Aomine Daiki knew that he would never return to this place again.
As people began leaving the site, he continued standing there; staring at the flowers surrounding the portrait of the boy he once loved. Eventually, even Momoi shot him a rueful look and left.
But he stayed.
For hours, he stood there, mind blank with grief.
The only thing he knew for certain was that he would never return to this place where Kise's memorial stood, or to the rooftop where Kise confessed, or to the basketball court where they shared their first kiss. He would never return to any place that held memories of the blond ever again. That was what he decided.
After everything was said and done, all he felt was exhaustion.
The sun was setting when he finally willed himself to leave the park.
The exhaustion that came with the grief and anger didn't fade over the days.
He spent the next week hiding under his covers, refusing to answer his phone or the door but unable to sleep. He stayed away from the television and the radio, not wanting to risk hearing Kise's name on the news – not wanting to be reminded of how he was betrayed by the very sport he loved and lived for. He also avoided the envelope Kagami had handed him; its contents laid splayed carelessly on his night stand.
Curled up in the safety and comfort of his home, he closed his eyes and made a wish.
He was so tired; all he wanted to do was to forget everything and sleep.
So that's exactly what he did.
He was standing in the basketball court by his apartment.
Looking down, he found a basketball in his hands. Not particularly worried about how he got there or where the ball came from, he began dribbling it. Idly, he looked at the hoop, and without thinking, he shot the ball upwards and watched it go in.
Something was off.
Catching the bouncing ball, he shot it in again, wondering what the problem was. It wasn't until a few more shots that he began to wonder what he was doing and why he was there. Watching as the ball went in, hoop after hoop, he began questioning his career choice.
'I got bored of basketball in high school, didn't I? Why did I continue playing? Why am I still playing now?' he asked himself, sinking another hoop.
In the back of his head, an image began surfacing; a flash of yellow. But fearful of what memories would surface, Aomine quickly suppressed the thought and continued playing on his own.
Then a voice spoke up, "Mind if I join you?"
Turning around, he blinked at the sight of a blond teenager. The boy was undeniably good looking and had a slight smile on his face. Aomine shrugged and tossed him the ball. "Sure. Are you any good?"
The blond smirked at him challengingly and replied, "I guess there's only one way to find out! Let's have a one-on-one match."
So they did.
When it ended, he stood there, victorious and laughing; out of breath but pleased. "You're not bad, but still a hundred years too early to beat me."
The boy merely wiped the sweat off his forehead and pouted. "This isn't fair! I can't believe I lost again! I almost had it too! I'll definitely beat you next time!"
Aomine froze at the familiarity of the situation. Astonished, he turned to the teen. "You! It's you! You're the reason I continued playing basketball for all these years."
The blond nodded and smiled fondly at him. "And you're still as cool as ever. I've missed you, Aominecchi."
And just like that, the memories he tried so hard to lock away came flooding back.
"Kise…" He wanted nothing more than to run over and embrace the blond, but he was afraid that if he was to move, the other would disappear. Caught somewhere between anger and happiness, he asked, "Why are you here now? After all these years – I waited for you to show up for so many years, so why now?"
The teenager shot him a rueful look. "I wanted to, but I couldn't because you never truly believed that I was gone. Even when Kurokocchi and Mr. Detective showed up, you didn't really believe it."
"I still don't believe it," Aomine insisted stubbornly.
"But you do. Or else I wouldn't be here. You don't want to believe it but you know it's true."
Taking a minute to search deep inside himself, he realized that the blond was right. Try as he might to deny everything that had happened, it wouldn't change anything. Dropping the basketball, Aomine lowered his head and blurted out, "I'm sorry."
Kise blinked and walked over. "Huh? Why?"
Fists clenched tightly, he confessed, "Because for ten years, I was upset at you for suddenly disappearing, when in reality, I'm the one who caused your death – so, I'm sorry. It's because of me that all this happened. I'm sorry that I wasn't there to help you. I should've been there somehow."
Golden eyes softened. "That's not true, Aominecchi. Please don't say things like that. If you do, I'll start crying."
Aomine snorted and answered instinctively, "Then cry. It's what you do best anyway."
The model let out a soft laugh. "You're so mean, Aominecchi." Then quietly, he continued, "I'm the one who should be apologizing. These last ten years have caused you so much grief – I'm sorry." Chewing on his lower lip hesitantly, he asked, "But now that you know the truth, don't you think it's time to let it all go – to let me go?"
Instead of answering, he asked a question of his own, "Hey, Kise, if I touch you, will you disappear?"
Kise shook his head.
