WELL HELOOOOOOOOO! I have no excuses. Life got busy, yadayada. I actually had to cut this chapter off because it was getting too long. I also kind of revised the previous chapters a bit. For those of you that have been following, thanks a bunch and I hope you continue reading! And thanks to new readers, too! : )

Chapter 4 – "The farthest"

From what he remembered, Kise's smile was the most beautiful sight Aomine had ever seen.

Until now.

His eyes had just been graced with a shower-fresh, boxer-clad vision of ecstasy he wished he could frame and leave up in his room forever.

"Aominecchi, sorry; there's no more hot water. If you're going to take a shower you might wanna wait a little while."

"Uhh it's fine; I'll just take one now real quick." He was going to need it damn cold, anyway.

After Aomine finished talking with Ryoko earlier in the afternoon and agreeing to meet her the next day, he waited for Kise to be done with practice as planned, all the while trying to prepare himself for his second time sleeping at the apartment of the idiot he was still in love with. They got home, and Kise hopped in the shower. Aomine tried his best not to let his thoughts wander.

He turned the water on, and sure enough, it was ice cold. Just what he needed (and for once he wasn't thinking sarcastically). The cold water managed to calm his heart and body somewhat, and he stepped out to dry himself off. Realizing he forgot to bring his clothes in, he opened the door to yell down the hall.

"Oi, Kise, I need m-" Ooops.

The bathroom door he had just now swung open to reveal what looked like the two siblings in some form of an argument outside of Ryoko's room. Thank god Aomine at least had the towel around him; this was awkward and embarrassing enough. He quickly slammed the door shut again on their shocked faces and mumbled through the wood, telling Kise to bring his clothes over. He could just make out the whispering ends of their conversation: "Ugh, just go get them Ryouta; we'll talk later."

"..Everything cool?" Aomine asked once he returned to Kise's room decently dressed.

"Not exactly." Kise's tone was flat and solemn. Aomine remained quiet and he waited for him to explain himself. Kise breathed in shakily before a faint, "He called me again. While you were in the shower." exited his mouth.

Aomine held his breath for a while and, after he couldn't take it any more, probed Kise to tell him what was up. "..And? What did he say?"

Kise turned around, revealing an uncharacteristic look of pure panic that didn't match his barely audible voice. "He saw you." The statement didn't completely register in his brain until Kise continued on, "He's mad. I don't know why! I tried to explain that you were my friend but he just started cursing about Ryoko and whatnot. I don't know why he even gives a fuck about her, but I.. I don't want you to stay here. I-I'm so sorry; this was all my fault; I'm the one who asked you to and gave you all this trouble. I really don't know what to say." Kise sat on his bed and cradled his face in his hands. Aomine walked over to sit beside him and swung an arm over his shoulders.

"It's fine. Well then, do you wanna stay at my place? I'm fine with it."

"I can't leave Ryoko alone. She's the one I'm afraid for. No matter how much I hate her, I can't just let her be stupid on her own. I keep trying to warn her about everything, but she doesn't ever fucking listen to a word I say! She's still all messed up because of this guy she was dating until he up and dumped her. I guess he was the one that she really liked, which I could understand, because he.. he actually seemed to.. care for her. From what I saw, that is. The more I think about it, the more it confuses me. The only thing I can think of is that she hooked up with an ex or something while they were dating."

"Ah.. yeah, I have no idea," Aomine agreed, " Why don't you ask her?"

"No way. That's the last thing I want to talk to her about." Kise ran his long fingers through his hair in deep thought. "Anyway, ever since they broke up, she's been crazy again, and it's stressing me out. You probably shouldn't come over any more after tonight." He admitted. "My stepdad might be watching you. And if he sees us together, or worse, he sees you coming over here, he might.. I don't know what he'd do."

The thought of this sick freak watching him made a shudder run up Aomine's spine. He debated telling Kise that he was supposed to meet with Ryoko to talk tomorrow, but decided it would only worry him, and he was too curious about what she had to say to risk having a full protest against their encounter. "Just promise me you'll find a way to let me know if you're in trouble." He said, seriously.

"It'll be fine, It'll be fine!" Kise laughed, nervously. "I'm just being paranoid."

Aomine hoped to God that was the case.

The next day, Touou's ace waited for Ryoko at the café they had specified after school. He didn't wait long before her bouncy golden head bounded inside, where she quickly found him and sat down. They briefly chatted about miniscule things like the weather and their days at school before Aomine began to fidget and Ryoko dropped the bomb on the conversation.

