Frankly, I'm surprised I haven't killed myself yet.

All 'jokes' aside - a lot of things have happened lately and I haven't been in the right state of mind, much less write anything, since I don't do much of it to begin with.

I can't assure you that anything I write is quality and this one's a great example of that. Writing this story in present tense is a pain in the ass, I literally gave up halfway. I apologize if that bothers you though, I'm too lazy to put much effort in trying to even make this consistent.

Nevertheless, thank you for reading and thank you wonderful people, for your feedback.

Exchange: Chapter 3

"Ryouta. You're daydreaming again." The sharp voice was shrill this time, and Kise suddenly snapped back to reality with a jolt. He apologized meekly with chagrin, hanging his head in embarrassment.

The photographer audibly sighed and checked the blonde's profile through the lens, shaking his head – visibly resigned and frustrated at the lack of concentration the subject of his viewfinder had been displaying since they started shooting earlier. "Ryouta, at this rate you're grimacing, you're going to have furrows permanently etched into that handsome face of yours."

Kise mumbled something inaudibly and turned away dejectedly – so unlike the unusually cheery, ebullient attitude that got on everyone's nerves at choice moments.

"Sorry – but could you just give me a moment, Sato-san?"

They were on a familiar terms with each other and often called each other by first names, since they worked together so much. Having Kise revert back to polite speech was even odder, the teasing glint and quick smile completely gone. The tall boy stopped suddenly and looked at Sato, a terribly short, nondescript man that often needed a stool to make up for height during photo-shoots. His amber eyes brimmed over with (sparkles? Or crocodile tears? Was that it? The photographer rubbed his eyes again), about to flood at any given moment.


Lips set at a perfect pout, eyes tearfully pleading, and the bald man found himself internally cursing himself for being swayed so easily by a beautiful face - an exceptionally beautiful one at that. He clucked his tongue and nodded, unable to refuse.

"Fine. Break. Five minutes."

In the background, the hair and makeup staff screeched, warning him not to smudge his makeup or mess up the hairstyle that had been meticulously blow-dried and styled.

Kise thanked him and smiled sheepishly at the staff before rushing off the set to his changing room, setting down the chunky tortoiseshell glasses on an available stand and stopped in front of the sink in an attempt to regain his composure.

Today's photo-shoot was for a women's fashion magazine. The accompanying article was about dressing up for a 'casual' date during autumn season, with warm colors and the newest couture. His outfit wasn't too flashy, a casual leather jacket paired with a warm maroon scarf, ripped dark-wash jeans. It was the accessories that seem overly cumbersome: the silver rings, military boots with buckles, leather watch, messenger bag and more…so much for the supposedly 'easy casual' look.

Work was work, and normally Kise didn't mind being primped and dressed up, posing for the camera, walking down runways when his agency called for him to be a show model - but at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to rip everything off, slip into a comfortable sweats-and T-shirt ensemble and watch trashy television dramas and eat ice cream and potato chips at home.

Concentrating on his modeling work was impossible.

No, it seemed like concentrating on anything was impossible now.

His grades in school were slipping, last time he checked. Kise's grades in school were actually quite high, (though many people found it very hard to believe). It came naturally to him - to halfheartedly listen to lectures in class, to briefly look over his notes at home, and take most tests without much of a problem. His marks averaged around 90 and above in most of his courses - of course he was nowhere near Akashicchi and Midorimacchi's academic prowess - but his reports from school were quite excellent, much to everyone's surprise.


Right now, nothing could assuage his frantic and agitated state of mind.


He scoffed.

More like having nightmares.

Kise was never one for much self-introspection. He found it to be futile, like a dog trying to catch its tail, to no avail. It led nowhere in the first place. Once a thought formed, it would lead the mind around in perpetual circles and he would end up in the same place as he began.

He didn't mind being misunderstood, being underestimated. Of course, now, he would loudly pretend that his feelings were hurt and jokingly complain, but it was mostly just for show.

A pretty face did not equate to intelligence in many people's minds.

It was just a lot easier smiling and abiding by the whims of others than trying to prove himself to people that honestly didn't care about who he was behind his appearance. The overflowing chocolates and love letters crammed into his shoe locker, ogling girls and jealous boys, people who envied his position and his career, even bystanders on the street, stopping to stare at his blond hair and lean physique.

He was different.

Kise had known that since he was a kid.

When he did reminisce, childhood was isolated, lonesome, monotonous, and so very alone. He never asked to be the center of attention, yet outside the blinding spotlight, everything seemed so dark. People were too afraid to approach him, people never made a motion to be friends beyond shallow appearances. Manipulation at such a young age, just for namesake.

People treated him like he was special.

Special in a way that wasn't terribly bad, not terribly good either, yet bothersome in every way. People expected him to be a certain way, to look a certain way, talk a certain way, walk a certain way, hell, smile a certain way. His life was directed by the wills of others, not exactly what Kise could call ideal. Sure, he knew that he was unique, yet he had never found that it was a valid reason for people to treat him in such a manner - not that he could change their attitudes.

Kise could care less about what happened to the ordinary population that surrounded him every day. He had been so bored, for so long. Drowning in fake perceptions and mundane reactions.