Tentatively, he reached out and wrapped his arms around the blond. Pulling the other close, he choked back his tears and muttered, "Ten years. For ten years, I've been waiting to do this. If I'd really wanted to move on at any point in my life, I would've, you idiot. I'm not ready to let go of you yet."
The model's eyes watered as he closed his eyes and hugged the taller man back. "But you have to. You can't just hide from the truth forever. I'm not coming bac-"
He shook his head stubbornly. "I don't want to hear it, Kise! You're here now! That's what matters! If this is a dream, then I just won't wake up! Fuck! I was planning on quitting basketball anyway!"
There was a pause between them.
Letting go, Kise took a step back and picked up the basketball. Amber eyes looked down at the ball and dusted it off. "Are you really going to quit basketball? I never thought I'd hear those words come out of your mouth."
"I don't want to play the sport that took you away from me," he admitted.
"But it also brought us together, didn't it? You can't just give up on the real world, Aominecchi. There are people who need you. Your teammates and Momoicchi – are you really going to abandon them?" There was a soft ringing in the distance. Kise looked over wistfully. "Do you hear that? Our time's almost up."
Aomine frowned. "What do you mean our time's almost up!? You can't just leave me again! I love you!"
The blonde's voice dropped down to a whisper. "You loved me, Aominecchi. You loved me so much, and I'll always be grateful for that – but that won't bring me back. There won't be a miracle-"
The truth hit him hard and he had to take a deep breath to hold his tears back. He shook his head. "Shut up. I don't want to hear it, Kise."
"-there won't be a miracle, but I'm really happy that I got to play basketball with you again." Wiping the tears from his eyes, Kise sniffled. "I'm sorry. I told myself that I wouldn't make this any harder on you by crying. But the thing is, even though we can't be together anymore…even though I know you'll be okay and move on with your life, I love you, Aominecchi. And I know I should be telling you to just forget about me if it hurts too much to hold onto these memories, but the truth is: I don't want to be forgotten.
"I want you to move on and have a long and happy life, I really do! But I'm afraid of being forgotten, Aominecchi. It might sound selfish of me, but I want to be remembered from time to time by Kurokocchi and Kasamatsu-sempai. Even if it's just once every so often, I want to be thought of by you. So would it be alright for me to ask you to not forget about me, Aominecchi?"
Pulling the blond into his arms, he frowned. "Don't be stupid! Like I could ever forget about you – like anyone could forget about you! I'd have to be an absolute idiot to do that! You're the best damn thing that ever happened to me!"
The ringing grew louder.
Aomine held the other tighter though he could feel something pulling him away.
Amber eyes watched him sadly. "It's time. I have to go and you have to wake up, Aominecchi."
Struggling against the unseen force, he frowned and reached out for the other. "No. Please don't go, Kise. Please…I don't want to lose you again!"
The blond took a step back and shook his head. "I have to go. Or rather, you have to. This is no place for the living."
He could feel tears running down his cheeks as he was pulled back to the realm of the living. "Kise! I won't forget you! I promise!"
Fresh tears spilt from the teen's eyes. "Thank you, Aominecchi. Thank you so much for everything - thank you for loving me. You have no idea how much I'm going to miss you…"
Shoulders shaking from suppressed sobs, Kise waved at him. "Goodbye, Aominecchi. Please be happy."
The last thing he saw was the most heartbreakingly beautiful smile he'd ever seen.
Navy eyes snapped open and he sat up with a start. Feeling tears trickling down his face, he quickly wiped them away with his arm and looked around. He was sitting in his bedroom and the sun was shining brightly outside. Checking his phone, he found dozens of missed calls and messages from worried friends and family. For a moment, he toyed with the idea of leaving them unanswered but then decided against it.
After Aomine replied to all of them with 'I'm fine,' he spared a glance over to his nightstand where the envelope Kagami had handed him sat. Leaning over, he grabbed everything off the table and placed it in front of him on the bed. There was a post-it note, and a clear plastic bag with a small gold stud earring inside.
It's your turn now! Merry Christmas~!
He stared at the note and the earring for awhile, trying to decide on his plan of action. Internally, he already knew what he'd end up doing before he ever made the decision. Taking a deep breath, he took the earring with him to the bathroom. He returned minutes later and began rummaging through his box of 'Kise-related stuff' for his old phone. When he finally located it, he plugged the charger into the wall and turned it on to take a picture of his new piercing.
To: Kise Ryouta
Thanks for the present. It looks cool, right?
*Message could not be delivered*
To: Kise Ryouta
I have no idea what I'm going to do now. Fuck.
I guess I should figure it out...
