Originally published: 2015-07-23
Many thanks to monsterr for her amazing betareading!
It's not something Kageyama thinks a lot about.
Sometimes, Hinata's the one who waits for her outside the classroom, if she was lucky enough to have her last period with Nishimoto, always anxious to get rid of his students as soon as possible. Constantly shifting the weight of her body from one foot to the other, as though she were about to jump for a spike and you take so long, Kageyama, I've been here for three hours already. Some other times, it's Kageyama who waits outside Hinata's classroom, as the girl is detained by a teacher who tells her off for being distracted in class, yet again, or sometimes, by a classmate who is dying to tell her something super important that can't wait until after lunchtime. If it's the latter, at least Kageyama knows that as soon as the girl in question spots her waiting outside, her scowl in place and her arms crossed over her chest, suddenly she'll remember that it wasn't such an urgent matter after all and she'll let Hinata go.
'Kageyama, you really frightened Mito with that look you gave her. She just wanted to tell me about this new CD she's got'.
'I was born with this face', she replies every single time, to Hinata's amusement. 'It's not my fault if all you classmates are airheads like you.'
Hinata hisses like an angry cat – Kageyama would know: she always gets that reaction from cats – but she forgets her indignation very easily to discuss a new move that they could try at the next practice, or to stick her nose into Kageyama's bento, as though she didn't always have more or less the same stuff for lunch almost every day.
Every now and then, though, the first thing Kageyama sees as she steps out of the classroom isn't a mop of indomitable orange hair belonging to a girl incapable of standing still, a girl who starts firing seven hundred words per minute as soon as she sees her.
Every now and then, it's a boy.
The type varies. They're usually tall, although once there was this boy who was even shorter than Noya and Hinata, that cheeky bastard, laughed for weeks.
Some of them stand serious and quiet, fear written on their faces; others wait for her with a self-satisfied smirk and wink at her. More often than not there's a gang of his friends a few steps away, whispering amongst themselves and elbowing each for some reason she can't fathom. It's for moral support Noya explained to her once. Girls do it as well when they confess to a boy.
Kageyama has never confessed or done anything of the sort to a boy, and she'd rather not have anyone confessing to her either.
Anyhow, it always turns out more or less the same way:
"Kageyama-san, I thought that maybe… you might want… eh, sit with us at lunch, maybe? Would you like that?"
"No, not really."
"Kageyama-san, those books look awfully heavy."
"I do weight-lifting."
"Did you know, Kageyama? At the mall's cinema the sequel to Panda Warrior is on. You liked the first one, right?" A nod from Kageyama provokes a smile so wide that almost splits the boy's face in half. "Would you like to go see it this weekend?"
Kageyama tilts her head, pensive.
"Well, yeah, I would. Hinata!"
The girl, as usual in this sort of situation, stands a few steps away from them as though she were giving them some privacy, but she doesn't miss a single word. She winces at the sound of her name and does a very poor job at pretending not to have been paying attention.
"Do you want to go to the movies this Saturday, after practice?"
Afterwards, when the boy in question walks away glumly so his friends get the chance to pat his back, Hinata clucks her tongue in disapproval, as though she were her eighty-five-year-old grand-aunt.
"Kageyama, you're so mean with the boys that ask you out."
"Would you rather I had lunch with any of them, instead of having extra practice with you? Or do you want to see Panda Warrior just with Natsu?"
"Well… no, of course not. But, I dunno, at least you could let them carry your books…"
"What for? I'm sure I do more weight-lifting than them."
Hinata huffs, shaking her head in a movement that almost shakes her entire body and her hair, as it's not constrained by the rubber bands and hair clips she uses during practice, splits in all directions.
"That's not the point, Bakageyama!"
(She always says it as though it were a single word, in the same way she calls her dumbass-Hinata.)
"And what's the point, genius?"
"They offer because they want to be nice to you! It's like, I don't know, cute? A boy waiting for you after class, who offers to walk you and carry your books… It's like in the movies. It means they like you."
"But I don't like them, so what does it matter?"
