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sorry, could you pretend?

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Iwaizumi Hajime has been going to Crown Coffee every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a full semester now. It’s become something like His Thing, and he grows more grateful for it every day. After his menace of a roommate got together with ‘Cute Boy with The Ass from Music Theory Class,’ he hasn’t been able to get anything done in his own home.

The days Iwaizumi relaxes at a small table in the corner of a cozy cafe ten minutes from campus, sipping a cup of inexpensive coffee, and listening to whatever music the baristas put on have quickly become his most relaxing and productive.

And after a morning packed with classes and working out, the afternoons he spends in the local coffee shop have become something special in their mundanity.

It’s a nice routine.

It’s certainly better than listening to his roommate and his boyfriend have weird sex one wall over, that’s for sure.

Iwaizumi treasures the few hours a week he spends in the cafe. He’s familiar with all of the baristas and is two purchases away from a free coffee on his punch card.

But on one fateful Monday afternoon, Iwaizumi’s treasured days of peace and solitude at Crown Coffee come to an abrupt end.

He’s minding his own business, waiting in line to get an Americano and shuffle wearily to his table after a long morning, when a pair of muscled arms drape themselves lightly over his shoulders, and a voice whispers in his ear. “Sorry, can you play along? I need coffee but my ex followed me here and I refuse to speak to him.”

Iwaizumi is tired and slightly grumpy before his caffeine, and it takes everything in him not to throw the arms off and start swinging. But the person sounded frantic, and he understands the need for caffeine and for avoiding evil exes too well, so he takes a deep, centering breath, and decides to play nice. He nudges an arm, which smells like mint tea and dryer sheets.

“Fine, but you’re buying.”

The arms lift from his shoulders and a moment later, one wraps around Iwaizumi’s own. He repositions his bag on his left shoulder and looks to his right to examine his impromptu fake date.

Brown eyes meet his, and the first thing he notes is the absolutely horrendous fake smile plastered on an otherwise not bad-looking face. The guy is slightly taller than Iwaizumi, which is unfair, because it’s not like Iwaizumi is short, but being shorter than someone smiling like that is irritating.

Iwaizumi takes solace in the fact that the stranger is somehow dressed even worse than he currently is. Unlike Iwaizumi’s forgivable and semi-acceptable gym sweats and plain t-shirt, Iwaizumi’s now-fake-date is wearing a stretched out shirt with a faded logo, baggy grey sweats, and flip flops. Iwaizumi doesn’t bother to hide the judgement in his face.

The guy notices Iwaizumi staring, and some of the stupid smile melts into a grin, like he’s actually happy someone noticed his poor decisions. Smile still on his face, he nudges the two of them towards the counter. “What’ll it be for you, darling?”

Darling. For an impromptu fake date, that’s laying it on a little thick in Iwaizumi’s opinion. Iwaizumi not-so-subtly elbows him in the side. The arm in his is acceptable, most likely because the ex is probably looking and listening in, but Iwaizumi doesn’t appreciate being called ‘darling’ by an annoyingly handsome and obviously weird stranger dressed in pajamas.

Iwaizumi bites his tongue, though, because he has a feeling this guy could easily find a worse pet name than ‘darling.’ He simply turns to the barista and orders an Americano. Yachi is manning the counter today and smiles at his usual order.

Iwaizumi’s darling, on the other hand, has apparently just now decided to look at the menu. The small size of Crown Coffee in no way limits its menu, and Iwaizumi can tell from the guy’s face that he is both new to the place and has no idea what to choose. He’s shuffling next to Iwaizumi and squinting up at the various boards tacked behind the counter.

“Dumbass, you’re holding up the line.”

The guy pulls at Iwaizumi’s arm in exaggerated complaint. “Mean! You know I haven’t been here before!”

Iwaizumi just rolls his eyes at the awful acting, but takes a closer look at his fake date.

The arm in his, despite jokingly shaking Iwaizumi, is tense. Under the awful charade and the ridiculously baggy outfit, something about the guy’s grip on Iwaizumi’s arm tells him this guy is both familiar with the gym and very anxious right now. Nothing is showing on the face turned towards the board, and Iwaizumi decides not to comment on the death grip. He just flicks the shoulder next to his and tells him to hurry up again.

“If you know so much, why don’t you just order for me?”

