Hinata met the first person he looked up to when he slipped while spiking the ball and would have almost fallen onto the hard ground had there not been helpful hands keeping him aloft by his armpits.
Eyes pinched fearfully closed, arms pinwheeling madly and legs flailing as though his life depended on it, it had taken him almost half a minute of struggling incessantly before he belatedly realised that he wasn't descending anymore and that he was suspended.
His eyes had flown open, brown irises already wide and shooting off bright sunbeams of surprise/gratitude/relief, and he craned his neck sideways and back curiously where he caught sight of concerned, friendly brown eyes.
As he was set back down onto solid street and the hands that had rescued him were withdrawn, he looked up and leveled his hero with an awestruck stare, one that made the taller person fidget uncomfortably, feet shuffling.
"A-" he stuttered out breathlessly, "Arigato gozaimasu!" Then he thrust himself into a deep bow at the waist, and cut off the other person's modest brush-offs prematurely as they quickly changed into flustered protests at the gesture.
Bumbling but cautiously gentle hands coaxed him upright again, though, and the hefty weight of the growingly-familiar volleyball was quickly and insistently pushed into his hands so that his arms automatically came up to hug the thing.
"You play volleyball?" his hero asked kindly, patronizing and Hinata could only nod once, silently. "Well..." He cleared his throat self-consciously and reached up to scratch at the back of his brown hair, eyes unpoised," Train hard!"
As the person started jogging backwards, a little wave thrown back amicably, eyes creased at the corners a little, Hinata watched as he was then bombarded with a little boy attacking him from an ice-cream cart a little ways away and the boy's exclamation of 'Onii-chan!' sounded like it was shouted right into his ears.
He stared as the teenager leant down to pick him up and observed how any and all self-consciousness was instantly erased from his eyes and face as Hinata noted how his lips formed the word 'Otouto,' with a fond smile and a familiar bearing.
Suddenly, he thought as he averted his eyes carefully to his scuffed shoes that were toeing the pavement listlessly, he felt that the playground around him was dead cold and too quiet now. He took a step backwards blindly, feeling a strange pull to look up and once again catch sight of the teenager and his brother, but he abstained and instead turned around and walked away. Hands still grasping at the volleyball, he slouched forward and reminded himself, berating, that he should go and make lunch for his sister then; his mother would be home late anyway.
The second person Hinata looked up to was a volleyball coach who had been at the gym nearby his house.
Bouncing on tiptoes from the side of the court and feeling an itch in his hands to play volleyball, he had been at the gym because his mother had gone out and had taken his sister with her and the house had seemed too dark (and lonely) for him to stay put in for too long. Watching volleyball had been the first thought that surfaced in his mind as he had stared blankly at the wall in his room and he hadn't wasted any time to escape.
"Sugoi!" he now exclaimed, orange hair bouncing energetically as he rolled on the balls of his feet when he saw #06 spike the ball over the net again. "Sugoi! Sugoi! Sugoi!"
He 'Ooh'ed and 'Aah'ed over the receives and spikes and gasped at near-misses and almost-saves. He had been in the middle of vibrating at the sheer formidability of the team when another person he hadn't noticed came to a stop beside him.
"The team is in good shape, isn't it?"
He'd only stuttered through half a "Hai," still riveted on the match, when he blinked, saw the taller person, recoiled back jerkily, as though electric-shocked.
"S-sempai!" he'd squeaked, face aflame and he only belatedly realised how his arms had automatically come up in a 'Don't hurt me' way and that his hands were trembling. He forced them down then sketched a deep bow, arms rigid by his sides. "Gomenasai desu! I'm sorry for intruding!"
He was already scurrying incongruously for the door when a hand stopped him mid-step.
"You play volleyball?"
"You any good?"
"Ah..." He thought of missing the ball frequently and hitting his head with it every other day, of scuffed trainers and bruises on knees, and his shoulders slumped. He bit his lip as he tried not to focus on how pathetic he still was at volleyball even after practicing for months. "Nai..."
Silence. Hinata wanted to disappear. Then--
"Do you want to learn how to receive?"
