When Kuroko Tetsuya first moved to Tokyo, he was five years old.

He knew nothing when the things in his old home disappeared before being replaced by cardboard boxes. He knew nothing when his mother kneeled down to tell him that they were going somewhere far away for the rest of their lives. He knew nothing even when he was tucked comfortably at the back seats of the car before they set off.

And when Kuroko arrived at the big city of Tokyo, he'd left his life behind - his house, his school, his few friends, his secret hideout in the cave just half a mile into the woods across the park. He had to settle into a new home, a new surrounding, and a new life.

It took a while, but Kuroko began feeling lonely. He was still a child, after all. He had trouble finding friends in the small village he used to live in (with his quiet and socially awkward personality), and it was even harder to do so in Tokyo. He'd moved in the middle of a term, and most of his classmates had already formed their own cliques or groups. His parents were busy people, and although they try their best to spend time with him, they only see Kuroko once in the morning before he goes to school, and once at night when they return from work.

Kuroko tried his best to forget it. He felt selfish thinking that he needed attention. He did not want to join any groups in his class in case he were to accidentally 'steal' someone's friend away. The teachers adored him (because he was easier to control compared to the rest of his kind and he was quiet and hardworking and 'HE'S JUST SO CUTE~'), but his classmates referred to him as 'that strange kid who always sits at the back reading' whenever they thought he wasn't around.

Kuroko's mother had one day knelt down before him and cupped his pale cheeks with her big, soft hands. She'd stared into that pair of big blue eyes identical to her own, and had told her son to stop thinking so. She tried telling him that he was still young, and he needed to enjoy his life around friends. And she promised to hang out with him during the weekends during her day offs to make up for lost time.

But Kuroko - being the stubborn boy he is - told her that he's okay with it. He could live in solitary if he wanted to. He began spending most of his after school hours reading in the library just a block away from his new home. He would do some simple chores during rainy weathers when he could not go outside. He would keep himself busy so that he would not have the time to think at all.

Because he figured that he could not - and just would not - fit in with everyone around him.

xXx

Kuroko bounces the small orange ball against the concrete ground in his front yard.

His father had bought it for him. Apparently, he'd seen Kuroko staring intently at the TV during dinner the other day when a basketball game was on air. He claims that Kuroko had smiled - smiled - and his eyes were shining with interest, his expression practically screaming "I want to try that!". And he'd squealed saying that he'd never seen his son so happy, and was determined to give him that happiness.

And so the ball came home. His dear, sweet, work-obsessed father that he barely knew due to their time apart, had given him something he wanted without even him needing to ask. Kuroko still isn't sure whether to thank his old man or to chide him for wasting his hard-earned money on useless things. Because no matter how you see it, Kuroko is frail, thinly, and is basically not very athletic.

And idea pops into his mind, interrupting his train of thoughts. He hesitates. Could he do it? Kuroko lifts the ball above his head as he'd seen those tall, buff people do on TV. He imitates them further by bending his knees, and in one swift motion, he throws the ball towards the air with all his might.

The ball sails into the air, and it goes further than he'd anticipated. He watches with wide eyes as it bounces once on the top of the wall, and disappears behind it on the other side.

Kuroko panics for a second. What should he do? Did he hurt someone? He wills his legs to bring him towards the wall. He drags over one of the chairs from the tea-table set his mother had put in the lawn as a decoration. Carefully, he climbs up, stands on his tip-toes, and peeks over.

He hit no one and nothing - thank god. His basketball lies there innocently on his neighbor's lawn. Kuroko once again contemplates on what to do. Should he climb over? If he did would he be able to climb back? Should he just go in through the gate like a normal person and ask for his ball back? Should he wait for his neighbors to return, discover the ball, and come over to ask if the ball is his?

Kuroko ponders and ponders. He rarely shows any expression, but he has his eyebrows knitted and mouth formed into a slight pout at the moment. If anyone were to pass by, their reactions will probably be something like "Awww look at that cute brooding kid over there!"

A sigh escapes Kuroko's lips after several minutes of staring at the ball. He'd tried levitating the item by sheer willpower as he'd read from that book the other day, but apparently, it was harder than it looks.

"Umm.."

