And I took a break from my other fic to write this after one week of hiatusing ouo. I REGRET NOTHING exceptforthefactthatthisisru shedand-
I don't understand why I have to write something depressing for Christmas. Shoot me.
Ah well. Merry Christmas peeps! Have a good time celebratin'! :D
KuroBasu does not belong to me. Feel free to point out my mistakes.
Thanks in advance for reading! Enjoy!
"Ah! You're here again, Kuroko-san!"
Kuroko looks up, regarding the florist with his normal deadpanned face. He is sure he'd offended the young lady the first few times, but apparently she'd gradually gotten used to his emotionless demeanor. He liked her. Platonically, mind you. Kuroko already found the person on the other side of his red string of fate. Kuroko liked the young lady for never asking him why he would frequently visit her shop. He liked her for not asking the reason for him to always buy only the same types and amount of flowers in every bouquet. He liked her for minding her own business.
"Hello," he greets, nodding slightly.
"The usual?" the florist asks, beaming amiably. She always smiles, no matter how demanding the customers were.
"Yes please," Kuroko says, moving towards the counter to prepare his payment. He leaves the exact amount on the tray beside the cash register.
"Alrighty!" The young lady straightens, pausing from her chore of watering some potted plants. She too, walks towards the counter. Upon reaching the rectangular table, she bends down, and reaches for something under it. Her hand reappears with a carefully wrapped bouquet of flowers ranging in all colors and sizes.
"I've already expected you, so I prepared this in advance," she says, handing the floral bunch to the blue-haired young man. "That saves some time, at least."
Kuroko accepts his purchase, rewarding the lady with a small smile. "Thank you."
"Merry Christmas, Kuroko-san!" the lady waves as Kuroko exited her shop. "Take care!"
The young man leaves without looking back, but she doesn't take it to heart. It's all she could do to force herself to keep smiling.
Because Kuroko Tetsuya had been her customer every month for almost a year. And with every visit, the sadness in his eyes were increasingly painful to watch.
Kuroko walks in the streets, the cold winter air prickling against the exposed skin of his face. He exhales, watching the puff of mist escape from his parted lips. The wind blows, and he could smell the scent of the flowers he'd bought just several minutes ago. It is a bittersweet smell. The smell reminds him of many memories; happy ones, crazy ones. Sad ones.
Kuroko pulls his scarf higher over his nose. He recalls what the florist wished him. 'Merry Christmas', huh? Christmas is supposed to be one of the most festive events that ever existed. Christmas is a season of hope and celebration. Even now as he walked, Kuroko could feel the mood all around him; shops with their creative decorations, an occasional red Santa hat, large Christmas trees, and the carols blaring from hidden speakers.
Heck. It isn't even the actual Christmas Day yet. Last he checked, Kuroko is sure it's only the twenty-third.
But all that didn't exactly matter. The season starts as soon as the month of December rolls around. Kuroko found his own father coming home a month ago with a huge Christmas tree that could barely fit in his house.
Kuroko stops to wait for the lights to turn green before crossing the road. He tilts his head skywards, gazing at the sea of blue that mirrored the color of his eyes. Or least that was what that one person would say.
Ouch. There it is again; that one pang in his heart. The bouquet suddenly feels heavier in his arms, though he knows something like that is impossible. It always happens. It happens as soon as that one image of the person appears in his mind. Kuroko closes his eyes, pushing the thought back. He has to. Or else he'll lose control and start sobbing uncontrollably. He couldn't do that.
The lights turns green, and Kuroko wills his legs to start moving. He crosses the street along with the crowd of people that had gathered there. He automatically heads the correct direction. He has walked the same path so many times that he could make it to his destination blindfolded. Not that he would ever want to try.
The sounds of traffic gradually fades as Kuroko slips into a particular area. He heads towards the big metal gates and slips inside. He quickens his steps as he walks towards the big white building. Automatic glass doors open when he approaches.
Kuroko has been to the hospital for so long that he could no longer smell the constant scent of antiseptic that wafts in the hallways. He nods politely towards the nurse behind the reception counter before going on his way. He heads towards the lifts and pushes the button to go up.
The elevator arrives with a soft ding, and the metal door parts. Kuroko steps inside, adjusting his hold on his flowers so he could reach out the press the button to the floor he was heading to. It's a quiet day. No one joins him in the elevator. The doors closes, and Kuroko feels himself being taken several floors higher.
He steps into another all-too familiar hallway once the lift comes to a stop. He walks to the direction of the wards. The place was lightly decorated with Christmas stuff as well. Kuroko spots some fake snowflakes hanging on the ceilings at intervals, along with an occasional sparkly Christmas bell. Advent wreaths hung on the doors that led to the patients' wards. Lengths of twinkling lights lined the windows that looked out to the big city beyond.
Kuroko keeps on walking deeper into the seemingly endless corridors. He sometimes hears soft sounds of conversation, music, and TV speakers from behind ajar doors. He walks quicker, once again adjusting his hold on the flowers. He is afraid that his presence will affect those who are in their best moods.
Kuroko finally slows down after slipping into a couple more sets of hallways. He comes to a stop before a closed door, trying to calm his heavy breathing. He reads the name on the plague as he does so.
Kuroko reaches out, and slides the door open.
A mass of white temporarily blinds him. Kuroko waits until his eyes have adjusted themselves to the illumination. The ward is sparkling clean. The windows are opened from earlier. The plain colored curtains sways lightly every time the breeze blew. Gentle sunlight streams into the room, giving it a warm, comfortable feeling.
