the flower that blooms in adversity

pairings: kagakuro, aokuro
warnings: slash, prostitution, slight ooc, historically inaccurate.
notes: chō-han is a japanese gambling game using dice. two dice are shaken in a cup and then turned over. players then place bets on whether the sum total of numbers showing on the dice will be even or odd. the dealer then removes the cups, revealing the dice and the sum total.

The soft patter of feet echo through the hallways as Kuroko makes his way to a familiar room. It's been a busy night but then again, it's never been easy before. Kuroko's tired. He's tired of tending to these rich, greedy men whose only goal is to get into his pants. They never do, of course. Kuroko's quite proud to say that he's the only prostitute in Akashi's entire brothel that doesn't have to sleep with sleazy perverts to get by. He's never slept with anyone in his entire life. But Kuroko is still a prostitute. It's strange, really. It was almost unheard of until Kuroko came along. A prostitute that doesn't sleep with people? Insane. Because what are people paying for? What are they after?

No one has ever had Kuroko warm their bed at night. But hundreds have paid for the chance.

The chance to sleep with one of the most famous prostitutes in the red light district can bring the strongest of men to their knees. So they come, baring gold and silver and in return, they are granted one game with Kuroko. One, simple game. Win and the boy is yours for a night. Lose and you'll be back for more. No one has ever won against Kuroko but that doesn't mean they've stopped trying.

And so Kuroko remains as one of the top whores in the red light district without ever having to use his body. It's something you really shouldn't be proud of but when you're Kuroko and all you have is this then it's hard not to just hold onto some sort of self-worth, no matter where it comes from.

Kuroko's lucky tonight. He's a customer he actually quite likes. A regular customer who doesn't see him as an object, doesn't just play him for his body. He's a strange customer that loves to incessantly chatter and Kuroko's never ever met a patron like him who pays to talk rather than play. But Kuroko doesn't mind, he prefers it that way. Of course, he'd never tell him that though.

Slowly, Kuroko slides open the door to that familiar room and meets eyes of the sun and hair of spun gold. "Kurokocchi, you look beautiful today as always!" A cheerful voice calls. It manages to brighten up his day just that little more but it's something he would never voice to the other.

"Thank you, Kise-kun." He replies politely as he makes his way to the table in the centre of the room. There's only a small cup and two dice on the table but it's all they'll really need.

Kise still has that giant grin on his face as Kuroko takes his place on the floor opposite him. "Did you get the bracelet I sent you this morning?" He says, practically bouncing up and down and oozing sunshine from his pores.

"Yes I did, thank you." Kuroko replies, lifting the sleeve of his kimono to reveal a beautiful, jade bracelet. Expensive, but Kise's never settled for anything less.

"It looks much nicer on you, Kurokocchi!" He smiles so, so brightly that Kuroko can't help but let a subtle smile of his own crack through his infamous, stoic mask.

"Shall we start?" He asks, picking up the cup and dice between pale fingers.

It's a simple question but Kuroko can feel how much tension it creates in the air. Kise's bright eyes narrow in an instant and his lips are pressed firmly in a thin line. There's no light in those golden orbs anymore, just pure determination. It's a different Kise, one Kuroko sees every time he asks that simple, simple question. "…Yeah." Kise says, voice low and heavy like the fog of a winter morning. He's determined to win, to just have Kuroko look at him with love and love and nothing else but love for just one night. All he has to do is win.

Slowly, Kuroko drops the dice into the cup, the clack clack clacking of dice echoing throughout the room. A shake and then another and then a couple more. Kuroko can feel Kise's eyes on him like a hawk, can feel just how concentrated the man before him is. He's determined to win. But then again, so is Kuroko.

A small clang and the cup is brought back on the table, up turned, and Kuroko asks the question worth his body, the question he's asked countless of men. "Odd or even, Kise-kun?" A simple, simple question that demands a simple, simple answer. Odd or even. It's a fifty-fifty chance but Kise's learnt long ago to never, ever rely on chance.

"Even." Kise replies with so, so much confidence that even Kuroko believes him for a second. Gently, Kuroko places his hand on the cup as Kise leans in closer to see victory in all its glory.

There's an unhuman screech when Kuroko lifts the cup and he can't help but give a twitch of his lips as Kise reverts back into his usual self with playful tears running down his face, clinging to his Kurokocchi and begging for a rematch.

Kise's used to this. To losing at Chō-Han. It's something he's used to but not something he can get over as he wonders just how odd it is for Kuroko to always manage to cinch a victory. Very, very odd. Just like the dice on the table.

It's dark when Kagami enters the red light district. The moon is high in the sky and the stars are shining from above as he makes his way to the number one brothel in the region. Not for that, of course. Never. Kagami isn't like that. He continues to weave his way through the countless number of people, a majority of which cannot keep their hands to themselves, until he reaches a large building in the heart of the red light district. It reeks of sex and smoke and Kagami scrunches his nose in disgust. How anyone could stand to work here would always remain a mystery to him.

Stealthily, he squeezes past the long line of customers and makes his way to the back of the building, making sure no one has seen him. It's a failed attempt of course as pink eyes catch his movement and a small figure comes running out the building towards him.

"Kagamin!" A cheery voice calls and Kagami finds himself enveloped in a warm hug. Pink fills his vision then. Pink, pink and nothing else but pink. Oh no.

"M-Momoi!" He stutters out, mouth hanging open in shock. No, no, no, he shouldn't have been caught! He's never been caught before. Oh gods, please don't let Momoi think of him as a pervert who sneaks into brothels. It's not like that, he swears.

Momoi's staring at him, her eyes twinkling with something Kagami does not like in the slightest. "Tetsu-kun's still busy with a customer but he'll be out soon." She smiles at him with a knowing look in her eyes and Kagami pales immediately. Dear gods.

"W-what? What are you talking about? I don't…I mean…Kuroko and I we…uh." He tries so desperately to say but his mouth just can't form the words. Please, please, please let this be a bad dream. Please don't tell him that Momoi of all people knows about Kuroko and his…friendship. Because that's all it is really. A friendship Kagami so desperately holds on to because it's become just too hard to live without it. Yes, a friendship. That's all it is and all it will ever be.

"I'm not stupid, Kagamin. I know about you and Tetsu-kun's secret meetings." Momoi says with a batter of eyelashes and a suggestive nudge. There's a husky tone to the way she says 'secret meetings' and Kagami can feel the blood rise to his cheeks.

