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Silly Little Stars, Galaxies Apart

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Soulmates.

You know, the whole idea that you meet a person you’re destined to be with for life, the person that puts color and brightness in your life and stars in your eyes, and makes your heart feel like it’s going to combust just from a kiss. Where their touch feels like fire and their voice feels like magic over the skin, and no amount of time could ever bring justice to the desire you feel for them.

Well, everyone has one, apparently. They even have matching marks–a little something neat and magical–to solidify it.

Iwaizumi has known his soulmate since before he could even walk.

He didn’t know it at first, that this bundle of curly hair and big brown eyes would somehow come to be the be all and end all of his existence. Or at least, sometimes it feels that way.

See, they met because their moms were best friends, deliveries a month apart from each other, houses right across the street, all of that motherly bonding. Iwaizumi almost never had a moment alone in his childhood, at least not one that he could recall.

The hangouts started from naptime in the same crib and lunches in highchairs, and progressed to playing volleyball in the backyard and bug catching in the summer.

Iwaizumi remembers all the late night movie parties, complete with their favorite stuffed animals, onesies, and some popcorn. He can still remember the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling the Area 51 posters on the walls, the one signed jersey framed just by the doorway from their favorite athlete.

Those were nice times, but they weren’t his favorite.

His fondest memories, were the ones spent on adventures.

Oikawa Tooru has always been an adventure.

The moment he figured out how his legs worked, he walked everywhere. When he learned to run, almost no one could catch him. In fact, it was one of the things Iwaizumi prided himself on, for a while. Chasing Oikawa’s tattered and torn t-shirts through the forests behind their houses, feeling air rush through his lungs and his heart hammer in his chest and ears, feet thudding against cold grass and hardened mud until they reached the top of the hill.

And then, they’d stargaze.

Oikawa always said he loved to look at the sky at night, marvelled by the idea that things that looked so close together were vast distances apart. And that just because he was stuck on this tiny planet, in one spot in the universe, if he tried hard enough, he could open his hands and grab every little sun twinkling over his head and move them, he could break from Earth’s atmosphere and dive into the deepest parts of black space and see something more.

Iwaizumi tried, he tried with all the might his little heart could muster, but he never felt himself leave the cool grass.

He might have blamed that on Oikawa, with as long as he spent watching him.

Oikawa glowed with something luminescent that no one could place, but everyone loved. He always felt far away, like he was supposed to be somewhere else, but he still felt warm and bright.

Iwaizumi fell in love with photography, wanting to capture every moment he could because of the painful reality that nothing lasted forever. He worked hard to get himself a nice camera–by way of mom’s chore lists and dad’s home boot camp–and his finger never left the shutter.

Oikawa was a natural born artist. He was constantly sketching, painting, scribbling on almost any surface when inspiration struck him. It was a pretty interesting day when Iwaizumi had to worm Oikawa out of trouble for painting the night sky over a school desk–even if it was an old broken one, but Oikawa just said that’s why he chose it.

Iwaizumi remembers all the the paintings and drawings, the filled sketchbooks in his room that smelled like old paper and ink.

He remembers the way Oikawa looked when he’d come through his window at night, windblown and beautiful, and say, “let’s go on an adventure, Iwa-chan.”

And Iwaizumi never had it in him to tell Oikawa no. Or maybe he really wanted to go on that adventure. Maybe he wanted that little spark in life that Oikawa gave him, that diving into the unknown with shaking hands and a racing heart.

Iwaizumi was fourteen when it happened. He woke up one morning and his mom gasped and spun him around, fingers poking and prodding at the skin on his back. When she brought a mirror to him, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped at what he saw.

Of course, He’d always heard the rumors about them, soulmarks. Everyone at school talked about them, how you got them around the puberty stage, when life became an awkward hell that all the bumbling lemmings stumbled through until they figured out their individuality.

He never stopped to think about them, but he also didn’t want to.

He didn’t want to think about the idea that he was meant for someone, because the one person he wanted to matter to the most was right in front of him, across the street, singing at the top of his lungs to shitastic music or letting a pianist or violinist fill his room while he slapped paint onto a canvas and made it into some kind of masterpiece.

It never occurred to Iwaizumi that his soulmate would have been the one he was looking at the entire time.

To find that Oikawa had the same soulmark he did, a collection of constellations sprawled across shoulder blades and down their dominant arm, it did something inside of him, deep in the pit of his stomach.

“Soulmates, huh?” Oikawa mumbled while they sat on the same hill they always had, looking up to the stars again. “It feels weird, to know that some force out there picks who you get to be with.”

Iwaizumi’s heart almost sank.

“All things considered, I’m glad it’s you, Iwa-chan.”

Instead, his heart shot through his chest and made an attempt to join those silly little stars above his head.

Iwaizumi can’t remember when he fell in love.

It might have been the first time they went stargazing, or the first time they caught fireflies. It might have been the time Iwaizumi broke his foot falling off the roof, and Oikawa only started to laugh once he knew Iwaizumi was alright.

It could have been all those times Oikawa called his name, his nickname, with that silly little face and peace sign. Or the moments where Oikawa’s voice went soft and hushed, deeper, spewing out all of his dreams and desires about getting far, far away.

Oikawa Tooru was a mystery, a beautiful mystery, and Iwaizumi called himself the luckiest guy in the world to be fated for him.

Problem was, he could never keep him.

Oikawa avoided the conversation about colleges like the plague, and the day after graduation, he vanished, just like he always did when returning Iwaizumi safe and sound to his room after an adventure. Only, this time he didn’t leave a trace.

Well, maybe a little one.

Iwaizumi came home to a box on his bed wrapped in a bow, a little note on the side.

Go have your adventure, you might find something!
-Oikawa

Iwaizumi peeled the box apart to find a camera, his jaw dropping because it was the latest and greatest one out there, neatly tucked into a camera bag. Just underneath that was a painting, signed by Oikawa in the corner. The painting was beautiful, cherry blossoms set across the top and moving across the canvas, a small piece in the corner that told Iwaizumi this was painted right outside their school.

He was angry at first. How could Oikawa just up and leave him like that? With so many things unexplained, so many things unresolved, and Oikawa just disappearing with a couple of gifts in his wake.

But Iwaizumi took them. He saved the canvas, and the camera became his precious item, using it almost everywhere he went.

And off to college he went, pushing Oikawa into the back of his mind.

It started off great, with people taking an interest in both him and his photography. He filled out, bulking up and losing the acne, he and his dorm mate got along well, he got invited to parties, outings, the works.

But he couldn’t get rid of Oikawa.

He tried, once he learned that a lot of people didn’t know their soulmates yet, or that they didn’t want to be tied down to one, and Iwaizumi thought, “I could do that. I could change fate.”

So he tried. But there wasn’t a spark. Nothing. No one made him feel the way Oikawa did. And as much as he didn’t want to let that bitter truth sit on his tongue, he couldn’t help it.

So when Oikawa showed up to a party one night, a year later, looking windblown and gorgeous, Iwaizumi also tried to refrain from punching his lights out.

“Where the hell have you been?!” Iwaizumi hissed, clearly upset, visibly upset.

And Oikawa smiled, pushing a beer into his one hand and grabbing the other, pulling him away from the crowd and up to the balcony, where they sat in the cool air and caught up on life. Oikawa had been everywhere, having saved up money to just get out and go exploring. He wanted to see things, do things, like paint the skyline in the city or base jump with a wing-suit. And he did.

Here he was again, attending an art school just thirty minutes from Iwaizumi, deciding he wanted to get a complete education because “why not?”

Iwaizumi couldn’t find it in him to bring up soulmates, the idea of them having matching constellations marked across their bodies, skin stars with faint lines connecting them.

“Did you like the camera I bought you?” Oikawa asked, pulling his fingers through his hair and smiling over the rim of his beer can, cheeks tinged scarlet from cool wind and ethereal existence.

It surged through Iwaizumi, the fear that Oikawa might be here today and gone the next. “It’s the only one I use,” he replied.

Oikawa leaned close, so their knees were touching, running his thumb along Iwaizumi’s knuckle bed. He was tipsy, maybe worse than that, breath smelling like cheap beer but skin smelling like lavender and soft rain.

Iwaizumi took in the long lashes set above eyes brown and glistening with something, something that kept Oikawa somewhere in the skies and distant.

So, with both intoxication and love, he kissed him. Right there on the balcony of some frat house with nothing on the mind but pure adrenaline and Oikawa, he kissed him hard, knocking over empty beer cans as his hands reached for something, anything to grip onto.

And Oikawa kissed him back, by some miracle, pulling tight at Iwaizumi’s shirt and climbing his way into his lap.

Blood rushed to Iwaizumi’s lips and left them red and swollen as he pulled up for air, resting his forehead against Oikawa’s and drinking in the sight of him with eyes closed, smiling, skin flushed and breathing labored.

“Beautiful,” jumped out of Iwaizumi’s throat, involuntarily.

Oikawa let his arms hang over Iwaizumi’s shoulders and laughed. “Iwa-chan, has anyone ever told you how gay you can be?”

“Yeah, actually,” Iwaizumi wrinkled his nose, and shook with laughter. And the night continued like that, conversations with laughter, kisses in between, feeling like time had stopped even with the sunrise.

Iwaizumi got used to Oikawa’s presence again. They met up between, after classes.

Iwaizumi’s roommate gave him a weird look when he demanded heavily he have the room with the bigger window, but Iwaizumi didn’t care. He knew if he left the latch unlocked, Oikawa would at some point make his way up the tree outside.

And he did, all the time, coming through at odd hours, sometimes smelling like a fresh shower, sometimes smelling like alcohol and cigarettes--although thankfully Oikawa never smoked.

“Iwa-chan, are you happy?”

Iwaizumi watched Oikawa pull himself into one of Iwaizumi’s t-shirts and nothing else as he made his way over to him, climbing into his bed and curling up close, the cold sting of the sheets making him shiver.

“Why do you ask?”

“I can’t ask if my destined to be boyfriend is happy?”

Iwaizumi almost combusted on the spot at the word boyfriend.

“Oikawa, we–”

“We’re not dating. And some force in this world keeps telling us that we’re supposed to be together. And I hate the idea that someone, something is telling me what to do,” Oikawa went to reach for Iwaizumi, but as the words left his mouth, Iwaizumi snatched his hand and pushed it back at him, his jaw tight and eyes dark.

“If that’s so repulsive to you, then why are you here?”

“Because no matter how much I resist this stupid mark of fate, no one makes me feel like you do,” Oikawa sighed and bowed forward, pressing lips together, hands wrestled into Iwaizumi’s shirt.

It wasn’t “I love you” but Iwaizumi took it, he took all of it, as he pulled Oikawa free from clothing and tilted him back against his pillow, drawing out moans and gasps from his mouth and hearing his name strained and hushed on lips.

And the next morning, Iwaizumi got to bathe in the afterglow of his first time, Oikawa looking beautifully disheveled and tucked beside him.

A month later, Oikawa was gone again. He left a new painting for Iwaizumi;, this time it was something a little more abstract, with brilliant colors and soft strokes.

Iwaizumi rolled through the rest of college in a dull blur, everything feeling lackluster.

He got a job as a bartender, working his photography on the side, and moved in with a new roommate, hoping for that spark to kick in, something to put color back into his world and fire in his heart. It all felt stale, and it showed, even in his photographs.

He missed Oikawa. He missed the way he smelled, the way he spoke, the way he laughed. He missed kissing his nose or along the ridge of his shoulder, or down the inner side of his thighs and watching him quiver.

And the more he thought about it, the worse he got. Oikawa didn’t want a soulmate. Oikawa didn’t want him. No one knew what Oikawa wanted, because he was some lost enigma trying to reach for the nonexistent. The unobtainable. He was a dreamer with too many dreams.

Iwaizumi gave up after two years of waiting, and tried it again, to forget and move on.

He dated other people, he got promotions, he got his own apartment. And slowly, color came back. It wasn’t a spark, but a low flame, something comfortable, like a rhythm he could learn to move to.

Oikawa would always be some warm, wistful memory in the back of his mind.

Oikawa Tooru was untouchable, invincible.

Iwaizumi Hajime was his soulmate.

They would always be just close enough, but never quite together.




 

 

“These photos are incredible, as usual,” Iwaizumi’s boss grumbles a bit as he looks over Iwaizumi’s photoshoot of the Tokyo skyline. “You really do have an eye for this stuff, Iwaizumi.”

Iwaizumi rubs the back of his neck, bashful, shrugging his shoulders, that small smile of gratitude spreading across his face. “Nah, this one was easy. The helicopter ride was nice though, thank you for expensing that.”

“Company policy,” Mizoguchi chuckles, “as long as you don’t die on us.” He stacks the photos together and slides them back into the manila envelope. “I’ll get these upstairs so we can submit them for the ad. This was a big project for you, so you have some downtime before the next one. Oh! Here’s your bonus, as promised,” Mizoguchi slides a check to him, and adjusts his tie before he seals the envelope.

“Have a good night, boss,” Iwaizumi says, pivoting on his heel and stepping out of the doorway. He slings his bag over his shoulder, putting the check away and heading for the elevator. He’s got work at the bar tonight, and he knows Saeko would have his head on a platter if he showed up late.

His bicycle ride over is a breeze, nice because the autumn air is here, chilly but not quite lacking the remnants of summer. The sunset is soft, the warm glow falling behind buildings and the increasing number of neon signs that make themselves apparent. Like the sun is running from him the closer he gets. How familiar.

Iwaizumi shakes it off and straps his bike to the rack, heading inside to clock in and begin his shift.

“So? So! Did you get the bonus or what?”

“Hinata, I just got here,” Iwaizumi sighs, laughter on his lips as he punches his ID into the machine against the wall.

“C’mon, the photos were amazing, Iwaizumi-san!”

Iwaizumi whips out his bonus check with a grin, hearing Hinata hoot and holler with excitement, leaping high into the air like he always does. “Kageyama-kun! He did it! You owe me money!”

“I didn’t make a bet with you, dumbass,” Iwaizumi hears the disembodied voice from around the corner, and a few seconds later, Kageyama is in the doorway with a tray tucked under his arm and an apron around his waist.

“Congratulations, Iwaizumi-san. Are you off for a while?”

“Yeah,” Iwaizumi nods, putting his things into his locker and peeling out of his work clothes, putting himself into his bartending attire. “Aren’t you two supposed to be on vacation?”

Iwaizumi watches Hinata fidget nervously, eyes darting back and forth between Iwaizumi and Kageyama like he has some big secret that he’s not supposed to reveal. Well, it isn’t exactly that. It’s more like, bringing up anything on the topic of soul mates around Iwaizumi feels wrong, and rude.

It’s true, Hinata and Kageyama were supposed to take a week off to do God knows what somewhere. Iwaizumi met them as a pair, soulmates that squabbled almost on the regular, but when it came down to it, they were a match made in heaven.

Iwaizumi saw their marks, each with an individual wing on their shoulder, beautifully spread across their backs with feathers, dark and shiny and strong. Hinata always said that he dreamt of flying, and Kageyama promised to do his best to make that a possibility.

Gross in some ways, touching in others.

“We uhm… we decided to wait until spring. Maybe. Since we...got scouted,” Hinata touches his cheeks, now red as a berry, trying hard not to smile with all of his face. Kageyama tugs at the tips of his bangs like the equivalent of a baseball cap.

Oh, these two were sport stars, college volleyball players looking to join the national team as a duo. Iwaizumi only played recreationally, but after watching these two, he wondered what it would have been like if he’d taken it seriously the whole way through.

They were college students by day, waiters by night–Saeko having given them the opportunity to work a few hours and stash cash while they worked on their dream.

That was the kinda bar Saeko ran. Picking up all the dreamers and giving them a home, a safety net of sorts while they earned their stripes in the real world.

Iwaizumi had been here the longest, aside from Hanamaki, who was working on his doctorate. But Iwaizumi was different, because everyone here still had a place to go, some kind of dream to catch. He was just comfortable.

He’d graduated college and landed the job he wanted, a photographer of all sorts, doing giant projects like landscapes to even fashion shows. He worked at the bar to keep himself busy, he didn’t need to be here, but Saeko welcomed him like family, and he took it. His dream was achieved, so now he did what the rest of the adults do. Work himself into his grave.

“Congratulations,” Iwaizumi smiles, ruffling Hinata’s hair and giving Kageyama a solid pat on his shoulder. “I hope it works out for you two.”

“Uhm...Iwaizumi-san,” they both stammer, out of sync but with the same intention.

They exchange a look with each other, before looking back at him. Hinata speaks first, loud and just a little bit nervous, by way of shaking hands and sweaty palms. “W-Will you come to our graduation in the spring? We want you there! Our free tickets go to family first but… you’re like our second family!”

Kageyama nods beside Hinata to everything he’s saying, and with the way they keep looking at him like puppies that want their heads patted, he can’t say no. “Family...Asking kind of early aren’t you?” Iwaizumi asks nervously, fastening his apron around his waist.

“With your work, if we asked you any later you might have taken another project,” Kageyama answers.

“True,” Iwaizumi nods, shutting his locker and spinning the dial. “Alright then, consider me going. And, thanks for having me,” he grins, and they both grin back at him, before they hear the familiar yell of Saeko from the edge of the locker room.

Iwaizumi moves out onto the floor, pausing to wash his hands before he grabs his keycard and greets the couple of guests ahead of him. Hanamaki has already begun serving, and Saeko is making rounds to greet everyone–the way she always does.

“So, am I going to see your photos on a couple hundred thousand magazines soon?”

“Er, yeah,” Iwaizumi nods, “how’s the studying coming along, Makki?”

“If I didn’t love my subject so much I’d want to shoot myself. I’m still debating it, actually,” Hanamaki quips as he flips silverware between his fingers, the little show he puts on to make guests marvel.

“And then where would Mattsun be?” Iwaizumi smirks, pausing to greet a guest and take their order across the counter.

“He always says that if I die before he does, he’s going to tattoo dicks over the flower petals,” he shrugs, clicking his teeth as he shakes the canister.

Iwaizumi snorts, punching in the order onto the screen to send it to the kitchen in the back.

Hanamaki Takahiro. Iwaizumi has known him for a few years now, a witty guy with a pretty calm demeanor. He’s always been in competition with Iwaizumi, despite their amazing friendship, so he tries pretty much anything to one-up him any chance he gets. Hanamaki’s soulmate, Matsukawa Issei is similar. They’re truly two peas in a pod, decorated with pretty floral tattoos down their forearms.

“Will he be here tonight?”

“Nah, he’s pulling a late shift for training at the health center. He really wants to get his next credential so he can start working on more patients.” Makki shakes his head. Matsukawa was working to become a sports doctor, and he was a damn good one too, from how much Makki talked about him, and how many stories he had about superstars coming in with all kinds of injuries.

Matsukawa always received perks after healing one of those young punks in that facility. Tickets to all kinds of sporting events. Hanamaki called it a soulmate perk, Iwaizumi called it ‘lucky as hell’.

They don’t talk about their story too much, but apparently they both met at really low points in their lives, and somehow meeting each other made them both want to pick their asses up and do something better. They probably shit talk each other more than anything, but Iwaizumi has seen it, those little moments they have that are tender with unspoken affection riddled all over.

