I do not own KNB.
Of Sweaty Socks and Orange Locks
Chapter Eight: we can do this
"If today's the day I die, lay me down under the lights,
let me fall in love, let me save a life, and let me loose my voice,
singing all my favorite songs, let me stare up at the stars,
cause it's where we all belong."
-"Living Louder" the Cab
"Hmm?" Pale blue eyes looked up as Oroka smiled at her friend, a thoughtful look on Kuroko's face as he gazed at her silently. "What's up?"
"...you don't have to." Kuroko began quietly. Oroka paused, looking up in slight confusion as Kuroko offered her a gentle look, quiet, meaningful. "If you don't want to, you don't have too."
The training around them stilled slightly. Kise paused where he'd been playing one on one with Aomine, golden eyes watching the girl on the bleachers thoughtfully. Aomine continued to dribble, glancing to the two sitting out from the corner of his eye. Murasakibara continued to munch on his snacks, but made no move to reach for another bar as he continued to chomp on the one in his mouth, listening.
Midorima adjusted his glasses, not sparing them a glance, but making no move to shoot as he waited, listening. Akashi continued to go over the markers on the clipboard before him, examining their next game play through as he waited, silent.
None of them, no matter how close they were to their so-called errand girl, had the amount of years that Kuroko had. The bond between them was something different, one to be challenged but never broken, a silent agreement that it wasn't something to be tampered with, left alone.
But it didn't mean they didn't want to know as well.
Ah. Oroka paused, blinking once as she mulled over her friends words and Kuroko offered her that quiet, gentle look of his. A small smile touched her lips and she idly reached forward, Kuroko doing the same as she slipped her fingers through his and looked down, bangs falling over her eyes as she smiled.
"I don't mind." Oroka murmured, offering him a sheepish smile. The others glanced over, faintly curious except for Akashi, who continued to skim over the board, well aware of what was going on. Kuroko's eyes softened and she grinned. "I'd get in trouble any day for this."
"Is Inucchi in trouble?" Kise was quick to stand beside the orange haired girl's side, an eager look on his face as Aomine blinked at the ball now in his hands. "Is someone bothering you—"
"No, no, nothing to worry about." Oroka grinned, puffing her chest out proudly. "Nothing I can't handle myself."
Akashi's lips turned upwards slightly. Of course she'd have no say in whether or not he were to tip his own hand in the matter. Kuroko simply remained silent, quiet beside Oroka as Kise began to babble on about how he'd help out with anything until Aomine tossed the ball to the back of his head.
Oroka laughed, smiling growing brighter as she grinned beside her friends.
It was for the little moments of happiness and relief like these that she didn't mind getting a scolding or a lecture once in awhile.
But her fingers curled around Kuroko's, ever so tightly, and he simply allowed her the comfort of his presence.
"Y-Y-You really did that to Midorima?" Oroka set her hands on her stomach, tears forming at the corners of her eyes as she tried to hold back the fit of laughter leaving her lips as Kagami wolfed down another yakisoba bread, an indifferent look on his face. "W-W-Why?"
"I felt like it." Kagami answered, tilting his chin upwards proudly as he took a large bite of another sandwich. "If it gets him riled up, even better."
"Kagami-kun was being childish." Kuroko answered calmly, taking a sip of his juice as he glanced to a laughing Oroka from the corner of his eye, the ginger haired girl nearly tipping backwards in her chair.
"Ah~ I wish I'd gone." Oroka pouted, tipping her chair backwards as she took a bite of her own melon bread, a thoughtful expression on her face. "I knew you guys would do well though, of course."
"We didn't need you tripping around all over the court." Kagami snorted, practically inhaling his lunch as he added. "And the moment you saw that guy you'd probably run for the hills."
"N-Not anymore!" Oroka protested, sitting upwards with an indignant look on her face. "I'm a lot more confident now—right, Tetsuya?"
Kuroko took a long sip of his juice and Oroka's eyes watered as she pawed at her friend's desk. "Tetsuya..."
"That's right." Kagami blinked, glancing over to the orange haired girl beside them. "How'd your date with Kise go?"
The light chatter within the classroom shot to a sudden halt as girls quickly whipped their heads around, eyes zeroing in on the conversation the moment Kise's name had been spoken. Oroka paled, laughing nervously as sweat trailed down her brow and Kagami blinked, blanching at the sudden attention.
"You mean Kise...ka?" Oroka quickly interrupted, the few girls that had been attentive blinked and glanced away. A sigh of relief left Oroka's lips and she slumped downwards, Kagami looking startled by the ferocious atmosphere the room had taken at the sound of one name. I'd hate to be him... "It went fine, thank you for asking."
"Did you have fun?" Kuroko inquired. Oroka quickly nodded, a bright smile on her lips.
"Of course! It's always fun hanging out with you guys." There was a brief pause, the sun streaming through the windows of the classroom and illuminating the growing undertones of orange as the day wore on. Oroka's face paled slightly and she glanced to the side, laughing nervously. "But his fans are something else..."
"You're eating more than usual." Kuroko commented, glancing to Kagami's ferocious meal as the red head blinked, unaffected.
"I'm surprised that's enough food for you. We played two games yesterday. I'm so hungry." Kagami glanced to Kuroko's simple sandwich and juice and paused, glancing to Oroka happily gnawing on her melon bread. "And should you be eating more?"
"Oh, I can eat a lot." Oroka grinned around her mouthful, holding up a bag with a few more melon breads. "But I've been trying to learn how to eat better foods than what I've been eating."
"You can't live off of ice cream and melons." Kuroko murmured, and Oroka simply grinned stupidly while Kagami blinked. Just how has she been living...? "But I am sore."
"I guess I am too..." Kagami shrugged, rolling his shoulders. "Watching him play though... you guys really are something else."
"You make it sound like people from Teiko are another species." Oroka mused. A haughty look appeared on her face as she slipped her arms over her chest and tipped her chair back. "Well, I suppose people from Teiko are pretty cool—I mean, they didn't call them the Generation of Miracles for nothing—woah!"
