Chapter 6:

Chapter 6 - Game

Blondie (On Hiatus)

Ayame kept her back pressed against the bedroom door as she waited for Kuroo to leave, her hands clutching at her hair as what had happened the previous night filled her thoughts. Her heart seemed to quicken, blood rushing and boiling beneath her skin.

She counted and took deep breaths in and out, her chest slowly starting to fall back into a normal rhythm.

Trying to keep calm, she slowly began to stand, her legs wobbling. Approaching her dresser, she gathered an armful of clothes, glad she had left them there a previous time. Picking them up, she shimmied her way out the room and towards the bathroom, wanting to wash off last night's cold sweat and nightmares.

Ayame slipped off the hoodie Kenma had lent her, grimacing as she accidentally pulled at the bandages on her arms. The blonde stared at her reflection in the mirror, her tangled hair and dried tearstains staring right back.

"Did last night really happen?" She silently questioned as she turned on the water, despite fully recalling the interaction she had with the bed-headed captain.

Why did she have to have that awful dream last night? Now Kuroo would ask more questions- how would she handle them?

Rubbing the dark circles under her eyes, she finally got into the shower, washing away any grime and regrets under the warm water.

The girl eventually emerged from the shower, clean and refreshed. Pulling off the now-damp bandages plastering her skin, she dumped them into the trash bin before drying off, barely touching the towel to where she was injured.

Her stomach growled as she finally finished getting her clothes on- a simple pair of jeans with an oversized shirt tucked in, rather nice for a crisp spring day. Opening the door of the steaming bathroom, she walked out into the hallway before descending downstairs.

During her descent, she was alarmed to suddenly hear Kuroo's frustrated yell from the living room- something she had yet to hear from him. His hazel eyes were narrowed at the TV screen as he mashed the buttons of his controller, his knuckles pale from his intense grip on it. On the couch, Kenma sat beside him as stoically as ever, clearly winning whatever game they were playing.

Walking past them and into the kitchen to find something to eat, Ayame opened the fridge and spotted a plate of food. It was simply rice and an egg, with a small bowl of lettuce and miso soup from the night before. Her name was scribbled on a piece of paper next to the dishes.

Taking the dishes out, the girl heated up her meal before occupying a seat at the dining table, which gave her a perfect view of the two boys playing Mortal Kombat- Kuroo as Liu Kang and Kenma as Raiden- nothing new for the latter.

Using her chopsticks to stab the egg into the rice, she mixed it in and prayed before beginning to eat, watching the at-home entertainment unfold in front of her.

Kuroo muttered a curse, annoyed as the large K.O. appeared onscreen. A nearly unnoticeable smirk laced the other boy's lips- a rare sight.

“Okay Kenma, let's go again! But pick someone else this time!”

He simply complied, Scorpion appearing on his side of the screen as Kuroo selected Sub-Zero. Ayame curiously and intently watched, stuffing food into her mouth. Swallowing, she then lifted the bowl to drink the miso soup. The bashing of fists and spraying of blood was audible from the living room.

Kuroo suddenly sprang up from the couch and onto his feet, as if standing would help him win. Against all odds, the hits he landed allowed him to win the first round. Kenma didn’t seem to take the loss well, not even giving Kuroo the chance to block his rampaging attacks of round two.

“Damn..!” He muttered, button-mashing again.

"You know, you shouldn’t do it like that. He'll just crush you.”

"When did you get here, Aya-chan?!" He looked back at her for just a second, before realizing that he had given Kenma an opening to attack.

"K.O. Flawless victory." The announcer said.

Ayame shook her head at this, getting up to take her dishes to the kitchen. Washing them and putting them on the rack to dry, she returned to the living room, sitting next to Kenma, who remained calm and collected throughout the match.

The third round had become pretty heated as Kuroo leaned forward, concentrating and about to close in on a victory, but Kenma suddenly unleashed his special attack on Sub-Zero. K.O. flashed across the screen once more, causing the older boy to let out a defeated groan. The girl snorted, which she quickly covered with a cough.

“That’s it, I've had enough...” Kuroo tossed the controller onto the coffee table, falling back against the couch with a defeated sigh.

