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It's Only a Paper Moon

Chapter Text

“Hey, Oikawa, you’re not seeing anyone at the moment, right?”

Oikawa returned Hanamaki’s smirk with a flat stare, slowly looking up from his lunch. “What, are you volunteering to fix that?” he drawled. “Makki, you’re cute but I’m not interested in your skinny ass.”

The cafeteria buzzed around them with the soft noise of people eating and chattering, welcoming a break from their work at Irihata Family Law. Some brought their own food, others were more than content to take their pick from the company menu. Oikawa belonged to the latter, a half-full tray sitting in front of him.

“Oi, Mattsun, you hear that? Oikawa called my ass skinny!” Hanamaki shouted to a table behind them. “You gonna let him get away with that?”

“I can beat him up for you after work, babe,” Matsukawa said, barely pausing between bites as he was far more interested in lunch than protecting his boyfriend from any unflattering comments from Oikawa.

Oikawa sighed and rested his chin in the palm of his hand. “What do you want, Makki?”

The smirk on Hanamaki’s face widened. “Just wondering if you are interested in taking a friend of mine around the city. Maybe take her out to dinner, whatever it is you do to impress people on dates. She’s only back in Japan for a while becau-”

“Let me get this straight,” Oikawa said, massaging his temples, “you want me to take some random girl out on a blind date?”

“Not just any random girl! Honestly, she’s much better than you deserve.”

“Oohh?” Oikawa purred. “You must hate her then, to set her up with the likes of me.” He was fully aware of his reputation as a superficial flirt, hopping from one short-lived relationship to the next. A little unfair; he didn’t burn through that many people.

Hanamaki glared at him. “Shut up. Anyway, she’ll only be here for two months befo-”

“Makki, I’m not interested in a blind date. No, please don’t,” Oikawa said, interrupting Hanamaki before he had a chance to protest, “don’t make me eat lunch at my desk just to avoid you.”

“One, stop cutting me off. Two, your loss,” Hanamaki said, holding up his hands in defeat. He slunk back to the other table, plopping down next to Matsukawa.

Poking at his food, Oikawa glared at Hanamaki for putting him off his meal. Usually they got along fine, even the sharpest banter only a sign of comfortable friendship. However, this time the exchange left him with a sour aftertaste in his mouth. He forced down the remainder of his lunch, then headed back to the workroom long before their break was over.

His reputation as the office flirt? Didn’t bother him. He loved playful banter and teasing his colleagues too much for that. But to set him up with an obvious fling just to keep a girl busy for a month or two? No thank you.

Sure, ever since he reached his twenties, every single relationship had fizzled out quickly. And sure, true enough, he never mourned them long (he kept convincing himself this one will be different, they never were) but he had zero interest in being used for entertainment.

Oikawa reached the office, where the cause of most of his troubles frowned at him.

“You’re back early.”

“Aa~ahh, Iwa-chan, don’t give me that look!” Oikawa sent his coworker and former college roommate a cheeky smile and sat down at the desk opposite of him. His light-hearted expression did nothing to soften Iwaizumi’s disposition. With a flippant sigh, Oikawa logged into his computer account and opened up the current case file.

Iwaizumi rose an eyebrow at that. “You do realise our break isn’t over for another fifteen minutes, right? Take it easy. Don’t make me kick your ass just because you overworked yourself again.”

A twitch of annoyance shot through Oikawa, but he responded airily. “That’s a little unfair, Iwa-chan. You’ve been working through half your breaks lately. Don’t take out the stress on me~”

Iwaizumi simply shrugged and finished his meal, apparently not in the mood for an argument. Or perhaps unwilling to acknowledge Oikawa’s point. After all, he never even left the office for lunch. The sound of soft crunches as he bit into an apple filled the otherwise quiet room.

Oikawa pretended not to sneak glances while Iwaizumi ate. This never should have happened. Iwaizumi Hajime was not a refined man. Not at all Oikawa’s type, with his gruff demeanour and lack of subtlety.

So, how in the world had this happened?

After they became roommates in law school, it had taken Oikawa a grand total of two weeks to fall for Iwaizumi like a particularly heavy brick. But it never led to anything, which was... fine. Most of the time. Usually, Oikawa was quite capable of keeping his feelings under control. Just a stubborn silly crush, after all.

However, a while back Iwaizumi and his girlfriend had broken up, plummeting Oikawa down a dangerous spiral.

As long as Iwaizumi was committed to someone else, that was it. No use in speculating over meaningless what-ifs. Iwaizumi was taken and that’s the end of it. Easy.

Now he sat in front of Oikawa, available and yet he might as well be on another planet for all the difference it made.

Five minutes before the end of their break, the new intern returned to the office. Kindaichi still acted like a nervous mess, wiping his hands on his pants when he thought people were not looking, but he was a hard worker and eager to please.

“Ah, Oikawa-san, Iwaizumi-san, should I get some coffee? We’ve emptied the pot, right?” he said, his words tumbling out too quickly, his smile too forced. Just a touch, but enough to give away his anxiety.

Iwaizumi frowned at Kindaichi. “You know you don’t have to, right? You might be an intern, but that doesn’t mean it’s your job to do menial stuff like making us coffee.” He spoke in a calm voice, and while he intended to reassure Kindaichi, the young man just flushed and stood a little straighter.

“No, sir. I mean yes, sir!”

Iwaizumi flushed at the formality. “And it’s fine to drop the ‘sir’, too!” he said, his calm rapidly fading away.

The continuous misguided attempts to put the kid at ease made Oikawa roll his eyes. “Ahh, Kindaichi-kun~” he said, putting on his most winning smile. “I’d love some more coffee. Could you get cookies, too? I think we deserve some with all the hard work we’ve been doing.”

“Ah, yes of course!”

With that, Kindaichi disappeared from the office and Oikawa gave Iwaizumi a pointed look. “Iwa-chan, you’re too hard on the boy.”

He bristled at the accusation. “I’m too hard on him? Who’s the one making him get coffee! And snacks!”

Oikawa shrugged and leaned back in his chair, his hands behind his head. Iwaizumi truly could be oblivious. “It helps him feel more comfortable in the office. I think he likes having little tasks to do, even if they’re menial. If it makes him happy, what’s the harm? Besides,” he added with a sound that crossed between a laugh and a scoff, “how is it not part of being an intern? Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten all the endless coffee runs we had to do!”

Before Iwaizumi could retort, Hanamaki sauntered into the office, exactly on time for the end of lunch break. He flopped down in his chair and swivelled around. Slowly he came to a halt, pinning down Oikawa with a meaningful stare. “Soooo...”

“Don’t even start,” Oikawa said, glaring back at him.

He shrugged and turned his chair a little further, facing Iwaizumi instead. The corners of his lips curled up into a smirk just as Iwaizumi’s eyebrow rose.

“Makki, what are you up to?”

“Nothing! Damn, do all my co-workers have trust issues?”

“Only when you’re involved,” Oikawa said, not even looking up from his computer screen as he read through an old witness statement.

Hanamaki’s grin only widened. “I swear, there’s nothing shady going on. Just want to set up a dear friend of mine with a respectable colleague I can trust.”

“And you went to him first?” Iwaizumi snorted and pointed at Oikawa, who made a non-committal ‘that’s fair’ noise. “Not interested, sorry.”

“You don’t even want to hear about her?” Hanamaki slid his chair closer to Iwaizumi, ignoring the little squeak of the wheels. “Seriously, she’s awesome and only back in the country for a while. It’d be great if someone cou-”


“Come ooonn, you haven’t been back in the field since it ended with Kiyoko, right? It’s time! Spread your wings!”

Iwaizumi just scowled at him.

“Makki, I’d give up if I were you,” Oikawa drawled. “It’s not like Iwa-chan even knows how to have fun. There’s no way he’ll agree to this and even if he does, the girl will be miserable.”

A silence fell in the room as Iwaizumi redirected his glare at Oikawa. Poor Kindaichi cheerfully burst into the room with hot coffee and a roll of cookies, right into the crossfire. “Freshly made coffee, Oikawa-san!”

Kindaichi blinked at the realisation that he interrupted something, his smile twitching nervously. He hesitated to walk inside, as though he might cut himself on Iwaizumi’s sharp look if he stepped between him and Oikawa. On the other hand, Oikawa’s smile feigned an easygoing innocence. Truly, out of all the people in the law firm, Iwaizumi always was the most fun to rile up.

Eyes narrowing, Iwaizumi finally turned away and faced Hanamaki instead. “Fine.”


“Fine. I’ll do it. I’ll go out with your friend.”

Disbelief slowly transformed into a huge grin, and Hanamaki laughed as he clapped Iwaizumi on the back. “Awesome! I promise you won’t regret it!”

Oikawa winked at Hanamaki, ignoring the twinge in his chest. Predictable to a fault. He stayed silent while Kindaichi poured coffee, who finally relaxed now he had a clear-cut job to do. Quietly, Oikawa listened to Hanamaki ensuring Iwaizumi he’d arrange the time and place, “just let me know what days work for you, okay?”

This was a good thing, right?

If fate chose to be kind, this could be the end of Iwaizumi’s availability (he was never the type for short-lived flings, and two months gave him more than enough to wrap Hanamaki’s friend or whatever around his finger with that surly charm of his), and thus end Oikawa’s endless self-agonising over what would never be.

Oikawa continued to convince himself of this inevitably good outcome of the situation as he read the case file, but the words blurred before his eyes and he quickly took a big sip from the fresh coffee. He almost burnt his tongue, but it was more than worth the caffeine hit that shook up his brain. Putting all focus on work, he ignored Kindaichi asking what’s going on and zoned out when Hanamaki proudly explained that he got Iwaizumi a date with the coolest chick in the world.

Yeah, absolutely a good thing.

If he just hung in there until Iwaizumi settled in a relationship again, Oikawa could finally admit to himself that his feelings were stuck on a dead end and he needed to move on. He could totally do that.

This’d be fine.

“How was your day, babe?” Matsukawa asked when Hanamaki came up from behind and wrapped his arms around him. He closed his eyes and exhaled softly as Hanamaki nuzzled his neck, their hands finding each other. “Did you manage to talk Oikawa into that date?”

They were the only ones left in the workroom; Yahaba and Kyoutani had left earlier, and Kunimi never stayed a minute longer than strictly necessary, unwilling to spend more than the barest minimum on his internship.

Hanamaki let out a tired groan against Matsukawa’s skin. “Actually, it’ll be Iwaizumi.”

Frowning, Matsukawa turned around. “Seriously? How did you manage that?” His brow furrowed deeper when Hanamaki simply shrugged. “Hey, what’s wrong? You got her a date, that’s a good thing, right?”

“Yeah but... it’s just, nobody even let me finish my pitch,” Hanamaki muttered, pushing his forehead into Matsukawa’s shoulder.

Matsukawa chuckled, but angled his head to press a soft kiss on the side of Hanamaki’s head. “What? After all those times I had to listen to you practise it? I really ought to kick their asses one of these days, with all the hardship they put you through.” Empty threats as always, if only because they both knew Matsukawa could never take Iwaizumi.

“You really should.” A short pause. “But wait until after Iwaizumi’s date. I put too much effort into making that happen.”

“Whatever you want, Takahiro. Come, let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

Iwaizumi wiped his hands on his trousers before bringing them up to the collar of his shirt to fiddle with the buttons. Too formal, he thought, undoing the top button. Ah wait, did he look too casual now? He quickly closed it up again. But dammit, now his breathing got too tight! For fuck’s sake, what was his body thinking, turning on him now of all nights!

Cursing himself for arriving too early, Iwaizumi pulled at his clothes again—until he realised how anxious and ridiculous he must look to outsiders. He forced his hands away from himself, instead occupying them by readjusting the book that lay on the table, brought for easy identification.

His head shot up every time the door to the restaurant opened, only to grunt and look away whenever it failed to be a woman matching Hanamaki’s description. A waiter gave him a sympathetic look and asked if he wanted to order, but Iwaizumi declined. You weren’t late yet, you still had time.

That did not stop Iwaizumi from slowly dreading that you pulled the infamous ‘peeked through the window and ran away screaming’-deal on him, a beloved stereotype of blind dates. But, before he could psych himself out entirely, a young woman with a small notebook tucked underneath her arm walked inside. No doubt about it; this had to be you.

You brought the specified book, matched the overall description. Though you seemed a little apprehensive, a smile still appeared when you locked eyes with Iwaizumi. He tried to swallow the small rock lodged in his throat as you walked over to him, but the effort was futile. Of course Hanamaki had spoken about you with nothing but praise, but when Makki’s involved, it had been safer to assume he oversold you.

As it turned out, he definitely had not.

If anything, you stood far more radiant than Hanamaki made you out to be. Your dress was on the fancy side and flattered your body, with a neckline low enough for a hint of a tease while remaining classy. Some nerves showed on your face, but warmth shone through your smile along with a sense of anticipation. Iwaizumi thanked his excellent self-control for stopping him from gaping.

“Iwaizumi Hajime?”

You stood in front of him, one hand clutching your notebook, the other tucking a strand of hair behind your ear.

He stumbled as he stood upright, almost knocking his knees against the table—of all the moments to feel awkward in his own body again, dammit. However, your smile widened as you exhaled and some of the tension drained out of your shoulders. It was a small comfort to Iwaizumi that at least one person between the two of you seemed to relax.

His voice came out gruffer than intended when he said your name in a questioning tone. He winced at his own unfriendliness, but you grinned and just shook his hand. “That’s me!”

Iwaizumi couldn’t suppress a jolt at the unexpected handshake rather than a bow, but after the initial startle faded away he noticed the callus on your hands, combined with a firm grip. The surprise must have shown on his face, because your eyes widened and you snatched your hand back.

“Aahh sorry, sometimes I forget I’m back home again!” Flustered, you bowed lightly. “Shaking off American habits is harder than I thought it’d be.”

“Don’t- don’t worry about it,” Iwaizumi said, and held your chair out for you.

His chivalrous gesture made you chuckle. “Such a gentleman! I can’t believe Makki has friends this polite.” The corner of your mouth curled upward when Iwaizumi turned red. Quickly he sat down and cleared his throat, again tugging at his collar. Breathe!

A moment of silence stretched between you, Iwaizumi fighting to steady his nerves while you studied him curiously.

Quietly he scolded himself. Really, there was no good reason for all this anxiety. Expectations were practically non-existent; you wouldn’t even be in the country for long! No expectations, except to make sure you did not have a horrible time tonight. The barest of minimums.

...which meant he really should break this silence soon.

Iwaizumi swallowed thickly and forced himself to make eye-contact with you. “You look really good,” he said, and instantly want to kick himself. Great job, Iwaizumi, shallow observations definitely were the way to go instead of showing interest in you as a person! “Uhm, I mean-” he started to correct himself, but you broke out into a wide smile.

“Oh good, I was so worried about being overdressed! Makki helped me pick out the dress and it wouldn’t be the first time he went completely overboard.” A glint appeared in your eyes, a mischievous spark that carried such an uncanny resemblance to Hanamaki that Iwaizumi wondered if you weren’t secretly related after all. “You don’t look too bad either.”

He felt the blush creep up his ears and roughly cleared his throat. Okay, time to smoothly change the subject. “Thanks. So, Hanamaki said you’re only back in Japan for a while? Where do you work?”

Nailed it.

Or so he thought, until you frowned.

For one long moment Iwaizumi knew deep in his soul that he had stepped on a conversational landmine and this basically marked the early end of their date, doomed long before it ever had the chance to properly get off the ground. Shit, was your work a sensitive topic? Damn Makki for not warning him!

“Wait, wait,” you said, holding up your hands, “Makki didn’t tell you about my job?”

“No, should he have?”

A giggle escaped your lips, a light sound that put him at ease. The date had not suffered a premature end after all. “No no, it’s just,” you paused, an abashed smile on your face, “Makki kept saying he’d use it as his ‘big selling point’, so I’m just surprised you don’t know already.” Before you could clarify, the waiter brought menus and took orders for drinks. When he left again, Iwaizumi still regarded you with curiosity.

“Uhm, is it alright to ask what you do, then?” He couldn’t help but wonder now—and when your cheeks flushed red, once again Iwaizumi held the firm belief it was something embarrassing and he definitely should not have asked.

Then you moved past your fluster and turned on a grin instead. “Well, you see, my work is pretty awesome.” You dropped a meaningful pause of suspense, grin widening. “You could even say it’s... out of this world.”

A strange atmosphere settled over the table as you chuckled at your little private joke, while Iwaizumi frowned (and ignored how your small laugh made his stomach jump). What- what did that mean? Silence fell as he tried and failed to comprehend what secret knowledge you had imparted on him with that ambiguous comment.

You coughed as you took in the awkward moment you had created, cheeks burning but quickly moving the conversation along. “I work for NASA.”

Iwaizumi’s eyes widened as he stared at you in disbelief. The dots connected and realisation hit him like a punch in the gut. “Wait, are- are you-?”

You grinned sheepishly. “A couple of months from now, I’ll be on the International Space Station.”

This time the fight against Iwaizumi’s urge to gape was utterly futile. The information slowly sank into his brain; he sat in front of a real life astronaut? Someone who’d go into actual space? For a moment his thoughts jumped to Oikawa, and how he’d kick himself once he got wind of this. Oikawa’s obsession with everything related to space was nothing if not notorious around the office. Then Iwaizumi grimaced inwardly and told himself not to think about his friend during a date. “That’s... amazing,” he said. God, was that the most interesting response he could muster up? Lame.

You rubbed the back of your head, radiating self-consciousness. “Now I kind of wish Makki told you already. It’s really not a big deal, I’m pretty normal.”

Even ignoring your occupation, Iwaizumi had a hard time believing that. You seemed interesting enough on your own. He told you so and you laughed again, though a sheepish edge remained. “But we don’t have to talk about your work,” Iwaizumi said, hoping to steer the conversation into subjects in closer range of your comfort zone. “What do you want to do while you’re here? In Japan, I mean.”

Your eyes lit up and Iwaizumi instantly knew he struck conversational gold. Favourite restaurants, zoos, parks, the beach; an endless list of locations to go. At your prompting, Iwaizumi told you about the things he’d want to do if he left Japan for an extended period of time, like visiting the lake where his dad taught him how to fish and the theme park he used to go as a kid. You listened so intently it threatened to make him blush again.

“Wait, do you mind if I write some of these down?” you asked, gesturing at the notebook you had brought. “This is good stuff!”

“Uhm, sure.”

Iwaizumi realised with a start that somewhere along the line, he had relaxed completely. Your voice was animated and almost hypnotising, and reminiscing about fond memories made him feel at ease. He found out Makki and you were childhood friends when you told him about play-dates at the zoo. He also noted you did not mention family at all for your plans in Japan but to pry felt rude, especially on a first date.

At least he hoped this’d be the first, and not the only date. Iwaizumi inwardly cursed himself for this turn of thought. Absolutely no use in worrying about that now. Way too soon for that. Just stay relaxed and see how it turns out.

The meal came and went. Iwaizumi barely remembered what he ate, but it must have been good because he did recall the little noises of contentment you made while eating.

When the waiter asked about dessert, a meaningful look was exchanged. You grimaced as you rubbed your stomach. “I’d love some but I ate so much already,” you lamented. “But Mattsun wouldn’t stop talking about the chocolate cake here. Urgghh..”

Some might have considered your conflicted noise to be unrefined, but it just made Iwaizumi smile to see you so intense about something as simple as dessert. “I’m fine with sharing if you are,” he blurted out before thinking the offer through, before remembering that some people considered sharing food to be quite intimate. To his relief, a smile broke out on your face, a smile that he grew fond of at an alarming rate.

“Great, let’s do it!”

With one small plate and a fork each, Iwaizumi purposefully ate slowly, encouraging you to have as much as you wanted. He had the feeling you saw through his little scheme, only taking tiny bites and often pausing just to saviour the delicious taste, though you did accept his offer to take the strawberry. Meanwhile Iwaizumi managed to draw embarrassing childhood stories starring Hanamaki out of you, giving him some great ammunition for the office.

The dessert was long gone but neither of you made a move to leave the restaurant until Iwaizumi sheepishly realised it was almost empty. After a short discussion over the bill (Iwaizumi’s father raised him a proper gentleman, versus you insisting it was outdated nonsense for a man to pay for everything), you grinned in satisfaction as you paid your half of the bill.

Outside it started to get chilly, but both of you had brought light jackets to amend the issue. Iwaizumi put his hands in his pockets, trying to ignore your hand swinging lightly next to him. Honestly, it was like he’d been thrust straight back into high school, an awkward kid who didn’t know how to handle himself around a girl as endearing as you. Embarrassing.

A silence settled between you as he walked you to the train station. The lull leaned against relaxation but fell just short, a light strain injected into the mood. Nothing to ruin the evening, but enough to make Iwaizumi’s nerves flare up again as you strolled to the station. You had insisted he did not need to escort you further than that, since your house was right by the stop. Part of him wanted to protest, but he kept quiet for two reasons. One; it was a little insulting to imply a trained astronaut could not take care of herself. Two; Iwaizumi had no intention of becoming the creepy dude who didn’t let a woman leave his company at the moment of her choosing.

As the station drew nearer you slowed down, as though trying to delay the moment of farewell. Finally you came to a halt and faced Iwaizumi. “I had a really good time tonight,” you said, then bit your lip. Your voice went quiet, a disconnect between the positivity of your words and the sudden reserved tone—something that left Iwaizumi very worried.

Had the evening been so one-sided? Was he the only one who had an enjoyable time? All of a sudden it felt all too likely that he only imagined the relaxed way you talked to him about all your plans and memories. Iwaizumi tensed up and clenched the fist hidden in his pocket. “Me too,” he said, deliberately infusing a dash of casualness into his voice. “A great time.”

You opened your mouth, hesitated, took a deep breath and continued in a quick ramble. “Uhm, so I would love to see you again but”—another deep breath—“I totally get it if you don’t want to. I mean, I’m only here for two months and I don’t want you to feel pressured or like you need to make a big investment or something. So you can be honest-”

“Why the hell wouldn’t I want to see you again?”

The words came out coarser than he intended, and Iwaizumi inwardly scolded himself. He stepped closer, hands reaching up to rest on your shoulders but he held himself back, not wanting to overstep, instead letting his arms drop back down. One look at you and he could see your mind working clearly, arguments bouncing around behind your eyes, but he did not want to hear them. Not right now.

“Look, tonight was great. Who wouldn’t want to see you again after an evening like this?”

The way your laugh made his chest tighten, your voice filled with passion as you talked about your plans, that mischievous sparkle in your eyes whenever you grinned at him. Tonight Iwaizumi had only seen the tip of the iceberg, but dammit he wanted more.

You stared at him, struggling to comprehend his words, and Iwaizumi was utterly flabbergasted at how a person like you could be insecure about this. Your eyes momentarily flickered down to his lips, your hands made a short motion to reach out to him, a mirror to his earlier reflex, but then you hesitated.

In stark contrast, Iwaizumi shut the door on all his uncertainties. If there ever was a moment to take a chance, this was it.

He cupped your cheek in his hand and you leaned into his touch, eyes fluttering before they steadily gazed into his. His heart hammered in his chest as he counted each individual eyelash. Your lips parted and he felt your breath puff against his skin—when had you gotten so close? You gave a tiny nod, almost imperceivable and possibly only in his imagination.

Imagined or not, you still flung your arms around his shoulders when he crashed his lips against yours.

Iwaizumi’s free hand pressed on the small of your back, bringing you even closer to him. You let out a happy sound and tangled your fingers in his short hair, massaging his scalp. Iwaizumi couldn’t help but moan. You tasted of bitter chocolate and strawberry sweetness and he’d never have enough of you. His thumb brushed over your cheekbone, an attempt to anchor himself as your lips moved with ardent vigour, threatening to drown him.

With a tinge of regret he pulled away. It was a choice between stopping or risk losing control of himself, and he did not want to lose control, not with you, not right now. It was too early, too fragile. Out of breath, you stared at him with dilated pupils, a vague sense of shell-shock about you.

“So... we’ll do this again soon?” Iwaizumi asked, doing his best attempt to not sound desperate.

A smirk crept onto your lips, bruised from the kiss. “Yes, I think we should,” you said, slipping your hands away from Iwaizumi’s hair with deliberate movement, your fingers brushing against his neck. He shivered, which only pleased you more. “Makki gave you my number, right?”

Numbly, he nodded. The arrival of the train broke him out of his little bubble, a space in which nothing existed but you and him and your thumb playing against the underside of his jaw as you pulled away. No more time for further goodbyes, you hurried to the platform. Just before stepping into the cart, you turned around and gave him a final grin.

Iwaizumi could do nothing but wave, and surely made an embarrassing sight; a grown man nailed to the ground by how thunderstruck he was by you.

Dammit—he’d actually have to thank Makki now.

Chapter Text

Where most people struggled with the reality of going back to work on Mondays, Oikawa had no such issues. Slanderers and cowards might accuse him of being a workaholic, but Oikawa just considered himself lucky to have a job he loved to go back to every week. Unlike certain peers, he never breezed through law school, putting in years of hard work and endless nights of cramming. To finally have his work pay off and be in a place that brought him into the court room was the ultimate reward—even if he just was an associate for now.

As always he was the first to arrive in the office, going through his morning routine of making coffee while his computer started up. Most days Kindaichi came in second, but on Mondays he’d be at the university. This meant that by the time Oikawa got back Iwaizumi sat by his desk, his entire aura crying out for a dose of caffeine.

“Good morning, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said, putting a cup of coffee in front of him.

Iwaizumi grumbled something that vaguely resembled a “good morning” and took a large gulp of searing hot coffee that surely burnt his tongue. He winced and scowled at the cup as though it had personally offended him, then he glanced at Oikawa. “Thanks.” The word sounded gruff, but well-meant.

It took everything out of Oikawa to suppress his nosey urges and extract every single juicy detail out of Iwaizumi. They hadn’t managed to meet up during the weekend, so Oikawa had no idea how the date had gone. Iwaizumi looked exceptionally grumpy, but that said nothing on an early Monday morning.

Whenever Oikawa considered the possible outcomes of the date, an insidious part of his brain kept insisting failure was the better option. He tried his best to ignore those thoughts, the twinge of possible relief if Iwaizumi’s date had bombed; his brain was a liar and not a very good one. To hope for that was preposterous and the last thing Oikawa wanted, bringing only misery for Iwaizumi and a longer career as a bachelor. Both unappealing prospects.

No, Oikawa needed for this date to have gone well. He needed this to work out.

He opened up his case file and sighed. Time to put all that behind him and focus on work. He had a lot of fact-checking to do to put together the full picture, allowing them to move on to properly building a case. He cracked his knuckles (Iwaizumi twitched) and set to the task. A small voice in the back of his head reminded him that a sane associate would ask Kindaichi or Hanamaki to help with this kind of task. However, Hanamaki had his own work to do, and this could not wait until tomorrow.

Nothing ever could.

A different voice piped up and pointed out he was being a control-freak again, straight on the path to burning himself out, but it was wrong and easy to ignore. His brain was a liar, after all. Only—the voice vaguely resembled Iwaizumi, which pissed Oikawa off just a little.

Right on the clock, Hanamaki sauntered into the office. He whistled happily, like the disgustingly cheery morning person he always was. First he turned on his computer, got a cup of coffee next, then finally leaned against the wall next to Iwaizumi’s desk. “Sooo...” He pulled out his grin with the highest shit eating capacity just for the occasion, far too pleased with himself. “How did it go?”

Iwaizumi grunted, barely looking up from his screen. “You know already, right?”

“Hell no, she refused to tell me anything. And hey, that means it went well, but as your gracious matchmaker I have a fundamental right to the nasty details.”

Switching to eavesdropper mode, Oikawa’s reading slowed down to a crawl. His eyes travelled over the screen, looking at words without processing them, instead committing himself to the conversation on the opposite side of his desk.

“No,” Iwaizumi said bluntly. “Don’t you have any actual work to do?”

With a shrug, Hanamaki slumped down in his chair. “Fine. Be that way. But just so you know, if you ever need relationship advice you’ll be paying for it with the juiciest details.”

Iwaizumi leaned away from his screen and grinned at Hanamaki. It was a stark contrast to his usual response to bait; a verbal snap or simply ignoring the whole ordeal. “Relationship advice, from you?” Iwaizumi scoffed. “After what happened to you with that girl in middle school? I don’t think so.”

Hanamaki blanched, pushing back his chair in a startle. “How much do you know? Oh, that traitor!” He hissed the last words to himself, eyes narrowed.

“Wait wait, what’s this?” Oikawa said, unable to keep himself out of it any longer. He smiled amicably as he purred at Iwaizumi. “Please elaborate, Iwa-chan~”

Hanamaki made frantic gestures at Iwaizumi to shut his mouth, only tempting a slow smirk from him.

“I’ll keep it to myself... for now.”

“You little shit,” Hanamaki said through gritted teeth, his jaw tightly clenched. “I thought blackmail wasn’t your style.”

Not even granting Hanamaki the dignity of a response, Iwaizumi just turned back to his work—though the smirk never left. Soon enough the aggravation was forgotten (as always) and they settled into their usual routine, occasionally taking a break to chat but mostly focusing on the case. As their resident paralegal, Hanamaki worked closely with Iwaizumi. He took the information Iwaizumi gathered and cross referenced it with the relevant laws to see if it gave them legal ground to prosecute. Late in the morning Matsukawa wandered in under the pretence of borrowing a stapler, but Oikawa would bet a kidney that Mattsun grabbed Hanamaki’s ass at one point or another.

The closer they got to lunch, the more Hanamaki’s concentration wandered. As usual. Oikawa easily ignored Makki fiddling with a pencil or playing around with elastic bands. Iwaizumi proved to be more distracting; he shifted in his seat and had obviously stopped working, though he kept his eyes on the screen. Not as usual. Iwaizumi’s ability to focus almost rivalled Oikawa’s own and this dissonance stood out.

Oikawa rose an eyebrow, debating whether to point it out. On one hand; an opportunity to tease Iwaizumi. On the other hand; he’d love to get this particular bit sorted out before lunch. He reread the parents’ statements for what felt like the millionth time, carefully taking note of the inconsistencies in their story. Someone definitely was not being entirely truthful. Oikawa made the snap decision to focus on work, and zoned in to the point that time passed by unnoticed.

It was not until someone knocked on the door that Oikawa realised lunch break had officially begun. Iwaizumi’s head shot up with a big smile, one that made something pinch in Oikawa’s stomach. He followed Iwaizumi’s gaze to a sight that had his jaw drop.

You stood in the doorway, dressed in casual light clothes suited to the warm weather, waving at Iwaizumi with a shy smile. However, your expression morphed into something more sinister when you walked up to Hanamaki.

“Hey squirt,” he said, “what the hell are you doing here—NGH!” Hanamaki let out a startled noise when you caught him in a headlock and rubbed your knuckle into his scalp.

“Good to see you too, Makki,” you said, grinning down on him while he failed to wrestle out of your grip. “This place is so fancy, I can’t believe you didn’t want to show me around! How did you ever get hired? Did you trick them? Extortion?”

You released him and he rubbed his head, milking his tortured pout for all it was worth. “Cruel. This is why I never take you anywhere.”

Oikawa could do nothing but stare while you let out a melodic burst of laughter. Luckily, Iwaizumi was just as distracted by you and never noticed. You smiled sheepishly at him and rested a hand on the back of his chair. “You ready to go?”

Recovering quickly, Iwaizumi smiled back at you. “Just give me a second to finish up.”


Oikawa fought the urge to gag at the sickening sweetness—until your eyes wandered around the office and, to his utter horror, settled on him.

“Ah, sorry for barging in like this!” You quickly introduced yourself, but Oikawa could only nod dumbly. His inability to stop gaping left you flustered, a red tint staining your cheeks.

Hanamaki rose an eyebrow. “Oi, Oikawa, stop being a creep.”

That stern reprimand was enough to jolt him out of it. “It’s lovely meeting you, I’m Oikawa Tooru,” he said, trying to sound smooth but failing miserably. “Sorry, I’m just a big fan.”

You blinked at him. “A- a fan? Did Makki tell you about me?” A wide grin crossed your face as you looked at Hanamaki. “I knew you couldn’t keep your mouth shut.”

Oikawa brought a hand to his temple and shook his head. How could he not know you? He wanted to kick his own ass for not connecting the dots sooner, for not realising just who Hanamaki had been talking about when he mentioned your name. Oikawa always followed updates about the ISS and its crews, and it always caught his eye whenever a Japanese astronaut was added to the roster. His stomach jumped through hoops while his cheeks heated up to dangerous temperatures.

“No no, actually I , well- I just-” Great, now he struggled to complete sentences.

“-am fucking obsessed with space,” Hanamaki helpfully finished for him.

Oikawa shot him a deadly look, then turned back to you. A flirty joke balanced on the tip of his tongue, the easiest way to deflect the fluster running through him. A joke about discovering a heavenly body or something cheesy about stardust. But before he could even open his mouth, Oikawa both felt the pinpricks of Iwaizumi’s glare and heard the cracking of Hanamaki’s knuckles.

Message received loud and clear. No messing around with this one.

Before the awkward silence could completely ruin the mood, Iwaizumi finished up and glared at Oikawa one last time as he left with you. He pointedly ignored Hanamaki’s shout to “be safe, kids”.

As soon as Oikawa knew for sure the pair was out of earshot, he turned to Hanamaki and exploded. “How could you not tell me!” he cried out, fingers twitching as he raised his hands to his chest.

“Hey, I tried,” Hanamaki said, reaching for his lunch.

An involuntary noise of frustration escaped Oikawa and suddenly Hanamaki’s full attention turned to him, accompanied by a smirk all teeth and smugness. He leaned his elbow on the desk and rested his chin on the heel of his hand.

“Oh, jealous now? Honestly, you deserve if for not letting me finish that beautiful pitch I prepared. There were some great puns in there, too.”

Oikawa tsked and failed to keep the scowl off his face. “Since when do you know an astronaut anyway? Distant family? High school girlfriend?”

Hanamaki let out a low whistle. “Now you want to know all about her? Sorry, buddy, you weren’t interested before so I really don’t see why I should lay out all the deets now.” He stood up and left the office, pausing at the doorway to smirk at Oikawa. “Hey, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you’re a little... starstruck.”

Grumbling all the way through his lunch, Oikawa’s mood got worse and worse. He worked during his meal, barely tasting the food as he took absentminded bites. He didn’t even notice Hanamaki’s return, who loomed behind him and watched him work for a full minute before speaking up.

“Oikawa, this is grunt work. Why isn’t Kindaichi on this?” he said, frowning at the legal research Oikawa was doing to check specifics in a child welfare law. “Are you overworking yourself again?”

God, not this again.

Oikawa exhaled slowly before turning to Hanamaki with a carefree smile. “Makki, did you forget? Kindaichi isn’t here today.” With that, he considered the discussion over and done with, and turned back to his work.

“Ehhh?” Hanamaki leaned over Oikawa’s shoulder to examine the document a little closer. “Just leave it for tomorrow then? There’s plenty of other stuff to do. At the very least you could’ve asked me.” He sighed and ran a hand through his pink hair. “I know I give you a hard time, but it is part of my job to help you, you know.”

Oikawa shook his head. “Aren’t you helping Iwa-chan?”

He shrugged. “Iwaizumi is a big boy, he can handle things without me for one afternoon.”

“...I’ll think about it.”

“Iwaizumi would be proud,” Hanamaki said, pretending to wipe away a single tear.

Frowning, Oikawa glanced at the clock. “Speaking of Iwa-chan, he’s late.”

“Relax, he’ll be back. I promise she’s not the type for kidnapping or violent murder, even if a date turns to crap.” He sauntered back to his own chair and plopped down. “Let me know if you need me, okay? Or just drop that stuff for today.”

Before Oikawa got a chance to respond, Iwaizumi walked through the doorway, now a full five minutes late. You weren’t with him, but instead he brought back an absent-minded smile.

Hanamaki clucked his tongue. “If I knew she’d be such a bad influence I’d never have introduced you two.”

The bait dangled pathetically, ignored as Iwaizumi chuckled and got back to work, his mood too good to be goaded. Hanamaki opened his mouth again, but Iwaizumi cut him off. “No, you’re not getting any of the dirty details.”

Hanamaki muttered quiet curses about no-fun coworkers and turned to his computer. The time for banter was over. Still, despite the distractions Oikawa’s mood only got worse, grating over Iwaizumi’s happy disposition.

Just starting pains, he told himself. The beginning always sucked. Just needed to get through it. Not the first time he’d witnessed the start of Iwaizumi’s new relationship. Though he couldn’t lie to himself; that Iwaizumi now dated a woman idolised by Oikawa? That one hurt.

He stared at his screen, meticulously going through the details of a particularly obscure law, but soon realised he failed to take in a single word. With a deep sigh Oikawa faced the facts; it was time to get over himself.

“Makki, if you got a minute, can you help me with something?”

The way Iwaizumi’s eyebrows rose almost all the way to his hairline was more than a little insulting. But Hanamaki just grinned, said he’d be right there without a snide comment attached.

“Okay, what can I do for you?” Hanamaki nodded along as Oikawa gave him instructions. “On it.”

Oikawa hated to admit it, but Hanamaki taking away some of the load allowed him to smoothen his process and focus on other tasks without getting caught up in the details. He got lost in witness statements, in notations of potential questions, in gaps in the story to fill. Everything would need a quick run-through with Irihata, his superior, but Oikawa now had everything prepared to schedule a meeting with the parents—and their conflicting stories.

“Are you coming, Oikawa?”

Iwaizumi’s voice shocked Oikawa out of his concentration. He blinked a couple of times, then looked at the clock. Fifteen minutes past official work hours. Somehow, Hanamaki left without Oikawa noticing. Not the first time that happened. It was not rudeness on Hanamaki’s end, just Oikawa losing awareness of his surroundings. Iwaizumi stood next to him, briefcase packed and wearing his light jacket, all ready to go.

“In a minute,” Oikawa said, waving an absent-minded hand as though to send Iwaizumi on his way.

Rolling his eyes, Iwaizumi sat back down and stared at Oikawa. “How long did you stay last time?” He rested his forearms on the desk, leaning forward. “Don’t fall back into old habits, okay?”

Oikawa huffed with the indignation of a man who firmly pretended he had not planned to stay for however long his concentration lasted. “I was only going to finish this email, don’t be so fussy.” He weeded out the last stray spelling errors, attached the correct files, then sent it out the door.

Not the least reassured by Oikawa’s words, Iwaizumi stayed right where he was—and knowing him, would stay there until Oikawa walked out the door with him. Oikawa scowled.

He should hate getting fussed over by Iwaizumi. God, he wished he did. But if Oikawa was honest with himself for once, he liked the attention. Brought back memories of late nights in the university library, when Iwaizumi forcibly dragged him back to their dorm room for some sleep, or physically kicked him outside to get fresh air.

“Iwa-chan, you’re such a mom,” Oikawa complained dramatically as he logged out and turned his computer off.