He pauses in his thoughts to take another order, flipping a fork between his fingers the way Hanamaki did and lightly smirking when he sees Hanamaki slyly flip him the bird from the side.




 

 

“Hajime!” Iwaizumi spins and looks down to find Saeko with a hand on her hip and the other underneath a tray. She reaches for his hand and gives it a firm squeeze, grinning from ear to ear. “Congratulations on your bonus!”

Iwaizumi gives her a side smile as he swirls a towel into an empty glass. “So when am I taking you to dinner?”

“A true gentleman,” Hanamaki says from behind, “take me too.”

“Please,” Iwaizumi chuckles, “I owe her. You on the other hand, eat too much.”

Saeko snickers at their small squabble. “Be nice, Hajime. Y’know, it’d be nice if we all went out soon. I found a really good place just across the way!”

“Sounds good to me,” Hanamaki smiles, sliding a martini forward and walking over to close out another tab.

Iwaizumi pivots on his heel to follow Saeko back into the kitchen as she goes to set down her tray and load it full of dishes. “Ah, Saeko nee-san! I’ve got it!” Hinata chirps, scurrying forward to take the tray from her and dash back out to the guests.

“These kids never let me work,” she frowns, shaking her head at the bundle of energy that has made his way out to the floor by now.

“You’re the boss, remember?” Iwaizumi mentions with a smirk. He reaches up to a shelf to grab another bottle of liquor to replace in the front, popping the top off and switching it for the thin nozzle.

Saeko fills another table order onto her tray, shrugging her shoulders. “I know, but I like keeping busy! Besides, the paperwork bores me to tears. I really have to thank Hitoka-chan for jumping on board with me,” she claps her hands together in a lighthearted prayer, eyes going towards the ceiling.

“Yacchan really does save us from a lot. I should bring her with us,” Iwaizumi snaps his fingers, gesturing the little finger gun towards Saeko like he’s landed on a brilliant idea. Saeko looks back at him with just as much intensity, before they high five each other.

“She’s in the back office, so stop by on your break okay?” Saeko smiles, and just as she’s about to lift the tray to head out, Kageyama swipes it from her hands, long legs carrying him out the doorway with a small “I’ve got it, nee-san,” thrown over his shoulder.

Damn it!” Saeko snaps, clapping her hands together in frustration.




 

 

Iwaizumi folds the last of his laundry and tucks it into his bottom drawer, pulling himself into some drawstring sweatpants and motioning towards his kitchen. It’s late, probably around two in the morning–since he stayed over just a bit to help Hanamaki and talk to Yachi–but he’s pretty used to being up at this hour.

He doesn’t always like being up at this hour though, because it let’s him think about too many things. Like the box stuffed in his back closet that he can’t bring himself to throw away, or the camera that he was given as a graduation present that he can’t stop using.

Hanamaki made fun of him for it once, spending a little extra money on finding parts for the camera, versus just upgrading the entire thing. But Iwaizumi couldn’t bring himself to do it. The one time he thought about selling the camera his hands started to shake over the shutter. Plus, he’s taken many beautiful photos on it. He thinks of it like his good luck charm, with a little touch of Oikawa. So when people ask him why his photos always come out so beautifully, he can blame it on the one person who gave him the camera.

He pours himself a glass of water, thinking he’ll take it down and then head to bed. He doesn’t have much to do tomorrow outside of clean his apartment, cash his check and wait for his early shift at Saeko’s, so he can afford to sleep in late. It’s been a while since he’s been able to do that, he thinks to himself as he clicks off his kitchen light.

Iwaizumi goes to head for his bedroom, but as he pads across the length of his apartment, he hears knuckles rap against his door, quite harshly too, like the person on the other side might be in some kind of rush.

At this hour, it puts him on high alert. He wonders if it might be Hanamaki, or maybe Saeko. It could even be Mizoguchi. He highly doubts it would be Yahaba, but he won’t erase every possibility just yet. He double checks to make sure his baseball bat is still tucked into the umbrella bin by the door--he didn’t want to buy it, but his mom made him, and it just might come in handy–and goes to undo the latch. He peeks into the keyhole, but the person outside is covered by a hood, which only makes Iwaizumi all the more suspicious.

He could just not answer the door, but he also doesn’t want to leave it with the idea that someone is outside. He sets his glass down on the counter and reaches for the bat, tucking it behind him.

With a heavy breath, he turns the doorknob and pulls the door open.

Iwaizumi had at some point told most of the people that he’s close to about his life’s story. Saeko knows, Hinata and Kageyama know, even Makki and Mattsun know about it. He didn’t make it some long, drawn out story. But when the question of, “have you met your soulmate yet?” came about, Iwaizumi was running out of lies, and he really did love these people, like a second family. So he told them. About the walking enigma that he was so fated to be with. That he was so madly in love with. That he wanted to hate from his very core, and never quite could.

He told them because he never thought he would see him again. He told them because he thought he had moved on from that point in his life.

He told them because he never thought that he would somehow appear at his doorstep after five years, looking windblown and beautiful, ethereal, familiar scent of lavender and rain filling his head with too many flashes of the past, things he thought he had finally let go of–or at least locked away deep enough in his heart.

“Hi, Iwa-chan.”



 

 

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you almost attacked me with a baseball bat,” Oikawa shrugs his shoulders, his coat sliding from his arms and whipping around to rest on the coat hanger. He pulls his fingers through his hair, somehow making it look even better than it had five seconds ago.

Iwaizumi’s nostrils flare, a hand momentarily coming up to clutch at his shirt as he watches Oikawa twirl about his apartment like a kid in a candy store. Big brown eyes float upward towards the high ceilings, smile lighting his face in what looks like pride.

As if Iwaizumi needed that from the likes of this guy.

“Wow, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa breathes, “nice place you got here.”

Iwaizumi hands him a glass, scanning over Oikawa’s long fingers as he takes it. They’re still soft and nimble, the way he’s used to seeing them. His eyes move slowly across the maroon-tinted fabric sheathing sharp collarbones, then to the shadow on Oikawa’s neck, and finally to that sharp jawline. He’s all angles, beautifully defined, even as lips pull back across glittering teeth and smile.

Iwaizumi’s heart wrenches at the realization that he might have missed Oikawa a lot more than he thought.

He pulls himself from his trance when soaking in Oikawa’s beauty earns him direct eye contact. Iwaizumi clears his throat and peels his eyes away, returning them to his own glass pressed between his fingers.

“Well, you gonna tell me why you’re here?” he asks quietly, voice clipped—because if he allowed any room for emotion right now, everything he’d built up over these years would fade in an instant, probably.

Oikawa’s smile wavers, losing its usual glow as he looks down into his glass, fingers drumming along the sides and leaving little prints. “Guess I can’t just say I missed you and get away with it, huh?”

“No,” Iwaizumi’s eyes tighten, heartstrings tugging in a way they haven’t in almost too long.

Oikawa moves over to the window, takes a swig of water and stares out over the city below. “Let’s play a game, Iwa-chan.”

“Oikawa,” Iwaizumi sighs impatiently; the name tastes funny on his tongue—bittersweet.

“Name any place in the world you can think of, right now, and I’ll tell you if I’ve been there.”

Iwaizumi has seen this before. As elusive as Oikawa is, he’s not going to get anywhere unless he plays along, so he might as well just do it until he gets something substantial out of him.

So he thinks of all the times Oikawa talked about his desire for adventure, with starry eyes and flailing hands and nothing else but pure determination.

“Paris,” Iwaizumi finally says after giving it a few moments, moving over to stand beside Oikawa and take in a view that he’s seen a hundred times. “You said Paris, one time.”

Oikawa nods, tilting backward with a laugh that makes Iwaizumi’s knees weak.

“Yeah, I’ve been to Paris. Beautiful, really. The language is, too. Though my pronunciation is terrible. That was always your strength,” Oikawa recalls their school days, where they’d find some kind of interest in studying little bits of languages around the world. Iwaizumi spoke, Oikawa translated.

“Name another one,” Oikawa takes another sip, longer this time, his hand flexing around the glass as he brings it back to his side.

“America?”

“Yup.”

“Let me guess, New York.”

“California, actually, then New York. Jus’ worked out that way,” Oikawa shrugs. “California is… glamorous, with a twist. There’s a lot of hype and pretenses.” He clucks his tongue. “New York is quite the monster. Never seen anything like it.”

“Hated it?”

“Loved it,” Oikawa grins, sending something warm trickling over Iwaizumi’s skin. He ducks his head down and grinds his heel into the floor, reminding himself he’s not supposed to be ecstatic just because Oikawa is suddenly here again.

The warmth dies out with the silence, and it feels like an eternity before Iwaizumi finds the question he’d been looking for.

“Did you find what you were chasing after?”

Oikawa sets his glass onto the side table before he finally stops to look at Iwaizumi, eyes filled with so many things unspoken, and Iwaizumi really wishes he hadn’t, because there is something about that brown gaze that takes all of the strength and resolve out of him and sends it out through the window pane. Iwaizumi learned from a young age to read the emotion in Oikawa’s eyes the best he could; keeping up with Oikawa was hard, but it made it easier when he knew what he was thinking: Anxiety, curiosity, genuine sentiment laced around so many questions. Should I play it cool? Does he hate me? What should I say?

“I used to think that the faster I ran, the sooner I’d fly.” Oikawa rocks back onto his heels. “It’s pretty disappointing when you board an airplane for the first time, and you never feel that...that something, y’know?”

Iwaizumi stays quiet.

“I guess not. You always played it safe,” Oikawa’s shoulders fall and his lips thin into a tight line. “Steady life, to a steady job, and then you die, right?”

Oikawa’s fists clench and his knuckles whiten, jaw tightening as stress builds in his shoulders and he glares out the window. “I hitchhiked, I starved, I crowd surfed at concerts, I base jumped off mountaintops. I took a road trip across the entire United States for the hell of it. I painted the canals in Venice and dangled off the edge of the Eiffel Tower. I slept under the stars and carved my name in caves behind waterfalls. I did it all,” he drags his fingers through his hair, frustrated, eyes squeezed shut in anguish rather than accomplishment.

“And nothing, still nothing. No matter how hard I try, I’m stuck here. I can’t touch the stars, let alone the sun, I can’t fly wherever I want to. I can’t…! I’m so tired of running, Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi pulls his hands from his pockets, fingertips fidgeting to reach for Oikawa, but remaining at his sides. He might just vanish again if he reaches for him, and the thought of that alone makes Iwaizumi’s throat dry.

“What are you running from?”

“No,” Oikawa shakes his head, “running to. You ever…” He looks around him like a child about to tell the biggest secret. “Have you ever had that moment in your life, where your heart felt like it was going to burst out of your chest, the world explodes with color, and your stomach has so many butterflies...Like that?”

Hilarious.

If Iwaizumi had a dollar for every time he’d ever felt this way, he’d have a nice paycheck. Oikawa has always been more eloquent, able to come up with the right words to describe a feeling. Iwaizumi clutches his shirt and thinks about the many photo albums in his closet, filled with words he can’t actually say.

He wonders if Oikawa would understand if he saw them.

“Maybe you’ve been looking in the wrong places,” Iwaizumi suggests.

“Maybe you’re right,” Oikawa replies.

“That why you came back?”

“I figured I should start from scratch. And where better to start than with you?” The look on Oikawa’s face reminds Iwaizumi why he didn’t want to see him again. He’s pleading, eyebrows knit together in both frustration and desperation, with a rueful smile twitching at the corners of his lips that screams I need you. Sure, Oikawa needs Iwaizumi. It’s just a reminder that he doesn’t want him.

And just after he thought he was going to lose all of his hard work over these years, Oikawa reminded him right there. He whirls around from the window and picks up the two glasses, walking them over to the kitchen with hard steps, throat burning, body feeling like lead.

“Iwa-chan, you’re mad?”

“No, I’m tired. Oikawa, Not everyone lives like you do.” He furiously scrubs at the fingerprint-stained glass beneath the sink water.

“I know that,” Oikawa’s disjointed voice finds its body in the kitchen, hovering right beside Iwaizumi, wincing as water splashes against his sleeve. “Iwa-chan, I know that. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong, so I came back! Who better to help me than my Iwa-chan?”

“Don’t.”

His agony comes out harsher than he intended. “People don’t last forever, you idiot. You can’t just disappear and come back to them when you want to.”

Iwaizumi spins away from the sink and grabs a rag to dry the glasses. “Let me guess. You fucked up. And with the last bit of money you had left, you figured you would go back to the one person that won’t turn you away, right?”

“Hey, that wasn’t my intention! I came back to you because you’re my best friend!”

“What best friend takes off for five years without so much of a phone call?!” Iwaizumi snaps, slamming the cabinet door shut, the loud clap ringing into silence throughout the apartment. Iwaizumi feels the guilt rolling off of Oikawa as he tugs at the hem of his shirt, and he can’t find it in him to feel any sympathy.

Not yet.

“I mean, Christ, Oikawa, a postcard would have been fine! You just went dark!”

“Are you mad because I left?” Oikawa asks, his voice level, eyes probing, “or because I didn’t take you with me?”

Iwaizumi wrinkles his nose and takes a step back, away from Oikawa. “That’s not fair.”

“Oh come on! What, because you love me?”

“Shut up—!”

Look at me, I’m a mess. You expect me to believe you’re in love with this because of some stupid mark?”

The constellations along Iwaizumi’s skin ache, his heart thundering in his ears and his stomach whirling with nausea. He refuses to let the burning behind his eyes be anything more than that. The wings he’d worked so hard to create to keep up with Oikawa had long since been destroyed, and with Oikawa clawing open old wounds, a knot forms in his throat and locks it all away.

Oikawa steps toward him, and he turns his head in refusal, silent, unable to get anything out of his throat but a disheartened grunt. He wants to tell him to get out, to fall on his face on the way, but nothing comes, just silence as Oikawa reaches for him.

“I’m sorry,” Oikawa breathes, “I know. Why can’t we just work like everyone else? That’s what you’re thinking?”

Iwaizumi looks down at pretty hands that clench tight into his shirt, trapping the fabric between fingers. “I don’t have anyone else, Iwa-chan. You’re my safety net. We’ll figure it out, don’t we always?”

“Apartment,” Iwaizumi clears his throat, grabbing Oikawa’s hands and pulling them off of his shirt, pushing space between them to recreate a barrier. “Until you get a job and an apartment, you can stay here. After that, I want you gone.”

Oikawa’s eyes flash with shock, his jaw falling open in protest, but Iwaizumi beats him to the punch. “I’m not enough of an asshole to let you fail, but I sure as hell won’t hold your hand,” he berates, eyes cutting away from Oikawa’s rueful scowl directed at his feet.

“I’ll take the couch.” Iwaizumi steps away from him and disappears into the bedroom. Of course Oikawa follows him, silent even as Iwaizumi throws a change of clothes and a towel at him.

“I can sleep on the couch, it’s fine.”

Iwaizumi shakes his head, digging through his drawers to find another pillowcase and blanket. “You hate sleeping in anything but comfort, and I’m not gonna deal with you waking up in the middle of the night.”

Before he can step out of the bedroom, Oikawa is grabbing onto his arm, fingers digging in hard enough to make sure Iwaizumi can’t rip himself away from his grip—it’s not like he didn’t try to.

“Iwa-chan.”

His voice is taut and shrill from behind, like he has a whole lot more to say than just Iwaizumi’s name, but the tense fingertips and slight shivering speak for his silence. I don’t know what I would do if you hated me.

Iwaizumi reaches around and places a hand over Oikawa’s, loosening his grip, his dark hazel eyes comforting as he rests Oikawa’s fingers in his palm. “Get some sleep. We’ll talk tomorrow, alright?”

It seems to do enough to get Oikawa to let go and retreat to the bathroom, leaving Iwaizumi with a “good night” in the smallest of voices.

Iwaizumi tries not to think about anything other than the weight on his eyelids. He tucks an arm underneath the pillow and folds himself towards the back of the couch, forcing his eyes closed and mind quiet until he falls asleep.

Somewhere in the pit of his stomach, in the furthest parts of his mind, he finds solace in Oikawa being close again, close enough to reach. Like his little star found its way home. Despite how badly he never wanted to feel that elation again, he’s also enjoying it, the way those bright colors are slowly finding their way to the surface.

Oikawa being home is all sorts of confusing, Iwaizumi just hopes he can keep his heart under control this time.




 

 

Iwaizumi’s eyes snap open when the sound of his fire alarm rings through his ears and rattles down his spine. He groans, dragging hands down his face to help push him further out of sleep and into consciousness. When his eyes find a hazy film floating about his room, he sits up and peers over the edge of the couch to see what might have happened and where.

He finds Oikawa scrambling about his kitchen, oven mitts being tossed across his shoulders as he reaches for a towel. He then beelines for the nearest window and rips it open, flying right by Iwaizumi without noticing him.

“Oikawa, what did you do?!” Iwaizumi yells, hopping over his couch and wheeling for the kitchen. It looks like a complete disaster from the angle he’s at. He claps hands over his ears to block out the loud ringing, glaring at Oikawa who is fanning directly at the smoke alarm.

“Iwa-chan! Good morning!” Oikawa chirps once he gets the beeping to stop, flying right back over to Iwaizumi and blocking him from walking any further. “Um, I made breakfast! Well, I mean...I kind of did.”

“Is my kitchen in one piece?” Iwaizumi tries to lean around him, but Oikawa just grabs his shoulders and holds him upright.

“Whaddaya say we go out? I’ll buy! And… I’ll clean that up too,” Oikawa peers over his shoulder with a worried expression, before he wipes it clean and replaces it with one of those smiles that he always gives when he’s supposed to be in trouble.

Iwaizumi gives Oikawa one hard push and side-steps him, ignoring the protests, and walks into his hazy, smoky kitchen. He pulls his shirt up over his nose and looks down at the horribly burnt remains of something sitting stuck to a cookie tray, and another unspeakably destroyed breakfast attempt glued to a frying pan. Iwaizumi can’t tell what Oikawa was trying to make this morning, but he’s somewhat thankful he doesn’t have to endure the finished product, whatever it was.

“You never learned to cook? How the hell did you stay alive?”

Oikawa just gives a cheeky grin and shrugs.

“I’ll clean it, I promise!”

“Yeah,” Iwaizumi steps away from the crime scene and back where the air is clearer. “Hey, do you even have money to burn?” Iwaizumi asks over his shoulder, knowing Oikawa is following him into his bedroom.

“I have savings!”

“But no home. Or… clothes,” Iwaizumi gestures to his pajamas that hang loosely on Oikawa’s body, cutting his eyes away when he catches himself soaking in Oikawa’s morning glow.

This might be dangerous.

“Ya can’t have your cake and eat it too, Iwa-chan. C’mon, really, let me buy you breakfast! It’s the least I can do.”

“Alright, fine, there’s a place around the corner we can go to,” Iwaizumi pushes open his closet in search of something to wear. He stops fumbling through the hangers for a moment to take a good look at Oikawa again, strictly for the purpose of figuring out what sits in his closet that could fit Oikawa without looking too loose.

Oikawa is swiping his thumb across a cell phone screen in silence. He had a fucking phone this whole time are you kidding—no, calm down. Iwaizumi tries not to let that bother him, and it doesn’t for too long, because he’s running his eyes over long and lean legs that disappear beneath fabric. Oikawa is pretty from his fingertips to his wrists and further, to sharp collarbones and the shadow of his throat, to his jawline, from the rouge tint on his cheeks to the warm gaze set beneath thick lashes. Iwaizumi’s throat dries out at the sight of Oikawa’s bottom lip, soft and pink and snagged between his teeth.

