He woke up one day, jolting upright as if someone had shocked him with voltage. Dust motes spun in the thin stream of sunlight let in by the half-drawn curtains, and he looked around, studying the room. It was remarkably bare for a bedroom, save for some posters of basketball players on the walls, some signed with black-inked scribbles.
As he was about to look to his left, a raspy voice rang out, "Tetsu?"
Blinking, he directed his gaze towards the source. A navy-haired man, sitting in a chair and upper body slumped over the sheets, stared blearily up at him, in disbelief if he didn't look so sleepy. The man had his fingers curled around something, arm hanging in the air as if he was just in the process of pulling it away. He figured that the bed he was lying in belonged to him.
The other eyed him, seeming to contemplate something. "You don't know." It wasn't a question.
"I don't," he agreed.
It was quiet for another moment, before the man straightened his back, rolling his shoulders as he spoke up again, almost casually. "Kuroko Tetsuya. You're Tetsu."
It was familiar; quite...nostalgic. Kuroko searched the depths of his mind, reaching out for any memories associated with the name. For a fleeting moment, there was indeed a flicker of something akin to cognition - but it went, slipping away into parts more strenuous to navigate just as it had come. He dug deeper, temples throbbing, inspecting every bit of information his brain stored, and still, nothing. Nothing about the man whose knuckles were stretched white from gripping the sheets so tightly, loosening his hold, then tightening again. Nothing about the name, nothing about himself.
Nothing about Kuroko Tetsuya.
He was about to open his mouth to ask for the name of the dark-skinned man, when the latter beat him to it.
"Aomine Daiki." The man paused, thoughtful, before adding, "I'm Aomine-kun."
Kuroko wondered how it had to have been for the man to know him so well.
Aomine seemed to hesitate before he finally managed the question, "would you like breakfast, then?", which sounded like he had forced it out of his throat.
Kuroko shook his head, but Aomine just squinted at him. "You sure?" He poked at Kuroko's biceps, and Kuroko felt himself twitch involuntarily. Aomine didn't seem to notice, or just pretended not to. "Where'd your muscles go? I mean, it's not like you had a whole lot of them, you always did forget to eat unless someone dragged you with them. But at least when we played basketball together - ow, what the hell?!"
Aomine raised a hand to press against his face, and Kuroko could see the broken blood vessels from where his hand had contacted with his sun-kissed skin. "I'm not hungry. No thank you."
They stared at each other in silence, the air so still Kuroko couldn't tell if either of them were breathing.
Aomine tore his gaze away first, turning his head to the side, with a defeated sigh. "How about a vanilla milkshake, then?"
Kuroko considered it for a brief moment - it sounded appetizing, it really did - before declining. It was more instinct, to be honest. "Really, Aomine-kun," the name spilled out from his tongue, sounding as natural as witnessing a bird's ability to soar in the sky, and Aomine didn't meet his eyes again. "I'm not hungry. I don't want to eat."
Aomine threw his hands up in the air dramatically, looking like his resolve was absolutely decimated by Kuroko's stubbornness, but somehow Kuroko hadn't expected Aomine to give it up this easily. He didn't seem like the type.
"Well, I'm hungry. We're going to Maji Burger for lunch," Aomine climbed to his feet, languidly stretching out his limbs like a cat before making his way to a drawer in the corner of the room. Kuroko's eyes followed his movements, and after some minutes of rummaging, he fished out large garments. "It's this place we always ate at in middle school and high school."
Aomine proceeded to take his rumpled shirt off and threw on the fresh one, and by the time he was out the bedroom door his shorts were already halfway off. There were some banging around, but soon Aomine returned with a set of clothing more suitable for Kuroko's frame. Aomine tossed it at him, and closed the door behind him to give Kuroko some privacy.
He threw the blankets aside, feeling perfectly yet eerily normal when he put weight on his legs, as if he didn't just wake from a who-knows-how-long slumber. As he dressed, Kuroko examined the posters more closely. The writing on them were more like intimate comments than autographs, really, and the players looked exceptionally young. The assortment of hair colours were a bit strange, though.
(...when we played basketball together.)
He paused, studying one particular blue-haired player with his arms around another, slighter boy with lighter blue locks, his smile speaking of moments both big and memorable and small and lost somewhere in the past more than any words ever would.
A knock on the door penetrated through his concentration, and he turned away from the poster. "Tetsu, you done?"
It was funny how familiarly Aomine acted with him, and Kuroko noted this, adding this to his small collection of personal memories . It was also kind of funny how Aomine acted as if someone losing their memory was an everyday occurrence. Or maybe he just adapts fast - who knows.
