan had been at an ungodly hour of the morning, but now in Australia it was nearing midnight. The warm summer air, however, caused Oikawa to perk up considerably, his lack of sleep already ebbing away and the feel of the foreign city swarming his senses.

Iwaizumi, however, didn’t quite share the younger boy’s excitement. His legs were somewhat stiff from being seated for so long, and his ass felt numb. It left him in an anti-social mood, plugging his headphones in for most of the flight and barely talking to Oikawa at all.

Oikawa, of course, was too excited to really care.

“You wouldn’t happen to be good at reading English, would you, Oikawa?” Iwaizumi muttered, glancing down at his phone with furrowed eyebrows as he tried to translate the signs overhanging the airport. Some of the signs were in Chinese and Iwaizumi’s eyes were naturally drawn to them, used to the kanji of back home. They were, however, nothing but fool’s gold.

“A~h, Iwa-chan doubts me! Did you know I did very well in English back in high school?” he asked, knocking himself into Iwaizumi’s shoulder playfully. It was a friendly gesture, and one that would have gotten him a knockback twice as hard if this had been last month.  

But it wasn't, and instead he got nothing but a blank look of annoyance from the older man. Oikawa quickly averted his gaze.  “Just tell me where you want to go, and I will take you there.”

Iwaizumi glared at him. “Fine, if you’re so good, please find us where the hell the baggage claim area is.”

Oikawa hummed for a moment, trying to remember the words in English, before his mouth curled into a smile. Heading towards one of the signboards, he peered closely at the map. “If we’re at gate G20 now,” he murmured, looking behind them for a moment before turning his attention back towards the map, “then we’ve been going in the complete opposite direction the entire time.” He leaned back, looking at Iwaizumi’s face with an expectant smile.

Irritation rose in Iwaizumi’s head, but he closed his eyes and just sighed. “Lead the way, GPS-san,” he muttered, slinging his bag over his other shoulder and shaking out his arm. Oikawa just kept up that shit-eating grin of his as he led the two of them towards where they were meant to go.

By the time the two of them had cleared customs (which, annoyingly, had taken just over an hour - why the hell was it so complicated just because they’d brought in some snacks from Japan?), Oikawa’s boundless energy seemed to have evaporated completely. As they stepped out into the airport’s entrance, they quickly found that there were people waiting for them, a Japanese signboard in hand.  

“Finally, someone I can talk to,” Iwaizumi muttered, greeting the man who was waiting for them. He turned out to be the manager of the company, who had decided to greet them personally at the airport and get them settled into their hotel.  

“I can’t speak English either,” the man, Hayato, had admitted. “But I have a friend who lives here - he’s Japanese, who’s willing to lend a hand should we need anything. Hang on, I’ll give you his phone number,” Hayato said, pulling out his phone and talking business with Iwaizumi.  

Yawning, Oikawa followed the two of them lazily, his suitcase dragging behind him. He wore a beanie on his head, partly because it had been cold in Japan, but also partly because his hair was dishevelled and matted with oil. He might not be in a place where people recognized him, but hell if he was going endure the sight of himself with traveller’s face in every marginally reflective surface.

The three of them finally exited the building, and Oikawa was faced with his first breath of fresh air in a long time. The air was slightly humid, a complete flip from what he was currently used to in Japan. Idiotically, he’d worn a thick jacket. It had been fine for home and the plane, but the temperature here seemed to be around thirty degrees.  

“Oh yeah, I didn’t get to mention this to you two, but we’ve managed to get one more model to join our team last minute! It was really amazing for us, because his schedule has been absolutely impossible to deal with for months now, so an overseas trip was completely out of the question!” Hayato let out a sigh. “A freak accident happened in Japan though, and one of his clients had to pull the plug, so he agreed to come over here on just 24 hours notice!”

Iwaizumi blinked in surprise. “24 hours was enough time for him to organize flights here?” Consider him impressed - it had taken Iwaizumi a lot more effort than he’d expected to find flights that connected at decent times.

“Oh, it was no problem, because he was actually already in Australia. Way famous, that guy. He was attending some fancy launch party for a movie that he played an extra role in,” Hayato explained, unlocking the door to the van and pulling it open. “Just sit anywhere inside, you two. The three of you are all staying in the same hotel, so it’ll be a real quick drive!”

“Three?” Oikawa repeated as he clambered into the van, his intonation rising slightly at the end of the word. The light above the seats was busted, so Oikawa couldn’t see who the other person in the van was until he was right next to him.

“It’s you,” the man said. There was a suffocating presence sitting just inside, and Oikawa felt his heart drop. He knew that voice.

Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, Oikawa put on a huge smile and raised his hand to wave.

"Ushiwaka-chan, how nice it is to see you again!"

 


 

Golden eyes regarded him as he stepped into the taxi. "Don't call me that," Ushiwaka said, his voice even.

Oikawa's smile didn't falter, and he shrugged as he slid into the seat right beside the taller man. Iwaizumi made no comment at the sight, and loaded his luggage into the back of the van. Then, he opened the door to the passenger seat beside the driver and took his seat there, obviously intending to converse with Hayato along the way. Oikawa sniffed, immediately turning his head towards the person sitting beside him.

"So, you were in a movie, huh?" Oikawa asked, turning his voice to the pleasant one he used when he was trying to get on people's good sides.  

Of course the person Hayato had been talking about was Ushijima. Of course he was getting international acclaim by now. Of course he was slipping further and further out of Oikawa's league, and at a pace that seemed to never let up.  

Ushiwaka nodded. "So you heard? It was nothing big, just a minor role but… it will be good publicity for me in the west."

Oikawa couldn't help but agree. For all he claimed that he hated the man, in reality, Oikawa was really just envious. Envious of his success, of his physique, of his natural ability to succeed in everything he did.

It was a little hard to see in the dark car, but Ushiwaka was still dressed in a black suit and tie. His hair was swept and styled, falling with just a bit of intentional stress to make it look playfully messy. Light makeup covered his face, just enough to give him that flawless complexion. His jaw was as strong and set as Oikawa had remembered it. When his eyes, however, grazed over Oikawa's with a flash of piercing gold, the shorter man found himself sitting back a bit further in his presence.  

"Is acting difficult?" Oikawa found himself asking. He was not quite so sure why he was suddenly so interested in the other man’s personal business, but the question escaped his lips before he could realize his implications.

Ushiwaka hummed, staring down at Oikawa with a collected expression. If he thought anything of it, he certainly wasn't’t going to let it show. Typical.  "I think you would be quite good at it," is what he said finally.

It wasn't an answer to his question. However instead of the annoyed feeling Oikawa would usually get in a situation like this, he found himself intrigued. "What makes you say that?" he asked, his lips curling into a frown.

"You would be surprised at how similar acting can be to what we do for our jobs."

"Like modelling," Oikawa said. He stared at Ushiwaka, his brows furrowing.

"Yes," Ushiwaka said. "When you wear the clothes that are not yours, a face that is not purely your own, expressions that are falsified purely for the camera... is that not, in a way, a form of acting?" he asked. "You may not be following a script, but to me, the principle is very much the same."

Oikawa could understand where he was coming from. However...  

"Your sentiment is nice, but I think I should reach the top as a model before I consider anything else."

Ushiwaka looked at him, curiosity reflecting in his eyes. His voice softened, something Oikawa wasn't aware the taller man could do.  

"Oikawa," he said. For some reason, hearing this man say his name in this particular voice gave Oikawa chills. "You may not know this, but I do not give compliments freely. I have watched you work since the beginning. I have said this before, and I will say it again." He paused to look Oikawa straight in the eyes. "You have what many others do not have."

Ah. It was this speech again. Oikawa opened his mouth, ready to brush away all the words that he knew were about to spill from Ushiwaka's mouth, but he was interrupted before he had the chance to start.

"However, I would like to amend one thing I did say to you before." He averted his gaze, staring out the window. Oikawa's eyes were trained on Ushiwaka's profile. Such a beautiful side profile it was, his cheekbones high and face strong amongst the darkness. "I said you had a limit... but it seems that you have far exceeded that already." Ushiwaka finally turned to stare at Oikawa, and what Oikawa saw in his eyes surprised him.

It was not scathing, and not judging, like it had been that one time so many months ago. Instead, he saw respect. Like he saw Oikawa as an equal, despite the vast difference in name between them.  

And for reasons unknown to him, just those few words had the power to wash away any of the previous feelings of unease he had harboured towards this one man.

Because Oikawa could see authenticity when it was sitting so close to him. He could feel the sincerity in Ushiwaka's voice. The admiration in his body language. The interest in his eyes.

Oikawa felt his blood grow hot.

"...Thank you," he murmured, unsure of what else he could say in the situation.

If there was one thing Ushiwaka was not, however, it was unsure of his own words. The man cleared his throat and continued speaking, as if he did not notice the embarrassment that now circulated the air, as if he was oblivious to the feelings of the now flustered man next to him.

"If you would like to consider acting, I can give your number to my agent," Ushijima said. It was quiet, just higher than a whisper, but the words still had the same effect on their target.

Oikawa turned to stare at Ushiwaka, his face scrunched into disbelief.

"What?" he asked, his voice coming out sharper than he had intended. "I'm sorry, but... can you tell me what it is exactly you are thinking? I find it quite difficult to understand you."

Ushiwaka furrowed his brow, his lips forming into a tight line. Ah, so this is what he looked like when he was thinking, rather than just spitting out words in that way that caused nothing but misinterpretation to those around him. Then, he opened his mouth and tried his words again.  

"You have already reached so far as a model, and I do believe you are able to reach even further." He paused, shifting so that he was facing Oikawa completely.  

"I also believe that acting would suit you well, from what I have observed. And rarely do my observations..." his eyes trailed lightly over Oikawa's frame, "...serve me wrong.  

A silence flared between the two of them. In the front, Iwaizumi and Hayato were still talking, their voices far enough that Oikawa couldn't hear them over the rumble of the engine. Perhaps the two of them couldn't hear their conversation either. Oikawa hoped that was the case.

Oikawa's smile turned wry. "Why, Ushiwaka-chan," he said, his voice teasing. "It almost sounds like you are trying to flirt with me through thinly veiled business opportunities."

To Oikawa's surprise, Ushiwaka's facial expression did not change. His voice came out as even as ever, but seemingly decibels louder.  

"And, if I was?" he asked. "I am offering you the chance to step into an entire world, one that would take others years to achieve, if ever. I believe the two of us are of a calibre capable to reaching where others have only dreamt to go."

Oikawa's mouth suddenly felt dry. It was a joke - he had been joking. But it was obvious to him now that Ushiwaka was not. He was serious. Oikawa found himself at a loss for words.