Kuroko makes his way in, closing the door behind him. "Excuse me for the intrusion."
He does not receive an answer.
"I'm sorry for being late today," Kuroko continues, taking off his coat and scarf. He walks towards a big vase set in a corner of the ward. "I was getting you some fresh flowers."
He is greeted with more silence. Kuroko swiftly replaces the wilted flowers in the vase with the one's he'd just bought. He carefully arranges them in the vase before dumping the wilted ones into a big black sterile plastic bag the hospital staff had prepared for him. He then trudges towards the bed that occupied the single room.
The person lying motionless on the bed was no other than Kagami Taiga; Kuroko's light, crush, boyfriend, and fiancé. Kuroko sits down on a chair and takes his hand, feeling those calloused fingers with his soft ones. He absentmindedly fingers the silver band on Kagami's finger that mirrored that on his own.
"How was your day, Taiga-kun?" he begins softly. "It's really cold outside today. The kids actually insisted staying indoors for once. Can you imagine that? You used to say that nothing will make them go back inside when they invade the outside world other than food."
Kuroko once again does not receive a reply. Kagami's eyes are closed, his hands placed on his sides. A thick blanket covers his body all the way to his chest. His breathing is slow and even.
If not observed carefully, Kagami would appear to be only sleeping peacefully and nothing else. But Kuroko knew better. Various tubes protruded from Kagami's arms under the sheets, connected to all kinds of hung pouches containing the nutrients that his body would need. A set of a hundred paper cranes hung on the corner of the window, courtesy of Kagami's colleagues from work. A basket of fresh fruits lay on the bedside table, probably given by some recent visitors. A clipboard noting down his latest condition hung on a peg near his cot.
Kagami had been injured while doing his job as a fire fighter. Kuroko was told that he'd been trying to save a kid trapped between a dresser, a fallen cupboard, and lots of flames. Kagami managed to save the child with the help of his fellow colleagues, but something happened at the last minute. While he was climbing out from the burning furniture and all that, a beam that had been eaten away by the fire fell from above, taking Kagami by surprise. When he realized, it was too late. The damage had been done.
The doctors say that Kagami is lucky. Despite dealing such a hard blow on the head, he suffered no damage that could affect his nervous systems or anything. He would still be able to function normally with maybe a few occasional headaches. He wouldn't be crippled in any way.
Kuroko initially wanted to laugh at the irony. Lucky? Sure. All of that would be great if Kagami would just wake up. Instead, there he is now, lying there on the hospital bed in a coma; dead, but not dead. Alive, but not alive. Doctors say it's as if Kagami is just refusing to wake up. They claimed that the chances of him waking up again was as thin as the breadth of a hair.
But Kuroko waited. He waited everyday without fail for Kagami to open his eyes again. He wasn't the type to easily give up back when he was a middle-schooler. He sees no reason to change now.
And just like that, ten months passed.
Part of Kuroko was angry at the little thing called Fate. He hated it for being unfair. It took Kagami and himself forever to accept their feelings for each other. Kuroko wasn't sure when the redhead started falling for him, but his case started as soon as he proclaimed himself to be the other's shadow. And damn, it took a long time. Kagami was so dense back then that he'd actually brushed aside Kuroko's open confessions. Every. Single. Time.
But once the first phase was over, it went smoothly. They started going out. Then gradually, they held hands. And a little later, they finally shared their first kiss.
And a few years later, Kagami finally took the initiative to propose to Kuroko. Finally. Kuroko was waiting so long, he considered doing the proposal himself.
But all their plans didn't go as.. well, planned. Kagami took up his job knowing its danger and risks. No one could blame him for being involved in that unfortunate accident. No one could blame him for leaving a lover behind, always waiting for him to wake up again.
Almost no one, anyway.
Aomine would've punched the unconscious Kagami the first time if Kise and Momoi hadn't interfered and stopped him. Akashi would've stabbed him right there and then with his scissors. They agreed on entrusting their precious Kuroko to Kagami with much reluctance, and now this happens. Of course they're mad.
But seeing Kuroko then made them control their actions. The first few months after the incident, Kuroko was as fragile as thin glass. Never once did he cry or show despair, despite that fractured look in his eyes. He'd just sit by Kagami's bedside, take his hand, and engage in a one sided conversation with the redhead.
Like what he is doing now.
"..we decorated a Christmas tree together," Kuroko says, closing his eyes as he brought Kagami's hand towards his forehead, savoring the warmth. "We couldn't reach the top to place the star, even with me standing on a stool." A small, sad smile tugs his lips. "I'm sure we wouldn't have had any problems if you were there."
It took his everything to refrain from sighing. To Kuroko, sighing is a sign of admitting defeat. Sighing would mean that he is tired of all this. Kuroko will not sigh, no matter what happens.
What? It's Christmas already? Kagami's imaginary voice rings in his ears. That's the only way Kuroko could do it. He could only pretend that Kagami is keeping up with their conversation so he would have something to say.
"Time sure passes really fast, huh Taiga-kun?" Kuroko goes on. "It's December, just like that. You've been sleeping for almost ten months." He pauses. "Isn't it enough already?"
Kuroko stops, realizing that his voice is almost at breaking point. He takes in a deep, shuddering breath to regain his composure. It's okay, he tells himself. I'm okay.