“It’s not my fault you’re an oversized toddler, Shittykawa.”

Oikawa fought back a smile. Ah Iwaizumi, always bringing out the insults to cover up his embarrassment. They stopped stinging years ago.

However, Oikawa had to uphold appearances so he let out a soft whine. “So mean, Iwa-chan~ I’m done now anyway!”

“Let’s go then.”

“Ok, ok.”

By now only a soft wrench in Oikawa’s chest remained of his bad mood, nothing but a minor dip while he internally debated whether to curse or thank Iwaizumi for his care. He brushed it off with practised ease.

They stepped into the elevator together, alone in the small enclosed space. For a moment it was just them and the quiet familiar melody of elevator music, surprisingly pleasant to the ear.

“So... lunch went well?”

He offered the question innocently, but Iwaizumi still gave him a suspicious look.

“Why do you want to know? Don’t tell me you’re interested now you know who she is?”

“I wouldn’t steal a girl away from you. I can’t believe you’d think I’m that desperate!” Oikawa said, tilting up his chin with a huff. Sure, he had a teeny tiny celebrity crush on you for a while now, ever since you were announced as a future member of the ISS crew, but he’d never stoop that low.

Besides, Oikawa was all too aware that he did not actually have a crush on you, just the idea of you. The you that was about to go into space and involved in all these awesome things Oikawa loved. He did not actually know you, not as a person. The fluttering feeling you’d caused in his chest was even more superficial than his past attempts at a relationship.

He said nothing of this to Iwaizumi. Better this just went away quietly.

As the week progressed, work only got busier. Oikawa’s meeting with the parents had not gone as smoothly as he liked, but yielded more information than he dared to hope for. Now he sorted through older statements, those of teachers, neighbours, cross-referencing to find any detail to strengthen their case. With the various lectures of his coworkers still fresh on his mind, Oikawa had divided up the workload with Iwaizumi.

“I think we need to talk to the kid again,” Iwaizumi said, frowning hard as he stared at the pages. “Something happened around October. His teacher and a neighbour noticed a change in his behaviour around that time. Katsu didn’t say anything last time, but I’m starting to think he’s keeping something from us.” In these situations, children’s attempts to protect their parents could feel counter-intuitive or misguided, but it was a real possibility the firm needed to keep in mind. Both loyalty and fear did much to silence a child.

“Good find,” Oikawa said, peering over Iwaizumi’s shoulder. “Well? So go talk to him!”

“Sure, but not without you,” Iwaizumi said gruffly. “You’re better with kids than I am.”

Oikawa let out a soft snort. “That’s only because I’m absolutely amazing with them. Children sense my innate kindness. No-one can beat that.” He ignored Hanamaki’s bark of laughter. “You’d do fine on your own. Besides, you’re better with Kuroo than me.”

Iwaizumi stared him down, unwilling to let Oikawa get out of this one.

With a dramatic sigh, he relented. “But if you really need the support, I suppose I can go with you.”

“Kuroo just likes riling you up,” Iwaizumi chuckled. “You’re too easy.”

Kindaichi walked in with a stack of fresh paperwork. He put it down on the only empty space with a soft ‘umph’. “Copies of all the witness statements so far, ready for filing away,” he said happily, patting the top of the pile.

“Good job, Kindaichi,” Iwaizumi said. “Can you call Nekomata’s shelter before you do that? Ask when they got time to let Oikawa and me talk to Ebisawa Katsu. You have access to our agendas, right?”


Kindaichi grabbed the phone and dialled the number, then sat down at his computer and pulled out the right agendas. Though Oikawa knew he should get on with his own work, he couldn’t help but keep an eye on him. “Ah, Yaku-san! It’s Kindaichi Yuutarou from Irihata’s. Yes, yes, it’s about Katsu-kun. Could I schedule a day and time for us to talk to him? Monday, uhh... let me check. Yes, Monday is fine. No, no that’s not too early, no problem at all. Okay, thanks, Yaku-san!”

“Thank you, Kindaichi-kun,” Oikawa said, smiling at the intern. He always made sure to pepper in some positive reinforcement; Kindaichi could use it, if only to motivate him to work even harder in the future.

Oikawa looked at the clock and realised lunch break had gotten close without him noticing. Sighing to himself, he lamented the unstoppable nature of time. Though they had gotten a lot of work done, there was just as much left to do. He got started with prep for Monday, and the track of time eluded him once more until the next interruption.

“Look who I bumped into at the copy machine.”

Matsukawa sauntered into the office, but not alone. He had an arm slung around your shoulder, a lazy grin on his face.

Ah. Another date, then?

“Hey everyone,” you said with a big smile. Your eyes fell on Kindaichi, made a quick introduction, then turned to Hanamaki. “Okay, Makki, let’s get out of here.”

“Almost ready.”

Oikawa blinked, staring from Hanamaki to Iwaizumi and back. Not.. a date, then? Gruffly, he admonished himself for jumping to conclusions. However, you did walk over to Iwaizumi and brushed a hand over his shoulder. He smiled up at you with a soft expression rarely seen on him. Rarer than Oikawa liked, yet painful all the same.

Not wanting to come off too strong (or at the very least, as less of a fanboy freak than last time), Oikawa attempted to bury himself in his work, but he struggled to keep his attention from wandering back to you. He watched you confirm weekend plans with Iwaizumi, then struck up a chat with Kindaichi.

“You’re still in law school, right? I heard it’s tough, how are you doing?”

“Oh no, it- it’s alright.”

“Don’t lie to the lady, Kindaichi-kun, law school is hell,” Oikawa said with a click of his tongue.

So much for not involving himself in the conversation. Great job.

Stuttering, Kindaichi reluctantly agreed. The interruption diverted your attention to Oikawa, and he considered it a victory when you did not look at him like he was an unwelcome wriggling creature found underneath an upturned stone. Okay, good, so he had not completely ruined his first impression (or you were just extraordinarily polite.)

“Oikawa, right?” Your smile widened when he nodded. “Iwaizumi told me you were roommates back in uni!”

“Yea,” Iwaizumi said, rummaging through his stuff in an attempt to find food. “And don’t let Oikawa get to you, Kindaichi. Sure, law school is hell. But it’s a special kind of torture for idiots like him who can’t pace themselves. I’m sure you’re having an easier time of it than he did.”

“Iwa-chan! So cruel!”

Hanamaki let out a small grunt of frustration. Everyone turned to him, but he waved a hand and gestured to his screen. “Sorry, roadblock. It’s taking longer than I thought.” 

“No problem,” you said. “Means I can get to know your colleagues a little better. Find some more dirt on you.”

He snorted loudly. “Out of everyone here, pretty sure you have the most dirt. And from what I hear you’ve been spilling. I’m disappointed in you.”

Oikawa watched the exchange with interest. His initial panic faded at your lack of repulsion towards him, which opened him up to a compelling possibility; as long as he did not overstep his bounds, this could be a rare opportunity.

To ask an actual astronaut some questions, to talk to someone who would physically spend time in actual space. Missing a chance like this would create an unending repertoire of ‘what ifs’ for him to agonise over for the rest of his days. He just needed to keep it casual and impersonal, and that was totally doable, right?

He licked his lips, then called your name with a little ‘-chan’ attached to it—force of habit. “Can I ask you something?”

Iwaizumi scowled at the affectionate honorific but kept his mouth shut, recognising this as standard clingy behaviour from Oikawa. When you nodded, Oikawa happily scooted a little closer to you. (Another scowl.)

“You’re scheduled for spacewalks up at the ISS, right?”

The sudden shift in conversation caught you off guard, but then your face lit up, beaming with excitement. “Yes! There’s at least one maintenance scheduled, fixing some technical issues with a detector. Honestly, it was supposed to get done two years ago but we hope to finally get around the roadblocks this time!”

“That’s the R.E.A.L.L., right?” Oikawa said, unable to stop himself from showing off. Hey, if there was any moment to exhibit the superfluous knowledge he had of his hyper fixations...

You inhaled sharply at his usage of specific terminology and nodded eagerly. “Yeah! Ha, I didn’t know Makki worked with an expert!” Happily you dove into the conversation, rambling to Oikawa about which adaptors they were going to install and how much you looked forward to spending time in the suit.

Ah, surely this was heaven, Oikawa thought. How often did someone indulge him with so much enthusiasm? Usually the other party would tease him for his passion-bordering-on-obsession. Even if they put in the effort to listen, they proved nothing but sounding boards, echoing back his stories but rarely bringing something new to the conversation.

And even now, with the perfect conversational partner, he hesitated to bring up one specific question.

Oikawa fully realised the danger of him freaking out over the answer, regardless of which standpoint you took. It could tip him over from ‘enthused fan’ to ‘deranged blockhead’. Was it worth the risk? Had you not given him enough already?

Smiling like the lovestruck idiot he was, Iwaizumi watched you from the sidelines, obviously enjoying the sight of you engaged so animatedly. Matsukawa struck up a chat with Kindaichi, asking how he was doing at school, while Hanamaki still focused solely on his work. Everyone seemed to forget it even was lunch time (Oikawa realised, but had no intention of pointing it out). That was, until Hanamaki let out a huge sigh of relief and pushed his chair away from the desk.

“Okay, done. Let’s go, squirt. We have street food vendors to raid.”

And with that, Oikawa’s decision had been made for him.

You grinned. “As many as we can. Aahhh just too bad it’s summer, I would’ve loved some Yaki Imo before leaving.”

Hanamaki simply shrugged. “It’ll be colder when you’re back, I’ll take you then.” He grunted when you flung your arms around him in a tight hug. “Alright, alright, I know, I’m the best, just don’t crush my ribs, okay?”

“Sorry!” You headed over to the doorway where you stopped in front of Matsukawa. “And sorry for hijacking your boyfriend. I’ll bring him back in one piece, promise.”

“You’re forgiven if you make Takahiro bring some food back for me,” he said, ruffling your hair with a soft touch that radiated affection.

“I’ll try, but he’ll probably devour it the moment I’m out of sight.”

Matsukawa grinned, a small curve of his lips with just a hint of teeth. Subtle, yet distinctly threatening. “I still hold you responsible.”

Rolling his eyes, Hanamaki whapped Matsukawa in the shoulder as he walked he went by. “Hey, just because I love you doesn’t mean you get away with bullying her.”

You laughed at their antics and, just before you left, turned back around and bit your bottom lip. “So, I’ll see you Saturday?” you said to Iwaizumi. A light blush accompanied your smile. The soft look in his eyes never faded as he confirmed the date and wished you a good lunch.

Hanamaki and you left the office, leaving an abrupt silence behind. Matsukawa rolled his shoulders, then headed to the cafeteria. “Don’t miss your break,” he said on his way out. “It’s been ten minutes already.”

Oikawa blinked at the clock. Huh.

Somehow all his hunger had evaporated and he only felt a tight coil twisting in his stomach. Skipping lunch was a seductive option, but Iwaizumi had already taken out his homemade meal and settled down to eat in the office. He’d be right here, watching Oikawa choose work over food. As unappealing as the thought of lunch was right now, getting yelled at edged out as the worse option.

Left with no real choice, Oikawa wished Iwaizumi a good meal and followed his other colleagues to the cafeteria. He sighed and poked at his food, barely getting a bite in. His annoying, relentless brain kept flooding him with images of the affectionate looks Iwaizumi had given you while you absolutely beamed with enthusiasm.


This would pass, he reminded himself. It had to pass.

Chapter Text

Being back at the lake after so long felt weird, almost like being displaced in time.

The weather pulled out all the stops with absolute perfection, a thin layer of clouds offering protection against the burn of the sun, with a soft breeze brushing through the lush grass and against Iwaizumi’s face. A pleasantly warm temperature, ideal for lounging by the water. So many memories, and the place had changed so little that it was all too easy to transport himself back to the old days when his father used to take him here. Even the small patches of trees looked near-identical and as many flowers were scattered through the grass as he remembered.

In contrast, all those similarities made even the smallest differences stand out all the more. Like the old wooden quay that had been renovated, or the couple of food vendors that were scattered around the lake. The area was less quiet, but still peaceful. Iwaizumi glanced at you, and his intense expression softened when he saw the smile on your face.

You drew him back to the present, feeding a strong yearning to take in your first experience of this place. “It’s beautiful,” you said quietly. “I can’t believe I’ve never gone here before.”

The cool breeze played with your hair and you tucked a rogue strand behind your ear. Iwaizumi fought the urge to brush his thumb over your cheek—and then wondered why he bothered. He reached out and gently traced over your jawline, drinking in every detail of your appearance.

You leaned into his touch, clutching your picnic basket a little tighter. “I thought we came here to enjoy the lake,” you murmured. “Not a complaint, by the way.”

“Maybe I like-”

A bubble of laughter burst from your lips. “Ohh, don’t tell me you were about to say ‘I like this view better’?”

Thoroughly caught off guard by the interruption, Iwaizumi blinked at you. For a moment he considered denying it, but your grin told him the effort would be wasted. Instead he settled for a sheepish smile.

“I knew it! Iwaizumi Hajime, you are an incredibly cheesy man,” you said, still giggling. You readjusted your grip on the basket to one hand and put the other on his shoulder, steadying yourself to lean in for a soft kiss. Noses bumped into each other, then found the right angle.

Iwaizumi rested his hands on your waist with a gentle, loose grip. They stayed there when the kiss broke and he watched you with a lazy smile. It had only been a chaste meeting of lips, nothing like that first kiss at the train station. Neither of you had made another move like that since then, held back by mutual embarrassment over such ardour on a first date, a first meeting.

“I don’t see the issue with being cheesy if it gets me this.”

You snorted and squeezed his shoulder. “Let’s find a good spot, okay? I want to be right by the water!”

With that, you slipped from his hold and he followed you to the lake as you happily bounded down. There was a slight slope in the grass, a field that went all the way to the edge of the lake, only interrupted by a path to the quay. A group of kids was fishing there, joined by a pair of older men.

Some families and couples had already settled on the field. Iwaizumi walked between them as he slowly followed after you, giving himself time to enjoy the view of you enthusiastically laying down a quilt and flopping down on it. You laid back and rested a hand underneath your head, staring up at Iwaizumi as he stopped next to you. Your other hand patted on the quilt, an open invitation. He sat down, leaning back on his elbows and studying you carefully.

He saw the shift in your expression, how you went from childish excitement to something more serious but no less contented. “Thank you for bringing me here,” you said, staring up at the sky. “It’s so peaceful.”

It truly was. Somehow the sounds of children playing were muted, a static in the background that added to the ambiance rather than disturb it. Their shouts mingled with the chirping of birds, creating an atmosphere that took Iwaizumi away from all the stress in his life.

“You’re welcome,” he said, unable to tear his gaze away from you.

You blushed when you noticed his intense focus on you, and shifted closer to lean against his arm. “So this is where you hung out as a kid, right?” A smile tugged at your lips. “I’m kind of jealous.”

Iwaizumi reminisced on all the weekends spend here, his memories lodging a hook in him and threatening to drag him away. It took more effort than he cared to admit to bring himself back to the present. “My father took me here a lot. Taught me how to fish.”

A silence fell, as though you sensed he wanted to continue but faltered. He was grateful for that, allowing him time to work through his hesitance. After all, he risked spoiling a perfectly good summery afternoon with a gloomy addition to the story.

Breaking the stalemate, you reached for the basket and took out a couple of sandwiches. You handed him one and started munching on your own. He saw your action for what it was; not a cold attempt to brush past his inner conflict, but rather relieving him of the pressure of your stare, giving him as much space as you could.

Iwaizumi took a large bite, then hummed in contentment as the fresh flavours hit his taste-buds. “Thanks for preparing the food,” he said, “but I really wouldn’t have minded helping, you know.”

You smiled as you shook your head. “It’s the least I could do. After all, you’re letting me visit one of your spots.”

After the lunch date, you began regularly messaging him and sent pictures of a wide spread of random things. Soon enough he realised they encompassed what you expected to miss most from day-to-day life, like potted plants standing in the sunlight, a busy food vendor on the street, or a still of your favourite TV commercial.

While deciding on the activity for the third date, you had pointed out how great the weather forecast looked for weekend. A sudden impulse had overtaken Iwaizumi and he found himself suggesting this place. At first he felt awkward to ask you to go somewhere when you had your own long list of plans, but any worries were assuaged by your ecstatic reaction at the prospect of visiting a place he loved.

You pointed out butterflies, pleasantly surprised when Iwaizumi could tell you their exact species, but for the most part you simply enjoyed the peaceful view together.

Being allowed the time to gather his thoughts, to sort out a weird mingle of emotions, Iwaizumi slowly found himself reminiscing out loud. He took small bites of his sandwich while he spoke, recounting stories about his father to you. A loud and boisterous man (mum always was the put-together one of the two), but here at the lake he became quiet.

Iwaizumi loved going here with him. Loved just watching the water, with no need to talk. Once the bobber drifted in the lake, it created this empty space, a little impenetrable bubble of tranquillity with just them and the water.

Your hand rested on top of his as you listened intently, a physical connection that served as an anchor to him.

“But sometimes I’d get really bored, and I thought fishing was stupid and a waste of time,” Iwaizumi said, chuckling to himself. He’d been quite a handful, not above throwing a tantrum or two if he felt the cause was just—and as a kid, boredom is the most just of causes. “So he’d tell me to catch bugs instead. There’s lots of different bugs by the water. Dad always encouraged me to look up their names afterwards and learn about them.”

By now the sandwiches were long gone. You leaned against his arm again, your cheek resting against the edge of his short-sleeved shirt.

“One time, we got caught in a sudden rainstorm. One of those summer showers, you know. We really should’ve seen it coming, but I didn’t want to miss out on going here.” Iwaizumi smiled. His mother did always say he’d been stubborn even inside the womb. “We didn’t bring umbrellas or anything, so dad shielded me from the rain with his coat and got absolutely soaked himself. He was sick for a week after that, but never complained. Was proud of it, even. He kept rubbing in that I needed to help mum around the house in his place.”

You chuckled but made no further comment, content to just let Iwaizumi talk. However, his hesitation returned, and you sat back upright when you noticed his apprehension.

“He sounds great,” you said softly, running a hand through your hair in a haphazard attempt to fix it. The wind had picked up, playing with your hair and ruining your efforts. Honestly, Iwaizumi liked how messy it was.

He reached up to take your hand and intertwined your fingers, bringing it back down to rest on the quilt.

“My dad, he-” Iwaizumi sighed and rubbed his thumb over your knuckles, staring down at your hand. “About two years ago he developed a heart condition. It was... it all went very fast.”

Silence fell.

Iwaizumi finally looked up. Both curiosity and nerves piped up as he raised his eyes, afraid to see your expression, to see proof that he had overshared. It was only the third date, after all—the third time you met in person, even! Your lunch date had been all fun and flirting (the latter mostly on your part). Light-heartedly getting to know one another, testing each other’s comfort zone. This was different. His grief, while not fresh, was not old grief yet either, and to talk so openly left him exposed, as though peeling back the bandages of a raw wound.

Your face, while solemn, showed no signs of discomfort, of preparing to flee from a deeper conversation. “I’m sorry,” you said, pressing your lips on his shoulder before resting your cheek against it. You did not lean your weight on him, just offering a physical touch as comfort. “He sounds like a great dad. I wish I could have met him.”

The touch soothed him like a cool balm, your words gently wrapping around his pain.

“Thanks,” he said, not trusting himself to say more. He put an arm around you, nuzzling the top of your head.

A strange sense of familiarity settled over Iwaizumi as he took in the quiet between you. As though a protective stasis expanded around the quilt, where worries about work did not exist, with no frantic hassles, where he could just sit in the summer sun and enjoy being in a place filled with so many fond childhood memories. Iwaizumi lost track of time until a couple of kids ran into his field of vision, chasing after a butterfly.

“Monki-cho,” he muttered, easily identifying the yellow insect.

You smiled and detached yourself from him, crossing your legs as you rummaged through the basket. “Makki and I used to go to this shopping mall when we were younger. There was this big fountain right in the middle of it, a magnet for troublesome brats like us.”

From the basket you took a plastic container, with fresh watermelon cut into bite-sized blocks. You handed a fork to Iwaizumi and put the container between you.

“Our parents kept warning us to be careful around it, but one day we just weren’t paying enough attention. Makki was teasing me about something... I don’t even remember what, doesn’t matter, but of course I had to fight him, you know!” You grinned and popped another piece of watermelon in your mouth. “Anyway I pushed him right into the fountain.”

Iwaizumi snorted. It took no effort whatsoever to imagine you and Hanamaki as little kids, up to no good and getting into all sorts of trouble.

“Makki was just completely soaked. He’d just gotten a new haircut so he was beyond pissed at me. Tried to pull me in there, take me down with him and all that.”

“Let me guess, that didn’t go as planned?” Iwaizumi said, quirking up an eyebrow.

You laughed, a little crinkle forming at the corner of your eyes. Iwaizumi thought it was the cutest thing. “Poor sod slipped and fell right in again, face-first! Chipped his damned tooth!”

Iwaizumi sighed and shook his head. “You two must have been real handfuls as kids.”

“Kids?” Another laugh. “Try teenagers, we were seventeen! Besides, Makki never stopped being a handful,” you said, a mischievous grin spreading over your lips.

“Oh, and you did?”

Puffing up your chest, the grin melted from your face and you donned a sweet smile instead. “I’m the very beacon of innocence. I can’t believe you’d even dare to imply otherwise. Scandalous.”

He chuckled and leaned forward. Gently cupping your cheek, he pulled you to him to close the distance. Your fingers ran through his hair as you eagerly met his lips. For a moment he forgot where he was, that he was out in public with you, surrounded by people. Then you let out a small noise and broke away, eyes refusing to meet his and cheeks dusted with red, and Iwaizumi remembered. You did look quite pleased, though.

“Thanks,” he said with an awkward chuckle.

“For what?” you asked. He adored the hint of breathlessness.

Iwaizumi shrugged, not entirely sure himself. “For.. just for being you, I guess.”

God, what a cheesy thing to say. Still you stared at him, mouth forming a small ‘o’ while your cheeks went from a subtle rose-dust to burning tomato. Iwaizumi smiled and brushed some of the messy strands of hair out of your face.

Yea, he definitely saw no issue with being a little cheesy.

The light touch shocked you back into action. “Oh, I just remembered, I packed a couple of cupcakes!” Your attention flew to the basket and you rummaged through to find the sweets. Though you pointedly avoided Iwaizumi’s gaze, he could not possibly miss the happy smile on your face.

Iwaizumi leaned back on his hands with a silly grin on his face and he listened to you babble about the rest of the food in the basket.

It truly was a beautiful summer day.

Hanamaki woke up late in the afternoon, his nap interrupted by the infernal buzzing of his phone. Groggily, he lifted his head from Matsukawa’s lap. They lay on the lounging set in their garden, just barely enough room to accommodate them both. Matsukawa didn’t even look up from his book, reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose.

“Oh?” Hanamaki frowned when he saw the sender.

The sun shone down on him, and he felt heat radiating from his skin, screaming at him to go inside to prevent a sunburn—though it probably was too late already.

He rubbed his eyes and read your message, trying to figure out if you sounded frantic or if he was just misinterpreting the tone. Not enough emojis in there, damn you. “We don’t have any plans for tonight, right?” he asked, glancing up at Matsukawa.

“Not yet,” Matsukawa said, his voice a low rumble. He pushed up his glasses and looked at Hanamaki. “Is something wrong?”

Hanamaki shrugged and showed your message, asking him to come over tonight. “Not sure. Probably nothing.”

“Huh. Didn’t she have a date today?”

Absent-mindedly, Hanamaki nodded as his quick fingers tapped on the screen. “Yea. Maybe she finally buckled and desperately needs me to gossip about Iwaizumi with her.”

Matsukawa snorted and got back to reading. “Doubt it, Hiro. Sorry.”

With a sigh, Hanamaki put his phone back down. As much as he hated to admit it, Matsukawa was probably right. Had something happened on the date? Or with your parents? Then again, he saw no point wasting time and energy over baseless speculation; maybe you just wanted to hang out like old times. So Hanamaki turned on his side and tried to catch some more sleep, his impending sunburn already forgotten.

“Heyy, squirt, I thought of another one!” was the first thing out of Hanamaki’s mouth as he burst into your home without warning. “‘Please tell me you have an oxygen tank on you because you take my breath away’!”

Your apartment stayed suspiciously quiet, not a hint of the laughter this joke obviously deserved. Hanamaki stuck his head around the doorway to the living room and saw you sitting on the couch, your knees pulled up to your chin. You surfed through TV channels, barely sparing Hanamaki a glance.

“Okay, how was that not funny? Not space-y enough? You have such high standards these days.” With a dramatic sigh he walked up to the couch and flopped down next to you. As flippant as Hanamaki behaved, your silence did worry him. “I promise I’ll do better next time, but only because it’s you. Deal?”

You sprang into sudden motion, flinging yourself up from the couch and standing upright in front of him. Deep lines of panic were drawn on your face now.

“Makki, how could you do this to me!”

Your voice squeaked halfway the sentence and Hanamaki blinked at you. “Whoa, now hang on, the joke wasn’t that bad.”

You rubbed your temples in exasperation. “Ugh, I’m sorry, okay? It’s just-” You cut yourself off to glare at Hanamaki in a way that implied a distinct lack of remorse, contrary to your apology. “Weren’t you supposed to set me up with someone for some light, casual fun before I’d leave again?”

With a loud groan, you dropped back on the couch and hid your face in Hanamaki’s shoulder.

“That’s the only reason I even let you do it,” you said, voice muffled against the fabric of his shirt. “You said you had the perfect guy for a casual date. I wasn’t supposed to get caught up in anything right before leaving not just the country, but the damned earth for six months.”

“Actually, you’ll be out of the country for way longer,” Hanamaki said unhelpfully.

You bumped your forehead against him with more force than he reckoned he deserved.

Hanamaki sighed. “So I take it that you like him?”

Quietly, you nodded.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he said, running a hand through his hair before resting it on your shoulder. “I had a different guy in mind for this, but he didn’t bite. Seriously surprised me so I just... improvised. Iwaizumi got out of a long relationship not that long ago, I figured he wasn’t looking for anything seriou-”

If he hoped to calm you, that was the wrong approach. You froze up against him, fingers digging into a cushion with a steel grip.

“Makki,” you said slowly, “please don’t tell me I’m a rebound.”

The ‘okay, I won’t tell you’, clung on his lips, begging to be uttered. But despite his innate urge to be your usual asshole of a best friend, Hanamaki recognised the situation called for more tact than that. “Look, Iwaizumi is a good guy, okay?” he said instead. “So. I’m going to take an educated guess and say it’s getting more serious than you bargained for, right?”

You nodded, your forehead rubbing against his shoulder with tight friction.

“I don’t know what happened, but he’s not the type to string anyone along. He’s the most straight-forward guy I know. If he’s giving you the impression that it’s getting serious, it probably is.” He gently ran his fingers through your hair. “I know, I know, that doesn’t mean you’re not a rebound, but Iwaizumi didn’t want to do this either at first. Oikawa and me bullied him into the date. He didn’t come into this looking for someone to mend his tragically broken heart.”

For a moment the room was quiet while you digested his words.

“Today he took me to the lake where he used to go with his father,” you murmured, finally relaxing under Hanamaki’s touch.

Hanamaki needed a second for the exact weight of that to sink in, then he whistled softly. And that on the third date. “Yep, he’s definitely serious. You won’t get rid of this one so easily.”

“Good, I don’t want to,” you said with a pout. “I’m keeping him.”

He chuckled at the contrary shifts of your mood. “What are you going to do, bring him on the space station with you? Smuggle him on board?”

You huffed. “You know I could pull it off. Just got to ditch some non-essential supplies and pack him in. It’s not like we need to eat or something. That’s pretty low priority.”

“Yeah, and with him up there with you, you won’t need all that fancy fitness equipment, either. More than enough exercise.”

You shot a sideways glare at him and your hand twitched to stomp him in the ribs. However, then your expression turned thoughtful. “Well, I mean, sex in zero gravity... Nah, it’d be no good,” you said dismissively. “No leverage whatsoever.”

“You have no imagination,” Hanamaki said, ruffling your hair. “Just got to figure out the right position and create some leverage.” He grinned at the scowl you directed at him.

“Ugh, you’re gross.”

“Hey, who is the one starting this lewd tangent about sex in space? My pure heart just dreamt about all the romantic space-walks you’d take together.”

You opened your mouth to protest, mentally rewound the conversation, and closed it again. “Oh shut up,” you said, curling up a little tighter on the couch, burrowing your face further into his shoulder.

“You know you love me,” he said, pressing a light kiss on the top of your head. “So, are you gonna see him again soon?”

“None of your beeswax,” came out your muffled voice.

He let out an exaggerated sigh. “And here I thought we were finally bonding. Does more than twenty years of friendship mean nothing to you?”

“Nope.” You turned your head and smirked at him. “It only took me ten years to wise up and stop telling you anything about any person I might like. A harsh lesson, that one.”

Hanamaki let his head fall back and groaned. “That was once! It happened just one time! Forgive and forget, right?”

You laughed. “Forgive, sure. Forget? Never.”

With another dramatic sigh, he rested the back of his hand on his forehead as though to shield himself from the injustices in the world. “Such a cruel lady. Have some mercy, would you?”

Silence fell in the living room, a welcoming lull from the shenanigans. You broke away from Hanamaki, leaning your forearms on your knees and clasping your hands together. “Makki...” you started, and there was a significant change in tone that made him frown, “is this going to fast?”

He cocked his head to the side as he studied you. Your expression was serious and your fingers paled from the force of your grasp. “I really don’t think I know enough to judge that.”

Your eye twitched. “Mak-”

“Look, this isn’t to trick you into telling me anything,” Hanamaki said, raising his shoulders in a carefree shrug. “I just don’t know. Even if you told me everything, I still wouldn’t, not really. Everyone does this stuff at their own pace, right? Just because Issei and me took a year before finally hooking up doesn’t mean everyone should.”

You groaned at the memory. “You two were horrible. I still don’t get why it took so long, do you get off on constantly provoking each other or something?”

“Hey, I’m trying to help here. This is supposed to be a safe space,” he teased. “As long as it feels right, don’t worry too much, okay? Go at your own pace. Whatever that is.”

The gears in your head turned, processing the advice and trying to lead your thought and worries into manageable pathways. Then something in your face changed and you nodded firmly. “Okay.” You took a deep breath and sat up straight. “Okay. Thanks, Makki. I’ll try.”

“Whoa, actually taking my relationship advice? Talk about living dangerously.”

“Don’t make me change my mind.” You grinned at him, then pushed yourself off the couch. “Come, we’re getting some creampuffs. My treat.”

“I knew there’s a reason we’re friends.” Hanamaki stood up and slung an arm around your shoulders, then mussed up your hair. “The expensive kind, right? For your beloved best friend?”

You rolled your eyes, but the action belied affection. “Don’t push it, okay? But of course we are.”

Chapter Text

For once, Iwaizumi was allowed a relaxed start on the Monday morning.

His natural biorhythm did not let him sleep in, but he rejoiced in not having to scarf down his breakfast and hurry down to the office. Instead he took the time to go out for a jog. It’s something he usually did after work, but he’d be out late to make up for skipping the early hours. He took a quick shower afterwards, even had some time left to drink coffee and read the news. Then he grabbed his briefcase and walked to the bus stop at a brisk pace.

Nekomata’s was an easy commute away and Oikawa had offered to drive them to the firm afterwards. Still, a faint sense of discomfort filled Iwaizumi as he waited for the bus, restless from having nothing to do but wait.

As always, the prospect of interviewing a kid made him a little uneasy. Not because he disliked children. No, nothing like that, that would have made his career choice quite a confusing one. He just was acutely aware of all the ways it could go wrong; misinterpreting their answers, putting too much pressure on them, aggravating their trauma... Of course, Iwaizumi was a professional and fully capable, but he definitely preferred the company.

Oikawa was better with kids anyway. Either they adored him or loathed him so profoundly that they shared every single detail out of an intense desire to prove his every assumption wrong.

Waiting for the bus allowed Iwaizumi a moment to think back on the weekend and smile. Like a complete and utter sap, he kept careful track of all sorts of little firsts with you. The first time he ate food made by you, the first time he made you laugh, the first time he opened up to you about something intimate. Even the first time he saw you brush your fingers through your hair, a meticulous attempt to ‘fix’ it, stood out in his memory—though as far as he was concerned you looked great, perhaps even better, with messy hair. All memories made something inside his chest resonate with warmth.

Yesterday had marked another first when you called him instead of sending the usual text message.

He’d been watching the Fall of Ako Castle on TV, but for you he did not mind hitting the record button and save the rest of the period drama for later. Your initial ‘hi’ came out a little hesitant, like you were nervous about calling, and Iwaizumi’s skin flooded with a pleasant heat. You asked what he was doing, and as soon as he mentioned the movie you turned on your own TV.

Then, somehow, he found himself spending the rest of the evening on the phone with you. He gave you a quick catch-up of the movie, smiled at your appropriately timed gasps and exclamations, and snorted at your inappropriately timed jokes. Commercial breaks left you free to chat without restraint, and Iwaizumi made sure to plan a new date before wishing you a good night.

Sleep did not come easy that night, Iwaizumi’s brain popping up constant reminders of how nice your voice sounded over the phone.

Now he suppressed a yawn in the bus. The coffee had done much to fix his weary state, but he still needed to force himself into the proper focus and alertness. Yet another reason he considered himself lucky that Oikawa joined him today at Nekomata’s.

Oikawa waited for him at his stop, insufferably cheerful for a Monday. The usual. “Good morning, Iwa-chan!”

“Morning, Oikawa,” Iwaizumi said, keeping the begrudgement to a minimum. Together they walked to Nekomata’s, Oikawa happily talking about his weekend and how much progress his nephew was making on the tennis court.

“So Takeru is taking after his uncle, huh?” Iwaizumi observed, remembering how much Oikawa used to play back in university (because the workload of getting a law degree apparently wasn’t challenging enough for certain people).

“Aah, you should’ve seen him! With my guidance he could become a pro for certain. A natural on the court.” Whether he meant Takeru or himself by ‘a natural’, Oikawa left up to interpretation.

Iwaizumi smiled at Oikawa’s satisfied expression and found himself hit by a sudden wave of nostalgia for their student days. “I’m glad you get to play with him,” he said, “you always looked happy on the court—well, unless you were using it to blow off steam, I guess.” But even then Oikawa always felt better afterwards.

Oikawa let out a surprised yelp. “What’s with this sudden kindness from you, Iwa-chan!” He sighed and shook his head dramatically. “I really can’t trust it at all, it’s too unexpected if you’re not angry.”

“I’m not angry all the time,” Iwaizumi said, trying and failing to keep himself from sounding defencive.

“Sorry sorry, I know you’re not. Just teasing. Warming you up for Kuroo.” With a broad smile, Oikawa patted him on the shoulder.

“Me?” Iwaizumi snorted. “You’re the one he likes to provoke.”

“If you’re jealous of the attention I always get, you only had to say! I’ll remind him to spend some more effort on you, too~”

Iwaizumi just rolled his eyes. Like Oikawa would not welcome the relief. However, he let the comment slide; they had reached the front door of the kid’s shelter. Time to get to work. He already saw a bustle of activity through the window while Oikawa rang the doorbell.

The front of the house had no garden, but there was one in the back, filled with vegetables and herbs. The building was old but carefully renovated to accommodate the shelter, housing young children that needed a temporary home while the justice and social system tried to figure out what to do with them. Nothing fancy about it, but it was clean and comfortable and safe.

They waited only a moment before the door opened. A tall man with a messy hairdo stood in the hallway, welcoming them with an unnerving grin. “Five minutes late, boys. I’m extremely disappointed,” Kuroo said. His slanted eyes took in their appearances with care, and as he studied Oikawa his grin widened. “Let me guess, mister Fancy Hair over here overslept and needed extra grooming time to make himself look presentable?”

Oikawa twitched but was quick to retort. “Not all of us have given up on a proper care regime,” he sniffed, running a hand through his coiffured hair, which bounced back into place perfectly.

“Can we not do this today? For once?” Iwaizumi said, giving them both a flat look.

“He started it!”

“Sure sure~ Come on through, Katsu is in the backyard with Fukunaga.”

They switched their shoes for indoor slippers and Kuroo led them inside the house. Voices could be heard from the other room and as Iwaizumi walked past the open doorway he saw a kid sitting on the couch, tears streaming down her face while Yaku patched up the broken skin on her knees. “It hurts,” the girl sobbed, rubbing furiously at her eyes.

Yaku clicked his tongue, wrapping gauze around her knee. “You need to be more careful, you know? That’s the third time in two days.” But his care was gentle despite the verbal reproach.

And then Iwaizumi was past the doorway, following Kuroo to the kitchen. It was a simple room, most of the space taken in by a large table surrounded by chairs and a small bench, and a door in the back led to the garden.

“He’s doing pretty well today,” Kuroo said, tipping his chin in the boy’s direction. Katsu was outside, digging in the dirt under careful supervision from Fukunaga. “But he definitely has his ups and downs. What are you doing to ask him about?”

They dove into their usual routine; Oikawa and Iwaizumi gave an overview of the information they were after while Kuroo listened intently, then gave them an estimation of which subjects he expected to be sensitive or give them trouble otherwise. During all this, Iwaizumi couldn’t help but glance outside, watching how Katsu helped Fukunaga in the vegetable garden. His knees and hands were stained with dirt. Easily mistaken for a regular kid without a care in the world, making a mess just because he could.

“Okay, I’ll go get him,” Kuroo said, and opened the glass sliding door to poke his head outside. “Oi, Katsu-kun! Get over here!”

“Aww, Kuroo, I’m learning how to replant cabbage!” the boy said, holding up a little plant.

Fukunaga quietly shook his head and took the shoot from Katsu’s hands, laying it down in a small container with care. He stood up and patted Katsu on the shoulder, nudging the kid to follow him. Together they walked into the house, Katsu furiously rubbing his hands on his shorts in a haphazard attempt to clean them.

“You’re still gonna have to wash them,” Kuroo said, ignoring Katsu’s loud groan. After a quick check if Katsu really did as instructed, Kuroo turned to Fukunaga and made a series of rapid hand-gestures. Fukunaga’s fingers moved smoothly in response, showing a lifetime of practise.

Though it no longer caught Iwaizumi off guard, he still was not fluent enough to understand the silent conversation. All he managed was a sloppy ‘good morning’, balling his right hand into a fist and making choppy gestures with it. Fukunaga still gave him a small smile and repeated the sign back to him, followed by a couple of additional signs.

“You improved,” Kuroo translated, and chuckled when Iwaizumi turned a little red and signalled his thanks.

