Warnings: swearing, no smut for now
Word count: 7,538
A/N:Oooh my goodness! I can't believe this bloody chapter is actually done. I know I haven't been around for a long time. But I was gone for the most of it in the land of no internet and with no way of updating the story, or even letting you know I was away. As an apology I didn't divide this chapter in two, but struggled through it, so you could have more stuff to read. It is not the last chapter, though. There is still (at least) one more to come. The story has made an unexpected turn, so I'm planning on torturing the boys some more before I let them do it.
In any case, the only thing that actually made me work hard, was the support you guy have shown me. You're amazing and I just wanna hug and cuddle you all! Also special thanks go to my to xxxihatepinkxxx, who's been a fan of 'As Luck' since day one and whose comments I probably already know by heart!
The corridors of the old inn are long and creepy and smell of dry wood and the sun. Shuutoku classrooms have a similar scent. Maybe it's something of a signature for the old buildings, or maybe Ootsubo's sense of smell is just off. He stops in the middle of the hallway inhaling that scent deep into his lungs just to release it in a laud sigh.
What the hell is wrong with this team? Their carefully scouted and pampered first-year duo managed to get in each other's hair, ruin their combination and come down with a fever all in the course of three days. Where the fuck did the cute innocence go? He doesn't remember ever being such a pain in the ass when he was a first-year.
This is the last day of Shuutoku's training camp and Ootsubo honestly can't tell if it's done more damage than good to their team. What he can tell for sure though, is that he's never showing sympathy to Midorima ever again. All he did was go to ask how the kid was doing and what does he hear in return? A grumpy 'leave me alone'. That brat is seriously gonna stay a jerkoff even on his deathbed.
For the world of him Ootsubo just doesn't get what Takao sees in him and it gets on his nerves.
In fact, there is a lot getting on his nerves these days.
The Takao-Midorima cat fight, the ever-changing weather, the fly buzzing in the corner of the window, struggling to break through the window glass head on.
Ootsubo makes a move to get to the window to open it, or kill the damn thing, just to make it shut up. But he never gets there.
Out of nowhere there is a guy sprinting past him down the hallway. No, more like sprinting right at him.
It takes Ootsubo a moment to stop gaping before his body manages to react.
He dodges in the nick of time. The other boy just flies past him. It's like he doesn't even notice Ootsubo is there.
„Where the fuck you are looking?!" Ootsubo yells after him as his back hits the wall.
Hold on minute. Was he seeing things or was that just now Takao? What the hell is he doing running around the inn like a blind idiot?
Ootsubo curses under his breath and whipes his forehead. Something suddenly blinks in the back of his mind. Like a warning light. There was just something about Takao... Was that blood he saw? And he was running from the same direction Ootsubo just came from...
Ootsubo turns on his hills and stalks back. That's it, he's murdering that idiot!
„Midorima!" he yells swinging the door open. He doesn't even bother to knock.
He finds Midorima just standing there in the middle of the room. It's like he didn't even notice him barge in.
„The fuck have you done this time?" Ootsubo snarls. „Can't you two just talk normally to each other? Just for once?"
Midorima looks up at him. So slow. It's like he's moving in slow motion. His eyes look absurdly huge and unfocused. Is it just the weird light or does he really look so pale?
„Takao..." he repeats slowly. He seems dazed. „Where is he?"
The guy is almost as big as Ootsubo himself, his shoulders are wide and he's got this stern posture, but right now Midorima Shintarou looks strangely... volnerable.
„I... hell if I know," Ootsubo says considerably softer this time. „He just ran past me. It's like he was possesed... What is it this time? Did you fight again?"
„No, I... I said some stuff to him..."
„ Right. And his head just started bleeding on its own. Just what the hell really happened here?"
„That's what I wanna know!"
Ootsubo turns around only to see Miyaji burst into the room in a very similar manner he himself did just a moment ago.
„We just ran into our Takao on the way back. He looked like shit and he got away before we managed to stop him. Can someone explain to me why his head was all smashed in?"
„Yeah. He, uhm.. looked like he was out of it quite a lot too." Kimura as always is right behind the blond. His massive jaw moves heavily as if he's chewing on every word. „You know anything, captain?"
„Don't ask him! I wanna hear it from Midorima. Someone is being a little nice to you and you start actin' like an asshole! What'd you do to him?"
„Shut up, Kimura! Ya all thinkin' that, ya just won't say it."
Not good, Ootsubo thinks. No, it's even worse than he originally thought. Much worse. It's not just two greenhorns rufflung each other's feathers anymore. They've got the whole team involved now. He's gotta stop this.
„That's enough," Ootsubo growls.
No one's listening.
