so I'm late ouo. /dodges plates and various cutlery flying my way

eheh ^^'. I apologize. as I've told you guys, I was away for a week after completing the previous chappie. and by the time I came back and settled down, I was focusing on writing a KuroBasu Christmas fic, which some of you may or may not have read. Feel free to give it a try if you think its worth your time ouo.

/shot for shameless advertising.

I'm not sure how many things got done in this chapter. I personally feel that the sudden time skip/rush is necessary since I've practical used up all my ideas /shot. but yeah. the reason I did this because I was unable to come up with anything more.

Speaking of anything more, I guess you guys should know that the next chapter or the one after the next will probably be the last for this story. Mainly because as I had said: I ran out of ideas. My holidays are also over as soon as New Year's comes along, so I figured I should just spare you guys the wait and get it all over with. I'll be busy settling in with everything for the first few months of school, so I guess my updates will slow down too. In fact, I think I'll just stick to one-shots when I finish this.

ah well. KuroBasu is not mine. Feel free to point out my mistakes when you spot one. And while I'm at it, Happy (advanced) New Year! :D

I'll leave it to your imaginations on what happened to Haizaki ;D /shot


Akashi was in a good mood, and that wasn't the problem.

Much to Kagami's surprise/worry/fear, the rest of the Generation of Miracles - save Kuroko - were acting like they'd won a lottery or something. Kagami would be a real stupid idiot if he was to think that nothing was wrong.

But all that didn't really bother him. They could be driven to insanity for all he cared. What caught him off guard was the fact that his deadline was only two more weeks away.

Kagami was confident, yes, but that didn't mean he had prepared himself for everything. To his dismay when he checked, he still had a good half a stack of script left to memorize. With all those distractions around him for the last few weeks, Kagami had failed to get anything done. It took him so long to memorize the first half. The remaining was obviously impossible to him to stuff into his brain in just two weeks.

Kagami considered asking Akashi to cut him some slack while he had the chance. Maybe the guy will take pity on him or something.

Kagami leaned back and exhaled slowly. Who was he kidding. This was Akashi he was talking about. He wouldn't do anything like that even when the world splits apart. Expect maybe with Kuroko, but that's besides the point. Kagami dumped the idea almost immediately. No point gambling in something that guarantees his lost.

"Ah. You're here."

Kagami turned lazily to the door. After all that thought, he was starting to give up a little on life. "Yo."

If Kuroko noticed his despair, he didn't let on. The shorter quietly trudged into his home, his face as mask free of emotions as usual. He walked right past Kagami, making his way to the sink.

"..The kids are coming over later," he said, not even turning to look as he pooled some water into his cupped hands before splashing his face. He exhaled softly in relief. After standing under the sun for the last hour, the cooling liquid was bliss to his skin.

"Ehhh," Kagami closed his eyes and suppressed a sigh. Great. He was facing an impossible deadline and there Kuroko was bringing that herd of little noise makers into the house. It wasn't that Kagami hated the children. He'd even miraculously came to like them, in fact. But the timing was definitely not the best. Kagami guessed he'd have to find a shade in the forest and separate himself from the human population for a while later.

Kuroko made his way towards the redhead after wiping off the excess water from his face. He settled down on the floor opposite to Kagami. "What's wrong?"

Kagami opened his eyes. Kuroko had his head tilted slightly to the side, a small glint of curiosity and worry in his big blue eyes. Huh. Kagami realized he made a mistake thinking that there was something different only with the rest of the Generation of Miracles. Now that he looked closely, Kagami noticed that Kuroko looked more relaxed. The tension was gone from his shoulders - Kagami could see from the way they were set. Kuroko no longer looked constantly on edge. His eyes no longer had that hunted look in them.

"Kagami-kun?"

Kagami blinked out of his reverie, and instantly felt heat rising to his face. Damn. He'd been staring.

"H-Huh?" Even better. He managed to stutter. "N-Nothing's wrong."