Iwaizumi sighs but chooses something that seems appropriate, and then waits while the poor barista falls victim to another one of Iwaizumi’s companion’s awful fake smiles while he pays for both of them.

As soon as they get their order number, Iwaizumi drags the guy away and to his usual table, already mourning the loss of a place of peace and solitude for him. He ignores the complaints at being manhandled with an eye roll, and deposits his new tablemate into the chair opposite his.

He slides his bag off his shoulders, automatically following his mental routine, but another glance at his fake date makes him pause, debating whether or not he should open it.

He has an assignment due tomorrow, and his time at Crown Coffee is meant for him to work on it. The universe may be trying to get Iwaizumi involved in this stranger’s chaos, but he has his own obligations too. He hesitates for another second, and then decides he’s going to do both.

There’s no reason this can’t be a fake study date.

Satisfied with his reasoning, Iwaizumi pulls out his tablet. The guy across from him is still grumbling and arranging himself in his seat. The program Iwaizumi uses takes a while to open the absurdly large files his assignment requires, so Iwaizumi takes the moment to study the person sitting across from him.

During his initial observations, Iwaizumi had made note of the awful outfit and fake smile, but now that he has a chance to see the guy’s face, it’s very apparent that despite, or perhaps underneath, those things, he’s pretty attractive. He’s around Iwaizumi’s age, and the bag slung across his own shoulder is from a sports team at the same university Iwaizumi goes to, which means he’s (probably) not just some random weirdo on the prowl for someone to fake date for no reason.

He’s still not looking at Iwaizumi, instead picking at a piece of soft-looking brown hair styled into a mess of controlled swoops. It probably adds a good two inches of height; another two inches he has on Iwaizumi. His broad shoulders and muscular forearms are obvious even through the baggy shirt. He seems more lean muscle than bulk, but he’s toned, and his nonchalant physicality combined with the awful fashion somehow both suits him and seems entirely incongruous. Iwaizumi realizes that he was so distracted by the shrill volume of the guy’s personality that he hadn’t even realized that the guy is as handsome as he is.

But now he’s gone silent, pulling out a tablet of his own and very obviously trying not to look behind him.

“Which one is it?”

“Well, first off, since you asked, my name is Oikawa, thanks,” Iwaizumi scowls but Oikawa is already speaking again, having correctly interpreted Iwaizumi’s question as permission to explain and continue the act he asked for Iwaizumi’s help with. “He’s the tall one who looks like he could buy this place out with the cash he keeps in his back pocket.”

Iwaizumi scans the small shop and instantly sees who Oikawa’s talking about. He took one of the seats against the window and is currently tapping on his phone. Iwaizumi doesn’t know much about designer clothing, but the guy is definitely wearing it, and he definitely looks way too rich to be following a guy dressed as poorly as Oikawa to a tiny cafe like Crown Coffee.

Oikawa is still talking at Iwaizumi, gesturing wildly like he’s saying something a lot more cheery than the words he’s actually saying.

Iwaizumi feels a muscle twitch in his forehead at the over-the-top charade, but doesn’t interrupt.

“We half-dated for like, a month, and he always took me out for coffee after we— uh, yeah, so after I broke up with him, I’ve been avoiding him and coffee shops like the plague. We never came here together and this place doesn’t even have a website, so I figured it would be safe. But on the one day I’m desperate enough for caffeine that I risk it, he’s here.” He finishes with a sigh, dramatically falling forward onto his arms.

Iwaizumi isn’t totally sure how he’s supposed to react to all that, and from a stranger no less, so he just kicks the guy’s shin sympathetically before getting to his feet.

“The coffee’s good here, and you don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to. Our order’s ready, I’ll be right back. Watch my stuff.”

At the counter, he takes their drinks from the second barista on shift, who’s raising an eyebrow and looking between him and Oikawa silently.

Iwaizumi shrugs. “No idea. I’ll let you know.”

“Good luck,” he replies with a scheming grin, and Iwaizumi returns a smile before making his way back to his fake cafe date. He rarely talks for more than a few moments to any of the baristas, but he comes here often enough to the point that he’s pretty familiar with them. The one making the coffee today talks to Iwaizumi more than the rest, and is very clearly always on the hunt for gossip. Whatever is currently happening is definitely something Iwaizumi knows he’ll have to prepare to talk about the next time he’s here.