Kuroko jolts slightly in surprise as a voice breaks his tranquil silence. He turns towards the source to find a boy standing at his neighbor's gates. He has a mop of short, messy dark red hair and strangely split eyebrows. He looks scary. Kuroko suddenly remembers hearing his mother say something about their neighbor having a son his age.

"Hello," Kuroko greets as if it was the most normal thing to do. The other boy slips into the lawn and stares up at him from below.

"Is there something you need?" he asks. Kuroko senses no hostility, just wariness - as how a kid would be when he expects his toy to be shared.

"My basketball," he points at the orange item lying innocently on the ground.

The redhead walks over and picks the said item up. "This?"

Kuroko nods.

"Should I throw it over?"

Kuroko considers. From where he stood, he is surrounded by dozens of potted plants that his mother had decided to grow as a hobby. He isn't sure he could catch the ball if it flies over.

"You know what," the redhead seems to have thought of more or less the same thing. "Get down from there. I'll come over."

And in less than five minutes, they meet up at the gates of Kuroko's house. Now that they are standing face to face, Kuroko realizes just how tall the redhead is. Kuroko knows he's tall because he considers himself to be normal heighted. His head barely reaches up to the boy's chest.

"Here." The boy holds out the basketball. Kuroko takes it.

"Thank you," he says softly, accepting the item and hugging it close. "I apologize for the trouble I caused."

"Nahh," the boy scratches the back of his neck. "It was nothing."

Silence starts to form.

"..Uhh.. anyway," the redhead says awkwardly. "I'm Kagami Taiga. What's your name?"

"Kuroko Tetsuya," Kuroko bows slightly. "Nice to meet you."

"Tetsuya, huh?" A smile slowly spreads across Kagami's face, radiating warmth and friendliness. "That's a nice name."

"Thank you."

"Well," Kagami huffs once before turning. "I guess I'll see you around."

"..Yes."

And just like that, a bond of friendship begins to form between two unlikely boys.

xXx

Kagami Taiga never knew of the existence of his neighbor in his kindergarten until about a week after he met the boy himself.

He is surprised. The kindergarten he attends isn't that big to begin with, and there are only two classes for his year. He doesn't really observe his surroundings in the first place, but seriously? How could he not notice his neighbor's kid when he's just next door?

Kagami carefully peeks from his hiding place. He is doing a very obvious job of stalking. From what his friends had told him, Kuroko is one of the only kids who stays behind in class when everyone's outside, preferring the company of books rather than the company of children his age. Kagami spots the shorter boy right away, huddled comfortably in his seat with his nose buried in a book.

Kagami wonders if he should ask him out to play. Kuroko was strange in some ways, but he isn't such a bad guy. Kagami can't help but notice just how boring it must be, sitting there all day. And he can't help but notice just how alone Kuroko looks right then.

"Yo." He walks in before he could change his mind. Kuroko jumps slightly in surprise and turns his attention away from his book to the person who spoke.

"..Kagami-kun?" he blinks.

"Yeap. And just call me Taiga," Kagami says, doing a waving motion with his hand. "'Kagami-kun' sounds weird."

Kuroko looks at him blankly. Clearly, he isn't used to calling people by their given names.

"..Please don't' scare me like that again, Taiga-kun," he finally decides to say. Kagami smiles apologetically.

"Sorry." He perks up. "Anyway, feel like going out to play? The weather's really nice."

Kuroko shakes his head and looks out wistfully. "No, thank you. I'm alright by myself."

Kagami had expected this answer.

"No, no you're not." He reaches out and grabs Kuroko's impossibly thin wrist. "Come on, Tetsuya!" He half whines. "Let's go play and have some fun. It feels really depressing seeing you by yourself here."

"But.." Kuroko starts to protest, but Kagami is already prying the book out of his hands and beginning to pull him off his seat with his monstrous strength.

"I'll introduce you to my friends!" Kagami glances over his shoulder as he drags the shorter boy with him, the grin never leaving his face. "You'll enjoy it, I swear!"

And after a while, Kagami begins to question the decision he made. Kuroko proves to be a despair at activities that required him to move. He's terribly slow at running, and he tires out easily. Kagami's friends quickly grow bored of him.

"Give him a break!" Kagami finds himself saying when they ask why he brought Kuroko there in the first place. "Tetsuya's been separated from the human population for too long. He needs to come out once in a while!"

His friends stares at him as if he'd grown another head.

