Chapter 1: The Phillip
There was a time when Kenma could walk into the Chicken Dip and not immediately want to die.
When he had first moved to Tokyo for university, the fast food joint was his go-to for dinner almost every single night. It was healthy, sort of, and close to his dorm room, not to mention his classmate Kenji worked there as a manager, so he always got discounts on his food. However, college was expensive, and all the money Kenma had saved up ran out in the first two months ran out.
Tuition wasn’t the scam, he realized, it was the supplemental materials. His theory was that, once a year, all of the professors met in an underground lair to discuss how they could get all of their students to waste even more money.
As a solution to his financial troubles, Kenji had suggested that he work at the Chicken Dip. At first, it seemed like a great idea. The walking distance from room to work, the even more discounted food, it all seemed perfect for him.
“You’re always cooped up in your room,” Kenji had told him during the interview. “This will be a good opportunity for you to socialize outside of class.”
It had been almost a year since then, and he cursed his decision to listen to Kenji. Kenma, with the utmost sincerity, hated his job. He would soon learn that his boss had no regard for him as a working student, much less a human being, and his coworkers, with the exception of Kenji, were all complete and utter morons.
Kenma sighed. The pungent smell of chicken and oil overtook his senses, and the happy mood he had been in five minutes ago completely disappeared from his body. He hung his coat and bag on the small collection of hooks above him, taking a deep breath. He had just come back from his break, the only bit of time the company allotted for their employees so they wouldn’t go completely insane, and the peace he had felt earlier disappeared from his body the moment he stepped back into the locker room. He felt the spirit of customer service possessing his body, its cold, wispy fingers grasping at his neck and digging into his head.
“Good evening, Kenma.”
He hummed softly in response. Kenji smiled at him softly, leaning his forehead against his coat.
“I only showed up because we get paid today,” the taller boy admitted. “I have an exam I need to study for and three essays due by the end of the week.”
“You would think with most of his employees being students that Mizusen would be more lenient with his scheduling,” Kenma said. “I’ve been here since 9 and I’m just barely getting my break.”
“As long as he gets to take his break, he could give a rat’s ass about anyone else.”
The clock above their coat nook made a soft whirring sound. They groaned simultaneously. Kenma put on his nametag (a fake one, obviously, there was no way any of those drunk, abusive customers would ever have the privilege of knowing his real name) and walked into the main kitchen area. He waddled over to the one register on the counter and punched his numbers in, snatching his time-in detail from the receipt printer.
4:00 PM. Only thirty more minutes to go.
Kenma took two headsets from the office and made his way towards the drive-thru area, his designated haunt. “Your humble crown, my liege,” he said as he handed Kenji the other headset. His manager rolled his eyes, slipping the uncomfortable contraption onto his head.
“Iwaizumi, you can go count the morning registers,” Kenji said.
The morning shift manager, a burly young man with wild hair, let out an extremely loud sigh. “Thank the fucking gods,” he muttered. He placed his hands on Kenji’s shoulders. “There is a frat party going on down the street tonight,” he said. “Good fucking luck.”
Kenma watched as his manager walked away. The liberty and salary that Iwaizumi and Akaashi had made it appealing for Kenma to also become a shift manager, but he was reminded of the stress and absolute bullshit their general manager put both of them through, and he quickly put the thought out of his mind. He already had to deal with mountains of homework and extracurriculars as a computer science major, he didn’t want to add any extra workload.
A loud dong snapped him out of his reverie. Kenma winced, adjusting the volume on his headset before turning the microphone on. “Thank you for coming to Chicken Dip, what can I get started for you?”
“Can I get a minute please?”
The rude tone of the customer pulled a scowl onto Kenma’s face, and he shot Kenji a dirty look. One thing that had become increasingly evident in the short amount of time was how rude people became the second they stepped into the vicinity of the restaurant. Kenma didn’t know if it was a universal thing, but the people who came to eat at the Chicken Dip were some of the rudest people alive. They were absolutely discourteous, not to mention messy and disgusting, and they had a tendency to yell over the silliest thing. He heard the phrase “Can I please speak to the manager” almost twenty times a day, and he got yelled at over the smallest things. Just a week ago, a customer had left a rather nasty surprise in the bathroom and Kenma had been forced by Misuzen to clean it up, and he swore to God every time he saw a customer walks into the bathroom a piece of him shrivelled up and died.
It hadn’t even been five minutes since he had clocked back in and he was already being screamed at. Kenma pressed the side button on his headset. “Thank you so much for your patience, how may I help you?”
Kenji smacked his shoulder lightly. The company had a “no guest fault” policy, which basically meant that the employees had to bow down and lick the customer’s shoes, but Iwaizumi told Kenma that as long as he was smart about it, he could be as sarcastic as you want.
“They lose all of their brain cells the moment they walk in here,” he had said. “Just don’t get caught.”
Kenma considered himself to be the master of subtle sarcasm, and he used his gift whenever a customer pissed him off. This customer was already getting on his nerves, and he was going to make sure he made their visit as pleasant as possible.
“Yes, hi, can I get a leg lovers?”
Kenma looked to their chicken cook, a tall, stocky man named Takanobu. “Aone-san, do we have a leg lover?” Takanobu looked to his grill and shook his head. “I’m sorry, at the moment we do not have a leg lover.”
“Why is that everytime I come here you guys never have it?”
Oh. They were one of those customers. “Unfortunately, the leg lover is not a menu item. We only sell it when we have extra legs, and at the moment, we do not have extra legs, therefore we can’t sell the leg lover. Can I interest you in our regular chicken meals?”
“I don’t want that, I want the leg lover,” the customer argued.
“I can’t offer you what I don’t have.”
The customer huffed indignantly and pulled away from the speaker. Kenma breathed deeply. Whenever a customer did that, it usually meant they were going to pass by the drive-thru window with their middle finger out the window or they were going to start arguing. Kenma had had a terrible day, so he dared the customer to pull up.
