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This Version Of Me

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Part IV

 

 

 

 

 

This Version 

 

 

 

 

Of

 

 

 

 

 Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

 

Solivagant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder when it will be enough. 

 

Ushijima gazed ahead, holding his fork as he elbowed on the table in the school canteen. He was surrounded by his teammates’ voice – loud like a whistle, a thunder made of lightning. They were cheerful, always talking, always laughing and filled with energy.

 

For them, it seemed this was enough. This life, these monotonous days.

 

Ushijima was a quiet rain among them. 

 

Somebody who was only observing. Always quiet, always in the background, always cautious. 

 

He had no idea why they thought this was enough.

 

I wonder whether I would ever be happy to start a day.

 

He frowned.

 

I wonder when it will be enough. 

 

 

–––––––––––––––––

 

 

Ushijima thought he had gotten used to it. 

 

Waking up everyday, walking somewhere, always following the same direction, talking to the same people, eating the same food and seeing things that never changed and he knew it never would.

 

It was raining, he was holding a book while he sat close to the window. The sound of the weather made him feel alone.

 

Even though, he was never alone. 

 

His mother and his grandma lived here with him, he had constant care and attention and love.

 

He brought his arm close to the glass and drew a little bird. He watched as the raindrops washed it away.

 

I wonder when it will be enough. 

 

He was holding his book so strongly, his fingertips turned white.

 

 

–––––––––––––––––

 

 

“He doesn't even call his own father,” Mitsuko whispered in the kitchen to Ushijima’s mom. He stopped in front of the door and stayed to hear what they were saying.

 

“I know,” his mom, Airi said. “Takashi called me, saying he didn’t do anything wrong, Wakatoshi just keeps declining his call.”

 

Ushijima looked down and fought back a tired sigh. 

 

How could he call his dad? His dad who was the most amazing person in this world? Who worked overseas just to make sure he could get anything. 

 

How could he call his dad?

 

When my life is so dull and empty that I have nothing to say?

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

“Wakatoshi!” Park waved at him before he closed the door. Ushijima walked to his neighbor and shook his hand. “How are you?”

 

Ushijima only stared. “Just finished church?” he asked instead. “Grandma just got home.”

 

Park noticed the change of topic but didn't say anything. “Church is always good,” he said with a little smile. “And you? How’s practice going? Friends?”

 

Ushijima only stared, his stoic expression felt cold.

 

He sighed and turned away, walking the same direction, the same time he did every single day.

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

“Ushijima,” Reon spoke when all the others were out the changing room. He looked at him. Reon patted the bench next to him, calling Ushijima to sit down next to him. 

 

He did.

 

“You said, that I needed to tell when you were doing it again,” Reon touched Ushijima’s shoulder, his eyes full of worry. “You’re doing it again.”

 

Ushijima pressed his lips into a thin line and sighed, burying his face into his hands. “I don’t know how to stop,” he said quietly. 

 

He was in pain everywhere, bleeding. 

 

And yet there was no bruise to be seen.

 

“You guys are fine,” Ushijima sighed, fighting back his tears. “You guys are fine living like this, why am I different?”

 

Ushijima felt Reon hesitantly hug him. Ushijima felt tears on his cheek. Reon was always there whenever he had fallen back. Only he knew, Ushijima tended to fall back.

 

One day a couple of months ago, it became too much and Ushijima had a breakdown and Reon found him. Since then, Reon knew.

 

He knew how Ushijima had to fight every single day with this emptiness.

 

“I don’t know,” Reon said whispered back, still hugging him. “I wish I could help you somehow.”

 

“I wish I could love this life,” Ushijima begged. “I wish that it would be enough.”

 

I wish

 

I

 

could

 

live

 

with

 

this

 

life.

 

 

–––––––––––––––––

 

 

Ushijima had no idea what day it was today. They started to blend into each other – weeks, years even. 

 

It seemed there was no way out. 

 

–––––––––––––––

 

 

His once warm and welcoming eyes grew cold and stoic. He couldn’t smile anymore, not even if he tried. 

 

He started to concentrate on volleyball, trying his hardest, trying his best to avoid looking and noticing what was happening in his life or with himself. 

 

Ushijima noticed how Reon got quiet nowadays. They didn’t talk anymore.

 

 

–––––––––––––––––

 

 

“You know, Wakatoshi,” Tendou began to speak while they were walking home together. “You can tell me anything, we’re best friends. I’m here.”

 

Ushijima didn’t even look at him. His feelings ate his old personality. 

 

The one who cared.

 

The one who wanted to care.

 

The one who wanted to try.

 

“There’s nothing wrong,” Ushijima said curtly.

 

I don’t want to care about my problems.

 

“There is, though,” Tendou spoke again.

 

I don’t want to remember my problems.

 

“There isn’t.”

 

I just want to continue this existence.

 

“There is.”

 

Ushijima took a sharp breath though his nose, stopped and turned around, walking the other way. Tendou caught his arm and stopped him. 

 

“You’re not going anywhere. Not until you tell me.”

 

“What do you want me to say, Tendou?” Ushijima whirled around and pulled his arm out of Tendou’s grasp. “That I don’t enjoy living but also don’t want to die because I love my family and friends, because they are the only things that makes me want to stay.”

 

Ushijima 

 

realized

 

what

 

he

 

said.

 

Tendou’s eyes were wide with pain as he took a step back. Ushijima couldn’t breathe, his hands were shaking as he hesitantly raised them up to try gathering Tendou into a hug because–

 

I went too far.

 

“I’m sorry,” Ushijima whispered, scared. Tendou calmed down in the hug, his breathing sounded normal again. “Tendou, I’m sorry.”

 

“You know what I see every single day,” Tendou had no emotion in his voice, he sounded numb. “How could you?”

 

Ushijima was too afraid to let go, thinking he might not come back from this one, thinking this time it would be too late.

 

“Tendou, I’m sorry, don’t go, please,” Ushijima said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen if you go, this time.”

 

“This time?”

 

Ushijima didn’t say anything. He had no idea what was this. It felt like he had been living the same day again and again, he had no idea if it was true or if his mind was this messed up – to the point where he had no idea if his days were different or not.

 

He turned around and walked away.

 

He did not notice that Tendou was staring at him with surprise.

 

 

–––––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

“I can’t sleep,” Ushijima told his grandma outside, at midnight, on the terrace. “I have no idea why.”

 

Mitsuko smiled at him, her green eyes were just like his – as if Ushijima was looking into a mirror. 

 

“Me neither, I had a meeting with an old friend,” Ushijima raised an eyebrow but Mitsuko just waved a hand with a big smile. “But I noticed you were acting differently,” his grandma said as she sat down in front of him. “What’s going on in your clever head, my little champion?”

 

Ushijima’s eyes softened, hearing the endearing nickname. She only called him like this when things turned serious. 

 

She knows I’m not fine.

 

Ushijima sighed and looked up to the stars, and then at the city. Seeing the light glow like an eternal flight of a bird he once drew one the window while it was raining.

 

A lonely bird.

 

“You won’t believe me, but I think I’m living the same day over and over again,” Ushijima whispered. “I’m not sure. My days were always the same and I’m not that perspective anymore to notice if it’s different or not.”

 

“And what if you do live the same day over and over again?” Mitsuko asked slowly. 

 

Ushijima didn’t look back at his grandma. “If that’s true, then that’s terrifying.”

 

“Why?”

 

And Ushijima, without feeling anything, without looking away from the city, said;

 

“Because I did not notice.”

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––

 

 

Solivagant:

 

(adj.) wandering alone

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serendipity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ushijima was sitting at the table in the kitchen, looking at the note which his mother had left behind before she had gone to work:

 

Have a nice day in school, food is in the fridge, tell grandma her books are going to arrive later.

 

Call your dad. 

 

Love you. 

 

Ushijima stared at the piece of paper. He read it again. His eyes lingered on three words for far too long.

 

Call your dad. 

 

 He clenched the note in his hand and threw it in the trash.

 

 

–––––––––––––––––

 

 

Ushijima stepped outside his house and started to walk on his same route to school. His steps echoed but it blended in with the other people’s, who walked next to him. It’s as if Ushijima was just a note in a song, not significant, not really loud or noticeable. 

 

Just there to make sure everything was going smoothly. 

 

School was a place he never had joy to attend to. Not because he didn’t care – he cared. Not because he didn’t want to – his friends were there, he did want to.

 

But because it seemed he was never going anywhere.

 

He had been walking and walking – the same route, the same streets, going to same locations and then back, all day, every day.

 

Ushijima knew. He knew.

 

I know I don’t know anything. 

 

Because when you’re end up as an adult, you’ll go to the same place. Not towards a school, you walk to somewhere else, somewhere you work. All day, every day.

 

Just like this, every morning, even in the future: People would wake up and head to their workplace, like they’re supposed to.

 

As I’m supposed to.

 

His mom worked hard – she was barely at home. She made sure Ushijima had all the time he needed, all the comfort he needed. His father too, who after the divorce, moved to London to make sure Ushijima had connections for volleyball – to make sure he could get a good card to really made it. 

