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The hardest part, of course, is that Iwaizumi has no idea how he would begin to talk to someone he actually likes, much less someone he’s pretending to be interested in. He says as much to Hanamaki, who, like the useless friend he is, laughs at him.

“You’ve been complaining about this all morning,” Hanamaki says. “Less talking, more doing. Just, fucking—I don’t know, go over there and kabedon him or something.”

Iwaizumi glares balefully at Hanamaki, then directs his gaze across the courtyard at Oikawa, who’s standing with his back to the two of them. Kuroo and Bokuto are with him, as always, laughing at something he said, and Kuroo glances up and meets Iwaizumi’s eyes before he can look away. A sly grin spreads over his face, and Iwaizumi’s ears are burning when he tears his eyes back to Hanamaki.

“No way,” Iwaizumi says, belatedly. “I have some dignity.”

“Okay, fine.” Hanamaki dumps his bento on the grass in front of them and starts unpacking it. They’ve decided to eat in the courtyard today instead of on the roof like usual. Something about scoping out the target, something about forming a plan of attack. Iwaizumi had informed Hanamaki that he was making this whole thing sound more like a military operation than an attempt at courtship, but the complaints fell on deaf ears. “But my point still stands,” Hanamaki says. “He’s the one who asked you out the first time, and three weeks isn’t enough to get over someone completely, y’know? You have nothing to worry about. Just go up to him and ask if he wants to get coffee sometime.”

“I can’t do that,” Iwaizumi says. He takes out his own lunch.

Hanamaki blows a raspberry at him. “I don’t get why this is so hard for you to understand,” he complains. He points at Oikawa, then Iwaizumi, with his chopsticks. “Boy likes you. Boy is rejected by you. Boy would be ecstatic at the prospect of you changing your mind and agreeing to date him. See?”

“No,” Iwaizumi says, stabbing through a piece of tamagoyaki with too much force. “I wish it were that easy, but I really, really don’t think that would work.”

“Okay,” Hanamaki says. “Then enlighten me. Why not?”

Iwaizumi sighs, leaning closer and pitching his voice low. Hanamaki mirrors him with growing curiosity. “You know how I said he confronted me and confessed and I said no and that was it?” He waits for Hanamaki to nod before continuing. “I… may have been underselling it. A little bit.”

Hanamaki sits back, frowning. “So what happened?”

“… It’s possible,” Iwaizumi says, through grit teeth, “that he kept asking why I wouldn’t go out with him. It’s also possible that I said some things to him that I now regret. A lot.”

They’re quiet for a few moments as that sinks in. Hanamaki clears his throat, looking less enthusiastic than he had appeared a second earlier. “This would have been good to know before I told you to take Kageyama up on that offer,” he says.

“Well.” Iwaizumi picks at his fried rice. He’s lost most of his appetite. “It’s not like I’m proud of it.”

“How bad?” Hanamaki asks. “On a scale from one to that time you found a lost kid in the supermarket and made her cry because she thought you were going to kidnap her?”

Iwaizumi scowls. “That was not my fault, and her mom was nice about it,” he says. Hanamaki raises an eyebrow at him, and he switches gears. “Maybe an eight?”

Hanamaki winces. “Ouch. Okay. So approaching him like nothing happened is off the table.”

“Yep,” Iwaizumi says.

“You know what you have to do, then, right?”

“Call Kageyama and tell him I give up?” Iwaizumi asks hopefully.

Hanamaki levels him with a flat stare. “Go apologize,” he says.

Iwaizumi groans and, in a fit of uncharacteristic melodrama, throws himself backward onto the grass. “I hate you,” he says from his supine position.

“Uh huh.”

“I hate that you’re right.”

“Uh huh."

 


 

Considering how well-liked he is by the student body, it’s hard to catch Oikawa alone. It’s even harder to catch him without his two ever-present shadows, bad bedhead and all. After school, though, Iwaizumi is lucky enough to run into Sugawara, who informs him that he’s on his way to the gym for a festival planning meeting led by Oikawa.