Kagami's face morphed into one of wariness as Oroka toppled backwards, her chair sliding out beneath her as she collided with the floor. A few snickers were heard around the classroom and the orange haired girl winced, rubbing the back of her head as Kuroko eyed her silently.
"You should know better, Oroka."
"Yes, yes, I know..."
"Ah, Kagami-kun, Kuroko-kun!" The two boys glanced upwards as Riko beamed at them from the doorway, her hands full with two boxes. "Perfect, come with me."
Oroka's head popped up and Riko blinked, a smile pulling at her lips. "You can come too, Inu-chan!"
"These are the guys we're playing next?" Oroka slipped into a chair beside Kagami, a curious look on her face as Kuroko nodded.
The sound of basketballs hitting the court and the squeak of shoes filled the small clubroom, the only light illuminating the dark little room the bright glint of the television and the waning sunlight breaking into sunset. Oroka was silent, a content look on her face despite the rapid shift of her eyes as she followed the movements of the players on the screen.
Every game had a pace, and every team had a rhythm, it could change with a simple tip of the ball or a shift of feet, but it made up the way the game was played. Oroka looked thoughtful as she contemplated the team before her—Seiho—and her eyes followed the team's movements, noting their rather pressing defense on the other team.
"The bald guy's defense is especially tough." Kagami noted, and Oroka hummed in agreement, the bald player on screen pressing back the other team with ease.
"I know him." Kuroko commented and Oroka blinked, looking up in surprise as Kagami glanced upwards as well. "I played against him in middle school."
"We did?" Oroka frowned, looking thoughtful as she eyed the player with newfound interest. She idly tugged the metallic silver band now pierced through her ear and recognition flickered through her gaze. "We did. He's the guy that got Kise chewed out on the court!"
"We'd only just started, but he managed to stop Kise." Kuroko continued, and Kagami blinked, a look of disbelief settling over his face as Oroka idly tugged at her jacket zipper.
"We beat them of course." Oroka added, a thoughtful look on her face. "But it wasn't the easiest game... Then again," the orange haired girl frowned, tilting her head to the side. "If I remember right, this guy was kinda weird..."
"He was." Kuroko agreed.
"If that's coming from people who went to Teiko..." Kagami's lips curled upwards, a look of excitement flickering through his crimson irises. "I'm starting to get pumped now."
"Ah, you guys will beat them easy~" Oroka smiled, waving away Kagami's growing excitement with a breezy laugh. The red head flashed her a dull look, clearly finding her nonchalant outtake unreasonable as Oroka continued to smile. "I believe in you guys after all."
Kagami blinked, his cheeks flushing in surprise as he awkwardly rubbed the back of his head, grumbling beneath his breath as he turned his gaze elsewhere. "...thanks. I guess."
"Of course, you better be on guard though, Tiger. Midorima's super strong."
"You don't make any sense, damn it!"
"I always forget how big these places are..." Oroka mused aloud, shifting the drinks in her arms as she let her eyes trail upwards, following the length of the wide, arching ceilings of the Inter-High sport's facility. Well, it's convenient that there are a lot of vending machines though.
A few people milled around in the halls around her, spectators chatting in groups about the upcoming matches or previous games, players making their way to their own courts, everyone headed somewhere. The whole facility was rather breezy, and Oroka praised herself for having worn her jacket as she made her way through the halls to where it would open up to the court.
Warm ups between the teams were underway, and in a few minutes the first match between Seiho and Seirin would begin, Shutoku's starting as well.
Oroka almost stumbled, her face blanching slightly as she eyed her feet, biting her bottom lip. She wasn't sure how she'd go about confronting Midorima yet—considering how she'd simply bolted the last time, there wasn't much she could do except simply confront him. Kuroko had made it clear that she was pushing things a little too far, and that even though she had just up and left—it wasn't as if she'd gone and killed someone.
But how are you supposed to talk to someone you haven't seen in months after practically running away? Oroka sighed, wishing she could simply write letters to everyone with an apology and pretend it never happened. If I keep freaking out like this, I won't even make it to ever confront Akashi.
How'd it feel though? Oroka blinked, watching the ground beneath her as she moved, one foot in front of the other. I wonder what went on through their heads when I left...
All thoughts and gloomy feelings suddenly came to an abrupt halt as Oroka slammed into another figure, her body jerking backwards and falling down onto the floor with an oof. The figure before her let out a grunt of surprise, hitting the ground as well.
No wonder Tetsuya thinks I'll be a bad driver. Oroka winced, rubbing her back and glancing upwards apologetically. "My bad, I wasn't looking—"
"No, no, it's my fault, I wasn't paying attention either." A hurried voice interrupted, and Oroka smiled as the teen before her grinned, lighter black locks framing his face and his slate gray eyes. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." Oroka blinked, realizing only a few drinks remained in her arms. "Oh, excuse me—"
"Here, let me help!" The grinning teen before her quickly reached outwards, helping her gather her drinks and setting them into her arms. "It's partly my fault anyway."
"No, not at all." Oroka quickly shook her head, standing as the other teen stood as well, an amused look on his face as she moved to wave her arms but found she couldn't with the drinks in her possession. "I was zoning out—I do that a lot, my bad." Oroka grinned and the other teen blinked, looking faintly surprised for a moment before he grinned as well.
She's kinda cute... "Where are you headed?" The black haired teen stepped forward. "Do you need help carrying those?"
"Oh, no, I'm fine." Oroka said simply, a bright smile on her face as the other teen blinked, faintly surprised with her clear cut answer. "And I'm headed to the right wing courts."
"Eh? Me too." His lips turned upwards and he stepped to the side as Oroka started walking, tagging along beside her. "Here to watch the Shutoku match?"
"Nope." The boy seemed to wince, laughing slightly as Oroka smiled. "I'm sort of the errand—ah, manager for a team playing today so I just went to get everyone drinks."