"Yes," he replied, yanking open the door only to find himself dwarfed by Aomine's presence, and he lifted his head, staring up at to meet his eyes. He couldn't help but think of them as strange - a sharp bitter trace of something obscured by unsettling calm.
Again, Aomine was the first to break eye contact.
"Let's go then," he led the way to the foyer, and as they walked through the hallway, Kuroko noticed another room, less barren than Aomine's.
Books were scattered all over the place, on the floor, on the bed, below the bed. There were picture frames too, some hung up on the walls, some sitting on the desk. Light refracted through a prism, suspended from the ceiling, creating a spectrum of colours. He caught glimpses of blue on the photographs, some like the sky on a clear day and others like waves of the ocean. Kuroko stopped.
"That's your room," Aomine piped up quite helpfully, which Kuroko suspected was be a rare occurence. "We shared the apartment in university. We still haven't decided who's gonna move out yet."
Completely normal to have a roommate lose all the memories of his personal life. Kuroko slowly nodded, eyes drawn to a basketball partly buried by a stack of novels. He peered at Aomine from his peripherals, but the he was looking intently into the room, a small smile on his face, as if remembering something amusing.
He averted his eyes back to the basketball, and strained to grab hold of a conversation or a moment in time, a shared smile - something.
"... android meant for assassination... on the loose," the reporter's voice broke off here and there with the bad radio reception. Kuroko didn't know why they hadn't just gone across the street to the fast food restaurant there, but had to drive to a specific location just to eat burgers.
"Not just any burgers," Aomine had defended against the complaints. "Teriyaki burgers."
Sighing for the umpteenth time, Kuroko decided to try inquiring about the said androids all over the news. All his earlier questions had been avoided with a cheeky grin, but those had been personal. "Aomine-kun, what's this about the androids?"
The man beside him snorted. Kuroko didn't see what was so amusing about it even as he explained, "these really expensive robots that this one crime organization created. If the organization sees you as a threat, they drag your mom or your girlfriend or I don't know - someone you know - away, kill them, and then duplicate that person in the form of an android. Then they send the fake one back to you so it can blow you up. It's so vain, I can't even believe it."
Kuroko didn't respond. A discharge of something unpleasant ran down his spine, and his chest ached.
"Then, Aomine-kun..." Kuroko pressed, and Aomine turned into the parking lot of a restaurant. "What would you feel like if they took away someone you love to do that to you?"
Kuroko didn't know what he should expect, but Aomine stiffened quite noticeably.
Maybe it wasn't a good idea to ask.
He turned off the engine, and leaned back into his seat. Kuroko proceeded to unbuckle his belt awkwardly, and brooded over whether it would be inappropriate or not to inch his hand towards the handle of the car door.
There was a quiet exhale of breath, and Kuroko turned his attention back to Aomine, who ran his fingers through his short hair. It lifted the silence draping over them, though the heavy tension still hung.
"I think I'd die."
It seemed a bit far-fetched by way of emotion, but when Kuroko tried to seek out another way of putting it, nothing else seemed to measure up suitably.
"I think I'd die too," he voiced in assent. The way Aomine was looking at him sent tremors through him, and his throat felt tight. He added, "I'm sure the explosion would kill me."
"Not like that," Aomine protested, but that look was gone, and Kuroko opened the door to get out. Fresh air rushed in, carrying with it a kind of summery tranquility and whiffs of cooking meat.
Kuroko followed him to the entrance doors, and into the fast food restaurant. Despite his steadfast refusals, Aomine still bought a vanilla shake for him, and they sat in a booth beside the giant windows as Aomine plunged into his burgers.
"At least pretend to drink that for me?" Aomine asked. Kuroko grudgingly obliged.
Kuroko chewed on his straw, wondering and trying to remember. Still nothing - of his own, at least; what he did know were false memories.
"So what does Aomine-kun do for a living?" he began, figuring that he might as well start from the beginning. "What do I do for a living?"
Aomine popped some fries into his mouth. "So you still don't remember anything?"
Aomine's demeanor was indifferent, unaffected. "Well, you're a teacher. Kindergarten teacher. I work down at the police station."
"So then Aomine-kun is a police officer?"
He nodded and looked down at the food, exceptionally distracted with swirling the strips of potato in ketchup. "Yeah. They want me to take the chief's place soon."
Kuroko caught a faint reflection of himself in the window pane. Large eyes, pale skin, and a shock of blue hair - sky blue. Just like the boy Aomine had in a headlock in that poster.
(...we played basketball together...?)
When Aomine finished up the last piece of his burger, he continued to explain. About his job, about Kuroko's job. Then he moved onto their experiences in university, then their high school days, and then onto their middle school life, when they had met.
