So, I know I said Christmas, but frankly, I was too busy stuffing my face and being lazy to write. That, and this chapter took a pretty long time, and even now I feel like there are some kinks that I should iron out but I have no idea how to go about doing it. So this is it.

I'll spare you the lengthy babbling that I usually do, so you can go on into the story.

As per usual, enjoy, and let me know what you think!


The room was completely silent as the tall green-haired figure strode in, bee-lining for the desk that was at the front of the room. Eyes followed the young man who was one half of a well-known protégée duo that had taken Tokyo's crime scene by storm, catapulting their careers up the ladder at an incredible pace. Although they had been on the police force for a relatively short time, Midorima and Aomine had managed to prove their worth, having solved hundreds of cases in less than half the time it took their seniors. There was resentment, as was expected, but even their critics would admit – albeit begrudgingly – that they lived up to the hype.

Nonetheless, being given the reins to the entire police force in the city was a first for Midorima, and it was a responsibility that rested solely on his shoulders.

It wasn't like he was nervous or anything.

Upon reaching the desk, he rounded on the group of detectives and station chiefs that were looking at him expectantly.

"Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming here today," he began in a loud, clear voice. "I am sure that you're all aware that we have been tasked with capturing a serial killer named Kou Shougo. He has been rampaging through Tokyo in recent months, and his targets were models, with the exception of a couple of his victims. Until now the public has been repeatedly convinced that there was nothing to be concerned about, however, we have reason to believe that after being forced into hiding, he is now seeking revenge. He has set his sights on one of our own, and is undoubtedly looking for any opportunity to strike. The rather lax approach that the police force has taken towards this threat so far is a major reason why he's still at large, and I want to make it clear that cutting corners will not be an option."

"We have profilers currently working on developing a profile of him in order to assist us. Right now our greatest aid would be the media. I want his picture and description out in circulation every hour, and extend our net to the rest of Japan. Freeze all his assets and I want eyes on all his known associates. We need officers stationed at his previous workplace and at his apartment in Tokyo, as well as near any relatives he has. Airport security has been heightened, as well as security at the docks. The higher-ups have given us the go-ahead. This man is smart and sociable, something that makes him extremely dangerous. We must catch him before he does any more damage."

Green eyes swept over the myriad of expressions before him. Though there had been whisperings of the serial killer's identity throughout the country, most of the police force had only seen a photo of him pinned up on a bulletin board with the note to keep an eye out for him. They'd obviously underestimated the man.

It was a mistake Midorima was hoping Aomine wouldn't have to pay for with his life. "This is no longer a classified case. It's time we pull out the big guns."

xx

Aomine lounged against the headboard of his bed, watching a late night cartoon on the huge TV that was mounted on the opposite wall. The room he had been given was big, and had a king-sized bed right in the middle of it. It was clearly a guest room as it was furnished simply and had only a dresser in addition to the bed and TV unit. Aomine picked up his phone from where he had tossed it on the bed, glancing at the black screen for the umpteenth time that night. It wasn't like he couldn't make the first move and just call Kuroko, but he didn't want to be interrupting anything as it was well past midnight. That, and there was a tiny part of him that feared Akashi would be with Kuroko.

He took a deep breath and pulled up Kuroko's number on his screen, staring at it as the struggle raged on inside him. He nearly dropped the device when it started to vibrate, Kuroko's special ringtone shrilly cutting through the quiet.

He answered it quickly, his heart thudding in his chest. "Hello?"

"Did I wake you up?" the voice he heard was distorted by static but it was undoubtedly Kuroko's.

"Nah," he grinned, the fluttering in his chest threatening to crush his ribs. "I'm just in bed thinking about you."

He listened to Kuroko chuckle as he reached for the TV remote and muted it. "How was your journey?"

"It was okay," he replied, toying with the blanket that pooled around his hips. "Would've been better if you were there."

"You need to stop this," Kuroko admonished. "I'm narcissistic enough without you fuelling the flame."

"But I missed you," he protested. "I couldn't stop thinking about you all day."