"Eh~ How nice." A pitiful sigh left the black haired male's lips and he shrugged, looking disappointed. "I wish my team had a cute manager to bring us drinks... All we have are bossy third years and a cocky first year."
"Oh, we don't have a cute manager either, so don't worry." Oroka laughed, oblivious to the look of disbelief on the male's face as he glanced to her warily, inwardly wondering how anyone could be so dense when Oroka added. "But we do have some tough first years too."
"Hmm, my friend's pretty unbelievable though." The teen added, the sound of squeaking shoes and pounding balls reaching them as they stepped out onto the court. "He's crazy good."
"Well, I hope you guys do well!" Oroka offered, grinning brightly at the other player as he grinned well naturedly in return. "Thanks for you help."
"No problem!" The teen slipped his hands into his pockets. "Try to pay more attention next time, eh, Orange-chan?"
Orange? Oroka blinked, opening her mouth to respond when a smooth, clear cut voice cut her off, sending a sharp shiver down her spine.
"Takao, we don't have time to be messing around. You should be on the courts."
"Are you one to talk, Shin-chan? You hardly ever warm up anyways." The teen she'd bumped into responded, and Oroka was left standing there, a ditzy smile still plastered onto her face as another pair of feet came to a halt before her.
Green eyes flickered downwards and instantly paused; blinking once as if to make sure it wasn't a trick of his imagination. But the blindingly bright and annoying shade of orange stood there before him, framing a familiar face as Midorima paused beside Takao, a look of disbelief crossing over his features.
There was a taut, tight pause as Oroka's face slowly began to grow pale, Midorima's disbelieving features coloring in as he blinked, a rare look of surprise on his face as he gazed downwards and Oroka gazed upwards and Midorima gazed downwards, green meeting pale blue in a silent, terse stare.
I will not run. I will not run. I. Will. Not. Run. Oroka chanted, breathing in deeply before she exhaled, shutting her eyes for one moment. Her hands reached upwards and she promptly smacked her cheeks with both hands, causing Takao and Midorima to jump in surprise at the sudden action.
Pale blue eyes grew determined and Oroka titled her head upwards, offering Midorima a bright, welcoming smile. "Hey, Midorima."
"...Shiroinu." Midorima began calmly, his arms tensing out of habit as his mind raced, mentally trying to prepare himself for the moment he'd been waiting for. You knew she was going to be here, why are you so surprised? Days of mulling over what he'd finally be able to say to her seemed to fade away in seconds, and Midorima was left staring as Oroka gazed back, her knees trembling slightly under the strain of keeping herself rooted there.
"Eh? Shin-chan, what's up?" Takao blinked, a look of confusion crossing his features as he glanced from Midorima to the girl before him. "Do you two know each other?"
"Yes." The two instantly answered. Oroka placed her hands over her mouth in surprise while Midorima glanced away, the light reflecting off his glasses and shielding his ever green irises from her gaze.
Takao blinked, confusion clear on his face as he offered the two of them a slightly amused, though faintly annoyed look at the tight tension in the air. "What, were you two lovers or something?"
"No." The two chorused once more and Takao's eye twitched in response.
Tell her that she looks well. Midorima's mind was racing as he struggled to make sure this meeting was not a repeat of last time. Ask her about her trip, ask how she is, ask about why she left. You know her, there's nothing different.
But there was something different, Midorima realized. She was a little taller now, still a great deal shorter compared to him, but taller. Her hair was longer, something about her that was just a little older now. She kept that annoying white jacket her brother had given her, and from the star patterned band aids on her knees and fingers, she was still the same clumsy idiot he'd remembered.
He'd hated to grudgingly admit that the idea that she was here—here, back in Japan and not somewhere far off where they could never reach her had been lingering on the back of his mind, prominent and ever present. He wanted to dwell deeper into the situation, he wanted to know, but he wouldn't simply stoop to Kise's childish lengths—he would calmly confront her and understand the situation.
Why she left.
"I'm sorry I left!" Oroka blurted out suddenly, causing Midorima to look upwards in surprise, his normally calm and cool demeanor crumpling as Oroka stepped back, a panicked expression on her face. "I'm sorry I didn't tell anyone—I am, really! I'm sorry if I made you worry or if I made you feel bad—it was my choice and there was just something I had to do!"
Takao's face had morphed into one of complete and utter confusion, clearly baffled by the situation at hand as Midorima simply stood there, mute and unable to respond as Oroka hurriedly rattled on. "I missed you guys a lot though—I did! There wasn't a day where I didn't wonder if you were doing well or if you were still playing—I feel bad about missing graduation and writing to Tetsuya but not keeping in touch with you guys!"
Dizzy swirls were apparent in Oroka's eyes as she teetered back and forth, looking dazed as she stammered. "B-But I wasn't happy! I didn't like the way you guys were playing and I needed to get away. B-B-But I hope you do your best today and you play your hardest because—"
Midorima's eyes widened behind his glasses and Oroka jutted out a finger, pointing it fiercely upwards and into his face as her cheeks flushed, hand trembling. "W-We're going to win and show you how we play!"
"Why do I feel like we've stepped into some sort of manga?" Takao blinked, glancing between Oroka and Midorima. "Actually, better question—what is even going on?"
I see. Midorima's mouth opened slightly to reply before it slid close, images of past games and bright, idiotic smiles flashing through his mind, some part of him wondering when he—when they should have noticed that something was so amiss to send someone like Oroka away. But there was another part of him that couldn't quite wrap around the idea—the way they had played was obsolete. There could have been no better way.
Winning was all that mattered.
"Y-Yes!" Oroka straightened, turning rigid as Midorima calmly adjusted his glasses, his hands falling to his sides as he gazed at her calmly.
"At a later date, I would like to fully understand what it is that lead to your departure." Midorima began calmly, and Oroka glanced upwards, hope swirling in her chest as she stood her ground and Midorima continued, almost softly, so as not to scare her away. "And though your form of a reunion after so many months is poor—"
Oroka flinched, laughing nervously. Midorima adjusted his glasses once more and gazed at her calmly. "I am glad to see that you are well."