Miyaji runs up to Midorima, grabs him by the arm. „D'ya know he's been worried 'bout your ass all mornin'? What the hell's wrong with you?! Ya've been on his case ever since we've gotten to this damn camp. Can'tcha survive five minutes without makin' someone's life miserable? He even took care of ya when ya were fuckin' sick!"
„How is any of this your business?" Midorima snaps back at him suddenly.
That dazed look from his face vanishes in an instant. Two green eyes behind the specs go sharp as he easily shakes Miyaji off. „And why am I being accused? He is the one who... did stuff. If he... damn!" He bites his lip and looks away. „...If Takao got his ass kicked then that's what he deserved... Just doing things selfishly..."
The room grows quiet. Miyaji looks so outraged he opens and closes his mouth like a fish without being able to actually say anything.
Midorima lifts his eyes and glares defiance at him.
„Please don't stick your nose where it doesn't belong... Senpai."
"Midorima!" Ootsubo barks. That's enough. The last thing he needs now is for his regulars to start a brawl here. The coach will skin him alive.
Miyaji slowly shakes his head. "Man, you're one fucked up scumbag!"
"Miyaji! Just shut up already!"
"What?! You know, I'm right, dammit. Let's go, Kimura, we're going after Takao. I'm not gonna let my cute little freshman cry."
The blond storms out of the room just as dramatically as he came in. Kimura makes an 'I'll take care of it' sign at Ootsubo and drags himself after him.
Ootsubo allows himself a tiny sigh of relief when they are finally gone. Now then, what to do with Midorima?
The other boy's hands are shaking, clenched into tight fists. One doesn't need to be a psychic to guess that he's miserable.
Ootsubo searches for something suitable to say… and can't find anything. He doesn't even feel like yelling at him anymore.
"You know, as the captain, I don't approve of Miyaji's choice of words," he offers finally, "but I do understand his feelings."
"When you're done sulking, go clear your head," he adds already in the doorway. Midorima turns away from him and Ootsubo stalks off.
When Ootsubo walks out of the inn, it's like he stepped into a different dimension. Instead of a peaceful sunny day the had here an hour ago the wind is blowing in sporadic spasms, accumulating a pillow or purple clouds above their heads.
This starts to look suspiciously similar to the night he found Midorima wondering the hallways, playing a wet rat. So these guys' bullshit is affecting the weather too now?
"Can you believe it?!" Miyaji looks like he's got quite a few question of his own.
He is pacing back and forth, every time hitting a tree branch that keeps getting in his way.
The afternoon wind is ruffling his hair, making it a bleached mess.
"That bastard actually beat up our Takao! And didn't even show any remorse over it! Can you fucking believe it?"
Ootsubo can believe that if he says it one more time, the Shuutoku regulars will be looking for a new small forward, because he's strangling Miyaji.
"Settle down," he says weakly. This whole argument is like a brick falling on his head. His brain hurts. "Anyway, did you see Takao?"
"No, he's not on the outside courts. Or anywhere near the inn for that matter." Kimura places himself between the ill-fated branch and Miyaji's forehead to prevent any further nature abuse. "Oh but... can't really say that we looked all that thoroughly."
"Well, we gotta find him. Don't forget that his head is bleeding. He needs treatment."
"Hmpf! As if we could actually forget that! What the hell is Midorima's problem anyway?.. And you," Miyaji suddenly stops in the middle of pacing and pokes a finger into Ootsubo's chest. "You went to check up on him. Why didn't you fucking stop them?"
"Because I didn't know there was anything to stop. At first Midorima didn't even let me in."
"And you didn't hear them arguin'? Didn't hear the fight?"
"No, dammit! Midorima said he wanted to sleep and refused to let me come in. Was all riled up about it too. So I left. I had no idea Takao was even…" Ootsubo suddenly cuts off. Then adds after a while, but this time more to himself, "… there… with him."
It's like the math equation you weren't getting suddenly starts making sense.
Sick vulnerable Midorima + Takao + empty bedroom.
Oh. So that's it. No wonder Midorima sounded so tense.
"What? So what? Hey, why're ya suddenly getting' all quiet and 'oh, I know what's going on' like?"
He warned Takao. Warned him, dammit! Told him not to say things. And well, yeah, here he is: not saying – doing. Shit! Why does his last year of captaincy have to be this complicated? When coach finds out about all this mess, he'll have his head.
Miyaji steps on his foot, indignant.
"Finally, we're getting' some reaction here! It looks like this stupid patient's gonna make it after all."
Ootsubo slowly blinks at the fuming blond.
"What's he blabbing about?" he asks Kimura, who only shakes his head.
"That's my line, dammit! Ya know somethin', doncha? Spit it out!"
"No. It's nothing, really. Trust me, you don't wanna know." Hell, he didn't ask to know either.
Miyaji doesn't look too convinced. He's like a Cocker Spaniel with a bone when it comes to gossip.