"Well, uh..." he said, suddenly unable to form any coherent sentences. He was somewhat impressed at how Ushiwaka was able to keep his composure after blurting a line like that.

"At the very least, please consider it," Ushiwaka said, finally leaning back in his chair. "These chances are few and far between, and it should be something you consider, irrespective of my thoughts on it."

Oikawa nodded. He didn't really trust himself to say anything right now - and honestly, it was a very nice offer from Ushiwaka. On the off-chance that it happens to be something he does want to do in the future, he'd rather not fuck it up right now because he happened to be in a bit of a bad mood.

He was just getting used to the silence that had settled between them when the car came to a stop, pulling up in front of a somewhat fancy-looking hotel. Oikawa slid the door open, immediately stepping out to stretch his legs. A steward came forward, taking his bags from the van and placing them onto a trolley. He jabbered away in English, and frankly Oikawa had no clue what he was saying. Instead of saying anything he just nodded, his expression sheepish, and he somewhat hoped that his face would give away the fact that the man was just talking to himself.

Ushiwaka didn't spend any time standing around, immediately walking through the automatic doors and into the hotel lobby. He met with a tall bespectacled man - Oikawa recognized him as his manager from last time, the one who had been wearing clothes that didn't suit the weather. He was a bit too far for Oikawa to see clearly, but he could tell that he was just as uptight as ever.

Iwaizumi tilted his head towards the lobby, before heading inside. Oikawa assumed that that was all the invitation he was going to get, and he shoved his hands into his pockets as he followed after his manager. Checking in was a little difficult, and after five minutes of clear misunderstanding, the receptionist excused himself to find a staff member who could speak Japanese. By this point, Oikawa was suitably bored, and had wandered off to inspect the various decorations the hotel had to offer.

He was in the middle of staring at a rather garish statue when a hand reached his shoulder. Spinning, Oikawa nearly jumped out of his skin as he found himself face-to-face with Ushiwaka once more. Seeing the response, he immediately pulled his hand from Oikawa's shoulder, and took a step back.

"Sorry," he said, which surprised Oikawa even more. Ushiwaka then reached into his pocket and pulled out a card case, before fishing out one of the tightly-packed cards from inside. "Send me an email with your details if you find yourself interested in what we discussed before."  

Oikawa took it with both hands, eyes scanning over the card, before sliding it into his pocket. He then turned his gaze back to Ushiwaka, his expression unchanging as he waited for whatever it was the man was going to say next.

But Ushiwaka looked hesitant, his mouth pulling down into a frown. Then, he cleared his throat and looked away. "Goodnight, Oikawa," was all he said in the end, before excusing himself into the elevators and into his luxury suite.

Oikawa played with the card in his pocket, turning it over and over under his fingers until it eventually folded inwards under his grip.

  


 

They had two rooms separated by a door at the end, which stayed closed through mutual and silent agreement.  Iwa-chan was probably less than ten metres away, with only a wall between them. It was so close, yet so far, and Oikawa felt trapped by the very idea of it.

Oikawa lay on his back on his bed, staring up at the white ceiling with his blood thrumming through his veins. Perhaps to Ushiwaka-chan being overseas was not a big deal, but to Oikawa, this screamed adventure. The last time he'd even been overseas was in grade school, where his family had planned a holiday to Canada to visit relatives.

Knowing that he wouldn't be able to sleep, Oikawa sat himself out of bed and headed towards the window. They were staying in the middle of the city, overlooking a river that flowed through the middle. Lights were on in the sky-high buildings, but they were sparse enough that they didn't look anything like home.

But if anything surprised Oikawa the most, it was the amount of stars that littered the sky.

Tokyo wasn't extremely polluted in Oikawa's opinion, but compared to the streets of home, it certainly left much to be desired. The skies however were even clearer in Australia, and for the first time in a while, Oikawa could see the bright lights shining above him like they'd never left.

He wasn't sure how long he spent sitting against that window, the glass cold against his skin. Perhaps he'd even dozed off at some point, but he was eventually jarred back into the reality by the shrill sound of his phone, buzzing against the sheets where he'd left it.

Hauling himself up from his position, he made his way over before checking who it was calling him and grimacing. It was Kuroo.

"What do you want?" Oikawa asked, feigning disgust in his voice.

A laugh came from the other side. "I'm wounded. You're not asleep yet?" Kuroo asked.

Oikawa shook his head, even though such an action wouldn’t show over the phone. "Not yet," he said. "It's still early in Japan, after all."

"You're full of bullshit."

It was Oikawa's turn to laugh. "Clearly you knew that anyway, though, since you're the one calling me at this hour. Either that or you have no regard for my beauty sleep."

There was a scoff, then, "If you get any more beauty sleep I think you'll be hung up in some museum somewhere. Or dead in the street."

"I don't even know if that's a compliment or not," Oikawa admitted. He could feel Kuroo's grin across the phone.

"Anyway, this is totally not why I called you," Kuroo announced, and then his voice dropped out of it's cheery tone and turned dead serious. “Australia. How is it.”

Oikawa wrinkled his nose. “Hot. Too much English.”

On the other end, Kuroo hummed as if this were the secrets to the universe. “And the men?”

“Very hot. Tall. Chris Hemsworth is everywhere.”

Kuroo let out a huge (dreamy?) sigh from his end, and Oikawa let one out that mirrored it. Then, he sat up, remembering something important. "Oh yeah, you'll never guess who it is in the shoot with me."

"Oh?" Kuroo asked. "Do tell."

"Ushijima Wakatoshi."

There was silence on the other end, then, "Are you serious? That same guy that told you all that bullshit about you being bad at your job, or whatever it was?"

"Yeah, that guy. Except..." Oikawa's voice was tinged with confusion. "He's being oddly nice to me. He offered to put my name in with his acting company."

"Oikawa, you need to grab this man with both hands and haul him in. Hook, line and sinker."

Oikawa wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Do not suggest that to me ever again, Kuroo," he said. "I don't know what to do about it, really. I don't really want to bring it up with Iwa-chan just yet, since we're here for something else, but...." he trailed off.

Kuroo's voice got slightly softer. "You know I'm kidding, right? It's not like you don't have enough on your plate as is. Plus, experience dictates you should always be suspicious of people who are being overly nice to you. And speaking of Iwaizumi have you and he..."

Oikawa's shoulders slumped. "No, not yet," he said.

Oikawa had dragged Kuroo out to the local park on one occasion and spilled the details of his recent predicament to the older man. Kuroo, being the old soul he was, had leaned back against the bench with a hand grazing his chin, nodding solemnly as he listened to his young apprentice's troubles. He'd then proceeded to give Oikawa utterly useless advice, ranging from 'just fuck him' to 'ask for a new manager'.  

Eventually, under Oikawa's insistent pressure, Kuroo had found a decent smidgen of advice somewhere deep down in the depths of his intelligence - that Oikawa had no other choice, really, than to wait and see how things would play out from here on. If Iwaizumi never brought up their awkward, past intimacies ever again, he could assume that Iwaizumi wanted to smooth it over and leave it in the past as best they could. If he, however, did give any kind of hint whatsoever that maybe what Oikawa was feeling towards him was not just one-sided, Oikawa should take everything he had and make the deep plunge in.  

Oikawa kicked his legs against the mattress in frustration. "I don't know," he admitted. "And that's what worries me. I mean, he's not ignoring me anymore, but we're still not back at where we were before."

While Kuroo had stated that he had nothing to do but wait, that certainly did not mean that Oikawa was not allowed to... prod the situation along, so to speak. Throughout their entire trip so far, Oikawa had been going out of his way to be extra sociable and, if he were 100% honest, downright annoying in the presence of Iwa-chan. Constant questions, suggestions, sharing of Buzzfeed articles, the list went on and on.  

Oikawa was just desperate to see Iwa-chan smile the way he did in that too-small room that was just between them.  

Kuroo sighed. "I know you're nervous about it, Oikawa, but you really need to-"

"I know, I know," Oikawa whined, "but that's the hardest part. But don’t worry, things are just starting to look up - Iwa-chan sent me a 'lol' in response to one of the links I sent him!"

"Oikawa, you could be waiting for years for him to make the first move," Kuroo said. "Or years for him to finally let it slip that he's not interested."

Oikawa didn't respond, but instead he pouted deeply hoping that perhaps his physical state would transmit through the receiver. "I hate it when you're right, Kuroo," Oikawa finally said.

Kuroo laughed. "Don't worry, you’ll get used to it," he said.  

The two of them chatted until it began to get dangerously late for Oikawa, who needed to be awake and ready by 10AM the next day. With one last goodbye, Oikawa hung up and stared out into the empty room surrounding him.

It was times like these where he would remember that silence bore a noise. It was silence that rang the loudest in his ears, reminding him of how alone he was. Not even the noise of cars came travelling this high up in the sky.

He couldn’t bring himself to sleep, either, the thoughts of his earlier conversation with Kuroo still on his mind. Kuroo raised a fair point. He needed to have a proper conversation with Iwa-chan.

That was a problem in itself. Iwa-chan had made it fairly clear by the closing of the door that he did not wish to be disturbed. Furthermore, Oikawa didn’t anticipate himself having a lot of free time in the foreseeable future, let alone time to have a private chat with his manager that was entirely personal. There was their phones and email, but Iwa-chan was not someone who would converse with Oikawa via text regarding anything that wasn’t work-related.

Oikawa paused. Work related?

Sitting up, he walked over to the bathroom where he had folded up the clothes he had been wearing just before. Reaching into the pocket, he found it easily - a singular, folded piece of card.

Ushijima Wakatoshi, it read. There was no hesitation as his fingers flew over his keyboard, typing in his email address and sending off a quick message.

After all, how bad could this possibly be?

Chapter Text

Today, he would do it.

That was the only thought going through Oikawa’s mind as he got ready that morning, his reflection staring back at him in the mirror. See, the trip so far had been a disaster.

For Oikawa, that was.

His schedule had been quite loosely packed, leading him to the misconception that he would have the time to peruse the city with Iwaizumi and possibly continue his… ‘gentle persuasion’ of the man’s subconscious.

However luck was not on his side, and the first day passed without him so much having a single chance of getting a word in edgeways with his manager. The gaps had been intentional, for coordinating such a large shoot with so many people took much longer than anything Oikawa had ever experienced in his life.

From the looks of how slowly things were moving, it didn’t seem like he would have many chances to slip into a casual conversation with his manager.

And casual was what he needed - well, in a way, that was. He didn’t want to make everything nice and formal-like, but it could hardly be while they were sitting in a taxi to the airport. It needed to be something in between, and somewhere Oikawa wouldn’t mind being for the result.