Oroka blinked at that, looking up sharply in surprise as Takao blinked, looking at the green haired player before him in equal surprise. "However," Oroka's lips turned downwards into a frown and Midorima's eyes sharpened. "I cannot quite comprehend your ideal of showing me how it is you play. Whatever message you wish to convey will be noted, but whatever you mean by change will not."
"But I would like to in fact schedule with you a meeting when the time is appropriate." Midorima added quickly, causing Oroka to blink in faint confusion as the tall shooting guard adjusted his glasses for the umpteenth time.
"Shin-chan, aren't you basically saying you just want to catch up with her—bwah!" Takao hit the ground, clutching his gut where he'd been struck as Midorima calmly faced a baffled looking Oroka.
"...you're not...mad or anything?" Oroka inquired carefully, twiddling with her fingers as she glanced to the side, watching the balls around her hit the floor in a constant thrum.
"I suppose to a degree we all found your disappearance rather abrupt." Midorima crossed his arms over his chest, memorizing the sight of the girl before him, cursing the multitude of memories she brought along with her. "But whatever your priorities were, it was not as if we could simply stop you."
"Midorima," Oroka began, looking upwards at her friend in a somewhat mystified sort of way, a calm and cool expression on Midorima's face.
"...that's oddly mature of you."
Midorima's brow twitched, and he gazed at Oroka with faint annoyance. "Are you suggesting I'm not mature?"
"No, nothing like that." Oroka shook her head, a small smile playing on her lips. "I just...it fits, I guess."
Oroka's eyes brightened and Midorima paused, mossy green irises meeting pale blue as she smiled brightly, her lips curling upwards in that idiotic smile of hers, causing the scar curved around her eye to crinkle like a half moon.
"You're doing well."
"Oroka." Midorima stiffened and Oroka instantly perked up, head swiveling around as Kuroko jogged towards them, coming to a halt beside his friend as he frowned slightly. "We were worried you got lost."
"I'm not that bad." Oroka grinned, eyes instantly brightening—to Midorima's faintest annoyance—as she smiled widely at the phantom player. "I got the drinks and I just ran into someone—"
"Are those the ones on the floor?"
"Eh?" Oroka blinked, glancing downwards to where some bottles had scattered across the ground from when she'd pointed at Midorima. Her cheeks quickly flushed and she bent downwards, gathering them up and struggling to keep them all in her grip as she grinned triumphantly. "What are you talking about?"
"Kuroko." Deep blues and pale blues both turned to face Midorima as he eyed Kuroko silently, a firm, cool expression on his face.
"Midorima." Kuroko idly picked bottles from Oroka's grasp, helping her with her load as he turned to calmly face the green haired teen. "Hello."
"You sure are chummy with the people from other teams," Takao mused, only to flinch when Midorima sent him a dull glare before returning his gaze to the two former Teiko students before him.
"Good luck." Kuroko offered quietly, and Oroka grinned beside him, Midorima blinking.
There was a thoughtful flicker through mossy green irises before Midorima blinked once, turning away as he adjusted his glasses. "We won't need whatever petty luck you have to offer. Oha Asa has predicted a good day for Cancer's."
"That's where you're wrong." Oroka spoke up quietly. Midorima glanced to her and pale blue eyes were bright, intensely so, that Midorima unwillingly found himself swarmed with memories he'd carefully tucked away, not hidden, but set aside, and now they were washing over him tenfold. "You'll need all the luck you can get."
Oroka's lips turned upwards and Midorima stilled, feeling a strange anticipation for something else to come as her eyes glistened and she flashed an almost feral grin. "Because Seirin's the one that's going to be winning this block and advancing."
And then we'll make you see. Oroka stood firm, a strange sense of confidence and pride welling up inside her that she hadn't felt in a long time—something she didn't quite expect to feel for any other team but her own.
"You shouldn't be so arrogant." Kuroko chided quietly, tapping Oroka's head as she blinked, flashing the pale blue haired player a pout as Kuroko turned back to Midorima. "We'll see you."
Midorima simply nodded, feeling a strange sense of nostalgia as the two turned their backs towards him, walking to the far side of the court to where their own team was.
Their own team, huh? Midorima blinked once before turning away, stalking back to finish up the warm ups.
How strange it sounded.
"Shin-chan, you look ready to cry."
"You're an idiot."
"You took it all very well, Oroka." Kuroko offered, glancing to the side as Oroka beamed, trotting alongside him as she set the various sport's drinks and water bottles down beside the benches.
"Of course! I told you, remember? No more running." Oroka grinned, holding her head up high as Kuroko gazed at her thoughtfully.
"Your knees are shaking."
Oroka blinked, looking at him with wide eyes before she let out a shaky laugh, setting her hands on her trembling knees. "R-Really? I didn't notice!"
"Hurry up and get off the court before you trip someone." A large hand landed on her head and Oroka blinked, glancing upwards to Kagami's faintly annoyed expression as he held onto a ball with another hand. "As long as you're out here you're a safety hazard."
"That's cruel, Tiger." Oroka pouted, puffing out her chest and standing tall, even though the height difference between them was ridiculously great. "I'm just trying to do my best like everyone else!"
"You're Kagami-kun, aren't you?" The three friends paused, glancing over to where a bald headed teen was eagerly grinning up at Kagami, oblivious to Kuroko's presence and seemingly ignoring Oroka's.
Kagami's eyes narrowed at the teen and Oroka frowned, mind running until it finally clicked—this guy is the guy from the video... Kuroko was silent beside her and a few steps away Hyuga had slowed to a halt, glancing over to where the bald teen smirked. "Your hair's so red! Scary!"
"What?" Kagami's eye twitched and the teen grinned, turning over and waving to another player.
"Captain! This is him right? Seirin's really weak but they've got one strong guy!"
"Imma kick him." Oroka muttered, stepping over only to be yanked back by Hyuga as the captain shook his head.