Oikawa shot a smug look in Iwaizumi’s direction and did a couple of signs, his movements not quite as quick as Fukunaga’s, but definitely less clumsy than Iwaizumi. However, Kuroo exchanged a look with Fukunaga, then chortled loudly, his distinctive laugh filling the kitchen. Fukunaga brought his hand up to his mouth as a loud puff of air escaped through his nose; his version of a laugh. Oikawa almost physically reeled back, visibly indignant at this disrespectful reaction.

“You definitely got worse,” Kuroo said, his toothy smirk back on his face.

“Lies!” Oikawa cried out. “Lies and slander!”

Unfazed, Kuroo stared him down. “If I were you I’d double-check what you just signed, Oikawa. You know I love you, but that was outrageous even by your standards.”

Fukunaga chuckled quietly again, then excused himself to go back to the garden. The three of them were left behind, and even the fuming Oikawa turned somber as they returned their focus to work. No more time for fooling around.

“I’ll keep an eye out, but I don’t expect I’ll need to intervene,” Kuroo said, craning his neck to look back to Katsu, who was just finishing up and drying his now clean hands with a towel.

All four of them gathered around the kitchen table. Katsu gave Oikawa and Iwaizumi an expectant look, fully aware why the two had come here. The carefree kid from the garden was gone and replaced by one far too serious for his age, and Iwaizumi sighed. This part of the job was never fun, trying to pry information out of a child who probably had a lot of memories he’d rather forget.

“Katsu-kun,” Oikawa said, his voice smooth but missing that obnoxious edge he often injected, “I know we’ve talked before, but we need to ask some more questions.”

He nodded solemnly, though his bottom lip trembled. “I understand.”

Iwaizumi resisted the urge to readjust his clothes or fiddle with his hands. He needed to look as composed as possible now. “We’d like to know more about what happened last October. Is there anything you haven’t told us yet?”

Kuroo waved them off as Oikawa and Iwaizumi left Nekomata’s. Nothing in Katsu’s story had been a particular surprise to them, but that was a good thing. It meant their instincts were trustworthy, their suspicions confirmed, and all additional information just gave them more to work with.

“That was a good call, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said, his voice serious despite the use of that frivolous nickname.

Iwaizumi snorted. “You were thinking the same thing, right? I only opened my mouth first.” The weather was nice, if a little on the hot side, and his brain rebelled against the prospect of going to the office. Knowing he had to stay longer to make up for the late start did not help. Rather that he spent another day by the water with you, sappy as the thought was.

They talked back and forth during the drive to the office, analysing their new perspective on the case. Working out the implications and how they could use them in court. At the office, they had so much to do that despite Iwaizumi’s earlier lament, time flew by. Once again Iwaizumi wished their team was bigger—or that Kindaichi could join them on Mondays to pick up some extra work at the very least.

Their afternoon coffee break offered a rare moment of respite, one that Hanamaki used generously.

“Uurrgghhh, it huuurts,” Hanamaki complained for the nth time, gingerly touching the back of his neck with his fingertips. The skin glared red and already started to peel.

“It’s your own fault for falling asleep outside,” Oikawa said, but he paid more attention to his phone than the conversation. The entertainment of Hanamaki’s self-pity wore off quickly.

Hanamaki rolled his eyes. “You sound just like Issei, you know that?”


“..It’s not a compliment.”

“I don’t know, Makki, if he’s talking that kind of sense, it sure sounds like one. He’s always been the sane one in your relationship.”

Iwaizumi closed his eyes and took the occasional sip of coffee. “Play nice, kids,” he said, opening one eye, but there was no pressure behind his words. This was their way of unwinding.

As usual in this type of situation, they blatantly ignored him. “You just think he-” Hanamaki was about to shoot back at Oikawa when the latter exclaimed loudly and almost dropped his phone.

“Those bastards!” Oikawa held up his phone to Iwaizumi, eyes blazing. “Look at this, those jerks lied to me!”

Iwaizumi blinked, then recognised the site. A video played of someone demonstrating the usage of Japanese sign language, but this looked far more advanced than the ones Iwaizumi used to practise with.

“I was absolutely impeccable! So rude,” Oikawa pouted, crossing his arms. “Can we make up an excuse to get over there again? Did we forget anything? I have to get back at them somehow, they made me question my perfectly fluent grasp of JSL! I can’t forgive them!” Nurturing his wounded pride, Oikawa huffed and muttered under his breath about ‘that damned Kuroo’.

“If you really were fluent, you would’ve realised they were bullshitting you,” Iwaizumi pointed out.

Oikawa yelped, then hissed at him. “Traitor! Kuroo and Fukunaga hatch evil schemes, and you pick their side?”

Sighing, Iwaizumi gave him an exasperated look. He did not bother dignifying the accusation with a response, instead telling Hanamaki about a couple of tricks he learnt from his mother to treat sunburns. Oikawa tried to put up an indignant protest, but ended up adding his own tips about using aloe vera to soothe peeling skin.

By some miracle, nobody bickered for the rest of their coffee break and they returned to the jobs at hand with renewed energy. Iwaizumi worked uninterrupted until his internet suddenly gave out. It resulted in a frustrating fifteen minutes on the phone with Watari from tech support, but after their combined forces resolved the issue he lost track of time again. He barely registered when Matsukawa dropped in to pick up Hanamaki, and did not realise how late it was until his phone buzzed.

He rubbed his eyes and tore himself away from the computer to check his messages. At the sight of your name on the screen, his face lit up with a smile.

Tragically seduced by treacherous cheese cake. Stomach hurts.

Followed quickly by;

Did you have dinner yet?

Iwaizumi felt Oikawa’s eyes on him as he put together a reply. Part of him realised he had a stupid grin on his face, but he couldn’t be bothered to fight it. Eat or drink something with peppermint. Still at work, staying in late today.

Your reply came fast, expressing sympathy and asking if he was stuck there by himself. Don’t forget to eat, okay?

“You’re looking happy,” Oikawa said with a drawl, twirling a pen between his fingers. “So.. safe to assume your newfound love affair is going well?”

Iwaizumi finished his message, letting you know Oikawa was with him. The probing question was to be expected, and he faced Oikawa with a slow smile. “Actually, it is.”

For a second, something unidentifiable passed over Oikawa’s face. Then it was gone, replaced by a cheerful grin. The change happened so fast that Iwaizumi wondered if he had imagined it—but he couldn’t help but suspect Oikawa might still be salty over missing his chance to go on a date with you. Even if lately Oikawa had not shown serious interest in dating, this had to hurt his inner space fanboy.

Well, if Oikawa wanted to silently stew in resentment, that was his own prerogative. Iwaizumi would call him out on it if things got worse, but in his experience, Oikawa always spoke up about whatever annoyed him in the end. He was far too candid not to.

Iwaizumi’s phone buzzed again, and he chuckled at your enthusiastic response. Space comrade Oikawa! Say hi to him for me, okay? I’ll leave you to work now, see you tomorrow (◠‿◠✿)

“Speaking of my newfound love, she says hi,” Iwaizumi deadpanned as he put away his phone. Only half an hour left, then they could finally leave. Almost time.

Oikawa perked up, eerily resembling a lonely puppy whose owner finally returned home after a month-long trip. “You guys talk about me?” he said, a bright smile on his face.

“Yea, she asked me if that weird guy who never stops staring at her was dangerous or not.”

“Rude, Iwa-chan.” Oikawa pouted at him. “Be careful, abrasiveness is not an attractive feature. You might lose her if you keep talking like that.”

“Don’t worry, this is the kind of special treatment I keep reserved for you exclusively.” Iwaizumi hesitated for a moment, then continued on a kinder note. “Hey, want to grab some dinner together when we’re done here? I was thinking we could hit that sushi bar around the corner.”

With an elegantly raised eyebrow, Oikawa gave him a mistrusting look. He tapped his finger on his lips, giving the suggestion some thought. “As good as that sounds, aren’t you just asking me so I won’t stay late at work again?”

Iwaizumi tensed up at the call-out. Defencive mode activated, he rolled his eyes and grunted. “Of course not, you dumbass. We just haven’t pent time together outside of work in a while. Take it or leave it.”

To be fair, there was truth in his words. As frustrating as Oikawa could be, he also was a treasured friend and Iwaizumi simply enjoyed his company. He did not need ulterior motives to spend time with Oikawa. There just... happened to be one right now.

Oikawa’s eyes sparkled with glee. As expected, Iwaizumi’s rebuttal utterly failed to fool him. They knew each other too well for that. “Iwa-chan!” he cried out. “I knew you cared!”

“Shut up, Trashykawa! We still have work to do!”

“Of course, of course~”

Somehow the following day felt lighter to Oikawa.

He hummed as he finished up another report to Irihata, detailing their progress so far and how they planned to continue. Honestly, he breezed through the day—with exception of when Iwaizumi physically dragged him out of the office to eat a homemade lunch in the cafeteria, effortlessly seeing through Oikawa’s intention to skip the meal.

His good mood did not go unnoticed by the others. Hanamaki gave Oikawa an amused look as he switched from humming to himself to a soft whistle. “What are you so happy about? Something good happened to you? I can’t help but be uneasy when you’re that cheerful.”

“What’s there to feel uneasy about? I’m just happy today!” Oikawa could not even bring himself to be offended (fake or otherwise) at the jibe.

Leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head, Hanamaki shrugged. “I guess it just makes you look untrustworthy. Don’t you think so, Kindaichi?”

Kindaichi jolted up from his paperwork, startled at the sudden inclusion in the banter. A bead of sweat ran down his forehead while the corner of his mouth twitched. Clearly he was dramatically unprepared to be pulled into the conversation, let alone pick a side. “Uhm, I- ahh, I.” He tripped over every attempt to formulate a response. And the poor kid had finally been settling in properly at the office, too.

As always, Iwaizumi arrived right on time to stage a rescue.

“Leave him out of it, you two,” he said, his sharp eyes burning into Hanamaki and Oikawa. “Kindaichi, come help me double-check and mark these dates, would you?”

“Yes, Iwaizumi-san!”

Oikawa stuck out his tongue at Hanamaki and put a finger underneath his eye, pulling down the lid, while Hanamaki just flipped him off—but that was all the two dared to do under Iwaizumi’s wrathful gaze and they also returned to their work.

Staring blankly at his screen, Oikawa thought back on Hanamaki’s initial comment. Had something good happened to him?

Well, yesterday definitely ended on a positive note. Iwaizumi had been right; they did not spent as much time together outside of work as they used to, without the pressure of deadlines and mountains of paperwork looming over them. Oikawa had needed the break. Not that their friendship had become strained or was bleeding out, no, there was nothing more nefarious going on than bad luck and agendas not matching up.

But whenever it was just the two of them, just hanging out, Oikawa could somehow relax. Push his feelings for his old roommate to the background, a vague static noise easily tuned out, and just enjoy Iwaizumi’s company and catch up on whatever was going on in their lives.

For a while it did not matter they would never be more, because what they had was enough.

Oikawa sighed to himself. At least he was self-aware enough to realise this feeling of contentment would not last forever. Did that make it less pathetic? Ah, whatever, he could enjoy this cheerful mood while it lasted.

Steadily the end of the day inched closer, leaving Oikawa with the eternal debate of whether to overtime or not to overtime. Meanwhile, some of his colleagues were particularly impatient to leave.

“Iwaizumi, you’re not usually this antsy,” Hanamaki said flatly, eyes flickering up from his screen.

“I’m not antsy.”

The words were peeved but empty. Iwaizumi sat restlessly in his chair, constantly checking the time and tapping his finger on the desk.

“Sure.” Hanamaki’s voice lilted into a drawl and a grin stuck to his face. “So you don’t have any exciting plans after work?”

Iwaizumi let out a deep sigh and breathed the tension out of his body. “None that are any of your business.”

Hanamaki swivelled his chair to face Oikawa. “Seriously, why couldn’t you just go on that blind date? Iwaizumi is as tight-lipped as she is, it’s horrible. Now you, you can be bribed with milk bread.”

“You’d need more milk bread than you can afford, Makki~”

Not even the reminder of ‘what could be’ ruined Oikawa’s mood (he pointedly ignored the small shard of regret that burrowed deeply into his back). With a faint smile he continued his work, and even considered going home on time today! Hey, maybe he deserved to spoil himself a little on a nice day like this.

A knock came on the door, and nobody was surprised to see you standing in the opening, a big smile on your face. “Makki!” you keened, hugging Hanamaki from behind and rubbing your cheek against his short hair.

“Nice to see you, too.” Hanamaki’s face stayed impassive as he endured your display of affection, but Oikawa caught an upward quirk of his lips when you let go of him.

Iwaizumi’s gaze snapped to the clock, confirming that it was, in fact, the end of his workday. “Give me a minute and I’m good to go,” he said to you by means of greeting, obviously eager to get out of here as soon as possible.

“No problem!”

Iwaizumi cleaned up his desk while your eyes wandered around the room. Finally they settled on Oikawa, and his heart rate instantly spiked. You smiled at him, but then looked away again, quietly waiting for Iwaizumi instead of striking up a conversation with anyone.

Kindaichi frantically went through a stack of paperwork in an attempt to finish it, so distracted he barely acknowledged your presence, while Hanamaki also gathered his things, ready to head home. Only Oikawa did not move.

You proved too much of a distraction, his mind going into overdrive. Last time he barely stopped himself from asking you a question heavily weighing on his mind, and despite fighting it he felt the words bubbling up to his lips. Dammit, he just needed to keep his mouth shut for once!

But should he really keep his dread of a potential answer stop him from asking the question? Let his life be dictated by fear?

No. He’d live bravely, and face the consequences no matter what.

“I was wondering,” Oikawa said, again adding a little ‘-chan’ to your name, “do you believe in aliens?”

Somehow he managed to keep his voice smooth as silk, with a charming smile to top it off. A small blessing in the grand scheme of things.

“Hm? What?” You were distracted, playing with the little bobblehead of a puppy on Hanamaki’s desk, and snapped out of a daze. A millisecond later his words registered with you, and you jumped up straight with an excited grin.

Hanamaki groaned. “Iwaizumi, let me offer you my condolences and be the one to take you out to dinner tonight. She won’t leave this room for hours now. Good job, Oikawa. Really great. You’ve done it now.”

Iwaizumi rose an eyebrow, looking from you to Oikawa, but he made no hurry to stop you from answering just to get on with the date. Quite the opposite; an indulgent smile settled on his face as he watched you mull over the question, formulating a response in your head before answering.

“Well, I do in principle of course,” you started, vaguely gesturing with one hand while the other ran through your hair.

Oikawa’s heart grew ten times in size. Surely, every day, every decision in his life so far had led to this exact moment, this completion of his destiny, those liberating words from you that made everything that happened and everything to come... totally and utterly worth it.

“But it’s an interesting subject, you know? Because saying ‘yes, they exist’ raises a whole bunch of other questions!” Your speech got quicker, a fierce glint in your eyes. “Like.. do you know the Fermi paradox?”

Oh, this was just unfair. Oikawa’s heart sang as he answered. “Of course! It’s so frustrating because where are they? Why haven’t we found any sign of them!”

You nodded vigorously, full-blown rambling now. “I mean, it’s still probable that there’s life out there, because the universe is just too damned big. But then you start speculating why we haven’t seen any evidence of colonisation anywhere and people come up with scary theories like the Great Filter. I don’t even want to think abou—”

Loudly, Hanamaki cleared his throat. He nudged his head meaningfully towards Iwaizumi with an impassive expression. However, Iwaizumi just smiled at you, obviously enjoying the sight of you speaking so passionately. He looked like he would have waited forever while you poured out your heart to Oikawa.

You yelped and apologised to Iwaizumi for getting carried away, then turned back to Oikawa. “Okay, it’s settled, we need to talk more about this some other time! Is it alright if I give you my number?”

Is it alright? Is it alright?

Oikawa barely registered what happened while he handed you his phone and you added yourself to his contacts. Was this seriously happening? You wanted to talk more to him? Helplessly he took his phone back and watched you and Iwaizumi leave. He returned your enthusiastic wave goodbye with a weak one of his own.

“Stay out of trouble, all right?” Hanamaki shouted after them, then snapped his briefcase shut and said goodbye to Oikawa and Kindaichi.

“Is everything alright, Oikawa-san?” Kindaichi asked carefully.

Oikawa sat in his chair, staring at his phone in a daze. All euphoria drained out of him at the growing realisation that this threatened to become a serious problem.

He did not have a crush on you.

He had a crush on the idea of you. He definitely did not have a crush on you, the person who dated his actual crush. Because he did not know you. And he was supposed to keep it that way.

Cursing himself and his big mouth, Oikawa put on a smile for Kindaichi and assured him that everything was fine. It had to be. Oikawa did not have the time or mental fortitude for this shit.

What a predictable failure of an ending to an otherwise perfectly good day.

Chapter Text

“I’m so sorry, I have a bad habit of getting carried away,” you said, rubbing the back of your head apologetically.

The warm temperature still lingered outside and the streets were filled with people enjoying the end of a lovely summer day. You and Iwaizumi navigated through the crowd without hurry, making your way to the chosen restaurant for the evening. It was a bit of a walk, but still a comfortable distance.

Iwaizumi chuckled. “No, it’s alright. I like listening to you.”

As much as he meant it, Iwaizumi had ulterior motives by saying that; bringing back that adorable blush back on your face. The plan back-fired on him in a spectacular way when you grinned mischievously at him instead.

“That’s sweet, please tell me you’re not just saying that to get in my pants?”

Iwaizumi cleared his throat, uncomfortably aware of the heat that rose to his cheeks. So much for making you blush. You laughed at his fluster, then hooked your arm around his and pressed your cheek to his shoulder. This did nothing to alleviate the burning in his face, spreading to his neck and ears.

The conversation shifted to day-to-day things, already more comfortable and natural than just a week ago. Iwaizumi felt like the edge had been taken off; he no longer had to work at finding a topic and there was less pressure to say the exact right thing every single time he opened his mouth. Instead he could just walk with you and relax (well... as long as you weren’t flustering him, that is).

You untangled yourself from him again to make walking easier, though you kept close. Despite the summer warmth, Iwaizumi still felt a sudden chill when your body heat left him.

“You’ve been to this place before, right?” Iwaizumi said, studying the wistful smile on your face.

For today’s date you had eagerly suggested a little restaurant Iwaizumi never heard of before. However, he happily agreed, curious to visit a place you talked about so enthusiastically.

“Yep, I used to go here all the time, but it’s been years now!” Working from memory, you kept a close eye on the streets to find the way back. “Nothing much changed around here,” you observed. You pointed out little shops you used to go with friends and lamented the loss of a bakery that changed into an electronics store. “Urgh, they used to have little banana cakes, those were delicious.”

Iwaizumi chuckled at your pout, squeezing your hand. He ran a soothing thumb over your knuckles. “You’re so passionate about dessert,” he mumbled.

“Well, who isn’t!” you retorted with a grin. “Ah, we go left here. Almost there.”

He let himself be guided into a side street as you sped up your walk. Honestly, your eagerness to get to the restaurant only endeared him, and Iwaizumi kept up without comment. Your eyes were fixated on a point in the distance, but the closer you got, the more your eyes narrowed. Suddenly your pace dwindled to a halt and your jaw fell slack as you stared at a small ramen place. It looked a bit slovenly, even if the waft of smells coming from inside made Iwaizumi’s stomach rumble.

“That’s...” You chewed on your lip, a frown slowly deepening on your face. “It closed?”

Iwaizumi looked from you to the restaurant and back. Disquiet churned inside his gut; you had been looking forward to this so much. His mind raced, already formulating a plan with the best alternatives and methods to comfort you, if needed.

“Aahhh, I’m sorry,” you said, running a hand through your hair. “I really should’ve checked first, it’s been a couple of years after all.” Then you turned to him and sighed. “Well, nothing we can do about it, right? Want to go somewhere else instead? What do you feel like?”

The front door opened as a couple of people left the ramen restaurant, hitting Iwaizumi with another blast of delicious scents. He smiled back at you, unable to resist tucking a strand of hair behind your ear. “You’re taking this pretty well.”

“I mean, it’s my own fault for not checking, right?” you said, frowning at the restaurant. “Bad luck. We’ll just find someplace else to eat.”

“Why not here? Smells good.”

Craning your neck, you peeked inside. “It looks pretty full, but worth a try!” You studied the menu plastered to the window. “Hey, they actually do take-out here.”

Iwaizumi stood behind you, trying to read the menu but thoroughly sidetracked by a new scent; you. A faint floral aroma, along with something sweet that always seemed to travel with you, invaded his nose and proved so distracting that he completely missed what you said next.

“If that’s alright by you?”

Half-turned around, you smiled at Iwaizumi—but while he had been spaced out, your confidence had seeped away and was replaced by a shyness that caught him off guard.

“Hm, sorry?” he said sheepishly.

Your eyebrow rose just as a teasing grin curled around your lips. Iwaizumi had the distinct feeling you knew exactly what had happened.

“I asked if you wanted to have take-out at my place? It’s not that far from here. Or something else, if you don’t want to.” Your voice lowered to a mutter towards the end, and you broke eye-contact.

He smiled at the nonchalance you tried to fake and put a reassuring hand on your shoulder. “I’d love to.”

“Look, I got to warn you, it’s a little bare, okay?” You fumbled with the key while Iwaizumi carried the bags of food. “I took a bunch of my stuff to Texas so it’s pretty much half empty.”

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Iwaizumi said. “Do you have a couch to crash on? A way to reheat the broth?”

You grinned at him as you opened the door. “Yes, and yes.”

“Then it’s fine.”

The front door led directly into the living room of your apartment. Iwaizumi looked around him with interest, his first thought that it did look like someone was in the middle of moving out. There was a bookcase with part-way filled shelves, some basic furniture, but no extensive decorations except for a handful of framed pictures.

You took the food from Iwaizumi and brought it to the small kitchenette. “Just make yourself at home, I’ll take care of this,” you said, taking out the separate containers of noodles and broth. You let out a soft groan as the scents drifted out of the bags. “Oh wow, that smells good!”

Iwaizumi wandered around the room, his eyes drawn to the bookcase. He saw a couple of photobooks, biographies, a handful of novels of different genres. To the side was a small stack of DVD’s and Iwaizumi picked up the top one to read the back. The synopsis sounded vaguely familiar, maybe Oikawa had made him watch it before.

“We can watch a movie if you want,” you said to him over your shoulder, then turned your attention back to the food. You stood at the stove where you warmed the broth in two separate, small pans. Your comment betrayed that you had been watching Iwaizumi, which did something funny to his stomach that had nothing to do with hunger—except maybe it did, just a little.

Add to that the way you stood there, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon and testing the temperature. There was a domesticity to the scene that got Iwaizumi’s heart beating just a little quicker. Unbidden, the image rose in his mind of walking up to you and wrapping his arms around your waist, pressing a kiss to the back of your neck and hearing your light giggle. However, uncertainty over your reaction held him back.

Firm proof that your relationship was still quite undefined; something that should not have surprised him as much as it did, considering this was only the fourth date over a timespan of less than two weeks. Somehow, it felt longer.

Trying to shake off that image, Iwaizumi walked over to your DVD player to set up the movie. He played around with the buttons of your remote, though most of his attention was preoccupied by the mystery of how in the world all of this had happened to him.

Just a mere two weeks ago you were nothing but a name to him, part of a ploy concocted by Hanamaki. Now Iwaizumi found himself rapidly invested in the idea of spending as much time as possible with you before you left. Was that why all of this had gone so fast? Was he getting carried away by this pressure of a deadline, of getting as much out of this as he could within a limited time frame?

He glanced back, a smile tugging at his lips when you hummed and swayed to a beat only you could hear.

Perhaps he did not need to worry about this right now. Just enjoy the moment. No unnecessary troubles clouding his mind. Just you and him.

No problem.

Not at all.

Iwaizumi sighed and stepped away from the DVD player.

“Oohh, that’s a good one,” you said when the menu of the movie popped up on the screen. “I approve!”

Just as Iwaizumi selected the Japanese dub option, you walked over with two steaming bowls and pairs of chopsticks. “I wasn’t sure if you’d even like space movies,” he said. “Don’t the inaccuracies bother you?” A sure-fire way to drive Iwaizumi up the wall; court cases in fictional media, rife with mistakes and impossibilities.

“Depends on how you approach it, I guess?” you said, settling down next to him on the couch. “Sometimes a movie is fun because they obviously did their research, that’s always great. But then there are those movies that are fantastic because the writers sound like they never attended a single astrophysics class!” Your grin was infectious.

“So which one’s this?” Iwaizumi asked, and started the movie.

“The writer of the original novel did most of his homework,” you said with a chuckle, and wriggled into a comfortable position on the couch, one that just happened to bring you closer to Iwaizumi. Silence settled in the room, aside from the sounds of the TV and the slurping noise that came with eating delicious ramen. The food was every bit as good as the smell had promised.

Not five minutes into the movie and Iwaizumi knew for certain; he’d seen this one before. However, you quietly chattered at him during the parts with no dialogue, excitedly telling him about notable points of accuracy or just sprouting random facts at him. It turned the movie into a whole new experience.

The food was gone quickly and you curled up close to Iwaizumi, folding up your legs and resting one arm on the back of the couch behind him. For a moment Iwaizumi was reminded of the way a boy might try to sneak an arm around a girl’s shoulders in the cinema, and quietly chuckled to himself. The laugh quickly died down as he realised just how close you were, your breath puffing against him as you talked.

Soon enough Iwaizumi stopped paying proper attention to the movie. “Some of this is actually based on a real mission,” you whispered to him. “Planned for 2030. Damn, I’d kill to be a part of that! Can you imagine, being on the first manned mission to Mars?”

Surely your cheeks hurt by now from smiling so hard, your eyes sharp and intense. Iwaizumi wondered if you even realised that your fingers occasionally brushed through his hair, light touches that seemed more subconscious than intentional. Either way, you did eventually catch onto the fact that Iwaizumi had forgone watching the movie in favour of watching you, and you flushed red at his undivided attention. Every nerve of his body burned from awareness at how tight you sat against him.

He smelled that flowery aroma again, combined with the lingering scent of ramen. Your body heat radiated against him—or was it Iwaizumi himself who ran so hot? He could count every individual eyelash if he wanted, heard every exhale of breath. Your bottom lip quivered just the slightest, drawing his eyes to it.

Iwaizumi’s body snapped into action before his brain could catch up and he leaned in to kiss you. He put one hand on your waist, the other cupping your cheek to bring you close. A sharp intake of breath, then your eyes closed and your hands dove into his hair. His mouth moved hard against yours, desperate to absorb even the faintest taste from your lips. You met him in equal measure, tugging at his hair and moving to sit on your knees for a better angle.

He could feel himself lose control, tempted to just leave his inhibitions behind and see what would happen, where this would lead, but then his brain snapped back to attention and Iwaizumi broke the kiss. You caught your breath, hands sliding down to his shoulders and gripping tightly.

“You know, if you wanted to shut me up, all you had to do was ask.” That teasing glint was back in your eyes along with something else, a distinct look of want.

He shook his head. “I could listen to you talk all day.”

You laughed and pressed another kiss on the corner of his mouth, light and quick. “Why are you so precious?” you asked, resting your forehead against his. “I can’t handle it at all.”

“There you go, stealing my lines,” Iwaizumi murmured before pulling you close again. You sighed happily and let your hands run over the planes of Iwaizumi’s clothed back. Your tongue teased against his lips, daring him to take it further. He gladly accepted the challenge, parting his lips to meet you halfway, tongues gliding against each other in a lazy but heated encounter. Groaning softly, Iwaizumi pushed inside to explore your mouth, and when your blunt nails raked over his shoulder blades, he tangled his fingers in your hair with a shudder.

His hand massaged your hip, tempted to sneak underneath your clothes and explore. How easy it would be to stop thinking and give in now. Once again the knowledge of your limited time together pressed down on him, he needed to enjoy this while he could. Nothing would be easier than letting himself go.

But Iwaizumi never did make things easy on himself.

It took more effort than the first time, but he pulled back with reluctance, using his grip on you to keep you in place when you instinctively leaned forward with him. You panted softly, your hands resting on his shoulders. Your dilated eyes, fixed on him, were almost enough to make Iwaizumi forgo every resolution of holding back.

“Are we going too fast?” he asked.

Suddenly he regained awareness of the movie in the background, as though earlier he had entered a vacuum with you, consisting of nothing but you and the pressure of your lips against his. The sounds blanketed the room with a static backdrop, amplifying the silence between you.

Closing your eyes, you exhaled slowly and sat back, creating some distance between you and Iwaizumi. When you reopened your eyes, you had regained your composure. Just from looking at the expression on your face, Iwaizumi knew he had touched upon a subject that had crossed your mind before.

“I... I don't know,” you said. “Do you want to take it slower?”

Somehow, the atmosphere was not tense. Both knew this conversation had been coming, that you needed to talk about this before you moved on with the budding relationship, with all the risks of getting in too deep, too early.

“I-” Iwaizumi hesitated, struggling to shape his thoughts into proper words. He always had been better at showing his affection in physical or practical ways, by a small touch on the shoulder or making sure someone ate properly, rather than verbally communicating his feelings. But for you, he needed to try. “I want to give this the time it deserves, I guess.”

You nodded, somehow understanding what he tried to say—or at least enough of it. “To be honest, this was never supposed to get serious,” you said, choosing your words with deliberation. “Did Makki tell you that when he set up our date?”

“Kind of. He implied as much.”

“Okay.” You took a deep breath just before the plunge. “I just wanted to meet some people to have fun with, nice and easy. Spending so much time abroad... I lost touch with a lot of old friends and don’t really talk to most of my family. That’s how Makki talked me into this in the first place,” you said, scrunching up your face. “But this... I can’t treat this light-heartedly any more.”

You sighed in frustration as you mussed up your hair, struggling just as much as Iwaizumi did to string your words together.

“Look, I get that this is a weird situation,” you said. “I’m not here for that long, and whatever this thing is that we have going on will suddenly become long-distance. Ridiculously long-distance! I know it’s not the first time I’m bringing this up, but I just don’t want to drag you into something more serious than you were bargaining for.”

Finally you fell quiet, though your face still was a turbulence of emotions. Iwaizumi never took his eyes off you, once again spotting that insecurity you showed at the end of the first date, when you brought up the same concerns. He reached out a hand to rest on your knee, the touch firm.

“I don’t know where this is going or what’ll happen in the future,” he said, slowly tracing his thumb over the fabric of your jeans. “All I know is what I want right now. There’s about six weeks left before you leave, and I want to spend them with you.”

A positively radiant smile broke out on your face, both joyful and vulnerable at once. Iwaizumi felt overcome with the sudden resolve to do everything in his power to see that smile every single day. The fact that he was responsible for it, that his confession had sparked such a beautiful thing into existence, rose goosebumps on his skin.

Instead of giving a verbal answer, you leaned forward again. Iwaizumi skin responded to your body heat as you crossed the distance, little pricks running through the fine hairs on his arm. Just as your lips were about to meet his, his heartbeat thumping between his ears, a sudden explosion in the movie had you jolt back in shock and turn your head to the TV.

“Wait, we can’t be fooling around!” you said, holding Iwaizumi at an arm’s length. “You have to see the movie!”

He couldn’t help but chuckle at your distress. Like he hadn’t already missed a solid fifteen minutes... but still, time to fess up the truth. “Actually, I saw it with Oikawa in the cinema,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his head.

You softly cursed to yourself, muttering something about Oikawa beating you to all the good stuff with Iwaizumi.

Letting out a breathless laugh, Iwaizumi leaned in to press a kiss on your neck. He lingered there, nuzzling his nose just below your jawline. “Don’t worry, there’s lots of stuff I haven’t done with him yet.”

You shuddered as he sucked on an enticing patch of skin below your ear, but did not let this distract you. “...‘Yet’?” There was a teasing lilt to your voice as you held back a laugh. “Just what are your plans with him?”

He groaned and let his forehead fall on your shoulder. Absolutely (and rightly so) convinced that anything he said would only make things worse, Iwaizumi stayed quiet and moved his hands to your waist, trying to tug you closer in a brave attempt at distracting you. You stubbornly stayed in place and when he looked up, you grinned in a way that assured him he’d never live this one down.

“You shouldn’t be making a girl jealous like that,” you said, the grin growing ever wider. “Nothing good can come of it.”

Iwaizumi leaned in close, rubbing your noses together and purposefully brushing his lips against yours without ever moving in for a proper kiss. “What can I do to make it up to you?” he asked while his hands softly massaged your hips.

“Hmmm~ make me dinner.”

He blinked once, twice, trying to comprehend your answer (which went into quite a different direction than he had anticipated). “Wait, what?”

“Aww, come on!” you said, swaying your body from side to side teasingly and clutching his shoulders a little tighter. “Make me dinner sometime! You told me you cook for Oikawa all the time, I want in on it.”

The left-field request finally sunk in and Iwaizumi snorted in amusement. “I don’t think that’s a good deal for you, but sure.”

You bit your lip and smiled. “I think I come out of this deal pretty darn good, thank you very much.”

“Say that again after you’ve tasted my cooking,” Iwaizumi murmured, and returned his attention to that spot beneath your ear. You drew a shaky breath and moaned softly.

In the end, Iwaizumi went home at a surprisingly respectable time. You had snuggled up against him, prying stories of college out of him (to learn more about your fated rival, Oikawa Tooru, or so you claimed), while you told lively anecdotes about cultural mishaps during your time training in Texas. Between stories Iwaizumi took every opportunity to brush hair out of your eyes, or press a kiss to your temple. You returned his affection by trailing a finger down his chest or nuzzling into the crook of his shoulder.

But eventually you kicked him out of the house, since you had to get up at an inhumane hour the next day to travel to the Tsukuba Space Center for work. You walked Iwaizumi to the front door, a soft smile on your face.

“So... dinner, huh?” Iwaizumi said, figuring you’d hold onto that promise.

You nodded eagerly. “Yes! If it’s okay.”

He gave you a crooked smile. “More than okay. But let’s do it on the weekend, when I’m off work. And don’t think you get out of helping me,” he said, pressing a kiss on your forehead.

“Sure, sure, I can play sous-chef for the evening,” you teased, then pulled him down for a proper kiss. His lips languidly moved against yours, a quiet promise for more to come. Your callused fingers drew over his jawline, then grazed through his short hair. The slight roughness made him shiver. “Goodnight,” you breathed after breaking the kiss.

“Hmmm, goodnight,” Iwaizumi said, and returned his lips to yours for more.

Locking your arms around his neck, you giggled into the chaste kiss but then pushed him away. “Goodnight.. Hajime,” you echoed back to him.

Iwaizumi inhaled deeply, feeling his entire body warm up at the way his first name sounded in your voice. He smiled and took a step away from you before his willpower failed this third and final test and he never left. He started walking away and when he looked back, you leaned against the doorway, watching him go. You gave him a lazy wave along with a wistful smile, and Iwaizumi smiled.

No, he had no idea where this was going—but right then and there, watching your figure bathed in the backlight of your home, he could not imagine this path leading somewhere he’d regret.

Oikawa stared at his phone, contemplating his current situation. Princess lay curled on his lap, radiating heat. Honestly, today’s hot weather was spectacularly unsuited for cuddles, but Oikawa could never bring himself to deny her—even if she posed the main obstacle between him and his goal.

His phone lay just out of reach on the other side of the couch. Any attempt to grab it risked disturbing Princess, an act so unforgivable even the mere thought made Oikawa scritch her behind the ears with extra effort to draw more purring out of her. It was exactly the kind of thing why Iwaizumi always accused him of spoiling his cats rotten, but Oikawa failed to see the problem. He stroked Princess’ long fur, effortlessly locating her favourite spots by habit.

Still, the phone just lay there, tantalising, tempting him. There was a new number in his contacts and it would be just rude not to reach out.

With some time to wear off his initial alarm at getting your number, Oikawa had managed to calm himself down and put some of his panicked thoughts into perspective. The situation was not as dire as his dramatic brain tried to convince him—in fact, Oikawa had found a new angle that made a good case for this actually being the best thing that could have happened. The quickest way to get rid of a celebrity crush was to remove the mystique, and the quickest way to remove the mystique was by getting to know the actual you. His overblown fear of falling in love with you was just that; fear. What were the actual odds of that? There was a reason people always said one should not meet their heroes. Disappointment was inevitable.

As though sensing Oikawa’s predicament, Princess stood up from his lap, brushed her fluffy tail against his nose, then jumped off and disappeared. Oikawa whined at the sudden loss, reaching after her. The effort was in vain, his cat much too fast for him.

But the action did bring his phone back into his line of sight, and Oikawa’s face twisted into an involuntary grimace. His freedom of motion had returned to him, yet he failed to make use of the opportunity. As his phone glared at him from a distance both close and insurmountably far, it dawned on Oikawa that maybe, but just maybe, he had been using Princess as an excuse.

What the fuck was this? Was he, Oikawa Tooru, nervous about texting some girl?

The mental reprimand snapped him out of his hesitation and he grabbed his phone, scrolled through the numerous names in his contacts until he found yours, then his thumb hovered over the screen.

All he had to do was send a damned text.

His jaw tightened and his brow set in a firm frown. Time to live up to his reputation as an effortless social butterfly. He tapped quickly, the words coming easy after his resolve hardened. Within twenty seconds he dropped his phone back on the couch, a single message sent.

So... which nebula is your favourite?

Casual, no high-stakes, and yet offering you your first opportunity to disappoint him if your answer was just wrong.

Oikawa stared blankly ahead, watching his other cat Valencia in the windowsill, her tail sweeping as something outside caught her attention. A faint sense of unease bubbled inside him, as though a deep part of his psyche tried to tug something in his consciousness. Something he failed to realise, or perhaps wilfully ignored.

Valencia chirped and jumped from her spot to the back of the couch, rubbing up against Oikawa’s head. A nebulous thought tried to form in his mind but it got brushed away before properly taking shape.

It left him with nothing but the vague and inexplicable sensation that he might have made a mistake.

Snorting at his crazy paranoia, Oikawa reached behind him and pulled Valencia in his lap. She was a sleek, excitable Siamese who happily babbled at him as he lavished attention on her.

Utter nonsense.

Like his life wasn’t hard enough already without his mind fabricating extra obstacles to overcome. He turned on the TV and settled with Valencia for some competitive cooking show as he waited for a response. This was the right way to go. He needed you knocked off that pedestal, and that’d never happen if he kept avoiding you.

Chapter Text

While never as much of a morning person as Hanamaki was, Oikawa usually had not much of a problem starting up his day. Usually. For some reason his night had been restless, a rotation of lying awake, sleeping a couple of hours, then startling out of his rest only to face a new struggle of finding sleep again. It felt like he had barely shut his eyes when his alarm blared, and to get out of bed proved... challenging.

He was in such a bad state that by the time he got to work, Kindaichi and Iwaizumi were already there. So much for always being there first. Honestly, Oikawa just counted his blessings that Hanamaki did not wait for him with some stupid smug grin. Oikawa could not even bring himself to put on a cheerful smile.

“Oh, that’s rare,” Iwaizumi said, grinning at Oikawa as he nursed a streaming cup of coffee, courtesy of Kindaichi. “Don’t tell me you stayed up all night again.”