"I don't know what you're on about!" He spits back at her, face flushed and ears a bright red. And he really doesn't know what she's on about because Kuroko and he are just friends! Friends, friends, friends! …Right? Somewhere in the back of Kagami's mind, a voice is screaming no.

Momoi lets out a deep sigh then, full of pent up frustration. Boys could be so stupid sometimes. Of course she knows about Kagami sneaking out to the back gardens every night. Of course she knows about Kuroko doing the exact same thing. She's a girl after all. And really, they both aren't very discreet about it either, as much as they try. "Don't deny it, Kagamin. Although I love Tetsu-kun, I know you'll be a good boyfriend to him." She says with a soft, gentle smile. It's true though. Momoi loves Kuroko. He's always been there for her, whether he realises it or not. But Kagami is good for him. Kagami gives Kuroko hope in a world that doesn't allow for such a thing to exist.

It takes a while for Kagami to really hear the words and it takes even longer for them to sink in. He's pretty sure he heard a 'boyfriend' in there somewhere and – oh dear gods. "What?!" He practically screeches out into the dead of night, the colour of his face becoming almost identical with that of his hair. Boyfriend?! Kuroko is not his boyfriend! It's something Kagami chants endless in his mind, though a part of him lights up at the words 'Kuroko' and 'boyfriend' much to his chagrin.

Momoi lets out a fleeting giggle and gives the taller a wink. "Don't worry Kagamin, your secret's safe with me." She says, placing a finger against her lips in a promise, and before Kagami can react, dashes off into the warmth of the brothel.

Another cry wretches itself from Kagami's throat as his feet begin to stomp against the stone pavement. "He's not my boyfriend!" Kagami tries convincing, though it's a failed attempt.

"Who's not your boyfriend, Kagami-kun?" A sudden soft voice asks and Kagami's heart leaps out of his chest.

A cry echoes out into the night, more feminine than what Kagami is willing to admit, as his gazes locks on with that of bright blue. "Don't sneak up on me like that!" He growls lowly. "What are you doing here anyway? Momoi told me you were with a customer." There's a bitterness to his tone but Kuroko doesn't catch it.

"I was but we finished." Kuroko says as he makes his way to the gardens, sandals clacking against stone. Kagami follows shortly with a scowl on his face.

"You won?" He asks and he hopes the answer is yes because just the thought of Kuroko with someone else makes his stomach twist in knots. He shouldn't be feeling this way, he knows that. Friends don't think like this about other friends. They don't get – dare he say it? – jealous. But maybe Kagami doesn't want to be just friends anymore. Maybe.

"I wouldn't be here if I had lost." Kuroko replies with his famous calm, calm voice. Sometimes, Kagami hates it so very much. He hates how Kuroko remains so stoic and emotionless when Kagami is dying inside, watching him use his body to get by. He hates how Kuroko is never affected by anything when everything that Kuroko does makes Kagami's head spin with a flutter of emotions. He hates it so, so much because why is he cursed with caring so much for a person who hardly seems to care at all?

There's a short pause as they cross over the bridge as Kagami debates on whether he should continue his line of questioning. He hates hearing about anything that has to do with Kuroko's work but he just has to know. "Was it…was it him again? That Kise guy." Kagami doesn't like him. He's too cheery and he's always taking up Kuroko's time.

"Yes." Is the reply that greets him as Kuroko stops at a clear, shimmering pond.

Kagami spots it then, when Kuroko leans over to catch a glimpse of the koi. A jade bracelet. Beautiful, gorgeous, expensive. Something Kagami could never give Kuroko with what he earned. "Did he give you that?" He asks. Kagami's expecting a no because Kuroko has never ever worn anything given to him by a customer. Unless, of course, he really cares for this Kise person.

"Yes." He replies and Kagami's heart sinks.

The rest of the night is different from the other nights they spend together. It's filled with awkward pauses and silences. Kagami's used to pauses; Kuroko's never been much of a talker. But they've never been so awkward before. Kagami's temper is shorter than normal and he finds himself snapping at the shorter male for every little thing because Kuroko should not be wearing gifts from other suitors who obvious only want him to warm their bed, should not be caring for them more than he cares for him. He should be with Kagami because they're…they're what? They're friends. That's what they are. It's what they'll always be.


Kagami comes early to the gardens the next day with a handmade bracelet in his hand. He's never really been one to apologise before but there's always a first for something. He realises now how childish he was last night. It isn't Kuroko's fault, he didn't choose this line of work. Kagami was silly yesterday, he knows. He also knows when it's time to apologise.

So Kagami waits and waits and waits. He waits for a familiar mop of blue hair and a flash of the famous white kimono until it is so far into the night that even the moon begins to laugh at him. "Kagami-kun." A voice finally calls but this time, Kagami isn't as surprised as usual.

"You're late." He says, his voice cold and so, so unlike him.

"I had a customer." Kuroko replies as if it's completely normal. As if it's completely normal to leave a person waiting outside in the cold.

Kagami turns to glare daggers into the figure in front of him, clad in that stupid white yukata with those stupid flowers in his hair. Everything about him makes Kagami that much more frustrated, makes him fall that much more in love. "I don't like it." He hisses and oh no, what is he saying?

Kuroko's eyebrows scrunch up adorably and his mouth twists in a rare show of emotion. "Don't like what, Kagami-kun?" He asks genuinely confused.

"I don't like you sleeping with all those men!" Kagami roars before he can stop himself and it's just too late to stop now. The cheap, copper bracelet is still in his hands, imprinting its shape on his skin but Kagami is too mad to even care. All he cares about is Kuroko and them and Kuroko because he knows now, he doesn't want to be just friends.

"I don't sleep with them, Kagami-kun. I never have." Kuroko begins to walk closer, slowly and carefully as if approaching a wild tiger.

"That doesn't matter! You're bargaining your body with them and I don't like it! I don't like the way they look at you, I don't like how they can shower you with gifts when I can't even…when I can't even afford to buy you a simple bracelet." Kagami opens his palms then and the bracelet falls to hang loosely on his fingers. A simple, copper band worth nothing. "I can't stand thinking about what would happen if you were to lose at Chō-Han." He whispers almost inaudibly. There's a lump in Kagami's throat because he just can't believe he said that. When did he become such a girl?

A small, pale hand reaches out in comfort as Kuroko shuffles a little bit closer. "Kagami-kun, I – " He starts but never finishes when Kagami slaps away his hand. Funny, how it stings more than Kuroko could have imagined.

