It starts with slight muscle cramping in his legs. He doesn't think much of it. After intense court sessions with Kagami, his body is no doubt tired. It usually clears up overnight and he takes a couple of days off of playing to relax and focus on his studies.
"Aomine-kun, it's unlike you not to be able to handle a ball."
Aomine brushes off his unusual clumsiness. "I'm just tired. Kise kept me up talking on the phone last night." It's true. The blond headed idiot was over in France and there was a considerable time zone difference. "I'll be better after a long nap." He doesn't tell Kuroko or anyone else that the leg cramps are near constant now, and some days it feels like he's walking in cement. He's just tired from uni basketball practice. Always so tired. And his mouth constantly aches from his tongue hurting. He figured that he's just biting it in his sleep again.
"Daiki, talk properly." Akashi commands him and Aomine glares at his phone. "You sound like a drunk. Have you been drinking?"
"Nooo…" The words are hard to roll off his tongue. When he swallows, it's like there's a lump in his throat. "I jus'…" he closes his eyes, concentrating on forming every syllable. "I 'hink there's somehing wrong wih me." Akashi is silent on the other line.
"I'll be right over."
Aomine struggles to close his phone, dropping the thing on the floor. He curses, tightening his fingers into fists. It's like he can't hold onto anything anymore.
It worries him.
"You have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis." Midorima informs him, looking quite somber with his lab coat and dark classes pushed up high on his nose.
"Simpl' terms." Aomine grunts, annoyed.
"The nerves that control your muscles are dying, leaving you with muscle weakness."
Aomine sits there for a second, still not grasping it. The word dying sparks a tiny bit of fear in him but he brushes it aside. They can cure him, right?
Midorima seems to sense his question. "Aomine." He pauses. "There is no cure." Another pause.
"You are going to die."
They run all the tests again. Midorima's diagnosis is correct and Aomine can't seem to grasp the fact that this disease will kill him. He sits there quietly as Midorima talks to Akashi and Kuroko about treatment options. Kuroko keeps his hand firmly around Aomine's. Little beeps sound from his phone periodically - Kise is now in Spain and Kagami is off practicing in America with his dreams of becoming a NBA star.
Aomine doesn't even try to contain his jealousy. He barely plays basketball now. After five minutes, he tires out. That is, if he doesn't trip up and fall to the floor. He's having to use a walker.
A fucking walker.
"..the disease is progressing faster than usual…"
"…most survive up to five or ten years, but in his case…"
"…he needs to plan out his wishes."
Aomine ignores it. He refuses to believe it. He'll get better. He'll beat this disease.
Physical therapy sucks.
All he does is put pegs into sockets and stretch out rubber bands. Kise sits with him, trying his best to entertain Aomine while engaging in the activities with him. Aomine feels like a freak among all of the elders around him. Kise is babbling on about something and tired of the constant chatter, Aomine manages to maneuver a rubber band and snap it, hitting Kise upside the head.
A small smile comes to his face.
Kise thinks that's it's worth the pain to have Aomine smile at him.
Kise helps Aomine drink a sip of water, alarmed when Aomine starts to choke. A couple of hard beats on the back clears it up, but Aomine still has trouble swallowing. His intake has been less and less. Atushi has taken it to prepare him soft and easy to chew meals in between pastries, but even those are hard to get down.
Secretly Aomine breaks down inside.
He's going to die.
He's knows this is the last trip he'll ever take to the beach.
But he enjoys it anyways.
The others make sure he enjoys it too. With Kagami and Atushi, they manage to lift him out of his wheelchair and into the water (taking care not to get the small tube hanging from his stomach wet). The warm water feels good on his shins and he can even feel the sand beneath his toes with little fish biting at his feet.
Later, when Aomine is fast asleep at the beach house, a breathing mask strapped on to help him, the others sit outside on the porch.
"I could have picked him up myself." Kagami confesses. They nod. Aomine's muscles have shrunk, the skin hanging in some places.
"There's a small red spot starting up on his back. We'll have to watch out for pressure ulcers." Midorima advises.
Kuroko has disappeared to go sit by Aomine.
"Aomine-kun." he murmurs, holding his hand. "I'm going to miss you."
Midorima has procured him an electric wheelchair. Aomine feels a new found sense of freedom as he buzzes through the hallway of the university, smirking as he makes skirts fly up in his wake.
For a brief second, he feels like the old Aomine again. Carefree. Wild. Unstoppable.
"I always like the changing of the leaves."
Kagami walks beside him, looking up at the multitude of colors. Aomine tchs. "You're a sap." He laughs at his own pun. Kagami rolls his eyes before falling quiet.
"I'm going to America in February I've been offered a spot to train with the Lakers."
Aomine slows down his wheelchair. "Oh, congrats man! I know you'll do great."
That night, when he gets home, he takes his rage out by ramming his wheelchair against the wall, welcoming the jolts of pain. "Daiki! Stop that!" Akashi grabs hold of the chair before Aomine can continue. Akashi and Kuroko switch out as Aomine's care taker at home. Aomine slumps forward, hissing at it puts pressure on a wound starting on the back side of his hip.
"Kagami's going to the NBA." He whispers. "The fucking idiot is going to America and I'm going to be left to die here!" It's not fair. Aomine breaks down finally, tears streaming from his face.
Akashi closes his eyes, sympathy washing through him as he moves to gingerly wrap his arms around Aomine's front. Aomine cries on his shoulder, the hot tears stinging him more than any words.
"I'm so sorry Daiki." Akashi murmurs after Aomine falls asleep, tiring himself out.
He has to start wearing his special mask all the time. The effort to breathe is too much and it tires him out too fast. His former Touou team acts like nothing is different. Imayoshi makes fun at others' expense while Sakurai apologizes profusely at being a minute late with setting dinner on the table.
Momoi sits her year old daughter on Aomine's lap, the little girl looking up at him in wonder. Aomine relishes it. Most children look at him with fear or disgust. "Uncle Dai!" She smiles and nuzzles him, making sure to be extra gentle. Aomine enjoys the feeling, cherishing it for a moment longer.
He can't operate the wheelchair anymore and they've taken to putting a catheter in him. He's almost completely limp, able to communicate in simple nods or hand squeezes. The mask is no longer useful, so they have to put a tube inside his throat that pokes out and a loud machine that keeps him awake all hours of the night breathes for him.
Everyday someone stops by - Midorima to check up on him, Kagami bringing him autographed stuff from the Lakers, Atushi who brings wonderful smells of the bakery with him. Kuroko and Akashi are a constant. They bathe him, shave him, suction him out when the trach becomes clogged with mucus.
"I'm sorry." He mouths one night to the both of them.
Tears glisten in their eyes.
The last thing he remembers seeing is snow falling outside the window. That's before he falls into a deep sleep. He can still hear the others. Kise is a constant presence now, relieving Akashi and Kuroko. He talks a lot. He talks about his travels. He talks about old memories and laughs for the both of them. He hears Kise cry too.
He hears them all cry.
He goes quietly. All the machines turned off, all the tubes removed. They sit with him. When he does go, they are quiet in their grief. Midorima holds onto Kise, rocking him back and forth gently. Kagami gently massages Kuroko's back, not bothering to stop the tears from their faces. Atushi doesn't do anything - doesn't blink, doesn't speak, doesn't even eat. Akashi simply sits on the bed and holds Aomine's hand, rubbing his palm gently over the limp fingers.
Years later, they all meet again. It's for a marathon to raise money for ALS awareness. They all wear dark blue in honor of their fallen friend, never forgetting Aomine Daiki.