A nice place to endure what could either be the happiest moment of his twenty-something years of life, or the place for him to set aside over a year’s worth of stress, forever forgotten on the shores of foreign soil.

He’d had plenty of conversation with Ushijima, however. Too many, in fact, to the point where Oikawa was wondering if perhaps the universe was sending him in that man’s direction instead.

Ushijima, surprisingly, had been nothing but pleasant to him for the entire day. Oikawa at first thought it to be simply him trying to curry favour and follow up on his acting offer (which, Oikawa hadn’t so much thought of since he’d first entertained the thought so many hours ago), but the man soon proved otherwise.

He hadn’t so much as brought up the topic since then, instead depositing himself at Oikawa’s side at every opportunity and striking decent and meaningful conversation. Hell, Oikawa was even finding him to be a pest at times, like that younger cousin who would always ask questions at family dinner. He’d deposited himself at Oikawa’s table during breakfast and started up a conversation about Australia’s famous local possums for crying out loud - which, according to Ushijima, were actually quite cute when undisturbed.

He was also oddly perceptive, albeit in the strangest of ways. The man was often unable to grasp the most simple of social cues, yet seemed to have a sixth sense for getting on Oikawa’s nerves in all the places he didn’t want him to.

“Is there something bothering you?” he had asked as Oikawa was in the middle of practicing his casual expression for when he inevitably ran into Iwaizumi at some point or another.

“It’s nothing, really,” Oikawa said, waving his hand. He steeled his expression into one of nonchalance before continuing. “I was just, well, wondering if I’d be able to get a word in with Iwa-chan today, that’s all.”

For reasons that were still unknown to Oikawa, the managers were not permitted to be on the filming site with them. Instead, they had all been escorted to some kind of project planning group at a fancy (and, from what Oikawa had seen online, extremely pretentious) brunch parlour.

“Your manager?” Ushijima furrowed his brows. “They are having dinner with the company’s head tonight,” Ushijima said. Oikawa frowned. That meant that he probably wouldn’t be able to get Iwa-chan alone tonight, either.

“And tomorrow…?”

“More meetings. However, there is the celebration function tomorrow night.”

Ah, the function. Oikawa recalled being told about that yesterday by Iwa-chan while he had been preoccupied with the in-flight entertainment. Apparently, the head of the company had booked them a private room at a popular bar for them to unwind and celebrate the (hopeful) success of the project.

If he were to be honest, Oikawa wasn’t too keen of the idea of setting foot in a bar again - not after what had happened last time. But from the looks of things, perhaps this trip to the bar would be his next chance at getting to have a talk with Iwa-chan.

And maybe, the presence of alcohol would help him actually say things, instead of chickening out. He shuddered at the thought.

He must have been making a sour expression, because Ushijima spoke up again. “Why don’t you just message him with whatever is bothering you?”

Oikawa rolled his eyes. “Unlike you, Ushiwaka-chan, I do believe that there are some things better said in person.” He huffed and folded his arms over his chest, just to make his point clear.

Ushijima mulled the idea over in his head, before shrugging and turning his attention back to where the staff were busy preparing. Their makeup had already been finished, and they were lounging under a pair of beach tents set up for them. Despite that, however, Oikawa still felt like his makeup was going to melt off.

With Iwaizumi busy with work, Oikawa had eaten dinner with Ushijima that night. In fact, all the models had gone out to eat together. Somehow, however, the two men had gravitated to a table of their own, their conversations hushed and oddly private.

It was a nice feeling for Oikawa, who would otherwise be feeling the stress of his latent feelings should Iwaizumi have been there instead. The strange feeling of solidarity he had built up with Ushiwaka had too soothed him; for the first time in a while, he actually felt relaxed.

It was something he had not felt for quite a while, and most certainly not an emotion he’d ever thought he’d feel with Ushijima of all people.

In fact, it had been so long since he had felt this at ease with his life that Oikawa almost wondered why he had been so worked up in the first place. Just one day without Iwaizumi looming over him like a stormcloud, interrupting his thoughts and dictating his actions had him feeling fresh and anew.

Could it be that perhaps a relationship with Iwaizumi was not meant to be? After all, he seemed to be feeling so much more at ease with Ushijima. It was sick, in a way. His life was a swinging pendulum. From losing his health, both physically and mentally to Ushiwaka, only to have him now become the only thing keeping him from losing it again over his manager, who had at that time been what had kept him sane from Ushijima…

It was a never ending loop, and Oikawa felt trapped between them.

But in reality, Oikawa was simply tired. Tired of the fleeting looks towards where his manager usually stood, of the niggling thoughts in the back of his mind no matter what he was doing and most of all, the feeling of flat disappointment he held for himself for taking this long to finally do something about it. He could tell himself that the day had been a mess of unfortunate timing and a lack of contact, but in reality he knew he was just subconsciously putting it off.

Kuroo’s advice be damned - he needed to do it now, or forever hold his peace. And so that morning, he’d woken up fifteen minutes earlier so that he could mentally prepare himself to knock on Iwa-chan’s door and set up a time for them to talk.

He slapped his face in the bathroom, the shock pumping his blood and getting him into the mood to get things done. Truth be told, he was nervous as hell. He could feel his heart hammering at a million miles per second, but he did his best to ignore the feelings of dizziness that were threatening to spill over into him.

Why the hell was he so nervous, anyway? This wasn’t the Actual Conversation - Oikawa couldn’t risk having it before he had work, just in case the outcome was… different to what he was hoping for. No, he would do it tonight, away from the noise and away from home, so that in the worst-case scenario, he could hopefully leave all his feelings behind in this foreign country.

As he made his way out of his door, he contemplated just knocking on the inside door that separated their rooms. However, he decided against it. He would feel awkward, because it wouldn’t appear casual. Which was what he was going for - as casual as something like this could be, anyway.

Taking in a breath, he pressed the buzzer for Iwaizumi’s room. There was no response. Frowning, Oikawa pressed it again, and eventually a third time where he finally heard the tell-tale sounds of footsteps, telling him that Iwaizumi was well on his way to the door.

The door swung open, and Oikawa wasn’t sure as to whether he had ever seen a sight like this before in his life. Iwaizumi was shirtless , for one - he slept without a shirt on, who knew. Secondly, he had one impressive mess of a bedhead, and it was taking every ounce of Oikawa’s sanity to not whip out his phone and snap a photo right there and then.

“Good morning, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa managed to say without too much of a time frame passing.

Iwaizumi blinked at him, an unimpressed look on his face. “Yes?” he asked.

“I was just, uh,” Oikawa cursed at himself, suddenly forgetting how to speak.

Iwaizumi continued to stare at him. Oikawa could feel himself grow hot.

“I was hoping we could…. Talk. Privately.” The last word came out softer than he had intended. His voice was failing him, and he no longer trusted himself to speak without his voice squeaking to some degree.

Iwaizumi’s eyebrows knit into confusion. “We can’t talk now?” he asked. “Although it is a bit early…”

“No it’s-” Oikawa paused. He needed to think before he spoke. “I think it’d be better to talk when everything’s not so rushed. But before we leave Australia.”

“That’s tomorrow,” Iwaizumi said.

“Right.”

There was a pause, before Iwaizumi sighed. “Fine, alright. How’s… tonight? After the afterparty, we can have a quiet night back here.”

Oikawa thought of that door that separated them. He thought of bottles of whiskey and plastic cups and drunken, shared futons in motels in the countryside.

He felt warmth through his body, and he smiled.

“Okay.”

 


 

It was take two.

Oikawa felt nervous as he sat with his body wedged between Ushijima’s and another girl’s as they made their way to the club in the back of a taxi.

He’d since thrown away any notions of rehearsal - knowing his luck, he’d never have the chance for anything to go the way he had planned.

No this time, Oikawa was going in on nothing but his feelings.

And maybe a little alcohol to help.

The venue was already buzzing with energy by the time they’d gotten in, the place crowded with people and enough noise to give him a headache.

He’d found out from the doorsmen, too, that their managers had already arrived earlier and were sitting in their sectioned off area.

And while one part of him simply wanted to run up there, grab Iwa-chan and go, he forced himself to stop. The rational part of him knew that it would be ridiculous (and, not to mention rude) to leave as soon as he’d arrived, and he forced himself to relax into the night.

After all, Iwa-chan had promised that they would talk after .

But Oikawa was just so antsy to see his Iwa-chan, that he wanted to have just a regular conversation with him now .

He passed the time with the girls he’d worked with, dancing with them and buying them drinks, and overall just playing the part of the young prince charming they seemed to believe he was. It was quick to tire him out, however, and he soon sought a break away from the crowds of people.

He’d seen Iwaizumi just earlier sitting by the railings above, a glass of what he assumed to be whiskey in hand. Perhaps Oikawa would join him for a drink… assuming he could find out where the hell the staircase was.

He had been walking around for no longer than three minutes when he spotted the familiar face of Ushijima Wakatoshi above the crowd. The man, after all, was quite tall and stood higher than the general population.

He had half a mind to ignore the presence of the man, but he found that opportunity quashed when his name was unmistakably called out.

Oikawa scowled as he let himself get distracted by the taller man. “What is it, Ushiwaka-chan?” he asked, a tinge of annoyance on his voice. He’d spotted Iwaizumi around five minutes ago now, but he’d since moved from his location and was out of Oikawa’s sights once more. If only he were a little taller. Or just more… outstanding in general.

Ushijima regarded him carefully. “I was wondering if you’d care to join me for a while.”

A glance at the man told Oikawa that he was alone. In his hands were two shots of clear liquid - vodka, Oikawa presumed. He raised his eyes to meet Ushijima’s. “Is that for me?” he asked.

“If you would like it to be, yes,” Ushiwaka said. He offered a glass to Oikawa, whose mouth eventually twisted into a smile as he took it. He figured that spending a little more time with Ushijima wouldn’t hurt. After all, the night was still young, and he still had his promise of after. Perhaps a little unwinding before the big event would help quell his nerves, anyhow.

“You know, you’re actually not that bad,” Oikawa said as they clinked glasses, before tipping the liquid down his throat. The burn set his nerves on fire, and he figured that maybe it was exactly what he needed in order to survive that night.

“You know I never intended to offend you,” Ushijima said. He took Oikawa’s empty glass and set them on a table behind him. “Honestly.”

Oikawa laughed. “You ought to try and work on the way you say things, then. I’ve noticed this just from talking to you, but you don’t really have much of a filter between your brain and your mouth, do you?” he asked.

Ushiwaka blinked. “Neither do you, sometimes,” he replied. Oikawa quirked a brow. Ushijima had a point, but he wasn’t willing to get into this right now.

“You know what I mean,” Oikawa said, waving his hand. Ushiwaka didn’t counter that, instead frowning to himself.