Iwaizumi doesn’t miss the way Oikawa tousles his own hair; he’s just doing something as mundane as checking his phone—probably his account balance—and it’s starting a fire in the pit of Iwaizumi’s stomach that’s spreading rapidly.

“H-Hey,” Iwaizumi clears his throat, watching those brown eyes flicker up at him.

“We should… take you shopping too, but for now, come find something.”

Oikawa’s face fills with something Iwaizumi can’t quite grasp, but it’s gone before he can guess, and suddenly Oikawa is right next to him, fingers padding across the many hangers.

He purses his lips after a few moments and frowns. “Very colorful in here, huh?”

“Shut up,” Iwaizumi snips.

“You always did look good in red,” Oikawa sighs, and Iwaizumi wants to argue that Oikawa can pull off almost any color along the spectrum much better, but he bites his tongue and swallows the words.

Pulling an outfit together quickly—and making it look good—Oikawa is dressed inside of a few minutes and waiting for Iwaizumi in the doorway. “Say, say, Iwa-chan,” he calls over his shoulders as he fiddles with the pocket on the borrowed jacket, finding a small tear at the bottom and wiggling his finger through.

Iwaizumi ignores the entire reality that the man he loves is dressed entirely in his wardrobe, for the sake of his poor heart, pressing his feelings through his palm into the ridges of his mail key.

“We should make a copy of the keys, since I’ll be here for a while, yeah?”

“No.”

“Well I guess you’ll have to take me everywhere with you, then,” Oikawa sings, stepping through the doorway and smiling to himself when he hears Iwaizumi freeze from locking the door shut.

Iwaizumi rips the key from the lock and stuffs it into his pocket, pulling his hood over his head and marching forward. “We’ll talk about it,” he says gruffly and lengthens his stride—because Oikawa’s gorgeously long legs can keep up with him rather easily—hands balling into fists. He clamps his lips shut and refuses to say anything else, because the tiny bits of elation poking through his facade are probably obvious enough to give Oikawa every indication that he’s excited to gift an extra set of keys to his apartment.

Or temporarily, their apartment.




 

 

Iwaizumi stares at his bedroom in some horror, using his hand to close his jaw and drag the frustration from his pores.

Oikawa moving in might have been a mistake. Between the new decorations on the wall and his closet—seventy percent taken over by Oikawa—Iwaizumi is almost positive this was a bad idea. There’s a cactus on his windowsill now, and in a section of the room now sits a stack of art supplies.

“Iwa-chan, I labeled your toothbrush head, so we don’t mix them up,” Oikawa calls from the bathroom.

Oh, of course Oikawa is a stickler about hygiene, and a simple manual toothbrush wasn’t going to cut it. Not for us, Iwa-chan, no. So Oikawa brought home a fancy Sonicare. He also decided to blow his money on extras because Iwa-chan needs these too!

A bottle holder in the shower, a luffa, because exfoliation is key, apparently.

Iwaizumi looks into his bathroom, holding back his groan. His sink is now cluttered with soap, hand towels, hair clips, a flat iron, washes and creams and fragrances— “Oikawa is this all necessary?”

“I’ll put them all away when I’m done,” Oikawa says, “I bought storage stuff too, Iwa-chan! It’ll be like I’m not even here!”

Iwaizumi snorts in response. “You really had money for all of this?”

“It’s not like I just bounced around from place to place without a little bit of a plan,” Oikawa rips open a package of hair clips and dumps them into their designated container, “I held jobs too. Sold my work, did some other… things.”

“Theft?”

“It was one time,” Oikawa says bitterly, looking evidently guilty through his clenched jaw and gritted teeth.

“Drugs?”

“Iwa-chan, I wasn’t a criminal.”

“But you stole something,” Iwaizumi teases, leaning against the doorframe.

One time! It was cold, I needed a jacket. It’s not my fault that the clerk wasn’t paying attention anyway,” he frowns, brows pushing together in a manner so cute Iwaizumi can’t help but smile about it.

Oikawa laughs about it too after a moment on memory lane, nimble fingers moving swiftly as he cleans off the bathroom counter. “I feel awful to this day, but I wear it, I’ve never thrown it away.”

“You mean that ratty green thing on the coat rack is the jacket you stole?”

“That ratty green thing is worth a whopping three hundred bucks, thank you,” Oikawa sneers and shoves his newly filled storage containers underneath the sink.

Iwaizumi lets out a low whistle, impressed, brows rising up, “Three hundred, wow. Even in desperate times you’re still high maintenance.”

“It’s better quality! Enough mocking my wardrobe choices, you’re so mean, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa whines, though his lips are pulled from ear to ear to reveal a glittering smile.

Iwaizumi’s shoulders shake with mild laughter, pushing off of the doorframe to leave Oikawa to his organization. if there’s one thing he can count on Oikawa for, it’s being neat and tidy. There’s a horrible feeling in his chest at the very thought of Oikawa being a slob.

He shivers, letting it roll off his shoulders and away with the other “never going to happen” scenarios that occasionally find their way into his head. Instead he takes to the kitchen to make dinner, checking the clock on his way over. He does work tonight, so he should probably eat before then, else he’ll forget and munch on something at an awful hour.

Oikawa comes out from cleaning and organizing another hour later—Iwaizumi doesn’t begin to question why—and finds Iwaizumi setting a plate down for him at the table.

“Wow, Iwa-chan, it smells great. Who knew you could cook this well?”

“I live alone, I should know how to survive,” Iwaizumi dismisses as he points the bottom end of a fork towards Oikawa, gesturing for him to take it.

Oikawa twirls it between his fingers like a drummer and thanks him, smiling down at the plateful as though he could be reminiscing, or doing an odd version of a prayer.

“What is it?” Iwaizumi asks after a beat, throat threatening to catch when Oikawa’s eyes meet his, soft with a twinkle and cheeks tinged with red.

“Something like...nostalgia,” Oikawa shakes his head, shifting in his seat and stabbing his fork down, like he hadn’t tried to stir up what could be a sentimental moment, like he was just trying to keep casual conversation at a dinner table between two old friends—who aren’t supposed to be getting along, mind you.

Iwaizumi passes it off and digs into his plate, keeping his head down and away from Oikawa for the rest of dinner. God knows housing Oikawa will be hard, he might have underestimated just how much.




 

 

“So you’re currently job hunting, huh?” Saeko leans across the counter with interest, using her upper body strength to let her legs hover just off the floor, eyes twinkling at Oikawa.

Oikawa sends her one of his alluring smiles—the one that almost anyone and everyone falls for—complete with a tilt of his head. “Got to make a living, y’know?”

“Tch, I hear that,” Hanamaki snickers as he whirls a drying towel through a glass.

Kageyama finishes restocking the liquor on the shelf and steps down from the stool, spinning around to join the conversation. “Er, Oikawa-san, was it?”

Oikawa nods in silence, watching Saeko bring Kageyama up to speed on the job topic. Slate blue eyes drift from their boss down to the dark wood of the bar top, chin pinched between thumb and index finger in thought. He doesn’t spend too much time on the matter, with a snap of his fingers and eyes lighting up with what looks like a brilliant idea.

“Oh, why not work here?”

Saeko smiles, clearly she had the same intention as Kageyama. Hanamaki almost drops his next glass against the counter, keeping eyes pointed on the task at hand.

Before anyone can get a word out, Iwaizumi jams his glass down onto the bar top with enough force to startle everyone.

“Absolutely fucking not.”

Iwaizumi snarls across the bar, and before he has a chance to catch the bitter edge in his tone, Kageyama has already scurried off with an armful of glasses and an expression that clearly shows he just saw his life flash before his eyes.

“Look what you did,” Saeko sighs sarcastically. They both know Kageyama will forget all about it in about five seconds and return to waiting tables as usual.

“Is it that bad of an idea? He could prove quite useful around here. Especially with this face,” Saeko leans forward and reaches for Oikawa’s nose, tapping it gently and shooting him a friendly grin. Oikawa beams back at her—of course he would when she’s vouching for him—and turns to Iwaizumi.

“Well if you had him on a day shift,” Hanamaki mutters, wincing when Iwaizumi looks at him with a glare sharp as daggers, fist curled around his drink so tight it just might shatter. He shrugs in apology, a pathetic “I got nothing” in defense as Oikawa slowly convinces Iwaizumi’s usual crew to let him in the door.

He needs a job, and what better place to go than Saeko’s bar, where she picks up every stray and nurses them back to decent economic standing? Iwaizumi prayed Oikawa would just pick up some piddly coffee shop, or if he wanted to get all professional, maybe an art studio.

“Nee-san, you’re really kind y’know?” Oikawa swirls his glass around, chin perched on his palm, “I’ll keep it in mind, but I think this’ll have to be a last resort. Iwa-chan might strangle me if I stuck around too long.”

Iwaizumi keeps his eyes concentrated on his knuckles, but the lurch of his heart might as well have been loud enough for everyone else to hear as well. Yeah, obviously he doesn’t want Oikawa around.

If only that were true, as much as he tried to make himself believe it. It’s been all of five days of Oikawa living with him, getting on his nerves, hogging his bed. He should be looking forward to any opportunity for Oikawa to make a buck and get out of his apartment.

And yet hearing Oikawa joke about “sticking around too long” forms a pit in his stomach.

“Besides, I’m already interviewing at a few companies up the way,” Oikawa gestures, “and I think one of them really likes me!”

“Ooh, look at you! Let me know if you land the job, and feel free to come hang out anytime, okay?” Saeko waves rather quickly, scurrying to the back when she hears Hinata chirping about an order gone wrong.

Oikawa excuses himself to disappear to the bathroom, and Hanamaki uses that chance to approach Iwaizumi about this entire fiasco, his eyes tight and hands pressed flat against the counter.

“Dude, no phone call? How long has he been here?”

“Just shy of a week,” Iwaizumi drags a hand down his face.

“No wonder you called sick,” Hanamaki uses air quotes, dropping his head and letting out a heavy exhale. “He just showed up?”

“That’s his style,” Iwaizumi shrugs, “I just need him to get a job and get out.”

Hanamaki pushes off the counter and reaches to grab a rag, cleaning off a bit of mess to his left, raising a brow in suspicion towards his friend. “You sure that’s what you want?”

Don’t,” Iwaizumi hisses, because the moment he starts to second-guess himself, this is all over. He needs to keep his resolve, get Oikawa on his feet and on his own, otherwise his heart may not make the journey to thirty.

Hanamaki shrugs, tilting his head in something that looks like disagreement, but the words don’t follow the expression. “He’s already interviewing, he really didn’t waste any time. Do you know where?”

“No, I didn’t ask him,” Iwaizumi shakes his head, ending the conversation with a swig of his drink and Oikawa’s return to his right side.

“Er, Iwa-chan, I should get back and get to bed soon, I’ve got a pretty busy day tomorrow,” Oikawa shifts his weight, finishing the last of his drink before he slides it back to Hanamaki with a smile and a pleasant thank you.

“Nice to meet you, Hanamaki!”

“Likewise. Come by anytime yeah?”

Oikawa nods, waving before he glides away from the bar and towards the exit. Iwaizumi shoots a glare back to Hanamaki, the don’t get cuddly with him look on his face, but Hanamaki just shrugs his shoulders and mutters, “What? He seems like a nice guy!”

“For fuck’s sake,” Iwaizumi slaps a wad of cash onto the counter and snags his coat off of the barstool, sending a sloppy salute to Hanamaki as he pivots around to catch up to Oikawa.

“Tell Yacchan I’ll call her, alright?”

“For this weekend, right? Gotcha,” Hanamaki waves, watching Iwaizumi’s back disappear around the corner.

Iwaizumi catches up to Oikawa with a few quick steps, figuring he should also get to bed himself; he does have to spend a good while in the office tomorrow, and he’s pretty adamant about punctuality.

“You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend.” Oikawa nudges Iwaizumi’s shoulder as they exit the bar, climbing the low grade hill underneath dark skies and street lamps. The smile on his face is lit gently by the lamp over his head, giving Oikawa a golden outline that most would call breathtaking.

Iwaizumi is too hung up on Oikawa’s shitty attempt at small talk to think about the gorgeous appearance. “She’s a friend, and she has a girlfriend,” Iwaizumi snips in reply. If only Oikawa knew that Yachi was tied to the Shimizu Kiyoko, considered beautiful by everyone—like Oikawa, just not nearly as obnoxious or flighty.

“Oh, sorry, I just figured since, y’know, you’re Iwa-chan… and a lot of people like you so,” Oikawa twists his head to shield the embarrassment. He’s run himself right into a wall. Iwaizumi kind of finds it funny.

“You thought I wouldn’t be single?” Iwaizumi tucks his hands into his coat to fight off the chilly air on his skin, and chuckles, “Don’t worry about stuff like that. It’s harder than you think.”

It comes out faster than Iwaizumi can think about it, the admission that yes, he did date other people while Oikawa was gone. He feels a little guilty now.

“I know.”

Oh, so they both have.

Iwaizumi isn’t sure if he feels bitter or relieved—probably both.

When he looks at Oikawa again, the brunet’s lips are twisted downward and his eyes are glued to the concrete, shoulders hunched with awkward written all over.

There is a lot to say in this moment, but a whole lot more to be left unsaid. It might be better that way, if neither of them talk about what happened in the past, during all that time apart. Just the thought of stepping into that territory makes Iwaizumi’s skin crawl.

The awkward silence has stretched on for a step too many, so Iwaizumi tries to break it with another bout of casual conversation. Maybe they won’t run into a wall this time. “You’re applying to places, right? Like what kind?”

“A couple different art and design studios. Well, I’ve got quite the portfolio saved up,” Oikawa starts, and when Iwaizumi quirks a brow, recalling the lack of canvases in his apartment, he wiggles his cellphone, “not as good of quality, but they’ll get the idea I think. Couldn’t travel with all those pieces, costs a fortune to move ‘em.”

“So you just left them?”

“In good hands! Donations to friends, galleries, sold on the streets for a pretty penny. I’m positive most of my works have a good home.” Oikawa nods thoughtfully. “I also did earn a degree, it’s not that notable, but eh, most companies prefer the amount of experience under the belt.”

Iwaizumi rounds the corner, catching his apartment complex in sight. “I’m sure you’ll land something.”

“You sound really sure about that,” Oikawa looks fidgety, like he’s containing his nerves by jingling the keys in one pocket and flipping his phone in the other. Iwaizumi can’t remember the last time he ever saw a nervous Oikawa, or if he ever saw one at all.

“I’m sure, just watch,” Iwaizumi smirks, pointing his key at Oikawa briefly before he pushes it into the lock and turns. “What time is your interview tomorrow?”

“Noon! Did you want me to bring home anything for dinner?” Oikawa discards his coat onto the rack and kicks his shoes off, dropping his keys into the bowl, all natural, like he’s been living here for years rather than a week.

Iwaizumi forcefully swallows the lump in his throat, repeating a mantra in his head to reignite his burning anger towards this beautiful brunet three feet away from him.

“I’ll be home around five… Sure,” he mumbles, “you can decide, just don’t cook anything.”

Oikawa laughs, soft, shoulders shimmying and nodding his head in agreement. “Okay, I promise.”

For a good long moment it feels nice, like this is the way they’re supposed to be, warm and a little bit nervous, comfort hanging in between soft voices and smiles. Iwaizumi wonders if this might be bad to get used to, even if it is for a short duration.

“Good luck tomorrow, Oikawa.”

Oikawa gives him that smile, where his eyes grow warm and twinkle, and crinkle just a bit around the edges, and his cheeks flush with a gentle scarlet, not enough to be mortifying embarrassment, more like jubilation. It’s the kind of smile that makes Iwaizumi’s knees weak, a smile that’s worth so much more than a simple gesture of good faith.

“I think that’s the first time you’ve said my name in a good way, Iwa-chan.” He rocks onto his heels. “I like the way you say my name.”

Iwaizumi sputters, at a loss for words, and Oikawa leaves him frozen in the doorway before the moment gets any more tense. He decides right then that Oikawa is truly bad for his health, especially with that killer smile.

He also sort of wishes that smile was saved for him.

With a heavy sigh and a shake of his head, he goes to rearrange his sleep space for the night, trying to shake the giddy feeling swirling in his chest and every so often pulling a smile across his lips.




 

 

Iwaizumi stares at the desk in disinterest, finding that his eyes keep drifting towards the clock every few minutes or so.

Oikawa’s interview started an hour ago, he should have sent a message by now. Normally the first interview is only a good fifteen minutes long, thirty if the employer is chatty.

Iwaizumi has tried to stay focused, organizing his files, filing receipts, conversing with other employees occasionally because maybe talking to them might give him something to do. He even pulls out his folder of potential projects and reviews it, wrinkling his nose at some, grunting at others.

If only the ideas appealed to him as much as they had when he first jotted them down.

“It’s such a curse,” he hisses to himself, digging the heels of his palms against his eyes like it might drive away some of this pent up stress and restlessness.

It’s easy when he’s commissioned to take photos of sporting events, weddings, other such ceremonies. It’s hard when he’s asked to take up a personal project, his own creativity, original, something from the heart. Using the same old camera he got as a graduation—and parting—gift, he normally lands on something of an idea, and then the second he goes to take a shot, his inspiration dwindles, and the sight he sought after behind the lens goes fuzzy and out of focus. The life in the idea dies out right there, and he stashes it into a folder in the faint hope that he’ll get it back and finish it.

In all honesty, having landed the opportunity to photograph the Tokyo skyline was huge. He’d been worried about having a meeting with Mizoguchi in the office with the heavy words of “I just don’t think you’re performing like you used to”.

Iwaizumi misses it, the tingly feeling he got when the shutter of the camera went off, and the picture that came with it conveyed every emotion flooding through his body in that moment. From corner to corner, all highlights and lowlights and amplified once printed.

The vibrating in his chest, the racing of his heart, the raw power of inspiration and gratification all pushed through a tiny lens and sprawled across a print so vivid you could reach through and live it.

Iwaizumi pulls out an old SD card in his bag, presses it into his computer, clicking through old folders in search of a little something that might give him the boost that he needs for work.

They’re all novice, these old photos, some of them blurry in the wrong places or lacking in experience with lighting and movement, but still, they scream passion much more than his recent works. Pictures of riverbanks, city streets from worm’s eye view, rain speckled across hole in the wall restaurants—the kind that served great food and everyone knew everyone.

Iwaizumi clicks farther, through all the shots of thugs in an alleyway—he remembers the rush from getting that shot—to festival lights strung overhead in warm colors, to the pictures of so many stars across the screen you would think he had taken the photo in space itself. He remembers that one, the night he climbed high up where the street lights faded out, and the stars were too many to be counted, looking like they might rain tiny suns if he got any closer.

That might have been the closest he got to understanding what Oikawa meant, reaching upward and feeling closer than ever to twinkling lights, a cluster of diamonds. Even today, it’s still one of his favorite photos.

He keeps clicking, photos becoming more mature, some of them just boring, practice runs from class.

And then there’s Oikawa.