Iwaizumi follows him there, but he ushers Sugawara in before him and stops at the doorframe.  Leaning against it and peering through the window, he decides to watch the proceedings alone. Suga and Kiyoko, the co-chairs of the festival committee, take their places at the front of the room, two dozen chairs arranged in front of them in a half circle. Seated in them, and clustered in groups in various spots around the gym, are volunteer members of the committee and a few representatives from each club at the school. Oikawa is in the middle of it all, clipboard in hand, going down a checklist of names and tasks. He crosses off boxes and barks out commands with ruthless efficiency; Iwaizumi is almost impressed.

But it soon becomes clear that as high as Oikawa’s expectations are for the festival, he’s going to be relatively hands-off when it comes to the actual execution. “I want you to report to me if there are any major issues or conflicts,” he informs everyone. “But for the most part, I trust Suga-chan and Kiyoko-chan to handle everything. They’ll be providing me with routine updates about the work you’re doing, and I’m sure the festival will be a great success. Understand?”

There’s a chorus of yes’ s from around the room, and Oikawa nods and says something to Kiyoko and Sugawara that’s too low for Iwaizumi to hear. Then he grabs his backpack and makes his way out of the gym, stopping and turning around at the top of the stairs to wave goodbye to its occupants. Quickly and quietly, Iwaizumi ducks out of the entryway and backs into the hallway around the corner. It’s abandoned. Everyone who’s not on the committee has gone home for the day.

Oikawa’s shoulders slump as soon as he thinks he’s alone. All of a sudden he looks much older than he is, and he heaves a sigh as he tucks a disobedient strand of hair back into place behind his ear. Iwaizumi, who had intended to speak up and get this conversation over with as soon as possible, hesitates. For some reason, he doesn’t want Oikawa to know that he’s seen him in such an obviously personal moment.

So he waits until Oikawa collects himself, taking a few deep breaths before pulling himself upright again. He continues on his way, turns the next corner, and stops in his tracks when he spots Iwaizumi against the wall. Surprise flashes over his face for a brief moment before it’s wiped away.

“Oh, Iwaizumi-kun,” Oikawa says. “Can I help you?”

Iwaizumi’s mouth is dry. He clears his throat. “I wanted to talk to you,” he says. “About what I said the last time we spoke—”

“Do you mean yesterday, when you had to say three words to me and acted like it was the worst experience of your life?” Oikawa asks. His voice is deceptively light. “Or three weeks ago, when you told me… what was it again?”

Iwaizumi cringes. “You don’t have to repeat it—”

“Ah, right. When you told me that I’m a shallow douchebag who’s going to peak in high school.” It’s almost scary, really, how nonchalant Oikawa manages to sound saying that.

“Yes?” Iwaizumi says. He doesn’t intend for it to come out sounding like a question, but it does. God, he’s such an asshole. “Look, I’m really sor—”

“Ah, ah.” Oikawa holds up his hand, cutting him off. “Apologies bore me.”

“Oikawa, seriously, I—”

“But since I’m such a kind and magnanimous person,” Oikawa continues, ignoring him, “I’ll give you the opportunity to make it up to me. Let me drive your motorcyle, and I might forgive you.”

Iwaizumi blinks at him, astounded by the abrupt one-eighty. “What?” He asks.

Oikawa shrugs. “Or else I’ll hold it against you forever and the guilt will haunt you until the day you die. Your choice.”

“You’re—what—you’re unbelievable,” Iwaizumi splutters. “I’m trying to apologize—”

“And sucking at it,” Oikawa interrupts. “I don’t know if you know this, Iwaizumi-kun, but when you apologize to someone, you’re not supposed to insult them more.”

What is Iwaizumi getting himself into here? He takes a deep breath. “Oikawa,” he says. “I am not letting you drive my motorcycle.” Oikawa’s teasing smile twists into a frown, and Iwaizumi rushes to finish the offer. “I’ll let you ride behind me while I drive,” he says. “That’s the best you get.”

