A/N: I actually posted this one shot on my tumblr months ago, but I'm sure some of here on FF haven't seen it yet? Also, the second season of kurobas in a few hours, wowww.

And as a brief warning, this one shot is a little tragic.

In the hospital room, there is always the scent of tangerines wafting around.

Momoi smiles over at Aomine's mother as she peels off the skin of the tangerines, being careful and making sure her neatly kept nails do not dig into the flesh of the fruit. Aomine's mother beams back warmly, tucked snugly into the hospital bed. When it's tangerine season, the tangerines taste amazing. And when it isn't tangerine season, Momoi still makes sure to buy the sweetest ones that she can find.

"Here, Kaa-san," the pink-haired girl says politely, passing the perfectly peeled tangerine over to the woman in the hospital bed, who takes it gratefully. Momoi has known Aomine's mother for years, so she is already accustomed to addressing her as she would her own mom.

The main topic is always about Aomine in their conversations; how he's doing in school, how he interacts with others, and, of course, how he is with basketball. It's definitely a given, considering the fact that well, Aomine is the woman's son.

But Momoi can distinctly see, while Aomine's mother is segmenting the tangerine slices and popping them into her mouth, that there is sadness in her eyes.

Aomine hasn't visited for an entire year.

Aomine has only visited one time, and that was when his mother had first been put into the hospital room. When he heard that she had been diagnosed with some type of lung disease, he had kept a straight face on. When Momoi heard, she cried.

After that, Aomine had never shown up again. When Momoi had decided to confront him about it, he had told her, harshly, that there was no point if she was going to die soon anyway. Momoi had nearly slapped him. Even when he was staring at her with a mocking smirk on his face, as if challenging her, she had held back.

Aomine's mother didn't cry about it. It was like she knew that he wouldn't show up, and that in itself just made Momoi feel even more terrible and helpless.

"Dai-chan's made some new friends in the club, Kaa-san. Now, there's Tetsu-kun, and Ki-chan," Momoi says brightly. She is good at creating a warm atmosphere, but even so, she feels that it still isn't nearly enough.

"It must be lively then. I'm surprised you can handle those boys," Aomine's mother replies, laughing very softly. "Is Daiki-kun having fun with basketball?" She questions, and Momoi nearly flinches.

Of course, it was true that ever since the arrival of Kuroko, followed by Kise, Aomine had begun to show a lot more interest in the sport, but even so…

Momoi takes a deep breath as she looks back at Aomine's mother, forcing a smile.

"Yes!"

...

...

...

Momoi wanted to burst into tears when she saw the look on Aomine's face as he broke on the court. She could tell by the expression on his face that he had lost it all; his love and devotion for basketball. She was frustrated and confused, because she thought that basketball was something that he would always, unconditionally love.

"I heard that Teikou won the middle school competition. Did you all throw a party?" Aomine's mother questions cheerfully—obliviously—as she breaks apart the tangerine that the pink-haired girl has handed to her.

Momoi opens her mouth, then hesitates. She is absolutely tired of herself; of making up petty lies and conjuring fake smiles. But she doesn't want the woman in front of her to break, just like Daiki.

"Yes, we did. They all had fun," Momoi replies, only half lying this time. It is true that they had a celebration, but as for the second part…it isn't entirely true. She remembers the way Aomine had remained silent throughout the party, and the way that Kuroko never even showed up, no matter how many times any of them phoned him.

"Dai-chan's been so happy lately, especially with Tetsu-kun around. Ah, you should've seen the way Ki-chan…"

Momoi stops and gulps when she feels the tears, hot and burning against her skin, sliding freely down her face. She can only hold herself back so far.

"Satsuki-chan." It isn't in the form of a curious question. It is said solidly, as if she knows, and the tone only makes Momoi cry more.

"I…I'm sorry, Kaa-san. It's…everything was a lie. Dai-chan was having fun, honestly. But everything crumbled so fast, and I…" She sucks in a quick breath, wiping furiously at the tears. "I don't know what to do," she admits as her form trembles uncontrollably.

It's the worst she's felt in years. And when she looks up to see Aomine's mother smiling gently at her in understanding, she feels that the wall she has built has suddenly been blown away.

Her teeth clench as more tears cascade down her face, because really, everything had happened so fast.

"You're so strong, Satsuki-chan. Right now, all you have to do is be there for him, like how you've been for the past years," Aomine's mother explains to her, eyes closing calmly as she reaches over and grips onto the girl's hands.

"I'm really glad that Daiki-kun has someone like you. Please, always be with him," she continues as her smile grows. Momoi blinks, perplexed, and all she can see are tears and water.

"Okaa-san, why…" She can't bring herself to speak any further.

Why are you talking as if those are your last words?

...

...

...

The next day, when she is at the hospital to do her routinely visit, she finds out that Aomine's mom is in critical condition.

"Ah, you are…" The nurse pauses when she sees Momoi walking down the hall. A look of distress crosses the nurse's face, and Momoi's heart drops.

