It was warm out. Warmer than usual, even for a Tokyo summer. The air was still and unrefreshing whilst the sun beat down upon the city unforgivingly, creating a kind of stifling mug that made one feel sticky and more than a little uncomfortable. Despite this, the streets were packed. A press of bodies so tight that one could only move with the tide, swept up and deposited wherever the flow allowed rather than where one actually wanted to go. The sound of the flow pressed in on all sides, a chattering noise from which no singular syllables could be discerned that never wavered in its volume or intensity. Only occasionally was it drowned out by the stagnant mass of traffic that cut straight lines through the rivers of humanity, only actually moving when the dam further up the road was opened to allow the torrent through. On either side of this stood the river banks, or rather the skyscrapers and department stores that seemed so unpassable and imposing from the ground, into which those who had been swept up in the current might find some safe haven so long as they could make it to the doors.
Kenma was not among the lucky few who could part the waters to get to the stores. In fact, he was fairly certain that he'd passed his destination by some thirty minutes ago and was now hopelessly lost. He fingered his phone where it rested within the deepest depths of his deepest pocket, where it had rested ever since he'd figured out how lost he had become. It had been it that had gotten him so lost in the first place, or rather the Pokémon GO game that had been the bane of his concentration lately.
He'd been chasing a Beedrill, one of the Pokémon that he'd really wanted since day one that had so far eluded him, and had been so absorbed in it that he'd missed the local convenience store and walked nearly all the way to the centre of the district. Or at least he thought it was the centre of the district. He was so turned around he could have been in the next one for all he knew. Of course, if he could find a street sign he could get his bearings. The problem there was that he wasn't the tallest individual, and coincidentally all those around him were extremely vertically gifted. So he couldn't see any signs, and he wasn't the type of person that could shoulder their way through a crowd to get to one.
So instead he was carried along by the crowd, until eventually getting thrown out of it at an intersection. He glanced up at the now visible street sign, which revealed he was nearly five blocks away from his home, and slumped imperceptibly. He must have been even more distracted than he'd realized if he'd managed to overshoot this badly.
Kenma glanced over his shoulder, back the way he came, and shuddered. He wasn't sure if he was willing to brave that crowd again, considering what happened the first time. Which left him with the option of taking the back streets, which were not the worst in Tokyo by some margin, or call his parents to see if one of them would pick him up. Though considering the traffic he doubted they'd be willing. He took another glance back at the crowd, if anything it seemed to have swelled even more since the last time he'd checked and was bordering on spilling out into the road.
Kenma really didn't want to walk back through that again.
Facing forwards again he noticed a café across the street, and his fourth option materialized itself. If he waited in there until the crowd thinned out he could take the main streets back home, which was much less hassle. Plus he could eat something in there, which was something he'd forgotten to do before he'd left the house. The promise of warm food made this plan the best one by far, and so he navigated the treacherous pedestrian crossing -being careful not to get swept up in the crowd again- and before long he was pushing open the door to the café.
The first thing that hit him was the welcome fwoosh of air-conditioning that tussled his hair and made him realize just how sweaty his back was from being outside in the unforgiving weather for so long. The café was a western-looking affair, advertising bacon rolls and toasted sandwiches, amongst other traditional lunch items, on a chalk-board hanging above the counter. Behind that counter stood an elderly couple adorned with matching flowery aprons and equally smiling faces.
The man, noticing Kenma in the threshold, ushered him further in with larger smile and a wave. "Hello there!" he chirped with a cheerful voice so entirely genuine that Kenma almost felt bad for just nodding in response. "Getting out of the heat? That's understandable" said the man, chuckling at the way Kenma was obviously enjoying the cool inside the café.
The woman nodded her agreement, "It's truly awful out there. Feel free to sit and cool down" said she, with a sort of maternal smile that reminded Kenma of his grandmother.
"How about something to drink?" Asked the man, indicating the area on the chalkboard dedicated to soft drinks. Kenma ordered a lemonade with ice, and went and found the seat closest to the air conditioner to sip at it slowly. He didn't think that the crowd outside would thin for some time, and wanted to maximise the amount of time he could sit there before he had to brave it again.