Hinata lets out a long-suffering sigh, like she does those times Coach Ukai tells them they ran out of meat buns at the store.
"I just know that it'd be nice if someone offered to carry my books, at least once. I need more help than you, look at my bag, it's about to burst."
"That's because you're a moron who never remembers which books she's supposed to bring and which ones not, so you always bring all of them."
"Last time I forgot a book I got detention, and I was late for practice, and Daichi almost killed me!"
"If your memory wasn't so lousy, then maybe…"
"Oh, look who's talking."
Finally, without realizing how or why, Kageyama ends up grabbing Hinata's bag. At her stunned look she snaps:
"If you're going to be such a baby to whine about it, I'll carry them for you. I'm sure I'll be faster with two bags than you with just one."
"No, you won't!"
(Hinata wins, but Kageyama insists it was just because one of the bags' straps slipped from her shoulder and she had to stop to adjust it.)
The next day, it's Hinata who snatches her bag away as soon as she steps out of her classroom.
"You won't beat me at this either, Kageyama!" she shouts over her shoulder, as she runs away with the two bags bouncing on her back. Kageyama rolls her eyes.
"Dumbass" she mumbles, before running after her.
It's bad enough when this sort of stuff happens in front of Hinata, but there's nothing as awful as the entire Karasuno team hanging from the window bars or sticking their heads through the half-open door while a boy sticks a bouquet of flowers under Kageyama's nose. She can hear some loud whistles that must come from Noya and Tanaka, and she's pretty sure that the cackling behind her back are Tsukishima and Yamaguchi, maybe also Ennoshita.
She doesn't even listen to what the boy is stammering, instead she takes a step back to prevent the flowers from sticking into her eyes, and she crosses her arms behind her back.
"No, thanks. You can keep them."
"Hey, Kageyama, don't be so mean!"
"Shut up and let her handle it herself, it's her call!"
"But it's not like the flowers are gonna bite her!"
"QUIET, OR YOU'LL RUN LAPS AROUND THE GYM UNTIL YOUR LEGS FALL OFF."
It's followed by one of those silences that would allow you to hear a pin dropping to the floor, if anyone brought pins to volleyball practice. In this case, all that can be heard is a muffled cough, most likely from Asahi who has had a cold for the entire week, followed by a thump that sounds like elbowing, and a very quiet "ouch!"
Kageyama feels her face burning, but surely not as much as the boy's in front of her, who swallows a couple of times before speaking again.
"Er, look, I… I just wanted to give you this and, er, tell you that… well, that you're very pretty."
"AWWW, ISN'T HE ADORABLE?"
"I TOLD YOU TO SHUT UP!"
Kageyama clenches her teeth and digs her nails into her forearms. The team is important, you can't win a volley match playing by yourself, she can't murder them all.
"But you don't have to feel forced to anything", he hastens to add, perhaps because he finally perceives the murderous aura gestating around her. "I didn't want to make you uncomfortable…"
He could have thought of that before showing up with flowers outside the gym, in front of all of her teammates.
Boys can be so stupid.
"Kageyama, don't make him suffer so much that he'll get an apoplexy!"
"Wow, I didn't know you could pronounce such a long word, are you sure you didn't hurt yourself?"
"Really, girls? Really?"
His smile starts to waver on his lips, almost as much as the hand holding the flowers, their petals starting to fall with all the shaking.
Kageyama doesn't have to turn around to know that through the door, ajar, stick out the faces of all her teammates. Well, with the exception of Noya and Tanaka: they are clinging to the window bars for a better view.
Suga-san once told her that, in such situations, it might be convenient to close her eyes and count to ten.
She counts to fifty, just in case.
"If I take the flowers, will you leave me alone?"
His jaw drops. She keeps clenching her teeth but uncrosses and stretches her arms: she was already feeling pins and needles.
"That's no way to accept a—OUCH, SUGA, THAT HURT!"
He glances beyond Kageyama, where everyone must be staring at him like a fish in a bowl and he swallows. He seems to be rethinking many things.