Kuroko stared at him doubtfully some more. Kagami silently cursed those puppy-like eyes of his.

"I should be the one asking," he said, trying to sound exasperated. When he got a confused look from the shorter boy in response, he added; "You guys seem to be in a really pleasant mood these days. Did something happen?"

Kuroko looked genuinely surprised. "You mean you don't know?"

"I wouldn't be asking if I knew, idiot," Kagami sighed.

There was a short moment of silence before the shorter spoke up again. "It's Haizaki-kun."

It was Kagami's turn to stare. "What?"

"He's not coming back," Kuroko assured. "Akashi-kun and the others took care of it."

Kagami didn't bother asking how. Knowing that particular bunch of people, anything could've happened; from threats to deals. Heck, Akashi could've even killed him without any second thoughts. Aomine too, considering just how much all of them loathed Haizaki.

Kagami didn't feel any pity for the guy at all.

"Well, at least that's settled," he said, a grin tugging his lips. Kagami felt oddly happy, not just because he had one distraction off his list.

"Now it's your turn," Kuroko said. "What's wrong?"

At times, Kagami hated just how persistent Kuroko could be. His smile faded as he heaved another sigh. "What's the date today?"

Kuroko looked at him uncomprehendingly. "Sorry?"

"Two weeks," Kagami grumbled. "That's my deadline."

Kuroko didn't seem like he understood at first. Then his eyes widened a fraction as realization dawned him. Upon seeing his reaction, Kagami nodded in confirmation.

"I've only got two weeks left here," he said. "Then we'll be doing what we've been planning to do. The problem now is this," he motioned to the stack of papers to his right. "I'll never be able to finish memorizing this in time. I can hardly remember the first few pages!"

Kagami knew he was sounding like some whiny kid, but he didn't care. The stress was driving him crazy. He started his journey around the world mainly because he couldn't stand a quiet, uniformed life. He didn't want to stay home to work because he knew he would have to face crisis like deadlines no matter what job he took.

Fate was laughing at his face, he was sure of it. So much for trying to live a stress-free life.

"Sorry," Kagami apologized after realizing that he'd unintentionally raised his voice. Kuroko shook his head to indicate that it was fine. Was it just him, or does Kuroko look a little.. sad? Kagami could've mistaken that look as a look of guilt, but he was sure he was right.

"It didn't occur to me," Kuroko admitted, averting his gaze. "I should've asked them not to come."

"Eh?" Kagami blinked. "Oh, no, it's alright. I'll just go somewhere else. I won't be able to stand being cooped up in here all day anyway."

Kuroko didn't meet his eyes. "Still. It was inconsiderate of me."

"I told you it's fine, didn't I?" Kagami said in frustration. "Just let them come over and hang out a bit. I'm sure they were all worried about you since you were acting so strange the last few times."

Kuroko kept his gaze on the spot next to his right foot. "I suppose."

"Hey, Kuroko." The tone in the bluenette's voice was really starting to bother Kagami. "You okay?"

Kuroko lifted his head, and his face was emotionless as it had always been. "Yes."

Damn, he was good at hiding his feelings. Kagami respected that at first, but now it was getting really annoying. He could never figure out exactly what's going on in the other's mind.

"You sure?" Kagami asked.

Kuroko nodded. "What makes you think I'm not?"

Well, I'm not the brightest guy around and all that, but your body language and eyes are showing that you're obviously unsettled by something. Not to mention the fact that you just refused to look at me a few minutes ago when we're talking and I don't know why-

"I guess I'm just thinking too much," Kagami said with a shrug. He turned to glare at his stack of papers with distaste. "Looks like I'll be dating you for the day again," he told it.

Fortunately, it did not respond.

"Tetsuya onii-chan!"

Kuroko perked up at the voice. "Looks like they're here."

"Okay then," Kagami huffed as he got on his legs. He bent down and picked his script up. "I'll see you later in the evening."

