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How To Catch An Ace by Oikawa Tooru

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How To Catch An Ace by Oikawa Tooru

Introduction

Yah-ho! Hi there, my poor, lost souls; my weary children. It is I, Oikawa Tooru, captain of Aoba Johsai, also known as the best setter in the prefecture (I don’t care how much of a genius Tobio-chan is, did he ever win an award in junior high saying he was the best setter? No. No he did not) and referred to by some as the Great King (I take no issue with this title). I have generously compiled this guide because so many people come to me for advice (looking at you, Tobio-chan), so I figured why not pre-empt this inevitability by providing this useful tool? That question was rhetorical, because there is no reason why not. What can I say? I am just a kind and benevolent person, always willing to help out my fellow human being at no benefit to myself (also, I find I have quite a bit of free time on my hands now that we won’t be advancing any further in the Spring Tournament, no thanks to you, Tobio-chan).

If you are reading this guide it is because you are in love with your ace and are at a loss of what to do about it (looking at you again, Tobio-chan – I see the way you look at Shrimpy-chan). Never fear! I, Oikawa Tooru, best setter in the prefecture, the Great King, have already mapped this unknown territory for you. I have already paved a wide and sparkling path through this wilderness. I have already navigated through the many twists and turns of this harrowing and long (so long) journey. Just like I paved the way as a setter and ace server for you, Tobio-chan.

Okay, fine. I’ll come clean! You have forced my hand! You are the only one reading this guide, Tobio-chan. I wrote it for you because despite what Iwa-chan may say about me having a so-called ‘terrible personality’, I am loathe to see my dear kouhai suffer in the same way I did for so long. I do see you as a sort-of successor of my insurmountable legend, after all (I doubt you’ll surpass me, but it’s always worth a try), and I know all too well the pain and frustration of having intense, romantic feelings for an infuriatingly dense and stubborn ace. So, rest your weary head on my (taller – ha!) shoulder, and let me teach you once more.

Step 1 – Be Irreplaceable

Iwa-chan is a strong spiker with good technique, but he can only reach his full potential when I toss to him. Sure, the main reason I sought to improve my setting is so I could pulverise Ushiwaka into dust, but my dedication to my craft had an unforeseen benefit. We once participated in a practice game with a college and Iwa-chan was a wing-spiker for their team, as they were down a man. Now this setter was highly skilled, I admit (however begrudgingly). Perhaps – perhaps – even more so than me. Yet Iwa-chan’s spikes did not have the same force, the same destructive power. I made a monumental discovery that day – Iwa-chan couldn’t do without me! Okay, sure, he could do without me, but not so well! I was the best fit on the court for Iwa-chan – me! Not some lanky, no-good college boy with his eyes on Iwa-chan’s biceps. Eh-hem.

Anyway, as we both know, volleyball comes first – not just for us, but for our aces as well. Therefore, to be irreplaceable you have to start there. Make them need you. Sure, they may be able to do fine without you, but make it so they can only be their best with you. Now I know you’ve got that part pretty well covered, Tobio-chan. I’d congratulate you, but I know it was entirely a fluke and not at all your design. So innocent, my kouhai! Don’t ever change (this also refers to your setting – feel free to keep your skill level as is so I can beat you again when you get into college and don’t you dare come to the same one as me)!

Step 2 – Get their attention, keep their attention

Don’t give your ace an opportunity to focus on anyone but you for too long. You probably aren’t aware of this, innocent as you are, but there are always sharks circling. Always. I swear, more than half my team is gay for Iwa-chan. They see that strong, firm jaw and those large, capable hands and those thick, bulging biceps and those firm, muscled thighs and hear that deep, rough voice and I see their gazes linger when he takes off his shirt and…and…

Where was I? Oh yes, sharks. Bloodthirsty, the lot of them. Just waiting to take what’s ours! But we won’t let them, will we, Tobio-chan? We will be the apple of their eyes! Not some blushing turnip-haired first-year, always hanging off Iwa-chan’s every word, always salivating over the smallest praise! Can’t he see that Kunimi-kun is totally into him? He doesn’t need my Iwa-chan! Go find your own! I bags-ed him when we were five, so there!

Um…yes. So the way we do this is by being annoying and mean. I know this comes naturally to you, Tobio-chan, so you’re already a step ahead of where I was (annoying does not come naturally to me – I’m a delightful human being). If you’re able to poke and prod at every area you know gets them riled up, then it’s guaranteed their attention will be on you. Sure, you could try being nice, but how does that stand out, hm? Everyone can be nice. Not only is that completely boring and clichéd, but it doesn’t set you apart at all. Take Ushiwaka, for example. That insufferable clod pile, always with his “You should have come to Shiratorizawa” and his “Plants can’t grow in infertile soil” (whatever that’s supposed to mean – such a terrible metaphor! I will not be compared to a plant, thank you very much). And look where that’s gotten him? A lifetime of me trying to utterly destroy him with my supreme tosses and blistering ace serves, which I will always aim at him because I know he sucks a receiving (unlike my Iwa-chan). See – attention! I wouldn’t think about that simpleminded buffoon nearly as much if he weren’t so damn annoying.