"I'm sure," Kuroko replied drily. "While I, on the other hand, was completely immersed in spending quality time with my brother today."

Aomine sat up. "Did something happen?"

"No," Kuroko said, sounding confused. Aomine belatedly realized that Kuroko had meant that to be a jab at him. "Oh, and Akashi-kun sends his wishes."

"Is he there with you?" Aomine asked, feeling his heart sink.

"Yes," on the other end of the conversation, sitting up in his bed in much the same fashion as Aomine, Kuroko eyed the man who was on his back perpendicular to him at the foot of his bed icily. "My brother can't seem to take a hint."

"I probably shouldn't agree or he might castrate me," the dark-haired man said drily. "But I agree."

He could hear the grin when Kuroko said, "I thought you might."

"So, what else have you been doing?" Aomine asked, settling back comfortably. If Akashi was in the same room with Kuroko there'd be no way their conversation could take the turn he'd been hoping for. He'd settle for listening to Kuroko's voice, though.

"Nothing of much interest," he replied thoughtfully. "I had dinner with my parents, which was fun. We talked about how Akashi-kun isn't married yet and how he's getting on in years and how the Akashi empire is in dire need of an heir, and about how I've suddenly discovered that I'm gay and am therefore unable to father children."

Aomine stared blankly at the silent images that flashed across his TV screen as Kuroko tapered off. He heard a muffled sound from the other end.

"Adopt?" Kuroko gasped dramatically and Aomine assumed that it was in reply to something Akashi had said. "Don't you dare mention that to Father, he'd disown you for speaking such blasphemy!"

"How much have you had to drink, Tetsuya?" A second voice startled Aomine when he heard it and he nearly answered on impulse even though it was evident it wasn't meant for him. It bugged him that Akashi's voice sounded extremely close to Kuroko.

"Not very much," came the casual reply. It also bugged him that they seemed to have forgotten that he was there. Except that he was pretty darn sure that Akashi wouldn't forget something like that. He began to feel apprehensive when there was no word from either man for a while.

"So," he let out a sigh of relief when Kuroko's voice crackled in his ear again. "While Akashi-kun snoops around my room looking for evidence of my over-imbibing, how was your day?"

Against his better judgement, Aomine let his curiosity get the better of him. "How much have you had to drink, Tetsu?"

"You too?" Kuroko demanded indignantly. Aomine could imagine him pouting. "I've barely had anything to drink tonight."

The dark-haired man thought back to the last time Kuroko had gotten outrageously drunk. He was well aware that it took a lot to get Kuroko plastered, which meant that Kuroko's idea of 'barely anything' was probably a substantial amount of alcohol that normal people would blanch at.

"What were you drinking?" He persisted, the detective in him not allowing him to let it go.

Kuroko clicked his tongue in annoyance. "Wine."

"I'm guessing three," Aomine said. Then added as an afterthought, "Bottles."

"Impressive, Aomine-kun," he heard the amusement in Kuroko's voice. The pale-skinned man chuckled lightly. "Close, but not exactly. And let's keep this a secret from Akashi-kun. Though he's probably found my stash by now, so maybe it won't matter."

Aomine grinned. He'd always enjoyed listening to Kuroko ramble on when he was stoned, simply because he was a lot less merciful with his sharp tongue.

"Oh, Akashi-kun's back with his evidence," Kuroko said, sounding, in Aomine's opinion, much too pleased about it. "It seems like I'm in for a lengthy lecture. I'll have to hang up now."

"Alright," the tan-skinned man responded, wondering if all their conversations were going to be like this until they were back in Tokyo. "Good night, sexy."

"I miss you," Kuroko said softly, almost as though he didn't want Akashi to hear. "Good night."

Aomine waited until the line went dead and then he lowered his phone slowly.

Kuroko was going to be the death of him.

xx

"Excuse me," large blue eyes turned away from the book he held to the source of the polite chagrin. "Oh my goodness, it really is you!"