*Message could not be delivered*
To: Kise Ryouta
Don't worry. I'll figure it out.
*Message could not be delivered*
Days later, Aomine finally managed to drag himself out of his apartment and met up with Kagami and Kuroko during their lunch break. Light blue eyes studied him for a moment before shooting him a relieved look. "You're looking a lot better than you did a few weeks ago, Aomine-kun."
The pro shrugged and nodded. "Thanks."
Kagami raised a brow, taking a pause from his burger. He didn't bring up the earring though it was clear that he also took notice of it. Instead, he asked, "So are you really going to quit basketball?"
Aomine shook his head, thoughts immediately turning to the dream he had. Though he had an extensive answer, he simply replied, "Nah. I thought about it, but I can't really bring myself to hate the sport quite enough to completely cut it out of my life. Besides, there's a game coming up and I can't really just abandon them now – Satsuki would never let me." Taking a pause, he added, "You know, I never thanked you for solving Kise's case…so thanks. A lot. Really."
The detective looked surprised by his sincerity. "Don't mention it."
The pro pulled his lips taut for a moment. "So, are you two dating now or what?"
Red eyes widened. "How'd you know?"
He shot the redhead an unimpressed look. "Don't worry. I have nothing against it. I'm actually surprised this didn't happen earlier. I mean, it was kind of obvious that you two had a thing for each other. And you're not really being subtle about it either – I can see you two holding hands under the table." Licking his lips hesitantly, he continued in a more serious tone, "Hey Kagami, take care of him, okay? Don't take any of what you have for granted."
Kagami nodded solemnly. "I won't."
After a pause, he decided to change the mood and smirked teasingly. "So Tetsu, never mind kissing - have you guys gone all the way already? Is he any good in bed? I bet he isn't – he doesn't look like the type who'd have very much experience in the bedroom, does he?"
The detective immediately began protesting loudly, face as red as his hair. "Oi! You can't just ask people about these things, Aomine!"
Aomine grinned. "And why not, Bakagami? What are you going to do about it?"
"I'll kick your ass is what I'll do about it!"
The pro raised a brow at the challenge and stood up. "Oh? Is that right? You're going to kick my ass?"
Taking the bait, Kagami stood up as well. "Yeah, that's right!"
Electricity and tension crackled between the two.
"Then bring it on! I'll take you both on again!"
"Sounds good to me! Come on, Kuroko! We've still got some time left before lunchtime's over!"
Kuroko heaved a sigh. As he was dragged out of the burger joint and onto the street by the overzealous pair, in the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a flash of yellow and smiled.
There was no doubt in his mind that it was Kise checking in on them.
"Don't worry. We're doing just fine, Kise-kun," he whispered to the air.
From down the street, Kagami looked back and called out, "Hey Kuroko, what are you standing around for!? Hurry up! We don't have that much time left!"
Turning to the detective, Kuroko nodded and jogged over. "Coming, Kagami-kun."
Later that night, Aomine sat there on his bed and stared at his old phone. Somehow, in his heart, he knew that his next message would be the last he ever sent to the blond, so he needed to make it count. He knew that he needed to write a message that would make Kise smile.
Remembering the teary smile Kise had on his face in his dream, he typed out his message and pressed the 'Send' button.
Suddenly, the screen went blank.
Blinking, Aomine tried to turn the cell phone back on to no avail. After a few minutes of fruitless attempts to restart his phone and tears of grief and frustration, he began to laugh. "So that's it then, Kise? Fine, I get it." Looking down at the blank screen through misty eyes, he muttered, "…thank you."
Then, clapping the phone shut, he got up and put it away for the last time.
To: Kise Ryouta
I guess it's goodbye for now…
Thanks for all the memories.
And thanks for loving me.
I won't forget you.
Let's play basketball together again the next time we meet.
And it's finally finished! After ten years of grieving, Aomine finally finds closure, and Kagami and Kuroko are finally properly dating (and it only took 15 chapters)! Thank you to all my readers for making my first mystery fic (and first KuroBasu fic) a success! Mysteries take quite a bit of work to plot out, don't they? And surprisingly, this actually turned out to be about the same length as a mystery novel - so congrats! You just finished reading a novel! I hope you all had as much fun reading this as I did writing it!
As for whether or not there'll be a new KuroBasu fic...I guess only time will tell. I know I said that I was going to start on another one in an earlier chapter, but I've decided step it up a notch with my original pieces this year - so we'll see how that goes since I'm super prone to procrastination. If I don't end up writing another KuroBasu fic, then thank you again for the all the support you gave for this one! I couldn't have written this without you lovely readers out there!