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Still Waters Run Deep

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Oikawa has spent years imagining the terms of his closure with Ushijima. At its core, the scenario has always been the same—a victory against Shiratorizawa and against the infamous Ushiwaka, the Super Ace of the Miyagi prefecture.

In those years, Oikawa has refined the look of defeat on Ushijima’s face, the weight in his shoulders and the pain in his eyes that rivals the number of his own sleepless nights and nightmares. He’s perfected the distance in Ushijima’s stare, the small, stunned gape of his mouth—a hopelessness that projects the bottomless well in Oikawa’s stomach through which he has thrown himself time after time, defeat after defeat.

Sometimes the setting of this victory changes, though obviously Oikawa prefers it to be a high-profile match, the only match that stands between him and nationals, a match with a ton of cameras and press coverage (he has also pondered an in depth journalist account of the sadness on Ushijima’s defeated face), but he’ll take any match, really.

It takes him months to be even remotely okay with the real terms of their closure. Many thoughtful summer days, many skipped meals, several rolls of sports tape wound around his fingers, and Oikawa finally accepts his prideful threat as a temporary closure between himself and Ushijima. He knows the closure is not definite—knows that Ushijima is too good to stay out of his life forever, but he can convince himself that years to focus on himself, years without outside distractions, can be a good thing. He can reason with himself that years of self-improvement will guarantee a victory against Ushijima when they meet later in life.

But closure is petty and impulsive and truly a force of nature that can undo stagnant summer days and uneaten dinners and bandaged fingers and any semblance of peace or acceptance that Oikawa has managed to find. It can re-hollow the well that Oikawa has only just closed, fill it with water and water that floods his stomach and rises into his throat, all in the time it takes for Oikawa to look up from a glass of beer.

It’s the night before Oikawa’s first official university practice. Iwaizumi is beside him, visiting until tomorrow afternoon and two beers down, with a third on the bar in front of them (there’s a fake ID in both his wallet and Oikawa’s) and the soles of his Chucks resting on the lowest rung of Oikawa’s bar stool. Oikawa is three beers down with a fourth in front of him when he initiates the IPA Argument with Iwaizumi.

He’s three and a half beers down when he looks up, when the well waters rise inside of him and the closure drowns in them.

Ushijima stands on the opposite side of the bar, surrounded in conversation, but partaking in none of it. He has already noticed Oikawa and is watching him, his eyes dark in the dim bar lights and his fingers wrapped around an empty beer glass. His dark sweatshirt sits skewed on his shoulders, his t-shirt collar low on his collar bones.

“Fuck,” Iwaizumi says with feeling, having spotted Ushijima as well. Oikawa’s face contorts, swallows the water inside of him.

He can’t see straight as he stares at Ushijima, either due to the three-point-five beers or due to the whirlpools that have begun to spin behind his eyes. The bartender replaces Ushijima’s empty beer glass with one that’s full and Ushijima drops his gaze, regards it briefly, then lifts it to his lips with his right hand.

 

 

Oikawa is not surprised to see Ushijima at his first university practice, not surprised to learn that Ushijima had stolen the wing spiker position that Iwaizumi had tried to obtain.

Their first practice consists entirely of three-on-three matches and Oikawa and Ushijima play all of their matches on separate courts. Ushijima is still distracting, even on the opposite side of the gymnasium. Oikawa hears the irrefutable impact of his hand on the ball, of the ball on the wooden floor.

He can feel when Ushijima’s attention strays from his own match and to Oikawa’s—Ushijima’s eyes on him are like a ringing in Oikawa’s ears. He’s tense in his matches, with Ushijima always on his radar, but he doesn’t let it affect his precision, doesn’t let it break his attention from his new spikers and the angles of their arms, the heights of their jumps, the shapes of their strikes.

Oikawa doesn’t set to Ushijima until the second week (he’s certain that the coaches are well aware of their relationship and thinks that they have been easing them both into this inevitable interaction). Oikawa has easily earned the position of starting setter, with the previous setters having graduated and the other first year well below his skill level—not his technical skill, but his adaptability, the ease with which he adjusts every set to match the hit.

He tosses to each spiker, one by one, aware of Ushijima’s position in line the entire time. He’s tired by the time Ushijima stands at the front, next in line—his shoulders are rigid and aching, his attention divided and he knows the stress will demand more bandages around his fingers.

He grins and compliments the previous spiker, pushes his bangs back from the sweat beading on his forehead. He then rolls his shoulders back and looks at Ushijima, really looks at him for the first time since the night at the bar—his hair is darker and longer than Oikawa remembers, though not by much, his eyes sharp and measuring, gauging Oikawa’s reaction to him. Oikawa sets his jaw, sure that Ushijima is looking for a definitive emotion in Oikawa, whether it be irritation or acceptance or something between, and Oikawa will not show it to him.

“Here we go, Ushiwaka,” he says with a shallow humor and a practiced, finessed grin. Ushijima’s expression remains unchanged.

Oikawa knows the exact set that Ushijima needs. Ushijima’s sneakers squeak against the gym floor as he darts forward and Oikawa’s eyes are fixed upon the ball as it soars towards him, but he doesn’t see it. His hands are raised and poised at his shoulders and he remembers the crook of Ushijima’s elbow, the relentless and abrupt snap of Ushijima’s arm when the ball is just above his striking point, the disciplined cup of his hand when he does finally strike.

Oikawa also knows, from hours and hours of reviewed match footage, that the setter for Shiratorizawa has always placed Ushijima’s tosses just a little too far right. He knows that Ushijima has to compensate for that with a slight bend of his hand, knows that Ushijima’s hits could be even more powerful.

The ball bounces easily from the cradle of Oikawa’s fingers and Ushijima jumps.

The gymnasium is silent, but the blood runs loud in Oikawa’s head.

Ushijima’s hand against the ball is like the period at the end of a sentence. Oikawa watches the line of Ushijima’s arm, the snap, the way his body curves to take the impact, and it all looks exactly how Oikawa has memorized. The ball goes exactly to where he wants it—to where Ushijima is used to, just slightly to the right, and forces Ushijima’s left-handed hit to compensate for it.

Ushijima lands after the ball does and Oikawa feels it through the soles of his shoes. Ushijima’s gaze is dark as he looks at Oikawa from the corner of his eye, knowing, and Oikawa claps his hands together, bares his teeth in a grin.

“How was that?” he asks, though he knows. He notes the coach’s nod of approval. “You’re my first lefty, Ushiwaka.”

The words fall easily from his mouth, distract him from the way his fingers tremble and ache.

Ushijima’s lips are parted and he regards Oikawa a moment longer before he responds, “Comfortable. Just like I’m used to.”

He turns, goes back to the end of the line. The slap of his hand on the ball has left echoes in Oikawa’s ears.

 

 

After three weeks of practice, Oikawa’s fingers are back in bandages.

He’s on edge, knowing that Ushijima is so close to him all the time. He walks to class with his earbuds buried in his ears, scans crowds before he passes through them, looks behind him before he disappears into his dorm room.

He has yet to see Ushijima on campus outside of practice or the gymnasium, but Ushijima is never far from his thoughts, never far from the focus of his concentration. He tenses whenever there’s a knock on his dorm room door (he managed to land a single dorm room, so all visitors are his own), and looks up from his homework to watch when students walk through the sidewalk that passes right outside his dorm room window (he eventually settles on keeping his curtains closed). He stops sleeping at night again, loses his appetite, and his stomach feels like lead whenever he goes to practice.

Oikawa’s game, however, never suffers. He’s mastered his slightly-off set to Ushijima, which is always followed by a sideways glance from Ushijima that makes this entire situation just slightly better. It’s enough to convince the coaches that he can get over old grudges, that he can be exactly what they want, because Oikawa will not let Ushijima nearly ruin his life and career again. He can wear him down, mentally and physically, but Oikawa will be the one in charge of his own future.

He secures the okay from his coaches to stay in the gymnasium after practice ends. He lingers in the locker room while the other teammates slowly file out, including Ushijima (who has yet to say anything to him outside of practice), and then goes back to the court and perfects his bee-line serve, goes through basket after basket of balls until sweat holds his bangs to his forehead and clings to his shirt, until he’s breathless and too exhausted to think of Ushijima, to think of anything except his own gravity and the audible current of blood through his head. Only then can he sleep at night, only then does he have an appetite. His grades begin to drop slightly, but Oikawa thinks that it’s the best possible option considering the circumstances.

He confesses this relapsed habit to Iwaizumi over text the night before their first match, after the coaches force him to leave the gymnasium immediately after practice to rest for the game. He confesses this in the darkness of his dorm room, with his bed sheets pooled around his hips and his large tank top resting loosely on his chest, with his hands holding his phone above his head.

‘asshole. i knew him being there would be bad for you.’ Oikawa squints as he reads Iwaizumi’s text, the phone screen shining bright into his tired eyes. ‘don’t let him get to you too much. make sure youre eating like you used to and don’t OVER practice, i guess if practicing extra helps you sleep at night, that’s okay.’

Then, ‘i’m going to start calling you at nine to make sure that you’re leaving the gymnasium and going home. i’d call you at mealtimes but i can’t do that, you’re going to have to be a big boy.’

Lastly, ‘do you want me to come visit?’

‘No’, Oikawa responds, and homesickness sits heavy in his chest. He’s sure he’d give a small fortune to see Iwaizumi right now. ‘I’ll come visit you next time.’

‘holding you to that. go to sleep and kick ass tomorrow.’

Oikawa does. They win their game in two matches, each with a comfortable lead, and Ushijima quickly (predictably) establishes position as the team’s ace.

 

 

The gymnasium door opens on a Thursday night, just after Oikawa serves another ball over the net, and disrupts his concentration like a rock through water. He lands and the ball falls among the others on the opposite side of the court, and his eyes are narrowed as he turns towards the intrusion, panting.

Ushijima stands in the doorway, still dressed in his practice shorts and warm-up jacket, his gym bag slung over his shoulder. He watches Oikawa with an unchanging expression, that ever unchanging expression that makes Oikawa’s molars grind—the effortless composure that makes him envious. He then glances towards the clock, feeling a little disoriented as if he has just woken up from a long dream, feeling like part of him is still lost in the humid air of the gym, in his red hot palms, his straining arms. 8:45.

“What?” he asks, short, when Ushijima doesn’t say anything. “I thought everyone left, why are you still here?”

“I want to talk to you,” Ushijima responds and steps out of his shoes, then into the gymnasium. Oikawa rolls his eyes when the door closes loudly behind him and he works on catching his breath, though it’s difficult with his pounding heart. He pushes his bangs back from his face and shifts his weight, resting a hand on his cocked hip.

“What?” he asks again. “I have to head out at nine, I wanted to get a few more serves in.”

“You’re not tossing to me,” Ushijima states and sets his gym bag on the floor. He doesn’t move closer to Oikawa and Oikawa turns, grabs another ball from the basket. He tosses the ball into the air, serves, feeling Ushijima’s gaze focused entirely on his movements. It perfects his posture, reminds him of his own small details that he tends to ignore in the heat of his exhaustion.

