Disclaimer: I don't own Free! or Kuroko no Basuke

Rated T mainly for Rin's pottymouth at times

This fic's set in an AU where Kuroko quit basketball after middle school and left Tokyo to get away from the memories. He ended up going to Iwatobi, got caught up in the Swim Club's drama, and found new teammates and friends in them and their rivals, helping them heal from the scars of their past as they helped him. (This is the same AU I used for my oneshot "Kuroko no Free," which is Chapter 6 of my oneshot collection fic 'A Different Side of Me.' The chapters of this fic will skip around the "Kuroko no Free" timeline, taking place before, during, and after the original oneshot. Reading the original isn't strictly necessary but will probably be helpful, since I'll be skipping around. But this first chapter does actually begin at the beginning.)

Chapter 1: Wash Clean The Slate

Kuroko stared into the mirror. A dead eyed boy in a crisp new uniform stared back at him. Iwatobi High's uniform, like Teikou's, consisted of a jacket and tie, and dress pants, but the look of it was very different. The jacket was dark, unremarkable, unlike the pristine, blinding white of Teiko's jacket. His shirt was a plain white collar shirt. The cut of both were more casual than Teiko's. His tie was a little eschew, so Kuroko started to straighten it, out of reflex, even though no one was going to see it. But his arms seemed to lose strength as he gripped the knot and he just let them fall back down.

Because really, what was the point of this all? What was the point of any of this?

His futon beckoned from the corner of his one room apartment. The only thing that seemed remotely appealing to him now was crawling back into bed and trying to drift off into the oblivion of sleep. That was the only time he wasn't weighed down by loneliness, guilt and sorrow – when he was blacked out.

Waking hours were filled with thoughts of friends lost, and regrets. Kuroko had fled Tokyo to try to get away from them all, choosing his high school by throwing darts at a map. Yesterday, before school actually started, he'd had a little bit of hope that things would be better once he'd attended, and was officially a first year at Iwatobi High. Now Kuroko felt stupid for thinking that they would ever be better. He could run away from people and places, but not the guilt that was inside. And the loneliness? There was no cure for that. Not for someone who no one could see. It was like his first year of middle school, and all the years of elementary school, all over again. Not a single person noticed him on their own yesterday. His teachers had all nearly missed him when taking attendance, and only Kuroko standing up and calling out loudly made them see him. To every other student, he was invisible. Lunch time had been spent by himself on the roof, staring out at the sea as though it might hold the answer he was looking for. And maybe it did, but like everyone and everything else it didn't speak to Kuroko. Not that day, anyway.

Kuroko summoned all his strength and walked out his apartment door. If he waited any longer, he'd be late. His steps were slower than they used to be. Kuroko knew he'd gotten weaker since last year, when everything fell apart. He'd lost weight. Muscle mass, for the most part. Now he was tired just about all the time. Once, he could have jogged the whole way to school without breaking enough of a sweat that he'd need to change. Once he could have walked the distance in a third of the time it took him now. But not now.

Kuroko was just so tired, all the time, of everything.

He was almost late. As he neared the school, he tried to walk a little faster, seeing that all of the other students were already inside. Hurrying as fast as he was able to, Kuroko stored his shoes in his shoe locker, then tried to leave the locker area, to get to his homeroom. But as he stepped across the threshold, Kuroko nearly collided with an upperclassman. A huge upperclassman, who filled out his school jacket the way only someone with an unbelievable amount of muscles could manage to. He was about a head taller than Kuroko, and didn't see him at all, so he would have kept on going and plowed Kuroko right over before realizing he was there, and Kuroko wouldn't have been able to get out of the way in time, or even speak up in alarm. But then –

"Makoto, stop."

An arm flung out in front of the huge upperclassman, stopping him short, just shy of bumping into Kuroko.

Kuroko froze, feeling numb.

"What is it Haru?" asked Makoto, looking at his friend in confusion.

Haru was on the tall side, but didn't look that way compared to Makoto. Much the way Kuroko was a perfectly average height, but had always been dwarfed by hanging around stupidly tall basketball players. He had black hair and intense blue eyes that were looking right at Kuroko.

He sees me, realized Kuroko in surprise. Or something close to surprise. He couldn't bring himself to care enough to be truly surprised.

Instead of telling Makoto that he'd nearly run into Kuroko, Haru pointed instead. Makoto followed his finger, and his eyes landed on Kuroko and widened.

"Oh! I'm sorry! I didn't even see you there!" Makoto said, looking both alarmed and rueful. "Sorry about that!"

"It's fine," said Kuroko after he got over the mild shock of being seen by someone before they'd run into him.

"I guess I wasn't paying attention, too worried about being late," Makoto said. "Thanks Haru, I would definitely have run into him otherwise."

Haru nodded slightly, but he was still looking at Kuroko. There was something weird about his gaze, but Kuroko didn't know what. Other than the fact that it could apparently see him. And that his eyes were the same exact same shade as the ocean Kuroko had spent all lunch yesterday staring at. Having eyes like that fixed on him, when he'd gone so long without anyone looking at him, was unnerving, even for Kuroko. Not that anyone would be able to tell by looking at him. His face remained completely blank as he gave Haru a nod of thanks then took his leave without another word.

"Wah! Where'd he go?" wondered Makoto out loud, realizing he was gone.

"Probably to class," said Haru, instead of pointing out that Kuroko was still within view. And Kuroko knew Haru could see him.

"Oh. Right. We better go too. Come on, Haru."

Right before Haru and Makoto entered their homeroom, Haru stopped Makoto, not with a touch or a word, but just by stopping before he crossed the threshold, trusting Makoto, so in tune with him, would realize what he wanted. And he did. Makoto stopped as well.

"What's wrong, Haru?"

"That boy had eyes like the ocean," answered Haru.

"Hm? Yeah, I guess they were pretty blue, weren't they?"

"That's not what I meant."

Makoto tilted his head a little bit, quizzically, trying to puzzle it out. He didn't like to admit it when he didn't understand his best friend. Eyes like the ocean, but not because they were blue? What was it, then? Makoto started mentally going over things that he associated with the ocean. Deep. Dark, sometimes. Full of water. Going from that vein, he knew Haru fully believed water was alive. But he wasn't sure if that was relevant right now. He tried to recall how the underclassman's eyes had looked, but the image wouldn't come to his mind.

Now that he thought about it, something about that kid had been off. Or odd. Both, really. He was short, but not that short. Makoto should have seen him. Had seen him after Haru pointed him out, and had gotten a clear look at his face, but now he could barely remember it.

The bell rang. Any explanations would have to wait until lunch.

(The title of this fic is based off a song by Rie Fu of the same name: "Life Is Like A Boat.")

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