Request from lito. dellamas ouo

and I overdid it lol. the quota he set for me was like 5k words. clearly i had a little too much fun. /shot

I'm reallyyy sorry ;;u;;. I tried separating it into two chapters but something didn't seem right and I just gave up. I know 13k+ words might be a little hard to take in all at once, so I apologize again. I won't blame you guys if you just give up halfway lol

oh wellll. Kuroko no Basuke does not belong to me. Feel free to point out my mistakes ouo

Happy reading!


Kagami Taiga had often been told over and over and over again that he was probably one of the biggest basketball idiots in the world.

He loved basketball; and even that was considered an understatement. He'd started playing at the age of eight when he was in the States, and he'd been captivated by the sport ever since. He couldn't stop playing, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much it got in the way of his studies. No matter how his friends laughed at him. No matter how much his mum threatened to make him homeless if his grades kept dropping. He'd never stopped, even when he flew back to Japan to continue high school and initially deemed the country's standard too low.

Basketball was practically his life, his entire existence. He lived to feel the rough, uneven surface of the ball; to listen to the bounce of the ball concrete or polished wooden floors. His sole purpose in life was to be challenged; be it by people weaker or stronger than him. It didn't matter even if he loses. He enjoyed playing more than anything, and always strived to improve, to make himself the very best.

With his grades, Kagami knew he would never be accepted into any universities or colleges. But his basketball saved him. After all his hard work, his countless sweat and tears to make people recognize him as an undeniably talented player, he was offered to attend a local university through a basketball scholarship. It was more than what he could ever ask for.

He could play. He could play as much as he wanted, and that alone was enough.

Or at least he thought it was.

xXx

Kagami settled his tray of food on the cafeteria table before sinking lazily onto one of the plastic chairs.

Lessons that day were killing him. He didn't get it. He was there on a freaking basketball scholarship. Why the heck was he even required to study History and all those shit? He sighed loudly to curse his miserable life before proceeding to grudgingly accept his fate and reach for a wrapped burger he'd bought.

He'd taken not more than three bites before someone took the seat opposite of him, his movements even lazier than Kagami's. Kagami peered past lowered lashes to see a tall, tanned bluenette flop himself down on the chair like standing was the most exhausting thing to do in the world.

Aomine Daiki was Kagami's classmate who was also an idiot on a basketball scholarship. He was one of the only friends the redhead had, having so much in common with each other. They'd known each other since high school - where they'd crossed paths in several tournaments. Aomine was miles better than Kagami in basketball - as much as the latter hated to admit it - but their grades were almost competing to be lower than each other. Kagami always thought of that as karma. Talent had to come with a price.

"I can't go one-on-one with you later," Aomine said as he casually grabbed a burger from the redhead's tray. There was a tinge of irritation in his voice; as well as a hint of weariness. He idly peeled the bright yellow wrapper off and took a bite, completely ignoring the glare Kagami was giving him.

"And why is that?" the redhead asked, trying hard to resist the urge to snatch his burger back. He bit down hard on the one he was currently eating and rested his chin on his free hand as he waited for his answer.

Aomine's gaze was averted to the side, the scowl not leaving his face. Kagami blinked. He realized there was something else behind that unimpressed face. Something like.. bashfulness? He immediately decided that it was probably just his imagination. Embarrassment was probably something Aomine lacked since he was born.

"..Ihafadet," Aomine grumbled under his breath after about five minutes of contemplation. Kagami stared at him with raised eyebrows.

"Hah?"

The tanned bluenette repeated what he said in that incoherent tone of his, and Kagami was tempted to throw his half-eaten food at him to make him speak clearer.

"Would you freaking talk properly already?" Kagami demanded, feeling a vein throbbing on his left temple. His blood pressure was probably rising to an unhealthy level. Dark blue eyes finally settled on him, and they were seething with irritation.

"I have a date, okay!?" Aomine almost yelled in exasperation. When everyone within a three meter radius turned to look at him like he was some sort of freak, he realized his mistake, and slumped even further on his chair. He looked like he was considering to become one with the furniture. He exhaled loudly before running his hand across his face, stopping right over his eyes. He saw Kagami's reaction through the slits between his fingers.

It made things so much better.

Kagami was gaping like a fish. His eyes were wide with sheer disbelief, and his burger was almost falling out of his hand.

It was magical.

"There's someone out there who actually wants to date you?" was the first thing Kagami asked when he finally found his voice. He sounded nothing less than incredulous.

Aomine was defensive. "Look, Satsuki was the one who wanted me to-"

"And she's the one you're going out with!?" Kagami was positively freaking out now. No, no, no - it was unnatural; against the rules of the universe! This wasn't a shoujo manga! The guy was about as attractive as a potato in a skirt! Aomine was not supposed to be dating - especially not with his childhood friend.

"What? You jelly?" Aomine removed his hand from his face, still having the nerve to look and sound smug.

"A-As if I'd be!" Kagami stammered, feeling his face heating up. He hated how easily he blushed. He inhaled, trying hard to regain his composure before attempting to speak again in a more serious tone. "It's just really unexpected, okay? I mean - who would've thought you'd actually be going out with someone? And it's Momoi, to boot."

"I know, man." Aomine rested his arms on the table and leaned down. "Frankly, even I can't believe this is happening."

"But I guess that's great too, in a way," the redhead said with a slight laugh. "She's the only female in the world who could put up with your basketball obsession since grade school, after all. I'm sure it'll work out for you guys." He smiled, somewhat crookedly. "I'm happy for you, Ahomine."

Aomine looked up from his position, his expression softening by a fraction. "So does that mean you're not gonna kill me for skipping out on our game tonight and for taking your food?"

"I'm sure Momoi would find the most brutal way to murder me if I did that, so no." Kagami shrugged. "But you still owe me."

At that, Aomine groaned aloud and resumed his head-cradled-in-arms position on the table. Kagami smirked in amusement, but there was something else in his eyes. He was glad the bluenette was not looking at him, or else he'll see right through him.

Wistfulness. Kagami was feeling wistful. Deep down, in the depths of his heart, he'd always wondered how it felt like to love and be loved.

Kagami had heard all kinds of stories about falling in love and all that. He'd seen from books, movies and whatnot about how one would feel when they fall in love; how their hearts would beat faster and how they would not be able to stop thinking about that one person, etc etc. He'd seen his friends and seniors getting all flustered and bothered because of a crush. He'd witnessed the captain and founder of his basketball team back in high school competing for the attention of their coach (who, was in the same year with them, mind you). He'd came across several "S-S-Senpai, I really like you!" incidents every once in a while when he walked in hallways. Heck, he'd even got confessed to a few times himself.

And he'd tried it. He'd decided to give those girls a chance to see how it felt like.

But it never worked out. He didn't get any heart palpations like what he always heard about. He didn't constantly think of the girl he was dating. There were even times when he'd completely forgotten that he had a 'girlfriend'. Nothing was working out.

And that eventually made him a third wheel, the odd one out. Everyone around him would eventually find their own partners and go their separate ways, leaving him behind. Leaving him as the remainder.

Kagami was tired of it. He was tired of always being left out.

And he was tired of always waiting to find that one person on the other side of his red string of fate.

xXx

It happened during an important match.

The score was only six points apart. Just a little more, just a little more and his team would advance to the semi-finals of the National League.

Kagami was breathing hard; inhaling and exhaling in labored huffs. But the sensation was more familiar than painful. He straightened up, pulling up the collar of his jersey to dry the sweat off his face. His gaze flickered towards the player he was marking. The guy was good, but he was still below Aomine in terms of speed and power. He could do this. He had to focus. He had to close the gap.

