“You ready tweety bird?”
Kageyama turns his quiet gaze from the car window to his mom in the driver’s seat. He’s bundled up for the cold, thick scarf around his neck over top the new school uniform, but inside the car is warm and saturated with his mom’s mild ginger scent. He wrings his hands in his lap and nods. His mother smiles and reaches across to rub her thumb across his cheek.
“Remember, you can always have them call me if things get to much, okay? It’s only the first day so no need to rush things. You have your token?”
Kageyama nods, running his thumb across the soft woven blue band wrapped around his left wrist, matching the red one on his mother’s right. They alternate wearing them so as to always have a piece of each other’s scent to carry around. Dr. Kazuki had suggested it and Kageyama loved how he and his mom always matched.
“Alright then, go gettem’. And remember to call me when you’re done in the afternoon.”
“Love you mom.”
She smiled and leaned over to kiss Kageyama’s forehead.
“Love you too tweety bird. Now no more dallying!”
Kageyama giggled at that, knowing he hadn’t been the one doing any of the dallying. And based on his mom’s answering grin, she did too. Feeling the day was off to a great start, Kageyama left the warmth of the car to face both the cold and his first day of school.
By lunch time, Kageyama had decided to rescind his previous statement; the day was off to a terrible start.
He’d been the first one into the classroom, the teacher having been warned of his arrival had meet him at the front of the school and guiding him in early to get him settled down. Kageyama didn’t know if they thought the classroom would be less intimidating with no students there, but the emptiness of it after the teacher had left put him on edge. The ten minutes of waiting for the other students to show up had frayed his nerves, fidgeting with his pens at jumping at every sound outside the door. The first group of students to show up had been a cluster of girls, obviously close friends. Chatting loudly and sparing him no more than a quick glance, they had set up camp towards the center of the classroom and maintained a constant level of chatter ever since. Kageyama had been content to ignore them and go back to disassembling and reassembling his pen collection until the smell had hit him. Several of the girls were wearing perfume.
He could handle this, he knew he could. They had practiced this with Dr. Kazuki, interacting with people wearing artificial scents. Even his mom wearing some on one particularly awful occasion. He could do this. He just needed to breathe slowly, in and out. Let his nerves adjust. Kageyama buried his head in his arms, tucking his nose to his wrist to inhale the calming scent of ginger. Just breathe slowly and his nose would stop feeling like it was on fire. He could do this.
Kageyama didn’t know how long he stayed like that, feigning sleep on his desk to focus on staying calm. He could tell more students were filtering in based on the added scents in the room, but he didn’t keep track of how many. It helped a bit, to have more people there. A stronger scent overall but less harsh. By the time the teacher walked in, he was ready to lift his head and face the day.
He could do this.
He could not do this.
The first task of the day had been seat assignments. The teacher from this morning had already given Kageyama his so he stayed put in his seat by the window, but everyone else moved. Including the group of girls, one of which was now sitting in front of him, another of which was to his right. And both were wearing perfume.
Kageyama tried to focus on his breathing. He really did. But every movement the girl in front of him made, fluffing her hair or tossing it over her shoulder, sent another whiff of weapons grade chemical flowers up his nose that burned like rubbing alcohol on a wound. He spent the first period of the day alternating between leaning as far back in his chair as he could without seeming weird and finding subtle ways to bury his nose in his wrist, the token wrapped around his wrist grounding him. Focusing on fighting the rising nausea took all of his concentration. He couldn’t have said what the topic of the first period was, let alone what was covered in the lecture. He hardly registered the period ending and the teacher leaving the room. Nor did he register the hand reaching for him until it landed on his arm.
“Are you okay? You’re looking kind of pale.”
The hand on his arm snapped Kageyama back into reality and he startled so hard he fell halfway out of his chair. Clutching at the back of his chair and his desk for support, Kageyama looked up to meet the eyes of the girl sitting to his right who looked about as startled as he felt.
“I’m-I-uh…I’m sorry! I just… do you need to go to the nurse? I can take you.”
Kageyama attempted to swallow past his hammering heart, then quickly wrote it off as a lost cause.
“I-uh no. I… bathroom!”
