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Once Lost, Now Found

Chapter 1: Once Lost, Now Found

by isilelensar

After a long day of volleyball practice, Kuroo sat down heavily on the nearest park bench. Being Nekoma's Assistant Head Coach was fun. He loved his job. The kids were fun to work with, even when he had to be firm with them if they cut up too much.

But he was exhausted. There was no other word for it. Sure, he had some time to himself while the kids were in class during the day, but not as much as one would think. He had to work on strategies, visualize plays, figure out what would work and what wouldn't.

All that on top of actual practice, and trying to get everything he'd worked out in his head to work out on the court. He thanked his lucky stars each day that Nekomata was still Head Coach. The older man was Kuroo's mentor, and friend.

After all, it was Nekomata who suggested he come to this park and calm down before going home. It was quieter than most parks; there wasn't a lot of foot traffic, bikes, or roller skates... a quiet place in the middle of Tokyo was a blessing. This was Kuroo's first visit.

He'd been sitting for a while. It was dark, with only the gentle light of the lamps illuminating the path. He sat up, ready to go home, when he heard it; the plucking of strings in cadences sounding like a waterfall of notes. Clear and precise, almost perfect. It was beautiful.

The next day, he came back to the same place, relaxing, and taking in the quiet. Yet, he waited. He wanted to hear that music again. Just when he thought it wasn't going to happen, he heard the music. It was different this time; a mixture of chords, relaxing and pleasant to hear.

Volleyball practice overtook him for the rest of the week, as they were preparing for their annual trip up to Karasuno, and also the Tokyo Interhigh Tournament. His days, and most of his evenings, were nothing but volleyball. After practice, he went straight home.

As soon as he could spare the time, he made his way to the park. It was already past sunset, but even so, maybe he'd hear that music again. Instead, as he approached his bench, he found a packet with a series of music notes on it. Inside, he found a note and a flashdrive.

"I'd like to think you enjoy my music, and I like when you listen to me. I'll be away for a little while, so I thought you'd want to listen to this." Kuroo palmed the flashdrive, wondering how much music was on here. He finished reading the note. "I hope you like it. Tsukishima."

Kuroo invested in a pair of bluetooth earphones and downloaded the music to his phone. Now, he could listen to the music any time he wanted, but he still made it a point to go to the park. The mysterious Tsukishima hadn't returned, but Kuroo wanted to be there when they did.

It had been a month, and Kuroo was unable to make it to the park, even when he did have the free time. During a meeting, he forgot to hook up his earphones, so his music started playing, interrupting Coach Nekomata. Kuroo rushed to stop it, but Nekomata told him to wait.

"Koto music. Very nice and relaxing choice, Kuroo."
"Thank you, sir."
"Is that..." Coach tilted his head a bit, eyebrows furrowing just a little. "Is that... Tsukishima?"
"Yeah," Kuroo replied, unable to hide his surprise. "But, how did you know?"
"I've known for quite some time."
"Suspicious," Kuroo muttered under his breath.
"No such thing!" Nekomata chortled. "Volleyball wasn't his only interest." Then he looked directly at Kuroo. "I never thought you'd forget him, though."
"What do you..."
"Meeting adjourned until after practice," Nekomata declared.

That evening, Nekomata called Kuroo into his office, and without preamble, began to talk.

"Tsukishima Kei, middle blocker for Karasuno High from 2012-2015. Graduated with honors, and had a promising future playing volleyball. Many teams wanted him, he was that good.”

Kuroo would have spoken, but Nekomata silenced him with a stern look.

"I had to ask myself why you, of all people, forgot him when it was you who mentored him, trained with him, and helped him become one of the best middle blockers in the country. And then I remembered. You came down with a fever the summer before you started college. It was a bad one. You were hospitalized for at least a week. No one thought you'd make it, either. No one held out any hope... except Kei. He brought his koto and played for you. Played until we made him stop. But he fought us, and continued playing. The only time he'd stop was when he had to eat, sleep, and use the facilities. Even then, he found ways to keep the music playing."

