When Kuroko came into the stadium on game day, his mind was batting Aomine's words around like a ball of yarn. He barely reacted to Hyuuga's shout, but found himself looking away from Kagami. He knew that if his towering 'light' looked, he would see that Kuroko and Aomine had been together and throw off the game's rhythm.

He couldn't have that.

"Stupid, what are you bowing for?" Aomine-kun looks just like I remember him; so vital, so blinding, so... lost. "You're already so small." My old partner's eyes suddenly glimmered, taking away my retort. "Murasakibara is strong; even I would have trouble to score against him. And..." Aomine-kun turned his back n me, but looked over his shoulder, and I waited for him like the loyal shadow I was. Could I ever truly drop him for Taiga?

Lacing up his shoes one last time before the ball drop, Kuroko pushed the Touou player out of his head and looked up in time for the first set of players to get on the court. It felt odd to ignore thoughts f his original light before a game- it felt wrong.

"Let's go!" Hyuuga said, his eyes intense behind his glasses. He was bantering with Kiyoshi, and suddenly Izuki was commenting on the training Kuroko and Kagami had been doing.

"You bet!" Kagami growled, getting ready for a fight.

"It's complete." Kuroko said calmly, having no good response in the midst of such deep thought.

"SEIREN FEIGHT! YES!" Yosen was huge; three players over two metres, and they hadn't lost any points yet.

"Let the second quarter final match of the Winter Cup begin! Seiren High VS Yosen High! Bow!" Kuroko let out a deep, quiet sigh as he stood up, eyes on the front of his opposing player's jersey, and allowed the memory of Aomine's departure to replay itself one last time.

Aomine-kun had his back to me, and he'd paused once already like he usually does when he has something important to say.

"The next time we meet, we'll be enemies again." The blunt truth gave my heart a punch, but I kept my face clear as he walked away. It was depressing to be the one left behind, even after I had done the same thing for high school, but I couldn't say that aloud. That was a weakness that neither Aomine-kun or I would ever share. Besides, this was the way I'd chosen: go to Seiren, play with Kagami, and forget Aomine-kun and the others. This was my basketball.

"Don't lose, Tetsu."

Kuroko suddenly snapped to reality with burning intensity in his blue eyes. Those three words echoed in his mind, wrapping themselves around him and urging him onward even before the match had begun. He breathed again, this time in anticipation, and remembered the times before- the uniforms, the fancy gym, his team.

Now he was ready.

"The match begins now!"