 

It’s not just talent, practice and joy I need to make it far. 

 

He needed connections and luck, too.

 

Even his grandma who stayed at home and cooked for him, cleaned the house, took care of the garden and helped him with his education. To make sure her daughter, Ushijima’s mom, could rest whenever she had time or needed to. 

 

They’re all doing this for me.

 

Doing the same thing, going to the same direction, thinking about the same stuff all day, every day.

 

Like they’re supposed to.

 

As I’m supposed to.

 

Ushijima looked up to the sky and saw heavy clouds, yet, no chance for rain. It felt as if even the weather had no idea what to do, who to please, or how to change.

 

Ushijima wondered why the big cogs in this world had to be this strict. Or perhaps was there something he had not noticed? 

 

No. I don’t think so.

 

Ushijima lowered his gaze and looked around. 

 

The city was below the grey clouds, a couple of bright lights shone on the umbrellas of the people’s hands. Little kids wearing back bags and school uniforms. Adults talking over the phone, holding documents or briefcases. Women wearing heels and pencil skirts, men wearing suits and elegant shoes – all black, grey and white clothes.

 

As if there was no color, as if there was no creativity or imagination. 

 

Ushijima just stood there, looking around in the middle of the crosswalk, surrounded by people who looked like the weather itself.

 

The weather which had no idea what to do, who to please, or how to change.

 

Ushijima then looked down on himself and his eyes widened as it finally began to rain. He stretched out his arms as he felt the raindrops on his skin, his nose – how his hair let the water ran down on his neck.

 

Everyone was walking, pulling up their umbrellas, putting them above their heads while Ushijima

 

stopped

 

and

 

raised

 

his

 

head.

 

And gazed up to the sky.

 

Only the sound of the rain could be heard, everything else fell quiet to Ushijima’s ears. He didn’t know when he began to move. Maybe when the cars started to honk at him, maybe when he saw the green light turn red again, warning every pedestrian.

 

Maybe when he realized, that for a moment, standing below that heavy rain, he felt a little break in the cogs.

 

Maybe when he looked down on himself and noticed that he was wearing black, grey and white clothes, too.

 

 

––––––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

Something happened afterwards, in Ushijima. When he was holding that fork again, in the school canteen, like yesterday he finally noticed that he was, indeed, in a time loop.

 

But that wasn’t what surprised me.

 

No.

 

Ushijima couldn’t forget his thoughts from the crosswalk. It was like a quiet piano in the back of his mind, gentle and light. 

 

And something happened.

 

He knew this day was the same – and not because of the time loop, he did not care about that, not really. He had no idea how it was possible, but in all honesty, he did not care.

 

All he was seeing, all he was staring at, was how quiet everything really seemed. Even if the canteen, the school was full with people, talking and gossiping – even if all the volleyball matches were as loud as a concert–

 

It really feels like as if no one dares to speak or shout loudly.

 

Ushijima was looking at teenagers, his upper classmates for instance. They looked lost in a way – in a way where you can’t see until you really look.

 

He saw their hesitant smiles, how fidgety they were yet how free sometimes. 

 

They had no idea what they wanted – or even if they did, they were not sure it could happen.

 

Because there are only a few supporting teachers or friends, even parents. So who could they talk about their dreams or problems with?

 

Ushijima looked at the teachers, while they were writing on the board, while they were passing out papers. 

 

They knew what it meant to be part of this never–ending walking and living. It showed, it showed how it wore them down. 

 

Ushijima blinked as he clicked his pen.

 

They must see their students give up, or not even try every day, every month and year. 

 

They wouldn’t like to see them blend in with the others in the cog like they did. But they didn’t want to try harder or support them more what was necessary because they didn’t have that longing, that creativity anymore.

 

Like the weather. 

 

Like this morning while he was standing in the middle of that crosswalk. 

 

Ushijima remembered and somehow, somewhere deep down, before the third period or after the fourth–

 

something

 

happened.

 

 

––––––––––––––––––

 

 

After the practice was over, Ushijima was looking at his friends. Goshiki seemed joyful and determined, but was he thinking about anything else then being the best?

 

Maybe he only wants to see this because he wants to taste victory – wanted to know how it feels to succeed.

 

Ushijima’s heart weakened at that because he knew how that felt like. He remembered all the times his dad did something that would make him think he could do anything, that he was capable doing anything in the world.

 

He then looked at Shirabu, who was always strict and organized and level–headed. Made sure his grades were top quality and his life was perfect. 

 

Ushijima blinked when he saw Shirabu look away and stare into nothingness, whenever he thought no one was watching. 

 

He looks lonely.

 

Ushijima knew how that felt again. Even though, he was never alone, even though, he had constant love and care.

 

I know how it feels to be lonely.

 

Yamagata was the wild card in the team, surprisingly, besides to Tendou. He was always there to control the situation, to make sure everyone was having a good time. Just like Kawanishi, they always looked happy and joyful. 

 

But sometimes they go quiet. 

 

Like there was no reason to do anything with this joy, because everyone was already having a good time. They only did this when someone seemed to be down.

 

Ushijima looked at Reon. His old friend Reon – who was always there whenever he had a breakdown or a panic attack. The only one who really knew how hard it was for him to not see his dad, to live this meaningless, monotonous life.

 

Ushijima noticed that Reon was already looking at him.

 

Ushijima held his gaze this time, and did not turn away – just like when he raised his head just to feel the rain, while everyone looked down or pulled up an umbrella.

 

 

––––––––––––––––––

 

 

Ushijima did not want to talk with Tendou today – he seemed to know or understand that this was the same day, judging by his reactions to certain things today –, and Ushijima didn’t want to talk about it, not today, not when he felt that something was happening. 

 

Something he couldn’t quite define. 

 

When he arrived home he noticed another note on the fridge. He walked closer and read it, noticing his grandma’s handwriting:

 

At the church.

 

And Ushijima dropped his bag and without another thought he went out.

 

 

–––––––––––––––––

 

 

Churches were beautiful even when there weren't many people inside. Even when there was no choirs or sounds, even prayers. 

 

They looked just like a building out of an old tale, with colorful glasses painted by green, red and blue and yellow and purple. Candles glowing above people’s heads like halos.

 

Ushijima noticed Mitsuko sitting on a bench at the back, but she wasn’t praying, she was looking at the other people who were praying. His grandma was always looking at people, but never into their eyes, Mitsuko always seemed to look at something else. 

 

Whenever Ushijima asked, she’d always answer with this:

 

“I’m looking at them, my little champion.”

 

He made sure not to bother the others while he approached his grandma and sat next to her. Mitsuko had her eyes closed, yet, she seemed to know it was him.

 

She always knew when it was him.

 

“Following me to church?” She spoke quietly, laughing a little. “Wakatoshi, seems like you forgot this was not a Sunday.”

 

Ushijima smiled a little. “I’m not here by force, I know that it’s not Sunday.”

 

Mitsuko opened her eyes and turned her head to look into his eyes. When she stared at Ushijima, she never looked anywhere else, unlike while she was looking at others.

 

Mitsuko had a quiet smile on her face. Her grey hair was in a small braid, her green eyes glowed. Even thought their eye color were the same, Ushijima never had those glowing eyes. His own one always looked tired and dull.

 

Monotone.

 

“Which wind blows you here, then?” his grandma asked.

 

Ushijima blinked because he did not know. He leaned back, feeling the wood behind his back, through his clothes and just looked up at the ceiling, seeing painted angels and stars, golden and grey colors with bronze.

 

Beautiful. 

 

And before he knew it, Ushijima whispered:

 

“Today, when it began to rain, I stopped walking.”

 

He only heard the murmurs and whispers or other people as they prayed, when his grandma said,

 

“And why is that so weird?”

 

Ushijima had no idea. He did not answer. 

 

Not even after they got home, not even after they both went to bed, not even when he heard the rain again, outside the house, as the raindrops landed on the ground. 

 

Something happened inside of his heart. 

 

Because when the clock struck seven in the morning, he realized he did not sleep or just did not notice when he woke up again as the time loop activated. Because when the clock struck seven in the morning, he couldn’t stop thinking about the rain. 

 

“...And why is that so weird...?”

 

Because when the clock struck seven in the morning, Ushijima finally answered with a whisper, while he was lying in his bed, looking up to his ceiling. 

 

“Because no one else did.” 

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––

 

 

Serendipity:

 

 

(n.) The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or a beneficial way

“Finding something good without looking for it”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call your dad.

 

Ushijima was holding the note in his hands, staring down at it. The little yellow piece of paper had a nice contras on his skin. It was as if it was glowing.

 

Call your dad.

 

His mother’s handwriting was elegant, pretty even. Easy to read, showing care and adoration. She wanted good for him. She meant good to leave this message.

 

Call your dad.

 

Ushijima wanted to crumble the note, but in the end, he just placed it back on the fridge.