Beautiful, radiant, basked in honey gold and sunshine as he leans on the daybed against the open window, sketchbook in his lap and eyes closed, soaking in a warm breeze and smiling.

Iwaizumi’s heart squeezes as he goes through them, mostly of Oikawa doing mundane things amidst sleeping and laughing; mostly drawing, because Iwaizumi always loved to watch Oikawa drift away between focused and content.

His throat catches when he lands on a photo he’d forgotten about. Oikawa took this one, clearly, by the way his arm cuts off a portion of the image, and it’s blurry everywhere but their faces, foreheads pressed together and smiles big and bright.

The picture makes it look like they were in love for the good ten seconds it took to get the shot, and despite that ugly truth, it still makes Iwaizumi’s heart flutter.

He’d be lying if he said Oikawa had nothing to do with his inspiration. Oikawa had almost everything to do with it.

Iwaizumi wonders if he should have picked a career field that didn’t rely so heavily on creativity, and laughs at the thought of himself being stuck behind an icky cubicle doing overtime consistently.

Nah.

“Oh! You are in here!”

Iwaizumi nearly jumps out of his skin, closing the window with the photos in one swift click—though the passerby couldn’t see the screen.

In the doorway stands Kuroo, a colleague that works two floors down in the art department. Iwaizumi has seen this guy sit in front of a giant tablet and create miracles from a blank canvas, or retouch photos to look like masterpieces. It’s no wonder he got promoted to a manager so fast.

“What’s up?” Iwaizumi shifts a few of his files closed to make room for Kuroo to take a seat comfortably, but when he sees he hasn’t moved from the doorway, he stops moving altogether.

“I wanted to introduce you to our new hire! I just brought him on board today, and I figured I’d better introduce him to the guy he’s going to be working with quite a bit once he starts.”

Iwaizumi’s heart drops into his stomach, and then his stomach drops through the floor and makes a hard plummet to ground level. He’s probably overreacting, but he did forget that there was an opening on Kuroo’s team, an opening for an artist, whom Iwaizumi would communicate with—when he wasn’t working with Kuroo—on a pretty regular basis.

It dawns on him that he never actually asked Oikawa where he’d applied, but at the same token, he never told Oikawa where he worked.

And by pure fucking coincidence, Kuroo sidesteps to allow room for the new recruit to walk in and give Iwaizumi a formal greeting coupled with a handshake, Oikawa walks through the doorway and the smile falls further from his face with every step.

“I-Iwa-chan…?”

“Shit,” Iwaizumi drops his pen, letting it clatter against the desk.

“Wait, you two know each other already?” Kuroo looks between their shocked faces. “Whoa, what a small world.” He scratches the back of his head with an awkward laugh, clearly sensing the air in the room isn’t as friendly as he would have liked it to be.

Oikawa shifts his weight with an awkward smile, and a poorly timed, “I look forward to working with you!”

Iwaizumi’s gut wrenches. He learns two things right then and there. One, some force in the universe hates him. Two, ignorance is not always bliss.

While he had somewhat convinced himself to believe that soulmates were a flimsy title slapped across two people who might be good for each other, he’s losing faith in that theory. Being apart for five years and snapped back closer than ever gives Iwaizumi a lot of doubts about this whole soulmate thing.

But even worse, while he may not be stuck with Oikawa as a flatmate, he’ll definitely be stuck with him as a colleague.

He swallows his fuming anger and pride—for Kuroo’s sake—and sends Oikawa a pained smile, standing up and reaching out his hand for good measure.

“Let’s get along, yeah?”



 

Chapter Text

Oikawa stares at the large screen in front of him, tip of the tablet pen pressed against his cheek and legs crossed in his chair. He swivels back and forth, eyes running across his current work, nose wrinkling at the disconnect between the direction of his light source and shading. Mood music plays softly from a small speaker to his left, but at the moment, it’s doing no favors to help him get this done.

Sure, it’s just a concept design, but Oikawa Tooru never half-asses his work.

He leans forward and taps the pen to the screen, sifting through layers to take a deeper look at what is bothering him so much. Whether it be a hue in one layer or five, he’s going to solve this before the day is out. Besides, he’s only been on the team for about a month now; it would do him some good to show his boss that he has a steady and driven work ethic.

“Yo, how’s it coming?”

Oikawa tilts his head back to see Kuroo behind him, dressed nicer than he usually looks. The art floor is full of coffee addicts who wear casual clothes and look somewhere between stressed and hysterical most of the time, and here Kuroo stands in a nice suit and tie, looking like he had a well balanced meal after a pleasant sleep.

“You look nice,” Oikawa mumbles, “really nice. Got a date?”

“I wish,” Kuroo snorts, dropping into the chair next to Oikawa. “Just got back from a meeting with the CEO.” His eyes run across the screen, eyebrows raised, looking quite impressed. “How long did this take you?”

“Can’t remember,” Oikawa lies. Usually he’d be pretty proud of his speedy work, but there is something about Kuroo that intimidates Oikawa, and he’s smart enough not to try to compete without first having glanced at what kind of work he’s up against.

Kuroo isn’t the head of the department because of good looks, despite how good they may be.

Oikawa met Kuroo in college, they bonded over their advanced life drawing and digital art courses, and although Oikawa got a glimpse of Kuroo’s work then, he could have changed a lot in five years.

Kuroo smiles, though, and reaches forward with his index finger, drawing it across the left side of Oikawa’s screen. “Your contrast here is a little sharp.”

Oikawa bites the inside of his cheek, thankful for the tip, but a little bitter. He knows Kuroo is sitting there covered in smug satisfaction—he makes it a personal goal to wipe that look off of his face in the future. “Agh, thanks.” He tousles his hair and reaches to find the correct layer to work on.

“I never got around to asking, but we’ve hardly seen each other since you started. How do you like it here?” Kuroo twirls a pen between his fingers, looking around for something else to keep him mildly entertained.

“Besides the fact that Iwa-chan has my ass working nonstop, I like it. It’s fast paced to a degree, but it’s a nice, steady company.”

“Uh oh,” Kuroo snorts, “you said the ‘s’ word.”

“What,” Oikawa frowns.

“I always thought that word was your poison,” Kuroo clicks the pen open when he finds a pad of paper and begins to scribble, angling it away from Oikawa to keep him from looking.

Oikawa’s smile carries weight, something rueful though his eyes are trained to the tablet screen, and he chuckles vaguely. All signs for Kuroo to drop the subject and move on, but they both know better.

“What did you do for five years? I only heard from you once in a blue moon after we graduated,” Kuroo asks, peering over the pad and through his bangs to see Oikawa resting his chin on his kneecap, contemplating a plethora of things, one being how to fix this damn corner of this design.

Oikawa presses the pen to the screen and flicks his wrist. He tries to put something down, but after four different positions of his hand and rotating the rocker ring like a madman, he curls the pen between his fingers and takes a break. Kuroo’s eyes burning holes into his skull and probing for a rather personal conversation makes it hard to focus.

"You said it yourself. Steady isn’t my thing,” Oikawa hums, “And, I did a lot for five years.”

Kuroo pauses wiggling his pen across the page to look right at Oikawa with a quirked brow, clearly unsatisfied with the answer. “You sound like a guy that went on a path of enlightenment. I’m not busting your balls about it, but I’m sure you’ve got stories. Throw one at me! Or, did you forget how to converse?”

Oikawa swats at Kuroo’s arm and shakes his head, trying not to smile. “I just, couldn’t stay put. I had to get up and go see something, anything. So, I did. Really, it’s a lot to tell. But working in an art studio in Europe was probably one of the best things.”

“Shut up,” Kuroo’s mouth slants into a grin. “You sell your work?”

“Yeah, for a pretty penny, too,” Oikawa swivels around in his chair again, smiling to himself as he remembers some of the big sales he made, the starry eyed look on his buyers’ faces, the wads of cash, the flurry of praise that followed post-sale. He definitely made quite the name for himself out there, something he would always be proud of. The real thrill was in painting them, though, giant canvases, covered in paint and sweat. One time he drank the paint water instead of his tea, too tired and absorbed in work to recognize the difference, and while the taste was disgusting and mildly toxic, he laughed himself to tears.

“And you came back here?” Kuroo asks, “What gives?”

Oikawa shrugs, picking up the pen again to try and work on the corner of the image. There’s a difference when he’s working on a commission, versus his own piece. He feels vulnerable when he’s crafting something from his own mind and heart, but he finds comfort in masking all of his issues into the strokes of a pen at work. “It fell apart. And... things became steady.”

Kuroo’s lips turn downward. There’s that word again, the word Oikawa avoids like the plague. Kuroo may be a provocation expert, but he knows his limits, and something about the way Oikawa phrased that last part has a huge red flag of don’t pry any further written all over it. Whatever it is, Oikawa holds onto it like a heavy burden, riddled with what feels like regret, and guilt.

“How do you know Iwaizumi?” Kuroo changes the subject smoothly, eyes only leaving his paper for a few moments to see Oikawa fidget in his seat uncomfortably. Another probing question, one full of history waiting to be shared.

“We’re childhood friends,” Oikawa explains, “really, I’ve grown up with him since the diaper days.”

Kuroo sets down the black pen and switches it out for a red one. “I thought he’d be more surprised to see you after all that time, or happier.”

The silence stretches on for too long, Oikawa curses himself for not having anything to cover with. He used to be really good with dodging questions and making excuses. Or maybe that power is just ineffective when it comes to Kuroo. He leans back in his chair and sets the pen down, figuring he might as well give his eyes a break, especially if Kuroo has no intention of getting up right away.

“I’m living with him, actually,” Oikawa says. “He’s kinda...housing me, while I officially settle back into the city.”

“Always knew he was a kind soul. You paying rent or something?”

“Er, no.” Oikawa scratches his cheek. Maybe he should talk to Iwaizumi about bills— right now he could at least afford the utilities, if nothing else. But knowing Iwaizumi, he’ll probably just tell him to keep all his money and not worry about it. “It’s temporary, but I’m living there rent free. Iwa-chan, he… he’s always been there for me.”

Kuroo just looks at Oikawa expectantly, like he knows he should continue talking without Kuroo having to dig any harder than this. But then Kuroo stops drawing, eyes tightening at Oikawa and drifting lower, down his throat and shoulder to his arm, looking at the mark poking out from his quarter sleeve. His eyes run across the constellation on Oikawa’s skin, before he glances back at him with a silent question. Is he…?

Oikawa flashes a sheepish smile, lips clamped shut, shoulders shrugging in admission. Kuroo pauses and drags a hand down his face, exhaling rather heavily and mumbling something beneath his breath that Oikawa doesn’t catch.

Kuroo remembers that brief conversation with Oikawa about soulmates, Oikawa’s forbidden topic most of the time. When Kuroo mentioned he had found his back in college, a gem with a venomous bite masked beneath a sweet demeanor, Oikawa’s congratulatory response was edged with sarcasm. Kuroo never really challenged the soulmate thing, especially not when he felt so drawn to his own. He tried to get Oikawa to open up about it, but all he would give him was “I can’t imagine being tied to one person like that. It gives me chills.”

Kuroo had felt a pang of sympathy for whoever that statement was directed towards. Now knowing it’s Iwaizumi, this entire thing is just awkward.

“Did you talk to him at all after you left?”

Oikawa scratches at his head in frustration, brows knitting together. As evasive as he is, there are a few people who know him too well, and Kuroo happens to be one of them. “Uhm,” he bites his lip, feeling Kuroo’s stare turn dark and poisonous.

“Oikawa, you left for five years without a trace and showed up at his door, just like that?”

“I know, I’m an asshole.”

“Well, yeah. But I was going to say you’re lucky. Most people would have given up, even if they are destined to be together. Iwaizumi isn’t an idiot, so there must be something about you he can’t give up on.” Kuroo resumes scribbling across the page, nibbling at his lip as his strokes become tinier.

Oikawa laughs, but he looks stricken with chagrin and almost apologetic, a weaker side of him that he’s thankful is hidden behind a giant screen and beneath messy bangs. Kuroo has seen this side of him before, though there’s a bitter taste in his mouth over exposing it again. “He hates me,” Oikawa whispers, “he has every right to.”

Kuroo sets the pen back into its holder quietly. “You don’t even know him,” he replies, almost as quiet.

Kuroo sets the paper pad down face up and pushes himself out of his chair. “You don’t get to come back and act dejected.” He plants a hand on top of Oikawa’s head and pushes down, messing up Oikawa’s hair the best he can. He’s always been annoyed that Oikawa looks good no matter what he does to that mop on his head. “If you didn’t act like he hated you, you might learn something, y’know? Also, we should get a drink sometime. There’s a lot to catch up on.”

Oikawa replaces Kuroo’s hand with his own, resisting the urge to smile. “Say, you met your match back in Uni. How are they?”

“Mm? I’ll introduce you sometime.”

Oikawa watches Kuroo turn down the hallway and out of sight, and once he’s gone, he turns to look down at the pad of paper, fingers twitching in complete envy when he sees a masterpiece done in two shades of ink from some shitty ball point pens. It’s a messy sketch of Oikawa’s profile, but Oikawa might as well frame it. “Ooh he pisses me off,” Oikawa grumbles, turning back towards the tablet to continue working.

Sure enough, he tacks the silly yet beautiful sketch to his corkboard in his cubicle, giving it a bitter stare of admiration every time he sits down.

 


 

 

“What do I think of Iwaizumi-san?”

Oikawa nods, battling his eyelashes and smiling to himself when his seemingly convincing innocence works like a charm. His colleague bites down on her knuckle in thought, watching the copy machine slowly scan her document and whir for ten minutes before it even begins to spit out a single page. “Well, he’s great? He’s easy to work with. And…” she fidgets, cheeks flushing like her next point might be something she shouldn’t share in the workplace.

Oikawa only wants to hear it that much more. “And?”

“Passionate. I know that sounds kind of embarrassing… but I’ve never seen anyone produce the way Iwaizumi-san does. He’s never missed a day of work, and he loves it. His little speeches at team meetings really boost the morale around here, especially when things get tough.” She grins like she’s just talked about her own pride and joy, and Oikawa can’t help but feel just a tad irritated.

He has asked a good amount of people around the workplace, and this one makes number seven, each of them having something positive to say about Iwaizumi. It sounds like they’re gloating, almost, like there is no other place they would rather be than on Iwaizumi’s team.

He is dedicated, a mastermind, the kind of guy that knows what to do and when. He’s tough—Oikawa figured that one out on day two, when a flurry of assignments came his way with a very short deadline—but understanding. Oikawa wishes he had met someone between his floor and Iwaizumi’s that considered the latter to be annoying, overbearing, something negative.

“Well, he is kind of annoying,” one guy with glasses wrinkles his nose, “but that’s because he’s just too damn good at what he does. You can’t dislike him, you know?”

Oikawa slips into month two with a bundle full of testimonials from the workplace, including one from Kuroo himself.

“Iwaizumi? I work with that guy as much as I possibly can. I would more often, but as head of the department I’m obligated to work with other employees on that floor,” Kuroo doesn’t look away from his computer as he says it, clicking through emails Oikawa knows he isn’t interested in, but he won’t give him the satisfaction of answering all Oikawa’s questions.

Even at Iwaizumi’s second job, they all say the same things, all positive.

“You trying to write a report on him?” Hanamaki asks, fingers flying across a screen as he closes out a tab and opens another.

“Five years apart, Makki, people change, apparently,” Oikawa mumbles, sounding miffed.

“True, but you sound like an opposing campaign trying to find dirt on him.”

Oikawa’s lips slant into a devious smile. “No one is perfect.”

“Also true,” Hanamaki says slowly, although he returns the smile with one just as evil, in both mutual understanding and interest. “Hold that thought,” he says, moving down the length of the bar to hand over a check to a group, thanking them for their time.

Oikawa takes a brief moment to watch Hanamaki at work, and decides he’s quite the looker in uniform. He doesn’t get to look at the floral pattern along Hanamaki’s forearm for too long, but from what he does see, it is gorgeous. Oikawa wonders briefly about Hanamaki’s match, what they might look like, be like.

“Okay,” Hanamaki sighs as he comes back over, “you really want something negative about him? I’ll give you one.”

Oikawa’s spine snaps straight and waits for Hanamaki to speak up, fingers twitching for something good. Anything that doesn’t consistently paint Iwaizumi as this perfect being.

“His flaws are in all of his qualities. He wears his heart on his sleeve and gets himself unnecessarily hopeful. So, y’know, when someone shows up out of the blue, he just can’t leave them to rot,” Hanamaki gives Oikawa a look, the same look Kuroo gave him, the look that says I’m not gonna say you fucked up, but you fucked up.

Oikawa crinkles his nose in distaste, feeling a bit of betrayal from Hanamaki. “I thought we were becoming friends.”

“We are, we are,” Hanamaki chuckles, “but you’re being a brat. You keep looking for a problem in him, so you feel better about what you did. The only one still hanging onto what happened is you, Oikawa.”

Oikawa sinks his chin onto his hands and pushes his lips out in a pout. Alright, so sue him for being petty, but he hates it, the the way Iwaizumi just accepts that he’s back now. Sure, he was angry for all of ten minutes the first night, and maybe he wasn’t too pleased to see Oikawa show up at the same job, but since then, he’s been normal. They coexist under one roof, Iwaizumi silently takes the couch every night, cooks dinner as though Oikawa has been living there for years versus over a month.

Like Oikawa coming back was the same as though he’d never left.

Oikawa hates it for a few reasons. He feels like an asshole, just dropping back into Iwaizumi’s life without warning, and the guilt is eating him alive that Iwaizumi is just accepting it. But that’s the thing. Iwaizumi is okay with it, like it doesn’t bother him, like he can’t hold a grudge with Oikawa. Oikawa is selfish, and his presence no longer stirring Iwaizumi is irritating, Oikawa wants him to be angry, at least it would make more sense. He wants Iwaizumi to be something, but nothing is driving him nuts.

“It’s getting late. You should get home, you know he’ll worry,” Hanamaki snatches Oikawa’s half-empty drink from him, shaking his head when he reaches for his wallet. When Oikawa frowns at him, about to give him the “don’t pity me” speech, Hanamaki cuts him off.

“It’s not pity. I’m pulling a favor.”

“Thanks, I think,” Oikawa mumbles, grabbing his jacket from the back of the chair.

“I didn’t do it for you,” Hanamaki doesn’t look at him, going to wash and rinse out the glass. “What goes on under that roof is between you two, Oikawa. But don’t make his life hard. Those five years weren’t peachy.”

Oikawa reaches back and slaps two bills on the counter, pushing them towards Hanamaki with a stiff shoulder and tight grin. “Tip,” he urges Hanamaki to take it, “and, really. Thanks. That’s the most I’ve gotten out of anyone.”

“G’night, Oikawa,” Hanamaki wiggles his fingers as Oikawa takes his leave out the door, pushing the tip into the tip jar beside the register. “Ah, I wonder if I said too much.” He scratches at the top of his head, shrugging it off and returning to work. He’ll know if he messed up when Iwaizumi shows up tomorrow with an angry vein in his forehead and a hand bundled into Hanamaki’s shirt. A chill runs down his spine; he really hopes it doesn’t come to that.

 


 

 

Oikawa stands underneath the rain from the shower, hot water melting the stress knots in his shoulders and steam loosening the tightness in his lungs. The air in the apartment is suffocating, between Oikawa lurking around like an obviously guilty child who took too much candy from the kitchen, and Iwaizumi dismissing him as though he never saw the crime happen.

