Disclaimer: Kuroko no Basuke belongs to Fujimaki Tadatoshi.

As Sweet As Vanilla Milkshakes


8. You Develop A New Taste For Things As You Go Along In Life

It must be hard being Midorima's mother, Takao decided as he finally reached the store where the green haired shooter always came to for his lucky items.

Even as he parked the cart out in front of the store, (it was a small street, with no cars allowed) Takao could hear some loud banging from inside the shop, whose walls should have been able to prevent more sounds from escaping. At this point, a neighbour might suspect something and call the cops.

"Must be lively today," he murmured as he trudged up to the door, and his hand stopped short of the door handle as he spotted an angry Aomine being hugged by Kise.

'Hey, hey, what's this? PDA?' He squinted at the two. 'Whaaa? They're together? Well, I guess it was sort of inevitable...' He's not dumb, he's seen the way Kise made puppy faces at the other, begging for one-on-one matches like a child asking for a new toy. Aomine couldn't be said to not have liked it either, because from what Takao heard from his basketball partner, the boy had a total 180 degrees change in personality when he played against Kise on the streets without the burden of having a team to drag down with them if one lost.

Midorima appeared, and Takao had to stifle an obnoxious laugh as he watched the shooting guard hold up the strangest stuffed bear with the most serious expression on his face. Aomine scowled and ripped himself away from Kise, and went further into the shop. Takao swore he saw a pout appear on Kise's lips, before the normal charming model facade replaced it.

Contemplating whether he should spy on the three further, he saw the shop owner staring at him strangely through the window. Maybe it was better to go in, rather than lurking there like a creep and getting the police called. The neighbours had it rough, already. So early in the morning, at that. He waved at the owner, trying to lessen the awkwardness, but only received a even weirder glance in return.

'Ah, great. He thinks I have mental issues now.' It didn't work out well for him, having to bike here pretty much everyday. Having to drag a rickshaw behind him didn't help either.

Pushing open the door, he heard a rough laugh, and a flash of scarlet caught his eyes. "Eh? Kagami?"

The redhead turned to face Takao, his eyes filled to the brim with tears that threatened to spill over at any second. "Kise, you need to get checked for chronic lying. It's not good for your health."

The blond blinked, his unnaturally long eyelashes fluttering into a blur similar to those of a hummingbird's flapping wings. "Uhh...Kagamicchi, why would I lie about something like that?"

Takao moved towards the entrance of the shop, as a strange expression formed on Kagami's features. It was like he was torn between two emotions, ripping someone's throat out or smiling to humour someone you didn't take seriously. If Kagami was deaf, the black haired boy would have warned Kise to run, too.

"It's...the prize doesn't happen to be a pair of basketball shoes, is it?"

Kise leaned forward to stare wide-eyed at Kagami. "Kagamicchi! Are you serious?"

It seemed from Takao's perspective that the small forward was purposely teasing Kagami with the way he worded his sentences so vaguely that it was almost maddening, because the answer went either way. Kagami was looking at Kise with a disbelieving expression, like this was all a bad dream and it would be over before he knew it.

Sometimes ignorance was a blessing. Takao wasn't too thrilled to see the redhead's reactions, either.

"Quit beating around the bush and tell me already!" Kagami had closed his eyes, and pinching the bridge of his nose, seeming as exasperated as Takao would have imagined him to be.

"You're too loud. It's none of your business, Kagami," Midorima cut in, glaring at the raven haired point guard while he was at it, and reluctantly, Takao moved away from the door, past a certain seething power forward. Having four aces of rival schools together was bound to end up in some sort of conflict, but teaming up on Kagami seemed a little cruel. Usually, Takao would have been greatly amused to see such a scenario, but today he just felt sorry for the red haired boy.

"It is so part of my business," Kagami spat, ominous intent dripping from every word as he clenched his jaw. "Because I'm doing a scavenger hunt, and I need to know if I have competition."

