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the way you brave all the bullshit i hold inside

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Hajime never cared much for his birthday. If you asked him, there wasn’t  much to celebrate about making another trip around the sun, for surviving another year. That wasn’t to say he never did anything for it. Growing up with Tooru, the boy who liked to make mountains out of molehills, it was impossible to get through the day without it being brought up in every conversation. His best friend would team up with his mom to cook a feast filled with all of Hajime’s favorites, and he spent the day being spoiled by the people he loved most.

 

So celebrating his 19th birthday without Tooru, the first of the many more he knew were to come, was underwhelming. In all honesty, he’d forgotten about the date until he’d arrived home that evening, his mind preoccupied with the last of his final exams he had taken that morning. 

 

Hajime sighs as he makes his way into his dorm room, dropping his bag near the door and hastily slipping off his shoes before flopping face down onto his bed. He digs his phone out of his pocket and turns it on for the first time since waking up, momentarily panicking as he sees the notifications flood his screen before checking the calendar and realizing the date. Sighing, he turns the display back off and rolls onto his back, a hand coming up to rub at his eyes. Of course he forgot.  

 

His birthday was never something he felt the need to mention; Tooru would do it enough for him. Hajime never really thought much of it before, but now, sitting alone in his dorm room with all his best friends miles away, he wishes he had done more. 

 

He checks his phone again, his screen still covered with messages from his old Seijoh group chat and people on Facebook he doesn’t talk to anymore. He clears the notifications to get a good look at his lockscreen, a recent selfie Tooru sent with a caption that had Hajime considering flying to Argentina just to give him a good whack. 

 

Glancing at the time, he wonders if Tooru’s still awake. It’d be nice to have something familiar, a small bit of comfort from a time when everything was easier. 8:14. He does the math in his head, realizing it's just after midnight in Argentina. Unable to bring himself to check his messages yet, he roots through his small closet to find Tooru’s hoodie, the one he snuck into his suitcase last year and only brings out when the ache becomes too much, when he misses home more than ever. He swaps his jeans for an old pair of volleyball shorts while he’s at it, and crawls back into bed with his laptop. 

 

Hajime sighs while opening Netflix, praying to all the gods that Tooru never finds out what he’s doing tonight. He pulls up his list of favorites, clicking on the sci-fi movie that Tooru insists on watching at least once every sleepover, no matter how much Hajime complains. As he hears the familiar sounds of the opening music he relaxes, a soft smile spreading on his face unconsciously. He drifts off to sleep like that, surrounded by the sound and smell of his favorite person. 

 

~

 

A sound at the door startles Hajime awake, the rapid knocking leading him to stumble out of bed as he rubs at his eyes blearily. He isn’t sure what to expect as he swings the door open, but a stranger holding a big bouquet with multiple boxes behind him definitely wasn’t even close to being on his list. Shocked, he stands there until the other man lets out an awkward cough, shoving the flowers towards Hajime. 

 

“Delivery for, um, Hajime? I’m not even going to try your last name, bro, I don’t get paid enough for this.” 

 

Speechless, Hajime accepts the flowers with one hand, the other grabbing at the pen to sign. He looks back at the boxes with a questioning look.

 

“Yeah man, those are yours too. Quite an admirer you got, huh?” 

 

Hajime can do nothing but nod, mind racing in his post-sleep haze as he tries to figure out who would send these. He sets the boxes down by the door as he shuts it, eyes not leaving the bouquet. He spots a bit of cardstock nestled between the petals, and gently pulls it out to reveal a beautifully printed card. As soon as he sees the neat kanji, he realizes the sender couldn’t have been more obvious and he laughs to himself, setting the flowers down on his desk momentarily to read the card. 

 

Iwa-chan, it reads. I wish I could be there to give you these in person, but unfortunately for you my beautiful face isn’t one of your presents this year! Hope the delivery boy was cute enough to make up for it! Call me when you get this, I want to watch you open your presents. Happy birthday, Hajime. I’m sorry we had to spend this year apart, hope I can see you soon. I miss you a lot, Iwa-chan. Te amo.  

 

The last sentence is written in Spanish and Hajime quickly pulls out the translation app on his phone. As soon as the words register, he switches to the FaceTime app, not even bothering to check the time. Hajime waits impatiently as the call connects, making varied expressions at his own face reflected on the screen. He composes himself as the chime signals, indicating that Tooru has picked up on the other end. They stare at each other in silence, neither of them wanting to be the first to speak. 

 

“Hi.” Tooru looks bleary, clearly having just woken up. 

 

“I just got your presents; you told me to call you before opening them,” Hajime trails off, pulling his face back for a second. “Wait, what time is it?” 

 

“Two in the morning,” Oikawa drawls, sending a nasty glare. “Couldn’t this have waited? I thought it was an emergency or something.” 

 

Hajime rubs at the back of his head sheepishly. “Sorry.” He pauses. “Um. About what you said in the card,” Hajime falters. “Did you mean what you said?” 

 

Oikawa blinks, clearly confused. “What did I say?” 