The ball lands loudly on the other side of the court, near the boundary line. “Yes I am,” he says, indignantly and rests his hands on his hips, staring at the net. “You wouldn’t be the ace if I didn’t toss to you.”

“You know what I mean.” Ushijima’s voice is level, sensible, and the burning desire, need, to tear Ushijima apart from the inside out resurfaces inside Oikawa. He wants Ushijima in shreds, his voice serrated and his expression cracked, vulnerable. Oikawa wants to bring him to exhaustion, hunger, ruins, much as Ushijima has done to him. “I know you know the toss I need. Shirabu’s toss was enough to get the job done, but I know that it’s flawed. You know that it’s flawed.”

“Like I said,” Oikawa mumbles and grabs another ball from the basket. He repositions himself behind the court and tosses the ball into the air. His eyes are wide, fixed upon the ball twisting in the air and he breathes, “you’re my first lefty.”

His legs ache as he runs, leaps to meet the ball, to slam it down, just over the net.

“We’ve played five games together, I know you’re used to me by now,” Ushijima says with cool confidence. “I know you’ve been used to me since day one. We’ve been playing together for too long for you not to know what I need.”

Oikawa laughs, breathless, and turns back to Ushijima, finding him unmoved. Oikawa’s eyes narrow, his teeth showing in his grin. “Did you follow me here?” he asks. His voice is breathless but pin-point, shoot to kill. “To this school? Did you come to this school too just to get the Toss You Need?”

“No,” Ushijima says easily, his expression unchanging and gaze focused on Oikawa. “I came here because I was offered a full ride and because of the volleyball program. I’m sure my reasons are the same as yours—I only saw your name on the roster after I had accepted.” He pauses, watches as Oikawa turns again, to take another ball into his bound fingers. Oikawa’s hands shake as he tosses the ball into the air, as he serves again, though it lands out of bounds.

“You’re going to need to put our past and your pride behind you if you want to win here,” Ushijima adds and Oikawa’s fingers strain against their bandages. He stares at Ushijima like the crosshairs of a sniper scope.

“I don’t need you to win,” he responds, with a calm that he doesn’t feel. “You’re not used to this, but a team cannot win alone off the merits of one player.”

“Then why was Aoba Johsai never able to beat Shiratorizawa?”

Just as Oikawa turns on his heel, towards Ushijima, just as he opens his mouth to say something that would set Ushijima back in his place, say anything except the truth—that Aoba Johsai never won because Ushijima has always been under his skin, that Ushijima has always been Oikawa’s weakness and the only one who could screw him up when it counted most—the clock ticks to 9:00 and Oikawa’s phone rings loudly from his gym bag. The words stop in his throat and he listens to the Star Wars theme song echo off of the empty walls of the gymnasium.

“I look forward to the day you finally toss to me,” Ushijima says as a closing statement, as Oikawa turns and goes towards his phone, knowing that it’s Iwaizumi calling to make sure he’s done practicing. “I think you’re underestimating just what we can do.”

He leaves Oikawa with shaking fingers, with anger that runs him feverish and restless, even amidst the fatigue that lays like concrete in his bones.

 

 

Ushijima lingers after practice again weeks later, when their team’s record is 6-1. Oikawa does his best to ignore him, now having spent a few hours of every day for the last three months with Ushijima. He expects Ushijima to follow him to the court (he does) and lecture him again about his half-hearted tosses (he doesn’t).

Ushijima instead sets himself on the opposite side of the net when Oikawa wheels the basket of balls out to the court. He notices the knee pads around Ushijima’s legs.

Neither of them say anything. Oikawa instead jumps right into his serve practice, now working on his accuracy. He’s perfected his power, spin, angle, the last thing to do is to hit his mark 100% of the time, and his mark tonight is the back left position, close to the boundary line.

Ushijima dives for his serve, though falls a couple inches short, lands on his hands and knees.

“Not above receives anymore?” Oikawa asks from across the court, and watches the way Ushijima pushes himself up, the way he stands again. “Or do you realize that you don’t have any servants on this team to protect you from them?”

“Receives are important,” Ushijima admits and stands again in the center of his court, his legs spread wider, bent, ready to lunge. “Shiratorizawa believed in being the best at what you do, and believed that, if you excelled enough in your area, the other areas didn’t matter—I had no reason to work on my receives. This team is different. I’d like to work on my receives and your serves are the best.”

“You’re breaking my concentration,” Oikawa says, knowing that he won’t be able to focus solely on his own technique with Ushijima watching him or trying to receive his serves. He knows he’ll focus on Ushijima, on keeping the ball from Ushijima.

“Then learn to concentrate with me here,” Ushijima says, matter-of-factly. “There are always going to be people on the other side of the net when it matters. There will always be people watching—”

“Don’t lecture me,” Oikawa says through his teeth and tosses the ball into the air again. He’s hyper aware of himself with Ushijima watching, of the way his knees bend when he jumps, the lines of his fingers when he marks the ball in the air, even the way his jaw clenches as he slams his hand into the ball, sends it over the net, to the same position as before.

Ushijima dives for it again, this time stretching further and the ball bounces on his forearms. His shirt rides up, having come untucked from his shorts, shows Oikawa the divot of his hipbone, only for a moment before he stands, goes back to the center of the court, and waits. Oikawa notes (with pride) the pink already blossoming on his forearms.

Oikawa takes another ball into his hands, spins it between his palms, and watches Ushijima for a moment.

He realizes that there’s depth in the way that Ushijima watches him, utter concentration that borders on the line of dedication, and it makes Oikawa grit his teeth.

“Don’t stay late every night,” he says and stops the ball, his fingers spread across its lines. “I practice serves best when I’m alone, it’s not my responsibility that you get better.” He sets the ball in the palm of his hand, holds it out, readies himself. “Got it?”

Ushijima doesn’t respond. Oikawa tosses the ball into the air.

 

 

Well into the volleyball season, Oikawa still scans crowds before he passes them, still looks over his shoulder, still watches the sidewalk outside his dorm room window. Still never finds Ushijima outside of the gymnasium. It’s easier for him to eat, to sleep, but Ushijima is still close to his every thought, still under his skin and as present as the blood that runs through his veins.

He spends many hours at his desk, hunched over his homework, his fingers buried in his hair. His pencil lays over the half-filled page of his notebook and he sees Ushijima’s fixated gaze behind his eyes, sees his jump, the compensating angle of his hit, sees the shine of the sweat on his jaw catching the gymnasium lights.

He spends many hours grinding his teeth together, breaking pencil lead between his fingers, tearing pieces of blank notebook paper to shreds, cursing under his breath, cursing himself and Ushijima.

He still wants nothing more than for Ushijima to disappear from his life, still wants nothing more than to never see him again.

Every night, before he falls asleep, he hears the smack of Ushijima’s hand on a volleyball, the definite impact of the ball on the gymnasium floor, the silence that always follows.

 

 

Oikawa finally tosses to Ushijima in the last match of their regular season.

It’s their match point, in the third set of the game, and Oikawa is backed into a corner, his temples dripping with sweat, his eyes wide and bright and analyzing, and he knows the blockers are watching Ushijima, knows they’re ready for him. But he also knows they’re read blocking, and Oikawa knows there’s only one person on their team who is guaranteed to beat them, to break their wall, knows what he has to do, as much as he doesn’t want to.

He arches, lifts his hands, and then sends the ball from his fingertips.

It’s perfect, he knows it is, and Ushijima knows it is, he can see the way Ushijima’s eyes spark, see the way his arm bends differently, just slightly. He stops breathing as he watches, concentrating only on the angle of Ushijima’s body, the way he jumps to the ball that’s meant for him and him alone.

The other team roars, darts to their counter attack.

Ushijima’s arm snaps down without any compensation, slams the ball against one of the blocker’s palms. The blocker’s hand caves, and the ball crashes to the floor.

The sound is loud and caught in Oikawa’s ears and he watches Ushijima land with a quiet grace.

Stars are in Oikawa’s fingertips and he only breathes when the gymnasium erupts around them. Their teammates throw their hands in the air and scream, their coaches clap, the spectators in their stands cheer, and Oikawa remains still, staring at Ushijima with bright eyes.

Ushijima’s chest heaves as he pants and he turns towards Oikawa, slow amidst the commotion around them. A grin spreads across his mouth, a wide and teeth-baring grin, and it’s the first emotion that Oikawa has seen on Ushijima’s face, the first crack in his composure, and Ushijima stares at Oikawa with a hunger that raises the hair on the back of Oikawa’s neck.

He feels very close to invincible, very close to a force of nature.

 

 

The stars are still burning bright in Oikawa’s fingertips after his teammates file out of the locker room. They’ve spread up his arms, created galaxies that are spinning around his bones, and he packs his gym bag full of his clothes, zips it shut, closes his locker.

The locker room is not empty (Oikawa knows this, knew this, but he had wished otherwise).

He hears footsteps behind him and he doesn’t turn around, knows to whom they belong. He slings his bag over his tightly wound shoulders, but doesn’t move, instead closes his eyes. He sees the perfect arc of Ushijima’s arm, the absolute and indisputable hit, the way the fingers of his right hand clench at his side when his left hand strikes. The grin on Ushijima’s pale lips, his white teeth, the craving in his eyes.

The footsteps stop.

“I knew you knew what I needed,” Ushijima says from behind him, with depths in his voice that Oikawa has never heard before, depths that Oikawa has only seen in his eyes.

The sound of the spike—like a gunshot or a thunder clap, louder and with more impact than any of his Seijou attacks, as much as he doesn’t want to admit it—is stuck in his ears.

Oikawa’s chest swells and the stars flicker in his fingertips. He feels just short of a god, feels like the universe is twined around his knuckles. Feels like he has happened upon a monster that he can unleash with just the bend of his fingers.

“I didn’t do it for you,” Oikawa murmurs and keeps his eyes closed. He feels Ushijima close behind him, feels Ushijima watching him in the way that ignites his nerves, that brings every inch of his own body to his attention. His heart beats in his chest, erratic. “I did it to win.”

“I told you you’re going to have to get over our history if you want to win.”

Heat lingers in his thighs and damp on his knees where his knee pad and knee brace were.

“I don’t have to get over it, I will never get over it.”

The pools in his stomach ripple, stones and water.

“Why not?” Level, composed, genuinely curious.

Oikawa doesn’t respond. Ushijima is still close behind him, close enough to hit if Oikawa were to lash out.

He sees Ushijima’s grin behind his eyes.

“I know you felt it too,” Ushijima adds, unchanging except that now his voice is quieter, as if he wants only Oikawa to hear what he has to say.

Oikawa opens his eyes, stares blindly at the scratches on his metal locker. Distant cheers echo from beyond the locker room doors, and the air between him and Ushijima falls stagnant, still.

“What?” he asks in a hiss, though he knows to what Ushijima is referring, knows it well enough to feel it in his fingers and his chest, in his head, which has recently gone light.

“You felt it too,” Ushijima repeats, closer, and Oikawa can barely hear him over his pounding heart.

“How easy it was,” Ushijima says. “How powerful.”

He says, “You and I are unstoppable.”

