Hajime knows that he’s dreaming the second he sees all the blood.
It’s got to be a dream, right? Stuff like this could never happen in real life. Not to Hajime. Not to him.
It’s ridiculous, but Hajime kind of wishes that Oikawa was standing here alongside him. On his own, Hajime is breakable. He can shatter like glass, or like sound against an empty room, or like the ocean’s scream as it’s wrenched backwards from the sand. With Oikawa by his side, though, Hajime’s invincible.
It’s not just ridiculous, thinks Hajime, it’s stupid. Even in dreams, he can’t get Oikawa out of his head.
He thinks that he’s in love with him.
Hajime can’t help himself from brushing a finger against the wall in disbelief, dried up colour flaking off at his touch and collecting by his feet like rose petals. No. Not rose petals. Not goddamn rose petals.
There’s bile collecting at the back of his throat, clammy and cold as a dead man’s touch. He’s standing in what looks like his living room, except that everything that’s ordinarily as bland and beige as his everyday life- all the furniture, the pictures on the walls, the piano, the comfy sofa- it’s all painted red.
Red, the colour of the sunset that comes too soon. No sunset for Hajime, though- the curtains are drawn and whatever lies beyond that cloth is no more than the colour of secrets.
No sunset, then; just the aftermath of death.
So maybe red is the colour that people see when they’re dying, too.
There is something that could be intestine, curled up by the fireplace like it’s warming itself against the November chill. And maybe that’s a chunk of brain, dangling down from the lampshade. Hajime swallows a shudder.
People never realise that the human body is little more than paper until it’s too late.
He walks closer.
The body lying in the centre of the room has been torn apart. It’s even spilt its blood on the Persian carpet, which Hajime realises with a detached sort of horror that pulls apart every segment of his mortality and strings him out to flap hopelessly in the wind. His mother loves that Persian rug, thinks Hajime. She’ll be devastated.
But she won’t be, he reminds himself. Not really. He’s got to stay focused, get a grip on himself. Of course she won’t be. This is just a dream and I’m going to wake up now and-
Hajime can’t help it. He takes a step closer.
The body lying on the carpet is his own. Same spiky, dark hair. Same smooth, tan skin- or what’s left of it, anyway.
The room smells funny, like someone’s been crying tears past their sell by date.
It’s got to be a dream. Just a dream. Hajime’s mind playing stupid tricks on him- as if life is as much a game as a volleyball match.
Hajime’s never had a dream like this before. He’s never had dreams where he can feel such revulsion with every part of his soul, never been able to smell something so strongly or see a room so clearly. Dreams, for Hajime, are usually misty, blurry things that go hand in hands with clouds and fog and that feeling he gets when he’s almost worked up the nerve to confess to Oikawa and then bails.
So maybe… Maybe… This is not a dream, after all.
Maybe this is something else entirely.
Hajime steels himself, dropping to his knees beside his own lifeless body. The body’s- no, his insides are ripped apart like endless strings of tissue paper, and Hajime can’t know – doesn’t want to know – what’s done this to him.
Furrowing his brow, he looks quickly away from the body and down at his hands. If this isn’t a dream, then, somehow he’s achieved what would have been much more helpful on a volleyball court, and managed to be two places at once. Perhaps there was some truth in it all, that time Oikawa went through his weird spiritual phase where he claimed the aliens granted lucky souls life after death. Maybe this is how it feels to be a ghost.
Not that Hajime believes that aliens have done this to him, or anything.
He may love Oikawa, but he doesn’t think he’s ever going to go that far.
In the near distance, there’s a sound like sobbing. Hajime isn’t sure if he’s hearing things, but it sounds like his father and it feels like he’s being stabbed in the heart with his own ribs. Pinching himself one more time, in a reckless hope that maybe, maybe this is just a dream, Hajime closes his eyes and prays to God, to the afterlife, to the goddamn aliens, that his father’s crying will stop.
He squints his eyes open.
He’s still in his living room. He’s still standing in his living room, and it’s still covered in blood. There, at his feet, there’s still his dead body lying on the carpet.
And his father is still crying.
Trance-like, Hajime stumbles forwards to the living room door. It’s not hard to work out, and he knows that his father is crying because of him. Because he’s dead, at least in some sense of the word. Because there’s blood everywhere, and the blood is all his.
As he goes to open the door, Hajime feels an invisible fist clench down around him, stopping him in his tracks. He tries again, throwing his weight against the wood- but it’s as if there’s a barrier stopping him that’s as strong and as infinite as the stars. With his fists, now, Hajime hammers at the door with the careless abandon of those who have nothing left to lose.
They don’t make a sound. No sound- no sound at all, except for the distant weeping of Hajime’s father.