 

Hajime laughs awkwardly, averting his eyes. “Nothing. It’s fine.” Desperate for a change in topic, he drags the boxes closer. “Can I open these now, or do you want to be awake for it?” he tries to tease, but Tooru doesn’t take the bait. 

 

“Open them now.” Hajime looks away, feeling weirdly exposed by Tooru’s fond gaze. He busies himself with finding a pair of scissors to open the packaging, settling for a fork when he couldn’t find anything fast enough. 

 

He sits back down, grabbing the smallest box and tearing into it, not paying any attention to the phone he has propped up on the base of his desk chair. He stops when he hears muffled noises from the other end, and looks up to see Tooru badly stifling laughter with his blankets. 

 

“What?” 

 

Tooru just laughs harder, soft wheezes coming out of his mouth as he tries to compose himself. He quiets down and Hajime takes that as a signal to continue ripping the tape on his first gift, only for Tooru to lose it again at the sight of the fork. 

 

“What??”  

 

Tooru can do nothing but point hysterically at Hajime’s hand, which is still holding the fork. Unfortunately, this does not translate well over FaceTime, and Hajime is simply left more confused than he started. He decides to simply ignore Tooru and his dying noises, instead focusing on saving his present from the frankly scandalous amount of tape Tooru used. 

 

He hears a thump and a whine from the other end and looks up again only to see that Tooru has disappeared. He calls for him, and in response he gets a pitiful whine and rustling from a distance. He waits for a second, and when Tooru still doesn’t show up on his screen he moves on to the second package, waiting until Tooru can see him again before checking what’s in the first. 

 

“So you hate me, huh?” Hajime hears from his phone, and he startles. “You hate me, you wish I was dead, if I died you wouldn’t miss me, you want me gone .”

 

“Tooru, what?” 

 

A blanketed head pops up in the corner of his screen, and it’s then that Hajime finally understands what just happened. Tooru laughed so hard he fell off the bed. One look at Tooru’s tear stained face and pouty lips has him laughing as well, the absurdity of the situation finally getting to him. He rubs at his eyes, fork still in hand, and Tooru lets out an honest to god wail, collapsing in a heap off camera. 

 

Hajime looks down at his hands and it finally clicks, the reason Tooru has been an incomprehensible mess this entire call. 

 

“The fork?” The words come out a garbled mess as Hajime is hit with another wave of laughter. He hasn’t felt this happy in a long time, just laughing with his best friend over the smallest things. The thought sobers him up slightly, and he looks back at his phone, where Tooru’s has shifted slightly and Hajime can now see him fully, a tangled lump of blankets on the floor by his bed. 

 

He watches fondly as Tooru struggles to right himself, unearthing himself from the pile and climbing back onto the bed. Man, he loves this boy so much. Tooru freezes on the other end. 

 

“Iwa-chan?”

 

Hajime replays his last thought in his head. “Shit, did I say that out loud?”

 

Tooru nods, mutely. He opens his mouth to speak, but Hajime beats him to it. 

 

“I meant it, you know. I-” He’s cut off by Tooru frantically waving his arms, not wanting to actually interrupt him but still wishing to grab his attention before he can finish talking. 

 

“Don’t say it yet. I know, and me too, but finish opening the presents, please.” 

 

Hajime sighs and picks up the fork again, sending the both of them into a fit of giggles, but they remain composed enough for Hajime to open the rest of the boxes, leaving the gifts inside to keep them a surprise. He looks back at Tooru, awaiting further instructions, only to see him watching with the softest look on his face. Hajime blushes and looks away, clearing his throat. 

 

“So, is there an order to these or can I open whichever?” Tooru leads him through the unboxing, explaining what each of the gifts mean and why he chose them. When he gets to the last box, Tooru pauses, suddenly bashful.

“I hope you don’t find this weird, but. Um.” Tooru buries his face in his hands, leaving Hajime perplexed as to what’s in the box. He goes to open it, but Tooru stops him. “Hey, um, can you hang up now and call back after you open this?” Hajime must look suspicious, as Tooru quickly waves his hands. “No, no it’s nothing bad it’s just. It’s a bit embarrassing, I guess.” 

 

Hajime still isn’t convinced, but agrees, waving bye as he ends the call. He looks back at the box warily, wondering what its contents could contain that makes Oikawa Tooru of all people embarrassed. He thought the boy had no ounce of shame in his body, but clearly he was wrong.  

 

He opens it carefully, and is immediately greeted by a sea of blue. The box is filled with official Oikawa merchandise, ranging from t-shirts with his jersey print to what seems to be Oikawa’s official team jacket. Hajime digs through the clothes and finds a hoodie, sniffing it carefully to find that it smells like him too, stronger than the faded scent of the stolen hoodie he has on currently. He swaps them, nestling in the warm blue fabric, and heads back to his bed to call Oikawa back. 

 

He watches as the clock changes from 11:59 to 12:00, officially marking the end of the day. While looking at the flowers on his desk and the opened boxes on his floor, he thinks of half-spoken phrases and laughing until they cried. Hajime concedes that while today might not have been the best birthday of all, it was definitely one he’ll remember for the rest of his life.