"What?" Kagami demands, struggling to keep his temper in check. "You have to admit that not everyone is hyperactive."

His friends fall silent. Kuroko prepares to apologize and leave when one of them speaks up; "I guess you're right." He turns to Kuroko. "Hey, Kuroko, was it? We're sorry. We didn't mean to be so harsh." He bows in apology.

Kuroko shakes his head, touched by their honesty and amiability. The boys straightens and smiles.

"Join us for a game of tag?" he asks. "We'll be 'it'. You and Kagami get a head start while we count to ten."

Kuroko hesitates. He is sure he wouldn't be much help when it comes to a chase. But Kagami breaks into a confident grin and says "Sounds fun. I'm game," before Kuroko could even open his mouth.

"Alright then." Kagami's friends huddled around a tree, their backs facing the odd pair. "We'll start. Ten! Nine.."

"Let's go!" Kuroko feels a large hand grabbing his own. Kagami's hand is warm. And reassuring. Kagami pulls Kuroko along, adjusting his pace so that Kuroko wouldn't trip or anything. He knows that this game is one that he couldn't win in, but that's fine. It doesn't matter if they lose.

Because after seeing that tint of pink on Kuroko's cheeks and that radiant smile he was wearing on that usually stoic face, Kagami somehow knows that it's all worth it.

xXx

Kuroko's mother was more than delighted to know that he son had finally made a friend. She was having a day off from work that day when she saw something that made her pinch herself to confirm that it was not a dream. Her son - her dear little Tetsuya-chan, was waving goodbye to the boy next door before he walked into the house.

She had hugged him as soon as he appeared. She'd ran her hands through his soft, light blue locks and told him how happy she was to finally see him befriend someone. She knew her son could do it. And Kuroko had hugged back, a smile tugging his lips. He wasn't ashamed to admit that his mother had been right. Hanging out with other kids his age wasn't really that bad. It certainly felt slightly better than being alone.

Kuroko's mum had insisted Kagami to come over for tea as a celebration. That was how Kagami finds himself seated at table in a tidy kitchen awkwardly nibbling on a cookie as he tries to ignore the bizarrely identical pairs of blue eyes staring at him. He swallows a sigh along with bits of biscuit. How did he get himself into this?

Kagami dares himself to look up. His eyes met those of Kuroko's mother. She smiles at him. Kagami smiles back. He notices just how much Kuroko resembles the lady sitting next to him. They both had the same big eyes and alabaster skin that seem way too pale to be human. Kuroko's mother is indeed a beautiful woman, despite the lines of exhaustion that creased her face here and there.

Kuroko clears his throat softly. "..Should we go to my room, Taiga-kun?"

Kagami tries not to breathe a sigh of relief. He figures he'd eaten enough cookies to last him a lifetime. He stands up, lifting the now empty plate with the intent of washing it. Kuroko's mother stops him, announcing that she will be doing the dishes. She asks them to have fun.

Kagami follows Kuroko's lead up the stairs. There are three rooms on the second floor. Kuroko stops at the second door on the left. He turns and motions Kagami to enter first. Kagami steps in, and stops almost immediately. He blinks.

The walls of Kuroko's room are painted a light green. A single bed sits in a corner right under the window, and a study table is placed next to it. Right next to the door is a bookshelf complete with an impressive collection of reading materials. There's a small portable TV shoved to another corner, accompanying the orange basketball that Kuroko had accidentally thrown over to his house compound.

But what made Kagami doubt his sight isn't the normalness of the room. On Kuroko's bed, leaning against the wall, is a very, very big collection of soft, cuddly, colorful, plush toys; ranging from a family of -wait, are those birds?- dango beanies to fluffy teddy bears.

"..Taiga-kun?" Kuroko voices as he shuts the door. "Is something wrong?"

"Wh-Wha-?" Kagami struggles to refrain from stuttering. "Oh no! Nothing's wrong!"

Kuroko looks at him doubtfully, but otherwise says nothing.

"So.. what do you want to do?" he finally asks.

Kagami tilts his head and scratches his hair. "What's there to do?"

"I have books," Kuroko states so matter-of-factly that Kagami nearly facepalms. "And movies. And a game console."

"Playstation?"

Kuroko fishes out a white rectangular device from one of his drawers. "DS."

"Awesome." Kagami produces a similar device from one of his pockets. His is sleek black. "Pokémon?"