As they exited the restaurant, Aomine guided Kuroko away from the direction of the parking lot, and instead started to cross the busy intersection. Kuroko had to jog a little to keep up with his long strides.
They neared the gate of a school: 'Teikou Middle School', according to the plaque. Kuroko raised an eyebrow.
"Our school," Aomine announced after seeing the shorter man's expression. He talked about middle school then, about basketball. He talked about the 'Generation of Miracles', as they were called and were a part of. About the light and shadow duo of Teikou.
They moved on. Next stop was Seirin High. "We went to different high schools," he said. He offered explanations. About winning and losing, about separations and reunions and how those were never separations in the first place, about running and being left behind, but most of all, about bumping fists.
Kuroko listened carefully, nodding here and there, but there was a dissatisfaction that came with knowing that it was, in the end, artificial construct. Aomine added in some minute details about Kuroko, oddly placed in the conversation and were the kinds that people wouldn't usually pay attention to or remember - how Kuroko kept all of his popsicle sticks, how he always fell asleep lying on his side during overnight training camps, how he liked to have the curtains only partly drawn at night.
They trudged back to Maji Burger, only to drive around the city while Aomine pointed out places that were associated with a part of their past or now. Aomine was quite persistent with his resolve of remaking as much of Kuroko's memory as possible, and Kuroko felt fuzzy on the inside, reliving these things with him. (Through him.)
"See that mall there? There used to be an arcade up on the top floor. We took a team picture there with the other regulars in middle school. They renovated it a few years ago, though, so now it's some fancy fusion café."
They passed a hospital, a bakery. Midorima Shintarou and Murasakibara Atsushi worked there, respectively, Aomine said. He identified the model on one of the billboards nearby advertising spring fashion as Momoi Satsuki, the manager of their basketball team, who apparently had been borderline obsessive over Kuroko. He described Kise Ryouta's bubbly personality, his desire to experience new things that propelled him to pilot planes all over the world. He depicted an image for Kuroko of Akashi Seijuurou's commanding presence, and his natural leadership.
They passed the fire station, which prompted Aomine to tell Kuroko all about Kagami Taiga. "He was your light in high school," Aomine disclosed simply, the words carrying heavier stories than he probably could ever be able to explain. Kuroko stored the data in his head, filling in whatever spaces he could.
They pulled up by the curb near the kindergarten where Kuroko worked at. He stood in the quickly cooling air of the evening as he stared at the school. Kuroko's gaze wandered to Aomine beside him, rays of the sun lining the edges of his hair and face with shimmery gold.
"You were reported missing," Aomine said softly, voice acquiring a breathy quality. "You were gone for eleven days."
A slight breeze ruffled locks of dark blue, tugging strands up into the air.
Kuroko wanted to ask about some many things: simple things and complicated things, good things and bad things, significant and insignificant things - things that were theirs.
Before he knew what was happening, the other stepped forward and enveloped his small form in his large body, holding him tightly. He hadn't realized how cold he had felt, even though it was summer, until Aomine's body heat seeped through his clothes, warmth draining the chill from the marrows of his bones. Kuroko could feel, and hear, the beating of Aomine's heart, and he thought to himself that he never wanted to let go.
It was only when Aomine pulled away that Kuroko realized that his own heartbeat was different.
They weren't heartbeats at all.
The man's face was contorted in a way that made Kuroko think of the words 'I think I'd die' again.
"So then," he whispered, and Kuroko had to strain to properly hear. "Do you know who you are?"
He nodded, feeling suddenly sluggish. "...I should think so. I'm Kuroko Tetsuya. I'm Tetsu."
His vision blurred, and he wasn't sure, but he thought that his knee buckled and gave away beneath him. There was a strange whirring sound, like engine.
He heard weak laughter, and Kuroko felt something press against his forehead, something soft bumping against his nose, something calloused cradling his face.
"Tetsu, I..." His voice broke off like the words that he was about to say had sharp edges that hurt and caught onto his throat. "..some detective guy found the password to kill the system. There's a panel with buttons on your back where the code can be entered."
Kuroko didn't expect the quiet chuckle that came from himself. "Aomine-kun has to do what he has to do."
Taut silence reigned for a short minute, and Aomine choked out something that sounded vaguely like 'thank you'.
Kuroko wanted to roll his eyes, but instead, his lips quirked up into a small smile. "I'm the one who needs to thank you, Aomine-kun."
There are still empty blanks, places lacking - but it's enough for him.
So the last thought in his muddled database of a brain as his eyes slowly starts to close, shutting out the distorted sunset, the light, is the person who had been with him since he had woken up on this one day out of so many - the last day.
The wires below the fake skin of his face senses something running down his cheeks.