"Be careful out there, Kagami-kun," Kuroko said.

Kagami snorted. He's been in the forest for so many times and he worries now? "I will."

Kagami then turned around, and headed outside, unable to shake the feeling that something was bothering Kuroko a lot.

xXx

Kuroko heaved an inaudible sigh when Kagami was out of sight.

Two weeks? That was all the time Kagami had left? Kuroko was confused. He couldn't decide whether to feel happy, sad, or anxious. He was slightly worried about Akashi's plan. He knew the heterochromatic boy would never make mistakes, but still. Human beings were famous for their unpredictability. There were still risks in Akashi's plan, no matter how much he claims it to be foolproof.

Kuroko knew he should be happy for Kagami. Just a dozen more days and he'll be released from the heavy burden that he'd been carrying on his shoulders. Kagami would finally be able to resume his carefree life.

Yet, why did Kuroko feel his chest ache when he thought about Kagami leaving? It was frightening. Had he became so attached to the redhead that he no longer wants him to leave? Had Kagami somehow unconsciously managed to wriggle his way into a spot in Kuroko's heart?

Had Kuroko really came to fall for that energetic, impulsive redhead? Is that why he was feeling so?

He had no time to ponder over the thought. The first of the children came tumbling in through his doorstep, full of excitement. He was followed by the whole herd.

Kuroko snapped out of his reverie and stood back to make way and avoid being trampled on. He watched as the children came pouring into his house. He worked to put his stoic face back on as he waited for them to settle down. He had to do it. He was sure his dilemma was showing, albeit slightly.

"Onii-chan!"

Kuroko found himself being tackled by a little girl. He looked down, surprised. "What's wrong?"

Other children joined the girl, and Kuroko was trapped in a large-scale embrace. He looked around, unable to comprehend what was going on.

"Is it okay now? Is everything going to be okay now?" A boy asked, his large eyes staring hopefully at the bluenette.

"Can we really go outside and play without a curfew now?" Another girl said.

It took a moment, but Kuroko finally understood. He reached down, and gently patted the heads of the nearest children gathered around him.

"Yes," he answered with a soft smile. "Everything's alright now. You don't have to worry anymore."

Dozens of pairs of eyes looked up to him with adoration and relief. Then the first cheer was let out, followed by several choruses of assent. Some jumped around, whooping loudly. Others hugged each other and laughed.

Seeing them made Kuroko momentarily forget his own inner turmoil. The children led such simple and innocent lives. Kuroko suddenly felt glad that he'd helped made it so. He felt glad that they didn't need to suffer as he did back when he was a child.

"But then," a girl voices out when the cheers had toned down. She looked straight at Kuroko, her eyebrows knitted worriedly. "Why does Tetsuya nii-chan look so down?"

Kuroko blinked. "Eh?"

"Onii-chan's smiling," she continued, tilting her head to the side. "But your eyes look so sad."

His eyes? Kuroko briefly glanced at the mirror. He couldn't see anything different with them. They looked like how they always do; sky blue and deadpanned. Come to think of it, Kagami seemed to be able to read him a little better lately too. Is that it? Is it because he'd somehow learnt to read his eyes instead of his face?

But the age difference between Kagami and the children before him was big. The kids should not be wise enough to know that yet. They should still be wading in their ignorance, not learn something as emotional as reading someone's feelings through their eyes.

"Is.. Is that so?" Kuroko replied, almost halfheartedly. He must brush it off. He must not let them worry. "I'm feeling great, so I think it's just your imagination."

The girl stared at him doubtfully. Kuroko averted his gaze, hoping that the topic of conversation would not continue. He did not need a group of children to tell him exactly what he was feeling.

"..Are you sure you're okay, Tetsuya onii-chan?" a little boy asked, tugging the hem of his shirt. Kuroko turned to him, and smiled.

"Yes. Better than ever.' He then seemed to hesitate for a moment before adding; "So what do all of you want to do today?"