"Diamond."

Kagami nods in approval. The boys plop themselves down on the floor and begin booting their consoles. Kuroko scrunches his eyebrows slightly as if something isn't right. His face brightens a split second later, and he reaches towards his mound of soft toys.

"Taiga-kun."

Kagami looks up, only to be assaulted by a giant flying bird. He swats the thing away, demanding why had Kuroko done that. He stops short when he sees the shorter boy hugging a bird similar to the one he'd thrown him , his chin resting against the top of its head. It is as big as Kuroko's body.

It takes Kagami a few minutes to realize how much the birds resemble them. The one Kuroko was hugging was pale blue with scary blank eyes just like his. The one offered (or thrown) to Kagami was dark red with small eyes and strangely shaped eyebrows. He stares at it, and finally deciding that it was probably comfortable, he follows Kuroko's example.

"..Where are you now?" Kagami asks, not taking his eyes off the screen as he jams on the buttons.

"Victory Road," Kuroko answers. Kagami's jaw fell open.

"No way," he breathes. "I'm just at the fifth gym!"

Kuroko smiles in what seemed to be triumph. "Patience, Taiga-kun."

They play in silence after that, though they occasionally exchange opinions on certain matters (like how annoying some Pokémon are (they just refuse to die!) and all that). Kuroko offers Kagami advice for defeating the gym leaders when he sees his friend breaking out in cold sweat while mumbling incoherently to himself once in a while. Kagami scoots over a while later to watch Kuroko own the Elite Four with his party that consisted of Pokémon with levels no lower than 65. The opposing parties stood no chance.

After several hours of gaming, their eyes starts to burn from tiredness. Kuroko yawns, shutting his DS with a snap. He puts it down beside himself and stretches. He opens one eye, and sees that Kagami is doing the same.

"My neck hurts," Kagami groans.

"That's because you've been hunching for the last three hours," Kuroko says, flexing his shoulders. "You should try different positions when you're using your DS. It helps."

"Didn't see you do it," Kagami retorts.

"I did. You just didn't notice."

Kagami decides not to argue.

"Well. I guess I should be going home," he says.

"It's getting late," Kuroko agrees.

And when Kagami leaves, Kuroko feels that, through playing Pokémon, he had somehow gotten himself a best friend.

xXx

Kuroko soon forgets how it felt like to be separated from the world.

He's still alone in school, though, because he still held on to his belief that if he were to get close to someone, he could have accidentally stole another person's friend away. But being neighbors and all, he and Kagami are inseparable after school hours. They'd walk home together every day. They'd hang out at each other's houses every afternoon. Kuroko no longer does his chores by himself, and his visits to the library were not so frequent anymore.

Kuroko finally understands why his mother had insisted that friends were important in the process of growing up. Kagami teaches him many things that he would have never learnt from books. He'd given him memories that he never would have thought he would experience. He'd taught him that loneliness was a very sad and painful thing.

Kuroko never wants to be alone again.

But the future was an uncertainty. You never know what happens until you get there yourself.

"..We'll always be best friends, right Tetsuya?"

Kuroko glances at the taller from the corner of his eye as he stands on a stool to hang the laundry on the clothes line. Kagami stares back him, his crimson eyes gleaming under the afternoon sun. He looks worried, as if he expects Kuroko to say no.

And how could he say no?

"Of course, Taiga-kun," Kuroko smiles one of his rare smiles. Kagami seems to blush slightly. Kuroko is so annoyingly like a girl sometimes.

"Promise?" the redhead asks as he passes the last sheet of laundry to Kuroko. He waits as the shorter slowly arranged it on the line before clipping it in place. He waits and waits, and at some point, he begins to wonder if Kuroko was doing it on purpose.

"Tetsuya-" he starts, but stops when Kuroko steps down from his stool and turns around. His honest blue eyes gazes at the taller with a certain fondness. Kagami struggles to keep his jaw shut. With that serene look, that light blue hair, alabaster skin, and white t-shirt, Kuroko - Kagami gulps - looks like an angel child sent from heaven itself; pure, mysterious. Beautiful. The sheets billowing from the wind in the background somehow completes the image perfectly.

"I promise," Kuroko says. He holds out his fist. "Will it be the same for you?"

It is the manliest thing Kagami had seen Kuroko do all day. He grins widely, and holds out his own hand, fingers curled.