Oikawa’s eyes are wide, unseeing, as he nearly loses himself in the waters of Ushijima’s voice, in its depths. Part of him wants it to be that easy, to let himself succumb and agree to what Ushijima is saying because he’s right, because Oikawa has never been so sure of himself as he had been the moment he had tossed to Ushijima, because Oikawa has never felt so intoxicated on confidence, on his own ability to conquer.

The other part of him wants nothing to do with this, nothing to do with Ushijima.

He turns on his heel, and the breath leaves his lungs when he sees that Ushijima is indeed as close as he had sounded. “Nothing is unstoppable,” he says from between his teeth, staring into Ushijima’s eyes with the malice that has built and built over their years. “It’s that attitude that kept you from going to spring high nationals, don’t you ever say we’re unstoppable.”

Oikawa says this like Ushijima didn’t put the cosmos inside of him.

The gymnasium doors close loudly in the distance. Ushijima blinks, his eyes just as dark as they had been after his final spike, his pupils blown. “I think you underestimate yourself,” is all he says, level again, like it’s the truth, and Oikawa laughs, loud, unsteady and sharp.

“You don’t fucking know me,” he says, dangerous, and very nearly lashes out. “I know what I can do. I knew that I could give you your god damn toss and I knew that was the only way to end the match right then and there, so I did it. That’s it. That was not about me, that was not about us, it was about winning.”

Oikawa turns, leaves Ushijima standing there like he isn’t still caught in the moment of when his last toss left his fingers, when Ushijima converted it into something explosive.

 

 

Their three-on-three practices resume in the weeks leading up to their tournaments. To Oikawa’s disdain, the coaches insist on having him play on the same court as Ushijima, both on the same team and as the opponent. As the opponent, he leaves the court twice to bandage his fingers after failing to block Ushijima’s spikes.

As an ally, he doesn’t toss to Ushijima as he did during their last match. Every toss he sends to Ushijima favors the right and demands compensation. Even after the spikes that are successful, Oikawa can see the way Ushijima’s jaw tenses, can see the frustration in the line of his shoulders, and the crooked lines of his fingers (then the way he flexes them to relax). He sees the knowing glances that Ushijima throws his way, to which he grants no response.

It’s a Friday when his coach decides to say something. He holds Oikawa after practice, after everyone has been dismissed to the locker rooms, and honestly Oikawa isn’t surprised, though he is annoyed. He meets his coach at the sideline and pushes his sweaty bangs from his forehead. His shirt clings to his back, and he bends over, pulls his left knee pad down to his ankle.

“I see those tosses you’re giving to Ushijima,” his coach says, watching him seriously from over the top rim of his glasses. “They’re not the toss you gave to him at the end of the last match. You’re doing that on purpose, right?”

Oikawa doesn’t respond. He rolls his shoulders back, lifts his right foot and carefully stretches his leg.

“I know your history,” his coach continues and Oikawa resists the urge to look away, to roll his eyes, because he doubts this. “I knew the consequences of scouting you both. But I’ve never seen anything like what I saw at the end of our last match—incredible is an understatement. And, as our starting setter, I need you to set your personal feelings towards Ushijima aside and focus on what’s best for this team. I know you can do that, I know you do that for every hitter you’ve ever worked with, and that’s exactly why I wanted you. Understand?”

“Yes,” Oikawa says quietly.

“Are you still staying after practice every night?”

“Yes.”

“Then I want you and Ushijima to work one-on-one at least three nights a week. I’ll give you both a short regimen to improve your teamwork and I expect that you’ll be willing to work with Ushijima from here on out. I eased you both into working with each other, you’ve had enough time, we can’t afford to have either of you not putting in your 100%.”

“Okay.”

Oikawa’s stomach has tied itself into knots.

“Good. Starting tomorrow. Go home tonight and get some rest.”

Oikawa shakes his head and stretches his leg a bit longer, until it hurts enough to be distracting. “With all due respect, I’d like to stay to practice serves. I won’t be able to rest until I do, honestly.”

His coach shakes his head and Oikawa grits his teeth. “Sorry, Oikawa, I must instruct you to go home. You’re tired, I can tell. I don’t want you overexerting yourself and getting hurt before the tournament. Please go home and rest.”

Smaller this time, “Okay.”

Oikawa passes Ushijima on his way from the locker room to the gymnasium door. He keeps his chin tipped back, his eyes fixed straight ahead, doesn’t pay Ushijima any acknowledgment. He’s collected and composed, iron.

 

 

Oikawa first sees Ushijima’s right-handed spike in their one-on-one practices. They’re 30 minutes into their set/hit drills when Oikawa gets sick of giving Ushijima the toss he wants, despite the fact that he likes it too, likes how absolute their full attack feels, how natural Ushijima’s set feels as it leaves his fingertips. He remembers the first night he saw Ushijima, with his right hand holding his drink.

“You’re ambidextrous,” Oikawa says, watching the ball roll across the opposite side of the court.

Ushijima’s right-handed spike is nowhere near as dangerous as its left-handed counterpart, but it’s nothing to ignore. Oikawa can imagine it as a problem for inexperienced receivers, or even receivers who are poised for Ushijima’s left attack, but it lacks the lethal rotation of Ushijima’s usual spikes. Oikawa grits his teeth, lifts the bottom hem of his shirt and ducks his head to wipe the sweat from his face.

“Yeah,” Ushijima says after he lands, rotates his right wrist. “But it’s obvious my left hand is dominant.” He looks at Oikawa from the corner of his eye, his bangs sticking to his forehead. They’re definitely longer than in high school, now almost reaching his eyes. “How did you know?”

Oikawa turns, goes back to the basket of balls. It’s 8:32, 28 minutes until Iwaizumi calls him, 28 minutes until he can (most likely, maybe, hopefully) forget about Ushijima for the night. “The night at the bar. You held your drink in your right hand, even though your left hand was free.”

“Observant,” Ushijima notes quietly, and Oikawa finds him staring when he turns back, a ball in his hand.

“I have to be,” Oikawa says like it’s obvious. His sneakers catch the floor and squeak as he walks, the only sound in the empty field house.

“I can’t imagine I’ll need to hit with my right hand that often when you toss to me,” Ushijima responds and the words are complimentary, pointing to Oikawa’s skillful technique, but Ushijima speaks them like they’re just the truth. Nothing more than fact.

“When’s the last time you hit with your right hand?” Oikawa asks, looking down at Ushijima’s hands. They hang loose at his sides, his fingers poised in a relaxed curl.

“Not since I was young,” Ushijima says. “When my coach didn’t know how to teach a left-handed spiker.”

Oikawa doesn’t respond. He spins the ball between his palms and watches Ushijima watch him with that irritatingly guarded expression, that composure that makes Oikawa’s blood rush, that makes him want to pick Ushijima apart until he’s as susceptible as Oikawa’s over-the-shoulder glances and closed window curtains.

Oikawa gives the ball to Ushijima, who takes it moves towards the back of the court.

He gives Ushijima his toss, the one that sets his fingertips alight—the one that once broke Ushijima’s reserved expression into a grin.

 

 

Oikawa reads it in a magazine article while he’s sitting on the floor of his dorm room, legs spread out in front of him and beside the large alligator-monster plush that Iwaizumi had given him for bravery before their first day of middle school, after they had found out that they weren’t in any of the same classes—while he’s rocking his bare feet from side to side and finishing up his piece of breakfast milk bread (with peanut butter, because Iwaizumi wants to make sure he’s eating enough protein).

Their team, as one the team to watch in the upcoming tournament, had been featured in his subscribed volleyball magazine, and he reads it with his glasses poised on the bridge of his nose before his shoulders go rigid, his insides run cold.

He had known there would be consequences to being on the same team as Ushijima, consequences outside of himself, consequences that would involve his public image. Ushijima is, after all, world-renown, with a solid name for himself, and Oikawa had known that this would affect him and his media attention, but that doesn’t make it any easier when he reads it—

‘… Ushijima’s setter (Oikawa Tooru, Aoba Johsai) …’

Oikawa has things to do today, has already worked out his day’s schedule while he was lying in bed and floating in the pools between asleep and awake. But he reads this and remembers none of it. The well inside him fills again, overflows and floods him and he feels like he did years ago, when his grasp on himself, on his future, was so uncertain, when he felt futile in the face of the world, when a genius setter on his heels had had the nerve to ask him for a lesson in serving.

There is water in his lungs, in his throat, skull, and he loses himself in it, drowns in it, in

Ushijima’s setter.

He drops the rest of his bread to the floor, leaves it forgotten by his thigh. He claws at the thin pages of the magazine. The page tears easily and he crumples it in his fingers, throws it across the dorm room, followed by the rest of the magazine. He elbows the alligator-monster in the process and it tips onto its side.

He has long shaken the habit of looking out his window to make sure Ushijima is not there. He still doesn’t bother to look even now, when he can feel Ushijima with a vengeance, close, always there, and now bound to him in the media’s eye, in the world’s eye—Ushijima’s Setter.

Oikawa grinds his teeth, reaches up, rakes his fingers back through his hair. He pulls his bangs from his forehead, scratches his nails against his scalp, and reverberates inside himself.

 

 

“Maybe I really should have quit,” Oikawa says, lying in the dark of his dorm room that night. His sweat pants sit low on his hips, the hard carpet scratching the small of his back where his high school volleyball shirt rides up.

Iwaizumi scoffs in his ear, his voice distorted over the receiver of Oikawa’s cell phone. In his free hand, Oikawa squeezes and unsqueezes his small squish ball, which he had originally received in a session of physical therapy. It has the faded markings of a volleyball printed over its surface.

Oikawa lifts his head, adjusts the alligator-monster beneath his head, then relaxes again. He stares at the light of the street lamp through the small gap between his curtains; its orange glow reaches out, over his dorm ceiling.

“We talked about this,” Iwaizumi says, and Oikawa can hear the irritated expression on his face. “You wanted to quit after you saw Ushiwaka at the bar—do you know what it would mean if you quit now?”

Oikawa imagines Ushijima standing outside his window, staring in.

“Ushiwaka would win,” he murmurs.

“Exactly,” Iwaizumi says firmly, and his voice sounds like home. Oikawa’s stomach hollows. “And it’s like you said—Ushiwaka has won his whole life. You won’t roll over and give him this one too.”

Oikawa remembers the grin on Ushijima’s face, the hunger in his eyes, the way he had looked at Oikawa, as if he was the only thing that mattered in the chaos around them.

“Anyway,” Iwaizumi says, “who cares about that article? I bet you’re the only one who reads it—who cares if they titled you as Ushijima’s setter? You know you’re not his, and plenty of people know you’re not his. They know you’re more than that. You’re Oikawa Tooru, best setter in the Miyagi Prefecture, and you were scouted on that alone.”

“Not the best. Tobio—”

“Shut up,” Iwaizumi snaps. “Kageyama is not your problem anymore. You need to choose your battles. If you’re fighting too many at once, you’ll lose them all.”

Oikawa smiles in the corners of his lips. “Since when have you been so wise?”

“I’ve always been this wise. You just can’t hear me over your whining.”

“Rude.”

“Shut up,” Iwaizumi says again, this time without bite. “Shut up and go give them hell.”