Kise stepped back, leaving a gap between him and Kagami, albeit a small gap, since the aisles were fairly narrow. Takao watched as the power forward narrowed his eyes upon seeing the blond's eyes flitting about nervously, glancing everywhere but in his direction.

"So you are doing that contest!" The Seirin ace was fuming, menacing stare pointed at Kise, and then at Midorima. His scowl was then redirected at Takao, who flinched at the sudden attention. "What are you doing it for? 'Cause I bet I'll need those shoes more than you do."

At that, the model straightened his back, noticeably taller than a few moments before. Kagami turned back to him as Kise met his gaze with a newly found confidence, now that he was over his shock of the knowledge that the redhead was also participating in the contestwith almost a smug smile on his face. "How would you know, Kagamicchi? We're getting it for someone special to us."

The red haired boy's glare intensified. Midorima, next to him, look like a buttercup compared to Kagami. If only looks could kill, then everyone in the shop would be dead. He was radiating fury all around, and an image of an exploding bomb flashed across Takao's mind. One wrong move, and Kagami would snap.

"And who's that?"

It probably wasn't that good for the boy's health to be so mad, but then sometimes people just can't help it being surrounded by the so called "Generation of Miracles". Heck, Takao was pissed off by Midorima's random whims more than once, and he considered himself to be patient and optimistic and all those positive qualities of a person that everyone would want to have.

Kise's mouth opened with an answer waiting to be voiced out, but instead, Aomine suddenly appeared with a plastic bag in his left hand, and swung his arms around the other's neck, bringing him into a headlock. He smirked mockingly as he caught Kagami's outraged expression, and there was no doubt that he'd heard the entire conversation. Which was really no surprise, considering the size of the ran-down place.

As the logical person he was (sometimes), Takao was expecting the eruption of Mt. Kagami when Aomine's voice sounded throughout the worn store.

"You don't know? It's his birthday soon," the tanned power forward snickered as he saw the the other's dumbfounded expression, mouth hanging wide open, obviously teasing the redhead. "Who else? It's Tetsu, of course."

Kuroko sighed as he turned the corner onto a familiar block, the street he used to walk down with Aomine and the rest of the Teikou team. Middle school students were crowding the area, and the teal haired boy navigated his way easily through the mob of people. He was bored, and there wasn't much homework to distract him from his wandering thoughts about his current "light", who was getting brighter and brighter to the point that he thought he couldn't stand seeing him improve any longer, or else he'd go blind.

Basketball practice was cancelled today, again, and Kagami had made another excuse to avoid walking home with Kuroko, or at least that's what he suspected it to be. Just an excuse.

How convenient for him, because Kuroko had been prepared to give the other a big speech about basketball, the same one he had given Aomine the year before. The memory was bitter, and he felt an oncoming headache just thinking about it.

He had really thought the future was something bright and inviting, something to look forward to instead of the shadows of yesterday. He had rekindled the fire in the Touou ace, which made his lips curve up into a small smile, but at the same time, did he extinguish Kagami's?

There's nothing more he hated than that stinging in his eyes and the sickness in his stomach. When was the last time that he felt like this? It was more agonizing than he had remembered it to be, and it was worse than any physical pain that he had experienced. It became more painful as he passed the gate of his former middle school, days of the past flowing through his mind, both happy and sad.

Kuroko turned his gaze to the cement in front of him, focusing on the sidewalk that led him forward as he left behind the entrance of Teikou Middle School, bathed in the colour of the sunset.

As the sunlight faded away, leaving behind darkness, the regulars of the Seirin basketball team (save for Kuroko, who had been told that there had been no practice after school) ambled down the streets of Shinjuku towards the sportswear store that had hosted the scavenger hunt. Kagami's breath came out in a whoosh of visible vapours, as he stopped in front of the shop with a huge garbage bag filled with the required items. The poster for the contest was no longer on display in the large windows, and the redhead pulled the door open, stepping into the blissfully conditioned air.

