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sorry, could you pretend?

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Two weeks pass in a blur of classes, assignments, extra shifts as a personal trainer, and increasingly, but most unfortunately, disturbing sounds from Iwaizumi’s roommate’s bedroom.

Iwaizumi is pretty sure Hanamaki is just fucking with him at this point, and that he got his equally troublesome boyfriend to join him in a stupid game of chicken, but Iwaizumi hasn’t yet run out of the amount of patience it would take to risk finding out.

Not like Iwaizumi has a problem with making himself scarce. He’s been getting crazy hours in at the gym, he’s ahead on all of his assignments, he’s managed to add some extra money into his bank account, and he’s started to get more familiar with the area.

He’s pretty happy in his routine, and things are going oddly well. The semester is fading easily into autumn, and for the first semester so far in Iwaizumi’s college career, he feels on top of things.

He still prefers to maintain his routine at Crown Coffee, though, no matter how ahead he may be on his work. There’s something special about the atmosphere that keeps drawing him back every week. It might also help that there’s now a possibility of seeing a familiar face.

The first time he returned after meeting Oikawa Tooru, Iwaizumi had been on the lookout for him, just in case. He’s been to Crown Coffee five times since their first and only meeting, and each time he’s here, Iwaizumi hopefully scans the cafe for the poorly-dressed apparition. And each time Oikawa (unsurprisingly) doesn’t make an appearance, Iwaizumi finds himself growing more disappointed.

He spends a good portion of each afternoon thinking about what that means.

Iwaizumi just can’t get the guy out of his head, and it had irritated him at first. He wanted to be able to live his life and go through his regular routine at his favorite coffee shop without worrying about seeing someone he has unfinished business with. His time ruminating on what that meant had eventually forced him to come to a decision: he needed to get over himself and figure out how to find Oikawa again.

This Monday afternoon, Iwaizumi is once again sitting in his usual seat next to an empty mug of coffee and a stack of finished homework. He’s almost ready to go; he’s just been alternating between texting and playing a game for the past ten minutes. But he also doesn’t want to leave just yet, because he’s made up his mind to ask Hanamaki later about whether or not he knows a certain student by the name of Oikawa.

Iwaizumi is distracted enough by thinking about the repercussions of telling his terror of a roommate about a crush of all things that he doesn’t notice someone approaching his table. He only notices with great irritation when a person slides into the seat in front of him.

Iwaizumi looks up to throw a dirty look at the intruder, but stops short mid-glare when he sees who it is. He almost does a double take.

Across from him is Oikawa Tooru.

Oikawa looks almost the same as Iwaizumi remembers. The sparkling brown eyes and windswept hair are familiar. But this time, he’s not in pajamas, and he’s obviously not on a frantic coffee run with the hope of avoiding an ex-boyfriend. Instead, he’s wearing a soft, cream-colored sweater, tortoiseshell glasses, and a dark overcoat; and he is smiling at Iwaizumi almost shyly. He watches quietly as Iwaizumi sits up and takes him in.

“Hi.”

The corners of Oikawa’s eyes crinkle. “Hi.”

Oikawa’s voice is just as melodious as Iwaizumi remembers, but it’s quieter than their first meeting, and soft like the sweater that’s hugging his chest in an almost unfair way. He sits half in his chair, like he’ll stand and leave at the slightest sign from Iwaizumi that he isn’t wanted. As if that would be the case.

“You did a pretty nice job on that fake date, Iwa-chan.”

Oikawa is still looking at Iwaizumi warily, but Iwaizumi can’t miss the way his voice is laced with a silent invitation.

Iwaizumi puts his phone screen-side down on the table and rests his head on his fist. His expression is probably not as deadpan as he hopes, but neither is Oikawa’s, and he doesn’t really want it to be anyway. “Yeah? Up to your standards?”

“Almost.”

“Almost?”

Oikawa shifts slightly, and Iwaizumi can see the traces of nervousness that remain. But he’s hiding an obvious smile, and Iwaizumi can’t help but mirror it.

A heartbeat later, Oikawa meets his eyes and Iwaizumi can see a sparkle behind the bright brown. “Yeah, would’ve been better if it was real.”

Iwaizumi pretends to contemplate it, but he’s fooling no one. He nods once, brusquely, and says, “That could be arranged.”