"Do you even have to ask?"

They seal the promise with a bump of their fists.

xXx

"Remember what I'm saying, Taiga. You're a strong boy. You must never use that strength to hurt others. Use it to protect the ones you love. Let your light always shine bright and strong."

Kagami suddenly recalls his father's words. It was a miracle that he remembers, since he was only three years old when his father flew to the States for work. Kagami glances around his surroundings. He isn't with Kuroko today. He had something to do after school, and he had no idea how long it'd take, so he'd asked the shorter to go home first, not wanting to waste his time following him around aimlessly.

Kagami pauses in this tracks as he walks past the park. A group of elementary-schoolers are standing in a circle. Kagami squints, and realizes that they are surrounding a boy. The boy is small, maybe about Kagami's age? He couldn't guess.

One of the bullies shifts his position, and in that split second, Kagami sees it. That light blue hair is unmistakable. He recognizes it anywhere.

Kuroko stands in the ring of older kids, his face a stoic mask as usual. But Kagami sees it in his eyes. He's scared. He does not want this. Whatever happened had been an accident, but they are taking the opportunity to hit him. Kuroko knows he hadn't the ability to fight back.

Kagami doesn't spend a second more thinking. He charges forward. He grabs the unfortunate kid that happened to stand between him and Kuroko by the shirt, and yanks with such force he almost tears the fabric. He breaks into the circle, roaring like the animal he is named after.

A string of curses broke out from the rest of the gang. Kuroko looks at Kagami in surprise, but it quickly turns to fear and worry. "Taiga-kun!"

Kagami turns towards him, only to be punched square on the face. Before he could regain his footing, another boy kicks him in a gut. Kagami groans once in pain, before gritting his teeth and launching himself into another attack.

The fight is one-sided and Kagami knows it. He gets thrown to the ground countless times until he felt his legs could not support his weight any longer. But he isn't going to give up just like that. These people are trying to hurt his best friend, and he will not let that happen. He stumbles forward and hugs Kuroko tight to himself, his big frame shielding the smaller from whatever blows that might be landed on him.

And even when he feels as if his spine would break into three separate pieces, he does not let go.

"Taiga-kun!" Kuroko struggles in his grasp, his voice partially muffled by Kagami's shirt. He sounds panicked. "Please stop! Please stop hurting yourself!"

Move, legs! I'm begging you! Move! You can't just sit here and watch! You can't be this weak!

"It's fine," Kagami chokes out in a whisper, his voice tight with pain. "I'll protect you."

"There's no point if you get injured yourself!" Kuroko is almost screaming now, his emotionless demeanor gone. "Taiga-kun!"

"That's enough!"

Kagami felt the kicks stop abruptly. He allows himself to breathe. Once. Twice. Then he carefully straightens, bears with the sore aches all over his body, and looks around.

The boys had vanished, replaced by grown men in blue uniforms. One of them breaks apart from the group and kneels down before them.

"Are you two alright?" he inquires.

Which part of him looks alright, Kagami will never know.

Kuroko nods, not saying a word.

"They kick like sissies," Kagami comments, trying to keep his voice light. "So yeah, I'm fine."

The cop stares his black eye doubtfully. "We should take you to the doctor to get those fixed." He points at the various bruises decorating Kagami's skin.

"Naww," the redhead says. "It's nothing, sir. Thanks for worrying."

The man stares at him doubtfully some more.

"Then at least let us send you boys back home," he finally decides. Kagami shrugs. No harm in getting a free ride.

In the car, Kagami holds Kuroko's still shaking hand, giving it a soft squeeze. Kuroko doesn't meet his gaze. He couldn't.

Not when it is all his fault.

xXx

Kuroko had met Kagami's mother quite a few times when he went over to their home. She is very young, perhaps even younger than Kuroko's own mother. Kagami inherits her flaming red hair. She was fun and sporting, very much like her son.

But Kuroko now sees the side of her he never saw. And he never wants to see it again.

"How could you!?" she screams as she jabs an accusing finger at the pale boy. Kuroko stands at the doorsteps of Kagami's home, side by side with his friend. He keeps his head hung low. His fists are clenched.

Yes, how could he. How could he be so weak. So utterly useless.

"How could you let them hurt Taiga this badly!?"