Being born, perhaps.
"Well, if that's what you want…"
Before he can change his mind, she snatches the bouquet from his hand.
"Thank you," she grumbles, but she does bow. He opens and closes his mouth a couple of times, gawking, and in the end, he also bows.
"Th-thanks… Er, I mean, you're welcome… er… See you later, Kageyama!"
She has two, maybe three seconds of respite between the moment his sneakers screech against the concrete, signaling his flight, and the moment she feels someone tugging on her sleeve and a familiar voice shrieks almost into her ear:
"Kageyama, you're awful. I thought he was going to burst into tears and everything. Is it that hard for you to accept some flowers? It's not like they were carnivorous!"
Hinata puts her hands on her hips and frowns at her. With her pigtails and the bright-colored hair clips she uses during practice, her cheeks red after running to her side, and her short height, she looks as threatening as a soaking-wet kitten.
Kageyama rolls her eyes.
"If you like them so much, you can keep them."
Hinata blinks several times, staring cross-eyed at the bouquet Kageyama's placed right under her nose.
"But… they're yours."
"I don't want them. You're the one that said I had to accept them, so you gotta keep them."
"Oh, Bakageyama, that's not how it works."
But she takes the bouquet, a bit battered after all the shaking, and she places it under her nose to smell it.
At once she sneezes all over it.
"Awwww, our young lady here is growing up," says a saccharine sweet voice, and when she glances down Kageyama sees Noya grabbing her arm, a proud mamma smile on her face, and two seconds later Tanaka appears at her other side.
"She already has suitors and everything. Just yesterday she was blowing off the dean's wig…"
"Don't mention that ever again!" shouts Daichi from the gym's front steps, where the rest of the team still gathers. Suga covers her mouth with her hand, but the others don't even try to smother their snickering.
Except for Tsukishima, sticking her head behind the others, who keeps her usual expression of moral superiority.
"Her Majesty doesn't like the attention from plebeians, see."
"It's not like you'd be any nicer!"
"No, of course not," she replies, looking at her nails with calculated indifference. "But at least I can save myself from this sort of embarrassment."
It's sadly true: from what Yamaguchi has told them, Tsukishima is also strangely popular amongst Karasuno's male population and yet, she never suffers this sort of public humiliation.
Hinata suggested once that was because she made sure to bury the corpses where no one could find them.
Suga steps in before things get out of hand, but Noya and Tanaka keep goofing around, ruffling her head and telling her she's such a big girl now, offering "advice" for talking to boys that she'll never put into practice.
She escapes from her team by racing Hinata to where she parked her bike. Kageyama wins and the other girl frowns and pouts. The bouquet is more battered than ever, and now even Hinata seems annoyed at it.
"I don't know why your admirers can't give you something better than flowers. Like chocolates or homemade cookies. What good is a bouquet for?"
When Kageyama suggests to her to just throw it away, she shakes her head, affronted.
"You gave it to me, and you don't throw away presents."
She throws the bouquet into her bike's basket, and Kageyama has serious doubts regarding its chances of survival, knowing at what speed her friend likes to pedal.
When she says goodbye to Hinata, and the girl beams at her, though, for the first time she reckons that perhaps flower bouquets aren't that stupid, as long as you give them to people who actually care.
It's a practice way more brutal than usual, or at least it seems that way to Kageyama, who by the end of it feels her arms and legs are like lead. She sinks on a pile of mats next to Asahi, who drinks water with a despondent look.
They're supposed to be tidying up the gym, but the coach left to take a call and instead everyone's slacking off. A crowd gathers around Noya and Tanaka, who like usual are gesticulating a lot and showing something to the others. Kageyama can't see much from where she is, but whatever it is makes Tsukishima put distance between them, closely followed, like always, by Yamaguchi.
"Hey, girls, don't be like that," Noya shouts after them. "Don't you see we're trying to teach you valuable life lessons?"
She shakes something in her hand – a bright-colored magazine. Kageyama perks up, is it Volleyball Montly's latest issue…?