All at once, Oikawa is leaning very far over the table. His presence in Iwaizumi’s space is something monumental, and then just as suddenly, he’s gone again. He’s pushing his chair back, leaving, and all the oxygen in the room seems to go with him. The almost-but-not-quite familiar smell of peppermint and clean cotton remains in the air alongside Iwaizumi’s delayed shock.

“Excellent. I’ll just go grab our drinks, then.” The dirty look Iwaizumi automatically has in response is met with a cheeky smile and the view of Oikawa walking to the counter.

Of fucking course Oikawa already ordered for them.

Iwaizumi watches in amusement as Oikawa immediately starts chatting up the nosy barista. The guy doesn’t seem to know what to do with all of Oikawa in front of him, and Iwaizumi knows how he feels.

Iwaizumi probably could’ve expected it from the view he got of Oikawa’s outfit while seated across from him, but the sight of dark wash jeans and desert boots only emphasizes the fact that Oikawa is definitively not wearing flip flops today. Iwaizumi would almost feel underdressed in his gym sweats if he didn’t have the very vivid memory of their first meeting ingrained in his mind.

Somehow the sight of Oikawa in smart-casual seems to fit him just as well as the sight of him in something that would barely be up to the dress code of a fast food restaurant.

By the time Oikawa is back, Iwaizumi has almost grown used to the put-together version of his former fake date. But then Oikawa is sitting down in front of him again, and Iwaizumi can only stare irritably at the relaxed way Oikawa carries himself now, knowing full well of the storm under the surface.

Oikawa hands Iwaizumi his drink, and Iwaizumi is so tormented by perfectly windswept bangs that he doesn’t realize his hand is wrapping around both Oikawa’s and the cup.

His mistake is treated with a devilish grin over a pile of whipped cream atop what Iwaizumi guesses is some abomination of a mocha.

“If you wanted to hold my hand, you could’ve just asked.”

Iwaizumi grabs the cup and smacks Oikawa’s hand away. “Fuck off Shittykawa, if you want me to hold your hand, you’ll have to take me on a real date first.”

Iwaizumi hopes any blush is masked by his tan so his half-insults will at least bear some weight.

Oikawa puts a hand on his chest and gasps in mock offense. His acting is terrible, and Iwaizumi can see the laughter in his comically-widened eyes.

“Holding hands on the first date, Iwa-chan? How scandalous.”

Iwaizumi replies simply, “Fine, I’ll hold your hand on the third,” and takes an unconcerned sip of his drink, looking around the cafe casually.

There are more people than there were the last time Oikawa was in front of Iwaizumi, but there’s one less ex-boyfriend, and that small fact feels like it makes all the difference. Being with Oikawa without an excuse feels significant, somehow.

And how the fuck did Oikawa remember that his order was an Americano?

Across the table, Oikawa’s gone silent. Iwaizumi glances away from the growing line of people in front of the counter and towards Oikawa, who looks to be blushing slightly over his pile of sugar.

Iwaizumi rolls his eyes.

Oikawa’s the one who bought them drinks (getting Iwaizumi the correct order, no less) before suddenly approaching Iwaizumi with compliments and himself dressed like that, yet he’s the one blushing at the implication that Iwaizumi is interested in him.

Dumbass.

Iwaizumi says it out loud, too, so Oikawa knows he’s being a dumbass. A crease appears in Oikawa’s brow, and Iwaizumi shakes his head.

“Never mind.” The crease turns into a raised brow. “I see you managed to find a proper clothing store in the past two weeks.”

A beat.

“I see you didn’t manage to find proper manners in your entire existence.” Oikawa parrots sharply with a dramatic sip of his mocha. But then he pauses, as if he’s not sure whether he went too far, because Iwaizumi is staring at him.

Oikawa stares back, and Iwaizumi rolls his eyes, stifling laughter. He sees Oikawa trying to figure out the meaning hidden behind his reaction and it sobers him slightly, because it’s truly not that funny of a dig.

“Idiot.” Iwaizumi mutters fondly under his breath.

Oikawa’s expression immediately shuts down, and Iwaizumi stops his thoughts in their tracks. The reappearance of that particular expression, carefully wiped clean of everything but polite neutrality, is not something Iwaizumi ever wants to be the cause of. Iwaizumi would wonder at it more had he not seen the flicker of doubt before getting iced out.