"Mum!" Kagami yells back, his eyes burning with fury. "Enough! It's not Tetsuya's fault."

"Don't you dare talk to your mother like that," his mother snaps back. "I never should have let you befriend him!"

"Take that back," Kagami growls. He puts an arm around Kuroko's shoulder. He feels him shaking. "Take that back, Mum."

His mother looks at him exasperatedly. "Why can't you understand, Taiga? I'm your mother. I can't let you-"

"It wasn't Tetsuya's fault that I got hurt," Kagami says, his voice steely cold. "Dad told me to protect the ones I love before he went to America. Tetsuya needed help. I was the one who got myself into this mess."

"Taiga-"

"Come, Tetsuya," Kagami grabs Kuroko's hand, and pulls him outside. "Let's get out of here."

Kuroko doesn't say a word even when he is back in his own home. His ears are still ringing from all the screaming and shouting. He quietly pulls Kagami towards the sofas, and motions him to sit down. He then sets out to rummage for the first aid kit his family kept for emergencies.

The silent is suffocating.

"Tetsuya?" Kagami says, unable to bear with it any longer.

Kuroko still says nothing as he makes his way back, carrying a white box in his small hands. He sits down next to Kagami, and starts pulling out a bottle of antiseptic.

"I'm sorry."

Kuroko looks up, feeling Kagami wince under his touch as he sprays the chemical onto his wound.

"I'm really sorry," Kagami repeats. "For what Mum said to you."

Silence.

"I'm sure she doesn't mean it, though," he continues. "Mum really likes you. She probably said that because she was freaking out after seeing this." He points at his beautifully bruised cheek.

More silence.

"..I should be the one apologizing," Kuroko finally says. He is bending down to dress the scratches on Kagami's legs, so his bangs hid his face. "It was my fault."

"I told my mother it wasn't'," Kagami says. "And I'll tell you that it wasn't too."

"If only I hadn't been this frail and weak," Kuroko says as if the redhead had not spoken at all. "If only I was strong enough to protect myself."

"Tetsuya-"

"I'm sorry, Taiga-kun." Kuroko looks up. Tears trailed down his pale cheeks. "I'm so sorry."

"What are you talking about?" Kagami waves his hands elaborately. "If I hadn't saved you, you would've gotten hurt real bad and sent to the hospital!"

"I'm okay with that," Kuroko whispers, casting his gaze on the floor. "As long as no one else gets hurt because of my own carelessness."

"But it doesn't hurt!" Kagami protests - because really, it doesn't. It stung a little at first, but the pain fades after a while. It isn't something he couldn't handle. "If I had just stood there and watch those guys beat you up, I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself for the rest of my life."

"And that's exactly how I feel right now," Kuroko says, the anguish raw in his voice. "I was there too, Taiga-kun. I was watching everything. I wanted so badly to help." He inhales, before voicing bitterly; "But you know what? I was frozen. I couldn't make myself move. I was.. so scared. I could not conquer that fear, and you were the one who ended up getting hurt."

Kagami opens his mouth to argue more, but he decides not to after a very brief consideration. He figures he will only make Kuroko feel even guiltier if he said anything more. So he lets his body move on its own. He lifts his hand, and brushes his friend's tears away.

"Don't cry, Tetsuya." He smiles warmly. "It's alright. Everything will be okay."

He moves his hand to ruffle Kuroko hair. Kuroko wipes his arm over his eyes and sniffles. Kagami knows he hates his hair to be touched, but even when Kuroko does not protest, he knows that he'd somehow managed to cheer him up.

But when he finally decides to leave to confront his mother and apologize (he still needs food and a home, after all), Kagami doesn't see the glint in Kuroko's eyes. If Kagami had turned around one last time before he left, he would have been able to tell that Kuroko had made a decision.

A decision that he dreads with all his life.

xXx

Kagami stands before the front doors of Kuroko's home. His mother had almost skinned him alive for being reckless when he returned home the evening before. But after calming down, she'd admitted that what she said was wrong and had told him to send her apologies to Kuroko. She knows she had been too harsh on the poor boy.

"Excuse me!" Kagami shouts. Kuroko's home was not equipped with a doorbell, and he figured knocking will be useless if everyone was upstairs or something.

He waits. After about five minutes, he hears hurried footsteps from inside, and the door opens.

"Ah, Taiga-kun!"