To her disappointment, what she manages to glimpse makes her recoil: Cosmopolitan.
(One summertime afternoon her cousins insisted that she stopped practicing for a while so she went sunbathing with them, and they spent the whole time reading that magazine. It's on her Top Ten of traumatic memories.)
"No, thanks," replies Tsukishima. "It's been verified that merely flipping that magazine's pages annihilates your neuronal capacity."
Yamaguchi settles at Asahi's other side, maybe because between the two tallest girls on the team she feels safe against an oncoming attack from Noya and Tanaka.
She should've known there would be no escape: they start to read loud enough for their voices to reverberate in the entire gym.
"How can you get that boy to notice you: the do's and don'ts of a successful seduction."
"Tanaka, where did you get this crap? Tell me you didn't pay for it."
"No way. My brother's girlfriend left it at home… well, actually, his ex."
"…no wonder she's an ex."
Noya keeps reading at top of her lungs, unperturbed.
"Have you ever wondered why some girls seem to get all the attention every time they go out and then there are others that are always left empty-handed, no matter how hard they try? Cosmo is here to tell you which steps you must follow to turn into the greatest seductress and which you must avoid at all costs. Hey, Tanaka, you read the do's columns and I'll read the don'ts."
Kageyama tears her gaze away from her shoelaces and looks up. Could it be that she'll find, in a Cosmopolitan, the way to get rid of pestering boys once and for all?
It sounds too good to be true.
"Do: make a seductive pose, sticking out your bosom a bit, but in a subtle manner."
"Don't: No squishing his face against your breasts!"
There's a collective roar of laughter that tears Daichi and Suga from their private conversation, which had kept them immersed at the opposite end of the gym. They glance back at the group of girls, but apparently it's enough to make sure no one is setting anything on fire to decide to go back to their conversation and ignore everyone else.
"Do: write your phone number down on a napkin and pass it to him discreetly."
"Don't: write your number on his thigh."
No, that magazine definitely won't help Kageyama.
"But who the hell would do that? What sort of person do they write this stuff for?"
Tanaka and Noya laugh at Ennoshita's indignant look.
"A girl does what she must to get the attention of the boy she fancies, Ennoshita, c'mon."
Hinata gapes at them, confused.
"But, I thought this was what you don't have to do…"
"Oh my God," mutters Tsukishima, in a perfectly audible way. "They'll end up burning to a crisp the few brain cells she has left."
Kageyama glares at her, but deep inside she fears it might be true: Hinata often believes that everything Tanaka and Noya do is cool and she tends to imitate them.
"Do:," Tanaka continues, still choking with laughter. "Look at him intently with bedroom eyes while you drink seductively."
Noya ducks her head to keep reading but whatever comes next provokes a hysterical fit of laughter and soon Tanaka joins her, tears rolling down her cheeks. Ennoshita stares at them, with her arms crossed over her chest, as though she were judging every single decision in their lives.
"D-do-don't," reads Noya, laughing and hiccuping. "Look at him intently with bedroom eyes w-while y-you… you rub an ice cube all over your cleavage!"
They end up rolling down the floor, shaking with laughter, the magazine forgotten on the floor. Tsukishima shakes her head and Yamaguchi stares at them, wide-eyed. Even Hinata takes a step backwards.
The scene could last for a while because Daichi, whispering in Suga's ear, doesn't seem willing to intervene yet, but then the gym's door opens and the girls jump to their feet, their faces suddenly serious.
It's not Ukai, though, which sends a wave of general relief, but Shimizu. He is a bit bewildered when everyone seems to be staring at him, but at this point he must be used to Karasuno's team's weirdness because he recovers quickly and ignores them all.
Shimizu is one of the few boys that Kageyama can put up with, probably because he almost doesn't speak to her at all; and when he does, it's always volleyball-related.
Tanaka and Noya exchange a glance and they elbow each other in the ribs. Kageyama is aware that she isn't the world's most perceptive person, but even she gets a bad feeling about it. Her uneasiness is solidified by Asahi's quiet oh, no when she sees the two girls make a beeline towards Shimizu, who is distracted as he looks for something in his bag.