Although, he thought, the elderly couple who owned this café didn't seem to be the type to throw people out for lingering. In fact, they seemed genuinely happy that he was there at all. Perhaps they didn't get much custom?
Regardless, the lemonade was nice and he was still mulling over food options, so he was content to just bask in the cool air for a while. So he pulled out his phone, opening up Pokémon again to see whether there was anything within the café, and immersed himself first in that and then in whichever game or app took his fancy. His lemonade slowly drained, and he replaced it with a cheese and lettuce sandwich once it was empty.
He noted absently that nobody else had come into the café since he had, which was a good hour or so ago now. Maybe people just didn't notice it? It had a sort of plain front, not bright and eye-catching like the other places in the area. Kenma had to say the sandwich was better than anything he'd had in one of the bigger chains though, not that he usually paid much attention to what things tasted like anyway.
The door didn't open again until he was almost finished with his sandwich, accompanied by the loud cacophony of human and mechanical noise polluting the street outside.
"Oh man! That feels so nice!"
Kenma's head perked up at the new voice. It sounded familiar, and the shock of orange hair that was currently occupying the space in front of the counter was familiar too. Kenma only knew one person with hair like that.
Truth be told, Kenma didn't know how to feel about running into his supposed rival here. Ever since the first practice match between Karasuno and Nekoma back before the summer inter-high he and Hinata Shoyou had been texting regularly. Usually once a day…
Once a day without fail, now that he thought about it.
It was normally just mundane stuff, like 'how are you?' or asking about school, or volleyball. Well the latter was mostly Shoyou, because Kenma wasn't one to talk about volleyball outside of training unless asked. Sometimes Shoyou would have some 'big news' to tell him about, and occasionally Kenma would have something he actually wanted to say, but mostly it was just Shoyou's over-enthusiastic babbling and Kenma's lackadaisical responses and incredulous questions. From the tone of Shoyou's texts, Kenma often suspected that he was just happy to have someone to talk to, an outlet for all the stuff he wanted to talk about but didn't feel comfortable saying to anyone else. Although why Shoyou'd feel comfortable talking about that stuff to him, Kenma had no idea.
Now they were sitting together in a small café in Tokyo doing much the same thing that they did over text, with Shoyou going on about this and that with Kenma occasionally answering questions or interposing his own. It was baffling though, because what were the chances. Shoyou lived in Miyagi prefecture, which was a considerable distance away, and he hadn't been frantically texting Kenma about it and asking if they could meet up. What was more, they had both ended up in the same café at the same time, with Tokyo being the size that it was that was quite the coincidence.
As Kenma pondered this, Shoyou was off on another tangent about volleyball. Something about the new quick he and Kageyama had been practicing. "…And then it goes shoome and swish and it's like suspended in the air in front of my hand, and then I go fwaah and bam and Daichi-san said it's really difficult to receive."
Kenma frowned whilst looking at his phone screen, "Isn't Daichi your captain?"
Shoyou laughed, a little sheepishly, and rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, Noya-sempai is our Libero but it's kinda hard to see practice with him 'cos we both get too excited and then Kageyama usually just leaves…" Shoyou seemed to slump for a second with that, but only for a second before bouncing in his seat across from Kenma and continuing. "Daichi-san is a really good receiver though, so he's great to practice with!"
Kenma hummed absently, more focused on his game at that moment. This particular fort was tough, and he felt that the number of birds he had wasn't really enough.
"What're you playing?"
"Angry Birds" Kenma replied, trying not to lean to his left because of how Shoyou's leaning over his shoulder to see his screen.
"Oh! That level's crazy! It took me forever to beat it!"
Kenma looked up, one eyebrow quirked ever-so-slightly. "You play?"
"Uhuh!" Shoyou grinned, "I'm only a couple of levels ahead of you though. You'll probably catch up soon!"
Kenma sighed internally, he could never understand why Shoyou was so achingly modest. Outwardly he offered a small shrug of the shoulders by way of response and went back to hurling birds at wooden structures. The result was the same as the last time though, one target left standing and no more birds to knock them over. He sighed and closed the game, he'd come back to that later when he'd regained some of his patience. Shoyou, meanwhile, had retreated back to his side of the table and was wolfing down a toasted sandwich. His third, if Kenma hadn't missed one.