"Then what're you so secretive 'bout? C'mon, what is it?"
Ootsubo can feel a vein throbbing faintly on his forehead, but he's more tired than angry. When Miyaji gets like that, he will go on pestering him until he gets his answers. Maybe it's easier to just get it off his chest. Hey, guess what, the star of our team is having a freaking lovers quarrel with our point guard. There. Nice and simple.
"So ya sayin' ya went in fronta their door, but ya didn't hear 'em fightin', right?" Miyaji just doesn't give up. "And we know Takao was in there with 'im, right?"
" And Midorima basically told ya to piss off, right?"
Miyaji goes quiet for a moment, seems to mule it over in his head. Then his eyes grow wide with realization.
"Noooo, he didn't!... D'ya think Midorima,.. that bastard was already stranglin' him, or somethin'?"
Oh God! Ootsubo nearly headpalms himself.
Kimura looks at him, then looks at the blond and shakes his head.
"Captain, you gotta tell him clearly, or this guy is never gonna get it. Those two, they are, uhm,.. like that, right?"
"Kimura…" Well, what do you know. And here Ootsubo always thought their power forward was more on the slow side.
"Like that? Like what? Don't spout freaky stuff. That sounds like a couple makin' out, ya know.…... !"
Ootsubo can almost hear the pieces snapping together in the blond head. If Miyaji's eyes were wide before, now they are the size of two onigiri.
"Oh my fuckin' hell! Damn! Yuck!"
Right now he knows exactly how Miyaji feels. Ootsubo can almost feel sorry for him.
"No fuckin' way, you ain't thinkin' those two were, ya know…" Miyaji's dramatic whisper could probably be heard back in the inn, "actually havin' se– "
"Shut up!" Ootsubo clasps a hand over the blond's mouth. "Shut up and stop putting images in my head, or I'll have you run laps all the way back to Tokyo. Got it?"
Miyaji just stares at him for a while, probably until he runs out of air, then starts nodding enthusiastically.
Ootsubo releases him from his clutches. The palm of his hand is now hot and slightly damp from Miyaji's breath.
All three of them just stand there bewildered for a moment as the gushing wind is raging around them.
"Well, no shit," Miyaji concludes, scratching the back of his messy head. "I mean, I knew Takao had a crush on him, but…"
"Yeah, I mean, c'mon, he was obvious, right? Oh, But I had no idea he'd act on it so quickly, that cheeky brat. No wonder Midorima freaked out. Still think he's an asshole, though. Wait,… more importantly, how come you figured it out so quickly?"
Really, how did he figure it out?
Was it because he found Midorima wondering around drenched to the bone in the middle of the night? Because of that misery he saw in Takao's eyes?
"They were obvious," Ootsubo scowls.
"And here I thought ya were suppos'd to be the real thickhead when it came to this kinda thing," Miyaji huffs and crosses his arms on his chest thoughtfully. "Anyway, now that we know, what the hell're we gonna do?"
"What do you mean? We are going to look for that runaway blockhead of course."
"Nah," the blond waves him off, "that's not it. I meant whatcha gonna do afterwards. What if they, y'know, get together? Ya gonna allow it? What will the rest of the team say?"
Ootsubo opens his mouth to counter him, but then slowly closes it again. Actually, he hasn't thought so far. The sole idea of those two together is already so dreadful, it hasn't even occurred to him to think about how it could affect the team. Will he have to kick his top player out? Is there even a rule against the members of the club dating each other? Ootsubo doesn't think so. The possibility has probably never even occurred to anyone. Agh, his head hurts!
"Anyway, I just,.. don't want to think about it for a while," Ootsubo sighs,.. and gets a handful of dust blown into his eyes and mouth, almost making him suffocate in a coughing fit.
"You okay?" Miyaji pats him on the back sympathetically.
Ootsubo only shakes his head.
Two fat chilly drops land on his neck. Seriously, what the hell's wrong with this weather? He fights off the momentary urge to go 'brrrr!' and instead pushes Miyaji onto Kimura.
"In any case," he instructs, spitting the dust that still clings to his tongue, "go find Takao before this turns into another shower." They've wasted enough time as it is. He'd go himself, but he needs to talk to Midorima before he does something dumb again, or before the coach gets to him. And most importantly, he's got to sort his own thought out first.
"Got it." Kimura lifts his head at the crying sky and furrows his eyebrows. "Captain, we better sort this one quickly, I think. This looks like it's gonna get pretty bad."
Ootsubo looks up after him.
The clouds look like someone beat them up back and blue with a baseball bat.
He's so got a bad feeling about all this.
"Ootsubo-kun, good, I was just looking for you."
It's by willpower alone that Ootsubo resists an urge to squeak like a little girl. Since when is it a popular thing to sneak up on people from behind?