A small silence descended between the two of them, and Oikawa took his chance to scan the crowd for Iwaizumi. It was a fruitless search, and he leaned back against the wall with an expression of annoyance on his features.

“Are you searching for someone?” Ushijima asked. He had a tone to his voice that implied that he thought himself an inconvenience, and Oikawa was quick to shake his head.

“No,” Oikawa said. “Well, yes, but it’s not really important, just more of a -”

“Your manager?”

“...Yes. If only he were a little taller, or maybe more stand-outish, this wouldn’t be so much like a game of hide-and-seek-”

“Why not ring him?”

Oikawa blinked, before scowling. He hated hearing words of sense come from Ushijima’s mouth. Knowing that there was no way Iwaizumi would hear his ringtone through the noise of this place, he settled for a text message instead. Satisfied that he would get a reply when Iwaizumi saw it, he slid the phone back into his pocket and faced Ushiwaka completely. After all, the man had quite done him a favour.

“How did you enjoy Australia?” he asked.

“It’s quite a nice country,” Ushijima said. “I did not get much time to enjoy myself, however. Just work, work and more work, as usual.”

“Mm,” Oikawa agreed. “If I didn’t have another shoot so soon back home, I would definitely have asked Iwa-chan for a couple more days here to look around.”

“Well, there is always the future, isn't there?”

“Quite the optimist, aren’t you?” Oikawa said. “I consider myself lucky being able to come here once. I think the next time I go overseas, it would be strictly for leisure. On my own, unpaid vacation.”

Oikawa was surprised to find Ushijima  leaning closer to him before he spoke, “There is still time to enjoy yourself now…” he said, staring at Oikawa as if he were gauging his reaction. Satisfied by the fact he wasn’t being punched in the face, or at the very least leaned away from, he continued. “Would you join me to dance?”

A sly smile crept on Oikawa’s lips. “Why Ushiwaka-chan,” he began, raising his eyebrows. “It almost sounds like you are trying to flirt with me through thinly-veiled invitations.”

Something flashed in Ushijima’s eyes, and he brought his mouth lower so that he was whispering into Oikawa’s ear. “And if I was?” he asked.

Oikawa allowed himself to be led to the dance floor, amongst the crowd of people who didn’t know their faces from anyone else. The music was loud and thrummed around him, and soon Oikawa found himself lost in the rhythm and the vibes of the partygoers surrounding him.

He couldn’t help but laugh when he saw Ushijima to be an awkward dancer. Perhaps it was the buzz of the alcohol, or maybe he was just drunk on the night himself, but without too much he found his hands trailing towards Ushijima’s and leading them to dance together.

Oikawa had hardly danced in a club, let alone with someone taller than him. It was a little difficult, too, since looking around all the other pairs of people were girls grinding on guys or vice versa. Oikawa wasn’t sure if he’d want to do that to Ushiwaka.

“You don’t look like you’re enjoying this too much,” Oikawa grinned as he caught sight of Ushijima’s less than pleased expression. They were currently in the middle of the dance floor, and to his amusement the taller man had a strange grimace plastered on his face. Perhaps it was due to his long limbs, but he wasn’t the most smooth of dancers, either.

“I never frequent places like this,” Ushijima said simply. “Is the music always this loud?” His hand was held over Oikawa’s forearm, fingers curling into his skin. For some reason, Oikawa did not object to his touch.

Oikawa rolled his eyes. “Come on, just feel the music. Don’t worry about what people around you are doing.” To prove his point, he pulled on Ushijima’s arm so that they were a bit away from the rest of the crowd. Ushijima watched with narrowed eyes as Oikawa began to sway to the beat, his arms reaching the other man’s side and encouraging him to dance.

Ushijima eventually gave in, and while the stiffness to his movements never ceased, Oikawa found himself having an enjoyable time nonetheless.

“You know I’m… actually quite glad to have gotten to know you better these past few days,” Oikawa confessed. He smiled as he said that, the alcohol leaving him quite loose-lipped. “I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”

Ushijima reared back in surprise. After all, he did not understand the full meaning behind Oikawa’s words, and was left to interpret it for himself.

“...Oikawa, I…” His lips were pulled into a frown. He looked suddenly uncomfortable in his own skin, and Oikawa did not miss the way the taller man’s eyes lingered on him at every moment. “I mean to say-” Ushijima’s sentence broke off as he noticed something in the distance. “Wait, weren’t you saying earlier that you were looking for your manager?” he asked.

“Yes, I texted him. He hasn’t replied though,” Oikawa said, frowning as he checked his phone.

“Isn’t that him over there?”

Oikawa followed Ushijima’s line of vision, and was shocked to see that Ushijima was right.

Iwaizumi was sitting not too far away from them, a group of girls surrounding him at a table. He could vaguely recognize the girls as some of the makeup artists from their shoot. They sat with smiles on their faces and empty glasses littering the spaces in front of him.

He felt his blood grow cold.

Neither of them spoke - or perhaps Ushijima did, but Oikawa didn’t hear it over the blood running through his ears. It pounded like a drum, louder than the beat of the dancefloor as time seemed to slow into nothing. He could not tear his eyes from the sight before him - of Iwaizumi smiling and laughing amongst these girls he did not know.

His eyes did not miss the way his arm had snaked his way around one of their necks. Her long hair fell over his forearm, but did not obscure Oikawa from seeing the way Iwaizumi’s fingers twirled in her hair, and how his free arm was rested against her thigh. He watched Iwaizumi lick his lips and smile, as the girl stared back at him with an expression he could only describe as coy.

His face grew hot, as he remembered the text message he had sent Iwaizumi. No wonder it had been ignored - the man’s hands were busy, after all. He watched with steely eyes as Iwaizumi leaned downwards, his lips grazing the girl’s ear to whisper only to her.

He knew what those lips felt like, but now he wishes he didn’t.

He was suddenly hit with the slamming realization that Iwaizumi wasn’t his - he never was.

“Oikawa,” Ushijima said, and Oikawa turned.

His expression must have been laughable, for Ushijima grabbed his arm. “Did you want to speak to him?”

“No,” Oikawa said. “No, I don’t.”

Ushijima’s eyebrows knit in confusion.

Oikawa squeezed Ushijima’s arm with his hand. The alcohol be damned - Oikawa had never had a feeling like this before. He felt cold, so cold, yet blazing hot at the same time. His bones were on fire, yet he shivered like the wind was fresh on his skin. He crouched, his knees bent at the floor as he tried to regain his breath.

“Oikawa!”

The brunet stuck his hand in the air. His other hand covered his mouth as he took shallow breaths. “I’m - It’s fine,” he managed to say.

He felt a pair of strong hands haul him back to his feet. “Oikawa, do you feel alright?” Ushijima asked. His face was close, but his voice rang clear throughout the club. There were several people surrounding them, staring, but Ushijima seemed to pay them no attention.

“Ushijima,” Oikawa said, his voice quiet. Ushijima frowned, and moved his ear closer to Oikawa’s mouth so he could hear. “How would you like to leave this place with me?”

Oikawa had his fingers rubbing into Ushijima’s shoulder. His breath had been heavy against the taller man’s ear, and he hadn’t missed the way Ushijima’s eyes had been skating across his lips the entire night.

Ushijima’s hold strengthened against his arms, but he gave no reply. Oikawa reached up with his arm, hitching it under Ushijima’s arm and wrapping it around his back. “Let’s go somewhere with just the two of us.”

And so Ushijima led him by the arm for the second time that night, and this time back home.

 


 

Ushijima wasn't particularly vocal during sex, something that Oikawa was both grateful and ungrateful for.

Grateful, because the silence allowed for him to pretend that it wasn't the hands of Ushijima Wakatoshi tracing touches down his skin, but the hands of another.

He felt those hands run up his sides, under his shirt and roam his chest. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh, reciprocating the action with trembling fingers as he set to unbutton the other man’s shirt, and soon felt the man do the same to him.

Grateful, because it allowed Oikawa to believe for maybe just a second that the one he was in bed with was not his rival with whom he had only recently forgotten to loathe, but the body of another.

That the short hair that his fingers latched onto was slightly thicker, darker in colour. Perhaps the hands were harder, more calloused from the strings of a guitar. That the voice was deeper, rougher, like the low rumble of a storm and articulated his name just as he remembered it.

Ungrateful, because the fantasy Ushijima provided had been too real for Oikawa.

Ushijima let out a grunt as he slid their hips together, mouth trailing downwards from his neck slowly as his fingers roamed newly exposed skin, flared with heat. It was good, so good, yet Oikawa couldn’t think clearly as Ushijima continued on. As they continued, limb upon limb and skin against skin, he couldn't help his lips curling around a name that wasn't his as he brought them both to their peak.

A silence filled between the two of them, save for the heavy breaths that lingered. Even as he came down from the the height of his pleasure, Oikawa was still conscious enough to know that what he had just done was very, extremely wrong.

Ushijima paused, sitting upwards. It wasn't until Oikawa felt him pull out of him that he realised what was happening.  

"Wait, Ushiwaka, what are you-"  

"You're in love with him, aren't you?" he said. It was a rhetorical question, and even in the dimness he could imagine the expression Ushijima wore.

Oikawa scowled. Ushijima had never been perceptive before, so why start now?

"It doesn’t matter. I came back with you full knowing that I..." he paused for a moment. "Bear complicated feelings. But just because I happen to be in this situation doesn't mean you have to bother yourself with it." He caught the look of apprehension that was clouding Ushiwaka's gaze. "And anyway, you're still hard."

But Ushijima continued to stay still. His grip on Oikawa’s arms had slackened considerably, and Oikawa could feel him shifting from the bed.

Oikawa sighed, reaching out to Ushijima’s arms. He tugged softly, but the man ceased his movements at the touch. "I will take care of it myself... trust me. But for now..." he reached up and pulled Ushijima by the shoulders, so that he was leaning over him once more. "Just for today. Please."

Ushijima said nothing, but obeyed his wishes nonetheless.

 


 

A strange noise roused Ushijima from sleep, and he cracked his eyes open to find the light of a phone coming from beside him. The vibration sent a course through the wooden table, and Ushijima quickly took a hold of it so it would stop.  

He paused. It was not his cell phone, but rather Oikawa's. A quick glance at the caller ID also showed it was his manager,  "Iwa-chan" who was calling him.  

Curiosity got the better of him and, against his better judgement, Ushijima pressed answer.  

"Oikawa?" came Iwaizumi's voice before Ushijima even had the chance to speak. "Are you in your room? I've been knocking for the past ten minutes but you haven't answered, so I figured you must still be asleep or something."  

Ushijima paused, contemplating what was the best course of action to take. He only had a few seconds, however, before Iwaizumi began calling Oikawa's name again.  

