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The Never-Ending Bridge

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"Oikawa-san."

"Oikawa-senpai."

"Tooru."

Oikawa Tooru doesn't remember how he gets here. His head is spinning, and his eyes are dry to the point where he's wondering if he neglected to remove his contact lenses after—

After what? he asks himself, rubbing his eyes. He tries to generate moisture to soothe them, but the feeling goes away quickly. In fact, his body is strangely light. Strangely hollow. Or perhaps it would have been, if his gut was twisting and clenching and being punched by an invisible fist, merciless and unrelenting. It's a bad feeling, and it sickens him.

There isn't much to look at around here. In front of him is a bridge, and beyond the bridge is nothing but fog. But Oikawa begins to remember. There'd also been a bridge, and a truck, and he remembers the feeling of blood trickling between his eyes and clumping on his eyelashes.

"TOORU!"

Warily, he whips around, expecting a face that he had known since childhood. But he isn't there. Iwaizumi isn't there, and Oikawa is alone with his thoughts and the fog that threatens to dull his senses.

"Iwa-chan?" he calls tentatively, and he hears his own weakness—his own fears and insecurities—reverberating through the still air like an echo from long ago. "This isn't funny," Oikawa tries again, desperately clawing at the possibility that this may just all be a very elaborate prank. But deep down inside, he knows it isn't—and for a moment, he struggles to breathe.

If I collapsed and died right now, would anyone find me?

Who is to say, anyway, that he wasn't?

The thought of being alone scares him more.

Letting out a breath and slapping his cheeks, he tries to calm himself. It's just like the period before an important match. A match against Shiratorizawa, or Dateko, or—god forbid—Karasuno. It's just like that.

(But it isn't, and he knows it.)

Still, Oikawa squares his shoulders and marches forward, because whatever answers he needs cannot be found here. He's about to step onto the bridge for the first time when a wooden post displaying a message stops him.

Sanzu River, the sign reads. Abandon all memories.

It makes his confidence stutter, and his knees—weak from all the times he ignored Iwaizumi and did serve after serve after server—almost buckle beneath his weight. He looks down for the first time, and finds that he's wearing his sports jersey and shorts.

Abandon all memories?

But why?

Memories are precious things. He likes to remember things. Things like he and Iwaizumi's first joint birthday (because they decided they might as well celebrate together if their birthdays are just a little more than a month apart), which happened only once and ended up with Iwaizumi threatening to nail him on the head with an extra-large bowling ball. Things like how he teased his nephew, Takeru, about his poor drawing skills only for Takeru to gobble up all the milk bread he had bought from his favorite bakery that one time. Happy things, like when he finally managed to coax Iwaizumi into holding his hand on the way to the third years' graduation dinner.

Bitter things, like Aobajosai's defeat at the hands of Karasuno, leave a poor aftertaste in his mouth, but he doesn't want to forget it either. Remembering a hardship is better than forgetting one.

For a moment, Oikawa contemplates ripping the post from the ground and tossing it into the churning waters below. But the post looks sturdy enough to resist, and he isn't sure if he can muster up the strength right now. Maybe Iwaizumi can do it, he thinks. Those biceps aren't for show, and Oikawa recalls learning this the hard way the first time he challenged Iwaizumi to an arm wrestle.

He abandons the bridge for the time being, and instead tries to go in the opposite direction, where it's shrouded by fog. But he finds himself back to where he started, with that dreaded bridge looming in front of him like a highway to hell.

Oikawa has no choice.

He knows this.

"Oikawa-san."

"Oikawa-senpai."

"Tooru."

He walks.


Oikawa doesn't get tired. Or thirsty. Or hungry. He's been walking for at least twenty-four hours, and it's only his crumbling mental fortitude that stops him. It isn't natural, and, almost frantically, he palms his chest, over the spot where his heart should beat.

He can't quite tell if it's beating or not. He feels nothing for one moment, but feels it thud against his open palm the next. Exhaling sharply, Oikawa kneels, then rolls onto his back. The sky is beautiful, at least. He's never seen a more beautiful sky before.

It's like he's looking out into deep space, and he swears a shooting star passes right before his very eyes before disintegrating into nothing in the distance.

