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I Don't Get . . .

Kagami was no stranger to love.

In fact, he loved a lot of things. Like basketball, the main subject of his affections—or rather attention. He has dedicated most of his entire life to the sport, his loyalty unwavering. He enjoyed every tidbit of detail that comes with basketball. From the clothes-drenching sweat produced from a day's fruitful progress to squeaky sounds made between shoes and polished floors.

Then there are the feelings that arouse within him the game . . . Raw sensations, that come only during a game. Rush of the adrenaline, anticipation, determination. Although he prefers to win, he has also found motivation in losing. Kagami has even discovered a guilty pleasure in being caught off guard (guilty meaning he shouldn't be happy when the opponent has the upper element of surprise).

Secretly, what he started to love a little more than most about basketball was having teammates with the same passion that would rival his. He liked the trust that he would exchange with them. He respected every member and their independent styles of play (Koganei being an undecided case). To think, he was able to name these thoughts only during their second game with Touou High.

If one were to ask what Kagami loved aside from basketball, he would answer food.

Hamburgers, steak, foot-long sandwiches, even those convenient instant noodles that the nearby market sells. However he mostly prefers anything with meat . . . and eating more than his own weight. Since he's constantly burning all these calories and all that nutritional stuff he barely bothers to manage (or rather does but unintentionally), he's got to have the energy to replenish.

And then there's sleep. Oh how he loved to sleep. Both his body and mind approve of this, since it gives him time to refuel his energy for the next day. But sometimes he would neglect it—especially when his next game involves one of the members from the Generations of Miracles.

All in all, Kagami knew what love was.

"P-Please. . ."

He just didn't understand the other type of love.

". . . will . . ."

It was the kind of thing that he never paid a single mind to. But—

". . . y-you . . ."

Behind closed doors and placed deep in the corner of his mind, he knew there were consequences to ignoring this—this

". . . accept . . ."

Was there even a name for this? He didn't know. His mind was fuzzing up and closing off all by the second.

God, where had he heard all this before?

". . . my feelings?"

Kagami blinked at the final outburst of words.

He stared and blinked at the girl, or the girl's back to more precise. She was bowing . . . ? Why was she bowing? Was this some sort of Japanese tradition thing? It's sort of . . . embarrassing, wasn't it? Her whole posture was making a scene. He could already feel multiple eyes trained on her, on him.

Not that he gave a damn about what other people would think of him but . . .

Was that an envelope she's trying to hand him?

He decided to stare at the letter in her hand instead, while unknowing building anticipation in the atmosphere.

Am I reading this situation right?

He didn't get it.

If this was a confession, she would have been saying stuff like "I like-like you" right? Because he remembered that's was what the girls back in America would say to a boy they had a crush on the playground (note that he's referring back to elementary school). There were no letters . . . and definitely no bowing.

In middle school, he figured out the "like-like" was also known as "love". But he has never met a person (back in America) that would outwardly confess initially. It was too straightforward as a start-off to a potential relationship. Normally he'd catch phrases like "You wanna go out?" or other cliché pick-up lines courtesy of his street friends.

It only became "I love you" once the relationship was set and public.

Then it became "I hate that bastard" or "I hate that bitch" once the relationship failed.

Oh the drama.

He recalled his friends making suggestions about these things. Testing out if they're "into you" or not. Since making a move without reassurance was like charging into enemy territory without even knowing where the enemy was, bare to an open fire.

Rejection was just as worse was breakup. He supposed.

It was after he felt a painful jab to his left rib that he realized that he had been stalling for way to long. And the girl's arms look about ready to collapse. Then he felt the pang of guilt sink in, while tiny droplets of pre-sweat began trickling alongside his face.

But he still couldn't find his voice. He didn't even know what to say.

Damn it! He was Kagami Taiga. Taiga. As in tiger. As in the beast that fears nothing. That knows what it wants and will grasp it without hesitation, with timing and accuracy. And with strength put forth through its claws and jaws.

Why the hell is this so hard?

He almost growled, almost. Knowing that wouldn't bode a good impression on the poor girl.

There was another painful jab. He then turned to glare at the offender behind him.