“I swear they get stupider as the days go by,” Kenji murmured. “Oh, here she is. Oh dear, she looks like a Karen if I’ve ever seen one.”
The employees at the Chicken Dip had a codeword for each type of customer. It had started as a joke between Matsukawa and Hanamki, and grew into a storewide thing. They even had a board up on the drive-thru window what kind of customers they got. For the last few months, their leading customers were Karen, Ron Swanson, and Toto; the bitch, the no Mr. Nonsense, and the dog respectively.
Kenma peeked over his screen. The customer, a middle aged woman with a nasty scowl, had pulled up to the window, and boy did this particular Karen look mad.
“Can I speak to the manager?” she asked.
Kenma pulled out a marker from his pocket and marked a tally on the drive-thru board. Kenji resisted the urge to laugh and addressed the woman. “Yes, how may I help you?”
“Are you the manager?”
“This is the dumbest bitch I’ve ever heard,” Kenma whispered into his headset. “Are you the manager? Headass.”
Kenji shot him the finger. “Yes, I’m the manager, how may I help you?”
“Yes, everytime I come here, I ask for the leg lover, but you guys never have it. Whoever was taking my order did nothing to help me, and they were very rude to me, and I want their name and I want your name and I am calling corporate.”
“I’m very sorry about that. My name is Tanjirou and the person who took your order was Eiji. You can find the corporate number on our website,” Kenji said calmly. “Also, I would like to make it known that I was present when my employee took your order, and he was not rude at all. He explained it very well and I stand by him.”
“Excuse me? You can’t speak to me that way.”
“I’m speaking to you politely, ma’am, if you cannot understand that, that is not my fault.”
“Is there another manager I can talk to? You’re an idiot.”
The whole restaurant seemed to stop once those words left her mouth. Kenma covered his mouth, stifling a laugh. Even the cashiers in the front stopped attending their customers. A stiff smile crawled onto Kenji’s face.
“What did you call me?” He asked quietly. “Listen here, you anchovy-looking, long-faced b-”
“Hi, what seems to be the problem here?”
Kenma turned, and inwardly grimaced. Misuzen had lumbered out of his office, sporting the fakest smile he had ever seen on a person. He walked over to the window, all but shoving Kenji out of the way, and began talking to the customer. Kenma pulled Kenji over to his shoulder, arm looping around his supervisor, patting his head. Kenji relaxed in his friend’s arms, but he still had the nastiest look on his face.
“We’ll get that to you right away, ma’am.”
Misuzen pushed past the two and over to the grills, where he began making the woman’s food. It took less than two minutes, and he had the blue car pulling out of the drive-thru in almost no time. When she was gone, he turned to the two glaring at him from the corner.
“How hard is it for you two to follow simple instructions?” Misuzen asked. “You give the customers what they want, and there are no complaints. How hard is that to understand?”
“Even when we give them what they want, they still complain,” Kenji stated.
“When I promoted you, I told you my expectations and everyday, you continue not to meet them, so if this simple job, if making customers happy is not something you can do, then we will be having a separate discussion.” Kenji clenched his fists. Misuzen turned to Kenma. “Kozume, a word.”
Kenma looked to Keiji. Keiji took a deep breath and nodded to him, silently telling him to follow their boss. Kenma squeezed his friend’s arm before following the short man into the office. Misuzen sat down with a groan of his chair.
“What do you need?” Kenma asked quietly.
“Look, I’m going to cut straight to the point. Sena isn’t going to make it in today and I need you to cover her shift, at least until 9.”
Kenma’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry but I’m not going to be able to do that. I have to-”
“I’m not asking you. As your boss, I’m telling you, and if you have a problem with that, you can just hand in your two weeks notice.” Misuzen pointed to the aforementioned slips of paper he kept on the wall. No-one knew why he did that. Kenma figured it was as a reminder that he could break spirits, that everyone was beneath them. Kenma considered many times turning in a note just like that, but he couldn’t afford it.
That didn’t stop him from dreaming about it though.
“Do you have anything to say?” Misuzen asked.
Kenma frowned, but he shook his head. “No, we’re fine.”
“Good. Get out of my office.”
Kenma rolled his eyes and left the cramped room, returning to his station next to Kenji.
“I thought you were going home?” the older questioned.
“Why would anyone ever think they were going to get off at their scheduled time?” Kenma muttered. “That dickhead really cares about no-one but himself.”
“A lot of things that happen here are illegal, but-” Kenma sighed. “As a broke college student in desperate need of money, I can’t really go around turning my nose up at it.”
Kenji pouted, but he didn’t say anything. Deep down, he knew Kenma was right. Everyone knew it, and that was why no-one reported the numerous workers and healthcode violations. It would only screw over everyone who worked there.
It didn’t stop anybody from complaining, though.
The rest of his extra hours passed by in a frantic daze. Misuzen left shortly after breaking the terrible news to Kenma, and the dinner rush had passed by them a few hours after that. Kenma leaned his entire body out of the drive-thru window, wilting against the outside wall and crying silently.
His whole body ached terribly. Kenma wanted to die.
The ping of the headset forced him to lift his head up. “Thank you for coming to the Chicken Dip. What can I get for you today?” He sounded dead and defeated, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to go home.
“Hi, can I get uh-” The deep voice that greeted him awoke him from his grumpy daze. Kenma pulled his body back into the restaurant, eyebrows shifting at Kenji. “Can I get- Wait... Stop poking me.”
Kenma could hear muffled laughter coming from the other end of the headset, and he rolled his eyes. “I take this last car and I’m done, I cannot deal with these idiots anymore.” He whispered quietly.
“I swear to God if you don’t stop poking me, you’re going to get hurt-” A rather loud slapping sound echoed through the microphone. “What did I just say?”
“You’re so drunk-”
“If I was drunk I wouldn’t be driving, now what the fuck do you want?”
“Lemme get uh-” Kenma winced as loud laughter pierced his ears. “I’m drunk!”
“Fuck it, I’ll order for you. You’re taking too long.” No kidding. “I’m so sorry for that. Uh, can I please get an eight piece? Do you think that’s enough to put a drunk man to sleep?”