 

 

Oikawa again cracks the surface of Ushijima’s composure in their first tournament game, when he only tosses to Ushijima once they break twenty points. Ushijima’s first spike of the game earns them twenty-one, and he lands, turns to Oikawa with his eyes bright and burning, angry.

The look encourages a small grin to the corners of Oikawa’s mouth and his heart pounds, excited in the heat of the game, the wake of his first real toss to Ushijima, beneath the pressure of Ushijima’s fiery gaze.

They win the game in two comfortable matches, even with Ushijima only spiking past twenty points. Oikawa feels his coach’s gaze the entire game, but hears no complaint, since they’re still scoring points, since he’s still making the best judgement calls even with Ushijima out of the picture.

He and Ushijima linger in the locker room again. When the rest of the team has emptied out, when Ushijima approaches him again with heavy footsteps, Oikawa is swimming inside himself again, weightless among his stars.

“What was that, Oikawa?” Ushijima says quietly from behind him, his voice thin and tight and Oikawa closes his eyes, breathes in deeply, draws Ushijima’s audible distress into his lungs like it’s nicotine. He smiles slowly.

“That was you,” Oikawa says, and his heart is pounding, pushing blood and adrenaline through him with such urgency, “not being the center of attention.”

Ushijima reaches past his head, spreads a hand firmly across the locker in front of Oikawa. Heat rises within Oikawa, swells in his chest, and he opens his eyes at the sound, stares at Ushijima’s long fingers. He can feel Ushijima close behind him, pinning him, but he doesn’t feel his usual vulnerability, doesn’t feel the anchoring dread he’s associated with Ushijima for years.

He feels incredible, in control.

“I told you,” Ushijima says from between his teeth, and Oikawa’s breathing deepens, pulling more and more of the tension in Ushijima’s voice into him, “that you’ll need to get over our past if you want to win. This is not about you, or your pride—”

“Nor is it about you, Ushiwaka,” Oikawa breathes and slowly turns, his eyes bright and the grin in place on his mouth as he faces Ushijima. Ushijima’s face is close, his eyes dark, narrow, dangerous, and Oikawa thinks that this is exactly what he’s wanted.

“Don’t call me that.”

“This is not about me, this is not about my pride, and this is not about you,” Oikawa says calmly, lies, in spite of his thrumming veins, his excited blood. “This is about winning and I think I proved tonight that you don’t need to be the center of attention for us to win.”

“You didn’t stop setting to me to win,” Ushijima says, his voice lower, his mouth barely moving around his words. “I know you stopped setting to me because of your own personal reasons.”

Ushijima is close and Oikawa can smell him, the sweat lingering on his neck and the freshly applied pine deodorant.

“You don’t know me,” Oikawa says, showing his teeth in his grin. “I already told you that.”

His back touches the locker; Oikawa realizes then that Ushijima has been leaning forward, has been cornering him as he spoke. He turns his hands and presses his bandaged fingers to the lockers—his fingertips are still tingling, intoxicated in the aftermath of the game, the win, of his pinpoint sets to Ushijima.

“I do know you,” Ushijima says, and his voice is nearing its usual calm, though his eyes are still anything but. “You had something to prove tonight, something to prove by not setting to me until the end of the matches. What was it?”

Oikawa rolls his shoulders back, straightens his posture, tips his head back in the slightest to better look Ushijima in the eye. He’s warm again, amidst the cooling sweat over his skin, can feel the heat radiating from Ushijima, he’s so close.

He can’t stop smiling.

“I’m not your setter,” Oikawa murmurs, the words caught only in the air between them.

Ushijima pauses, stares at him, measures the weight of his words, the expression on his face, then the line of his mouth. Down further, the tension in his arms, the slight bend of his knees, his feet flat against the floor. Back up, all over again, and Oikawa sees another crack in his composure, a snarl in his lips, the baring of his teeth.

Oikawa’s heart skips a beat.

Ushijima surges forward then, closes what’s left of the space between them, and kisses Oikawa with a fervor that steals the breath from his lungs.

The electricity between them runs through the expanse of Oikawa’s body, over every inch of his skin, deeper into his bloodstream, his muscles, his bones. He thinks, as well as he can, that he should probably be more surprised by this development than he is.

But he remembers the appetite in Ushijima’s eyes, the way his gaze lingers. Remembers the unnecessary levels of attention that Ushijima has paid him over the years—and that he’s paid Ushijima, really.

This—Ushijima’s mouth on his, the feeling of Ushijima’s teeth beneath his lips—feels far closer to the closure Oikawa has yearned for, feels right in all of the ways that his prideful threat did not.

Ushijima’s body pushes against his own and Oikawa reaches up, curls his hands tightly in the cloth of Ushijima’s jacket, strains against the bandages’ hold around his fingers. Ushijima bites hard on his lips, with the intention to bruise, and Oikawa hisses, jerks on Ushijima’s jacket. He’s still spinning inside of himself, intoxicatingly light, his skin radiating beneath his jacket and jersey, and Ushijima groans softly, draws a thick flush to his cheeks.

Oikawa’s knees go weak, so he leans further back against the locker. Ushijima follows him, presses their bodies flush against each other, moves his free hand through Oikawa’s hair. Everything of Ushijima is heavy, his hand over Oikawa’s scalp, the weight of his chest on Oikawa’s own, the breath that passes from his mouth and into Oikawa’s, and Oikawa wonders if it’s his heartbeat that he feels, thrashing inside of his chest, or Ushijima’s.

Ushijima grips his jaw tightly, jerks his head to the side, leaves Oikawa momentarily breathless. He moves one hand up and wraps his fingers around Ushijima’s throat with a sincere pressure, though not hard enough to really affect him. He catches the hitched breath on his skin, however, when Ushijima begins to mouth up his jaw, biting along the way.

Oikawa automatically cringes when Ushijima’s breath falls hot on his ear, and he tries to recoil, though he can’t with the way Ushijima is pinning him. Ushijima’s thumb presses in the hollow of his cheek, makes his brow crease and his breath come heavier.

He feels Ushijima closer than he ever has, outside of him and inside, all over his skin, and in his veins. But it’s different than before, this time, Oikawa is the one who has brought Ushijima to this, the one who has forced Ushijima this close and this desperate.

“You are my setter,” Ushijima breathes in his ear, and Oikawa grits his teeth, holds Ushijima’s throat tighter, “and I’m your ace.”

Oikawa feels Ushijima’s cock, hard through the cloth of their shorts, against his hip.

He gasps when Ushijima bites the shell of earlobe, tries to squirm between Ushijima and the lockers. He’s dizzy, breathless, and Ushijima holds his jaw tighter, slips his thigh between Oikawa’s legs.

“Ushijima! Oikawa!” Their coach’s voice sounds from outside the locker room and Ushijima is off of Oikawa in an instant. Oikawa stares at him, wide-eyed, his cheeks flushed and his lips kissed red.

Ushijima watches him in return, his eyes dark, his shoulders heaving with his breathing, his skin flushed from his cheeks and down his neck. Oikawa can still feel Ushijima’s hold on his jaw, his thumb pushed against his cheek. “Meeting, let’s go!”

Ushijima licks his lips, shifts, discretely adjusts the crotch of his shorts. He exhales an audible breath and turns away, goes to pick up his gym bag and leave the locker room. He leaves Oikawa buzzing, once more aware of every inch of himself.

 

 

‘Iwa would you judge me if I did the worst thing in the world.’

Oikawa texts this when the red numbers on his clock are approaching three in the morning. He’s sure Iwaizumi is asleep, but he’s only just calmed his shaking hands and only just managed to silence the humming in his veins. Just managed to think of something other than the heat of Ushijima’s mouth on his own, his grip on his jaw, the cracks in his voice.

Oikawa’s sheets and underwear are in piles at the foot of his bed, used tissues are balled on his bedside table.

‘shittykawa,’ Iwaizumi responds, followed closely by, ‘did you start a war’ and ‘cuz that’s the only thing i can think of that makes it okay to text me so fucking early’.

Oikawa’s phone vibrates in his open palm. His chest is flushed, the curtains on his window closed. He lifts his phone, holds it above his head, squints at it in the darkness of his room.

‘Close,’ he responds.

Iwaizumi’s text back is almost immediate—‘whatd you do,’ then, ‘are you ok?’

‘Yeah but Iwa you cant judge me for this.’

Again, ‘whatd you do.’

‘I cant even tell you how it happened it just did because I guess the moment was right.’

‘what did you ducking do.’ Quickly after—‘fucking.’

Oikawa types the words, then stares at them for a long moment. Seeing them in front of him brings weight to the situation, a truth that he can’t ignore. His heart races but he stares at the words with tired eyes and an overall calm and acceptance that surprises him. He sends: ‘I made out with ushiwaka after the game tonight.’

Iwaizumi’s text is not as quick as the others. After a couple of minutes Oikawa lowers his hand and lies still. The phone buzzes after another two minutes—‘if this is a joke i swear i will kill you five times.’

‘what if its not?’

Another pause. ‘then i want to know why. Weve agreed hes the worst thing to ever breathe.’

Now Oikawa pauses, trying to convert that moment in the locker room, with Ushijima so close, into words. ‘He is but idk iwa. We just won and I finally managed to get to him like hes gotten to me and he started it and I guess I didn’t want to end it.’

Oikawa adds, ‘honestly it was a lot more satisfying than telling him off like I did after spring high. It was more like what I thought our closure would feel like and idk why.’

Minutes later, ‘when i told you to give them hell i didn’t have that in mind,’ followed by, ‘how did you get to him?’

‘I didnt toss to him until we were past 20 points in each match. He was angry and cornered me in the locker room and he tried to taunt me but I taunted him right back and it got to him.’ Oikawa pauses, finds a small grin in the corners of his lips at the memory. ‘finally.’

‘what a fucker,’ Iwaizumi responds. The conversation hits a lull and Oikawa closes his eyes, feeling the ropes of sleep trying to drag him down.

He feels like he could sleep for days but, more than that, he feels accomplished.

His body jerks when his phone buzzes again in his hand. ‘i expect more details than that later but i have an exam tomorrow and need to sleep. in the meantime dont do anything stupid.’ Added, ‘anything else stupid.’

‘Are you judging me?’

‘so hard. i could have sworn you had better taste than that but like i said. give him hell.’

 

 

Seeing Ushijima at practice the next day makes Oikawa buzz and leaves him feeling like he had felt when Ushijima left him last night. He passes Ushijima on his way to the locker room, and Ushijima looks like usual, with his clear and focused eyes, the straight line of his mouth, the fixed composure of his expression when he regards Oikawa with nothing more than a short glance. Oikawa responds in kind, with certainty that his cool expression hides his charged heart and static skin.

Their coach says nothing to him about his lack of tosses to Ushijima, but he’s sure to bring the entire team through a few rounds of toss/hit practice and orders Oikawa and Ushijima to stay after for their one-on-one practice.

Oikawa feels more in sync with Ushijima during this practice—he doesn’t know how else to describe it. He has the timing of their attack in his head like the easy beat to a song, knows the bend of Ushijima’s body when the ball leaves his fingertips, knows the rotation that will coincide best with Ushijima’s hit. He knows the soft grunt that leaves Ushijima’s mouth when he hits, knows the audible exhale when he lands; Oikawa often finds his own breathing at the same pace.

