He wouldn’t describe himself as lonely, not really. After all, there’s always Kuroo. But Kenma Kozume is no stranger to the silence that comes from being alone. Right now, for instance, he is alone, lost in an unfamiliar area and playing a game as he waits for Kuroo to find him.
A cat strolls up to him and he simply stares at it, perplexed. Animals have never liked him. The cat stares back, clearly waiting to be stroked; Kenma sighs and hesitantly outstretches his hand.
The cat purrs, content, before curling around his leg and delicately sitting on his foot. Well then. Kenma turns his attention back to his phone.
“What are you doing?”
The voice is loud, cheerful, and a serious intrusion upon the comfortable silence Kenma has wrapped himself in. He turns a bit to see a boy his age with a wide grin and the brightest hair he’s ever seen.
“Um…I’m lost,” Kenma says cautiously, watching the cat leave. He scoots away in a classic “leave me alone” move.
The boy doesn’t take the hint. He keeps talking and Kenma keeps answering in the hopes he’ll go away eventually. Then Orangey glances at his duffel bag and seems to come to a sudden realization. “Are you a volleyball player?!” No shit, Sherlock, Kenma thinks, before deciding that that’s too mean.
The boy introduces himself as Hinata Shouyou, a fellow volleyball player. His T-shirt reads Karasuno.
Well. This is interesting.
For the first time in a long time, Kenma smiles.
They meet again at the practice match, which Kenma expects and Hinata clearly does not.
Right now, if he had to sum up Hinata Shouyo in two words, they would be “a nuisance.” Or maybe “a rival.” Both are fitting.
Everyone wants to know why the two of them, the energetic crow and the withdrawn cat, are acquainted. They’re disappointed at how boring the story is, so they turn their attention to the rivalry at hand.
Karasuno is nothing special, so far. The setter may be a genius, and the ace is, well, an ace, but the team as a whole lacks the cohesive functioning of Nekoma. They fail to catch his interest.
What does piques his curiosity is Hinata, though. Kenma anticipates a chance to observe him in action, and what he sees is surprising. His rival can practically fly. It’s…stunning, really.
Of course, once the novelty of the jumps and the freak quick wears off, it’s easy to analyze his rival. Hinata is flighty, excitable, and easily distracted—qualities Kenma can exploit. And so he does.
Nekoma wins every match, and while it’d certainly be exaggerating to say they didn’t break a sweat, it isn’t too much of a challenge.
Afterwards, Hinata comes up to him, sweaty face flushed with excitement, and says in all seriousness, “Let’s have a real match some day!”
Kenma smiles. “Okay. I’d like that.” And the thing is, he’s even telling the truth.
The next time they meet is an accident; Hinata quite literally runs into Kenma at the local arcade, and things escalate from there. Hinata refuses to leave him alone, so Kenma does the only sensible thing he can think of: he invites him to his house. To play games, ostensibly. Really it’s more of an opportunity to scope out this rival and potential friend. How does his mind work?
Kenma quickly learns that the inner machinations of Hinata’s mind are a mystery to all. Sure, he seems straightforward enough. He’s energetic, stubborn, and simpleminded. Still, there are moments when Hinata gives off an aura, an intensity, that makes the bottom fall out of Kenma’s stomach. But most of the time, Hinata is simple, cheerful, and utterly transparent, a ray of sunshine in human form. Kenma appreciates that.
“Wow, Kenma, this is so cool!” Hinata gushes as he hovers around the PX4. “I didn’t even know the PX4 was out yet! It must’ve cost a fortune! Is it fun? Do you have Mario Kart? Can we play?” The endless questions are starting to give Kenma a headache, so he just nods and pulls out Mario Kart.
“Ooh, ooh, I wanna be Princess Peach!” Hinata yells out. Kenma chooses to be Mario, just because he always chooses Mario.
Kenma selects Rainbow Road, because he’s feeling a little evil that day, and before long the two of them are physically roughhousing in an attempt to win at all costs. Hinata is tickling Kenma, who is trying to catch the other boy in a headlock, when Kenma’s mother walks in.
“Who’s this?” she asks, standing in the doorway. Kenma never has friends over besides Kuroo. Literally never. Most people wouldn’t know it by her expressionless face, but Kenma can tell his mother is rather shocked.
“My friend Hinata,” he whispers.
“Hmm.” She turns and leaves the room.
Hinata frowns. “That’s your mom?”
“She seems a little scary.”
“She’s nice,” Kenma says defensively, because you’re not supposed to talk about someone’s mother like that. “She just takes a while to warm up to people.”
“Oh, like you,” Hinata says thoughtfully, and while Kenma knows he didn’t mean any harm, it still stings a bit. Surely he doesn’t come off as that cold.
“Hey,” he starts to protest, but is cut off by a giant yawn from Hinata.
“I’m so tiiiiiiiiired,” the other boy says, flopping across Kenma. And before Kenma knows it, Hinata has fallen asleep in his lap.
“Hinata. Hinata, wake up,” he hisses, trying to shove the other boy awake, to no avail. There’s a line of drool trickling down Hinata’s cheek, which would be almost adorable in its childishness if it weren’t absolutely disgusting.
Kenma gives up and lets Hinata snooze on, looking peaceful. He’s really cute that way.
It is at that moment that Kenma realizes something startling: he kinda-sorta-maybe likes Hinata Shouyou.