“I’m not drunk.”
Kenji snorted. Kenma groaned. “I can’t speak from experience, but I’d say so,” he replied.
“Great! I’ll get that with an order of fries and coleslaw, and… a large Sprite. For me, not for you, you need water. Oh, and a water!”
Kenma shook his fists. “Will that be all for you sir?”
“Yes, that’s it. I’m sorry again, thank you.”
“Please pull forward to the window, sir.” Kenma sighed with relief when he heard the car drive away, only to be filled with dread as he saw it pull up to his window. Iwaizumi had warned both of them about the drunk frat kids that would be stumbling into their restaurant, but Kenma didn’t pay any attention to it, thinking he would have been able to escape before. Oh how wrong he had been. He pulled open the window and peered into the car.
Now, Kenma had been ready to give the customer a good dose of sarcasm. They had been indecisive, they bumped up his timer, and he was pretty sure the customer had vaguely threatening Kenma with bodily harm. However, the moment he had peered out of the window, that need to be a subtle dick flew out the window.
The man in the car was handsome, albeit a little messy, and even from his perch in the drive-thru window, Kenma knew he smelled nice. This customer was a Phillip, a rare gem that looked and smelled and talked nice. It was always a treat when anyone came across a Phillip.
“Oh, hey,” the Phillip spoke. “I’m sorry about that. My friend is really, really drunk and I just wanted to get something for him to eat.”
Nice talking and considerate? Hello Phillip. Kenma shook his head, “No, it’s okay. Um,” he turned to the screen. “Sorry, that’ll be 21.90 please.”
“Yes! Right.” The Phillip ruffled through his coat and pulled out his wallet. He took out a black and orange card and handed it to Kenma. “How’s your day going so far?”
Do you want me to lie or tell you the truth? “It’s, uh, good, so far.” Kenma handed the Phillip back his card. “How is, uh, yours?”
“I have had to look after an oversized baby for the past few hours, but it’s been good.” The Phillip leaned out the window and smiled. “It got better.”
The grin the Phillip sported sent flames running through Kenma’s body. He cleared his throat. “Excuse me for a second.” He shut the window and ducked behind the counter. “Keiji. Keiji!”
“If another customer is yelling at you, I swear to God, I’m going to go off,” the older man said.
“No! No. Listen, this customer is really cute and I think he’s hitting on me and I’m too tired to deal with this.”
“Do you want me to deal with this?”
Kenma thought for a moment. On one hand, cute customer, a nice break from the yelling and being cursed out. On the other hand.. . it was almost nine and Kenma wanted to go home. He nodded vigorously. “Please, I can’t take it. Help me.”
Keiji put down the cleaver and collected the customer’s order. He took it to the drive-thru window and handed it to the young man. “Will you be needing anything else sir?” The man began to speak, but Kenma couldn’t hear over his internal panicking. “Sure, I’ll tell him. Kenma?”
Kenma looked at hm, shaking his head already.
“The customer wants your number.”
Kenma threw his headset and walked out of the restaurant.
Chapter 2: Nametags
Kenma gets far more than he bargained when he goes in on his day off.
I finished writing this at work, and I regret nothing. Enjoy my projecting on Kenma.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You walked out.”
Kenma stared at his phone for a couple of seconds. It was eight in the evening of his day off, and he was sitting comfortably in his usual corner of the library. Calculations were scattered around him, and the Office was playing on his laptop screen, and he wondered why in God’s name was Misuzen calling him on his day off.
Friday evenings were sacred to him. They were study time, they were his weekly catch up time, they were the few moments where he actually felt like he could breathe in peace. The last thing he ever wanted to hear on his precious day off was the voice of Misuzen Suzaki.
He shook his head. “Excuse me?”
“Someone told me you walked out last night,” Misuzen repeated. “Walking out is against company policy.”
So is keeping people over their eight hours but go off, I guess, “I didn’t walk out, for your information,” Kenma whispered harshly. “I left because I was due to clock out. Now excuse me, I’m in the library and I have a lot of homework to catch up on because I stayed up late yesterday.”
He angrily pressed the end call on his screen and put his phone down. A nasty knot filled his chest, and he sighed heavily. Kenma would be lying if he said he didn’t want to type up his two weeks notice and tell Misuzen to go suck it. In all honesty, Kenma didn’t need the money. He had done well enough in high school to receive a university grant. He could’ve gotten by on maybe twenty hours a week, that kind of paycheck would’ve been more than enough to cover his food and gaming cost.
Yet, for some odd reason, Kenma couldn’t force himself to leave, or ask for his hours to be reduced.
Kenma wanted to tell himself it was for Keiji. When he met him, the older boy lamented how he had almost no-one to talk to at work. He was a reserved boy by nature, which was why Kenma had been drawn to him in the first place. Kenma partly agreed to the job so he could ease Keiji’s loneliness, However, in the year that he had been there, their little duo grew in size with each new hire. Just a week after Kenma had been hired, Iwaizumi Hajime had transferred, easing the burden of dealing with Misuzen’s dumb ass alone. Just at the start of the semester, a young freshman named Shouyou began working, brightening the dark restaurant with his radiance and endless chatter.
If Kenma left, Keiji wouldn’t be alone anymore.
But the thing is… Kenma was a conformist. The idea of quitting scared him. What would he do with the extra time? Where would he attain his daily social interaction, if it wasn’t for the stupid customers and his loud coworkers? What would he eat? He stayed out of habit. He liked the routine, believe it or not. When he really thought about it, the customers weren’t that bad. It was one in a few that were actual nightmares, and if anything, Keiji would always be there to pull him away before he got into a fight.
The problem, he deduced, was Misuzen. That wretched, deplorable, fat little man who seemed to get off on his employees’ misery. Kenma had observed him since the day he was hired. Misuzen enjoyed belittling people, he enjoyed watching the new employees squirm when he raised his voice, and he especially enjoyed making Keiji’s life a complete nightmare. If Misuzen left, maybe the Chicken Dip could actually be an enjoyable work environment.