Ushijima looks at him after every hit, like usual, but there’s something that lingers in his glance, something that only Oikawa can see, something that only Oikawa can feel.

The silences in their one-on-one practices are loaded and Oikawa can’t help but think that the locker room is open, empty, that the entire gymnasium is empty and with no planned meetings for the rest of the night. But their practice proceeds as usual, with toss/hit drills, serve/receive, one-on-one plays.

It ends a couple minutes before nine, when Oikawa blocks one of Ushijima’s hits. It’s a hit without a preceding toss, but it slams into Oikawa’s palm with a force that rushes down his wrist, arm, over his elbow, and into his shoulder like a wave. Oikawa gasps, cringes, but withstands, stares at Ushijima through the netting as they both fall back to the floor.

It’s his first solid block against Ushijima and his hand beats red, burns hot.

“Fuck,” he hisses and shakes it off.

“Nice block,” Ushijima replies diplomatically, though not like he doesn’t mean it. The tone makes Oikawa roll his eyes and he stretches his fingers. “Are you hurt?”

“No, it’ll take more than that,” Oikawa says as Ushijima ducks beneath the net to cross to his side of the court. He turns away before Ushijima can come too close, focusing on the heat that pulses through his hand to distract him from the heavy silence between them, from the even heavier noise inside of him.

“Will you toss to me tomorrow?” Ushijima asks from behind him as they pass to the corner of the gym, where their bags wait.

“At some point I’m sure.”

“You know what I mean, Oikawa.”

Oikawa stops beside his bag, still flexing his fingers. He then slowly lowers himself to the floor and pushes his left kneepad to his ankle. He begins to stretch his legs. “Depends on the game,” he says easily. “I have no doubt that our opponents are focusing on you when they watch recordings of our matches. If you’re the best way to winning then, yes, I will toss to you. If you’re not, then I won’t.”

He again has no intention of tossing to Ushijima before twenty points.

Ushijima stares down at him and Oikawa doesn’t look up, doesn’t want to watch Ushijima from below ever again.

“What are you thinking after last night?” Ushijima asks quietly after the long pause, after he’s begun his arm stretches and after Oikawa has finished a few of his stretches.

He licks his lips. “Not much, really,” Oikawa says and slowly gets to his feet. “There’s not much to think, is there?” He glances sideways when Ushijima crouches and begins to stretch his legs as well.

Ushijima watches him. Oikawa knows that he’s searching for the way Oikawa’s heart has raced for the past few hours, for the way Oikawa’s still feel wired after last night. Oikawa makes sure he doesn’t find them, and takes extra care to make sure he doesn’t find the way Oikawa had touched himself last night.

Oikawa jumps to his feet when his phone rings from his gym bag. He answers Iwaizumi’s call, holding his phone in his hand that didn’t take the brunt of Ushijima’s hit, and leaves the gymnasium with Ushijima stretching on the floor.

 

 

The end of the next game greets them with a victory and a crowd’s roar that floods Oikawa’s ears, spins like whirlpools in his head.

Their match point and Oikawa arches, lifts his hands and tosses behind him to Ushijima, who is there, waiting, with the curve of his back, the bend of his knees, and Oikawa tips his head back, watches with wide eyes, sees if Ushijima will read him, will follow him. Wonders if Ushijima has noticed the way the blockers have been on his heels every play, the way they’ve been guarding his left hand religiously, leaping in front of his straights and catching his crosses.

He sees the acknowledgment in Ushijima’s eyes when Ushijima reads the toss, sees the tension in his arm as he readjusts, as he takes Oikawa’s toss in a flawless stride, as if he had known it was coming all along.

They win the game off of Ushijima’s right-handed spike—the ball hits the floor, in the hole behind the blockers, and the gymnasium around them stills, just for a beat, and Oikawa swears that Ushijima suspends in midair, his eyes narrow and relentless as he stares at the opponents beyond the net, the fingers of his right hand straight and unyielding, with beads of sweat caught on the line of his jaw.

Oikawa doesn’t breathe, just watches, and grins.

When Ushijima lands, the gymnasium leaps to their feet.

Oikawa is again among deities, with storms at his fingertips.

Oikawa’s ears ring when he watches Ushijima leave the locker room, when they board the bus, during their meeting back at their own gymnasium. Ushijima’s eyes catch his occasionally and Oikawa sees the same depths in them from two nights ago, a darkness that resurrects the feeling of Ushijima’s lips on his, the aching press of his thumb in his cheek.

Tonight, Ushijima meets him outside the gymnasium, in the parking lot and far behind the rest of their team.

He looks different outside the gymnasium, Oikawa thinks. He looks more human, more ordinary than Oikawa has spent the past years imagining him, and his brown hair looks pallid beneath the parking lot street lamps. He’s waiting for Oikawa, his hips cocked and his hands hidden in the pockets of his sweat shirt, the line of his shoulders straight.

Oikawa adjusts his gym bag on his shoulder as he approaches Ushijima, stars still shining bright in his knuckles.

“Nice toss,” Ushijima says quietly once Oikawa is close enough to hear him and falls in step beside him. Oikawa zips his jacket up a bit further, the night air chilly on his neck. When Oikawa doesn’t respond, instead watches his breath appear before his face in clouds, Ushijima continues. “I will agree that they were well-equipped to deal with my hits and that the right-handed hit was a good way to combat them. But I don’t believe you when you say that you don’t toss to me because of our opponents.”

Oikawa grits his teeth, feels Ushijima’s sideways gaze fixed upon him as they walk the quiet campus sidewalks.

“I know there was some pride in that last toss of yours. You and I both know that a setter is supposed to cater to others to bring out their best. You sure are taking a lot of control.” There’s something deliberate and provoking in his words, something that Oikawa hasn’t heard before, and he balls his hands in the pockets of his jacket.

He still doesn’t respond and Ushijima adds quieter, though just as inciting, “What’s wrong with being my setter?”

Oikawa stops, just before a set of train tracks, and stares at the dark track lights. Anger twists like ropes inside of him, winding around the heat that still lingers in his bones, and he slowly grins, hides it all.

“You lecture me about pride,” he says and turns towards Ushijima, notices the way Ushijima’s jacket collar folds unevenly over his neck, “but I know that your pride is the only reason we have these conversations. What happens to Ushiwaka when he’s no longer the ace, or the center of attention?”

The street lamps catch the contours of Ushijima’s face, sharpen his cheekbones and the tensing line of his jaw.

“It’s less about my pride, Oikawa,” he responds quietly, sternly, “and more about how you are making us miss such an opportunity.”

“Opportunity?” Oikawa says, still grinning. “I am jumping at the best opportunity that I see here—the opportunity to finally beat and humiliate you.”

Ushijima tips his head back, cocks an eyebrow, and his eyes fall into the shadows of his eyelashes. He’s dangerous again, Oikawa can feel it, can feel his composure thinning like it had in the locker room.

This is when he likes Ushijima the most—when he likes him at all.

“How has that worked out for you so far?” Ushijima asks quietly, near a taunt.

“I think I’m finally making progress,” Oikawa returns.

“Refusing to toss to me in a tournament is your idea of progress?” Ushijima is still far too calm, collected, and Oikawa wants more than just an edge in his voice, more than just danger in his eyes. “That’s petty, Oikawa, and childish. You’ve lost your opportunities to beat me—now we’re on the same team and you will have to accept that sooner or later. Otherwise you’re just going to humiliate yourself.”

Ushijima leans forward, into Oikawa’s space. “That insignificant pride of yours has always been your greatest weakness,” he adds and Oikawa can feel the warmth of the words on his lips. He can smell Ushijima’s deodorant, the lingering cologne over the collar of his jacket. His fingers twitch, still burning with a force that could tear out Ushijima’s throat.

“You’re my setter, I’m your ace,” Ushijima finishes in clouds between their mouths. “That’s an undeniable truth, and we both know that we could be great together.”

Oikawa is light-headed, feels as if he’s been running in circles for the past few months, and he doesn’t know if it’s because of Ushijima’s words or because of the way his blood rushes with Ushijima’s proximity.

He wants to reach up, fix Ushijima’s jacket collar, then grab his throat. The campus is quiet around them, Ushijima’s gaze drops to his lips, and he knows that no one would see him if he did.

Oikawa lingers, listens to Ushijima’s soft breathing that passes from his lips, and he’s sure that Ushijima can hear the tidal waves in his head. He laughs, quiet and breathless through his teeth, and the sound catches in the small space between them.

Then he leaves, turns and steps onto the train tracks, still vibrating inside of himself, with his fingers balled into fists in his pockets. Ushijima doesn’t follow him.

 

 

The night before division finals, Oikawa finds himself at the same bar he had attended with Iwaizumi many months ago, the same bar in which he had seen Ushijima hold a drink in his right hand.

He knows why he’s here—he doesn’t want to admit it.

Last night, after he had left Ushijima on the train tracks, he went to bed with an inconsolable static in his veins.

He catches his first sight of Ushijima from over the shoulder of a short-haired girl with whom he’s talking about volleyball—she had recognized him right away, introduced herself as a receiver on the girls’ team. He’s laughing when he sees him, his fingers wrapped around his first and only beer of the night, and Ushijima is in the corner of the bar, apart of a small circle conversation, with his back to Oikawa.

Oikawa can see the hints of Ushijima’s shoulder blades beneath his dark t-shirt, can see his left hand hanging relaxed beside his hip, his right arm bent in front of him and (Oikawa assumes) holding a drink. A stark shadow falls over the back of Ushijima’s neck, and Oikawa can see the top notch of his spine.

He reacts, as much as he doesn’t want to—the static inside of him grows furious.

He is here for one reason and one reason only—but he will not be the one to initiate contact with Ushijima.

Luckily, he doesn’t have to. He picks up conversation with the girl again, who is leaning closer and closer towards him, and when his beer is three-fourths down, Ushijima is the one who approaches him. This time, Ushijima approaches him from behind, stands close to his shoulder, calls the hair on the back of Oikawa’s neck to attention.

“Ushijima,” the girl says, smiling wider, and Oikawa tilts his head, just enough to glance at Ushijima from the corner of his eye. “Good luck tomorrow, I’ll be there—” She stops talking, abruptly looks sideways, her attention caught. She then waves, but Oikawa doesn’t bother to look to whom—Ushijima holds his attention. “Ah, sorry, I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

Oikawa smiles and waves, watches her go, before he takes another drink. He feels wired, every inch of him alight.

Ushijima remains behind him, leans in a bit closer, rests his left hand on the bar beside Oikawa. “Are you sure you should be having a drink when we have a game tomorrow?” Ushijima asks quietly, his voice close and low beneath the hum of the bar, and Oikawa can feel every syllable inside him like a bass. He stares down at Ushijima’s hand on the bar, at the slopes of his knuckles.

“You’re quite the hypocrite,” Oikawa returns quietly, head tilted just enough so that Ushijima can hear him. “I had no idea.”

“Mine’s water,” Ushijima says, his breath falling on Oikawa’s ear.