Oikawa chews on his bottom lip, a tiny crease appearing between his eyebrows as he thinks. Iwaizumi gets the most bizarre urge to smooth it out with his thumb.

“You take me home from school on the motorcycle for a week,” Oikawa says. “Final offer.”

“What am I, a chauffeur?”

Oikawa leans forward to poke Iwaizumi in the chest with his pointer finger. “Guilt, remember?” he asks. “Haunting you. Forever.”

“Fine,” Iwaizumi relents with a groan.

“Starting today,” Oikawa chirps.

“You’re the worst,” Iwaizumi says. Still, he starts walking down the hallway, with Oikawa trailing not too far behind him.

“Yep,” Oikawa says, popping the ‘p.’ “Do you want my address now, or should I give you directions when we get close?”

“I want to hit you so bad right now,” Iwaizumi tells him.

“Ooh, strike two. You’re not supposed to threaten bodily harm in apologies either.”

Iwaizumi doesn’t even acknowledge that with a comeback, just shakes his head and leads them the rest of the way toward his parking space in silence.

Luckily, he has a spare helmet handy for when Hanamaki hitches a ride with him every so often, and because his mom drilled the importance of safety and preparedness into him from an early age. Or maybe that’s unlucky, considering he now has no excuse for being unable to take Oikawa anywhere.

Oikawa eyes his motorcycle appreciatively as soon as they draw near, brown eyes going big and shiny at the smooth handlebars and leather padding. Iwaizumi grabs the spare helmet and holds it out to him. Oikawa offers it a blank stare. “Oh, but Iwaizumi-kun,” he says sweetly, “I don’t know how to put this on. You’re the expert here.”

“It’s a helmet,” Iwaizumi informs him, unimpressed. “Have you never worn a helmet before? Because that might explain a few things about your personality.”

“Ouch, Iwaizumi-kun. Just for that I’m going to make you help me.”

Iwaizumi’s jaw clenches in frustration, but he doesn’t argue. He wants to get home as soon as possible and spend as little time in Oikawa’s presence as possible. Holding the helmet in both hands, he reaches up to fit it around Oikawa’s head. The helmet flattens his usually springy curls, causing them to stick out in awkward directions, and Iwaizumi snickers. Then his hands move to buckle the clasp, eyes drifting down from Oikawa’s head to the bridge of his nose, his cupid’s bow, his lips— getting into dangerous territory there, Hajime. He closes the clasp and tightens the helmet and steps away, coughing into his fist.

Oikawa, for his part, looks undeterred and shoots him a sunny smile. He waits with his hands tucked behind his back for Iwaizumi to pus his own helmet on and swing one leg over the motorcycle.

“Okay,” Iwaizumi says. “Get on behind me, and hold on to my waist. Tight.”

“Aye-aye, captain,” Oikawa says. He clambers on.

Iwaizumi feels his weight settle on the bike, their thighs touching, and then a pair of sweater-clad arms are snaking around his waist. Oikawa’s fingers link together loosely, tentatively, around his torso, like they’re a couple in a high school movie posing for bad prom pictures. Shaking off the uncomfortable prickly feeling on his skin everywhere he and Oikawa touch, Iwaizumi says, “You’re going to need to grab on a lot tighter than that unless you want to fly off.”

“Um.” Oikawa swallows. “Okay.” His arms tighten, and he leans forward enough to press his chest flush to Iwaizumi’s back.

Iwaizumi revs the motorcycle and starts pulling out of the parking space, and all he hopes is that he’s not too distracted to pay attention to the road.

Oikawa lets out a small yelp when they leave the parking lot and merge into actual traffic, and Iwaizumi grins. So maybe there’s a small sadistic part of him that likes seeing Oikawa so out of his element, sue him. “Wanna tell me where I’m headed now?” He asks.

