The canteen was packed with different students wearing the same uniform of Shuutoku High. The crowd was loud in Midorima's opinion and he did not like it. It was Takao's fault for bringing him in place as such during their lunch break.

"C'mon, man. Don't be stingy." Takao chewed on his fish. "It's nice to have a change of place at times."

Midorima sighed. "I do not see anything wrong with the rooftop. Hadn't we agreed before to only eat there?"

Takao rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know. But didn't you get bored with all the silence? No, don't answer that one. I mean, you already said you're tired of hearing my endless chatter. So, the good friend am I, brought you here."

"I only said you shut up so we can eat in peace."

"Too late for that now. Finish your food so we can return early."

"You're the one saying that now."

"I have the right. I won the jakenpo."

Midorima suppressed the bout of headache and took time to recall his unluckiness for that day. Not only he had to rickshaw that morning as oppose to the other way around, he even lost to Takao resulting to him changing their place instead of the usual during breaks.

So much for not having the possession of a blonde barbie doll.

"Shin-chan, would you look at that? A lot of girls are checking us out," Takao said, almost a whisper. Taking a brief glance sideways, Midorima noticed a group of three giggling and two blushing females a few tables apart from theirs. The latter two were busy denying something while shyly looking at the basketball duo.

"The one with ponytails is cute, don'cha think? I will entertain that chick if she will confess her crush towards me."

"You're expecting too much."

Takao chuckled. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out the other one likes you too."

"I'm not interested."

Mustering up a courage, Midorima dared to look again at the girls' direction. Tersely, he met gazes with the brunette with short hair. She abruptly turned away and the cooing from her friends who caught the exchange followed.

"That's smooth, Shin-chan." Takao snorted.

Midorima glared. "Shut up, idiot."

Playfully, the hawk eye flicked the shooter's forehead. "You seriously needed a girlfriend, dude."

"I do not. It'll be a huge distraction."

"Heh. You're really an old man." And for that, Takao received a flick on his own. Rather hard. "Hey!"

Searching for a comeback, Takao scooped a bit of sticky leftover rice and whipped it at Midorima. The piece of grain stuck at Midorima's eyeglasses. Takao guffawed.

"Shut up, idiot! You're earning too much attention. And don't play with the food!"

"I'm actually aiming for your nose. But it's okay. You still look funny. HAHAHA-Augh!"

Midorima smirked inwardly after giving the smaller man a kick under the table. "Hmmph."

"Bad move, Shin-chan. No one will pedal you if you injure my foot." Takao flashed him the tip of his tongue.

"I'll still make you drive the rickshaw," was the offhanded comment.

"How cruel can you get, Shin-chan?!"

Midorima cleaned his eyeglasses with a scrap of tissue and once again settled them at their rightful place, adjusting them like the usual. "More than that."

Takao pouted and sulked all five minutes long, mumbling something along the lines like 'a friend, not your servant'. Although he wasn't showing it, Midorima was amused whenever he heard those. As if he would ever admit that Takao was the best partner he could ever have. Athletically speaking aside.

A minute before the bell rang, Midorima fixed his own lunchbox, resulting to Takao mimicking him. Midorima quickly made way through the crowd of students that were walking on the path to make their way on their respective classes. Following the shooter's back, Takao cast one last glance at the bunch of girls they both heard giggling earlier. He intended to give a playful wink at the girl which interested him, though oddly enough, she and the other girl were forlornly staring at the other three girls with them.

What Takao last heard from the latter trio was the phrase: 'I told you so.'

The freshman duo were on their way to the gym for their basketball practice when a girl with the short brown hair, which Takao recognized earlier, approached the unsuspecting Midorima with a heavily blushing face.

"Ah.. Uh-uhm... M-Midorima-kun..." she staggered for words, finding it hard to do so because of her parched throat which was the cause of her nervousness.

Takao was snorting and clutching his sides on a corner while watching Midorima's reaction. Midorima facial expression was that of between constipated and stricken. It was precious that Takao was barely containing his laughter. Afraid that he might burst, he hurriedly excused himself. Leaving his poor partner and his admirer alone at the classroom which was, thankfully, empty except the two.

Midorima was at his most terrible hiding his blushing face. He didn't risk himself swiveling downward

for he might met with a heart wrenching look of a teary-eyed petite girl hardly reaching his chest. Takao knew him too well (maybe too much) that he discerned Midorima's appalling way of handling bold confessions. Midorima mentally noted to kick him again once he get out of that hell of a situation (hell for him) he was currently in.

Midorima tried clearing his throat, gaze fixed at the huge glass window panels. "What?" Well, that almost came out like an irritated snap, although in his opinion it was ten times softer than his customary gruff tone in speaking with Takao. Midorima tried again. "I mean, what do you want with me?"

