Oikawa was overheated. He was sweaty and his whole body was sore. His back ached and his knee was just barely hanging on, nearly buckling beneath even the slightest hint of pressure. He kept all his weight on his good leg when he could, gritting his teeth and bearing through it when he had to walk, doing his damnedest to not show how badly he had messed up his leg when he had caught himself on it when he had slipped while trying to get up. While playing he had so much adrenaline and desperation running through him, he barely even noticed that it was sore at all. He could tell now, though, that the next couple of days were going to be bad, his knee was definitely going to be swollen at the very least and he could already feel the bruises forming all across his back from where he had crashed into the table. The ache wasn't helped by the tingling he could feel where Iwa-chan had slapped his back as they were walking off the court.
He showers, trying to get off his leg as soon as he can, he knew the longer he stayed on it the worse it would feel. He wasn't going to let himself think about the match until he was clean and changed out of his uniform. And when he had finished that, he refused to think about it until he got on the bus, but after his run in with Ushijima, he couldn't hold off the mental dam anymore and it crumbled down, letting all of his thoughts and emotions take over his head.
It was a hard loss, no matter the light it was viewed in. The last hope for the third years at Aoba Johsai to go to national championships sat in their win against Karasuno. They were supposed to win. They were supposed to absolutely destroy Karasuno without even breaking a sweat and then go on to defeat Shiratorizawa and dethrone that stupid, smug Ushiwaka and then Oikawa could rub the loss in his face, telling him that he "should have come to Aoba Johsai". But of course stupid Tobio-chan and Chibi-chan had to actually get to be good players. And not even just them. The whole team had gotten better. So much better that they won. They won the game and then they won Shiratorizawa. They took away the win that Oikawa had been struggling for for so long.
He just wanted to cry, wanted to yell at the world that it was unfair, but it wasn't. Not really. It was hard, it was awful, it was possibly the worst loss of Oikawa's entire volleyball career as of then, but it wasn't unfair. That was what pissed him the most about the whole thing. Him and his entire team had done their best, they had practiced so hard that most days it almost felt like they were pushing too hard, but Karasuno had done even better. They had practiced with the best teams in Tokyo. They had learned new things and tried new techniques, new plays, had grown better as a team and as individuals. And it pissed him off, it made him so angry, because that meant no matter what he does he will always end up falling back, being left behind. And that's how he made his way home.
Maybe he had dissociated, he couldn't tell, didn't care. He just knew that suddenly he was on the bus, seated next to Iwa-chan, numb. He couldn't feel any anger or sadness or disappointment or guilt or anything that had been swirling around in his stomach since the ball had hit the ground, giving Karasuno that final point that they needed to win. It was still all he could think about, but he didn't feel it anymore.
He could feel the burn under his eyes from where he had rubbed too hard to get the tears away.
He could feel the lump in his throat from the overwhelming emotion, from the yells of frustration and anger and upset.
He could feel where his shoulder and thigh pressed up against Iwa-chan's because the seats were too small to fit them both if they didn't squeeze together.
But that was all he could feel.
As his whole team filed off the bus and into the gym for a short meeting with their coaches and advisor something else settled over him.
Oikawa could feel a stifling pressure of being crushed. Not emotionally, but as if he was being physically compressed into nothingness.
Like he couldn't breathe.
Not like he was having a panic attack, he'd had enough of those to know this was different.
This wasn't his lung feeling constricted, squeezing tight and not letting in oxygen.
This was diving into too deep water and having it press too heavily on his chest, a warning telling him not to even dare to take in a breath.
But he was feeling so he ignored it, took in breaths anyway, filling his lungs and emptying them again as he stares blankly ahead, he could faintly hear the voice of their coaches talking, consoling them, telling the younger kids on their team that there was always next year, but there wasn't.
Oikawa didn't have next year.
Iwaizumi didn't have next year.
Matsukawa didn't have next year.
Hanamaki didn't have next year.
Yuda and Sawauchi and Shido didn't have next year.
This was their last chance and they had ruined it.
