And after all that, there really isn't much to say. Kise may have the free time- despite his work, and having actually qualified for the Interhigh- to go watch the rest of Seirin's games. Midorima most certainly does not. (Kagami doesn't reply.)

Midorima puts Seirin out of his mind as they prepare to go on Shuutoku's traditional training camp.

They might have free time. Midorima regretfully passes over packing the traveling shogi set, though. There appeared to be no one among the Shuutoku regulars with even an interest, let alone an aptitude, for the game. Nakatani-kantoku isn't always going to be free. (Kagami doesn't reply.)

He hesitates over the headphones. He's sure he can dig out one of the old ones they have in the house. He has his standard-issue earphones, but the barest experience of luxury has made him nice in his tastes; he might as well be listening to traffic or Takao's caterwauling.

Actually, Midorima isn't sure he wouldn't prefer to listen to Takao's caterwauling. He makes the mistake of checking with Takao- because that did so much for his peace of mind last time- and Takao informs him that even though this pair isn't as wildly extravagant as the other one, they're pretty up there; Takao has had his eye on a similar pair- a more updated version, obviously, though not the first pair Kagami lent him since they can't all have fabulously wealthy sugar-

Midorima stops listening right then by clamping the headphones over his ears. Bliss. Takao pouts at him, but silently.

That settles it. The convenience of total silence is going to be worth bringing them along until Midorima has the opportunity to pass them back to Kagami- perhaps at some unavoidable moment, like the Winter Cup qualifiers, when Midorima can shoot it into his stupid face from a distance. It's not as though Kagami is going to find out he's still using them. (Kagami doesn't reply.)

He prepares himself to go to camp with an unshakable mindset. He doesn't have the time to be concentrating on anyone else. He definitely won't even bother about the Interhigh (although Akashi is sweeping to victory, although Murasakibara is probably bored out of his mind with it already, although Kise keeps sending him mails that could not get more annoying if he tried). He has to look ahead now.

(Kagami doesn't reply.)

.0.

Oha Asa promised him a new beginning (but she does, every month or so, a month of new beginnings) on the day when they arrive at the inn and complaining, loudly, unpack and set up. They weren't the only two freshmen there, but this was very little consolation when Nakatani-kantoku folded his arms and stared at them and the seniors bellowing orders were just as harrassed and grey-faced with exhaustion as the rest of them. They woke the next morning ready to do it all over again. Midorima began to reconsider the merits of Tradition, and to think that Oha Asa had surely-

Kagami and Kuroko stared at them in the mirror, mouths full of toothpaste foam, eyes shocked- or at least as shocked as Kuroko ever looked. Kagami was even beginning to flush, although that just have been the sunburn. Midorima's sense of outrage reasserted itself in slow stages, obviously Kagami hadn't mysteriously died, obviously he wasn't even reflecting on his loss at all, was in fact enjoying his summer vacation very much, with Kuroko-

Seirin's coach appeared at this moment, which thankfully saved Midorima from having to even mentally apologise to Kagami for misinterpreting the situation. Kagami looked back at Midorima over his shoulder and tried to lift his hand in a sad little wave. Midorima's glare froze it outright and Kagami slipped through the door after Aida Riko as quickly as he could. Kuroko nodded to them, and followed.

"That wasn't awkward at all," said Takao. "So, Shin-chan?"

"So what?" said Midorima. The red had crawled over Kagami's skin bright and angry. Hadn't he ever heard of sunblock? Why is Seirin here? It's almost enough to believe there's some kind of- kind of-

His fingers start to itch in their bindings.

Takao looked at him, sly and joyful and sparkling. "Seirin's here."

Midorima transferred the concentrated reptilian disdain onto him. "I'm perfectly capable of seeing that," he said.