They disappeared so fast he wouldn't be surprised if he had.
"Oi, don't eat so fast. You'll throw up."
Shoyou paused in devouring his hapless sandwich and blinked slowly at him. "I normally eat like this" said he, as if constantly eating at the speed of light was normal. "So…" Shoyou paused to swallow when he noticed Kenma wincing, "It's kinda crazy to run into each other here, huh?" said he, voicing Kenma's earlier thoughts.
Kenma grunted quietly and dipped his head.
"I lost ka-san in the crowd" Shoyou explained, "It was a bit scary, 'cos everyone was so tall and I couldn't see round them so I just ran to the first place I could see" he had been looking a bit glum as he spoke, but perked up now. "And these people were really nice and said I could stay here until ka-san found me, and then you were here! I'm actually glad I got lost" he laughed a little, "kinda lame, huh?"
Kenma mulled that over for a second, then nodded again.
"Ah, Kenma! You're not supposed to agree!"
After some hours of waiting about, with Kenma watching Shoyou eat enough sandwiches to make him feel slightly queasy, it had become abundantly clear to him that the Shoyou's mother wasn't going to find him here. Why anyone would think to look inside this small café anyway, Kenma had no clue. He wasn't sure why he hadn't realized how likely, or rather unlikely, this eventuality was beforehand.
Perhaps his fascination with Shoyou's sandwich consumption rate (now known to him SPS, or Sandwiches per Second) had thrown him off so badly that the realms of logic had been lost to him.
Despite this, he was now well aware that the two of them would have to take some sort of constructive action before long. The crowds had almost entirely cleared about an hour ago, leaving the streets in a sort of eerie silence laden with the voices of those who'd occupied it not too long before. Kenma thought it jarring, in a strange way, because he couldn't remember exactly when the crowds had disappeared. It had felt as if, one minute, he was looking at the crowd, and then the next minute it had simply dispersed. Back into the little nooks and crannies of the big city.
About the same time he'd realized the crowd was simple gone, he had also noticed that it was now half-past six. If he remembered correctly, the café shut at seven, hence why he knew they needed to make a move.
But what could they do?
It had occurred to him some time ago that Shoyou should just be able to ring his mother, and was baffled momentarily as to why the other boy simply hadn't until it was revealed that Shoyou had 'left it in the house'. A phone that was all the way back in Miyagi prefecture, or at least that's where Kenma assumed it to be, was certainly of no use here. Moreover, Shoyou could not remember his mother's number, further compounding their predicament. So now, as Kenma saw it, they had three options. They could loiter around in the area Shoyou had last seen his mother, assuming she hadn't been waiting there before and had now gone to look elsewhere. Failing that they could go to the local police station and wait there, Shoyou had said his mother was sensible, and sensible parents always go to report their child missing in such circumstances. The only other option was taking Shoyou back to his house, and letting him slum it on his floor. That option was there if the other two failed, Kenma decided.
He wasn't hoping, even a little bit, that it would actually happen. Not at all, because that would be selfish, and ever-so-slightly cruel.
With this plan in mind, Kenma looked up from his phone and toward Shoyou, who was absently sipping some orange juice through a straw. "Oi" said Kenma, catching the ginger's attention, "We should go." He nodded at the counter in emphasis, indicating that the fact only one of the elderly couple was still there likely meant they were getting ready to close up. Shoyou jumped slightly at the realization, probably because what the time likely was, and got up to pay for his various sandwiches and drinks. Kenma wisely remained where he could not see the register.
He didn't want to know how much all of that had cost.
Soon they were back on the street, and Shoyou lead the way to where he had last seen his mother. The city was almost as quiet as it had seemed from inside the café, there was barely anyone about and the traffic had ebbed to an almost insignificant trickle. Only three cars passed by them in the three blocks they had to walk to get back to the main shopping area in the district. A measly amount compared to the tidal waves that had been roaring through the streets earlier, whenever the traffic lights had permitted.
Despite the length of the walk, little was said between the two of them. Kenma, not being a world champion conversationalist, was almost glad for the silence after Shoyou had bombarded him with excited chatter in the café. Almost.