Oikawa had already not been paying attention, but he loses even more focus and only realizes that their meeting was over when Iwa is tugging at his arm, trying to pull him out of his thoughts more than anything with the gentle pressure as he stands before him.
Oikawa grabs onto him, gripping onto his forearm tighter than necessary as he staggers to his feet. The gym is empty at this point with no way of telling how long they had been alone, just sitting there on the cold hard floor before his childhood friend decided he was sick of Oikawa's unresponsiveness.
They walk together in silence, out of the gym, away from the school, toward home. The walk is familiar, something they had done countless times over the course of their years at Aoba Johsai. At one point, he can see a light coming from Iwa's phone as he does something on it, but he doesn't pay attention to it, just continues to put one foot in front of another. He lets muscle memory take over, not actually paying attention to where he is or what he's doing.
When they make it to the Oikawa household, he's about to take the first step up the walkway, but Iwa's hand grabs onto his wrist, pulling him along to continue forward. He doesn't even get the chance to process that he has to open his mouth to ask what's going on before Iwa is already answering the unasked question.
"I told your mom that you're sleeping over at mine tonight," he says, not leaving any room for argument, as if Oikawa had the energy to actually fight anything right now. He barely had the strength to nod in acknowledgement at his words at this point.
Oikawa lets his friend keep his hold on his arm as they continue making their way down the street, just another couple of houses down, to Iwa's house.
The silence sticks around as they make their way inside and into Iwa's room.
As Oikawa drops his bag and mechanically changes into a set of pajamas that he keeps there for these impromptu sleepovers that happen maybe a bit too often.
As he sinks down onto his friend's bed, grabbing one of the pillows and hugging it to his chest, burying his face into the material as Iwa carefully settles down onto the bed next to him. A strong hand begins stroking at Oikawa's back, rubbing soothing patterns into the material of the setter's shirt.
Oikawa can hear a soft murmur or Iwa's voice, it goes on for a while but he couldn't focus well enough to be able to pick out what any of the words are until- "-give it up or keep going? I know this isn't the best time for it, but you gotta figure yourself out, Tooru." His voice is still soft and it doesn't seem like he's really expecting any kind of response from Oikawa.
His head shoots up, glaring at his friend as he explodes. "What do you mean give it up, Hajime? How am I supposed to just stop after all this? After all the time and work I've put into volleyball how am I supposed to stop just because I lost one game? I'm going to play and play and play until I can't anymore and you know it. You have known that since middle school! You know I've always wanted to go pro! So how can you seriously ask me right now whether I'm going to give up on the one thing in life where I can almost feel sure of myself? Right now, when the one moment I've been working towards for so long has been snatched away from under my nose and I couldn't do anything to stop it?" Oikawa wanted to yell, to snarl and rip into the man who had just poured salt into a fresh wound but he couldn't.
He couldn't because this was his best friend. The one person he's always had in his life. The person who understood exactly why that was the worst thing he could have asked in this situation. The person who was just trying to help, to comfort him. He couldn't because his throat was sore and his voice was rough and scratchy and he still felt that pressure on his chest and the lump in his throat.
Iwa doesn't stop him in his barely whispered anger, he lets Oikawa talk, lets him get it out. Once he's done, Iwa pats his back gently.
"You know why," he says, giving Oikawa The Look. The look that says 'I know that you know what I'm talking about about you know it', a look that he reserved specially for Oikawa, a look in the same vein as the 'I know you're not stupid so stop acting like you are' but so very different at the same time. "We both know you won't be able to keep playing like you have been. There's no chance of going pro anymore and the likelihood of you being able to make it through college are slim." Iwa says, even if the words are harsh, his voice is as soft as the hand tracing along Oikawa's spine, only saying what they both know to be true, not meaning to be cruel.
That is why it hurts so bad, Oikawa thinks as tightens his hold on the stupid pillow still situated in his lap and tears begin to fill up his eyes again. "I know that. I know all of that. That's why I have to play now. I have to keep playing until I can't anymore." His voice is broken, he sounds entirely wrecked. "I know I can make it through the rest of the year. I can make it another few years, I know I can. I'm not stupid, Hajime. I don't always act like it, but I do know my limits. I know I can keep going. I know I can." His words become faster, almost running together, nearly hysterical as tears fall from his eyes, catching briefly on eyelashes before streaking down cheekbones and falling into the pillow clutched to his chest. "I know that I fucked up, I know that so well, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I'm going to keep going. I'm going to hit it until it breaks."