"He is asleep," Ushijima said finally.  

Silence filled the other end, and then, "Who the hell are you? Where is Oikawa? I swear to god, if you-"  

"Relax," Ushijima cut in. "He is fine. It is Ushijima Wakatoshi speaking. He has spent the night in my room, is all."

More silence. Ushijima wondered to himself what kind of assumptions Iwaizumi was currently making. It was not in Ushijima’s interests to offer any clarification.

"Should I wake him?" Ushijima asked.

There was a moment's hesitation before Iwaizumi answered. "No. But let him know we should be heading to the airport at around twelve o'clock."  

A glance at the clock on the bedside table told him it was now nearing nine in the morning. Oikawa looked deep in sleep, and would probably not awake for at least another hour or so considering what time they had slept that night.

"Sure. Oh, and by the way," Ushijima said, quickly butting in before Iwaizumi could hang up on him. The events of the night previous had stirred up… feelings inside Ushijima that he had not known he could have. It was not quite jealousy - while he did harbour interest for the man, actually pursuing Oikawa romantically was not high on his list of priorities.

And besides, Ushijima knew that there was no way he would ever see Oikawa look at him, the way he looked at his manager. Even in the presence of a man such as himself, Oikawa could not find it in himself to let go. Not even after witnessing what they both had, could he move on. Ushijima suspected that perhaps there had been even more tension between the two, judging by how insistent Oikawa had been that they meet, but alas that realm was nothing to him but mere speculation.

He made sure the other man was listening to him before continuing. He chose his words carefully, not wishing to make things too easy for the troublesome man. "Oikawa is a talented man. You ought to stop holding him back from his life."  

There was the click of Iwaizumi's tongue through the receiver. "No," he said, and Ushijima raised his brows at his haste. "Oikawa is not a talented man." There was a dramatic pause, and then Iwaizumi continued, "Rather, he is a damn hard-working one."  

And the receiver cut off.  

Ushijima stifled a laugh. These two were certainly an interesting pair. He let his eyes wander to the man who still lay asleep next to him. His face was peaceful and content, as if the dream he was currently in was nothing short of bliss. Was he dreaming of his manager, perhaps?  

Ushijima extended a hand and brushed a tuft of hair from his face. How cruel, he thought, as his eyes caught on a hickey just under the jut of his collarbone. He was in love with his manager. His manager who had unfortunately been allowed to assume their relationship. Who would see the marks on Oikawa's skin which would only serve more to his thoughts. It was all detrimental to the very things Oikawa wanted, but he had no one to blame but himself.

It was true that Ushijima played a role in this, but in the end, he was being hurt too.

He leaned back and pulled the covers over Oikawa further. It wouldn’t do him well to catch a cold.

 


 

The sound of the door opening woke Oikawa from a dreamless sleep.

It was still quite dark in the room, with the curtains not yet drawn and the lights in the main room switched off. It took some time for Oikawa’s eyes to fully open, but upon doing so he realized simply one thing: this was not his room.

“Did I wake you?” came a voice, and turning to the side Oikawa found himself facing Ushijima. He was in a state of undress, with simply a towel draped around his waist. Oikawa found it quite hard not to stare, because after all the man had one hell of a body. He almost felt proud that he had been able to have sex with him for that reason alone.

“I was already awake,” Oikawa said, shaking his head. “What time is it?” he asked, despite the fact he had turned his head to check the clock at the exact same time.

“Nine-thirty,” Ushijima said. He paused to ruffle his hair with another towel, before digging in his suitcase for clothes. “Did you want to take a shower?”

“My clothes are all in my room,” Oikawa said. He then glanced at the bedside table and saw that his phone was face-up.

“Your manager rang earlier,” Ushijima said.

OIkawa’s fingers froze on the screen. “Did you pick up?” he asked.

“I thought it was my phone at first,” Ushijima replied. He raised his eyebrows in response to the face Oikawa was making. “Don’t look so worried. He was simply calling to say that you have to leave for the airport at noon.”

Oikawa had no response, and he rolled over amongst the sheets. They didn’t speak, Ushiwaka concentrating on packing his suitcase, and Oikawa flicking absently through his phone. Then, he spoke.

“I’m sorry,” Oikawa said.

Ushijima turned to him, a frown on his face. “Whatever for?” he asked.

Oikawa hesitated. “For last night. I suppose it wasn’t fair of me to… request that of you, all things considered. I mean, it wasn’t as if I didn’t know-”

“You need not apologize,” Ushijima said, waving his hand through the air. “I believe I perhaps owe you some apology, too.”

It was Oikawa’s turn to be confused. He wasn’t, however, given a chance to voice this before Ushijima plowed on.

“I had… noticed,” he began, his eyebrows knitting together, “your fixation on your manager. I had noticed it last time we met, too, but this time… it was much stronger. I could be more sure of it. But yet, I still propositioned you with unfair suggestions.” He paused, eyeing Oikawa’s phone. “And I realize now that it is not my place to distract you two further.”

Oikawa scowled. Ushijima was speaking in riddles again. One would think that after nearly 48 hours of straight exposure he’d have it figured out, but clearly this showed otherwise. “I don’t know what you’re getting at, but… it’s not your fault.” He sat up and tilted his head at Ushijima. “If we can put this all behind this, perhaps we could even start over again… on a more positive note, this time.”

“I’d be grateful for that,” Ushijima said.

A small chuckle escaped Oikawa’s lips. “Are you meaning to say, though, that this whole trip you’ve been trying to - well, seduce me?” he asked.

A small blush fell over Ushijima’s features. “You are an attractive man,” he said, turning away. “And I’ve never not been one to take opportunities as they arise, if you know what I mean. But it wasn’t my only intention -”

“Relax, I know,” Oikawa smirked. It was interesting, seeing the taller man slightly off composure for once. “Still,” Oikawa said, softer this time. “I think it’s time I gave up. For the sake of us all.”

Ushijima frowned. “You don’t mean to say-”

“You saw him too, last night, didn’t you?” Oikawa asked. He could feel the goosebumps on his skin as he remembered the sight of Iwaizumi with his fingers over a girl’s shoulder, fingers twirling through her hair as she leaned up to whisper in his ear. He had laughed for her, the smile he had grown to love and cherish. The smile he no longer even showed him. His hands curled into the sheets.

“Yes, but-”

“There’s no ‘buts’ about it, Ushiwaka-chan. He’s…” he trailed off. There were some things that needn’t be said. “Sorry for bringing up something personal, it’s just…” he groaned and flopped back onto the bed. Ushijima continued to stare at him with that strange expression, before eventually turning and returning to his luggage. He didn’t have anything to say.

“I should go,” Oikawa said, and he climbed out of the bed to gather his clothes. Ushijima tossed a bathrobe at him.

“Don’t redress completely, just wear this and go take a bath.”

“How kind,” Oikawa sniffed. He slipped on his boxers, at least, before sliding his arms through the bathrobe. It felt softer than the one in his room, probably because Ushijima’s room was the deluxe suite.

Oikawa lingered at the door for a second, until Ushijima turned with a curious stare towards the door. “I guess I’ll…” he trailed off. “Thank you. For everything, Ushiwaka-chan.”

Ushijima offered him a small smile. In his expression, he wore a thousand words.

“Good luck, Oikawa,” he said, and Oikawa shut the door behind him.

 


 

It wasn’t until he was in the lobby that Oikawa realised he had forgotten to apply concealer. Not for his face - that wasn’t a problem, but it was for…

A quick check with the front camera of his phone showed several reddish-purple marks across the skin of his neck.

Did he care about the marks? Truthfully, yes, but another part of him - the show-off, and perhaps exhibitionist side of him - wanted to keep it on display. He wanted Iwaizumi to see it, in the hopes that he would elicit some sort of reaction. Any reaction would do.

Oikawa was simply desperate for the man’s attention.

A small part of him still felt guilty for the way he’d used Ushijima, but the man had insisted that he felt nothing of the sort. The two had even exchanged some text messages after Oikawa had left, however their conversations had drifted back towards the formal side of work.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Iwaizumi muttered, suddenly appearing at Oikawa’s side with his suitcase in tow.

Oikawa jumped, caught off-guard. “Oh, Iwa-chan,” he said absently. It was more of a knee-jerk reaction than anything else.

He didn’t miss the way that Iwaizumi seemed to look… tired. He wasn’t sure what time Iwaizumi had left the club that night, but it was already midday. He had no reason to have his hair mussed up and eyes still droopy from sleep, unless…

Oikawa’s eyes widened as he caught a mark at the base of Iwaizumi’s neck. Immediately, his eyes tore away. He felt himself go hot. Iwa-chan didn’t even have the decency to cover himself up, to be ashamed of those marks that showed like a flare. Realistically, Oikawa knew that he probably didn’t care for them. But, Oikawa did. Oikawa who looked too deeply into things and assumed everything had a meaning.

Oikawa, who could see those marks staring at him, bright and angry like the summer sun.

And he knew, just knew, that Iwa-chan could see his too.

And that he was just as unaffected as Oikawa had expected him to be.

His eyes slid shut, his chest heaving in silent defeat. What a situation this was - both of them, clearly marked by another, yet only Oikawa had the nerve to make a deal of it. There was no other proof he needed to know that everything he felt was utterly one-sided. Hell, Iwaizumi even knew that he’d spent the night in Ushijima’s room thanks to his phone call, but he seemed to have no care whatsoever than which route would be the most convenient towards the airport.

A smile broke out on Oikawa’s face, eyes warm as he leaned against the cool walls of the interior. It was clear as day now, and finally, it seemed like he was going to admit it for good.

Iwaizumi didn’t love him. He never had.


And deep down, Oikawa had always known it.

Chapter Text

OIkawa worked his hardest when he came back, dutifully heading between schedules, smiling when necessary, giving bows and waves until his joints ached and he felt like he would break. The discord between how he felt and how he showed was like the gap of a canyon, strung far and wide and tearing thin.

Kuroo had caught him once, in the break room with three cans of coffee surrounding him, and had immediately dragged the brunet to the nearest park for some fresh air and sunlight.

“Why’re you going back to the realm of death?” he had asked, his forehead creasing in worry.

Oikawa stared at the ground, before turning to face Kuroo. He wondered if his face looked as tired as he felt. “It’s hopeless, Kuroo,” he said.

“What is?”

“I… Iwaizumi. Australia sucked. I… I tried to follow your advice, but it didn’t work out.”

Kuroo’s expression hardened. “What happened?” he asked gently.

“He fucked one of the makeup girls, or something. I don’t know. I left as soon as I saw her making eyes and his hand halfway up her skirt.”