Damn, what rotten luck! He wanted to talk to Midorima before the old man got a wind of the incident, but apparently he beat Ootsubo to it. Otherwise, what else could he possibly want to talk about with that kind of face? Ootsubo began to suspect long ago that there is some truth to what they say about even walls having ears when it came to Shuutoku's coach controlling his team. And when the old man Nakatani found out about any troubles, those responsible were dealt with swiftly and mercilessly.
And the captain is always responsible.
"Is there… a problem,.. coach?" Ootsubo squeezes out.
Nakatani gives him a tight-lipped smile. The look in his wrinkled eyes is that usual sharp dark stare that seems to pierce Ootsubo to the marrow of his bones.
"Yes, hmmm.. I am sorry to interrupt your youngsters' fun, but it appears we have a situation. Yes, why don't we talk in my room a bit?"
Fun? Yeah, well, he's been having a fucking time of his life so far. All of them have.
"Sure," Ootsubo mumbles in return.
Over these past few days the old man Nakatani has turned his tiny corner room into the temporary club headquarters. The posters with tactic drawings, the videos, the books and notes are organized in stacks and piles all over the walls and floor. He even dragged a whiteboard in from somewhere.
Ootsubo can't even begin to guess how long it will take to pack everything.
"Have a seat." The coach waves his hand in the general direction of the pile of magazines. He himself sits on the floor, legs crossed. His usual black tie hangs in the middle of his pure white shirt, dividing him in two.
Even though it's been crazy hot for the last couple of days, Nakatani has never worn anything other than his usual formal outfit. The sleeves of his cotton shirt remained down, the collar buttoned all the way up, while his team was practically evaporating under the merciless sun.
The club members often joked around that their coach must be an android. Ootsubo doesn't really get the jokes. He thinks he's just a weird old man, who is damn good at what he does.
In all honesty, Ootsubo doesn't want to disappoint him.
So he goes first.
"Look, sir, if it's about Midorima, I was just going to give him a piece of my mind..."
"Do you know where everyone is?" Nakatani interrupts him. In fact it doesn't look like he's been listening at all.
Everyone? Is that his was of asking about Takao?
"Uh, no, sir. But I don't think anyone would wonder far off in this kind of weather. The last ones I was talking to were Kimura and Miyaji…"
"I see… Hmm, yes, the weather… That could be a problem. I think it's best we call those two in here. Oh, yes, and Midorima-kun too."
Ootsubo follows Nakatani from the corner of his eye while his phone dials away Miyaji's number.
Something doesn't seem right. Or more like, he doesn't get it. He kind of expected the coach to be more.. mad?
Instead, the old man is tapping his chin like he always does when devising an on-spot strategy in a tough game. There is a strange tension floating in the air like a balloon, ready to burst any time.
The call finally connects and he can hear Miyaji's voice.
"..the fuck're ya goin'? Only an idiot like you'd go swimmin' with a split head….." there is some frantic rustling on the other side, then, "Sorry, you wanted somethin' Captain-san?"
Ootsubo bolts for the door, mouthing 'excuse me a minute' to Nakatani over his shoulder.
"What the hell are you yelling for?" he growls once safely outside the room. "Never mind, just put Kimura on the phone."
"Captain?" It sounds like he's being strangled.
"You found Takao yet?"
"Not yet. The rain's getting real bad, though."
"Forget the rain. Get back to the inn ASAP and get Midorima on the way. The old man wants us all in his office.. room."
For a moment there is more of 'hrrrrrshhhh' on the other end, until Miyaji gets control of the receiver again.
"Ya think he knows?"
"No, he's bored and wants to listen to you spouting rubbish… Of course, he knows! Why else would he call all of us in? Turn your brains on and get your asses over here…"
"…ASAP. We got it. Bye bye now."
When they still don't show up after half an hour, Ootsubo starts feeling like he's sitting on needles. All of his attempts to probe Nakatani for how much he knows failed miserably. He watches his coach's expression grow darker and more distant by the moment and tries to hypnotize the front door into opening.
When his phone suddenly rings, Ootsubo almost crushes it in his hand.
"Where the hell are you?" He hisses, slipping out of the room again.
"At least tell me you found Takao."
"Eeh.., not exactly. We lost Midorima, though."
"Well, I mean, he's not in his room," Miyaji whines.
Ootsubo closes his eyes, takes a very deep breath and counts to five, six, seven… ten.
"Well, where is he then?" He asks resignedly.
"Oh, hold on, I'm gonna check my crystal ball now… How the fuck should I know?!"
"Alright. Calm down. Just get to the coach's room, okay?"
Miyaji lets out a long string of curses (there is an 'alright' somewhere in there) and hangs up.
For a time Ootsubo just stares blankly at his beeping phone and tries not to think of how the things turned into such a mess.