"You might be hurt, but only as much as the rest of us are right now. Your knee doesn't determine your worth. One bad fall doesn't mean you're useless, Tooru," Iwa's voice is nearing pleading, like he needs to make sure his words are understood, like he needs them to find their way into Oikawa and stay there.
"Sure, we're all hurt, but I'm ruined, Hajime. Damaged can be fixed, but broken can't. And I can't be. I won't ever play again like this." Oikawa's voice is shaky, lifting his hand from it's death grip on the pillow to gesture at his still aching knee.
"Tooru," Iwa wants to help, Oikawa can tell, but he doesn't seem to know how. Doesn't know what to say to make it better, not that there was anything that could be said.
"Hajime, I'm damaged. I know that, but I'm going to keep playing until I'm broken. I'm not going to stop until I play myself into the ground. I'm going to keep playing until I can't stand on my own anymore." He looks up to meet Iwa's eyes and can see the hurt and concern, but in that moment he can't find it in himself to care, because he refuses to give up over one lost game. This was his last chance this year, at this school. But he still has all of college, he can keep pushing it and with some luck, he might be able to go pro for a season. He knows, logically, that it was impossible. He knows that the furthest he'll be able to go with volleyball now is maybe a year in college but he wasn't going to let logic get in the way of his dream since childhood.
"If you're going to consider yourself damaged, then we are too, Tooru. Aren't you listening to me? Your injury doesn't define you and I'll be damned if I let you think that you're somehow going to push through until you hurt yourself bad enough to end up in a wheelchair or some stupid shit like that." Iwa takes his hand from Oikawa's back, turning in place to face the setter, his hand that hadn't been on his back moving to rest on his lower thigh, fingers tracing paths up and down his knee.
"Fine," the word is practically just a huff of breath. "Maybe we're all damaged then. Because I know I am. I'm so fucked up, Hajime. Not just my stupid, busted knee. I fucked up so bad," he's tempted to bring his fist down on his knee but it already aches so badly, he should probably take some of the pain meds that he had been prescribed.
"Fine, we're damaged. Really damaged. But that doesn't make us incapable of winning. We're not different or special. We can't choose who wins or loses each match," it's clear Iwa doesn't want to argue, but his will to make his point was much stronger than his exhaustion.
"We can choose who wins, though, Hajime. We make that choice as soon as we let our guard down and let the ball hit the court," Oikawa argues, he moves to face Iwaizumi who reaches out and gently lifts his right leg by his ankle, stretching it out and resting his foot on a giant stuffed dog at the foot of his bed (a prize that Oikawa had won at a festival when they were in middle school and had promptly given it over to Iwa with the words "It looks just like you, Iwa-chan! You have to take him in, he's your son!") that they had been using to elevate his leg for as long as it had been an issue.
"But we can't control what happens on the court, Tooru. You know that better than most. Sometimes people get in a lucky hit. Sometimes people stumble and just land wrong. We don't choose that. We didn't choose to lose today. If we had, none of us would be this upset, would we?" Oikawa looks like he has more to say, but Iwa gives him the look that means, 'I'm not done talking yet so don't you dare say anything'. "Tooru, I know you. I have for most of our lives. I know you well enough to know that you really will keep going until you cause your body enough pain to actually make it impossible for you to even walk and I'm not going to let you do that to yourself. I'm not going to let you walk down such a self destructive road." His hands begin trailing idly along Oikawa's outstretched leg, gently massaging along his thigh, oh so lightly skirting around his knee, watching his face for any sign of pain or discomfort as he moves past to his calf, moving all the way down to his ankle before making his way back up. "I know we've already talked about this and I'm not bringing it up to fight with you again," he starts again, sounding a bit cautious, "I'm not going to play in college. And I don't think you should either. I don't think you should give up on volleyball entirely. But I do think you should stop playing competitively before you hurt yourself beyond repair. I'm not saying that our loss is a good thing, but I think you should take it as a sign to stop.