As much as Kuroko denied it, as much as he avoided the topic, part of him couldn't help but believe what the little girl had commented earlier.

Deep down, Kuroko did not want Kagami to leave.

xXx

Kagami stared at the piece of paper in frustration. He couldn't seem to able to stuff anything into his head at all. He picked up one of the first few pages - one that he'd managed to memorize those weeks ago. He scanned the text, paling with every word he read. Damn. There was something like that in the script?

He set down the sheet, exhaling in defeat as he raked his hand through his hair. He absently fingered strands of his dark red locks, realizing for the first time that they'd actually grown longer. He grunted and retracted his hand, mentally chiding himself for paying too much attention to such trivial things.

Kagami partly knew why he couldn't concentrate. How could he chuck information into his brain with the image of that person stuck in his mind?

Kagami stared towards the horizon, feeling a sort of squeeze in his chest. Huh. Kagami didn't expect himself to actually miss this place. He'd always thought that the sooner he got everything over and done with, the better. He didn't expect that he would actually feel sad that he'll have to leave. Kagami wanted to hate the villagers for making him feel so welcomed throughout his stay.

Only he couldn't. He couldn't bring himself to hate the place, as much as he tried.

Shut up, me, he thought to himself. Just shut up and memorize your stuff.

Kagami lifted a piece of script, and resumed his efforts to remember what he had to remember.

"Kagamicchi! It's time to do your measurements!"

Kagami peered over the piece of paper he was holding to see if the blonde was joking. "Hah?"

"You can't expect to face the government in rags, do you?' Kise asked incredulously, his hands on his hips. He was not joking. Kagami glared at him, suddenly imagining himself wearing a ridiculous suit complete with a tie and jacket and all that. It must have shown pretty obviously on his face because Kise started laughing out of nowhere.

"You won't be wearing anything stupid," Kise assured. "I've sketched out a design based on the clothes you were wearing when you first came here. I already got approval from Akashicchi. At least it wouldn't be as common as formal wear or something." When he received a doubtful look, he threw up his hands in exasperation. "Why don't you trust me? I may not look like it, but I'm a pro!"

Kagami was not in the mood to argue, so he just went with the flow. He set the paper aside and stood up, rubbing his eyes. He figured that after everything, he'll have to get himself a pair of glasses. Reading under such conditions must be really bad for his eyes.

Kise motioned him to the centre of the room, producing a roll of measuring tape from one of his pockets. Kagami did as asked, his expression that of utmost boredom. If Kise was a pro as he had claimed to be, then he better be quick. Kagami had too many things left to memorize, and he was running out of time.

Whoa. For a second there he sounded exactly like a workaholic - something he was working hard not to become. This was definitely not a good sign.

"How's everything going?" Kise asked as he measured Kagami's outstretched arms. Kagami was glad Kuroko had gone out to the city for once. With his arms stretched out either side of him, he felt like an idiot.

"Not that good," Kagami admitted.

"Hmmm," Kise muttered as he jotted down some numbers on a piece of paper. "Only four days left, huh?"

"Yeah."

Kise said something under his breath which Kagami failed to catch. He only heard the mention of a name, and that did not add to his understanding.

Kurokocchi.

What does Kuroko have to do with all these?

Kagami did not ask. Kise didn't look like he would answer him properly anyway. So he stayed silent throughout the whole procedure, letting Kise do his work.

"..I don't suppose you can show me how it looks like?" Kagami asked once the blonde declared everything done. He waited as Kise folded his notes and curled up his measuring tape. Kise then flashed him a smile and turned around.

"Nope~" he said, winking as he glanced over his shoulder. "It's not anything special, but it's still a surprise."

"Figured that much," Kagami mumbled, sighing. He lifted his arms above his head and stretched. His whole body ached from crouching on the floor all morning.

Kise smiled sympathetically. "Good luck, Kagamicchi." He added under his breath, "And thank you."