Oikawa rolls his eyes, unable to help it.

“Why’re you here, Oikawa?” Ushijima asks, quieter and Oikawa watches his fingers shift, stretch across the wooden bar. “Tonight is the first I’ve seen you since before classes started.”

Oikawa cocks an eyebrow, tilts his head, and smiles in the corners of his lips. “You’ve been looking?” he asks, taunting. Ushijima doesn’t respond, gives him the answer he wanted, the answer that makes his stomach twist.

The bar is loud around them, drowns out the sound of Oikawa’s pounding heart. He pushes his beer away with his fingertips, even though there’s still about a quarter left. He came here for one reason, and that reason wasn’t to drink, it was to feel what he felt in the locker room, the illusion of closure that swells in his chest and quiets the choruses inside of him.

He turns slowly, presses his back to the bar, sees Ushijima readjust his posture to fit close to his own. He feels cornered, warmer, and Ushijima’s eyes are fixed upon him, the line of his lips firm.

“Are you going to try to persuade me to toss to you tomorrow?” he asks, still smiling, and he slips his fingers into the pockets of his jacket. “Now’s your last chance to beg for it.” He smiles wider, shows his teeth.

The corner of Ushijima’s lips twitches.

“I think you’ll realize that I’m your best option and you’ll have to toss to me,” Ushijima says quietly, leans in a bit further.

Oikawa tilts his head, stops smiling. He watches Ushijima, measures his expression, before he says seriously, “I think you are overestimating my desire to win, versus my desire to piss you off.”

He sees the shift in Ushijima’s eyes, though his face remains neutral.

Oikawa unravels him like loose twine.

“You’re right,” Oikawa says, “when you say that I don’t toss to you because of my pride.”

He says, “I told you that you’d better remember it, no matter how insignificant. It’ll be what stops you from getting what you want—I don’t care what you see in us, I am not your setter, I will drag you down and still manage to salvage my own reputation in the process.”

Ushijima’s jaw tenses like it does, visible in even the dim bar lighting, and it swells in Oikawa’s chest, elates him.

Then Ushijima looks at his mouth and Oikawa is the one to lean forward this time, showing his teeth in his grin.

“Let’s go,” Ushijima says under his breath, just loud enough for Oikawa to hear, and he grabs Oikawa’s wrist in his hand, turns and leads them both towards the bathroom. Oikawa follows close, his heart erratic inside of him, and he turns, just to make sure no one is looking their way before they disappear into the single bathroom.

Neither of them turns on the light. The door’s lock clicks and Ushijima’s hands are on him, fingers spread over his chest and they shove him back against the hard door. Ushijima crowds him, pins him, and Oikawa reaches up, curls his fingers tightly in the collar of Ushijima’s t-shirt.

“Stop talking,” Ushijima breathes, rough, his fingertips pressing hard to Oikawa’s collar bones, and he kisses Oikawa like he did in the locker room, sloppy and hard and demanding and with teeth. Oikawa tilts his head into it, going dizzy, and Ushijima feels so solid on top of him, so heavy, and he moves one hand to wrap his fingers around Ushijima’s throat again. He squeezes and Ushijima’s breath stutters in his mouth before he bites, teeth sinking into Oikawa’s lower lip.

Oikawa’s senses tilt, leave him light headed and their kiss tastes like blood. One of Ushijima’s hands moves to hold his jaw again in a tight hold, a painful hold, that makes his breath catch and sets him on fire.

This time, when Oikawa feels Ushijima’s cock on his hip, he rocks forward, draws a soft grunt from Ushijima’s mouth.

“God, you get so wound up when I talk down to you like that,” Oikawa breathes into Ushijima’s mouth, and he wishes his voice wasn’t so distant. Ushijima then pulls back, only inches, but enough so that he can abruptly grip Oikawa’s shoulders and turn him, shove him face first against the door.

Oikawa growls, turns his head to press his cheek against the cold metal, and before he can reach back to claw at anything of Ushijima, Ushijima maneuvers his hands, bends his arms sharply to hold both of his wrists against his back with one hand.

“I said shut up,” Ushijima hisses, hot in his ear, and he’s pressed against Oikawa again, and now Oikawa can feel the line of Ushijima’s cock against his ass. Oikawa’s cheeks flush hot and he swallows hard, spreads his legs a bit wider. His own pants are beginning to feel uncomfortably tight and he pulls against Ushijima’s hold on his arms, to no avail.

Ushijima ducks his head and mouths at the side of Oikawa’s throat, biting marks into his skin.

“Fuck, careful—” Oikawa says hoarsely, thinking of tomorrow’s game, but Ushijima doesn’t seem to care. Oikawa’s nails dig into his palms and Ushijima’s hips rock in small motions against his ass, leaving him hot and burning in his clothes. He’s cornered between the door and Ushijima and can’t seem to steady his breathing.

Ushijima’s free hand moves up, holds his throat, forces his head to tip up and back, until the side of his head rests against Ushijima’s. Ushijima pants softly, his breaths falling near and tickling his ear, and Ushijima continues to grind against his ass. Oikawa wants to see his face, wants to see the flush on his cheeks, the shape of his mouth around his rigid breaths, but he doesn’t want Ushijima to see him, doesn’t want Ushijima to see the dizziness in his eyes or the weakness that’s threatening his knees.

He struggles again, tries to pull his wrists from Ushijima’s grip so that he can retaliate, but he can’t and that only makes him hotter, only makes his skin bead with sweat, and Ushijima pushes his hands further up his back, forcing his arms into a tighter bend. He groans into the air, and Ushijima’s hand presses firmer to his throat.

“Fuck,” Ushijima breathes with feeling, and then bites Oikawa’s ear sharply, makes him jolt.

When Ushijima comes, his breathing stutters and a moan escapes his mouth in shards. Oikawa commits it to memory.

His movements slow and leave Oikawa in an unsatisfied white noise. Oikawa growls, thinking that Ushijima is going to leave him like this again, wound tight like a spring, but Ushijima surprises him. He turns Oikawa again, knocks the breath from his lungs with how hard he pushes Oikawa’s back against the door, then drops to his knees.

“Are you serious—” Oikawa gasps and Ushijima’s hand is on the crotch of his pants, pressing, massaging. Oikawa begins to tremble.

He reaches sideways, fingers fumbling for the light switch, thinks that it’s worth it at this point. They both squint in the fluorescent, flickering lighting of the bathroom, but Ushijima is on his knees, a blush spreading from his cheeks, down his neck, down beneath the collar of his shirt. His pupils are blown wide, his eyes nearly black and still knife sharp, threatening. His fingers deftly pluck at the button and zipper of Oikawa’s pants, and then Oikawa’s cock is in his mouth, his hot and wet mouth, and Oikawa reaches up, clamps his hand over his lips and grits his teeth.

Ushijima pulls off of his cock, his lips already wet and red. “Take your hand off of your mouth,” he orders, rough and low, and Oikawa snarls. He narrows his eyes, doesn’t want to oblige, but Ushijima sits still, stares up at him, waiting. Oikawa slowly drops his hand and bares his teeth.

When Ushijima takes his cock into his mouth again, Oikawa grips his hair tightly, holds his head and bucks his hips.

He can feel Ushijima jolt and gag around him. Ushijima’s hands grip his hips firmly, press bruises into the hollows of his hip bones, and pin him to the door. Oikawa keeps his hold on Ushijima’s hair and pants roughly as Ushijima moves, blowing him with an eagerness that feels like it’s been building and building and Oikawa rests his head back against the door, tilts his head to look at the dark flush across Ushijima’s cheeks.

He arches, digs his nails into Ushijima’s scalp, and moans into the air when the galaxies swirl inside of him again, when the stars line his tendons and he feels, once more, invincible. He grins wide.

Oikawa doesn’t last long. He doesn’t warn Ushijima before he comes, his hips pushing up against Ushijima’s hold and Ushijima grunts again when Oikawa comes into his mouth. Oikawa’s breathing is rigid as he comes down and he tilts his head, still grinning as he stares down at Ushijima, who pulls off of his cock with wet lips.

Ushijima spits come into the sink, washes it down the drain, and Oikawa tucks himself back into his pants. He looks at himself in the mirror, sees his pink cheeks and bright eyes and bite marks on his neck; Ushijima watches him in the mirror, too, with his dark eyes and red lips and his bangs in pieces over his forehead.

Oikawa sleeps hard that night, the stillness inside of him as quiet as the depths of the ocean.

 

 

The locker room is entirely empty this time, even of Ushijima. Oikawa lets himself have this moment, this silent and pensive moment, guarded from the waiting court that’s just beyond the locker room doors, from the excited cheers, from their division finals game.

Standing here, with such a fragile and vital match ahead of him, a match that feels like it is resting entirely on his shoulders, is nothing new.

He stands there, in front of his closed locker, with the well inside of him and with a thickness in his throat that makes it hard to breathe. He closes his eyes, faces himself, faces the resurrecting memories of failures and unreachable dreams and the knowledge that he’s not good enough, never will be.

And in that moment, inside himself, he clings to the one thing that feels to him like a cornerstone:

Give him hell.

Oikawa opens his eyes, the waters within him calm, still and glass.

He fixes his jersey collar and leaves the locker room, steps onto the court. The spot lights stare, the crowd roars, and Ushijima looks at him sideways, watches him more intently than any lights above.

 

 

Oikawa grants Ushijima every toss that he calls for, except for his final toss of the game—the one at their match point in the fifth set.

 

 

Ushijima’s reaction is not in his eyes, not in the line of his lips, nor in the tension of his jaw.

It’s in his voice, when he stands behind Oikawa in the line boarding onto their bus, when he leans towards Oikawa and says from over his shoulder, “Can I come over tonight?” He can see the thin clouds of Ushijima’s breath beside him.

The evening is darkening around them, cooling through Oikawa’s thin jacket and over the sweat dried on his skin. He grins in the corners of his lips, stands with his hands in his pockets, and stares up at the dim stars above their heads. Again, he feels apart of them.

“Why?” he asks lightly, his voice quiet and through his smile as he tilts his head towards Ushijima’s. “I tossed to you all night, what could you complain about?”

“I don’t want to complain,” Ushijima murmurs and Oikawa shows his teeth in his grin. He steps up onto the bus, waits until they’re both in the bus aisle, until after he’s high fived their row of middle blockers, before he responds.

“No, you can’t come over,” he says, remembering looking at Ushijima in the bar bathroom mirror, “I’ll come to you.”

 

 

Ushijima lives in a double dorm room, but according to Ushijima, his roommate is gone for the night.

Oikawa follows him inside with a pounding heart and an intoxication that runs hot and fast through his veins. He’s drunk on their victory, drunk on finally besting Ushijima, on the memory of Ushijima on knees, Ushijima pinning him to a bathroom door, Ushijima’s breath hot and thick in his ear. Ushijima closes the door behind them and clicks it locked, and Oikawa stands still in the darkness, catching the faintest shapes of beds and desks and chairs.

Ushijima stands quietly behind him, and Oikawa’s heart grows louder.