Back at their table, Oikawa’s busied himself with something on his tablet. Iwaizumi deposits the white chocolate mocha next to him, noticing the program Oikawa’s using. It’s familiar, but the project he’s working on is unfamiliar, and Iwaizumi is pretty sure Oikawa isn’t in his major.

He slides into his seat and starts working, wondering if it’s something he should ask about and if Oikawa wants to continue to act out conversation.

“So, cute stranger.” Iwaizumi blinks up at Oikawa as his train of thought is cut off.

Iwaizumi narrows his eyes over his own Americano, grabbing blindly for his tablet’s stylus with his free hand as Oikawa smiles at him. It’s not the same awful fake smile from earlier; instead, Oikawa’s eyes shine with mischief. Iwaizumi sighs internally. Oikawa very clearly contains multitudes, but prefers dramatics.

“What.”

“You’re very rude for a person on a date, you know.” Iwaizumi kicks him again, less gently than before. “Mean!”

“What do you want?”

Oikawa rolls his eyes and blows on his mocha, eyeing Iwaizumi over the steam. He seems so familiar, yet Iwaizumi has no idea who he is. And with the way he slides between personalities and throws on masks, he really could be anyone.

But he’s also wearing very poorly-disguised pajamas, probably goes to the same college, and bought Iwaizumi coffee, so Iwaizumi is pretty sure he’s a good, albeit weird, person.

“Your name would be nice, for starters.”

Iwaizumi starts with the sudden realization that at no point has he given this guy his own name. He’s just as much a stranger to Oikawa as Oikawa is to him.

He doesn’t want to get too involved in conversation, because he can never focus simultaneously on work and talking, but it’s only fair. Plus, maybe giving his name will placate Oikawa and fulfill Iwaizumi’s fake dating duties so they can sit in relative silence doing homework until Oikawa’s ex-boyfriend leaves.

“Iwaizumi Hajime.”

Oikawa smiles and seems to be okay with Iwaizumi turning back to his work for now, so that’s what he does. He sets his cup down and looks back to his tablet, double-checking the prompts for his assignment.

It isn’t going to take long, since his professor just wants a few mock-ups, so when he finishes, Iwaizumi will have the rest of the day free. He could and should probably get groceries and do some laundry later. Working his way through university doesn’t leave him as much time to stay on top of things as he’d like, and avoiding the sex den means he’s been slacking on household chores lately.

After a minute of silence that seems very out of character, Iwaizumi chances a glance up at Oikawa. Oikawa notices and meets Iwaizumi’s eyes with a very concerning glint in his own. Iwaizumi swears internally. No eyes should be able to hold that much evil.

“No.”

The glint seems to grow and expand across Oikawa’s entire face, and the grin he’s giving Iwaizumi is feral and entirely unpleasant.

“Yes! My wonderful, handsome date deserves a nickname befitting his sparkling personality.” Iwaizumi ducks back into his project, hoping that not looking at Oikawa will discourage him from continuing. Whatever nickname he’s about to be given is going to make him want to throw things, he just knows it.

Damn his own benevolence.

“Oh, Iwa-chan, won’t you look at me, darling?”

Iwaizumi fights the urge to chuck his free coffee across the table.

“Oh, Shittykawa, if I look at you I’ll do something we both regret.” Iwaizumi growls into his tablet. Free coffee isn’t a blessing afforded often. He might have to readjust his stylus’ sensitivity if Oikawa stays for much longer, though. His self-control is only so strong.

Oikawa just laughs, letting Iwaizumi return to his work again.

No wonder he was silent. He was probably thinking his way through a list of awful potential nicknames.

But as much as Iwaizumi would expect otherwise, Oikawa actually seems content enough to work in relative silence. The time passes quickly and the cafe remains pretty busy around them. Oikawa occasionally talks, just loud enough to be heard over the music and the background noise of the cafe, but his comments are infrequent, and Iwaizumi finds that his own replies come easily.

It’s like Oikawa somehow knows exactly what Iwaizumi wants, and is willing to adjust for him. The lack of expectations from Oikawa allows Iwaizumi to relax and work, but in more-than-tolerable company. It’s nice. Surprising, but nice.

Oikawa himself seems intent to focus on his own work, but he’s not so focused where he can’t make judgmental comments about the people milling around the cafe, as if he’s not a walking fashion disaster himself.