Coach scrutinized him. "I've known you for some time now, and I know you don't usually listen to koto music." He held out his hand. "May I see your playlist?"

"Sure," Kuroo replied, bringing it up and handing his phone over to Coach. There weren't very many tracks on the list, but each one was fairly lengthy. Still, Coach looked at each one until he found whatever he was looking for.

He gave his phone back, and turned to his computer, typing something and then spinning the screen so Kuroo could see. The video clip was nothing more than images and color gradients, but the name of the song caught his eye. It was one of his favorites on the flashdrive.

But there was something... different about it. The music was similar, but not. The more he listened, the more he heard differences. And through it all, there was a soft, yet clear, voice singing under the music. A beautiful tenor that harmonized with the koto's melody.

While he was listening, Coach brought out a folder and set it down in front of him. He said nothing, just waited. Kuroo slowly picked it up and opened it. The first thing he saw was a school picture. The boy in it had tousled blonde hair, wore black-rimmed glasses, and pale skin.
There was a twinge in his head. Not painful, but certainly annoying. He would have put the folder down, but Nekomata stopped him.
"You need to remember him, son," Nekomata said gently, but with a sense of urgency.
"Is there something wrong with him?"
Nekomata remained silent.

Kuroo looked at the picture of the boy again. He was young; probably a first year when this was taken. When he focused on the golden brown eyes, that twinge came back, a little stronger this time. Squinting, Kuroo quickly flipped to the next page. This time, it was a team photo.

He recognized Ukai and Takeda-sensei immediately. The others were a bit more difficult. He touched his finger to each face, remembering; Daichi, Sugawara, Asahi, Noya, and Tanaka. He felt himself smiling; they were more friends than rivals, and he loved playing against them.

When he shifted his gaze, he recognized Hinata and Kageyama. How could he have forgotten them? Each was fairly powerful on their own, but together, they became a force to be reckoned with. He smiled as he touched their faces, too. Then there was Ennoshita, Kinoshita, and Narita.

He hadn't known them too well when they played each other, but he did remember them. And finally, he saw Yamaguchi's smiling face, and behind him, Tsukishima. Kuroo touched his face, let his finger linger just a bit longer. Again, the twinge bothered him enough to turn the page.

Next were just random pictures, made into collages, of the practice camps Karasuno had been invited to. One page had pictures for all five teams involved. Next, there were pictures of various practice matches. But the next several pages held a different sort of treasure.

Each picture had both himself and Tsukishima in it. It was clear he was training Tsukishima, giving him pointers, giving advice. All the same stuff he did for the kids now. But as he looked at each photo, he noticed little changes. In each photo, they were closer and closer.

Kuroo's gaze landed and stayed on one picture. If a picture was worth a thousand words, then this one was worth several. His back was to the photographer, and Tsukishima was facing him. Both he and Tsukishima held towels, and both were using them on each other's heads and faces.

Tsukishima's glasses had been pushed up onto his head. Kuroo's free hand was held to the side of his face that the towel wasn't covering. And Tsukishima was smiling. A gentle smile, genuine, tender. His golden brown eyes shone with an emotion Kuroo recognized easily: love.

The twinge became a sharp pain. Kuroo dropped the folder and clutched his head. He wasn't aware of falling out of the chair; in his mind, he felt as if something shattered. Everything went blinding white, and then it was like everything was in a thick fog. Voices sounded far away.

When he came to, he had been laid out on his back, with something soft under his head. The school nurse was on her knees on his left, and Nekomata was seated on the floor beside him on the right. It was dark in the room, music was playing softly, all of which he was grateful for.

