A/N: Takes place in the third year of Teikou, if it isn't obvious
On the first day of the new school year, Cancer is ranked 6th on the horoscope - just one position short of being on the lower half of the rankings but tenuous nonetheless. The lucky item for the day is a tire, an easy enough item to obtain.
That morning, Midorima mourns his bicycle and walks to school.
'It couldn't be helped,' Midorima tells himself as he approaches Teikou's entrance with a bicycle tire in hand. He adjusts his glasses, ignoring all the odd stares from his fellow students. 'At least with this, my luck will be guaranteed.'
The real problem starts in English class when the teacher declares that they must choose an English practice partner for the rest of the term. Akashi, Midorima's usual partner, is no longer in his class this year and the number of potential partners quickly dwindles as friends partnered off with each other.
No one approaches him, warded off by his tire and the whispers of bike thiefpassing around the gossip mill. Midorima scoffs. It is a completely ridiculous and unfounded conclusion and those stupid enough to believe it do not even deserve his partnership.
But, at this rate, he would get a horrible partner. Everyone left behind are the dredges of their class, the delinquents. He needed-
Midorima nearly jumps out of his seat from the unexpected voice next to him. "Ku-Kuroko?! You're in this class?"
"It seems that the teacher forgot to call my name during attendance," Kuroko says. Judging from his neutral expression, he is far too used to this occurrence by now. "But Midorima-kun, if you do not have a partner yet, would you partner with me?"
"I suppose that would be for the best," he replies, discreetly patting his bicycle tire and blessing OhaAsa for the fortunate turn of events. "Our schedules would match well."
"We can meet after practices," Kuroko says in agreement.
"Then it's settled. But don't think I will accept any slacking from you, Kuro…ko?"
Midorima finds himself alone again. Misdirection, a troublesome move, he notes with displeasure.
The first of their "study dates," as Kise has so persistently named them, is after a particularly grueling practice. Akashi calls it reconditioning, Aomine calls it torture, and, for once, Midorima finds himself agreeing. Kuroko is practically half dead by the time practice ends.
"Midorima-kun's shots are amazing, but Midorima-kun's stamina is also pretty amazing," Kuroko says after Midorima carries Kuroko to the library on his back.
"Your stamina is just terrible," Midorima huffs, dumping Kuroko to an empty seat in the library. "Don't expect this to be a common occurrence."
Kuroko smiles thoughtfully.
Midorima continues to indulge Kuroko with piggyback rides on occasion but leaves Kise on the ground without a second thought when the blond catches on and attempts to feign fatigue.
"Pathetic," he sneers, and Kise laments at the unfairness of it all.
After a steady month of study sessions, Midorima finds that he has observed far too many details about Kuroko than he would like to admit.
For example, he knows that Kuroko always closes his eyes when he yawns and never fails to muffle it out of politeness. He also knows that Kuroko's politeness exponentially decreases in relation to his tiredness and he has found that Kuroko's ability to insult someone in English far surpasses his own.
('My mother picks up a lot of things on business trips,' Kuroko explains.)
Kuroko is not a bad study partner. They get their work done efficiently with little distractions. On occasion, Kuroko quips some ridiculous remark about the dialogue in their textbook ('Mark-san needs to learn to read the clock correctly, the picture says eleven but the dialogue says it is noon.') to which Midorima always offers a counter argument ('The dialogue is the most important part, if Mark says it is noon, it is noon.') and their conversation would devolve into a nonsensical debate until Midorima realizes what they are doing and sees the small triumphant smirk on Kuroko's lips at the achievement of a short study reprieve.
It is a good arrangement. An enjoyable one even, not that he will ever admit it, but his complaints fool no one.
His newfound exposure to Kuroko also makes him the first to notice that Kuroko's soft smiles are less frequent, those blue eyes more clouded with insecurity. He's mixed between disappointed and disdain for Aomine for being so dense and careless with Kuroko's feelings.
"Aomine-kun wasn't at practice today either," Kuroko finally comments one day while they walk to the library.