He had a job to do as the ace.

Kagami could feel the constant buzz of cheers slowly fading from his hearing; something that always happened whenever he started to concentrate. It was like entering the Zone, except it was just a step before that. But that was enough.

That should be enough.

He had been wrong. Overconfident. In Kagami's batch of players, a group known as the Generation of Miracles had been the strongest, most outstanding players in Japan. Aomine had been one of them. Kagami had played them - even managed to defeat a few of them in his high school days. He had absolute faith in his abilities. He believed he could overpower anyone as long as he tried, even if they were international players.

But he'd never considered the fact that there were other people out there with the very same mindset. He wasn't the only one who was keen on winning. He wasn't the only one who was refusing to give up until the final buzzer.

And he'd forgotten how big a role luck played in a game.

His opponent broke past his defense, charging straight towards the basket behind him. It was instinctive. Kagami moved to block. He couldn't afford to sacrifice any more points. There wasn't much time left. Everything depended on him blocking that one shot.

Until this day, Kagami wasn't sure what happened. He didn't know if he'd slipped on sweat or tripped over someone's feet. He didn't even know if it was all planned or not. He could remember falling face first on the floor. Then before he could get himself upright, someone from the opposing team leaped over him, using his lower back as a stepping stone.

And after that, all he could remember was the pain - the white-hot pain that burned all the way to his bones and tinged his vision with red. Being stepped on forcefully by a full-grown male that's nearly two meter tall with 90kg of nothing but muscle was almost equivalent to being hit by a speeding motorcycle. It was all Kagami could do not to cry out before giving in to unconsciousness.

When he woke up again, he was surrounded by his teammates. They told him his spine was still in one piece, relief written all over their faces. They told him he was just unlucky. They said he could get better after a few months' rest and would probably be back in his game better than ever after that.

But they were only right about one thing. Kagami was unlucky.

He heard it all before he could even open his eyes. The impact inflicted upon his lower spine was too large to not do any significant damage. It was a shame. He was still so young, so talented. He had a great future ahead of him.

And he was taken of that future with just one accident.

Kagami was henceforth paralyzed from the waist down.

The rest of his body was fine. No other broken bones, no dislocated joints. He only had some bruises here and there and some muscle strain on his arms and legs from his vigorous training. But mentally, on the other hand, was another story. The impact of the reality that he can no longer walk was overwhelming; enough to drag him into the pits of utter despair. The emotional scar it had inflicted was too deep, too big to heal. It had happened too suddenly, and it barely took a minute for it all to be over.

But just that was more than enough to change Kagami's life.

xXx

"I.. won't play basketball anymore."

Aomine nearly choked on his own spit when he heard it. He stared at the bedridden redhead before him, eyes wide and disbelieving. Hold up. Did this Bakagami just said he wanted to quit basketball? As in stop playing?

"Did you freaking hit your head when you fell after all?" Aomine snorted - because no, it was impossible. There's no way Kagami would say that. He would never say that as long as he lived. Basketball was too important to him; too precious. Basketball was everything to him; Aomine understood firsthand how that felt. There was no way Kagami would say something that made him sound so weak-willed. So.. broken. Kagami wasn't like that! Aomine knew he wasn't! Kagami wasn't someone who could so easily give up his passion just because of an injury.

Kagami's fingers curled tighter into the sheet covering his unmoving legs, his eyebrows drawn, his expression pained as he looked at his companion. "I'm not joking, Aomine."

"There's still a chance for you to recover, right?" Aomine found himself feeling a strange sense of anger and persistency. How could Kagami give up so easily? He hadn't even tried to do anything yet! "I mean, it's not like you're permanently not able to walk or anything like that, right?"

"It's not as easy as it sounds." Kagami shifted his gaze. "I'll need to spent a long time on rehab. I'll have to learn how to use a wheelchair. There won't be enough time for everything."

"But you can still play," Aomine insisted, standing up from his chair in a fit of agitation. "Not professional games, of course - but you can still play once you've gotten better!"

"There's no point anymore." Kagami's tone was quiet, a big contrast to his usual boisterous self. He kept his eyes trained on the section of the wall he was staring at. "Even if I learn to play using a wheelchair, there's no point if I can't go all out with my opponent."

"But isn't that what basketball's all about? Trying your hardest no matter how difficult the circumstances are?" Aomine demanded. "No one's stopping you from trying but yourself. You can't give up this early. I refuse to let you."

"And just who are you to say that?" was Kagami's near inaudible reply, and that was when Aomine finally lost control of his temper. His hand curled into a fist, and in one swift motion, he'd hurled it straight at the side of Kagami's face, not at all bothered by the fact that he might increase the redhead's damage count and probably get sued by his parents and whatnot. Kagami could haul himself out of the window for all Aomine cared!

Kagami made it look like it did not even hurt the slightest. Aomine let his hand fall back to his side, shaking with the effort to regain control of himself.

"Why aren't you saying anything?" he asked through tightly clenched teeth after what seemed to be an eternity of silence from the redhead. "Why aren't you demanding why I punched you and attempting to hit me back?"

More silence. That was his limit. Aomine figured if he'd stayed there talking to the bloody idiot for a second longer, he would start developing the urge to strangle him to death.

So all his pent-up frustration was let out in one long, loud sigh. Damn, this was a drag. When the heck did he start caring so much for the idiot, anyway? He didn't need this much stress in life.

"You know what - fine. Do what you want," he said at last, turning towards the exit of the ward. He glance back halfway over his shoulder after a short pause. "Just make sure you don't regret it. I won't pity you one bit if you come crying to me about it anytime soon."

And with that, he left, leaving behind the image of Kagami staring into space with the deadest expression he'd ever wore in his life.

xXx

"My name is Kuroko Tetsuya. Pleased to meet you."

Kagami stared at the young man before him, his disinterest written all over his face.

Kuroko Tetsuya was a young man with huge sky blue eyes and a mop of untamed light blue hair. He was so slender, even his uniform seemed loose on him. Kagami could almost snort at the ridicule. He'd been informed about this earlier when his parents came to visit. Kagami had no comments about him being his therapist, but the guy looked so frail and thin, Kagami doubted he'd be able to do anything much as his personal assistant. This Kuroko guy was probably supposed to be aiding him by acting as his legs whenever he needed to get off his wheelchair. He didn't look like he could even lift someone half his own weight, let alone someone as tall and buff and Kagami.

"Are you sure you're fit for this?" Kagami couldn't help asking as the shorter straightened himself from his bow. "I mean, I'm sure I'm pretty heavy and it'll not be easy helping me get up."

"I'll be alright," Kuroko assured. His tone was so monotonous, Kagami had trouble figuring out if he'd accidentally offended the guy or not.

"You sure?"

"This is my job, Kagami-kun." Kuroko walked behind the redhead and put his hands on the handlebars of his wheelchair. "I'll manage."

With that, he started wheeling him to the rehabilitation room; albeit with a little more effort than Kagami thought he should use. He decided not to think about that. Instead, Kagami let his gaze travel all around him as he moved, taking in the sight of the whitewashed walls and dully colored plastic chairs lined here and there. How long has it been since I was out of that ward? He started to wonder. It probably had not been that long - several days, perhaps?- but it felt like it'd been years since he's seen anything other than those four white walls.

And speaking of four white walls, the reminder was surfacing in his mind again.

The depressing fact that he'd decided to stop playing basketball was starting to weigh upon him again.

Quitting basketball was the most difficult decision Kagami had ever made in his miserable life. Heck, he'd never even thought about something for such long hours before. He'd spent all his waking time thinking; pondering and pondering, considering over and over again about what he should do. Should he stop and start living a quiet life? Continue playing even if its hard and probably not very safe? Sometimes rationality won over heart. Sometimes heart won over rationality.