He learned that all of his coworkers consider Iwaizumi to be a godsend, and all of Iwaizumi’s other friends think just about the same. Which gives him no insight to how Iwaizumi fared these past five years. Not one person had information—none that they were willing to give anyway—on what he had done. Did he travel? Did he win awards? Has he always been in this apartment?

If Oikawa went based off of his own knowledge, he would feel safe to say Iwaizumi probably just stuck around the city with two steady jobs, found this place early on and stayed in it. He’s probably never even left Japan.

The only thing Oikawa knows about Iwaizumi during this gap is that he dated others.

Something shifts inside Oikawa uncomfortably when he recalls that conversation. It was so awkward and distant, yet they still managed to blurt something personal to one another. Oikawa mostly recalls the irritation at the thought of Iwaizumi being… well, Iwaizumi, around someone else. He quickly bites back the feeling; Oikawa is the last person to be jealous about anything that has Iwaizumi Hajime written all over it.

He pulls his fingers through his hair, diluting the rest of the soap from his scalp, down his back. The only way he can think to dissolve the awkward tension between them is to come clean. Oikawa had prayed with his entire being that he could just come stay under Iwaizumi’s roof for a while and everything would be just like old times, because Iwaizumi was good at that, being himself, being honest. Yet all they’ve done is have moments that leave skin tingly and chests aching for a taste of the warmth they had five years ago.

Of course Iwaizumi respects Oikawa’s refusal to talk about the gap. But what else is there to talk about? Memories?

Oikawa presses his forehead to the cool tile, eyes moving along the soulmark on his skin. He can feel Cepheus warm across his shoulder blade, Chamaeleon along his bicep, Cancer webbed along his elbow and to his forearm. Marks he looked at with disdain for years, but now, curiosity.

Oikawa remembers it vividly, the morning his parents explained the whole soulmate thing to him, the way his sister gushed about how amazing it was, and the worst, the light twinkling in Iwaizumi’s eyes when he saw him for the first time with these new fangled tattoos. Iwaizumi looked radiant, like he’d swallowed the sun, and Oikawa felt culpable. He swallowed his dislike the best he could for Iwaizumi’s sake.

Clearly he did a terrible job. He can’t remember when he gave up on keeping it a secret, but Iwaizumi was still there, unchanging like he hadn’t just heard the worst news of his life. Of course Oikawa felt something for him. Iwaizumi is important. Iwaizumi is… Iwa-chan. Always standing to Oikawa’s left with a strong heart and all the right words.

He squeezes his eyes shut, knuckles whitening as he balls them into fists. He came home because he got tired of running. And after up and leaving Iwaizumi in the dark, Oikawa now stands under a hot shower, most likely a meal waiting for him when he gets out, and a bed to sleep in. All provided by the one person he refused to accept because commitment terrifies him.

You don’t get to come back and act dejected.”

The only one still hanging onto what happened is you.”

Oikawa turns off the water and takes a deep breath, scrubbing water off his body rather roughly with a towel, ruffling it over his hair. He pulls himself into night clothes—loose drawstring sweats and a low cut tank top—and stops before the full length mirror in the bedroom to take a look at himself. He practices a friendly smile. It looks ridiculous.

When he steps into the living room, he can hear Iwaizumi fumbling around in the kitchen. If it weren’t for the anxiety twisting his stomach into several knots, the smell of food wafting through his nose would have his mouth watering and stomach growling.

He stands at the kitchen entrance, watching Iwaizumi switch between the stove and the oven. It looks and feels domestic, almost natural, save for the thick wall of unresolved pressure between them.

“Oh, Oikawa, you’re done. Could you set the table?”

“Yeah,” Oikawa mumbles in reply, slowly moving to set the table for two. He can’t think of anything to say, and before he can come up with something substantial, he has already sat down with utensils in hand, eyes fixated on his serving.

“Hope you like it,” Iwaizumi says from the side.

Oikawa feels it rippling across his skin, the colossal wave of discomfort between the two of them, words wanting to be shouted but never quite leaving heavy hearts and constricted lungs.

Iwaizumi barely gets a cheek full of rice in before he hears, “I tried to forget about you.”

Oikawa bites the inside of his cheek, feeling the room still, Iwaizumi stop moving, maybe even breathing, his eyes glued to his plate and narrowed sharp as daggers. Maybe he should continue before Iwaizumi turns to stone. “A part of me hoped you had given up on me. Another part begged you to have held on. And you did, that’s just like you,” Oikawa rambles, twirling his fork between his fingers, “So I— “

“When?”

“What?”

When did you try to forget? Before you decided to fuck me?”

Calm down, Oikawa reminds himself. Iwaizumi should be angry.

“After,” Oikawa says slowly. “I did what I do best. I ran. Being around you feels safe, steady. I wasn’t ready to accept myself just like that, so I ran. For what it’s worth… I didn’t intentionally try to hurt you. I am sorry.”

Iwaizumi sits quiet, waiting for something more than a way overdue apology that sounds just sincere enough.

“This tension is going to drive me insane. I’ll… tell you. Anything you want to know. I owe you that, I want to do that. I just need you to stop looking at me like a stranger,” Oikawa exhales it all in one go, “I want my best friend back.”

He keeps his eyes trained on his lap, waiting to hear something out of Iwaizumi. The angry absolutely not or the rare and hopeful of course. Anything, as long as this tension breaks.

“Are you done throwing yourself a pity party?” Iwaizumi sets his fork down and reaches forward to flick Oikawa’s forehead playfully.

“Wh—Iwa-chan that hurts…! What do you mean?!”

“You dug yourself into a hole by overthinking, again. You probably got yourself worked up thinking I hated you, right?"

A nail on the head.

“I don’t hate you. I can’t hate you. I want to kick your ass on a daily basis, but that’s different. Oikawa, look,” Iwaizumi grips the back of his neck, trying to set aside his embarrassment to ease the confusion on Oikawa’s face. “Whatever happened, happened. Does it bother me? Yeah, but I still have a life to lead. We're not kids anymore."

Oikawa’s mouth falls open with something to say, but nothing comes out.

“Just talk to me, you idiot. Stop doing all of the thinking yourself,” Iwaizumi picks up his fork and resumes enjoying his meal, watching Oikawa come back to life slowly but surely.

Oikawa bites his lips to conceal his smile as he looks down at his lap. Five years later, and Iwaizumi still knows him like the back of his hand. He finds a comfort in it, and a little remorse. He wants to know Iwaizumi just as well, he wants to know him inside and out, including these five years that he missed out on. He wants it to be like old times, where Oikawa knew every detail, from the pieces in Iwaizumi’s wardrobe to the prediction of words Iwaizumi would say next.

“Thank you.”

Iwaizumi doesn’t reply much outside of a small smile, but it’s enough.

“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, yeah?”

Iwaizumi’s smile grows even wider, still silent, but with the awkward buildup between them shattered, all of it feels silly.

Oikawa can say with complete honesty that he missed the way Iwaizumi’s lips curved upward genuinely, and right now he would do just about anything to hear him laugh again.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Iwaizumi presses his cheek against the cold metal of the street lamp, chest heaving and lungs struggling for air. He’d thought going for a morning jog would rejuvenate him, because that’s what it always did, especially when he was feeling down in the dumps or stressed out beyond functionality.

He’d jumped the gun and decided to take his normal route, the route he was used to when he ran regularly.

He can’t remember the last time he’d gone running. It wasn’t to say he’d gotten way out of shape or lost his physique, no. But not running consistently has cost him, and he’s so tired right now he thinks about curling up on the sidewalk.

Right, like he’d give up that easily.

He sucks a breath of air in, pushing away from the pole and out into the street. So what if his lungs burn, and his legs ache? He can take a hell of a lot more than this. Iwaizumi pushes until he reaches a numbing point, falling into a rhythm on the straightaway back home.

A couple of days ago, Oikawa finally popped the tense air between them, and since then, things at the apartment have been easier. Iwaizumi doesn’t feel like he’s choking on words whenever Oikawa asks him a question, or pointedly avoiding Oikawa’s gaze to make things less awkward as he floats about the flat. Thank God. Iwaizumi wasn’t sure he could take much more of it, but he knew he couldn’t be the first one to cave. He asked Hanamaki about it, and all his fellow bartender told him was “Let Oikawa’s guilty conscience eat at him for a bit.”

Iwaizumi is the furthest thing from a sadist. That is Oikawa’s job, so the role reversal, as nice as it was, felt awkward.

Things are better now, though. Dinners aren’t awkward, they can stand side by side in the bathroom and get ready for the morning without awkwardly shifting around one another. Oikawa looks like less of an alleycat hiding out and more like an actual roommate. Iwaizumi’s noticed the shift in his behavior as well. Before, Oikawa wouldn’t dare leave a trace of him anywhere around the place. Now, he’ll leave clothes, a cup or two by the dishes, sketches both half and three fourths finished sprawled across the bedroom.

He apologized for them at first until Iwaizumi tried not to smile about the mess, and then Oikawa knew it was okay. It felt natural. Cozy. Something almost like old times. Almost.

Iwaizumi considers slowing his pace to dial Oikawa and ask him about breakfast, but knowing Oikawa, he’s probably already up and about, having picked up food already or surviving off of cereal. Iwaizumi can’t remember the last time he saw sugary kids’ shit in his cabinets until Oikawa moved in, but he’s not complaining.

So he blows it off, figuring he’ll talk to Oikawa when he gets home.

When he does make it through his front door, he expects to see Oikawa sprawled across the couch watching TV, since today is Saturday, and Oikawa always hogs the TV on Saturdays.

“Oikawa?” He asks, clicking the door shut behind him and securing the bolt. He flicks off his shoes and peels out of his jacket as he heads for his bedroom.

“I’m in here!” Oikawa calls from the bedroom as well.

Iwaizumi steps through the doorway and looks to his right, and it takes every fiber in his body not to let his jaw drop, or his jacket. Keeping the blood from rushing to his face is near impossible; Iwaizumi impresses himself by managing it.

Oikawa peeks up from his lap and smiles, grin lopsided as he holds a pencil between his teeth. “Mornin’, Iwa-chan!”

It’s not that Oikawa is angled in a chair with a sketchbook in his lap, pencils both between his fingers and teeth. Because Iwaizumi has seen that hundreds of times—even if his heart jumps every time.

No, it’s because Oikawa is dressed in nothing but some loose drawstring sweats that hang low on his hips and do no favors for the functionality of Iwaizumi’s brain. It’s because Oikawa is placed before the giant window in his bedroom, the morning sun bursting through the glass pane and drawing a golden outline around him, catching and illuminating the lowlights of auburn and chestnut in his tousled hair, bringing to life the soft, faint skin stars across his chest and shoulders.

Iwaizumi’s fingers twitch against his hold on his jacket as warmth floods across his body, at a loss for both thought and words.

“How was your run?” Oikawa asks, snapping Iwaizumi from his trance.

“Painful,” Iwaizumi blurts. He’d tried searching for something earth shattering to say, and nothing came, so he just sort of went with the first thing that popped into his head as a response. Honestly, he might have been talking about the way his heart squeezed when Oikawa smiled at him from across the room and he couldn’t do anything about it but stand there and breathe it in.

“Been a while, huh?” Oikawa shifts his position, and Iwaizumi swallows thickly, peeling eyes away the best he can and focusing on the mess around Oikawa instead of shadows dancing across contours of his abdominals, his chest, and doing all the right things across his arms.

Iwaizumi tries to keep his eyes away, but they go right back when he sees the constellations across Oikawa’s skin. Before, Oikawa wouldn’t dare let those show around Iwaizumi. He treated them like a scar.

Iwaizumi isn’t sure if he feels more elated or relieved that Oikawa doesn’t look at them with such disdain lately.

“Yeah… what happened in here?”

“I kinda woke up and had inspiration. Sorry,” Oikawa sends him his signature smile, the one where he playfully sticks his tongue out in a “don’t hurt me because I’m cute” sort of way.

“Nah, I understand,” Iwaizumi half smiles. “I’m gonna shower. Have you eaten?”

“I wanted to wait for you,” Oikawa hums as his wrist glides across the page. “You said we were going somewhere today, right?”

“Yeah, Kageyama and Hinata have a game. I promised them I’d show up for qualifiers.” Iwaizumi slides his shirt over his head, tossing both that and the jacket into the laundry. “Since we used to play, I figured it’d be fun.”

“I’m game,” Oikawa grins. “I hear Tobio-chan and Chibi-chan are good.”

Iwaizumi pauses in the doorway to the bathroom. That’s right, Oikawa has never seen these two in action. A noise jumps out from his throat as he predicts Oikawa’s reaction. “I’ll let you see that for yourself.”

“Eh...Makki said the same thing…” Oikawa pouts.

“It’s something you’ve got to see. Not hear about,” Iwaizumi says. “Make sure you’re ready to go in like…” he pauses to look at the clock, “An hour? We can grab a bite on the way.”

“Iwa-chan, do you have a car?” Oikawa’s eyes suddenly light up, and Iwaizumi watches them break from his gaze and travel south. Suddenly being in some shorts and leggings is not enough.

“Yeah, why? And cut that out, it’s weird.”

“Embarrassed? You shouldn’t be. One day I’ll have you model for me, your anatomy is incredible,” Oikawa says it like Iwaizumi might as well be used to comments like that. It must be an artist thing, or maybe it’s just an Oikawa thing. Either way, Iwaizumi is so red his face could match that of a tomato, and before Oikawa can say another word, he slams the bathroom door shut and twists the lock, hurriedly shaking out of the rest of his clothes and jumping underneath hot water.

He uses the shower to slow his heart rate and clear his head, but for what it’s worth, he’s glad Oikawa feels relaxed around him again, and smiles more often. Even the way he says “Iwa-chan” sounds lighter.

Iwaizumi can survive a few embarrassing, blunt compliments if it means Oikawa will keep being himself.




 

 

“Iwaizumi-san.”

Iwaizumi tilts his head over his shoulder, looking backwards to see Hinata behind him.

“Oh, I didn’t think you were working tonight.”

“Normally I wouldn’t,” Hinata admits, pulling his scarf from around his neck and shoving it into his locker. Iwaizumi immediately sees the fatigue in Hinata’s face in form of dark bags under his eyes. He watches him try to rub the sleep away, only to yawn into his palm.

“Tight on cash this month?”

“Nah, Kageyama’s birthday is right around the corner.” Hinata pulls his jacket off and digs for his work shirt out of his backpack. “It’s kinda hard to get him gifts, since he’s so damn practical. But maybe taking him somewhere would work.” Hinata’s voice turns whiny, like one of those overdramatic infomercial actors. “Don’t worry about the money, just travel!” He rolls his eyes and drops his forehead against the cold metal. “If one more person tells me that, I’m going to start screaming.”

Iwaizumi laughs. Realizing that money flies out of pockets faster than it goes in is kind of funny when it’s not happening to you. Still, Hinata’s dedication is cute. For as much as they bicker and squabble with each other in and out of work, how Hinata and Kageyama feel about one another is blatantly obvious.

“Why not ask Saeko for a raise?”

Hinata stops fumbling around in his locker, pulling his head out to stare at Iwaizumi like he’s just learned the secret to life.

“You’ve...never thought to ask for a raise?”

“I thought you just got them for being a good employee!”

Iwaizumi snorts. No wonder Hinata was always adamant about being on time, running a perfect shift, keeping wait times to a minimum. “Not always. Just ask her, I’m sure she’ll help you out. And stop pulling extra shifts. I’m sure Kageyama already scolded you for it.”

Hinata feathers his fingers through his hair, smooths them down to his neck and grins, probably because Iwaizumi is right.

“Yeah, he chewed me out for skipping a class. Practice was rough, too.” Hinata yanks his shirt over his head to swap it for his work shirt. “I know he means well, though, as irritating as it is. Kageyama can be a giant worrywart sometimes, behind all that scowling.”

Iwaizumi doesn’t reply to that. Mostly because he has nothing to say. He’s also a little fixated on the giant wing across the right side of Hinata’s back extending to his shoulder, the way it looks like it might jump out of his back  and become real at any moment. Iwaizumi finds himself full of questions for Hinata, but asking a shitload of questions about Hinata’s personal life out of the blue seems overly intrusive, so he keeps his lips shut.

His entire face must be a dead giveaway, though. Hinata pauses in changing and turns around to look at him, a little flustered as he holds his shirt around his neckline.

“It didn’t always look that cool y’know,” Hinata mumbles, tilting his head over his shoulder as far as he can to look at his soulmark. “There was a time that Kageyama and I fought so bad, this thing looked all mangled, devoid of feathers… it was kind of gruesome.”

“It changed on you?”

“Yeah. Strain, anger, feelings of...giving up. They can warp your mark. You ever seen someone who rejected, or lost their soulmate?”

“Not their soulmark,” Iwaizumi utters quietly, adjusting his apron around his waist to take his eyes off of Hinata’s back. “I’ve heard about it though. I just never thought it was real.”

Iwaizumi heard the stories of what happened when someone decided they didn’t want to be with their soulmate, or the misfortune of them passing before they got the chance. Soulmarks would warp, looking hideous and morbidly mangled, like a nasty scar more than a tattoo.

All Iwaizumi can remember his doing over the past five years was maybe losing a star or two. He can’t really remember, since he tried not to look at it too much. Of course he would be unlucky enough to be marked with stars, the one thing that reminded him of Oikawa day in and day out. There was even a time when he stopped looking skyward and kept his eyes on the ground.

“Did yours not change or something?” Hinata asks.

“Not drastically.”

“That’s a good sign, then!” Hinata grins. “Means you and Oikawa-san are just confused. But you two can figure it all out, now that he’s back in town.”

Hinata fastens his apron in place and checks the time, bustling over to clock in and head for Saeko. “Don’t tell Kageyama about these extra shifts, okay? He’ll catch on if I’m not careful.”

“Your secret is safe with me.” Iwaizumi nods when Hinata is already gone. He’s really trying to contain unnecessary excitement bubbling in his chest. Their soulmarks never changed, because neither of them really gave up? If that’s what that means…

Oikawa did say he tried to forget about Iwaizumi. Implying that it didn’t work. Did Oikawa really not forget about him all those years? Did he come back to Iwaizumi’s doorstep for more reason than just needing a place to crash?

Iwaizumi taught himself way back as a kid to never get his hopes up, especially when it came to Oikawa. But right now, he can’t help it. His stomach feels full with butterflies, and it only gets worse when he remembers that he’s going home to an apartment that isn’t empty.

“You look chipper,” Hanamaki teases him. Iwaizumi had slipped between cleaning glasses and gotten caught with his lip snagged between teeth, a smile at the edges of his mouth. He’ll admit it to himself: it feels good to know the marks are an indicator of where their relationship stands. He should be less excited and more worried, because that means all those times he tried to move on were just distractions, but he can’t help himself.

Knowing there’s something inside of Oikawa that burns for him is enough to wash away all those feelings of bitterness and resentment and replace them with emotions much lighter. Maybe more dangerous too.

Definitely dangerous, he thinks to himself he continues to mull it over in his head. Oikawa returning was never supposed to be some joyous occasion. Iwaizumi still clearly remembers, feels the anger in his chest when he opened up that door, bat in hand--he feels so foolish for that--and his bones freezing in place at the sight of Oikawa on his doorstep with a weak smile, but always, always windblown and gorgeous.