Oikawa rose an eyebrow. Iwaizumi delivering commentary on Oikawa’s terrible sleeping habits without telling him off? Had the long awaited body-snatching alien invasion finally began? “You’re in a good mood,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

Iwaizumi shrugged, knowing better than to engage with Oikawa’s annoyances while the latter was in such a lousy mood. Instead he asked Kindaichi about his upcoming exam; was he prepared? Needed any studying tips? Who’s the professor? Oh damn, I remember her, make sure to take an extra look at procedural law. Kindaichi nodded eagerly at any advice Iwaizumi had to offer, looking starry-eyed at his senior as always. And as always, Iwaizumi was oblivious to the admiration.

Rolling his eyes at them, Oikawa grabbed his own coffee and stared at his phone instead.

No response yet from you.

Bah, like he even cared! Oikawa grumbled silently and put the phone back down. In a way, it was too be expected; you’d been with Iwaizumi yesterday, and Iwaizumi’s mood made it obvious the date had gone well. It was only logical that you had not gotten around to his question yet. Also, he definitely did not care.


So why hadn’t you responded yet?

“Good morning, lovely,” Hanamaki said, ruffling Oikawa’s hair as he walked in. “You look like you had a rough night.”

Oikawa gave him a foul glare, quickly fixing his hair. “And you look intolerably happy.”

Hanamaki made a noncommittal sound and rearranged some piles of paper on his desk to get organised for a day’s work. “Hey, don’t blame me for you not being your usual cheerful self.”

As much as it tempted him, Oikawa refrained pointing out that Hanamaki actually was at the center of all blame for his bad night—if he reached hard enough. After all, you were Hanamaki’s damned childhood friend. Without him, you would never have showed up at their work. At the center of it all, it was because of him that Oikawa had your number—so it followed that because of him Oikawa was waiting for a response, which definitely had not helped with getting some peaceful shut-eye.

...though he didn’t care that much, of course.

All of Oikawa’s inner ruminations went wholly unnoticed by Hanamaki, who gave Iwaizumi a thoughtful look instead. “And you aren’t your usual grumpy self,” Hanamaki said, rubbing his chin.

“Is that right?” Iwaizumi said, a vague smile on his face while he read through an old report to refresh his memory.

For a moment Hanamaki frowned at him, then his eyes shot open with sudden clarity. “Oi, something happened yesterday, am I right?” He pointed an accusing finger at Iwaizumi. “You got laid, didn’t you? It’s got to be that, you’re way too happy and docile!”

Oikawa almost felt a physical punch to his stomach. Just a while longer, just a few days more and the worst would be past and he could move on. He just had to hang in there. Not trusting himself to keep a straight face, he turned away from the others to pretend leafing through some paperwork. Though mere seconds passed by, it felt like time stretched on forever before Iwaizumi finally answered.

“No,” he said, blunt and short. Oikawa could hear the exasperation in his voice, threatening to puncture through the contentment.

“Sure. So quick on the denial. I can’t believe you already laid your dirty hands on my beloved, treasured friend. Greedy bastard.”

Iwaizumi sighed. “If I hesitated you would’ve taken it as a yes too. It’s a conversational trap, Makki.”

“So you admit to failing to answer my question entirely? Sounds like a guilty man to me. I’m disappointed, I expected better from a lawyer.”


“All right, all right, that’s enough,” Oikawa snapped, turning back around. God, this conversation needed to be over right now. He did a miserable attempt at keeping the sneer out of his voice but at this point it was no use. “You can do this on your own time, we need to get to work.”

“You really aren’t any fun when you don’t get your beauty sleep.” Hanamaki grinned, but turned to Kindaichi without further comment. “Okay, you heard him, let’s go dig out some more inconsistencies on Ebisawa’s end.” They already found three separate instances of the father claiming dates and locations that conflicted with earlier statements, and could always use more. Even if those events were not directly connected to the child, they would use any extra edge to convince the judge of placing Katsu into custody with a different family member, rather than staying with his parents.

Oikawa breathed a sigh of relief; mission change-the-subject proved to be a success, and hopefully this marked the start of a normal day. A day that did not involve him in anything even distantly related to Iwaizumi’s dating life.

Really, considering how the last few weeks had gone for him, Oikawa should have known better.

During the morning, everything was smooth sailing (insofar possible with the trial date looming ever closer over them), and the moment lunch started, Hanamaki jumped off his chair and grabbed Iwaizumi by the arm.

“I’m buying you lunch today!”

Iwaizumi grumbled as Hanamaki dragged him out, but did not protest too loudly against a free lunch—even if it probably meant getting grilled about last night’s events. Well, at least they’d be doing it where Oikawa could not hear. Small comforts and all that.

“Are you coming too, Oikawa-san?” Kindaichi asked, but Oikawa waved him off. Today he’d eat in the workroom (shut up, Iwa-chan, it still counts as lunch even if it’s mostly milkbread).

Then suddenly the office was quiet, leaving Oikawa alone with his thoughts.

Great. Such good company.

One of those classic no-win situations; he did not want to be around the others right now, but being alone was not exactly the best alternative. Oikawa needed a distraction.

In his defence, he actually took a break from work and used food as his primary diversion instead of compulsively checking his phone. He was halfway through his second piece of bread before he picked up his phone—totally casual. What he found was.. unexpected.

Blinking, Oikawa stared at the barrage of pictures you had thrown at him throughout the morning, a bunch of different photographs and artwork of various nebulae, concluded by a short message at the end. You’re evil don’t make me choose!

A slow grin spread on his face, the fretting part of his brain turning off as it switched to breezy-charming-sociable Tooru mode on instinct. What if the fate of the Earth depends on you making this choice~?

In no time at all you replied. Evil I say. Never should’ve given you my number. You can’t make me do this!

I tell you mine, you tell me yours?

“You’re right on time. Was it easy to find?”

With a grin you presented a bottle of sake to Iwaizumi. “Yeah, no problem!” You slipped off your shoes and pressed a soft kiss on Iwaizumi’s lips. “So, what’s on the menu for tonight?”

Iwaizumi took the drink from you, deliberately letting his hands brush against yours. “Come in and see.” He led you further into the house, taking you to the kitchen where he had made a start with the food prep.

You looked around you with open curiosity, and Iwaizumi felt vaguely self-conscious of you studying his home. He’d done an extra bit of tidying up, though he always kept the place neat anyway. You smiled as you were guided into the kitchen, eyes instantly locking onto the shelf with spices, then wandering to the various ingredients on the counter. “Oohh, we’re having shrimp?”

For two people the kitchen was a little cramped, but still worked just fine. Iwaizumi walked over to the countertop where he picked up a chopping knife and offered it to you. “Yep. You okay with mincing the onion?”

You gave him a look, aiming for sternness but your effort was ruined by the persistent smile that kept taking over your lips. “Iwaizumi Hajime, it’s not very nice to try and make a girl cry when you’re supposed to cook her dinner.” But you still took the knife and went to work while Iwaizumi continued what he’d been doing before you showed up on his doorstep; peeling and deveining the shrimp.

“We’re making curry,” Iwaizumi said, enjoying the way your elbow occasionally bumped into his arm as you cut. A cramped kitchen could cause irritations, but today he just appreciated any excuse to be close to you. “It’s a family recipe, my mum taught me how to make it.”

“Oh? This isn’t like a family secret, right? Is it okay that I’m seeing all of this?” you asked, a teasing glint in your eyes.

Iwaizumi chuckled. “Trust me, mum is a big fan of sharing. If anything, she’ll be disappointed if you can’t make it perfectly by yourself after tonight.”

“Should I expect a quiz?”

“Knowing her, it’s always safest to be prepared. But don’t worry, she’ll blame me for being a bad teacher if you don’t pass.”

You laughed and sniffled simultaneously, the onion having its effect on you. Then you got quiet and for a moment there was nothing but the sounds of prepping food in the kitchen. Your phone buzzed, but you ignored it. “Hey,” you said after you finished mincing, turning to Iwaizumi with a thoughtful expression, “family is very important to you, isn’t it?”

He smiled as he pulled the digestive tract from the last shrimp. “Yeah, I’m pretty close with my mum.”

So many fond memories of his mother teaching him to cook, of burning rice to a black crisp and gradually improving, even if his food still did not compare to hers. She raised him with the belief that food was a way to show affection, to reinforce friendships and deepen bonds. Your request for a home-cooked meal caught him off guard at the time, but Iwaizumi secretly was quite pleased to be doing this with you.

He hesitated, wondering if this was the right moment to ask you about your family, but in the end he could not bring himself to do it. Feeling like a coward, he gruffly gestured towards the cloves of garlic. “Could you chop these up?”

“Hang on a second, gonna check that message first.” You shot him an apologetic look. “I swear, I won’t be playing around on my phone all evening, I just need to keep an eye on it just in case it’s work. Wouldn’t be the first time something got rescheduled at the last moment.”

“It’s fine,” Iwaizumi said. They dealt with similar problems at the firm all the time. He cooked the onion in a large skillet, continuously stirring and keeping a close eye on it to make sure he didn’t take them too far. A soft giggle from you made him glance to the side. “Not work I’m guessing?”

You shook your head and put the phone away without replying to whatever made you laugh. “Nah, just Oikawa warning me about food poisoning.”

Iwaizumi rolled this eyes. Only this morning Oikawa had accompanied him to the market, whining that it had been too long since Iwaizumi had cooked for him (he’d made Oikawa a lunch earlier this very week). Dammit, he had spoiled Oikawa too much back during their days as roommates. Ah well, at least Oikawa had helped him figure out what to cook for tonight. “Just stick to your strengths and I’m sure you’ll win her over with ease~”

“Oikawa’s just jealous that he’s not invited,” Iwaizumi said. A small voice in the back of his head wondered just how often you talked to Oikawa these days, but he squashed the thought.

“Oh? Is eating a meal made by the Iwaizumi Hajime such a valuable commodity?”

He chuckled. “Don’t get your expectations up too high. I’d hate to set you up for disappointment.”

“Too late. Don’t think I haven’t seen the dough resting there. Do you seriously make your own bread? That’s hard-core,” you sighed, working your way through the cloves of garlic.

“Just some naan.”

“Sure,” you said, holding back laughter. “If you keep being this humble it’ll make me look bad, you know.”

Iwaizumi smiled and stopped dinner preparations to press a kiss against your temple, his lips lingering while he took in your scent. “Nah, it’s good that you’re aware of how great you are,” he murmured, then he pulled back, leaving you with a blush on your cheeks.

“Okay, but since when are you so smooth?” you said, a light stammer in your voice.

“I learn from the best,” he said, grinning at you.

You snorted and finished the last of the garlic. “And by that you mean Oikawa, right? Because damn, that boy’s smooth as hell.”

Iwaizumi’s eyebrow shot up almost all the way into his hairline. “He hasn’t been bothering you, has he?” He gave you a concerned look, praying you would not notice the jealousy roaring in his stomach if he concealed it behind a layer of protectiveness. Dammit, he was better than this; there was a lot to be said about Oikawa, but he’d never mess with Iwaizumi’s relationships. All this macho jealousy was completely unnecessary.

“Aw, no! He’s a funny guy, makes me laugh.” You turned to Iwaizumi with a mischievous smile. “But you are sweet to worry.”

Shaking his head, Iwaizumi removed the skillet from the stove to cool down. You still looked at him, probably enjoying the way his ears turned red, so he quickly changed the subject. “This needs a moment to cool, but can you start adding the rest after that? I’ll work on the bread.”

“Sure, I think I can handle that.”

You watched how he took a small ball of dough and started rolling it out in a thin circle. Iwaizumi couldn’t help but blush under your inquisitive gaze, the way you carefully studied his hands as he worked. Dammit, the whole point of focusing on cooking was to keep him from getting even more flustered! Luckily for his sanity, you tore your eyes away and started to stir the garlic, adding more ingredients per Iwaizumi’s instructions.

Together you did not take long to finish the meal. Iwaizumi offered to adjust the amount of spice to your preference, but you insisted on sticking to the original recipe. You waved your hand over the skillet to take in wafts of the intense scent. “It smells delicious,” you said, smiling at Iwaizumi while he got out some bowls.

Soon enough you bounced to the living room, somehow managing to carry two small cups and two plates with naan, the bottle of sake tucked beneath your arm, while excitedly chanting ‘kotatsu’ under your breath. Iwaizumi followed with two full bowls of food, watching you with bemusement.

“So it’s true? No kotatsu in America?” he asked, putting down the bottle and taking the bottle from you to open it.

You wiggled into a comfortable position, then pouted up at him. “Not a single one. Total savages.”

After filling the cups, Iwaizumi settled down at the adjacent corner. His knee bumped into yours under the kotatsu, and he did not bother to readjust his position. Iwaizumi and you both muttered a soft itadakimasu and started eating. He tore off a piece of naan and scooped up some of the curry—making sure to get a shrimp in there. Still, even while eating he kept a close eye on your face as you got your first taste. No way he’d miss that moment. Your eyes widened and he fought back a pleased smile.

Quickly you swallowed and gave Iwaizumi a startled look, then dove in for more. You tried to eat slowly, to saviour the meal, but your struggle was evident. Even Iwaizumi admitted to himself; the dish had come out pretty well today.

“‘Not a good deal’, he said.” You did a vague attempt at imitating Iwaizumi’s voice, shaking your head. “‘Don’t get your expectations up too high’, he said. Seriously, bless your mum for teaching you to cook like this.” You breathed in deeply, taking in the aroma, then ate another mouthful.

“I’ll pass along the compliment,” Iwaizumi said, chuckling. He took a sip of the sake, but the warmth that spread through him had little to do with the alcohol. He didn’t think the food was quite as spectacular as you made it out to be, but your enthusiasm still made his chest tighten.

“Seriously, got any more of these family recipes? Couple of secret ones you’ve been holding out on me, maybe?”

Iwaizumi shot you a look of mild exasperation, though it was mostly for show. “Like I said, no big secrets. Mum is big on sharing.” Once again he hesitated, instead watching how you scooped up another shrimp, happily eating the curry. “I...”

He trailed off as soon as he spoke up, uncertain how to continue. Part of him wanted to pretend he had remained silent, but you glanced at him with questioning eyes, quietly munching on your food.

“I don’t want to pry, but...” The way your smile drooped down told him that you already knew what he was about to say. “Last time you said you don’t talk with most of your family. It’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it, it’s none of my business,” Iwaizumi quickly added, and tore off a piece of naan for another scoop of curry.

Teeth tugging on your bottom lip, you studied Iwaizumi. The atmosphere turned, the moment weighing far heavier than he had intended. Stupid. He could read the indecision on your face on whether to answer, and if so, how much. Though he kept telling himself it was fine if you decided against it, no harm done, he still felt a surge of relief when you slowly nodded and spoke.

“It’s just...” You sighed, and drank a bit of sake to delay your answer. “My parents have always been protective of me. Expected me to wind up in some respectable job that pays well and is safe. They think I’m- that it’s selfish of me, what I’m doing. Always worried about what could go wrong.” You grimaced as you pinched the bridge of your nose. “And I mean, fair is fair, there are less dangerous careers I could’ve gone for!”

You let out a small laugh, but it was humourless and Iwaizumi did not join in, looking at you intently.

“Look, it’s not like I burned any bridges,” you said, fiddling with a rogue strand of hair, “but it all just got so strained and they’re so fussy, trying to change my mind every time I talk to them. So figured... I figured I should just keep my distance for now. At least until I get back safely. Which I will.”

You grinned and reached out to swipe a gentle thumb over his cheek, a literal attempt at wiping that serious expression off his face. It did not work.

“It’s not that bad! Makki is basically like a brother anyway and his parents always ask me to come over for dinner or tea. They’re good to me.” A melancholic smile appeared as you took some naan and dabbed it into a bit of leftover curry. “I’m sure mum and dad will come around in time. At the very least when I’m back.”

Iwaizumi wondered if you added that last part for his benefit or your own. He gave you a long look as he mulled over everything you said, over what would be the best response—the response you needed—barely realising that his hand had moved to softly brush against your arm. “I think you’re amazing for doing what you’re passionate about. For going after your dreams,” he finally said. His chest clenched at the flash of insecurity in your eyes, gone so fast he wondered if it had been real or imagined. “I’m sorry they don’t see that.”

You flashed him a crooked smile, bittersweet but still genuine. “Thanks. I mean it.”

Not wanting to let the food go cold, you scooped up some more curry. It took some effort, but Iwaizumi. managed to let the silence just linger until you were ready to speak again. You took a long time to chew, as though digesting your thoughts at the same time. After swallowing, you turned your attention back to Iwaizumi.

“So how about you? Fancy lawyer man, was that always the big dream?”

He chuckled. “Well, my dad always said my first dream job was Godzilla-tamer. I honestly don’t remember that, but mum still keeps the drawings to prove it.”

Your mouth fell open. “Oh shit, that’s adorable,” you said, a giddy tremor in your voice. “Please tell me your mother responds well to bribery so I can get my hands on those.”

Inwardly, Iwaizumi kicked himself; his mum would hundred percent create a personalised, painstakingly handcrafted scrapbook filled with all his childhood drawings and embarrassing photos for anyone who showed even the most remote interest in his youth. “Sorry, those definitely count as a family secret.”

You pouted at him, scrutinising his poker face with an agonisingly sharp gaze. “I’m sure I’ll be able to work out a deal.”

After finishing the meal you insisted on helping him clean the kitchen and loading the dishwasher. Just as you put in the last bowl, Iwaizumi finally gave in to his urge to warp his arms around your waist. He nuzzled his face into the crook of your shoulder, hair tickling his nose. One of your hands reached back to run through his hair, drawing a soft hum from him.

“I wish you could stay longer,” he said, the words muffled as he pressed tighter against your back. Expressing such sentimentality felt a little awkward, but Iwaizumi had drunk just enough sake to loosen up his tongue.

With a deep groan you turned around in his arms and sought his lips. He eagerly responded, tongue slipping inside to meet yours. His hands dug into your hips when you sucked on the tip of his tongue, and a quiet whimper that bordered on embarrassing escaped him. Too soon you broke away. “Work is a bitch,” you said, lips brushing against his as you spoke.

“I have skype on my laptop, maybe you could just talk to that, uhhh, mission planner here,” he murmured, stealing another kiss. Honestly, he just wanted to damn timezones to hell.

You whined softly. “So cruel, tempting me like this.” Soft puffs of breath fell on his neck as you rubbed your nose just below his jaw. Goosebumps rose all over his skin and he shuddered. “All my files are at home, I need them.”

He shook his head, fingers curling into your hair as he tipped up your head. “You’re smart, I’m sure you know all the important stuff.”

“Flattery won’t get you anywhere, sir.”

An exaggerated sigh pushed past Iwaizumi’s lips. He cupped the back of your head and caught your eyes. “Are you sure? Because you look absolutely stunning tonight.”

“Oh I know, right!” you deflected with a grin, radiating confidence. “But nothing compares to how handsome you are right now.”

Iwaizumi couldn’t help but smile at the mischievous glint in your eyes. Still, his fondness mingled with a bitter aftertaste. “Sorry, I can’t help but try and keep you around a little longer.”

You sighed, the playful mood draining from the air. “No, I’m sorry. I hate that I won’t be in town much.”

When you first told Iwaizumi that you would be spending most of your time at the Tsukuba Space Center for the next two weeks, the implications did not immediately sink in. Two weeks of little contact, he could handle that, that was not so bad.

Barely five seconds later his brain caught up and did the math for just how big of a chunk that tore out of the remainder of your time here. Now, despite how unrealistic and clingy the thought was, the idea of taking some vacation days off and follow you to Ibaraki was terribly tempting, his own work be damned.

Iwaizumi leaned his forehead against yours, breathing out slowly. “Work is work,” he finally said. “That’s just how it is. We’ll make the most of the time you’re here.”

You gave him a crooked smile and pressed a featherlight kiss on the corner of his mouth. “Hey, maybe it’s just as well,” you said, and giggled at Iwaizumi’s arched eyebrow. “You got your big trial coming up, I can’t be running around here distracting you from work. Still, I’m sorry I won’t be here to see it, I bet you look devastatingly sexy in court with your fancy sui-”

With a roll of his eyes, Iwaizumi kissed you long and hard to try and hide the flush of embarrassment that washed over him. His hands cupped your cheeks, encapsulating you with heat. He tugged at your bottom lip with his teeth, his hand gliding down to the small of your back, somehow trying to give you some payback for all this teasing. When Iwaizumi pulled back, the sight of you with eyes closed, breathing hard, filled him with satisfaction—and a craving that went deeper than physical longing.

“I’ll walk you to the station,” he murmured, brushing a stray lock of hair behind your ear. If he kept you much longer, you would be late for your video meeting... or not leave his home at all. As much as Iwaizumi wished for things to be different, he was not selfish enough for that.

“You don’t have to,” you said, but the protest rang half-hearted, more a force of habit than anything else.

“I know,” he said, brushing his thumb over your cheek. “But I want to.”

You smiled at him, a shimmer in your eyes, then pressed yourself against him in a tight hug, arms draped over his shoulders and face buried in the crook of his neck. Slowly, savouring the moment, Iwaizumi wrapped his arms around your waist and rested his cheek on the top of your head. He almost missed your soft words.

“Thanks,” you mumbled quietly, “for tonight.”

The way your fingers clenched into the fabric of his shirt told Iwaizumi loud and clear that you referred to more than just the food.

Chapter Text

How had he ended up like this?

A thought that kept recycling itself in Iwaizumi’s head. He sat next to you, staring up at the night sky projected above him. On your other side sat Oikawa (of all people!), leaning close to whisper at each other whenever the lady’s voice stopped echoing through the dome to supply information on whatever was shown. You had your arm hooked around Iwaizumi’s, fingers absentmindedly tracing figures on his skin. All three wore 3D-glasses, an extra feature of the planetarium show.

For some reason, Oikawa whispered more urgently and nudged your shoulder whenever a nebula was illustrated across the dome ceiling. “Stop it, I can’t,” you would huff back at him, but the laughter in your voice took the strength out of your protest.

Iwaizumi rested his hand on top of yours, lacing the fingers together. You smiled at him and shifted your weight to lean against him. “Please, please tell me if we’re third-wheeling you,” you murmured, breath falling on his ear. “Are you having a good time?”

“It’s beautiful,” he said, eyes focused on the night sky above. The presenter started explaining about the galaxy on display, on a collision course with the Milky Way (for several billion years in the future), and Iwaizumi divided his attention between the show and watching your reactions. After a minute or two Oikawa tugged on your sleeve again, and you giggled at a muffled comment.

Seriously. How had he ended up like this?

Iwaizumi sighed and told himself to stop obsessing over it. Honestly, he was having a good time, and how this had happened? Not as big a mystery as his brain pretended it to be.

With your schedules so filled up with work, Iwaizumi and you struggled to set up another date before the trial (a goal you had set for yourselves). His only options were in the weekend, but Hanamaki hogged you for the Saturday, and Iwaizumi felt he couldn’t ask of you to cancel. After all, Hanamaki knew you for much longer; Iwaizumi figured there was some kind of seniority in play here.

However, when he discovered that Oikawa was angling for an outing to the planetarium on Sunday, Iwaizumi found himself on the phone with you. He tried so hard to keep the grump out of his voice because dammit this wasn’t your fault and he absolutely refused to be That Guy who wouldn’t let you decide how and with whom you spent your time.

He had no idea whether his disgruntlement was that obvious or if you simply had a sixth sense, but you innocently suggested all three of you go; “He’s your best friend, right? No reason we can’t all go, should be fun!”

And so now Iwaizumi sat next to you, staring up at a projected, but still breathtaking galaxy, enjoying the warmth of your hand inside his and biting back a shiver whenever you leaned close to whisper something in his ear. Meanwhile Oikawa, whose mood had been surly as of late, seemed more cheerful than he had in a while.

All in all, despite his objections Iwaizumi had to admit this was... actually fun. He really enjoyed listening to you and Oikawa talk about this stuff, even if he rarely had the knowledge to join in. The passion came off both of you like waves, faces beaming with enthusiasm. Iwaizumi progressively spent the rest of the show paying less and less to the projections, and more to you and Oikawa, grinning at each other and at him. He got pulled into your quiet conversations often enough to prevent him from feeling like the third wheel you had been so worried about.

(How in the world was he the one at risk of being the third wheel with his best friend and the girl he dated?)

Eventually the presentation ended, and the three of you walked out of the dome, handing the 3D-glasses back to an employee.

Iwaizumi resisted the urge to reach out for your hand, not wanting to be too affectionate in front of an audience (especially one that included Oikawa). Instead he chuckled at your wide smile and nudged your arm with his elbow. “You look like you enjoyed yourself.”

Your smile disintegrated into a serious expression and you nodded solemnly.

“It was... stellar.”

A moment of deafening silence, then Iwaizumi snorted and Oikawa rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe you’re one of those people. Makki must have been a bad influence on you, I won’t accept otherwise,” he said, flipping his hair.

“Shut up,” you laughed, pushing your fist against Oikawa’s arm, “you’re just jealous you can’t come up with your own puns.”

Oikawa let out a small yelp of indignation and rubbed his arm, despite there being no force behind the mock-punch. Before he could respond, Iwaizumi decided to butt in and make his life tougher.

“True, you only like jokes when you’re the one who makes them.”

“Teaming up against me? So unfair!” Oikawa huffed and crossed his arms. “I make the effort of coming up with the great idea of going here, and this is the thanks I get?”

“Aw, I’m sorry,” you said and patted him on the back (Iwaizumi gave no response to the complaints, having gained immunity to Oikawa’s guilt-tripping methods long ago). “Hey, you guys want to check out the exhibit? I saw something about telescopes, should be cool.”

Those turned out to be the magic words that cheered Oikawa back up. You dragged them over to the exhibit that showed various telescopes, some disassembled to show the different parts, while a huge one at least six meters long stood in full glory. There also were a few models of celestial bodies, demonstrating how the usage of telescopes had changed humanity’s view of them.

Iwaizumi tried to focus on the displays, he really did, but he kept finding himself distracted by the company. You flitted from one place to the next, occasionally finding something where you lingered, spending a long time reading the supplied information and studying the display. Something about the way you lost yourself in your focus, as though nothing else existed around you, made Iwaizumi smile. Even if he could not join your world, he was more than happy to just stand beside you.

Not to mention you wore a pleated skirt, swishing as you moved, with knee-high socks underneath that looked so good on you that Iwaizumi kept finding his gaze drawn back to them.

On the other hand, the longer Iwaizumi watched Oikawa, the deeper he frowned.

Iwaizumi knew Oikawa quite well by now. They spent a lot of time together at the university, did their final internship at the same company, and even ended up both getting jobs there. It’d been a good couple of years, and Iwaizumi was intimately familiar with the manual of ‘How to Deal with Oikawa Tooru’.

But for the first time in a long time, Iwaizumi had trouble reading his friend’s mood. Oikawa was acting happy and friendly enough, taking every chance to tease you, and on the surface there was no reason to assume he faked his cheerfulness.

Iwaizumi knew Oikawa better than that.

Far too often he saw Oikawa smile at a fellow student, then carefully analyse them once they left the room, contemplating their pressure points and weaknesses (or scathingly remark on their hair). Iwaizumi witnessed all the times Oikawa dealt with the next girl that darted around him, fishing for a date or some indication of his feelings for her, while Oikawa somehow effortlessly walked a line where he politely smiled and talked to her without sending out blatant signals of interest, but somehow never outright rejecting her either.

Iwaizumi sighed at the memories, how much tension Oikawa’s behaviour initially caused between them before they came to an understanding.

He still didn’t quite understand why Oikawa even felt the need for the pretence, for building that kind of barrier around himself, but Iwaizumi prided himself on his capability to pierce through it.

Except, today he couldn’t.

As much as he tried, Iwaizumi genuinely could not tell whether Oikawa’s happy friendliness was faked or not. Last time that happened had been years ago, and it bothered him. Something was off. His knee-jerk reaction was to think ‘if I can’t tell, it must be fake’, but then... he’d doubt himself again.

Iwaizumi sighed and watched how you and Oikawa huddled in front of a gigantic digital rendering of a nebula. Conflicted over his next course of action, he decided he had no choice but to let it go for now. Out of all the moments to confront Oikawa, this was not it. Souring a rare, perfectly good afternoon with people important to him? Not an option.

“I’m just saying, I don’t see it,” Oikawa said just as Iwaizumi approached them.

You puffed out a miffed sigh and gestured at the image. “Just look at those cute fuzzy edges! You’re seriously telling me you don’t see the outline there?”

Iwaizumi put a lose arm around your waist as he tried to figure out what you were looking at. The plaque told him the nebula was called ‘NGC 2392’ or the ‘Eskimo Nebula’.

“Are the edges a parka hood?” he asked, and a radiant smile spread over your face. Iwaizumi cleared his throat in embarrassment, aware of his childish pride over recognising an image in a celestial object. Still, if it made you this happy...

Oikawa let out a little huff. “So that’s the answer then? Of all the nebulae out there, this one’s your favourite?” He sounded like an affirmative answer would cause deep, personal offence.

Making a tortured sound, you pulled at your skirt. Iwaizumi’s eyes glid down to the patch of bare skin between skirt and socks, then snapped up again to your face. Be a damned gentleman, Hajime.

“I don’t know! Why this obsession with favourites anyway? What’s wrong with dividing my love equally? Maybe I can do a top ten?”

“That’s the coward’s way out and you know it.”

Iwaizumi snorted. “Trashykawa, tell me your favourite sci-fi movie, right now.”

“Iwa-chan, no fair!” Oikawa yelped, almost tearful at the prospect of having to choose.

The harsh nickname had you raise an eyebrow. “Oh, so you two have that kind of friendship?” you said with a chuckle. “Good to know.”

Oikawa crossed his arms and tilted his chin up as he sniffed. “I’m so sorry you had to see this side of Iwa-chan, but perhaps it’s better that you found out now rather than later.”

Your grin turned into something devilish. “What side? The one where he saves me from your evil questions?” You looped your arm around Iwaizumi’s and pressed your cheek against his shoulder. “Or when he called you out on being a hypocrite?”

A look of horror spread over Oikawa’s face, his eyes empty as though staring straight into a terrible endless void. “Nowhere is safe,” he said to nobody in particular, a crack in his voice.

Taking pity, you patted him on the back. “Hey, Oikawa?” He gave you a look of utter distrust, but you just smiled. “Ask me what the Milky Way’s favourite music is.”

Obviously suspecting a trap, Oikawa pursed his lips. A long pause followed, and for a moment Iwaizumi thought he would refuse you. “...What is the Milky Way’s favourite music?” Oikawa finally said, eyes narrowed at you.

“A neptune.”

Silence stretched between the three of you for so long it slowed the very fabric of time. Iwaizumi looked at you flatly while Oikawa’s eye twitched, but the expectant smile on your face never wavered despite the lack of an enthusiastic response. Slowly your energy infected Iwaizumi, but Oikawa never swayed.

“I can’t believe I ever thought you were a cool person,” Oikawa said, so despondent that Iwaizumi spotted an actual single tear in his eye.

You grinned and squeezed his shoulder. “I’m sorry you had to see this side of me, but perhaps it’s better that you found out now rather than later,” you said, even taking care to emulate Oikawa’s flippant tone.

For a moment Iwaizumi worried you had broken Oikawa, a shadow hanging over his face, stuck in a forced smile. Then he suddenly bounced back into a cheerful demeanour, smoothly redirecting your attention to a large 3D model of a star system. Nobody was actually fooled by the act, but you and Iwaizumi exchanged an amused look and indulged Oikawa. Enough torture for now.

The rest of the afternoon you spent in relative peace, snooping out every corner of the exhibit and afterwards grabbing a bite to eat at a place nearby. Soon Iwaizumi realised he really should have found a way to ditch Oikawa before this. His brow furrowed deeper and darker as Oikawa continued regaling you about stories from their days as roommates. A whole day without issue, and now it all fell apart during the home stretch? Dammit.

“And you have to realise,” Oikawa said with a smug look on his face, peppering your name with -chan’s through his speech far too often to Iwaizumi’s liking, “by then Iwa-chan was so pale he almost looked like a ghost. I kept trying to make him get some rest, but he’s so stubborn!”

Iwaizumi twitched, torn between staying silent or pointing out that Oikawa’s constant fussing had pissed him off to the point that he had tried to power through that flu on principle alone. In the end he kept quiet, concentrating on your touch instead. Though your focus was on Oikawa and his tales of Iwaizumi’s suffering, you idly traced circles over the back of his hand, fingertips brushing against his knuckles.

“So,” Oikawa continued with a flourishing hand gesture, “despite my hardest efforts to get him to just email the professor and sleep it off, Iwa-chan showed up for his presentation anyway. We’re all just sitting there, holding our breath, waiting for this to go completely sideways.” He sighed dramatically and flipped his hair, then gave Iwaizumi a stern look. “Didn’t even get past the first slide before he passed out in the middle of the lecture hall. I could pinpoint the exact moment his soul left his body.”

Iwaizumi rolled his eyes. He still maintained that technically he had not passed out since he never lost consciousness, but the distinction never stopped Oikawa from dramatising the story to whatever satisfied him. Sure, Iwaizumi could keep arguing, but he honestly did not think it was worth the effort. Pick your battles and all that.

“And guess who ended up dragging his sick butt all the way back to the dorm?” Oikawa sniffed, as though Iwaizumi had done him the most grievous wrong possible.

“You poor thing,” you said with a grin, elbow on the table and resting your cheek on your hand. “That must have been unbearable for you.”

“Oh, you think that was the worst of it?”

Your eyes widened and you let out a small gasp at the prospect of a shocking plot twist. Iwaizumi felt your fingers squeeze around his hand, and despite knowing the embarrassing things to come, he couldn’t help the lazy smile. The restaurant was warm and quiet, the food tasty, and the relaxed atmosphere eased him into a feeling of almost drowsy contentedness. Perhaps it was better you heard these stories now rather than later, so they no longer loomed over Iwaizumi’s head as potential blackmail material.

Oikawa leaned in close, the same petulant frown on his face that he always put on for this part of the story. “So I, an innocent and good Samaritan, helps my dear friend back to bed out of the goodness of my heart, and how does he repay me?”

“How?” you asked, playing the perfect audience, waiting for his answer with bated breath.

Iwaizumi endured the foul look that Oikawa gave him, as always.

“I was wearing my favourite sweater that day, you know,” Oikawa reminded him, pouting.

“I know.”

“The one with the cute space invader print.”

“...I know.”

“Never found one quite like it again.”

“Yes, I know,” Iwaizumi said, despite the fact that those kinds of sweater prints came in endless varieties and it really should not be that hard for Oikawa to find a replacement. But Iwaizumi held himself back, already resigned long ago to the fact he would never live this one down.

Blinking, you turned your head from one to the other. “Wait, he didn’t...” You trailed off and lifted your head from your hand, freeing it to point a finger at Iwaizumi.

Oikawa let out a glum sigh. “I never got the smell out,” he lamented, resting a dramatic hand on his forehead.

You met Iwaizumi’s eyes and the admonishment was almost convincing, if it weren’t for the hint of a mischievous curl around your lips. “Hope you repaid him for that!”

“I never stopped paying for it,” Iwaizumi grumbled. Pretty much every mutual acquaintance of them knew that story, and there was no end in sight. But fair was fair; after that embarrassing incident Iwaizumi started taking far better care of himself, resolute to never repeat the event.

You giggled and for a second you looked as though you wanted to lean in for a kiss, your eyes flitting over Iwaizumi’s face with a soft smile. Then you seemed to remember the company and shook it off. Instead you turned to Oikawa, that sweet smile turning wicked. “Please, please tell me what he’s like when he’s sick. Did he act like a big toughie until the end?”

A loud groan erupted from Oikawa that was entirely uncalled for. “You have no idea,” he said, punctuating the last word with a flippant hand gesture. “I didn’t even have to feel his temperature to know he had a fever, and Iwa-chan still wanted to pretend it was just a cold.”

Iwaizumi’s ears turned red. Luckily the evening was winding down to spare him from living through you further interrogating Oikawa. After the food was gone and some bickering about the bill (mostly by Iwaizumi and Oikawa, which you watched in amusement), you left the restaurant before any permanent damage could be done, leaving a scrape of Iwaizumi’s dignity intact. He suspected that Oikawa took it easy on him on purpose, something Iwaizumi would have to thank his friend for later.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa said, happily waving goodbye when the trio reached the train stop. He turned to you with a conspiratorial curve to his lips—not quite a smile, but drifting somewhere around that area. “This was great, we should do it again sometime without the chaperon~”

“Definitely, I’ll let you know when work is less crazy so we can set something up!” You waved back at him while Iwaizumi just grunted a simple ‘goodnight’.

As soon as Oikawa’s train left, you turned to Iwaizumi.

Initially, your serious expression startled him, as though you studied his face in an attempt to find something. Only he could not figure out what, so he just returned a steady gaze, contemplating the simple beauty of your lashes brushing over your cheek as you blinked. His hands found yours and he pressed a soft kiss on your knuckles. “Do you want me to get you a cab?”

You shook your head. “It’s not that far, I’d rather walk.” The lines in your face softened and you laced your fingers with his. You seemed to be waiting for something, something you struggled to ask for yourself, relegating yourself to Iwaizumi with an expectant look instead.

Iwaizumi smiled, knowing exactly what you wanted from him. “Shall I walk you home, then?”

“I’d love that,” you said with a relieved grin.

All the way to your apartment he never let go of your hand. The soft late summer brought ideal weather for an evening stroll. In contrast to earlier conversations today, you stayed in the backseat this time, putting your focus on extracting more stories from Iwaizumi.

And so he found himself telling you about the first time he went to the movies with his dad, a theatrical re-release of the old Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. You laughed fondly at his awkward attempts at describing the big fight scene between four monsters from memory and you tried to get him to re-enact them, sound effects and all. Just as you started telling him about your first cinema experience, you reached your front door.

You looped your arms around his neck and leaned in to brush your lips over his, barely counting as a kiss. Before Iwaizumi could deepen the touch into a proper kiss, you put a finger on his bottom lip. “Hey, umm... want to come inside for coffee?”

He did not have to think long on an answer.

And just like that, Iwaizumi suddenly found himself sitting in your living room, throat dry and hands clammy, waiting while you made coffee. He made an inconspicuous attempt at wiping his palms on his trousers, swallowing thickly while you happily chattered at him. Don’t jump to conclusions, he sternly told himself. Maybe she just wants to talk more.

“Hey so I was thinking, since we cooked one of your family recipes, maybe I could return the favour?” you said cheerfully, a potential confirmation of Iwaizumi’s thoughts. “Maybe after you’re done with the case!”

“Ah, yeah I’m all for it,” Iwaizumi said, distracted by the buzzing of his phone. He fished it out of his back pocket and saw a notification of Oikawa’s instagram; a picture Oikawa had taken this afternoon of you and him together, both wearing big grins and giving a peace-sign.