Oikawa mutters something that Iwaizumi doesn’t quite catch, but it sounds less like a street address and more like a string of unflattering remarks aimed at Iwaizumi himself. “What was that?” he asks.

“Nothing!” Oikawa shouts. “Turn left in three intersections!”

Iwaizumi complies, and then he turns left again where Oikawa directs him to, and then right, and pretty soon he realizes that Oikawa is taking him close to his own address. Sure enough, they come to a stop two blocks away from where he lives, and Iwaizumi takes note of the uniform traditional-style houses and neatly trimmed bushes as he tugs his helmet off and dismounts. It’s all familiar, and he thinks he may have passed Oikawa’s house on a few of his morning jogs.

“Well, this is me,” Oikawa says. He hands Iwaizumi his spare helmet and promptly shakes his hair out, combing his fingers through it to return it to its previous immaculate state. “I hope I didn’t make you go too far out of your way.”

“Nah,” Iwaizumi says. He gestures vaguely to his left. “I actually live a few streets down.” Then questions what he’s thinking giving that information to Oikawa, who will doubtless not use it for anything good.

“Oh?” Oikawa asks. Then his expression of mild interest melts into a coy one. “You want me to know where you live, huh? Hoping I’ll drop by?”

“You wish,” Iwaizumi says. “Having to see your face at school is enough.”

“Suuure it is.” Oikawa grins. “Speaking of, I’ll see you tomorrow, Iwa-chan. Same place, same time.”

“Fine,” Iwaizumi says. Then he asks, “Wait, Iwa-chan?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Oikawa clasps his hands behind his back and turns to walk away. “I give nicknames to all my friends.”

Iwaizumi watches him leave. “Is that what we are?” He asks.

Oikawa laughs, lifting a hand and waving it over his shoulder. “That’s up to you, Iwa-chan!” He calls. “Isn’t it?”

 


 

After school the next day, Iwaizumi tells Hanamaki to go home without him. He walks outside and waits in the courtyard for a while; he manages to complete most of his homework for the day sitting out there. Ten minutes before the committee meeting ends, he stands up, stretches, groans, and returns to the gym.

The doors are wide open this time, and he spots Oikawa sitting in a chair in the back row, taking notes in a yellow legal pad. Shrugging, he ambles in and plops down in the seat next to him.

“We’re doing an arm wrestling contest,” a gruff voice says. Iwaizumi cranes his head to look for the source, who turns out to be a second-year from the baseball club named Kyoutani Kentarou. Iwaizumi has subbed in as a batter once or twice when there have been absences on the team.

“How original,” someone else snipes back. Iwaizumi recognizes him from the baking club—Yahaba something, maybe? “You do an arm wrestling contest every year, and it’s always boring.”

“Yeah?” Kyoutani says. “Well it’s not going to be this year, because no one’s going to beat me.”

Maybe-Yahaba scoffs. “Arrogant, much?”

Sugawara and Kiyoko haven’t intervened yet, but both are beginning to get antsy as Kyoutani visibly bristles. Iwaizumi glances at Oikawa, who’s given up on his notes in favor of cupping his face in his hands and watching the exchange with interest. “What’s going on?” Iwaizumi asks.

“The clubs are pitching their fundraiser ideas,” Oikawa whispers. “You came just in time. I can never tell if Yahaba-chan and Kyouken-chan are about to fight or make out.”

Iwaizumi looks at Kyoutani, who’s practically foaming at the mouth, and Yahaba, with his crossed arms and the tight smile on his face. He frowns. Make out? He doesn’t see it.

“—criticizing our club? I bet your idea sucks ass,” Kyoutani is saying when Iwaizumi tunes back into the conversation.

“For your information,” Yahaba says, scowling, “we’re selling homemade chocolates—”

“Boring.”

“—to people who are too scared to confess on their own,” Yahaba finishes. “They pay us, and we send them a custom note and chocolates.”