But it's not. He misses Kagami too much to be okay. He misses that sunny smile of his. He misses that energetic voice, that gigantic frame. He misses his adorable tendency to blush at every little thing. He misses the way the redhead would always ruffle his hair despite his protests. He misses the feeling of those big hands wrapping around his own. He misses his warm hugs, his gentle kisses - all his ways of showing affection.
Kuroko misses Kagami a lot despite being able to see him every day. It hurts. It feels like someone had just dug a gaping hole in his chest with the broken flesh refusing to heal. And as time passes, the hole just keeps getting bigger and bigger, wider and wider.
A series of knocks sounds on the door. Kuroko looks up and turns around to see who is it.
The door slides open, and a bubbly face peeps in. "Eh? Kurokocchi's here too?"
Out of courtesy and politeness, Kuroko stands up, faces him, and bows. "Kise-kun. It's been a while."
Like the rest of them, Kise Ryouta looks more or less the same as he did back in high school. It's scary, how all of them seemed to not have aged at all. His blond hair is not combed, but he still manages to make himself look fashionable. Kuroko prefers seeing him that way. He looks handsome without trying. Kise wore a long sleeved t-shirt and jeans under his winter wear. Kuroko watches silently as the blonde hangs his stuff up before walking over.
"Sorry it took so long for me to visit again," Kise says apologetically as he drags a chair over to sit beside his pale friend. "Work was killing me. It took me forever just to get this few days off."
Kuroko shakes his head. "It's alright. It's the thought that counts."
"How's Kagamicchi?" Kise asks, turning his gaze towards the redhead.
"He's.. still not waking up yet," Kuroko says. He notices. He notices that despite the fact that Kise was trying to keep the mood light, he too, was suffering. Kuroko could tell just from seeing how tightly the blonde was clenching his fists on the hem of his shirt. In spite of everything that had happened, Kagami had actually got along well with Aomine and Kise throughout the years. How it he managed to do so still remained a wonder till this day.
"Bakagami," Kise mutters. His head was turned to an angle so that his bangs hid his face. "Just how long do you plan on staying in dreamland?"
"..Kise-kun?" Kuroko gently speaks up.
"I'm.. sorry, Kurokocchi," Kise says, his voice a barest whisper. "I'm so sorry.."
Kuroko is about to ask what for - until he sees it. He bites his lip and forces himself to look away. He averts his gaze outside through the window, and stares at the clear winter sky. He stares at the birds that perches on the branches of the tree just beyond the window. He must not look back and see Kise. He forces himself to shut out from the world.
Because Kise - who was always the bundle of sunshine, always the one that would smile at any situation and make everything better, always the one who was willing to be bullied to cheer one up - is crying.
Really, Kuroko couldn't blame him. In fact, he'd expected it. Kise had always been the crybaby type. It must have taken all his effort not to break down the last few times he came to visit. Kuroko might have been used to locking his emotions in a box deep in his heart, but that was definitely not Kise's case. The blonde had always been someone who would easily shed tears.
Kuroko waits. He waits until his companion calms down before rejoining him in this world of cruel reality. He moves from his seat to fetch a box of tissue.
Kise miserably accepts the tissues offered to him. "T-Thanks, Kurokocchi."
He blows his nose loudly, not caring if it ruins his image as an ex teen model or a renowned pilot.
"Kise-kun should really learn not to cry so easily," Kuroko comments, placing the box back to where it initially was.
Just a year ago, Kise would've protested with childish indignity that Kuroko has no heart. Now he could only flash a watery smile and apologize once more. Because, how could he say something as insensitive as "Kurokocchi's the one who should have more feelings!" when Kuroko is the one who is trying his hardest to hold it all in?
"Anyway," Kise begins, sniffling as he slowly calms down. His eyes are red when he turns to look at Kuroko. "Let's get to the real reason I'm here."
Kuroko looks at him questioningly, silently urging him to go on.
"How about we hold a Christmas party?" Kise suggests, with all cheerfulness he can muster.
"I must most humbly decline," Kuroko immediately replies.
"What?" Kise falters for a second. "No! I mean here. We'll hold it here so Kagamicchi wouldn't miss it too."
"But we'll be disturbing the other patients," Kuroko reasons, eyebrows slightly scrunched together. "This hospital doesn't belong to us, you know."
"But this corridor practically does," Kise argues back lightly. "I mean, we're the only ones here. I don't see any other occupied rooms besides this one." He looks at his pale companion with puppy eyes. "Please, Kurokocchi? It's not every day I get to take a day off during such an event. And I don't want you or Kagamicchi missing out the fun."
Kuroko considers. It isn't because of the puppy eyes. Kise has gotten better in reasoning now that he was an adult. True, Kagami's ward is the only occupied one in the area at the moment, and it's big enough to fit about ten people. They've all grown up now. They could at least control themselves a little.
But judging from the potential guests that would probably be attending, Kuroko isn't too sure anymore.
"I'll ask the doctor," he finally says and Kise lets out a soft cheer.
They obtain permission after being made to promise several times to not be too loud.
Kise assures that only a few chosen people will be invited to attend, since Kagami's ward could only fit that many. He discusses some plans with Kuroko for a little while, trying hard to remain full of sunshine. Really, the main reason he wants to do such a thing despite the situation is because he wanted to cheer Kuroko up, even by a little. Seeing the bluenette now is slowly tearing his heart apart.
"I'll inform everyone later," Kise sums up after a while. "We'll do the preparations tomorrow."
Kuroko nods. Kise forces himself to grin, and stands up. "I guess I'll be taking my leave now. See you guys tomorrow."