Kuroo sucked in a breath. “Fuck,” he said. “Fuck.”

Oikawa waved a hand. “No, it was ridiculous from the start. Iwaizumi had been clear from our first meeting that he wanted nothing more than a professional relationship. It was stupid of me to ever expect anything else…”

“No,” Kuroo said. He put his hand on Oikawa’s arm, his touch gentle. “It was fucked up of him to keep leading you on like that, he-”

“He never lead me on, Kuroo,” Oikawa said weakly. “I just… looked too much into it. Into everything. It was always me making the assumptions, and not him. So what he took me on a holiday, it was because Kiyoko-san would have him terminated if he didn’t keep me in check. He took me home after I kissed him while drunk… that doesn’t mean anything, except that I’m an idiot.”

Kuroo didn’t have anything to say.

“Just… thanks,” Oikawa said. “For everything.”

Kuroo placed his hand around Oikawa’s shoulder. “Why do you have to say it like that, man? Like this is the end of our friendship? Hell no, if anything now we can at least make fun of the guy together.” He let out a laugh. “What’s up with his hair? Does even own a hairbrush?”

Oikawa laughed, his smile wide across his face.

But he couldn’t shake the feeling of fondness that he felt when he imagined that tousled bedhead, and how nice it would feel to run his fingers through it just once.

 


 

Perhaps it had been intentional, but Oikawa hardly found himself in the company of his manager as the weeks went by. He had taken it upon himself to start making his own way home after shoots, rather than taking a taxi with Iwaizumi on the basis of saving money and the environment.

Iwaizumi had found it strange at first, but had eventually decided to let the boy do whatever he pleased.

And just as it had so many months ago, Oikawa’s life plateaued.  

Each day once more fell into routine. Get up, go to work. Smile for the camera, keep Iwaizumi from entering his peripheral vision more than necessary, repeat.

Keeping it up, however, was so much more difficult than it had been before.

See, when Oikawa had still been thinking of ways to get Iwaizumi into him, seeing the man had simply started a beat in his chest that he hadn’t had before. Now, however, each sight of the man felt like an old wound that would not stay closed.

Every time Iwaizumi called his name, he hurt. Each time he heard the low timbre of his voice, or the laughter he sometimes gave out when someone cracked a joke left Oikawa’s chest cleaved in two. He’d taken to wearing earphones when he wasn’t being explicitly talked to, in an effort to distract himself from the world around him.

And when Iwaizumi had grabbed Oikawa’s hand, asking if he was alright as he’d caught him staring unconsciously, it had felt like he had set his skin alight.

He returned home exhausted, as if the prolonged healing of his heart had caused upon him a drain would not cease. He’d met Sugawara at one point as he was leaving the building, and the silver-haired man had asked to accompany him to the station to which they were both headed.

“It’s been a while,” Sugawara said. It was April, and the weather was becoming steadily warmer. Oikawa nodded as he shrugged off his jacket and tying it around his waist.

“Kuroo’s worried about you.”

Oikawa avoided his eyes. “Whatever for?”

Sugawara grimaced. “He told me, Oikawa. About Iwaizumi-san. I’m sorry if it was something that you wanted to keep to just yourself, but I couldn’t help but notice how… blank you’ve been lately.”

OIkawa almost laughed. “Don’t worry about me, Sugawara-san,” he said. “If you’re thinking that I’m going to go and collapse again, you don’t need to worry. I’m eating three meals a day and doing only light exercise, so-”

“It’s different this time, Oikawa-san.”

It had been so long since Oikawa had talked to someone like Sugawara, someone whose actions most definitely spoke louder than his words. He had a look to him that left Oikawa feeling vulnerable, like he’d been seen through completely, and he gave no reply as he simply averted his gaze and continued walking.

“Oikawa, do you enjoy being a model?” he asked him.

Oikawa frowned. “Y… yes?”

“And if you were to be honest, how much has your enjoyment of your job changed since you came back from Australia?”

Oikawa stopped. It was a puzzling thought. If he compared himself to this time last year, the difference was most definitely large. In fact, he could hardly even recall the feelings of excitement that had once coursed through him at every shoot. He had had a drive for it, working and working until he had burned himself out, and worked harder still. Yet here he was today, simply walking the days as they were required and trying his best to block out his emotions, like he was a husk of a person with no feelings whatsoever.

His face must have contorted, because Sugawara gave him a sad smile.

“I thought that was the case. I apologize if you feel that I am overstepping my boundaries, but as your friend… I’m worried about you. And your personal health… it’s of more importance than any sense of obligation you may feel towards anyone - towards Iwaizumi-san, Kiyoko-san… and even yourself.”

Oikawa knew what Sugawara was hinting at. “What should I do?” he said, his voice barely a whisper.

Sugawara turned, and his voice was quiet when he spoke.

“That’s something only you can decide,” he said. “But please, do put yourself above everyone else, because in the end of the day it is your life and yours alone.”

Oikawa let his friend’s words sink in, and he felt a weight settle in his heart.

His life?

How long had it been, since his life had been truly his?

 


 

It was a Saturday afternoon and Oikawa was in the middle of clearing his belongings into ten cardboard boxes, preparing to move into a new apartment building. A change of scenery was what he had needed, and now that he was no longer a struggling student, there was simply no reason to stay in the room he had called home for over a year.

In the far back corner of his wardrobe he’d found a stack of books, and frowning he pulled them out. They were dusty with disuse, but a quick smear of the cover showed them to be the English textbooks he had forgone in favour of his shot at fame. He found his old notebook, the same one he had hastily decorated in his bedroom back in Miyagi with his hopes for the future.

Eighteen year old Tooru had envisioned so much for the future, but where was he now?

Two years later, and here he sat in a run down apartment, nursing a broken heart and slaving job he wasn’t even sure he still liked .

And Oikawa realised, however belatedly it was, that this was not who eighteen year old Tooru had wanted to be.

He had wanted freedom, and it most certainly, was not this.

 


 

He quit his job two days later, amidst a short break he had between his shoots.

He knew that it was shitty of him, to quit like this and cause nothing but inconvenience everywhere, but he knew - just knew , that if he had to go one more day like this he would most definitely not survive.

“I can’t say that I’m not surprised,” Kiyoko-san had said at first, her face etching what seemed to be disappointment. “I mean, I would be lying if I said I did not care… more for your work than others, since I scouted you and everything, but if this is truly what you want then who am I to disapprove?”

Oikawa bowed low, and he avoided her gaze. “Thank you for everything,” he said. “If you could, could you please pass the message on to Iwaizumi-san as well?” he asked.

“You haven’t told him yourself?” she asked, and Oikawa shook his head.

“I don’t think he wants to see me,” Oikawa admitted. Or was it that he didn’t want to see Iwaizumi? It didn’t seem to matter, either way.

“Well, it has been a pleasure working with you…” Kiyoko said, giving him a soft smile. “And I wish you the very best in wherever your path takes you next.”

The walk home seemed to last twice as long as usual, the shadows of his choices weighing him down more than they ever had before.

 


 

The doorbell rang, and Oikawa treaded toward the door with a smile. It was most likely the men he had hired to help him move, as he stared down at boxes that now littered his apartment. Ten boxes had been the goal, but Oikawa had found it hard to throw things away and had ended up with closer to twenty.

He was halfway to the door when it rang again, and Oikawa forced himself to stop a scowl. Such impatience in the morning was not something he enjoyed, but he jogged the remaining steps regardless.

“Good morni-,” he started as he swung the door open. The sentence ended on his tongue as he found himself stumbling backwards, a pair of hands gripped tight against his shoulders.  

“You son of a bitch,” Iwaizumi said, his fingers digging into Oikawa. The door behind them swung shut, and Oikawa found himself frozen in place with Iwaizumi staring straight at him. “You quit? What the fuck, Oikawa?”

Oikawa averted his eyes. “Oh, so you heard.” He wondered what it was Shimizu-san had told him. Had she called him in and done it all professional-like? Probably; she had so much going for her than Oikawa did, that was for sure.

“Oh? Oh is all you have to say for yourself?” Iwaizumi asked.

“I don’t see why it’s such a problem for you,” Oikawa said, voice calm despite the trembling he felt in his fingers. “After all, you’ll have one less bother in your life. You’ll be able to live without me causing problems and stress, and fucking things up whenever I try to do anything right.”

Iwaizumi stepped back, his grip on Oikawa’s arm slackening. “What do you mean?”

Oikawa chuckled. “It’s so obvious, Iwaizumi-san,” he said. That name felt so foreign, but in the moment he knew it would add the bite he wanted. “It’s been nice working with you for the past year, but it’s time we both put off the act. We just don’t work well together. You don’t trust me with anything, and I’m doing nothing but being a huge pain in the ass-”

“When have I ever said anything like that?” Iwaizumi cut in.

“When have you ever said anything at all ?” Oikawa snapped. His voice was wavering at the edges, but he had to continue on. “You never say anything. You never say anything at all, and that’s exactly the problem between us. How are we meant to function as a pair, professionally and efficiently without any communication? I feel like a dog on a leash, pulled to do whatever you want - I hardly get a say in anything, and it’s just so-”

“Me, not saying anything?” Iwaizumi said. His eyes screwed up and he let out a laugh. “Oh, that is rich. You know, this is a game that goes both ways, Oikawa.” Oikawa frowned. Iwaizumi let go of Oikawa’s arm and reached into his pocket, retrieving his phone. “What exactly is this ?” Iwaizumi asked, his eyes wide with frustration as he shoved his phone in Oikawa’s face.

Oikawa read the screen in front of him, a task that was a little difficult considering the fact Iwaizumi was moving it slightly faster than his eyes could process.

Ah, it was Ushijima’s acting company, emailing him about his ‘expression of interest’. To be honest, he had almost forgotten about that since he had never heard anything about it personally. Oh, how he wanted to laugh right now. The measures he’s taken in his pathetic attempts to get closer to Iwaizumi had only become fuel for the fire.

“It… It says what it says,” Oikawa said. “I asked Ushiwaka-chan to put a word in with his acting company a while ago...”

“And please refresh my memory, when exactly was it that we talked about this?” Iwaizumi asked.

“...”

“Yes?”

“... We never-”

“Exactly, Oikawa. We never did. Never in your life, in your entire career, had you ever mentioned to me that you had any sort of interest in this kind of thing. You sit here blaming me for not talking to you, when in fact you’re doing the exact same thing. It is my job to keep you on a leash, but it is your job to tell me when I’m pulling it too tight.”  

“What exactly is the problem in this though?” Oikawa snapped. “If you’re not happy with me trying something of my own will, then you could simply email them that I’ve changed my mind. Since, after all, you’re my manager and it’s your job , isn’t it?”