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

They’ve been eating their food at the school canteen, sitting at the table, Ushijima, Tendou and Reon. It was a quiet time, peaceful–

 

Yamagata dropped his tray on the table and looked around suspiciously. Reon raised an eyebrow, Ushijima’s eyes widened and Tendou looked insanely bored.

 

Ah, yes.

 

Ushijima remembered.

 

Tendou saw this for god knows how many times by now.

 

However, Ushijima never really cared to listen. So he was seeing this for the first time.

 

“I keep losing my phone, I swear to Buddha,” Yamagata began, still looking around. “Something’s out to get me today.”

 

Reon chuckled and then started coughing, choking on his food. Ushijima’s eyes went round and hit him on the back. Ushijima gave him a glass of water. Reon thanked him and started drinking.

 

“Hayato,” Tendou drawled. “You always say this.”

 

Yamagata shot him a quick look. “To make them confused.”

 

Reon spat out the water – Yamagata dodged so fast, Ushijima’s jaw fell. He looked at Tendou – the red haired stopped his fork midway into his mouth. The spaghetti on it, fell down.

 

“Confuse who?!” Tendou shouted, completely outraged. “Who the fuck are you talking about? There’s literally no one here.”

 

Reon was still dying, Ushijima had no idea what was going on, and Yamagata only answered,

 

“How do you know that for sure?” he was still looking around. “Like this morning, for example, in chemistry–”

 

“Oh my god,” Tendou groaned, waving at Yamagata. “He’s doing it again. Goshiki told you to stop blowing up the–”

 

Reon wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Yamagata,” he said patiently. “I don’t want to offend you or your theories about how there are people out there to get you–”

 

“Quiet, Reon! They could hear–”

 

“– but this is simply ridiculous. You are the one who keeps blowing up the room, not them.”

 

Yamagata did not eve bat an eye, when he said, “Well, I’m not that smart to blow up the classroom once a day in a week. So, it must be them.”

 

“Okay, who is them? And also? Yeah?” Tendou’s eyes twitched, “but you are that dumb to not realize what you put into the test tube, while you’re acting like a damn paranoid in a K–drama.”

 

Yamagata folded his arms together. “Your point?”

 

Tendou choked on his own spit. “My point?!”

 

Reon raised his arms, calming both of them down and Ushijima just sat there, thinking, how in the world could he not notice that his friends were completely bonkers.

 

“Kids,” Reon said, looking at both of them. “Calm down, poor Shirabu already has migraines and he’s not even sitting at our table.”

 

Ushijima looked far, Tendou did, too – and noticed Shirabu holding his temple with a little painful frown, sitting next to Kawanishi.

 

“He probably feels your stupidity all the way from over there, Hayato,” Tendou stated. “Disturbance in the force and all that shit.”

 

“That’s interesting of you to say, Satori, when whenever our math teacher sees you she crosses herself,” Yamagata stated.

 

Tendou crossed his arms before his chest and turned back to look at Yamagata, saying, “But you don’t know all the facts.”

 

“Which are?”

 

“I’m still not the one who blows up the chemistry classroom on every single Tuesday.”

 

“Oh my god, Yamagata, really?” Semi arrived to the table, holding his own tray. “You’re doing that shit again? If Mr. Nasuma catches you, then that means no volleyball – if there’s no volleyball–”

 

“The coach is gonna kill me,” Yamagata finished, completely pale. “I’m dead either way.”

 

Semi chuckled and sat down in front of Ushijima, eating his pork cutlet bowl. “Well, Tendou can’t bring back the dead but he might get you out of prison if you end up there, he has practice after all–”

 

“But you don’t know all the facts.”

 

Reon spoke, “Tendou, you keep saying this–”

 

“Which are?” Yamagata and Semi asked at the same time.

 

“That I’m still not the one who blows up the chemistry classroom on every–”

 

“Jesus Christ, Yamagata–senpai. I told you, you gotta stop doing that,” Goshiki walked close to the table. He was holding an apple in his hand. “I’d be careful. Tendou has been in prison many times before and look where it got him.”

 

Tendou’s clicked his tongue, clearly not amused. “What is that supposed to mean? I’m completely sane.”

 

Goshiki took a bite out of his apple and then pointed at Tendou. “See?”

 

Semi burst out laughing and Reon smiled, while Yamagata was staring at Tendou, seemingly worried.

 

“But you don’t know all the facts.”

 

Reon spoke, “Tendou, you keep saying this–”

 

And Ushijima realized, while the others’ voice voices faded away, while he stared ahead how–

 

How I did not say a single word during the conversation.

 

How Ushijima never seemed to talk, to join. 

 

And how everyone seemed okay with that.

 

Because that was what they were used to.

 

Me not talking, sitting in silence.

 

Someone who simply did not care or did not know how to care.

 

Ushijima closed his eyes while he was thinking about this, not noticing how Tendou was staring at him.

 

 

 

––––––––––––––––––

 

 

“I won’t ask anything, Wakatoshi,” Tendou said at the school gate when they were alone. “I know that you know – that we’re living the same day. I think it’s you, actually,” he looked away for a moment, thinking. “I just remember stuff. It’s a feeling.”

 

Ushijima waited patiently for him to continue. 

 

Tendou looked back at him. “I just hope this is not some kind of a prank you pulled – or the others did to get back at me. Even though I have no idea how that could be possible.” Ushijima shook his head and Tendou gave out a relieved sigh. “That’s good then... so I’m not asking anything today but tomorrow, we gotta talk about this, ‘kay?”

 

Ushijima nodded. Tendou smiled a little but his eyes looked tired, worn down. 

 

Why is it so hard to live the same day again and again, for you, Tendou?

 

And today, for the first time, Ushijima spoke,

 

“We’re going to talk tomorrow,” he said quietly, suddenly noticing how Tendou sent a reassuring smile. “Thank you.”

 

Tendou’s smile was pure sunshine – not even that.

 

It

 

felt

 

like

 

Ushijima’s

 

rain.

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

Ushijima stood outside his house. He looked up and noticed all the grey clouds on the sky above his head, and even thought it wasn’t raining currently, Ushijima swore he could feel it – feel the rain on his skin.

 

He began to turn towards the direction where he went every single day. 

 

As I’m supposed to.

 

He stopped.

 

He slowly turned his head to his left. Turned away from the direction which he took every single day.

 

And somehow, when Ushijima began to walk to the other way, it

 

felt

 

like

 

a 

 

song.

 

But it was played

 

louder.

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

He eventually ended up in a park where sat down on one of the benches. On the other side of the road, there was a coffee house. Behind him – behind the bench –, there was a building with a painting on it. Ushijima knew the painting, Mitsuko loved the artist. It was ‘The Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh. 

 

Call your dad.

 

Ushijima narrowed his eyes and pulled out his phone out of his pocket. He unlocked it, looked for his father’s number, and moved his hand to touch ‘call’.

 

His hand hovered above it, not seeming to find the destination.

 

Call your dad.

 

Ushijima dropped his gaze down and then gave out a tired sigh. “And what would I say, mom?” 

 

I miss you. I want to see you. I wish we could meet more. I’m sorry I declined all your previous calls. 

 

I’m sorry my life isn’t that exciting as yours.

 

But then, no one else lead that much of an exciting life. Ushijima knew – he saw, he noticed. 

 

He stared down at his phone, looking at his dad’s number.

 

Call your dad.

 

Ushijima pressed down the button and then brought it over his ears, waiting for him to pick up.

 

And what would you say?

 

“Wakatoshi, finally!” Ushijima froze when he heard his dad’s voice, filled with gratefulness, worry and happiness. “I thought you’d never pick up, you scared the hell out of me–”

 

“Dad,” Ushijima began, clenching the phone.

 

“Yes, I’m here, shoot, what’s wrong?” Takashi answered immediately, listening. 

 

And what would you say?

 

Ushijima’s days were as same as everyone else’s. Nothing happened to him, nothing extraordinary, nothing which seemed to be out of place. 

 

And yet

 

he 

 

could

 

feel

 

the

 

rain

 

on

 

his

 

face.

 

And what would you say?

 

Ushijima’s voice was loud – so loud and confident that even the birds stopped for a moment while flying. 

 

I want to join in conversations. 

 

It was so loud that the sky fell down and it really started to rain. 

 

I want to be different.

 

He was sitting in a park which he hadn’t seen before, because he followed a path he had never turned to choose before, sitting on a bench in front of a painting on the wall, gazing up towards the dark sky, letting the rain touch his face, as he heard himself saying something he never thought he’d say.

 

“I want to wear colors.”

 

His dad went silent for a minute and the rain felt so loud. But then he spoke – and even though he had no idea how Ushijima really meant –, he said just as confidently, just as loudly like his son did,

 

“No one has ever said you couldn’t.”

 

And Ushijima began to cry.

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––––

 

 

Sonder:

 

 

(n.) The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flaneur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, when Ushijima noticed the note on the fridge he did not move to get closer to read it. 