"Have a safe trip home," Kuroko says as Kise makes his way to the exit. He receives a backhand wave as a reply before the door slides back into place.
Silence immediately greets him again now that Kise had left. Kuroko turns back to his slumbering lover, once again taking his hand. He loves how warm it is despite the cold winter day.
"You hear that, Taiga-kun?" he begins softly, using his free hand to brush off the stray hairs that poked Kagami's closed eyes. It's been a while since they gave him a haircut. Kuroko would've teased him by calling him a 'wild tiger' if it wasn't for the situation. "We'll be celebrating Christmas here for your sake. Kise-kun's planning to order some of your favorite burgers from Maji in case you wake up. We'll be really noisy, so you probably won't be able to sleep anymore." He pauses, as if listening to the other's reply. Then he says, "What? We did promise. But Aomine-kun and Momoi-san will most probably be here. Just those two alone is enough, don't you think?"
He pauses again, listening to the imaginary voice in his head. Then he laughs, and says; "We both have really precious friends, don't we?"
His voice sounded hollow, even to his own ears.
"Ehhh? Tetsu-sensei won't be celebrating with us?"
Kuroko is surrounded by an army of kindergarteners. They are swamping him like fans in a concert. Kuroko struggles to keep the situation under control. He'd totally forgotten that he had agreed to attend another party with the children. Many of them are on the verge of tears after knowing that they won't be spending their Christmas with their favorite teacher. Kuroko doesn't know what to do. He could've just used Misdirection like how he used to back in the days to slip away, but he couldn't seem to do it anymore. It was as if his lack of presence have faded away ever since he started dating Kagami.
"Tetsu-sensei has his own party to attend to," deadpans his co-worker. "He's meeting up with his friends from his schooling days, so stop being so selfish, jeez."
Kuroko looks gratefully at the black-haired young man. He didn't expect Takao Kazunari of all people to join him in this line of job. But unlike him, Takao only works part-time. Just for that extra cash, Kuroko heard him mention it once. Still, that didn't stop the children from looking up to him with awe and liking.
"But still!" One of the kids argues. "Sensei promised that he'll spend Christmas day with us since November!"
"Well, something came up at the last minute, obviously," Takao says, reaching to place a filled cardboard box on the top of a rack. "Come on. You guys get to see him almost every day. He, on the other hand, only gets to meet up with his friends every once in a while. Cut him some slack."
Lots of loud whines and feet stomping follows. Takao stares at them in thought. He then lets out a weary sigh.
"Fine. I'll play with you guys in his place," he says, though his tone makes it obvious that he isn't too thrilled about it. "Two in the afternoon on Christmas day, right?"
His declaration draws a number of protests. "But Kazu-chan is no fun!"
"HAH? What's that supposed to mean, you brat?"
Eventually, the children gives in and accepts the fact that their Tetsu-sensei won't be celebrating Christmas with them. Kuroko silently thanks Takao, hoping that his message will be able to be relayed through his eyes.
When Takao winks back, Kuroko knows that he'd understood him.
"He's not waking up yet?"
Kuroko takes off his apron in silence. He carefully folds it up before putting it in his locker and closing the metal door. His shift is over.
Takao folds his arms, and leans against the door frame. He waits. He waits until Kuroko is ready to talk to answer him. He watches as Kuroko shuts his locker and turns to face him. The pale young man might seem emotionless, but his eyes says it all. Takao fists his hands, and stares at the floor.
"No." Kuroko's answer is soft. "Not yet."
"Hey, it's Christmas," Takao says, trying hard to be positive. "Miracles happen. Don't look like you've already given up."
By the way the other stares at him, Takao could tell that he'd never realized it. Seriously? How could he look at a mirror and not realize how much grief there is in his eyes?
Takao starts to feel scared when Kuroko does not speak up again. Shit. Did he say something wrong without realizing it? He should've kept his stupid mouth shut, darn it!
"Kuroko-" he starts, but stops when the other speaks up first.
"Takao-kun," Kuroko says. "Would you like to go shopping with me?"
The streets are even busier on Christmas eve. Kuroko figures that's because many people tend to remember that they'd left out someone on the gift list and decide to go on some last minute shopping.
He himself holds several paper bags in each hand. Some of them contained the gifts he'd bought for everyone. They were small and insignificant, but that was all Kuroko could afford. The rest of the bags carried the Christmas decorations that he'd been asked to get by Kise the day before.
Takao trudges by his side, looking straight ahead. That's one of the quirks of having his Hawk Eyes. He could see everywhere without having to turn his head and make himself dizzy. He suddenly stops before the display window of a shop, staring at the items placed there for everyone to see. Kuroko follows suit in silent question.
"Wait here abit," Takao tells him before disappearing into the store. Kuroko stands aside so he would not block the flow of people around him. He waits.
Takao reappears with a pleasant ding of the bell on the door, hugging a brown paper bag in his arms.
"Lucky items," he explains, then blushes sheepishly. "After hanging out with Shin-chan all those years, watching Oha Asa kinda became a habit for me."
Kuroko merely raises his eyebrows and says nothing.
"Anyway, you done?" Takao asks, glancing down at the shorter out of the corner of his eye. Kuroko inspects his bags.
"I guess so," he says.
"Alright, then." Takao smiles. "This place is suffocating me with its number of people. Let's go visit Kagami."
They aren't the only ones there when they arrived. Kuroko is greeted by the sight of a purple-haired giant, a shorter black-haired young man with half his face covered with his fringe, a heterochromatic redhead, a bespectacled man, a tall brunette, and a slender young lady.