"Aomine-san has been admitted to the upper floor, in critical condition. I'm sorry, but she cannot accept visitors at this moment," the nurse explains briefly, frowning painfully all the while. She looks reluctantly at the pink-haired girl, wondering whether or not she will burst out crying.

"…Thank you very much. Please take these," Momoi says, astonishingly calm, as she hands the nurse the bag of tangerines in her hands, and brushes passed her.

She knows that there isn't much time left. As she exits the hospital, she knows exactly what she must do.

...

...

...

After scoping out the public basketball courts, the gravure magazine shops, and any place else she can think of, she finally finds him at her own house, loitering away on her bed. Naturally, she is seething when she sees him.

"Ah, Satsuki. I was wondering where you were," Aomine greets her with a yawn as he lazily flips over onto his stomach.

Momoi grits her teeth together. She can't hold back anymore. The emotions that had been pent up suddenly threatened to spill, and she let them. She marches over to him, and lifts her hand.

He's shocked when he feels a sudden burning sensation on his face. When his gaze snaps up, and he sees her hand, he realizes that she has slapped him.

There are no exchanges of words as he grabs her and pins her down on her own bed. She can tell by the look in his eyes that he is furious, but she doesn't care. That same slap had been the one she had held back the time he told her that he didn't care for his mother. It was only natural that it be delivered sooner or later.

"Your mother's in critical condition, Dai-chan. You have to see her," Momoi finds herself saying. She sees his eyes falter by a fraction, but she still doesn't feel much triumph over that.

"Dai-chan, she might really"— She doesn't want to say it. "She might really die," she finishes, glaring up at him.

His hand rises, and she squeezes her eyes shut, preparing herself for the pain. She knows that he's going to slap her, and it will probably be enough to knock her out.

However, instead of a sharp slap across the face, she feels a warmth, and it's spread out all over her body.

Momoi quietly blinks her eyes open, confused. Then, she realizes that he is hugging her, and her breath hitches. "Dai-cha"—

His hold on her tightens, but he doesn't speak. She wants to cry again, but she holds it in. She only reaches over and hugs him back, closing her eyes again as he embraces her fully.

Through that embrace, she finally, somehow, understands. She realizes that, maybe, he had felt betrayed by the fact that his mother had suddenly become ill. It must have seemed unbelievable, unthinkable, that the strong, durable woman who had cared for him had suddenly fallen victim to a disease. And he wanted to run away from that purely harsh reality.

"We'll visit her tomorrow if we're allowed to. Together. Okay?" The pink-haired girl speaks gently, and it only reminds Aomine of his mother's own tender voice. Momoi smiles lightly when she feels him nod against her shoulder.

...

...

...

She isn't sure what they had talked about in the hospital room. Aomine had told her to stay put outside, and of course, she obliged.

When he opens the door, he looks exhausted, and Momoi suspects that he has finished telling his mother about his adventures and mishaps, and that he has finished piecing his feelings together into words.

He gently takes Momoi's hand as he brings her into the hospital room and shuts the door again.

Aomine's mother looks genuinely happy—revived even—and it almost brings new tears to her eyes. It is obvious that mother and son have reconciled.

The two take a seat at her bedside, and talk. They crack jokes, and laugh, and bring up countless topics, and everything feels absolutely perfect.

A few days later, Aomine's mother passes away, quietly and peacefully, and Aomine holds no further regrets.

...

...

...

"Satsuki, you're slow," Aomine sighs as he tilts his head back. The girl puffs out her cheeks in irritation as she quickens her walk to a jog and catches up with him.

"You just take really big steps…" She complains, and he smirks at that. He places the bouquet over his shoulder (sunflowers, because he and his mother always made trips to the sunflower fields in the summer) as he continues on ahead. With his free hand, he reaches over and takes a hold of her hand, grasping it tightly.

They reach the grave in what only seems like seconds. It is still clean from their last visit, although Aomine suspects that Momoi has been making secret visits without him.

He quietly places the sunflowers on the shining stone before clasping his hands together in prayer. When he's done, he glances over to see that Momoi is still praying. He rolls his eyes at her.

"Oi. Exactly what type of things are you telling her?" He demands sourly. She giggles as she opens her eyes.

"Just the usual, of course. I mean, I think she has the right to know that as of yesterday, you are no longer a virgin"—

"You're the worst. Seriously," Aomine grimaces in disgust, and she laughs in response. He sighs as he grabs her and pulls her back into his chest, before resting his chin on top of her head.

"I don't think I said this before, so"— He pauses, unsure of how to phrase it. "Thanks. You kept her company," he tells her. You're always doing so much for me, he thinks vaguely as he gazes down at her.

Aomine brushes his lips against the top of her head and tightens his embrace against her, and hopes that both she and his mother can notice and feel just how much the girl means to him.

A/N: I was rereading some of the older chapters of this one shot collection, and I noticed how my writing style has changed quite a bit! I'm also very, very tempted to rewrite everything because it all sounds so terrible to me hahaha. I have no idea how you guys put up with it (or me lolol).