It's Kuroko's mother.

"Tetsuya-chan told me what happened." She says regretfully. She pushes the door completely open, and bows low. "I apologize on his behalf."

"I-It's okay, Kuroko-san," Kagami stammered. Not this again! "Please raise your head. It's not Tetsuya's fault, really!"

Slowly, Kuroko's mother straightens up. She manages a watery smile.

"A-Anyway," Kagami anxiously changes the topic. "Is Tetsuya home?"

Her smile falters slightly, but enough for Kagami to notice. Did something happen? Is Tetsuya okay?

"Tetsuya-chan is.." Kuroko's mother hesitates. She wouldn't meet Kagami's gaze. "He's feeling really tired today, so I'm afraid you can't play with him."

There it is again. That look of hurt in her blue eyes. Kagami could tell straight off that she was lying. But he couldn't bring himself to press on. He isn't really keen on making another member of the Kuroko family cry.

"I see," Kagami tries not to sound too dejected. "But will you tell him I came over? And that my mum doesn't actually blame him for what happened?"

The sad smile doesn't leave the lady's face. "I will."

"Thank you," Kagami grins back, before he turns. "Have a nice day!"

Kuroko knows it was Kagami without even needing to walk all the way to the front door. He could hear his loud, demanding, over-energetic voice from his room.

And then there's silence. Followed shortly by a knock on his door.

His mother slips in, a pained smile on her features. "Taiga-kun was here just now."

Kuroko keeps his eyes glued to the book he was reading, staying silent. His mother walks over and plops herself down on the corner of his bed.

"You don't have to do this, Tetsuya-chan," she whispers. Kuroko still refuses to talk.

"It'll only be painful for you," his mother continues. "Taiga-kun doesn't blame you. No one does. Not even Kagami-san. There's no need for you to resolve to this."

Kuroko keeps his expression deadpanned, but his fingers clenched the pages of his book. Hard. This is a decision he made, and he is not going to back out of it.

But the lady there with him was his mother. She senses his dread pass that stoic mask of his. She knows. She knows just how much her son hates the decision he'd made. It makes her heart ache. He is only five years old, way too young to be experiencing such sorrowful feelings. Wordlessly, she pulls him into a gentle hug, pressing his face against her chest, hopefully giving him the assurance he needed so much.

His mother is so warm, and she's shaking with effort to keep herself together. Kuroko feels droplets of water on his hair.

Kuroko doesn't cry. He feels that his mother is doing it enough for him.

xXx

Kagami doesn't actually see Kuroko again after that incident. Kuroko seems to avoid him everywhere; be it at school or at home.

Kagami notices this. It had happened several times already. Kagami would call out to his friend as soon as he spots that familiar mop of blue hair in school, but Kuroko would just ignore him or pretend not to hear and disappear into a crowd, making tailing him an difficulty. Kagami would look for him during breaks instead, but he wouldn't find him in his classroom like usual. And he seems to leave school before Kagami even has a chance to walk over.

It's the same thing at home. Kuroko would usually wait for him to come over during the afternoons. But now, Kagami finds himself standing before a silent, and maybe empty house. No one would answer to his calls. Kagami remembers how Kuroko's mother had looked the other day when he requested to see him.

Whatever the reason might be, Kuroko is distancing himself from him.

Kagami never gives up. He'd sit on the doorsteps of Kuroko's house, and wait. He'd wait until the sun sets before trudging back home, stretching his stiff muscles. And the next day, he'd go over once more.

Kuroko knows that Kagami waits for him. He could see him from the window of his room. Kuroko had returned to his old solitary lifestyle, though he did make several upgrades. He seldom stays at home in the afternoons, because he knew seeing his friend would only make his heart ache more. Instead, he goes to another library deeper in town. He goes to his new secret hiding spot (a forgotten rubber tire swing on a tree behind the kindergarten building) during breaks instead of meeting with Kagami. He does only indoor chores.

And most of all, he learns to make his presence unnoticeable.

Because it's all part of the resolve that he'd made.

To Kagami, Kuroko is avoiding him because of the guilt that he shouldn't be feeling. But to Kuroko, it's a challenge to make himself stronger. He is not going to let anyone get hurt because of him ever again.

xXx

Two months later, Kagami receives a letter from his father in America. He and his mother were to leave Japan to join him over there at the States in two weeks time.