In one quick movement, the girl swiped it, getting comfortable and ready to show off her own skills. Kenma’s body seemed to stiffen, his back straightening as he prepared for the competition. Kuroo noticed the change, his catlike eyes darting between the two blondes. Kenma was always relaxed, if not a little careless, when they gamed together.

"Now watch and learn, rooster.” Ayame smirked, leaning forward.

They returned to the character selection screen, with Kenma locking onto Raiden once more. Ayame was quick to move to Sonya, selecting her. Randomizing the battle grounds, the game soon began.

"Round one- FIGHT!” The announcer boomed. Kuroo watched as his friend's jaw clenched, the two pressing buttons with precision and impact. Ayame's eyes held a determined glow as she brawled.

Sonya Blade, the military operative with blonde hair that resembled her own, was one of the only characters without powers, only relying on her own strength- something she seemed to admire. The girl had often struggled to fight back, but in a video game, she seemed to be able to do it without fear nor hesitation.

It was freeing.

Kenma was now the one starting to button mash, his commitment to win evident as the girl continued to beat Raiden down, never letting him land a hit on her fighter. The energy in her power bar quickly increased, allowing her to use her ultimate move and defeat Kenma with a flawless victory.

"Sonya wins.”

Ayame's arms excitedly went up in the air, a huge grin on her face. Kenma huffed a bit, bringing his controller closer to his curled up body. Kuroo, who was now invested in the game, continued to watch as it progressed.

"Round two- FIGHT!”

Kenma narrowed his eyes as Ayame's character started to advance on him, throwing kicks and punches his way.

"You've got this, Aya-chan!" Kuroo cheered her on.

"You're supposed to be rooting for me..." Kenma muttered quietly.

Shaking her head with warmth stinging her cheeks, Ayame continued the fight of intense skill, and soon defeated Raiden.

"Sonya wins.”

Kenma had lost- a rather confusing and rare occasion.

"Nice job beating him." Kuroo smiled slyly. "Kenma tends to lose sight of his surroundings when he's fired up."

"I wasn't fired up..." The boy seemed annoyed, scowling up at him before turning his face away.

"Yes you were."

"Was not..."

"Were too."

"Was not..."

Laughing, Ayame dropped her controller, wrapping an arm around his shoulder.

"Aw Kenma, don’t be like that. It’s just a game~” She teased, the boy only pushing her arm away as she giggled.

It was then that a lightbulb seemed to appear above Kuroo's deformed hair.

"Speaking of games, let’s go outside." The older boy got to his feet, ignoring Kenma's reluctant facial expression. "We can practice doing sets in the park."

He turned to Ayame.

"You should come with us too. You look like you need the fresh air.”

His concern seemed almost genuine to her. The girl nodded slightly, standing up and stretching her arms.

"I could probably get some drawing done, so I guess I will."

Something then dawned on her.

"I don't have my sketchbook with me.”

"There's one in your room somewhere.” Kenma spoke, looking up at the girl.

"Really? I don't remember leaving one, but I'll look.” She walked away and headed upstairs, pulling up her jeans in the process.

Kuroo watched her retreating form, getting kicked in the back of the knee when Kenma noticed. The taller male stumbled but caught himself, glaring down at him.

"Idiot.” The blond stared at the TV screen, pretending to be innocent.

"Am not!"

"Are too."

"Am not!"

"Are too."

Once upstairs and in the guest bedroom, Ayame began to search for the sketchbook Kenma had spoke of. Opening the drawer of the bedside table, she found a small multimedia sketchbook. Next to it was a mechanical pencil and eraser.

When she opened the cover, Ayame saw her name neatly written in kanji, along with a short note.

"Let your creativity bloom as much as you do."

Ayame ran her fingers over it and smiled, recognizing the handwriting. The girl hugged the sketchbook to her chest, before hopping downstairs, the pencil and eraser tucked into her pocket.

She’d have to thank Mrs. Kozume later.

Kuroo and Kenma were waiting by the door for her, wearing sneakers. A volleyball was tucked under the taller boy's arm, the other holding his phone.

Ignoring Kuroo, she excitedly bounced up to Kenma, shoving the note in his face.

"Look! Your mom’s so nice, I love her!"

"I'm glad you like it..." Kenma allowed a small smile to show on his stoic face. It made him glad that she had some sort of maternal figure in her life, even if it was just his own mother.