One by one, the other players followed him into the warmth, all letting out content sighs as soothing air blasted at the exposed parts of their skin. Kagami searched for any staff present, and groaned when he realized he had to walk all the way to the cashier, dragging the bag behind him.

"Alright! Let's get those shoes and―" Kagami stopped short, frozen in mid-step as he recognized the tanned figure leaning over the cash register, talking to an employee with a stack of boxes at his feet.

Aomine suddenly turned, and a smug smile plastered itself onto his face. Annoyance flared up inside of the redhead, and it melted the ice that had held his right foot firmly to the floor as he strode over to the other power forward, knick-knacks cluttering against each other inside of the bag he carried, intending to punch the stars out of the guy.

'Well, if he's dead, he can't win the contest.'

However, his chance to wipe that crooked grin off Aomine's face was stolen as the cashier shook her head, and called out to a balding man. Confusion took over all his earlier emotions, and Kagami barely noticed the rest of the Seirin team shuffling to his side as he neared the dark skinned boy.

"Hey, Aomine, are you missing an item?" Kagami taunted, waving his hand in front of the other's face, hoping to get on the other's nerves. The Touou ace was staring into space, at nothing in general. No reaction was evoked, which was a rare occurrence to be honest, but nevertheless, it was slightly irritating to be ignored. "Did you finally crack? Forget how to talk now? Hey, answer me. I know you can hear me. Hey-"

A dark hand smacked his away, and its owner glared at Kagami, who figured that he must have hit the mark. "Don't touch me, double eyebrows."

"You're the one who touched me! Double eyebrows? What are you then, ganguro-san?" The redhead retorted sharply, though he felt a little relieved that Aomine was still the same sane asshole.

"Kagami, I'm surprised that you even know that the word 'ganguro' exists," Midorima commented, popping out from behind a shelf of soccer balls, making Kagami jump. Did he learn it from Kuroko or something?

"Ah, excuse me! I'm sorry, but someone just came in with all the scavenger hunt items," the group turned to see the man from before, the one with no hair, who Kagami took to be the manager by the tag he wore on his dress shirt, as he bowed .

When he finally processed the manager's words, Kagami's hands grabbed at the air behind him, hoping to find a hold on something solid before he could fall over, landing on his head and getting a concussion, which would not do him good in basketball. Plus, that evil coach would probably kill him for getting injured, therefore having to miss practices and the chance to be tortured by her.

Aomine was the first to snap out of the stupor that everyone had somehow got stunned into. He grabbed the collar of the shorter manager, lifting him up until his feet weren't touching the floor. "Old man, do you know how much trouble I went through to get these things? I missed out on all my sleep! I'm a growing boy, and you say someone else already got the shoes?"

"D-dai-chan! Do you want to get arrested?!" The pink haired girl squeaked, putting a hand on Aomine's arm, tugging with a strength that must have felt delicate as a butterfly landing on your skin. Kagami wasn't fooled though, just considering the fact that she's survived so long by Aomine's side suggested that she had enough power to knock the tanned boy unconscious with a mere slap.

The Touou ace waved Momoi away like she was a fly, and Kagami found himself already imagining Aomine's corpse on the ground in front of the tanned boy's childhood friend. "How hard is it to get two shoes signed by Lebron?! Is it gonna kill him to write his name another time on a pair of shoes?"

Evident fear showed on the manager's face, and Kagami could see the cashier edging towards the phone out of the corners of his eyes. He expected Momoi to get to the issue at hand before the police would be needed, so he wasn't too worried. "Er, mister, I'm sorry, but I think you've misunderstood...The shoes are signed by many players, not just one, so it's a bit hard to get a second pair..."

"Hah?" Aomine dropped the manager out of surprise. Kagami choked on his saliva, sputtering and coughing.