"Hey, w-what?... Just now, what did you…?" Miyaji's voice is high-pitched and breaks on the ending. And yes, he's not making much sense, but they all got him perfectly.
Because what else can you say when your coach tells you in a laid-back voice like he's discussing high quality melons, that there is a raging storm, typhoon, heading your way. And that the place you're sitting in now, will probably be severely damaged / wiped off the face off the Earth in a couple of hours.
"The what?..." Ootsubo blurts out unintelligently. What the hell did the old man just say?
It's all is so out of the blue, he feels completely at a loss.
This was supposed to be about Takao and Midorima…
From the corner of his eye he can see Miyaji go "The fu– ", and Kimura elbowing him into silence.
Nakatani remains unfazed, just letting the thought sink in.
It's actually Kimura who reacts first.
"How bad is it?" he growls in that low voice of his.
The coach nods.
"Hmm,… nothing serious – is what I'd like to say, but than again, I would be lying."
"Dammit! Stop screwing with us, old ma– "
This time Kimura elbows the blond harder. "What are we gonna do?" he asks.
"Yes, a reasonable question, Kimura-kun. The answer is: we have and gather everyone first. Most of the first years are in the inn, yes, but some of the second string stayed behind on the beach. We have to find them and have them pack their essentials."
'Pack their essentials'? He's talking about it so calmly it seems unreal.
"This inn is old and not exactly the best place to wait out a storm like that," he continuous. "So far the owner has informed me that he had arranged for the guests and all the staff to be moved to a local school building."
"That bad, huh?" Ootsubo finally wills himself to get a grip. He closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose as hard as he can. Gotta calm down! It might be a bloody storm, a match against Rakuzan, or whatever else pleases to come their way, he can't mop around while his team is in danger. "How much time do we have?"
"Not much, unfortunately. It's getting worse by a minute. We have to be ready…" Nakatani takes a quick look at his watch, "yup, in an hour. An hour and a half at the best, before the bus that will take us there leaves. That being said, I'll need some help from the three of you. First of all, call back all those who are not in the inn. From there we'll have to coordinate…"
"…Why?.." Miyaji interrupts him. He's white as a sliding paper door and there is an unfamiliar note of panic in his voice. "What the hell's all this all of a sudden? How come no one warned us sooner? Coach?.. Ootsubo?.."
"What kinda blind jackasses they got monitorin' the weather?.."
"No, let go of me!"
Kimura gets a hold of his shoulders and shakes him. Just once, but with such power, the blond head rocks back and forth like a yes-no toy.
"Ouch, stop it! Quit that, dammit! You jackass…" Miyaji squeaks and throws off Kimura's hand.
"…Sorry," he crooks a small apologetic grin after a few breaths, "Momentary laps of reason."
Nakatani gives him a long hard look. Then suddenly his wrinkled eyes turn very warm for a moment. It's probably the first time Ootsubo has seen it.
"Don't worry so much, Miyaji-kun. It's just a bit of rain in a few blows of wind. Nothing to fuzz about."
"Right," Miyaji rubs his palms together, "So, what was that for my task? Countin' our scattered chickens? Sir, yes, sir!"
The next time Ootsubo steps outside, he's got to hold on to his shirt because it flaps around him like a huge surrender flag. The rain splashes his face, drenching his hair in a matter of moments and forcing him to constantly blink.
Ootsubo curses under his breath and walks faster.
Even though it's already gotten like this, there's still a small (cowardly) part of him that goes 'this isn't for real; there's no way something crazy like a typhoon could happen, not to us.
Ootsubo kicks that part into the back corner of his mind and tucks the flapping shirt in his pants. First things first, he needs to find Midorima. Find him and talk (possibly beat) some sense into him.
Well, at least the first part is easy enough. He can hear a steady sound of the basket ball as soon as he enters the gym. That's so like Midorima to just ditch everyone while they are worried about him and go off to shoot the balls selfishly.
Despite the pressing time, Ootsubo takes a few moments to just simply stand and watch the first year through the frame of the changing room's door. It's just dribbling, but, damn, his form is perfect. Such smooth moves, such effortless balance. It will be a hell of a waste if anything goes wrong for a talent like this over a kick of teenage hormones. And it won't be Takao's fault either.
It will be his, Ootsubo's.
Because he should've seen it sooner. No, because he did see it sooner. Just.. didn't have the guts to acknowledge what he saw and act on it. And now he can only hope it's not too late.
Damn! Ootsubo just knows he's making a face right now. He hates giving speeches.
"Everyone is out there looking for Takao, you know," he says leaning against the doorframe.
Midorima stops dribbling the ball at the sound of his voice, but doesn't turn around.
"Takao is a fool," he huffs dismissively.
"Oh yeah, so what does it make you then?"
"I have nothing to do with him."