This whole thing is temporary. Oikawa living with him. Oikawa sleeping in his bed. Oikawa at his dinner table.

Oikawa.

Oikawa is temporary.

Hearing Hinata talk about Kageyama, the lengths he’d go for him, how at one point their soulmarks were nearly destroyed… it makes Iwaizumi wonder. If he’d ever confronted Oikawa about any of this, would things be different?

Sure, Iwaizumi is a pretty abrasive guy, headstrong and brutally honest. When it came to Oikawa, he could be honest about everything but this; it was probably the only thing he couldn’t put into words.

What would he have fought with Oikawa about? Getting angry at him because his feelings weren’t returned sounded petty and selfish. Besides, Oikawa always disappeared before Iwaizumi ever found the courage to get angry enough to say anything. And the one time Iwaizumi was actually angry enough to say anything, Oikawa vanished for five whole years.

Things are different now, though. Maybe Iwaizumi can finally say all the things he wanted to without Oikawa running.




 

 

The shift goes by pretty quickly. They haven’t been that busy tonight, but Iwaizumi’s mind has been somewhere else for a good portion of it, and watching Oikawa approach the bar towards the end really sends Iwaizumi into overdrive.

“I came to pick you up,” Oikawa grins, more like he’s done something heroic than just a simply sweet gesture.

“Aw, look. He’s worried about you,” Hanamaki says over a martini shaker.

Iwaizumi glares at Hanamaki from over his coat, eyes tight with a look that screams “shut up”.

Hanamaki just blows him a kiss instead, and goes back to serving the customer at the bar who is currently fascinated with the tattoo on his forearm—maybe just his forearms in general.

“You really came all the way down here?”

“Not like it’s far,” Oikawa shrugs, “I was out on a walk anyway,” he opens up the flap of his cross-body satchel, revealing a bag from the convenience store nearby. “I got some stuff for you, too.”

“Thanks,” Iwaizumi nods.

“How was work?”

They’ve fallen into this routine of having small talk whenever they get together after not having seen each other all day. It’s not the kind of comfortable small talk, the kind that good friends or couples do, it’s the kind that coworkers exchange if they bump into each other on the street.

Awkward and tense.

Like neither of them know what to say to one another after a few hours of separation.

“Good. Slow.” Iwaizumi knows that kind of response calls for a few minutes of unpleasantly stiff silence, so he elaborates. “Hinata had a revelation today.”

“Oh?”

“He’s never once asked for a raise, so he kept pulling extra shifts to try and stash cash for Kageyama’s birthday,” Iwaizumi snickers into his scarf, recalling Hinata’s mortified facial expression.

“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.” Oikawa tilts his head and smiles. “But that’s cute, his pre-planning and all.”

Iwaizumi nods. “Yeah. Which reminds me, I should probably do something too. His birthday will be here in about two months time. Hinata’s right though. Getting gifts for Kageyama has always been difficult. I thought it was just me being a shitty gifter.” Iwaizumi bites the inside of his cheek. He’s still convinced that he’s absolutely awful at giving gifts, but it makes him feel better that his struggles with Kageyama in the past haven’t been all on him.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Oikawa shakes his head, pulling his keys from his pocket.

Iwaizumi’s eyes fall on it, watching Oikawa loop his finger through the keyring as he opens the door to the apartment building. The keyring holds a few things: a Millennium Falcon keychain, a keyring-sized member card to Oikawa’s favorite art store, a small, black sphere decorated in stars, and three keys. One key is to what Iwaizumi assumes to be a safe. He saw him stuffing one in the back of the closet before. The other two are copies. Iwaizumi’s mail key, and his apartment key.

“You don’t?” Iwaizumi asks as they enter the elevator.

“Nope.” Oikawa pushes the desired button. “You put a lot of thought into gifts. You’ve always done that.”

His stomach drops through the floor when he watches Oikawa use his copy to open Iwaizumi’s door. Sure, he’s seen him do this once or twice, but he can’t help feeling both uneasy and elated over it, because Oikawa does it casually. Naturally. Almost like he actually lives here, and he’s not just using it as a rental space. If Iwaizumi tried hard enough, he could eradicate the truths behind Oikawa’s reasoning for living with him. And then, even to Iwaizumi, it would look like they were something more than problematic flatmates.

Iwaizumi forces the wishful thinking out and instead tries to focus on something else that doesn’t have to do with Oikawa. That becomes nearly impossible when his eyes keep landing on things that belong to Oikawa set out across the apartment. His shoes by the door, jackets hung over the backs of chairs, an empty glass and plate on the table, a sketchbook on the couch. This apartment is covered in Oikawa, and Iwaizumi wishes to the heavens that it didn’t feel like all of this was permanent.

And then he thinks about what Hinata said earlier. About soulmarks and working things out.

Iwaizumi hates it, this newborn hope wiggling around in his stomach. It makes him feel squirrelly and uneasy around Oikawa, like he’s back in high school with a mediocre crush, full of mistakes and naivete.

They’re grownups now. Iwaizumi can’t act like this, not when he chided Oikawa for skirting around him in awkward silence. Besides, if they’re supposed to be best friends—or at least working on getting back to that—Iwaizumi should be open and honest, right?

“Hinata said something else, back at the bar.” Iwaizumi starts when Oikawa walks out from the kitchen, two milk breads in his left hand and a third one in his right, a bite of it already stuffed into his cheek. He stays quiet and waits for Iwaizumi to continue.

“He and Kageyama were at such a low point. A while back. It was so bad, their soulmarks warped.”

Oikawa swallows his bite and clears his throat. His eyes lower to the ground, probably because he knows where Iwaizumi is headed with this. “You’re asking if mine did?” Oikawa mumbles.

“No, I know it didn’t.” Iwaizumi walks into the bedroom, not really assuming that Oikawa will follow, but the latter does anyway.

Iwaizumi doesn’t say anything after that. He dove headfirst into the topic with no game plan other than to state the obvious. The resigned look on Oikawa’s face was enough reassurance that his soulmark stayed completely the same over those five years.

“I’ve seen one of them. Y’know, the rejected.” Oikawa bites down into another piece of milk bread, using free fingers to make air quotes on that last word. “It’s…sad. For lack of a better word. It’s a scar. Like they tried to claw out the soulmark with a dull blade.”

“That sounds awful.”

Oikawa mashes his lips together in a tight line. There is something else there, but he’s not saying what. Iwaizumi is beyond trying to pry it out of him, especially because it looks like he’s holding a heavy secret.

“You really thought I gave up on you, huh?”

Iwaizumi peeks at him from over his shoulder, halfway through pulling his shirt over his head. His eyes soften with admittance and move to look down at his waistline, pulling his shirt down into place and smoothing it out. The answer should be obvious, but Oikawa is doing the same as him. Stupidly holding onto a small sliver of hope that the answer isn’t the one they know it will be.

Oikawa sucks on the tip of his thumb, clearing off the residue from his second sweet treat. He sends a shy smile towards Iwaizumi and tilts his head in that way that always makes Iwaizumi’s knees weak.

“When I left right out of high school, my parents gave me a lecture and a parting gift. A plane ticket to wherever I wanted to go. So I went to France. And I met the first girl I ever dated.”

“What?”

“She was an artist, too. It didn’t last long though. We just stayed friends after that.” Oikawa shrugs, “She was a big help for me though, she had connections galore to help me get my work recognized.”

Iwaizumi stares at him like he’s lost his mind for a few seconds before he realizes that Oikawa is trying to push the conversation in a certain direction. Both of them finally have free time, so what better to do than dive into all of that murky, untouched territory? Covering the five year gap seems like a good idea at three in the morning in some pajamas and favorite snacks.

“Year one was pretty steady. I got a job and learned to communicate, and I went through canvas after canvas, bursting with inspiration. But it wasn’t enough. So, I looked into art schools. I came home to pay a visit to my family, and sort of decided on a whim that I’d just do art school in Japan. That’s where I met Kuroo.”

Iwaizumi bites the inside of his cheek, giving Oikawa a long hard stare before he reaches for his cellphone. “You cool with pizza?”

“Pizza?”

“If we’re going to have a pow-wow, I’m gonna need food. Do you want any?” Iwaizumi flips his phone in his fingers.

“I wouldn’t have eaten two milk breads already if I’d known!” Oikawa whines.

“I didn’t know you were going to corner me in my bedroom and open up a chapter of your life either. So, is that a yes on the pizza?”

“Yes,” Oikawa grins and dives to jump onto the bed, curling up against the headboard and grabbing the sherpa throw, pulling it across his lap and waiting for Iwaizumi to finish putting the order in.

He comes back a moment later and takes one of the pillows, sprawling across the bed and tucking a hand behind his head, leaving enough space in between them to keep it casual. Nothing suspicious about two guys sharing a bed, talking about their lives. Not at all.

“So you met Kuroo in art school.”

“Right,” Oikawa confirms. “We took a few classes together. He found his soulmate somewhere in that time. I never met them, though.”

“Really? You haven’t met Suga?”

“You know them?”

“I’ve worked with Kuroo for a few years now,” Iwaizumi nods, “He’s brought Suga along to a few events, or he’s stopped by work to visit a few times.”

“Mh, Kuroo never told me much about him. Then again, I never asked,” Oikawa shrugs.

“What’d you do after you left again?” Iwaizumi asks, blatantly skipping over the part where Oikawa snuck into his bedroom through the open window every night and snuggled up against him. Or where they took pictures on lazy Sunday mornings. Or when Oikawa had so many questions and complaints, and he reduced them all into making Iwaizumi his lover for the night.

Oikawa looks thankful that he didn’t broach that little tidbit. “I went back to Paris. And everything started to happen.”

“Crowd surfing at concerts, base jumping off of mountaintops. Dangling off the Eiffel Tower?”

“Yeah,” Oikawa’s eyes brighten, like he’s slightly surprised Iwaizumi remembered those little details. Iwaizumi is surprised Oikawa doesn’t notice how much attention he gives him. “Art school gave me the boost I needed to get my work recognized. I was a freelance artist, contracted left and right for different things. I started raking in cash quickly, and it felt good that people were seeing my work and loving it.”

“So why’d you leave Paris? Another whim?”

Oikawa drums on his kneecaps and nods along to the makeshift beat. “Needed something new. I went all around Europe really. Anywhere I could get to, I went. Some places were just… vacation stops. Sightseeing as I passed through to the next place. Visits for inspirational purposes. Or… just to say I’ve been here.”

“That one painting you have, with the waterfall?” Iwaizumi remembers almost all of them. As well as the sickly sweet feeling of butterflies in his stomach when Oikawa plopped down in his office during a lunch break and shared his portfolio—saved to his phone—over some boxes of takeout. Beautiful waterfalls under crystal clear skies, a canvas drenched in midnight blue and dazzled with enough stars to seem like a small galaxy above a bonfire, bustling street markets flourished with vibrant colors--Oikawa had the talent to distinguish clothing fabric from tarps draped over food carts. Oikawa drew faces, so many faces of beautiful people with scars, freckles, frizzy hair or pin straight, skin pale as snow all the way to deep umber, eyes crystal or black as coal.

Oikawa pointed at one and wrinkled his nose at it somewhat bashfully, saying “this one wasn’t that great. There are a few in there that are kind of—“ Iwaizumi didn’t let him finish, because the only thing keeping him from giving Oikawa a dissertation about the beauty in these works was the big red flag of unresolved tension between them. That, and that he wouldn’t be able to express himself properly without stumbling over his words or getting frustrated that the right words didn’t even exist.

“Oh, the waterfall…that was in Brasil!” Oikawa chirps, “You liked that one?”

Iwaizumi picks at a loose string on the pillowcase. “It was beautiful.”

He doesn’t need to look at Oikawa’s face to know that he’s smiling; he won’t, because a smiling Oikawa is dangerous to his health.

“I’ve never photographed a waterfall,” Iwaizumi adds, quickly wiping away the small moment of silence to keep the momentum of the conversation. “I’ve only ever travelled as far as the edges of China for projects.”

“So you have left Japan,” Oikawa hums, raising a brow.

“Once. It was a volunteer assignment. We photographed a convention or something. I don’t…really remember the details.” Iwaizumi frowns at how insignificant the event was, so much he can’t remember it. His passport is definitely lacking in travel. Wait, he doesn’t even have a passport.

When he stops trying to think about the event and looks back at Oikawa, he’s staring back at him with his lower lip chewed on, expression full of pity that clearly screams you need to get out more.

“Shut up, traveling costs money.”

“So does an apartment with a view like this,” Oikawa gestures to the giant window that extends across the length of his entire apartment, view opening up over the city lights and just right to look up and see a sky full of stars on a clear night.

“Different priorities I guess,” Iwaizumi gives a small, guilty smile. It’s true, he is living in quite a nice place for a photographer who doubles as a bartender, and while he could afford to travel, he just never went. Oikawa hasn’t asked him why, but when he does, Iwaizumi isn’t sure what he’ll say.

“What keeps you in Japan?” Oikawa asks, right on cue.

Iwaizumi bites at the tip of his thumb. He’s not quite sure he could call it fear. But the idea of traveling alone, with no plan, with no reason other than to get out didn’t ever resonate with him.

“Home,” Iwaizumi admits quietly. “As much as getting out would be nice, especially with all the opportunities my camera would have, it’s not…home.”

“Home.” Oikawa doesn’t seem satisfied with the answer with the jeer in his voice.

“Normal people get homesick.”

“I got homesick, all the time. My drive for other things just suppressed it.”

“Sure as hell did. ”

“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa sighs, tucking his knees closer to his chest, face pinched in distaste.

Iwaizumi shifts his eyes down to the bedspread and lowers his head onto the pillow. “Sorry,” he mutters, “I thought about it. Traveling. Going alone sounds shitty.”

“You mean scary?”

“No, shitty,” Iwaizumi repeats, “I feel like a vacation by yourself is always going to be one of those stories that ends with ‘you had to be there’. I like to hold onto things, show what I can’t explain. Hence… photography,” Iwaizumi sweeps his hand across the desk at the corner of the room with his equipment next to it.  

Oikawa leans back against the headboard even further and wiggles his toes beneath the blanket, eyes locked on his hands like he’s thinking something over. Iwaizumi wonders if he might have said something that Oikawa latched onto, but he doesn’t get to pry, because before he can phrase a question, Oikawa has moved on.

“What’d you do after college?”

“Interned with a modeling agency, if you can believe it.”

“Stop,” Oikawa laughs wickedly. “Were you a coffee runner?!”

“That Starbucks across the street hated my guts. Every time I came in with a box, I got the worst stink eye from the whole staff,” Iwaizumi groans, rolling his eyes when Oikawa snickers into the back of his hand. “They finally let me do what I wanted, which was photograph the models, and slipped me under the tutelage of one of the other photographers there. She taught me a lot. The guy I—” he bites down on his tongue. It feels both uncomfortable and unpleasant to mention other people that Iwaizumi has dated.

Oikawa sends him a warm look, the kind that tells him it’s okay, and he continues after a beat.

“The guy I was dating at the time was actually one of the newer runway models they had.”

“You scored a model?”

“Yes,” Iwaizumi snarls, “I used him as practice during the internship. He’s still a model today, actually. We broke up as soon as he went big. I got hired for an entry level photographer where I am now. We both got too busy to really see each other at all. Which reminds me… I should contact him.”

“Why?”

“We’re still friends. He wants me to do a shoot for him and I said I would.”

The conversation cuts short at the sound of the doorbell. Oikawa leaps off the bed and falls in line behind Iwaizumi, peering over his shoulder when the door opens. A small girl stands in front of them, probably no taller than five feet, hair cropped short beneath her hat and a pizza bag slung across her body.

Her eyes widen to the size of dinner plates when she sees Oikawa grinning at her from over Iwaizumi’s shoulder.

“What was the total again?” Iwaizumi asks.

“Fifteen hundred,” she blurts, and hands Iwaizumi the pizza box.

“Thanks…” Iwaizumi drags out the word as he palms a bill into her hand, pressing it down hard enough to get her to stop spacing out. “Keep the change.”

Iwaizumi had gotten used to Oikawa’s good looks dazzling people around them way back when they were younger. But every now and again he’s reminded that quite a lot of people find Oikawa attractive, so much that they forget how to do anything but stare. For example, their delivery girl—who looks too young to be delivering at three in the morning—that can’t peel herself from Iwaizumi’s doorway.

“I’m gonna. Close the door now,” Iwaizumi says slowly, driving his heel into Oikawa’s shin when he hears him giggling. Iwaizumi gets the door almost shut, and he can’t control the quirk of his brow when she turns as red as a beet and beelines down the hallway.

“She looked like a deer in headlights.” Iwaizumi lets Oikawa lock the door.

“She wasn’t scared, she was enamored. By me. Admit it, my good looks leave people speechless.” Oikawa presses a hand to his hip and winks.

“Real and true facts.” Iwaizumi says casually as he walks over to the living room. “Quit posing and grab drinks from the fridge so we can eat.”

Fueling Oikawa’s ego is probably unsafe, but Iwaizumi has also learned that breezing by his showy confidence makes him implode, like it does right now, with Oikawa storming off into the kitchen, muttering something about Iwaizumi being too damn blunt.

They break from their pow-wow for a few minutes to set up the post-midnight meal. Iwaizumi sits on the floor, Oikawa on the couch, still with the blanket, and they spend a few moments in surprisingly comfortable quiet while they take the first few bites of food.

“Pizza at three is always a good idea.”

“Food at three is always a good idea.” Iwaizumi hums over a piece of pepperoni hidden beneath the cheese.

“So,” Oikawa puts his slice down and dusts off his hands, reaching for a napkin. “How did you meet Kuroo?”

“He joined up with the company before I did. When I got hired, we were assigned to work together. I took the photos, he did the retouching. Or, for concepts, I would go and fetch reference photos, and he would use the palette and layout to make something… indescribable.”

“I hear that,” Oikawa agrees, albeit bitingly, jealousy leaking from those words.

“I take it you two are rivals?”

“More or less. I’m seething with envy and somehow morphing it into motivation. That guy does things I can’t even fathom. And before you look at me like that,” Oikawa snaps, avoiding Iwaizumi’s sharpening stare, “I’m not saying I’m bad or incomparable. He just doesn’t stop. I’ve never seen someone break through creativity blocks like he does.”

Oikawa ponders it for a moment or two and then takes another bite of his pizza, jerking his head towards Iwaizumi as a sign for him to continue.

“Not much more to tell, really. I got promoted for good work, awards for amazing work. I sort of shifted into doing more freelance once my name got out there enough. People seek me out more than I seek them out. Anything else I do is partner work with the art team or personal. I grabbed the job at Saeko’s during the internship. I don’t really need it anymore, but they’re like my second family, so I didn’t quit right away.”

Iwaizumi evades telling Oikawa he used the job at the bar as an excuse to stay at this branch of the company. He’s had opportunities to travel or to move to a different prefecture, but he always came back with the excuse of being a content bartender at a family joint, and Mizoguchi left it alone.

“How did you end up in America?” Iwaizumi bites down on another slice of pizza, pushing it into his cheek and chewing slowly. Lately he’s been eating well, since he’s had more reason to cook now that Oikawa is around. But this treat right now is doing him so many justices, even if he’s going to regret his workout the next day.

