Original summary: After the crushing defeat at the hands of Touou, and with Kagami telling him that they can't work together, Kuroko was devastated. Wanting to cheer up Kuroko, Kise had made his way to Seirin's locker room in hopes of doing just that. But when he failed to do so, he makes a wish out loud which Kuroko also agrees to, and so the gods heard and thus the boys returned their middle school in Teikou. But both Kuroko and Kise were determined that this time around...they'll change things for the better.
"And even though I tried, it all fell apart,
What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when
I tried so hard, and got so far,
But in the end, it doesn't even matter."
- Linkin Park "In the End"
The buzzer sounded, signalling the end of the match. The crowd had erupted into a series of cheers and screams, but for Seirin, they were heartbroken. The score was Touou Gakuen – 112, while they were on 55. But it was more for Kuroko Tetsuya, the former phantom sixth man of the Generation of Miracles. Throughout the match, to see his former light, former best friend do those things and hear the things he said…Kuroko couldn't believe that it was Aomine Daiki before him.
It was a heart-breaker indeed.
He ― no ― his team was crushed. Completely crushed. And there was nothing he could do about it. There was nothing he could've done. They had tried their best; Kuroko had never felt so useless before in his life, not even in his match against Shutoku. No matter what he threw at Aomine, nothing bore fruit. The tanned ace blocked all his passes, and well, he couldn't stop him. Hell, no one could. He had just walked past Aomine, his blue bangs hiding most of his face. Neither boy had said anything to each other, hell, either couldn't say anything. It was almost as though they were strangers, meeting and playing each other for the first time; to Kuroko, the feeling was horrible.
The two teams had then lined up at the centre, and after they had bowed, they headed off into their locker rooms.
Seirin was eerily quiet, no one knew what to say, more like, no one could say anything. After that crushing defeat, Riko didn't dare to say anything to her boys. She knew, she just knew that it may make things worse. So she let them be, and simply told them to come outside when they're done. The freshmen trio was the ones who exited first, being that they didn't play in the game. The others sulked for what seemed an eternity and wordlessly, they then got up and headed out.
After everyone else had left, Kuroko was still seated on the bench and looking on the floor, while Kagami had got up and was ready to leave.
"Hey." He started. "This might be our limit. I thought we could go further, but look at us." There was silence. Kuroko felt his chest tighten, as the way in which Kagami spoke, seems to be foreshadowing something. "In the face of overwhelming power, I don't think we can win just by working together."
There it was.
Kuroko felt like a bomb just dropped on him. He was so shocked and hurt that he couldn't even utter a single word. Kagami closed the door behind him leaving Kuroko in the locker room. And then without realizing, a tear escaped his left eye. Then another from his right. Soon, they were streaming down his cheeks uncontrollably; he used his hands to constantly wipe them from his face.
But they won't stop. More like, they can't.
He held down his head and just let them run. For what seemed to be hours, Kuroko sat there in silence, crying.
Kise watched with horror at what just transpired. At the beginning, he felt that Seirin had had hope, a chance to win this match. But the moment Aomine had arrived, everything went downhill. It was then that Kise realized that Aomine was indeed a beast, a monster. He destroyed Seirin as though they weren't good players and while he applauded them for their undying spirit, he couldn't help but worry for them. He knew they weren't weak, but this…
His eyes then landed on Kuroko, who had just walked past Aomine. Neither said anything to each other, and he didn't wrong Kuroko. If it were him, he doubts that he'd want to talk to Aomine as well. But more so, he didn't want his Kurokocchi to say a word to him. He didn't deserve it. Back in Teikou, he didn't deserve him either. It pained his heart to know that Kuroko was once best friends with him, was once his shadow.
Kise gritted his teeth with rage. Midorima, who was beside him, wondered what had gotten into the blond for him to be reacting like this. But looking back at the match, the green-haired shooter was somehow glad that it isn't Shutoku down there. It isn't that he doubted their abilities, nor his, but seeing Aomine now, made him realize how frightening the tanned ace can be.
"See you Midorimacchi," the blond then said, taking him out of his reverie.
"Where are you going?" He found himself asking. It was a dumb question, as he knew that at this time, they'd more than likely return to school for practice.
"To Kurokocchi," he smiled. "I'm sure that he'll need comforting."
"From you?" He raised an eyebrow. He knew that Kuroko didn't hate him, but the blue-haired teen didn't really behave affectionate to the annoying blond either.
"Who else?" he said calmly as he made his way.
"Good luck with that." Midorima mumbled before looking back at the now empty court. But he had failed to realize the anger burning in the blond's eyes.
After ducking and dodging security and charming his way through some as well, Kise finally made it to where the teams' locker room was. Without even glancing at the Touou locker room, he went straight to Seirin's. At the door, he inhaled and exhaled, preparing himself for the gloom that will hit him as he soon as he opened the door. With a brave push, the door opened and what he saw totally left him shattered. There Kuroko was, sitting in a corner with his face turned to the locker. But one thing was evident.