"Oikawa! Be careful, you dumbass!"

"Hurry up, Iwa-chan! I'm gonna miss it 'cause of you!"

Oikawa bites his tongue, and he knows Iwaizumi is laughing at him somewhere as he sits up and turns his head to the side. There are two children on the bridge—one is trying to work a telescope, while the other, holding a bug-catching net, impatiently prods him. If Oikawa has a heart, it freezes for a second, and if his tongue is still working, words fail him regardless.

That's... He watches as the dark-haired boy smack the boy working the telescope over the head with his butterfly net and says something rude. Us. That's us.

"It's starting!" Tooru—no, not him, but the boy he once was, the boy he used to be—says, pointing at the sky. Oikawa looks as well, and is greeted by a meteor shower passing by. "Look, Iwa-chan, look!"

"I'm looking, stop shouting!"

Iwa-chan. Suddenly, Oikawa's gut clenches painfully again, and he feels that same pain in his chest when sheer longing overwhelms him like a tidal wave thundering against the shore. His head hurts, too, but he remembers what happened more clearly. What happened before he wound up here. There was a bridge, and a truck, and Iwaizumi was there by his side.

"Oh god, OikawaTooru. Tooru, fuck, hang on, just hang on."

The meteor shower ends, and it's like he's lost a part of himself. Oikawa's hand hovers above his heart once more before he looks up to see Tooru and Iwaizumi—not his Iwa-chan, but another one—start to pack up and leave. He wonders where they're going, and shouts when Iwaizumi, with his butterfly net and black singlet—disappears over the edge of the bridge. Tooru starts to follow, but Oikawa grabs his wrist before he can leave.

He remembers the meteor shower. It's a precious memory, and he hasn't thought about it in a long time, but he still remembers and he can't ever imagine himself forgetting it, because it was the first time he started liking Iwaizumi.

"Let go," Tooru says gently.

"No," Oikawa refuses. "Never."

There's something like pity in his younger self's eyes.

"You have too," Tooru tells him. "I don't belong here. Iwa-chan is waiting for me."

"Waiting for you? Down there?" Oikawa stands, his hand still gripped around Tooru's wrist. Had he really been that frail and skinny before? He cannot remember exactly—it's an itch he cannot scratch. "Then let me come, too—"

"You can't. You belong up here, but I belong down there."

Oikawa knows it sounds childish, but he says it anyway, "You can't stop me."

"If you follow me, you'll never go home."

"The ambulance is coming. Oh god, don't leave me."

"I'll go wherever Iwa-chan is," Oikawa declares, and he means it.

Tooru looks away. "You won't find him here." He breaks free from Oikawa's grip. Or maybe Oikawa just lets him go. "Maybe... you'll see him again, one day."

What? What do you?

Like Iwaizumi before him, Tooru disappears over the bridge.

It's as if a part of Oikawa dies. He blinks in confusion, passing his hand through his hair as he tries to remember. But no matter how hard he wracks his brain, he cannot recall what he feels is missing. He looks skyward for answers, but there are none. A meteor shower passes by, but it doesn't mean anything to him, even if he feels like it should.

The earliest he can remember is the joint birthday he and Iwaizumi had celebrated together when they were seven.

Iwaizumi is crying now, and Oikawa almost wants to laugh at the absurdity of it all, but his entire body feels as if he's been doused in gasoline and lit on fire. 'Iwa-chan is such an ugly crier,' he wants to say, and he imagines his tone as flippant and playful and maybe a little watery and sad, too.

Oikawa vows to hold on to his memories for as long as possible.


The bridge doesn't end. Oikawa is certain of it, and for a while, he just utters curses—the kind that would make his beautiful mother cover her face in shame if she heard—at it.

He doesn't say anything about it, mostly because there's no one to talk to but himself, but he's beginning to remember less and less about his mother. His father has all but vanished from his memory at this point, and it's a dull ache that's slowly going away.

Oikawa realizes. He realizes while memories are linked to feelings, feelings can still exist without memories. And vice versa, likely, but it's redundant thinking because he's probably not going to remember much in the near future.