Take this as an opportunity to take a break, at least. To just experience what every other teenager does. That's what I'm going to do, just be like every other kid at our school that doesn't have something they're so passionate about. Just let yourself enjoy the last little bit of our third year, Tooru. Let's be normal, see bad movies, sneak a beer, and watch TV. We'll bake brownies, or go bowling, don't you want to do that with me? Just hang out like regular friends that aren't married to a club? Can't we just be eighteen? That's all I want to do."
"Hajime, how am I supposed to just stop? I haven't done anything other than school and volleyball for so long, there's no way that I can just-"
"Please, just hear me out, Tooru." Iwa pauses, waiting to see if Oikawa would let him continue and with a little wave of the setter's hand, Iwa gives him a small smile in thanks before continuing. "If you could just let me in, really let me in, I could be better for you. I could help you through this and support you for real, we could just go out and live our lives, Tooru. Sure there are people out there who will hurt us, there will games we can't win, and-"
"Accidents we can't choose," Oikawa adds in, voice becoming much softer with the words and Iwa nods, his hands ghosting over Oikawa's knee once more.
"Accidents we can't choose, and yeah, that really sucks. But we'll just let go," he looks up at oikawa again, hoping for him to add in, hoping because it would mean he was following along the conversation, hoping because it might help the stubborn setter to see his side of things.
"We'll take a deep breath," words that definitely came from Oikawa's physical therapist, but Iwa wasn't concerned with that, he was just glad to have Oikawa engaging in a way that seemed agreeable.
"And we'll buy some summer clothes. We can go camping, actually camping. In tents and looking up at the stars at night. We could go somewhere near a lake so we can swim and just breathe in nature," Iwa begins getting excited, thinking about all the things they could do together.
"We could play poker, or other card games I guess. That's a thing people do at camp, right?" Iwa nods, encouraging him.
"We could have chili fries and not have to worry about whether it's enough to fill us up before practice. Festivals! We wouldn't have to miss out on any more festivals because of games or practice! Think of how many more plushies you can win me," Iwa teases, causing Oikawa to give a little pout and reach out to swat at his arm.
"Maybe we could go dancing?" A bit more hesitant, as if unsure of himself and when Iwa moves his eyes up to watch for any pain as his hands go over Oikawa's knee, he sees just how nervous he looks.
Realizing what his friend might be insinuating, Iwa raises a brow, he wasn't going to let him off the hook, if he had something to ask, he could ask openly. "I've never been before. But that doesn't sound like the question you want to ask, Tooru."
"And what if it's not?" A deflection.
"Then I guess dancing is off the table." A rejection.
"Hajime," Oikawa bites his lip, he doesn't want to have this conversation right now. He wants to hear about all the things Iwa might like to do with him. But Oikawa is nothing if not persistent and since he had been the one to unintentionally bring up this topic, he was going to see it through. "I've loved you since we were twelve years old and I would really love to be able to call you my boyfriend." He didn't like the way he had phrased it. He wasn't a blunt person in situations like this, but he hadn't had the time to think about how he had wanted to confess and he knew Iwa would appreciate the straightforwardness of the statement.
"Well, I think that's the most honest you've been in a long time," Iwa knows that that isn't entirely true, but he also wants to let Oikawa fidget for a bit. Because it's cute when he gets nervous. "I guess this means that I'll have to go dancing with my boyfriend now, huh?"
"I guess it does," Oikawa agrees easily, catching on easily to Iwa's less than clear response and making sense of it easily. Decoding each other's words was child's play for the two of them at this point with all their years of friendship.
Iwa moves slowly, shifting onto his knees and being careful to avoid jostling Oikawa's leg as he shuffles closer. He's straddling the thigh of Oikawa's good leg, lowering himself so he doesn't have to waste his efforts to keep himself up. His hands move to rest on Oikawa's cheeks, bringing their faces close to rest their foreheads together. "Look at me, Tooru," he says as he realizes that the setter's eyes had drifted down, going wide as he took in the sight of Iwa sitting in his lap. "Don't stop looking in my eyes."