Oikawa pretends to wipe away a tear. “Exploiting emotionally vulnerable teens,” he says. “I’ve taught him so well.”

Iwaizumi doesn’t know what to say to that.

Kyoutani is gearing up to voice a response to that, but Sugawara cuts him off. “All right!” He says. “Both very good ideas, and I’m sure you’ll pull them off just fine. I think that’s all I have for today. Kiyoko?”

“Remember that ten percent of your earnings go into the class treasury, and be sure to update us if any of your plans change,” Kiyoko says. “That’s all.”

Oikawa tucks his legal notepad into his messenger bag, and then he turns to Iwaizumi. “Ready to go?” he asks.

“You’re the one who’s been holding us up,” Iwaizumi says as they stand up. “I was ready half an hour ago.”

“Excuse me for being involved within the school,” Oikawa protests. “We can’t all blow off our responsibilities like you, Mr. Delinquent.”

Iwaizumi walks faster, hoping to outpace Oikawa. “For the last time,” he says, “I just get sick a lot, okay?”

Unfortunately, Oikawa keeps up with ease. He chuckles. “That might be even worse,” he says. “Big, bad Iwa-chan, whose worst enemy is a little case of the sniffles.”

They bicker all the way to the parking lot, and Iwaizumi finds himself lingering for a stretch too long after he drops Oikawa off, all to keep talking with him. I could get used to this, he thinks, and then he banishes the thought to the depths of his subconscious where he will never have to analyze what it might mean.

When he gets home, his mom is in the kitchen preparing dinner. “Why have you been coming home so late, huh?” She asks, a teasing gleam in her eye. “Something you’re not telling me?”

“C’mon, mom,” Iwaizumi complains. He bends down to kiss her on the cheek. “Nothing like that.”

His mom tuts knowingly. “Okay, then. Wash your hands and come help me with these green beans.”

Iwaizumi goes to do so, and then she adds, “Oh, and if you ever feel like telling me who this special person is, I’m here.”

“Mom,” Iwaizumi groans.

The next day follows a similar pattern, but then Friday arrives, and Iwaizumi comes to the conclusion that if things with Oikawa continue to progress at this rate, Kageyama and Hinata won’t be allowed to be together until they’re eighty. It’s up to Iwaizumi to move their relationship along, but he doesn’t know where to start. He still doesn’t know much about Oikawa’s likes and dislikes, only that he’s annoying and unfairly clever and… that’s not the point.

The point is that Iwaizumi isn’t familiar with Oikawa’s tastes yet, so he has to rely on intel from the people who are. So after school on Friday, instead of adhering to his usual routine of doing his work while he waits for Oikawa, he seeks out the guy’s cousin.

“Psst! Iwaizumi-san!”

Iwaizumi glances around, eyes coming to rest on a conspicuous fake tree with a conspicuous head of orange hair attempting to hide behind it. Kageyama is standing several feet away, looking torn between deathly annoyed and terribly infatuated.

“Um,” Iwaizumi says. “Hinata?”

Hinata makes a show of glancing to the right, then the left, to ensure that the hall is clear. Then he slips out from behind the plastic palm fronds. He hands a folded piece of paper to Iwaizumi, who takes it.

“What’s this?” He asks, unfolding the creases.

“The stuff you asked me about Oikawa,” Hinata says. He drops the pretense of espionage in favor of a sunny smile and his usual cheery, if louder than necessary, tone.

“Oh, all right,” Iwaizumi says. He slips the note into the pocket of his blazer. “Thanks.”

“Yup! And thank you! Because I haven’t gotten a chance to thank you in person yet, you know. We owe you big time!”

“No worries,” Iwaizumi says. He finds himself smiling too. Maybe Hinata is contagious. “I’m glad to be of service.”

“Cool!” Hinata says. “Well, we have to go. Kageyama promised to buy me meat buns.”