 

Have a nice day in school, food is in the fridge, tell grandma her books are going to arrive later.

 

Call your dad. 

 

Love you. 

 

Ushijima felt a gentle flutter in his heart as he remembered his father’s words.

 

“...I want to wear colors.”

 

“No one has ever said you couldn’t...”

 

His eyes softened as Ushijima gave out a little smile, looking at the note.

 

It’s as if his heart

 

got

 

lighter.

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

Ushijima went outside and locked the door, of their house, he began to turn right–

 

and

 

stopped.

 

He looked up and saw grey clouds – a little shine of the sun breaking through. The white bright lines of the sky, contrasting the dark grey.

 

Like a painting.

 

And Ushijima turned ahead and began to walk a path he had never chosen before.

 

His steps echoed this time – they echoed louder. As if he was more, as if he was someone who walked the city 

 

only

 

to

 

feel

 

that 

 

change

 

again.

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

“Can I help you?” a woman walked close to Ushijima, who was currently holding three different types of colorful hoodies in his hands in the shop.

 

Ushijima looked down at her – he was taller, so much taller –, and saw how, despite her wearing the work uniform, colorful she looked. There was purple ribbon in her hair, bracelets in all kinds of color. 

 

Even though her work uniform is black, she brings color into her life.

 

“My name is Ushijima Wakatoshi,” he said with careful eyes, looking at her. 

 

Her eyes widened, she seemed happier for some reason. “Nice to meet you, I’m Uta.”

 

And then Ushijima realized.

 

Not many people seem to ask her name.

 

But he did.

 

I wouldn’t have asked her name before, right?

 

Would Ushijima have done that before he had realized his rain?

 

And when have I ever began to think about things like this?

 

“Can you please help me, Uta–san?” he addressed her politely. “I don’t even know where to begin.”

 

Uta, for the first time Ushijima stepped in the shop, smiled. It felt as joyful as a song in a church. 

 

 

––––––––––––––

 

 

“There are way too many yellows and blues, Uta–san,” Ushijima stood there and watched how the woman put hoodies, sweaters and T–shirt, into his hands – starting to build a tower of clothes.

 

“You have green eyes, Ushijima–chan,” she said, not even looking back, just walking to another section of clothes, Ushijima following her. “These colors will look good on you, trust Uta on this.”

 

“You’re speaking in third person about yourself–”

 

“Just try it on, darling,” Uta chuckled and then turned her back on him, looking around for accessories.

 

Ushijima sighed and put the clothes away, on an armchair. Leaving his T–shirt on, he chose a beige colored sweater to put on, and rolled the sleeves up to his elbows.

 

“Ushijima–chan,” Uta turned around to put the baseball hat on him but then froze and stared.

 

Ushijima frowned, confused – and noticed how a lot of people in the shop stopped to look at him. Uta then slowly put the baseball hat on him. She let her hands hover there, and then only pulled them back after a couple of minutes.

 

She was staring at him, speechless. 

 

“Uta–senpai!” A boy who was probably the same age as him, was heading towards them with big gestures. “I’ve been searching you forever, what are–”

 

He noticed Ushijima and halted in his steps, completely stunned. Ushijima raised an eyebrow, confused. 

 

“Is it really that bad?” he touched the dark green baseball hat, looking at them.

 

Both Uta and the boy stood there, astonished – and then Ushijima saw a little change. Both of them gave out a soft smile and without another word, Uta touched Ushijima’s shoulders. “Uta–san, what are you–” and turned him around, just to find himself facing a long mirror. 

 

His words died in his throat.

 

The dark green baseball hat, that beige sweater, the dark elegant pants with the comfortable shoes. 

 

He looked so mature. So confident and real. 

 

He looked like a person you could point out in a crowd – because he was different, because he stood out.

 

He saw someone else in that mirror. 

 

He turned around and noticed Uta’s smug, and the boy’s joyful grin. Ushijima felt it happen – it was slow and noticeable and it meant 

 

so

 

much.

 

He felt it.

 

He felt it when he started to smile. 

 

Uta  walked closer, adjusted the baseball hat on his head and said with a wink, “Happiness suits you.”

 

His heart melted. Ushijima’s eyes softened as he pulled her into a hug, feeling his joy radiate through. “Thank you, Uta.” he smiled with his whole soul.

 

Because how can I not smile when 

 

you 

 

gave

 

me

 

colors.

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

Ushijima was walking in the city, holding three shopping bags when it started to rain. He was surrounded by adults and teenagers, and kids wearing black, and grey, and white–

 

And

 

Ushijima

 

raised

 

his

 

head

 

again.

 

The sky wanted to fall down – he felt it drop on his skin, on his face. 

 

He was wearing colors.

 

A person wearing colors, surrounded by thousands of blacks.

 

It was as if his soul grew into the sky. 

 

Just to touch those clouds,

 

just

 

to

 

feel

 

that

 

rain.

 

He didn’t move – he let the sky tore itself apart and crash into him. He let the rain consume his colors.

 

He let the world see what it means to embrace creativity. 

 

 

––––––––––––––––––

 

 

There was a knock on the door and Ushijima stood up from the sofa, walked to the front door and opened it.

 

It was Tendou.

 

“Okay,” he began, looking very stressed out. “How can you not come to school, when you said we would talk–”

 

Tendou noticed what he was wearing and stopped talking. Ushijima froze, too. 

 

He only now noticed. He had no idea how he hadn't noticed earlier. It was the most perfect thing in the world.

 

Because Tendou was colorful by himself – his hair, his personality. He did not need clothes to show, to express the core of his soul.

It was the most perfect thing in the world, to notice this only now. It was.

 

Because despite all of this–

 

Tendou always wore colors.

 

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

“Shopping all day, huh? Talking with your dad, huh? Standing below the rain, huh? I would have never thought, Wakatoshi,” Tendou chuckled, drinking a tea, sitting out in the terrace. The sky was filled with stars. Stars and clouds.

 

Ushijima was looking up. He forgot how to look down.

 

I forgot why I wanted to look down at all.

 

“I’ve never seen you smile.”

 

He lowered his head and looked at Tendou, who was sitting there, dumbstruck. Ushijima only then felt it.

 

He had been smiling the whole day.

 

He spoke with honesty, “There wasn’t much to smile about up until now–”

 

His breath hitched in his throat as a thought slipped into his mind.

 

There was.

 

You just didn’t notice.

 

“Why is this happening? How can it even be possible?” Tendou asked quietly and Ushijima looked up again.

 

“I have no idea, and in all honesty, I don’t care,” he answered. Before Tendou could have ask, Ushijima continued, “I feel like I’ve lived in a time loop since my dad left, Tendou. These time loop days are the same as my regular normal days. Nothing ever changed. Nothing, until...”

 

“Until you realized it could change,” Tendou finished and Ushijima, without even looking, could feel the smile in his voice.

 

It made him smile as well. 

 

Yes. 

 

Until I realized it could change.

 

Silence fell between them – comfortable enough to not notice, yet weird enough so that Ushijima turned back to Tendou.

 

Surprisingly, that was when Tendou spoke with a quiet voice,

 

“Wakatoshi, do you think I’m weird?”

 

His blood ran cold. It felt like a punch in the gut. His mind began to turn into a hurricane as his eyes widened with surprise and fear and–

 

No,” Ushijima said, his heart turned weak for his best friend. “You’re never were.”

 

He was desperately waiting for Tendou to say something – the red head wasn’t even looking at him, he was looking down.

 

Tendou was looking down as he did back then.

 

“I think there’s something wrong with me,” Tendou closed his eyes and he looked so small, Ushijima wanted to hug him. “I mean, why no one else sees that we’re living the same day,” he sighed and buried his face into his hands. “I’m just... why me?” Ushijima noticed he was shaking. “Of all the people, why me?” his voice turned strained and– “Why me?”

 

Tendou

 

was

 

crying.

 

Ushijima’s throat closed off, the pain was choking him – staring at Tendou who looked like a lost child, crying and shaking–

 

Without thinking, Ushijima stood up from his chair and kneeled down in front of him and gently pulled Tendou’s hands away.

 

Tendou’s eyes were shining with tears, he couldn’t stop shaking. Ushijima’s vision felt blurry for a moment because this was Tendou – confident, energetic Tendou who had the biggest heart in this world

 

and

 

his

 

best

 

friend.

 

You need to be strong.. 

 

Ushijima took Tendou’s hands into his when the red head wanted to turn away.

 

Be as strong as your dad.

 

It’s just not fair, it’s so cruel,” Tendou whimpered, gripping Ushijima’s hands with immense strength. He looked so afraid. “And I... I... can’t even... it’s too much, god–”

 

“It’s insane, it’s cruel, it’s monotone, it’s a never ending nightmare” Ushijima said, fighting back his tears, looking at Tendou. “But we can make it better, we can make it more – I really believe we can make a change, I believe it so much Tendou, it’s as real as it can be.”