Kuroko shuts the door, and they all turn to face him.
"Hello," he says as he walks towards them.
"Ah, Kuroko. Long time no see.' Hyuuga raises a hand in greeting. Kiyoshi grins and claps a hand on the pale boy's shoulder. Riko looks at him strangely before saying her hellos.
"Hello, Kuroko," Himuro nods at the said young man with a small smile.
"Kurochin is late," Murasakibara comments halfheartedly. "Kisechin called us to come about an hour ago."
"Atsushi," Akashi chides lightly. "Understand that Tetsuya has work before this."
Murasakibara cocks his head aside. "But isn't it the winter holidays?"
"I apologize for being late," Kuroko says as he sets down his various bags. "Takao-kun and I were shopping just now."
"Yo," Takao says when everyone regards him. "Just came here to give Kagami his lucky item on behalf of Shin-chan."
"Kise called us yesterday and told us about the Christmas party," Kiyoshi explains when no one else does. "Everyone here isn't able to make it tomorrow, so we thought we should just come visit today and help out a bit."
Kuroko notices the bags on the floors. "Thank you," he says earnestly, bowing deeply. "Thank you so much for everything.
"It's the least we could so," Riko replies. She looks shaken, like she was desperately keeping a straight face. "I mean, you guys are still our annoyingly precious juniors, despite everything."
Kuroko straightens up. "Thank you," he says again.
"Now," Akashi speaks, and everyone present flinches. "Enough with the small talk. We don't have much time. Let's start doing what we're here to do."
And so they spend the next hours fussing, fighting, bickering - and in Akashi's case, threatening about all kinds of trivial matters like how and where to hang the streamers and snowflakes. Taller guys like Murasakibara and Kiyoshi did all the hanging. Hyuuga, Riko and Himuro were in charge of the medium sized Christmas tree. Takao does his part by running off to get the stuff that they'd missed out. Kuroko joined Akashi in cutting all kinds of shapes from the colored papers they'd brought along.
"What do you think?" Akashi asks at some point, holding up a string of crudely shaped gingerbread men he'd cut out.
"They look like they only have one arm," Kuroko says in his usual straightforward manner. Akashi looks at his piece of work again, and chuckles.
"I suppose so."
As he works, Kuroko marvels at just how much different his friends were. Appearance-wise, they changed little. That was the scary part. Kuroko wonders if this particular group of people he knows have all obtained eternal youth. Personality-wise, on the other hand, Kuroko could only say that they'd all matured finely.
They successfully finish their tasks by early evening. Kuroko looks around the ward in slight awe. His friends had decorated the place beautifully. Streamers hung at the top edges of the room, a set of bells connecting them at every corner. A wreath hung on the wall Kagami's bed was propped against, the cut-out letters spelling 'Merry Christmas!' pasted below it. Fake snow made of cotton balls and snowflakes lined the ceiling. The Christmas tree was moved right next to Kagami's bed, its decorations sparkling and twinkling in the light.
Takao walks over to Kagami's motionless figure, and sets down a small bag on his bedside table. "Here's your lucky item for today and tomorrow." He tells him. "Today's is a reindeer keychain. Tomorrow's is a miniature Santa plushie." He inhales. "And this is a message from Shin-chan: I apologize for not being able to make it tomorrow, not that I want to come. I pray for your recovery only because seeing you like that makes Kuroko sad. These lucky items should boost your luck." Takao clears his throat, and glances at his wristwatch. "Well, look at the time. It's time for me to get going." He turns and head to the exit. "Merry Christmas, everyone!"
He disappears before anyone could react. An awkward silence starts to spread as they shift their weights from leg to leg. They'd been so caught up with their work that they hadn't the time to think up of a topic of conversation.
"It is getting a little late," Himuro finally speaks up. The other's nod in assent. Quietly, as if they had the same thought, they headed towards Kagami's cot. Akashi had helped trim his unruly red hair for old time's sake. He really is good with a pair of scissors, contrary to what many people believe.
They stand in a line, as if queuing up to meet a Santa in a mall. Kuroko doesn't join them. He stands back and tries to blend in with the walls as he watches. Habitually, he twists the silver ring on his finger.
Hyuuga is the first in line. He places a small, neatly wrapped present next to Takao's bag. "I don't see you in a while and you get yourself in such a mess?" he says. There is a tinge of sadness in his tone. Hyuuga had been the captain of their basketball team back in high school. Like it or not, every member eventually felt like a brother to him, including Kagami. "Merry Christmas, you idiot. Stop being a lazy ass and wake up already. It's been freaking ten months."
Riko is next. Kuroko notices her biting her lower lip. He recognizes that gesture. She is holding back tears, trying to stay strong. Similar to Hyuuga, the members of the basketball team must've been like her brothers, with her being the coach and manager. Riko might as well be seeing her own blood sibling lying there on the cot rather than her high school junior.
"You stupid Bakagami," she manages to say. "You had to pick such a dangerous job, hadn't you? Look what happened now. You're leaving behind a great future if you don't wake up." She pauses, and steals a glance at Kuroko. Her brown eyes flickered back to the redhead. "Hyuuga and I shared the gift we got you. We hope you like it when you see it. Merry Christmas, Kagami-kun."