He blinks when Ushijima finally turns on the lights. Oikawa knows immediately which side of the room is Ushijima’s—there is, predictably, a volleyball in his rumpled bedsheets, caught between the mattress and the wall, and another volleyball peeking out from underneath the bed frame. He focuses solely on Ushijima’s side, just for a moment, just long enough to take notes of the fleece blanket draped lazily over his desk chair, the closed laptop on his bedside table, the neat stack of notebooks and papers on his desk, the set of drumsticks on top of said stack—Oikawa does a double take at that. He notes Ushijima’s pairs of sneakers lined neatly beneath the bed (except for a pair of black converse, with one shoe tipped onto his side), the drum pads that are stacked beside them. He notes the papers tacked to the corkboard that lines the side of Ushijima’s bed, the schedules and postcards and charts, and the small cactus and tomato plant that sit on his side of the window sill.

Seeing these things is weird, like seeing Ushijima outside of a gymnasium—they again remind Oikawa that Ushijima is, like him, human.

He realizes belatedly that the dorm room is warmer than his own, that it smells mostly of the pine cologne that Ushijima wears after practice, but also like the musty water stains in the corner of the ceiling.

Ushijima’s gym bag drops to the floor behind him with a soft thud, and Oikawa returns to his wired nerves and inflated headspace.

“I thought you had finally gotten over yourself,” Ushijima murmurs and Oikawa can feel him close behind him. He slowly drops his own gym bag and licks his lips, still grinning. The moment his gym bag leaves his fingers, Ushijima’s hands are on him, on his hips, pulling him back against him. Then one is moving up Oikawa’s stomach, his chest, to his throat, encouraging Oikawa to tip his head back to Ushijima’s shoulder.

Oikawa’s pulse pounds against Ushijima’s large fingers. He grins wider, gives a breathless laugh. “And I thought you didn’t bring me here to complain.”

“Do I sound like I’m complaining?” Ushijima asks, his voice low and right in Oikawa’s ear. Ushijima’s hold is tight on his hip, firm on his throat but not choking, more reminding, promising. “You really know how to get me going, it’s almost maddening. You send me every toss I call for, utilize our right-handed attack, you give me everything I want, only to take it all away in the end.”

“You’re not the only one calling for my tosses, Ushiwaka,” Oikawa murmurs, taunting, and Ushijima’s fingers stretch, spread themselves and cover more of Oikawa’s neck. Then they move up, over Oikawa’s chin and jaw and shove into his mouth. Oikawa tastes the salt of sweat on Ushijima’s skin and flushes, Ushijima’s fingers hooked around his teeth. He feels Ushijima press his face into the side of his neck, listens to him breathe in deeply, then exhale. He reaches up, grips Ushijima’s wrist tightly.

“I know,” Ushijima breathes, his words now muffled against Oikawa’s skin. “But I want to be. I want to be the only one you toss to, I want to be the one you look to when you know that you need to win.” Oikawa feels as if he’s just heard a confession and he feels the creases of Ushijima’s knuckles on his tongue.

“You’re an amazing setter,” Ushijima continues, this time with his head lifted so that his words fall quiet but heavy onto Oikawa’s ear, “you’re the only one who has been able to give me what I want.”

Ushijima bites then, sharp on Oikawa’s earlobe, sends currents down his spine. He spreads his fingers in Oikawa’s mouth, over his molars, and Oikawa feels hot again. When he bites down, Ushijima doesn’t retaliate.

“But that god damn pride of yours is infuriating,” Ushijima says. “It’s going to ruin you, it’s going to ruin us—I don’t give a fuck what you say, I know you and I could be unstoppable, if you’d only let us.”

Ushijima growls when Oikawa bites down harder. Oikawa’s head spins and he stares at the ceiling, his eyes hooded, and he shudders when Ushijima bites down again on his ear, harder. He snarls a muffled sound of his own, digging his nails into Ushijima’s wrist, and he’s hotter, electric and restless, but Ushijima wraps his arm around his stomach and holds him tighter, holds him still. Ushijima is solid and irrefutable behind him, and Oikawa thinks, just for a moment, that he could relent, that it would be easy.

Ushijima slowly withdraws his fingers from Oikawa’s mouth, his knuckles slipping one by one from his lips. He drags his fingertips down Oikawa’s chin, smearing the spit over his skin, and Oikawa grits his teeth, growls breathlessly, like his blood isn’t rushing like waves inside of him. Like he isn’t flushed, like his skin isn’t uncomfortably warm in his jacket and sweatpants.

There’s a moment between them, a silence that holds them when Ushijima’s fingers are against Oikawa’s jaw and when Oikawa’s back is arched, bowed to fit Ushijima’s shape behind him. They stand, suspended, the peaking height just before the drop.

Then Oikawa’s breath hitches in the stillness, and a grin takes the corners of his lips.

He turns abruptly in Ushijima’s hold, gets his hands between them and spreads his fingers across Ushijima’s chest. He catches the glint in Ushijima’s dark eyes before he shoves him back, against the door with a heavy thud, pins him there, much as Ushijima had pinned him the night before. Ushijima’s hands go immediately to his hips, hold him tight and bruising and Oikawa lashes out towards the light switch, douses them with a quick flick of his wrist.

His remaining inhibitions are gone when they’re lost in the darkness. Ushijima’s hand plants itself in his hair and pulls him in closer, and Ushijima’s mouth is hot against his own, greedy and taking and taking.

Kissing Ushijima feels like destruction, like Oikawa finally has the chance to demolish the towers inside of him that he has built out of years of hating Ushijima, years of wanting to ruin him, to humiliate him, and Ushijima groans into his mouth, unrestrained, and Oikawa laughs breathlessly, high with it. Foundations crumble and fall inside of him and he wraps his hand tight around Ushijima’s throat, squeezes, draws in the breath that Ushijima gives him.

Ushijima retaliates, digs his nails into Oikawa’s scalp, then jerks his head back in a sharp motion that runs hot down Oikawa’s neck. His breathing is already heavy and Ushijima’s teeth are on his neck, over his jaw, biting, marking, and Ushijima’s other hand wanders beneath the layers of his jacket and shirt, then run hot over the skin on his lower back. His fingertips press into the dimples just above the hem of his sweatpants.

Ushijima’s breath is rigid and heavy on his skin, his cock hard and pressing against Oikawa’s through their pants, and Oikawa knows that Ushijima is entirely undone, entirely uncomposed and reacting with anything but reason.

He feels unstoppable.

Ushijima moves quickly. He draws back, breathless from sucking the worst of marks into Oikawa’s neck and from Oikawa’s hand still caught tightly around his throat, and his hands are deft as he fits them in the small space between their bodies, clutches Oikawa’s jacket in one and uses the other to undo the zipper.

Oikawa shrugs his shoulders when Ushijima pushes at his sleeves, though he’s distracted and grips Ushijima’s jaw with his free hand, turns Ushijima’s head sideways and provokes a grunt from between Ushijima’s teeth. Not to be the only one who leaves this night with marks, he leans in and bites Ushijima’s jaw, hard, as hard as he pleases, until he hears quiet snarls escape on Ushijima’s breaths. He bites to hurt, to ruin, until Ushijima forces his jacket sleeves to his elbows then shoves him back, away, stumbling back into the vast darkness of the dorm room.

Oikawa shudders—the air in the rest of the dorm room feels cool, though Oikawa remembers it being warm only minutes ago. His fingers are trembling, aching and wanting, and he pulls his arms from his jacket and then drops it to the floor. His breathing is loud around him, his heart even louder, and he catches the smallest shift in the shadows, the movements of the deepest black in the room, though he can’t make out what Ushijima is doing.

“Can’t take that?” Oikawa breathes, his own voice so rough that it surprises him. There are tornadoes and hurricanes and galaxies and phenomena inside him, and it’s all at his disposal, all at the mercy of his whim.

Ushijima laughs, Oikawa thinks, though the sound is caught somewhere closer to a scoff. There’s something taunting in it, though, that makes Oikawa’s molars grind, makes his fingers twitch, and he waits, ready.

He expects Ushijima to contact him like a comet to a planet but he doesn’t, not at first—Ushijima first touches Oikawa’s stomach, little by little, as if Oikawa is a pool in which to submerge himself. Fingertips, undersides of knuckles, front of palm, heel of palm, then his fingers slowly spread, moving against the ridges of Oikawa’s abdomen, and the touch is soft, intimate, and Ushijima is so close that Oikawa can no longer see his movements in the darkness—so close that his movements are all Oikawa sees.

Then Ushijima’s other hand clamps around his hip, fingers spread wide across his hip bone, and he twists Oikawa, spins him like he’s nothing, until the back of his legs hit the bed and he falls onto it. The comforter puffs beneath his impact and Oikawa is overwhelmed by the smell of Ushijima’s cologne. Ushijima finds his thighs and maneuvers him sideways, fully onto the bed, and Oikawa props himself up immediately, reaches out to find, irritatingly, that Ushijima’s jacket is still zipped, though crooked on his shoulders.

He strips Ushijima of his jacket quickly, only to be stripped of his shirt immediately after. Before he can retaliate Ushijima’s hand is on his chest and shoves him down, then Ushijima is on top of him, all around him, and Oikawa feels dizzier. Ushijima’s knees press to his hips and he gradually feels more and more of Ushijima’s weight being pushed into his chest, pinning him, until he can feel Ushijima’s breath on his mouth again.

Ushijima’s hand is gentle and meticulous as it pushes through his hair, then fixes his bangs upon his forehead.

“I can take anything you give me,” Ushijima murmurs, close to his mouth.

“Except, apparently, when I refuse to give you anything at all,” Oikawa counters, his voice in a taunting tilt to account for its breathlessness. He grips Ushijima’s wrist tightly, though doesn’t want Ushijima to let up.

“I think I’ve been dealing with it well,” Ushijima says quietly, and Oikawa bends a knee. “I save my reactions for off the court.”

“No you don’t,” Oikawa breathes. “I can see them.”

“Oh?” Ushijima’s fingers thread through Oikawa’s hair again, this time pushing his bangs from his face.

“I can see them in your eyes and your expression,” Oikawa says, grinning faintly. “But I don’t know if anyone else can.”

Ushijima is quiet for another moment. “Like I said,” he murmurs, his voice more distant than before, and Oikawa thinks that Ushijima must like knowing that Oikawa has noticed even more things about him, “you really know how to get me going.”

Ushijima sits back on his knees and withdraws his weight from Oikawa’s chest. Oikawa breathes in deeply and immediately curls his fingers in Ushijima’s shirt, pulling it up and off. Ushijima’s muscles are prominent and defined beneath his touch, and he runs his hands over Ushijima’s abdomen, then over his ribs, down his sides. Ushijima lets him do this for a moment, shifting and stretching beneath the attention, until he grips Oikawa’s jaw in a vice hold, much tighter than before, more like the very first time Ushijima had him pinned to a locker. He pushes Oikawa down again by the jaw, leans over him, and says with a voice that’s entirely intact, “I’m going to fuck you.”

The storms swell inside of Oikawa, spin hot in his stomach at the words, at the sound of Ushijima’s voice. He feels his skin flush down to his chest and he growls, though not out of protest. Ushijima’s thumb presses hard against his cheek, and Oikawa can feel it on his teeth.