They were running down his cheek, and his once beautiful blue eyes were now red with sadness. Kuroko jumped when he saw him in the doorway. Slowly, Kise made his way to the boy, who swiftly wiped his face and turned away from him.
"Kurokocchi," Kise said in a soft voice. When he reached the bench, he took a seat and placed a hand over his shoulder. "It's…" he trailed off, as what he was about to say wouldn't make things better. It's going to be okay…like hell anything is going to be.
"It's okay to let it all out." He then said, trying his best to soothe the boy. "There's no one here but you and me. It's fine to cry." In his arms, he could feel Kuroko's body shaking. The blue-haired teen still held down his head, but on his pants, Kise could see the droplets of water leave their marks.
Without saying a word to the boy, Kise embraced him in a hug. This wasn't one of his suffocating hugs, but this was genuine and full of…comfort. Kuroko leaned in to his chest and let it all out. His cries started to sound like wails, Kise could feel his shirt getting wetter and wetter. But worse, he could hear his heart shattering further into a million pieces. His Kurokocchi wasn't ― isn't ― supposed to cry. Ever. He gently rubbed Kuroko's back in order to comfort him.
"I-I-I was," he said in between sniffs, "completely useless,"
"It's not your fault, Kurokocchi."
"I-I-I can't do anything." He sobbed. "I can't dribble, I can't shoot, I can't block, nothing. When I think about you all and what you can do, it's really amazing. While I…against Aomine-kun, I…" he trailed off.
"That's understandable. You're a passing specialist, Kurokocchi! That's what you're good at!" Kise perked, trying to make the boy see the good in his skills.
"But how far did that help take my team?" he then looked up at Kise with tearful eyes. In that moment, Kise felt everything crumble. Sadness and rage overtook him, his Kurokocchi isn't made to be sad. "Even Kagami-kun, he said…he said…" Kuroko turned his face away as yet another tear escaped his eyes.
"He said what?"
"He said that he doesn't think that we can win just by working together."
Kise was silenced.
The hotheaded fool that seemed to be promising, that seemed to be not like them, have actually said that to his Kurokocchi? He was his teammate! He was his new light! Kise's held Kuroko tighter, his rage was apparent. Hearing this just made things worse. And looking at everything that has happened today, for Kuroko, it was like being doubly wounded…killed per say. His former light crushing him and his current light saying that he doesn't want his teamwork anymore.
"You know," Kise started, "when I got to know how awesome you are, I've always wished that I was your light instead. Call me selfish and cruel if you want, but I wished that you never met Aominecchi. After coming to my senses, I thought he never deserved a shadow like you." He looked Kuroko dead in his eyes.
With trembling lips, Kuroko placed his face in the blond's chest and nodded. "I wish so too."
"I'll beat Aominecchi for you. Kaijou will take down Touou, will that be alright?"
Kuroko only nodded.
And so, Kise vowed to himself that he will make Aomine pay. For once, not only will he play for his team; he'll play for his Kurokocchi. And he'll win, even if it kills him.
In the other two days of the championship league in Tokyo, Seirin lost to both Meisei and Senshinkan. Kuroko was unable to reproduce his amazing passes, making countless mistakes that he wouldn't ― never ― normally do. Thus, they ended their campaign for Inter-High.
But throughout this, Seirin noticed that something was wrong with Kuroko. They knew he was normally quiet, but he didn't speak to anyone, not even Kagami. The redhead and the boy were close, having some sort of bond that the others didn't. So when he didn't talk to even him, they knew that something was off.
Whenever they tried to inquire about it, the blue-haired teen would simply dodge the question or change the subject so swiftly that they hadn't realized. Riko was especially worried for him, being that he's their youngest. She tried the most out of everyone to cheer up the boy, but failed every time.
"I'm fine, Coach." He'd always answer when it obvious that he wasn't.
But apart from that, they also noticed that he'd become more attached to his phone than usual. Before, no one would know that Kuroko had a phone unless someone called him or he called someone. But now, he's always on the device, his thumb typing speedily away at the keypad. When asked about it, without looking away from the screen, he'd simply reply with nonchalance:
None knew what the two messaged each other about, but one thing was for sure, the blond brought a smile to Kuroko's face more than often, cheering him up better than they could. But it caused them to wonder about Kise and Kuroko's friendship. They remembered the first day he came to Seirin, Kuroko wasn't particularly friendly with him, so why now that they're messaging each other every day? But the team left it at that. Their phantom was slowly coming around even if it's because of the annoying blond from Kaijou.