“Fine,” Kageyama says, “but don’t buy more than three because I won’t have enough money to pay for all of them.” He grabs Hinata’s wrist and pulls him away, turning his head back to nod at Iwaizumi.

“So stingy!” Hinata is complaining as they walk off.

Once they’re gone, Iwaizumi unfolds the note and scans it carefully. Hinata’s awful handwriting is an impediment, but he works past it.

 

OIKAWA TOORU FACT SHEET

  • Favorite food: milk bread
  • Favorite drink: hot chocolate
  • Favorite movie: Alien or E.T. depending on his mood
  • Likes: space, barbeque, Korean skincare, tight jeans, telling people what to do, kaomoji
  • Dislikes: Kageyama ☹, coffee, being ignored, babies, public bathrooms with those air-drying machine things instead of towels

 

“Hey, hey, hey, whatcha doing?” someone asks.

Iwaizumi jumps, spinning around, and comes face to face with—

“Woah, man, sorry if I scared you,” Bokuto says, holding his hands up.

“You’re good,” Iwaizumi says. He hides the note behind his back, keeping it away from Bokuto’s prying eyes as he refolds it.

“You’re that guy who Oikawa’s been hanging out with,” Bokuto says. He frowns, snapping his fingers. “Izu—Ima—Iwa—”

“Iwaizumi Hajime,” Iwaizumi says. He dips his head.

Bokuto returns the nod. “Bokuto Koutarou,” he says, which Iwaizumi already knew. “Oikawa’s pretty cool, right?”

“That’s one way to put it.”

In response, he gets a blinding smile. “Yeah, totally,” Bokuto says. “He’s so funny. The other day he told me a story, I don’t know if I can remember it, but it was hilarious, trust me—"

An idea comes to Iwaizumi, and he interrupts Bokuto’s rant. “Is Kuroo around?” he asks.

Bokuto pauses to remember. “I think he went home early,” he says. He reaches into his pocket. “But I can call him if you—”

“No, no, that’s fine.” To be honest, Iwaizumi would rather not have to deal with Kuroo right now. Having to deal with one of Oikawa’s friends is enough. Bokuto is high-energy, but at least he’s straightforward. Talking to Kuroo is like navigating an active minefield, and he’s been giving Iwaizumi indecipherable looks in class ever since he and Oikawa made up. “I was thinking,” Iwaizumi says, “about inviting Oikawa to. Do something.”

“Do something,” Bokuto repeats. “Like… a date?”

A patch of red starts to bloom on the back of Iwaizumi’s neck, which is ridiculous because dating Oikawa is his job, it’s a favor to a friend, and the prospect shouldn’t be surprising or intriguing to him in any way whatsoever. “Kind of like a date.”

Bokuto breaks into an even bigger smile, rubbing his palms together. “Oh man, I’m so excited,” he says. “You know Oikawa’s never gone out with anyone? Kuroo and I keep telling him he should, but he always… wait, sorry, what were you asking?”

“I dunno.” Iwaizumi shrugs. “D’you have any suggestions for what to do?”

“Hmm,” Bokuto says. “If it was me, I would want to go somewhere I could show off at something and totally impress my date.”

Iwaizumi swallows his objection that it’s not about Bokuto. “Do you think that’ll work on Oikawa?” he asks, trying to hide the skepticism in his voice.

Bokuto waves a dismissive hand at the question. “He’s more competitive than any of us,” he says. “He keeps trying to get us to call him the Grand King because it’s what Hinata calls him, but Kuroo says we shouldn’t feed his ego or else he’ll explode.”

“Kuroo’s right,” Iwaizumi mutters under his breath. Louder, he says, “Thanks for your help, dude.”

“Just looking out for a friend,” Bokuto says. He offers Iwaizumi a fist-bump before stepping around him and continuing down the hall, whistling an unfamiliar jaunty tune.