It's surreal. Cathartic. This is a dream to him, one he wants to wake up from. When he does—if he does—he will roll out of bed, kiss his mother on the cheek and give her a hug. He does not know what he will do for his father.

Oikawa doesn't know his father anymore.

It's not like death. It's a bit different from death.

It's not like the time his eldest brother passed away, when his absence tore a hole in Oikawa's chest that did not heal for years.

His father is more like an echo in the past that makes his heart twist from time to time. Not often, because Oikawa doesn't think about him anymore. It's not like he doesn't want to—it's merely because he doesn't know his father anymore. He cannot mourn a man he doesn't know.

But Oikawa is afraid. He is afraid that Iwaizumi will suffer the same fate, and he will slowly disappear from his mind. Every second, he fills his thoughts with memories of their time together. He cannot remember the childhood they spent together, but he still remembers the years after, and that's enough for now.

There's a fracture in his mind, and memories are leaking out.

Oikawa sits for a while before finding himself on his back and giving names to the stars. He names one Makki, and another Mattsun. There's one called Yahaba, too, and another called Watacchi and Kyoken-chan and even Tobio-chan. Tobio-chan is the ugliest star. It's small and barely visible and its light dimmed by a nebula cloud in front of it.

None of the stars are named Iwa-chan. Iwaizumi has always been the immovable earth, not the capricious star.

Oikawa stands to resume his journey when a voice from the past—this one more bitter than the rest—calls his name.

"Oikawa-san!"

He doesn't want to turn. He doesn't want to find what he knows is there. But in the end, Oikawa can't help it, and, uncertainty and regret in his eyes, he turns.

Kageyama beams up at him. Or, rather, the him that had materialized beside Oikawa while he wasn't looking.

"What do you want now?" The other Oikawa—Tooru, he supposes—says snootily, disgust evident in his gaze.

Oikawa vaguely remembers this encounter. It was before he tried to—

The scene changes, and Oikawa witnesses himself thirsty for victory and hungry for growth as he punches serve after serve over the net, panting and exhausted. He's wearing the Kitaichi jacket, and probably the jersey as well, underneath. Oikawa sees Iwaizumi appear from an invisible doorway, but Tooru doesn't.

Then Kageyama opens his mouth. "Oikawa-san, please teach me how to serve!"

Tooru stares at him as if he's a demon. Oikawa knows what he's thinking. Keep away. Keep away. Don't come near me. But now, it's different. Maybe it's the perspective, Oikawa thinks. It's a little off, seeing yourself from a third person view.

The only thing Oikawa is thinking now is how he could have felt so badly threatened to the point where—

Tooru lashes out, blind with jealousy and rage.

Just like last time, Iwaizumi catches his hand before Kageyama can be struck, and Oikawa, for the first time, sees Kageyama's hurt and confused expression in a clear light. It makes him stare at his hands as bile rises up his throat. He wants to be swallowed whole so he can never see this kind of emotion on Kageyama's face ever again, because it's a knife to a heart he doesn't know if he still has or not.

Iwaizumi yells at Tooru. Knocks some sense into him.

Oikawa waits for Tooru and Iwaizumi to be arguing before talking to Kageyama. "Hey."

At first, Kageyama either ignores him or doesn't hear him. So Oikawa grabs his shoulder.

Kageyama stares at him.

And Oikawa knows—he knows this is just a memory—a memory he's about to lose, no less—he knows, but he can't just let this go unchecked for a second longer. He'll probably never see this version of Kageyama ever again. Oikawa's throat bobs up and down as he offers, "Let me teach you how to do a jump serve."

Kageyama continues to stare. Oikawa thinks he's going to leave, but, by some miracle, he decides to stay. "Okay," he says. "Okay."

So Oikawa takes a volleyball from the ball bin and throws it into the air.

After this, all three of them vanish into the waters below, and Oikawa never thinks of Kitaichi's Kageyama ever again, but his heart—he probably has one, he guesses—is lighter than before.

"Oikawa-san."

He hears it one last time before it's lost forever.