"Eh?" Kagami wanted to ask what for, but Kise was gone. He blinked, staring at the entrance as if he was expecting his eyes to deceive him or something. Given the circumstances, they might just did.

But Kise really was gone. No sounds of footsteps, no shuffling of clothes. He disappeared just like that. How the heck did he do that?

A sigh once again escaped Kagami's lips. All those memorizing must be frying his brain. Kise shouldn't have disappeared. It was logically impossible to do so unless you had a weak presence like Kuroko. Kise certainly did not have an unnoticeable presence. That guy was like the sun, for heaven's sake!

Kagami decided not to ponder over that matter. He had more important things to do compared to wondering if his eyes were failing on him.

He glared at the stack of papers on the floor, and gradually came to a decision. His head was hurting like crap and his vision was blurring. He could use a break. Some fresh air and sunshine would be good.

Kagami willed his legs to step outside.

xXx

Akashi was not satisfied with what he saw, but he had to make do. Their time was up.

The atmosphere was tense. Akashi couldn't blame them. They'll be risking their freedom first thing the next morning. Akashi had assured that his plan would not fail as long as he is in charge, but that did not stop the others from feeling anxious. Oh well.

Of everyone there, Kagami was the most pressured one. In his own standards, he did quite well in their last roleplay session after dinner that night. He'd mastered the art of not stuttering, and his patience over potential biting remarks had improved. His flow of words had also become more spontaneous and natural.

Akashi thought it was barely enough, but no matter. The poor boy was stressed enough. Any more and he's sure he would snap. Even now as he studied him, Kagami had his fingers laced together, his hands shaking slightly. His breathing was uneven, and he was chewing on the corner of his lip.

A normal human being would not be able to notice these minute details, but Akashi had never considered himself normal. And he was always right.

"Tomorrow's the day," he spoke up, breaking the heavy silence around them. His eyes darted towards each and every one of them gathered there, surveying. Despite everything that Akashi had mentally described to himself just now, Kagami had a determined glint in his eyes. Akashi almost smiled. Kagami wouldn't be backing down anything soon, it seems. The others looked grim and prepared, albeit maybe a little nervous.

They were ready.

"Taiga's efforts will be put to test," Akashi continued, staring straight at the taller redhead. "Anything you'd like to say?"

Kagami gulped. Say?

"I'll..I'll try my best," he said. Gradually gaining confidence, he continued; "I won't let everything that we've done go to waste. I'll do whatever it takes to make this a success."

"Well you sound cocky," Aomine comments lazily. He was resting his chin on one hand, looking bored out of his mind.

"Shut up, Aomine," Kagami said, though he barely meant it. "You're not the one having to face the big guys."

"So what?" Aomine yawned. "Just having to follow you there is bad enough."

"It's all just for a few hours, Daiki," Akashi said calmly. "Stop complaining."

"I'm not," Aomine said. "It's just that he sounds so confident it pisses me off for some reason."

Kagami failed to suppress a grin. "Good to hear."

"Hmph," Aomine turned away, but the corners of his lips were twitched into a smile. "Just don't mess up."

"Ryouta," Akashi spoke up, satisfied that an argument did not break out between the two idiots. It would be troublesome if one did. "Go get Taiga's clothes."

"Alrighty," Kise beamed before speeding off to fetch his masterpiece. He returned half a minute later, breathing hard with a grin on his face. He really was proud of it. It was the first time someone was going to wear the clothes he'd sewn. He handed the folded bundle to Kagami.

Kagami muttered his thanks, accepting the bundle. He decided that it's not the best time to inspect the clothes, so he only studied the piece of drawing that Kise had passed to him along with the other things.

As the blonde had said several days ago, the design bore a resemblance to that of the clothes Kagami had been wearing when he got there. There was a simple long sleeved white shirt with a thin piece of ribbon looping under its upturned collar, a brown vest with dark grey lining, and a pair of matching trousers. A red scarf was supposed to be tied to his right upper arm.