Kagami tries to tell the news to Kuroko. But as he'd expected, Kuroko's mother is the one who answers the door.

When Kagami finishes talking to her, she seems sad. Kagami asks if he may go in to see Kuroko. He misses him so much. But Kuroko's mother shakes her head slowly. She was biting her lower lip as if it pained her. Her eyes begged him not to ask further.

"Then," Kagami says, desperation creeping into his voice. "Then please tell Tetsuya that I'll be waiting for him before I leave. It doesn't matter if he shows up or not. Just tell him I'll be waiting."

Kuroko's mother hesitates, before nodding. She takes in a deep breath, and tries for a smile. "Alright."

Two weeks passes in a flash. Kagami keeps himself busy with all the packing up and whatnot. He isn't planning to leave anything - anything at all- behind.

And then the day arrived. Most of their stuff had already been flown to America. Kagami lugs his baggage onto the boot of the cab his mother had rented to take them to the airport. He wanders back into the house as his mother did some last minute checking. He's determined on remembering the place for as long as he lived.

When he wanders back out, he glances around, looking out for Kuroko. He turns in one full circle, and finally focuses his gaze at the window that leads to Kuroko's room. He hopes so badly to see that familiar face, that mop of untamed blue hair, and those big blue eyes one last time before he leaves. But the curtains are drawn, and Kuroko is nowhere to be seen.

Kagami blinks back tears. It's just so frustrating! Why won't he see him? What exactly is wrong?

"Taiga!"

Kagami sighs. It's time to go. He walks towards the car, and just before he gets on, he turns around.

"I'm going now, Tetsuya!" he shouts, not caring if the boy himself was listening or not. "It's been fun knowing you! Let's meet again next time!"

When he enters the car, he notices his mother crying. He doesn't care. His eyes are really wet, too.

But unbeknownst to him, the curtain was not completely shut. There was a gap in between two sheets, wide enough to peek through.

Kuroko watches with a small smile on his face as the yellow car drives further and further away until it was nothing but a small dot in a distance.

"Yes," he says quietly. He closes his eyes, and lets those big droplets of tears trail their way down his cheeks. "Let's meet again."

xXx

Years later, Kuroko works up the courage to make friends again when he enters middle school. He meets new friends, and is once again happy.

But like the previous time, it does not last. In his third year, he is left alone again.

Even so, Kuroko's stronger now. He vows to start again.

He decides start again when he enters high school.

xXx

In a certain high school in Tokyo, hundreds of students bustled around in the courtyard. Seniors of various clubs tried their hardest to attract the freshmen's attention, desperate to increase their members. Juniors got constantly pushed around with all the activity going on.

Amongst the chaos, a boy calmly reads his book as he walks.

"Hey, do you like books? How about joining the literature club?"

The question was directed to the person behind him. The boy doesn't mind. He isn't interested in the club.

He stops when reaches the spot where the basketball club had set up their booth. He makes a doggie ear on the page he had been reading, and tucks the novel into his bag. He then looks up.

"Is the basketball club here?"

He stares. He stares and stares. The person standing there, practically terrorizing the seniors of the club, was a very tall boy with short, dark red hair. He wore an expression of utmost boredom, though it was hard to tell since he had his strangely shaped eyebrows knitted and a constant frown on his face.

But that isn't the reason of his surprise. He knew this person.

"Kagami Taiga-kun?" He hears the girl at the booth read out. His breathing hitches. That's really him - really the Taiga-kun that he used to know, used to play with during those lonely days.

He walks closer, unseen by the people around him. A conversation is going on between Kagami and the seniors. Kuroko takes his seat on the empty chair next to the redhead.

A smile graces his lips as he picks up a pen to fill the form provided.

We meet again, Taiga-kun.

White Lilac: youthful innocence

So if what I wrote was too illogical to understand, Kuroko basically avoids Kagami after that incident because he feels that he would just end up being protected by him again if anything happened. or something like that. now we also know why Kuroko hates seeing people bullying others /shot. But I'm so sorry for changing some parts of the original plot OTL

I am not satisfied with the ending for some reason o3o. AND THE OOCNESS WHELP

mehhhh. KuroBasu isn't mine. Feel free to point out my mistakes ouo. Thank you so much for reading!

Edit: fixed the tense errors phew that was alot OTL