“I was pretty well known, y’know. I sold my work, worked between studios and supply stores, held gallery viewings and whatnot. But, I wanted to expand my work beyond Europe. So I packed up my things and headed for the states. California came first. I lived in Los Angeles, a dinky little place just shy of Malibu. And…I met a guy named Kaiden.”

Iwaizumi feels the weight attached to the name. A lover. Probably.

“He’s the reason I moved to New York. California just didn’t give me the feeling I needed to create. I hit an art block. I think it was the laid-back feeling. The people there seemed so lackadaisical. I was only in Cali for half a year, give or take a month.”

“New York is the most talked about city. What was it like?”

“Chaos,” Oikawa begins, a quick pause to take a swig of his drink, “if that’s the right word for it. Everybody has a place to be. There’s no time to sit and ponder, you just… gotta do something. It felt great. I painted, and drew, and sculpted until my hands got tired.”

Iwaizumi finishes off his slice, cleaning his fingers on a napkin and using the moisture around his soda can as a cheap trick to clean his hands a bit more.

“In any event… Kaiden showed me a lot. How to hustle in a place like that, how to succeed.”

“So…what made you come back?” Iwaizumi poses the question, the one they’ve both been waiting for him to ask. Iwaizumi had sort of resigned himself to never figuring it out, because Oikawa was just that much of an enigma that he would never give him the answer, and Iwaizumi would ignore it until he forgot.  But he wants to know. He desperately wants to know what keeps Oikawa at his place, why he came back to his place.

From their conversations prior to now, Iwaizumi has never learned what brought Oikawa to his doorstep. He could have easily gone to any other place in the world, gone to any of his friends he’s made along the way. Oikawa could have easily gone back home to his family. It’s not like they disowned him; Iwaizumi wondered somewhere in the back of his mind if they had, with such a nomadic son like that. He could have even stopped off at Kuroo’s doorstep for goodness sake.

But he’s here. On Iwaizumi’s couch, tucked under his favorite blanket, with everything left in his life stuffed behind Iwaizumi’s bedroom door.

“When you dated those other people,” Oikawa starts, “did you ever wonder where their soulmates might be?”

“I tried not to think about it,” Iwaizumi shrugs. Thinking about it now, that’s a lie. He constantly wondered where they might have been, he just never found it in him to ask, because he didn’t want to have to explain to anyone why he wasn’t with his own. He let them come to their own conclusions, but telling them “My soulmate rejected me and left” could only be said in so many words, and he wasn’t going to do that.

Oikawa stretches his arms out over his kneecaps, lips twisting into a pout, the kind he makes when he doesn’t like something.

“Kaiden’s ran away.”

Iwaizumi remains mute, heart freezing in his chest. The shock jolts through his bones and the only thing holding him from moving is the anticipation of what Oikawa will say next.

“They couldn’t make things work. Soulmates… everyone in this world hears that word, sees these marks and thinks it’s a love that’s perfect when you find it. We grow up believing that’s all we have, so nobody ever thinks about rejection.” Oikawa plays with his own fingers, just something to calm his nerves and keep his eyes off of Iwaizumi’s. “She ran from him. Their hearts broke. So did their skin,” Oikawa presses the pad of his thumb down harsh on the back of his hand, like if he applied enough pressure he might break the skin.

Iwaizumi doesn’t need to try hard to know what he’s feeling. He’s not sharing the emotion; he’s quiet, void of anything right now. Oikawa got a taste of his own medicine and he’s not sure if he’s happy or sad about it.

“His mark looked like this disgusting scar all across his chest. I didn’t even last an hour into painting him before I started to cry. Embarrassing,” Oikawa laughs through the tense air, the bitterness in his voice. He drops his head onto his arm, rolling his eyes shut like he’s digging for the memory. The crease in his brows tells Iwaizumi it might be more painful to reimagine it than to just retell what happened.

“It’s my favorite painting I’ve ever done.”

“I didn’t see it on your phone,” Iwaizumi whispers. It feels weird to talk in a normal voice, and even if he wanted to, there’s a tight knot in his throat that barely lets words out as it is.

“I don’t want to see it again,” Oikawa’s lips curl upward into a mournful smile. It’s small, full of so many things he can’t verbalize without trembling, possibly collapsing. “It belongs to Kaiden anyway. It was a gift. I tried not to think about it too much once it was done, but it ate me alive. I had nightmares about my skin looking like that,” Oikawa grips hard on his left shoulder.

Iwaizumi swallows hard, the constellations spread across his own skin almost aching as he looks at Oikawa. The night’s gone from a gentle trip down memory lane to a dismal confession, and Iwaizumi can’t find it in him to be selfish enough to pry Oikawa for anything else; not when he looks like this.

“Oikawa—“

“I told you, I tried to forget about you.”

Those words never fail to rattle around Iwaizumi’s ribcage painfully.

Tried, being the operative word. You were the only one I didn’t call over those five years, because I wanted to sever fate. I hated the idea of being tied to you. It wasn’t you, it was the whole principle that it couldn’t be anybody but you. Like I didn’t have a choice.” Oikawa pulls his fingers through his hair, sweeping bangs out of his eyes and making Iwaizumi dizzy. That move always sucks the breath right from Iwaizumi’s lungs. “It didn’t work, though. I thought about you a lot. What you did with the camera, if you fell in love, got a job. If you were eating right, still making that stupid face whenever you’re proud of something, still staring at the stars thinking about me.”

Iwaizumi holds it in his mind to ask Oikawa what stupid face he makes. He doesn’t make stupid faces. But, the staring at the stars part. That’s about right. Iwaizumi thought about Oikawa when he looked at the stars, when he looked at colorful things, when he smelled lavender, when the drumming of his heart quickened and became painful. Every waking moment, Oikawa was there.

“After I saw Kaiden’s mark like that… I couldn’t get you out of my head. And then I lost it. All my motivation, my inspiration. I’d stare at blank canvases for hours, guilt tripped and too drunk on liquor and self loathing.”

Iwaizumi tilts his head down to look at the table instead of Oikawa’s glassy eyes, and tries to imagine him sitting in his  New York apartment—aesthetically pleasing at every corner and colorless—and Oikawa staring at a canvas, fingers wrapped about a half empty glass of diluted liquor and driving himself deeper into a slump.

His heart wrenches, the stars across his arm burn like a wound.

“I forced out everything I had, burnt the candle at both ends until I couldn’t go anymore. I had to know I hadn’t ruined everything with you. That you didn’t hate me, that I didn’t selfishly break you like Kaiden,” Oikawa doesn’t bother hiding the trembling between his laced fingers pressed tight against his scalp. “My slump cost me everything. I lost out to artists still bursting with incentive. The money started thinning out, good friends turned into strangers.”

Oikawa digs the heel of his palms into his eyes. “I never gave up on you. I missed you. I needed you. So I ditched everything, and looked into finding you. Booked a ticket, and prayed you wouldn’t shut the door on me when I got here.”

“And I almost attacked you with a baseball bat,” Iwaizumi looks at Oikawa, the joke meant to lighten the mood.

“A goddamn baseball bat,” Oikawa laughs, tears at the corners of his eyes a combination of happiness, sadness, remorse, relief.

Oikawa brings his head down from looking at the ceiling, and his smile turns down.

And he cries.

He bites down on his lower lip and claps a hand across his eyes but it’s clear as day that he’s been holding back this bout of tears for a while. It’s one of those soul relieving cries that’s long overdue.

Iwaizumi finds it appropriate to pull himself from the floor and join Oikawa on the couch. It feels right to loop an arm around Oikawa and let his head rest on his shoulder. And it feels good when Oikawa turns into his arms and buries his face into Iwaizumi’s t-shirt.

“Iwa-chan,” he bites down on his sob, the apology somewhere between his shivering, locked in his throat. That’s alright, Iwaizumi thinks. Oikawa has apologized enough. He drove himself mad with worry, to the point he lost his will to do what he loved. Iwaizumi presses his chin atop Oikawa’s head and smoothes a hand across his back.

The night he had his first time with Oikawa, that wasn’t on a whim.

All those years he and Oikawa spent stargazing, sneaking out the window to ride bikes down to the waterfront and light sparklers, building forts and marathoning Star Wars or Godzilla until they crashed from sugar highs and exhaustion… those were real. Iwaizumi wasn’t just strung along like a lackey. All those days Iwaizumi spent waking up alone, sometimes not alone, wondering if Oikawa had done the same. Wondering if he ate well, if he was famous yet. If he’d found what he’d been searching for. Oikawa thought about him too.

Iwaizumi had spent too much time questioning if he mattered to Oikawa at all, and he did. His heart slams against his chest and he knows Oikawa can hear it beat strong, in a frenzy of whether he should be happy that all of this is happening, or worried.

He spent five years forcing himself to fall out of love with Oikawa, to hate him, to let his entire body reject him, and it didn’t work. The furthest he got was reducing himself to this numb, lackluster state where everything around him was grey and bereft of color.

Right now his soulmark feels like it’s alive. Burning white hot like the stars were plucked from the sky and embedded in his skin like diamonds. Everything leaves a tingle in its wake, as Iwaizumi drags his hands across Oikawa’s back, through his hair, down his arms. It’s all the things they aren’t sure how to say to each other, passed silently between their fingers. Iwaizumi traces circles in the palm of Oikawa’s hand, fingers laced together, watching Oikawa’s eyes flutter shut.

“You thought I gave up on you too, huh?” Iwaizumi asks quietly, breaking the silence.

“I don’t know what I would do if you hated me.” Oikawa growls. “Call it selfish, but I won’t…”

I won’t let you go, Iwaizumi finishes the statement in his head. Or, at least that’s what he thinks Oikawa might say. What he wants him to say.

Iwaizumi loves him. He loves Oikawa from the rawest parts of his core and if there were some way he could get Oikawa to understand that, he just might do it, regardless of how Oikawa feels for him. This is enough, he thinks, and closes his eyes, exhaling deep and letting Oikawa sink against his chest. It’s enough that Oikawa won’t let him go, for whatever selfish reasons.

“I really messed up with you,” Oikawa admits after another moment.

“I think we both did,” Iwaizumi shrugs his shoulders. “How do you feel?”

“Well, my head is pounding.”

“You sure do cry ugly.”

“Iwa-chan! Rude!” Oikawa punches his shoulder and sits up enough to peel himself off of Iwaizumi. He stares at him for a moment, a hand still balled in Iwaizumi’s shirt before he starts to tug at it. “Can you, take this off?”

“Most people use tissues to wipe their nose, you know.”

“I want to see it,” Oikawa bypasses the joke with a scrunch of his nose and hands tugging at the hem of Iwaizumi’s shirt.

Iwaizumi can’t fight the scarlet that blooms across his cheeks down to his chest, but he obliges, pulling his shirt over his head and balling the fabric into his lap. His body tenses when Oikawa’s fingers glide along Leo, the constellation across his bicep, down to Gemini, stretching from his elbow to his forearm. Oikawa’s hands are cool to the touch, feeling like an icy fire on Iwaizumi’s tawny skin, yet the touch is comfortable enough, desired enough that Iwaizumi leans into it, shifting his body to let Oikawa’s fingers glide along the stars that form Hercules across the contours of his shoulder blade.

As a kid, Oikawa always talked about reaching into the night sky and filling his hands with little suns. Iwaizumi desperately wants him to do it now, across the expanse of his skin, gather all these little stars and claim them for himself.

“Oikawa, you said that you weren’t running away. But running… to. Something.”

“Mhm.” Oikawa nods his head.

“What if… it’s both?” Iwaizumi swallows hard, forcing himself not to shrink away when Oikawa lifts up and leans towards him.

“Are you trying to imply that you’re my muse, Iwa-chan?”

“I dunno. I just.”

Oikawa presses their foreheads together, chestnut eyes warm and swimming with intention as he looks down at Iwaizumi’s bottom lip snagged between teeth. It means yes. Yes, Iwaizumi is his muse. Iwaizumi wants to kiss him, so badly. He wants to kiss that corner of Oikawa’s mouth that tilts upward when he smirks, melt against him until he forgets everything but Oikawa.

If only Oikawa knew how vulnerable he was for him.

“We should sleep,” Iwaizumi blurts. Sure, he wants to kiss Oikawa, but nerves make that a possibility for another night. Plus, the way Oikawa is looking at him has caution written all over it. “This was good. Catching up. And all.” He tilts away and goes to pull his shirt over his head, yanking it into place. Iwaizumi reaches for the pizza box and the empty drinks, marching them over to the kitchen to clean up.

Oikawa follows him in, carrying the extras to the trash can. “You’ve always been stiff when it comes to moments like that.”

“Moments like what?” Iwaizumi asks, using a bit of strength to collapse the pizza box in half and forcing it into his recycle bin.

Oikawa catches his hand and latches onto it, stepping towards him and closing the gap between them and the kitchen counter. Iwaizumi looks down at their hands and back to Oikawa, stiffening when Oikawa closes the gap enough to leave nothing but breathing room between them.

“See, you’re tense again.”

“Have you ever considered that I don’t want this sort of thing if it’s one sided?” Iwaizumi whispers. “Don’t do this sort of thing on a whim. What you’re feeling now,” Iwaizumi smoothes his thumb across the back of Oikawa’s hand, mentally kicking himself for having a conscience, “will mean nothing if you don’t feel it tomorrow.”

Oikawa jolts like he’s been electrocuted, his automatic response trying to look for a good enough excuse so that it doesn’t look like he’s done something insensitive to Iwaizumi. He can’t come up with one, and Iwaizumi just laughs at the dumbstruck look on his face. He tilts forward and presses his lips to Oikawa’s cheek. It’s chaste and sweet and everything that it should be right now. Telling Oikawa with a simple kiss that he can be patient. That he doesn’t need Oikawa to make whimsical decisions on his behalf.

“Goodnight, Oikawa.”

Oikawa gives him one last look, just for reassurance, before he squeezes his hand tight and lets go.

It’s enough. All of this is enough. Iwaizumi feels like he can breathe, like a bit of color has come back to him, even more than when Oikawa first appeared on his doorstep with nothing but a stolen jacket and some savings.

Iwaizumi smiles to himself behind his hand over the counter, because not only did he work things out with Oikawa, not only did he kiss Oikawa, not only does he feel like he’s floating, but he may have just come up with an idea for his new personal project.

Who knew that these two would be each other’s muse?

Iwaizumi will have to get his notebook out and start planning for this one, the one he’s promised to turn into work for a while now.

It’ll be a story. All about how two silly little stars lost each other, and spent galaxies apart until they fumbled their way back together.

Iwaizumi hasn’t been this excited to work on something in God knows how long. And every feeling in his gut tells him that he was right to hold onto the camera Oikawa gave him.

Because he’s going to create a masterpiece through that lens.




Chapter Text

Oikawa sits on the floor of the living room, looking around at his belongings scattered across the floorspace. He doesn’t remember what the room looked like before he moved in, but it was probably a lot simpler than it is now. He tries to subtract everything: his art supplies, his clothes that he hasn’t put away, little trinkets and knick knacks across the dresser. The room would probably be plain.

Oikawa frowns at the reality, wondering why Iwaizumi never tried to decorate anything. Sure, he isn’t big on interior design, born and raised and still living simply. But he could at least put something on the walls. Oikawa finds himself questioning Iwaizumi’s living space altogether. Not that he doesn’t know his way around, but he never took the time to search deep, find little pieces of Iwaizumi that made this place his.

Oikawa had already been on a tour around the place, and true to his nature, Iwaizumi was simple. Below the TV were all of his movies, stashed in unorganized rows—Oikawa already made a plan to organize them by genre and alphabet—and in the shelf underneath that were what looked like housewarming gifts from coworkers, little decorative things to make the place feel less, blank. There weren’t leftovers of any kind to be found in the fridge, and most of the snackage came from Oikawa’s bad sugar habits—Iwaizumi just naturally happened to have a good diet. Oikawa isn’t too far off from an eye roll over how designer perfect Iwaizumi’s kitchen looks, like it was sucked straight from a magazine and plastered onto the walls.

A glass leftover from dinner on the kitchen counter, some notes he scribbled onto a pad by the refrigerator after a phone call with a client, his jacket hanging on the back of the chair at the dining table. A bit of Iwaizumi’s camera equipment left in the living room because he ran out of time this morning to tuck it all away before he left.  Oikawa ended up dragging the blanket Iwaizumi uses to sleep with off of the couch and pulling it around himself, because it smells like Iwaizumi more than anything else in this place. It smells comfortable, and homey, and before Oikawa knew it he was bundled up in it and sitting on the floor, where he pondered over it all.

Then it hits Oikawa. Iwaizumi may not have too many personal things lying around the apartment itself, but all of Iwaizumi’s works are saved. He used to print all of his photos as a kid and store them in albums before he began to save everything onto hard drives and memory cards. It’s not like he keeps them locked away in some secret base. They’re just sitting in a pretty sturdy box in the back of the coat closet.

Oikawa pushes himself off of his knees and crawls over to the closet, digging into the back for that box he knows he saw a while back. He was too afraid to touch it or even question it when he first moved in. He wasn’t sure he could handle the look on Iwaizumi’s face. “Just a peek,” Oikawa tells himself quietly, lifting the box off of the lid and settling himself onto the floor. Iwaizumi wouldn’t even be home for another few hours anyway, so technically he has all the time in the world. But Oikawa doesn’t want to get hasty.

He folds open the first album and begins flipping through the photos pressed between laminate. The only reason he’s so stuck on this concept of sifting through Iwaizumi’s belongings around the house was because he finally got to meet Hanamaki’s match made in heaven a few nights ago. Matsukawa Issei.

He learned quite a lot from those two. Not just their back story—a long winded, romantic tale for another time—but about how they got to where they are, and most importantly, how they met Iwaizumi. Oikawa already knows it; everyone in that bar is looking at Oikawa under a microscope. Matsukawa was the one to break down and give Oikawa more than the rest had. Even Hanamaki looked nervous about all the things he was saying.

 

“So you’re the guy Hajime has had it rough for?” Matsukawa doesn’t look neither impressed nor disgusted, but curious. Oikawa doesn’t like the way he says it, and leans back defensively, fingers curling around his glass.

“What of it?”

“Don’t look like that.” Matsukawa grins, and leans over to grab a french fry off of his plate. “I know he’s a fat liar now, too.”

“Issei,” Makki clips, not angrily, but he’s too late. Oikawa is already dropping his guard and tilting himself towards Matsukawa, eyebrows knit together.

“What do you mean?”

“You seem like the type to get under people’s skin.”

“Charming,” Oikawa sneers, not at Matsukawa, but at Hanamaki, who is shaking his head as he closes out a customer’s tab.

“He really is. I promise,” Makki sends a look towards his boyfriend before he disappears back down the length of the counter.

“Contrary to what you’re thinking, I don’t dislike you,” Matsukawa mutters when Hanamaki is out of earshot.

“Here I was thinking you were infatuated with me,” Oikawa drawls sarcastically.

“He always told us he never had any photos or anything,” Matsukawa sighs after a minute, scratching the back of his head as he thinks. “He talked about you like you were some kind of ghost. For a while I assumed that you were dead, until he broke down and told me the truth,” Matsukawa tilts his head, eyes flickering down to Oikawa as he traps a fry between his teeth. “I’m sure now that he said it because it was hard enough for him to look back. Or maybe that a vain society like ours would blame him if we saw your face.”