Iwaizumi, for his part, checks his watch and realizes that he’s almost late to meet Oikawa. He books it down to the gym and arrives to find Oikawa already waiting outside the doors with an impatient expression, tapping his foot. “Look who decided to show up,” he says. “I guess Iwa-chan isn’t so heartless as to completely abandon me after all.”

“I’m two minutes late, asshole,” Iwaizumi points out.

“Two minutes of my valuable time wasted waiting for you, you mean.” Oikawa crosses his arms and pouts. “What are you going to do to make it up to me?”

Iwaizumi’s palms start to sweat, and he surreptitiously wipes them on his pants. It’s now or never. “Actually,” he says, “I was thinking of taking you out tomorrow. If that’s sufficient repayment.”

Oikawa squints at him long enough that he begins to question everything he’s done leading up to this point. “Are you doing this because I bitched about it?” he asks. So he’s self-aware, Iwaizumi thinks. “Because I was joking. You don’t actually have to.”

Iwaizumi almost rolls his eyes, then he realizes that might not be the right body language right now and stops. “If I said I really just wanted to ask you out, would you say yes?”

“I don’t know,” Oikawa says. He smirks. “Are you going to say it?”

For a second, Iwaizumi looks at him. Then he turns and stomps down the hallway, Kageyama’s stupid plan be damned. Oikawa runs after him, laughing. “Wait, wait, stop,” he says between giggles. “I’ll go out with you!”

“Tomorrow at three,” Iwaizumi says. He refuses to look at Oikawa, but he can still feel the amusement radiating from him. “I’ll pick you up. Wear something comfortable.”

“You’re the boss,” Oikawa says.

“If I were, I’d have you fired for insubordination,” Iwaizumi informs him. Then he picks up the pace and grins when Oikawa squawks and trips over himself to catch up.

 


 

“Iwa-chan,” Oikawa whispers. He sounds… reverent? His eyes are wide with disbelief and, quite possibly, wonder. “Iwa-chan, is this what I think it is?”

“Oh, good,” Iwaizumi says. “I was worried you wouldn’t like laser tag.”

“I don’t like laser tag,” Oikawa says. “I breathe laser tag. But don’t worry, I’ll go easy on you. Don’t want to scare poor Iwa-chan off after one date, right?”

Iwaizumi scoffs. “Come on,” he says. “You think you can beat me, pretty boy?”

“Okay.” Oikawa holds up two fingers. “One: I’m going to remember that you called me pretty. And two: fine, I won’t go easy on you. But you’ve been warned.”

“I’m pretty sure the only thing I have to be scared of is those fumes from all the hairspray you use,” Iwaizumi teases. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his jeans and leads Oikawa into the arena.

Oikawa gasps, offended. “You take that back!” He all but shrieks. “My hair naturally looks this good!”

“Sure it does.” Iwaizumi hands his credit card to the bored-looking college student at the front desk and gets two sets of vests and blasters in return, one of which he offers to Oikawa. The attendant waves them through to a room that splits off into two corridors. Iwaizumi and Oikawa make eye contact, grin, and each split off toward one side without another word.

The waiting room he ends up in is dark: small space, dim lights, black walls with neon blue signage. There are several other players waiting around, already strapped into their gear, and Iwaizumi joins them in suiting up. They wait around for a few minutes, and Iwaizumi is considering whether he should say something to any of his teammates when a large screen above the door lights up with flashy colors. It’s an instructional video. Iwaizumi, who’s been here before, ignores the woman’s voice explaining instructions to them and uses the time to inspect his gun instead.

Soon enough the video ends and they’re told to enter the arena. Iwaizumi is one of the last ones in on his team, and he immediately darts to his right and ducks behind a wall. It’s as hard to see here as it was in the waiting room, and Iwaizumi cautiously lifts his gun and points it in front of him while he waits for his vision to adjust.

Half a minute later, he ventures out from his hiding spot and sneaks toward the center, where most of the other players have gathered, making sure to stick close to the walls. In the distance, he hears yelling and the science fiction-esque sound of laser guns going off. He takes a deep breath and is preparing to run around a corner into the fray when a bright red dot appears in the center of his vest.