"Forget it." A small, small whisper hovers in the night but Kuroko doesn't listen.

"Kagami – "

"I said forget it!" Flaming eyes bore into Kuroko's own and oh, they've never looked like that before. Kuroko's seen Kagami mad, seen him furious and frustrated but never, ever like that. He's never looked at Kuroko like that.

Kuroko sees it then, when Kagami begins to cross the bridge. It's dull and cheap and nothing special but Kuroko's never been one to like all that fancy stuff anyway. It's subtle, when Kuroko takes the bracelet. So subtle that Kagami hardly even realises it's gone until the familiar weight has completely disappeared from his hand.

"Kuroko." He turns and Kuroko's standing there in that beautiful white kimono with those flowers in his hair and his bracelet – his bracelet, not some jade or silver or gold bracelet – around his wrist.

"It's for me, right?" Kuroko says with a small smile and yes, yes, yes it's for you, only for you, Kagami wants to so desperately say. Slowly, Kagami takes Kuroko's hand in his own shaking one and nothing has ever fit so perfectly in his entire life.

The rest of the night is peaceful. There are no confessions of undying love, no sloppy wet kisses or bouts of lust and desire. But that's okay. Kagami doesn't need that, he doesn't want that. Not when Kuroko is smiling at him so, so brightly and looking at him with love and only love.

And in that moment, Kagami knows they'll be free together one day.

"What's this?" Akashi asks as a small bag of silver coins is dropped in front of him. He looks up to see eyes of fire stare directly into his own and wow, Kagami must be brave if he thinks he can stare down the Akashi Seijuro.

A bright blush stains the other's cheeks and Akashi can practically feel uneasiness seep out of his pores. "I…" He begins but struggles to finish. Kagami has the words, he's been practising all day. But to say them is a whole different story. "I…I want to free Kuroko!" Kagami he finally stutters out, hands balled tightly into fists by his side and eyes squeezed shut.

A scoff fills the air then and Kagami looks absolutely furious. This isn't some little joke. Nothing's just a joke when it concerns Kuroko. "You're serious?" Akashi asks between small chuckles as he drops his gaze back down to his work. He doesn't have time for this, he needs to tend to the patrons, not humour some over ambitious juvenile with silly little dreams.

"Yes! Of course I am!" There's a bright flame of hope in his words and oh, poor child. He really believes he can take Tetsuya away from all this, doesn't he?

A small silence hovers above the room and Akashi can feel the sense of hope grow with every ticking second. Now that wouldn't do, would it? Better to tell a bird it can't fly than build it up with fake encouragements and watch it crash and burn into the ground. Though it would be fun to watch. "No." He states ever so simply and Kagami's entire face drops.


"No." Akashi states again.

Kagami's hands ball up to fists and his eyebrows scrunch up in pure desperation. He can't let this go, he can't give up. Not now, when he's come so far. When they've come so far. "I…I know it's not a lot of money – "

"It's hardly any at all, really." Akashi scoffs.

"– But this is everything I have. All I've saved up. I don't have any more than this." Kagami has never resorted to begging anyone in his entire life and he likes to think that he isn't begging now but the pure desperation and want emanating from him would beg to differ. Akashi can feel it too, how much Kagami wants this, needs this. And for a second, Akashi actually pities him. Poor, poor child. To be so insanely in love with the unobtainable is hell itself. He's seen him sneaking around the place, he's not some idiot. He's seen Kagami lurking around and sneaking in when he thinks no one is looking. He knows just how much Kagami loves Kuroko. He knows so very well because Kuroko loves Kagami just the same. And maybe – just maybe, Akashi thinks – Kuroko deserves this one chance of happiness he's always wanted.

A silence fills the room, heavy and daunting and full of hope. He'll say yes. He has to. He'll do what's right; he'll do this for Kuroko. Won't he?

"…It's not enough, Kagami." Akashi finally says and Kagami's face crashes like the waves against the shore. His mind is reeling with no, no, no and his body is shaking with a mantra of lies, lies, lies. Akashi's eyes aren't glued to his work anymore, they're staring straight at Kagami because someone who is brave enough to practically beg and fight for another deserves some sort of respect in the very least.

Heavy footsteps make their way to the exit but pause just short. One more try, just one more. All he needs is something to hold on to, something that'll tell him it will all be okay. "…If I get enough money, will you let him go?" Kagami asks finally.

"You won't get enough." Akashi replies because no one has ever gotten enough.

"But if."

A pause. A silence. And then a spark of hope. "…Yes. I'll let him go." Akashi says and Kagami finds hope in the strangest of places.

It's the same as every other night when Kagami comes for Kuroko. The stars are shining brightly and the moon bathes the land below in a light glow. So why, Kagami thinks, does his heart thrum with a constant hurt as he gazes at his reflection in the pond below? There's a scowl on his face and he knows that if it wasn't for Kuroko, the fish would have long gone and scattered away from him.

Kuroko doesn't say anything. He never does say much at all but that's okay because Kagami isn't really a talker himself. Kuroko just crouches near the pool, happily gazing at the koi, being all cute and adorable and freaking beautiful and – crap, Kagami thinks as a pink hue graces his cheeks, he shouldn't be thinking like this. Not now, anyway, when he has more important things to discuss and ponder over.

Kuroko looks up then, eyes practically glowing in the moonlight and staring straight into Kagami's soul. His flawless, ivory skin contrasts heavily with the dead of night and Kagami wonders how Kuroko who's all light and warmth and everything that is right in the world could ever live in such a dark, dark place. Kuroko deserves so much more than this, so much more than a whore house. Kuroko deserves a place where people won't see him as a piece of meat, won't see him as something they could buy. And it hurts Kagami so, so much knowing that he can't take Kuroko away from here.

Kagami crouches down next to Kuroko and those stupid fish retreat to the back of the pond. Fine by him, he's never really been a fan of fish anyway. He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself as the other continues to stare at him. It doesn't work of course but he still manages carry on. "Sorry, Kuroko." Kagami mutters and it's strange because Kagami isn't the type to apologise. There's a hint of confusion in the way Kuroko's mouth twists slightly but it's soon gone when Kagami continues. "I'm sorry, I couldn't free you."

Bright blue eyes soften at the words and a comforting hand reaches out to grasp Kagami's own. Kuroko looks like he wants to say something but Kagami doesn't wait to find out as he bolts right up with a burning fire of determination. "But that doesn't mean I won't eventually! Just you wait, I'll take you away from all of this." He declares with so, so much confidence.