When Ushijima kisses him, Oikawa finds it difficult to kiss back but he manages, sliding his tongue against Ushijima’s and biting at his lips. He bends his leg more, presses his thigh to Ushijima’s crotch, and is rewarded with shards of a groan that fall into his mouth. Ushijima’s hips rock back against his thigh and he can feel Ushijima hard in his sweatpants. Ushijima responds by reaching down between them with his free hand, cupping Oikawa’s crotch and making him buck.

Ushijima keeps his hold tight on Oikawa’s jaw as he pulls Oikawa’s pants off and pushes them away. Now Ushijima settles between Oikawa’s legs and Oikawa remembers how quickly Ushijima had dropped to his knees last night in the bar bathroom.

He wants to talk about that, to coax Ushijima into revealing how long he’s wanted to suck Oikawa’s cock, how long he’s wanted to fuck him, but he doesn’t have a chance once Ushijima’s fingers slowly maneuver away from his jaw, curl up towards his wet lips and then push into his mouth, three at a time. Oikawa bites and Ushijima’s breath hitches in the darkness. But he doesn’t withdraw, not even as Oikawa bites down harder, harder, when Ushijima’s other hand massages his cock through his underwear in slow, dizzying motions.

It takes Oikawa a moment to realize that Ushijima is leaning over him, hovering with only inches between their chests, and he only realizes when he again catches the smell of Ushijima’s cologne mixed with his lingering sweat.

Ushijima’s fingers stretch inside of his mouth, two of them pressing against his molars and the others reaching for the back of his throat, making Oikawa close his eyes tightly. He can hear Ushijima’s breathing over his own, feel it over his ear, and he reaches up to dig his nails into the contours of Ushijima’s shoulder blades.

The fingers in his mouth reach further, further, patiently, until Oikawa gags, unable to help himself, and convulses, his hands now gripping Ushijima’s shoulders tightly.

Ushijima’s fingers remove themselves from his mouth in a smooth motion. Oikawa shudders and realizes that Ushijima is gone as well, even his hand on his crotch, but not for long. Ushijima strips him easily, and Oikawa props himself up on his elbows, listens to the quiet rustling of the bed sheets. He swallows hard, tries to calm himself down, and he moves his foot to press it to Ushijima’s calf. Ushijima’s pants are still on, then his leg moves away, and they’re not any longer.

The bed dips beneath Oikawa as Ushijima moves off of it and moves blindly through the room. Oikawa waits, his heart a hammer inside of him, and he curls his toes. He can hear Ushijima’s movements but doesn’t try to see him in the darkness. He closes his eyes, can hardly believe that this is where he has ended up.

Ushijima comes back in the form of the creaking mattress and hands that find Oikawa’s hips in the darkness, then use them to maneuver himself back between Oikawa’s legs. Oikawa hears the pop of a bottle cap.

“Don’t you dare be nice to me,” Oikawa murmurs, his voice low and far more collected than he feels. “I don’t want this to be intimate. I want to ruin you tonight, and you better fucking—”

Ushijima’s hand claps over his mouth, pushes until Oikawa’s elbows cave beneath him and he’s lying flat on the bed again. Oikawa gasps as one of Ushijima’s wet fingers presses into him in a slow but unyielding motion until it’s knuckle deep. The blush rises again to Oikawa’s face and chest.

“Stop talking,” Ushijima breathes, his voice close again, and this time Oikawa can feel their stomachs pressed together, Ushijima’s bent arm between them. “Don’t insult me. I have no intention of stopping until you’re crying.”

Oikawa growls from behind Ushijima’s hand, though the sound cuts short as Ushijima’s finger moves inside of him—twists, then stretches, moves out, then back in, and curls. It isn’t long before Oikawa begins to tremble and he reaches up, grips Ushijima’s bicep with one hand and his throat with the other. This coaxes a soft moan from Ushijima’s mouth, which is close to Oikawa’s cheek.

Ushijima holds him like this as he fingers him. As promised, Ushijima is fastidious but he’s not nice, and the movements of his fingers are meaningful and soon coax Oikawa’s hips into a subconscious and insatiable cant.

By the time Ushijima removes his fingers and his hand from over Oikawa’s mouth, Oikawa is shaking, his head distant. He wants to push himself up but doesn’t trust his arms to hold him, not after the care that Ushijima has paid to his prostate, so he lays on the bed, with beads of sweat already standing on his skin. His breathing is erratic as it escapes his mouth.

Like last night, Ushijima grips Oikawa’s hips and flips him over, coaxing him to his hands and knees on the bed, and Oikawa’s arms are indeed trembling beneath him. Oikawa grits his teeth, knowing he can retaliate less like this, and he curls his fingers tightly in the bedsheets, his pulse loud and distracting in his head. Distantly, he hears the tear of a condom wrapper.

The way Ushijima fucks him is only like the way he had fingered him insofar that it is not nice. Ushijima’s fingers, long and deft inside of him, had aimed to peel him apart, to skillfully stretch him while also encouraging him from his mind, from his body. They had exploited, found the spots inside of Oikawa that made him moan and gasp and electric and had worshiped them until Oikawa was hot inside and out.

From the start, Ushijima fucks him without abandon. Oikawa feels their calves brush against each other and then Ushijima’s hands over his ass, his hips, and then Ushijima’s cock is inside of him, pushing the breath from his body. Oikawa’s jaw slackens and Ushijima leans over him again, envelopes him, wraps his arm around Oikawa’s waist and moves his other to hold Oikawa’s throat.

Oikawa feels full and dizzy when Ushijima fits fully inside of him, and it hurts a bit, it just does, and Ushijima’s face presses to the crook of his neck. He reaches up with one hand, makes it difficult for himself to balance in favor of pulling on Ushijima’s hair. Oikawa feels a groan against his skin, hot and damp.

Ushijima pounds into him, the slap of their hips obscene in the black bedroom. Oikawa’s eyes are open but he doesn’t see anything and he soon feels lost and overwhelmed in the heat of his skin, the weight of Ushijima on top of him, the stretch of Ushijima inside of him. The stars inside of him have now moved outside and swirl over his skin, raising the hairs on his arms and on his neck and he pants, pulling harder and harder at Ushijima’s hair which earns him blade-like bites on his neck.

This is not nice, this is not intimate. This is crumbling and dissolving—not just for him, but for Ushijima as well, and Oikawa clings to this, holds on to the gritty sounds that linger on Ushijima’s breathing, the occasional falter in the pace of Ushijima’s hips, Ushijima’s hands holding him and nails digging into his skin.

“Fuck,” Oikawa rasps and lets go of Ushijima’s hair. He maneuvers his fingers between his neck and Ushijima’s face until he can shove them into Ushijima’s open mouth. Ushijima doesn’t fight them. He sucks on them until he needs to breathe, then slackens his jaw to do so.

Oikawa is so lost in this, in the steadfast drive of Ushijima’s hips, that it’s jarring when Ushijima stops, his cock buried inside of Oikawa. Oikawa realizes then just how much he’s shaking, it’s a wonder he’s able to hold himself up with one arm. Ushijima turns his head, moans a coarse and weak sound when Oikawa’s fingers fall from his mouth. Ushijima lets him go only to grip his one hip tightly, then wrap his fingers around the back of Oikawa’s neck to shove his face down into the bed sheets.

Oikawa groans loudly and wetly into the blankets and Ushijima begins to fuck him again, faster. Each breath draws in the scent of Ushijima’s cologne and Oikawa’s fingers tangle themselves in the bedsheets, latch onto them like a lifeline. Ushijima’s fingers are long and firm on the back of his neck, holding him down, and it doesn’t take long for the tears to gather in the corners of Oikawa’s eyes, for him to not only lose himself again in the situation but to become entirely enveloped in it.

So it’s even more jarring when Ushijima breaks him from it, when he moves his hand up into Oikawa’s hair and jerks his head back, forcing his back into a bow. Oikawa gasps, closing his eyes tightly, and a few tears slip down his flushed cheeks. He can feel Ushijima more like this, hyperaware of every point of contact, of how deep Ushijima’s cock reaches inside of him. He trembles, gasping again as Ushijima continues to fuck him just as hard.

Ushijima holds him like this long enough for an ache to flare in his straining stomach and shoulders—holds him like this even as Oikawa comes with a few strokes of his cock.

Sometime after, Ushijima comes as well, but Oikawa is in puddles and doesn’t notice. He shudders when Ushijima pulls out of him, hears the soft groan that passes from Ushijima’s mouth, and holds onto that one, too.

He slowly finds himself, collecting his pieces and bringing them back to his trembling body. Ushijima moves off of the bed briefly, then comes back, sitting close to Oikawa but not touching him. The room around them is quiet, serene, unmoved by the fervor in their movements only moments before.

Oikawa uses his shaking fingers to wipe the drying tears from his face. He finally composes himself in full, and, much to his contentment, finds himself just as still and tranquil as the room around them.

 

 

Oikawa has broken the habit of examining crowds before he passes through them, of looking over his shoulder when he walks.

The day after his night with Ushijima is a gray Saturday. Every step to the convenience store aches, reminds him of what happened in Ushijima’s dorm, and his high-collared jacket hide most of the secrets in the hickeys on his neck (though some are too high, too close to his jaw). But Oikawa isn’t bothered—he walks as usual, with his shoulders straight and his chin tilted up, and only fixes his jacket when he catches glimpses of it in window reflections.

He walks with his hands in his pockets, with one balled around his phone. His most recent text messages from Iwaizumi read, ‘i’m torn between thinking youre gross and feeling proud because good for you??? idk youre gross but way to do what you need to’ and ‘way to finally beat him i guess.’

Oikawa stops on the corner of third and fifth, his backpack on his shoulders filled with his instant noodle cups, bananas, protein bars, and milk bread. He looks up at the shallow sky, stares from behind the lens of his glasses. He lets himself be swept away briefly in the smoky vocals and thick bass of his headphones and feels as if the sky is motionless and staring right back at him.

The song ends and he drops his gaze.

Across the street, Ushijima watches him, positioned on the curb, waiting like him for the light to turn.

The next song begins in plucked guitar strings. Ushijima doesn’t react when Oikawa meets his gaze, doesn’t move. He’s wearing a pair of fitted jeans and a t-shirt beneath a sweatshirt, with no collar to hide the thinning bruises on his neck. His black converse are on his feet, the ones that Oikawa had seen under his bed just last night.

A cool wind catches Oikawa’s bangs, pulls them across his forehead. The light changes and he steps off of the sidewalk, into the street, his eyes still fixed on Ushijima’s.

They pass each other without a word; Oikawa catches the scent of pine, and he remembers falling onto Ushijima’s bed, the way his blankets caught him like clouds.

 

 

As the division champions, they’re featured again in the magazine to which Oikawa is subscribed. The issue is rolled up in Oikawa’s mail cubby the day before they leave for nationals, and Oikawa brings it to his dorm after his last class of the week. He sets it on his desk, cover up, worries the inside of his lip with his teeth as he stares down at it.

Then, just before he goes to bed that night, he rolls it up again and drops it into his trash bin.