He contemplates Oikawa’s reaction, and almost wants to smack the expression off his face when he realizes. But he also wants to reassure him, because there is a line here that Iwaizumi needs to make clear he will never cross.

Iwaizumi reaches over and carefully brushes a thumb across Oikawa’s lips. A moment later he pulls away and shows the dollop of whipped cream. Oikawa’s eyes flicker down at it, and then back up into Iwaizumi’s, calculating.

“I’m so hurt getting insulted by a nerd with a milk moustache.” Iwaizumi wipes his hand on a napkin and leans back in his chair, smirking at the many emotions now flashing across Oikawa’s face. He’s satisfied none of them are doubt.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice the xenomorph.” Iwaizumi continues.

Oikawa sets his nearly-finished mug down and leans forward. Iwaizumi leans further away, squinting suspiciously. Oikawa’s expression has settled into deviousness.

“Only a nerd would recognize the creature featured in a 1986 classic, Iwa-chan. You’re incriminating yourself.”

Iwaizumi crosses his arms. “Am I? It’s a popular movie, dumbass. And not as good as Godzilla.”

“Oh ho ho!” A mother with a small child glances over at Oikawa’s outburst, as if he could possibly be louder than the hissing steam of the three espresso makers. Iwaizumi’s mouth twitches, and he sneaks a glance back at Oikawa, who is pointing accusingly across the table.

“I see a hypocritical nerd insulting people for having better taste than them.”

Iwaizumi can only manage a ‘shut up, Shittykawa’ without breaking his poker face. He slurps at the final sips of the Americano Oikawa bought him and watches as Oikawa picks up his own mug again, still smiling in his dumb victory. He glances away to study the new group of customers entering the cafe. Iwaizumi watches with him, but finds himself getting distracted again when Oikawa takes another sip of his overly sugary coffee.

He looks relaxed now, leaning back casually in the chair across from Iwaizumi, and a small, genuine smile shows the remnants of a stupid victory won just moments ago. It makes his face look softer, and Iwaizumi is once again caught up in trying to understand the layers of the person sitting in front of him.

His first impression of Oikawa was of arms wrapped around him and of anxiety masked in showy bravado and shitty smiles, but then his second and third were of a handsome, witty stranger that quickly became easy to make fun of and even easier to make fun with. Oikawa obviously has some old hurts that he tries to hide with his stupid bravado, but Iwaizumi gets it. His roommate Hanamaki deals with his insecurities with a mountain of shitty humor, and Iwaizumi lives with and loves him all the same. Oikawa’s (arguably over-) reaction to Iwaizumi just now shows that he’s similar to Hanamaki in that regard.

Iwaizumi is all too familiar with the way Oikawa freezes when he feels even the slightest moment of doubt that he’s miscalculated an interaction; that what he’s giving isn’t being received the way he thought it would.

It’s something Hanamaki did early in their friendship, when he was less sure of himself and of Iwaizumi’s resolve in being his friend. Oikawa’s insecurity makes Iwaizumi no less interested in him, and no less willing to try to understand the reasons behind any peculiarities.

Oikawa is funny, and strong, and smart, and Iwaizumi has only spent a cumulative two hours in his presence thus far. He’s yet to even scratch the surface of Oikawa. He barely knows the guy, and yet, despite the unknowns and for reasons he’s yet to understand, Iwaizumi decides that given the opportunity, Oikawa Tooru is a person who would be very easy to love.

Iwaizumi knocks back his Americano and sets it down on the scratched hardwood table of Crown Coffee.

“Oikawa.”

Oikawa glances away from two girls in Crocs with a raised brow and a quiet affirmation that Iwaizumi has his attention. He resumes his quiet yet unsubtle judgement at the fashion choice Iwaizumi is choosing to ignore in his peripherals.

Iwaizumi leans forward.

“Let’s make this date number one.”

Oikawa turns and it seems like the world should turn with him. Iwaizumi can feel the moment the full force of Oikawa’s attention lands on him. His heartbeat immediately begins to pound with the rush of being seen and then assessed by those brown eyes filled with piercing calculation.

