-Spring, the first day of junior high-
A blonde girl entered her classroom, trying to avoid drawing attention to herself as she looked for an empty seat. Despite her desk being in the the back, the other students took notice of the light-haired girl, stealing glances at her until the teacher's eventual arrival. Clipboard in hand, he begun calling out names, the children replying with "here" and "present."
“Kozume Kenma.” The man read.
The boy that sat next to her raised his hand, barely looking up. His hair was black and chin-length, framing his small face. Noticing that Kenma was hiding something under his desk, she was rather intrigued by it. She had never seen an actual DS before.
“Takahashi Ayame.” The teacher read her name, pushing up his glasses and scanning the room for her hand, which she nervously raised. After marking her present, he continued down the roster.
After roll call ended, Ayame opened her notebook and decided to draw, attempting to recreate the boy's gaming console. She kept staring in his direction as she doodled, and this seemed to bother him.
"...What are you doing?" Kenma looked at her, his golden eyes skeptical and a bit uneasy.
"I-I'm so sorry! I was just looking at it!" Though she was seated at her desk, she bowed deeply, forehead touching her legs. Kenma was rather weirded out by this, but didn't want to seem rude.
"It's fine..." He murmured, glancing at her open notebook. "You drew it? That looks really good..." His voice was rather soft and monotone, but she was pleased nonetheless. For once, someone liked something that she had made.
"Really? Thank you!" Ayame beamed, happily continuing to sketch, despite the boy's odd first impression of her. It was Ayame's first encounter with the boy who would later become her closest friend, Kozume Kenma.
"Kenma, hurry up!" Ayame calls from outside the Kozume residence, having been waiting in the chilly weather for what felt like an eternity. The girl shivers as the spring breeze tousles her hair, her bare legs only making her feel colder. Eventually, the boy comes out of his house while looking down at his PSP, his hair hanging around his face. At his request, she had helped him bleach it last year, though his dark roots had grown quite long and went unmaintained.
"You're even worse then Kuroo..." He mumbles from behind his console, and as if on cue, the door to the neighbor's house opens. The tall male yawns, running a hand through his unruly black hair, which somewhat resembled a rooster's comb. Ayame barely acknowledges him, grabbing Kenma's arm and pulling him along, the boy simply continuing to play his game.
"Hey! Wait up!" Kuroo was quick to jog after them, the trio heading to the train station together.
As they soon boarded the train, Ayame was a beacon in a sea of dark hair. She was a petite girl of 17 years, with light locks inherited from her foreign mother- quite the spectacle.
Her light brown eyes drifted towards the window, where she saw her reflection. Her blonde hair passed her shoulders and had become windswept, which she tries to pat down. Ayame rubs under her left eye, where a small mole was, and her dark circles were masked by concealer, though were visible against her pale skin. After smoothing out her skirt and blazer, the girl glanced up at Kuroo. The boy seemed to stare at her, spaced out. Ayame made a face, looking sort of creeped out, though he was only trying to remember if he had left the sink running.
The train eventually came to a halt, announcing their destination. Passengers file out once the doors slide open. Ayame leads the way out of the station, the two boys following her like tired ducklings. They eventually arrive at school, the sign reading "Metropolitan Nekoma High."
As they entered the large building, Ayame was the first to break off from the trio, visiting the vending machine to buy a can of coffee. She'd need it to get through the day. Kenma and Kuroo continued up to their classrooms.
Heading upstairs, Kenma feels a sharp glare piercing the back of his head, causing him to shiver. Kuroo notices this.
“Kenma, are you okay? You better not have caught a cold already!"
“Don’t turn around.” Kenma says vaguely, before heading off to class. Kuroo glances over his shoulder anyway, meeting Ayame's eyes. Her glare was soul-piercing. Turning back around, he heads up to class, leaving Ayame alone.
The girl sighs, opening the coffee and downing it like a lifeline. After tossing the can into a bin, she makes her way up to the second-years' floor, gripping her bag close. She ignores the stares and whispers that followed her, heading into Class 2-2, next door to Kenma.
"Kenma has been my best friend since middle school...so if he has me, then why is he even friends with that idiot rooster?" Ayame thought to herself, sitting at her desk in the back of the classroom. Shaking her head, she pulls out her notes to finish the homework she had missed the night before, her mind searching for an explaination of why Kenma was such good friends with Kuroo Tetsuro.
