Again and Again

Hajime doesn't know how or why, but he's repeating the same damn day over and over. He's supposed to find his true love in order to break the loop- but it's New Year's Eve, and who knows how many people there are at this party? At this rate, he'll never see 2017.

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3. Chapter Two

 

Hajime wakes up to the afternoon sun bleeding in through his curtains. It’s staining his room the same colour orange that flecks Oikawa Tooru’s eyes.

Crap, he thinks. It’s already afternoon? That’s another day wasted, then.

He can’t remember any of what happened last night- nothing, after the New Year’s countdown. He lies still with his eyes shut, struggling for details. God. Hajime swears he didn’t have much to drink at all, so this doesn’t make any sense.

Why doesn’t he remember anything?

Sighing, he rolls over to reach for his phone on the floor. As he does so, a note falls from his pillow and drifts onto the carpet. It’s on the same fancy paper as it was yesterday, his name embossed on the front in the same apathetic black ink. He turns it over wearily, rolling his eyes.

Find your true love.

It says the same stupid thing as it did yesterday.

Hajime hadn’t realised how unoriginal his parents were. He wonders if this is going to become a trend, now- he’ll wake up every morning and read the same four words like a prayer before breakfast. Maybe he’ll actually go to the trouble of getting himself a girlfriend, just to stop his parents before they start going even more overboard.

Today, he decides to spice things up a little. Instead of closing his eyes in disinterest, Hajime targets the waste-paper basket carefully, throwing the note into his trash with just the right amount of leverage. It lands perfectly, and he smiles in smug satisfaction.

The feeling doesn’t last long.

“Hajime?” his mother shouts, from downstairs. “Are you up?”

Not again. Hajime still hasn’t even put his clothes on, but at least he doesn’t have anywhere to be today. As he dresses – pulling on some ragged old t-shirt and his most comfortable jeans – something itches at the back of his mind. He feels like something really, really bad must have happened yesterday- it’s always like this, when he can’t remember stuff.

Hajime better not have proposed to a volleyball again, or he’ll never live it down.

“Hajime?” calls his mother, again. “Answer me! Oikawa’s at the door for you.” She pauses, deliberating. “You’re not taking any girls with you, are you?”

Hajime frowns. Taking any girls with me where?

As it exists solely as a distraction, the doorbell rings. Then rings again. And again. It sounds like Oikawa’s trying to imitate the chant their supporters sing at Aoba Joshai matches- and it would be annoying, if Hajime wasn’t so busy trying to figure out why the hell Oikawa is at his door in the first place.

It’s as he’s running down the stairs to open the door that Hajime remembers the bet that they made yesterday. Oikawa had definitely won- but perhaps Hajime had been too out of it by the end of the party to actually grant Oikawa’s request. He fumbles in his pocket, wondering where he’s left his wallet.

Oikawa always asks for the most expensive milk bread, and Hajime has been saving up for new volleyball kit for months now.

Ruffling a hand through his hair, Hajime throws open the door. “Oikawa.” He pauses, frowning. “Remind me why you’re here, again?”

Oikawa stares at Hajime as if he’s just doused himself in gasoline. Warily, Hajime checks to make sure that this time, he’s actually wearing clothes. (He is, thank god.)

“Um,” says Hajime. “Is there something I’m forgetting? My memory of last night is really patchy, so-”

Oikawa rolls his eyes expressively. “Who cares about last night? It’s tonight you should be worrying about!” He looks at Hajime shirt pointedly- it’s ripped in more than one place, with some western band logo on its front that Hajime’s never heard of. “Led Zeppelin? Come on, Iwa-chan, you can’t even name a single song by Led Zeppelin!”

Hajime forces a smile, though he’s fighting confusion. Oikawa’s gone out with him wearing t-shirts and stuff just like this- and it’s not like they’re going anywhere special. Probably just round the corner, to buy milk bread. “At least it’s not my underwear again.”

Oikawa shakes his head in mock disappointment. “Seriously, Iwa-chan, you can’t honestly believe you’re ever going to get a date if you want to go to the New Year’s Eve party like that. Admit it- you’d be lost without me.”