I’ve been on Iwaizumi’s case for a long time now and needless to say, this tactic has worked wonders! He’s always showering me with attention! Sure, it’s often in the form of violence but that’s just how Iwa-chan shows his affection, that adorable caveman. So go all out, Tobio-chan! Follow him! Follow him everywhere! Follow him to his group hangs with other friends (as though he needs them, am I right? Don’t answer that – of course I’m right)! Follow him when some silly girl calls him out to confess and stand behind him glaring at her (this shouldn’t be a problem for you, Tobio-chan, you have a very unpleasant face) until she loses nerve and flees! Follow him home after school uninvited! Befriend his parents to the point they see you as a second son (one they like infinitely better, if I do say so myself)! Make him watch scary sci-fi movies with you so he hugs you for comfort! Refuse to leave so you can stay the night! Refuse to sleep on the spare futon! Cling to him all night, despite his half-hearted grumblings and attempts to push you off (I always wake up to him spooning me, so he can’t be that opposed to it now, can he)! Besides, Shrimpy-chan is small. I doubt he packs as hard a punch as Iwa-chan! You have it easy, Tobio-chan. Be grateful.

Now, as for being mean – that’s even more fun! We can’t let our aces think we like them too much, because then nothing will set us apart. Remember, we have to be different. We have to be more. We have to make them want us, want our approval. If you’re nice to someone all the time, they’ll take it for granted. But if you exploit their weaknesses they’ll subconsciously crave your approval and when you finally start to give it to them, they’ll be so grateful for it that they’ll do anything you want! That’s the theory, anyway. It’s worked on others, but Iwa-chan is particularly stubborn. I’ll insult him all the time – about how he’s not popular with girls, about how he has a Neanderthal brain incapable of complex thought – and he reacts wonderfully. All violence and agitation. But then, when I compliment him, when I deign to acknowledge his accomplishments, he acts like he doesn’t want to hear it! “Like I want to hear that from you,” he says when I say he made a good call in a match. “Like I want to be that with you,” he says when I say we make a great setter-ace pair. “Like I’d ever be that with you,” he says when I say we’re best friends. “It makes me question my taste to hear that coming from you,” he says when I say he looks nice.

I can only surmise that he, too, is attempting to play a game. A very unrefined, obvious game of hard-to-get. It only means I’m succeeding! So I intensify my efforts.

For you, Tobio-chan, I would recommend coming up with insults other than ‘dumbass’. Repetition reduces effectiveness. Now I know your simpleton brain struggles to form words sometimes, but do try. I believe in you! If you can’t think of complex and cutting insults like myself and can only go as far as juvenile name-calling, take a page out of my Iwa-chan’s book. He works with what he has, just as you should. A particular favourite of his is to combine my name with an insult; for example, Trashykawa or Shittykawa or Assikawa. Not particularly high-brow, but effective enough (I am not trash – I am the very picture of cleanliness).

However, a tale of caution before you embark on this particular quest. I remember once repeating an old saying to Iwa-chan upon such an occasion: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, Iwa-chan, but words will never hurt me!” I thought I had efficaciously shut down Iwa-chan because he immediately walked away! Success! Hoping to rub his failure in, I asked him where he was going. He said, “To find some sticks and stones.” Moral of the story is, watch out for that. Iwa-chan didn’t manage to find any stones but he found a particularly sturdy stick. I shudder at the memory.

Step 3 – Make him jealous

My comprehensive guide would be woefully incomplete without such a step! It is a classic! Tried and tested and proven over millennia! And I, the aforementioned great Oikawa-san, have refined this technique for you!

I am completely aware that this final step will be the most difficult for you, Tobio-chan. I have not known you to speak to or even be in the vicinity of a female unless she was a team manager. So sad, so funny. I can’t imagine how that must be for you, being consistently and overwhelmingly ignored by the fairer sex! Though, to be perfectly honest, being the recipient of such unflinching attention can be a burden indeed! One must always be ‘switched on’ for their adoring fans – there are no off days, no off moments! One must always carry oneself with charm and grace and good humour! One must always be ready with a warm and sincere smile (yes, I am capable of those despite what Iwa-chan says)! It can be exhausting, but I will happily shoulder this burden for my fellow man. Such is the strength of my goodwill and selflessness. You are permitted to feel awe, Tobio-chan. It’s okay – you wouldn’t be the first, nor will you be the last.

I am truly fortunate, however, to have such a weapon automatically at my disposal. I do truly appreciate my fans’ support, of course, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t use it to my advantage now, does it? That question was also rhetorical. I know you have trouble with those, Tobio-chan.

Now I know you’ll never manage to establish a female fan base, Tobio-chan. You’re just not cut out for it – your smile is truly horrifying. That’s okay, we can’t all be born with perfect genes (though I would trade some of my physical genes for some of your volleyball genes, damn you. No! I’d just steal your volleyball ones and then where would you be? Feel free to figure out the answer to that one). What you can do, however, is try to find a girlfriend! You may have to pay her or do something for her to get her to be seen with you in public, but I’m sure you can reach an agreeable arrangement!

I, of course, have never had to coerce a girl into dating me! They line up for a chance to date the great Oikawa-san (no, really – one of my ex-girlfriends told me there’s actually a queue). The downside to this tactic is that the relationships never seem to last long, something which Iwa-chan never fails to comment on. I always look out for signs of jealousy, but it seems he’s mostly just scolding me because I neglect them for volleyball. You know how it is, Tobio-chan. Volleyball will always be our first priority. I tell Iwa-chan this, but then he just says if I’m not going to date properly then I shouldn’t be dating at all! Sure, he says it’s because of volleyball but he’s definitely using that as a convenient excuse to get me to stop dating. See – success! I know exactly what I’m talking about, as always. You should thank your lucky stars that you have such a knowledgeable and experienced senpai, Tobio-chan.


 Meanwhile, in the Real World...

“What’s got you so uncharacteristically glued to a desk during this fine lunch hour, Oikawa?”

Oikawa startled and attempted to casually cover his notebook with his arm as he turned to face Mattsun and Makki with a large smile, blinding enough to distract them from their impending curiosity.