Iwaizumi has to stifle a laugh more than a few times, and despite the weird introduction, he’s enjoying the mixed bag of personality of a guy who randomly asked him to fake an impromptu cafe date. Oikawa’s presence at Iwaizumi’s normally empty table is a nice change, and Iwaizumi would be lying if he said he wasn’t curious about him.

But it doesn’t feel like a good time to ask for more, so he rolls with the jokes and enjoys what parts of Oikawa he’s gotten to meet.

Forty minutes after sitting down, Iwaizumi leans back over his chair, stretching out contentedly.

His Americano is empty, his file is saved, and he’s feeling better about his deadlines. He had a good workout this morning, he’s in shockingly acceptable company, and the caffeine is sitting nicely. It’d be a perfect afternoon, if not for—

“Tooru.”

Iwaizumi watches across the table as Oikawa’s face visibly transforms. The clear, open expression present for the past forty minutes disappears, clouding over in anger and… nervousness? But in another second flat, the expression is wiped away and replaced with a cheeky smile, and Oikawa looks up. Iwaizumi follows his gaze curiously.

Standing above them is Oikawa’s ex, who looks even taller up close. Iwaizumi takes quiet satisfaction in the fact that despite his height and the wideness the man’s clearly tailored outfit tries to accentuate, he looks less bulky than Iwaizumi.

The guy is ignoring Iwaizumi’s curious eyes, though, as he gazes down with a frown at Oikawa. His proximity means that it doesn’t take long for Iwaizumi to notice the expensive-smelling cologne he’s wearing. The contrast between his fancy peacoat and Oikawa’s frumpy outfit is vaguely amusing.

It’s less amusing the way Oikawa is looking back up at him.

The expression on his face makes Iwaizumi want to both punch it off and to punch this stranger who’s putting it there. He looks back to his project and busies himself closing windows and packing his tablet up instead of inserting himself where he shouldn’t.

“Sato-san, what a surprise to see you here!”

“You’ve been avoiding me, Tooru.”

Oikawa’s laugh rings hollowly in Iwaizumi’s ears. “Not at all, I’ve just been busy. University is no walk in the park, you know, lots of projects coming up these days.”

Iwaizumi doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but he’s rolling his eyes and then cursing himself because fuck he changed his mind. He’s going to get involved.

“I’m thankful you even made it out today, I know how overwhelmed you’ve been.” Oikawa’s eyes snap to Iwaizumi. He looks as surprised as Iwaizumi feels.

He must be wondering at Iwaizumi’s intentions, as they met less than an hour ago and Iwaizumi has probably appeared to be, at best, reluctantly on board with his stupid plan. Oikawa is obviously in intense need to be rid of his ex, but Iwaizumi is an unknown factor. Iwaizumi can almost see the calculations running in Oikawa’s head.

Iwaizumi decides to give him a push.

He throws Oikawa his best attempt at a forgiving smile that Sato can see and interpret the way they need, and subtly nods towards where Oikawa’s ex-boyfriend is still standing. Oikawa imperceptibly narrows his eyes, but Iwaizumi can see the moment he decides. He doesn’t have to vocalize it. In the next moment, they're both turning and smiling politely up at Sato.

Sato is frowning less, instead looking down at them with a flat look, like he isn’t entirely sure he’s ready to believe their story, but doesn’t want to say anything about it. He seems completely unaware of the silent conversation that just happened in front of him.

Iwaizumi doesn’t really have to wonder why he and Oikawa aren’t still together. The guy is oblivious.

He’s still here, though, and Iwaizumi can see Oikawa out of the corner of his eye, sitting with discomfort hidden behind his smile.

Iwaizumi steels himself internally. He’s already decided to help, so he takes one for their impromptu little team and decides to try to redirect the conversation towards himself.

He makes eye contact with Sato and then turns back to Oikawa, shooting for an expression that says something close to, ‘I’m your boyfriend on a date with you and this is some random guy you know but I don’t, so tell me who he is.’

He’s definitely laying it on thick, but he has no clue if Sato is picking up on it, given the guy’s apparent obtuseness. He presses the act a little more.

“Are you going to introduce me to your friend?”

The smile Oikawa gives as his answer to Iwaizumi’s silent offer to him, and veiled insult to Sato, is blinding.