Iwaizumi’s stomach instantly churned uncomfortably. This picture could all too easily be mistaken to be of a happy couple. Somehow it left him off-balance, feeling threatened, a reminder of how close you had come to going on a date with Oikawa instead of him—and how everything might have ended up then. The picture seemed like physical evidence of how that scenario might have turned out and as irrational as it was, a surge of jealousy rushed through Iwaizumi, stabbing inside his abdomen.

Before he even realised you had left the kitchen you already sat next to him, two steaming cups of coffee on the table. Iwaizumi jumped, quickly putting his phone away.

“Hey, you okay?” you asked, a light frown etched in your eyebrows.

Ah dammit, did he always have to be so obvious with his feelings? Iwaizumi quietly cursed himself, doubly so when he stammered in response to your question—dammit why had stringing words together suddenly turned into an impossible task?

“Sorry if I was too forward. Didn’t mean to make you nervous or... presume anything,” you said, running a distracted hand through your hair. “We’re not doing anything you don’t want to.”

Iwaizumi blinked at you, barely registering the words. “Wait, what?”

You gave him a distinct Look, capital L. “Hajime, I invited you up for coffee,” you said, the words laced with an edge of exasperation. “A girl can’t get less subtle than that short of literally asking you to fuck her.”

You directness sent a burning flush up Iwaizumi’s neck and ears. “Sorry, I got- I got distracted,” he stammered. “I’m here now.”

Yes. He was the one here, with you, in your house, on your couch. No use in speculating over meaningless what-ifs and running over endless hypothetical scenarios. Not when you sat right in front of him. Iwaizumi smiled, his unease falling away as he took your hand. He followed every palm line with his thumb, but when he traced your calluses you tried to pull away.

By now Iwaizumi realised you were self-conscious of those calluses, but he loved them. They represented tangible proof of your hard work, plus he adored the edge of roughness when you brushed them over his skin. So instead of letting you retreat, he leaned down and pressed a kiss on the tip of your index finger, then sucked it into his mouth and curled his tongue around the digit. He never looked away from your face, relishing how your cheeks heated up and your breath caught in your throat. Your eyes fixated on his lips.

“You’re beautiful, you know that?” he murmured around your finger, then bit down gently.

You made a soft sound of want and broke his hold on you to shift closer. Hands pressed against his chest to stabilise yourself, you settled in his lap. “You’re a cheesy dork, you know that?” you teased, but the glint in your eyes betrayed the underlying affection.

Iwaizumi just smiled at you, one hand resting on your hip, the other reaching up to brush a stray hair out of your face. Then he cupped your cheek and guided you forward into a hungry kiss. You eagerly sucked on his tongue, almost distracting him from your hiked-up skirt, revealing a tantalising amount of skin. He got lost in the scent of your perfume, in your fingers scratching over his shirt. The feeling of your weight resting on him was strangely reassuring, an affirmation of the reality of this moment, of the connection between you.

You ran your fingers through his hair, tugging at the short locks as Iwaizumi trailed a hand from the edge of your sock, over your bare thigh, finally slipping underneath the skirt. Warm and smooth to the touch, your skin enraptured him while awakening a hunger for more. He swallowed the soft whine you let out when he brushed against the edge of your underwear.

Up until now Iwaizumi had experienced every moment with you as surreal and fragile; a strange and sudden new presence in his life that could vanish at every second, that somehow did not quite fit in his regular world. His unease over your interactions with Oikawa only revealed his insecurities.

All of that fell away now. Even as he toyed with the material of your panties, fingers playing over the curve of your rear, he felt unusually grounded. Every touch, every sensation coming in sharper, more intense, piercing through the cloud of pleasure that fogged up his brain.

You moaned into his mouth, rolling your hips into him. He shivered as your nails grazed over his neck, down to his shoulders where they scraped against his shirt.

Breaking the kiss, Iwaizumi murmured your name in reverence and traced his thumb over your bottom lip. Captivated, he studied your face, how your eyes glazed over and your nose scrunched up with every roll of your hips. Your grip on his clothes tightened as you bit into his thumb, then your hands slid down.

With a groan, Iwaizumi’s head fell back when your deft fingers undid his pants, pulling down the zipper far enough to cup the bulge underneath his boxers. A mischievous grin played on your lips as you leaned forward to nip at his ear.

“Please allow me,” you purred, then slid off his lap and nested between his legs.

Iwaizumi’s breath increased rapidly and he bit his lip as you took off his socks and tugged down his jeans just a bit further. One hand bunched up his shirt so you could press soft kisses on his abdomen, your tongue darting out to tease the rippling muscles, twitching with every touch. You glanced up when he stammered your name, your thumbs slipping inside the waistband of his underwear.

“H- hey,” he said, putting on a good fight to keep the words steady, “only if you want to.”

He half-expected a teasing remark, but you simply pulled down his boxers far enough to expose his half-hard cock. “Trust me, I do,” you said in a breathy voice, gazing at him in fascination. Your tongue drew over your lip, the gesture of unabashed hunger sending a jolt straight to Iwaizumi’s groin.

Iwaizumi struggled to decide where to put his hands, itching to palm at your hand but unsure of boundaries, whether you would consider it disrespectful. Instead he rested them on his legs, fingers clenched into tight fists as he watched you lean forward.

Somehow, it still came unexpectedly when you drew your tongue over his length, slowly, from base to tip. He let out a choked grunt, his hands clutching onto the fabric bunched around his knees.

You peeked up at him as you pressed a soft kiss on the head, then moved on to lazy kitten licks. Iwaizumi inhaled sharply, biting down hard on his lip. An unbidden blush spread on his cheeks as his eyes met yours, your nails grazing over his stomach. Then your eyes fluttered shut and your lips closed around his cock. Iwaizumi cursed and his hips twitched, almost bucking up. His chest heaved as you bobbed up and down at an unhurried pace, as though wanting to linger on the experience. One hand wrapped around his cock, pumping his length while your tongue focused on the head.

“Fu- fuck, ngh,” Iwaizumi hissed, offering up your name alongside grunted swears. He found himself unable to look away, your eyes holding him captive. His fingers threaded through your hair now, brushing strands behind your ear as gently as possible—but your sucking and teasing made made it difficult to control himself. Soon he was so sensitive that even a light flick of your tongue against his slit made him throb, and his back arched when you hummed around him, a strangled groan tearing from his throat.

Though you proved yourself intent on sending him over the brink, Iwaizumi tugged at your hair when he felt himself edging too close. His cock twitched when your lips slipped off him, and he groaned at the sight of a small trail of saliva connecting your lips to the head.

“Thanks,” he said, his breathing laboured as the wave of pleasure receded to manageable levels—though his available vocabulary still left much to be desired. “That was.. yeah.”

You crawled back into his lap, the sight of you shooting that aching sensation of pleasure straight back into his cock. Your cheeks were flushed red, lips swollen and curled into an impish smile, eyes alight with a fire that threatened to burn him.

Iwaizumi eyed your clothes, concluding that your fully dressed state was entirely unacceptable. He drew shapes on the patch of skin between skirt and socks while you leaned forward to put a swift peck on the corner of his lips. “I have condoms in my bedroom,” you said, then nestled against him and pressed an open-mouthed kiss on his neck, right over the pulsing vein that betrayed his racing heart.

He cupped your cheek and pulled you into a hard kiss, his free arm gathering you closer to him, unable to bear open space between you.

“Hang on,” he said, nuzzling your noses together, then readjusted his grip on you and shifted his weight to the edge of the couch. You let out a squeal of laughter and wrapped your legs around his waist when he stood up, lifting you with him.

“Holy shit, these really aren’t just for show,” you teased, fingers pinching at his biceps. However, your light-hearted words could not disguise how much this turned you on; he felt the squeeze of your thighs around him, saw that unmistakable smolder in your eyes as you directed him to the bedroom.

Iwaizumi barely remembered how he got there, too preoccupied by your lips on his jawline, leaving little nips at his skin. He did recall sitting down on the bed, letting himself fall back and pulling you with him. His fingers tangled in your hair, drawing you into another feverish kiss. You moaned when he roughly shoved his tongue inside, your hands splayed over his bare chest to balance yourself—where had his shirt gone? And when did your blouse get unbuttoned? Ah never mind that, he told himself, instead focusing on devouring the little sounds you made as his tongue exploring every crevice of your mouth. He pulled more clothes off you but lingered on your bra, fingering the lacy texture and brushing his thumb over a clothed nipple.

You moaned and pressed your hips down, searching for the friction you craved. He grunted in response, bucking up to make you bounce in his lap, an enticing preview of what was to come.

A clumsy fumble with the clasp of your bra, and suddenly Iwaizumi realised just how nervous he was. Good nerves, the kind he needed before an exam or prosecution, but his hands still shook as he removed the garment.

To his delight, you blushed under his intense stare when the bra fell away. His hands sought the newly exposed skin, thumbs brushing along the curve of the underside of your breast. You arched your back as he teased your nipples, your hips rolling into his with a slow, insistent motion. Iwaizumi bit his lip, trying to push away the throbbing of his cock but painfully aware he should not draw this out much longer. With that in mind, you both made quick work of the rest of the clothes—except those damned socks of yours.

You smirked when you realised Iwaizumi wanted you to keep them on. “I thought you might like those,” you purred, hands rubbing up and down his chest. Calluses brushed over hard planes of muscle, anchoring Iwaizumi to this moment.

“You’re gorgeous,” he said, smiling up at you. It was true, you had never looked more beautiful to him; not because you were naked, but because of the uninhibited passion, of which he had caught so many glimpses in conversation but now unfurled full force.

“Not so bad yourself,” you murmured gently, leaning down for a quick kiss on his lips and then reaching for a condom from the nightstand’s drawer.

Iwaizumi shifted himself a little further to the middle of the bed, but as soon as you found the rubber he impatiently pulled you back into his lap, the action bordering on rough. Time with you was too precious to waste.

“So eager,” you crooned. Despite your teasing, you were just as keen as him, quickly tearing open the packaging and rolling the condom over his length. Iwaizumi’s breath quickened and his thighs twitched at the sensation of your fingers carefully brushing over him, but he still took the opportunity first to reach down and slide an index finger through your folds. His digits were met by heat and wet arousal. He allowed himself a toothy grin when your head dropped and you let out a whiny moan at his touch.

Iwaizumi’s head clouded up with possibilities, all the things he wanted to do. To keep teasing you, all night long until you were reduced to a writhing mess above him. To flip you over and pound into you, using every muscle in his body to ensure you would not walk for a week. Gentle touches or rough caresses, he craved all. He gazed up at you, at your knitted brows as you rocked yourself into his touch, but eyes wide open and fogged with pleasure, staring back at him with an edge of desperation.

With a groan, Iwaizumi dragged his hands down to your hips and helped you lower down on him, unable to wait even a second longer to be inside you. All those things he wanted to do? Rather than letting himself be consumed by indecision, the fantasies fuelled Iwaizumi’s desire, glimpses of potential bedroom endeavours with you in the future.

A drawn-out, low moan escaped you as Iwaizumi filled you. Your walls throbbed around him, and he grit his teeth at the barrage of new sensations, effectively snapping his consciousness back to the present.

You cursed softly and grabbed hold of his wrists, anchoring yourself as you started to move. Shallow thrusts at first, to let yourself adjust to the stretch. Iwaizumi’s hands inched back to your ass, fingers digging into the soft skin. He forced himself to keep his hips still, giving you a chance to find your rhythm—but your whimpered moans tested his self-control to the limit.

Soon his patience paid off as you moved faster, pressing your hands on his shoulders for leverage. Ready for more, you eagerly rocked your hips against him, the friction building so fast it almost overwhelmed Iwaizumi. When you found an angle that dragged your clit against his abdomen, your jaw fell slack. “Fuck, Hajime,” you gasped, digging your nails into his skin.

Iwaizumi smirked and bucked his hips, drinking up the high-pitched moan you released. He matched your rhythm, driving himself deeper inside you with every thrust. You fitted around him so beautifully, radiating heat and hunger that saturated every cell in his body.

Your head fell back with a groan when Iwaizumi’s hands took up a mission of exploration; he definitely adored how this position left his hands free. He traced his fingers up your spine, played at your collar bones and palmed your breasts, watching in fascination how your body quivered underneath his every touch. The whimper of his name was like a drug, only making him ravenous for more.

His next thrust almost lifted your knees off the bed, and he put a quick hand on your waist to stabilise you. The other hand slipped between your legs, determined to draw more of those addicting sounds out of you.

“Ha- Hajime, please, I-” You lip your lip, but a garbled moan still spilled out when Iwaizumi found your clit. He pressed his thumb against the nub and then held still, allowing you to control the stimulation with your thrusts.

Iwaizumi watched you unravel with every roll of your hips, your movement reduced to a frantic rut as you sought release. He focused on your pleasure in an attempt to stave off his own orgasm, to ignore the sharp spikes of heat that shot through his abdomen with every clench, every moan, everything. Your rhythm deteriorated further as you whimpered continuously, arms shaking with tension. Iwaizumi hissed at the tightening of your walls around him and he knew you could not be far off.

“You’re close, aren’t you,” he said in a low rasp, fingers digging into your hip. “How does it feel?”

“God, Hajime,” you whimpered, thighs shaking around him. “I- I can’t, I-” Your speech failed you, every word a tattered stammer in evidence of your imminent climax.

He grunted at your cries, bucking up with renewed energy. “Come,” he growled, and watched how that single word unlocked a torrent of rapture inside you, the tension in your body snapping as you cried out.

Your hips stuttered, physically torn between riding through the wave of pleasure or avoiding over-stimulation. Iwaizumi made the decision for you, holding you tightly with both hands and driving your hips down on him. His breath wheezed as he worked himself towards his own climax, releasing a constant stream of raspy moans. Your arms crumpled and you buried your face in the crook of Iwaizumi’s neck, biting down hard as he fucked you through your orgasm—until that surge of electricity shot through him, every muscle in his body contracting with a toe-curling spasm.

He bucked up once, twice more as his mind blanked out, a sense of euphoria washing over him after the heat of his peak receded.

Silence descended in the bedroom, only disturbed by heavy panting as you and Iwaizumi recovered. You slid off him, dropping on your back as you lay on the sheets, looking thoroughly fucked.

Iwaizumi smiled at the dazed look in your eyes, the rise and fall of your chest as you breathed hard. He could watch you like this for hours, he knew that with a certainty that almost scared him. But as the frenzied bliss of his orgasm faded away, Iwaizumi settled back into harsh reality. He groaned as he rolled over towards you, nuzzling against your shoulder and throwing an arm over your waist.

“I can’t stay over, dammit,” he said, a clear bite of frustration in his voice. “Work tomorrow.”

All of his documents, his notes, were all at home. Plus, there was no possible way he could face his colleagues while wearing the same clothes as today, not with Oikawa there who would immediately deduce what had happened. Iwaizumi would face a long day, a horrible nightmare of constant jokes and nagging. Hanamaki had been bad enough to deal with just thinking Iwaizumi slept with you, who knew what he might unleash after confirmation. And already he could feel a post-orgasmic grogginess threatening to take over him; he could not delay bringing it up.

You put an arm around his shoulder, your nails softly grazing the nape of his neck in a soothing motion. “I get it,” you murmured, sounding slightly dazed. “It’s okay.”

Despite his declaration Iwaizumi somehow found himself kissing you instead of getting dressed. His lips moved against yours slowly, sluggish but intense. When he broke away you smiled and spoke in an even voice that somehow still teased him.

“You can go, you don’t have to sleep here. I won’t get mad about it,” you said, the last words transforming into soft moans when Iwaizumi bent down to press open-mouthed kisses on your chest. “You can go home.” He ignored you, tracing further down to dip his tongue in your navel. Your breath hitched, a small tremor running through your body. “Entirely up to you. You have my support.”

With a sigh of regret, Iwaizumi tore himself away. You both sat upright and you brushed your fingers over his jawline to pull him in for a final kiss. After a long moment you slid off the bed, putting on a bathrobe and helped Iwaizumi find his clothes, scattered through your apartment. It was quiet, as though both needed a moment to process what just happened. Once Iwaizumi was fully dressed and standing at the doorway, he rubbed the back of his head and gave you an awkward but happy smile.

“Seriously, I’m sorry for not staying,” he said, his cheeks heating up. Every single thing he’d been taught about treating women like a gentleman protested against leaving, but the early morning would never allow him enough time to go back home to change and get all his things before work.

Grinning, you shook your head. “Seriously, don’t worry about it. Just...” You wavered for a second, then cupped his face in both hands and kissed him deeply, your tongue massaging against his even while your body pressed up to him.

The act threatened to reawaken every nerve in his body, and Iwaizumi realised he either needed to leave or give into the feeling. After a short internal battle, Iwaizumi pulled away. He brushed a sweaty strand of hair out of your eye, then gently kissed your forehead.

“Goodnight,” he murmured, his lips lingering over your skin. “Let’s do dinner again soon, okay? Don’t think I’ve forgotten your promise. Your turn to cook.”

You giggled, a light sound that made Iwaizumi’s stomach do flips. “I haven’t forgotten, don’t worry,” you said, and gave him a heated look that bespoke of many promises for the future.

On his way home, Iwaizumi could only feel grateful for how much the outside temperature had dropped—and still he suspected he needed a good cold shower before he’d have any chance at getting in a decent sleep.

Hanamaki’s head groggily tried to make sense of why he had woken up in the dead of night. Next to him, Matsukawa groaned and tightened his arms around him, but stayed asleep. He blinked into the darkness of their bedroom, then shrugged and wiggled deeper into Matsukawa’s hold.

Then his phone buzzed again.

“What the hell,” he muttered sleepily and reached out to grab it. He saw your name on the screen and stared at it in confusion. “What the hell?”

Still, if you called in the middle of the night, Hanamaki would always answer. He put the phone to his ear, figuring you probably weren’t sober. It had been a long time since the last time you’d drunk dialled him. Part of him kind of missed it, though he would never admit it to you.

“The fuck, squirt?” Silence stretched out on the other side of the line and Hanamaki frowned, suddenly worried. “Hey, are you alright?”

Damn, had something happened?

Oh god I’m so sorry for waking you up, Makki,” your voice burst out, frantic or excited or maybe both. “Oh fuck I have some shit to tell you but I can’t tell you! Dammit I should’ve thought this through before calling you, you work with him! I can’t do that to him! Fuck I’m so sorry, Makki, sorry I woke you up, please have a good sleep okay bye!

And with that, the call ended and you were gone.

Hanamaki gave his phone a foul look, unable to decide what pissed him off more; being woken up or missing out on what sounded like some grade A gossip.

Chapter Text

One day earlier

“Huh, that’s pretty.”

“Oh my god, Makki, don’t sound so surprised! It’s insulting.”

“What’s insulting is your usual taste level.”

“Oi! Don’t push it, I’m not below picking out something atrocious just to spite you.”

“Oh trust me, I know exactly what cruelty you are capable of.”

Still, Hanamaki extended his hand and allowed you to paint his nails with care. Together you lay on the king-sized bed in Hanamaki and Matsukawa’s bedroom, propped up on your elbows with feet dangling in the air. You meticulously applied a pastel blue polish, humming an off-key tune, while Hanamaki used his free hand to reach into a bag of crisps. All in all, the whole scene bore an uncanny resemblance to lazy weekends back in high school.

“Hey, give me one,” you said, nudging your chin in the direction of the snacks. Both your hands were occupied, one holding the brush, the other keeping Hanamaki steady. You painted his nails out of order, switching to the pinkie after finishing the thumb.

“No, you’ve been selfishly gorging yourself on them. Leave some for me.”

You stopped your work and pouted at Hanamaki. “Will you let me live?” you whined. “You know I can’t eat chips once I’m stuck up on that station!”

Hanamaki rolled his eyes. “Yeah yeah. No crumbs allowed on the space station. Who came up with that stupid idea anyway?”

“Lack of gravity with a clogged ventilation system fucked it all for the rest of us,” you said, as though you had not explained a thousand times by now how floating crumbs created problems in the long term. You took out a soft lilac for the index finger.

“Right,” Hanamaki said, utterly deadpan. “Still no excuse for you to eat all the snacks, you greedy creature.” He grabbed another chip and demonstratively put it in his mouth, the motion exaggerated and drawn out.

“You’re just a lazy ass,” you said, putting the brush back for a moment to reach for the snacks yourself. “An ungrateful butt who won’t do anything nice for his precious friend.”

He sent you a toothy grin. “Just my way of looking out for you. Anyway, I heard through the grapevine that you’re taking out two guys tomorrow. What’s up with that?”

“You mean you saw Oikawa post about it on twitter? Not exactly a state secret, you bum.”

“Whatever,” he sniffed, poking your nose. “So what’s the deal? Don’t tell me you’re thinking about seducing him too, because then you leave me no choice but to brutally remind you he rejected you already.”

“Ha! Can you imagine, me sweeping through the galaxy like some kind of femme fata- wait, what? Reject me?” You blinked at Hanamaki in confusion.

He frowned. “I didn’t tell you? Could’ve sworn I... Okay, never mind that. The blind date I was so kind to set up for you? Was supposed to be with Oikawa, but he didn’t bite. Broke my heart, like yours must be breaking right now.”


Mulling over this piece of new information, you continued to the ring finger, sticking to the lilac for now. “That’s a strange thought.”

“I mean, to be fair, I never would’ve asked him at all if I’d known he’s such a fanboy of you. Talk about awkward.”

“Aw, he’s not that bad!”

“Oh please, don’t tell me you didn’t see the look on his face when you first walked into the office. I’m still surprised he didn’t ask for an autograph or a picture.”

Conversation quieted down for a bit while you moved on to Hanamaki’s middle finger, getting out yet another new colour; a pink pastel this time. Hanamaki watched you closely in an attempt to read your expression.

“Hey,” he said, poking at your cheek to get your attention.


He grinned at you, that specific curl of his lips that warned you he had another joke or pun to (hopefully) shock and amaze you with. “Why didn’t the sun go to college?”

“Because it already has a million degrees,” you answered without skipping a beat. “Seriously, Makki, I take personal offence that you thought I wouldn’t know that one! Definitely an all-time worst.”

“Hey, not my fault that you massively lowered my expectations when you didn’t know the crazy spaceman joke.”

You made an ambiguous noise and shrugged. “Done,” you said, releasing Hanamaki’s left hand and immediately moving on to the right. “Supposed to be quick-drying stuff, so it shouldn’t take too long.” The silence returned, and Hanamaki did another attempt at interpreting your facial expression.

“Okay, uh, did I make things weird with Oikawa now?” he asked, cocking his head to the side. “Sorry if I shouldn’t have told you.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” you said. “Might’ve been weird if you told me earlier but now I can’t really-” You cut yourself off, then squinted at Hanamaki with pursed lips. “Hey, are you prying? You sneak.”

Hanamaki chortled. “No, I swear. Even if I really don’t know why you still insist on this whole charade. You always cave in at the end, oversharing all the gross details with me. Your struggle to keep secrets is one of futility, doomed to fail.”

“Oh, shut up, you drama queen,” you laughed, nabbing a chip before coating Hanamaki’s thumb nail with pastel blue. “Don’t pretend you don’t get pissed whenever I keep the nasty deets from you.”

He arched an eyebrow. “I don’t care about that, as long as you don’t tell Hana first,” he said. “...Wait, you haven’t told her anything yet, right? I refuse to lose to her again. Once was more than enough.”

His affronted tone made you smile. “Haven’t been able to meet up with her yet, she’s even more swamped with work than I am! But next week she’ll be in the area so maybe...” You grinned at Hanamaki. “You might just lose again, who knows.”

“Do you want my help picking an outfit for tomorrow or not?”

“Actually, no. Got it sorted already,” you said with a huff, and started on the final nail. “And yes I have a picture, no you can’t see. I know you, you’ll just talk shit about it.”

“I’m hurt,” he said in a deep, morbid voice, “all I want for you is the best.”

“Right, like when you won’t let me eat chips even if you know I’ll be deprived of them for six months. Okay, done.”

You released Hanamaki’s hand and he admired your handiwork with a low whistle. “Hey, you’ve gotten better at this,” he said. “All that dexterity training they make you do is good for something after all.”

“Yeah, so you better let them dry properly! I’ll kick your ass if you ruin them.”

“Oh? Sounds like I walked in at the right time.” Matsukawa poked his head around the doorway, then sauntered in and plopped down on the bed. “You kids play nice, okay.”

A wide smile broke out on your face at his appearance. “Hey, Mattsun! Want to see what I’m wearing tomorrow?”

Hanamaki made an indignant sound while you fished out your phone and looked up the picture. “So you won’t let me see but you’ll show the guy who wears zip-off trousers? Oh god, and I thought we were friends.”

Simply ignoring his boyfriend, Matsukawa looked at the photo. “Cute socks.”

Before you could stop him, Hanamaki quickly shifted into a position that allowed him to see the screen of your phone. “Those socks?” he said, voice dripping with disapproval.

“See, this is why I don’t ask you!”

“I think they’re lovely on you,” Matsukawa said in a calm voice and smirked at Hanamaki when you gave him a grateful peck on the cheek. Hanamaki always took threats to his status as your best friend very seriously, something Matsukawa thoroughly enjoyed.

“That’s not the problem,” Hanamaki grumbled. “Maybe they’re a bit too lovely.”

You rolled your eyes. “Damn, Makki, when did you become my mother?”

“Just trying to protect you, sweetie.”

Matsukawa picked up the bag of crisps and ate slowly, watching you two squabble with moderate interest. “Protect her from the guys you set her up with?”

“Look, we’ve all experienced that moment in your life where you realise you regret every single action you’ve taken to get you there.”

“Gotta love it when you flip from Overambitious Wingman to Overbearing Mother,” you said with a sigh and messed up Hanamaki’s hair, quickly retreating when he tried to shove you off. “Oi, watch your nails! Don’t let my hard work go to waste!”

Hanamaki froze, then gave you a foul look. “They will dry, and then I will kick your ass.”

“Come and try me, you creampuff.”

“You know, you say that, and you think you’re insulting me, but I consider that as the highest compliment.”

“...Flat creampuff.”

He twitched, fingers itching to lay down physical retribution on you in the shape of a noogie, but unable to. Matsukawa chuckled and stood up, leaving an almost depleted bag of crisps behind. He shuffled out of the room before either of you noticed. Hey, as far as Matsukawa was concerned, he did you a favour. Someone had to sacrifice themselves to be your common enemy. Eating a bunch of chips was a price he paid willingly to keep the peace in your friendship.

Chapter Text

In many ways, Iwaizumi’s Monday morning was no different from any other. Wake up five minutes before his alarm, freshen up, have some breakfast, the works. However, he couldn’t deny there were a couple of significant differences. For one, he almost arrived late at work because he kept spacing out at breakfast, thinking about the night before. The memories of you, the sight of you in his lap, your warm touch on his skin, your mouth... Needless to say, his ruminations of last night proved to be thoroughly distracting.

Added to that was the trial, looming over him for the end of the week. Without a weekend serving as a buffer between him and the trial date, it seemed all the closer. Today, and the rest of the week, lined itself up to be filled with frantic deadlines and hours of overtime.

Fine, perhaps that last part was not so different from the usual.

Still, being so near to closing a court case brought its own unique brand of pressure. By now Iwaizumi had gone through enough to know how to handle them, but he never got used to the knowledge of how much his actions could influence a family’s life—a child’s life. Didn’t want to get used to it.

“Good morning,” Hanamaki said as Iwaizumi walked in the office, his words distorted as he talked through a yawn.

Oikawa greeted him far more cheerfully, though he already had his nose deep in some files and barely even looked up from them. “Iwa-chan, you’re barely on time. Had a little bit too much fun last night~?”

Freezing at the jibe, Iwaizumi quickly glanced at Hanamaki to check his response. Crap, that definitely was a suspicious look. Without thinking, Iwaizumi resorted to his knee-jerk reaction. Snark. “I don’t know, you were there for most of it,” he said with a shrug. “That kind of put a damper on the day.”

“Pff, you always get jealous when I get along with your dates,” Oikawa said, grinning as he grabbed a handful of markers in various colours.

For once the fortunes favoured Iwaizumi; Hanamaki just shook his head and continued with paperwork, too swamped to properly take the conversation in. The lack of interest in banter was atypical, but considering the stress of their current workload, not unexpected. Besides, Iwaizumi couldn’t say he minded. If Hanamaki was too preoccupied to interrogate Iwaizumi about his love life, that was just fine.

So instead, Iwaizumi looked at Oikawa and did a critical examination.

Oikawa hummed to himself, cheerfully marking the whiteboard with a rough layout for a structure of their case in court. It would create a clear summary of what points they wanted to raise, the order they’d call in witnesses, what key questions they absolutely needed to ask.

For all the world to see, Oikawa appeared to be in an excellent mood, ready to tackle that last sprint to the finish line on Friday.

Iwaizumi scowled. Fake. No doubt about it, unlike yesterday.

Ah hell.

He’d have to call Oikawa out, didn’t he? Only the straight-forward approach worked with him, or he would deftly dance around the issue. Iwaizumi was tired of it, of worrying about Oikawa overworking himself at the end of every single case. Yes, of course they always pushed themselves to get everything done, but a line ran between working hard and just being a headstrong idiot. Oikawa never even tried to balance the line, he just bulldozed straight over it. But if Iwaizumi took action today, after work, perhaps he could stop it from escalating this time.

“Iwa-chan, did you see the suggestions I sent you for the opening statements?” Oikawa’s smile carried a saccharine edge that made Iwaizumi’s fingers twitch into a fist. If Oikawa had noticed Iwaizumi had been studying him, he did not let it show. “Just some little tweaks to improve the flow!”

“Ah yeah, I saw them, thanks,” Iwaizumi said, pulling up the email with the document in question. “Good points, I’ll include them in the next draft.”

He already spent quite some time practising, familiarising himself with the words and letting others listen to give feedback on his delivery and mannerisms. Kindaichi had been a massive help with gathering background information on the judge, so Iwaizumi knew what kind of person he needed to convince, how to appeal to him.

“Hanamaki, do you have a moment today to go through it with me? Once I get these changes in?” Iwaizumi asked, not even pausing as he edited.

“Hm? We already finalised the legal content, right? Or are you having second thoughts about it?”

Last week Iwaizumi had asked him the exact same thing, and gotten a comment about “aw yes, free pass at trash talking you” flung at his head. It spoke of pressure Hanamaki was under that he stayed serious this time.

“No, that part is fine, but I’d like some more general feedback from someone else.” Iwaizumi penned in another edit in the opening statement, then turned back to Oikawa. “Did you send Kuroo the updates yet?”

Oikawa rolled his eyes. “You always turn into such a worry-wart, Iwa-chan. Of course I did, it’s taken care of. He said he’d get back to me tomorrow.”

“Sorry. How about the court house? Have they confirmed access to a separate room for Katsu?”

“Still waiting,” Hanamaki chimed in. “Don’t worry, I’ll give them a call if I don’t hear anything before lunch.”

Law allowed for under-aged children involved in a sexual or violent crime to be questioned from a separate room using a video link, to prevent them from having to face the defendant. Considering this whole case had been tipped off by a teacher who discovered strange bruisings on Katsu’s arm, they had more than enough grounds for this arrangement.

If the situation called for it, they could even let an intermediary ask the questions rather than a lawyer. As a social worker in close contact with the cases and the children, Kuroo often took the role of that intermediary. This time it had been deemed unnecessary, so his role was restricted to ensuring Katsu came to the trial, calm and prepared. However, they never practised the actual questioning; a child with an obviously rehearsed story never went down well with the judges.

The team had enough work to preoccupy Iwaizumi to a point that he forgot about everything else, even certain events that had transpired earlier that weekend—that is, until his phone buzzed right as lunch break started.

Though Iwaizumi was convinced he kept his face perfectly composed when he saw your name, something must have shown because Hanamaki instantly looked at him with suspicion. Dammit, and he worked so hard to keep the smile away from his lips, too.

“Is that her?” Hanamaki flat-out asked, never one for subtlety.

Indecision tore at Iwaizumi for a split second before he pulled himself together; if Hanamaki knew, he knew. And there’d be nothing Iwaizumi could do about it. However, if Hanamaki didn’t know, Iwaizumi could only give himself away.

“Yeah,” he answered simply. He told himself he was being ridiculous. You and him were both consenting adults, so the fact you had sex together should not be a big deal—but somehow acknowledging that to Hanamaki almost felt as embarrassing as discussing it with your father, or an overly protective brother. The scrutinising look Hanamaki gave him did not help.

“Everything okay with you two?” Hanamaki said in the tone of someone who knew there was dirt under the surface, waiting to be dug up.

Oikawa huffed and swirled around his desk chair before standing up to leave. “Okay, I don’t have to sit here and listen to any relationship drama,” he said, the very man who once literally snacked on popcorn while watching Matsukawa and Hanamaki argue back in law school. Weird.

That left Iwaizumi by himself with Hanamaki, and he seriously considered to pretend he never heard the question and just head to the cafeteria. Oikawa did always accuse him of being selectively deaf, might as well own up to the reputation. But before he had the chance to put this excellent plan into motion, Hanamaki made a small ‘eh’ sound and paced after Oikawa, leaving Iwaizumi behind to blink in confusion in the empty workroom.

What the hell was going on with everyone today?

Not one to question a lucky break, Iwaizumi shrugged and got out his food for a blessedly peaceful lunch, only disturbed by the vague sense of unease his colleagues had prompted inside him.

The rest of the day went by with relatively few interruptions, simply focused on pulling all the loose fragments of information together into a comprehensive case they could present. As usual this close to a court date, everyone worked overtime. Hanamaki even wrangled Matsukawa into making some copies and getting everyone coffee when the unsuspecting boyfriend poked his head around the corner to see if Hanamaki was ready to go yet. However, even this day had to end and eventually they wrapped up their business—that is, Hanamaki and Iwaizumi did.

“Shittykawa, you’re done for today, too,” Iwaizumi said, snatching a pen out of Oikawa’s hand.

Oikawa made a grab for it and scowled when he failed. The stubborn expression on his face was easy to read; he wanted to just take a different pen and continue his work. But they both knew Iwaizumi was prepared to play this game for a long time, and Oikawa’s patience always reached its limit before his.

“Listen to your mother, Oikawa,” Hanamaki drawled, buttoning up his jacket. He looped an arm around Matsukawa and dragged him away, eager to finally end his workday. “See you guys tomorrow.”

Out of sheer spite, Oikawa got out a spare pen and continued to make annotations on his outline.

With a deep sigh, Iwaizumi crossed his arms and leaned against the desk. “Hey,” he said, and something in his voice convinced Oikawa to look up from his work. “About yesterday. Thanks for keeping quiet about the, um”—an unwelcome redness made itself at home on Iwaizumi’s cheeks—“the Christmas incident.”

Oikawa’s guard lowered for just an inch at the unexpected change of subject. He snorted and waved an airy hand. “Unlike you, I save the best stories for later. It’s called a build-up. Don’t thank me, I’ll get to it eventually.”

Iwaizumi shrugged. “Whatever. So what the hell is up with you today?”

“Hm? We’re all under pressure, why are you singling me out? Do you really care so much about me?” Oikawa said in sing-song, smiling guilefully at Iwaizumi.

An evasive answer.


Iwaizumi’s brow furrowed in disgruntlement. Dammit, just like Oikawa to fall back into old habits.

Whenever a deadline came up, it always was trickier to make a judgement call on whether someone pushed themselves as hard as they needed to get everything done, or being carelessly unhealthy in the most dumbass way possible. As far as Iwaizumi was confirmed, that ambiguous response confirmed it; Oikawa was at it again.

“I’m singling you out because you’re the idiot who tries to do everything alone!”

Oikawa’s bewildered look only pissed Iwaizumi off more.

“Rely on the rest of us, will you? I can’t believe you’re still pulling this shit.” Iwaizumi struggled to keep his voice down. Trying to take on everything during group assignments in law school was one thing, but at a professional firm? With a team that worked together for over a year now—and knew each other far longer? This was ridiculous. “Just go home and leave the work for tomorrow. You’re no good to anyone if you burn yourself out!”

Usually when Iwaizumi tried to pull Oikawa back from a path that headed straight towards self-destruction, his abrasive anger ignited something inside Oikawa. It made him lash out and finally vent about all the reasons for his stress. Which was exactly what Iwaizumi counted on; Oikawa always got stuck inside his own head, and if this crude tool was the best solution to unravel his thoughts, Iwaizumi would use it without hesitation.

This time, the expected explosion of anger stayed out. Oikawa quietly stared back at him.

Iwaizumi frowned. No teary-eyed, dramatic reaction. No erratic anger. No ugly crying. A coldness emanated from Oikawa that Iwaizumi had not seen since that Ushiwaka-guy beat him on all midterm final scores. A single eyebrow arched up, enforcing the haughty, controlled expression on his face.

Honestly, that face made Iwaizumi want to headbutt Oikawa straight on the nose.

Not that long ago, he probably would have given in to that instinct. However, Iwaizumi liked to think he had outgrown using physical force as a means to herd Oikawa back into healthy behaviour. Instead he sighed and softly whapped Oikawa on the head (which totally did not count as physical force).

“Let’s get out of here, I’ll make you dinner,” he grunted, reaching out a hand to drag Oikawa out of his chair (again, totally did not count). “I won’t let you work yourself to the ground just because you’re freaked out about a case.”

Oikawa finally snapped into motion and yanked his arm away from Iwaizumi. His eyes burned with anger—but the icy kind, like frosted metal catching the exposed skin of bare fingers. He stood up and suddenly their faces were very close, glaring at each other.

“I’m getting really tired of you always making assumptions, Iwa-chan~” he drawled, rolling his eyes as he threw his stuff into his work bag.

“Don’t have much of a choice when you won’t tell me what the hell is going on,” Iwaizumi said, vaguely aware that his voice skirted closer into ‘yelling’ territory. “So if it’s not work, why are you being a mess?”

Instead of answering the question, Oikawa grabbed his coat and gave Iwaizumi a final flat stare before leaving.

Silence stretched, growing heavier as time passed. Iwaizumi stood alone in the office, trying to process what just happened. Ugh, where had he fucked up? What had he missed? Oikawa’s reaction threw him for a loop, not within the normal parameters. He must have missed something.

An abrupt surge of anger cut through any reasonable train of thought and Iwaizumi growled, embarrassed with himself for messing this up. He handled his belongings with more roughness than he should as he threw them together, and slammed on the light switch when he left the office.

Begrudgingly he admitted to himself that at least his initial goal has been achieved; Oikawa did not work more overtime than the rest of the team.

“Did you get grey hairs since the last time I saw you? I could swear you have,” you said with a deadly serious expression on your face, brushing a strand out of Hana’s eyes.

The corner of her mouth twitched. “Don’t even joke about that,” she sighed, massaging her temples. “I never should’ve accepted that promotion. Managing those guys is a bigger hassle than herding a truckload of feral cats.”