“Dad,” croaks Hajime- and he is relieved, at least, that he can speak. His voice is croaky, like it’s been stripped of all the parts that made it human. “Dad!”
“Dad! I’m here! I’m here!”
Here Hajime goes again, pounding ineffectually against a door that doesn’t open to him any longer. The tears sting against his eyelashes, his fingers curled tight into fists.
“Dad!” His voice cracks. It’s too much; it’s all too much.
Hajime’s legs give way and he falls to the floor, rocking back and forth like a child. He stuffs his fingers into his ears like that’ll help in any small way, shaking his head.
This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. I am not a ghost, or whatever, and this is just a dream and it’s not real and it’s not happeningit’snothappeningit’snothappeningit’snothappeningit’snot-
Stuffing his fingers in his ears, it turns out, does not help in the slightest. Hajime still hears the click of the front door opening, still hears his mother’s voice drifting out in fragmented greeting to someone. “The police aren’t here yet. We were out at the time. It was a break in. The police said on the phone, it was probably from the nearby prison. The… The prisoner tried to steal. Hajime confronted them. And…”
Hajime closes his eyes, filling in the missing pieces. I confronted them, did I? Well, that turned out fucking brilliantly, then.
Footsteps in the hall. A muffled exchange, and then someone pushes the living room door open as Hajime scrambles aside.
That’s when his heart stops.
Or, you know, considering it already has, it just feels like it’s stopped. Everything’s stopped- the dripdripdrip of wet blood onto the floor, the numb cold of his father’s crying, the hope that maybe, just maybe, this is all only a dream, after all.
Oikawa strides into the room, through the living room door that for some reason is trapping Hajime in the room that he died in- and Hajime knows that he would never dream about his best friend like this. Not unless the subconscious part of his brain had a part-time job as a sadist, because Oikawa like this is a sight that Hajime never wanted to see.
His perfect, perfect hair – usually waxed and styled to perfection – is hanging limp at the sides and tousled in all the wrong places. His eyes are round and large and full of fear, his whole body crumpled like a paper doll tossed into the sea.
Oikawa Tooru is a wreck, and now he’s slamming the living room door shut and stumbling across the room to fall to his knees and weep over Iwaizumi Hajime’s dead body.
Hajime – or, ghost Hajime, or whatever – is still standing by the door, and Oikawa can’t see him. Oikawa doesn’t even know he’s there.
He screams, and it’s a strangled sound that rhymes with anguish.
Hajime screams, and Oikawa hears nothing.
So Hajime runs, heaving at the sofa, but every movement he makes is barely as effective as a gust of wind. Hajime would smash the lampshade, smash the room, smash the whole world if he could- if it would make Oikawa notice him.
But it wouldn’t. And he can’t. And Oikawa doesn’t notice.
So Hajime goes to Oikawa and hits him with all the strength he can muster, because isn’t that what they were used to when he was alive? Oikawa doesn’t react, though, and Hajime may as well not be there- and so he takes a deep breath and embraces the still warmth of Oikawa’s body like they never did when Hajime was breathing.
Maybe if they had, Oikawa might have hugged him back.
Throughout it all, he just gazes into dead-Hajime’s eyes like all the secrets of the universe are inscribed somewhere in that glazed stare. His shoulders shake, suddenly, unexpectedly, inhaling all his sorrow and anger and pain. He mumbles something, but Hajime doesn’t quite hear it, and then Oikawa says it again, louder. “Stupid Iwa-chan. Stupid Iwa-cha-”
And then Oikawa’s words break off into a scratching sob that rakes from the bottom of his chest, his face twisting and contorting into silent screams that might have shaken the world from its perch in the universe, had anyone heard them.
But Hajime doesn’t need to hear them, because he feels them. Oikawa’s screams rack straight through his spirit, tearing his body apart with each vibration.
‘Tearing his body apart’. Ha. Ironic.
Hajime doesn’t think he can watch this any longer. Oikawa like this is enough to make the tears run down his own cheeks, his skin go red and blotchy with all that sorrow. He speaks to him, his voice gruff and raw and constrained by emotion. “You’ve got to stop this, Oikawa,” he tells him. “Shittykawa. Trashykawa. Tooru. You’ve got to stop this, for me. For me. Stop crying. Stop- goddamn it, stop crying, please- please, stop crying.”
Oikawa doesn’t listen. Or, more than likely, he just doesn’t hear. The tears stream down his face like he’s trying to drown himself in them.
“Stop crying,” says Hajime again, his voice stiff. He can barely force the sound out- has to keep reminding himself how to shop his lips around his tongue and teeth. “Stop crying.” He pauses, chokes up. Keeps going. “For me, Tooru. For me. Stop crying for me.”