The bridge is taking his memories from oldest to newest. Oikawa figured it out a while ago. He knows because he doesn't know what his parents look like, or what Iwaizumi looked like as a child. He just knows that he had parents once upon a time, and Iwaizumi was probably his childhood friend. But he can still remember Kageyama's stricken expression as Karasuno lost to Aobajosai in the Interhigh, three receivers (he doesn't remember their names) diving for the ball that sealed the crows' fate. Oikawa can still remember how Iwaizumi glared at him for flustering him with a surprise kiss on the cheek.

(He's glad, actually, that it's like this. He doesn't want to forget Iwaizumi.)

((Please, don't take him away.))

It's the middle of the day or the middle of the night when Oikawa collapses to his knees and cries. He's an uglier crier, according to Iwaizumi, but he doesn't care. There's no one here for him, and he's losing his mind as the seconds tick by. He wants Iwaizumi. He wants to crawl into his arms and blow his nose on his sweater and cause him trouble and do it because he knows Iwaizumi loves him enough to forgive him and Oikawa loves him so much too—

Oikawa is alone.

He feels pathetic when he calls for Iwaizumi, knowing he will never come to him, because he is surely in hell. As he cries, some ghostly presences surrounded him, and he looks up through tears to see himself—Tooru—being handed the Best Setter Award. In the backdrop, Ushijima stands, strong and silent as always.

No, he thinks wildly, frantically. "No. No, no, no, no, NO! I can't lose this! I can't!"

He'd been so damn happy.

"A genuine smile. How rare," Oikawa hears Iwaizumi say to Tooru.

"My smile's always honest and pure!" Tooru insists.

"Hearing those words coming from you is strange enough as it is."

"Of course I'd be happy! I've never won something like this before!"

Seeing himself smile so widely makes what's coming hurt even more. Oikawa's breath shudders, and more tears slip down his cheeks and pool at his chin. When they make to leave, Oikawa chases after them, trying to preserve the little he has left. But their retreating figures fade away into the fog, and he loses them for good.

"Don't go," he chokes after them, his voice breaking. "Please don't go."

"The Best Setter award goes to Oikawa Tooru!"

He blacks out for some time.

When he wakes up again, there is a sense of tremendous loss that makes his chest tighten in agony. Oikawa doesn't know what for. But he makes a note to get used to it.

This will be nothing when the inevitable comes.


For a long time, Oikawa just sleeps. Avoiding walking won't do it—memories he doesn't even know he has are still being lost. What wakes him up and compels him to keep going because it's better to go to nothing than to stay in nothing is the loss of another huge memory.

His eyes are dull as he watches himself sign up for Lil' Tykes' Volleyball Classroom as an instructor, his nephew Takeru bouncing a volleyball up and down with one hand. They are both holding ice cream because it's summer and Takeru had always taken his uncle's spoiling of him for granted.

Oikawa stands behind them to check the date on the application form. He would have just started his first year of high school. Young, but talented and socially skilled enough to do the job. For the first time in a long time, Oikawa smiles.

Smiles and then cries as Tooru takes Takeru by the hand and leads him over the bridge, where their volleyball classroom is waiting.

He curls into a ball and then looks up to check if Iwaizumi is standing over him with a tissue box in one hand.

He isn't.

It makes his heart break even more.

His nephew's face begins to grow fuzzy.


"Oikawa-senpai!" the kids call him.

Oikawa watches Tooru take great delight in being called senpai. It's harder and harder to see Tooru as himself anymore. So Oikawa looks away. He lasts for about five seconds before his gaze wrenches back to Tooru being surrounded by children begging him to join their team because they are one too short for a six-on-six. They know whichever team he joins will win, the crafty little brats. Oikawa smiles fondly as Takeru tries to claim family rights. Just to spite him, Tooru smirks and joins the other team.

The game has to end sometime.

And it does, the children dispersing and Tooru taking Takeru back home to his mother.

Oikawa cannot remember his sister's name or face.

"Oikawa-senpai!" the kids are yelling, waving goodbye. "Come back soon, Oikawa-senpai!"

Don't say that, Oikawa thinks as the back of his eyes burn and his bottom lip trembles. Don't say that when you guys are the ones leaving me.

Before Tooru and Takeru disappear completely into the fog, Takeru turns back once and beams at him.