The girl's eyes lit up as how stars would in Midorima's favorite constellation. Okay, that sounded exaggerating but her shiny brown orbs were twinkling. Quite literally. "Y-you see... I-I've been meaning to tell you this for a long time now. T-That... That you're cool playing basketball and... uhm... I... I-I would like to go out with you!"

The last part came out like a shriek. Midorima almost flinched at the high-pitched sound. Adjusting his glasses, he sighed and prepared his common one-sentenced reply with this kind of stuffs. "I apologize, but I'm afraid I couldn't reciprocate what you might be feeling for me." There. He said it. With a matching convincing face as possible. It was like a thorn was lifted from his skin. "You deserve someone better," he added to salvage the poor female's pride. He understand that it was pretty difficult for her to admit it straight at his face. But feeling guilty over it would be useless.

She was one of the several girls Midorima had turned down too, simply because he was not keen entertaining a relationship. Not now when basketball and studies were his major priorities. Besides, most of those females had moved on and strolling down the hall with their new boyfriends.

Dejectedly, she exhaled. "I guess my friends are right." She gave off a wan smile. "That you two really love each other."



Midorima raised an eyebrow. Confused all of a sudden. "I don't get what you're saying."

"It's okay. I understand you wish to keep your relationship in private. Oh, and, I have nothing against homosexuals." With a forced one, she laughed lightly. "It's just that... to think that the rumors are true all along," her voice broke.

Midorima didn't know where to be horrified: there was some kind of sick talk floating around the campus that involves himself or that there was a girl about to broke her dam.

"Alright," Midorima struggled. "I'm not really following what you're talking about, miss." Dread was piling up his stomach, terrified of what she might answer.

Suppressing her sniffles, she said, "Almost everyone know that you and Takao-kun are an item."

What. The. Hell.

The Shuutoku's point guard was idly walking around the corridor, whistling to some familiar music while thinking thousands of teasing he would be throwing Midorima's way later on. He very much regretted the fact that he forgot to take a picture of Midorima's face earlier. Damn, that would make a precious blackmail material.

It was after some moments when the door near him opened and the cute girl with ponytails emerged. Unlike her friend, she wasn't fidgety at the mere sight of him. Instead, she offered a lovely curve of her lips as she acknowledge the man. "Hello, Takao-kun."

Takao flashed a toothy grin. "Err, hello?" He recognized her from the Drama Club. In fact, he was amazed with her talent even though he only watched one of the five plays they performed last school festival. Pretty with her girly features, quite smart, and well-mannered. She was a normal teenage girl that any guy would be willing to date, as what Takao observed. He was single for a while. Asking her for a coffee or two wouldn't hurt, right?

Besides, instincts told him that she perhaps wouldn't mind.

"By the way, have you seen my friend? You know, the one with short brown hair."

"Oh, her? Actually, she's at the classroom. With Shin-chan. Alone." He chuckled as he remembered the whimsical scene earlier. "But I admire your friend's courage for that. I mean, Shin-chan's a tough one."

Unexpectedly, her face fell. "Oh... I already told her it will be futile." She sighed and gazed apologetically at the raven-haired man. "I'm sorry about that, Takao-kun."

"Yeah, yeah, knowing Shin-chan. But who knows? And why are you apologizing?"

She simpered gracefully. "To tell you the truth, I like you, Takao-kun. I mean, you're amazing and you became my crush ever since I watched one of your basketball match." Wow, she could admit it solidly, Takao commented at the back of his mind.

She paused. Takao was already expecting the 'please go out with me.' phrase to go next.

Unfortunately, she said something he never anticipated.

"But I know I could do nothing against the love life of you two. I also told her so, but what can I do? I guess she doesn't believe those rumors after all. But if you ask me, your strong bond with your lover amazes me. Not to mention your lovey-dovey moment during lunch break."



Takao laughed nervously. "My w-what? And with w-whom exactly?" As he recalled, he didn't have anyone right now. And to be called that person his lover? Dude, that was kinda deep. Hell, his previous was from middle school! When he entered high school, he found himself busy with balancing his academic marks and basketball practice. And, oh yeah, hanging with his weird friend.

But really, what gave her the notion? And damn, there were rumors? And seriously, lovey-dovey moment during lunch break?! But it was only Shin-chan he was with at that time!




Maybe he shouldn't have asked since it abruptly made him felt anxious.

Much to his horror, she even giggled. "Well, almost everyone agrees that you and Midorima-kun makes a cute couple."

Oh, fuck.

Midorima briskly made his way towards the gym. The sound of squeaking rubber shoes and dribbling of balls made his mind at ease. Somehow.

Until he remembered it again.

"Almost everyone know that you and Takao-kun are an item."