There's silence again as Kuroko stands up to gaze at the taller but it's a silence short lived. "Thank you, Kagami-kun." He smiles, really smiles, and it's real and warm and bright. It reminds him of the sun and Kagami wonders just how anyone could think of Kuroko as a shadow.

Kagami lets out a grin of his own as he makes his way back to the bridge, the soft patter of delicate feet following suit. "Just…promise you won't lose at Chō-Han anytime soon." He shyly adds because Kagami knows this is Kuroko's job but it doesn't mean that he should be okay with it.

The sound of sandal against stone comes to a stop and Kagami turns around to meet a fire burning with just as much determination as his own. "I promise you. I won't lose." Kuroko states and Kagami believes him.

Kuroko does lose one day, of course. To a man called Aomine Daiki.

Endless, dark blue eyes stare out at him and a wide smirk graces thin lips. "Don't be so surprised." He says, voice deep and dangerous. "You're good, Tetsu. You have to be when you've never lost a game in your life." He pauses then and picks up the cup between long, elegant fingers. "But I'm just better."

Kuroko stares. He stares and stares and stares because no, he couldn't have lost. No, no, no. He just couldn't have lost. There's no way, not now. Not when he hasn't lost in years. Not when he promised Kagami. His heart is beating at a thousand miles an hour, his dainty hands are subtly shaking with sweat, and all he can think of is that he just can't do this. He can't because Kagami – oh sweet, amazing Kagami – would hate it. Because Kagami wouldn't be able to bear it, because he wouldn't be able to stand it. Because Kuroko would never, ever betray Kagami.

Wide, shocked eyes look back at the seemingly innocent dice settled on the table, staring back at him. Odd. The numbers were odd. But how could that be when he had –

"Ah, looking for this?" Aomine flashes a wide grin as he pulls out another pair of dice from his sleeve.

Oh no.

"You shouldn't cheat, Tetsu." He says, tossing the trick dice up. They land flat in his palm and stare up – even. "It isn't like you."

Kuroko feels as if he's been punched in the stomach. His heart feels like lead and his head is pounding so hard, he can barely think straight. How did Aomine find out? When did Aomine take the dice? His breathing is coming out in small puffs now and he just knows the man across from him is revelling in his state of shock. It's hardly noticeable; the little shakes that rack Kuroko's tiny frame. It's hardly noticeable; the way his infamous stoic expression twitches just the slightest. Only someone who knows where to look would notice and see through the calm façade placed upon a whirl of panic and fear. And Aomine definitely knows where to look.

"Please, Aomine-kun." He manages to say behind his famous mask of indifference, bright cerulean eyes staring into a pool of blue. "Let's play again. Free match. It'll be fair this time." His voice is steady and respectful but Aomine can still hear the slight dread in it as shaky hands move out to grab the dice.

A tanned hand shoots out then, grabbing onto the pair of smaller ones, and a toned body moves across the table to mould perfectly with the petite form of the other. "Now, why would I do that when I've already won, Tetsu?" He whispers so, so seductively into the shell of Kuroko's ear, marvelling at the contrast between pure alabaster and sun kissed skin. A tongue flickers out of thin lips to slowly lick at tempting porcelain skin below and Kuroko flinches back hastily. Aomine's lingering chuckles resonate through the room as he marvels at the deliciously sweet taste of his Tetsu.

"I cannot go through with this, Aomine-kun. You know that. " Kuroko states bluntly, regaining his cool composure. It's an attempt to be as emotionless as ever. It's an attempt that fails because Aomine can still see the desperation in those hauntingly beautiful eyes.

Aomine hums gently then, as long fingers rap against the wooden table. "I didn't know you had a say in this, Tetsu. Didn't you say I'd get your body if I win? Wasn't that the bargain? And I did win, of course. Fairly." Eyes half lidded roam the body before him as pink tongue hungrily peaks out to wet his lips. Lithe, petite, perfect. What he would give to have that body beneath him spread out, writhing and moaning, to have those bright eyes clouded with lust looking only at him.

"I realise. But I must apologise because I cannot and will not go through with this. If you've any problems with that, I advise you to see Akashi-kun." Kuroko replies respectively, pink lips forming a thin line. He's sure of this now, he won't go through with it. Because Kagami was right, is right. This type of thing has to be done with someone you care for, with someone you like, with someone you love. With someone like Kagami.

Silence comes creeping then and Kuroko can't imagine how the quiet can roar so deafeningly in his ears. They're both waiting for someone to talk, for someone to strike and attack and make the killing blow. It's Aomine, of course, who breaks the silence. It's Aomine who decides to pounce on his prey. "Tetsu, I've won. I've won your body for one night. I will not give up what is rightfully mine." His voice is dark – so, so dark – and as deadly as a panther hidden within the shadows. It sends shivers down Kuroko's spine as those deep sapphire eyes darken ever so slightly in the candlelight.

"I'm sorry, Aomine-kun. I can offer you anything else besides this." Kuroko whispers, although he really isn't sorry. Kuroko knows he's wrong, he knows Aomine's right. He shouldn't have cheated. He shouldn't have swapped the real dice for some weighted ones. Kuroko despises cheaters, despises underhanded tactics. But he just had to make sure he didn't lose. He just had to be certain. Funny, how his safety net became his downfall.

Kuroko rises from his spot on the floor and makes a move to the sliding doors, elegant little feet tapping against tatami mats. He doesn't get too far when a voice stops him dead in his tracks.

"Oh, fine. Leave. I'm sure all your other customers would be thrilled to know that their little Tetsu has been scamming them of thousands all these years." A chilling voice threatens as Aomine picks at his ear. He sees that beautiful body stiffen and snap goes the panther as its jaws catch the prey in wake.

Kuroko's heart stops then as small shivers begin to wrack his frame. "You wouldn't." He says, back still facing the taller. He wouldn't, he wouldn't. No, no, he couldn't. Oh, he could and he would. Yes, yes, he would. And Kuroko can hear those unspoken words of his; can see it now in flashing lights. Akashi's name would be shamed, not just his. The place would fall, those rich old bastards wouldn't let it go. Momoi would have nowhere to go, they'd all be on the streets. And he, what would he have? Just his precious little virginity. Is it really worth it? No, definitely not. Kuroko's trapped and Aomine knows it.