Oikawa wonders what his family is like. He is sure he has one. Maybe he even has siblings, but he imagines himself as an only child kind of person. The scenery remains unchanged. When he looks up at the sky, it's still space—when he looks backward and forward, there's nothing but more bridge and more fog. Below churns the waters of regret, where he now knows memories disappear into.

He can only recall them as silver, incorporeal ghosts departing into the sea. If only he could remember what they were.

His body feels lighter than before. As if his soul is shedding weight along with his memories.

He thinks he's dead.

It's the best explanation.

Oikawa accepts it.

He begins to make baseless conjectures on what the afterlife beyond the bridge is like. Perhaps he will meet Iwaizumi there. Oikawa frowns at the thought. That will mean Iwaizumi died, too, and that's the last thing he wants.


There are a couple of guys on his team that like to pull pranks. Oikawa allows this because they know not to interfere with practice to the point of it being detrimental, and also because it's awfully amusing watching the first year with the shallot-esque hairstyle—Kindaichi, was it? Did they go to junior high together? Did he go to junior high with anyone? What about Iwaizumi?—try to scrub out pink hair dye by dipping his hair into a bucket of water in the locker rooms.

Matsukawa—Mattsun—is more ruthless with his sense of humor than Hanamaki—Makki.

The first years get used to it soon enough. Kindaichi is most often the victim of a prank, because Kunimi was apparently quite intimidating. Oikawa can understand. It's always the quiet ones. As the Interhigh approaches, the pranks cease, and they buckle down.

They lose the Interhigh.

Though he knows he will never go to Nationals—he can't even find himself to care about Ushijima anymore; the worst memories of him have been shaved away—it's an even worse feeling when the final set of Karasuno versus Aobajosai finally comes.

Oikawa's heart is close to shattering completely as he witnesses that orange-haired shrimp get through a triple-block, but it's what happens next that he dreads the most.

As if his all of struggles mean nothing, the bitterness of defeat is swept away and reduced to nothing but yet another dull ache that occasionally pangs the heart.

"Iwa-chan," Oikawa whispers.

He's the only one he has left.

He doesn't feel like walking anymore. He curls up on his side for the night.


Oikawa knows it's coming. He spends the last day of his cursed existence flopped on his back and staring into space—what has come to be his favorite position on the bridge.

He doesn't remember how he met Iwaizumi. But he understands why he's in love with him. He's handsome in that rugged way, a hard worker, and he intuitively knows that Iwaizumi has probably been there by his side for a long, long time, looking out for him.

Iwaizumi is someone so dear to him that he can't even fathom losing him.

If he does—when he does—then he will truly have died.

Oikawa also knows that he died about a month after some big event that ended in tears. A truck. A bridge. Blood clumped on his ashes and Iwaizumi crying so bitterly that he howled.

Silvery ghosts appear in front of his eyes, and Oikawa falls in love with Iwaizumi all over again.

"Shittykawa," Iwaizumi starts angrily as he enters the locker room, his face falling when he sees Tooru curled up in the corner with his face buried in his arms. "... Oikawa?"

Oikawa wishes he remembers what he was sad about.

Iwaizumi takes off his jacket and puts it around him. Iwaizumi is crude, but he's straightforward and honest, and Oikawa tears up, longing and jealous and so far away.

"It's nothing," Tooru chuckles, voice wavering. "It's just—seeing all of the second-years step up to the role..."

There's so much snot on his face. Oikawa wants to laugh. How did someone as good as Iwaizumi ever fall for him? His mouth downturns, and that burning feeling behind his eyes is back again.

They talk about things that Oikawa doesn't understand. Volleyball, and captains, and... he didn't know what else. He's proud of himself, all of a sudden. Proud of how Tooru seems to know so much about positions like setter and wing spiker when Oikawa can't name a single thing he knows about volleyball. Even if the context of the conversation is unfamiliar and alien to him, he watches them fall in love with each other. Tooru has probably liked Iwaizumi for longer.

"Smooth, Iwa-chan," Oikawa can't help but say when Iwaizumi plants a kiss on Tooru's forehead. "No wonder I fell for you." His voice softens. "Anyone would." They don't seem to hear him. Breath shortening, he covers his face with his hands. "Oh, god, Hajime, don't leave me, pleaseI don't want to forget you. Please don't leave me, I can't... I'll... I..."