But even so, at the mere sight of a basketball and a court, Kuroko was still being haunted, and not being able to perform at his optimum. The feeling of uselessness pricked at him once again, and when he could take no more, he went to Hyuuga and asked if he could be taken from the regulars. After a good piece of advice from the captain, and ending up meeting Kiyoshi Teppei, Seirin's original centre and the ace of the Senpai, Kuroko had made his resolve.
The days then passed and their practices got even more intense, but then they had a training camp to the beach. Kuroko wasn't too keen on this, but if it meant getting stronger then he'll be willing to. By now, he and Kagami had started talking back to each other; however, they have yet to coordinate on court. But, neither of their teammates were worried because come the Winter Cup, they were going to.
It so happened that, while at the camp, Shutoku had planned to stay there as well. Knowing their coach, the Seirin boys had practice matches every other day with Shutoku to see how much they've improved and so on. Kuroko still hadn't found a way to counter the miracles, but he, and Kagami were sure that in due time he will.
Midorima was being his usual tsundere self, but along the way, he had given both Kagami and Kuroko tips. They weren't that welcoming though, being that Midorima spoke a bit harshly. But after it sunk in, both boys knew what they had to do for Winter.
But, the gods had other plans.
At Kaijou, Kise worked himself to death. There wasn't a single morning that he didn't jog before heading to school, and there wasn't a practice that he missed. He practiced harder than the other boys, and at one point, Kasamatsu had to ask — begged— the boy to take a rest.
"But Senpai," he started to whine.
"No buts! If you destroy your body and are unfit to play, how will we feel? How will you feel?" he had reprimanded. It was the only way that Kasamatsu got him to take a five minute break. And so, a week of practice went on like this, everyone admiring Kise for his hard work but at the same time, they fretted that he might injure himself for Inter-High.
When Inter-High Tournament came around, everyone in Kaijou noticed that Kise was calm and collected, he was still chirpy and chatty and a ball of sunshine, but it was less than the usual. He was usually serious on court and during their strategic meetings, but these days, he's being quiet even when he doesn't have to. That said, after they've blitzed through the rounds and made it to quarter-finals, Kise seemed to be on edge.
But on edge from what?
Nervousness? Can't be.
Fear? Their ace is the one to be feared instead.
But when the others had found out the real reason, they understood clearly.
Their next opponent was Touou.
That meant his match-up between Aomine Daiki, the former ace of the Generation of Miracles. In the locker room, the boys had noticed that Kise seemed to be calculating something, as the boy never spoke a word to anyone, nothing. He just sat on the bench, staring at his hands.
When it was time for the match and they had headed out onto the court, Kaijou realized that what they felt from the blond in the locker room wasn't uneasiness but bloodlust. He emitted such dark energy that seemed to repel his teammates, making him seem unapproachable. Everyone wondered what the cause of this was, but when they looked in the same direction as Kise, they realized that he was staring at the tanned ace.
Kasamatsu shook his head at this, but he was somehow reassured that they could win this match. The aura around Kise made Kasamatsu feel like he could give the boy all the balls and he'll play...play like his ― their ― lives depended on it. Kobori felt the same way, and decided that as long as he was within range, he'll keep everything and anything out of the blond's path. Hayakawa swore (as usual anyway) to catch all the rebounds and Moriyama, he was going to sink his threes as his goddess in the third row, west side is watching.
As for Kise, just looking at the tanned boy made his blood boil as images of Kuroko sitting in the cold and dark locker room resurfaced. Because of him, Kurokocchi cried. Because of him, Kurokocchi felt useless. Everything that happened was because him, Aomine Daiki. He found himself balling his hands into a fist, and gritting his teeth. He then calmed down and looked to the audience, as he had received a message earlier today from Kuroko stating he'll be watching his match. That made it worse he can't screw up. Somehow, the blond felt a surge of power within him, and he felt as though he ― they ― could win.
The teams had then walked onto the court, lined up before each other and bowed. When everyone got into their positions, the referee then threw the ball into the air for tip-off, Kobori and Wakamatsu reaching for it.
The match between Kaijou and Touou was an intense one, the two aces going head to head. Kise had gotten down Aomine's copy perfectly well by the time the match reached into the fourth quarter. They were at each other's throats, but Kaijou and the rest of Touou could feel Kise's bloodlust. This seems to have influenced Aomine as well, as he played with such ferocity that his teammates had to wonder what was happening.
As Kuroko and Seirin watched the match, they couldn't believe that these two boys were just in their first year. But Kuroko could see that the blond was trying his best, after all, he had told him that he'd make Kaijou win for his sake.
But sadly, it just didn't go Kise's way.
When the match had ended, Touou was on 112 while Kaijou was on 98. He punched the ground with his fist, as not only did he lose, he couldn't get up. How embarrassing this is…He had thought. Kaijou had fought hard and lost valiantly, graciously but Kise still wasn't satisfied. He wanted to beat Aomine for Kuroko, but…he failed. He had failed miserably.