"Are you okay, son?" Nekomata asked quietly.
"Within reason," he replied.
"Where are you?" the nurse asked.
"On the floor," he answered irreverently.
"Kuroo."
"Alright, alright. I'm on the floor in Coach Nekomata's office, at Nekoma High."
"Do you remember anything else?"
"I was looking at old pictures from a few years ago, and Coach had koto music playing."
"Anything else?"
"Kei looked so happy in that last picture."
"Kei?"
"Kei Tsukishima. You were telling me about him... before..." His heart thumped hard. "Help me up."
"But Kuroo-san," the nurse protested.
"Help me up!" He didn't wait for her, or anyone. He struggled to sit up, ignoring the dizziness and the sudden nausea. "Where is he? Where is Kei?"
"Slow down, son," Nekomata warned. "You just regained your memories after a long time."

For once since he'd known him, Kuroo glared daggers at his own mentor. "You helped with that."
"For good reason."
"You said something along those lines earlier. Explain."
Nekomata lifted an eyebrow at his tone, but relented anyway.
"He's in the hospital."
"What?! Why?!"

This time, no one could stop him. He struggled to his feet, held onto the desk to regain his balance, and then he started moving toward the door. Damn it! Why was it suddenly far away?? Hands grabbed his arms, holding him back.

"Get my car," he heard Nekomata say.
"Yes, sir," someone said. Kuroo didn't bother to see who it was. "Take it easy," Coach said to him, guiding him out the door and into the hallway. "Slowly. We'll get there. We have time."
"I feel somewhat relieved, even if I still don't know everything."

As they walked, a little faster as Kuroo regained his senses, Nekomata explained. Not too long after Kuroo recovered from his fever, it was clear he had lost his memories, especially those concerning Kei. The doctors explained that the amnesia could be temporary or permanent.

No one would know for sure. Yet, as time went on, it was clear that Kuroo's memories were either gone, or locked away. At first, Kei attempted to help him regain what he'd lost, asking him to go out to all the places they went to, everywhere they'd made memories together.

But it was futile. Eventually Kei accepted that he was an indirect casualty of Kuroo's fever. Everyone knew he was hurting, but he simply smiled and tried to get back to normal. Except, he didn't. He took solace in his koto music, quitting volleyball after graduation.

Kei retreated to his old behaviors, acting salty and mean-spirited to nearly everyone, including friends and family. It wasn't until late last year that people began noticing he wasn't doing well. His health was declining. Doctors had no diagnosis, no name to put to his illness.

All they knew was that he wasn't breathing deeply, not getting enough air in his lungs. He suffers from pain in his chest, but all test results come back negative for anything life-threatening. Kei was declining, and because they couldn't find a problem, they couldn't help him.

By the time they finished explaining everything to Kuroo, he was running as fast as he could. A car wouldn't do; there were too many turns and traffic lights, and he didn't dare waste any time. Kei needed him. He needed Kei. Nothing would stop him from getting to his love.

Running usually helped clear his mind. Running felt good as the wind rushed through his hair. Running was something he did with Kei, even if Kei wasn't a good runner. In fact, they'd run along this route several times; Kuroo's house wasn't far from here.

He only stopped when he needed to catch his breath. He only stopped to get some water. Each time was only minutes long, and he was racing off again. The hospital wasn't far. By his reckoning, he had at least another mile to go. They said Kei wasn't in danger, but still…

When he finally arrived at the hospital, he slowed down again, to get his breathing under control enough to be understood. Once he did, he jogged into the building, heading straight to the information desk. But as he opened his mouth to ask where Kei was, someone called his name.

"Kuroo!"

He turned toward the voice, finding several people waiting for him. Bokuto and Akaashi were there, as were Akiteru, and Kei's mom. He ran over to them.

"How is he?" he asked without greeting anyone.
"You remember him?" Akiteru asked, protecting his baby brother.
"I think that's obvious," Kei's mom reprimanded her eldest son. "He wouldn't be here otherwise."

It hurt hearing that, but considering he'd forgotten Kei for the last few years.. Kuroo scrubbed his hands over his face, and roughly though his hair. He tried to speak, but couldn't.
"Come on," Bokuto said quietly. "He'll be happy to see you."
"God, I hope so."
"Wait a minute," Kei's mom said before they went to the elevators. She took out a pack of tissues and handed them to him. "Don't let him see you cry."
"I can't promise anything, though."
"I know."