He doesn’t make a joke about the underwear comment- which is funny, because yesterday he would have jumped at the chance. That’s not the only weird thing about this, either. Hajime is still confused over the mention of a New Year’s Eve party. It’s been Mattsun’s party already- that was yesterday, Hajime is sure of it. He wonders whether this is some elaborate trick that Oikawa is pulling, just to wind him up.

Yeah, Hajime tells himself. That’s probably all it is.

He raises his eyebrows as Oikawa ducks under his arm to walk into the house, stopping him in his tracks with a hand on his arm. “Hey, Trashykawa.” Hajime smirks- he bets that Oikawa was planning on really freaking him out with all this weird deja vu. “Is Makki in on this joke as well?” he drawls, his grip tightening.  “Because anyone with half a brain could see right through it.”

Oikawa laughs lightly. “My, well, I must have only half a brain then, Iwa-chan- because I don’t know what on earth you could be talking about.”

“Don’t play dumb, Shittykawa- it’s so obvious-”

Oikawa twists around to face him, his expression too serious for any simple prank. “I’m not ‘playing dumb’, Iwa-chan. And, really, the only thing that’s obvious right now is your bad attitude.” He winks, pulling out of Hajime’s grip and waltzing into the kitchen.

“Hurry up and get ready properly, Iwa-chan!” he calls over his shoulder. “Unless, of course, you plan on going to the party like that.”

Hajime’s about to make a suitably scathing comment in return, but it’s already too late. Oikawa is greeting his parents; he’s about to embark on the story of the one time that Hajime got really, really drunk and made out with a volleyball.

From the other room, his parents’ laughter sounds almost like the dull, throbbing hum of a curse.

--

They’re walking the same route to Mattsun’s party as they did yesterday. Except, apparently, yesterday never happened, and they haven’t been to the party yet, and Oikawa didn’t win the bet, and Hajime never blacked out during the countdown.

It doesn’t make yesterday seem any less real, though.

“Maybe it was all a bad dream,” suggests Oikawa, the wind blowing his hair around his head like some kind of inverted halo. “Although, really, I don’t see it can have been a particularly bad dream if it had me in it, Iwa-chan, but-”

“It doesn’t…” Hajime shakes his head. “I don’t know, Tooru. It just doesn’t feel like it was a dream. It felt real.”

Tooru. Hajime never calls Oikawa ‘Tooru’ unless he’s really serious about something- unless he wants the other boy to feel the full gravity and meaning behind his words. Oikawa nods solemnly, his hand stroking his chin. It’s a gesture that should look ridiculous, but somehow Oikawa can pull it off.

Suddenly, he stops- still, completely still, in the middle of the street. “I have it!” He places his hands on each of Hajime’s shoulders, his eyes blazing with such intensity that Hajime can’t help but be impressed. They’re so close, he finds himself noticing, feeling the heat from Oikawa’s palms like it’s searing his skin. So close.

“It must have been the aliens, Iwa-chan. There’s no other possible explanation for it.”

Hajime sighs. For a second, he’d actually wondered if Oikawa was about to talk sensibly. “For the last time, Shittykawa,” he mutters, “the aliens aren’t real.”

“But they-”

“Ugh.” Hajime throws his hands up in the air, palms towards the sky like he’s trying to catch all the world’s worst wishes. “Let’s just say it was a bad dream, okay? So you’ll shut up about the aliens.”

Oikawa pouts. He never just lets things go that easily, after all- Hajime should have learnt this by now. “How can you know that aliens aren’t real, Iwa-chan? I mean, some people might say that your sense of romance isn’t real, but it’s probably there. Deep down. Really deep down.”

Hajime’s had enough. Of this weird déjà vu, of this pointless conversation- and most of all, he’s had enough of the aliens. He glares at Oikawa, gritting his teeth. “At least my sense of romance is acknowledged by more people than aliens are. Wait, wait, let me correct that. At least my sense of romance is acknowledged by more people over the age of 6 years old.

