It didn’t matter how many times Ushijima Wakatoshi went over the library catalogue records - he just couldn’t find any of the books he needed. It was like foreign language for him, all the numbers and letters pointing to the exact location, but it was beyond his capabilities to actually figure out where that location might be. It didn’t help that although the library was enormous the aisles between racks were quite narrow, which made him feel a little claustrophobic.
At last he glimpsed one of the books he was looking for. However, that wasn’t enough. He needed all the books to study for the test. He sighed and came to terms with the fact that he’d have to ask the grumpy old lady at the front desk to help him. He was Ushijima Wakatoshi, tall and strong man… and he couldn’t even manage to find a few stupid books he needed. Stopping at the desk he occupied today to leave the book he successfully found and to cross it out of the list, he set off to the front desk.
“Excuse me,” he said before he could convince himself to try one more time on his own, “I can’t seem to find the books I need. Could you help me?”
Before she could answer, the office door behind her opened and a young man stepped out, quickly tying his hair to a loose ponytail and smiling at her.
“All set, I’ll go put the returns back.”
“Yes, you do that, but could you help this young man to find the books he needs? I’m in the middle of something,” she asked him softly. Ushijima tried to remember why he thought she was grumpy in the first place, but then he wasn’t the best at reading people from the first impressions.
“Ushijima? Is that you?” asked the boy, looking quite surprised.
Now that Ushijima looked at him properly he was absolutely certain he had seen him before, but couldn’t remember where. He was a little smaller, had brownish black hair and the sweetest freckled face Ushijima has ever seen before. Couple seconds of silence passed, the woman looking from one boy to another and shaking her head before she returned back to her work. Ushijima could swear he saw her smirk a little, but that could have been his imagination.
“What do you need help with?” the boy asked, walking towards one of the computers with open catalogue.
“I… I have a list of books I need and I just can’t make sense of the location,” Ushijima admitted, handing him the list. He couldn’t stop staring at the boy, trying to figure out where he knew him from.
“Oh, by the way,” said the boy while typing and writing down the numbers next to the titles of the books, “I’m Yamaguchi Tadashi, we played against each other about… four years ago, is it? I was pinch server for Karasuno team.”
Of course Ushijima remembered that match - that day changed something in him, but when he tried to remember seeing Yamaguchi serve, his mind went blank.
“Your face seemed familiar but I couldn’t remember –“
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it. I wasn’t exactly the star of the match,” Yamaguchi took the list of books and started walking towards the place the books should be located in.
“You are in luck, all the books you need should be here…” he squatted and took couple of books from the rack. Then he looked at the list and back to the books.
“Hmm, looks like one of them isn’t here. Well, I’ll check it when I have time, okay? But here you go,” he announced and gave the books to Ushijima.
The taller boy just stood there, silent and shocked. He must have looked there ten times but didn’t see them and then Yamaguchi comes and it takes him less than three minutes.
“That was amazing. How do you make sense of those catalogue records?”
Yamaguchi blushed and looked away: “Well, I am studying library studies, you know. It’s sort of passion of mine.”
When Ushijima thought of librarians, he always imagined older ladies with glasses and wrinkled lips from all the shushing they did. He imagined Yamaguchi, as adorable as he stood there, behind the counter and felt his heartbeat quicken.
“Well, I have to go put away the returns so…” mumbled Yamaguchi, turned around and started walking away.
“Yes, well, thank you for your help. Really, you saved me,” said Ushijima a walked over to his table. He placed the books on the table and sat down, put his headphones on and opened the first one. Soon he was buried deep in information about different physiotherapist techniques and anatomy. He never thought he would want to pursue this career one day, but after he was forced to stop playing volleyball because of his own injury, he got determined become someone, who would be able to help people like himself.
After almost an hour of reading and note taking, Ushijima finally looked up and stretched his back, one of his joints cracking loud. Ugh, he hated the sound of it. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands and blinked. There was a book on the edge of the table that wasn’t there before. When Ushijima picked it up, he realized it was the one they couldn’t find. A note poked from underneath the cover and when he took it out, he realized it was the list of the books. When he turned it around, it suddenly became something much more than a simple list.
Found it in the returns!
Good luck with your studies.
If you ever need help to find a book again,
call me. – Y.
and his number underneath.
It has been days since Ushijima’s exam. He aced it. Now he was lying in bed, mindlessly playing with that piece of paper in his hand. It didn’t make sense to him why he was so shy about sending that stupid text, asking Yamaguchi if he would want to grab a coffee or something. The truth was that Ushijima didn’t have many friends, mainly because he was so much older than the rest of his classmates and sometimes he just wanted to go out with someone like a normal student would. Finally, he typed the message and sent it before he could change his mind.
That was two hours ago. Now they were sitting across each other in the small university café, sipping their beverages. The first couple of minutes were awfully awkward, both not really knowing what to say. They started with the topic of volleyball, but Yamaguchi noticed his companion felt uncomfortable about the topic, so they slowly got to discussing their university life. Ushijima quickly asked Yamaguchi about his studies.
“I’ve always read a lot. My grandma actually used to take me to our local library when I was little, every two weeks. We would walk there through the park, stop to look at ducks in the pond, then we’d return the books and get some new ones… She would always take so long, choosing what she wanted to read so I just wandered around. The ladies working there were so nice, sometimes I got a lollipop. After that we’d go to the… Sorry, I got carried away,” he blushed and cleared his throat.
Once again Ushijima felt his heart race. Yamaguchi was obviously so passionate about the subject of libraries and he had this look in his face that Ushijima never seen on anyone else.
“So… when it came to choosing what I wanted to do in the future, this was always my first choice. My parents didn’t agree at first, but my grandma convinced them. I’ve never wanted to do anything else but this. When I started, I got shocked how much more there is to the job than standing behind the counter and putting books on their place, but instead of it being scary it excited me. It was a big mystery. I don’t even think most people know how much a librarian has to know, and I like that. I like that I know and do what most people don’t even think about.”
Finally Yamaguchi looked at Ushijima. He has been staring into his coffee until now and when he realized the older man was looking at him, not bored but actually interested in what he was saying, his cheeks heated.
“You probably have no idea how cute you are, talking about libraries, do you?” asked Ushijima, resolving to his usual straightforwardness.
After hearing that, the red spread to Yamaguchi’s ears and he quickly looked back down. How could he say something like that so easily?! He tugged on his sleeve nervously before glancing at the clock hanging on the wall.
“Oh f… I have to run. I am so sorry. I didn’t realize so much time has already passed and I have promised to help at the library again,” he quickly apologized, finished his coffee and got up to put on the jacket.
“It’s okay. Can I write you again?”
“Sure, it’s been… lovely. You owe me a story of why you’ve decided to study physiotherapy,” said Yamaguchi and smiled at Ushijima. His entire face brightened up, eyes squinted a little and Ushijima could have sworn he stopped breathing at that moment, but he would never admit it.
“Next time, then,” he promised and curved the corners of his mouth a little. Ushijima rarely smiled, even when he felt happy, but there was just something about this boy that broke through all his usual behaviour.
Yamaguchi said goodbye before walking away quickly so he wouldn’t be too late. Ushijima sat there for another half an hour, trying to burn the picture of smiling Yamaguchi into his memory. He shifted in his seat and sighed. Whatever was happening to him, it felt good.