Iwaizumi can only sit and watch as Oikawa lets Iwaizumi see the rude, people-watching expression he was showing the world melt into something revealing honest surprise. And then into a small smile that slowly but surely blossoms into something blinding and beautiful, for Iwaizumi.

“Yeah?” Oikawa asks. It’s a question they both already know the answer to, and yet Iwaizumi can’t help his answer. It feels inevitable; like the universe is pushing the orbit of his life off course just enough to fall into Oikawa’s.

Iwaizumi grins.

“Fuck yeah.”

Oikawa’s lips twitch and he flicks a finger against his empty cup. The break in eye contact is a release, and Iwaizumi’s other senses are restored. The smells of roasting coffee and steamed milk fill his nose, and the noise of the cafe returns; previously suspended in the anticipation of a gauntlet thrown, a challenge given.

Oikawa’s smile is the brightest thing in the room, though, and when his eyes meet Iwaizumi’s again, they are shining with laughter and joy.

“I hope I don’t have to buy the coffee on our fake and our real dates, Iwa-chan. I am but a poor college student.”

Iwaizumi rolls his eyes and the words ‘shut up Shittykawa’ are about to fall from his mouth yet again when someone steps up behind Oikawa. Iwaizumi reluctantly breaks away from Oikawa’s gaze, and looks with question at the two figures he knows are wearing Crocs below the table.

“Hi, excuse us!” The bolder of the two leans in, looking apologetic, and Oikawa shifts to glance up over his shoulder. “We were just wondering if we could sit here with you?”

In the half hour or so since Oikawa sat down, the cafe has grown extremely busy, and somehow Iwaizumi has barely noticed. Theirs is the only remaining table with two seats available. Normally Iwaizumi’s textbooks and computer are strewn across everything, and normally he’s out of here by now, but circumstances are different today.

Oikawa turns back to Iwaizumi, who’s trying to make up his mind about whether he’d like to share a table’s worth of space with someone other than Oikawa right now.

Oikawa’s smile is a mix between genuine and faux when he replies, “You can actually have the whole table, lovely stranger! My cute date’s cute butt is probably hurting from sitting here so long, so we’ll be on our way!”

The girl exclaims her thanks, and Iwaizumi shoves the last of his work into his bag with an eye roll as Oikawa strikes up loud conversation. His volume is entirely unsubtle, but the flirty looks he’s still getting, despite explicitly stating he has a date, are brushed off and redirected with unnervingly subtle grace. Iwaizumi imagines he’d be an absolute fucking nightmare to play against at poker.

Despite his distraction, Oikawa notices immediately when Iwaizumi is ready, and gracefully dodges out of the conversation with a skill Iwaizumi finds both admirable and irritating.

Oikawa pushes back his chair first, standing and holding out a hand for Iwaizumi’s empty cup. Iwaizumi looks at it for a moment, and then slides his hand into Oikawa’s at the same time he gets to his own feet. He has no problem being out in public, and he’ll admit to himself that he’s wanted to hold Oikawa’s hand for the full half hour now.

Oikawa’s hand is calloused and cool to the touch, despite the coffee, and it’s nearly limp with surprise. It’s not as sweaty as the first time they held hands, and Oikawa isn’t currently trying to bite Iwaizumi’s, so it’s already a step up.

“Let’s go, Shittykawa.” He gives the hand in his a tug towards the counter, suppressing a smile.

For a person so obviously good at reading people, Oikawa seems pretty shocked that his hand is currently in Iwaizumi’s. He recovers quickly, though, waving goodbye to their table’s replacements, and by the time they’ve reached the front of Crown Coffee, he’s laced his fingers through Iwaizumi’s. The tightness of his grip is yet another reminder of his subtle strength.

They drop their cups and make their way out of the cafe together.

Outside, the grey skies and slight chill are a reminder of the nearing end to the semester, and Iwaizumi is happy for the change. Especially change like this, with Oikawa beside him, swinging their hands and humming poorly to himself. They take the same walk they took two weeks ago, but the difference is nearly palpable in the autumn air.

This time, they’re walking after a real date instead of a fake one, and Iwaizumi is holding Oikawa’s hand without the implication that he’s only doing it to help Oikawa avoid an ex. This time, it’s just because he wants to, and he hopes it feels as clear to Oikawa as it does to Iwaizumi.