“What are you talking about,” Oikawa rolls his eyes.

“There’s no way Hajime would have passed up the chance to photograph someone like you. Especially if you mean as much to him as you do.”

That isn’t the first time Oikawa has been complimented on his looks, but the way Matsukawa says it sends a deep scarlet rushing under his skin from his neck up. Oikawa twists his body to face the bar counter and stares into his drink, chewing the inside of his cheek with a bitterness leftover on his tongue. “He didn’t lie to you. He probably threw them all away,” he mumbles, rubbing at his red cheeks and trying to calm himself down.

“You and I both know Hajime doesn’t throw away his work,” Matsukawa snorts, sounding a bit too confident about himself.

“Do you have a point to all of this?”

“You should go take a peek for yourself, I’m sure there’s a hard drive with your name on it or something.”

“I don’t snoop through his things.”

“I didn’t say you had to snoop,” Matsukawa grins, “but if that’s what you call it, then snoop. Hajime isn’t good with words, so he lets his work do the talking for him. His thoughts are in his photography. I’m sure you’ll figure a thing or two out.”

 

Oikawa hates to admit that Matsukawa was right, about all of it. Oikawa looks through the albums. Photos of oceanfronts, back porches, city slums and sky scrapers, night lights and broken morning light through shutters. Summer festival fireworks or the first snow in the winter. You name it, he’s got some kind of photo for it. But it’s not just a stockpile image, each one of them tells a story of where he was, what he was feeling, who he might have been with.

Oikawa’s heart sinks a little when he finishes the album and realizes that he was there for most of those. He may not have been in all of them, but he remembers them, when they were young and doe eyed and had the entire world within their reach.

Oikawa flips through the hard drives and grabs a few out, plugging them into the computer and curling up on the bed, tapping through the photos. This hard drive was full of models. Oikawa already knows the time period for this one, but he doesn’t care, because these are beautiful. All of them, every single frame. People all in different angles and lighting, makeup or not, backdrops or scenery.

Then Oikawa sees him. It’s not hard to miss him, the album is half full of him anyway. The guy Iwaizumi was involved with when he got his start. He’s gorgeous, with presence and a million volt smile, and Oikawa can easily see Iwaizumi being with someone like this. But it leaves a bad taste in his mouth, and jealousy flares beneath his skin. It’s probably a childish thing to feel, Oikawa thinks, taking one look at an ex-boyfriend in an old, dusty drive and feeling threatened.

But that’s just it. He can see Iwaizumi with someone like this. Happy. And yet, Iwaizumi still looks at Oikawa.

Oikawa wonders. If he had seen Iwaizumi fall for this guy, would he have sat back quietly and done nothing?

He rips out the hard drive and brings up a new one before he can let that thought simmer for too long.

The next two memory cards are full of Iwaizumi’s work related projects, including his most recent one, the Tokyo Skyline. But the last one is the one Matsukawa was talking about.

Oikawa clicks open the tab, knowing he should have probably stopped himself when he saw the dates on it, flashing right back to their second year of University. Curiosity and temptation get the better of him, and he continues to click through each image.

Some of them are photos from parties, friends of Iwaizumi’s holding red solos and smiling so hard their faces are scrunched. Some are from classrooms, or sports games, even the library during exams week and the dorm hallways during peak hours. Iwaizumi’s old roommate—Oikawa only ever talked to him a few times—is drowsily smiling at the camera in one of them, an arm slung around a person Oikawa doesn’t remember. Maybe a girlfriend, or a classmate, or something.

Oikawa sees the first photo of himself back in Uni. He’s smiling with his whole face against brilliant sunlight, hands reaching for the camera lens. He remembers that photo like Iwaizumi had taken it yesterday.

“Iwa-chan, are you taking my picture?”

“No, you’re in the way.”

“Mean,” Oikawa whines, getting further in the way and placing his hands over Iwaizumi’s, grinning right into the lens. Iwaizumi presses down on the shutter and snaps the candid.

“I was kidding, dummy.”

There are about a million of those in different angles, all of Oikawa smiling, either wide with his whole face, or smaller ones, like the kind he got when he looked bashful. Oikawa would feel a little vain, continuously staring at his own face this much, but he’s marveled at how Iwaizumi captured these candids full of emotion each time, like his shutter always went off at the right moment.

There are photos of Oikawa doing dumb, mundane things, like eating cereal or watching a movie, tackling bed hair or wearing Iwaizumi’s closet like it’s his own.

And then there are photos of Oikawa doing the things he loves. Sitting at the daybed and drawing, smiling into a cup tea, looming over Iwaizumi during an afternoon nap, just before he drifts off to sleep. There are a few of those, with Oikawa sleeping curled into Iwaizumi’s bed, shattered light dusting over the constellations along his arm, mapping the contours of his back without missing a single dimple. Oikawa falls asleep and wakes like every other living and breathing person but in these photos, you might as well think he’s some kind of adonis.

“His thoughts are in his photography.”

Oikawa blushes, warmth falling over his skin and crushing his embarrassment with disbelief. The night they had it out, Oikawa joked about Iwaizumi being his muse. Iwaizumi was serious about Oikawa being his.

The last one Oikawa sees is the one they took with their heads pressed together and smiling, the camera a little blurry and Oikawa’s finger is in the way. He remembers taking that one, and why he took it. Oikawa left soon after that photo was taken. And he took it because he would feel guilty about leaving Iwaizumi with nothing. He forgot all about those times that Iwaizumi had photographed him in that moment, thinking that photo would be a little something, an apology, whatever Iwaizumi needed it to be.

It may as well have been a plague, shoved into a hard drive and into a dusty old box.

Oikawa snaps out of his trance at the sound of the keys being pushed into the lock at the front door. He scrambles to throw everything in the box and shoves it into the closet, darting back towards the couch and forcing the laptop shut, whipping out his phone just as Iwaizumi comes through the doorway.

“You’re home early!” Oikawa chirps.

“Thankfully,” Iwaizumi sighs, dropping his keys into the bowl and kicking off his shoes, walking the small bag of groceries to the kitchen. “How was your day off?”

“Insightful,” Oikawa’s eyes breeze past the closet and back to Iwaizumi. He pushes off of the couch and follows him into the kitchen, circling his arms around his back and linking them against Iwaizumi’s waistline. It’s not unusual for Oikawa to show this kind of affection after they’re little chat. But it is unusual for Oikawa to display this kind of affection without reason.

“Insightful?” Iwaizumi questions, cheeks tinted from Oikawa’s touch.

“What’s for dinner?” Oikawa ignores him, resting his chin on Iwaizumi’s shoulder.

“Salmon. You okay with that?”

“Mhm.” Oikawa’s lips rest against the nape of his neck. It’s not a kiss, yet, but it’s enough to make Iwaizumi grow slightly tense under Oikawa’s touch. Granted, Oikawa has been doing little things like this recently. The small “I want to be closer to you” hidden in the subtleties of his touches. The other day he thought it to be totally normal to reach for Iwaizumi’s hand while they were on the couch, stroking his fingers across Iwaizumi’s palm in the midst of staring at his work. He carried on conversation like he wasn’t even touching him, amazingly enough.

Iwaizumi hadn’t really been rejecting the touches. He responded, by brushing knuckles together or stopping to let Oikawa hold him, pushing the boundary of what was and wasn’t okay. Probably some part of him is still hesitating to give in, but Oikawa morphs his impatience into perseverance and continued with the little gestures.

“Oikawa.”

“Hn?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Hmm…”

“Liar. Nothing doesn’t equal this.”

Oikawa nuzzles into Iwaizumi’s throat, swaying them back and forth. “Can’t you just assume that I missed you and be cute about it?”

“I’m not cute,” Iwaizumi wrinkles his nose. He isn’t saying it because he thinks it could damage his masculinity. He doesn’t believe it.

“You are cute,” Oikawa twirls Iwaizumi around in his arms and presses them against the kitchen counter, refusing to let him escape with brute strength and a wave of dismissal. “Look at me,” he grabs Iwaizumi’s face between his hands and stares at him, wiping away Iwaizumi’s scowl by pressing his cheeks together and puffing his lips out. The face is so ridiculous it makes Oikawa laugh, but the point is, it gets a laugh from Iwaizumi too.

Iwaizumi swats him away and turns around to start pulling out items for dinner, and Oikawa disappears to the opposite side to grab them both drinks.

“Can I help you make dinner?”

“No, you always eat during the work and then you’re full by the time it’s done.”

“Can I help you taste dinner?”

“No, because if I turn around you’ll taste more,” Iwaizumi snorts, pausing from looking into the fridge to see Oikawa smiling at him. And it wouldn’t be unusual, if it weren’t for the way Oikawa was smiling. It’s different than Oikawa’s usual, chipper self, and it almost makes Iwaizumi nervous.

“Why are you smiling at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Nevermind,” Iwaizumi shakes his head, “I’m going to shower first.” Iwaizumi normally offers for Oikawa to go first, but if he wants to avoid Oikawa nibbling on dinner before it’s served, he’ll have to do things the other way around. That doesn’t stop Oikawa. He lingers close to him, doing exactly what Iwaizumi wanted him not to do, tasting the sauce, and the fish, even the side dish because while it’s just vegetables, the way Iwaizumi calls his name makes him laugh.

Oikawa finally gives in and saunters off to shower, leaving Iwaizumi to finish the rest on his own. But once he comes back, the staring picks up again. Oikawa practically watched Iwaizumi eat his dinner across the table, between quick bites of his own.

Iwaizumi only endures it until they’re doing dishes, which is really Oikawa talking about something while swinging a dish rag until Iwaizumi hands him a glass, or plate. He catches the odd silence with Oikawa just watching him again, the smallest smile on his lips, and he cracks, ripping the sink plug out from the bottom and glaring into the swirling drain. “Oikawa, what is it?”

“What?”

“You’ve been staring at me all night. And don’t say there’s something on my face.”

Oikawa clamps his lips shut and lowers his finger, leaving Iwaizumi to discover dried up suds on his cheek later on.

“What gives? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?” Oikawa repeats from earlier.

“Like that, you. Like you…”

He takes a tentative step towards Iwaizumi, draping his dish rag over his wet hands to help dry them off. He leans forward, pressing his thumb against the spot between Iwaizumi’s brows to smooth out his frown and drops his voice to barely above a whisper. “Like I… what?”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what he’s doing. Iwaizumi glances at him warily, graciously accepting the towel but keeping his guard up.

“Oikawa, I told you—“

“It’s been more than a week,” Oikawa argues. He wants to pin Iwaizumi to the counter and keep him from running, but he also doesn’t want to scare him off. It’s not about submission, it’s consent that he wants, and while a big part of him knows that Iwaizumi isn’t refusing because he doesn’t want him, there’s a small part of him that’s afraid he might be trying to let it go. The stars along his skin tingle a heat only known as anxiety, keeping Oikawa from doing something stupid, or forceful. He wants Iwaizumi to want him of his own volition. This is as far as he goes.

“I want to show you, however I can, that this itch to touch you isn’t adrenaline. I’m not caught up in one night’s worth of conversation and comfort,” Oikawa folds his hands around Iwaizumi’s, separated by the dish rag. “I’m not trying to fuck you, or leave you, or trick you.”

“If you say you love me, I’ll punch you,” Iwaizumi growls.

Oikawa sighs defeatedly, staring at Iwaizumi with slight disappointment. “Is that what you’re afraid I’ll say?”

“No. You’ll say it, and then in three months you’ll be on a plane to Tibet or something.”

“Tibet?”

“I get it,” Iwaizumi pushes the dish towel away from his hands and places it onto the counter, simultaneously pushing Oikawa’s hands away from his own. “I know what you’re trying to do. I just…”

“I won’t say it, if you don’t want me to,” Oikawa brings his hands to rest at the hem of Iwaizumi’s shirt. It isn’t for any other reason than just to touch him. Oikawa just wants to touch him.

“You know that’s not the point,” Iwaizumi growls, eyes tightening at how easily Oikawa is bending over for him. “A few months of you back home and suddenly you’ve got it figured out? C’mon, Oikawa you’re smarter than that. It was always just me. Only me, that thought any of this,” Iwaizumi motions his hand between them, “mattered.”

Oikawa grips down in the edges of his shirt and frowns. He wants to say something, but Iwaizumi doesn’t sound like he’s finished. Or even open to anything else.

“Since we were kids, I watched you live with your head in the clouds, abandoning all ideas of fate like you were superhuman. I just can’t accept that you changed your mind overnight. You’ve always hated the concept of soulmates, soulmarks—“

“But not you,” Oikawa interrupts with a stern look. “You always think that my hatred of fate is linked to you. Look at me,” he grabs Iwaizumi’s shirt further up to keep him from looking away. “I’ll admit, I rejected you at first. Not because of you—“

“Because it couldn’t be anybody but me. How is that any different?!”

The look in his eyes isn’t simply fear. It’s familiarity. The feeling of hope bubbling up in his gut only to be ripped away all over again. Oikawa can’t blame him for being scared. It takes a great deal to lower your pride enough to admit that you might be scared of something as trivial as love.

“I was scared. We both were. There isn’t a soul on this planet I love more than you and that scares me. Nothing feels the same when it isn’t you, and I hated the idea, the fear that it was all because of this damn mark on my skin.”

Oikawa idly wonders if his fingers pressed deep into Iwaizumi’s chest are bruising, but he can’t tell his limbs to loosen up.

“Soulmates aren’t perfect. But the pressure of them makes us all think they should be. I want to love you because I love you, not because I have to.”

Iwaizumi is silent, his eyes wide, and Oikawa knows there must be a million things running through his head, because there are about ten million running through his own. They’re both glassy eyed and quivering, gripping each other like life lines. Oikawa isn’t sure what else he can do, having stepped all over his fear and ego to prove to Iwaizumi that this isn’t some joke.

Iwaizumi breaks first, ducking his head and clamping a hand over his eyes.

“Iwa-chan—“

“Wait.”

“What?”

“I need a second, Oikawa. Damn, I’m…”

Oikawa panics for all but a moment until he sees Iwaizumi smiling between the spaces of his fingers. “Iwa-chan,” Oikawa whispers, reaching gently to pull Iwaizumi’s hand from his face. “I love you. Not on some whim, fate or no fate. I love you.”

“Stop, you idiot…!” Iwaizumi pushes against the counter like he might be able to take a step backwards, a reflex against Oikawa exposing his messy, crying face. “That’s disgusting,” he frowns when Oikawa swipes his thumb against his cheek.

“I’m still going to kiss you.”

And he does. Oikawa kisses him, gently, as though Iwaizumi is made of glass. He’s all kinds of scared, scared to readily, openly admit something he’s suppressed for years. He has no idea what happens next, or what he’s supposed to say, but right now he doesn’t really care. Iwaizumi is kissing him back, hands clutching tight in Oikawa’s shirt and pulling him so close there isn’t any room between them.

The kiss is void of air, suffocating, making them both dizzy as the stars on their skin burn white hot like they would beyond Earth’s atmosphere. They don’t need it. They can get all the air they need from each other, right here against this kitchen counter. It’s a kiss that is years overdue, breaking open so much tension that they’re both tingling with oversensitivity.

“Oikawa—“

“Time out,” Oikawa pulls back, lips kiss red and eyes glazed over. “I can’t feel my legs.”

“I’m going to punch you.”

“That’s not romantic.”

“I said I would,” Iwaizumi doesn’t look at him, resting his head against Oikawa’s shoulder as he tries to catch his breath.

There’s a slight pause, the kitchen filled with their breathing and a small rattle of pipes from the sink.

“So what now?” Iwaizumi asks quietly, once his breathing is normal.

“I think we’re supposed to decide how slow we want to go. I think. I dunno Iwa-chan, relationships haven’t really been my area of expertise.”

Iwaizumi glares at him for the comment, knowing it was supposed to be a joke. Oikawa seals his lips shut. Apparently it wasn’t as funny as he’d hoped for it to be.

“Let’s just… figure it out one day at a time?” Oikawa offers.

Iwaizumi’s lips split into a small smile, tilting his head back to let Oikawa rest their foreheads together. “Yeah,” he murmurs, reaching to lace his fingers through Oikawa’s. He squeezes tight, a silent message that could mean a world of things. Oikawa takes it as a sign that he’s beyond happy, that he isn’t making the wrong choice. Oikawa makes a small vow to never let Iwaizumi feel an ounce of the regret he used to.

“Iwa-chan… tonight. Don’t sleep alone.”

“That’s—“

“I won’t do anything, I just—“

“—A good idea,” Iwaizumi finishes, smirking when Oikawa turns a few shades pink. “I’ve seen you using my blanket more often.”

Oikawa presses the tip of his nose against Iwaizumi’s temple, trailing it down to his neck and nuzzling the spot there, lips doing nothing more than leaving words against his skin. “I don’t think you understood me before. And I don’t know how to say it without sounding like some sex crazed—“

“Trust me. I understand.”

“Then let’s go to bed.”

Iwaizumi follows Oikawa out of the kitchen and back towards the bedroom. Oikawa earns an eye roll when he leaps and pounces onto the mattress, curling himself beneath the comforter and spreading his arms wide for Iwaizumi to join him.

“What are you, five?”

“I could make about five jokes to that comment, but I’m going to be mature. So get in here and let me hold you.”

Iwaizumi hesitates, looking down at his toes and wiggling them in a line.

“Iwa-chan…?”

“I sleep shirtless,” he blurts.

Oikawa should have burst into a fit of laughter, that might have been the more appropriate reaction to something as silly as that. But he’s far too enamored with the opportunity to get Iwaizumi close to him, so instead of laughing, he smiles at Iwaizumi at pushes up onto his knees, crawling his way towards the edge of the bed to kneel in front of him.

“I know,” he whispers, reaching for Iwaizumi’s shirt and helping him pull it over his head. He tosses the shirt towards the edge of the bed, fingertips tracing over the skin stars along his chest and his shoulder.

There’s an intimacy in being this close, fingers engraving the contours of skin into memory, all in the dim light of a bedroom meant for one. Iwaizumi’s skin feels warm to touch, intoxicating enough that Oikawa presses his thumb down against his ribcage, a grip that says “I won’t let you go.”

Iwaizumi tips forward and follows him down until they’re horizontal, breathing even, his own hands gentle as they trace across the features of Oikawa’s face. “Oikawa… you too.”

“Hm? Oh. You sure?”

“I want to see it,” Iwaizumi demands, thankful the room is dark enough to hide any signs of embarrassment.

Oikawa effortlessly pulls his shirt from his shoulders and discards it, keeping still as Iwaizumi traces his arm, his shoulder, touching over each constellation and pairing it with the ones in the sky. It’s hard to see them in the dark, but he can feel them beneath his fingers, recalling a muscle memory he didn’t know he had.

Each kiss steals breath, just as each star on their skin recalls a memory, and they keep at this exchange until they drift to sleep. Iwaizumi falls asleep first, head pressed against Oikawa’s chest to listen to his heartbeat.

Oikawa does it on purpose, so that when Iwaizumi wakes up first—because he always does—the last thing he’ll fear is Oikawa being anywhere but right in this bed with him.