Kuroko blinked, not bothering to mask the confusion on his face at the sudden exclamation. The stranger's excitement was short-lived, however, as he quickly realized what an awkward situation he'd put himself in.

"I'm so sorry, that came out creepier than it was in my head, um, it's just that I've never seen you up close before, and um, your hair looks darker in the photos and –"

"I beg your pardon, but do I know you?" Kuroko queried, lowering his book and scrutinizing the frazzled man. He was attractive, though not in an outstanding way. His brown hair was cropped short, and he wore half-rimmed glasses that framed dark brown eyes. However, his clothes seemed like they were a few sizes too big for his thin frame and were definitely inappropriate for the weather.

"Uh, not precisely. Well, I kinda know you, but we've never met," the other began, wringing his hands. He paused, took a deep breath and then smiled sheepishly at the blue-haired man. "I'm totally creeping you out, aren't I?"

Kuroko smiled kindly at the man. He looked somewhat familiar, but Kuroko couldn't quite place where he'd seen him. "Slightly, but I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself."

"I'm a friend of Aomine Daiki," he said, mirroring Kuroko's smile. The latter brightened up at that. "And I used to date Momoi-san. Small world, huh?"

The blue-haired man chuckled delightedly, patting the empty spot beside him on the bench in invitation. "You should have said so earlier! What's your name?"

"My friends call me Shougo," the man replied, sitting down. "And you're Kuroko-san, right?"

Kuroko nodded, briefly glancing up as the calm morning was disturbed by a wailing child who was with his parents at the other end of the park.

The man turned to Kuroko and looked at him for a long while. "The pictures Aomine-san showed me hardly do you justice."

Grinning, Kuroko waved the compliment away. "My face is hardly my best asset."

"I'm sure you're right," Shougo laughed. He looked around, as though he was searching for something. "Where's Aomine-san?"

Kuroko blinked in surprise. "He isn't with me."

"Really?" This time Shougo looked surprised. "I heard he was coming down to Shibata on the job."

"I didn't hear about that," Kuroko muttered vaguely, turning to stare at the frozen lake just a foot away. It only now occurred to him that neither of them had asked the other where they were going. He'd assumed that Aomine's work was classified and that he wouldn't be able to tell him anyway, but he wondered why the dark-skinned man hadn't questioned him. "What brings you down to Shibata, Shougo-san?"

"I have some unfinished business to attend to," he replied with a light shrug. "But it seems I can't complete my job just yet."

Cyan blue eyes flickered to the slight frown on the other man's face. "Why's that?"

Shougo sighed heavily. "The other guy isn't taking me seriously."

xx

"Their ineptitude is glaring and annoys me endlessly," Midorima ground out into the receiver of his phone. He was seated at his desk in the station, unmindful of the flurry of activity that flowed around him. The small area that held Aomine's desk and his was like an oasis, and he sometimes felt like sitting there was like being in the eye of a storm. "I'd rather be working with you."

On the other end of the call, Aomine whistled low. "That's some high praise, coming from you."

"Don't let it get to your head," the green-eyed man scowled deeper when he spotted a gang of officers laughing animatedly across the room. "These idiots are all going to get shot someday."

"Maybe they just think you're overreacting," Aomine said mildly, feeling as though he should at least try to buffer the anger directed at his fellow detectives. He knew, however, that if his and Midorima's positions were reversed, he'd do a lot more than complain.

"The man's killed half a dozen girls at least," Midorima snapped. Aomine rolled his eyes. He understood the urgency, but Midorima tended to get especially moody when things didn't go his way. And he didn't like not catching murderers. Kou Shougo was the only criminal that had taken the pair longer than a week to apprehend. It was a smudge on their reputation that neither wanted.

"At least he's stopped killing," Aomine offered. He had taken a short stroll early in the morning to the nearby park to watch the sunrise, and to get a bearing of the area. The community was large, but quiet, and residents kept mostly to themselves. His scouting had also revealed that there weren't many empty buildings or alleyways. Mari's house was on a well-lit street, and though it was near a junction, there weren't many places a murderer could hide. He had been canvasing the rest of the area when his partner's annoying ringtone had started playing.