It was Fukuda, a fellow first year member of the basketball club. Kagami soon realized that he was alone. Since Furihata and Kawahara stood right beside Fukuda. He raised an eyebrow at their serious expressions. Their lips began to move in unison, not a sound was made:

T-A-K-E T-H-E L-E-T-T-E-R!

His eyebrows furrowed in . . . disapproval?

For some reason, his gut feeling was telling him not to. Actually, he just wasn't sure. What would happen if were to just decline? Say he was sorry and move on? What if she takes it peacefully, then that would put his mind at ease. If she doesn't, then he'll be troubled and distracted. It will shatter his concentration and in result, not only will his grades fall but it will throw off his game as well.

He might be subjected to another one of the coaches' cooking as punishment.

Who in their right mind would make such a risk?

Kagami tries to resolve, tries to come up with something that end in both their favors. But all his brain was drawing from all this was his best option was just to agree to go out with her. And, if it doesn't work out, he could break it off. It shouldn't be too much trouble. There was content in this strategy, he had at least tried. No one can blame him for at least trying, right?

No. They would. It was in Kagami's nature to attract pain, even when he doesn't mean to.

The girl straightens her back before her arms collide beside her, fingers now clenching the envelope. Her eyes don't meet his, instead they settle on ground. The tip of her shoes started to dig into the dirt.

"I-i-it's just that I-I've l-liked you for sometime."

Kagami eyes widen while his mouth forms an "O".

"I-I was hoping . . ."

So that's what it was!

"Wow," he sighs in relief before giving a toothy grin. "You had me worried for a second there! Why didn't you just say so?"

"Sure! I'll be your friend."

And he said this with all compassion in his heart.

Man, was he embarrassed! Here he was jumping to all sorts of conclusion when all along, she just wanted to be his friend.

How dense am I?

He laughs, but it's a nervous laugh. Because he still doesn't understand the purpose of the letter. Nor did he understand how she phrased "accept my feelings" . . . had he translated it all correctly in his head.

And he certainly didn't know why tears were rolling down her face.

"You truly live up to your name, Bakagami."

Kagami swivels his head to scowl at the on-coming girl, who in turn delivers and icy glare. She brings her hands down gently on both the weeping girl's shoulders and leads her away from the scene. Leaving Kagami to figure out what had just happened.

What did just happen?

There was only little time to deliberate this, so he turned to his crowd of friends who he hoped might be able to offer some quick ideas.

They were all face-palming themselves.

They didn't even look like they were willing to ease his dilemma.

Kagami just doesn't get it. "What?"

Then he receives another stab to his rib. He tries to glare at the culprit, but noticed it wasn't Fukuda or any of the other two players. They weren't even within arm's reach to begin with.

So who the hell was—?

"Kuroko . . . ! So it was you. Cut it out already!"

Again with his invisibility act! Vanish here, appears there. How much more of Kagami's veins will have to snap before Kuroko makes up his mind?

Perhaps the better question was: when will Kagami get used to it?

An unlikely thought, but if he were to truly consider then, not anytime soon.

"How dense are you, Kagami-kun?"

The response to this was immediate, Kagami was speechless. Only because a few seconds ago he was thinking the same thing.

He both hated and appreciated these moments. The moments where Kuroko would give a monotone spiel on something, knowing just the right words to give and just the right time to give them. Kuroko always had this way of knowing Kagami from a perspective that others don't.

Call it a shadow's intuition.

But then again, an upfront lecture was better than cryptic message. Kagami rather not spend his time deciphering when he could be proactively increasing his chances of winning their next game. Plus, it hurts to think too much. He tends to either overthink or under-think things, making the whole message more complicated than it should be.

How was he supposed to answer to that, anyway?

As if—once again—reading his thoughts with those vexingly deadpan eyes, Kuroko resigned. He merely shakes his head and on continues walking. The three other players follow him without bothering to glance back at Kagami.

So what . . . now they're abandoning him?

The unsettling feeling of something dropping in his stomach made him sick. He had this feeling before, which made the situation twice as worse. This misunderstanding could only be just the beginning. Yet maybe the whole "problem" could've been resolved if someone had the decency of explain it to him in the first place.

Another sigh escaped his lips, this time out of frustration.

He really didn't get it.

- TBC -