"Shimizu-kun, what a sight for sore eyes," Tanaka exclaims, in a tone that might try to sound saccharine sweet but turns out a bit creepy instead. When Shimizu glances up to frown at her, she puts her hands on her hips and exaggeratedly sticks out her chest and her butt, which makes her look like a duck.
Noya on the other hand cocks her head, a huge grin on her face. She looks at him with half-closed eyes and begins to twirl a lock of hair. Well, she tries to: there's so much gel on her hair that it isn't very malleable and she has to desist.
"You're getting more and more handsome, you know?"
Daichi and Suga are finally paying attention to their team's idiotic antics. The former scowls, which is always a bad sign, whereas Suga shakes her head, as though she were little by little losing her faith in humankind. Hinata, she notices with some relief, looks more bewildered than awed. Ennoshita hides her face behind her hands when Tanaka grabs an energy drink and starts to drink while striking a pose, as though she were in a beer ad, her eyes never leaving Shimizu's. The boy has an indecipherable expression and Kageyama, who still remembers in horror the episode with the flowers, feels enough pity for him to look away. Next to her, Asahi's face looks like a tomato, but she doesn't seem to be able to tear her gaze away from the horror of Noya's and Tanaka's attempts at seduction.
Yamaguchi's gaze goes from the girls to Asahi, and then back to them a few times, her eyes very round. Kageyama thinks that her face looks the way she herself usually feels when the Math teacher fills the blackboard with formulas that could be written in Ancient Greek for all she manages to understand them.
"Doesn't it bother you?"
Asahi winces and stares at Yamaguchi. The girl seems to regret at once opening her mouth at all, because she raises her hands as if to defend herself.
"I m-mean, it's none of my business, obviously, but…" She glances at Tsukishima, as though she expected her to rescue her. Don't hold your breath, thinks Kageyama: the other girl seems mesmerized by her long blonde plait, while her friend drowns in her own stammering. "It's just, well, right in front of you, and all that, and never mind, forget I said anything. Please, don't get mad."
Asahi looks just as uncomfortable as Yamaguchi and her face becomes redder if possible.
"N-no, I'm not mad. And it's not… I mean, I know she doesn't…" She gestures vaguely in Noya, Tanaka and Shimizu's direction. "It's just a joke, you know? And sure, I get second-hand embarrassment because, well, it would be impossible for me not to, but it's not… It's not like that. You know?"
Perhaps it's Kageyama, but between the blushing and Asahi's and Yamaguchi's stammering, she gets the impression that there are more blanks in that conversation than in her last English quiz.
Yamaguchi herself doesn't seem to understand much better than Kageyama, but maybe that's just her usual expression.
"Girls, leave Shimizu alone and start to clean up before Ukai comes back to close the gym."
The entire team rushes to obey Daichi, because in a way the captain is much scarier than the coach. They're far from finishing when Ukai comes back and starts yelling but what have you lot being doing all this time? and Noya in absolute seriousness replies teaching valuable life lessons and Tanaka almost chokes.
Kageyama and Hinata compete to see who manages to mop faster and gather the largest number of balls, so they're the last ones to get into the club room. Nearly everyone is gone except for Asahi, still wearing her volleyball uniform. She doesn't even look up when they get in: she's too focused scrubbing her leg with a bit of wet toilet paper. Hinata and Kageyama exchange a glance and in mutual agreement they approach her to see what's going on.
"Are you hurt or something?"
It's not a cut or a bruise that Asahi's got on her thigh, though, but four words scribbled in black ink:
You've got my number.
"I'm gonna kill her," she groans, as she scrubs with growing desperation. "The moron used permanent ink."
"Try nail polish remover," Hinata suggests. "That time I wrote the answers for a History exam on my arm and then I couldn't wash it off, my mom used that to get it off. And then she grounded me for a month, of course."
Kageyama smacks her on the back of her head, because she couldn't be more stupid even if she tried.