He couldn't decide. He couldn't decide at all.

But when he told Aomine that he was stopping - when the words escaped from his lips, everything just suddenly felt so real. He really was stopping. He couldn't play anymore. There was no way he could play ever again. Even if it weren't professional games, Kagami wouldn't be able to accept it.

He wouldn't be able to accept the fact that his opponents would have to go easy on him because of his own disadvantage.

He had no choice. He didn't want it, but he had no choice.

It was painful.

Kagami snapped out of his reverie when he felt himself come to a stop. He blinked, his mind returning to reality.

He was in a room that was at least three times the size of his own ward, filled with various types of equipment. The floor was covered with rubber mats; probably because the patients who used the place usually fell down a lot. Besides himself, Kagami noticed that there was only one other patient there. He tipped his head as a silent greeting when his eyes locked with the elder man's.

"We'll start with the basics of using a wheelchair." Kagami's attention snapped back to his therapist as the latter seated himself on a wheelchair that Kagami swore had not been there a second ago. When the heck did he run off to get it?

He tried hard to keep a straight face as he listened to Kuroko explain briefly about the mechanics of the chair.

".. to make a turn, you have to hold one wheel still," Kuroko was saying. "To turn right, you'll need to move the left wheel and not the right - like this." His fingers gripped the right wheel of his chair and his other hand moved to the left one. All he did was tug his left hand slightly forward, and the chair moved to his desired direction. "It's the same for turning the opposite way. You can also use this method to turn when moving backwards." He did another demonstration, then looked up and said, "Now you try it, Kagami-kun."

Kagami made his first attempt to imitate what he'd just been showed, and almost made a three sixty turn. He felt the familiar embarrassed blush rising to his face, and he braced himself for the teasing he was sure he was going to get. But Kuroko wasn't laughing. If anything, he was more pokerfaced than ever.

"Try to adjust your strength," he advised, once more showing him how it's done. "When you're not moving, just a little force is enough."

Kagami bit his lip and tried again, this time managing to do a decent turn to the left. He switched hands, this time moving to the right to get back to his initial position. It felt easier this time. A smile tugged his lips. It wasn't so bad. He was starting to get the hang of it already.

So Kagami spent the next hour or so learning all the wheelchair skills he needed to know. Kagami was grateful for all those years of playing basketball. His arms were strong enough for him to haul himself around in wheelchair without much problems. Even Kuroko was a little impressed by the process Kagami made in just an hour; though he didn't show it in his face. By the time the therapy session was over, Kagami had practically mastered all that's needed to know to maneuver a wheelchair.

"We're done for today," Kuroko announced after a quick glance at the clock on the far wall. Kagami leaned back on the canvas of his chair and watched as the shorter man stood up and began refolding the equipment he'd used. Huh. He never actually noticed it before, but Kuroko was startlingly pale. His skin tone made it look as if he'd never been under the sun before. Kagami found himself wondering how in the world someone could maintain a complexion like that. All Kagami needed was an hour under the afternoon sun and he'd be back about two shades darker.

"We'll be doing this at the same time for the rest of your stay here," Kuroko continued after putting the wheelchair back to its original place. "We'll work out the schedule for your future sessions after you discharge when the time comes."

"Uh, okay," Kagami said awkwardly. How else was he supposed to reply? He subconsciously wheeled himself back and forth by an inch. "So.. I go back to my ward now?"

Kuroko nodded. "Do you need me to wheel you back?"

"I think I'll survive." Kagami shrugged. A crooked smile found its way to his lips, like he couldn't really believe he was about to say this. "I need to practice what I just learnt, don't I?"

What Kagami saw after that was something he could never forget. It marked the beginning of something that played a big part in his life; something that his whole future would probably revolve around.

Kuroko smiled.

It wasn't the wide full-set-of-teeth-shown type of smile - just a small upward twitch of the lips. But that was enough. The way the look in his blue eyes seem to soften somehow made up for that. There was something else in there too which Kagami couldn't identify (no, he wasn't staring, mind you). Was it respect? Awe?

He didn't know. He didn't care. Kagami was too busy trying to force himself not to think of the fact that Kuroko Tetsuya had just looked really cute five seconds ago.

xXx

"Come to think of it - who hired you as my personal assistant, anyway?"

Kuroko did not even turn to look at Kagami as he folded a t-shirt and placed it neatly into the open bag before him. "Your parents," he said, then after a pause, "And Momoi-san."

"Oh." Kagami abruptly stopped all motion as his mind made a rewind. Wait. What. "She hired you?"

"She recommended hiring a therapist for you to your parents." Kuroko corrected, zipping the bag shut. He straightened, stretched, then finally regarded the redhead. "But I suppose she did hint particularly which therapist to pick out of our staff here," he shrugged lightly.

"So you guys know each other or something?" Kagami asked, shoving his towel into an open suitcase. Why the heck did his parents bring him so darned many things for just a week's stay? It only made packing up a pain in the ass. "Momoi and you, I mean."

Kuroko seemed to hesitate before answering that question.

"It's.. a long story," he decided, averting his gaze to the side. He proceeded to occupy himself by picking up a pair of socks that'd landed on the floor from all the chaos. "She used to be my schoolmate."

"Ehh." Kagami figured there was something more to that, but he didn't ask. He huffed, leaning back against the pillows stacked up behind him as support, his fingers drumming a tuneless rhythm on the sheets.

Kagami had met the young man named Kuroko Tetsuya for a total of four days now, and he still remained a mystery to him. Kuroko never revealed much about himself, despite Kagami's efforts to strike up a conversation most of the time. Hey, don't judge. Other than some brief visits from his teammates and friends, Kagami had no one else to interact with for the past two weeks or so. His parents were busy people, and the only time they'd seen him after the accident was to hand him his clothes and see if he's still alive. Even if Kagami wasn't a social person to begin with, he felt like he'd go crazy if he stayed silent any longer.

So he'd tried talking to Kuroko; during therapy sessions, clean-up sessions, etc. The only things Kagami had managed to discover about the pale man was that they were the same age and that Kuroko had this unnatural love for vanilla shakes. That was it. All those verbal exchanges and this was all he could extract out. Kagami felt disappointed with himself, for some reason.

And what's worst, Kuroko's silence about himself only made Kagami curious to know more. Because - come on. They were going to live together for god knows how long starting from today. Do you have any idea how awkward it would be to live with a person that for some reason knows a darn lot about you but in return you know not one shit about him?

Very.

"Done," Kuroko exhaled in satisfaction, shutting the suitcase he was working on with a snap. His face was still a stoic mask, but his eyes had this special sparkle in them. Kagami tried to distract himself from staring at those twin pools of blue by glancing around the ward one last time to make sure he'd not left anything behind. He didn't.

Almost habitually, his gaze settled on the shorter young man once more. Kuroko was usually really difficult to notice on daily basis, Kagami noticed, but once you knew he was there, he was pretty hard to miss out. Maybe it was just because Kagami felt like he'd been separated from the human race for too long, and Kuroko had been one of the only people who was almost constantly by his side - Kagami didn't know. What he did know was that the attention he was paying towards the smaller male was probably not very natural. Or healthy, for that matter. Everything about Kuroko just seemed to attract his attention; the way he moved, his overly polite speech, his forever untamed blue hair. More often than not, Kagami caught himself staring even though he knew there was nothing special to stare at. It was automatic. Whenever Kuroko wasn't looking, Kagami's gaze just finds its way towards him and stays there.