Kenma stared at the man’s number on his call log. “I should just get him fired,” he murmured to himself.
He shook his head and put the thought of his mind. He wasn’t going to ruin his day off by thinking and overthinking about work. He was far too young for that. Kenma adjusted his earphones and resumed his Netflix binge,
Sometimes, Kenma wished he worked in a place like Dunder Mifflin.
When Kenma finally left the library, it was already dark. His stomach rumbled as he walked out of the building, and a cold gust of wind had him zipping up his jacket all the way to the top. Wrapped securely in his oversized coat, he began marching away from the library.
And then his stomach grumbled.
Kenma held his stomach, flushing red. It wasn’t anything strange for him to forget to eat while he was studying at the library, and it seemed that once again he had forgotten to eat lunch. Kenma looked around. It was really late, and all of the campus stores were closed. He looked in the direction of the Chicken Dip, and suddenly felt a strong urge to eat a burrito.
Even on his days off, he could never escape/
With a long, heavy sigh, he began walking towards the only place he knew was open.
It was 9:50, which meant if he hurried, he could catch Shouyou locking early. With unnatural speed, he speed-walked down the street. He made it to the familiar orange building in less than five minutes, and just as he'd suspected, the sort red-head was already there, locking up.
The younger boy screeched. Kenma ran up to the door, laughing as his friend peeked out of the trash can. “It’s just me,” he said. “I’m hungry.”
“Oh, Kenma! You scared the bejeezus out of me.” Shouyou carefully pushed open the door and pulled him inside, making sure to check if the door was locked behind them. “You came just in time. Misuzen left, so we’re planning on closing early.”
Shouyou punched in the numbers and opened the door to the locker room. Kenma set his stuff down on the counter and peered outside. His arrival earned a couple waves from the employees inside the restaurant, and he waved sheepishly.
“You always complain about not wanting to be here,” their cook, a freckled freshman named Yamaguchi, teased. “Yet, here you are.”
“I think you put something in the food,” Kenma retorted.
Shouyou tugged on Kenma’s arm, bringing him closer. “I really think he does,” he whispered. “Like, once he made me a wrap, and ever since then, it only tastes right when he makes it. I think he’s a witch.”
Kenma smiled, ruffling the smaller boy’s hair. “You are just so cute,” he said. “But yes, Yamaguchi-san, make me fucking food.”
Both he and Shouyou jumped. Iwaizumi peered out of the office, a rather unusual look on his face. “Why are you here?”
The junior snorted. “Well, since you’re here, you can do me a favor. Come.” Kenma hesitated. He didn’t want to work, but he stepped into the office nonetheless. He was surprised to find someone new there. A tall, rather attractive man stood behind Iwaizumi, hands in his pockets and looking a little lost.
“Who is this?” Kenma blurted out.
The newcomer smiled. Kenma nearly died of a heart attack, it was so blinding. “My name is Oikawa Tooru. I’m going to be working here as a manager,” he said. He held out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you… Kozume.”
“Kenma. Kozume Kenma.” Kenma grasped the large hand, shaking it oddly. “Um, so manager. What can I do for you?”
“I need you to run him through some ground rules, go through the binder with him. I know it’s not your job but honestly, if I leave Keiji by himself in drive-thru any longer than I already have he’s going to throw me out the window.” Iwaizumi sighed. “It’s been so busy, I want to die.”
“Wait, I’m not a manager, I don’t know what to explain or say-”
“Out of everyone here, I trust you the most. Misuzen doesn’t give you enough credit. If it were up to me, I’d make you manager.” Iwaizumi laughed. “And then I would quit.”
“Ma’am? Ma’am! I will not let you-”
“Oh my God.” Upon hearing Keiji raise his voice, Iwaizumi jumped from his seat and dove into the kitchen area.
Kenma fiddled with the hem of his shirt, glancing at Oikawa awkwardly. “So,” he began. “You will be working here.”
“Yes, it looks that way,” Tooru said. “How long have you been working here?”
“Almost a year,” Kenma replied.
“Do you like it here?”
“No, I hate it.” Oikawa laughed. It was a loud, melodic sound, and it made Kenma want to join right in. His laugh and his looks and the way he spoke, it made Kenma decide, this man was dangerous. “I mean, okay. Honestly, it’s not that bad. Everyone here is really nice, except for the guy that hired you.”
“Oh, he’s an asshole, I can tell,” Oikawa said. “And also, a little bit of a pervert? He kept checking me out during the interview.”
Kenma made a face, “That’s one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. Oh my God.” He pretended to gag. “You need to be very careful around him. If anything just… Iwaizumi will protect you. Misuzen is afraid of him.”
“I don’t blame him. With those big muscles… Oh, so scary.” Oikawa giggled. “He’s cute, isn’t he?”
Kenma breathed deeply. “Oh no,” he murmured. “Iwaizumi? Really? Not like, Keiji? Of all people, Iwaizumi.”
Oikawa began to speak, but the door to the office opened and they both shushed each-other. Iwaizumi stuck his head through the door. “Everything okay?” he asked.“Oh, we’re wonderful. Aren’t we, Oikawa-san?” The older man slapped his arm. Kenma smiled. “What happened out there?”
“Akaashi almost threw hands with this one lady,” Iwaizumi replied.
“I did throw hands! Fucking bitch-”
Kenma turned to Oikawa. “And that’s another thing. Whenever Keiji gets mad, run. He’s nuts.”
“It’s always the quiet ones that have an anger issue, I swear.” Iwaizumi looked at Kenma when he said that. The older one smacked him. “Oikawa, come. I’m going to introduce you to everyone and we’ll run through some orders. Kenma, help Keiji in drive-thru.”
“I’m not on the clock.”
“You’re the only one that can calm him down.” Iwaizumi placed his hands together in a begging motion. “He's going to destroy the store.”
Kenma threw his hands in defeat. “Fine!” he said. “But I’m not paying for my food. And you have to drive me home.”