"I…" He begins, trying to find the words. I won't be threatened by someone like you. I won't break down so easily. But that's not what comes out next. "I will see you again later tonight." Kuroko forces through pursed lips as he turns to stare holes into Aomine. Deadly, Kuroko thinks as he glares at a devilish smirk and wicked eyes. It's the only way to describe this man before him whose voice hums like the dead of night and whose words burn like fresh tea.

A chuckle vibrates through the room and Aomine's eyes are back on that supple body, imagining all kinds of positions and just how far that fragile figure could bend. "That's what I thought. Now hurry along, I expect you in my rooms by midnight." He shoos away with a flick of a hand.

Kuroko doesn't think twice as he hurries out from that death trap of a room. There's a pounding in his head as he tries to process just what has happened, just what he's gotten himself into. And all he can see is Kagami smiling brightly at him, promising him a future of freedom whilst Kuroko goes around behind his back and betrays him with this. He's suddenly pulled back to the cold truth of reality however, when Aomine speaks again.

It's a whisper Kuroko hears next, just barely outside the folding screen. It's deadly, dangerous and dripping with venom. It's a load of crap really, but Kuroko can't help but think there's a slight chance it may be true.

"You should realise by now, Tetsu." A lazy drawl seeps through paper thin doors. "The only one who can beat me is me."

"You don't have to go through with this, Tetsu-kun." Momoi whispers as she prepares Kuroko for the night. It's a lie of course. She knows Kuroko has no choice in this, none of them did. But oh, if they did have just that one ounce of freedom then everything would be so different. Kuroko would be free, he wouldn't have to do this with that man. He would be happy and bright and warm like the sun. Just like before. But Momoi has learnt long ago not to dream about such silly little things.

Silence greets her in return and she knows this must so, so hard for her Tetsu-kun. Momoi does this every night, it's second nature to her. But this is the first time for Kuroko who has been fighting to keep the one thing that's pure and honest and real in this world stripped bare of hopes and dreams. And it's important to Kuroko because it's a reminder that he hasn't succumbed to this life of swallowing your pride and letting people step all over you. It's a reminder that he can go back to the real world one day and be…normal.

But it's too late for that now, isn't it?

Momoi tightens the elegant silk blue sash around the impossibly small waist and picks up a brush to run through unruly ocean locks. This process of preparing, it's something Kuroko despises. Momoi remembers him preparing her one night, brushing long pink hair, and a small smile graces her face as she reminisces about the past. He'd silently tell her how degrading it was to make yourself look nice for a man whom you loathe, for a job you cannot stand with the smallest of scowls on his usual passive face. He'd secretly tell her bitterly how impractical it was to dress up when clothes were useless in their line of work with his stiff actions as he ties her kimono. And when Momoi would begin to walk out the door to spend another night in a stranger's embrace, he'd tell her how he would take her away from this all one day with a reassuring, faint smile.

It's the first time Kuroko's ever been prepared for a patron and Momoi still finds it hard to believe that he'd lost. Kuroko had come into her room just before, face as blank as canvas, and said nothing. He said nothing as he looked into her eyes with his own impossibly blue and she just knew. Oh she just knew. Her Tetsu-kun had lost.

Momoi caresses soft cerulean locks for a final time and steps back to admire her work.


It's one of the numerous kimonos Kise's given Kuroko. That love struck fool's been showering him with gifts for as long as she can remember. It's a beautiful kimono nonetheless, a light blue silk with golden embroidery. It reeks of wealth and power and Momoi knows Kuroko absolutely hates it right now. He's never been like the rest of them, greedy for money and fame. It's beautiful but never as beautiful as the man it encases.

"You look stunning, Tetsu-kun. No wonder you're our number one." She smiles. It's an attempt to lighten up the mood, to make Kuroko less nervous. It doesn't work of course, but the words are true.

Silence comes again and Momoi can't take it. It's too consuming, too daunting. She just has to say something, anything to make this go away. To make this image of an empty Kuroko go away. It's a fatal mistake however, when Momoi mentions him.

"Kagamin would be so impressed." She says hastily and crash goes reality as it comes spiralling down.

And for the first time in years, Kuroko cries.

Aomine waits patiently beneath candlelight, body sprawled casually on a luxurious futon. A fine, dark blue yukata adorns a chiselled frame as eerily glowing eyes shine blue in the shadows. His heart is steady, his nerve unwavering as he waits for his prey to enter. For his prey to come to him, naked and vulnerable and –

The doors open then and Aomine can feel the world stop just to catch a glimpse of the magnificent sight before him.

Wide eyes hungrily drink in pale long legs peeking out from lavish material and for the first time in his life, Aomine can say he is utterly and absolutely surprised. Lovely, gorgeous, stunning. Kuroko has always been beautiful, far more than any man should be. But this, but now. Any words would be an insult to the impossible beauty standing right in front of him, waiting for him to take him and own him and mark him as his. Aomine's mouth is watering now, his mind reeling with the thought that for this night, this unearthly being is his.

There's a silence between them, heavy and daunting, because who needs words when they both knew exactly what they're in for? Aomine takes his time looking at his Tetsu, taking in the way the kimono clings so provocatively to that supple body and just slips off the shoulder to reveal creamy, porcelain skin waiting to be marked and sucked and bitten. There's none of the big breasts he usually loves and goes for but he's sure he can manage. Eyes of the morning sky stare directly at him with that same, blank expression. It doesn't work the way his Tetsu wants it to because Aomine sees the hesitation, feels the thick plume of anger and hears the silent cries of no, no, no.

It's too bad Aomine doesn't really care whether Kuroko wants this or not. It's too bad Aomine wants this so, so much, too much that it burns for every second the other isn't beneath him with legs spread wide open for the taking.

"Come, Tetsu." He orders with a flick of a wrist and Kuroko obeys with the soft pitter-patter of feet.

That night, Aomine takes a bite of the forbidden fruit and realises that nothing has ever even come close to the taste of it. He revels in the touch of unbelievably soft, alabaster skin against his own calloused fingertips. He marvels at the heavenly sweet taste of euphoria, the coppery tang of blood from the numerous nips and bites adorning smooth, once flawless skin. He listens in pure ecstasy of the slapping of skin on skin, of his Tetsu's deliciously sinful moans and cries. He drowns in pleasure, in passion, in lust. That night, Aomine takes a bite of the forbidden fruit and vows to make it his and only his. His body to use, to mark, to own. His Tetsu. Only his.

That night, Kuroko's heart breaks.

