A/N: Woot! First fic in this fandom though it wasn't the pairing I originally intended to write, but somehow it just came out like that.
Fourth time's a charm
"You made her cry, Kise-kun." The statement was plain and bold. It still startled Kise who quickly turned round, already recognizing the typically quiet voice.
"Kurokocchi! What are you doing here? Don't scare me like that!" It had been a long time since the Kaijou Ace last experienced Kuroko's display of ghost attitude. But seriously, the park they were in was pretty far away from Seirin High School and not even close to Kuroko's place, so what the hell was the smaller teen doing here, really?
The aforementioned ghost heeded no attention to Kise, his eyes busier following the vanishing silhouette of the girl who had left running and – on a side note – crying. A sigh next to him made him direct his attention back to the blonde basketball player.
"What can I say?" the latter let out flatly with a hint of regret in his tone. "Most of the girls who ask me out only do it so they can boast that they're going out with a model. It's not what I want." Kise sighed again. "At this rate I'm never going to find my soul mate."
"Then you should quit being a model, Kise-kun." Kuroko replied very seriously, which earned him an unexpected pat on the head and a soft chuckle.
"You know I can't do that, Kurokocchi! I love being a model as much as I love playing basketball. Besides, if I quitted my job as a model, girls would still want to go out with me just because I'm such an awesome player!"
"Aomine-kun and Kagami-kun are better than you. If anything, girls should be asking them out." Kuroko observed immediately with his usual lack of tact.
"Kurokocchi, you're so mean!" Kise started whining, but the smile on his lips proved that it was but an act. Of course, he was used to that aspect of Kuroko as well. "Besides, wouldn't you be jealous if girls started asking Kagamicchi out?" he added, his smile turning into a sly smirk as he used his elbow to poke Kuroko on the side.
"I strongly believe that those who are able to cope with Kagami-kun's stupidity are very scarce, and therefore I have no worries about anyone stealing him from me." Kuroko declared with a voice void of any emotion.
The Kaijou player burst out laughing. "That's not a very nice thing to say about your boyfriend, Kurokocchi!" he said, ruffling the smaller teen's sky blue hair. "Anyway, it's getting late so how about we move on? And you still haven't told me what you are doing here."
"I was on my way to Kagami-kun's house. He offered to make dinner today." Kuroko replied as he followed Kise who was heading to the park's exit.
"Oh really? And here I was about to offer you to go and get something to eat." Kise pretended to be disappointed. "Does Kagamicchi cook that well?" he asked more seriously. As Kuroko nodded silently, the blonde player sighed dramatically: "Lucky you. I want my future girlfriend to be a really good cook as well."
"You are not making any sense, Kise-kun."
"Huh? Why not?"
"You say you want your future girlfriend to cook, but you refuse to have any girlfriend to begin with."
Kise opened his mouth as if to say something, but no word came out. He slipped his fingers through his hair instead, looking slightly annoyed. "It's not as easy as you'd want it to be, you know?"
Kuroko knew. He knew all too well, and he also knew that some of Kise's scars from their middle school time were still aching, even though the blonde teen would never say so.
The first time Kise said 'yes' to that girl who had just asked him out, no one was very surprised. He was popular and attracted packs of girls around him like a natural magnet. The lucky chosen one looked fair, objectively speaking; with her auburn locks falling freely on her shoulders and framing her round face which featured the most honest of smiles. Her almond-shaped eyes were also pretty to look at, if you dared gaze long enough into them. Needless to say, she was quite popular herself.
She would often make lunch for Kise and wait for him during his practice sessions even if it was late, she would never show any jealousy towards the other girls who kept trying to hit on the basketball player and was always very understanding whenever Kise had to cancel a date because of his job. In return, Kise kept repeating that she was a gem and would treat her with the utmost care. He was the naturally cheerful kind of person, but whenever he was with her, his face would light up even more.
Most of Teiko Middle School agreed to say they were a perfect couple.
Too bad the girl transferred to another school two months later.
'Too bad she didn't have bigger boobs.' Aomine mused, staring boringly at the ceiling of Touou's gymnasium. The floor was cold against his back, and for a second he pondered about grabbing the ball lying next to his head and making a few throws, for warm-up's sake. It was lunch time and the place was consequently empty.
Or so he thought. Cursing under his breath, he still went through the trouble of glancing at the figure striding to him – not that he didn't know who it was already – and soon enough, a flurry of pink swirled above his annoyed face.