"What are you, some sort of thug?" Hyuga snapped, causing Oroka to pout as she glanced to the side with a huff. "You can't just walk around threatening to beat up people who bad mouth us."
"I know... I'm more of a pacifist at heart." Oroka grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest as she sniffed. Not my fault I just get a little defensive when it comes to my friends.
Oroka blinked, a sudden thought settling over her as she paused. My friends, huh...
"Idiot! Show some respect!" The bald teen let out a cry of pain as a taller, muscular player stepped forward, gripping his head and flashing Hyuga and Kagami and apologetic look. "Sorry about that. This guy can't read situations, so he just says what he's thinking."
"You don't need to apologize." Hyuga answered calmly, an air of cool superiority swirling around him." We're going to win. If you look down on us like you did last year, you'll end up in tears."
"That won't happen." Seiho's captain responded coolly. "Besides, we weren't looking down on you. You were just weak, that's all."
The players turned, stalking back to their side of the court. A taut, strained silence filled the court before them as the entire team stood silent.
Small hands curled tightly into fists beneath the white fabric of her jacket, and Oroka breathed in softly, pale blue eyes sharp and intense as chips of ice.
"Ah! Guys like that piss me off!" Oroka snapped, her foot jutting outwards and slamming repeatedly into the wall as she growled, her agitation and irritation rising. "I should go and—"
"And what?" Kagami grumbled, grabbing Oroka by her hood and hauling her away from the defenseless wall as she frowned, stuffing her hands into her pockets and childishly looking away. "Didn't you just get told not to fight?"
"Someone's gotta stick up for us!" Oroka began passionately, whirling around and stepping towards Kagami, forcing the red head to step back in surprise from the sudden proximity. "Like hell I'm just going to stand there and let them yap on and on about us!"
"Then we prove them wrong on the court." Kuroko said quietly, causing Oroka to pause instantly and turn to him as he offered her a small smile. "And show them what we're made of."
Oroka's face turned into one of awe and she nodded her head rapidly, eyes brightening. Kagami blinked at her in disbelief, figuring that the girl truly fitted her name as she grinned, imaginary tail wagging as Kuroko patted her head softly.
The tight silence within the locker room was broken with a small clap, the team turning their heads upwards as Riko smiled, eyes glistening. "Alright, you're all a little too uptight. I thought of a reward to cheer you up."
The coach turned her head, lips turning upwards almost shyly as she brought a finger to her lips. "If you guys win the next game, I'll give each of you a kiss on the cheek." Riko pressed her lips to her hand and blew a kiss, flashing them a wink. "What do you say?"
"Why did she laugh?" Izuki inquired, a dull expression on his face as Koganei blinked flatly.
"You can't be serious."
A gloomy atmosphere quickly hung over Riko's head as Hyuga jumped up, a light blush on his cheeks as he stuttered. "You idiots! Pretend to be happy if you have too!"
The heavy depression over Riko grew heavier and Oroka blinked, a look of realization flickering across her face as she turned towards Kuroko and Kagami. "Would something like that pump you guys up?"
"O-Of course not, you idiot!" Kagami snapped, a bright blush settling over his cheeks as he paused, biting his lip and rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. "I mean, uh, it's appreciated but...no ...thanks."
"Perhaps for someone like Kise-kun," Kuroko commented, and Oroka nodded, a look of understanding on her features as she reached upwards and set a hand down on Kagami and Kuroko's shoulders.
"Then if you guys win this next game, I'll treat you to ice cream."
"That only works for someone like you, idiot."
"Shut up and get it together, you idiots!" Riko exclaimed suddenly, a blush on her cheeks as she rubbed her eyes and the team jerked, everyone turning to face her in surprise. "Don't you want to pay them back for last year? It's got to be quite a lot with a year's worth of interest!"
Oroka stilled, a gentle, fluttery sort of feeling welling within her as she watched, oddly silent as Hyuga grinned, apologizing to Riko and turning towards everyone else, a glimmer of determination in his eyes. "I'm sure you'll feel it as soon as the game starts. Seiho is strong. After last year's major defeat, we hated basketball so much we nearly quit."
To hate something you love so much you'd leave it behind... Oroka's lips turned upwards, bitter, her fingers unconsciously clenching tighter as her nails dug into her palms. A cool hand slid over hers, and without a word spared, her fingers gripped tightly onto Kuroko's as he remained silent. The very action presented before her enough to know that he was thinking the same thing she was.
"But don't be so gloomy—we're over it now. If anything, we're happy." Hyuga cut in quickly, an almost sheepish smile turning upwards on his lips. "This won't be the same as last year. I'm confident we've become strong enough to ensure that. We're going to win!"
Bodies began to rise around her, and Oroka could only watched, faintly dazed as brilliant smiles took over everyone's faces, the originally tight air withering away to energy and an almost excited sort of anxiousness.
The feeling in her chest wound tighter, forcing her to take the smallest step back as she took in the image before her, everyone pumped, ready to take on whatever hurtle was about to be thrown towards them. Her gaze flickered and she glanced upwards toward the ceiling, the white paint gazing back at her as a sense of nostalgia filled her.
Did they still get pumped up like this anymore?
No matter what I say about them... Oroka grimaced, leaning forward on the bench as she watched the players before her move across the court, Seirin being forced to step back and unable to score another shot with the constant defense and pressure placed upon them. They are pretty good...
But in a biased opinion. Oroka's eyes narrowed and her lips turned upwards as Kagami broke past Seiho's defense, a look of momentary shock flittering across the bald teen's face as he drove in and slammed the ball through the basket, ensuring a point. Our team is much better.
Ignoring the lingering thoughts flittering around in the back of her head, Oroka breathed in. The slightly musky scent in the air mixing with the furious roars of the crowds and the blaring buzz of the alarm was making its way around her, enveloping her in the familiar feel of what was basketball as she watched, foot tapping against the ground as everyone ran this way and that, trying to force through Seiho's defense and get the momentum back on their side.