With that Kageyama had bolted from the room, leaving more than one curious set of eyes following his sudden departure.
From there the day hadn’t gotten much better. Second period had dragged on and Kageyama hadn’t been able to focus any more than in the first. At least by the end of the period Kageyama had begun to go nose-blind to the flowery fumes surrounding him, quelling the building nausea. He hadn’t remembered perfumes ever being this strong in Dr. Kazuki’s sessions, but maybe the therapist had underestimated the inept hands of junior high girls. At the beginning of lunch, Kageyama had fled to the outdoors for clean air, bringing his boxed lunch with him. It might make going back after lunch harder, but the half hour of relief was worth it. And looking down at the form in his hands he knows the whole day will be worth it.
It’s a club sign-up sheet. The teacher had passed it out before lunch, explaining that tables would be set up outside after school advertising the different clubs available to join. The forms weren’t due for another two weeks, encouraging students to assess the options and allowing clubs to recruit new members, but Kageyama’s is already filled out. He’s known what club he’s going to join longer than he’s known what school he was to attend. Known since the first suggestion of him being ready to be integrated back into the public schooling system. It’s motivated his progress for months and steeled his gut against the nausea all morning. Volleyball club is scrawled at the top of the form, writing hasty but assured in all black ink.
After lunch the day moves much faster. The girls’ perfume had started to fade to more reasonable levels as the day neared its end and Kageyama had finally been able to focus long enough to learn at least one of his teachers’ names. Though the rising excitement in his gut had kept him from paying much more attention to the actual content of the classes than he had this morning. By the time the final bell rings, he’s bolting out of his chair, things already packed and sparing no time for his fellow classmates. He’d yet to speak a single word to any of them outside of the brief, barely intelligible exchange with the girl after second period and didn’t know a single one of their names. Later that night, when his mom asked him if he’d made any friends on his first day he’d feel bad about that, but for now he couldn’t care less.
The volleyball gym was one of the few places he’d payed attention to in the school tour he and his mom had gotten several weeks ago. Down the stairs, around the back of the hall, and across the yard, connected to what might be the basketball gym. His first visit had been enchanting, even dark and abandoned as it had been on a Sunday afternoon. He couldn’t wait to see it in use.
His hopes weren’t too high, knowing that most clubs weren’t meeting today, instead taking the time to recruit new members at the club fair. But as he approached, he could see the lights were on and his steps quickened.
Peaking around the open door way, he can see the gym is mostly empty. A few balls are scattered about and he takes a few steps in to pick one up. The soft material in his hands is familiar, though slightly different from the outdoor versions he and his mom use in the park. Hearing the squeaking of gym shoes on the floor, he spins the ball in his hands and looks up to find the source.
On the far end of the gym is an upperclassman. Tall enough to be a third year, though Kageyama’s never been the best judge of height. The squeaks are a result of his run up to the edge of the court and Kageyama’s eyes widen as the upperclassman leaps, realizing what he’s about to do.
Years later, Kageyama will argue there wasn’t anything magical about that moment. Oikawa refuses to believe him, as “Tobio-chan was clearly bewitched by my skill and good looks!” Iwaizumi, interestingly enough, refuses to comment, but smiles fondly whenever it’s brought up. But for a young Kageyama, in that moment, it seemed etched into his mind. For a boy whose experiences with volleyball have been limited to batting a ball back and forth with his mom in the park and watching videos on the internet, this boy seems to fly through the air. And when his hand slams into the ball, Kageyama hardly has time to realize what’s happening before the ball is impacting on the other side of the court, an empty water bottle skittering across the floor before rolling to a slow stop near the wall. The boy smiles and move to pick up another ball from the bin. This pattern repeats for one, two, three more serves as Kageyama stands near the doors watching, unable to bring himself to speak and break the boy’s concentration.
“Impressive, isn’t it?”
Kageyama startles at the voice beside him, having not noticed the newcomer’s approach. Shifting his focus, he meets the gaze of another upperclassmen. The boy smiles down at him before turning back to the server.
“His serves. They’re impressive, aren’t they?”