Tooru and Iwaizumi go out on dates.

They hug.

They kiss.

They don't have sex. Oikawa knows this much. Maybe they would have if they'd known.

Finally, they find themselves on a bridge, walking along the side path. Not Oikawa's bridge, but the bridge from—from—

A truck is skidding from side to side, approaching them. It smashes a car out of the way, and then—

"HAJIME!" Oikawa and Tooru scream at the same time, terror and panic and the grief of one pitching their voices. Tooru's scream cuts off abruptly, but Oikawa is still howling and reaching toward them, unable to prevent his own fate from happening.

But Iwaizumi is safe.

Iwaizumi lives thanks to Tooru.

And Oikawa knows that if he really does get to do it all over again, he will save Iwaizumi once more. Because if he doesn't, Iwaizumi will be the one losing all of his memories, destined to wander a never-ending bridge and face heartache and loss over and over again.

Iwaizumi is a little banged up. But that doesn't stop him from stumbling over to Tooru's body.

"Oh god, OikawaTooru. Tooru, fuck, hang on, just hang on." Iwaizumi chokes on a sob as he fishes his phone—it's cracked, Oikawa notices, from the fall he took—with shaking hands and dials the emergency number. He gives the operator all the necessary details as fast as he can before hanging up. "Tooru. Tooru, you're gonna be okay." Tooru's eyes flutter. "The ambulance is coming. Oh god, don't leave me. Stay awake, you've got to stay awake."

To the side, Oikawa stands. He knows what Tooru is thinking.

Iwaizumi is crying now, and Oikawa almost wants to laugh at the absurdity of it all, but his entire body feels as if he's been doused in gasoline and lit on fire. 'Iwa-chan is such an ugly crier,' he wants to say, and he imagines his tone as flippant and playful and maybe a little watery and sad, too.

"Iwa-chan," Oikawa says, barely able to get the words out as he sobs unabashedly. "Iwa-chan is such an ugly crier." He falls to his knees, roughly passing both hands through his hair and pulling. "But you know what? I love you!" he shouts himself hoarse. "I've always been selfish with you! I'm selfish because I'm the kind of person who wants everything! And you're everything to me, Hajime! That's why I'm in love with you! Hajime!"

Oikawa watches Iwaizumi cry so hard over Tooru that he almost keels over. "TOORU!" he screams.

He can't stand still any longer. Oikawa's body finally moves, and he runs over to where Iwaizumi is kneeling and hugs him tightly and calls his name over and over again because he's terrified that he'll forget.

They are ghosts, and they begin to fade.

His world grows dark.


When he wakes up, he feels odd.

When he wakes up, Oikawa sees the end of the bridge right in front of him, and land beyond that. At first, he hesitates. There's a name on his tongue, but he can't seem to remember it. He tries mouthing it a few times.

"Ha... Hajime...?"

The name reawakens a fierce ache in his heart.

But it goes away quick, as if it never existed in the first place.

Exhaling slowly, Oikawa steps off the bridge.


Epilogue

"Kageyama?" Hinata pops his head into the gym to see the team's setter launching a ball into the air. Whatever he's about to say next is forgotten when Kageyama executes his jump-serve perfectly, in both control and power. "K-Kageyama! That was incredible! Keep that up, and we'll be able to win Nationals!"

Kageyama merely blinks. "Right."

"Let's go," Hinata says, picking up some stray balls. "The rest of the team have gone down to get meat buns. I'll help you pack up, and then we can be on our way. When did your jump-serve get so neat, huh?"

Kageyama thinks about the question. "It's strange," he tells Hinata in the end. "I dreamed that he helped me."

"Huh? Who?"

"Oikawa."

At the name, Hinata stills. Kageyama can understand why. After all, Oikawa Tooru is dead.

They had paid their respects at his funeral.

"Kageyama," Hinata starts when they're finished putting the net and all the balls away. "Maybe you're working too hard."

"If you're going to hit it, hit it until it breaks."

"Maybe," says Kageyama, sounding unconvinced.

Hinata takes him by the hand and leads him out. "Come on. Let's go."

The gym lights turn off, and the door closes behind them with a final click.