"These guys' defense is crazy strong..." Furihata murmured, and Oroka paused, glancing over to the light haired boy as he frowned. "Even though Kagami managed to break through, they're not letting up."
"But our team's still holding on." Tsuchida added, watching the game carefully as Izuki managed to pull a play through and hand the ball to Hyuga. "We've just got to break past this somehow..."
"You can't win a game just on good defense though." Oroka murmured, and the boys around her glanced over, blinking in surprise as the rather pouty expression on her face. "Our team has good defense and great offense."
"Shiroinu-san, you really know how to keep up team moral." Furihata laughed, causing Oroka to blink in surprise. "Your loyalty is almost inspiring."
"Well, it's nice to know some people see it that way." Oroka grinned, a sheepish look on her face as she glanced to the side. Better than Aomine calling me an overprotective guard dog.
"Out of bounds, white ball!" A whistle broke through the air and Oroka glanced upwards to where Kagami left to retrieve the ball. The bald teen seemed to glance over to the score board, headed dead on for a collision with Kuroko.
To her annoyance, the bald teen managed to slam into her friend anyway. A look of surprise flittering across his face as he glanced downwards and shot back in surprise. "Whoa! Who are you? Have you been playing this game?"
"I'm Kuroko Tetsuya. I have been."
This guy doesn't even remember we played him before... Oroka settled for shooting the bald teen flat glares as Kuroko blinked calmly, the Seiho player's lips suddenly turning upwards into an almost dark grin. "Are you a first year player too? Hey, did you know? Last year, our team was ahead of yours by twenty points the first quarter. That's why I want to make it thirty!"
Beside her Tsuchida seemed to stiffen, and Oroka's eyes narrowed as the bald teen grinned, patting Kuroko's shoulder and jogging away. "Well, I won't disappoint! Try not to let it get you down though, eh?"
"I understand." Kuroko didn't' even spare the teen a glance back as he walked forward, the buzzer sounding for the game to resume. "I won't be disappointed."
A smirk began to play on Oroka's lips and she leaned back, pale blues glistening almost mischievously.
The game's just started.
"Looks like the iron wall of Seiho's defense was never had a pass inside the wall before." Kise smirked, and Kasamatsu glanced over to the blonde.
"You sound way too happy for another team."
"Ah! It's Inucchi!" Kise instantly perked up, Oroka's bright orange hair an easy spotter amidst the softer tones. A look of annoyance flickered across Kasamatsu's face, the memory of finding out the two were neighbors a strange turn, but nothing that should prove to be a bother, really. "Hmm, she probably can't see me from here... Maybe she'll feel me from all the way up—"
"You sound like some creepy stalker." Kasamatsu muttered, and Kise pouted, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I can't help it~ Ah, I wish Inucchi were waiting on our benches for our games too... Seirin has it good, taking Inucchi and Kurokocchi for their own."
"At least they know how to support their own team." Kasamatsu spat, and Kise simply smiled, a pleased hum leaving his lips as Oroka turned, reaching over to grab some water bottles and towels as the players subbed out. "You and your weird fascination for your friends is almost traitorous."
"It's not my fault we have such a strong bond." Kise shrugged, a happy smile on his lips.
Kasamatsu rolled his eyes, figuring it was for the best that he didn't speak up about his newfound discovery—if the blonde got wind of their situation, he'd be bugging to come over everyday just for the chance to see her.
How she put up with him for three years is beyond me. Kasamatsu glanced downwards, following the head of bright orange as he paused, a curious expression flickering over his face as a figure approached Seirin's sidelines at the sound of the whistle. "What does he want with their team?"
"Hmm?" Kise perked up, glancing downwards and frowning as Tsugawa approached the players seated on the bench, a wide grin on his lips as he came to a halt beside Oroka. "H-Hey! What does he want with Inucchi?"
The two Kaijo players watched in silence as some confrontation seemed to pass by between the two. Unheard words left Oroka's lips, Kise leaning forward eagerly in vain hope of being able to pick up the conversation. Kasamatsu watched as Tsugawa seemed to say something and Oroka blinked, a brief flicker of something sharp and icy passing through her pale blues until she offered the other player a bright, cheerful smile, seemingly replying in kind.
"I-Inucchi~ You should only be making smiles like that at me..." Kise murmured pitifully, his lips pulling into a pout until he shot up suddenly, fumbling for his phone. "Maybe I can text her—"
"They're in the middle of a game, idiot!" Kasamatsu smacked the back of the blonde's head, causing him to let out a noise of pain as he settled back. "Besides, whatever just happened, Tsugawa isn't too happy about it."
Kise frowned, glancing downwards and blinking at the rather dark grin that was splayed upon Tsugawa's lips as he stalked back to his own side. Amber eyes flickered back and Kise nearly jumped, an amused hum leaving his lips as Kasamatsu frowned. "What now?"
"It just looks like he must have said something bad about Seirin," Kise's lips turned upwards and he leaned forward, an almost smug sort of air around him. Kasamatsu eyed him warily and Kise's lips turned into an almost sly smile. "Inucchi isn't one to get mad easy, but there are a few things that rile her up."
Amber eyes zeroed in on the head of orange below, watching in almost fond bemusement as Oroka walked over to meet her team halfway, offering bottles and towels as Seirin regrouped down below.
"Either you talk bad about yourself," Kise began, a smirk on his lips as he turned to Kasamatsu, "Or you talk bad about the people she loves."
Kasamatsu blinked, turning his gaze back to the game below. He'd had her written off as some happy-go-lucky sort of girl who laughed and tried to make everything happier than it actually was all the time, but if there was more to his neighbor than that... Kasamatsu found himself growing the faintest bit curious as to what kind of a person Oroka Shiroinu was.
"Well, not that I mind though. Inucchi's cute when she's mad too."
"You've really got some problems, you know that?"
"Good job guys!" Oroka offered Kuroko and Kagami a bottle, smiling brightly as Kuroko nodded his thanks and Kagami frowned, muttering a quiet thanks as well. "You guys played well."