“That is not the problem here,” Iwaizumi said. His lips twitched before he spoke again, “The problem is that you have the nerve to blame me for being uncommunicative, yet decide that rather ask me, your manager, to think about moving you in a new direction - which, by the way, is my fucking job ,” Iwaizumi’s hand had balled into a fist, “you think it would be so much more efficient for you to use people to get there.”

Oikawa stared. “What the hell are you talking about?” he asked. His voice wavered at the end, uncertainty lacing through.

“It’s almost hilarious, you know?” Iwaizumi said. If he had noticed Oikawa’s confusion, he certainly didn’t seem to care.  “You’d rather sleep with Ushijima to get yourself noticed than work for it yourself. It really surprised me. I’d always doubted your work ethic, but at some point I’d started to respect you.” His eyes narrowed, and he looked at Oikawa with distaste. “Now I can see that that was the biggest mistake of my career.”

Oikawa felt himself go numb. “No, wait, what are you-”

“What, you think I didn’t know about what happened? News flash, I’m not an idiot Oikawa. It’s not too hard to piece two and two together. I saw you leaving the club with him that night, arms all over each other.”

“No, you’re mistaken, I didn’t-”

“You didn’t sleep with him?”

“No- It’s not that, but-”

“Please, then, what is it?”

“Let me speak!” Oikawa cried, reaching to grab Iwaizumi by the arms.

He was startled, instinctively stepping back in shock, before his shoulders relaxed. The frustration in his eyes seemed to dim a bit, and he swallowed before nodding.

Oikawa continued on. “Yes, I slept with him.” Iwaizumi’s mouth pressed into a hard line. “But it was not to - it wasn’t so that I could get into his favour or anything even close to that! How dare you even suggest that I’d…” Oikawa felt his voice crack. This was wrong. It was all wrong. “How could you, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa asked. He was losing, and suddenly his eyes felt moist. “That after all this, you still… that I....” He bit back a sob, and he shook his head. “I really can’t do this after all.”

Iwaizumi stood back, his eyebrows furrowing. “What do you mean?” His voice was suddenly quiet, and Oikawa drew back a sniff. “Oikawa? Are yo-”

“I’m just… I’m so tired, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said, his voice thick. “Tired of the people, the expectations… the shoots, the hours...-”

“Then tell me. Speak to me about it, if you’d just tell me instead of always trying to do things yourself I-”

“-nd being in love with you.”

Iwaizumi stopped mid-sentence.

Oikawa collapsed against the wall, his hands at his mouth. His throat clenched, and he could only swallow as he felt tears prick at his eyes. Immediately, he turned his face away so that Iwaizumi would not see him. Oh, now he’d done it.

“Oi...Oikawa?”

“No, Iwa-chan, I’m sorry th- I was ju-”

“Did you just-”

“No!” Oikawa said, louder this time. He hiccoughed, and quickly wiped the corners of his eyes as he shook his head. Iwaizumi reached out to grab him by the shoulders, but Oikawa twisted himself so that Iwaizumi would not reach. “It’s nothing, I… forget it. It’s already done, I’ve quit. Please stop trying to make me change my mind, not after all this.“

He turned to get up, to finally get out of the building like he’d been planning to for so many weeks ago, but he felt himself tugged back once more. This time, however, the pull was not rough. It was firm, but it didn’t bear the anger it did before, and Oikawa found himself easing into it unconsciously.

“Wait, Oikawa, please, look at me,” Iwaizumi said. His voice was unsure, like it was on the fine line between authority and curiosity. Despite the firm hold he had on Oikawa’s arm, the touch itself was gentle, and he brought his free hand up to grab onto OIkawa’s other arm.

“I thought I’d be able to leave with a little bit of dignity,” Oikawa said. “But it’s obvious now, what you think of me. That I’m a cheap sellout, who sleeps with others and quits over my pride, that -”

Iwaizumi lurched forward and pressed a kiss to Oikawa’s lips, his lips soft as soft as Oikawa remembered them to be.

It was like the final blow; Oikawa’s legs gave way, and he crumpled into a heap at the floor of his apartment. He tugged his arms away from Iwaizumi, and balled them at his feet “I-Iwa-chan, stop, don-”

Iwaizumi’s bent down and wrapped his arms around Oikawa, pulling him so that his head rested on his chest. “No,” he said.

But Oikawa shook his head, pulling Iwaizumi’s arms off him. “No,” he echoed. “I can’t. You - you can’t keep doing this… making me regret my decision and acting nice to me when I’ve already- you can’t keep pushing me away like I’m nothing to you then kiss me like nothing happened. You can’t… give me hope like that and then make me watch you flirt with girls at clubs, Iwa-chan, you ca-”

“No,” Iwaizumi said again. “God, fuck.” He let go, and he turned Oikawa’s face so that they could see into each other’s eyes, for the first time in what seemed like forever. “I’m so sorry, Oikawa. I’m so… I’m so…” The words died on his lips, and he let out a breath. “I’ve been so wrong about everything.”

Oikawa’s hands shook. “Iwa-chan?”

But Iwaizumi continued, “I’ve been so stupid,” he said. “I had no idea that to you... I just… I can’t even think of how to say-” He clenched his fists in frustration, before gritting his teeth and staring Oikawa in the eyes. “You were never nothing to me. Never. Since that first day I met you, when I said that what we had was going to be strictly professional - that was entirely me and my stupid, idiotic sense of self-control trying to prevent... “ he sucked in a breath. “Trying to prevent this.”

This? What was this ?

He wasn’t sure what he was hearing. To him, it sounded like Iwaizumi was… talking to him, about feelings, about them . It was everything he had wanted for the past forever, right before his fingers waiting for him to reach out and grab but he couldn’t.

It was too good to be true; like all those other signals he had supposedly seen from Iwaizumi. It was him seeing everything through his own, jaded lens. He was seeing the situation for what he wanted - not how it was. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake again, right?

“I don’t… I don’t understand,” Oikawa breathed. Beneath his skin, he felt the torrential purr of his blood coursing through him like a tidal wave. He felt like he was ready to burst.

Iwaiuzmi’s hand lifted to curl in Oikawa’s hair. He had always wanted to touch it, those curled, brown locks that encircled his face just so - Iwaizumi’s fingers gripped tight as he slowly lowered his hand to cup his cheek.

“I’ve just been trying so hard to keep myself from you. You’re just- you’re so amazing at everything you do - everything you are . From that very first shoot, I knew that there was no way I’d be able to keep myself from you, so I set up barriers to try and prevent it… I tried to keep myself from forming a friendship with you, from getting to know you and letting you know me because I knew - I knew that I would end up caught up in you, but god, instead I just made everything so much worse, and I hurt you, and-”

“What do you mean , Iwa-chan?” Oikawa said. His voice was barely a whisper, and Iwaizumi’s heart hurt at the way his face glistened under the light, wet with tears.

Whatever this was, he wanted to hear it from Iwaizumi straight. No metaphors, no half-uttered sentences. He was tired of trying to figure things out for himself - he wanted just once to be selfish, and have somebody put the answers straight into his hands.

“I love you,” Iwaizumi said. His fingers tightened on Oikawa’s forearms, and he dropped his head onto his chest. “God, Oikawa, I- I just… I love you. For so long.”

It was like time stopped for Oikawa, as his mind processed what was happening. And then, as if he was running on pure instinct alone, Oikawa reached up, his fingers lacing at the back of Iwaizumi’s head as he pulled him in a for a kiss.

No kiss had ever felt better to Oikawa, who felt every ounce of weight lifted from his shoulders. Iwaizumi tasted so sweet, the warmth of his mouth radiating through his skin as his heart swelled like he had never felt before.

Iwaizumi had been immovable at first, unmoving as he too processed what was happening. But Oikawa was like a tidal wave too high for his walls, and in one swoop every barrier he had building up until now collapsed. His hands could not stay by his side, pulling Oikawa close as he finally let go of every feeling and emotion he had locked away for all too long.

“I’m so sorry,” Iwaizumi said, once they had pulled back. His fingers still hadn’t left Oikawa’s arm, and they dug into the skin there as they trembled. “Everything I said I- god, fuck. I’m the worst - you’re right. You’re not like that at all, and I just… I was so angry at you.. At Ushijima that I just... “ he slammed his hand onto the floor below him. “You didn’t deserve to hear that. Any of that, at all - I didn’t mean a word, I just let everything get to my head and I-.”

Iwaizumi brought Oikawa’s hands to his lips. He pressed a kiss to his fingers, before looking Oikawa in the eyes.

“I love you, Iwa-chan,” he said. “For so, so long, I don’t even know.” Oikawa felt tears gather in his eyes again, and he swallowed thickly. “That day when I kissed you in the back of that taxi, I .. I thought I was going to die, but you- why didn’t you-”

“You were drunk,” Iwaizumi said. He laced their fingers together, and kissed the back of Oikawa’s hand.

“But then you acted like it never happened, and I was so confused, I just-”

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I didn’t want to approach you about it, only to have you say that it was an accident and that it was meaningless… I... “ His fingers tightened. “In trying to protect myself, I only made things worse for you. I don’t think anything I can do will make up for this, I...”

Iwaizumi was being so honest. They were here together, sitting collapsed in the genkan , their emotions quiet and raw.

Logically, Oikawa should feel elated, right? Like the weight of the sky had been raised from his shoulders, knowing that the person he had pined for for so many months now in fact loved him back - isn’t that what everyone wants to hear?

Yet, he was still tired. So confused, because the feelings of desperation, of raw sorrow that he had felt after each apparent rejection were too real to him, because they were.

But this time, Iwaizumi was here with him, outpouring his feelings that almost mirrored his own. Oikawa leaned so that his head lay on Iwaizumi’s chest, the hammering of his heart as obvious as his own.

“If you were in love me then why did you sleep with Ushijima-san?” Iwaizumi asked suddenly. There was no more malice in his voice, just genuine curiosity.

“I only went back with him because I saw you sitting at the table with your arm around some girl, I…” Oikawa felt himself grow hot at the memory, at the thought of those arms currently around him wrapped around another. “Why did you sleep with that girl?”

“Because I- I saw you, that night in the crowd. You were dancing with Ushijima-san, and you hard your arms all over him. It wasn’t… unreasonable to assume you two had a thing going. Especially after I called you that morning and… you were in his room.” Oikawa fell silent. “I remember seeing you from that balcony, Ushijima’s hand on your arm and you were laughing with him in a way I’d only seen once myself… I felt so angry. Jealous.” His eyes were dark. “You’d taken up so much of my time and thoughts, even giving me a night to be hopeful for… only for me to see you with him and I just. I needed something to distract me.”