That was the most absurd line he ever heard. Where did that even came from? Takao's constant trailing wherever he went? Wasn't it more likely that they have a master-servant relationship instead?

And who the heck started that insane hoax?!

Don't get him wrong. He's not a homophobe. He would not even deny that Takao was attractive, probably to women and men alike. Midorima isn't a bisexual and if he must classify his sexuality, he is probably asexual. Never did he thought of Takao that way.

Just.. damn this.

Midorima rubbed circles at his temple. His headache was unstoppable now.

He ventured at the locker room with the intention of locking himself there for a while to clear his mind since he was pretty early for the basketball practice. A ten minutes of silence and solitude would do him good.

Does he know? The question buzzed out of his brain. He didn't like this kind of thing. He already mastered the art of disregarding catcalls of 'weirdo' and 'freak' he gets wherever he goes. But to be lumped gay with Takao... that, he could not stand. Especially if Takao's manly pride was on the line and would be tampered because of his association with Midorima.

Maybe, they shouldn't have been... Nevermind.

When he opened the door, he found out that someone had beaten him at the place.

It was Takao.

He was sitting on the bench and staring dumbly at Midorima for a second. Their eyes met and the time practically stopped.

Midorima decided that moment to step back, shut the door, and walk away to another secluded location.

"Well, almost everyone agrees that you and Midorima-kun makes a cute couple."

The statement was replaying non-stop on his mind like a broken record. He thought of the girl's charming cackles, but gave up when it became irritating that it turned into an evil witch's chortles as if mocking his and Midorima's sexuality.

But, for real? He was suddenly conscious of his clinginess towards Midorima.

Do I hug him too much?

Do we look like we're attached to the hips?

Do we really appear to everyone like a couple?!

But being over-friendly and bubbly were his nature! It just happened that Midorima was caught on those since he was a lonely man with no other friend. Takao was trying to be the good Samaritan here! What he got were bunch of fabricated lies he and Midorima were entangled before they realized it.

"You've been sighing continuously, kid. It's annoying." Miyaji found him sitting at the bottom steps of the staircase with an embarrassed face hidden on his callous palms.

"'sup, senpai?" Takao languidly greeted.

Miyaji raised an eyebrow. "Problem, brat?"

"It's nothing."

"Don't bullshit me."

Takao exhaled. "It's just that I'm hearing talks I don't quite like, and understand too. Yeah, stuffs like that." Please be satisfied with that!



"Err..." Takao was hesitant. He already felt bad that the news about him and Midorima spread drastically. To add more oil to the fire... But it was his senior. He would most likely understand. He hoped.

"Do Shin-chan and I look like we're more than friends? You know, like... lovers?"

Miyaji was perplexed and somewhat dumbfounded by the question. The reaction calmed Takao's agitated nerves. At least somebody found the idea outlandish too.

"Are you asking whether if you're too obvious? Because, damn, you two are," the blonde student replied dryly.

Ah, Takao spoke too early.

Takao found himself all alone in the locker room. He didn't want to face Midorima currently. He didn't even know how to. Should he tell him? It would perhaps make things complicated. He knew Midorima was not the type to get carried away with ill gossips about him. But Takao couldn't get off his head the imagination of other male students jealous of their talents making fun of them behind their backs, calling the two of them faggots.

Takao could handle that. As if everyone who admires him would believe that bluff. But Midorima was a different story.

He was already a loner. Takao didn't want his friend to be verbally bullied too.

Fucking puberty issues.

The door's hinges creaked.

Takao looked up. He gaped.

It was Shin-chan.

Perhaps he was gaping ridiculously for a while that was why Shin-chan immediately went away without saying a word.

The practice went terrible.

It was either that Takao's line of sight was never on Midorima who was the receiving end of the point guard's passes making the ball often out of bounds or Midorima never came two meters near his teammates, especially Takao; as if with the sole purpose of avoiding the smaller man. It resulted to mostly uncaught passes and less three pointers.

They tried not being 'too much near' each other as possible.

Some noticed the tension brewing in their between the two males, but a few shrugged it off knowing it didn't concern them, while others were clueless as to what the reason might be.

Almost everyone were distracted as well.

Miyaji was close to throwing a pineapple at the duo, if not for the lack of the said fruit. Kimura was prepared to drive his truck towards the two, if not for the absence of the said vehicle. Ootsubo was faring well enough, but not without getting irritated at the half-assed effort Midorima and Takao were giving off for that day's practice.

Calling for a break, the captain approached the green-haired shooter. "A minute, kid."

"What is it, senpai?" Midorima asked in his normal tone which Ootsubo found not unusual.

"Tell me what happened."

"I assure you there's nothing-"

"Look, as you can see, coach isn't present. But unlike him, I will not tolerate your three nonsensical whims," he warned. "Speak. I'll handle the other one later."