It wasn't exciting.

And that's why, when he met Aominecchi, when he met Kurokocchi, Midorimacchi, Murasakibaracchi, and Akashicchi….when he found basketball…it was something completely new to him.

Something he couldn't master, something he couldn't overcome, playing with people whose skills far surpassed his. New teammates that treated him no differently from other players. He had to start from the beginning, he had to start by learning how to dribble, how to shoot, the basics.

He was model no more, just another warm body trying to get a ball through a hoop. No matter how good he thought he was, there was someone better than him, which delighted him to no end.

It was so exciting, it made Kise's blood boil for the first time in a while. The liters of sweat, the endless pairs of worn out basketball shoes, basketballs rubbed smooth from friction. The endless afternoons spent at the court, sleepless nights thinking, restless because of new prospects.

Basketball had humbled him.

Basketball had allowed him to become someone that he thought he couldn't be. It challenged, it propelled Kise to practice, to work hard, something he never did much of.

For the first time since he made first string, Kise Ryouta thought that he had finally made friends.

True friends - ones that he could look up to, ones that didn't accept who he was now, but expected him to evolve and excel.

Midorima Shintarou. Murasakibara Atsushi. Akashi Seijuuro. Kuroko Tetsuya.

.and Aomine Daiki.

Aomine was Kuroko's light, and Kuroko was Aomine's shadow.

They were an unbreakable duo; it was an indisputable fact.

Little did Aomine know that he was Kise's light as well.

Kise had no place to interfere, no place to breach that camaraderie, no matter how much he wanted to.

The shoot was finished around two and a half hours later - four o clock, a late Saturday afternoon. The set was cleared and the equipment put away, and Kise was undressing in one of the back rooms. The clothes he wore were all brand name with price tags in the thousands, so he took care not to roughly handle them - but one of the perks about his modeling gigs was that he didn't ever have to buy clothes of his own anymore. Some articles of clothing were given to him freely, depending on who he was modeling for.

One of the staff members didn't bother to knock on the door before coming in - Haruka, was it? Kise had just taken off the knit sweater he had to wear for his last outfit, which was surprisingly comfortable. He was half naked, but nudity wasn't an issue. Everyone had seen everything before, there was nothing to hide. No one batted an eyelash in the business, and it was usually the beginners that got flustered and embarrassed at the sight of changing models.

"Kise, you can keep the jacket and the shoes. I'll be taking all the other clothes back." Haruka, an intern for Sato, abruptly stopped in surprise and inched closer to Kise.

"Oi." The boyish college student suddenly snickered as she brushed away Kise's blonde hair from the nape of his neck. "What is this?"

Kise looked at her strangely. "What do you mean by 'this'? Is there something there?"

She continued to smirk as she teased him. "It seems like someone's got quite the possessive girlfriend," pointing to a spot at the back of his neck.

It took a moment for Kise to understand what was going on - "…girlfriend…? But I don't have one!"

His eyes suddenly widened when he finally understood the implications of Haruka's suggestive comments, frantically trying to get a look at the purplish hickey that had been hidden by his hair.

Damn that bastard to hell, interfering with work - What was he thinking, doing whatever he wanted, like he was some toy? If he only had noticed when they were -

But it was too painful to think about, and Kise could no longer think back to the last time when that had happened. The locker room, the hallways after school? Or was it on the rooftop?

It hurt too much to remember, all he could feel was those large hands and the pounding of his heart. Cruel pleasure and his own pathetic self, that cold hearted man and twisting of bodies-

"Haruka-chan, you misunderstand. I don't have a girlfriend, seriously!" Kise forced a smile, quickly buttoning up his plaid shirt, then stuffing his wallet into the back pocket of his jeans.

"Oh really? I didn't know you were such a playboy, then." She raised her eyebrows in a joking manner as she gathered all the clothes. "All those women, what a busy man."


The blonde paused as the air chilled. The teasing atmosphere was gone, leaving only cold silence as Kise stood at the doorway for what seemed like a few minutes.

When I fall in love, I lose all sense of reason.

I get carried away, and I always end up getting hurt.

"You're right, Haruka-chan."

The expression on his face looked painfully tormented.

"I am a busy man. Always chasing after things that I can't get, knowing that it would hurt me in the end."

But it's impossible.

It's like a car crash, or an avalanche.

First you fall headfirst in love, then it feels like something fell from the sky and knocked the wind out of you.

It feels like someone ripped your heart out from your chest cavity and stepped all over it.

He turned to leave, until Haruka's voice stopped him.

"But, Kise-kun, isn't that what falling in love is all about?"

Kise laughed.

If I had known love was this painful, I would have never willingly taken the first step.


...sorry for the tense change it's just because I'm lazy, I might go back to change it one day. I wrote all this today and I didn't go back to edit so if there are any grammar issues, feel free to let me know. I felt bad since I didn't update in a while so idk i think this chapter's longer than usual

I'm also working on an Aokuro oneshot.

yes. one of those oneshots. the one where someone dies, yes.

just watch one day when i get kicked out of the kb fandom because I can't write anything but angst gomen