Because Shoyou was never quiet. It just wasn't in his nature. The fact that his friend was so stoic and silent now startled an emotion from Kenma that he'd never really felt for anyone else before: concern.
There was always something worth shouting about with Shoyou, whether a rooftop was involved or not was immaterial, and he shouted the loudest of anyone Kenma knew. He always had something to say about volleyball, or school, or something adorable that his little sister had made/done/said. It was as if something new happened every second, and Shoyou was so excited about all of it regardless of what exactly 'it' was.
Now, however, he was silent and -judging by the expression on his face- worried about something.
Such an occurrence was not unheard of. Kenma had seen Shoyou's frequent battles with nervousness first-hand. Usually, though, he had an entire volleyball team's worth of close friends to back him up and calm him down, and he was usually much more vocal about it too. Now, it was as if he was holding it all in and letting it stew, and the only person around to back him up was Kenma. Too make matters worse, he'd lost his mother, and Kenma wasn't good at giving the type of support Shoyou needed.
He wasn't really good at any kind of supporting, but that wasn't important.
Kenma needed to get Shoyou talking again, otherwise he'd just brood over whatever this problem was until his brain ran out of oxygen. The dilemma he had now was how to go about doing it.
"The city's so quiet…"
Kenma winced subtly. That was bad.
"Yeah…it's like the entire district emptied out in half an hour." Thankfully, Shoyou didn't seem to mind. "I haven't been here for a while, but when it's busy it's exactly like I remember it. All the cars going shooom, and all the people walking around make so much noise…" a pause, in which Shoyou shuddered lightly. "…and everyone's so tall!"
Kenma snorted internally, "It's not like they're going to hurt you…"
"That's not the point" Shoyou grumbled, crossing his arms and pouting in the opposite direction. "I can't see where I'm going, it's like getting blocked from all sides."
Kenma pondered that for a moment, then nodded quietly. If he thought about it, he could easily compare the crowds to facing Date Tech's 'Iron Wall', except from every direction instead of only to the front. Sometimes it was just impossible to get through.
Kenma didn't add that out loud though, and thus the avenue of conversation died a quiet and pained death. Having exhausted all of his talent in the area of human interaction, however, Kenma simply went ahead and asked what was on his mind.
"Why are you here?"
"Eh?" Shoyou seemed to falter for a moment, as if caught in a stiff head-wind, before lengthening his stride slightly to catch up again. "What's that supposed to mean!?"
Kenma sighed, "I meant 'why're you in Tokyo'…"
"Oh." It was almost just a breath, so quiet was it that the utterance nearly got sucked into the silent city. Kenma had sharp ears though, and he clearly heard it -complete with all the worry laced into it like a bad infection. "I…uh…" Shoyou stumbled, seemingly debating whether to tell Kenma or not, "We came to visit Dad."
Kenma slapped himself internally.
"We haven't been in a while, with me starting High School and all the volleyball meets there hasn't really been time. Ka-san said it was rude to leave him alone for too long though."
Shoyou's head was hanging now, drooping like a flower out of season.
"Shoyou…" Kenma started, but then stopped. What could he say? He wasn't good at this kind of thing, never had been and likely never would be. He wasn't sure what he could say that wouldn't make matters worse.
"I'm fine!" Kenma's head snapped up, focusing in on Shoyou's happy grin. "We'd already gone before I got lost so I didn't miss out! Besides, I got to see you!"
"Don't say stuff like that. It's embarrassing" said he, because he had to latch onto something so he didn't get whiplash from the conversational -and emotional- one-eighty Shoyou had just pulled.
"What!? It's true! We text a whole lot but we don't see each other outside practice matches and training camps, so I'm allowed to get excited!" He was waving his hands about, possibly to emphasise his point, though they were far too erratic for Kenma to tell.
He stared at Shoyou for a few seconds, long enough to make his friend uncomfortable, then shrugged. "I guess…"
"What's that supposed to mean!?"
"We should keep walking…"
Waiting for Shoyou's mother turned out to be a bust. It was far more likely that she'd already been there for some time and had decided to look elsewhere. At the rate Shoyou moved about, Kenma was fairly sure he'd do the same if he were in her shoes. Actually, if he were in her shoes he'd have Shoyou fitted with a tracking device, but that was neither here-nor-there.