Makki raised an eyebrow and nudged Mattsun. “Nothing good, judging by that smile.”

“It’s terrifying,” Mattsun agreed solemnly.

“Rude!” Oikawa gasped indignantly then frowned in displeasure as they both sat down on adjacent desks. "How did you find me? Barely anyone knows this classroom exists.”

Makki shrugged. “We just followed the smell of desperation.”

Mattsun sniffed the air. “Mm…seeps from your every pore.”

“Excuse you, I don’t have pores. My skin is flawless,” Oikawa protested. “And I don’t know how you could possibly reach the conclusion that I’m up to no good just from my smile.”

“Well let’s look at the other evidence, shall we?” Makki made a grand show of looking around the empty classroom. “No screaming fangirls to which you are pandering? No Iwaizumi to which you are desperately clinging as he violently tries to pry you off him? Suspiciously holed up in a dark, empty classroom? One could quite easily come to the conclusion that you’re up to no good.”

“And going by your history, one would not be at all surprised,” Mattsun added sagely.

“One could also come to the conclusion that if one went to such lengths to be secluded, then one wishes to be alone,” Oikawa shot back grumpily. Damn Mattsun and Makki, always thwarting his best-laid plans.

“Then the natural follow-up to such a conclusion would be one simple question…” Mattsun countered.

Why?” Makki finished.

Oikawa narrowed his eyes at them. “Yes, why? Great question. Why are you two here, why not off somewhere else – anywhere else?”

Makki smirked. “Defence: engaged. Weapon of choice: deflection.”

Mattsun smirked too. “Impressive. I haven’t seen Oikawa go all-out like this since that time we caught him sniffing Iwaizumi’s dirty jersey after practice.”

“Or that time we caught him kissing a picture of Iwaizumi on his phone.”

“Or that time we caught him trying to perform a hex spell on that girl Iwaizumi said was cute.”

“Or that time we caught him Googling which countries have legalised same-sex marriage.”

“Or that time we caught him Googling how to acquire a visa for Canada…a country which has legalised same-sex marriage.”

“Or that time we pulled up his internet search history and --”

“Yes! Okay, you can stop now!” Oikawa interjected hastily, before they reminded him further of his embarrassing history of Iwaizumi-laden faux pas. His only consolation was that Iwaizumi was not aware of any of this, adorably dense as he was.

Makki and Mattsun grinned at each other in triumph.

“To answer your question, Oikawa, so we can move on to more interesting things…like, for example, what Iwaizumi-related embarrassment you’re hiding this time…” Mattsun started.

“…We were bored. So we came looking for you, since you’re always good for some entertainment. So nice to see you pulled through for us once again!” Makki finished.

Oikawa narrowed his eyes at them. “Where’s Iwaizumi, then? I know you two get off on pissing him off too.”

Makki shrugged nonchalantly, but the gleam in his eyes only spoke of foreboding. “He was playing basketball with the guys from the basketball team. We couldn’t keep up, so we split.”

Oikawa narrowed his eyes further. He was fortunate they were so large to begin with, so he could narrow them for effect a few times before he started to look ridiculous. Ah, his good genes coming through for him once more!

“The basketball team, hm?” He knew he was being deliberately baited, but he didn’t seem to have much impulse control when it came to Iwaizumi.

Mattsun grinned, all sharp and calculating. “Yeah, all those tall, lanky, super athletic guys. Really ripped, too.”

“Hm…” Makki agreed, feigning thoughtfulness, as though he hadn’t already planned out exactly what he was going to say next. “Their basketball jerseys really show off their arms to perfection.”

“Iwaizumi is totally giving them a run for this money in that department, though. Voted Best Biceps in Aoba Johsai two years running, after all.”

“Ignoring the fact Oikawa put in half those votes, that still leaves a large percentage of the school population who’s buying what Iwaizumi is selling.”

“Some of those basketball guys are too. I mean, why else would one of them have offered to let Iwaizumi wear his spare jersey to play in?”

Oikawa’s eyes had been narrowing progressively over the course of Mattsun and Makki’s targeted back-and-forth, but at that little morsel of information his eyes sprung wide open. If he’d been drinking, he would have choked on it. So unrefined. It was why he’d made a habit of never consuming anything around these two.

“Iwa-chan…is wearing someone else’s jersey?” Oikawa’s voice was soft.

“Yes, a number 4 jersey, even,” Makki imparted gleefully.

“Number…4?” Oikawa’s voice was dark.

“Mm…and when the guy offered it to Iwaizumi, he even said how ‘Wow, how cool is it that we have the same player number! Must be fate!’” Mattsun continued happily.

“…fate?” Oikawa’s voice was deep.

“Yeah! And he was saying how he always goes to watch Iwaizumi play! Said ‘you’ specifically, casually, not ‘Aoba Johsai’ or ‘Seijoh’ – you, he said. Just Iwaizumi,” Makki reported cheerfully.

“He…watches him?” Oikawa’s voice was flat.

“That’s right! And as we were leaving I overhead him compliment Iwaizumi’s – and I quote – ‘incredible stamina’,” Mattsun divulged merrily.

“He complimented…his stamina?” Oikawa’s voice was rough.

“Uh huh! Then he asked if Iwaizumi could play with him one-on-one sometime!” Makki informed excitedly.

“…one-on-one?” Oikawa’s voice was scratchy.

“Yup! Then when Iwaizumi said yes…” Mattsun disclosed delightedly.

“Iwa-chan said yes?” Oikawa’s voice was loud.

“Mm-hmm!” Makki confirmed excitedly. “And after he did, the guy yelled, ‘Thanks, Hajime!’”