Kuroko took a seat beside her, titling his head back and taking a drink. Oroka glanced forward, watching as Kagami gazed down at his shoes, a look of annoyance on his face. A thoughtful expression flickered across Oroka's face and she smiled.
Kagami jerked back in surprise when a towel was chucked into his face, reaching upwards to grab it as he blinked. Oroka's eyes shown brightly and Kagami gazed back as she grinned. "Get ready for the next round, Tiger."
Kagami's lips parted and he paused, glancing to the side before awkwardly rubbing the back of his head as he gruffly took a seat between her and Riko. "Yeah."
Oroka's eyes warmed and Riko smirked, driving her fist into Kagami's cheek as he jumped. "They're not that bad you know. Have some faith in your seniors!"
"I-I never said I didn't!"
"But you were thinking it, weren't you?" Riko accused.
"Oroka." Pale blue eyes blinked and Oroka glanced to her left where Kuroko sat, a thoughtful look on his face as he glanced to her. "...he didn't say anything to bothering to you, did he?"
Kagami looked over sharply as well, while Furihata and the other first years glanced away, somewhat nervous grins on their faces as Oroka blinked, a wide smile suddenly blossoming across her face as she dutifully shook her head. "Nothing I couldn't handle. Guys like him are all talk and no bite."
"I see." Kuroko glanced downwards before calmly ruffling Oroka's hair. "I'm glad."
"Besides, I wouldn't do anything to disappoint you, Tetsuya!" Oroka smiled, flashing Furihata and the rest a knowing grin before she returned her gaze back to Kuroko. "He's pretty annoying, but I've dealt with worse."
The hurried sound of shoes on the court brought her attention forward, and Oroka glanced back, eyes growing wide at the vast difference the point score had gone up towards. There was no doubt that Seirin was holding their own now—if anything, working with everyone like this was doing a better job than just having Kuroko and Kagami out there.
Oroka's eyes followed the ball where it landed into Izuki's possession. The black haired player took a step back, raising a finger and quickly tossing the ball just as Hyuga ran by. Two Seiho players tried to follow after, only to end up slamming into each other.
"Even though they're not good at everything, everyone has their own special skill." Riko added, a proud smile on her lips as Oroka turned her gaze from the coach back to the court, unable to deny the obvious talent and skill unfolding before her.
Years of watching games played by indomitable players, the skills of the Generation of Miracles almost superhuman. She'd grown so accustomed to seeing such prodigal power; she was almost ashamed to admit that she didn't expect most teams to win simply off hard work and skill cultivated over time.
But this is how it should be though, isn't it? Oroka's eyes were transfixed on the game before her, a sense of awe welling up inside her, different then watching the amazing powers of her friends unfold. Working hard and making yourself better...
"Our senpais are amazing..." Furihata murmured, a look of awe on his face, mimicking everyone else's as Hyuga stepped back and shot, the ball swishing through the basket and scoring a three. "Do Koganei and Tsuchida have special skills too?"
Riko paused at that, blinking once before she glanced to the side. "...yeah."
Koganei stepped back from within the free throw line, bringing his arms up for a shot as Riko smiled. "Koganei can shoot from any range!"
The ball hit the backboard and bounced out, a cry of surprise leaving Koganei's lips as everyone blinked. "But his accuracy is so-so." The ball in the air was quickly grabbed, Tsuchida grabbing the rebound and tossing it back to Koganei. "And Tsuchida is a great rebounder!"
The ball landed once more in Koganei's possession, only to bounce harmlessly off the rim of the basket as everyone slumped, a sheepish smile on Oroka's lips as she laughed. But even with the occasional slip up, the game was moving, constant motion as Seirin pushed Seiho to their limits.
But a pass faltered and a Seiho player went after the ball, almost bouncing out of bounds when Koganei suddenly shot past, slamming his hand into the ball and throwing it back in as he tumbled forward. Oroka's eyes went wide and Kagami quickly tugged her out of the way as Koganei launched over the bench, slamming hard into the ground.
"Koganei-kun! Are you alright?"
"Koganei." Koganei muttered weakly, dizzy swirls making rounds on his face as he remained sprawled out on the floor, Riko looking over him worriedly.
"We'll have to sub him out." Riko murmured. Kagami instantly stood, and Oroka's eyes flickered to the red head as he pressed forward.
"Put me in!" Kagami faltered. "Um, please."
"Idiot! Then the whole point of saving you for the next game would be pointless!" Hyuga snapped, slapping Kagami on the back of the head.
The red head frowned, his fists clenching as Oroka watched silently, a thoughtful expression on her face. "I know I have four fouls—but I'll be careful! I can't just let Tsugawa do as he likes."
"I agree." Kuroko spoke up, and Oroka's eyes flickered to her friend as Kuroko stood, gazing at Kagami calmly. "Then allow me to take revenge for you."
"What was that?" Kagami gripped Kuroko's head, a look of disbelief on his face despite Kuroko's nonchalance, and Oroka was up, quickly trying to get Kagami to relinquish his hold as Riko looked thoughtful for a moment, contemplating what to do to close the six point gap.
"Alright, Kuroko-kun, you're in." Kagami's head whipped around, a look of absolute disbelief on his face as Kuroko blinked calmly. Riko gazed at the two of them firmly. "But don't over do it."
"Good luck." Oroka smiled, patting Kuroko's back. The light blue haired teen offered her a small wisp of a smile in response and turned toward the courts, following after the rest of the second years as Oroka watched them, a strange expression flickering through her eyes.
"Have faith in the will of your seniors and Kuroko!" Riko ordered, causing Kagami to glance up to her from his silent stupor as Riko smiled, a determined gleam in her eye as she placed her hands on her hips. "They'll win this."
Have faith in them.
Kagami grit his teeth, hands tightening as he sat down on the bench. Oroka sat down beside him, watching silently as their team stepped out onto the court, her eyes following Kuroko. Oroka's eyes softened and she leaned to the side, using Kagami as a prop. Crimson eyes glanced to her in surprise and she offered him a dopey grin.
