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there's a lonely road to sunday night

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The cool evening air is refreshing as Shouyou cuts through it while walking back to his apartment. Miyagi at night is quiet, eternally different from the hustle and bustle of the day with people walking to and from work, school, and the like. Shouyou may have a bright shock of orange hair and the widest smile on his face, but he prefers quiet evenings like these where the silence of the world matches the silence in his mind.

 

He wonders if this is the first time he’s walked this path, because it certainly feels like it. He is always unsure how many days have passed since today and yesterday, time never moving in his own little bubble. The pavement under his feet  is unfamiliar but not strange, like something that happened before that must have slipped his mind. He continues to walk while following the directions in his phone’s notes app. The file is dated for two years ago, something that never fails to surprise him when he opens it on the way home.

 

The cool evening air is replaced with the artificial cool air from the lobby’s air conditioning, and the bright fluorescent lights sting his eyes as they adjust from the natural dark. Shouyou greets the receptionist with a smile, and she cheerfully returns it with one of her own. Sunday night does not bring many people to this building. The residents are all asleep or working night shifts. 

 

This is where they meet for the first time - or the first time in Shouyou’s fractured memory - at the elevator lobby that bridges the east and west wing of their apartment complex. There’s a stranger slouching against the west wing wall, hands in his pockets as a business shoe-clad foot taps lightly at the ground. Shoyou presses the up button for one of the east wing elevators, just as the stranger straightens up, staring directly at him. 

 

“Didn’t it rain earlier?” the stranger asks, nearly scaring him to death as his voice breaks the quiet abyss that stretches between them.

 

When Shouyou doesn’t answer, because he’s too busy staring at him in surprise and confusion of a stranger addressing him, he adds, “Hey, idiot. Did you have an umbrella?”

 

That snaps him out of his trance. His voice comes out as a surprised squawk. “What did you call me?” he asks, “Do I know you?”

 

The elevator dings open after he asks his question. The stranger’s eyes flash upwards in a moment of surprise before he breezily walks past him and boards the elevator. Shouyou notes the hand on a briefcase growing tighter as it swings between them.

 

“Maybe,” is all the stranger has to offer as the elevator doors close.

 

-

 

Hinata Shouyou’s phone has a folder labeled people

 

In it are photos of the people he’s met, in order to remember them as he goes through each day. There is a photo of the tiny, blonde receptionist who actually lives on the sixth floor and is a part-time graphic designer (Yachi), his freckled co-worker at the coffee shop sleeping on a table during break as he studies for his med finals (Yamaguchi), and an irritated blond man with glasses attempting to block the camera as he sits across the  sleeping barista (Tsukishima). There is also a photo of Shouyou with a tall, blond, man who’s smirking into the camera as he has his arms around Shouyou. The Shouyou in the photo is tanner, beaming intensely next to the man. There is no name attached to the photo, and Shouyou does not remember what it is. But every time he thinks of deleting it, it feels like deleting a part of who he is, a raw emotion passing through his heart he is unable to understand. 

 

And finally, there is a photo of the tall, dark-haired stranger Shouyou met in the lobby earlier. It’s dated a week ago. He stares at it as he curls under the mountain of blankets on his bed and the night slowly bleeds into the morning sun, trying to commit the face to memory in vain. In it, the stranger is sitting on the bus seats across from the camera, staring out the dark windows. There is a half moon situated right at the way the man is looking, and his face is illuminated by the bus lights. Shouyou stares and stares at the pixelated blue eyes as he slips into unconsciousness, the words that accompany the photo already disintegrating in his mind. 

 

New neighbor. Met him on the bus and thought he was a stalker. Idiot.

 

-

 

They meet for the second first time at the coffee shop where Shouyou works.

 

The late Friday afternoon rush is in full swing, people pouring out from the office building conveniently located across their shop, ranging all from middle-aged people in formal attire to younger adults fresh out of college in casual jeans and sneakers. Outside, the sun is dipping down as the inky black of the evening begins to seep into the sky.

 

Tsukishima is sitting at the bar, a small frown on his face as he types away at his sleek shiny laptop. Shouyou personally thinks it’s less because of the work he’s doing and more because Yamaguchi had called in sick today. 

 

When there’s a slight break in customers, Shouyou steps away from the counter to bother him. If he was being honest, riling up the bespectacled blonde was one of his favorite past times. 

 

“What’cha doing there, Stingyshima?” he chirps, leaning over the bar to peek at his laptop. He catches a glimpse of a word document opened alongside a messaging site before he’s forcefully shoved back across.

 

“None of your business,” he hisses, glaring at him.

 

“Don’t be like that now!” Shouyou whines, dramatically placing a hand on his forehead as more customers look over in amusement at the interaction. Tsukishima, like many of the others, was a regular here and used to the hyperactive tangerine barista’s antics. Sugawara, the shop’s owner, said it gave the place a little more needed life.

 

“Uh, hello,” a voice says from the counter. 

 

“Go on, don’t you have a customer?” Tsukishima smiles.