"H-how many players?" The redhead strained out in between uneven pants. Maybe it was just him, but Aomine also looked like he was in desperate need of oxygen.

"More than one, sir," the manager looked relieved, and smoothed out the fabric of his shirt, crumpled up by Aomine's rough hold. He studied the group of high school students before him before continuing, "I'm not sure of the exact number."

Desperate for some mutual horror or at least sympathy from the rest of Seirin, Kagami whirled around to face his teammates, who were all staring with hints of betrayal in their shocked faces. Riko was emitting a murderous aura, which Kagami hoped wouldn't get out of hand because he doubted that anyone could stop her once she had a conspiracy ready against someone.

"What does this person look like?" Riko's forced smile was more than disturbing, and it made a shiver run down Kagami's spine as his imagination ran wild. It wasn't looking very good for the manager, but thankfully, there was the law to protect him from the abuse that the coach was obviously planning to inflict upon him at the very moment. "The person who has the shoes now."

Kagami's eyes wandered as the manager began to deny that he knew the appearance of the stranger, and he noticed parts of Kuroko's former teammates' limbs peeking out from the corners of display shelves in a not-very-ninja-way. He almost did a double take as he spotted a tuft of crimson hair, and his heart rate sped up almost as an automatic response, because he still couldn't forget their first encounter. That crazy redhead and Midorima's scissors made an insane combo of an opponent that he'd rather not face any time soon, or better, ever again.

Fortunately for him, the shooting guard's lucky item today was a harmless rubber ducky, which would have been hilarious in any other situation, but Kagami couldn't just ignore his problem of a missing birthday present for Kuroko for the sole purpose of poking fun at Midorima. Whose demeanor, by the way, was a little too calm for a panicky issue like this, because this plan was already last minute enough, but for it to fail?

Kagami hadn't expected competition at all, until that morning anyways.

Kise edged out from his "hiding" place to greet Kagami as he stood next to Aomine, who was still seething. Kagami swore he would be doing the same, if he had the energy and time to do such a thing rather than thinking up a solution to this problematic outcome of the plan that he had initial confidence in, confidence that no longer existed.

The blond beamed at the red haired power forward as he rubbed Aomine's back. "I guess we'd just have to get Kurokocchi something else, huh?"

Momoi patted Aomine bicep as she sighed in defeat. Kagami spotted Midorima's eyes briefly concentrate on the dark boy's silent form before looking up at the ceiling, stark lighting reflecting off the lenses of his glasses. Murasakibara, who seemed to have had a growth spurt since the Winter Cup, slunk out from the volleyball section holding a small bag of koala bear shaped biscuits along with the ever-so-attention-commanding Akashi Seijuurou.

Judging from their gentle murmurs of words and the "Mine-chin can have my cookies" comment, it seemed that Aomine had really worked his butt off because of this scavenger hunt. For once, Kagami actually felt bad for the other, sincerely enough that he was almost glad that some stranger had come and taken the basketball shoes instead of Seirin.

A shadow is inseparable from the light, because for there to be a shadow, there has to be a light.

Kagami wondered if that the light needed the shadow, just as much as the shadow needed the light, if the light would lose sight of itself if there were no shadows around. Because, without the existence of the shadow, how could the light be sure that it exists itself?


Omgomgomg I am sorry I didn't update for idk a month or something (and for all the short chapters so far I just can't write long chapters?!) o-o'

I hit a writer's block sort of thing (more like ran into a wall but.) And right now I'm dealing with an annoying group member in an important project, so sorry if some of the things in this chapter seems hurried or not very well written orz

kk enough of my excuses though I am really sorry, but since spring break is coming up, I think I'll try finishing this fic around next next week ^^; (lolol I feel like it's gonna be Kuroko's next bday when I finish this haha xDD)

and omg ch 205! /sobbing. Poor Kuroko I just wanna hug him but then he's a 2D character so you know..haha.

Thank you for staying with this story, I'm really grateful for the time you took to read this!