"What d'you want, Satsuki?" Aomine asked drawlingly, which made the girl puff her cheeks in false offense. The next second she was all smiles again and produced a lunch box from her bag. The smell of food made Aomine sit up and cock an eyebrow.
"You shouldn't skip lunch, Dai-chan. It's not healthy." Momoi lectured him firmly.
"You're not my baby-sitter." The Touou Ace grunted back, though he still snatched the lunchbox and the pair of chopsticks from the girl's hands anyway.
"You seemed deep in thought. Something bothering you? Your defeat against Seirin maybe?" Momoi inquired, but Aomine merely shrugged the question off.
"Their victory was just a fluke." he smirked as he stuffed a mouthful of food in. "I'll crush them next time."
Momoi laughed. She was deeply grateful to Seirin for bringing her back the old Aomine. "Then what is it?" she asked again.
"I was just reminiscing about our Teikou days, you could say."
"You miss them? Your good days together with the whole team, playing to your heart's content with Tetsu-kun and being unstoppable?" Momoi teased him.
"Mind your own business, Satsuki."
"Come on, tell me! To be honest, I miss those days too, when I could see my Tetsu-kun every day and give him a towel after practice or lend him notes whenever he fell asleep during classes or–"
"Satsuki seriously, shut up." Aomine cut her in, his mouth full.
"That's not how you talk to the person who feeds you." Momoi retorted with authority, crossing her arms. Seeing the pout on her face, the tanned player sighed shortly before swallowing his food.
"I was thinking about Kise's crappy tastes." he let out flatly.
"Huh? About what?"
But Aomine chose to remain silent and focus on eating his food. Momoi was about to nag him again but the serious expression on his face made her hold her tongue. Being the smart girl she was, it didn't take her long to put one and one together and guess the exact topic of Aomine's concerns. She lowered her eyes and murmured cautiously:
"At least, he seems to have gotten over it."
"Hmm." was Aomine's only answer.
"Let's stop for today." Aomine declared after winning his twenty-seventh one-on-one against Kise for the day.
"Wait… hah… one more! Please, just… hah… one!" Kise panted as he always did whenever Aomine wanted to call it a day. Except that today, the usual enthusiasm that displayed on the boy's face was nowhere to be seen. He was certainly still smiling, but he couldn't hope to fool Aomine with such pretence.
"Do you even know what time it is? I'm dead hungry." the taller player argued back. Kise scowled.
"But I like playing… hah… with Aominecchi." he replied almost childishly, his hands clutching at the ball.
"We'll play again tomorrow. Besides, you can hardly breathe."
"Exhausting yourself to death won't make you forget about her!" Aomine snapped dryly before he even realized it. Kise's expression fell. Mentally hitting himself for his own stupidity, Aomine looked away and added hurriedly: "Sorry, I didn't mean–"
But it was already too late. The other teen lowered his head, letting his blonde bangs conceal his face partly. Tiny drops of sweat fell silently on the floor, but for the lapse of a second Aomine feared they were tears.
"I'm sorry." he apologized again, panic swelling in his chest. Why couldn't he think before speaking? He was no good at dealing with situations like this. Tetsu would have made a better job. "Listen–"
"She already knew when she asked me out." Kise spoke suddenly, embittered. His breathing was more paced now, but his voice had started trembling ever so lightly.
Raising pained eyes to a confused Aomine, he repeated: "She already knew that she'd transfer soon, but she didn't tell me anything until the day before." he finished miserably, and seeing the pathetic face the blonde boy was pulling actually made Aomine's heart clench a bit.
"You'll, uh, find another one." he ventured uneasily, completely clueless as for what to say to comfort his friend. "A better one. Now come on, let's get a shower and go eat something outside. My treat."
It seemed to work somehow, as Kise finally cracked a faint smile – a bit forcefully, maybe, but a smile anyway – and nodded. "I want okonomiyaki." he said.
For some strange reason, seeing that smile induced a feeling of huge relief in Aomine, and it was at that moment that he pledged never to do anything that could make that smile disappear.
"Just like that, perfect! Raise your arm a bit, now. Excellent. Turn on the side slightly, yeah, perfect."
How Kise managed not to get blinded by the repetitive flashes, Aomine had no idea. Though right now, it was something else which dazzled him, even if he wouldn't admit it out loud. It was the first time he actually came to see Kise at one of his photo-shoots – upon the latter's insistence – and he had to confess with some sort of reluctance that Kise had undeniable assets. It didn't come as a surprise, but witnessing it with his own eyes allowed him to realize how true it was.