Class went how it always did: homework, lecture, notes, and more homework. Eventually, lunchtime came around, but Ayame hadn't brought food. She didn't have money to buy something to eat either- she had spent it on coffee earlier. Her stomach growls, signaling her hunger, though she tries to ignore it. Pulling out her hard-covered sketchbook and pencil case, she stands up from her desk, squeezing past other students to visit Kenma’s classroom.
Holding her sketchbook, she opened the door to find Kuroo already there, talking to the boy. As if sensing her presence, Kenma looks up from his PSP, surprising Kuroo, as the boy had been so engrossed in the game. Ayame approaches his desk, pulling up a chair and sitting down.
Kenma's bento box was practically untouched. Three rice balls sat next to each other, with inari sushi and a soy sauce egg. Her stomach growls again, with Kenma noticing how she eyed the food.
"When was your last meal?" He inquires, only for Ayame to silently glance away.
With a sigh, he hands her the chopsticks, causing her face to light up.
“You can have two of my rice balls, the sushi, and we can split the egg. I’m not that hungry anyway.”
“You’re the best! Tell your mom the food was delicious for me!” Putting her hands together and thanking him for the meal, she happily digs into the sushi.
Kuroo quietly sits there, watching the two become engrossed with what they were doing, tuning him out. Leaning back in his chair, he notices Ayame's sketchbook sitting on the edge of the desk.
Why not take a peek at it? After all, she carried the thing everywhere- of course he'd be curious.
The boy reaches over to take it, with Ayame preoccupied with devouring Kenma's lunch. However, she instantly noticed, smacking his hand with the chopsticks and glaring at him.
“Don’t touch my things!“
“Aww, Aya-chan, what's the issue?” He tries to play it off like a joke.
“Don’t talk to me like that, you fucking rooster!” Her face reddens slightly from embarrassment, anger, or maybe both. Kuroo stares up at her, the other students turning to watch the conflict, their curious eyes locked on the pair.
"Alright, alright, my bad." Kuroo coolly rises from his chair, hands held up in mock surrender. "See you two later."
With that, the dark-haired boy leaves the classroom. Ayame's eyes were narrowed as she angrily munches on her rice balls.
“You know, he’s just trying to be your friend.” Kenma says from behind his game console, not even looking up.
“I don’t want him. You're all I need.“ She retorts. The boy sighs, grabbing the last rice ball and biting into it.
The possibility of having Kuroo as a friend- Ayame couldn’t fathom it. She envied him and his perfect life. He had good grades, many friends, and held the position of captain on the Nekoma volleyball team. Kuroo even knew Kenma for longer than she had. Competing with him seemed impossible, but she tried anyway, only wanting to keep her best friend to herself.
Kenma stares at the girl, reading her like open book.
“You’re family, he’s my close friend...that’s different.” He reassures her.
"If you say so." She mutters. Kenma splits the soy egg in half before changing the subject.
“So, what are you drawing today?”
Eventually, the final bell rang, ending the school day. The students were quick to pack up, some heading to their clubs, others going home or to cram school.
Ayame shoves her belongings into her bag, pulling her hair back into a ponytail and leaving the classroom. Her favorite part of the day was about to begin: watching volleyball practice. Kenma was still at his desk, though Ayame soon comes in to drag him out of the room.
“Come on, let’s go! You have practice!”
“I’m going, I’m going...”
They go downstairs and out the main building, heading to the clubroom. Leaving Kenma there, Ayame then heads towards the gym. As she rounds the corner, she collides with a tall, muscular male.
“I’m so- oh, it’s you." She realizes it was Kuroo. "Watch where you’re going, jerk!” Brushing past him, she was gone before he could even react. Sighing, the boy goes into the clubroom to change out of his school uniform.
As the rest of the team files in and gets dressed, he approaches his best friend for guidance.
“Kenma, why does Ayame just hate me?”
“I don’t know. Ask her.” He replies vaguely.
”You know she won’t even give me the chance to!”
“You'll have to figure it out then. You’re smart, right?”
“That's easier said than done!"
Kenma merely shrugs as they walk to the gym, with more team members joining them. However, the coaches weren't there yet. Inouka seemed to be excitedly talking to Ayame, who was smiling. She definitely had a soft spot for the first-years, and that was quite evident with her demeanor around them.
As the boys begun setting up the nets, Ayame sat down and pulls out her sketchbook. To her, this setting was her inspiration, her drive. She wanted the team to do well, as she wished that for herself too.
Inside the sketchbook, she had created what looked like character sheets for the volleyball team. Kenma was the first in the lineup, and she had captured his stoic nature and growing-in roots. Next to him were his various stay points and even his current concern. The second page was of Inouka, his spiky hair and cheerful energy radiating from the page. His stats were there as well.