“Oh yes, darling, I’m so sorry, I know how shy you are sometimes.” It takes significant effort not to roll his eyes, but Iwaizumi already made up his mind to help, no matter how awful Oikawa is.

“Sato-san, this is my boyfriend, Iwaizumi Hajime. Iwa-chan, this is Sato Yuuta.”

The introduction is startling. Oikawa pronounces the consonants in Yuuta’s name in quick, clipped succession, but he says Iwaizumi’s name like he’s said it a hundred times before. Each syllable sounds like something sacred in his melodious voice.

There isn’t a trace of disingenuousness in the introduction, and the contrast is noticeable not just to Iwaizumi.

Sato nods back at Iwaizumi with narrowed eyes. “A pleasure.”

Iwaizumi tries for a distracted smile, looking off elsewhere in the cafe, both to signal that he isn’t interested in learning more than a name, and also to hide how thrown he is by Oikawa’s sincerity.

He doesn’t see Oikawa’s face, but his voice is terse when he replies to Sato for Iwaizumi. “Yes, always a delight. I’m sure you’re very busy, and Iwa-chan and I were just packing up, so I guess we’ll see you around.”

Iwaizumi turns his gaze back as Oikawa gets to his feet and holds a hand out. Iwaizumi takes it without thinking.

He tries to remember when Oikawa packed his own things, following Oikawa’s lead out of Crown Coffee.

It takes until they’re a few blocks away to notice the kind-of-sweaty hand trembling in his.

“He smelled weird.”

Oikawa’s head snaps towards Iwaizumi and they pull to a stop at a street corner. His face registers confusion, shock, then disbelief in quick succession, and then it’s gone and replaced with a beaming smile. The anxiety just there left in an instant, wiped away like it was never there.

Now, it’s just Iwaizumi and Oikawa standing on a street corner looking at each other. Oikawa seems to be glowing in the sunlight, and his artfully tousled hair is swaying gently in the breeze. They’re still holding hands.

Iwaizumi isn’t sure he wants to break away just yet.

He’s snapped out of whatever trance Oikawa put him in when Oikawa replies, “Yeah he does. His spit tastes like cinnamon. It was nauseating. Almost as bad as his personality, but, well.”

Oikawa laughs at Iwaizumi’s expression. “I know right, so thanks for that, in there.”

“No problem. I got free coffee, finished my work, and got to see someone else try to deal with your shitty personality.”

Oikawa rolls his eyes and pulls Iwaizumi’s hand to his face, biting at it. Iwaizumi snatches it away, swatting at Oikawa’s shoulder in complaint.

“Keep your teeth to yourself, asshole.”

He gets a half-assed mean smile that’s more suppressed laughter than anything in return, and Oikawa mocks writing notes down. “Not into biting, then.”

Iwaizumi rips the pretend notebook away and Oikawa laughs, grabbing around Iwaizumi for it. He curls away, and Oikawa is practically hugging him again, laughing warm air onto Iwaizumi’s neck in his closeness.

“Mean, Iwa-chan! My notebook! I just want to know your preferences!”

“My preferences are ‘not getting bitten by a grown ass man in the middle of the sidewalk,’” Iwaizumi says, relenting in their stupid struggle. He hands Oikawa the fake notebook, and Oikawa holds it up in triumph, grinning at Iwaizumi.

“Your standards are impossibly high. Would you rather get bitten not on a street corner, then?”

A wave of cars passes by and Iwaizumi hides his smile in watching them drive by. Oikawa is still impossibly close, and the warmth of the afternoon sun seems to be radiating from him.

“Don’t you have things to be doing? Like shopping for real clothes?”

Oikawa chuckles but steps away, poking at the street crossing button, and Iwaizumi turns to see him rolling his eyes, still smiling softly. “How rude, is this how you say goodbye to all of your fake dates, Iwa-chan?”

“Just the poorly dressed ones who hug strangers, ask for their help, and then try to bite them.”

The crossing light turns green, and Oikawa is turning and laughing into the sky, bright and easy. He steps forward, smiling back at Iwaizumi.

“Try not to miss me too much, Iwa darling. I’ll be seeing you.”

Iwaizumi watches him go, letting himself smile fully at Oikawa’s back. Somehow this doesn’t feel like a goodbye. Iwaizumi has a feeling that things have only just begun.

Chapter Text

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.