Kagami looked away as soon as Kuroko showed signs of turning back to avoid looking suspicious. Not a second too late. The shorter made his way back to the redhead's bedside as soon as he confirmed that everything was in order, fetching the folded wheelchair leaned against the wall as he did so. As Kuroko worked to unfold the equipment, Kagami did his part by removing his blanket and moving his still-paralyzed legs over the edge of his bed. Shifting the whole lower part of his body with just his arm and abdominal power was not an easy feat, but Kagami managed. Ironically, his basketball life helped him even now. All those muscle training had not gone to waste.

Kagami braced himself once Kuroko had slung his arm over his shoulder and got into position to help him stand. Getting onto his wheelchair was always the tricky part. Kuroko tried his hardest to support him and his grip on him was firm, but Kagami still failed to brush away the fear that he'd fall on his butt any moment. He was sure that wouldn't exactly be too good for his health.

So because of that worry, Kagami had always tried to will the strength to return to his legs so that he could at least support himself a little when he moved on and off his wheelchair. After a while, Kagami had this nagging suspicion that perhaps Momoi had picked out Kuroko to be his assistant mainly because he was probably not as strong as an average guy his age. Kagami got this feeling that the whole point of hiring Kuroko was to make him try harder to recover.

Nothing has happened yet though.

Kagami tried not to breathe a sigh of relief when he successfully transferred onto his wheelchair without sustaining any further injuries. His hands moved to his sides, and he wheeled himself forward, towards the pile of luggage. As unnecessarily huge as the bags were, Kagami was glad there was only two of them. He had no idea how he'd be lugging everything back if there were more.

"I'll be taking this," he said, grabbing the larger suitcase and dumping it onto his lap. When Kuroko shot him a look of disapproval, he added, "What? It's not like I can feel anything down there." He waved his hand dismissively. "I can at least handle taking my own stuff. You can take the other bag."

He didn't look too happy about it, but Kuroko obliged. He hastily folded the blanket Kagami had used before moving to join the redhead - who, was already wheeling himself down the hallway. Together they made their way down to the lobby, and after Kuroko had finished reporting himself to proceed with his job outside the hospital, they headed towards the exit.

Once the glass doors parted, Kagami took in a deep breath, savoring the fresh autumn air. This is it, he thought. I'm finally going home.

His apartment was strangely unchanged.

Everything was just like it was before Kagami injured himself and spent a fortnight in the hospital. His basketball magazines were still strewn across his glass table in the centre of the room. The cushions were still askew on the sofa. His bed was probably still unmade too, since he'd left in a hurry after oversleeping the last time. The only noticeable difference was that there was an additional large black bag placed in one corner.

"Your parents gave me the keys earlier on," Kuroko explained before Kagami could ask, shutting the door behind him. "So I took my things here first last night. I hope Kagami-kun doesn't mind."

Kagami shrugged. He didn't particularly care since his things were evidently untouched. He guessed all the smaller male did the previous night was chuck his luggage there and leave.

Kagami wheeled himself in, heading towards his bedroom, intending to put down his luggage. After all that'd happened, the familiar scent of his home was comforting. It made it feel like everything else was still normal, despite the events that'd came and went. Life still went on, even if he could no longer walk.

Kuroko found Kagami looking at a collection of medals and framed photographs that the redhead had placed atop his dresser when he went looking for him afterwards. He set the bag of clothes aside and stayed on his spot. He did not need to take even a step closer to know what those awards were for.

"Do you like playing basketball, Kagami-kun?" he asked softly and gently, his voice a barest whisper. Kagami did not shift his attention towards him, but Kuroko could see it there. He could see the painful longing in the redhead's eyes.

"Even if I do, there's no way I could ever play again, is there?" Kagami spoke up after a lapse of silence, the bitterness in his tone surprising himself. This is bad. He was beginning to find it difficult to breathe. A knot was forming in his chest.

"I'll make sure you'll be able to play basketball again," Kuroko promised, quite suddenly. The determination in his tone made Kagami look at him - actually look at him and not past him like what he sometimes did.

"What?"

"I won't let you do something that you'll regret for the rest of your life." Kuroko's hands were fisted at his sides, his eyes blazing with resolution. "I won't let you quit."

Huh. Kagami scoffed, his eyes flickering away again. "You know, someone else told me almost the same thing once."

He was greeted with silence. Kagami bit his lip, clenching his hands harder on the armrests of his wheelchair. The squeezing in his chest seemed to be getting to the point where it was beginning to feel unbearable.

Was he really willing to do it? Was he really willing to throw his past - his passion away? Was he willing to abandon the thrill of playing basketball; the sounds of shoes squeaking and balls bouncing on concrete or polished wooden floors?

Was he really willing to abandon the one love of his life?

"..Hey, Kuroko?"

Kuroko glanced up at the redhead, noticing the quaver in the latter's voice. "Yes?"

Kagami was looking the other way, so his face was hidden. "Could you.. come here for a second?"

Kuroko raised his eyebrows in slight confusion before making his way towards the redhead. He stopped at Kagami's side. He could see the pictures and medals clearly now. The one framed photo showed a high school basketball team grinning joyfully at the camera. Several of the team members were crying, but most of them look like they'd been laughing in triumph; like they'd finally did something they'd always wanted to do. There was a huge gold trophy on the floor in the centre of the group.

Kuroko focused his attention back at Kagami when he felt warmth enveloping his hand. From his angle, Kagami's bangs were covering his eyes and most of his face, so Kuroko could not exactly make out his expression. But that didn't matter. He had a good idea on what was going on without needing to see it.

Kagami's hand was shaking. "I'm sorry.. but could you lend me your shoulder for a moment?"

His voice cracked at the last few words. Kuroko felt a slight tug in his own heart. He understood it. He understood the pain of having to leave behind something you just love so much.

Wordlessly, he bent down, and wrapped his hands around Kagami's neck, pulling him into a tender hug.

"Yes."

Kagami initially seemed stunned by Kuroko's willingness, but that didn't last long. He buried his face on the smaller male's shoulder, and let the first sob escape his lips.

And for the first time since he lost the ability to walk, Kagami wept.

xXx

"Ow, ow, ow."

"Pain is a good sign, Kagami-kun. It means that your legs are starting to feel something again."

"It's not my legs that are hurting, dumbass! I think I wrecked my back or something."

All of Kagami's furniture had been pushed aside in his living room, leaving a space wide enough to fit a yoga mat and two arguing young adult males. Kagami let out a groan as Kuroko aided him with an exercise he particularly hated that would keep his muscles strengthened and possibly increase the chances of reconnecting the nerves that led to his lower body or something.

Kagami was laying flat on the mat, Kuroko at his side. He took in a breath and braced himself as the pale bluenette grabbed hold of his right leg, and pulled outward to as far as it can go. Kagami hated it; mainly because he had this irrational worry that his leg would disconnect from its socket if it kept going on. He only resumed breathing when Kuroko stopped pulling and moved to cross his right leg over his left.

When Kuroko shifted his position, Kagami caught a whiff of cherry blossom scented shampoo and mint. He smelled pleasantly nice and Kagami was in danger of blushing furiously because what the heck is he doing going around smelling people? He tried not to squirm too much to give away his discomfort. Why was he still paying so much extra attention towards Kuroko after all this while?

The answer was easy. He couldn't help it. He couldn't help noticing even the smallest things about the paler male.

Kuroko had been Kagami's roommate and unofficial caretaker for three months now. He was like the redhead's shadow; wherever Kagami was, he's there too. Kuroko was constantly by Kagami's side; be it during therapy sessions, cooking times, or when the latter was bathing. He'd seen him break down and cry. He'd seen him half - if not completely- nude. He'd always been there when Kagami was at his weakest.

