Beta: Kiri

Patience is a virtue

The gym is quiet.

Takeda walks slowly to the benches located under the big windows, sits down and waits.

These past few months he has gotten used to the sound of basketball balls bouncing and shoes squeaking against the floor, to shouts like 'Pass here' and 'That was great!', to Riko-chan whistling, to the patter of Nigou's small paws. This gym has become his second home with those sweet kids always making sure he had something to drink during their practices and calling him to ask if he reached his flat safely after watching their matches.

'They are nice kids' the old man thinks, closing his eyes and waiting. As usual, he arrives before the practice starts; soon they should come too, bickering and joking as always, until Riko-chan and Hyuuga-kun yell at them.

The door leading outside cracks open a few minutes later. Takeda slowly opens his eyes, but instead of Seirin's team he sees a familiar tall blond in a grey uniform. Why is he familiar?

"I'm sorry for interrupting, sir. I'm looking for Kuroko Tetsuya, he should be now having practice here." The boy walks closer to Takeda; the expression on his face being a mixture of worry and lostness.

The man leans his head back while trying to see the stranger's face.

"Are you one of Kuroko-kun's friends, young man?"

The teenager smiles a little.

"Yes, sir. My name is Kise Ryouta and my team, Kaijou, played against Seirin a few times." Ah, that's why he seems familiar. "Kurokocchi isn't picking up my calls and I thought –"

"I'm afraid he might not come, Kise-kun" Takeda interrupts Kise.

They are looking at each other in a complete silence for few long minutes before the realization dawns on Kise. He looks around himself, notices the dust on the basket that holds the balls then checks his phone – probably to see what time it is, thinks Takeda – then looks around the gym again, as if checking if Seirin's players were just hiding and would come out any second.

Takeda knows it won't happen.

Finally, Kise's shoulders slump, his sparkly aura disappearing. The old man pats the bench and the kid sits down, his smile gone.

"F-for how long haven't they been practicing?" he asks quietly as if afraid his question may break something.

Takeda closes his eyes again, sighing deeply before answering.

"Right after the Winter Cup Izuki-kun, Riko-chan and the first years, with the exception of Kuroko-kun, came to a practice. The next time there were only Kagami-kun and Riko-chan," Takeda says slowly, feeling sorry for the young boy sitting next to him. He can practically feel how upset he is. "After that it was only Kagami-kun, but then even he stopped coming here. So… almost three weeks."

"Winter Cup ended five weeks ago." Kise clenches his fists on his thighs, determination coloring his voice. "Surely they will come back. They… they have to." He ends quietly.

The silence hangs between them; a painful reminder that usually at this time this gym wouldn't be so quiet and it shouldn't be now.

"You are Seirin's advisor, right, sir?" Takeda nods, smiling inwardly. This boy cannot sit without speaking for too long. "But why are you here if they aren't?"

The old men opens his eyes and turns his head to Kise with a serious expression on his face.

"Because they always can come back here, Kise-kun."

The boy's sad features lighten at these words. He stretches out his legs, smiling again.

"You don't mind if I wait with you, sir?"

"Of course not, boy."

The kid goes home after two hours, radiating sadness. Takeda waits a little more. There is no-one waiting for him at home. He can wait.

The new year starts and no-one from the basketball team shows up. Takeda tries to call Riko but she doesn't answer.

After few more weeks of waiting Takeda lets himself admit the harsh truth.

"What a pity. They were such good kids" he murmurs to himself, taking a good look at the cold, empty gym he once loved so much and closes the door behind him one last time with a soft click.


A/N: I'm sorry.