Kiyoshi steps up, his permanent silly smile gone. "I'm sorry I couldn't get you anything, Kagami," he says, scratching the back of his head sheepishly. "To be honest, I didn't know what to get. Would you like a bowl or something?" He stops, as if waiting for a reply. He doesn't get one. "Anyway, have a merry Christmas, Kagami," he says, shakily putting on a smile. "Keep in mind that we'll be waiting for you to wake up."
He moves aside, and Himuro takes over. He places a small box with the rest of the existing presents. "I never knew you are the sleeping type, Taiga," he starts, reaching out to brush his pale fingers on his surrogate brother's cheeks. "Don't make us wait anymore. You're hurting all of us more than you think are. Tomorrow's Christmas, so it should be a good day to wake up, don't you think?"
He doesn't receive an answer, but he says no more and retracts his hand.
Murasakibara and Akashi's wishes are brief and direct.
"You'll be missing the great food tomorrow if you don't regain consciousness soon," is all Murasakibara said as he places a present bag on the dresser.
"I won't hesitate to kill you once and for all if you hurt Tetsuya more than you already did," Akashi tells the unconscious redhead before setting down a wrapped item that looks suspiciously like a pair of scissors with the rest of the gifts.
"Now that all that is done, I guess it's about time for us to leave," Riko sums it up. She trudges towards Kuroko, and to the pale man's surprise, gave him a tight, warm hug.
"Stay strong, Kuroko-kun," she whispers, and lets go. Her eyes gleamed. "Kagami-kun will wake up for sure."
Kuroko isn't sure how to react. Hyuuga and Kiyoshi comes over and ruffles his hair. "We'll always be here if you need the support."
Himuro puts a hand on his shoulder. "Take care."
Murasakibara quietly offers him a candy cane. "It'll be okay, Kurochin."
Akashi cups Kuroko's cheeks with his hands, and stares into those pools of blue. "Don't lose hope, Tetsuya."
Kuroko has to admit that he's surprise with all the wishes. Stay strong? He is staying strong. It was difficult the first few months, but he's okay now. He's used to waiting. He's still holding on to the sliver of hope that Kagami will open his eyes despite what the doctors say. He's still looking forward to meeting that Kagami he knew again.
Yet, why is everyone telling him this? Why is everyone treating him as if..?
"Merry Christmas, you two," they say as they made their leave. "Let's meet again another day."
Once the door closes, Kuroko is alone with Kagami. He mechanically walks towards the cot. His eyes darts around and focuses on the decorations once more, then at the gifts on Kagami's bedside. He notices the little details, like how Akashi and Murasakibara had left handwritten messages on their gifts. He notices how Akashi had took the liberty to present Kagami with the very same haircut he'd always worn ever since Kuroko met him. He notices the slightly jagged edges of Himuro's present wrapper.
Can you see all this, Taiga-kun? He wonders.
"Dai-chan! Don't draw on Kagamin's face as you please, sheesh!"
"What? It's his fault for sleeping when everyone's up and celebrating."
Kuroko inwardly dreads the time when he has to explain himself and apologize to the hospital staff for his noisy friends. Kise seems to be sharing his dilemma as he let out a soft, inaudible sigh.
"Aominecchi, Momoicchi," he says wearily. "This is the hospital, in case you're both forgetting."
Aomine temporarily looks up at the blonde, a black marker poised in his right hand. "You guys are no fun," he drawls.
"Come to think of it, isn't Aomine-kun a cop now?" Kuroko voices, tilting his head to the side. His eyebrows are knitted. "Doesn't that mean you have to be really strict with rules or something like that?"
"So what if I am? Screw rules." Aomine snorts. "What are you guys, adults or something?"
"In case you don't know," Momoi cuts in, effectively plucking the marker from Aomine's grip by sneaking up on him. "You're an adult now too, Dai-chan."
"Hey!" Aomine protests. He tries to get back his stationery, but Momoi flounces out of reach just in time. She sticks her tongue out at him.
"Guys, we're here to celebrate, not vandalize!" Kise cries. It's scary, how he'd somehow became the most responsible one around. He turns to Kuroko. "Kurokocchi! Say something!"
Kuroko only eyes the marker blankly. "That isn't permanent, is it?"
Aomine laughs. "With some soap and lots of scrubbing, I'm sure we can get it off."
"Let's just stop all these nonsense and eat." Momoi huffs, tucking the stationery into the back pocket of her jeans. "I'm hungry."
Aomine elbows Kuroko and leans down. "She's grown fatter since the last time, don't you think?" he whispers loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.
"Dai-chan!" Momoi protests.
"What?" Aomine demands. "I'm just stating facts."
"I think that Momoi-san has grown up to be a beautiful young woman," Kuroko says before the two could launch themselves into another endless bicker. Aomine stares at him, mouth agape. Momoi's eyes sparkled as she tackles Kuroko into a hug.
"Tetsu-kun is always the best!" she squeals. Kuroko feels a smile tugging his lips as he slowly returns the hug. At least some things never change.
"Ehhh," Kise whines when he sees them. "I want a hug from Kurokocchi too!"
"No way," Momoi hugs Kuroko tighter to herself. "Tetsu-kun's mine!"
Aomine scoffs loudly. "Tch. Who are you trying to kid? Tetsu obviously belongs to me."
Then as if practiced, all three pairs of eyes widen with realization. Momoi releases Kuroko from her hold, and receives a confused look in return. Her eyes showed pain when they flickered towards Kuroko's right hand, where the silver ring looped around his finger.
Because Kuroko Tetsuya already belongs to someone else, not them.
"..That bastard," Aomine grumbles, averting his eyes away. "Just how long does he plan on making us wait?"