 

Tendou closed his eyes and leaned on Ushijima’s shoulder, silently crying. “I want to believe you so much,” Ushijima hugged him, a single tear escaped, rolling down on his cheek. “I don’t want to have these days, I don’t want to, I don’t want to–”

 

And Ushijima, before he could really think through, said the first thing his soul wanted him to say;

 

“We’re going to change so much, it won’t ever feel like it’s the same day.”

 

And in that moment Ushijima felt something. It touched his hair and skin. Tendou felt it too – he stopped shaking. 

 

Like a song, it began.

 

It was as if his soul grew into the sky. 

 

Ushijima

 

raised

 

his

 

head

 

again.

 

Because it started to rain.

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––––––

 

 

Flaneur:

 

 

(n.) A person who strolls the city in order to experience it

“To wander with no purpose”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fernweh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“So I told him there was no way you can do that, and then he–”

 

Ushijima’s grandma turned back while she was cooking, looking at his best friend sitting at the table. Mitsuko frowned. “Slow down, Satori, I can’t follow–”

 

Tendou clicked his tongue. “Granny,” he said and then pretended to wipe a tear away. “You’re not even listening to me.”

 

Mitsuko put her hand on her waist still holding the wooden spoon, seemingly not very impressed. “You were saying how your cousin is going to have a wedding tomorrow in Busan and the bride’s father, Ito, seems a lot for him to handle–”

 

Ushijima was sitting at the other side of the table, with crossed arms, watching their bickering with an amused smile.

 

“Yes, and how I have to fly to Busan for tomorrow and I have no idea how–”

 

“I just don’t understand why would you not go to a wedding you’re invited to, Satori–”

 

“Granny, it’s not about being invited or not, it’s about being able to fly over there–”

 

“Satori, I still don’t get it–’

 

“Granny, I can’t fly.”

 

Ushijima bit back his laugh when he saw his grandma’s shocked expression. She then said, with a very calm voice, “Of course you can’t fly, Satori.”

 

Tendou was staring at her before he realized what she meant. “No. I mean, I’m afraid of planes and stuff.”

 

Mitsuko looked like as if she wanted to hit Tendou with that wooden spoon. “That’s not an excuse.”

 

Tendou’s jaw fell and Ushijima choked on his own spit – he put his hands over his mouth. 

 

Mitsuko and Tendou just looked at each other for a whole silent minute. It looked like a scene from a Western movie, when the two cowboys try to figure out who will pick the gun first.

 

And then both of them started speaking at the same time:

 

“What do you mean that’s not an excuse–”

 

“Satori, don’t let your cousin down, what if he faints, that poor man? He’s going to need you–”

 

“That man is dead, his father in law will kill him, that’s for sure–”

 

“So you won’t go because you think he’ll die–”

 

“I won’t go cause I ain’t ready to handle so much bullshit–”

 

The doorbell rang. 

 

Ushijima raised an eyebrow and then noticed how neither Tendou, nor his grandma heard it, they were still bickering. He stood up from the kitchen and then walked to the front door, opened it, and his eyes went round.

 

Kawanishi Taichi was standing there with a determined expression on his face. Like a man who was about to massacre the whole government without an ease, all alone. 

 

Ushijima couldn’t even speak – he opened his mouth and then closed it again, not finding his words.

 

It seemed he didn't need to struggle so much more, because Kawanishi decided this was the time to speak up:   

 

“We gotta talk,” he stared at him.

 

They’ve never talked before, about anything at all. 

 

Ushijima – still confused – looked back to see if Kawanishi was talking to someone else. No one was there.

 

What.

 

Ushijima looked back at Kawanishi at pointed at himself. “You want to talk to me?” he didn’t believe it. “Me?”

 

Kawanishi rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you,” he looked inside. “Can I come in? It’s important.”

 

Ushijima, after he got out of the shock, moved away and invited Kawanishi in. The younger boy took off his shoes and bowed before he went in.

 

This has never happened before.

 

Ushijima closed the front door and then showed Kawanishi the way to the kitchen. His dark ginger hair was the only thing Ushijima could focus because he had no idea what was going on.

 

When they got close to the kitchen, the only thing Ushijima heard were frighteningly similar to a soap opera scene from a Tv show.

 

“Your ancestors won’t be satisfied or proud, if you don’t show up at the wedding–”

 

“My ancestors won’t give a damn and how many times do I have to tell you that even if the sky falls down, I will still not put my foot on a god–given airplane–”

 

“Satori, it won’t fall down–”

 

“Granny, your soup is burning up–”

 

“What? I’m not mad, I’m just saying–”

 

“No, Mitsuko, your soup is literally boiling–”

 

“JESUS CHRIST–”

 

Kawanishi stood there, petrified, looking at the chaos which was in front of him while Ushijima just cleared his throat, trying to grab both of them – if not his grandma –, then at least, Tendou’s attention.

 

It worked.

 

Both of them turned around, surprised and confused. Tendou looked at the chair where Ushijima had sat awhile ago. Ushijima chuckled.

 

He just noticed I walked away.

 

Mitsuko, as it seemed, too – because she looked at the chair –, but then raised her gaze to meet Kawanishi’s.

 

Tendou did as well.

 

“Hello,” his grandma and Tendou said at the same time. Mitsuko pointed at a chair with a smile. “Please sit down, the soup is almost done.”

 

There were lilies on the table in a vase, plates and spoons, and golden candles for the rainy day. Ushijima supposed it look rather comfy and welcoming.

 

Kawanishi bit his bottom lip and turned to Ushijima. He shrugged and nodded. “Go ahead.”

 

The younger boy nodded, too. He sat on a chair where he could see everybody well enough. Ushijima sat down where he usually did, next to Tendou. Mitsuko turned back to continue the soup and said, “Tendou, can you please grab another plate and spoon for our guest?”

 

Tendou stood up without a word, “Roger that, granny.” He went to the drawers, pulled out a spoon and went to pull out a plate, too. He walked back towards the table, where Kawanishi was sitting, and then – only then –, the younger boy said,

 

“Kenjirou confessed to Semi.”

 

Tendou

 

dropped

 

the

 

plate.

 

Mitsuko gasped seeing this – Ushijima caught it before it fell down and put it down on the table. On the outside, only his strict expression could be seen.

 

On the inside he was screaming.

 

“WHAT?!” Tendou yelled and grabbed Kawanishi by his collar with one hand. His other hand was still clutching the spoon. “WHAT?!”

 

“Tendou, quit screaming into my ear–”

 

“KAWANISHI!”

 

“Tendou, I’ll be deaf–”

 

Ushijima couldn’t even think or comprehend what was happening in front of him. He just said, “Are you sure?”

 

Kawanishi tried to pull Tendou off him. “Yes, I’m certain,” he said with a calm voice. “I overheard it.”

 

Tendou hit him on his head with the spoon. 

 

Several things happened then.

 

Mitsuko clicked her tongue and said, “Satori, no violence in my house.”

 

Tendou then sheepishly answered and leaned back, “Sorry, granny, love ya.” 

 

He went back to his seat and sat down. Ushijima took the spoon out to Tendou’s hand and put it on the table. 

 

Kawanishi was touching his head with a pained expression, glaring at Tendou. “I’ll get you back for this.”

 

“Hah,” Tendou’s smile was smug. “And people say you’re smart.”

 

“Smarter than you.”

 

“Probably.”

 

Kawanishi scowled. “What?”

 

Mitsuko put the soups down in front of them – she made chicken soup. “Enjoy your meal, kids,” she pressed a kiss on Ushijima’s forehead and then walked out of the kitchen. “I’m out.”

 

Ushijima smiled. “Where you’re going?”

 

Mitsuko only said, “I’m meeting with an old friend.”

 

She always said this nowadays. 

 

I wonder who she is meeting with.

 

He shrugged, next time he will ask her.

 

The chicken soup’s heavenly smell hit Ushijima’s nose and he took the spoon into his hands and started to eat. He saw the delicious looking vegetables; carrots, green peas and meat and the noodles.

 

“Are you serious?” Tendou asked while he was staring at Kawanishi and Ushijima, both of them eating. “You’re really eating after that revelation? Like nothing happened?”

 

Kawanishi got bolder now – Ushijima’s grandma wasn't in the room–, because he only said this, with the most serious face Ushijima had ever seen;

 

“They’ve been fucking since months.”

 

Ushijima choked on his soup, Tendou choked on his own spit, and Kawanishi was only slurping the noodles like a good and well mannered kindergartener.

 

“I have no idea how it happened, but all in all, Kenjirou got feelings,” Kawanishi continued the story, not seeming to notice or care that Tendou and Ushijima were still dying and coughing like there was no tomorrow. “I knew about them but I had no idea about the ‘feeling’ part. As the young folks say nowadays, shit just got real.”

 

Tendou got back his life all of a sudden and stopped coughing. “Kawanishi, you’re seventeen.”

 

Kawanishi only sent him a look. “I’m old, believe me. You should see me how I climb the stairs.”

 

“I really don’t want to.”

 

“That’s what I thought.”