"So, Daiki-kun. The real reason I called you out here was to talk about Ryouta, which you already know." Her eyes lost some of their natural glitter as her face hardened a bit with seriousness. "But first I'll explain what's been going on. Has he told you at all about Kakeru-kun?"

"No, I don't believe he's mentioned anyone by that name.." Aomine racked his brain, but nothing came up. He assumed this was the ex-boyfriend.

Ryoko sighed "Huuuh, typical." She flipped her hair over her shoulders and rested her chin upon her fists on the table. "Kakeru is my ex-boyfriend. We dated for four months, and everything was wonderful until he all of a sudden wouldn't talk to me anymore starting several weeks ago. Then I got an email saying he wouldn't continue seeing me. And that was that." She rolled her eyes and even gave a lighthearted laugh, but Aomine could tell that she was genuinely upset by the situation. "When Kakeru suddenly disappeared, Ryouta was even mad at me and ridiculed me for doing something stupid, but I.. I really have no idea what I did!" She was now trying extremely hard not to get too upset. "I've tried everything to try and see him or talk to him; I even went to talk to his mother, who really likes me! He finally called me the other night night to tell me off for bothering his family. That's the conversation you overheard." she explained, before pausing to take a calming breath. "Anyway, I was just curious as to whether or not he had said anything to you. I'm pretty sure you're the person he's closest to right now." Her expression then broke into a gentle smile. "I hope you'll continue to look after him; he's been pretty sulky lately, even if it doesn't show. He's my baby brother; I can tell."

Aomine nervously looked to the side, still trying to figure out something to say.

She chuckled at him. "I know what you're thinking. 'How can I call him my baby brother when I'm probably the worst big sister ever?' And you're absolutely right." Her short-lived smile disappeared. "I know, Daiki-kun. I know how our situation looks to others. It's hard. It's hard to try and explain it to outsiders who just brush us off as overdramatic, spoiled brats, but you understand, don't you?"

"I do." And he meant it. Whoever could look at the two siblings and not feel sorry for them was a heartless bastard. "And Kise has.. I mean, he never said any names, but he did mention that your boyfriend left.. I think."

How the hell am I supposed to say 'Kise's mad because you get a bit psychotic when you don't have a boyfriend to distract you' in a nice way?

"He did.. I see," Ryoko pondered. Her curls fell forward again and she removed her elbows from the table. "And I'll bet he thinks I cheated on Kakeru, and that's why he left, right?" Her eyes bore into Aomine's deep blue ones.

"Uhh.. I don't really-"

"That's what he said, right." Her stern gaze wasn't budging.

"Well I don't hink he meant it; he was upset at the time because he got a call.. from your stepdad." Aomine finally mentioned.

Ryoko didn't look surprised. "I know; he told me. And I get that he thinks I'm the root cause of all the problems we have with the jerk, but he lets Matsuda get under his skin way too much! He's just a typical, whiny stepfather that doesn't want us to exist, so he tries to keep us quiet as much as possible. Can you blame me for wanting to fight back!? He can't just wipe my existence from the family he stole!"

More than the fact that Ryoko had addressed her stepfather informally, Aomine was shocked to feel as if he actually agreed with her completely. "You're right. He can't. But he can hurt you. You and Kise both. I don't know how serious his threats are, but I would just be mindful.. wouldn't want anything bad to happen." He blushed lightly at the doting implications of his statements.

Ryoko laughed for real this time. Her beautiful eyes and smile really could light up the whole room. "Thanks, Daiki-kun. But I'm sure everything will be fine."

They chatted for a while longer and even exchanged phone numbers "In case anything happens," Aomine argued. And when they reached the two siblings' apartment after Aomine insisted he walk her home, they exchanged friendly goodbyes before Ryoko slipped inside.

The next week went by similarly. Aomine's father returned from a business trip, which aggravated him, since he wasn't able to stay with Kise. He didn't have a bad relationship with his father, they just weren't close, and only being around each other for small fractions of time increased the awkwardness. He texted Kise every once in a while to check in on him, but all he got were short responses, if he got a response at all. After he met up with Ryoko at the beginning of the week, his thoughts had been even more invaded by his ex-teammate than usual.