Oikawa’s fist slammed down on desk before he was even aware he was doing it. Makki and Mattsun exchanged gleeful looks. Oikawa smiled, all white teeth and squinty eyes.

“Mattsun, Makki…” Oikawa’s voice was pure sunlight. Mattsun and Makki grinned.

“Yes, Oikawa?” They answered together.

“What’s this guy’s name?” Oikawa asked cheerfully, lightly, all sweetness and calm. “What class is he in? How old is he? What does he look like? What is he doing at Aoba Johsai? What are his hopes and fears?”

Makki laughed and held out his hands placatingly. “Whoa, calm down there, Sun Tzu. Take a chill pill.”

Mattsun scoffed. “Oikawa doesn’t have any chill.”

Makki shook his head sadly. “No chill.”

“I don’t need chill. I need answers,” Oikawa responded cheerfully. Then his voice dropped. “Now.”

“You know, it messes with my head when your smile is saying you want to hug me but your tone is saying you want to dismember me,” Makki mused.

Oikawa’s smile dropped. “Go with the tone.”

Mattsun laughed. “Alright, alright. We have your answers.” He narrowed his already heavy-lidded eyes, making him look positively evil. “But they won’t come free.”

Oikawa sighed heavily. “And Iwa-chan says I have the terrible personality,” he whined.

“Oh, you definitely do. At least we’re honest about how terrible we are,” Mattsun responded happily.

Makki smirked. “You mean, the same Iwa-chan who is about to give his fellow number 4 private lessons in stamina?”

Oikawa groaned. “What do you want?” He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Why did he always walk face-first into Mattsun and Makki’s traps? He was so much smarter than this, than them. It was so unfortunate that they knew his one and only weak spot.

Mattsun and Makki looked insufferably smug. “We want that notebook you’ve been hiding under your arm since we walked in here.”

Oikawa clenched his jaw and narrowed his eyes. These two…

“Request denied,” Oikawa stated.

“Then consider your request denied,” Makki shot back.

“I can find out who this guy is by the end of the day. This school may be large, but I have a vast network.”

“Of girls,” Mattsun added.

“Who may know what his name is,” Makki continued.

“But not who he is,” Mattsun finished.

“And you do?” Oikawa challenged with a raised eyebrow.

Mattsun smirked knowingly. “As well as anyone could after eating lunch with him and his friends for the better part of our third year.”

Oikawa’s mouth gaped open. It was an exceedingly undignified expression, but he felt the occasion called for it. “That’s where you’ve been eating lunch this whole year?”

Makki smirked knowingly. “Number 4 has had his eye on your boy for a while.”

Mattsun nodded. “That’s right. I’d say I’m surprised you didn’t notice, but you had your eyes too firmly focused on Iwaizumi’s firmly-rounded ass all year to take note of a 190cm-tall guy showing up – alone – to all our games.”

“…Cheering every time Iwaizumi made a successful spike or receive.” Makki finished.

Oikawa pouted. “He’s taller than me?”

“By a whole 3 inches,” Mattsun nodded in confirmation.

“That makes him – what – a whole 10cm taller than Iwaizumi?” Makki questioned.

“And gives him twice the height you have on Iwaizumi. After all, 5cm is barely noticeable,” Mattsun agreed.

“I wonder how Iwaizumi feels, looking up at Number 4? I wonder if he feels like he wants to dominate him…” Makki mused.

“…to pull him down by the lapels of that number 4 jersey and --” Makki continued.

Oikawa held up his hand. “Okay, I get the picture. Thank you for that.”

“Any time.” Makki grinned.

Oikawa sighed again. He did that a lot around Mattsun and Makki. “You two have played a long game.”

“Crowning glory of our third year,” Mattsun confirmed.

“We were just waiting for the right time to bring it to its inevitable conclusion,” Makki agreed.

“Found it,” Mattsun finished and held out his hand, palm up. Makki high-fived it. Oikawa sighed again.

“Fine. I can tell when I’ve been outplayed.” He narrowed his eyes at the sight of Makki and Mattsun’s joy. “Don’t get too excited – I’m mostly only conceding as a reward for you guys supporting me and the team so well this past year.”

Makki smirked. “Defence: engaged. Weapon of choice: bluster.”

“Shut up before I change my mind, Makki,” Oikawa grumbled.

Makki reached forward and pulled the notebook out from under Oikawa’s arm. “Too late!” Oikawa glared at him as he and Mattsun turned around in their seats to confer over Oikawa’s guide.

Oikawa rested his head on his hand and stared out the window. There was nothing to be done for it, he figured. Mattsun and Makki always got their way in the end and it wasn’t like Oikawa had anything to be embarrassed about. The guidebook was, ultimately, just another way to destabilise Tobio-chan. Besides, no one could ever accuse him of having any sense of shame.

The hysterical laughter coming from Mattsun and Makki did threaten that equilibrium, though.

“This is…the best…thing…I have ever…read,” Makki gasped around his laughter.

“100 percent worth having lunch three days a week with that insufferable bore of a number 4,” Mattsun agreed, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.

Oikawa sighed again. “Come on, let’s hear it. Get it all out.”

“Salt-master Oikawa, back at it again!” Makki declared happily. “Honestly, Oikawa, your Kageyama complex is a little worrying.”

“I know you’ve watched Frozen. We made you watch it,” Mattsun said emphatically.

“Five times,” Oikawa supplied helpfully.

“Yes! Five times! We thought the snow could counteract all your salt! Or maybe at least blend it all together so you couldn’t tell which was which! They’re both white and grainy, after all,” Makki imparted knowingly.

“You’re not making any sense at all. Salt dissolves snow,” Oikawa muttered.