Kagami finds the gardens empty the next day. Blossoms scatter the ground below and koi swim within the depths of the ponds. It's beautiful but it's still empty without Kuroko. So Kagami waits. He waits and waits and waits until the moon is high in the sky and the stars are laughing down at him in shame.

Something's wrong, Kagami instantly thinks because Kuroko would never ever forget about him, about them. There's a heavy feeling in his chest as he runs to the front of the brothel, eyes searching for a mop of blue hair and a pair of matching eyes. They aren't there so Kagami has to settle for the next best thing.

"Where's Kuroko?" He bites out as soon as he spots a head of bright red hair at the reception.

"Tetsuya's not taking any patrons today." Akashi replies calmly, eyes glued to the piece of parchment in front of him. It's a rehearsed answer, as if Akashi is saying it for the hundredth time.

Kagami feels his hands clench into fists, his heart pound against his chest. He doesn't have time for this. "I'm not one of your bloody customers, Akashi." He spits out. "Where is Kuroko?" It's desperate now, his voice pleading and frantic. He's never been this way before, not about anything. But he needs Kuroko so, so much, needs to know that he's okay and –

"I'd like to know that as well." A deep voice breaks through his train of thought and this time Akashi looks up.

"Ah, Daiki. I was just telling Kagami here that Tetsuya isn't taking any guests today." Kagami turns around to the source of the voice, only to meet a pair of unwavering, cold blue eyes. Funny, how eyes that look so similar to Kuroko's could be so different. The stranger pays no attention to Akashi. Instead, his focus is solely on Kagami.

"Oh. So you're Kagami?" He scoffs, a finger digging into his ear. The perfect picture of boredom. "I'd thought Tetsu would have had better taste." There's bitterness to his tone but Kagami doesn't catch it. He's far too caught up in exactly how this man practically oozing arrogance and superiority knows of him.

"How do you know me?" He asks, suspicious and wary as his eyes squint up.

There's a pause then and a predatory smirk appears on the other's face. "I don't really." Another pause as white canines peek out of dark lips. "Tetsu kept screaming out your name last night is all."

"Tetsu? You mean – oh!" Click goes the final piece of the puzzle and Kagami can feel an explosion burst in his chest. "What did you do to him, you bastard?!" He roars like his namesake, grabbing onto Aomine's collar to bring him face to face with two orbs of raging fire.

There's that damn little smirk again and all Kagami wants to do is rip it off that pretty boy face. "Nothing he wasn't prepared for." He says, eyes narrowing dangerously.

Kagami's chest is burning now and the only thing stopping him from punching this asshole in the face is the knowledge that Kuroko probably wouldn't like it. "You little fuc-"

"Tetsuya is not seeing anyone tonight. I suggest you get off my property before I have to get involved." Akashi interrupts, eyes still glued to the piece of parchment and ink brush in his hand. A deadly tone laces the voice and Aomine and Kagami both know from personal experience that they do not want to get Akashi involved.

"Don't worry, I was just leaving." Aomine states as he makes his way to the door. "But tell Tetsu I had fun last night. I can still feel him tight around my –"

Bam, goes the fist to the face and Aomine's head is whipped back with a sickening crack. Kagami can feel the smirk on his face glow with pride and he raises his hand for another attack. A strong hand suddenly grabs onto his, however, and he turns to see murderous mismatched eyes.

"Get out." Deadly, dangerous, fatal.

If Kagami wasn't so mad right now, he might've realised just how much anger laced through that voice. "But Kuro – " He begins desperately, hanging on so that he can just see Kuroko because everything is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

"Get. Out." Akashi bites with so much menace that Kagami finally gets the message. He steps back then and turns to walk away before murder screams into the night. His gaze flicks over to Aomine – more like 'Ahomine' if you asked him – and he's smiling, no, smirking at him, even with blood dripping down his chin. Anger boils through Kagami again as his nails create crescent shaped marks in the palms of his hands. Control, have control, he thinks to himself as he exits the brothel. There are plenty of other ways for him see Kuroko. And when he finds him, Kagami will hold him close and never let go.

There's a window by the cherry trees, above the small pond. It's the only one Akashi leaves open because Kuroko wants fresh air, needs to feel the light breeze against his skin. He can't stand the smell of sex and smoke and alcohol. It's also the window Kagami is climbing to get through in order to see Kuroko.

His arms are hurting from hanging on to the tree branch for so long but he's almost there. He can see the open window calling out to him from above, beckoning him to come in.

Kagami can't help think, as he climbs up the tree, about just why Kuroko wasn't there in the gardens tonight. Was he sick? Was he hurt? Was it because of…because of that bastard? Kagami's hands are trembling now – and his hands never ever tremble – as he thinks about all those possibilities. He hastens his pace, practically sprinting to the window as rough bark scratches at his skin. It's that guy, Ahomine. He's the problem. Isn't he? If Kagami has to be completely honest, he'd say no. Kuroko isn't the type of person to let themselves be affected by some pervert. It's Kagami, he's the problem. Because Kuroko's frightened about what he will think, what he will say when he finds out about the night before. But Kagami doesn't care about that. It doesn't matter. He knows that this is Kuroko's job, it's something he has to do.

Lies, really. All lies.

Kagami does care, it does matter. Because Kuroko shouldn't be doing something he hates, shouldn't be doing something he doesn't want to do. Kuroko should be with him, free and happy. He should be doing those kinds of things with someone he loves. Hopefully, and he wishes so, so badly, with someone like Kagami.

The window is right in front of him now and Kagami jumps in stealthily, eyes searching for Kuroko. Unfortunately, he meets flaming red hair and expecting eyes. Again.

"I thought I told you to get out." The intimidating figure bites. There's a pair of scissors in his hands, glinting dangerously in moonlight, but that doesn't stop the fire burning through Kagami's veins.

"A-Akashi?" He stutters, struggling to get up.

"Get out. Now. Before I seriously hurt you." There it is again, the sadistic twitch of lips and murderous voice.

Kagami, of course, doesn't get the message despite it flashing in bright lights. "Where's Kuroko?" He demands, the flame never dulling as he looks directly into death. Kagami needs him, needs to see him and make sure everything is alright. He's desperate and it's not like him but Kagami couldn't care less because Kuroko is probably moping somewhere and Kagami needs to be there to beat some sense into him.

"He doesn't want to see you." A cold voice replies and Kagami can feel the anger start to boil in his chest.

"That's a lie!" He spits out, aggressive and violent but Akashi never batters an eye. It's a lie. It has to be. Kuroko would never say that. He's blunt, but he would never say that. Right?