So instead of waiting around in the rapidly cooling city air, Kenma had decided to go straight to the local police station to see if she'd already been there. The walk hadn't taken as long as the one from the café, and Shoyou had been back to his usual, unrelentingly talkative self. For that reason alone, it was as if the walk had gone far quicker, and not just due to distance -they hadn't been dragging the elephant out of the room with them this time.
The officer at the desk was a nice enough man, though ultimately he had to disappoint them by saying nobody had come in to report Shoyou as missing. Kenma found himself wondering whether Shoyou's mother was responsible and level-headed by his standards or by Kenma's. The Officer offered them both tea as consolation, though, and a quiet room in which to talk out what they were going to do next. However, not much talking was going on, as Kenma was forced to listen to Shoyou shaking in his chair and occasionally mutter something about not having any allowance for a whole year.
His priorities were in the right order, Kenma decided.
Of course, Kenma also knew what his next course of action should be. He should offer Shoyou his spare futon and a roof over his head for the night. He would leave his home number with the duty officer, so Shoyou's mother would know where to call when she eventually got here, and then he would call his father and ask to get picked up.
He was just working his way around to it.
He was, in no way, nervous.
Just working himself up for it.
He didn't even know why he needed to. What was there to be nervous about? Shoyou was a friend, he'd said as much to Kenma on at least fifteen different occasions over the eight months they'd known each other. They talked a lot, or at least Shoyou talked a lot and Kenma tolerated it -which was a good sign. Moreover, Shoyou needed a place to stay, and Kenma couldn't see any other place in which he could do that.
Plus, it could be fun. Not that Kenma did this kind of thing often. His room was his personal sanctuary, and the only person other than his parents to have seen the inside of it was Kuroo. Allowing someone else in was a big deal, but Shoyou was probably the only other person he felt he trusted enough to allow within the boarders of his own personal bastion of solitude. However, it was more than that, because even Kuroo had never stayed a night. He would never push Kenma into something like that, and Kenma had never thought (or wanted) to ask. Which was probably why he was nervous now.
He had never asked anyone to stay over before. The fact that it was necessary was of little consequence, at least to the part of Kenma's brain labelled 'anxiety'. He hated that part. Kenma didn't hate anything particularly, partially because it went against his principles and partially because such a strong emotion required some effort to keep up. One couldn't just 'casually hate' something, after all. Anxiety, however, was different. It was constantly there, making him worry about the tinniest little things, and over analyse ever action he took and trait of his character. It used to be worse, but he'd matured a bit since then, learned to live with it.
But it was still there.
Which was why he hated it, it never went away. It never left him alone. Some days he would find himself thinking about how unworried he felt, how he'd been feeling more at ease and less hassled of late, only to then start worrying again about something completely ridiculous. Something like, 'if I'm not worrying about something, does that mean I'm losing the capability to care about anything?' It was on those days that he felt the hate was justified.
At length, Kenma managed to resolve himself. He would do it because he needed to at the very least. Anxiety be damned.
So he took one deep breath in, and upon the releasing of the pent up oxygen he allowed the question to flow out with it.
"You can stay with me…" his voice pierced the semi-silence of the room like a lance, sharp and harsh. Shoyou stopped trembling and gaped at Kenma, as if the lance had taken him straight through the chest and he had yet to comprehend it had happened. It made Kenma slightly uncomfortable, so he tacked "…if you want…" onto the end, as a get out clause. He wouldn't force it upon Shoyou as the only option, even though it kind of was; unless spending the night at the police station appealed.
He also refused to let the silence settle for too long, his brain might explode.
Shoyou continued to gape in a very 'fish out of water' like-manner for a few moments, before returning to his senses. Then, suddenly, he was grinning from ear-to-ear again. It was as if the last twenty minutes of panicking had never happened. "Yeah!" said he, seemingly without even pausing to think the proposition over. Something that was both deplorable and admirable.