Kagami knew it wasn't easy to be his personal assistant. Anything that Kagami could not do, Kuroko had to do for him. He had to climb on stools and chairs to reach the higher cabinets that was practically built for tall people to retrieve certain things. He had to clean the house. He had to help with Kagami's exercises. He had to do so many things, and he'd always given his all at what he was doing.

But he never complained. Not even once.

Which only made Kagami feel so much guiltier. And helpless. Was relying on others the only thing he could do now? There were so many times where he would just sit there alone and glare at his legs, his heart screaming at them to hurry up and move again. He couldn't stand it; having to depend so much on another guy that sometimes looked like he was on the very verge of collapsing. He didn't want to see someone working so hard for his sake alone.

It made him feel so weak.

"We should take a break," Kagami said when Kuroko leaned back to wipe the sweat off his brow with the back of his wrist. Kagami couldn't bring himself to push his companion when he knew just how little stamina the latter had. Kagami discovered a while ago that Kuroko was easily tired out. Maybe that was why he looked so pale and frail and all that.

"Is Kagami-kun tired?" Kuroko asked, looking genuinely concerned. Kagami resisted the urge to facepalm.

"I'm not," he said, using his elbows to support his upper body as he pushed himself upright. "But you look like you are."

"I'm fine."

"Just listen to me for once and rest for a while, sheesh," Kagami sighed, flicking a finger on the smaller's forehead. Kuroko winced, his hands moving up to nurse the abused spot. He trained his blue eyes at the redhead, mouth set in a slight pout as if asking: "What was that for?"

Kagami prayed his face wasn't the exact same shade as his hair because dammit - how could a guy be so darned cute? Kagami swore this was unnatural. No male human can look that adorable.

And that was one of the things that bothered him a lot. Kagami was increasingly beginning to think of Kuroko as cute. He knew 'cute' wasn't exactly the first word used by a male to describe another male, but there it was. Kagami will probably never say this even if his manhood was on the line, but with his slender frame and short stature, Kuroko was just like a girl. He secretly found those huge blue eyes and pale, alabaster skin… appealing? He wasn't sure if it was the right word. He was even starting to have strange feelings about the shorter's overly polite speech.

Something was seriously wrong.

Kagami averted his gaze, instead deciding to stare at that one part of the floor. Not good. He knew these symptoms. Heck, he'd been trying to experience them ever since he got out of high school. But not like this. Kagami was a healthy young man. He occasionally paid attention to girls and all that. He'd even forced himself to peek at Aomine's porn mags once in a while.

This could not be love. Kagami had been repeating to himself over and over again. He was not gay. This could not be love.

But slowly, his eyes regained their tendency to resume looking at the shorter male. Kuroko glanced at him, his eyebrows raising slightly in question. Irk. There it was again. That freaking look that always made Kagami's heart rate speed up. The look that made him feel all hot and bothered and resist the urge to pinch those pale cheeks.

This was not love.

.. Or was it?

xXx

Kagami checked his reflection on the mirror, hoping that his hair wasn't as messy and untamed as he thought it was.

He'd found himself a part-time job. Kagami was sick and tired of sitting at home all day with nothing to do other than his therapeutic exercises and rotting in front of the tv . He was starting to feel claustrophobic. He wanted to move around, breathe in some fresh air. He needed to communicate with the human civilization or else he figured he'd forget how to talk completely.

Kuroko allowed him to take up a job with the condition that he would be sending him there as well as fetching him back. He trusted the redhead to be smart enough to find one that he could easily adapt to. So Kagami did some searching and all that, and finally found the job that he thought would be most suitable for him in his condition.

He was going to work in a bookstore two stations away from his home.

It was a pretty good deal. It wasn't too far away and Kagami was being paid extra because he could speak English. He didn't even need to do much; just sit there at the counter and wait for the customers to come.

And he could get out of the house.

He wondered why he'd never thought of working in a bookstore before.

Kuroko was already waiting for him when Kagami wheeled into the living room. He was dressed simply in a white long-sleeved shirt and jeans. He stood up when the redhead approached.

"Ready?" he asked. Kagami nodded, pocketing his phone, wallet and keys after retrieving them from a cabinet. He muttered his thanks when his companion walked over and handed him his socks.

"I'll be working until around three," Kagami said, bending down and slipping on the garment with practiced eased. Kuroko hummed in understanding as he passed him his shoes.

"Be careful not to hurt yourself," he said, lowering himself to plant a soft peck on the taller's cheek. "Call for help if you need it."

"Yeah, yeah." Kagami tilted his head upwards to return the favor as his fingers worked on his shoelaces. "We've been through this a million times. I get it already."

Oh, and did he mention that they were officially a couple now?

After a long long long time of thinking it over and forcing himself to stop his self denials, Kagami finally decided that he really did like Kuroko in a not-so-straight way. After six months of being confused and flustered (not to mention constantly muttering to himself), Kagami decided to be true to his feelings. He'd worked up all his courage, and bracing himself for the worst, he'd confessed to the shorter man.

Kagami was not going to deny it: he felt like a freaking high school girl in one of those cheesy romance anime. He could hardly hear himself talk over his stutters and stammers. He kept on tripping over his words. He didn't even get why he was so damn nervous. He'd already prepared himself to die from embarrassment anyway.

But to his utter surprise, Kuroko had - for the first time ever since Kagami met him, blushed. Color rose all the way to the tips of his ears, making his pale skin look somehow so much warmer. His eyes widened when he'd registered what Kagami had said, as if a dirty secret of his had been revealed.

Wait. No way. Now that Kagami thought back about it, some things suddenly seemed clearer. Was that why Kuroko had always treated him with so much care? Was that why he'd always treated him unnecessarily nicely? Was that why he was willing to go through so much just to help him?

Kuroko liked him too all along?

Damn, Kagami felt slow. He wanted to facepalm at his own denseness. He couldn't help thinking that things would've been easier if he'd known earlier.

Not that that mattered anymore. They were together now, and that was that.

Kagami shivered when he wheeled out of his apartment. Winter was over, but the spring breeze was still chilly. It felt good to his skin. Kagami felt refreshed; like he could finally breathe again.

The journey to his workplace was short and silent. That was the one thing about their relationship that still bothered Kagami. Despite being together and all, there were still times when the both of them would simply enter lapses of silence. It was comfortable most of the time, but it was occasionally really awkward too.

Kagami couldn't help feeling as if the bond between them was still fragile as thin glass. He felt as if they'd be pulled apart by even the slightest of things.

He didn't want that. He didn't want that at all.

Kagami figured his dilemma must've been pretty obvious on his face, because Kuroko suddenly slipped his hand into his and leaned over, his eyebrows knitted slightly.

"Is something wrong, Kagami-kun?"

And then there were just so many times when Kagami worries were proved wrong. Perhaps they do lack communication, but Kagami supposed that was because the both of them were just socially awkward. Talking wasn't exactly their thing. After a while, Kagami had worked up the courage to look Kuroko in the eyes whenever they talked. Rather, he'd learnt that the only way you could understand the shorter male even by a little was by studying his eyes. Kuroko might constantly be stoic and expressionless, but his blue eyes usually weren't. If anything, Kagami found himself noticing that there were a lot of things Kuroko never voiced out.

Like now. Looking at Kuroko's eyes now, Kagami could almost hear those unsaid concerns. Was he okay? Was he uncomfortable? Was he hungry? Did he need a drink? Did he need the toilet? Did he forget something?