“You know, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa starts, “I thought you said you didn’t hold hands on the first date.”

“I can let go, if you’d like.”

He almost laughs at the immediate tightening of the hand in his, but doesn’t let go. They stop at the same intersection as two weeks ago, and Iwaizumi lets Oikawa pull him in ever-so-slightly closer in retaliation for the comment, savoring the brush of his arm against soft wool over firm muscle.

“I guess you’ll have to be the exception, then.”

Oikawa scoffs, letting their hands drop back between them, ever the dramatic one. His other arm reaches around into his back pocket and unlocks his phone next to Iwaizumi.

“I’d better be, or I won’t take you on another date.”

“Don’t threaten me with a good time.”

Oikawa’s face scrunches in dramatized indignation, and he pushes his phone into Iwaizumi’s stomach. Iwaizumi catches it with a surprised ‘oof!’ and Oikawa rolls his eyes that are sparkling with mirth. He leans away to poke the crosswalk buttons as Iwaizumi puts his number in.

Iwaizumi sends a quick text to himself before handing the phone back to Oikawa.

Oikawa uses his free hand to slide it into his back pocket slowly. He is very suddenly not making as much eye contact. Iwaizumi almost doesn’t hear his soft voice over the sounds of traffic. “Not that I dislike coffee dates, Iwa-chan, but next time how about dinner?”

With Oikawa’s proposal, it very suddenly feels more like summer than autumn. The atmosphere has changed to something heavy and anticipatory. Iwaizumi tries to ignore the beating of his heart, watching instead as cars speed past them.

“Alright.” He hopes the slight shake in his voice isn’t noticeable.

He glances out of the corner of his eye at Oikawa, who still isn’t looking at him. Now, though, it seems like it’s out of refusal to show Iwaizumi the sickeningly sweet and definitely embarrassing smile he’s currently sporting, rather than out of nervousness. It lifts some of the pressure from Iwaizumi, and he itches to tease more of the lightness back for both of them.

Iwaizumi lets Oikawa dodge eye contact for just another second.

“A restaurant probably won’t be crawling with weirdos on the hunt for strangers to fake date, after all.”

Oikawa’s face is scrunched in that way Iwaizumi has already grown accustomed to, and he tilts his head towards Iwaizumi. “Oh, yeah? Is this you speaking from experience?” Iwaizumi notes in satisfaction that his voice is steady and back to shamelessly flirty.

“Yep. I’m still trying to shake my weirdo.” Iwaizumi shakes their entwined hands for emphasis.

Oikawa laughs, gripping tighter. Iwaizumi uses the movement to pull Oikawa closer, and he steps willingly into Iwaizumi’s space. His sharp smile turns soft as Iwaizumi’s free hand curls into the hair at the nape of his neck. It’s even softer than it looks.

Iwaizumi says quietly, “Can’t seem to get rid of him.”

The weight in the air returns, now charged again but with sparks instead of nerves. The smell of mint washes over him and Oikawa’s eyes flicker down to Iwaizumi’s lips. This close, Iwaizumi can see the rich brown of them struck through with gold. Oikawa meets his gaze again, and Iwaizumi revels in being able to see this real reaction, these real emotions from Oikawa without him trying to hide himself away. Iwaizumi instinctively brushes his thumb across the smooth skin of Oikawa’s neck, watching Oikawa’s quiet, shuttering reaction with near-reverence. He’s flush with Iwaizumi, and the warmth radiating from him seems to be burning where they touch.

A flash of green lights up in Iwaizumi’s peripheral, and he releases his hold on Oikawa immediately. The cold that hits his skin feels almost like ice in comparison to the steady heat of Oikawa’s undivided attention.

But Iwaizumi is stepping away, backwards, so he can watch the reaction as he walks the crosswalk that will lead him away from Oikawa with no warning.

He’s not disappointed.

It takes all of one second for Oikawa to register what Iwaizumi is doing, and Iwaizumi gets to witness firsthand Oikawa’s disgruntled expression turn into exaggerated faux anger.

It’s enough for Iwaizumi, for now. He turns and waves over his shoulder, calling out as he goes.

“That's second date, Shittykawa!”

The ringing peal of betrayed laughter follows him all the way home.