Mattsun grabbed Oikawa by his shoulders and looked him deep in the eyes. “Did you learn nothing? Did you not learn to let it go? To be one with the wind and sky?”

“I don’t think that’s actually possible…” Oikawa replied wearily.

Mattsun threw his hands up in exasperation. “It was a metaphor! A metaphor!”

Makki crossed his arms and shook his head sadly. “You squandered our carefully thought-out lessons, and how look where that’s gotten you.”

Mattsun copied Makki’s posture. “Sitting alone in a dark class room, not a fangirl or an Iwaizumi in sight, scrawling out salt-notes to your poor, abused son.”

“How dare you! Tobio-chan is not my son. And I don’t scrawl.”

“We are so disappointed in you, Oikawa. What did Kageyama ever do to you?” Makki scolded.

Oikawa raised his eyebrows incredulously. “Um, he beat us. Just last week. You might remember it? Crushing defeat, tears pouring out of your eyes, snot dribbling from your noses.”

“It is the fate of every child to overtake his parent…” Mattsun lectured.

Not his parent.”

“…and every parent should pass on their legacy graciously.”

Oikawa huffed delicately. “When have I ever not been gracious? I am the very picture of grace.”

“How about when you wrote this line: ‘I don’t care how much of a genius Tobio-chan is, did he ever win an award in junior high saying he was the best setter? No. No he did not.’” Makki challenged him.

Oikawa looked away. “I was merely stating fact.”

Mattsun crossed his forearms in front of him in an X-shape. “Logic: rejected. My salt-metre is through the roof.”

Makki nodded in agreement. “On the scale of a pinch of table salt to the Dead Sea, this is Dead Sea. Times 100.”

“And we haven’t even started on the biggest problem with this,” Mattsun said as he shook the notebook in Oikawa’s face.

Oikawa frowned. “How could there be a problem? I am a very accomplished writer, thank you.”

Makki sighed. “It’s not in the writing, Oikawa. It’s in the concept itself.”

Oikawa frowned some more. “Go on.”

“Now, I’m glad you’re sitting down because this might be hard for you to hear, but…” Mattsun inhaled and exhaled deeply. “You’re not actually dating Iwaizumi.”

Oikawa blinked at him blankly. “Yes, I know. And?”

Makki let out a longsuffering sigh. “And this handy little guide is called How To Catch An Ace.”

Oikawa blinked at him again. “Yes, I know. And?”

And,” Mattsun continued emphatically, “You have not yet caught your ace.”

Oikawa blinked again before bursting out with laughter and waving his hand around dismissively. “Oh, that! Semantics.”

Makki cocked his head to one side. “I feel like that word is not being used in the correct context.”

“I mean that it’s only a matter of time, and not a very long amount of time either. One could say that this guide is merely pre-emptive.”

Mattsun snorted derisively. “One could also say that one who thinks these steps will actually work is delusional.”

Oikawa scowled. He detested that he looked more cute than scary when he did, but then that probably wasn’t a bad thing. He had his fans to think of, after all. Wouldn’t want to scare them off! “Of course they’ll work! I am highly offended that you think otherwise.”

Makki rolled his eyes. “Oikawa, how long have you been employing these…tactics, for lack of a better word?”

Oikawa tapped his finger on his chin as he thought back. “Hm…since I realised Iwa-chan belonged with me? About 12 years, why?”

“So you’ve been using these tactics all that time?” Makki prodded.

“More or less,” Oikawa conceded.

“And do you feel like you’ve made sufficient progress in that time?” Mattsun questioned.

Oikawa shrugged. “Enough.” Though that was a lie. Honestly, he’d thought Iwaizumi would have confessed to him by now.

Makki raised an eyebrow at him disbelievingly. “Oikawa, if you keep on this track it’ll be another 12 years before Iwaizumi gets a clue.”

“I take issue with that statement.”

Makki scoffed. “Take issue all you want, it’s the truth.”

Mattsun nodded in agreement. “I think you’re underestimating just how dense Iwaizumi is.”

Oikawa gasped in offense. “I would never underestimate Iwa-chan's denseness! It’s one of my favourite things about him!”

Mattsun rubbed his forehead in frustration. “Okay, okay. Let’s go about it this way. What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish?”

“I want Iwa-chan to fall in love with me,” Oikawa replied immediately.

Makki clapped his hands together excitedly. “Excellent, excellent! So all these ‘tactics’ are to ensure that happens.”

“Correct.”

“So…say they worked. What then?” Mattsun questioned.

Oikawa tilted his head to the side in thought. “Well, Iwa-chan would confess, of course.”

“And because he hasn’t you think he doesn’t love you yet, correct?” Mattsun clarified.

“Yes…” Oikawa replied slowly, wondering where they were going with this.

“What if Iwaizumi was already in love with you. Had been for a long time,” Makki said.

Oikawa gulped and his heart sped up. If only that were true. “Then I would ask why he hasn’t confessed yet.”

Mattsun and Makki exchanged glances again, but this time they were excited. “What if,” Mattsun started to say. “What if he hasn’t confessed because he doesn’t know you love him back.”

Oikawa’s mouth gaped open. What? No, impossible. How could he not know, after everything I do and say. He’s dense as a brick sometimes, to be sure, but surely he’s not that dense. Besides, he’s usually so attuned to what I’m feeling.

Makki chuckled. “Your dumbstruck expression – it makes you look like an idiot, by the way – says you don’t get it. Perhaps you’re thinking ‘But how could he not know when he knows everything else about me before I even say it?’ That’s a valid question. Shall we enlighten him, Matsukawa?”

“Yes, lets. This is fun. I’ve never seen Oikawa so speechless for so long before.”