"Your eyes-" He's cut off as his eyes flick back up to meet Iwa's gaze only to find the other boy's lips on his. The kiss is soft, hesitant. Iwa's lips are surprisingly gentle and just a bit chapped, but they're warm and he tastes like vanilla because of the chapstick he had been using since they were in their first year at Aoba Johsai. The kiss was barely long enough for Oikawa to slip his eyes shut, but it's definitely enough to punch the breath right out of him.
"Can't we just stop? Just take a break for a while?" Iwa asks, breath ghosting across Oikawa's lips as he pulls back just enough to speak.
"Just be eighteen, as long as we have the time?" Oikawa doesn't even think about it, he hadn't meant for it to come out sounding so much like a question. In that moment, he would agree to anything that Iwa says. He can feel the smile on those slightly rough lips as they meet his again, this time lingering for just a breath longer. Oikawa was able to get his arms wrapped around Iwa's waist before he pulled back.
"So what's it gonna be? I want to do everything with you, just you," Iwa asks, eyes burning as he moves his fingers into Oikawa's hair, playing with soft chestnut brown locks.
"I wanna be with you," the words are practically a breath. Just barely loud enough for even Iwa to hear and was just a centimeter away.
"I wanna be with you," Iwa repeats, louder, a whisper this time. Sounding almost like a promise as the words hang between the two of them.
"Tonight and always?" A question.
"Tonight and always." A promise.
Oikawa smiles, leaning forward to press their lips together, the first of many kisses the setter would initiate.
"Yeah, we're definitely damaged," Iwa says, returning them to a previous conversation that now felt years away.
"Badly damaged," Oikawa's hands travel to Iwa's sides, lightly trailing over ribs, raising higher than normal due to his heavy breathing.
"I love you," Iwa finally says, feeling as though Oikawa deserved to hear the words he had been holding back for so long now. He's met with a setter surging forward to capture his lips again, trailing his lips across his face, peppering kisses along his cheeks and nose and lips and everywhere.
"Your love's too good to lose," Oikawa whispers between kisses. He pauses, taking in a deep breath and pressing their foreheads together again. "I'll take a break, at least until college." He wants so badly to be able to agree to do anything for Iwa, but he knows this is the best he can promise this wonderful boy in his lap.
Oikawa can feel the sigh against his cheek as it leaves Iwa's lips and he tries his best to not be hurt by it. He knows it isn't meant to feel like resignation, but he also knows that Iwa would continue to press this topic again later. "Hold me tighter," the words are just as soft as his sigh, his own arms twining around Oikawa's neck, squeezing lightly. Oikawa found he couldn't deny Iwa this request and tightens his arms around him, pulling him closer against his chest.
"Even closer? Or can you be satisfied?" He asks, a hint of laughter in his voice as he presses a kiss to the corner of Iwa's lips, teasing.
A soft laugh comes from Iwa as he flicks the back of Oikawa's head playfully. "Good enough for now, I guess." They sit there in a comfortable silence for a long while, exchanging short kisses and light touches before Iwa breaks the moment. "I'll stay here with you forever, but only if you promise not to destroy yourself."
"If we just act eighteen?" Oikawa asks, as if he needs the clarification, but he really just loves listening to Iwa's voice like this, soft and more air than word, but so nice to hear.
"Can I be what you choose?" There's more insecurity in that short question than Oikawa had ever heard in Iwa's voice in the time he had known him.
"So long as we have a choice," Oikawa responds without a thought. Anything for this man, anything so that he can be happy.
"As long as we have a choice, you're the only choice I need." Oikawa presses a kiss to Iwa's forehead, trailing his lips down his nose.
"You're the one I choose." Iwa says, not a moment of hesitation and no room for doubt. He leans forward resting his head on Oikawa's shoulder, his face buried in the crook of his neck.
"You're the one I choose." Comes the reply, just as sure. Just as quick.
"Good," Iwa's voice is muffled against the skin of Oikawa's throat.