 

Shouyou rolls his eyes as he walks back to his post. “Hi! How can I-”

 

Shouyou finally makes eye contact with the man and pauses. He’s staring at him intensely. That isn’t normal for coffee shop customers, and Shouyou has a vague feeling he knows him.

 

“Can I get a hot chocolate please,” the man says.

 

Shouyou blinks. “This is a coffee shop,” he replies, mouth saying the words before his mind can process them.

 

The man raises an eyebrow. “I know, but it also says you serve hot chocolate, idiot.”

 

Shouyou gapes at him. The idiot would normally be unwelcome and rude from a customer, but Shouyou feels like he’s heard this precise voice say that word for a million times already, and he lets it slide. He fixes on his customer service smile and apologizes to the man. By the time a steaming cup of take-out hot chocolate is in the man’s hands, the incident has comfortably passed.

 

“By the way,” the man says, tucking one hand in his pocket in a gesture that is again all too familiar to Shouyou’s mind, “My name is Kageyama. I think you should add that to the photo.” He turns and leaves with a small, hopeful smile on his lips that Shouyou can’t see.

 

Shouyou is still quiet and gaping at the door that closes behind him. After a minute, he hears an unfriendly snicker.

 

“Gay,” remarks Tsukishima, not even glancing up from his laptop.

 

Shouyou regains his composure, fishing out his phone despite the no-gadgets-while-on-shift rule Sugawara (barely) enforces, “Says the one who set Yamaguchi’s contact as Tadashi, with a sparkly heart emoji,” he retorts.

 

“How-how do you even know that!” splutters the blond, but Shouyou is already busy hunting for the photo of the dark haired man on the bus.

 

-

 

They meet for the last of first times on a Sunday evening.

 

The night is dotted with light rain and falling leaves as Japan moves into colder seasons, the promise of winter chilling in the air. Shouyou boards the bus shivering, the bus’ mandatory air conditioning doing nothing to bite away the cold setting in his bones. He forgot to bring a jacket today, and he curses himself for deciding to wear a thin, white shirt.

 

He takes a seat at the very back, where the air conditioning doesn’t function that well which results as the least coveted seat, especially during the summer. But for now he welcomes it, squishing himself into the corner as he watches the building pass by.

 

The bus stops to let more people on, but only a single person gets on, tall with a gym bag slung on his shoulder. He pauses to take a look around, spotting the small tuft of orange hair peeping from the back seat.

 

Shouyou startles when he feels the air next to him fill with the space of a person, the dark-haired, blue-eyed stranger who sits with his gym bag between his legs. 

 

The bus moves again, and five minutes later, the silence between them is still anticipating. Shouyou pretends he doesn’t notice the glances the stranger makes every now and then, focusing on trying to bring some warmth to himself. He’s still half an hour away from his apartment, and the rain doesn’t look like it’s letting up. A little later, the stranger finally speaks.

 

“Hey,” he says, too gruff to be considered kind but somehow Shouyou recognizes the wisps of sympathy in his demeanor, “Do you wanna borrow my jacket?”

 

Shouyou accepts the outstretched bundle of cloth with slight hesitation. “Thanks,” he says softly.

 

It’s only when he’s wearing the black cloth snug over his hands and when he realizes the stranger is still not getting off at any other stops does he realize he might know him. He discreetly tries to fish out his phone from his bag.

 

“I’m the most recent photo, I think,” the stranger suddenly says, staring at him.

 

“Oh! I-um, yeah, hold on,” Shouyou says, unlocking his phone with a quick facial scan.

 

“You weren’t really joking about the amnesia thing huh,” the stranger remarks, relaxing further into the seat, “This is the fourth time we’ve met.”

 

“I- sorry, Kageyama, yeah, I have anterograde amnesia-” Shouyou finally gasps, finding the photo in his phone. The name is simultaneously foreign and familiar on his tongue, like it’s the first time he’s saying it but also like his mouth was made to form the syllables. 

 

“You don’t know me. You probably won’t remember me tomorrow,” Kageyama finishes.

 

The silence that lapses between them is comfortable somehow. Shouyou wonders if he’s ever felt this comfortable with a (technically not) stranger.

 

“So anyway,” Kageyama continues, hands clasping on the gym bag strap, “You mentioned you used to play volleyball, the first time we met.” Shouyou stares. Volleyball is one of the pockets of emptiness and familiarity in his mind, same as the blond man in his phone’s gallery that while he can’t remember much of, the movements still come to him naturally. 

 

“Do you want to play sometime? I’m a setter, and maybe it would be…. Nice.”

 

Shouyou supposes it takes a lot for Kageyama not to be sporting a constant frown, his mouth is tense but his eyes are hopeful, peering down at Shouyou with an excitement reminiscent of something Shouyou cannot put a finger on. He welcomes it.

 

That night, he adds a new note, with the same old photo of Kageyama. Underneath it, he writes: Kageyama. We’ll play volleyball every Saturday, at the public gym two blocks from the apartment. He’s a setter. I can hit his tosses.