"No. No it isn't. I don't lie, Kagami. Tetsuya does not want to see you."

"But – "

Akashi loses his patience then and pounces. A sharp blade just grazes Kagami's throat, threatening and unwavering, and an almost maniacal glint gleams in mismatched eyes. "No. Leave now or deal with me." And finally, Kagami gets the message because he knows that Akashi won't hesitate in slicing his neck.

"I…" He begins as he tentatively makes his way out. "Just tell Kuroko I'll be waiting for him. Please."

Kuroko is huddled in the corner, staring listlessly outside the window when Akashi enters his room. He clears his throat and Kuroko hesitantly looks his way out of politeness. Those eyes gaze into his own and Akashi hates that empty look in those pools of blue. "That idiot was here today." He says, inching his way closer to the small figure. Moonlight shines brightly on pale skin and Akashi can make out bite marks adorning once flawless skin. It stirs a strange feeling in his stomach and a tingle in his chest.

"He came here looking for you." He continues when he receives no answer. "He's an idiot, but he cares for you, Tetsuya." Silence greets him again and Akashi sighs as he places a warm, comforting hand on Kuroko's shoulder and draws soothing circles on milky skin.

Kuroko closes his eyes in relaxation, chest rising and falling in a rhythm. He knows. He knows Kagami had come today, just like every other day. He heard his voice from down the hallway, loud and boisterous as ever. But he just couldn't face him. Not right now, anyway. Not after what he had done with that man.

Besides, isn't it better if Kuroko is forgotten? He's caused too much trouble for Kagami. If he's forgotten, Kagami won't have to go through this, won't have to love a person who belongs to someone else. He won't have to see Kuroko be unfaithful and turn a blind eye to the obvious, daunting truth staring straight at him. He's been too much trouble for Kagami who has only ever loved him, expecting nothing in return.

Yes, it's better if he's forgotten.

Kagami visits the gardens every day after that. He sits by the pond on the bed of rocks with the moonlight streaming down and waits. He waits for that one person with the subtle smile, soothing voice and shining warmth. But Kuroko never does come for him. Eventually, Kagami stops visiting all together and like Kuroko had desperately wanted, forgets.

Aomine Daiki comes back again one day. He drops a bag of coins on the table and demands Kuroko play with him. Akashi is hesitant, he doesn't want this man anywhere near Kuroko. Not after all he's made him go through. He looks up and meets predatory eyes and no, Kuroko is not coming anywhere near this man. And so Akashi declines respectfully, sort of anyway, and makes his move to deal with other patrons. But Daiki is still standing there, as if he just knows Akashi will comply because everyone complies with him, and it makes anger burn in the pit of his stomach. He annoyingly walks back, a death threat dancing on the tip of his tongue, when a small hand grasps his own and stops him. It's strange, how Akashi already knows who it is with just a simple touch. It's such a familiar warm touch and he can't help but think that maybe it would be strange if he didn't recognise who it was.

"Tetsuya." He says, turning around to meet the other. He gets no reply as Kuroko only gazes into the eyes of Aomine and Akashi knows that he's going to go through with this. "Don't. You don't have to do this." It's the truth really because Kuroko doesn't have to do this if he doesn't want to. He doesn't have to but that doesn't mean he shouldn't.

Kuroko says nothing as he guides a satisfied Daiki to the back rooms. Akashi knows why Kuroko does this. Why he complies to Daiki when usually he would fight until his fists were bleeding. He knows Kuroko does it for them, for him and this place. If word gets out that Kuroko Tetsuya, the number one prostitute in the red light district, has cheated in a game, the whole place would fall. Kuroko has only ever cheated once, in his one game with Daiki, and it was only to secure a promise he'd made with that Kagami kid. Only once. But their patrons wouldn't see it that way. They'd see Kuroko as a lying, filthy cheater who's been scamming perverts of thousands for years.

And Akashi won't ever let it come to that.

Something's wrong, Aomine notices, as Kuroko throws the dice in the air and catches them with the cup just before it hits the table. It's still elegant and beautiful yet so, so different. There used to be a fire burning behind those stoic eyes, there used to be passion and life. It's gone now and for some reason, Aomine hates it far too much for someone who has never really cared for anything in a long, long time.

Aomine hates how Kuroko's once fluid movements have now become mechanical, as if it's just another day Kuroko has to get by. He hates how the emotionless expression that was once used to mask a whirl of raging fire is now just a cover up for the emptiness it hides. Aomine hates it so, so much. He needs Kuroko to look at him with anything, something, even if it's hatred or loathing because he needs to know that Kuroko is still Kuroko. So Aomine says the one thing he knows Kuroko loves, even if it leaves a bitter taste on his tongue.

"Kagami." He says and Kuroko stiffens almost immediately. A reaction, finally. It's small but it sparks just the smallest of hopes. Kuroko doesn't reply, only keeps his eyes glued to the upturned cup before him, so Aomine continues. "He's the one, right? The one you like. I saw him the other day."

Again, silence greets him and Aomine can feel his patience starting to thin. He leans over the table, head resting in the palm of his hand and grabs the other's chin firmly to meet his eyes. "I didn't know you had a lover." Aomine hisses out vehemently because dammit, Kuroko should have told him about that idiot. If Aomine had known about that guy, if he had just known, maybe things would have turned out differently. Maybe.

There's a small glint in cerulean eyes but either than that, Kuroko shows no other signs of the uneasiness bubbling in his stomach. He calmly removes his head out of Aomine's tight grip and stares directly into those familiar pools of sapphire. "Odd or even?" He asks, as if Aomine hadn't just spoken about him, about them, about what they used to have.

A pause fills the room then. Aomine leans back slowly, gaze never wavering from those hypnotic eyes in front of him. His lips are pursed into a thin line as he makes his decision. He's hesitant to say it, he doesn't want to say it. He stares at the other again, sees the emptiness in him and no, he has to do it. Even if he doesn't want to because this isn't for him anymore. It's for Kuroko. It's always been about Kuroko. Something in Aomine changes in that instance. Kuroko sees it too, the way those dark predatory eyes lighten and fill with a bright glow.

"…Odd." Aomine murmurs and suddenly he feels free of the burden he didn't even know he carried. It's just one, tiny little word but it manages to rock the very foundation of Kuroko's world.