"Really makes you believe in fate," said Takao, and then made a break for it before Midorima could catch him to make him pay for that comment. He whooped as he ran past the sempai setting up diligently, complaining that it was too hot for such nonsense as Takao ducked and dodged around them. Midorima only chased him for a little while until he too had to give up, the air sticky in his lungs and his heart pounding in ears- from the sudden activity, obviously.

Seirin's here.

.0.

Kagami did not participate in their practice games. Seirin's coach had him running up and down the beach all day, which was good, because it kept him out of Midorima's sight, him and his irritating hangdog look, the bob of his reddish head as he disappeared once again down the shore towards the combini down the road. Shuutoku only had practice with Seirin in the morning, which was good, but Kagami was kept out there all day where anyone else also practicing near the inn could see him. They managed to keep out of each other's way, though, and Midorima solaced himself instead with concentrating on Kuroko's basketball, the new thing Kuroko seemed to be trying to do. And crushing it. Midorima did not even get put into the last few practice matches, but he could see every member of Seirin steeling themselves nonetheless, and Kagami still outside, still working on something their coach doesn't want Shuutoku to see.

"Kuroko won't know what works unless he knows what doesn't," said Midorima to Takao after practice. Takao at least was taking fairly well to the training camp; he had only thrown up twice today, and both times before food. This was preferable to Kuroko's habit of passing out cold in the middle of combined training, an occurrence so commonplace Midorima had just dragged Kuroko to the side of the gym so no one would step on him and then gone back to his own drills without missing a step.

"Some of us non-Teikou people also speak basketball, thank you very much," said Takao. "You talked to him yet?"

"Who?" said Midorima.

"Kagami," said Takao, and before Midorima could vociferously deny any need for this, continued, "You've still got his headphones, right?"

Right. Right. Midorima did.

(There's no way he can, there's no appropriate time or place or- he'd have to call Kagami out, to hand it to him, to- a time and place will present itself. Surely. Of course.)

.0.

Kagami doesn't understand anything. He can say, next time, but what does that mean? He can't even look Midorima in the eye lying on his back half in and half out of the hedge like a crazy person, lifting the hoop back up while Midorima stared at him and tried to ignore Takao and Kuroko hiding badly in the bushes. Does he really think that this level of improvement is going to be enough? Can he really be underestimating the Generation of Miracles this badly? He's not going to get anywhere the way he is now.

Midorima is going to have to be the one who makes him understand.

The bandages slip free from his fingers, and Midorima throws the basketball to Kagami so it nearly hits him in the face, except that Kagami blocks, as Midorima had known he would. He's ready. His fortune is better than Kagami's today. (He checked Kagami's fortune today.)

Try harder, Midorima snarls at him, in every expression, every time he smacks the ball out of Kagami's hands, each block and every mark they chalk into the parking lot. Be better. Win harder. Lose interestingly. Don't lose to me.

Kagami grits his teeth and tries it again, tries the same thing over again, and it won't work, it'll never work. Why is he so stupid?

Don't lose to anyone.

Midorima has not yet shown half of who he is to Kagami, to- Shuutoku. It's not even about holding back. It's about how you play your basketball. What it takes to win. It's not enough to tell Kagami anything. You have to beat the knowledge into his tiny, tiny brain.

Don't lose to anyone ever again.

Kagami stops when Midorima calls a halt, and stares up at the hoop, the barest seeds of enlightenment sprouting in his face.

Midorima is looking at Kuroko when he says it, but he's sure Kagami hears him anyway. "Don't disappoint me at the Winter Cup preliminaries." (It's just what he's been wishing for.)

.0.

Kagami was the one who called him out instead. They kept mixing to a minimum, focusing on training, but the two school couldn't help overrunning each other at night. The inn was only so big, after all. Just before lights-out, the kitchen was dark and empty as the teams settled into their respective rooms aching with pain and exhausted with effort. Kagami led him into it and opened the fridge, hunting for something.