It was scary; how Kagami had actually learnt to read those eyes so well. But he was pretty proud of himself too. At least there was one thing he'd managed to achieve after spending all those months with the shorter guy.

"Nahh. I'm fine." Kagami grinned, turning his hand to lace his fingers with his companion's. It was strange; how something as simple as a look of concern from Kuroko was able to reassure him and push his doubts away.

When Kuroko stared at him some more, Kagami waved his free hand dismissively and tried changing the subject. "Anyway, you should just take the chance to rest up later while I'm at work. You look like you could really need a breather."

Kuroko nodded, not letting go of his hand. Kagami liked the fact that either he didn't notice that there were people watching them, or he simply didn't care. It was probably the latter. "I'll try to."

"Don't 'try to', idiot," Kagami said, almost wearily. They'd been through this too many times. "You need to rest before you fall sick or something. Care more about yourself for once."

"Do I really look that exhausted?" Kuroko muttered almost to himself, sounding genuinely curious. Kagami contemplated whether to facepalm or to magically pull out a mirror, make Kuroko stare into it, and point out the signs of his tiredness one by one. Seriously? How could this guy look at his own reflection everyday without noticing those huge bags under his eyes?

"You look like you're about to pass out right here," Kagami said. He knitted his eyebrows. "Just take a break, okay? It ain't that hard."

Kuroko pursed his lips, still looking reluctant about the matter.

"It's really comfortable to be under the blanket in this weather," Kagami coaxed. "Imagine spending the whole afternoon just snuggling under the warm sheets while you lie there doing nothing except maybe reading a good book and-"

"Alright, alright." A wan smile graced the shorter's lips as he gave in to the temptation. Kagami's reasoning seemed to have worked. "I'll make sure to take a long rest today."

"You better," Kagami snorted. "If I find you still looking so tired when I get back, I swear I'm going to personally tuck you to bed."

At that, Kuroko let out a soft chuckle. "Sure."

Kagami smiled crookedly and reached out to ruffle his companion's hair. He might've did a good job keeping a cool exterior, but he was having these strange warm and fuzzy feelings inside. It wasn't the first time. Little moments like these where they could sit together and have light (sometimes meaningless, even) conversations just made him weirdly, overwhelmingly happy.

It sounded cheesy, but Kagami felt like he was falling in love all over again.

xXx

Kagami finally found out exactly why Kuroko was so intent on helping him recover.

It was purely by accident. Kagami had just been wheeling himself to the kitchen for a glass of water when he noticed Kuroko's wallet lying there on the ground. He was initially surprised; since Kuroko was never careless about his things. Then he figured that maybe the latter was in a hurry or something and just accidentally knocked his wallet over. At any rate, Kuroko was bathing at that time, so Kagami headed over to pick it up for him.

And that was when he saw it. The picture. Kagami didn't mean to look inside the wallet, but it fell unfolded and just made the inside part (conveniently) visible.

The photo showed a group of middle-schoolers; six boys and a girl. The boys wore basketball jerseys, the kanji characters of the school name unfamiliar to Kagami. But he didn't need knowledge in kanji to know which school the boys belonged to after realizing who they were. No one his age who's involved in modern Japanese basketball would not know who the Generation of Miracles were.

They looked much younger then, but Kagami could recognize them no problem. There was the scary heterochromatic Rakuzan captain, Akashi Seijuuro. The tallest centre of all high school teams who was in Yosen when Kagami met him; Murasakibara Atsushi. The tsundere shooter from Shuutoku; Midorima Shintaro. The copy-cat from Kaijou; Kise Ryouta. And of course, Kagami's impossibly talented basketball airhead classmate back at university, Aomine Daiki; as well as the tanned guy's childhood friend and current girlfriend, Momoi Satsuki.

And standing in the centre of them all, wrapped in Kise's and Momoi's arms with Aomine ruffling his hair from behind; wearing the happiest expression Kagami had ever seen him wear, was Kuroko Tetsuya.

So it turned out that Momoi was more than just a 'schoolmate' to Kuroko. She'd been his middle-school basketball club's manager. And judging from the picture, she was a whole lot closer to him then he said she was. And Kuroko even knew Aomine back then. Was really close to him too, it seems.

And then the strangeness hit him. The Miracles were famous, yet Kagami had never heard of Kuroko before he met him. Not once. There were no mentions whatsoever of a sixth man with the name of Kuroko Tetsuya. Kagami had went against nearly all the famous high school teams there are in Japan, and never once did he hear of such a person.

Kagami could only look up at the male in question when the guy himself exited the bathroom, a towel draped on his shoulders. There was a short stretch of silence as Kuroko processed the sight of Kagami holding his wallet and looking at him with a surprised and disbelieving expression.

"You play basketball?" was all the redhead said to break the silence. There was a short pause as the two stared into each other's eyes, as if trying to exchange a soundless conversation. Then still without saying a word, Kuroko stepped over, bending to retrieve his belonging from Kagami's lose grasp.

"I used to," he corrected softly, placing the item on the cabinet where it should be. He let his hand fall to his side, his gaze downcasted. "But not anymore."

Kagami still sounded a little stunned. "You were a Miracle."

It was a statement, not a question.

"Yes."

"You knew Aomine and the others."

"Yes."

"They were your teammates back in middle school."

"..Yes."

There was a short pause. Then came the question that Kuroko had been dreading all his life.

"Why did you stop?"

Kuroko worked hard not to cringe. He'd always hated answering that question. It made him feel like he was seeking for pity. It made him feel so vulnerable; stripping him of the invisible walls he'd built around himself to keep his emotions caged it. It brought back the painfully wonderful memories of those days, as well as the feeling of regretting not cherishing whatever he had before he lost it.

And it also made his heart ache. Unbearably so.

Because no matter what he did, no matter how much he lamented over it, those precious times just weren't coming back. Nor could he turn around and go back.

Kagami slowly realized that maybe that question wasn't the best one to ask, and that Kuroko's reason was probably more or less the same as his. Kuroko looked so happy in the picture. Basketball was probably one of the things he loved most in the world too. There was no way he would quit, unless the circumstances were just too dire.

"Sorry," Kagami apologized when five minutes had passed without Kuroko answering. "I shouldn't have asked."

He was just about to wheel away when the shorter spoke up.

"When I was in my third year," Kuroko began, but stopped abruptly. He bit down on his lower lip, hesitating to go on. Kagami turned back to look at him, silently telling him that it was okay not to say anything. It's okay. But Kuroko inhaled once, and as though mustering all his courage, he clenched his hands and continued; "I was hospitalized."

Kagami stared at him, eyes wide, mouth agape. "For?"

"I overexerted my legs." Kuroko's winced slightly at the memory. His eyes were averted sideways, staring wistfully into empty space. His tone was strained, as if he had never once stopped grieving over what happened. "I was really weak compared to the others in the first string back in Teikou. I had to work very hard just to catch up with the training. As a result of pushing myself too hard, I damaged the muscles of my legs." He stopped for a breath. "My legs felt like they were on fire. Every step I took hurt. It took me a week before I could walk again." His voice then turned impossibly soft. "The doctor told me not to play anymore after that, or I might risk harming my legs further and finally lose the ability to walk altogether." Slowly, he turned to face the redhead. "So I had to stop."

The pain in his eyes when he said the last few words was deep and raw. Years might have passsed, but Kuroko was still emotionally hurting because of what happened. Kagami felt his own heart involuntarily constrict. He couldn't help wondering which was more torturing; to be completely unable to use his legs with only a sliver of hope on recovering, or to be able to walk with the suffering of not being able to do something he loved so much constantly burdening his shoulders.