The smaller is shaking now, visibly so. He's shaking because he knows. He knows what Aomine has just done and he can't believe it because it's absolutely impossible. No, no, no. Aomine wouldn't, he couldn't, he would never. But he has. And Kuroko just can't believe it as his stoic expression breaks and shock comes rushing to the surface. His hand is slightly quivering on top of the cup, trying to grip it between his fingers, trying to lift it up and reveal the dice inside but he can't because his mind is reeling with a million thoughts and dammit, why is it so hard to pick up a cup all of a sudden?

A large, tanned hand comes and cups Kuroko's smaller, shaking one resting on top of the cup. It's different from last time. It's gentle and warm and caring. It makes Kuroko look up and stare into eyes just as gentle and warm and caring. It's a look he hasn't seen for a while and a look Aomine has never ever shown anyone else. Gone is the look of lust and fire and greed. Gone is the animalistic, arrogant smirk. It's all gone now and all that is left is eyes that burn with the warmth of the sun and a real, genuine smile.

Aomine leans over and presses the slightest of kisses on the tip of Kuroko's nose. It's a gentle and full of – dare Kuroko even think it? – care. He glances at the smaller for one last time and a giant grin breaks out on his face because finally, Aomine can see the Kuroko of before even if it's only slightly. It pains him to do so but he doesn't say anything as he stands up and walks out the door. He doesn't say anything as he walks out of the brothel, leaving a shocked Kuroko sitting alone on the tatami mat.

Kuroko isn't sure how many minutes have passed until he finally gains the courage to lift up that cup. But he does eventually, even if it is with shaking hands. It's not a surprise when Kuroko sees the dice lying innocently below. He'd already known what they would show. Aomine had known too.


Aomine never does visit again. He says it's because he's lost interest in Kuroko. He says he needs a woman with a large chest, not a boy as flat as a board. He says he's already gotten what he's wanted, he doesn't care what happens anymore. But even he knows they're all lies.

Aomine never visits Kuroko again. And he never stops caring for him either.

Years pass and Kuroko is finally shown what freedom looks like.

Akashi slides open the door to his room one early morning dressed in his red yukata. There's a small smile on his lips, genuine and real. It's something Kuroko hasn't seen in a long time and it eases the nervous feelings in his chest.

Because Kuroko is really, really worried.

Akashi only comes into his room when a patron has called on him. And patrons only ever call on him when the moon is high in the sky, not when the sun is shining brightly through the windows. Something must be definitely wrong.

Akashi comes closer then and kneels in front of his most treasured worker. He cups the small face in his warm hands, bringing it close so that their noses just touch. Wide, blank eyes stare into those of red and yellow and ever so gently, Akashi whispers the one thing Kuroko thought he would never hear in his entire life.

"You're free."

You're free. You. Are. Free. The words race around in Kuroko's head as he stares and stares because no, that's absolutely impossible. Is he really free? Can he really leave and never come back? The world outside feels so much realer, so much closer now, and Kuroko can actually see a future of smiles and warmth and sunshine.

It's just too good to be true. "…Pardon?" He asks politely as Akashi's thumb brushes his cheek in soothing circles. It's something he does when he knows Kuroko is nervous.

"Someone's bought you." He replies, his eyes gentle and caring. It's the Akashi Kuroko admires, the one who took him in when he was on the streets begging for scraps of food. It's the Akashi of before and Kuroko's so, so happy to see him that it takes time for the words to sink in.

Someone has bought him. So he wasn't really free at all. Just free from this place. He still wouldn't be his own person, he'd still be trapped and doing something he hates. Doing something you should only do with someone you love.

"They have enough money?" He asks tentatively. Kuroko knows the price on his head is high. Extremely so. Over the years, hundreds of men have come to Akashi offering items of gold in exchange for his number one employee. It's never ever enough, of course. No one ever had enough.

Akashi stands from his position on the ground, taking the smaller by the hand for him to do the same. "No, nowhere near enough. You're priceless, Tetsuya." He says with a small smile so full of life that Kuroko can't help but believe that it's true.

"Then why?" Why indeed. Why now of all times is Akashi giving him away? Why now when the person doesn't even have enough money? There's confusion behind those sky blue eyes as he stares at Akashi, waiting for an answer.

A sigh escapes pink lips and Akashi breaks the gaze. "I don't know why, either. I can't believe I'm letting my best worker go." He pauses and then that tiny smile appears again. "But this…I think it's the right thing to do. You know, when I told him I'd let you go, I was sure I'd never seen anyone so happy in my life."

Kuroko wants to ask who. He wants to ask who has bought him. But then a familiar image comes to mind of frightening men with greasy smirks and sacks full of gold that he's seen far too many times and Kuroko feels like breaking down. No, no, no. Not one of them, please. Anyone but them.

Akashi slides open the door again, a hand outstretched. "Come, Tetsuya." He calls, urging the other to follow. But Kuroko doesn't want to follow. He doesn't want to leave with one of those men. He'd rather here where he has Akashi and Momoi instead of there where he would have nothing. There's a lump in his throat he can't get rid of and a tingling in his chest. Run, he thinks. Run and never look back.

But Kuroko doesn't run. He's never run away from a problem his whole life, so there's no reason to start now. It's a lie he tells himself because he has run away from a problem before. Just once but it's a problem that still haunts him. So instead, Kuroko follows Akashi with a heavy heart and hesitant footsteps to the front of the brothel.

"He's been saving up this money for a while, you know. He's been working extra jobs these few years just to get more money, I'm told. He's giving up all he has for you." The taller tries to comfort but silence only greets him in return.

Kuroko is silent the whole way but his mind is screaming. He can't do this. He can't. The entrance is getting closer now and Kuroko's heart is beating rapidly as he walks to his doom. He can see it all in his mind. A lecherous, devious smile and eyes full of lust and nothing more. No, no, please no, he can't go through with this, he just can't. He's ready to run now, Kuroko's sure. He quickens his pace ever so slightly, ready to bolt out that door and never look back, even if that means a life in poverty because –

A voice calls to him then as light pours through the open door, warm and bright and so, so familiar that Kuroko can feel all his worries slip away. Tears prick his eyes for the first time in a long time, and oh, Kuroko is really free. Finally free.


That day, Kuroko learns that freedom is not the fresh air of spring whipping at your face nor the sun's rays shining brightly on your skin. It is not the feeling of escaping a world of sex and money and alcohol nor is it the feeling of running away into the distant sunset. Freedom is what you make of it and for Kuroko, freedom will always be where Kagami is.

Freedom will always be right there beside him.