They never call each other by their first names – never – but Hajime doesn’t suppose it matters now. Oikawa will never hear him speak the word, anyway.
But Hajime lets himself hope- just for a second. When Oikawa looks around the room as if he’s felt something, someone, and stops his onslaught of tears to shape and sound out and speak more words. Hajime hopes that it’s because Oikawa’s heard him; even though it’s stupid, even though he’s barely more than the morning breeze, and who notices something like that?
“I-” Oikawa breaks off, starts again. It’s alright. He’s got all the time he needs- Hajime isn’t going anywhere. “I don’t know how to say this, Iwa-chan. My Iwa-chan.” He pauses, his tongue flicking nervously, then breathes out Hajime’s name like a confession. “Hajime.” Oikawa pauses again, stopping and starting. Hajime wishes that life was like a conversation, so he could regenerate as soon as he died and kiss all the tears from Oikawa’s cheeks and hug hum and hold him and-
But Hajime can’t. He can’t.
Oikawa’s still speaking. “I don’t… God, it’s too late for any of this, isn’t it Iwa-chan? Hajime? But I love you, you know. I hope you knew that. I hope you knew that, before…” And he tails off, his voice cracking, right the way across like a dinner plate.
And Hajime didn’t know before, but he does now. He knows now, at least.
And it hurts.
It hurts, because Hajime loves Oikawa back, loves him back with all his heart. It hurts because no matter how much Hajime screams and prays and wishes, he is never going to step back into his body and hold Oikawa’s hand and kiss him goodnight after volleyball practice. That is never going to happen, because Oikawa is alive and Hajime is dead and there is so much that could have been but never will be.
“I love you too,” whispers Hajime, and it wouldn’t matter whether he whispered it or shouted it, really, because it makes no difference. He leans forwards and kisses a tear from Oikawa’s cheek- the wind, at least, can brush aside tears- but more replace it in seconds, and Hajime finds himself staring into the eyes of an inconsolable boy who cannot see him. “I love you too,” says Hajime again, and then he releases the words with every fibre of his being, letting them float upwards to infinity to be written in the stars. “I love you too.”
Oikawa leans forwards and presses his lips against the dead Hajime’s mouth, weeping salt onto cold skin and open wounds. When he pulls back, he takes the body’s hand in his own, elegant fingers- hands that Hajime has longed to hold so many times- and now he is, but not really.
Not the part of Hajime that can think. Not the part of Hajime that can feel.
Ghost-Hajime steels his jaw and moves his hand forwards tentatively, gingerly placing it down on top of Oikawa’s. It would feel like fireworks, maybe if they were both alive- it would feel like the taste of sunlight on his tongue, or receiving a killer spike on the volleyball court. But Hajime’s not alive, and holding Oikawa Tooru’s hand doesn’t feel that way at all.
It just feels kind of sad, really.
They sit there in silence except for their tears, hand in hand in ghost hand.
Maybe, thinks Hajime, this is the last time I’m ever going to see my best friend. Snotty nose and face marred with pain and goddamn fucking beautiful despite it all. Soon my body will get moved from this room to some coffin somewhere, and maybe my soul – or whatever I am, right now - will move with it or get trapped here or disintegrate into thought. And then, that’ll be it. We’ll never see each other again.
It’s funny, because Hajime had just naturally assumed that he’d grow old with Oikawa. Grow up with Oikawa, grow old with Oikawa- and even in their eighties he’d thought that they’d be mock-fighting with their Zimmer frames and reminiscing about their old volleyball days.
From somewhere in the distance, Hajime hears sirens. Oikawa seems to hear them too, and he clasps Hajime’s hand tighter in these last minutes they have left together. “I love you,” says Oikawa. “I love you. I miss you. I need you.” And then, breathing Hajime’s first name again- this light-headed breach of boundary that’s both a love song and a cry for help. “Hajime.”
Down the hallway, the front door to Hajime’s house is thrown open, the sound of the Miyagi prefecture police force talking to his parents. Oikawa stands, letting the dead hand he’s been clutching fall back down to its sides. Ghost-Hajime doesn’t take his hand from Oikawa’s all the way to the living room door.
It’s not far enough, though. It doesn’t take long enough. They’re never going to have enough to whisper all the things that would have filled up the rest of their lives together.
Oikawa takes one, last look at Hajime’s dead body, drinking the sight in and filing it away under Things He Never Wants To Think About Again. His fingers brush against Ghost-Hajime’s one more time, and then he shakes his head and stifles a sob and he leaves.
The door swings shut behind him, and Hajime swears, the sound is the cry of a thousand tortured souls.