Kageyama gazes at the new boy a moment longer before turning back towards the court to admire the spectacle. The boy with the beautiful serves still hasn’t noticed them as he runs up for another jump. Kageyama marvels at his focus.
Embarrassed at his stutter and being caught gawking, Kageyama shifts his gaze downwards to his hands. He’s still clutching\ He startles once again when a solid hand lands upon his shoulder and looks up to meet the warm brown eyes of the older boy standing next to him.
“You’re here to apply as a new club member, right? I’m the vice-captain, Iwaizumi Hajime. That idiot over there is the captain, Oikawa Tooru. Give me a second to brain the loser and I’ll show you around, alright?”
Kageyama finds himself nodding as the now named Iwaizumi walks towards the court with one last pat on his shoulder.
“OI! SHITTYKAWA! Did you even bother to warm-up and stretch first!?!”
Oikawa stubbles in his run up as he hears the shout, the ball he’d tossed into the air falling to the ground forlornly. Twisting towards the angry teenager stalking towards him, he raises one hand to rub at the back of his head while the other flaps around in front of him.
“Maa maa, Iwa-chan. It was only a couple of serves, no need to get so worked u-ack!.”
Kageyama winces at the sound of the hit reverberating through the gym, but at the same time, he can’t help the grin forming on his face.
“You’re not even supposed to be here you idiot! It recruiting day, so go put your inexplicable popularity to good use for once and go get us some new members. We’ll need someone to fill your spot when you sprain an ankle being reckless.”
Oikawa is clearly pouting as he rubs at what is likely a welt developing on the top of his head and grumbles back at Iwaizumi.
“I think you’ll put me out with a concussion before I sprain an ankle.”
Iwaizumi takes one menacing step towards Oikawa and the taller boy quickly raises his hands in surrender and hops quickly out of range.
“Besides Iwa-chan, I think I’ve already recruited a new member.”
Kageyama can feel his face heating up as both upper classmen turn in his direction. Looking down at the ball in his hands, he focuses hard on resisting the urge to hide his face behind it. Silence echoes through the sparsely populated gym a few moments before it’s broken by the sound of a sigh and another resounding smack. Kageyama’s eyes dart back up to see Oikawa’s hands once again on the back of his head and tears in his eyes. Iwaizumi stands next to him with his hands on his hips and an irritated expression on his face. Reaching a hand up, he grabs Oikawa by the ear and starts dragging him towards the door.
“Let’s go you idiot. And no complaining or excuses.” Looking towards Kageyama, he continues “Do you mind picking up the mess while I go put this slacker to work? I’ll be back in a minute to show you where everything goes.”
Kageyama is quick to nod, not eager to garner the ire of this particular upperclassman. Iwaizumi grins in thanks, patting Kageyama on the shoulder as they walk past. As they go past, Kageyama sniffs subtly, attempting to catalogue their scents. Iwaizumi’s is deep tones of mahogany wood with lighter traces of pine. It’s familiar in a way Kageyama can’t quite place, but clenches in the pit of his stomach. Oikawa’s…Oikawa smells like ginger. It’s sharper, spicier than his mom, like that one time she read the soup recipe wrong and Kageyama had nearly bit his tongue in surprise at the burn. But it’s still familiar and Kageyama clutches at his left wrist, suddenly feeling rather wrong-footed.
Left alone in the gym, Kageyama snaps back to reality as the door is shut behind him. Again he spins the ball in his hands and moves to gather the rest. Behind the nervous tension built up in his hands, his excitement reemerges, and he smiles.
Looking up at Karasuno High, Kageyama flashes back to a similar day, three years prior. Stepping into the halls of Kitagawa Daiichi had been a beginning, moving on from the safety of homeschooling and entering the uncertainty of public schools. There were challenges and more than the occasional mishap in that first year, but it had brought opportunities. He couldn’t quite bring himself to regret it, even after all that had happened. It had brought him volleyball, the kind that couldn’t be played with two people in an unused patch of grass in the park, and now more than ever, that was everything. He would show them. Kunimi and Kindaiichi, Iwaizumi, Uncle, Mom.
He would show them.
He could do this.
Tightening his grip on his backpack, Kageyama takes a deep breath and steps forward to face his next beginning.