"They'll be fine." Kagami paused, looking at her with wide eyes as Oroka beamed. "This isn't a one man team."
Kagami's eyes flickered and his cheeks dusted lightly as he leaned back, rubbing the back of his head. "I know that...idiot."
Have faith in them, huh? Oroka looked thoughtful, a quietly content expression on her face as the team hit the court running, not a moment to waste as they matched up against Seiho.
If she'd been told to have faith in Tetsuya, she'd do it in a heartbeat. If she was told to have faith in them, she'd do it with a heavy but hopeful heart. But it was strange, she realized, being told to believe in someone else after all that'd happened.
Have faith in your team.
Your team. Oroka sat their silently, eyes following their movements as a strange sense of peace settled over her. Her head pressed to Kagami's arm, Riko's body beside her own, and the cheers of her teammates leaving their lips.
It was... nice.
Omake: What Happened on the Court
"H-Hey, Shiroinu-san," Oroka blinked, turning her head to Furihata as he cupped a hand over his mouth, using the hidden gesture to motion to someone across the court. "Is it me, or is he staring at you?"
Oroka blinked once more, a look of confusion on her face as she turned her head. Her eyes met with another pair dead on across the court where the bald teen stood, gazing at her somewhat intently. Oroka paused for the briefest moment before turning back to Furihata. "It looks like he is."
Furihata sweat dropped, wondering if her nonchalant reaction was because of spending so much time with Kuroko. The half time buzzer had rung, and the first years tensed as the bald teen made his way across the court, a thoughtful expression on his face as Oroka turned, meeting his gaze calmly. Oroka hummed as the bald teen approached, glancing back to Furihata. "Think he's looking for a fight?"
"I-If he is, shouldn't we be worried?" Furihata exclaimed, and Oroka blinked, a wide smile touching her lips.
"Why should we be worried?"
"Hey, you!" Oroka turned, a neutral expression on her features as the bald teen smirked. "Are you the manager for this team?"
"N—Yes." Oroka blinked, looking thoughtful for a moment. Errand girl and manager are sorta the same, right? "Can I help you?"
"Man, it must suck to be the manager for a team like this!" The Seiho player before her grinned, looking absolutely amused by the very idea. "But then again, there's probably not much to do since everyone just slacks off—huh?"
Oroka remained silent, allowing the teen before her to rattle on as the first years beside her bristled, hands clenching into fists as Tsugawa chuckled. "But I just thought you looked really familiar! You're from that crazy school with the monsters, aren't you? I remember you from one of the games! The blonde I kept blocking kept trying to get your attention! Well, it just made it easier to beat him though... How'd you go from a place like that to a school like this? You must have set your standards pretty low!"
Furihata's hands clenched tighter into fists. His eyes narrowing as he swallowed, ready to quickly defend his team. How could he just insult us so easily?
The bald teen hummed, his lips curling upwards as his eyes glittered. "What was the school's name again?"
"Teiko." The first years sitting on bench paused, eyes darting to Oroka's soft voice as the orange haired girl allowed herself a brilliant, feral smile, eyes glittering darkly as the bald teen before them faltered. "We were the school that kicked your ass."
There wasn't a hint of the soft tone or upbeat happiness that usually left Oroka's lips. The first years beside her were gazing at her with wide eyes, looks of surprise on their faces as Oroka's eyes narrowed and the bald teen paused. His eyes seemed to flash for a moment but Oroka tilted her head, stepping forward as her lips curled upwards.
"And now this is the school that will kick your ass."
There was a brief moment of silence before the bald teen laughed, turning on his heel and stalking off. "Good luck with that!"
"Don't worry!" Oroka called back in return, a bright smile on her lips. "Oha Asa says today's a good day for Capricorn's!" Just under Cancers.
Silence settled over the group as the teen stalked away, and Furihata blinked, looking over at Oroka in faint awe. "Shiroinu-san, that was awesome—"
"No. You guys are awesome." The first years flinched, looks of surprise on their faces as Oroka stepped towards them, eyes shining brightly. "You guys are awesome, okay? No matter what shitheads like him say—you guys rock!"
Oroka beamed, a proud look on her face as she huffed, setting her hands on her hips. "I can't wait till we kick their ass to show them what for."
The first years nodded, a single thought flickering through their heads as they blinked, smiling nervously.
She's like a guard dog...
HOORAY FOR UPDATES. :D
Deeply sorry to keep you all waiting so long, but hopefully you all enjoyed the chapter! :) It's going to be a butt writing the Shutoku's game descriptions from a side point of view, but hopefully it won't get too meh. I'm really looking forward to the little reunion everyone has at the restaurant afterward though.
TEIKO ARC FOR SEASON THREE. TEIKO ARC FOR SEASON THREE. I THINK I'M DYING RIGHT NOW. IF ANOTHER UPDATE DOESN'T COME IT'S BECAUSE I SUFFOCATED FROM FEELS.
I'm really looking forward to that. :) I've been contemplating for awhile whether or not I should slide in bits and pieces of Teiko into this story, along with the flashback arc, or if I should go ahead and make a separate story for the GOM's days at Teiko plus Oroka.
AND YOU GUYS SHOULD REALLY CHECK OUT THIS LINK.
mirikon. deviantart art/Inucchi -513188822 (remove the spaces)
was ever so kind enough to draw fanart for this story! I think it's a pretty spot on drawing of Oroka too if I do say so myself. :) If I had to complain about anything, it'd be that her white fringe is like a bang. BUT JUST LOOK AT THIS DRAWING, ITS AMAZING.
If anyone is ever interested in doing fanart for this story, please feel free to do so and send me the link! It makes me so happy to see things like this and it's just so wonderful. :)
BUT ASIDE FROM ALL OF THAT. I hope you all have enjoyed the chapter! Thank you all so much for your kind reviews, favorites and follows. You guys have no idea how happy it makes me to know people are enjoying what I write. :)
THANK YOU FOR READING.