The girl's drawings seemed to encapsulate them perfectly, and it was the same for everyone: Yamamoto's delinquent features, Kai's calmness, Yaku's parental aura, Fukunaga's quiet supportiveness, Teshiro's observant nature, even Shibayama and his drive to improve.
However, she had yet to draw the team's captain, Kuroo Tetsuro. He was cunning, calculating and a force to be reckoned with. On the court, his strength was apparent.
Ayame flips to a blank page, determined to finally draw Nekoma's captain. She roughly sketches out Kuroo's figure, glancing between him and the sketchbook. Once satisfied with the base, she studies him more closely. His hair was unruly and wild, and of a jet black color. His hazel eyes resembled that of a sly cat, and his smile- it made her feel things. She stiffens, reminding herself that she indeed hated him- he and his perfect life pissed her off. Grumbling, she clicked the back of her mechanical pencil.
“Watch out!” That was Kuroo's voice, loud and clear.
Ayame's head snapped up to see a volleyball flying at her. She instinctively slaps it away, wincing and closing her eyes. Then came the sound of the ball smacking against skin, followed by a loud groan. Opening her eyes to see who was the victim of the ball attack, they widen at the sight of Kuroo. He stands there with hunched shoulders, a hand pressed to his nose, the ball rolling away. The room falls silent as he retracts his hand, revealing smeared blood.
Ayame covers her mouth, now overwhelmed with guilt from actually hurting him. Though she despised Kuroo, she had never actually wished for physical harm to come to him. Yamamoto and Yaku were first to verbally react.
“Oh my god! Dude, are you okay?!”
“Kuroo! Don’t just stand there! Your nose-!”
Fukunaga runs off to the bathroom to grab something to stop the blood, soon returning. Ayame silently sits there, panicking, only for Kenma to come and try to reassure her.
“Hey, it’s alright. Kuroo's fine.” He puts a hand on her shoulder, gently squeezing it. "Are you alright?"
Ayame nods, taking deep breaths as she looks across the court. Kuroo lets out a chuckle as he covers his bloody nose with a few paper towels, confusing and worrying the team further.
"Is he brain-damaged?!" Yamamoto gawks at the captain.
“Go take him to the nurse!" Yaku instructs her. "We’ll explain what happened to the coaches!”
Ayame doesn't protest, snatching Kuroo's arm and pulling him out of the gymnasium.
“Woah, Aya-chan, that’s quite a grip you have.” Kuroo remarks, only to be ignored as he's dragged to the nurse's office. Sliding open the door, Ayame notices the woman isn’t inside. Taking a deep breath, she forces him to sit down as she looks for the items needed to patch him up.
“Did the ball hit you, Aya-chan?” He looks up at her, concerned. The girl freezes.
Why would he ask that? She was the one that hit him in the first place, so why would he worry about her?
“I swear, I’m gonna kill Yama-“ Kuroo vows, before being cut off.
“Shut up. I’m not the one bleeding from their nose.” Her voice was tired and void of any malice.
“It's not that bad, I’m okay. That was a pretty strong spike though!” He tries to lighten the atmosphere, but she insisted on bringing it down. Eventually, the girl finishes, handing him an ice pack.
“Sorry...” Ayame mumbles, starting to put away the first-aid supplies. It was the first time she had sincerely apologized to him. Kuroo's eyes widened slightly.
“You’re so fucking stupid. Why did you just stand there?” She looked down at him.
There it was- her old self. It was the girl that he met back in middle school, the shy and anxious girl who had become hotheaded and fierce. But her light brown eyes had always stayed the same: tired and void of light. They only ever seemed to shine when she drew or when she watched volleyball. That was when her aura was as bright as her hair.
He wanted to see it more; that light she emitted when she was happy, and her smile- her real smile. He wanted to be closer to Ayame, and inspire her to bring down her walls. He opens his mouth to speak.
“Be our team manager.”
“Why would I do that?” Her eyes widen at the request.
“Well, you’re always just there, and already act like one. Besides, you might as well take care of the people you hit in the face.” A teasing smirk forms on his lips.
“That was an accident, you jerk!" She crosses her arms, averting her gaze.. "Fine, I guess...I’ll think about it..."
"Oh, are you really considering it?" He stands up from his chair.
"Anyway!" Ayame glares at him, heading to the door. "We're done here, so let's go."
The two finally leave the nurse's office. Ayame's expression was rather irritated, though Kuroo's sly grin remained.