Kenma nodded, taking out his phone and using it as an excuse to hide his face. Or, more accurately, to hide his smile. He knew he didn't smile much, even though Kuroo told him to do so more often lest his facial muscles forget how to move in such a manner. It was just that he didn't pay attention to what people were saying to him, or what was going on around him enough to notice the things that would have otherwise made him smile. Shoyou was one of the few people that could make him smile, simply because he was one of those people you simply couldn't help but pay attention to. That and the fact that he was just so sunny. So bright and bouncy and full of joy. Faced with something like that, Kenma couldn't help but smile.
Kenma tapped in his Dad's mobile number, not sure whether the elder Kozume was still at work or not. Kozume Kichirou was a psychology teacher at Tokyo University, and probably the reason that Kenma analysed people the way that he did. Which wasn't to say 'it was in his blood' or anything superstitious like that, but over the years Kenma had picked up a lot of things from him about how people act in certain situations. He knew that by looking closely at someone, you could tell a whole multitude of things. Whether they were lying or telling the truth, whether they were uncomfortable or upset, and so on. Of course, his father was far better at it. He was far more practised and experienced, and a very respected member of his field because of it.
Kenma thumbed the 'call' button, waiting as the tone sounded four times. Not quite long enough to brace himself, it seemed.
"Kenma!? What's happened!? What's wrong!?"
He held the phone away from his ear slightly, wincing. As respected as his father was, he was as over-dramatic as a circus clown.
Putting the device back up against his ear, Kenma ignored the torrent of questions and general dramatics in favour of getting to the point. That way the man would stop worrying. "I need picking up."
"Oh", there was a sound like creaking leather and a long exhale, heralding the end of Kichirou's panicking. "I need to finish grading these papers first, so I can't leave for another half-an-hour. Where do you need fetching from?"
Kenma prepared himself. "The Police Station."
"I'm not in trouble, Dad. Stop shouting."
"Well then don't say things like that!" There was another long exhale, followed by the thud of two elbows impacting a wooden desk. "Why the police station?"
Kenma pondered the best response. Kichirou had always thought that Kuroo looked like a delinquent, and constantly worried about his son being led astray by the volleyball team captain. Of course, it was all entirely in his own head -which was ironic. Kuroo couldn't lead someone astray if he was paid to, even if he claimed otherwise. Regardless, Kenma wanted to choose his next words carefully to avoid the lecture he'd get over the phone if his Dad got the wrong idea.
"Someone got lost. I was helping."
"Someone? You couldn't have given them directions and gone home?"
"…they're a friend."
Kenma sighed. "No."
There was a pause on the other end. "You have another friend?" It sounded so incredulous that Kenma wasn't sure whether to be offended or not.
"I can have more than one friend, Dad" said Kenma, deciding that he would be offended. Just because people found it difficult to get on with him didn't mean he couldn't make any friends at all. Not that he made it easy, per-se, but it might be that they just weren't trying hard enough.
"Ah! I didn't mean it like that! I'm just surprised!" Kichirou chuckled nervously, then cleared his throat. "Just wait there for half-an-hour, then I'll come and fetch you. Alright?"
"Alright. See you soon" with that Kichirou ended the call.
Kenma switched his screen off and slumped back into his chair. Talking to his dad was always draining, not that talking to people in general wasn't, but there was just something about interacting with Kichirou that left him feeling…spent. It was an arduous task.
Across from him, Shoyou waited for his friend to recover in a surprisingly tactful display of understanding. Perhaps there was a flamboyant Hinata lurking somewhere within their family tree? Although, if that person was ostentatious enough to leave Shoyou in need of some peace and quiet, then they were truly a force to be reckoned with.
Kenma likened the idea to defeating Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time.
"Dad will be here in half-an-hour."
Shoyou frowned at him, "But you didn't even ask if it was okay…"
Kenma shrugged, conveying without words that it was no big deal. His parents would probably be thrilled. Him having a friend over for the night would be like watching a butterfly emerging from its cocoon at the end of the chrysalis stage for them.
It was only because it was necessary though.
Kenma wasn't excited at all.
Not a bit.
A/N: This was originally going to be a one-shot, but I felt that I couldn't do it justice with a one chapter constraint; so it's going to be a two shot! I should get the second half up soon!
Thanks for reading!