Midorima fixed his jaw. "I don't believe this is any of your business."

"Of course, it's not. But the whole team is affected. Hell, even the reserved players are! You think I'll let it slide like that?" Great, he was dangerously becoming as one of the terror seniors. Well, it was all because of Midorima's stubbornness.

"It's a very trivial matter, senpai."

Ootsubo sighed. "Fine, I understand that you do not wish to say it. Whatever. Just... don't let problems hinder you performance. We needed that very much." Albeit awkwardly, the captain patted his junior's back and squeezing Midorima's shoulder comfortingly.

For the first time, Midorima felt the three-inch tallness of his captain. Midorima felt so small. But he must admit he appreciated the gesture. His Shuutoku senpais could not be compared to others.

"Well, patch things up with your boyfriend, okay?" was Ootsubo's last piece of advice.

Advice that only worsened Midorima's dread.

Maybe it was instincts and work of human body muscles that had Midorima sitting at the back of his rickshaw with Takao pedaling it once more. As if Takao was a plane set in an autopilot and doing his duty (as Midorima's self-proclaimed man servant).

It was like their daily routine, but with the nonexistence of Takao's babbling and Midorima's calm way of sipping in-canned red bean soup. That day, Takao was silently turning the vehicle at street corners, stopping at red lights, and with no complaining at all. If it was any other scenario, Midorima would be grateful for the peace, but no. He himself was also busy thinking heavily.

The wheeled transportation hit the break and it lurched forward a bit. Midorima hopped off the cart to open their gate, fumbling for the handle, and quite unexpectedly, he called.



They synced. Takao actually chuckled weakly. "You go first."

"No, you're about to say something. You go first."

"It's nothing, Shin-chan. You know me, always talking nonsense."

Midorima scowled. "No."

They held a staring contest for a minute or two. The professional Midorima was for holding a steely gaze (except when he is in his tsundere mode), he eventually won.

Takao sighed exasperatedly. "You're really not letting me get away... Fine. I'm going to tell you something but don't be mad, okay? I'm going to tell you this since I don't want you to hear it from others first."

Midorima was still waiting for him to spill the beans.

"Okay, apparently. There are gossip mongers at school who made this talk about the... two of us."

Takao sucked a deep breath. He wished it hadn't went wrong.

"Is this talk you're talking about perhaps concerns our partnership?" Midorima continued for him. "So you know about it too."

"Yeah, accidentally." Takao scratched his head. And for the first time with Midorima, he felt embarrassed. "Are you angry?"

"I was... disturbed, yes. But it will eventually pass after a month or less so I don't actually care," Midorima said hypothetically. "Are you bothered?"

With a hoarse voice, "Of course. But I think I'm at fault here." Takao shrugged nonchalantly. "Me and my personality."

"But I tolerated it in the first place. I am to take part of the blame as well."

They silently agreed.

Fair enough.

"I'll be going inside. Good bye." The gate hinges squeaked at Midorima's entrance.

"Uh, Shin-chan," Takao called out weakly.

"We're still cool, right? I mean, no hard feelings?"

Midorima was silent for a moment before he shook his head. "Don't let this issue distress you."

Takao smiled. "Yeah, will do."

Midorima watched as Takao strolled the rickshaw out his line of sight until it was nowhere to be seen anymore.

Without doing anything further, he went inside the house silently as always.

When the next morning came, Midorima half expected that there would be no Takao to fetch him with the rickshaw. He didn't know, but if he put his self in the latter's shoes, it was probably the best option.

He checked for his phone. His inbox was surprisingly empty. Normally, there would be a greeting of good morning with bunch of colorful emoticons from the same number that made his eyes hurt.

Even his daily dose of good night message from the same person wasn't present in his phone last night.

With a one-eyed daruma at hand, he went to school prepared for another day.

When he arrived at school, Takao was already there. By the window doing his unfinished homework. Acknowledging Midorima's presence, he nodded shortly at his way, but immediately focuses at the textbook Takao himself once deemed boring and not interesting.

It was by lunch break when a crowd formed at Takao's table. They invited him to join them for lunch. He didn't give an answer for a moment, watching Midorima sideways briefly and back to the students with expectant faces.

Midorima could feel the eyes directed at him and he knew it was Takao. Lifting the lid of his lunchbox, he found out that his mother cooked him the dish which happened to be Takao's favorite. It was what the hawk eye always wanted to swipe off once he settles his chair in front of Midorima's desk or at times when only the two of them were at the rooftop. Although sometimes Midorima requested it for Takao's sake. Of course, that he would never openly concede.

Planning on a subtle way to offer the food to his friend, he peeked at Takao's way. They meet gazes curtly, but Takao immediately turned away and broke the eye contact, faking a smile towards the other three fellow students waiting for his reply.

"I would love to join you."