“Okay, so,” Makki began. “Yes, Iwaizumi tends to know every little thing about you, often before you even know it yourself. But that’s only when it pertains to you, not to himself. So, he knows when you’ve overworked yourself, when you’re feeling down about something, when you’re stressed about an upcoming game, etc. etc. etc.”

But,” Mattsun continued animatedly. “Iwaizumi’s lack of self-awareness trumps his awareness of you. As well all know, one of Iwaizumi’s best traits is that he doesn’t know how great of a guy he is, how good he is at volleyball and, well, pretty much every other sport, how attractive he is to the opposite sex…”

“…and the same one,” Makki added with a sly grin.

Oikawa pouted. “Don’t remind me.”

Mattsun smirked. “Our point is; he could never fathom a scenario in which you are in love with him.”

Oikawa struggled to wrap his head around this concept, a first for him. “But…in which scenario would I not be?”

Makki sighed, but it was with a smile. “And that’s why we root for you two, in our own way, because despite the fact that Iwaizumi is way too good for you…”

Oikawa scowled again. “I know that.”

Mattsun laughed happily. “See? The only area in your life you lack that annoying self-confidence is with Iwaizumi. It’s so refreshing.”

So refreshing,” Makki agreed.

“Your point?” Oikawa said on a glare.

“Our point is you’re both stupid when it comes to each other,” Mattsun imparted sagaciously. “Neither of you can fathom a scenario in which the other reciprocates. It’s actually hilarious.”

“I’ve been laughing at you guys for three years,” Makki added seriously, nodding.

“So let me get this right,” Oikawa clarified. “You’re saying that Iwa-chan has been in love with me this whole time and the only reason he hasn’t confessed is because he doesn’t think I love him back?”

“Give the man a prize!” Mattsun crowed.

“Especially since he missed out on nationals again,” Makki added.

Oikawa gasped.

“Too soon, Hanamaki. Too soon,” Mattsun scolded.

Makki cleared his throat. “My apologies. Back to topic.”

“Yes,” Mattsun said pointedly and then turned back to Oikawa with a smile. “So, Oikawa, now that you know Iwaizumi feels the same way, why don’t you just throw out this, frankly, idiotic guide and tell him how you feel?”

Oikawa raised an eyebrow at them. “Tell him how I feel? Just like that?”

Makki shrugged. “Well…yeah.”

Oikawa blinked at them then narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “And how did that work out for you two?”

Mattsun and Makki blinked at Oikawa. “Huh?” They said simultaneously. Then they looked at each other, blinked, then looked back at Oikawa and blinked again. “Huh?”

Oikawa face-palmed. Actually took his palm and put it on his face. Then he added the other hand because he felt the situation called for it. “I’m surrounded by imbeciles.”

“What are you talking about?” Mattsun questioned, highly suspicious.

“Yeah, Oikawa. What are you talking about?” Makki added, equally suspicious.

Oikawa hummed happily. “Oh, nothing!” he sang cheerfully and snatched his notebook back from Mattsun. “I was just thinking about how much I enjoy irony.”

Mattsun and Makki both narrowed their eyes at him and opened their mouths to question him further, but the bell rang shrilly, signalling the end of lunch.

“Ah, saved by the bell! How cliché!” Oikawa mused happily as he collected his rubbish and stuffed the notebook in his bag. He did so love when tables were turned.

“Stop being happy,” Mattsun said as he followed Oikawa out the door and into the hallway.

“Yeah, you’re creepy when you’re happy. Makes me feel like something bad is about to happen,” Makki shuddered as Oikawa hummed even louder.

“Don’t be silly!” Oikawa laughed and waved his hand dismissively. “Nothing bad is going to happen! In fact, I’d bet that nothing at all is going to happen. Not for a few years, at least.”

“What’s he talking about?” he heard Mattsun whisper to Makki behind him.

“I don’t know, but I don’t like it,” he heard Makki reply.

“Hmm…yes. Three years should do it. Fair’s fair,” Oikawa mused to himself, but loud enough for Makki and Mattsun to hear. He smiled when he heard their furious whispers to each other in response. Ah, revenge. How sweet you taste.


 

Oikawa and Iwaizumi were walking home that evening, as per usual. Oikawa was strangely silently, which was not at all his usual. But he just couldn’t get Mattsun and Makki’s words out of his head.

Just tell him.

Oikawa scoffed. As if it were that easy.

But then, what if it was?

Oikawa looked at Iwaizumi, who was walking alongside him, not looking at all bothered by the silence. In fact, he was looking down at his phone smiling. Oikawa scowled.

“Who’s that?”

“Huh?” Iwaizumi grunted without looking up as he wrote out a text.

“Who are you texting, Iwa-chan?” Oikawa tried to make his voice sound light, but Iwaizumi knew him too well. He looked up at Oikawa, eyebrow raised in question.

“What? I’m just curious, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa whined. “You hardly ever text anyone.”

“Except you.”

Oikawa beamed. “Except me.”

“Because you text me at least fifty times a day.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. It couldn’t possibly be more than twenty-five.”

“And then you call me if I don’t reply fast enough.”

“I’m just worried something might have happened to you, Iwa-chan!”

Iwaizumi raised his other eyebrow. “In three minutes?”

Oikawa huffed. “Cars travel very fast, you know, and look at you – walking and texting and not even looking where you’re going. You’re lucky I care so much.”

“And how about when I’m in bed. Asleep.”

“Spontaneous asphyxiation?”

Iwaizumi’s eyebrows went higher. Oikawa tried again.

“Heart attack?”

“At the age of 17?”

“It’s been known to happen,” Oikawa argued.

Iwaizumi scoffed. “Name one instance.”