Oikawa is unfazed. “Actually, Iwa-chan, I think you’ll find that the Japanese National Alien Watching Association has-”

Hajime hits him over the head. Probably harder than he means to.

“Ow, Iwa-chan, you’re so cruel!”

“Life goes on, Crappykawa.”

Except, for Hajime, it doesn’t seem to.

--

The party is just the same as it was yesterday. The lights are dimmed as if the sun has already sunk behind the sky, and someone’s turned the music up full volume.

It’s not until they’re sitting round the same table they sat at last night, Makki and Mattsun cracking pointless jokes that generally relate to either memes or sex, that Hajime remembers the note he found on his pillow. Both mornings. Oikawa is halfway through proposing they have a ‘competition of love’, when Hajime pictures the message.

Find your true love.

Maybe that’s the reason why today he agrees to the contest so readily. That, or maybe it’s just the familiar curve to Oikawa’s lips that Hajime’s never had the will to say no to.

Either way.

Today, Hajime decides to, you know, actually try at Oikawa’s competition. Beating thirty guys at arm wrestling won’t give him the pure satisfaction of seeing Oikawa moaning in defeat, after all. He turns Makki when he’s challenged – for the first time in ages. Makki’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, but he doesn’t say anything. Maybe he didn’t think that Hajime was actually serious about Oikawa’s competition, but that’s where he’s wrong.

Hajime wants to do his best to win.

He looks around the room for a girl who might actually, you know, consider him someone worthy of being in love with. Hajime’s not conventionally attractive like Oikawa is, so he guesses that he’s just going to have to rely upon his sweet, charming nature.

Unfortunately, Hajime isn’t very sweet or charming.

There’s a girl standing alone in the corner of the room- she’s small, with a petite frame that looks like it might break in half in anyone gets to close. Hajime approaches her if only to give her some company. She looks too tiny for this party, like it’s threatening to swallow her whole.

Her hair is a very pretty shade of blonde, but Hajime – for some reason – has always liked the look of golden-brown.

When he goes to stand beside her – actcasual,Hajime,forgod’ssakeactnatural – she shifts her body away from him, turning her face away. Hajime’s wondering whether to be offended, actually- it’s not like he’s that bad looking, and he’s pretty sure his breath doesn’t smell. He flashes the girl a small smile, and she grins back, shyly.

Good. That’s a good start, Hajime. See, talking to girls isn’t so bad, after all.

Not that you’ve actually talked to her yet, but whatever.

“Hi,” he says, and immediately cringes at how ridiculous his voice sounds. “I’m Iwaizumi.”

“I- My name is Yachi,” she answers, after a prolonged pause. Her words are hurried, jumbled- toppling out on top of each other like she can’t bear to keep them inside for too long.

“This your first party?”

Yachi nods, then, in her tiny-mouse-voice, “Can you tell?”

Hajime laughs. “Don’t worry about it, you’re doing fine.” Looking at the girl, she kind of reminds Hajime of a younger sister that he needs to protect. He realises just how ridiculous it is to be trying to make her fall in love with him, when he can’t even conjure up feelings anything other than brotherly towards her. 

They’re interrupted by an older girl, her sleek, shiny black hair framing delicate glasses. Hajime recognises her from somewhere, but can’t quite place it. She takes a shielding step towards Yachi, squinting at Hajime suspiciously. She turns to Yachi. “This guy isn’t bothering you, right?”

Yachi shakes her head, hair flying. “N-No, not at all.”

“Good.” The girl faces Hajime and waits, obviously expecting him to say something.

Hajime fumbles, forcing his jaw to work, his lips to force out sounds. “I- um- I-” He licks his lips nervously- why can’t he do this? Oikawa’s so natural when it comes to approaching people and Hajime seems like a llama with a severe case of asthma in comparison. “You have… Nice…” Compliment something, damn it, compliment something! “You have really nice, um… whites in your eye. I mean, um, the white of your eye is incredibly white. I mean-”

“Um,” says the older girl, “thank you?” She doesn’t look very grateful.