Nothing to do with him, my ass, Ootsubo thinks. Even with your back turned you still look like you're about to cry.
"Were you like this in Teikou too?" he asks with a sigh.
"What?.. Why is Teikou coming up in this conversation?"
"What was it like there?"
Midorima shoots him a suspicious look over his shoulder.
"Why do you ask now?"
"No reason. Just, I've never actually got around to asking you."
You know, the coach was overjoyed when he managed to get his hands on one of the Generation of Miracles, but when you first got here, I was really pissed. You know what I mean," he scowls, "you don't exactly make a sunny first impression. Those few who didn't freak out, were put off. No one likes it when you glare at them. And on top of that the coach hovers over you like a mother hen. How the hell are we supposed to cooperate with such a guy? Trust me, I wasn't the only pissed one."
Ootsubo quietly smirks to himself. He can almost feel Midorima twitching. Hold on a bit longer, he thinks, I'm getting there.
"… And then the next thing we know Takao is calling you 'Shin-chan' and goes all hyper clinging to you. And he'll laugh at every second word that comes out of your mouth. To be honest we kinda feared for his life at first."
"The bets," Midorima huffs.
"Yeah. How did you?!... Never mind… Anyway, the point is, your personality can be an intimidating, annoying, willful royal pain in the ass sometimes and Takao is still willing to be friends with all that. And you. You think you can be a smartass and hide it well, but it's obvious you worry about him too, don't you? Being so protective of him during the matches. The truth is, you actually like….."
Midorima cuts him off in the middle of a sentence. His voice is so shaky it's unsettling.
"You don't know anything!" he chokes out. "Takao is just an annoying pest, who has been following me around, and now… it's all his fault!.. You want to know about Teiko? Let me tell you then. There was never a need for any pretend mushy friendships between us. All I had to do was find a free basket and practice my throws. By myself. Did you know that ever since I perfected my shot, I haven't missed once?"
He rolls the ball in his hands and positions himself. The high arc of the throw is as usual, perfect.
That's why Ootsubo's breath hatches in his throat when the ball ricochets from the rim of the basket and falls on the side with a mocking 'twack'.
"…I couldn't make even a single basket today." Midorima's hoarse voice is almost a whisper. "Just what is so good about him to be worth that much?"
Fuuuuuck!.. They are so fucked! Looks like it is too late, dammit.
Ootsubo grabs the door so hard, the hinges creak.
He actually feels sorry for Midorima. Really, he does. This is probably the first time something in his pre-programmed-like life didn't go as scheduled. Takao is one hell of a guy to turn Midorima into such a mess. Now that it's gotten like this though, he can at least speak his mind openly. He doesn't have time to play nice anyway.
"Is this your first time?" he sighs.
Midorima almost drops another ball. "W-What?"
"Having someone get to you, get under your skin? Don't worry, that's what normal people do. It's called caring."
"I.. I don't care about that Takao," Midorima protests.
Ootsubo narrows his eyes. He's so got a vein throbbing on his forehead right now.
"Well, I do," he growls. "And I got something else I care about. This fucking team. I care about people who work their asses off to get it to the top. And Takao is a valuable part of that. And if you," he glares at Midorima, "are going to mess it up, tell me now, so I can kick your miracle ass."
There! He can give a captain speech. Wasn't that nice.
Midorima glares at him, then throws the ball without even looking. It smashes into the wall next to Ootsubo's face with and explosive sound and leaves a sizable dent.
"Why am I always the one to blame?" he hisses out.
"Because you are not the one whose head was injured. And you aren't getting lost during the fucking tropical storm."
"I said, you're not the injured one.."
"No, just now,.. that part about the storm."
"Oh yeah, about that…"
Ootsubo's sympathy for their coach grows with every moment it takes to explain the situation. By the time he's finished it about the size of the gym. So that's how their face must have looked. Poor old man!
Midorima doesn't utter a word. Just stares at him blankly, blinking occasionally.
"That's about it," Ootsubo concludes. "If you get it, then pull your shit together and get a… Hold on, where're you off to? Hey!"
Midorima bolts for the door without even looking his way. Ootsubo barely catches up to him at the exit.
"Wait just a damn minute!" he grabs the other boy by the elbow. "Don't freak out now. It's already started. We'll go back to the inn together, but we gotta be careful."
"I'm not going back to the inn."
"You said it yourself, didn't you?" Midorima yanks his arm free. Before Ootsubo can react he's already outside. The streams of rain attack him violently, drenching his shirt and hair. "His head is hurt and he is out there alone. He probably can't come back even if he wants to."
"Are you on about Takao?"
"I'm going to look for him."
Midorima's glasses are wet and foggy. He tries to slip them in his pocket, but drops them into the mud.
"You are not going anywhere," Ootsubo tries to out-shout the wind. "I said I'd bring you back with me and I will, even if I have to drag you there. Miyaji and Kimura have probably already found him anyway."