“I agree to these terms.”
Kenma said goodbye to Oikawa and walked into the main area, making a beeline for his best friend, who looked like he was going to melt the ice with his glare. He placed a hand on Keiji’s shoulder. “Everything okay?”
“I just don’t understand,” Keiji whispered. “It costs zero dollars to be a decent human being. You don’t have to snatch things from me, or be rude to me, or call me stupid - Kenma, one day I’m really going to hit somebody. Like honestly? Someone is going to get smacked.”
“Can I please be there when you do it?” kenma asked quietly.
Keiji laughed. “Oh, I have someone, give me a second.” He pushed a button on his headpiece and walked away. Kenma sighed, He really wished that Keiji would find a better job. He was already under so much pressure from his parents and the school, he really didn’t need this.
He heard a car pull up, and he opened the window. “Hello- Oh, it’s cold. Wow.” Kenma didn’t mean to complain, but the sudden gust of wind from the window sent massive shivers down his body. He had taken off his heavy jacket and was only wearing his Steven Universe shirt underneath. “Sorry, um-”
“It is cold, isn’t it?”
Wait. He had heard that voice before. Kenma peered over the window and nearly screamed. The black-haired Phillip was sitting right there, smiling knowingly at him.
“Why do you look so surprised to see me?” the customer asked.
“I’m not,” Kenma replied. “It’s just… cold.”
“And you’re not in uniform. “The customer laughed. “Did you come into work just to see me?”
Kenma scrunched his face in disgust. “You’re in my drive-thru. If anything, you came to see me,” he shot back.
The customer held his hands up. “You’ve caught me,” he said. “I’m sorry, I just… No-one has ever run out on me like that. If I said something to offend you, I’m really sorry. Also we’re hungry.” The man motioned to his passenger seat, where a rather buff man lay sleeping, sprawled across the leather. “I didn’t think you’d be here.”
Kenma suddenly felt very, very bad, “You didn’t offend me. I was just caught off guard,” he murmured. “It’s not everyday I make conversation with a cute guy. I wasn’t prepared.”
“So you think I’m cute?”
“That’ll be 18.47 please.”
The customer burst out laughing. “You’re so forward out of uniform,” he said as he handed over his credit card. “I like this side of you.”
Kenma handed him back his card. “I like this side of me too,” he said. “I should just not wear a uniform anymore. I don’t have to follow company rules if I’m not in a uniform.”
“Oh yeah? So legally, you could tell me to fuck off if I was crossing any lines?”
“Legally, I could,” Kenma smiled. “But I don’t see a need to right now.”
“Oh look, it is 11:00! Time to close up shop!”
Kenma looked at the clock above him. “Keiji, it is 10:23.”
“I’m sick of these dumbass customers. I just told a lady to fuck off over the headset. “Keiji handed him a bag of food. “Give that to the customer and tell them to drive away before that bitch sees I’m lying.”
Kenma laughed. He took the food and handed it to the customer. “Well, legally I’m now allowed to kick you out. My boss says we’re closing,” he said. “It’s nothing personal. We just don’t want to work.”
“I can understand that,” the customer said. “I’ll be back. Maybe next time I’ll see a nametag?”
“Maybe next time I’ll use my real name.”
The customer grinned widely at him. Kenma almost felt the courage to ask for his number, but Keiji came barreling towards him. “Have a good day sir, goodbye!” Keiji yelled. He then proceeded to slam the window, lock it, and turned off the lights in almost record time. Kenma heard the sound of the car driving away, just as the headlights of another flashed on their window. Keiji covered his mouth, motioning for everyone to shut up. Someone knocked on the glass a couple times, but after no-one answered, the car drove off.
A few seconds passed by before Iwaizumi turned the lights back on. “See, Oikawa, this is one of the things that we don’t do,” he said.
Keiji glared at him. “You did not hear her,” he defended himself. “She called me a motherf-”
“She is gone now, and we are closed.” Kenma clapped his hands together. “Now, I was promised free food for my services, and I will now be cashing in.”
Yamaguchi beckoned for him to come. Kenma spent the rest of the restaurant’s remaining hours helping them clean, and eating to his heart’s content. They managed to finish cleaning the store in less than an hour, and Kenma found himself being one of the last to leave. He swung his bag of leftovers in victory and began making his way down the street,
It was a nice evening, and his dorm was only a few blocks away. He could walk.
Kenma walked until the end of the street undisturbed until he stopped at the intersection. By sheer chance, he ended up looking over to the bus stop, expecting to find it empty and nearly shrieking when he saw a shivering Shouyou curled up on the bench. Without thinking twice, Kenma walked over to the bench.
“Shouyou?” he asked.
The younger boy shrieked, pulling out a flashlight. A loud buzzing sound filled the air, and Kenma just barely missed the zap of what was actually a taser against his skin. “K-Kenma?” the younger boy whispered. “What the fuck are you doing here?”“What the fuck am I doing?” Kenma echoed. “What the fuck are you doing? Shouyou, the buses don’t run this late anymore! Why are you here? If you needed a ride home, Iwaizumi would have been more than happy-”
Kenma quickly stopped his scolding when he saw tears well up in the younger boy’s eyes. He quickly wrapped his arms around his friend, stroking his hair and cooing at him. “What’s wrong? Tell me, are you okay?”
“It’s-” the boy hiccuped. “It’s fine! I’m okay! I-It’s only for a few more weeks-”
“A few more weeks of what, Shouyou?” A nasty realization dawned on him. “Shouyou, please tell me you’re not-”
“Please don’t say it,” the boy whispered. “I’m so ashamed.”
Kenma didn’t reply. He picked up Shouyou’s backpack and began pulling him in the direction of his apartment, Shouyou sputtered. “Kenma-san, w-where are we-” The older didn’t speak. He marched both of them up the stairs to his apartment and quietly unlocked the door. In almost seconds, they were inside his home, and he cranked the old thermostat. He set Shouyou down on the couch.