Oikawa waved his hand dismissively. “Never mind that. You still haven’t answered my question.”

Iwaizumi sighed in defeat. He did that a lot. Then he looked back down at his phone and resumed typing. “No one, just some guy from the basketball team. He wants to meet up for practice some time.”

Oikawa’s scowl returned, deeper and darker than before. His fist twisted around his shoulder strap. “Oh? Number 4?”

Iwaizumi looked up at Oikawa in alarm. “How’d you know his jersey number? And what’s with that face? You look like you’re constipated.”

Oikawa immediately manoeuvred his face into a pout. That was why he didn’t scowl.

Just tell him.

Oikawa pouted harder. Maybe it was worth a try. He had nothing to lose as long as Inferior Number 4 continued to be so thirsty. How uncouth of Mr Basketball to be so desperate.

Oikawa paused briefly and thought about the applications of that thought, but quickly moved on. It was hardly hypocrisy – comparing himself with Inferior Number 4 was like comparing a butterfly to a worm. The same rules didn’t apply.

“Say, Iwa-chan…” Oikawa began.

“Yes…” Iwaizumi answered, sounding suspicious.

“Why do you sound so suspicious, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa whined.

“Because you’re a suspicious guy,” Iwaizumi answered immediately.

Oikawa gasped. “Iwa-chan, what have I ever done to deserve such a reputation?”

Iwaizumi looked at him blankly. “How long do you have?”

“Mean!”

Iwaizumi sighed. “Pretty much everything you say following such a considering tone turns out badly for me in some way.”

Oikawa smiled to himself. What a thing to say at a time like this.

They walked on in silence.

“So?” Iwaizumi asked some time later.

Oikawa looked at Iwaizumi in surprised. “So, what?”

“So aren’t you going to tell me?”

Oikawa cocked his head to the side. “I thought you didn’t want to hear it, Iwa-chan.”

One side of Iwaizumi’s mouth lifted in a small smile. “I never said that.”

Direct hit. Victim is in critical condition.

And the hell of it was Iwaizumi seemed to have no idea – no idea – of the effect he had on Oikawa.

I guess Mattsun and Makki were right after all. I’ll have to thank them never.

“How do you feel about Canada?” Oikawa asked cheerfully.

Iwaizumi’s jaw dropped. “Huh?”

“You know, Canada! Part of the North American continent. Friendly people, so I’ve heard. Very tolerant.”

“Where the fuck did that come from?” Iwaizumi asked incredulously. “Don’t tell me your latest idea for a graduation trip is going all the way to Canada. How the fuck does your brain work to make a leap from hot springs up north to Canada?”

“Language, Iwa-chan!” Oikawa hummed.

“Shut up, Shittykawa!” Iwaizumi yelled and then mumbled ‘Canada? Fucking Canada?’ to himself.

Oikawa chuckled at Iwaizumi’s confusion. He was so cute when he didn’t know what was going on. Maybe Canada is too big to start with. Poor overwhelmed Iwaizumi.

“Okay, not Canada. How about…dinner next week?”

Iwaizumi stopped mumbling ‘Canada’ to himself and looked at Oikawa in confusion. “What about it?”

Oikawa beamed at him, desperately trying to compensate for his nerves. “Do you want to? Have dinner. With me.”

Iwaizumi’s brow creased in confusion. “Um…yes? Sure, I guess.”

Oikawa’s smile brightened and he clasped his hands together in excitement. “Great! Then it’s a date!”

Iwaizumi stopped walking. “What?”

Oikawa turned around with a smile. Ah, poor perplexed Iwaizumi. He really was too cute. “Problem?” Oikawa questioned brightly.

Iwaizumi cleared his throat awkwardly, his face bright red. “When you say date, you just mean, like, because it’s set on a particular date, right?”

Oikawa’s grin widened. “No, no! I mean an actual date, Iwa-chan!”

Iwaizumi’s jaw dropped for a second time. “What?”

Oikawa laughed, grabbed Iwaizumi’s wrist and started tugging him forward. “Now, now, Iwa-chan. You’ve already said yes. You can’t back out.”

Iwaizumi pulled his arm from Oikawa’s grasp and stopped walking once again. “But…I don’t…I mean…why?”

As Oikawa stood there, in the middle of the deserted residential street, looking down at Iwaizumi, he felt as though his heart would burst out of his chest, all the feelings it held for this man in front of him too much to bear. He looked so lost and confused and panicked and it strangely made Oikawa want to cry, so he stepped forward until he was up close and tipped Iwaizumi’s chin up so he was looking directly into Oikawa’s eyes, so he knew Oikawa wasn’t joking. So he knew Oikawa meant every word he was about to say.

“Because I love you, Hajime.”

Tears sprang into Iwaizumi’s eyes before he quickly blinked them away and turned his face from Oikawa. He hastily stepping back, creating distance Oikawa didn’t want. Now he’d finally said it he just wanted to hug Iwaizumi to him, hold him in the way he’d always wanted.

“Shut up, Oikawa. Stop joking around,” Iwaizumi grumbled through a choked up throat.

“I’m not joking,” Oikawa replied calmly. “You know I’m not joking.”

“Shit. You’re using your serious voice.” Iwaizumi laughed bitterly. “You only use that for volleyball.”

“Now I’m using it for you.”

Iwaizumi looked at him. “You really love me, don’t you?”

Oikawa smiled – one of his rare genuine ones, one of the ones that wasn’t hiding or planning anything. “Yes.”

“Fuck,” Iwaizumi blurted.

Oikawa laughed. “I’d like that one day, Iwa-chan, but I was thinking we could take it slow for now.”