Huh. That was stupid. Of course the second one was worse. As long as he tried hard enough, there was still hope for him. Even if it was close to none, there was still a chance for him to recover. To walk again. To do what he loved best once more.

But Kuroko had to bear with it every day. He had to keep telling himself that he can't do it anymore whenever he sees something related to the sport. He had to force himself to forget. He had to forget the happiness he felt when playing basketball. He had to push himself forward, to keep moving on.

Or else he'll be tempted to play again.

Kagami knew how difficult was it to give up. He understood just how heart-wrenching it was, especially if that one thing meant the world to you.

"Is that why you became a therapist?" the redhead asked after what seemed to be an eternity of silence. "Because you didn't want anyone else to experience the same thing?"

"Who knows?" Kuroko shrugged lightly, his tone slightly bitter. He took in a deep breath, as if willing himself to get his act back together. When he looked up again, all traces of emotion were gone from his face. He looked just like how he always did in front of people; stoic, unreadable. "Anyway, I suppose we should start cooking dinner. It's getting late."

With that, he trudged off, disappearing behind Kagami. Kagami stayed where he was for just a while longer before he moved to join his companion in his kitchen.

It was on that day that Kagami discovered his newfound determination. He decided that he was going to work harder. He'll work harder so that he could recover. Screw the decision he made the other day. He will play basketball again.

And it wasn't just for his own sake. He wasn't sure how it worked, but it was for Kuroko's sake too.

xXx

The first time he successfully made his legs move again, he kissed him.

Kagami was aware that they were in a public place. He knew that even if they were alone then, someone could walk in any second. But he didn't care. It had all happened so suddenly, even he wasn't aware of what was going on until a little later.

Kuroko had been helping him through his therapy sessions in the hospital like he'd always did on every alternate days ever since he was discharged. They had to do this because the regimen for Kagami's condition required using special facilities. The normal exercises Kagami did at home were not enough.

So Kagami had been using the double poles in his millionth attempt to make himself stand on his own legs. Nothing was different at first; Kagami was still relying completely on the strength of his arms to keep himself upright as he silently willed his legs to move. He was drenched his sweat and he swore he must be wearing a very constipated face. His arms felt like they were burning.

After a while, Kuroko had gently asked him to take a break. He was afraid the redhead would overdo it and harm his arms in the process of healing his legs. Kagami was reluctant. He kept telling Kuroko that he was okay and that he could still go on, but the smaller male was insistent. Finally, after a lot of incoherent mumbling and muttering, Kagami decided to give in.

Kuroko had been assisting him on getting his butt on the floor when it happened. When he was slowly lowering himself onto the rubber mat below him, Kagami felt this strange sensation on his right leg; like a lose plug was finally reconnected into its socket. He furrowed his brows, trying to figure out what exactly that indicated.

And then he realized that he could feel the floor below him. His heart skipped a beat. Wait. He could feel? Kagami daren't hope for too much just yet. He willed his right leg to move.

There was no response.

Try again, he told himself, his heart rate accelerating by the second. Try something smaller.

He visualized what he wanted to happen; a trick he'd been taught a while back as an attempt to overcome his paralysis. He imagined his brain sending the signals to the corresponding body parts, ordering them to move.

The toes on his right foot curled. Kagami stared at his foot. He tried wiggling his toes.

They moved.

Kagami got so excited he lost his balance and ended up falling hard onto the floor, pulling Kuroko down on him. Kuroko scrambled to get off him, his concerns at the tip of his tongue when Kagami grabbed him by the front of his shirt, pulled him forward, and kissed him.

Kuroko was so surprised he could only stay still until their lips parted. He watched wordlessly as Kagami leaned back and laughed; a joyous, triumphant laugh. The redhead seemed to not have realized what he'd done, despite the prominent blush that was rising to Kuroko's cheeks. The shorter could only wait for the redhead to explain while he tried to calm his raging heartbeat.

"My toes moved!" Kagami burst out once his laughter had receded, his tone resembling that of an excited child. "I made them move!"

"Eh?" Kuroko soon forgot his embarrassment as he too got caught up in the excitement. He quickly got off his companion, plopping himself right next to him. "You can feel your leg?"

"Only a little, but yeah!" Kuroko watched in amazement as Kagami once again curled and uncurled the toes of his right foot. "I actually managed to make it move again!"

And then as if his mind was abruptly (very abruptly, at that) put on rewind, Kagami finally - finally - realized what he'd actually done just now.

He'd just kissed Kuroko.

He kissed Kuroko.

Color promptly flooded his face. What the heck was he thinking? He immediately struggled to come up with an apology because even though they were going out and all he was taking it too fast and Kuroko might misunderstand and-

Kagami was about to start freaking out when Kuroko tackled him into a hug, pushing them both flat onto the floor once more. What what what? Kagami's mind was failing to process the situation. Wasn't Kuroko supposed to hit him like what a normal guy would if kissed out of the blue? If so, then why wasn't he presenting a punch to his face? Why wasn't he hitting him and calling him an opportunist or something?

"I'm happy for you, Kagami-kun." Kuroko's tone was utterly sincere, with no hints of displeasure whatsoever. He buried his face on Kagami's shoulder, and tightened his embrace by a fraction. "You did it."

Maybe it was his tone. Maybe it was because there was just such tenderness in his tone that Kagami just decided that perhaps Kuroko didn't exactly mind after all. The redhead's apology was left unuttered as he reached to ruffle the smaller male's soft hair, a smile spreading across his lips as he did so.

"Yeah. I did it, Kuroko."

And it was all thanks to you.

It wasn't much, but Kagami felt like he'd finally taken one big step ahead on the road of recovery.

xXx

Before he knew it, three years had passed.

Kagami made incredible progress. He didn't need a doctor to tell him that. His recovery speed surprised even himself. He'd suffered a complete waist-down paralysis. Even with the most optimism he could muster, he'd expected to at least take five years just to feel his legs again.

But three was all he needed.

In three years, Kagami could almost walk normally again. He didn't even need a wheelchair anymore; just crutches were enough. There were many hypothesis regarding the speed of his recovery. Some doctors said that perhaps his injury that time wasn't really as bad as it initially seemed. Some said that maybe Kagami just had a crazy regeneration rate. Some said it was because he worked harder in his rehabilitation than anyone else.

But personally, Kagami figured that it was his willpower and determination that made it all happen.

And for the first time in three years, Kagami found himself once more standing in the public basketball court where he'd always gone to for self practice ever since he returned to Japan.

Everything was completely contradictory to what he said back when he was hospitalized. Sure, there had been a point in time when Kagami was absolutely keen on recovering, but it was all still unexpected. Kagami had thought of going to the court to play basketball again. Just not this early. He'd never expected that he'll be back this soon.

Kagami held a basketball in his right hand, using his left to support himself with a crutch. His right leg had healed a little faster than his left, and Kagami could actually stand on it already, though that feat usually tired him out easily. With a deft flick of his fingers, Kagami spun the ball on the tip of his index finger. He was surprised he could still do it after so long. He guessed some things just stick to you no matter how much time has passed.

He stopped, letting the ball fall onto his open palm. He missed feeling the texture of the item. It was familiar, reassuring. The sudden sting in his chest made him realize just how much he'd missed playing basketball. Kagami felt like an idiot now. What the hell was he thinking; wanting to stop? There was just no way he would.

Come to think of it, Kagami figured Aomine would be grinning smugly if he saw him there in the court right now. He could already imagine his annoying voice saying "What did I tell you?" when he breaks the news to him. He hated to admit it, but Aomine had been right that time. There had been no one stopping him from trying to play again but himself.

Aomine's head was going to be huge the next time Kagami meets up with him again.