"Are you still hungry?" said MIdorima, appalled. It wasn't as strange to speak to Kagami as it had been before the one-on-one, but they were nowhere near the ease of the tutoring session, of sitting on a public bench in the growing dark sharing sound close enough to touch skin to skin. But Kagami had called him out. "Don't eat before you sleep!"

"It's not that," said Kagami, pulling out a bag of cans. He put it on one of the tables, and sunk down into the chair, which creaked under his weight. He fingered a can. "I- I got a Shiruko for you. From the store. No one else was going to drink that kind of thing anyway, so I got- I mean, it's for you."

"Isn't that for your own team?" said Midorima frostily.

"Nah, open bag," said Kagami. "Your teammates have been helping themselves. Takao, too."

Midorima knew. Takao had been saying so, that Kagami kept count of laps with drink cans left in the inn's fridge and raided during free time. Kagami had never bought shiruko before. If he had, maybe Midorima would have considered it worth his time to take one. "That doesn't mean I want to," he said.

"It's for- look, I wanna say thanks," said Kagami, rubbing a hand over his face. "I- I keep owing you things."

Midorima's spine stiffened. He said, "If this referring to your property, I-"

"You're not graceful at all," said Kagami. "Shut up and let me finish. Your pencil. You tutored me, even though I only said that to shut you up. I was feeling low after that first time playing with Aomine, and not being able to practice all the way because I was healing, you didn't need to keep me company half the night. And now this. You showed me what I was missing."

Midorima's skin heated. "It's not like I did it for you," he said, looking down at Kagami in the half-dark. "I didn't even know Kuroko had lent you that pencil. You're so stupid I'm sure no tutoring could ever make a dent. I had to return your headphones. And- and you're so stupid there was obviously no way you were going to get it on your own."

"I'm pretty stupid," said Kagami, and put his head into his hand. "And I'm- I'm sorry I didn't reply you. After the Touou match. I was pretty- well I had to sit out all the other matches, and then after I went straight home from school and sat around in the dark thinking about shit I couldn't change. I didn't know what to say to you. But that's not- I wanted to. But I let it go, and- I'm sorry."

"...You didn't wish me good night," said Midorima, looking out the window now, where there was the parking lot, and beyond that, the sea. "I couldn't sleep, and you didn't- you left your headphones with me. It was too expensive, that first pair. You shouldn't have lent it to me. It was too much. You made me take home another pair of yours, even though I didn't want to. Takao keeps talking nonsense about sugar daddies."

Kagami winced. "Yeah," he said, and looked up at Midorima, dark eyes and faint smile, as though he knew something Midorima didn't, peaceful and ready, now that he'd said what he wanted to say. He'd been het up the other day, boiling with it, burning. The ocean breeze swirled through the windows and tugged at his hair. Had he just bathed? Kagami practiced later than even the rest of his team.

Midorima breathed. "And you lost," he said, but without the snarling urgency, the dark and draining feel in the pit of his stomach. "You lost before I could beat you."

"It's not going to happen again," said Kagami, and Midorima believed him. "I'm not going to lose again."

"Neither are we," said Midorima, and he believed this too. Then he picked the shiruko can out of the plastic bag and cracked it, because it was better than looking at Kagami's face. It was nice and cold, but Midorima was going to have to brush his teeth again after this. He sat down.

"Why do you like that?" said Kagami, after a while. He picked his own drink- juice, of some kind- and drank it. He lounged on the chair tipping it back in a decidedly unsafe manner, and looked across at Midorima. They're going to be in trouble if anyone finds them out like this, by now. They're all supposed to be asleep.

"Because it's delicious, you simple-minded cretin," said Midorima. "You don't know anything about taste. You don't know anything about appreciating food that is not garbage, and that is why you cannot be expected to appreciate a drink like this."

He expected another retort from Kagami on why cheeseburgers were delicious or something equally inane and indefensible. Instead Kagami said, laughing at Midorima in the stripes of lamp and moonlight which came in the windows, "I know why I like you."