Iwaizumi laughed, but it sounded like he was about to cry. “Shut up, idiot.” He blushed and buried his face in his hands. “I can’t believe I’m in love with an idiot like you. What the hell is wrong with me?”

Oikawa blinked rapidly and stood to attention as his heart pounded rapidly in his chest. “What did you just say?”

Iwaizumi blinked at him. “You’re an idiot?”

“No, after that,” Oikawa prompted softly, his stomach churning with anxiety. Say it, say it.

Iwaizumi smiled, a knowing little half-smile that did crazy things to Oikawa’s insides. Then he walked up to Oikawa, grabbed the lapels of his shirt, pulled him down and kissed him hard.

Oikawa was still reeling from the feel of his lips against Iwaizumi’s – finally – when Iwaizumi pulled back, smiled up at Oikawa with teeth and everything, and said, “I love you too, Tooru.”

Oikawa’s face broke out into the biggest and brightest smile he’d ever smiled. “Iwa-chan!” he cried and hugged Iwaizumi to him, buried his face in his neck.

Iwaizumi squirmed. “Get off me, Trashykawa! You’re suffocating me.”

“No!” Oikawa replied stubbornly as he squeezed harder, but abruptly flew off with a yelp when Iwaizumi poked him in the ribs.

“Ow! So mean, Iwa-chan! Is this how you treat the person you love?”

Iwaizumi scoffed. “Considering I’ve been treating you this way for the past 5 years? Yes.”

Oikawa gaped at him. “You’ve loved me for 5 years?”

Iwaizumi blushed and looked off to the side. “I guess.”

Oikawa grinned. “I beat you, Iwa-chan! I’ve loved you for 12!”

Iwaizumi’s head whipped back around so he could stare at Oikawa incredulously. “Dumbass! You can’t fall in love with someone when you’re 5!”

Oikawa grinned again, but it was darker this time. He stalked towards Iwaizumi until Iwaizumi’s back was flush against the nearest wall. “But I have. Shall I show you what 12 years’ worth of love looks like?”

Iwaizumi’s narrowed his eyes, grabbed Oikawa’s shoulders and quickly switched their positions. He leaned forward, as though he was about to kiss Oikawa again, but stopped when their lips were a mere centimetre apart.

“But I thought you wanted to take it slow for now,” he whispered and pushed off the wall, leaving Oikawa collapsed against it, more stunned and turned on than he could ever remember being in his life.

Iwaizumi smirked at him and resumed walking. He paused after a few paces and turned back to Oikawa, who was still slouched against the wall trying to catch his breath.

“Oh, and Oikawa? When we do fuck, I’m going to be on top.”

That evening Oikawa learned what it felt like to walk two miles with a hard on.


 

Epilogue

Kageyama Tobio looked at the notebook before him in utter confusion. How To Catch An Ace? Written by Oikawa-san? But why would I want to catch an ace? I already have one.

Nevertheless, Oikawa-san had obviously taken the time to write this so Kageyama felt the least he could do was read it. He felt a little bad that he’d denied Oikawa his last chance to take on Shiratorizawa in high school, but he mostly felt happy. When he’d told Daichi-san that, Daichi-san had patted him on the head and said he was just glad Kageyama felt bad at all because it showed ‘maturity’, even if it was overwhelmed by feelings of triumph.

The guide didn’t really make much sense to Kageyama. It mostly just seemed like Oikawa-san was complaining about how much Iwaizumi-san didn’t like him, which anyone with two eyes could plainly see wasn’t the case. Iwaizumi-san obviously cared deeply about Oikawa-san if he’d stuck around him for so long. Oikawa-san was the worst.

It also seemed as though Oikawa-san meant for him to apply these steps to Hinata because, apparently, he looked at Hinata in some way that made Oikawa-san think Kageyama liked him. Kageyama scoffed. He didn’t even like Hinata normally, much less in the other way. And the only way he looked at Hinata was with annoyance, or frustration when he stuffed up (which was all the time) or, sometimes, happiness when they made a spike. That was it though. Besides, even if Kageyama had wanted to, none of these things would have worked anyway. Hinata was beyond dense – he was the biggest dumbass that had ever walked the planet as far as Kageyama was concerned. He smiled fondly at the thought.

Well, if he was going to be generous he supposed the first step had merit but only because it was about volleyball and, as Oikawa-san had written, Kageyama already had that one covered. Not that it was difficult. Hinata was pretty much useless all around. Sure, he’d worked really hard and they’d managed to advance really far, but most of his basics were still at elementary level.

Along with his height. Kageyama snickered. He’d have to remember that one.

Kageyama didn’t understand the second step. Why would he want more of Hinata’s attention? He already had plenty of it. And what sharks? Kageyama thought for a few moments. He supposed Dateko’s Aone could be considered a shark – he seemed to be quite fond of Hinata. Not that it mattered, because it wasn’t like Aone could set to Hinata. Kageyama was the only one who could do that. He liked that thought.

Kageyama was thoroughly confounded by the time he read through the third step. He didn’t understand how getting a girlfriend would help matters. Wouldn’t that just convince the other person that he didn’t love them? For someone so smart, Oikawa-san really was stupid sometimes. The thought warmed Kageyama’s heart.

Kageyama was just about to give up on the perplexing guide when he turned the page and saw the next step.

Step 4 – Tell him how you feel

There was nothing else written about it. Kageyama flicked through the rest of the pages to be sure, but there was nothing. He scowled at it. What was the point of writing a step if you weren’t going to explain it? Then he scowled some more, this time in deep thought.

Maybe that was the point Oikawa-san was trying to make. Maybe it was really just that simple.

A little smile broke out on Kageyama’s face. Interesting.