Kasamatsu had to lift him up for him to be able to line up. When the two teams had bowed to each other, seeing how his boys were despondent, Kasamatsu cheered them up.
"We're in the top eight! We should leave with our heads held high!"
And with that, their mood had changed for the better but Kise was still down in the dumps. He looked to the crowd in hopes of seeing the light blue-haired teen, but he knew he couldn't anyway. When they made it back to their locker room, Kise checked his phone and saw that he had received not one but two messages from Kuroko. He jumped for joy and when he opened it, he seemed to have entered heaven.
You were awesome, Kise-kun.
Seeing that message, he felt giddy seeing that his Kurokocchi actually praised him. He was sitting on the bench with his back turned to everyone else, but they could hear his squeals of delight. The second one had him bolted upwards and dashing out of the locker room.
Could you meet me in the parking lot?
He ignored the shouts and calls of his teammates, of his coach. Kurokocchi was more important anyway. After exiting the building and heading to the parking lot, Kise searched around frantically for the phantom.
"Hello Kise-kun." A voice said. Kise jumped and grabbed the fabric at his chest.
"Kurokocchi, you scared me." He exhaled.
They then fell into a silence, no one knowing what to say. Kise looked away from the shorter teen, he wanted to apologize for breaking his promise, but he couldn't find the strength to. He felt awful, seeing that he had reassured the boy that Kaijou would have beaten Touou…but they didn't.
"Kise-kun is an idiot." Kuroko then said as if he could read his mind.
"Eh?!" Kise shouted, that statement bringing him back to reality.
Kuroko smiled at him. "It's alright. You tried really hard, and I'm thankful for that."
"Now, do you want to get something to eat?"
"Sure!" he beamed.
"You're paying though."
Kise deflated in an instant. But the thought of eating out with his Kurokocchi alone, made him perk up. He didn't mind that he's paying. Nope. Not one bit.
Kise sat on his bed, thinking about all that happened today. Even though he had lost to Aomine, and well, couldn't get up after the match, the aftermath was very promising. He's never eaten out with Kuroko alone before, and the blond felt like he was on cloud nine. And then, add to that, he was praised by the smaller teen. Yes, everything that happened after the match made him feel much, much better.
He then lied down in his bed, and then closed his eyes. He wasn't sleeping, but he was remembering all the times they used to have in Teikou. He remembered a time when they had been out getting popsicles due to him being recruited into the regulars. And then a biker stole a woman's purse...he and Aomine chasing after him while Midorima had used Murasakibara's maiubo to the halt the man. Ah...that was an evening to remember. He smiled.
There had been many fun moments as well; them going to an arcade at one point, they even had a trip to Hawaii as well...the most that caused to him to laugh was the times with Midorima and Murasakibara. He found the two comical, especially when they were arguing about even the simplest of things such as eating habits and posture.
He busts out a laugh at remembering Midorima's antics, carrying around a lucky-item all day every day. There was one point in time, where the green-haired shooter's item was a kitchen knife and everyone fretted that day. No one got on Akashi's bad side that day, no one pissed off Aomine. They knew that either boy would draw for the item if they did. He also remembered a time when he and Aomine had fought over one of Kuroko's passes in practice. Even to this day, neither boy knew who was the intended recipient.
But thinking on Aomine, Kise realized that the underlying hate was still there. "I wish I could have gone back and befriended Kurokocchi first." Kise sighed. "That way, I would have been his light instead." He then turned onto his side and decided to fall asleep.
Meanwhile, Kuroko laid on his back, and stared up at the ceiling. Ever since the championship leagues, he noticed that he was talking to Kise more than how he'd usually. He didn't mind, as he found out that there's more to Kise than just an annoying, whiny, airheaded blond. He chuckled at that, and then turned facing his window. And just like Kise, he too was remembering his middle school days.
He could remember the days when the other miracles were normal, loving basketball and playing together. He remembered Aomine especially, the joy that emitted out his body in waves whenever he played a match or hears that he's going to play one. Even though Murasakibara is lazy, Kuroko knew that underneath that, the giant boy looked basketball and had always looked forward in playing. Midorima was the same, even if he wouldn't admit outright. So, too with Akashi. All of them were.
He remembered when Kise had first joined, and refused to believe that he was on the regulars. But after their first practice match together, he saw that Kise was becoming attached to him than before. Come to think of it, him being called 'Kurokocchi' stemmed from that practice match. But looking at this, it was bound to happen eventually either way.
A small smile played onto his lips when he thought about all that he'd been through with them, but the instant it appeared it vanished. He kept remembering Aomine's harsh words on that particularly rainy day and a depressed sigh escaped his lips.
"What would have happened if I had met Kise-kun first?" he closed his eyes as he said this. "Would things have ended up differently?"
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