“You’re going to take a shower right now,” Kenma stated. “And then you are going to wrap yourself in the blankets that I give you. And we are going to watch some TV. If you want to tell me what’s happening, that’s okay. If you don’t want to say anything, that’s okay either. But you are going to stay here, because I will be damned if I let my underclassman spend this terrible, terrible winter at a bus stop. Am I understood?”
Shouyou grabbed his backpack and made a beeline for the restroom. Kenma placed a hand on his heart. The worry and panic he had been holding back was gripping onto his heart, and he felt weak in the knees. He shook his head and pushed past it, making his way over to the couch and moving the cushions. The couch became a bed in seconds flat, and he went and took blankets and pillows from his own bed to place on the pull-out mattress.
In his wait for Shouyou, he turned on the television, logging into his netflix and setting it to some random show before going into his own room. He quickly changed into his pajamas before going back into the living room.
“You have very warm water,” he heard Shouyou comment as he left the bathroom.
“I lucked out on this apartment. It’s old but it has its ways of making itself homey,” Kenma said. He patted the spot on the futon next to him. “Sit, child.”
Shouyou obeyed. Kenma wrapped him in the blanket he had in his hands, and settled back into his nest of pillows. They sat in silence for a while, until Shouyou pointed to the TV. “I really like this show,” he stated. “Are they supposed to be bad bakers?”
Kenma laughed softly. “Yeah, it’s the whole point of the show,” he said. “I like it when the hosts eat something really, really bad. The faces they make are so funny.”
“I should go on this show. I’m terrible at baking.”
“I’ll tape your audition.”
Shouyou relaxed into the blanket. He stayed quiet for a second. “I’m sorry for intruding, Kenma-san,” he said quietly.
“You’re not, I promise. You’re safe and warm, and that’s all that matters.”
Shouyou let out a shaky breath. “You know, I see people from school. They pass by me sometimes, but they never say anything,” he said. “I’ve been sleeping at that bench for a week or two now. No-one has ever stopped to ask if I’m okay.”
“Can I ask why you were there?”“My financial aid application was incomplete, and I never got the letter because we were evicted from our home. I started working so I could rent an apartment, but the process took way longer than I anticipated and I was homeless. I didn’t tell my mom because I didn’t want her to send me money. She can barely afford it.”
Kenma looped an arm around Shouyou’s. “I’m sorry,” he said sincerely. “Would it be okay to ask you to stay here?”
Shouyou shook his head vigorously. “I don’t want to impose,” he said quickly.
“You’re not imposing. I’d be happy to have you her,” Kenma reassured him. “Frankly, I’ve been rather lonely since school started. The landlord won’t let me keep a cat. I was thinking of looking for a roommate, but if you accept, I won’t have to.”
“And you’d be okay with it?”
“You can stay as long as you like. But please, I want to know that you’re safe. You’re like the little brother I never had.”
He felt Shouyou relax against his arm. “When you put it that way,” the younger said. “Okay. I’ll stay.”
Kenma breathed a sigh of relief. He nudged Shouyou’s shoulder affectionately, and they settled into the futon.
“So who was that customer you were talking to at the window?”
Thank you so much for taking the time to check out Chicken Prince! I really appreciate it! Please feel free to leave kudos and a comment, and come scream at me on my personal @ohaicat on IG, where I'll be posting little comic strips on Chicken Prince. See you next chapter!
Chapter 3: Tryouts
Kenma has his chance meeting in the most unlikely place of all.
Welcome back! Enjoy <3
Much to Kenma’s surprise, the week after had gone by remarkably fast.
Having a roommate did wonders to his routine. Shouyou had a habit of waking up early, always to go running on the football field or to hit the university gym before class. Upon his second day living at Kenma’s apartment, Shouyou made it his personal mission to drag his sluggish, unmotivated friend to exercise with him. Ever since then, Kenma woke up to a made breakfast every single day, in an apartment now filled with colorful nonsense. Even something as mundane and boring as laundry day was something to look forward to.
It was nice to have someone to walk to work with, too.
“And I said no, of course, why would I ever try out for something like that? They’d never let me join, I’m too short and people say I move too fast, which might be a good thing but you have to consider that I have the attention span of a butterfly on cra-”
“Shouyou.” The younger boy immediately stopped talking. Kenma finished wrapping plaster around Shouyou’s arm and smiled. “I really think you should go for it.”
For the past week, Shouyou had been talking - rambling - about that semester’s volleyball tryouts. Could he, should he, would he - the boy was an anxious, talkative mess. He kept swinging back and forth, one minute saying he wouldn’t and the other saying he would, and while it was adorable to see him think out loud, Kenma wanted to put the boy’s mind at ease.
“I haven’t seen you play so I can’t vouch for your talent, but that’s not going to stop me from encouraging you,” he said. “I know in my heart that you would be the best volleyball player ever.”
“You’re just saying that.” Shouyou smiled. “But fine, you’ve convinced me. I’ll go try out, but only if you come with me.”
Kenma made a face. “I don’t play volleyball,” he said.
“You don’t have to try out with me, just come with me,” Shouyou said. “So that if I don’t make the team, we can go out ice-cream and it won’t hurt as much.”
“Fine, I give in.” Kenma looked at the clock. Now get up, we have to get back to work.”
He pulled the younger boy up with him, patting down his shoulders and pushing him towards the kitchen area before following himself.
The last half hour of their shift went by very quickly. They had both switched with Hanamaki and Matsukawa for the day, so they had gone in to work with Keiji in the morning. Tuesday mornings were a rare delight for Kenma to work - there weren’t that many customers, business was slow, and he worked with his favorite coworkers; Shouyou, Keiji, the beanpole of a new hire named Lev. No Misuzen, no Karens, just easy money and a chance to catch up with his friends.
Towards the end of their shift, Kenma hovered over his boss. Keiji was sitting in the office, counting the tills from the morning shift, humming along to the music playing in the restaurant.
“You’re not supposed to be on your phone during work hours,” his supervisor commented.