"That's only because he's after you," nothing he said today would calm the green-haired man down, his words only serving to add fuel to the fire. "Don't tell me you've forgotten that, Ahomine."

"Of course I haven't, dumbass" Aomine scoffed. "It's the reason I'm stuck way out here instead of working on the case."

"Good," Midorima sounded somewhat mollified. Aomine stopped walking suddenly. Was Midorima worried? "I expect you to keep me up to date on your status there. I'll be coming down to Shibata the day after tomorrow."

"What?" Aomine glanced around quickly to see if his sudden outburst had drawn attention. "Why?"

"We have reason to believe that Kou Shougo was in hiding near the Arakawa river. I'm going to investigate it."

"Hold on," Aomine began to protest. "Arakawa isn't even near here!"*

"Don't be dense, Ahomine. I'm talking about the one in Niigata." Midorima said flatly. "I'll be driving down with a junior officer who can watch over Mari's family in your stead while you join me on the trip to Arakawa."

The dark-haired detective perked up, looking like a kid who'd just been told that Christmas was coming early. "I was wrong, you do love me."

"Don't flatter yourself," Midorima said, sounding annoyed now and almost as though he'd regretted his words. "I need the best on this case, not some junior officer who doesn't even know how to hold a gun."

"You think I'm the best?" Aomine grinned, knowing that Midorima was getting more flustered. The man had a weird way of showing it, but he actually considered Aomine a friend.

"Good bye," Midorima said curtly, and ended the call. Aomine laughed, enjoying himself and feeling in considerably better spirits at the thought that he'd at least be able to partake in some of the investigation.

"Well, aren't you cheerful for a man who's on the wrong end of a loaded gun?" An amused voice cut through the cloud he was in and Aomine whipped his head around to the sight of a wanted man with both hands on a gun that was trained on him.

His cheer quickly dissipated, and he growled low, "Kou."

"I'm glad that you still remember me," There was a perceptibly maniacal glint to the brown eyes that scrutinized him closely. The man grinned slowly. "You've been slacking off, detective."

"How the hell'd you find me?" Aomine demanded. His fingers itched to reach for the gun he had hidden in the small of his back under his shirt. It'd be impossible for him to draw the gun without alerting Kou. It was a fatal mistake on his part, as he had assumed that Kou would not have access to firearms.

"Bit of detective work on my part," Kou sniggered slightly. He tilted his head to the sight, watching Aomine's hands closely. The air was heavy with tension as the two squared off. Aomine was at an obvious disadvantage here. If his arm so much as twitched, he'd be a dead man. He eyed the murderer before him, taking in the hollowed cheeks, ill-fitting clothes, and the amateurish way he wielded the weapon. If they were closer, he'd have a good chance at disarming the man. Kou probably knew this, as he stood several paces away, close enough that they could talk without raising their voices, but far enough that he'd be able to pull the trigger if Aomine tried to lunge.

He may be a madman but he wasn't stupid.

"I met your boyfriend today," Kou suddenly broke the silence. Dark eyes widened for a millisecond and then narrowed dangerously.

"If you so much as laid a finger on hi—" Aomine began, enraged. His hands fisted by his sides, the ache to punch the life out of the man making his body throb.

"Calm down," Kou interrupted, rolling his eyes. "All we did was chat. He looks amazing up close, I can see why you'd switch teams for him."

"I ain't got time for your psychological shit," Aomine spat. He was on the verge of forsaking logic and going for his gun. A shot at killing the bastard was worth the risk of being shot.

"Why, do you need to be somewhere?" Kou sounded amused, and Aomine noticed the slight relaxing of his shoulders. The other man probably thought that he was safe from harm just because he was out of arm's reach and Aomine was unarmed. Aomine fought against the smirk that threatened to give him away. The more relaxed Kou was, the easier it'd be for him to jump the distance and knock the man unconscious.