They stopped outside the room, letting Akiteru and his mom go in first. He heard them talking to Kei, but not what they were saying. His heart was racing again, and he was nervous, like when he finally confessed his love to Kei, which was the moment that the photo captured perfectly.

"Tetsu?"
The moment he heard his name, he forgot his nerves, and rushed into the room. And stopped when he saw Kei.
"Oh, god. I'm so sorry." Fresh tears streamed down his face. He hadn't moved an inch, but Kei was reaching out to him, his eyes begging him to come closer.

He moved slowly, afraid that if he went any faster, he'd hurt Kei more. As soon as he reached the bed, he took hold of Kei's hand. Someone moved behind him, and he felt the seat of a chair hit the back of his knees. It was like they knew he'd need to sit down, and he did.

"Hello," Kei whispered.
"Hey," Tetsu replied. He took Kei's hand and put it against his face. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I never meant to forget you."
"It wasn't your fault," Kei told him. "You were sick. Your fever was so high."
"But still..."
"Tetsu?"
"Yeah?"
"Shut up."
Tetsu chuckled. "Well, I'm here now, and I'm never going to leave you again."
"Good. I'm glad."
"You're going to get better, and then we'll start over."
"I don't want to."
"What?"
"You heard me."
"Okay. Why not?"
"Why start over when we can just pick up where we left off?"
"I'm fuzzy on the details. What were we doing before I got sick?"
Bokuto spoke up from behind him. "You were going to ask him to marry you."
"I was?"
"Yeah, we even have the rings," Akaashi said, handing them over.
"Okay, so if that's what I was going to do, how does Kei know?"
"I'm right here, you know."
"Right. The question still needs answering."
"Once we knew your memories weren't going to come back right away, we decided to tell Kei," Akaashi explained. "He held onto the rings."
Tetsu looked at Kei. "Do you want to do this now?"
Kei rolled his eyes. "Good grief, no. Wait until I'm better and out of this place. Then you can surprise me."
"It's not going to be much of a surprise if you know it's coming."

They bantered like that for another hour, until the doctor told them visiting hours were over.
Tetsu stubbornly stayed, refusing to leave. Kei's mom talked to the doctor, and because they were going to be engaged, he decided to bend the rules. Accommodations were made, but everyone knew that Tetsu was never going to leave Kei's side, nor was Kei going to let him go.

Though his mind was as sharp as ever, Kei's body had taken the biggest toll during his decline. Tetsu helped him regain what was lost through exercise and food. Kei might have complained, but he continued to improve. Within a month, he was back on his feet and walking again.

Kei was no slouch, either. While Tetsu helped Kei physically, Kei helped Tetsu heal emotionally. He would not accept Tetsu blaming himself over something completely out of his control. And just as he had done years before, he helped Tetsu remember. This time, with better results.

Two months had passed before Kei was given the all-clear to go home. As long as he continued to work on his health, he didn't need to stay under doctor surveillance. The two of them held hands as they walked out of the room, out of the hospital, and didn't once look back.

Tetsu went back to work. Because Nekoma had placed in the top 8 at Spring Interhigh, they had to get ready for the next tournament, to win one of the three representative places for Tokyo at Nationals. He was super busy, but every night when he came home, Kei was waiting for him.

Kei still played the koto, and took up composing small pieces to play, but only for Tetsu. Sometimes, he'd record his music and play it back when Tetsu had an especially stressful day, and he'd hold his love close. Their relationship was the same, and yet, better than before.

Tetsu finally proposed to Kei, out on the court at Nationals, after the Nekoma/Itachiyama game. Nekoma may have lost, but no one really cared. The crowd erupted in cheers as Tetsu slipped the ring on Kei's finger, and then proceeded to spin Kei around after he said yes.