“You’re not supposed to sass customers,” Kenma shot back.
Keiji wrinkled his nose and laughed. “I got promoted, I can do as I please,” he said. “I can flirt with customers too, you know. You can’t.”
Kenma’s eyes widened. “Why did that thought come into your mind, oh esteemed manager?”
“There’s this guy that’s been coming through the drive-thru,” Keiji commented. “It was the same guy you walked out on two weeks ago. He always looks for you. You should see his face when he sees me and not you.” He placed a hand on his chest. “Imagine, someone being disappointed to see me.”
“It’s probably because you look kind of mean when you’re at work.” The glare Keiji gave him sent shivers down his spine. “Don’t take it the wrong way! You’re very pretty, Keiji.”
Keiji sighed. “I don’t mean to be crabby but sometimes…” His voice trailed off. “Sometimes, everyone asks for too much from me. Believe me, when I started working here I was much nicer, but… Misuzen asks for too much, and I don’t get paid enough for half of the crap I have to deal with. I feel like… life forgets that I’m still a college student.”
Kenma moved closer to his friend, wrapping his arms around his neck and resting his chin on the older’s head. “I know, Keiji, you don’t have to tell me,” he said quietly. “You need to take a vacation. I don’t like seeing you so stressed.”
“Or find a rich boyfriend,” Keiji murmured.
“Promise me you’ll try and destress?” Keiji hummed in response. “Now, tell me about this customer of mine.”
“Oh, he’s very handsome. Real Phillip.”
There was a knock on the door. Kenma turned his head towards the door, where Oikawa was peeking through the glass. The brunet made a face and averted his eyes, turning slightly red.
“Come in,” Keiji voiced.
“I didn’t know you guys were- I was just going to-” Oikawa bit his lip. “I’m so sorry.”
Kenma snickered, draping himself even more over Keiji. “Come on in, the water’s fine,” he drawled.
“Don’t listen to him, he’s crazy,” Keiji said. “I was just counting the tills so you can get your cashiers set up. Every box already in the safe is at 100, all you need to do is assign them. Iwaizumi-san will be here at six, he has a presentation in his physics class which will be running a bit late.”
“I’m going to be honest with you, everything you said just blew over my head,” Oikawa admitted sheepishly.
“I’m staying a bit later to walk you through the beginning of your shift, and Iwaizumi will show you how to close. You don’t have to worry.” Keiji turned to Kenma. “It’s almost four. Can you tell Shouyou he can go home?”
“Oh, is it okay if I go too? I’m accompanying him to his volleyball tryouts.”
“That’s fine, just have Hanamaki take your place.”
“I will go tell Hanamaki to sit and do nothing, then.”
Keiji smacked his shoulder. Kenma bid goodbye to Oikawa and walked over to Shouyou, who was by the grills next to Yamaguchi.
“Hey, Keiji said you can clock out,” he told the smaller boy.
“Oh thank God.”
Shouyou made a beeline for the registers. “Clock me out too!” Yamaguchi called after him. He turned to Kenma. “Are you going to the tryouts too?”
“To watch, not play,” Kenma replied. “I don’t play anymore.”
“Anymore,” Yamaguchi repeated. “I sense a tragic backstory.”
“Players must reach friendship level 5 to unlock Kenma’s tragic backstory.”
Yamaguchi gasped. “I’m not at level 5 yet?” he asked. “Wait, what level am I at?”
Kenma laughed. Shouyou ran over to them, waving the three slips of paper that he took from the register. “Come on, come on, we have to get to tryouts,” he said excitedly.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” Kenma asked.
“If I don’t go now I’ll get too scared to do it, now let’s go!”
Yamaguchi and Kenma shared a knowing look, but they complied nonetheless, following the small redhead over to the locker area. With Yamaguchi’s offer to drive them, they collected their belongings and left the restaurant. They piled into their cook’s car and were off in a matter of seconds.
The drive to the volleyball courts from the restaurant was quick. Kenma kept his hand on Shouyou’s arm, keeping the smaller boy from jumping out of the moving car. Yamaguchi parked his car in front of the large building, and they followed Shouyou as he made a beeline for the courts.
“So why are you here?” Kenma asked as they walked to the bleachers.
“I’m here to support an old friend,” Yamaguchi replied. He pointed to a tall blond man with glasses. “We were friends from elementary through highschool, and we’ve lost touch since graduating. He transferred to our university and I want to… reconnect.”
“He seems kind of…”
“Standoffish? Rude? Sarcastic?” Yamaguchi asked. He smiled. “He’s all of those things, most definitely, but he’s my Tsukki.”
The soft look on Yamaguchi’s face made Kenma’s twist into a look of disgust. “Nasty,” he murmured.
A loud whistle pierces the air of the volleyball court, turning both of their attention to the door. A tall, buff man with white hair stood at the door. Something familiar struck him about the man. He had seen that mess of hair somewhere before.
“Good afternoon recruits!” The young man bellowed. “Welcome to volleyball tryouts! We’re going to start off with signing everyone in, and then we’re going to do a quick warm up!” He turned to someone behind him.
The air suddenly left Kenma’s lungs.
The customer from the Chicken Dip stood behind the volleyball captain, holding a clipboard. He sported a tight black t-shirt and red sweatpants with the word “Nekoma” running down the leg. Kenma pulled his hood up, feeling his face suddenly run hot. He heard Yamaguchi whistle.
“Well hello, captain,” he said slyly. “Is it too late to sign up for tryouts?”
Kenma groaned. “Why are you like this..?"
The two, who Kenma assumed were captain and vice-captain, began walking up to all of the recruits on the court. The vice captain walked up to Shouyou, who sent Kenma a fearful look. The older boy sent him a cheerful thumbs up and a reassuring smile, and Shouyou visibly relaxed. However, his attention turned the vice-captain’s gaze over to the bleachers, where and Kenma locked eyes. A shiver ran up Kenma’s spine, and he hid behind Yamaguchi.
“What was that?” The cook asked.
“Shut up and hide me,” Kenma muttered.