 

“How could we not notice that?” Ushijima gained back his composure. “I mean really– Tendou how could you not notice that?”

 

“Me?!” Tendou raised his arms in defense, eyes wide. “How could I notice something like that? It’s not as if saint Shirabu shows off some hickeys during practice as trophies– oh god, why can I imagine this happening–”

 

“The point is,” Kawanishi said. “That Semi turned him down.”

 

Tendou breathed wrong and started to cough hackingly, touching his chest. Ushijima hit his back a couple of times until he got better.

 

“He did what?” Tendou panicked and began to eat his chicken soup with distress. “Oh no, oh no, that is bad–”

 

Kawanishi began to nod with a mocking smile, as if he was saying to Tendou ‘good job, yes, we’re fucked, you figured it out’. 

 

Ushijima remembered when Shirabu looked away, gazing into nothing, when he thought no one was looking. “He must be devastated.”

 

Kawanishi, for the first time, looked sad. For some reason, it made Ushijima feel guilty. He did not do anything, this was not his fault at all, but–

 

I should have noticed something at least.

 

“I’m sorry,” Ushijima said and it meant it with all his soul. “We’re gonna ask Semi why. Tendou could ask actually,” he had an idea, “Semi work at this place called ‘Mirai’ and Tendou lives near,” he looked at Tendou. “You could ask him before you go home.”

 

Tendou’s mouth was filled with vegetables and meat. He only nodded.

 

They were talking about something else after that, enjoying their food, asking Kawanishi what happened in school because neither Ushijima, nor Tendou went in today.

 

Huh.

 

Ushijima realized.

 

Maybe that’s why Kawanishi decided to tell them now. Maybe that’s why this happened for the first time in this time loop.

 

Because Ushijima and Tendou wasn’t in school, so Kawanishi was alone with his thoughts. This boy who wanted to help his friend.

 

Who went to Ushijima for help. 

 

Even though they never talked.

 

He came to him.

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––––––––––

 

 

“Thank you for the meal, it was delicious, your grandma is very kind,” Kawanishi said while he was putting on his shoes. “And thank you for listening to me and actually do something on the matter. Tell me what Semi said,” he turned around and looked at Ushijima, bowing.

 

Ushijima couldn’t vanish something out of his mind, standing in the hallway, looking at this younger person. Looking at Kawanishi Taichi. 

 

He had no idea what possessed him to say this – he only knew that after he stood below a falling sky of rain, something changed.

 

So Ushijima asked,

 

“Why did you come to me for help, when we’ve never talked before?”

 

And Kawanishi, without hesitation, answered,

 

“Because out of all our teammates, I knew you’d actually do something about it and help me.”

 

And maybe

 

maybe

 

Ushijima really felt he started to join. Not just in conversations, not just in colorful clothes.

 

No.

 

He started to join in something else.

 

It’s as if he had been missing a place he had never been before. Something which was far out of his reach, which seemed too distant before.

 

He missed a place inside of him. 

 

A place which said it was okay, even if it was a bit late, it was okay.

 

It’s okay to join in this little thing called life.

 

 

––––––––––––––––––––

 

 

“So you had a great day, that’s amazing, Wakatoshi,” his dad said over the phone. Ushijima could feel the smile in his voice. “I had one, too.”

 

Ushijima was staring at his ceiling, hearing the rain knocking on his window – the lights of the street gave a golden shine close to it, making it ethereal. 

 

He remembered his promise as the night. 

 

“We’re going to change so much, it won’t ever feel like it’s the same day.”

 

And Ushijima, before he could really think through, said the first thing his soul wanted him to say;

 

“I know it’s Tuesday, dad,” he said and pressed his lips into a thin line. The pain shocked him, he closed his eyes. “I know it’s Tuesday.”

 

My days are so different now, that I know what day it is.

 

I know it’s Tuesday.

 

His dad was silent but then he said, “I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I can tell by your voice that you’re happier than you’ve ever been.”

 

And Ushijima felt his soul drag down the rain to this earth only to show what it means to feel.

 

 

 

––––––––––––––––––––

 

 

His phone was going off. Ushijima yawned and accepted the call before looking who it was, brought it over his ear and said, “Hello?”

 

“Ushijima, you’re not gonna believe me what happened.”

 

Tendou. Of course it was Tendou at two o’clock  in the morning.

 

“Tendou,” Ushijima began and rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. “The last time you said this you were in Budapest with Bokuto and–”

 

“Let’s not talk about that night,” he still sounded excited. “You have no idea what just happened–”

 

“Now you’re just repeating yourself–”

 

“You know how I should have gone to ‘Mirai’ and ask Semi what was going on with him? Yeah, well I thought I’d drop by a convenience store to buy something... and then something happened.”

 

Ushijima started to feel impatient. “Just tell me already–”

 

“I just got out of jail because there was a robbery and I was one of the people who prevented it along with the other guy, who I’m pretty sure is in a time loop, too. I did a bit of a research on him and he plays volleyball. His name is Kageyama Tobio.”

 

Ushijima couldn’t even move, let alone say anything. He just froze.

 

“Wakatoshi, you there, breathing and all or should I call the ambulance?”

 

 

 

––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

Fernweh:

 

 

(n.) An ache for distant places

 

“Missing a place you’ve never been”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How are you so sure that he’s also in a time loop?” Ushijima asked sitting on his bed, looking at Tendou who was sitting at the other side of his bed, hugging a big, fluffy pillow. His hair looked like a nest, but his eyes screamed adrenalin. 

 

That robbery really woke him up, huh?

 

After the incident and the phone call, Ushijima called Tendou over to stay at his. He didn’t want Tendou to be alone after something like this – even if nothing bad happened, even if he stole a freaking deodorant to trigger an alarm.

 

Tendou started nodding with wide eyes, completely sure. “He is, I swear. You guys have different eyes, like you saw things only old people could.”

 

Interesting.

 

Ushijima didn’t even bat an eye, he just hummed, full of wonder. “You really stole a deodorant, didn’t you?”

 

“It’s only stealing if they didn’t see you taking it.”

 

Ushijima looked at him with deep silence, and then said, “That does not seem like a valid point.”

 

“But you don’t know all the facts.”

 

Tendou keeps saying this.

 

“You keep saying this.”

 

“But you still don’t know all the facts.”

 

“Which are?”

 

“I thought it was a perfume.”

 

Tendou looked so serious saying this, Ushijima did not know whether to laugh or frown. “How does that justifiy what happened?”

 

Tendou raised an eyebrow. “Oh?” he almost sang. “It wouldn’t justify it. I just hoped you’d think I was smarter to use something that would not break so easily – like a deodorant.”

 

Ushijima couldn’t help to give out a little smile. “I’m very impressed how you caught a criminal with Kageyama Tobio, Tendou. I really am.”

 

Tendou’s whole face lit up with light. “You really are?”

 

Ushijima chuckled, shaking his head. 

 

This idiot.

 

“Yeah I am, especially because you did it without getting hurt,” Ushijima said and watched as Tendou grabbed a gummy bear out of the sac he had been holding all this time. Tendou was similar to a little kid, smiling, eating his sweet thing. Hugging a pillow to his chest, sitting on his bed, wearing a big hoodie.

 

I would have loved to have a friend like him when I was a little.

 

But unfortunately, him and Tendou only met way later, only in high school.

 

Tendou turned his head towards the window and Ushijima followed his gaze. It was night, after midnight. The stars were glowing in the clear sky, the moonlight shone through the curtains, lighting up the whole room and them, too, with a light shade of pale blue.

 

Ushijima frowned, gazing outside.

 

I don’t remember when was the last time I stared so long at such things like this.

 

He didn’t remember when was the last time he stopped to actually look at something. To really look.

 

He had no idea when was that.

 

But did that matter anymore?

 

No.  

 

He supposed, not really.

 

It only matters what will happen now.

 

“I wonder if he’s lonely.”

 

Ushijima’s body went still as he looked back at Tendou. The red head was still gazing outside of the window, holding a little red gummy bear. He seemed thoughtful. 

 

Ushijima finally realized what Tendou said. “Kageyama?” he asked without looking away. His best friend started to act more and more serious nowadays–

 

Or he was always this serious and I just didn’t notice.

 

Or Tendou hid it too well – wanted to hide it well.

 

But if that was the case–

 

Why?

 

“Remember when I told you that I was bullied in primary school?” Tendou asked with a strange voice.

 

Ushijima almost flinched. “I do,” he said, trying to control his anger. 

 

A lot of children hurt Tendou because of how he looked like when he was little, not to mention because of the way he played. He just saw all the moves before it happened, saw all the possibilites before the opponents even started to think.

 

People were cruel in Tendou’s world.

 

At least every person who connected to his childhood minus his mother. Ushijima was angry he couldn’t be there – he was angry no one helped that little boy who was bullied –, only because it was easier to look away, or brush it off, or just don’t care about it at all because kids will be kids and adults will be adults, and sometimes it’s not fair and it doesn’t make any sense.