"Let us be off then, my loyal companions.” Kuroo opened the front door, heading outside.

Ayame rolled her eyes, slipping on her shoes and following him out of the house, annoyed that he had ruined the mood.

Why couldn't life be as simple as a game?

In her garden across the street, Kuroo's mother saw the trio leave together. The older woman crossed her arms, leaning against the gate. For a moment, she watched with a smile on her face.

With his eyes glued to the game he was playing on his phone, Kenma didn't seem to pay much attention to his surroundings as they walked to the nearby park. He suddenly let out a huff of surprise as a pair of younger kids ran into him- a boy and girl.

"Watch where you're going, Kenma!" Ayame scolded. "I told you that you'd crash into something one day!"

"They ran into me." Kenma retorted monotonously.

"S-Sorry! We're re-really s-sorry!" The two frantically apologized, crying and clutching the other's hand.

Shooting him a glare, Ayame was quick to shove her sketchbook into Kenma's arms, startling and confusing the blond as she bent to the children's level.

"Hey, are you two lost?” She asked in a soft voice.

The boy nodded, furiously wiping his eyes.

“W-We lost Papa and-and-!“ He hiccupped, the little girl in a similar state of distress.

"Take deep breaths." Ayame instructed, shushing them gently.

The two males behind her watched curiously. Kenma seemed uncomfortable, just standing there and staring. Shaking his head, Kuroo decided to intervene, handing the ball to Kenma as he approached the children.

"What am I? A bag?" The blond thought, tucking the volleyball under his arm.

"We’ll help you find your dad.” Kuroo stepped forward to assure them.

"Th-Thank you..." The two tried to smile up at them.

Ayame turned back to the siblings, wanting to help them relax a little.

“What are your names and how old are you?”

“Mimi, four...” She quietly spoke up first, holding up her fingers to show her age.

"And I’m Kazusa, I-I’m seven.” Her brother rubbed away tears from his eyes.

"Let's go find your papa, Kazusa." Ayame reached down to take the boy's hand, leading the way. The little girl was eager to hold Kuroo's hand, following them. Kenma lagged behind, glancing up from his phone to see them resembling a young family.

He opened his camera app, snapping a picture for future blackmail use. The others didn't seem to notice the click as he followed them.

The two young siblings finally seemed to calm down, ceasing their crying. Ayame made mild conversation with the boy, who had increasingly come out of his shell around her. Kuroo glanced down at the shy and quiet little girl, giving her a gentle smile.

They made it deeper into the park, where the two children seemed happy again. With how large it was, the little ones still couldn’t see where their father was. Kenma had seemingly vanished, finding a seat on a bench.

Kuroo disconnected his hand from the little girl. Ayame was confused by this as he turned to Kazusa.

“C'mere, kid.”

The boy obeyed, letting go of her hand approaching Kuroo. The male bent to pick up Mimi, placing her on his shoulders. With his other arm, he lifted Kazusa up.

“Wheeee! Uppy-up!” The little girl giggled, grabbing onto Kuroo's hair, making him wince and Ayame giggle. The endearing scene caused her heart to skip a beat, as she found it quite cute.

Wait, what was she thinking? Shaking her head, she discarded the thought.

"There he is! Papa!” The boy suddenly shouted, pointing in his direction. He wiggled out of Kuroo's grip, running off before he could even react.

"Hey, wait!” Kuroo held onto Mimi and quickly followed, with Ayame not far behind.

"Papa!" Kazusa had grabbed on a man's arm, tugging it and laughing, telling him of his adventure with his sister.

"We got lost, but these nice people found us! I protected Mimi like you said, and the tall man picked us up really high!"

"Oh really now?"

Kuroo then set the little girl down, who ran to her father. Ayame stood a bit behind Kuroo, but the little kids soon grabbed her arms to pull her front and center.

"Thank you!" They said in unison. She smiled, ruffling their hair.

“I’m just glad I could help two adorable little things like you.”

“They are adorable, aren’t they?” Their father turned to her. His low voice caused her to go rigid, locking her in place. A stunned look of recognition briefly flashed across his face.

Ayame slowly met his dark eyes. They were those of a monster, just as they were all those years ago.

“You...” She breathed, her heart pounding.

”Why hello, little miss Ayame-chan. It’s been so long!”