Midorima adjusts his glasses with a hmph of annoyance. Kuroko concerns himself about Aomine far too much. "Then it is his loss if he is out of practice by next game. As long as he makes his point quota, Akashi will not mind."
Kuroko frowns. They both know that Aomine has never failed to make his quota. "Still, practice feels…different without Aomine-kun."
"Your play style relies too much on others, and without Aomine to make full use of it, your strength has obviously be effected," Midorima explains rationally, and then adds, "But as for me, it makes no difference if Aomine is on the court or not. My three-pointers will still go in."
"Midorima-kun can be surprisingly arrogant," Kuroko says with the slightest hint of irritation in the way his brows furrow almost unnoticeably.
"It is the truth," Midorima says. "That is why your style of basketball is weak and why mine is strong. I do not have to rely on other players on the court for my strength."
Kuroko stops walking and, for the first time in a while, Midorima sees full out disapproval on Kuroko's face. "Midorima-kun, I must respectfully disagree with your opinion. It is impossible to play basketball without relying on others. Basketball is a team sport. If no one passes to you, if no one helps guard the basket, if no one distracts your opponents to create an opening for you to shoot, it would be impossible for you to win. To rely on your teammates, to help them…it is not a bad thing."
Midorima adjusts his glasses once again, stalling for a response. Kuroko's words have a shine of truth in them, backed with an intensity he rarely sees from the phantom player off court. Finally he admits, "Perhaps that is so, but individual strength is not bad. Relying on others, is that really all you can do? In the end, you are still carrying a fatal weakness."
Kuroko grips his fists at the taunt, lips pursed as if preparing to make a retort, but he does not respond. When Midorima looks away, Kuroko disappears, and the shooting guard almost feels guilty for his harsh words. Maybe. Slightly. (Very.)
During the next practice, Midorima tosses a basketball to Kuroko. "Your ignite pass, let me try to catch it today," he says, and turns around before Kuroko can catch his expression.
"…but…I thought Midorima-kun didn't want to risk injuring his fingers with such a pass?"
"With Aomine slacking off, someone has to make up for the effort," Midorima replies, untaping his fingers slowly and continuing to ignore Kuroko's curious gaze.
"Okay, then… I won't hold back."
"You won't need to."
(Show it to me once more, Kuroko. Your basketball.)
Out of the corner of his eyes, Midorima finally catches sight of one of Kuroko's growingly elusive smiles, and everything falls back into place.
Their next match is yet another crushing victory, with their opponents struggling to an end score of 201 to 20. Midorima passes his point quota by a good 12 points.
Catching Kuroko's advanced passes adds a whole new dimension to the game, the power behind them leaves his fingers tingling as he shoots and catching them is a challenge in itself. It requires trust, intimate knowledge of each other's actions, and quick communication on a higher level than most could manage.
There is a satisfaction in knowing someone that well, in playing in perfect unison to become a part of something new, something better, greater. It reminds him of their second year, when every match had given him that feeling.
A new light will not cure the fundamental problem of Kuroko's basketball style, but for just a little longer, he wants to explore this new partnership. It is tentative, awkward around the edges, and nowhere near the level of Kuroko's previous partnership with Aomine, but it is theirs.
It is also not enough. A few months later, Kuroko submits his resignation letter.
Midorima slides the Shuutoku brochure onto Kuroko's desk. "Consider it," he says.
"Hmph, running away to a no name school like Seirin, did you think I would approve? Your basketball…I respect it. So if you believe that much in relying on others, rely on me."
Kuroko stares, startled at the declaration. Midorima's eyes are serious.
"I won't let you slack off, not in your studies and not in basketball."
The shooting guard takes a breath, and then takes the risk of turning away, praying that, perhaps this time, Kuroko will not disappear from him as he has all of the times in the past.
A/N: This was a gift fic for a friend over at tumblr for adorable tsundere midokuro study dates and i was almost tempted to do a full Kuroko at Shuutoku AU fic. Almost.
Lol does anyone even ship MidoKuro here idk I haven't seen many fics for them.