Iwaizumi has mere seconds to react. His eyes widen, and he throws himself out of harm’s way. Grunting as his knee hits the ground, he scrambles to climb to his feet and return fire, only to find one smug Oikawa Tooru leaning against the opposite wall with his arms crossed. His vest is similar to Iwaizumi’s, but in red instead of blue.

“There you are, Iwa-chan,” Oikawa says. “I had to take out three of your teammates before I found you.”

Iwaizumi scowls, opting to aim at Oikawa’s chestplate and fire in lieu of a response. Oikawa evades him with a series of deft maneuvers and lifts his own gun in retaliation. Iwaizumi curses, dashing to the left. He ends up barrelling through a maze-like network of corridors and picks directions at random in the hopes of confusing Oikawa.

It seems to pay off; the footsteps behind him grow weaker, and he emerges into a narrow room where a blue player and a red one are firing at each other and missing. Iwaizumi shoots the opposing team member in the back, spares a second to nod at his teammate, and leaves to find another hiding spot.

He ends up in a cramped lookout tower with perfect view of the center of the arena. There are few signs of life visible below. It’s likely that most of the players have been eliminated already.

A blue player wanders into the clear—it’s possible they’re the last other surviving player on Iwaizumi’s team. They survey the space with intense caution, head swivelling this way and that. A blur of motion in the corner of Iwaizumi’s vision catches his eye, and he barely has time to shout “Look out!” before Oikawa springs out from a conical structure he’d concealed himself behind and eliminates them.

Then he turns to stare right at Iwaizumi, who realizes belatedly that he gave his position away with his failed warning attempt. Cursing, he jumps down from the tower and weaves through the mess of neon obstacles in his way, hoping to find Oikawa before he’s found.

“Iwa-chan!” he hears—much closer than he was expecting, shit. “Iwa-chan, come out and let’s settle this face to face!”

Iwaizumi doesn’t respond, but he shuffles closer to the source of Oikawa’s voice.

“Let’s end this with honor, Iwa-chan! We can do that thing where we stand back to back and turn around and fire on the count of ten! I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Iwaizumi figures that what Oikawa’s proposing might be his best chance to win this thing. Oikawa’s performance earlier had been intimidating—and, he admits begrudgingly, impressive—and he stands more of a chance if they face off on equal footing. Resolved, he leaves the relative safety of the maze and steps into the center where Oikawa is waiting—

Only to be promptly shot in the chest.

His vest’s sensor lights up, Oikawa pumps a fist in the air, and all the neon piping all around them flickers red to celebrate the victory. Iwaizumi stares down at his vest for a moment, not comprehending what happened. Then, betrayed, he glares at Oikawa. “What happened to ‘let’s end this with honor?’” he asks. “Cheater.”

Oikawa, the bastard, doesn’t look remorseful in the least. He laughs, walking up to Iwaizumi and patting him on the shoulder. “Rules are for the weak, Iwa-chan.”

Iwaizumi scowls. “We’re playing again,” he says, “and I’m beating you into the ground.”

“Kinky,” Oikawa says. This close, his hair is a sweaty, tangled mess, with his bangs plastered to his forehead. And he’s smiling: not the perfect, pearly smile he deploys on a daily basis, but a smile that wrinkles his eyes and dimples his cheeks.

Despite himself, Iwaizumi wants to keep him smiling like that. “Best of three,” he says. “Loser buys dinner. I know a good Korean barbeque place nearby.”

Oikawa’s eyes light up. “You’re on,” he says.

And if they lose track of time and Oikawa wins two more games before Iwaizumi finally manages one—and if they decide to play on the same team and Iwaizumi is taken down by two enemy snipers at once because he’s distracted by Oikawa laughing—and if they eat dinner together and linger at the table, talking, for a full hour before they go home—

Well, that’s none of Kageyama’s business, is it?