Mid-instruction on the proper receiving position (He hadn't known he'd been doing it wrong all this time) and the order to bend his knees (lower-noo-lower-Hinata-chan), he swallowed the idiotic urge to grin like a lunatic when No. 6 corrected his legs for the nth time while no. 1 and coach lectured from the side.
And he turned his face away slightly, shiny eyes obscured by orange bangs, so they wouldn't see his stricken expression when he waved them goodbye from the entrance of the gym a few hours later.
"Where were you this whole afternoon, Shouyou?"
'Like this, Hinata-chan!'
'With my onii-chans.'
But he swallowed that too and smiled fragilely as he announced that he was going back up to his room.
When Hinata arrived at Karasuno, bright-eyed and face broken out in an energetic grin, he told himself he didn't need onii-chans and that he was fine being an onii-san himself to his little sister and mother. He laughed like a loon when Tanaka-senpai put him and Kageyama in arm locks and tousled their hair roughly; and stared, awe-struck, at Nishinoya-senpai's unconquerable spirit and bright declarations that Hinata'd become an ace in the near future (you'll-see!), but he wondered whether he really was that ill-fated to never have any permanent senior figures in his life when he slipped in his act on club-photo taking day and, face beaming a sunny smile and energetically bouncing with his arms hooked around Nishinoya-senpai's right arm and Tanaka-senpai's left one and laughing boisterously, he requested, in a loud voice for his onii-chans to follow him so that they could take another picture together.
He hadn't even known what he had said until Tanaka-senpai and Nishinoya-senpai's chuckles cut off abruptly, like a strangled cat, and he'd turned around questioningly to see the startled faces.
"Why are you two--?"
Then it hit him.
Releasing the two's arms like he'd been scalded, he resisted the urge to run away as he stood under their surprised gazes and bowed lowly.
"Gomenasai desu, Tanaka-sempai and Nishinoya-sempai! I won't ever call you that agai--!"
He was cut off rudely and unceremoniously as he was suddenly hauled upright and into the tight circle of someone's arms.
"YOSHI!" Tanaka-senpai shouted into his ear as he strangled Hinata and swung him around wildly so that Hinata was a dizzy rag doll in his embrace. "YOSHI! YOSHI,YOSHI!"
He caught the sight of wide, bordering on madly gleeful eyes when he was swung around again and also saw Nishinoya-senpai crowing in the background. He had pulled Asahi-san down to his height and was hanging off his neck. Hinata couldn't hear him because he was so disconcerted but he managed to discern that he was also screeching rancuously into Asahi-san's ear.
When he was finally set down again, and by then he had reddened into an embarrassed tomato color and the whole gymnasium was staring at them, he could only gaze, stumped at the two flushed and excited people in front of him.
He watched Nishinoya-and-Tanaka-senpai exchange ecstatic smirks.
"S-sempai?" He asked cautiously, "Ano--?"
"NO!" Nishinoya-senpai interrupted and he waved his hands flustered. Ho wondered why his eyes seemed so huge suddenly," Call us the other thing you did just now!"
"Eh? W-what? Sempai, are you alright--?"
"NO! No, no. Noya-san, he's getting it all wrong!"
They leaned forward simultaneously, expectantly. Hinata hesitated, heart starting to pound.
And, before the two could erupt in embarrassing antics again, he quickly bowed and repeated what he had been saying.
"Gomen! I won't say it again!"
He had to wonder over why Tanaka-and-Nishinoya-senpai both suddenly looked so stricken.
"Eeh?" They were like two echoes in his ears," Why?!"
"You... Don't mind?" He remembered closed-off expressions and unattainable people he had deemed onii-chans in the past and compared them to these two crazy people in front of him. He felt hope stir.
It was Nishinoya-senpai who answered and he waved off his concerns frantically, like swatting away an inconsequential fly. "Nai!" he told him, brown eyes wide and black hair sticking up everywhere wildly. "Nai!"
Tanaka-senpai cut in," Hai! We don't mind! In fact..."
The two looked almost needy for Hinata's response as they leaned forward again so that he could see himself in their irises, confused and also hopeful-looking.
"Call us onii-chan, otouto!"
When Hinata came to Karasuno, he didn't expect to finally find two other people who were as idiotic and hopeless as him and he didn't expect to find onii-chans in them.