Midorima still looks hesitant. He turns to look into the darkness of the stormy evening, where wind bends the trees and chills the bodies of anyone it can get its clutches on, to the bone.
"Miyaji-senpai?" he repeats finally.
"Yeah, he promised he'd take care of it. Come on, It's late to play a hero now. You'll just have to apologize like a normal person when you see them."
In the end they barely make it in time for the departure.
Turns out the bus had to go around several times before everyone could be dropped off in front of the rundown local school. Together with Midorima they barely make the last ride. They don't even have the time to pack anything. Nakatani glares at them, but the chaos is just too great for him to spare the time for lecturing.
Apparently, the school building was not reserved by the owner of the inn exclusively. Instead, all of the locals, who had trouble to find refuge were all directed here, so by the time Ootsubo drags Midorima and last couple of first years through the gate, the school entrance hall is packed with old ladies, crying kids and middle-aged men with red faces who smell like sake and gawk at the buzz around them in drunk stupor.
Led by Nakatani, they push their way to one of the classrooms, where they find the rest of the team. Most of it is glued to the window, trying to catch a glimpse of something outside.
In the back corner Kimura sees them and waves his hand.
"So you made it," he pats Ootsubo on the back.
"Somehow. How are things on your end?"
"A bit rowdy and it's cramped in here, but we're all fine. Everyone's just waiting to see what happens now. First years seem more hyper than scared, though."
"Well, that's good news at least."
"Ya bet!" Miyaji pops up behind Kimura, wet from head to toe. "It better be, I didn't run around helping the brats pack for nothin', ya know."
He takes off his shirt and starts wringing it out. Then suddenly looks them over and goes, "Hey, where's Takao?"
"What do you mean 'where'?" Ootsubo furrows his eyebrows at him. "You said, you'd take care of everything."
"No,…" he says slowly, "I said we'd take care of everything around moving the remaining members to the school grounds. You said, you'll bring back our runaway."
"I meant Midorima. And he's here now."
"…So Takao is not with you?"
What is that strained hoarse sound? Is that Midorima's voice? Ootsubo looks over his shoulder and his heart sinks. Midorima is pale as a ghost, only two green eyes are burning feverishly.
"He is not here? Not with you? Are you saying no one has seen him since… since he ran out back then?"
Miyaji looks helplessly at Kimura, who only shakes his head.
"I.. I'm going…." the rest of Midorima's words is swallowed by the thunder. The ruckus is ear shuttering and for the next moment everything in the room freezes in a bright flash of lightning.
Ootsubo can't hear him, but thankfully it's not difficult to read him. He grabs Midorima's arm just as he is about to head back for the door.
"Let go of me," Midorima glares at him. The look in his eyes is truly frightening.
"There is a fucking typhoon outside," Ootsubo protests. "You are not going anywhere."
"You said, they would bring him back! You said they promised. But he's out there right now, with his head bleeding. Let go." His voice is like solid ice, but his body is starting to tremble. Ootsubo can feel the shivers run under his fingers.
"Calm down! Takao is not an idiot. He's not going to stay outside with trashcans flying around. He's probably already…"
"You don't get it!" Midorima forcefully jerks himself free, "It's my fault! I said some stuff to him and I pushed him and… He's probably still mad right now, and he's injured.. I'm going, don't try to stop me." He turns on his hills ready to storm out.
Luckily, Miyaji sees that coming and manages to insert himself between Midorima and the door before he gets very far.
"Settle down!" he yells in Midorima's face. "Ya think we're just gonna lettcha go wonderin' out there too? It's enough one idiot's missin'. Where'd you go lookin' for 'im, huh?!"
"Out of my way, Senpai," Midorima all but growls at him.
But that only serves to spur Miyaji on.
"Oh, shut up! Look attcha getting' yer panties in the bunch. Whattcha gonna do? Break my head too now?.."
It seems that all of them are hitting their limits. Midorima may be pigheaded and stubborn sometimes, but he's never rude and he never panics. And Miyaji eager to get into a fight for the second time in one day is just too crazy. He's gotta put a stop to it before someone causes the damage that cannot be undone.
"Okay, that's enough, you two!" Ootsubo barks in his captain voice. "Kimura hold him down!"
He's just on time.
Kimura gets a hold of Miyaji just when he swings his fist into Midorima's face. Thanks to that it barely grazes his cheek, but Midorima stumbles backwards slipping on his own wet trail.
He crashes to the ground right under Nakatani's feet.
"What in the world is going on here?!"
The old man has been giving out orders to the first years a moment ago, but now they have his undivided attention.
"I demand an explanation, Miyaji-kun."
"That's 'cause he's a bast– I mean, my bad," he wiggles out of Kimura's hold and rewards Midorima with a dirty glare. "I'll go cool my head in the hall for a bit. Sorry 'bout that."