He found himself wandering around the area surrounding Kaijou after school most days. Even if he didn't get to see Kise, he liked the thought of being closer to him. The basketball court there was nice, too. He had been playing around a bit by himself before he lied down on a bench to enjoy the warm sun and take a nap. When he felt a finger gently poke his forehead his eyes opened abruptly and as they focused he was met with a mass of sweet-smelling, fluffy blonde hair.

"Boo!" Ryoko shouted playfully.

Aomine sat up and rubbed his eyes that were still adjusting to the brightness. "Oh, hey, Ryoko-san. What are you doing over here?" he yawned.

"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" she raised an eyebrow and pointed over her shoulder. "My hair salon is across the street. Had an appointment after school."

So that's why her hair was extra fragrant and bouncy today. He wondered if Kise's hair would be equally as beautiful if he grew it out that long.

But that would be ridiculous, he scolded himself.

"Are you meeting Ryouta today? I was wondering why you haven't been over all week. Did you guys fight? Did he find out that we met?!" Her perfectly lined, glassy eyes opened wide and she covered her mouth with her free hand that wasn't carrying her bags.

"Oh, no. I mean, not that I know of."

He's doing what he thinks will protect me, whether I like it or not.

But for all Aomine knew for sure, Kise could be avoiding him for other reasons. However, that train of thought was most most likely due to the anxiety of not being able to see him for a while.

He really just wanted to be able to see Kise again.

"Hmmmm, then why don't you come over! I'm making Ryouta's favorite French onion soup for dinner since he's been such a wet blanket," she jiggled the bags she was carrying that he guessed contained the ingredients. "And he'll be in an extra good mood if his best friend surprises him, too!"

Heh. I doubt it.

Kise would most likely be furious if Aomine showed up at his apartment after he personally warned him to stay away until things settled with their stepfather. And showing up with his sister was another thing. No, he shouldn't go with her.

Nontheless, Aomine's longing heart found itself struck by an irritated, sunset-golden glare as Kise opened the door for them ten minutes later.

"Ryouta! Daiki-kun was waiting for you after school! And you forgot all about him! Some friend!"

Aomine knew Ryoko was just trying to help by clearing it up that Aomine hadn't been waiting for her, but Kise just seemed to boil even hotter.

"Sorry." He said, curtly. "Actually, Aominecchi, come here; I have something to show you, anyway."

Oh, shit.

This was code for "get the fuck in my room so I can chew you out."

Ryoko pouted and complained about how they were deserting her to make dinner all by herself, but that didn't stop Kise from shoving Aomine into his bedroom and closing the door on her.

"What the hell are you doing?!" Kise whispered angrily. "What if he was watching you two walk here? How long were you walking with her?! If he's keeping as close of tabs on her as it seems there's no doubt he saw you again!"

"No one was following us; it's okay!" Aomine bit back. Did Kise really not want to see him that much? If the bastard stepdad really had a problem with guys around Ryoko, he would have done something after the day at the café.

Oh, that's right. Kise doesn't know about that.

Not wanting to fess up and give the idea that he and Ryoko were buddy-buddy hanging out behind his back all the time now, Aomine simply apologized for being an idiot, and said that he's been bored with nowhere to go since his dad's been home.

This softened Kise just enough for him to excuse the mistake, and the blonde ultimately relaxed so that they were hanging out just like on any normal day. They rejoined Ryoko in the kitchen, which smelled of sweet onions as she was caramelizing them. Her hair was pinned up in a messy bun and Aomine couldn't help but admit that she was equally as beautiful as her brother that he loved.

She toasted the bread and cheese on top of the soup and the three of them sat down together in a surprisingly pleasant atmosphere.

"Thanks, Ryoko." Kise muttered before delving his spoon into the crispy surface. She beamed at him as he devoured his favorite food, satisfied that she had maybe gained a bit of ground back in their relationship.

Aomine smiled to himself as he realized that Kise was indeed in a better mood than he had been in for the past two weeks.

He also thanked Ryoko, helped clean up, played video games with Kise for an hour or so, then excused himself to head home. On his way, he felt infinitely better after reassuring himself that Kise wasn't avoiding him for any other reason aside from fearfulness after being threatened. It was endearing, how much this showed he cared for Aomine. He shook his short blue hair and told himself to stop getting excited.

And that was when he noticed. A chill spread through his entire body despite the night's hot, sticky humidity.

There was no doubt about it.

Someone was following him.