Oikawa didn't’ say anything. As bizarre as it was to think it, it felt nice to know that Iwaizumi had been jealous. That Iwaizumi was just like Oikawa in that sense.

“Are you still going to quit?” Iwaizumi asked, once they had sat in the quiet enough to regain their thoughts. His hand had come to rest on Oikawa’s arm, the rough callouses of his fingertips tracing patterns into his skin.

Oikawa avoided his gaze. “I don’t know,” he finally said. “That stuff I said about being tired of everything… it was true, you know? I came to Tokyo to live for myself, and to enjoy my life in a way that I couldn’t back home.”

“And isn’t that what you’ve been doing?” Iwaizumi said.

“Yes, but… I can’t help but feel like my life doesn’t even belong to myself anymore. I spend so long dressing up and down that in the heat of it I don’t even remember who I am. I didn’t come here to attend fancy functions and sign magazines, I…” Oikawa trailed off. He still refused to look up.

“Oikawa…” Iwaizumi said. “You should have told me,” he paused. “No, I should have noticed. I’m sorry I never realised it myself, it’s just… you do such a good job of putting up a front, that I never suspected a thing. Even the first time when you collapsed, it took me until it was too late to realise that something was wrong.”

“This time it’s not your fault, Iwa-chan…” In Oikawa’s opinion, it wasn’t his fault the first time either, but he wasn’t going to digress here just yet. “I’m just not sure whether I’ll be able to keep up with this job the way I have been.”

“Oikawa, if by now you haven’t realised that my job is to help you be able to balance out everything, then boy have I got news for you..”

Oikawa punched Iwaizumi in the shoulder. “Dummy,” he murmured, but his voice was soft.

Perhaps he could get used to his, leaning on Iwa-chan both physically and metaphorically. For too long he’d been working alone, putting up fronts and pretending things were okay. But now he didn’t need to anymore, and just maybe that was what he needed to keep going.

And Oikawa was certainly willing to give it a try.

Chapter Text

The lights were dim when Oikawa walked into the bar, but that was just the way he liked it. He pulled his sunglasses from his face and took in the woody scent of the walls that he had grown to love so much, and the creaking of the floorboards that rattled with each step down he took. There was an aroma coming from the kitchen of those spiced nuts he loved so much, and the low murmur of conversations scattered across the room.

It was busier than usual today – an unusual Friday. The room was filled to the brim with the unwinding salary man as per normal, the air thick with cigarette smoke and the blue light of smartphones like a plague. But perhaps more unusual today was the company of those who were not regulars, brought in by hastily pinned flyers and social media advertisements.

Today was somewhat of a special event, after all.

He made eye contact with the bartender, who gave him a small smile. Oikawa waved his hand at him in familiar response, before settling into the booth he most frequented. No more than five minutes later two glasses were deposited on his table – Sex on the Beach with a blue straw, and a plain single malt whiskey with no ice. Oikawa tapped his fingers on the table in silent thanks.

Low music played through the speakers, acoustic vibes that set the walls thrumming with each pulse and a beat that kept his mind working through the haze. It had been a busy day, with an interview in the morning and a drama filming until late – a business that was quickly becoming the norm again. He had managed to finish earlier today, however, giving him ample time to quickly return home and dress down before heading out for a drink.

“Excuse me,” a voice said, interrupting his thoughts. It was soft and feminine, and looking to the side Oikawa saw a group of three girls standing at the edge of his table. Their long, brown hair was curled into neat fringes and waves, and their manicured fingers expertly applied their makeup, which seemed to give them the appearance of living dolls. Perhaps if he were five years younger and none the wiser towards himself, he’d have given them the attention they were looking for. But Oikawa already knew that they wanted. “We don’t mean to pry, but by any chance would you happen to be O-”

He was being recognised so much more frequently now than ever, ever since the night-time flick he’d been casted in had reached the top of the national ratings. He was no major character by any means, but the publicity had sent his fan-cafes skyrocketing beyond anything he thought was possible for him.

Oikawa lifted his index finger to his lips. “Shh,” he said, giving them a sly smile. He was quite inconspicuous today, with no makeup covering his skin, and the clothes he wore were all his own. Yes, he was Oikawa Tooru, but today he was not Oikawa Tooru. He was neither the model nor the actor that no doubt featured on the magazines they owned back home, but simply a man choosing to spend his nights in dimly lit caverns such as this. A boy from Sendai, not a celebrity, was who he was, and the girls took a cautious step back. “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong person.”

Realization dawned on their features; they smiled and lowered their eyelids, before giving shy nods and turning away. Oikawa was grateful for their maturity. It was why he preferred to spend his free time in age-restricted areas such as these, where he could hope for a semblance of respect from those who surrounded him.

Content that he could be left alone for the remainder of the night, Oikawa sipped at his drink. His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he gave it a quick glance. An email from his manager and… a text message?

You here yet?’ it read.

A smile played on his lips. ‘Yes, and it’s rude to keep me waiting,’ he texted back. 

The reply came quick. ‘Get over yourself.

He checked the time. 9:55PM. Five minutes give or take wasn’t that big a deal, was it?

He spent the next few minutes playing whatever mobage was on the top of the charts, and before he knew it the lights fell dimmer still. The radio faded out, and the soft static of a microphone took its place. 

It was time; Oikawa felt himself go still, his heart thrumming in anticipation.

“Good evening,” a voice said, the low tumble familiar and sending warmth through to Oikawa’s toes. “It’s been a while since I’ve performed here. How have you all been?” 

There were some murmured replies and the hushing of conversations as all eyes turn to the stage. Oikawa didn’t move from his seat, his back still turned and his eyes trained to his drink. The ice clinked in the centre of his glass, and he stirred it absently with his straw.

“The first song I’m singing tonight is from one of my favourite bands. It’s in English, so I apologize for the inconvenience, however… the meaning will come to those who search for it.”

Acoustic had never sounded better to Oikawa’s ears; the soft plucking of the strings reverberating through the microphone, and the tapping of the singer’s foot to the rhythm; it had the irreplaceable, raw feeling to it that he couldn’t experience anywhere else.

Then, the voice began.

All along the western front…

Yes, this was what Oikawa wanted. He closed his eyes, and let it capture him anew. He had heard it so many times, the soft roll of his voice hidden behind the gruffness. Of the surprisingly soft lilt to his words, often hidden behind quips of the tongue and aggravated sighs. He knew it like he knew himself, the tune of the ringing of strings over and over, yet it never ceased to amaze him how each time it could be so different – yet so perfect.

It was once, then twice, and then uncountable again. It was something else entirely, beyond comprehension, and Oikawa couldn’t get enough. Each song had him feeling the rush of emotions from the start, from beginning to end and catharsis again. By the end of the set he felt reborn, and his heart swelled in proud at the knowledge that it was all his. 

That Iwaizumi was his.

“Rude of you to not even show your face,” came a gruff voice as it slid into the booth, hand immediately reaching for the glass of whiskey set to the side. 

Oikawa beamed at him. “Welcome back,” he said. It was too embarrassing to let him know that the reason he preferred to hide behind the chair was because he wasn’t sure he could hold himself back. Seeing Iwaizumi on the stage, knees together with a guitar perched under his arms did things to him.

Iwaizumi scowled at him through his mouthful, but there was no malice. Only fondness and the twinkle of his eye as he set it down, a smile gracing his features like it was natural. 

“I’m so lucky, having the most popular performer in this side of town sharing a drink with me. Oh god, I should take a selfie, shouldn’t I?” Oikawa gasped, reaching for his phone. 

Iwaizumi scowled. “Shut up, Mr. Front-Page-Of-Tokyo-Style, hat trick edition.”

Oikawa’s smile didn’t falter. “You should take a selfie too, then. Put it on instagram, for all your fans to see.”

Iwaizumi almost snorted into his drink. “I don’t think my followers would even know who you are. Pop music and daytime drama?” He pulled a face. “Awful.”

“Which is why you should do it,” Oikawa replied, not even taking offense at his boyfriend’s comments. “Help spread me to a wider audience so I can become even more popular. Social media is an extremely important method of advertising, you know?”

“Of course I know that,” Iwaizumi replied, rolling his eyes.

“So then do it! Pass me your phone; I’ll take the selfie for you. It’ll make you look well connected, having such a popular young person in your social sp- “

Oikawa’s phone buzzed on the table, the screen lighting up to show that he was receiving a call.

“Who is it?” Iwaizumi asked, eyes darting to the phone. Oikawa scowled, giving up Iwaizumi’s phone in favour of his own. Iwaizumi quickly pocketed the device before Oikawa could grab a hold of it again. 

Sticking his tongue out, Oikawa flipped his phone onto its screen and the buzzing stopped. “My manager,” he said, his tone sour. “He probably wants to call me about shoving another interview into my schedule, or something.

Iwaizumi snorted. “Tell Kunimi he can deal with it on his own, because that’s his job. 

Oikawa raised his brows. “That’s rich, coming from you,” he mused.

Iwaizumi shrugged. “I’m saying that precisely because I’ve been there and done that,” he said. “Besides, that guy’s probably only pretending to work. He’s a good time waster, that one,” he muttered.

“I don’t think anyone could be better at wasting time than you, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said.

Iwaizumi laughed. “Maybe, but the difference is that I don’t get caught. He could have learned a trick or two from me… ah well, too late for him I guess.” He shrugged, and tipped the rest of his drink down his throat. He let out a breath, clearly enjoying the taste of the drink on his lips.

It had been a year since Iwaizumi had quit his job at Tokyo Style as a manager, deciding it was time to give up the act and follow what he had always wanted. Oikawa had been hesitant at first, unsure as to how he could work together with anyone other than his Iwa-chan, but he soon found that perhaps it was even easier to work with someone with whom you had no personal relation to.

Kunimi wasn’t a bad guy, so to speak. Boring to a fault, but good at his job. At least, that’s how Iwaizumi described him. 

And Oikawa was glad; because Kunimi was able to bring Oikawa up to do his best in everything he did, while Iwaizumi helped him go even further.

Maybe this was the part of the night that Oikawa always loved the most; when it was just the two of them, unwinding and sharing their days like it was all they wanted to hear. Each day continued, while different from the last, bringing the two of them closer to their dreams with each other to push them along. 

Oikawa, while somewhat insecure, finding his way through the world of media within his fingers reaching further than any 18-year-old could have dreamed, and Iwaizumi, following his heart down the path he had forgone, this time with the vigour and muse he could never have had before.

And Oikawa could only smile with the knowledge that no matter how far their lives may seem, their roads would never diverge. 

Rather, that they were two parts of a pathway home.

 

You can feel it in your mind
Oh you can do it all the time
Plug it in and change the world
You are my electric [boy]. 

MGMT, Electric Feel.