Kagami had expected something more uncommon, but he did not complain. It was still better than wearing a suit. He fingered the material of the clothes, and blinked. He looked down, and realized something. He didn't know how Kise did it - by using second hand clothes or what -, but the blonde had somehow managed to make the attire look well worn and old. The texture of the shirt was crumpled, and the hem of the vest was frayed at some parts. Kagami understood why Kise did all this. He was supposed to be an important guy that had somehow gotten himself lost in a forest and ended up in a village of poverty. New, clean clothes would probably ruin the image.

"We'll gather after lunch," Akashi concluded. "Are all of you clear about what we have to do?"

Everyone nodded. Akashi smiled, and stood up. "Good. Get some rest tonight, all of you. Tomorrow is going to be a long day."

xXx

Kagami couldn't sleep.

It wasn't the first time. It always happened whenever he's about to do something big the next day.

He rolled on his back, and stared up at the ceiling. If everything goes well, tonight or the night after would be his last time staying in Kuroko's small, cozy home. Kagami figured he'd miss the place; the sound of his feet on the wooden floor, the familiar part of the ceiling he'd stare up to during sleepless nights, the musty scent of Kuroko's old pillows. Kagami exhaled and shut his eyes tight in a attempt to stop thinking. If he were to pursue the thought any longer, he was afraid he would start tearing up in a very unmanly way.

"Can't sleep?"

Kagami opened his eyes, and almost jumped out of his skin.

"Stop doing that, Kuroko!" Kagami nearly screeched as he sat up. He had opened his eyes to find a pair of large blue eyes staring down at him in the darkness.

"Doing what?" Kuroko inquired as he scooted backwards. Kagami stared at him hard, then decided that arguing just wasn't worth it.

"Ah, forget it," he said, sighing as he scratched the back of his head. He regarded the pale boy. "Can't sleep either?"

Kuroko shook his head. Kagami raised his eyebrows.

"I thought your nightmares had stopped," he said. Kuroko shrugged in response.

"They did," he said, subconsciously rubbing his arm. "I just can't seem to fall asleep tonight."

"Nervous about tomorrow?" Kagami suggested.

"Not really." Kuroko locked eyes with the redhead. "Are you?"

With effort, Kagami tore his eyes away from those mesmerizing pools of blue. He forced himself to focus on the moonlit view outside the window. "A.. little," he admitted. When he heard a soft chuckle from his companion, he looked back and demanded; "What? Don't judge me."

"Sorry," Kuroko said after he'd manage to stop his giggles. He was smiling softly, the way Kagami had came to like so much. "I wasn't judging you, Kagami-kun."

Blush rose up to the redhead's face. Despite the darkness, his hand instinctively crept to his face to hide it. Damn Kuroko for being all cute like that!

"A-Anyway," he stammered. "Let's try to at least get some rest. Won't want to be sleep deprived tomorrow of all days."

He didn't look, but he could hear Kuroko as he shifted to stand up.

"..Yeah," the smaller boy said. Then before Kagami could even react, he bent down, and placed a kiss on his forehead. It wasn't much; just a soft peck. "Good luck for tomorrow, Kagami-kun. Good night."

Until this day, Kagami blamed Kuroko for his lack of sleep that night, for he could only sit there and try to remember how to breathe until morning came.

xXx

Kagami took in a deep, shuddering breath. His heartbeat was crazy. His lunch was threatening to make a reappearance.

Stop, he told himself. I can do this.

He marched out of the overgrowth of trees through the path Akashi had pointed out to him earlier and towards the large gates, the Generation of Miracles tailing behind him like bodyguards. He set his face into a scowl (which wasn't too hard) as he approached the gatekeepers. The armored men looked up from the magazines they were reading, eyebrows raised.

"Let me in," Kagami demanded, sounding like he had all the rights to do so. "I want to see the head of this country."

He steeled his nerves, and waited. The very first part of Akashi's plan had started.

And the first handcuff snapped into place.