Hajime fumbles. “No, no, that’s not what I mean- I meant that, er, the… You have really healthy looking gums, actually. Your dentist must be very proud. You, erm…”

This is so not going to plan. Why hadn’t he just stuck with arm wrestling?

The girls both look appropriately weirded out. Yachi’s face crumples a little, her eyes growing larger in concern. “Um… Are you drunk?”

Hajime shakes his head. “No! I just…” So much for the sweet art of seduction, thinks Hajime. Guess it looks as if I’m going to wind up begging. He bows his head forwards, pleading silently with the two girls in front of him. “I need you both to say that you’re in love with me!”

Yachi looks as if she’s going to faint. The older girl frowns. “Why on earth would we ever do that for you?”

“Because…” Hajime mutters, because, because. And then: oh, fuck it. Hajime figures that he may as well tell the truth, now he’s messed up this badly. “I’ve made a bet. With my friend. The person who gets the most love confessions by the end of the night wins.” He grits his teeth, tipping his head back just slightly. “I want that to be me.”

The older girl rolls her eyes, tossing her dark hair. “I love you. There.” She looks like she’s fighting off a blush, her hands curling themselves up into fists. Yachi doesn’t say anything, just stands there in shock.

“Thanks,” says Hajime, slowly. “I owe you.”

“Well,” says the girl, “I know what it’s like to want to win so badly.” She smiles slightly, then adds, as if she feels obliged to explain- “I’m the Karasuno volleyball team’s manager. My name’s Kiyoko.” She laughs, like the sun is shaking in the sky. “Good luck. You’ll… You’ll need it.”

 Volleyball. So, that’s where Hajime’s seen her before. He smiles back, but Kiyoko and Yachi are already walking away.

--

Oikawa wins the bet, in the end. Hajime can’t persuade anyone but Kiyoko to tell them they love him for the rest of the night- mostly, they just look at him as if he’s crazy and walk away. One girl actually threw a Frisbee at his head, which Makki found hilarious- especially when Hajime failed to catch it. On the other hand, Oikawa’s only been counting loosely, but apparently he’s already successfully wooed twenty girls.

Hajime wouldn’t put it past him.

As the New Year’s countdown begins, Oikawa’s surrounded by the same gaggle of girls he was yesterday. Hajime is still confused about that – all this weird déjà vu – but he’s writing it off as some strangely realistic, scarily accurate nightmare. At least after the countdown he’s never going to have to think about this again- he woke up just as the countdown ended, after all, so nothing afterwards can possibly be a repeat.

Hajime watches Oikawa with his hands locked round some girl’s waist. She’s fiddling with his hair like she can’t keep still. The countdown’s already on 5, and Hajime checks his wallet. Oikawa’s going to want milk bread, and he better not ask for more than Hajime can pay for.

Maybe he’ll be able to haggle it down, somehow.

2, 1.

The clock strikes midnight- the New Year’s countdown is over.

Hajime’s about to push his way across the floor towards Oikawa, when he feels his chest constricting. His vision spots and blurs in front of him, a misty veil of black dropping down over the party. Fuck, he finds himself thinking. Not again.

This isn’t normal. This isn’t normal.

He’s writhing on the floor, the pain in his head overwhelming.

That’s when Hajime opens his eyes, and suddenly he’s no longer at the party.

Nope. He realises, with a dawning sense of despair, that buying Oikawa milk bread is nothing on this problem.

The afternoon sun is drifting through Hajime’s bedroom curtains, staining his room the same colour orange that flecks Oikawa Tooru’s eyes. And there’s something – something – at the back of Hajime’s mind that’s telling him today is somehow New Year’s Eve.

Again.

For the third time in a row.

He rolls over onto his side and almost gets a paper cut from the note resting on his pillow. Hajime doesn’t even have to look at it to know what it says.

Find your true love.

Hajime groans, and tosses it into his waste-paper basket with his eyes closed.

This time round, it lands perfectly. 

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