But Aomine wouldn't have been satisfied with such an easy end.

"Those models," he spoke up abruptly. Kou tensed up slightly. "It was 'cause you broke up with Satsuki, wasn't it?"

Kou looked at him silently for a minute. His face broke into a grin. "You trying to get into my head?"

Aomine shrugged. "Worth a shot."

"Cute," Kou drawled. "If it was because of Momoi-san, don't you think she'd be the first to die?"

"'Course not, you love her," Aomine replied, his casual tone matching Kou's. "That's why you kept killing, 'cause it was never enough."

Brown eyes looked at him sharply. Despite his best efforts, Kou was definitely feeling something from his words.

It was impossible to predict the future, but it wasn't so hard to predict how people would react, especially under duress. There was one of two ways his next words could impact the situation.

"I always knew you were messed up," he said, venom in his voice. He watched as Kou's face hardened and his grip on his gun tightened. Aomine began to move his arm, painstakingly slowly. Kou was now too focused on his face to notice the gradual movement. He took a deep breath and said a short prayer. He was either going to go back to Tokyo alive or in a body bag. His odds were slim, but he'd been in worse situations. There was no turning back now.

"That's why I told her to break it off with you," he went on. Every word of his angered the other man more. If his asshole personality got him out of this spot, he'd shove it in Midorima's face. "You were dragging her down."

"I did everything for her," Kou snarled. His hands shook slightly as the rage continued to build up. "I sacrificed everything to make this work and you just told her to end it?"

Aomine could feel the tip of his finger brush against the butt of his gun. He gripped it tightly and began to pull it free slowly.

Kou was seeing red. He had spent countless sleepless nights agonizing over what he'd done wrong, if he had said something unintentional that had hurt her deeper than she'd admit. He'd spent the first month crying himself to bed at night, going to work in the morning looking like a shell of his former self. But she'd been perfectly fine. She'd seen him once in the office and had smiled at him hesitantly. He'd felt hopeful for a second until she turned away to talk to her manager and then continued to ignore him for the rest of the time that she was there. He'd tried to win her back, sending her gifts, leaving her messages. His days were not complete without her, and he'd found himself following her whenever she left the office. It was when she met up with a fellow model for lunch, and had looked so happy as she chatted away, completely ignorant of the broken heart he harboured, that he had felt a burning jealousy. Who was that other girl to command all her attention? He was right outside the window, and yet she didn't glance his way, not even once. It frustrated him, and angered him. That bitch didn't deserve to be in his beloved's company.

For the first time in weeks, Kou followed a different girl home, and for the next fortnight, kept his eyes on her, making sure that she didn't come into contact with Momoi again. After that, he'd made very sure that there would be no competition for his beloved's attention. But there were others. He was aware of them. Other people in the agency who did what she did, who could talk to her at any time, and he wouldn't be aware of it.

He went about making sure that that problem was solved, too.

Aomine's scoff drew him out of the haze he was in. The dark-haired man had a cocky smirk on his face even though he was moments away from being killed.

"I've known her her whole life. You'll never be able to beat that," Aomine sneered. "You won't even come close to being as important to her as I am."

Aomine saw it, the moment Kou decided to pull the trigger. Without pausing, he swung his arm before him and shot at the man. There was little need for him to take aim. He wasn't the best for nothing.

The next few seconds seemed to unfold in slow motion, and he would've sworn that he saw the bullets travelling. He watched his bullet hit home, the force of it knocking the man back as he fell over.

Victory, however, was short-lived, as he felt a searing pain that ripped through muscles and probably his ribs. The world darkened around him and he fell to his knees before keeling over and landing with a soft splash in a pool of his own blood.

He imagined that he heard a scream, and then his name, and then the pain was gone.

xxx

* Aomine was referring to the Arakawa river located in Saitama prefecture, which is to the southeast of Tokyo, and is rather close to Tokyo Disneyland. The Arakawa river that Midorima is referring to is to the northwest, and is a four hour shinkansen (bullet train) ride away from Tokyo.