 

Ushijima just wished Tendou would heal that part of himself. But he knew that part, that those memories would never really go away.

 

Ushijima made his body relax and tried to focus on Tendou again. He was still looking out the window, his posture seemed comfortable.

 

“There was no one he could call to the police station to get him, Wakatoshi,” Tendou said quietly. “He thanked me, but I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything flashy or remarkable and he thanked me for some reason.”

 

Ushijima’s heart soared as his eyes softened when he noticed Tendou tearing up. He slowly blinked, and turned back to Ushijima, saying, 

 

“I think I was the first friend he ever made.”

 

Ushijima felt his soul blend and melt inside of his bones like stardust as he gave him a proud smile and ruffled his hair. That’s when it happened.

 

Tendou started to cry.

 

Ushijima took his hand into his and noticed that Tendou was getting more comfortable. “He thanked me – he had no one there with him and he thanked me,”Tendou wiped his tears away with his other hand, smiling. “This was one of the best nights of my life.”

 

And Ushijima, before he could really think it through, whispered the first thing his soul wanted him to say.

 

“We’re going to change so much, it won’t ever feel like it’s the same day.”

 

Tendou looked at him, his eyes wide because he realized what Ushijima meant.

 

Because neither of them felt like the same they were, because neither of them were this open before, because Tendou just made someone’s day, because Ushijima was wearing colors and knew what day it was today, because Kawanishi came here to ask help–

 

Do you understand, Tendou?

 

Ushijima looked out to stare at the stars. He felt they were gazing back.

 

It’s started way before today – the change.

 

They started to live new days since Ushijima looked up and the crashing sky made him reborn.

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

“I have this feeling–”

 

Tendou actually looked scared, sitting at the table in the school canteen, eating his instant ramen. “Wakatoshi, you keep having this hunches and they creep me the hell out–”

 

Ushijima was looking behind Tendou, staring at Shirabu. He noticed something, he tapped Tendou’s wrist to get his attention. “Tendou.”

 

“No, I’m just saying that whenever you get these feelings, I really get chills and not in a good way–”

 

Ushijima started tapping his wrist faster, desperately trying to make Tendou turn around but Tendou did not even move. “Tendou–”

 

“I’m serious you should play lottery, that’s what you should do really, I’m so broke, Wakatoshi, I need money–”

 

Oh, for the love of–

 

Ushijima dropped his chopsticks, grabbed Tendou’s jaw and turned him towards Shirabu.

 

“Oh fucking hell,” Tendou mumbled and Ushijima let him go.

 

Shirabu’s eyes were puffy as he was touching his temple, sitting next to Kawanishi who was looking at his friend with a thoughtful expression.

 

Ushijima’s eyes narrowed, remembering what happened last time.

 

He did not have a migraine.

 

He was crying.

 

“He really made him cry,” Tendou said with a very somber voice. Tendou looked absolutely murderous.

 

Ushijima tensed up immediately. 

 

“Oh my god no, no,” Reon hurried into the canteen with his tray, dropping it on the table. He sat down and buried his head into his sandwich, always looking behind his back. “No, no, no–”

 

A girl appeared next to their table, slapping her hand on it with a loud sound. Her light pink hair and short height made Ushijima recognize her immediately. 

 

Dennis.

 

She was in the drama club with Seth who was Reon’s childhood friend. “Reon, why the hell are you running?”

 

Ushijima’s eyebrows rose. He looked over Tendou–

 

The boy had his jaw down.

 

Ah, so this didn’t happen in the previous days.

 

Reon’s eyes widened as he dropped his food, spilling the salad and vegetables all over the place, stood up – the screech of his chair brought everyone’s attention to them –, and he just simply

 

bolted.

 

Dennis raised her arms as if she couldn’t belive what she was seeing. “Reon!” she pointed at the poor thing and started to walk towards him. “Why are you running?”

 

Reon whimpered – with his insane height and strong build –, this man whimpered and ran from Dennis. He started shouting from the other side of the canteen, hiding behind a table, using it as a shield to protect himself. “You know I can’t do it–”

 

Dennis raised her fists. “Oh, you will do it though,” she started sprinting towards him, and Reon began to back away to another table, not taking his eyes off her. “Seth told you because he couldn’t keep his mouth shout and now you’re the only one who can help me solve this problem of mine–” 

 

Everyone’s head jumped to Dennis and then to Reon, as if they were watching a tennis match.

 

Reon looked desperate, grabbing the side of a table. “He doesn’t think about things like this, really, not at all. He’ll have my head–”

 

Dennis brought a hand to her chest. She looked pretty vulnerable then. “Please,” she said, almost begged to Reon. “Please, just try ask him. Just try, at least for me.”

 

Reon, for a minute, actually looked considerate.

 

Everyone got time for a breather.

 

But then he said,

 

“Why don’t you ask him?”

 

Several things happened in that moment.

 

Dennis and Reon dashed the same time. Dennis ran for Reon’s head – Reon ran to save his head. 

 

Meanwhile, Kawanishi stood up and started to run after Dennis, trying to save Reon. Seth, who seemed to come out of nowhere, joined them to pull back Dennis, who eventually ended up on Reon’s back. Ushijima also noticed Goshiki running to Kawanishi, trying to help his senpai. Reon was struggling to get away but couldn’t. Kawanishi tried to help him escape but it seemed useless, even with Goshiki’s help. Ushijima saw somewhere Shirabu, looking at the scene in front of him with round eyes, full of panic.

 

The whole canteen went insane.

 

Tendou stood up and knocked his food over the table. “What the fucking hell is happening?” he whispered and took a look around the room.

 

People started to cheer and make bets, scream and exchange money way too fast, not to mention, record the whole thing with their phones. 

 

Reon fell to his knees, his shirt was a mess, Dennis was still clinging on his back, trying to make him admit defeat. Kawanishi tried to pull one of Dennis’s legs, Goshiki tried to pull one of her arms, while Seth clearly had no fucking idea what was going on.

 

Where were the teachers at, though?

 

Ushijima looked the calmest person alive, as he quietly started to look around for adults – but when his eyes found the door in the canteen–

 

Oh Mary and the Holy Jesus of his grandma’s church.

 

Yamagata and Semi arrived, holding their trays in their hands.

 

Now, before something happens – here’s what Ushijima knew about Semi.

 

He was pretty simple, really. No one messed with him because of his past, because he could scare anyone, only with a mere look and got into a lof of fights, winning every single one of them singlehandedly. No one could miss him and everyone was aware of him – he stood out with his tattoos, his almost white hair, and his several piercings in his ears and in his eyebrows –, so everyone seemed to be aware of his somewhat very important rules, too.

 

The most important one was as simple as he was, really.

 

Rule number 1:

 

Don’t touch his teammates.

 

Ushijima winced, seeing Semi’s dark eyes and the storm in his expression. 

 

This is not going to end well.

 

Tendou, who turned around somewhat earlier, followed Ushijima’s gaze, and came to the same conclusion as he did.

 

Because Tendou only said this, softly, like the silence before the storm who was Semi Eita:

 

“Oh fuck my life.”

 

Semi dropped his tray and moved like a monster. 

 

The

 

crowd

 

lost

 

its 

 

mind.

 

Semi punched Seth, trying to make him get away from Reon, trying to help Goshiki and Kawanishi to pull Dennis off Reon. Seth, who was pure muscle because of football, almost broke Semi’s cheekbone with his hit.

 

Even Dennis, Kawanishi, Goshiki and Reon stopped what they were doing. As if time had been stopped for a minute.

 

Everyone went silent.

 

Ushijima stood up and Tendou’s stance went rigid. He looked at Shirabu, who stood up as well, and was very pale and frightened.

 

Semi touched his bruised, bleeding face, his blonde, almost white hair covered his eyes as he

 

spat

 

out

 

the

 

blood

 

from

 

his

 

mouth.

 

Semi narrowed his eyes and slowly, calmly touched Seth’s wrist and with a horrifying sound

 

twisted

 

it.

 

It went nuts – everything went nuts.

 

Yamagata dropped his tray, began screaming, and with full speed, crashed into Seth and held him down on the ground and started punching him in the face.

 

Money was flying everywhere, Kawanishi was holding Dennis’s waist, Goshiki was pulling Reon, Semi was shouting at Dennis, she was shouting back–

 

Tendou somehow got there and tried to play pacifist, holding them out of the other’s reach–

 

“Fifty on Satori? Anyone who has fifty–”

 

“I hear twenty five on Kawanishi? We got twenty five, people–”

 

“Here’s the sixty for Semi breaking the wrist, good call Hikari–”

 

Ushijima watched the chaos going down and he couldn’t help but grin. He almost started laughing – he couldn’t vanish the smile off his face.

 

This memory, this day will always remain. He will always remember it.

 

Ushijima raised his voice and his arms in a calm, very sensible manner, thinking–

 

Farewell, monotone, similar days.