You grinned at her. “Oh, you know you love it. Besides, you’re the only one they’ll listen to!”

Hana huffed in exasperation. Someone not familiar with her might have believed the reaction to be genuine, but you knew better. She always put on a front to pretend she was far above the shenanigans of her colleagues, even though she adored those guys. “Just wish they hadn’t set an espresso machine on fire first,” she muttered.

“But see, that’s exactly why you and this job are meant to be! Nobody else could have talked the owner out of firing the whole shift.” One of the most important things you had learnt from Hana’s work; take care when dealing with experimental coffee blends.

A small smile emerged on her lips. “...Probably.” She hesitated before continuing. “To be honest, it’s been pretty fun.”

Her face told you that she’d rather blow up that entire coffee shop than admit it to any of the other staff. You quickly made your orders with the waiter, and after that brief interruption she turned her attention back to you.

“Okay, enough about my work, how about you? Didn’t you have an interview?”

You wanted to protest, eager to hear more tales about her hectic workplace, but the mere mention of that interview made you pull a face.

Hana’s hesitant smile instantly transformed into a scowl of disapproval once she saw your expression. “Please tell me they asked about more than just your hair care regime,” she said in a flat voice.

“Of course!” you said, wearing your brightest, fakest smile. “They also wanted to know if my career gets in the way of any romantic endeavours, whether I can bring make-up to the ISS, and if I felt emotionally equipped to deal with my heavy, heavy responsibilities.”

Hana’s glower intensified and you couldn’t help but laugh at your friend’s sympathetic indignity.

“It wasn’t all bad, I mean, I knew something like this could happen so I made sure to have some snappy comebacks,” you said with a proud grin. “Hajime even helped me practise my scathing looks of disapproval. Just too bad it was for a magazine, my withering scowl was absolutely camera-ready.”

Slowly, Hana’s smile returned. “Well, I’m glad your colleagues are supportive at least,” she said, cupping her head in her hand as she leaned on her elbow.

“Oh no, Hajime isn’t a colleague,” you said. You made a valiant attempt at sounding airy, but a traitorous heat rose to your cheeks. “He is, uhh...” The words died in your throat and you awkwardly scratched the side of your nose.

“Boyfriend?” Hana’s eyes widened in surprise. When you did not correct her, she hardened into a stern gaze. “How long has this been going on? So much for the whole ‘not starting anything before you leave’-thing.”

You pouted at her, painfully aware of the fact that last time you spoke to her in person, you vehemently declared your intention to not date anyone in the near future, not interested in the complication. “Don’t give me that look. This is all Makki’s fault.”

“It usually is.” She sighed. “But that doesn’t mean you have no responsibility for your own actions, you know. So what happened?”

A short explanation followed in which you told her how Hanamaki had talked you into a blind date which turned out far more serious than you bargained for, instead of the fun, casual evening you expected. Hana’s lips were set in a straight, thin line as she listened, but her features softened as you spoke. The realisation set in; this was not the haphazard fling she initially assumed it to be. You paused when a waitress brought your order, then continued.

“So yeah,” you said with a grimace, “that’s the deal. What’s the verdict? A magnificent amount of stupidity or the romantic story of a lifetime?”

If anything, Hana could be relied on to be brutally honesty about whether you were a complete idiot or not. She raised an eyebrow. “The two aren’t mutually exclusive, you know.”

“I just really like him, yaknow?” You sulked and resisted the urge to flop your arms and head down on the table. “I really want this to work out.”

For a moment Hana closed her eyes, organising her thoughts. “Okay. You did not plan for this to happen, but why couldn’t it work?” she said. “It’s not like everyone in your line of work is single, don’t make it sound like some unrealistic impossibility. I just thought you didn’t want the hassle.”

“Most of them have been in an established relationship for a little longer than us,” you said pointedly. Part of you knew you were being contrary, insistent on finding reasons why this could not work. But it was something you needed to work through, and Hana always helped you refute them, to look for solutions or a change of perspective.

Hana knew how your brain functioned with stuff like this, and she indulged.

“So you’ll just have to talk to him. About what the relationship will look like while you’re away and how to deal with the inevitable roadblocks. Seriously, just talk,” she repeated. “Is he a guy you can do that with?”

Just thinking about Iwaizumi and his low voice made you smile—but the surge of affection also made your chest tight, fuelling your anxiety on how to make this thing work.

“You have a point,” you admitted. “I guess I’m just nervous about being apart for so long. You know, it’ll barely be two months when I go back to Houston. Two months! That’s not really a long time for a big investment like this. By the time I’m on the station most of our relationship will already have been spent apart. What if he changes his mind?”

Hana’s mouth drew that straight line again, giving you the distinct feeling that if you kept this up for too long she might lay down an all-out scolding. Out of love, of course. “Like I said, nothing you can do but talk to him about all this. I’m not kidding, if you think there’s some magical solution or loophole other than just communicating, you’re flat out of luck.”

Her blunt words filled you up with warmth. That’s the Hana you counted on, the one you knew and loved. As always, she provided a willing sounding board for you, letting you speak your worries freely—right up until you got out of hand and needed to be smacked back down to reality. Together you found a good balance, where she got to rant about her frustrations at you in return and you provided the appropriate sympathetic noises she struggled to give herself (because Hana was perfectly capable of putting it all back into perspective, but less accomplished at showing herself some basic kindness).

“You know what to do now, right?” she asked, and took a delicate sip of her drink as though she hadn’t just laid down a lecture on you.

“I don’t know, what was it... Did you say something about ‘talking’, maybe?” you said, an affectionate grin on your face. She rolled her eyes at you, but had clearly anticipated this reaction from you.

Actually, one last thing was bothering you, but you hesitated to bring it up, even to one of your best friends. A weird sense of guilt kept bubbling up inside your stomach whenever you thought about yesterday, specifically the time spent with both Iwaizumi and Oikawa.

Was it weird that you’d never enjoyed yourself more on a date than when it was the three of you? (Well... the part afterwards might have been an exception.. Probably. Definitely.) And why did this bother you so much! It should not be that big of a deal. In fact, wasn’t it a good thing that you got along so well with Iwaizumi’s best friend? Those two were so close it almost felt like getting the family’s approval.

So why did you feel guilty whenever you thought about how much fun it’d be to go out together again? Like you did something dishonest, that your wish somehow crossed a line. As though you did Iwaizumi wrong—despite having zero intentions to ditch him in favour of his best friend. Quite the contrary. You did not even like Oikawa that way! Sure, he was cute and fun, but your current worldview focused with pinpoint accuracy on Iwaizumi, and nothing but him.

You steeled yourself and pushed those thoughts away. Though part of you knew Hana would not judge you, and perhaps even call you silly for making a big deal out of it, something about this felt too private to share. You’d figure this one out on your own.

So you smiled at Hana. “Okay, that’s enough about boys!” you said, a little too eager. “How are your parents doing, you’re in town to visit them, right?”

If Hana realised you held back, she respected your choice and allowed the conversation to be steered into a different direction. “You’re part of the reason too, doofus,” she chided. “Skype calls are great and all, but I had to see you at least once before you take off. We barely see each other these days, and it’s not like it’ll get better soon.”

“I blame you for moving out of town,” you said pointedly, wagging a finger at her.

‘Affronted’ was too understated a word to describe the expression on Hana’s face. She finally laid that lecture on you, drilling down on your blatant hypocrisy, until you both burst out laughing, and then the conversation shifted to other, more everyday things.

The next day, Hanamaki groaned as he walked through the front door of his house, working out a knot in his shoulder. He just got out of a long, awkward day at the firm and he just was relieved to be back home. Stress over impending deadlines? That he could handle. Some kind of lover’s spat or whatever was going on between Oikawa and Iwaizumi? Way above Hanamaki’s pay grade.

He headed straight into the kitchen and dropped his bag somewhere along the way, then hung his arms around Matsukawa’s shoulders to slump against him. Matsukawa put down the knife he’d been chopping vegetables with and reached back to rest his hands on Hanamaki’s waist.

“You okay?”

Hanamaki let out a muffled grunt.


Somehow Matsukawa managed to turned around without breaking Hanamaki’s hold on him. He ran a gentle hand through Hanamaki’s hair, then kissed the top of his head.

“Case or colleagues?”

More muffled sounds, until Hanamaki lifted his head and looked at Matsukawa with a pouty scowl. “The case is right on track. The colleagues...”

Matsukawa chuckled. “I thought they looked pissed off at lunch. The risks of working with an old married couple like them, I guess.”

“Trade teams with me,” Hanamaki groaned against Matsukawa’s shoulder. He barely supported his own weight at this point, clinging onto Matsukawa who had to lean back against the kitchen counter to keep himself from toppling over.

“What, you turning this into a pity contest? If you think those two are a handful, wait until you spend a morning with Yahaba and Kyoutani.”

“I can handle those brats.”

“Hm, maybe. But you’d never be able to handle my job,” Matsukawa said, grinning widely as he leaned in for a kiss.

Hanamaki narrowed his eyes and pushed Matsukawa back with a firm hand on his chest. “Oh, fuck off,” he spat out, as though they had not gone through this exact argument a thousand times already, “you lawyer types would be helpless without paralegals. You make us do all the work that’s too difficult for you to handle.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Matsukawa said, and went in for a second attempt.

This time Hanamaki welcomed his lips. He put his hands over Matsukawa’s neck, thumbs dragging over the jawline, and quickly turned the kiss aggressive, invading Matsukawa’s mouth with the intensity that always followed after a verbal exchange like that. It always egged Hanamaki on, made him want to prove he held the upper hand.

You had teased him once, claiming that ‘squabbling’ was his biggest kink of all time and well, perhaps you did have something of a point. Ah, that reminded him...

Regretful, Hanamaki broke away. “How about we pick this up later? I have a call to make, and I’m already late.”

“I’ll get on with dinner then. Say hi to her for me.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Hanamaki gave a final nip at Matsukawa’s bottom lip, then retreated to the living room. He flopped down on the floor and crawled underneath the kotatsu, more out of habit than for warmth since the hot summer weather still persisted.

“Hey, sorry I’m late,” he said when you picked up. He lay flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling as he talked.

Oh, don’t worry about it. Long day?

He groaned loudly, closing his eyes at the memory of awkwardly trying working between Oikawa and Iwaizumi, who barely exchanged two words today. Instead they preferred to shoot angry looks at each other and tried to force all communications through Hanamaki and poor Kindaichi, who had no clue how to handle the passive aggressive disposition of his superiors. Ugh. At least they still got their work done.

“Have you talked to Iwaizumi since yesterday?” Hanamaki asked rather than answering your question.

We texted a bit but I didn’t get around to calling him. Since I made time for you instead!” Your voice turned cloyingly sweet at the end. Then you snapped back to a normal tone. “Why you want to know?

“How nice,” Hanamaki responded flatly. “Anyway, you need to get your boyfriends in line.”

Hey, you need to stick to a joke. You don’t get to mock me for being rejected by Oikawa and pretend I’m stringing the both of them along. Gotta pick, buddy.

Hanamaki sighed, rolling onto his side and curling into fetal position. “Not fair. As your oldest friend I have rights, you know.”

Yeah, the right to get trash-talked,” you said. “And occasionally be a little shit without it instantly ending our friendship. But uhh, what did they do?

“Oh, just being insufferable,” Hanamaki said airily, absent-mindedly studying the nails of his free hand. “And then I mean more so than usual, of course.”

They can’t have been worse than you.


Sorry, sorry, I promise I’m done. Anything I can do or just want to rant?

He chuckled. “Nah, that was a fair shot. I just wondered if you knew what happened between them. They were fine yesterday, but today was the worst I’ve seen them since uni.”

A moment of silence descended on the line while you mulled over this new information. “No, no idea, sorry. Sunday was... kind of great, so I really wouldn’t know.

“Ah, that’s fine, it was a slim hope anyway,” he sighed, and rolled further onto his stomach, leaning on his elbows. “Speaking of Sunday, things are going alright with you and Iwaizumi, huh?”

Another bout of silence, but this time he could envision your face scrunching up as you considered the best response. “...How do you figure?

“Well, you called me, didn’t you? I figured you’d reached that point. You don’t get to that point unless things are going really well, or they’re an absolute nightmare. I still can’t believe you hung up on me just when you were about to tell me everything! In the middle of the night, too!”

An awkward chuckle on the other side of the line. “Yeah, sorry about that. I didn’t think it through, got a little too excited I guess.

“Excited about what!” Hanamaki exclaimed, throwing up his free hand in frustration. “Seriously, how dare you hang up on me. I’m gonna lose to fucking Hana at this rate.”

Your laughter chimed with amusement—and perhaps a small touch of schadenfreude. “Hey, it’s your own fault for setting me up with your colleague. Just doesn’t feel right to gossip about him with you, you know. You really should’ve thought that one through when you set us up.

Hanamaki groaned. “Time to get Iwaizumi fired then.”

Wouldn’t it be better if you just quit your job? At least then HR won’t be up your ass every time Mattsun feels you up in an empty conference room.

“...We don’t do that.”

Sure, of course not. How dare I imply such obscenity,” you said with a teasing lilt.

Sighing, Hanamaki massaged his temple. “Well, bright side, at least Hana doesn’t know anything either. I guess I can survive a tie between us. Good thing she moved away.”


“Oh god, no. When?”

Yesterday.” In your defence, you sounded guilty, but not enough to soothe Hanamaki’s pain as you eased the knife into his back and cruelly twisted the blade.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had plans with her! Oh crap, is this the end? Does this mark the very moment you stop telling me anything?” He squirmed under the kotatsu with a little whine. As if today had not been bad enough already.

Ah, clearly you did not feel that guilty, because his dramatic words made you laugh again. “I just thought ignorance would be bliss. Kinder on you to find out afterwards than to know beforehand it was going to happen.

He made another pitiful noise and could almost hear the roll of your eyes.

Oh relax, I didn’t tell her everything. You know she’s not into the dirty details.

“There are dirty details? Fuck, I knew it. I knew Iwaizumi looked suspicious.”

You deserve one freebie, so please appreciate it,” you hummed. “I did owe you for making all of this happen, after all.

“Some recognition, finally! I started to feel real unappreciated, you know.”

Poor thing,” you said in a suspiciously insincere drawl. “Forced to stay in your own lane for once. Must be absolutely horrible.”

“I’m glad you understand.”

But uh, hey, so you have no idea what’s going on with those two?” you said, turning the conversation back to a serious note. “I’m a little worried now.

He shook his head, then remembered you could not see him. “Look, they’ve gone through stuff like this before.” Granted, this was the coldest he’d seem them around each other in a good while, but he genuinely saw no cause for concern. They would bounce back again; they always did. He had just hoped for some info that’d let him speed the process along. “I wouldn’t stress about it, they’ll be fine.”

You let out a resigned sigh. “All right, I trust you.” Then the tone of your voice changed again as you bounced into a more cheerful mood. “Hey, got any new jokes for me?

“Would I ever disappoint you? No wait, don’t answer that,” he quickly added as he realised the easy trap he set up for himself. “Okay, so a spaceman, an alien and Elvis Presley enter a bar...”

Iwaizumi just got back from his evening run when he heard his phone. Part of him wanted to ignore it, craving a long bath to wash off both the sweat and the frustration over dealing with a sulky Oikawa all day. However, he still checked to see who called, just in case it was important.

When he saw the name, he swallowed thickly.

Over the course of nearly a month, Iwaizumi reached many firsts with you. He still kept careful track of them, wanting to enjoy every moment to the fullest. And now, a new one.

Your name stared at him from the caller ID, and for the first time he seriously considered rejecting the call.

Not because he did not want to talk to you—but because he did not want to you to talk to him, not when he was in this sour of a mood. Written messages were safer, allowing him better control over his words, filter out any potential sting that transferred from his frustration with Oikawa. Talking to you while this disgruntled would be another first, and one he might not be ready for.

His phone buzzed again, and after a long moment of hesitation he reached for it.

“Hey,” he said, his voice strained.

You sounded hesitant as you echoed the greeting. “Just wanted to check in. You okay?

Iwaizumi bit back a groan. Great. “Hanamaki?”

Yeah, he tattled on you,” you said with a chuckle.

He grabbed a towel to wipe his forehead, then took a deep breath. “I’m fine, just need to cool my head a bit before I talk to Oikawa again.” If he tried now, Iwaizumi feared he could make things worse, considering his own irritability and Oikawa’s atypical responses.

Is he okay?

Was it just him, or did you sound more concerned this time? Iwaizumi wondered whether he should take offence, then quietly scolded himself. Irritable. It coloured his perception, he reminded himself. This was childish nonsense. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” he grunted, awkwardly putting the towel around his neck with one hand. “That guy’s impossible.”

You hummed. “Want to talk about it?

“Hm, it’s all just same old,” he said. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed, then decided he just wanted to put it all on the backbench for now. Distraction was better than venting. “I’d rather hear how you’re doing.”

A happy little sound came through the line. “Haa, exhausted,” you said and he could hear it in your voice, as though you finally allowed yourself to feel the fatigue now Iwaizumi directed the attention to you. “Non-stop simulations. I mean, it’s really cool too, but I feel like I could sleep for a week now.

Smiling, Iwaizumi felt the stress from these last few days seep away from his shoulders. “Tell me more about it.”

Re- really?” you said, a sudden excitability punching through.

He knew how often you held back on the subject of your work, not wanting to be the kind of person who only talked about one thing. But you clearly loved what you did, and Iwaizumi loved hearing you talk about your passions. Encouraging you at any given opportunity was an easy choice.

“Yeah, really,” he said, walking over to the window. That bath to wash off his running sweat could wait. “What crazy stuff did they make you do today?”

He leaned against the sill, looking outside at the darkening sky as he listened to your lively explanations about simulations for space walks and installing crazy-expensive, complicated equipment. Sometimes he barely understood half of what you said, but it did not matter. Your voice soothed him, a blissed distraction from all earthly irritations and his mood cleared up further with every word and laugh.

When you finally said your good nights and hung up, Iwaizumi took a deep breath and realised he could think about tomorrow without instantly raising his hackles. He took a quick shower and came out ready to sleep, ready to face the day to follow.

Chapter Text


Princess’ fluffy tail swooped, agitated at Oikawa’s relentless pacing around the living room. Her yellow eyes followed him—or more specifically, the shoelace that dangled dangerously between his feet.

“Stupid Iwa-chan!”

Another frustrating day at the office, and Oikawa found himself in desperate need to blow off steam. Sadly, with the tennis courts closed for renovations, that left him with few options. In the end, he opted for venting at his cats. Valentina, affectionate as always, circled around his legs which injected an element of danger to his pacing.

“Who does he think he is, thinking he knows better than me,” Oikawa muttered angrily, dodging his cat’s efforts to headbutt his ankles. “Always sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Valentina meowed at Oikawa, steadily chattering away. She bumped into him when he came to a sudden stop. Still grumbling, Oikawa scooped her up and continued his pacing. With a happy purr she kneaded into his shirt, oblivious to his mood. Occasionally her nails caught skin but Oikawa barely noticed through the haze of frustration.

“Stupid,” he repeated, but there was less bite to the word, constant repetition chipping away at its power. Plus, staying angry proved a challenge with a cat motoring against his chest.

His phone lit up again and he narrowed his eyes at the offending object. He flopped down on the couch next to Princess and set Valentina in his lap before checking the new message. Like last time, he dropped his phone back on the couch without responding.

God, when had he become so lame?

Yesterday evening he noticed a tonal shift in your messages. Random jokes, pictures with texts slightly too deliberate to be casual. The change was subtle, but Oikawa prided himself on his ability to pick out the faintest of nuances. And as well intentioned as you were, your attempt to reach out only made life harder on him. Urgh. Couldn’t people just leave him alone to stew in his chagrin?

Oikawa gave his phone the stink-eye. Who had tattled? Iwaizumi? No, he kept the details of their private issues to himself, even to his partners. Hanamaki? Ugh, it had to be fucking Makki. Who else? So why did everyone see it as their personal mission to fuss over him? He was not that much of a train wreck!

Oh, now there's a thought he definitely should not linger on.

Instead he returned to a much safer thought; how pissed he was at everyone. Particularly Iwaizumi made for an easy target. His angry blow-up had only escalated Oikawa’s mood, a surprising effect. Usually Oikawa felt better afterwards—a notion that made his lips curl into a twisted smirk. God, he really was a masochist huh?

He hissed as Valentina’s claws dug into his jeans, kneading thoroughly as though to pierce through her owner’s inner turmoil. No, nonono no, not that much of a masochist!

Oikawa gently tugged her loose and put her down next to Princess, whose unblinking eyes still regarded him with cool detachment, patiently waiting for him to get over himself so she could get the proper attention she deserved. Valentina had no such restraints, instantly jumping back on Oikawa’s lap and shoving her head between his arm and torso in a determined attempt to wiggle into his armpit.

The cats’ antics slowly brought Oikawa back to earth, the steady stream of distractions smoothing over his inflamed emotions. He clenched his phone as tightly as his jaw. Time to get his shit together.

So he said, but the moment he opened your message the irritation spread back through his skin like goosebumps.

Oikawa’s eye twitched. What the hell was wrong with him? All he needed to do was send a quick apology for ignoring you, followed by an off-hand remark about the trial keeping him incredibly busy. A soft hint for you to relax your attempts at cheering him up. There was no need to take out any of his frustration on you, after all, you had nothing to do with his bad mood. He just needed to get this out of the way before he could move on to dealing with Iwaizumi. Iwaizumi, who had been yelling at Oikawa for exactly the wrong thing.

He took a moment to pet Valentina, who still tried to burrow deeper into his armpit. Taking long breaths in time with his strokes, the feel of soft fur between his fingers calmed him down enough to start on a reply.

Then, as though the universe wanted to spite him specifically, the doorbell rang before he got halfway through his message. Oikawa’s head jerked up as he glared at the door. Seriously?

Grumbling throughout every motion, Oikawa straightened himself up, ran a hand through his hair to give it a deliberate tousle and walked up to the door. A quick glance through the peephole and Oikawa closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against the door with a soft groan.

This could be either really good, or the worst possible thing.

He allowed himself a quick moment of resignation, then put on his poker face and opened the door, staring at Iwaizumi.

Iwaizumi awkwardly cleared his throat, a bag of groceries in his hand. “Hey.”

Oikawa’s gaze snapped down at the bag. “Don’t tell me you’re here to cook for me.” Was he teasing Iwaizumi or sneering at him? Oikawa couldn’t even tell himself. Didn’t know which he wanted it to be.

“Yeah. Consider it an apology.”

Iwaizumi’s face betrayed very little, which actually spoke volumes. Hiding his emotions was not his usual style. He brushed past Oikawa and made his way to the kitchen, but not without pausing by the couch and letting Princess sniff his fingers. She mrrped and bumped her head against him.

“I assumed you haven’t eaten yet,” Iwaizumi called out from the kitchen, a softer variant of his usual nagging at Oikawa to get three proper meals a day.

Oikawa sauntered in after him, briefly considering to protest, to blow up at Iwaizumi again for making even more assumptions. But the fact of the matter was, this time Iwaizumi had the right of it. He started prepping food like he belonged here, only natural after all those times he stood at that kitchen counter. In a way, he did belong.

Suddenly wistful, Oikawa looked at Iwaizumi’s back. Moments like these made it extremely easy to tell himself it was not so strange that he kept failing to get over Iwaizumi. Still, he did struggle with the mystery of why he was so behind schedule this time; it’d been a couple of weeks since Iwaizumi started dating you, Oikawa should be good by now, right? Or at least getting better? So why did the thought of Iwaizumi and you still make his heart ache?

Okay, okay, not the right moment for that particular issue.

“You have cilantro, right?” Iwaizumi asked, glancing over his shoulder.

Oikawa leaned against the counter, one hand on his hip, the other taking out a small bottle from his spice rack. He’d scoff at the thinly veiled attempt to break the ice, since Iwaizumi knew perfectly well where Oikawa kept his herbs and spices, but Oikawa knew the effort came from a good place. No need to instantly sink his fangs into the conversation, escalating the conflict before they had a chance to talk it out.

Iwaizumi made a face at the dried herbs, preferring them fresh instead, but vocalised no objection and unpacked his bag of food instead. He quickly arranged an organised workspace for himself, then began chopping up an onion with almost professional speed and precision. He shoved a bulb of garlic at Oikawa. “Do you mind mincing some cloves?”

“Sure,” Oikawa drawled, grabbing a knife of his own.

They worked in silence for the most part, save for the occasional instruction. Only when everything had been put together in the pot, lid closed to stew, did they start their talk.

Iwaizumi was a perfect picture of awkward unease; back leaned against the refrigerator, one hand on his hip, the other messing up his hair. He barely looked Oikawa in the eye, a deep frown drawn on his forehead. “Look, I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s going on with you but I’ll get off your back. Shouldn’t have been making assumptions.”

Oikawa made a soft noncommittal noise. He did not doubt how heartfelt the apology was, but still could not let his guard down. Too many feelings were locked behind it, a torrent of emotions that could be brought down on him with one simple question. “So what is going on with you?” Oikawa did not trust himself right now to be able to respond without giving everything away. He could not bear to put his friendship with Iwaizumi in danger, not now, not ever.

But Iwaizumi did not ask it, waiting for Oikawa to respond instead.

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Oikawa said finally, weighing each word carefully. Because that was the problem. Oikawa had genuinely intended to just quickly finish his work and head home. Iwaizumi had sensed his foul mood and just assumed Oikawa intended to work himself into the ground again, when he tried so hard to shed his old habits and rely on the others. To get accused of falling into his usual pitfalls just when he made a change, it had been too much. (Especially on top of all his other frustrations that had nothing to do with work.) Still, he knew Iwaizumi meant well. It could just as easily been a justified accusation, as painful as the admission was to Oikawa. “...but thank you for trying. I know you’re just looking out for me. In your own crude way.”

Iwaizumi nodded slowly, his hand running down from his hair to cover his face. “I really fucked up this time, didn’t I,” he said, voice muffled under his palm.

So many clever and haughty retorts beckoned at Oikawa, but he huffed a laugh and set them to the side. Not today. “Yeah.” He paused, leaning back against the kitchen counter and staring up at the ceiling, arms crossed. “And maybe I overreacted a little. But we’re still talking, so it can’t have been too bad.”

From the corner of his eye he could see Iwaizumi’s stare. Iwaizumi dropped his hand down and the tense set of his lips betrayed him; he did want to ask that question. He hesitated, no doubt sensing Oikawa’s resistance to it. So instead he spread his hands, inviting Oikawa to talk with no pressure behind it. But he’d listen, if Oikawa had anything to say.

For a long moment, Oikawa found himself tempted. Tempted to just spill everything, lay it all out in the open. Confess his heart and soul, the regret he’d so carefully hidden, all suffered quietly. To endure silently never was his style, but he did it—for Iwaizumi.

Oikawa realised his hand had balled into a tight fist, nails digging into his skin. With that, the dangerous impulse passed through, returning Oikawa to safety. He airily gestured towards the pot on the stove. “Smells good. How long until it’s ready?”

Just for a second, Iwaizumi looked like he wanted to protest, to push through and find out exactly what was bothering Oikawa. Sometimes it was a curse that Iwaizumi cared. But then he allowed the deflection and checked the clock. “Forty minutes.”

“That long? I’ll starve before that!” Oikawa said, falling back into the easy familiarity of exaggerated drama.

“Then starve,” Iwaizumi deadpanned, but opened and cabinet and rummaged until he found Oikawa’s stash of snacks. He flung a dry biscuit at Oikawa. “There, to tide you over.”

Oikawa caught it and stared flatly at the offending biscuit. “How incredibly kind of you.”

The contemptuous drawl bounced off Iwaizumi, who frowned again. Ugh, crap. He just couldn’t let it go, huh? Had Oikawa not diverted back to light banter strongly enough?

“Is this all we need to talk about, is it enough?” Iwaizumi said, concern bleeding through his rough voice. “Are we good?”

“Such a worrywart!”

Iwaizumi’s stare did not waver, unwilling to settle for anything less than a genuine reaction. Oikawa rolled his eyes but if it meant closing this subject up quickly, he could manage that much.

“We’re good,” he said, exhaling slowly. “I promise. We’re good.”

The sheer relief in Iwaizumi’s smile made Oikawa want to believe he told the truth. Iwaizumi put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing firmly. The touch was exactly what Oikawa needed, yet devastatingly overwhelming and painfully insufficient.

“Okay, good,” Iwaizumi murmured, clapping Oikawa on the shoulder as he let go. “We’re good.”

The next morning, the day before the trial, Iwaizumi walked inside the office with a lighter step than he had in what felt like ages. Predictably Oikawa was already inside, pouring a cup of coffee. Once he spotted Iwaizumi, he filled another mug.

“Good morning, Iwa-chan~” he said, handing Iwaizumi the coffee.

Iwaizumi took the mug with a grateful nod. “Thanks. Good morning,” he said and moved straight for his desk. Though they could wrap up a final loose end or two tomorrow morning, pretty much everything needed to be done today. He allowed himself a small smile at Oikawa while his computer started up. Sure, they hadn’t let their personal garbage get in the way of their professional business, but Iwaizumi was still relieved to be able to finish this case on good terms with his best friend.

Observant as always, Oikawa noticed the look. He rolled his eyes and smirked at Iwaizumi. “Don’t get sappy on me now, we don’t have time for that.”

“Oh thank fuck you two pulled yourselves together.”

Hanamaki stood in the doorway, throwing up his hands in relief. He glared from one to the other. “Don’t you dare pull something like this again, at least for like... two months or something. I’ve hit my quota of dealing with your shit for the foreseeable future. Bunch of drama queens.”

“I take offence to that,” Iwaizumi said, reading through his opening statement.

“Fuck that, you deserve it. You’re as bad as Oikawa sometimes,” Hanamaki shot back, grabbing the coffee Oikawa held out for him. “Ah, good morning, Kindaichi. Life is good for us again. Thank god.”

Kindaichi walked in unsuspectingly, looking around him in confusion at the strange greeting. Then he noticed the change in atmosphere and sighed in relief. “Good morning,” he said, not providing any further comment on the situation.

Oikawa poured him a coffee as well, then set the pot to the side. “Alright, no need to focus on me any longer, even if I understand the temptation,” he said. “Time to get to work.”

Rolling his eyes, Iwaizumi bit back a comment and took a long sip of coffee instead. “Right. Lot to get done today. Let’s do it.”

While the day did not go by smoothly by any means (work was far too hectic for that, plus the weather barrelled down on them with insufferable heat and humidity), Iwaizumi felt such relief at being back on good terms with Oikawa that it brought back an ease to the office that seeped into all other aspects of his job. Overtime ran as expected, to the point that they ordered in some food—though they sent Kindaichi home so he could study for a test. Matsukawa joined them for dinner, even helped out by listening to them practise their case, giving some last-minute feedback and encouragement.

Finally they reached a point where they could leave the office with confidence. Hanamaki went first, fist-bumping each of them as he walked out. Iwaizumi tried so hard to fight the instinct to wait for Oikawa to leave before him, but some habits were too strong to discard within a day.

If Oikawa noticed, he did not remark.

As an attempt at an apology (if only to put his own mind at ease), Iwaizumi patted Oikawa’s shoulder as they left the office. Oikawa tensed up immediately, freezing for a second before he recovered with a sceptical glance over his shoulder. Crap, he must be more tired than Iwaizumi thought, if that caught him off guard.

“Ah, sorry,” Iwaizumi said, withdrawing his hand. “We’re gonna do great tomorrow, alright?”

Oikawa let out a small, derisive laugh. “Of course. Was there any doubt?”

Iwaizumi grinned in response. “Not really.”

Exhausted but satisfied they left the building. Initially Iwaizumi declined Oikawa’s offer to drive him home, but he caved under the threat of a lecture on his hypocritical wiles; who was he to berate Oikawa about accepting help if he refused to let others take care of him? As much as Iwaizumi hated to admit it, Oikawa had a point.

The ride home was relaxed, comfortable, as though their fight never happened—just like after every fight they ever had. With work strictly banned as a topic, they mostly talked about family, catching each other up on news. Oikawa’s sister and nephew in the middle of moving into a new home, how the craft store of Iwaizumi’s mother was doing after introducing a new line of product, and, of course, the health of Oikawa’s cats.

“Princess keeps devouring her food lately, I’m thinking of getting her one of those bowls that force cats to eat slower,” Oikawa mused, careful to keep an eye on the road. “I don’t want her stomach to get upset!”

“Is she throwing up?”

Iwaizumi considered himself more of a dog-person, but these were Oikawa’s cats, so he cared. Also, they were pretty darn sweet. Oikawa said Princess rarely took to a new person as quickly as she did to Iwaizumi, something that made him feel prouder than it probably should.

“No, not yet at least, but I can tell something is up, you know?”

Iwaizumi did not know, but he nodded anyway. “Sounds like a plan then. Are you going to the vet with her or is that overkill?”

Oikawa shrugged. “We’ve got an appointment for vaccinations coming up next month, if nothing changes I’ll just ask then to be sure.” He stopped the car, right in front of Iwaizumi’s building.

Balmy humidity invaded the car the instant Iwaizumi opened the door and he grimaced, looking forward to the AC in his apartment. “Keep me updated, okay?” he said, stepping out of the car. “And thanks for the ride.”

“Get in a good sleep and kick ass tomorrow, that’s all the thanks I need,” Oikawa said with a playful wink, and Iwaizumi’s eye twitched.

He shut the car door in Oikawa’s face and turned away without another word. The two flights of stairs up were a living hell in this weather, but once he stepped inside his home, Iwaizumi could breathe again. He kicked off his shoes, dropped his bag and grabbed a cool drink from the fridge. A quick check of his phone told him it was getting a bit late, but the impulse to call you could not be contained. If only for a minute, just to hear your voice... To end this day on a note unrelated to work and fully devoted to you. The sentiment might be needy, but Iwaizumi could not help himself.

You picked up within a couple of rings with a drowsy “Hi.

Iwaizumi froze at the sudden memory of an earlier conversation, when you told him about the next fucked-by-timezones meeting you had at an ungodly hour. He let out a gruff sigh and rubbed his temple. “I am so sorry, I forgot. Why did you even pick up? Don’t- don’t pick up when you’re-”

Your laugh was raspy as a result of just waking up. A rippling shuffle sounded through the line, probably your sheets as you made yourself more comfortable in bed. “Don’t be silly, I’d answer your calls any day, any hour.

Iwaizumi cleared his throat, immensely grateful you could not see the blush burning at his cheeks hotter than the weather. Somehow he had the feeling you knew anyway.

But now we’re talking anyway, got a good feeling about tomorrow?” you asked, shifting again.

“Yeah, it’s looking good,” Iwaizumi said and took a big gulp of his drink, finishing it. He left the glass on the counter, then shucked off his jacket and threw it over the coat rack. “Just need to get a good sleep in to stay sharp.”

So you don’t need extra motivation from me? I could promise you a reward for when you win.

That teasing lilt to your voice so effortlessly stirred something inside Iwaizumi that he shook his head at himself. Truly wrapped around your finger. “‘When’? Aren’t you optimistic.”

It’s called being supportive!

He chuckled. “Alright, sure. But a reward?” His question ricochet the suggestive tone right back at you. “Sounds fascinating. But since you’ll be in Tsukuba all weekend, what did you have in mind?” he said, playing along with you.

Oh Hajime, I can show you a whole realm of exciting possibilities,” you purred, low and suggestive. “No need to be in the same room for some celebratory fun. If you’re open to it.

Iwaizumi groaned as he sat down by the kotatsu, his pants growing tight. “You’re killing me here,” he said, voice breathy as he resisted the urge to palm himself. “Too bad it’s so late...”

A bright bubble of laughter spilled through the phone, breaking the mood. “How greedy! You can’t claim your reward before earning it, mister!

“Right,” Iwaizumi sighed. “You’re right, absolutely right.” He got back on his feet; tonight of all nights he should not be falling asleep at the kotatsu. “Please excuse my insubordination.”

You can make it up to me later,” you said, words still lined with a light laugh. “Text me when the trial is over? I can probably make time to uh, talk.


Yeah, yeah. Wow, I didn’t realise you’d be so impatient! We have the whole weekend,” you said. A short pause, then you continued on a more serious note. “I’m glad you called. Miss you.

Iwaizumi let the words float for a moment, not out of hesitation, but a desire to properly drink them in. But not too long, lest he made the moment awkward. “Miss you too.”

You hummed softly. “Good night, Hajime.

He was still not used to you using his first name, the sound causing a hot pinch in his chest. He echoed yours back to you as he bid you goodnight, then hung up.

Iwaizumi got his bag ready for the morning, went through his standard evening routine, then crawled into bed and fell asleep with surprising ease. Though he had expected the memory of your raspy laugh to keep him awake, instead it relaxed him, allowing him a distraction from the expectations and responsibility that waited for him tomorrow.

Chapter Text

“Relax, Iwa-chan!”

“I am relaxed.”

“Sure, sure. But now relax for real, okay?”

“Shut up, Trashykawa!”

Vein popping on his forehead, Iwaizumi balled his fists and glared at Oikawa and his insufferable, cheerful smile. It took considerable willpower not to slip back into old habits and smack that expression off Oikawa’s face, but Iwaizumi managed.

The sight of Iwaizumi’s frustration only made Oikawa brighten up further. “See! There’s the Iwa-chan we know and love!”

“You’re a terrible person,” Iwaizumi said in a deadpan, turning away from Oikawa for a last-minute chat with Hanamaki. He was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

Every ounce of brevity had disappeared from Oikawa’s face, his quirked smile nothing but a promise to lay hell on the opposition. His eyes hard, Oikawa said, “Just do what you always do. You’ll be great.”

Despite all this time, Iwaizumi still found himself caught off guard by the intensity. Oikawa had pulled this shit for years now, ever since he saw how nervous Iwaizumi got before an oral exam. The line was cheesy as fuck, it shouldn’t work, yet somehow Iwaizumi steeled himself and nodded at Oikawa. The last trace of his nerves, those final remnants he never realised there were, all fell away.

He locked eyes with Hanamaki who gave him a quick wink, expression steady. The trial could start any moment.

They were ready.

Iwaizumi took a deep breath as the judge entered the room. He made one final quick check of his tie as the trial started, but his headspace was nothing but a focused calm as he stood up to make their opening statement.

“Our client, Ebisawa Katsu, is a seven year old boy who lives with his parents in Asakusa, Tokyo. On the morning of October 22th, he walked to school like any other day—except it wasn’t.”

He fell into the flow of his story, summarising their case and familiarising the judge with the key players and witnesses. Endless practise had worn fruit and Iwaizumi spoke clearly, bringing a concise story to the table that was easy to understand and cast Katsu in a sympathetic light. Iwaizumi milked his dependable appearance for all it was worth, fully aware of the reliable impression he made on people. This particular judge was a parent himself, so Iwaizumi angled to appeal to his paternal instincts.