The two captains began warming up their recruits soon after singing everyone in. They started the group by stretching and then running a few laps around the volleyball court, and then finished off by dividing everyone into small teams of five. Shouyou was escorted to the far edge of the court, together with Yamaguchi’s tall friend and another unpleasant looking fellow. They two captains then divided their recruits in half, with the white-haired man moving them to the left court and the other group going to the right, near the bleachers. Kenma shrunk even more into Yamaguchi as the vice-captain came closer.
“I’m going to have you do a practice match as warm up,” the vice-captain told his group. “This first match is just a chance for you to get familiar with your teammates and warm up your volleyball skills. We’re not judging this first match, just the second one, and we’re not judging whether you win or lose. We’re judging how you play, how you interact with your team, things like that. Any questions?”
The recruits stayed quiet. Kenma could feel the anxiety and nervousness radiating off of them. The vice-captain seemed to sense this and laughed.
“You guys don’t have to be afraid of me, I’m not going to kill you,” he said. “I’m not here to criticize you or yell at you. That’s what our coach is for.” Some of the recruits laughed. “Even now, as recruits, you guys are a family. You have to trust each-other, support each-other. As vice-captain and father of our little family, I’m going to try and make tryouts as relaxing as possible. Any questions now?”
Nobody answered, but the tension in the room lessoned. The vice-captain smiled and lifted his whistle. “Alright then, start!” With the shriek of the whistle, the match commenced.
The recruits began to play. Yamaguchi stood up. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.” He pointed to his seat. “Seat save infinity.” Kenma laughed as the young man scurried down the bleachers and out of the volleyball court.
Kenma turned his attention over to Shouyou. The boy had such a determined look on his face, spiking balls left and right - it filled him with such a joy. He looked so happy and in place, down there on the court, it made Kenma happy. Shouyou had been a little sad the last couple of days, and seeing him like this was a wonderful sight. He cheered everytime Shouyou scored a point, waving his Chicken Dip like a pom pom.
In the midst of his excitement, Kenma made the mistake of looking towards the bleachers below him.
The vice-captain was watching him out of the corner of his eye. Kenma froze, feeling his body run hot.
What is he doing? Kenma thought to himself.
He thought the vice-captain would look away once caught, but the man made no move to shift his gaze. Without thinking, Kenma made a face at him, sticking his tongue out, and the vice-captain laughed.
He forgot what a heavenly sound it was. Kenma blushed.
“You’re much more playful outside of work,” the vice-captain commented.
“Believe it or not, out of uniform I’m a quite pleasant person,” Kenma said. “Some might say, charming?”
“Oh, very.” The vice-captain pointed to the spot next to him. “May I scoot?”
Kenma nodded, albeit hesitantly. The vice-captain moved up a few rows, settling down a few inches away from Kenma, who was suddenly aware of every nerve in his body.
The vice-captain smelled nice. He hadn’t known that.
“We were never formally introduced,” the vice-captain said. “I’m Kuroo Tetsurou. And you’re name is?”
“Oh, it’s not going to be that easy,” Kenma teased. “You’re going to have to work harder than that.”
“Damn, and here I thought I could trick you. I guess I’ll just have to call you something else.” Kuroo stroked his chin dramatically. “How about kitten?” Kenma choked, his whole face bursting into flames. Kuroo laughed. “Kitten it is then. It fits you.”
“O-Of all things, why is that? Not like dude or bro? I would even accept supreme overlord of the universe.”
“I usually don’t refer to people I’m trying to woo as dude or bro.”
“You’re trying to what now?”
Kuroo smiled knowingly. “Oh, looks like I have to call the match. Time to scare these recruits senseless.” He snickered. “Might his highness give me his number, so that I may text him later tonight?”
Kenma smiled. “Considering it,” he said. “Considered. Phone, please.”
Kuroo reached into his pocket and handed him his phone. Kenma was quick to find his contacts, adding his number and saving it with a heart. Chest nearly bursting with butterflies, he handed it back. Kuroo laughed out loud when he saw his contact name.
“You’re cute,” he said. “I’ll text you later.”
“You do that.”
Kuroo left his side and walked back onto the court. A few seconds later, Yamaguchi popped into the court, running up the bleachers and sliding next to him.
“Did I miss anything?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing too important,” Kenma replied. “Nothing at all.”
Tryouts lasted about another hour after that. Yamaguchi left Kenma to go speak to his childhood friend, and Shouyou made a beeline for his friend on the bleachers after retrieving his duffel bag. Kenma hurried him out of the volleyball courts, eager to escape Kuroo’s gaze.
The vice captain had been glancing at him throughout the duration of tryouts, and while he enjoyed the attention, it made Kenma nervous. He didn’t know what came over when speaking to the older man, but his ballsiness left the second the conversation ended, leaving him wondering what the hell was going on with him. Kenma had never been much of a talker, and especially not to people he found attractive. Kuroo bought something out in him and it scared him a bit.
He pulled Shouyou onto the university pathway. “So,” he began. “How do you think that went?"
“Why did you run out so fast?” Shouyo asked.
“Why are you asking so many questions?”
Shouyou giggled. “Because I saw you flirting with the vice-captain.” He pushed Kenma lightly. “Any chance you can leverage his affection into getting me a spot on the team?”
“I don’t need to do that because you were amazing,” Kenma said. “And I’m not saying this because I see you as my son-”
“You see me as a son?”
“I think you're a wonderful volleyball player, and you have a lot of talent and potential, and you don’t need to worry about getting in.” Kenma patted Shouyou’s head. “Now stop worrying. I can feel you vibrating. Let’s go get ice-cream.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this all day!”
Shouyou jumped excitedly, pulling Kenma along with him towards the on-campus ice-cream parlour. Kenma felt his phone vibrate, and he took his phone out.
how u doin
A smile crept onto Kenma’s face when he saw the gif accompanying the text message.
Would you like to add this number to your contact list?
Please assign a contact name.
Contact name changed to Cat Daddy <3 Phillip.