Ootsubo massages his hurting temples.
"Coach, there's been a mess up…"
"We are missing Takao," Midorima interrupts him. He scrambles to his feet and turns to face Nakatani. "It's my fault. I will take full responsibility and go look for him right away."
He doesn't even flinch under Nakatani's heavy gaze.
Finally the old man shrugs his shoulders. "I agree…"
"… with Ootsubo-kun. You are staying here."
"Absolutely not. If Takao-kun is missing, then I will notify the authorities, but you are not leaving the school grounds."
"You don't understand!"
"End of discussion. Don't take your eyes off of him, Ootsubo-kun."
"Look, about that Takao thing,.. sorry. I thought we had him. I'm the one at fault."
Ootsubo sits next to Midorima and hands him a bottle of water, they were distributing earlier in the entrance hall. It's not that soup stuff the guy usually drinks, but it's better than nothing.
Midorima hasn't moved an inch from the window for the last half an hour and the look in his eyes begins to look more and more like back then, when Ootsubo put him up for the night.
"You haven't done anything wrong, Captain," Midorima says without looking at him and Ootsubo almost flinches from how disheartened he sounds. "I was the one, who.. You know, he'll probably never forgive me this time."
"Well, anyone can get rough once in a while. Just don't make a habit out of it."
"No, that's not it. I'm not talking about his head. Takao fell on his own and hit it on the bed pole."
Oh? Miyaji will be thrilled.
"But I did hurt him." Midorima clenches his fists and unclenches them helplessly. "Much more than I intended too."
Well, how should he say this? Should he even say this? Aah, to hell with it all!
"It's probably not a question of forgiveness, right? I bet, right now Takao is the one who blames himself for.. being too rush with you. Because he's always impulsive. That's why he's got problems with his timing."
Midorima finally looks at him. Carefully, from the cover of his bangs.
"His timing in…. basketball?" he accents the last word.
"…Right," Ootsubo elbows him lightly in the side. "That too. Anyway, I'm sure it will work out in the end one way or another. You two will be fine."
Geez, he feels like a father giving his blessing to the newlyweds, or something. They better get something going, before this conversation becomes any weirder.
"You know what, we should take a look around. Even if he didn't come in with our group, doesn't mean he couldn't come on his own. Takao is a smart kid, he might just very well be somewhere in this building."
Ootsubo stops already half-turned around.
"Why do you think we'll be fine?"
"That's… because you're his 'Shin-chan', right?… Come on, hurry it up."
They make their way through the crowd with their elbows. Ootsubo stares strictly in front of him, so he wouldn't be treated to the sight of a blush on Midorima's face more than necessary. He himself can't quite believe, he said something so embarrassing. He doesn't even want those two to get closer. There would never be the end of troubles if they did. And he still doesn't want to picture it. But somehow he feels like he doesn't have a choice.
"Hey, don't be such a slowpoke," he twists his neck to look back after all. "Remember, I'm supposed to keep an eye…. on you…"
Ootsubo freezes on the spot. He can see some of the club members wondering around. An older lady is weeping openly, holding her cat, two children are playing tag,… but there is not sign of the green shock of hair.
Ootsubo suddenly has an ominous feeling twisting his gut.
"Shit!.. Excuse me!" He frantically elbows his way to the nearest window.
The splashes of water are attacking the glass from the other side, making it vibrate slightly. Outside everything is dark. But it's not the kind of quiet darkness of the night. Instead, it's alive, it's moving, crawling and howling like a wild animal on the hunt.
If he was even a moment later he probably would have missed it. A dark figure running in the opposite direction from the safety of the school building. Ootsubo can't make out much more than a tall shape, but he doesn't have to.
"That idiot! That fucking retard!" He slams his fist into wall and swears loudly.
He can't believe, he screwed up again. The coach will make him into shoes.
* OMAKE *
Lizette:"Long time no see! What's up, guys?"
Midorima: "Don't 'what's up' me! Where the hell have you been these past two months? Everyone has been looking for you like mad. What kind of irresponsible writer are you?"
Lizette: "Sorry, sorry. I've been away, you see. Vacation and all that…"
Midorima: "No excuses! You make me into a total scumbag and then dare leave me for the public to throw rotten tomatoes at? Looks like I'll have to teach you a lesson."
Takao: "Oh, Shin-chan, just admit honestly that you can't wait for the smutty part."
Midorima: "Shut up, Takao!"
Lizette: "Now, now, I know it's hard for you to understand, but real people sometimes actually do need to rest."
Lizette: "Anyway, these guys are terribly sorry for the unexpected hiatus and so they are humbly begging for your forgiveness. Come on, bow your heads, boys!"
Midorima & Takao: "Why us?!"