After a quick mention of the weakness in their case (it was better to be honest and maintain control over the narrative instead of giving their opponents the chance at a shocking reveal), Iwaizumi made a final summary and ended his speech with a final request. “Therefore, I ask you to remove Ebisawa Katsu from his parents’ custody.”

Iwaizumi returned to his seat where Oikawa gave him a quick nod and Hanamaki leaned over to relay some notable responses from the other party. Confident that he had made a good start, Iwaizumi relaxed and watched the rest of the trial unfurl until it was time for him to present their evidence.

Oikawa handled the witnesses, and as expected there was a striking difference between how he dealt with the parents and the others. Where he turned on the charm with Katsu’s teacher, the neighbours or his aunt, there was no mercy when the father took the stand. Oikawa’s sharp questions and piercing gaze left nowhere to hide, exuding pressure that left his target off-balanced. Still, he never crossed the line into blatant aggression; he did not need to. Trip up the father into misspeaking, and then pounce with just the right questions that only cast further disparity on his story, his very character.

Watching him with a faint smile, Iwaizumi couldn’t help but swell with pride. Oikawa really was an incredible lawyer. He could have gone into any corporate business and set himself up to make a fortune—yet he was here, in a small corner of family law not particularly known for the financial rewards. All of Oikawa’s frivolities made it challenging to see past his facade, but he was a good man through and through.

The trial continued smoothly, the judge clearly swaying in their favour, especially after Katsu took the stage and did an admirable job at telling his story. Iwaizumi made a mental note to praise the kid later; he deserved it. When the judge finally made his ruling, nobody on the team was shocked when they stepped outside with a victory on their hands.

Hanamaki grinned at Oikawa and Iwaizumi, and for once the expression was entirely devoid from mockery. “Congratulations, gentlemen, on another successful case,” he said, slapping them on the back.

“It was a team effort,” Oikawa said graciously. “Couldn’t have done it without you and Kindaichi.”

“Damn straight you couldn’t have!” Hanamaki said, that familiar impish slant returning to his lips. “So, food and drinks? I’d say this is worth a celebration.”

Around them was the steady stream of people leaving the court room, some bumping into them, others sending a quick congratulations their way. Iwaizumi stepped out of the way and gestured for the others to follow suit. “Let’s wait for Kuroo and Yamamoto, see how Katsu is doing.”

“Yamamoto took Katsu back to Nekomata’s already, the kid's exhausted.”

Iwaizumi jumped at the sudden voice behind them.

Kuroo stood there with a wide smile on his face, wearing a suit for the occasion and his hair almost tamed into submission. “But he’s doing great. I think the relief just overwhelmed him. Great job, I knew we could count on you guys to deliver! Now, what was that about food?”

“Alright, let’s do this!”

“Makki, no!”

Hanamaki half-sat, half-stood, but fully leaned over the table, reaching out a hand to Iwaizumi. His usually pale skin flushed red, the sway to his body clear proof of his alcohol-intake. Oikawa tried to usher Hanamaki down with a look of horror on his face, while Kuroo watched the situation unfold with an interested smirk. Iwaizumi’s head buzzed, vaguely aware of the rational thoughts that tried to pierce through the fog of sake, but his instinct beckoned to accept the challenge laid down before him.

He saw no harm in complying.

“You’re on. Prepare to get your ass handed to you.”

The restaurant was filled with a balmy heat despite the late hour, most of its traditional seating already emptied from guests. Empty plates had been cleared long ago, leaving only glasses of beer and one nonalcoholic drink. Watching all this rowdiness unfold with an affectionate disposition was the elderly owner, long familiar with the employees of Irihata Family Law. They’d been coming here for years after their victories, a little tradition they built up as a team.

“It will be different this time,” Hanamaki said with a vicious grin.

“Like hell it will be.”

“Don’t do this to yourself, Makki!” Oikawa warned. “Remember Christmas!”

It will be different.”

Heat emanated from Hanamaki, a fiery aura surrounding him as he stumbled to sit across of Iwaizumi, who was already pushing up the sleeves of his dress shirt.

Oikawa settled down with a sigh, recognising a hopeless situation when he saw it and giving up on any chance to rescue Hanamaki from himself. “You must be drunker than I thought if you’re so sure you can take on Iwa-chan this time.”

Iwaizumi firmly planted his elbow on the table, offering his open hand to Hanamaki. “Prove it,” he said, his voice rough and thick. Though Iwaizumi had fully intended to pace himself when they first entered the restaurant, somewhere along the evening his pace had accelerated beyond the original plan. He was still in control of himself, but the loosened up version of him that was in control just happened to think it was a great idea to accept Hanamaki’s arm-wrestling challenge.

“Been a while since I last saw you guys so fired up,” Kuroo said to Oikawa, a sly smile spreading over his face. “It’s rare that you’re the one who has to baby-sit the others.”

“See, even Kuro-chan sees how much trouble you’re being!” Oikawa exclaimed.

Undeterred, Hanamaki mirrored Iwaizumi and grasped his hand tightly. “I don’t know, all I heard him say is that you’re usually the one who’s trouble,” Hanamaki said, then locked eyes with his opponent. “Ready?”

“Good thing too,” Kuroo drawled. “Oikawa doesn’t seem to be very good at keeping you out of it.”

“We’re not causing trouble!” Iwaizumi said in a low growl, his fingers twitching. “Ready.”

Iwaizumi counted them down—and to Hanamaki’s credit, he did not go down instantaneously. A beat passed where their arms strained against each other, but then Iwaizumi pushed through and with a solid ‘thump’ Hanamaki’s hand hit the table.

Not even honouring this simple victory with a proper cheer, Iwaizumi merely grinned in satisfaction. “That was much easier than last time, Hanamaki. I think your muscles are actually starting to atrophy.”

“You are just freakishly strong!”

Kuroo raised an eyebrow, leaning his cheek on his hand. “Well, that was anti-climactic.”

“Good,” Oikawa sniffed. “I’ve taken Makki to the infirmary once, and that was more than enough.”

At that Kuroo’s eyebrow rose even higher, but before he could ask Hanamaki loudly demanded a rematch, claiming foul play.

“No!” This time, Oikawa pointed a strict finger at Hanamaki and snapped at him with a sharp authority that had Hanamaki sit back and raise his hands in defeat. Oikawa smirked at Kuroo, radiating smugness for proving his earlier statement wrong.

“Hoo~” Kuroo said in a flat voice, giving Oikawa a small, understated applause. Then he cocked his head with an an expression that was so perfectly neutral it had to be crafted. “Hey, I saw this documentary last night about the Rare Earth Hypothesis. Interesting stuff. I especially liked the bits about ‘dead zones’ in the galactic habitable zone.”

Oikawa let out an actual yipe, though his horror quickly faded away to be replaced by raised hackles. “Really, Kuro-chan? I expected better from you! It’s nothing but circular reasoning and terribly outdated besides. By now there’s more than enough proof of multi-cellular life that doesn’t need oxygen. Just how old was this documentary, huh?”

Iwaizumi rolled his eyes and turned to Hanamaki. Once Kuroo got started with provoking Oikawa, there was no telling how or when it would end. “Hey, what was that about foul play,” he said gruffly, crossing his arms.

Behind them a group of businessmen left the restaurant, leaving them behind as the last four guests of the night. The owner smiled at their heated conversations; Oikawa in a one-sided debate with Kuroo, who was obviously enjoying himself far too much, while Hanamaki did his best to get a rise out of Iwaizumi with accusations of steroids and sabotage. However, as the adrenaline rush of the arm-wrestling faded away, some of the fog lifted from Iwaizumi’s head, returning the barest of clarity. He looked around the table with a lazy grin, savouring the atmosphere. Despite all the bickering there was a good-natured ambiance in the room, of camaraderie and the discharge of pent-up stress.

“Issei! Defeat Iwaizumi for me, will you,” Hanamaki said, reaching out a hand to Matsukawa as he entered the restaurant.

Matsukawa took one look around the table, meeting Iwaizumi’s goading smirk with a steady gaze, then slowly shook his head. “How about I take you guys home instead. Let poor Nakashima close up.”

“Oh, don’t mind me!” Nakashima called from the kitchen, his head poking through the pass.

“I’ll take you up on that,” Iwaizumi said. Home had been on his mind for a while now, exhaustion burning at the edges of his consciousness. He’d been able to ignore it, but there was no telling how long he could keep that up.

On the other hand, Oikawa protested vehemently. “I can’t leave now, I need to help Kuro-chan unlearn all the nonsense in his head!” he said, and Iwaizumi had to wonder just how much Oikawa had been drinking. While easy to rile up, he usually kept some awareness of the fact that Kuroo was just messing with him. Tonight that seemed to have gone out the window entirely.

Iwaizumi rolled his eyes. “I’m not leaving you behind, you’re way too drunk for that.”
“One more drink, Iwa-chan, just one more!” Oikawa said, clinging to Iwaizumi. He poked at Iwaizumi’s chest while he draped an arm over his shoulders, his full weight settling down.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Iwaizumi considered his options... and none of them were particularly appealing. ‘Just one more’ rarely turned out to be just one more, but Iwaizumi did not think he had the energy to forcibly corral Oikawa back home. He’d physically dragged Oikawa around more than enough times, sure, especially during their days as roommates, but damn if he was not close to his limits tonight.

“I’ll get him home,” Kuroo said, peeling Oikawa off Iwaizumi despite his protests. “Don’t worry about it.”

But Iwaizumi did, in fact, worry about it.

The concern must have shown on his face, because Kuroo put on a grin that was surprisingly reliable and waved Iwaizumi off. “Look, you’re dead on your feet,” he laughed. “You’ve done enough good for today, just go home. I’ll take care of this lout, scout’s honour.” He slapped Oikawa on the shoulder, who babbled an objection—whether at the insult or Iwaizumi leaving, no one could tell.

Iwaizumi could not quite shake all hesitation; his nature dictated to look after Oikawa, especially in this drunken state. Then again, Kuroo was right. Iwaizumi felt drained clean, and it became increasingly hard to ignore the way he swayed on his feet.

And then there was Kuroo. He looked alert, hadn’t consumed a single drop of alcohol and most importantly; he took care of young children for a living. If anyone was the perfect replacement to handle Oikawa, it was him. Hell, he might’ve been even more qualified than Iwaizumi himself, if push came to shove.

Kuroo raised an eyebrow at Iwaizumi with an expression that screamed ‘seriously, you’re in no state to be fighting me on this’, his familiar toothy grin substituted with a reassuring smile. That smile was what tipped the balance in Iwaizumi’s internal conflict.

“Fine, but if you don’t personally make sure he gets home safe, we’re gonna have trouble,” Iwaizumi said, pointing a warning finger at Kuroo. His tongue was regrettably thick, removing the threat from his warning.

“Don’t worry, I got this. Go home,” Kuroo said, speaking over Oikawa’s protests about being left behind by Iwaizumi. Kuroo waved a hand at him to go with Hanamaki and Matsukawa.

After a tearful goodbye from Oikawa, Iwaizumi did just so. However, his unease did not fade even as Matsukawa dropped him off at home, where he stumbled inside and got some water. Iwaizumi settled down at the kotatsu, sipping at his drink while he played with his phone and the possibility of calling you. Oblivion overtook him before he could make a decision as he fell asleep at the table, jacket still on.

Kuroo watched Oikawa settle back into place, nursing a half-empty glass of beer. He shot a wary look at Kuroo, as though little alarm-bells were going off in his head now they were alone.

Justified, perhaps.

“So,” Kuroo drawled, leaning forward as he rested his elbows on the table, “just how long have you been crushing on Iwaizumi?”

Oikawa’s grip on the glass tightened, fingers twitching from the strain. His lips curled up, all teeth and no smile. “Now what makes you say that, Kuro-chan?”

He shrugged. “It’s pretty obvious.”

They stared at one another, neither backing down at first. But Kuroo held the advantage; sober and not confronted out of the blue with a potentially delicate subject. Finally Oikawa jutted up his chin and narrowed his eyes at Kuroo, refusing to be embarrassed. “How long have you known?”

Kuroo chuckled, but the laugh was not unkind. Thought so. “For sure? Not until just now.” The two came by the shelter often enough for Kuroo to pick up on a couple of things, but it was nice to have this one confirmed.

With a startled yelp, Oikawa’s poker face fell away. “Unfair! You cheat!”

“Is it really cheating when you make it that easy for me?” Kuroo teased, but reigned himself in as he studied Oikawa. The mask temporarily gone, Kuroo could see pain mingling through the indignation. Shit. Not just some little crush? Even if some people got the wrong impression, Kuroo never provoked just to be an asshole. And when he realised he’d goofed up, he’d try to make right. “You holding up okay?”

Lending Oikawa a listening ear seemed the least he could do.

Oikawa hesitated, but not for long. “This stays between us?”

“Of course.”

And once Oikawa started talking, an overflow of suppressed emotions poured out; frustration, heartache, adoration. “It’s ridiculous that this ever even happened,” he rambled. “Iwa-chan is not my type at all, uncouth and no I’m not okay, it’s not going as it’s supposed to and I don’t know what’s wrong-”

It may have been the alcohol, or perhaps the result of locking everything up so tightly for too long, but his sentences turned into a mixed jumble, the actual words not making much sense until he hit a sudden point of focus, his eyes snapping onto Kuroo.

“And clearly he doesn’t feel the same so where does that leave me? Stuck!”

“Hey, hey, hang on, what makes you so sure about that?” Kuroo said, holding up a hand as though to physically stop Oikawa’s verbal waterfall. Oikawa may not have noticed, but Kuroo remembered that look on Iwaizumi’s face at the very notion of leaving Oikawa behind. Didn’t necessarily mean anything, but it also cast some doubt on Oikawa’s absolute conviction.

Oikawa’s flat stare told Kuroo exactly what he thought about that question. “I asked him out, did you know that?”

Kuroo’s eyebrow shot up at record speed.

“He never realised it was supposed to be a date. When I tried to tell him, he thought I was having a laugh with him. I’ve never been on his radar that way.” Oikawa rolled his eyes so hard it turned into a full-body motion, though obviously his frustration wasn’t actually with Kuroo. Whether it was with Iwaizumi or himself, all bets were off. “I doubt anything has changed since then.”

“No offence to your Iwa-chan, but isn’t he just kind of dense?” Kuroo made a pacifying gesture with his hand when Oikawa started to protest. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a smart guy, but his emotional intelligence could use some polishing if he hasn’t realised what’s going on. I mean,” Kuroo said, rubbing his temple as he tried to follow along with all this information, “just how long have you been sitting on this?”

Oikawa pursed his lips into a thin line, pointedly looking away from Kuroo as he mumbled, “Since college. But I was fine!” he said defensively when Kuroo’s eyes widened. “I was fine as long as Kiyoko was in the picture! It’s when Iwaizumi is single that the trouble starts.”

“Holy shit,” Kuroo breathed, the time-frame falling into a new perspective. Oikawa was in a worse state than he ever expected. “Okay, okay, so I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but why don’t you take a second chance? What do you have to lose at this point? If he doesn’t feel the same way, maybe that’s what you need to get some closure. The guy loves you either way, I’m sure your friendship can take the punch. And if he doesn’t reject you, well... problem solved.”

The expression on Oikawa’s face soured as Kuroo talked. “Even if I wanted to, I can’t. He’s with someone else.”

“Didn’t you just say-”

“I know what I said!” Oikawa paused—no, froze—for a moment, then snarled with an audible ‘tch’. “And you won’t believe who he’s dating now.”

“Oya? Who is he dating then?” Kuroo asked, figuring he might as well bite. He listened to the name Oikawa spat out, then gave him a blank look. “That supposed to mean anything to me?”

Mussing up his hair, Oikawa keened out a soft, miserable sound. “An astronaut,” he said, “an actual will-be-going-to-space-in-four-months astronaut!”

“Oh.” After a split second, understanding dawned on Kuroo. “Oh. Wow, that must suck for you.”

“But she’s so uncool,” Oikawa powered on, wagging a finger at Kuroo. “I’m totally in control of the situation, she was a massive disappointment. Her jokes are so incredibly uncool, totally not an issue anymore.”

“Uhh, an issue how?”

Oikawa sighed with a dramatic flourish of his hand. “I used to have the tiniest celebrity crush on her, but that’s totally over now, problem solved!” His grin twitched at the corners.

Kuroo shot him an unconvinced look, a touch of pity in his smile for this poor drunken sap. “I can see that. Come, finish that drink and I’ll get you home.”

Sudden tears blinked at Oikawa’s eyes, his bottom lip quivering. “Kuro-chan, you’re not the scoundrel I thought you were!”


A sharp sting of pain ran through Iwaizumi’s back when he woke up, immediately throwing him in a disoriented state. If there was any part of his body he’d expected pain, it was his head—though he did not often get headaches from alcohol unless he crossed a deep line. But as his befuddled mental state started to clear up, the realisation sank in that he had fallen asleep at the kotatsu, his upper body draped over the table. With a low groan he tried to move his limbs, slowly working through the stiffness.

His suit clung uncomfortably to his skin, a foul taste stuck to the roof of his mouth all the way to the back of his throat, leaving Iwaizumi desperate to freshen up and brush his teeth. One shower and change of clothes later, and his stomach decided to make itself known, churning with unease.

Iwaizumi rolled his eyes, getting the distinct feeling his body was making its way through some kind of check-list. One thing taken care of and the next presented itself. For a moment he hesitated, uncertain whether he needed some sustenance to get rid of the nausea, or if eating would only lead to later regrets. In the end he whipped up basic scrambled eggs, letting his body’s reaction to the smell make the final decision.

After a small meal Iwaizumi felt strong enough to brave looking at his phone. There was one message from Kuroo, a simple photo with physical proof of Oikawa’s safe return home (Oikawa’s peace-sign looked a little shaky, but otherwise he seemed fine—considering the circumstances), and a short text from you, asking how he was feeling after last night. The time-stamp made him suspect that’s what woke him up earlier, though his brain had not registered the vibration of his phone.

A small flash of guilt stabbed through him for going out with his colleagues over you, despite the fact you were the one who insisted he’d celebrate last night. He’d given you a quick call outside the restaurant while the others had gone inside and to quote; “Iwaizumi Hajime, I swear I’ll hang up on you if you call me again, go celebrate!” Still, figuring he had something to make up for, Iwaizumi called and patiently waited for you to pick up.


And just with that single, soft word, you lifted the murky fog from his head, soothed the ache in his neck.

...some of it, at least.

“Hey,” Iwaizumi said, unable to help his smile. “It’s good to hear you.”

A little chuckle escaped you. “I have to admit, you don’t sound half as bad as I thought you would. Did you take it easy?

“Tried to,” he groaned. “I’m fine, got my body going after a shower and some food.”

Such a tough guy,” you teased him. “But hey, I got something that might brighten your day a bit.

Other than hearing your voice?

Iwaizumi did not speak the words into existence; you made enough fun of him for being cheesy as it was, and with thoughts like these he was forced to admit you had a point. “What's going on?” he simply asked instead.

I managed to switch some stuff around, which means I get back earlier tomorrow than planned. A lot earlier.

He perked up at that. You had anticipated for a late-night arrival in Tokyo, but this changed things. Significantly. “Do you want me to pick you up from the station?”

You laughed, the sound clear like a bell. “I’d love that! Actually I was thinking I’d come over, maybe cook for you. I promised, didn’t I? Plus, I also seem to remember promising some sort of reward... I don’t like being in debt.

The reminder sent a thrill through Iwaizumi, cutting straight past the haze of his hangover. The memory of you felt so sharp yet so distant, his longing to touch you again so strong it twisted time around itself. The very notion that it had only been a week ago seemed absurd, impossible to conceive. The last time he kissed you was only yesterday, it was eons ago.

And yet, like a complete fool, he could not stop himself from acting the gentleman. “Are you sure you’ll have the energy for all that? Don’t push yourself too much, you’ve been working hard,” he blurted out. His gruff voice turned what was intended as well-meant consideration into a brusque accusation, and he pushed his fist against his forehead in chagrin. “I’m sorry, I mean-”

Don’t worry, you’re sweet,” you assured him. “It’ll be fine, I’ve been looking forward to getting a chance to spoil you a bit. Though it’d be great if you could take care of the supplies?

“Yeah, just send me a list of what you need.”

You made a little humming sound, filling the temporary silence between you. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Missed you.

A lightness settled on Iwaizumi’s chest, his lips curving up in happiness. “Yeah,” he said quietly, “me too.”

Chapter Text

Hands in his pockets, Iwaizumi attempted to look casual as he waited by the station. His gaze was locked onto the entrance to the underground platforms; you’d be coming up the escalator any moment now. The area around him bustled with activity and he took care to find a spot against a wall to minimise people bumping into him, but that still gave him a clear view of the coming and goings of passengers.

And there you were.

Stuck between a group of tourists and a small family, you looked tired but alert, eyes wandering over the crowd as you tried to find Iwaizumi.

Once you spotted him, your entire body language shifted. The very set of your shoulders changed and a bright smile crossed your face. With one hand you hauled along your luggage, with the other you waved at Iwaizumi.

He raised his hand back to you, subconsciously biting his lip as you approached.


You walked as fast as your luggage and the crowd allowed, and then you stood in front of him. Smile turned shy, your eyes flickered away as you brushed a strand of hair out of your face.

A soft frown on his brow as he studied you, Iwaizumi reached for your hand. He ran his thumb over your knuckles, the touch gentle. “It’s good to see you again,” he said, then pulled you towards him into a hug.

You let yourself fall into the embrace, fingers digging into his shoulders as you exhaled. His arms encircled your waist, molding your bodies together. He pressed his nose against your hair and closed his eyes, breathing in deeply.

Just for a moment, Iwaizumi could fool himself into believing it was only the two of you at the busy Akihabara Station, no crowd moving around you, no traffic noises, nothing but the warmth of your body and the smell of your hair. Just for a moment, and then someone bumped into him.

“Missed you too,” you chuckled, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek before breaking away.

“Come, car is parked this way,” Iwaizumi said, taking your suitcase.

For once you let the chivalrous gesture pass without comment or teasing him, attesting to just how tired you were. “The car? We’re not taking the bus? I thought you didn’t have a licence.”

“I have a licence, just not a car,” Iwaizumi said as he led you through the crowd. “Borrowed Oikawa’s.”

“Ohh, okay. Gotta be honest, I’m kind of relieved I don’t have to do more public transportation today,” you said, rubbing at your temple.

Iwaizumi unlocked the car and put your luggage in the backseat. “Yea, how are you doing? You look exhausted.”

With a sigh you slid into the passenger seat, but you still smiled at Iwaizumi when he joined you in the car. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t really start feeling it until the train. Apparently forty-five minutes of sitting still was enough for it to catch up with me.”

Suddenly your eyes went sharp as you gave Iwaizumi a strict look.

“But I’m good to cook, so don’t get started with me!”

Iwaizumi grinned at you. “Wouldn’t dare.” Though his driving was a little rusty, Iwaizumi easily divided his attention between you and the road. From the corner of his eye he caught a yawn and chuckled. “But I also won’t give you any crap if you want to take a quick nap. You got my message, right?”

“Oh yeah! You didn’t finish yet?”

“Almost done, shouldn’t take long. You could get a decent powernap in,” he half-teased, half-suggested for real.

Yesterday Iwaizumi’s mother had ambushed him with a request to help her out with some store business. She’d forwarded him an email filled with complicated legal jargon from a company claiming she was infringing on their copyright, with the request for him to ‘translate’ so she could tear them apart properly.

Though he had patiently reminded her that this area was not exactly his speciality, Iwaizumi Sachiko refused to hear that her son might not be capable of something. Having a proud mother could be a bit of a drawback from time to time.

“I mean, the plan is to use this distraction so I can raid your place for old photo albums, but we’ll see what happens,” you said, winking at him.

Iwaizumi smiled at your attempt to get a rise out of him, protected by the knowledge that any and all embarrassing childhood photos were safe in his mother’s care. Well, ‘safe’ as long as you did not get an opportunity to ask her about them.

The car ride did not take long, the traffic for once in Iwaizumi’s favour. You happily chatted at him about the hijinks you got up to with your colleagues until you reached his place.

Once again Iwaizumi took your suitcase, leading you up the stairs to his apartment. “Make yourself at home,” he said, opening the door for you.

“I will,” you said with a grin, slipping off your shoes. “How about I make us some tea while you do your thing? I think I still know my way around your kitchen well enough.”

The offer triggered a wave of affection that seemed disproportionate to the simple act. Iwaizumi took in the sight of you, the tired smile on your face, the ease at which you did, in fact, make yourself at home, and he couldn’t help but smile back at you. “Sounds great. Thanks.”

You made to move, then hesitated. Instead you stood in front of Iwaizumi and walked your fingers up his chest. “Not that I’m trying to distract you from the work, but...” Fingers resting just below the neckline of his shirt, you leaned in for a kiss.

With a quiet moan Iwaizumi sank into the kiss, cradling your face. Your lips moved languidly, leaving a series of soft, lazy kisses that set his skin on fire.

As you broke away, Iwaizumi made a sound of protest and pulled you back for just one more. You giggled against him, a teasing brush of your tongue against his bottom lip. How tempting to just forget about any promises made to his mother and spend every minute of this day refamiliarising himself with your body, your touch, you.

Then you were gone, a mischievous glint in your eyes as you flitted to the kitchen.

Iwaizumi sighed, dropping his hands by his sides. He tried not to look too forlorn as you disappeared, then he headed to the living room.

He settled down in his usual spot by the kotatsu, facing the window. Waiting for his laptop to start up, Iwaizumi checked his phone and saw a message from Oikawa. Change of plans I’ll need the car tonight, are you back yet?

Quickly Iwaizumi typed a short response, letting Oikawa know he could come pick up the keys. A thought drifted past, wondering whether Oikawa was telling the truth or if it was a flimsy excuse to say hi to you. In the end it did not really matter, so Iwaizumi dismissed the notion.

“Found your water boiler, it’s doing its thing,” you said, walking into the living room.

You peeked a glimpse at the document on the screen, blinking at the unnecessarily complex legal terminology. The soft touch of your hands on Iwaizumi’s shoulders was distracting, but it never even occurred to him to brush you away.

“Ugh, you are such a good son,” you sighed, flopping down behind him. Loosely you wrapped your arms around his waist, legs settling on either side of him. “It’s kinda sexy, you know.”

Iwaizumi’s face heated up as you pressed your cheek against his back. “Thanks, I uh, I think.”

“...this okay?” you murmured, leaning more weight against him as you relaxed.


He glanced over his shoulder, breathing a soft laugh when he saw the way your eyelids flickered. He gave you five minutes at the most.

Then Iwaizumi gathered his thoughts and focused on the task at hand. He got to work, wrapping up the last details of his ‘translation’, and tried not to smile too wide when your breathing stabilised and your arms around his waist fell slack.

Vaguely he realised that the water for tea was cooling down again, but he let you sleep. Even when he finished and sent the completed file to his mother, Iwaizumi could not bring himself to disturb your rest. He put one hand over yours, the other stroked your leg, slowly drifting up and down over your jeans.

You stirred when Iwaizumi’s phone buzzed, but settled back down without waking. He chuckled at Oikawa’s text (Is it safe to come inside??) and replied with an affirmative.

Yeah, let yourself in. Just be quiet, okay?

Just be quiet?

Oikawa stared at his phone in confusion, wondering if he should be offended somehow. What was that supposed to mean? He shrugged and walked up to the building, digging in his pocket for the keys. Back when they had moved out of the dorms and into homes of their own, Oikawa and Iwaizumi had exchanged keys almost the moment they settled in. The idea of not being able to just barge into each others’ living spaces was just too absurd after years of being roommates.

He opened the front door carefully, unsure what he’d find inside. Quietly he slipped off his shoes and walked up to the living room, where he poked his head around the corner.

What Oikawa found there almost made him burst out laughing, and he quickly bit on his fist to stifle the sound. “Oh, Iwa-chan,” he said, shaking his head.

Iwaizumi turned around, insofar he could without disturbing you, glowering at Oikawa. “What?”

Oikawa walked over and sat down in one smooth motion, giving Iwaizumi a pointed look. “How long have you been sitting like this?”

“Not that long,” he grunted, avoiding Oikawa’s gaze with a faint blush that marked his cheeks with guilt.

“She can’t sleep like this forever, you know. It’ll ruin her back,” Oikawa said.

Iwaizumi’s mouth drew into the curdled line of someone who knew they were in the wrong, yet unable to take action. His frown deepened as he looked over his shoulder, visibly torn. But there was a tenderness to his brow even through the indecision, unconcealed affection for your sleeping form.

A sudden jab of irritation punched through Oikawa and he rolled his eyes, repositioning himself to wake you up. If Iwaizumi couldn’t do it, Oikawa would deal with this himself.

He put a gentle hand on your shoulder, cooing your name. “It’s time to wake up.”

“Mm, hmm what?”

Your face scrunched up, arms squeezing around Iwaizumi’s waist as you pressed your cheek against his back a little tighter. Through bleary eyes you blinked at Oikawa, then recognition set in.

“Hey,” you said, your expression softening into a fond smile, “it’s my space buddy. What are you doing here?”

“Saving you a visit to the doctor,” Oikawa said, pretending not to see the little spot of drool you left on the back of Iwaizumi’s shirt.

You squinted at him, incomprehension written all over your face in big capital letters. “I- what?”

“Never mind him,” Iwaizumi said. He repositioned so he could run a hand through your hair, then pulled you in to kiss your forehead. “Had a good nap?”

With a huge yawn you stretched your limbs, reluctantly untangling yourself from Iwaizumi. “I hate to admit it,” you said, rubbing your eyes, “but I really needed that.”

You started to get up, but when Oikawa saw how wobbly you were he quickly stood up and gave you a hand.

“See, nothing wrong with a little powernap,” Iwaizumi said with a smug grin.

“Yeah yeah,” you said, stifling another yawn. “Smart ass. Let me get started on that dinner.”

While Iwaizumi stood up, Oikawa watched you make your way to the kitchen, making particular note of the little sway in your step. “Dinner? You’re not cooking anything,” he said, going after you and gently putting his hands on your shoulders. His voice was sweetened to the point that Iwaizumi scowled at him. “Not by yourself, at least. Someone needs to keep an eye on you, poor exhausted thing.”

“No! I don’t want Hajime helping me,” you objected, pointing at Iwaizumi who looked vaguely offended at the notion of being banned out of his own kitchen. “I’m going to take care of him for once.”

“And I’m fully onboard with that, but I have to put my foot down,” Oikawa said, his smile widening. “So there’s just one solution here, I’m afraid. I’ll help you out.”

“Not sure that’ll make things safer in the kitchen,” Iwaizumi scoffed, crossing his arms.

You looked at Oikawa, clear hesitation in your eyes. “I’m just not sure we have enough for three people... Hajime, how much food did you get?”

“Oh please,” Oikawa sniffed. “It’s not like I’m planning to crash your romantic dinner. I’ll help you get started, make sure you don’t hurt yourself, and I’ll be out of your hair. I’m just that generous.”

Silence fell in the living room, Iwaizumi and you exchanging a look—and seemed to come to an unspoken agreement.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Iwaizumi said. “If you’re cooking, you’re eating.”

Oikawa opened his mouth to protest but found himself looking from one stubborn face to another, eerily similar in their expression. Realising the futility of the situation, Oikawa sighed and raised his shoulders in an elegant shrug. “Alright, alright~ If you want me around that badly I’ll join you.”

“You’re the worst.”

And so you and Oikawa ended up in Iwaizumi’s small kitchen, preparing dinner while Iwaizumi pretended (badly) like this wasn’t eating him up on the inside. The small kitchen was pushed to the limit with three people inside, but as long as nobody made any big, sudden movements you all managed. You put Oikawa to work mixing a batter, chopping up a cabbage yourself.

“Yeah, I think we’re going to be good with the portions,” you said, taking stock of the ingredients. “Hmm, maybe a little lean on the squid.”

Iwaizumi poked at the squid, examining the size. “It’ll be fine,” he said, reaching for a knife.

“No!” both you and Oikawa yelled at him.

Incredulously, Iwaizumi stared back. “You’re seriously not going to let me help?”

“Obviously!” Oikawa said, while you physically pushed Iwaizumi away from the kitchen counter.

“Just sit back and relax, okay?” you said, and pressed a quick peck on his cheek before returning to your vegetables.

Iwaizumi grumbled as he leaned against the wall, resigning himself to his role as spectator, but Oikawa was not so easily fooled by his gruff demeanour. The set of Iwaizumi’s shoulders was far too relaxed for him to truly be upset about this turn of events. He’d never admit to it, but he clearly appreciated the role-reversal.

“Shittykawa, I can’t believe you’re letting her do the knife work after all your big talk about safety,” Iwaizumi said, but a smirk pulled at his lips.

“Oi, I’m doing fine!” you protested, shooting a glare his way.

Oikawa made a dismissive noise. “I said I’d keep an eye on her,” he said. “What if I cut myself? Then who is left to supervise? No, it’s much better this way.”

Iwaizumi rolled his eyes, the insult on his mind unspoken but broadcasted clearly.

Focusing on his batter, Oikawa felt the distinct fulfilment of seeing the mixture of flour and Dashi gradually smoothen out. The rhythmic motion of whisking allowed him to take a deep breath and monitor his state of mind. He cast a glance at Iwaizumi, as though testing his own emotional response.

Since venting to Kuroo, Oikawa felt off. Not worse, just... different. As though his emotions floated closer to the surface, yet somehow they were a little easier to bear. Like the rare honesty had blunted the sharp edges, but his feelings still pressed in on him. They no longer cut him, but this only made Oikawa more aware of how deeply buried he was.

Next to him, you set aside the chopped cabbage and glanced over to inspect his mixture. “You can add the eggs and yam now.”


He followed your instructions, occasionally sneaking a glance at you as you moved on to the onions. To make sure you didn’t cut yourself, of course.

Somehow he’d reached the point where he could talk to you and forget just who you were. Every now and then the memory snapped back into place, but even then, it was more like a vague awareness in the back of his head.

You had become... normal.

And that was the weirdest thing of all.

You were just a person now. An uncool person who made lame jokes and never hesitated to cruelly gang up on him. Who complicated his life in an absolutely unnecessary way. Who made Iwaizumi smile in that soft way that left Oikawa aching.

Who’d grin at Oikawa and then all of that was forgotten.

You guided him through the recipe, though in all honesty his job could be summed up with ‘mix whatever you handed him into the batter’. Finally you pushed the cutting board with slices of octopus to him, and asked Iwaizumi where he kept his skillet.

“I still can’t believe you decided on pancakes for your big romantic dinner,” Oikawa sighed as you poured batter into the skillet.

“One, this was never supposed to be a big romantic dinner. Two, Okonomiyaki is great, don’t you dare throw shade,” you said, waving an affronted finger. “Don’t make me throw you out without dinner.”

“Iwa-chan, your girlfriend is bullying me!”

“And you brought it on yourself,” Iwaizumi said, softly whapping Oikawa on the head as he walked past. He put his hands on your waist and leaned over your shoulder, then breathed in deeply. “Smells great.”

For a moment Oikawa stared at the sight, until he slowly averted his gaze. Huh. No sharp jab in his stomach. Just heaviness.

Maybe that’s just how he was processing the relationship this time. Change was good, even if he did not immediately feel better, right? Better than remaining stagnant, stuck in the same place.


This was better.

Soon enough you were putting the finishing touches on the last pancake, sprinkling bonito flakes on top of it, while Oikawa got out plates and utensils and Iwaizumi cleared some of the mess on the kitchen counter. You smiled at Oikawa as you transferred the pancakes to the plates. “Thanks for the assist.”

He bopped your nose before picking up two of the plates to bring to the living room. “You’re welcome~ I did a good job protecting you, huh?”

You laughed, following him with the last plate. “I suppose you did.”

“Don’t give him too much credit,” Iwaizumi said, walking carefully with three drinks in his hands. The three of you set up the table and dug into the meal, a moment of calm settling over the room. Iwaizumi looked up from his food to smile at you, that damned soft smile again. “Tastes great.”

“Thanks,” you said, mirroring his expression.

Oikawa cleared his throat.


You muffled a laugh behind your hand, then shot a grin his way. But Iwaizumi, Oikawa’s true target, just stared at him blankly. “Hey,” he finally said, “how is Princess doing? She eating better?”

The affront at having his efforts ignored and the delight at Iwaizumi’s interest in his cat roared in Oikawa’s head for dominance. In the end, he settled for the latter. Honestly, Oikawa needed a win, so he’d take it.

“Much better! I got her one of those slow-feed bowls. She was a little miffed at first, but took to it pretty quick.”

“Princess?” you asked.

“Oikawa’s cat,” Iwaizumi said, and took another bite of food.

You breathed in sharply. “You have a cat?”

“One of my cats,” Oikawa corrected. He couldn’t help a smug grin at the envious look on your face. “You’re welcome to come meet them sometime.”

“I’d love that!”

Oikawa did not allow himself a chance to wonder whether he’d regret the offer or not. Conversation around the table flowed easily, a relaxed atmosphere settling in. You interrogated them about the trial, curious for more details of their job.

Taking the opportunity to be a good friend, Oikawa made Iwaizumi sound particularly cool, playing up how dependable he was, how well he performed under pressure. Iwaizumi rolled his eyes at the blatant transparency of Oikawa’s actions, but you delighted in his embellished anecdotes.

“No no, shush, let him tell me more about how great you are,” you quieted Iwaizumi when he started to object, his cheeks flushing red.

“Unfortunately, it’s time for me to go,” Oikawa said with a dramatic flourish. “Kuroo will yell at me if I’m late.” In his drunken state he’d apparently promised Kuroo to help out with picking up some furniture someone had donated to the shelter, and Kuroo had the recording to prove it. Regretfully, Oikawa was a man of his word, though he fully intended to complain the whole way.

“Kuroo?” Iwaizumi blurted out, scepticism dripping off the name.

“Yes, Kuroo. I have friends outside of work, you know,” Oikawa said with a little huff, getting up from the kotatsu.

Iwaizumi and you followed suit, the former still giving Oikawa a doubtful look. “Sure, but since when is he one of them? I thought he drove you crazy.”

“Oh, he’s not so bad!”

“Sure,” Iwaizumi repeated, opening the front door for Oikawa while he put on his shoes. “Do you have your keys?”

“Right here!” Oikawa said, jangling them on a finger. He turned to you, singsonging your name with his usual -chan attached to it. “Thanks for the meal~”

“No, thank you for keeping me safe,” you teased, grinning widely.

Iwaizumi scoffed. “Don’t be too thankful. The jerk’s running off without helping to clean up.”

“Iwa-chan, please!” Oikawa yelped. “I have previous obligations to fulfil!”

“Yeah, yeah. Say hi to Kuroo for me.”

You gave Oikawa a bright smile. “It was great seeing you. We’ll hang out again soon, right?”

“Right,” Oikawa said, winking. With that, he turned around and waved as he walked off.