Kagami absently turned his hand over, bouncing the dark orange ball on the cement ground several times. Huh. He even missed hearing that sound. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, it seems. And apparently it didn't only apply to living things. Kagami stopped, catching the ball and holding it with only one large hand. He lifted it over his shoulder, tilting his head upwards at the hoop. He took aim, and with utmost confidence that he will miss, he threw the ball towards the basket.

It went in beautifully; right at the very centre. Kagami blinked. How the heck did that happen? He seriously did not expect that he'd be able to make it, even if he was practically standing under the hoop. Kagami really itched to do a dunk right about now.

He flexed his wrist as he watched his companion run off to fetch the ball from where it bounced off to. Kagami had not wanted to visit the court so soon, especially not with Kuroko. Even though Kuroko had been the one who'd suggested to go in the first place, Kagami was reluctant. Doing so might reopen the old wounds that'd just barely healed.

But Kuroko had insisted and had practically dragged him out of the house. Until this day, Kagami had no idea why the shorter guy was being so aggressive about him playing all of the sudden. Not that he'd ever stopped to ponder over it.

Kagami raised his hand to receive the pass Kuroko made. And there was another thing. Kagami had been wondering for some time after discovering that Kuroko had been part of the Generation of Miracles. The guy looked so weak; there was no way he could've caught up with a group of geniuses like them during games. But Kagami also found out that Kuroko had not been a Miracle because of physical capabilities. He'd been part of them solely because of his weak presence, and passing skills.

Kagami knew Kuroko had excelled in passing just by receiving several of them. Kuroko's passes were strong and firm; carefully and skillfully directed to the person whom he wishes to pass to. Part of Kagami couldn't help wondering; if Kuroko was still so good even after so many years, then wouldn't he have been a lot better if he'd kept on going? He could've even learnt to do something else other than passing.

And another part of him wanted to slap himself for being insensitive. If Kuroko was not dwelling over the matter, and Kagami had no rights whatsoever to do so. No, he had to stop thinking about that.

"Why don't you try?" Kagami asked, flinging the ball towards the direction of the smaller. Kuroko caught it with ease, and blinked at the redhead in confusion.

"Huh?"

"Shooting," Kagami said, cocking his chin towards the hoop. "Why don't you try shooting?"

"I'm not very good," Kuroko stated simply, looking like he had utterly no intention to do as Kagami suggested. "Rather, I don't think I can shoot a basket at all."

"Not even when you're standing right under the basket?" Kagami's tone implied a challenge. He knew Kuroko wasn't the type to take up meaningless challenges, but he decided to try his luck. Maybe he could successfully provoke the guy after all.

Kuroko knitted his eyebrows slightly, as if contemplating on what to do before making his way towards the redhead. He stopped right next to Kagami, casting his gaze right at the hoop above him. Wordlessly, he lifted the ball over his head, and flung it upwards.

Kagami honestly wasn't sure what was he expecting, but he was disappointed all the same. He could already tell that Kuroko was a despair in anything other than passing. His form was all wrong and his poise was so amateur Kagami resisted the urge to shake his head.

"I told you," Kuroko said once he'd returned with the ball. A smile found its way to Kagami's face when he noticed that the smaller male was pouting. Even people like Kuroko had their sulky moments, it seems.

"Hey, don't worry about it," Kagami said. "You're just out of practice."

"But Kagami-kun's out of practice too," Kuroko argued. "And you can still get it in."

"I was only out for what- a few years?" Kagami shrugged. "You were away for a longer time. You're way out of practice compared to me."

The slight pout did not leave Kuroko's face. "I'm not sure if I should take that as an insult or not."

"It would be great if you didn't," Kagami said, a chuckle escaping his lips. His expression softened, and he reached out to thread his fingers through the smaller's mussed up hair like he did so many times before. Kagami remembered how much Kuroko initially hated this gesture of his, but eventually, it'd became his personal sign of affection. Kagami had came to love just how soft Kuroko's hair felt against his fingers, and Kuroko had came to love the feeling of having the former run his fingers through his locks.

"It's gotten longer," Kuroko commented, reaching up to finger his fringe. Kagami hummed absently in agreement.

"Hey, Kuroko?" Kagami started after a while of playing with his companion's hair in silence. He shifted his hand, trailing his fingers over the outline of Kuroko's face. "There's something.. I've been thinking about for a while now."

Kuroko's gaze met his, silently urging him to go on.

"I-I know its sudden and all but there's something I've come to decide." Kagami cleared his throat, willing himself not to fidget and look away. He slipped his hand lower, grabbing hold of Kuroko's hand that was lingering by his chest. "It's only been a few years since we met, but a lot has happened during those years we spent together. You've always been there for me, and I can't deny that." He lost the willpower to keep the eye-contact going. Kagami's gaze flickered to the side. "I've given it some thought, and I realized that once this is all over, you won't need to constantly be by my side anymore. I could go back to being independent. I won't need your help in every little thing. But then," he paused, as if trying to choose the right words. "But then I also realized that you'll be leaving me once I've recovered enough. At first, I thought I was okay with that. You'll finally be able to take a rest from your job. You can finally relax, and I can go back to my solitary lifestyle. And it hurts." Kagami inhaled, tightening his grip on Kuroko's hand by a fraction. "Even though we can still meet each other, the thought of you leaving hurts. It's not about my condition anymore. So that's why," He turned back, staring straight into those twin pools of blue. "Would you listen to my selfish request? Just this once?"

There was a short pause in which Kuroko only stared at the redhead, his expression unreadable. Kagami was about to start feeling the dejection when the smaller's expression softened, and Kuroko lowered Kagami's hand to clasp it with both of his. A coy, fond smile was plastered on his face.

"When have I ever not listened to your selfish requests?" he asked back, his voice soft. Kagami felt his blush deepen. He really loved it when Kuroko smiled. He took in a deep breath to gather his courage.

"When all this is over," he said, trying his hardest to contain the stutter that was threatening to make an appearance. "Will you keep on staying by my side?"

Kuroko had no hesitation in his answer. "Yes."

And here goes nothing. "A-And I know it's still a little early, but I've got almost enough saved up already and-" Kagami abruptly changed the thing he initially wanted to say, instead deciding to go straight to the point.

"W-Will you do me the honor of marrying me, Tetsuya?"

Kagami dare not get his hopes too high up as he waited for Kuroko's reply. He casted his gaze on the ground, and waited. He tried counting the seconds passed; ten. Fifteen. Twenty…

His attention snapped back up when he heard the sniffles. Kagami's eyes widened as the clear streams of tears made their way down Kuroko's red tinted cheeks. For a second, he was afraid he'd went too far. He was afraid that perhaps his timing wasn't the best and Kuroko might have other plans and-

"..Yes."

Kagami blinked. "E-Eh?"

"I'll marry you, Kagami-kun," Kuroko said, not even bothering to wipe his tears. "I'll keep staying by your side."

Part of Kagami still couldn't believe what was happening. "I-I'll take care of you," he heard himself saying. "I'll make sure I return the favor and take really good care of you!"

Kuroko's smile widened by a fraction, and he nodded. "I'll be counting on you, then."

And at that point, nothing else mattered anymore. Kagami was aware of the obstacles they would face in the future. He knew that there will be many challenges to come because of their relationship. Homosexuality was not popular in Japan. People will stare and point at them in the streets. Some will look at them with disgust. Insults will occasionally be thrown their way. Judging glares will be received.

But it's okay. Kagami knew it'll be okay.

Because they were together, and always will be.

And that's all that mattered.


Snowdrop: hope and consolation

when in a pinch for titles, look for flowers /shot