 

“And who will bet on me?” Ushijima asked and everybody stopped to look at him – the money froze in people’s hands, they looked up from their cameras, his team stopped beating Seth, Dennis stopped shouting.

 

He noticed a person who always bullied the little ones and he made his way into his table. Everyone was watching him, watching his every move.

 

Ushijima stopped in front of Rikko, who was much more taller and stronger than he was. He looked at Ushijima, confused for his life.

 

But then

 

Ushijima

 

clenched his fist and broke Rikko’s jaw.

 

And 

 

everyone

 

started

 

to

 

howl.

 

Tendou’s jaw fell down, Semi was grinning proudly, Dennis’s eyes went round, Reon fell down to the ground, Shirabu had to sit down, but he missed it and fell to the ground, people started to jump up and down–

 

“oh my LORD–”

 

“Seventy? Seventy on Ushijima Wakatoshi, our golden ace, let’s go people, let’s go– hundred? I hear hundred–”

 

“DID YOU GUYS SEE THAT–”

 

“I hear thousand? Anyone up for a thousand? How do you guys even have that money–”

 

“THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE–”

 

“Like seriously, what do you guys work–”

 

“THIS WAS SO HOT–”

 

“SOMEBODY CALL THE AMBULANCE–”

 

Ushijima winced as he touched his bloody, bruised knuckles. It hurt a little. Rikko was out, lost his consciousness, his friends though, seemed as mad as the devil on Sunday.

 

They rolled up their sleeves and started to walk towards Ushijima, who put up his best stance and raised his arms close to his body, like a boxer–

 

Everyone from the team attacked them, hit Rikko’s gang and almost broke their limbs and arms. Goshiki, Semi and Kawanishi, Yamagata and Tendou – even Reon joined to help to Ushijima with a war cry.

 

And after all

 

seeing this

 

he couldn’t help.

 

He burst out laughing.

 

 

 

––––––––––––––––––––

 

 

“Will any one of you tell me what happened down at the canteen? Especially how did almost all of the members in the volleyball team get here?” Mr. Yoruma looked at them behind his desk at detention.

 

Dennis, Seth, Reon, Kawanishi, Yamagata, Goshiki, and Semi all had bruises and bandages on their hands, faces and necks. They were sitting at their desks in the classroom, most of them crossing their arms over their chests, not saying anything, just like suspects during an interrogation for a homicide case, surrounded by cops.

 

Ushijima and Tendou sat in the back – Ushijima had a bandage around his fist, over his knuckles. He was poking it then and now, feeling the pain, remembering what he did to Rikko, to that bully.

 

He couldn’t even wipe the grin off his face, even if he tried.

 

“No?” Mr. Yoruma said, looking at every each of them. “Then you’re going to be in detention for the next three weeks.”

 

Tendou hid a snort with his hands and Ushijima grinned at that more.

 

Detention for three weeks in a time loop, huh?

 

Better luck next time.

 

Mr. Yoruma seemed to give up with a tired sigh and then his phone began to ring. He pulled out of the pocket of his jacket, looked down who it was. He walked out of the room to pick it up.

 

Tendou suddenly turned to Ushijima with a desperate look. “I try to control the situation, I look away for one time, and what you do?” he had a painful frown on his face. “‘Who will bet on me’, really?”

 

Ushijima couldn’t stop grinning. He didn’t even feel sorry.

 

Kawanishi gave him a salute when he saw this, Goshiki literally had stars in his eyes, Reon’s smile was as wide as the joy he felt, Yamagata started laughing.

 

Semi said, with a voice full of delight, “It was a good punch, though.”

 

Tendou wasn’t having it, he almost cried. “And what you do?”

 

Ushijima laughed into his face.

 

Tendou was gobsmacked, absolutely speechless. But then he said, “I seriously feel like a single mom, raising seven kids, give or take.”

 

Yamagata bit back a grin. “Who said you aren’t?”

 

“Hayato!”

 

“Satori!”

 

Ushijima fell down on his desk, laughing so hard it echoed even in the halls.

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

“You look like shit,” Tendou told Semi this, looking into his eyes, sitting at a table with Ushijima at ‘Mirai’ close to nine in the evening, way long after detention.

 

Semi looked up from the note he started to write on with a pen, trying to take their orders. His hair was messy, his lips were bruised just as one side of his face, close to the cheekbone – where Seth hit him. The bar wasn’t filled with people but there were a few here – eighteen year olds or more, in Ushijima’s opinion. But those who weren’t eating, were playing darts at the other end of the bar. The signs were neons, pink and green and blue.

 

‘Mirai’ what a name for a bar.

 

It meant future.

 

“I’m very handsome when I’m not covered in bruises, however, you always look like shit,” Semi said simply, but everyone knew he was just messing with Tendou.

 

Tendou sent him a smile. A smile which screamed, ‘you can go fuck yourself.’

 

“Will you two order or can I leave?” Semi asked, not giving a shit whatsoever. “I’m busy, I’m working here, you know–”

 

“Why did you turn Shirabu down?” Ushijima asked, going straight for the head. 

 

Tendou’s eyes almost fell out of its place, as he looked at Ushijima. Semi’s eyes went round with shock for a minute, but then he gathered himself and looked around. When he was done, he sat down in front of them and asked,

 

“How do you two know this? From who? From where? Did he tell you?”

 

Ushijima’s eyes met Tendou’s, but before he could open his mouth and answer, Tendou spoke,

 

“You two are not exactly subtle,” he had a smug grin on his face. “I’m the guess monster, after all.”

 

Ushijima wasn’t amused at all – he placed a hand across his face, giving out a loud sigh.

 

This idiot.

 

When he looked up again he focused on Semi. Ushijima had no idea but–

 

Maybe the way he was sitting there, or how he was holding himself, or how he did not smile or narrowed his eyes, or the way the neon lights shone on his skin, gold and red and yellow–

 

But Semi looked so mature.

 

He noticed how Tendou’s breath hitched next to him– maybe he felt the same. 

 

Semi wiped his eyes with his knuckles, gently and carefully. As if he was trying to vanish all his worry, with one swipe of his hand.

 

Ushijima could tell it did not help.

 

“I will go to college soon and he has one more year,” Semi said, his voice got low and serious. “I’ll have to move, he stays. It’d never work.”

 

Ushijima was too stunned to speak.

 

Tendou pulled himself together way faster than he did. The pink neon light caught his red hair, making it purple.

 

“So you love him, too?”

 

Ushijima wiped his sweaty hands into his jeans and looked at him, waiting for his answer.

 

Semi looked way older when he looked down and said, “It doesn’t matter, if I go away.” 

 

The gold and the purple neon lights dance with his white hair and Ushijima suddenly didn’t hear the people in the bar, didn’t see anything except the three of them, when he said,

 

“So don’t go.”

 

His voice was strange – it was soft and gentle. Something new, something entirely else. He could tell it surprised both Tendou and Semi. 

 

Because when he spoke just now, he thought about his rain.

 

Semi found his eyes and said with a soft voice, “You know I have to.” 

 

But Ushijima only smiled. A gentle, soulful smile. He reached towards with his bandaged hand and touched Semi’s.

 

 He leaned closer and a white neon light shone above him, giving him an eternal glow. 

 

Both Semi and Tendou stopped moving.

 

And Ushijima didn’t know about anything love because he had never been in love and he didn’t search for love, and he had no idea what Shirabu really want or feel, and he had no idea what Semi really thinks when no one is looking–

 

Yet, he still wanted to say what his soul longed to speak;

 

“But if you love him and he loves you, what’s stopping you?”

 

Semi forgot to breathe for a moment but Ushijima didn’t notice, nor did he notice Tendou looking at him.

 

Because Ushijima suddenly remembered all those rushing people, who never stopped to look away. Who simply walked in a rain, minding their own life, not caring about looking around.

 

As how Semi way trying to run away just now.

 

Because it would be easier, because it was planned, because it was more comfortable to go than to stay.

 

Because that’s what he supposed to do. Go to that school which his parents chose for him. As he was supposed to.

 

Ushijima suddenly realized, how every people moved and planned their life in a different way, yet no one seemed to take a deep breath and begin to move differently.

 

Like a dance.

 

Some danced elegantly, precisely, thinking about every move in their life, planning everything. Some danced out of rhythm, having no idea what to do. Some danced faster than others, some didn’t want to dance at all. 

 

Ushijima was one of the ones who didn’t dance before.

 

But now he decided to join into this performance called life.

 

He didn’t know the steps – not one of his own’s yet anyway –, he didn’t know how to control his body, where to put his feet and when he should move. 

 

And yet Ushijima felt different from them, in a way.

 

Because even though he couldn’t dance perfectly, and he might never will–

 

I enjoy every minute of it.

 

He danced in this thing called life, during a pouring rain, without skill or a specific reason, but with so much joy his soul wanted to touch the sky.

 

 

 

 

–––––––––––––––––––

 

 

 

Balter:

 

(v.) To dance artlessly, without particular grace or skill but usually with enjoyment

 

“To dance, surrounded by joy”