Well. That could’ve gone worse. Not too bad, by Oikawa’s standards. Never mind that his standards had dropped to an abysmal low point. He’d take the win—still felt like he needed one pretty badly.

You watched Oikawa walk off until Iwaizumi closed the door. Silence enveloped you with a sudden weight as you stood together in the hallway, with the immediate awareness that you’re alone now. You caught his eyes and smiled, wondering who was going to make the first move.

His gaze drifted down to your lips, and just like that you knew the answer.

Even so Iwaizumi took his time, turning to stand in front of you properly. Slowly he reached up to tip your chin, his thumb brushing against the edge of your bottom lip. “I’m really glad you’re back,” he said in that low throaty voice you adored, his expression softening as he leaned in to brush his lips against yours.

The touch was so tender you found yourself melting against him, your hands resting on his chest just to steady yourself. He held onto your waist, manoeuvring you so smoothly that the thump of the wall against your back came as a surprise.

You made a small sound, a rush of heat spreading through you as Iwaizumi’s hands found the edge of your blouse and crept underneath.

Iwaizumi hummed in response, teasing your lips apart. His tongue slid inside just as his fingers found bare skin, sending shivers down your spine. Your back arched, your hands threaded through his hair, bodies pressing closer together.

Soft whimpers escaped you when Iwaizumi rolled his hips, his mouth insistent in its mission to render you breathless. His every movement was calm, controlled, executed with purpose. You were amazed at his self-control, jealous even, when it took all you had not to rip his clothes off his body and devour him. A week had never felt so long, and his kiss had sent off a chain reaction inside of you that was unstoppable. You needed him, needed him against you, inside you, everywhere.

Finally he broke away, his eyes burning into you. “I want to repay the favour,” he said, and it was almost a relief he sounded as out of breath as you felt.

“‘Repay’?” you asked, disoriented by the assault on your senses. His hands stroked over your sides, the touch almost ticklish. You bit your lip and moaned when they slid all the way down, grabbing your ass.

Iwaizumi pressed a kiss just underneath your ear, teething at the delicate skin of your neck. “Yeah,” he grunted with a sudden rough buck of his hips. “Just the thought of your thighs... of what I’d like to do between them...”

Even through his jeans you felt him hard against you, his hands squeezing as he molded your bodies even closer together. “You should—hm!—should turn thought into action,” you teased, gasping when he sucked just underneath your jaw.

His low growl made your brain go haywire. Iwaizumi adjusted his hold on you and lifted, and you let out a little squeak as you wrapped your legs around his waist. “I can’t wait to find out what you taste like,” he breathed against your lips. “I bet you taste amazing.”

With those words, Iwaizumi carried you to the bedroom. Once again you were brimming with fervour at the way he held you. It was not just about the display of physical strength, though that by itself was more than enough to turn you on. No, there was something about Iwaizumi’s hold on you that filled you with the unshakable sensation of safety, that he would never let you fall.

You planted a series of kisses on his jawline, eager and sloppy, and just as you were about to latch onto his earlobe, he dropped you on his bed.

He never gave you the chance to take in your surroundings, enveloping you with his body. His hands groped at you through your clothes, his tongue met yours in a fierce entanglement. Hips steadily rocked into your, but the interfering fabric of jeans kept you from the stimulation you craved.

“I’m going to take my time with you,” Iwaizumi murmured, pulling at your blouse.

In turn you helped him out of his shirt and once the clothes were off he gladly took advantage of the newly exposed skin. His fingers brushed over your stomach, and you instinctively shied away from contact. However, the languid kisses he pressed on your collarbone proved thoroughly distracting. Open-mouthed, wet kisses traced down your chest, over your bra until he latched onto a nipple.

One of your hands dove back into his hair, the other clutched onto his shoulder. Nails scraped over skin and Iwaizumi let out a muffled groan. His eyes flickered up when he reached to unclasp your bra, piercing into yours as he removed the undergarment.

You moaned and squirmed under his ministrations, teeth and tongue playing against your nipple, while his hands massaged you, firm and insistent. He trailed down, nipping at the swell of your breast, before moving to the other side.

“I- ahh, I’m starting to think you don’t actually want to eat me out,” you teased at his slow pace, grazing your fingernails over his scalp.

In response, Iwaizumi sucked roughly at the hardening nub. You arched into his touch with a cry, then snapped back down onto the bed. “I’m taking my time,” he repeated, his sharp gaze pinning you down.

He bit at the underside of your breast, drawing a feeble mewl from you. You writhed underneath him, heat spreading through your abdomen. You tried to rub your thighs together but Iwaizumi’s body blocked you. His tongue soothed the bite, then he drew a line down your ribcage. Hands pressed down on your hips, keeping you in place.

Wet kisses alternated with soft nibbles, tongue and teeth lavishing you with attention. By the time he placed a reverent kiss on your hipbone, you were a squirming mess.

For all of his patience, Iwaizumi did make quick work of your jeans and underwear. You lifted your hips to help him pull them off, along with your socks.

There was a moment of stillness as you lay naked below him, Iwaizumi gazing down with sheer adoration in his gaze. It was enough to make you blush, the veneration almost too much to bear. Then he ducked back in, settling between your legs.

Iwaizumi made a happy sound as he nuzzled against your thighs, mouthing at the soft skin. You whimpered in anticipation, chest rising and falling rapidly. He positioned one leg over his shoulder, steadying it with one hand—meanwhile he focused on the other, marking your thigh with bite marks and bruises.

“Hajime, ahh... please,” you moaned, fingers twitching in his hair as though instinctively trying to pull him where you needed him. Wetness smeared on his sheets and down your thighs, something Iwaizumi enjoyed heartily. “Please!”

Finally he took pity on you, lightly blowing on your clit before pressing his mouth over the nub. You wailed as his tongue teased against you, the direct stimulation almost too much after all this buildup. His hand on your lower stomach held you down, allowing you no escape. Futilely your hips jerked against him as he licked through your folds, a steady stream of moans falling from your lips.

Insistently, Iwaizumi pushed you towards the edge. He let himself be guided by the volume of your cries, by hissed curses, and found a rhythm that had you digging your toes into his shoulders, legs twitching uncontrollably.

Your eyes squeezed shut as your orgasm crashed over you, the surge of pleasure coursing through every nerve in your body. You pulled at Iwaizumi’s hair but he did not let up, sucking up your fluids like a man famished.

Slowly your breathing stabilised, and your tight grasp on him shifted into a gentle massaging of his scalp. He left a final, soft kiss on your thigh and moved up the bed until he could press his lips against yours, letting you taste yourself.

The rough denim of his jeans rubbed against your skin and your hands fumbled with the button, desperate to fix that issue. Your job was made difficult by the distracting moans of Iwaizumi in your ear, who rocked his hips into your touch. The hard bulge in his pants was unmistakable.

“I was right,” he breathed, his lips brushing against you. “You taste incredible.”

“Fuck.” You finally manage to undo the button, the zipper following immediately. His words travelled directly to your groin, the satisfaction of your climax overtaken by a demand for more.

Iwaizumi pushed down his jeans and boxers simultaneously, kicking off the last of his clothes. His cock glistened with precum, and your tongue darted out to wet your lips.

He rose an eyebrow at that. You shot a coy grin his way and wrapped your fingers around his length.

“No,” Iwaizumi rasped, covering your hand with his own. He shook his head and you could feel him twitch against you. “I want to be inside you.”

He reached for the drawer of his bedstand and got out a condom. You wiggled deeper into the sheets as you watched him, your eyes travelling over the length of his body as he put on the condom. God, he was gorgeous. The definition of muscle, cut of his jawline, that stray birthmark on his hip...

You touched his cheek when he draped himself over you, a wicked smile tugged at your lips. “Well? What are you waiting for?” you purred, wrapping your legs around him in impatience.

“Nothing.” His voice was a soft murmur, his eyes taking you in with a gentle gaze. He cupped your cheek and brushed his nose against yours as he slid inside. His breath stuttered, heat enveloping him, and you gasped at the satisfying stretch.

Iwaizumi pressed down until his hips connected with yours, gritting his teeth. His face contorted with pleasure, a desperate edge to his sharp eyes.

Your breath came heavy, arms wrapping around Iwaizumi’s neck to bring him even closer to you. He inhaled deeply as his forehead touched yours, then he snapped his hips.

“Ah!” You cried out, your still sensitive body immediately coming back to life at the stimulation. When Iwaizumi moved again, you clung to him like a lifeline. He took no mercy on you, setting a punishing pace.

You whimpered underneath him as he slammed into you over and over again, leaving you unable to do anything but surrender to the reemerging buzz of another orgasm. Iwaizumi’s grunts and moans fuelled your desire, the desperate knit of his brow the most powerful of aphrodisiacs.

He pressed down in a sloppy kiss, teeth nipping at your bottom lip. One of his hands slipped between your bodies, fumbling for just a moment before he found your clit.

The extra stimulation made you hiss sharply, jolts of electricity shooting through your extremities as the rough pad of his thumb rubbed against you. Your legs clenched around him, your breath reduced to hard panting. You moaned his name and Iwaizumi met your lips again in a deep kiss, his tongue pressing inside. Even muffled, the volume of your cries rose as Iwaizumi shifted the angle of his thrusts, now hitting you just right.

Your jaw fell slack as he pound into you, the coil in your stomach spooling tighter. Iwaizumi broke the kiss, a smug grin appearing when he noticed your debauched state. His thumb pressed down hard and the building pressure inside you snapped, a surge of heat overwhelming you. Your hips stuttered against his and Iwaizumi groaned loudly. He began to lose his rhythm with the way you convulsed around him, and you doubted he’d last much longer.

The motion of his hips continued to draw sparks of pleasure inside you, almost bordering on painful. Shakily you disentangled your arm to cup Iwaizumi’s cheek. “Come,” you encouraged him, squeezing your thighs.

Iwaizumi turned his head to kiss the palm of your hand, then buried his face in the crook of your shoulder. His raspy breath burned against your skin and then he growled, biting down as he slammed once, twice, reaching his own peak.

Slowly your legs slipped down and fell to the bed, your arms lying uselessly on the sheets. Iwaizumi pressed a trail of soft kisses up your neck, until he reached your lips. The kiss was sluggish but heartfelt, then Iwaizumi slipped out of you as he let himself drop to the side.

He removed the condom and tied it off, putting it to the side for now. Judging by the way he pulled you against him, nuzzling your hair, he was unwilling to leave your side just yet.

“That’s definitely one of the nicest ‘welcome back’s I’ve ever gotten,” you sighed, burrowing a little deeper against his chest. Heat emanated off his skin, almost sweltering but you basked in his embrace.

Iwaizumi grunted in response, drowsily kissing your temple. “Stay here tonight,” he said, holding you a little tighter.

You laughed, the sound throaty from exertion. “I’m not going anywhere! Not sure I’d make it home if I tried!”


His eyes met yours, his expression soft from exhaustion and post-orgasmic bliss. You smiled at him, overcome by a sudden and profound fondness for the man lying next to you. “And there I was supposed to be giving you a reward,” you chuckled, brushing your hand against his arm.

Iwaizumi rolled his eyes. “What, you don’t think this counts?”

You shrugged. “I mean... I wasn’t expecting being eaten out to be a part of it. By the way,” you said, grinning at him, “a bit of dirty talk is a good look on you. Like, really good.”

A sudden rush of redness covered Iwaizumi’s cheeks and he made a flustered noise. Another wave of affection crashed over you, his embarrassment only endearing him more to you. The contrast between his confidence just moments before and how easily you could reduce him to this state was delightful, but tonight you decided not to tease him too much.

Instead you captured him in a deep kiss, eager to let him know just how enraptured you were by him.

Chapter Text

You woke up in an unfamiliar bed, to an unfamiliar alarm. However, the body pressed against yours was rapidly becoming quite familiar to you. Iwaizumi groaned and blindly reached for his phone, turning off the alarm. Then he curled right back up against you.

“Good morning,” he grunted, lips brushing against the back of your neck.

Yawning, you stretched your sore body insofar that was possible, encapsulated in a tangle of Iwaizumi’s arms and legs. But you did manage to turn around and nuzzle your nose against his. “Good morning.”

Iwaizumi planted a soft kiss on the corner of your mouth, his eyes cloudy from sleep. “I have to get ready for work,” he said, looking thoroughly unhappy about that fact, “but don’t feel like you have to get up with me, okay? Get some more sleep.”

“Hm-hm,” you said, fighting against the urge to wrap your limbs around him and trap him here for a little while longer. It would be so easy to doze off again in his arms...

Iwaizumi had more willpower than you, sliding out of bed and padding to the bathroom. The loss drew a whiny moan from you. You clutched onto his pillow a little tighter, but it proved a poor substitute despite his musky smell clinging to the soft cotton.

By the time you heard the shower turn on, you felt so restless that you might as well get up. One of Iwaizumi’s button-up shirts hung over the chair, ready for the taking, and you also snatched up a pair of his boxers.

There was something about walking around Iwaizumi’s apartment in the early morning, rummaging through his kitchen for some breakfast and coffee. You prepared some rice, then turned on the cooker. There was an ease to the way you made yourself comfortable in his space, one that still surprised you.

Waiting for the rice to steam, you sipped on a cup of coffee.

Iwaizumi’s kitchen was cleanly organised and functional, the practical aspects of his personality reflected in his home. There was a lineup of potted fresh herbs in the windowsill, but you also noticed a framed dragonfly display on the wall, some pictures on the fridge, and a small whiteboard by the door with reminders for groceries and other chores.

You examined the pictures a little closer, chuckling at a photo of Oikawa and Iwaizumi in what seemed to be their old dorm, the latter half-blocked by Oikawa who threw up a peace-sign. The picture was stuck to the fridge with a little Godzilla magnet, a detail that made you grin. God, he was cute.

Then your attention was caught by one of a couple in wedding attire, and Iwaizumi’s close resemblance to the woman led to an easy conclusion; his parents. You swallowed as you examined the man, the angles of his face softer than Iwaizumi’s, yet there was something about his nose, his hair, that he clearly passed on to his son.

Not for the first time you debated whether to ask more about him, whether that was okay. Though Iwaizumi had told you early on about his father’s death, the subject never came up afterwards. Not that you expected him to open up about every detail of his life within a few weeks, but as the relationship progressed, you found yourself wanting to know more. Family was so clearly important to Iwaizumi, and you did not even know his father’s name.

However, this was something you did not want to push on, not overstep any boundaries or poke at wounds he wanted left alone.

So was it better not to ask and leave it to him, or was Iwaizumi waiting for you to bring it up, willing to talk but not wanting to make you uncomfortable? Were you at an unspoken stalemate?

“I was wondering where my shirt had gone.”

You jolted out of your thoughts when you realised Iwaizumi stood in the doorway, dressed for work in a suit, the tie undone around his neck. The sight left all your previous musings forgotten, a sudden heat spreading through you so suddenly it bordered on juvenile. His eyes drank you in, gaze dragging down from the shirt to his boxers.

If the sight of you in his clothes was even half as distracting for him as the suit was for you, then Iwaizumi was in big trouble.

“Hope you don’t mind,” you said, leaning back against the counter. You set down the cup of coffee, perhaps arching your back a touch more than necessary.

He sighed and walked up to you, playing with the top button of the shirt. “You’re the worst,” he said, shaking his head. “I just got out of the shower.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” you murmured, holding both ends of his tie and gently tugging him towards you.

Iwaizumi indulged you, his hands quick to squeeze your ass. You drew him close with the tie, tongue slipping inside. The taste of fresh mint greeted you, hitting you with a sudden wave of self-consciousness over morning breath. You pulled away but Iwaizumi leaned closer, trapping you between his body and the kitchen counter.

“What, you think you can just start this and leave me hanging?” he said, rocking his hips into yours. The increasing hardness poking against your stomach proved difficult to ignore.

“M- morning breath,” you moaned, your legs getting shaky. God, that was embarrassingly fast. Must be yesterday’s exertion still affecting you, or so you told yourself.

He chuckled, angling his head to recapture your lips. “Don’t worry, you taste like coffee,” he said, breath mingling with yours between kisses. “Mostly.”

“Oi! Bully!” you admonished him. You let go of his tie to tap him on the nose, but he just grinned at you.

“I’m still kissing you, aren’t I,” Iwaizumi said, voice lowering. He proved his point by invading your mouth again, his tongue sliding against yours. Hands slipped inside the boxers you wore, one grabbing at your ass while the other reached all the way down until Iwaizumi found the growing wetness between your legs.

You jerked against him, an undignified noise leaving you. Keen to return the favour, you undid his pants and pushed down his underwear just enough to free his cock, half-hard by now.

Iwaizumi groaned, rolling his hips against your hand. He broke the kiss, lips latching onto your exposed collarbone instead.

“How—ngh—how much time do we have?” you gasped. As into this as you were, it’d be far too embarrassing to be responsible this way for Iwaizumi being late for work.

He mouthed at your skin, lingering for a moment before he answered. “More than enough,” he said, his voice a throaty rasp. He pulled his hand out of your boxers, fingers glistening. Eyes catching hold of yours, he sucked them off, then removed them with a soft ‘pop’. “Tastes just like I remember.”

Your hand wrapped tighter around his cock, thumb playing against the head, while your other hand held the back of his head, pulling him into a hard kiss. He undid the buttons of the shirt you wore, slowly exposing your stomach to him. Once he was done, his hands drifted over your chest for just a moment. Iwaizumi groaned against your lips, thrusting in a rhythm that gradually became less steady, then plunged his hand down the front of your boxers.

The abrupt return of stimulation had you choke out a moan; Iwaizumi always balanced perfectly between rough and gentle, a care to his touch even as he wrecked you, an awareness of his own strength that made you feel safe—yet also curious to find out what’d happen if you truly put his control to the test. How far could you push him? What did it take?

Thoughts for later. Right now, a finger slid inside you, prodding and curling until you cried out. You struggled to focus on Iwaizumi, but he was so far along it did not seem to matter. His motions stuttered against your palm until he climaxed with a low grunt, releasing on your stomach.

With heavy breaths he recovered, forehead leaning against yours as he stared at your stomach, fixated on the sight of his cum on your skin. However, you still tethered on the edge. A desperate call of his name and he snapped back to attention, his thumb drawing tight circles around your clit.

High-pitched whines spilled from your lips, your body trembling as Iwaizumi found a rhythm that electrified your senses. You grabbed hold of his wrist to keep him there, oh fuck. His hand moved from your ass to your hip, pinning you against the counter to keep you from crumpling to the floor. He smashed his lips against yours as your orgasm hit, swallowing up your cries while you shook under his grasp.

Gasping for breath, you arched into Iwaizumi’s touch with every spike of pleasure. Slowly the waves diminished, and you came back to solid ground.

Iwaizumi gently massaged your hip, leaving slow, lazy kisses on your lips. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” you murmured. “You?”

He nodded, then pressed a final kiss on your forehead. “Do you want to shower? I’ll finish breakfast,” he said, gesturing to the rice cooker, which had finished without you realising.

“Ugh, I’d hoped to surprise you,” you sighed, but you really could not object to that shower in your current state.

Iwaizumi chuckled. “Trust me, mission accomplished,” he said, his eyes taking in your appearance. He fixed his pants and his jacket, any sign of dishevelment erased with ease.

Not fair.

Just to satisfy your petty need for a little revenge, you slid a finger over your stomach and brought the coated digit up to your lips, sucking it off. Iwaizumi’s eyes darkened but you kissed his cheek and darted off to the bathroom.

By the time you got out of the shower, wearing your own clothes, Iwaizumi had a small breakfast ready for you. You joined him in the living room, the sun already beating down on the windows. Weather forecast had promised a nasty summer day, and already you could feel it was going to be a doozy.

Still, for now you’d enjoy a nice breakfast with Iwaizumi in the sunshine.

“Mm, are you starting a new case right away?” you asked between bites.

He made an ambiguous motion with his head. “Not really. We’re joining an ongoing case to take some of the load,” Iwaizumi said with a vague smile. “Matsukawa’s working on it, so that should be... interesting.”

You chuckled, wondering what alternative adjectives had been on his mind. Matsukawa had told you enough stories about the rest of his team that you knew ‘interesting’ would be the least of it. “I’m sure you can handle it,” you said, “but ah, good luck anyway.”

“Thanks,” he said, sarcasm dripping off the word. “What about you? Back to business as usual?”

“Russian lessons in the morning,” you said, “but that’s it. I get to easy into things today. I’m hanging out with Makki this afternoon, take some time to catch up.”

“Oh right, he said something about taking the afternoon off.” Iwaizumi finished the last of his breakfast, pushing the bowl aside.

“Evening’s free, though.”

He met your gaze but broke away quickly, shaking his head at your coy smile. His light blush was equal parts adorable and hilarious considering what you’d done in his kitchen not even an hour ago.

“What?” you said, feigning innocence. “I was just thinking we could watch a movie or something. Unless you don’t want to, I still need to make plans with Oikawa anyway. Meet those cats of his.”

“We’ll see,” Iwaizumi said, but you caught a glimpse of a crooked smile as he stood up that told you more than enough.

“You know, if you want me to stop teasing you about dating two guys at once, you really need to stop having romantic dinners with the both of them.”

Hanamaki handed you a skewer with glazed dango, then sat next to you on the park bench. Despite the shade there was a near-unbearable humidity in the air, a portend of the heavy rain that had been forecasted for the evening.

You threw up your hands. “Why do people keep saying it was romantic dinner!” Grumbling quietly, you bit off a piece of dango. “Anyway,” you said, covering your mouth, “who tattled?”

“Seriously?” he said with a flat look. “I work with those two. You think we don’t talk about our weekends?”


You shifted in your seat, an agitation buzzing under your skin that had nothing to do with Hanamaki nosing around in your love life. What it did have to do with, you were resistant to delve into.

It’s not like this was the first time your platonic interactions with someone got misinterpreted as romantic—some of your classmates back in school had been absolutely convinced you and Makki were a couple—but it never bothered you before. Yet his continued implications about you and Oikawa hit a nerve.

Why? The closest you could figure was the vague guilt that occasionally cropped up over the time you spent hanging out with Oikawa, but that was just because it cut into your limited time with Iwaizumi.

...Sure, you thought Oikawa’s kind of cute, but that was nothing more than an objective observation. Anyone would think that!

Hanamaki stared at your bothered expression and came wholly to the wrong conclusion. “Listen, I’m not shaming you or anything,” he teased with a pointed grin. “I was buddies with a poly triad back in law school, I’m cool with whatever you guys are up to!”

“Yeah yeah thanks, but it’s not like that!” you insisted, and shoved another piece of dango in your mouth. Even your chewing had a frustrated edge, though the gooey, sweet glaze of the treat soothed some of your irritation.

For a long moment Hanamaki studied you, then he nodded slowly. “Alright. I believe you.”

“How very kind of you,” you scoffed, but genuine annoyance had been replaced by the sarcasm typical of your friendship.

“That’s me, kindness incarnate.” Hanamaki grinned at you as he bit a piece of dango off the skewer. Silence fell as you both chewed, enjoying the sweet and salty combo, until Hanamaki spotted Matsukawa and waved him over. “Issei!”

Matsukawa sauntered over, hands in his pockets. “Hey,” he said, coming to a halt in front of the park bench.

“Should’ve said you’d be early, I’d have gotten you one,” Hanamaki said, gesturing with his skewer.

Before Hanamaki could react, Matsukawa snatched up the dango and popped one in his mouth. “This works, too,” he said, smiling lazily as though Hanamaki wasn’t giving him a murderous glare.

“Thief!” Hanamaki yanked back the skewer. “And a food thief at that! That’s the worst kind of theft!”

You chortled at Hanamaki’s needless drama, and just to further empathise his pettiness, you offered Matsukawa your last piece. “Here, take this one.”

“Nah, you enjoy that,” Matsukawa said. “They taste better when stolen.”

Hanamaki continued to splutter as you laughed, but the buzz of your phone distracted you from their squabbling. A quick check showed you Hana was calling, which gave you pause. Usually she was quicker to text.

“It’s Hana, you guys mind if I take this?” you asked, already standing up from the bench.

“Yes!” Hanamaki sneered at the same time Matsukawa said, “Go ahead.”

You rolled your eyes at Hanamaki and shoved your skewer of dango in his hands. “Here, to make it up to you,” you said, then walked off and answered the call. “Hana? What’s up?”

“Hana? What’s up?”

That was all Hanamaki could catch of your conversation. He watched your back as you talked to your second-best friend, however, things other than your hierarchy of relationships were on his mind. He nudged Matsukawa, who had taken your place on the park bench.

“So,” he said, “remember back in law school, how we were convinced Iwaizumi and Oikawa would hook up at some point?”

“Rings a bell. What about it?”

Hanamaki scratched his chin, still not taking his eyes off you. “I wonder, maybe Oikawa just has that effect on people or something. I’m getting almost the exact same vibe with him and the squirt over there,” he said, pointing his thumb in your direction. “Just less fighting.”

With a deep frown, Matsukawa studied his boyfriend. “Surprised to hear you say that. You think she’d-?”

“No, no,” Hanamaki said, waving a dismissive hand, “she says nothing is going on and I believe her. Besides, she wouldn’t do that to Iwaizumi, it’s just... weird. Massive déjà vu.”

Matsukawa shrugged. “Oikawa might just be that kind of person. I mean, he does have a habit of getting flirty with his friends.”

“He doesn’t get flirty with me.”

“Maybe your friendship isn’t as strong as you think.” Matsukawa chuckled at Hanamaki’s insulted glare. “Relax, he just knows you’d never stop roasting him for it.”

“Like Iwaizumi does?” Hanamaki sneered, crossing his arms.

An affectionate smile spread on Matsukawa’s lips as he rubbed Hanamaki’s shoulder. “Nah, Iwaizumi scolds him. Entirely different thing. Pretty sure he enjoys it.”

“...It’s moments like this I remember why we thought they were gonna bang.”

“Still not convinced it’ll never happen,” Matsukawa deadpanned. “Hey, how’s Hana doing?”

You pocketed your phone as you walked back to them. “She’s fine now, just needed a quick vent. Scoot over!”

Hanamaki did just that, giving you enough space to sit down next to him. He held out your skewer to you, and you gratefully took it.

“Thanks! You didn’t even eat it,” you said, sounding slightly amazed.

“Your lack of trust in me is hurtful, you know.”

You gave him a pointed stare. “What, are you really going to pretend it’s not wholly deserved?”

“I thought you believed in second chances.”

“We’re way past that!”

“Issei, stick up for me here, will you?”


“Ugh, you guys suck.”

You once said one of the nicest perks of dating Iwaizumi was the private pillow that it came with; his chest.

Iwaizumi assumed it’d been a playful exaggeration, but here you were, lying against him in the summer humidity—only worsened by the downpour outside. The warmth coming off his body must have been uncomfortable, but you showed no intentions of moving.

Your cheek rested on his shirt, a finger tracing over the material and firm planes underneath. Pressed close against him, he could feel the soft thump of your heartbeat, a soothing rhythm that helped him rejuvenate from a long day at work.

There was a specific pressure that came with joining an ongoing case; the feeling of being one step behind everyone who had been involved from the start, playing catch-up until he had properly delved into the material. Iwaizumi had done some reading up in the weekend, but he still found himself consulting Matsukawa more often than he’d like.

His hand lay on your shoulder, squeezing in a slow massage. A conversation about movies to watch had dwindled down as the rain started to pour down, the tapping on the window almost hypnotising.

“Hey,” you said, your voice soft as though not wanting to disturb the peaceful ambiance, “can I ask you something?”

Iwaizumi’s hand stilled. A harmless enough question, but something in your tone stood out to him. Usually you’d just... ask. “Sure,” he said, threading his fingers through your hair.

You rolled onto your stomach, leaning on your elbows as you looked at Iwaizumi. A flash of hesitation crossed your face and for a moment he thought you’d change your mind. Then you pressed on. “Does it bother you when I hang out with Oikawa? And when he joins us for stuff, like dinner yesterday?”

Blinking, Iwaizumi stared back at you. Wait what?

“What? Why would it?” He turned to his side, brushing a strand of hair out of your face. Out of all possible subjects his brain had thrown at him, this one had not made the list.

“It’s just-” You sighed, making a vague hand-gesture. “Look, I know you’re not the jealous type. I... I want to make sure you’re okay with it. We don’t have that much time, plus I know plenty of guys who’d have mixed feelings about their best friend and their girlfriend spending a lot of time together. Okay, no, that sounds like I do think you’re jealous, hang on I can phrase that better-”

At that point you were rambling, only trailing off when you noticed the pleased smile on Iwaizumi’s face.

Groaning, you hid your face behind your hands. “Please don’t make fun of me,” you said, voice muffled.

Iwaizumi chuckled, tugging your hands down. “So, you’re my girlfriend, huh?”

You rolled your eyes at him. “I don’t know, am I?” you shot back, deflecting your obvious embarrassment.

“Guess you are,” he said, leaning in for a gentle kiss. “To get back to your point; no, doesn’t bother me. If I’m entirely honest, I did get a little jealous at the start, but I’m over it. I like that we can hang out together.” Another kiss, longer this time. “As long as I get you to myself every now and then.”

Indulging himself, Iwaizumi continued to kiss you, his lips moving against yours lazily. You surrendered to his affection, brushing your fingers over his jawline.

Your moments of self-doubt started to come as less of a surprise, though they still caught Iwaizumi off guard. You usually carried yourself with such a that made it all too easy to forget, but Iwaizumi tried to make a point to keep it in mind.

However, the uncertainty had faded away now Iwaizumi had given you an answer. You broke the kiss and tapped his chin, a smug grin on your face.

“So you did get jealous, huh?” you said, thumb playing with the indent between his lip and chin. “Wasn’t expecting that.”

Iwaizumi held still, letting you caress his face at your leisure. For just a moment he closed his eyes, relishing your ministrations. “It’s not that I thought anything would happen, you just got along so easily,” he said. “I guess I got a little envious he can talk with you about things in a way I can’t.”

You chuckled, your hand running through his hand. “Yeah so uh, I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you.” A little smile curled around your lips. “Sure, I love talking about space with people, but it’s.. different when you let me just ramble about dorky stuff.” You leaned in, your kiss laced with warmth. “When you listen, I feel heard.”

There was a beat of silence as Iwaizumi struggled to maintain control over his facial muscles between the conflicting surges of self-consciousness and self-satisfaction. Happiness that you felt that way, pride that he made you feel that way. He settled on a crooked smile, stroking his fingers up and down your arm.

“So, where did that come from?” he asked, curious to just poke at that brain of yours and figure out what set off that insecurity, to understand you a little better.

You rolled onto your back, looking up at Iwaizumi with an arm resting underneath your head. “Eh, Makki’s been making fun of me,” you shrugged. “I know he didn’t mean anything by it, but I guess it got to me a bit.”

“Making fun of you? Because you hang out with Oikawa too much?” Iwaizumi’s face bunched up in confusion but almost immediately cleared up. Yeah, that tracked actually.

“Something like that,” you said with a laugh. “But enough about him. You ‘got me all to yourself’ right now.”

You stared up at him, a challenge in your smile.

“So what do you want to do?”

Oikawa stood next to Matsukawa by the doorway, both staring at the scene in front of them, their arms crossed and wearing identical expressions of confused vexation.

Inside the office, Iwaizumi stood over Kyoutani’s desk, going over a transcript together.

“Just so you know, I’m going to ask Irihata-san to reassign Iwaizumi to our team,” Matsukawa said, kneading his brow as he watched Kyoutani be the most demure he’d ever seen in his years of working together.

“Don’t you dare!” Oikawa said, trying to look threatening but too startled to succeed.

Matsukawa gave him a flat stare. “You’re seeing the same thing I am, right? I’m doing it. I’ll bribe him if I have to.”

“You’re just jealous he can handle Kyoutani better than you do,” Oikawa sniffed, flipping his hair.

“Hell yeah I am,” Matsukawa said. “Why do you think I’m stealing him from you?”

Shaking his head, Oikawa continued to watch them. “Did we miss something? Are they old friends? Gym buddies? Did Iwa-chan beat Kyouken in hand-to-hand combat?”

“You know it’s because of shit like this that he hates you, right? Kyoutani doesn’t have our angelic patience for your nicknames.”

Oikawa hmpfed. “He just needs more time to warm up to my charms.”

“I’m sure that’s it.”

“Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about,” you said, stroking the Siamese cat cuddled up in your lap. Valentina chirped up at you. She bumped her head against your stomach, purring loudly. You grinned at Oikawa, who walked up to you with drinks.

“I gotta be honest, I’m surprised she took to you so fast,” Oikawa said, putting down the drinks before he made himself comfortable on the couch, one leg folded underneath him. “Usually Val needs at least an hour before she gets this way with new people.”

Oikawa usually had mixed feelings about his cats quickly warming up to other people, taking it as a point of pride how much they liked him, but you smiled so brightly with Valentina in your arms that he could not help but be infected by your enthusiasm.

Besides, Princess had hissed at you for even daring to offer her to sniff your hand, so that made up for it.

“Oh, so you like me?” you asked Valentina, the pitch of your voice going up just the slightest, probably not even aware you were doing it. Val meowed back at you, and you nodded as though fully understanding her. “Yeah, I like you, too.”

Oikawa smiled at your antics, glad you properly appreciated his cats.

“So hey, can I pick your brain on something?” you asked, scratching Val underneath her chin.

“Sure.” He took his glass of ice tea and sipped at it, all the while watching you closely. You tried to play off your question as casual, but the way you suddenly avoided eye-contact spoke volumes.

“...It’s kind of... personal, in a way? Not for me,” you added quickly. “Not my personal, uh-”

“Come, spill!” Oikawa encouraged you, grinning widely. This ought to be good.

You bit your lip, brow furrowing. “God, I should’ve found a better way to ease into it. This is going to come out of nowhere.”

“Out with it!” he said, gesturing you to continue. Seriously!

Sighing, you met his eyes. A deep breath, and then you said, “It’s about Hajime’s father.”

He blinked back at you.

Alright, okay, so you managed to catch him off guard with that one. Point to you. He recovered and made another gesture for you to continue, though his demeanour turned serious.

“Just to be clear, I’m not asking you to tell me all about it. That wouldn’t be okay.” you said, your hands coming to a halt. Valentina chirped indignantly, but you did not seem to hear her. “I guess I’m a little... insecure about asking him directly. I don’t want to step into something off-limits, poke my nose where it doesn’t belong without taking his feelings into consideration.”

“But you do want to know,” Oikawa said. Not a question, just a statement. He studied you, though it barely took any effort to read your expression.

So you liked him that much, huh. Wanted not just the good, but the bad as well; the intimacy that came from sharing one’s bruises with another person.

He wondered whether you loved him, but something inside jerked painfully at the thought and Oikawa pulled away from it. Once again the pressure around him seemed to close in even further, burying him deep.

“Yes,” you said. “That’s not selfish of me, is it?”

He thought he’d be okay tonight.

He also thought you wouldn’t be asking these kinds of questions.

Pulling himself together, or at the very least putting on a convincing mask, Oikawa shook his head. “Of course not,” he said. “I think he’d appreciate you asking. Don’t worry about it.”

You took his words in with a serious expression, frowning as you processed it. Oikawa smiled at the sight, and he only had to fake it a little.

“You two make a nice couple,” he said, reaching forward to scratch the poor neglected Valentina behind her ears. “Take good care of him, okay?”

“What, you’re gonna make me do that all by myself? I figured you’d help me out with that,” you teased, trying to inject a lightness into the weighted mood your question had created.

Oikawa flipped his hair dramatically, playing along with your intentions. “Oh, obviously. That man’s at least three handfuls worth of trouble, I’ll be gracious enough to lend you one. You haven’t seen him yet when he’s sick, then you’ll know what I mean.”

“Thanks,” you laughed, running a hand through your hair. “It’s nice to have you in my corner. He’s really important to you, huh?”

For a moment Oikawa hesitated, then just nodded. “Yeah.”

A sudden wave of exhaustion hit him and though you gave him nothing but a simple look, Oikawa felt the danger of exposure. Like if he’d even give an inch, you would see straight through him.

And your patient silence nudged at him, encouraged him to continue. No bad intention in your body, but that did nothing to decrease the risk to him.

He shouldn’t.

Really shouldn’t.

He should just keep his mouth shut, change the subject, leave under the false pretence of ‘dragging Princess out for a second try’, anything.

He opened his mouth.

“Back in law school... he kind of saved me,” Oikawa said, focusing on Valentina as he pointedly avoided eye-contact with you. “Everyone’s always pushed me to do my best, to do more. Two times I busted my knee trying to live up to others’ expectations, burying myself in homework to maintain my grades. Relationships got messed up whenever they realised for me to be the gifted prodigy they thought I was, I had to put them in second, no, third place.”

Oikawa took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly, physically stopping his word-flow.

“Sorry, I’m putting a downer on our lovely time together.”

You let out a little chuckle. “Pretty sure I beat you to the punch when it comes to downers. Please,” you said, your eyes soft and filled with a terrifying kindness, “talk to me.”

And he couldn’t help himself.

Unfortunately, Oikawa never was the person to half-ass anything.

“Iwaizumi saw straight through it. Through me. Called me a self-destructive dumbass and he was right. Not just that, he actually tried to stop me from going on like I always had.” Oikawa made a noise somewhere between a chuckle and a scoff. “I don’t think he even liked me back then. I was just the annoying roommate he got stuck with. But that’s Iwa-chan. He can’t help but care. He’ll tell you it’s because I’d be more of a nuisance otherwise, but he never was a very good liar.”

Oikawa blinked, feeling like he was coming out of a trance. He looked at you, as though only now remembering you were in the room with him. He smiled, though he was fully aware this attempt was not as convincing as the last.

“So, please take good care of him too.”

You hesitated, visibly struggling to find the right words. Oikawa couldn’t blame you; he never intended to blabber on like this. His talk with Kuroo obviously set a bad precedent (god, this better not become a habit).

“I will,” you finally said, your smile a mixture of sadness and warmth—and for all of Oikawa’s skills at reading people, it was dangerous how easily he could fool himself into thinking there was more than friendly affection in your eyes. “I’m glad you two have each other. You’re a good friend.”

Oikawa rolled his eyes. “Iwa-chan would fight you on that.”

“Well, we both know what a horrible liar ‘Iwa-chan’ is sometimes.” You grinned at him, then finally returned your attention back to Valentina, who purred gratefully as you rubbed underneath her chin.

“I’ll tell him you said that,” Oikawa said, eager to leave the conversation behind for pleasant banter instead. “You know what? I should go find Princess. Maybe she’ll be nicer a second time around.”

“Oh, you don’t have to-” you started, but Oikawa already stood up and walked away from the couch.

His back safely turned to you, Oikawa rubbed his eyes as he went to find his other cat. On the bright side; the stabbing feeling in his abdomen was still absent.

It’s just that he started to have doubts on whether this weight on his chest really was the better alternative.

It’d pass. It always did.