All four of them gazed at the person on the bed, willing him to wake up. Or at least show some signs of waking. Like a twitch of a finger. Or a yawn.
Several minutes pass. No such luck.
"We.. should clean his face," Kise breaks the silence. He turns to Kuroko. His eyes seem brighter than usual. He hopes it doesn't show that he was on the verge of tears. Again. "Sorry, Kurokocchi. But can you go get us a basin of water? You're the only one here who knows the way around."
Kuroko doesn't argue. He disappears outside in a series of quickened footsteps.
"We're real idiots, aren't we?" Aomine muses aloud bitterly when the door had closed and the coast was clear. His fists were clenched hard, his nails forming small crescents on his palm. "So much for growing up."
Momoi keeps her eyes trained on Kagami. She reaches up, and brushes a stray tear off her cheek. "It hurts seeing Tetsu-kun like that."
"He hasn't cried once ever since the incident, has he?" Kise says, sniffling. "I wish he'd just let everything out instead of keeping it all in like that."
"Tetsu's selfish that way." Aomine's voice has a quaver in it, but he doesn't care. He shoves his hands deep into his pockets. "He's trying his best, so I guess we should at least do the same."
Slowly, Kise and Momoi nods in agreement.
"No sign of tears when he comes back?" the blonde asks, running the back of his hand over his eyes.
"Yep," Aomine says. "Let's just hope we'll be able to keep on smiling until all this is over."
There it is again, Kuroko realizes. They're looking at him with that look again.
Kuroko's mind wanders off as he waits for the nurse in charge to fetch him a basin. He doesn't understand. He's not particularly depressed or anything. Or at least he thinks he's not. He's also sure that his face is still a mask free of emotions, so why does everyone seem to gaze at him with that look of pity as if they saw exactly just how much sorrow he feels? Did he do something to give it away? Kuroko blinks. No, his eyes are dry. He stands still. His lips aren't quivering. There's nothing to show that he's feeling anything, yet why is he receiving such looks?
"Here you go," the nurse says as she hands him a bright green basin. She shoots him a look of slight disapproval which Kuroko ignored. He thanks her and goes on his way.
Kuroko almost thinks he got the wrong ward when he gets there. The mood in the air is entirely different from how he left it less than five minutes ago. Kuroko left the place feeling a certain grief in the air. Now, he is greeted with a loud, festive feeling - and he's sure it isn't because they'd put on silly Santa hats and fake reindeer horns.
"Ah, Kurokocchi's back!" Kise exclaims with more enthusiasm than necessary. This makes Kuroko worried for some reason.
"..are you guys alright?" he couldn't resist asking. Really, the sudden change of mood is getting unnerving.
Momoi blinks at him. "Hmm? Of course we are," she says. "What makes you think we're not?"
Kuroko only stares at them a while longer. Then he shakes his head, and decides that it's just he's probably just imagining everything. "Nevermind."
"We'll clean Bakagami's face," Aomine declares, taking the basin from Kuroko. He has a chocolate Pocky between his teeth. "I guess I'm the one responsible for it, anyway."
The shorter man looks at him. "Aomine-kun. Do you have a fever or something?"
"What?" Aomine says incredulously. "Can't I be responsible for once?"
"Just fifteen minutes ago, Aomine-kun was the one who was giving all the reasons in the world to draw on Taiga-kun's face," Kuroko helpfully points out.
"It's impossible to argue with you," Aomine mutters under his breath. "Gahhh! Just let me do it for hell's sake!"
"No one's stopping you," Momoi mumbles as she hunts for a clean cloth. She manages to scavenge one from one of the cupboards.
"Yeah, yeah. Save me the sermons." Aomine yawns as he saunters towards the bathroom to fill the basin, Momoi tailing behind him.
"What does Kurokocchi want to eat?" Kise asks, digging through the big plastic bags plopped on the floor. He then proceeds to list out the edibles that they'd bought.
"We even have your favorite vanilla shake from Maji," Kise announces lastly. The twinkle in Kuroko's eyes is all the answer he needs. He passes the shorter a paper cup with a signature yellow M in the middle and a bag of chips. Kuroko accepts them with a soft thanks.
It takes Aomine and Momoi's combined efforts to scrub the ink off Kagami's face. Cleaning it up makes Aomine think that that brand of marker should be illegal. Ink should not be so hard to erase. Nevertheless, they got the work done with lots of swearing, some close calls to starting arguments, and lots of apologies on almost scrubbing Kagami's face off.
And with all the fuss going on, Kuroko casually munches on a potato chip with Kise by his side, doing the same with a chocolate bar.
The rest of the evening seems like a blur of events. Kuroko vaguely remembers talking and joking about all kinds of things. He remembers trading stories about the past few years after they'd separated after graduation. He remembers his, Kise's, and Momoi's panic when Aomine started pulling out the cans of beer.
Fortunately, they managed to convince him not to drink before anything happened.
Kuroko now finds history repeating itself. What is it called again? Déjà vu? He watches as his three friends gathers around Kagami's bed. They'd finished cleaning everything up, and it's the last thing they want to do before leaving.
Momoi goes first. She places a medium-sized present along with the other gifts and turns to face the unconscious redhead. She then leans down, and plants a light kiss on his forehead. "Wake up soon, Kagamin," she whispers. "We'll be waiting for you. Merry Christmas."
Kuroko doesn't feel jealous from Momoi's gesture. He knows just how fond Momoi has come to feel over Kagami throughout the years.
"You better thank me when you wake up, Kagamicchi. This wasn't cheap, you know." Kise jokes, placing a small gift with the rest. He then adds shakily; "Merry Christmas, Kagamicchi."
His smile looks very forced, but no one seems to bother to take any notice of it.
Aomine walks up when Kise makes way. His hand curls into a fist, and he taps it lightly on the redhead's chest. "Don't keep us waiting for too long," he says. "We're getting tired of it. I'll give you your present when you wake up and find me for it." His expression softens. "Merry Christmas, Bakagami."
And then Kuroko finds himself trapped in a bearhug between his few best friends. Thinking back, he's surprised. They'd came a long way. Despite the many times Kuroko had denied it, the four of them had been close friends ever since middle school.
"I'm sorry we can't stay longer, Tetsu-kun," Momoi says, her face in Kuroko's chest. She pulls back, and her eyes were moist. "But for what it's worth, Merry Christmas!"
"Wahhh Kurokocchiiiii!" Kise does not even bother to make a short speech or anything. All he does is hug Kuroko tightly, and hope the latter understands all the unsaid things. Even when Kuroko reluctantly hugs back, he isn't sure if he got it.
"Call us when he wakes up, okay?" Aomine says when Kuroko had untangled himself from the blonde, nodding towards Kagami. He is blinking hard. "I'd like to be the first one to hit him for leaving us for so long."
Kuroko fails to stop that smile from gracing his features. "I will." Thank you for everything tonight."
They exchange their goodbyes, and went on their separate ways.
The only sounds in the hallways were the rapping of their shoes against the marble floor. It takes around fifty steps before the wrenching in their hearts become unbearable. Momoi chokes up as soon as they were a safe distance from Kagami's ward. Aomine holds her close, barely holding in his own tears. Kise has his face turned away, his shoulders shaking with the effort to hold himself together.
How can Kuroko still smile like that after all that happened?
Kuroko stays behind after everyone has left.
He pulls up a chair and sits by Kagami's bed like how he always does. He once again lets his gaze wander around, settling on random things like the gifts meant for the redhead, the bells at the corners of the room, and the Maji burger set that Aomine had left on a table ("In case Kagami wakes up and is hungry," he said).
Kuroko admires the ceiling decorations once more. His set his eyes on snowflake by snowflake. Then he notices something out of place, and stops to stare.
Hanging up there on the ceiling, right above Kagami's head, was a mistletoe.
Either Murasakibara or Kiyoshi had hung it there, he is sure. They were the only ones in charge of the high decorations. Kuroko doesn't know whether to call the small gesture hopeful, sweet, or wistful. He decides not to dwell too much on it.
"..You missed out most of the fun today," he says, averting his attention back to earth. He slips one sun-kissed hand between both his own, gazing fondly at his slumbering lover. "I'm sure you heard all the noise."
He doesn't expect a response. He doesn't get one.
"Everyone sure has grown up, Taiga-kun," Kuroko continues. "I've never realized this until today, to be honest. You'd be hitting me now and calling me an airhead if you could, huh?"
He trails off, letting the comfortable silence take over. He reaches out with one hand, and lightly traces the all too familiar curves of Kagami's face with his fingertips. For ten months, the people around Kagami had all suffered at least some kind of grief, sorrow or hopelessness. And for ten months, Kagami had slept peacefully without a care in the world. Even now, there are no creases in his brows, no frowns on his lips. Nothing to show any signs of torment or pain.
Christmas is a season of hope. Miracles happen.
Kuroko will hold on to that belief.
"Merry Christmas, Taiga-kun," he whispers, a small smile on his lips. He slowly leans forward, closing his eyes.
The tiny kiss they shared between them was brief. Kuroko isn't sure if it could even be considered as a kiss, since it was just a mere brush of his lips against Kagami's, but that doesn't matter. All that stopped mattering ever since Kagami stopped waking up.
Kuroko pulls back, a smile still plastered on his face. He yawns several seconds later. He doesn't realize just how tired he is until then. He rests his arms on the edge of Kagami's cot, and bends down, using them as a makeshift pillow.
"..Goodnight," he whispers. "May you have sweet dreams."
Kuroko then closes his eyes, and drifts off.
Someone is calling his name. The voice sounds familiar, but he can't quite place the name. Who is it? Who's calling him?
Kuroko stirs, slowly blinking to let his eyes adjust to the lighting around him. He feels weight on his head. He carefully sits upright, and yawns, feeling the weight slip off. His neck hurts. Right. He fell asleep in the hospital.
His vision focuses, and he freezes.
Scarlet eyes stares at him from below, full of life. The hand he has been holding throughout the night squeezes back lightly. That voice calling his name. He recognizes it now.
"Taiga..kun," Kuroko manages to say in his daze. Is this real? Is this a dream?
Kagami grins, happily but weakly. He reaches out, and lightly ruffles Kuroko's soft hair. "Mornin'."
Kuroko had not cried once in the last ten months. He'd held everything in because he feels that tears were a sign of giving up to despair.
Kuroko cries now. He cries and cries and doesn't stop. He isn't able to. And Kagami doesn't stop him. He only watches quietly as he strokes that mop of blue hair that he loves so much.
That morning, Kuroko discovers two main things. He remembers that tears aren't just a sign of sadness. Tears also signifies frustration, longing. Relief, happiness. There wasn't a need for him to cry for the last ten months. There is now.
And miracles do happen on Christmas. You just have to know where to find one.