It was already something to watch the Kaijou Ace play basketball, to see the ease with which he could reproduce with a perfection close to insolence the moves which other players had spent sweat and time to master; to see him facing the strongest opponents without ever flinching; and to see the absolute determination to lead his team to victory reflecting in his golden eyes.
But today the Touou player was offered the opportunity to discover another aspect of his former teammate, one which was stirring some seriously disturbing feelings in his chest. Those feelings weren't foreign to him, mind you, but it didn't make them less disturbing.
"Open your collar a bit more, Kise-kun." the photographer instructed while flashing his camera like crazy. "Like that, exactly. One more shot."
Aomine's full attention was on Kise, who was posing slightly facing away from him, his marine jacket falling off his shoulder on one side, and the tip of his fingers brushing almost accidentally the exposed skin of his neck where his collar was opened. And as if he had suddenly noticed Aomine's insistent gaze on him, he stretched his lips in an even more seductive smile and winked.
The dark-skinned teen almost choked and stared incredulously at his friend, though he was immediately interrupted by giggles next to him.
"Doesn't he look absolutely stunning?" the girl – whom Aomine identified as being the make-up girl – asked rhetorically as she giggled again. Then, with a hint of hesitation in her tone, she addressed him: "Hey, do you think that wink was for me? I mean, he was clearly looking at me, right? And I'm the only girl around here." she added, giving a quick look around her.
Aomine merely shrugged, hardly in the mood to fuel a girl's dreams.
"He said you're his friend, right? Do you know what his type of girl is? Does he have a girlfriend right now?" she insisted, oblivious of the annoyed face Aomine was pulling.
"Yes to the first question, no to the others." the latter replied curtly, hoping to have some peace with those answers.
Seriously, what was wrong with that stupid Kise? Why did he keep flirting with girls like that only to refuse them when they tried getting a bit closer to him? He should just drop the act once and for all, the Touou player ruminated; it was for Kise's own good, or so he wanted to convince himself despite the tingling feeling that told him that his frustration may be for a much more selfish reason. The word "jealousy" flashed through his mind but he dismissed it quickly, deeming himself way above that kind of petty resentment. Yet, what else could explain the surge of irrational anger in him?
"So he's free? Great!" The girl was now mumbling to herself. "Maybe I should go for it, but what if he says no? Oh dear, I don't know… Then again, if I don't try…"
Aomine rolled his eyes, exasperated. He hated them. He hated all those girls who kept fawning over Kise. And he already knew how this was going to end if that idiotic girl dared make a move on the blonde teen. He was ready to bet his favourite pair of shoes that she'd be in tears within two minutes. The wisest – and kindest – solution would have been to cut the girl's fantasies short right now and spare her a broken heart, but Aomine was currently neither wise nor kind. As cruel as he knew it to be, he blurted out:
"Go for it."
'You deserved it, Kise.'
The photo-shoot was finally over and Aomine was waiting on a couch for his former teammate in the main hall of the building when the latter finally showed up, dressed in his casual clothes. The staff was still working in the studio and therefore the main hall was empty but for the two basketball players. Aomine was about to stand up when the blonde teen planted himself in front of him, arms crossed.
"Aominecchi." By the tone Kise had used, Aomine could already tell that he was not pleased. He feigned ignorance.
"Hm?" he cocked an eyebrow at Kise who was frowning at him.
"Don't play dumb. Ema suddenly asked me out right after the photo-shoot."
"Nothing surprising here." Aomine replied with indifference. 'That was quick.' he thought.
"No, indeed. What surprises me is that she told me that you suggested she asked me out."
Aomine stretched both his arms on the back of the couch and yawned. "Yeah, so?" he said, sounding completely uninterested. Kise stared at him for several seconds, disbelief and hurt gradually painting all over his face.
"What do you mean, 'so'?" he snapped angrily. "Why the hell would you do that to me? You know perfectly well that I… I… well, you know!"
"I know what?" Aomine went on slowly, staring straight back at Kise and trying to look unaffected by the obvious hurt in Kise's eyes. "That you have a problem keeping stable relationships? That all girls end up leaving you without even a glance back?"
Kise flushed, hardly able to contain his anger. He uncrossed his arms, only to ball his fists. "What's your freaking problem today?" he questioned, his voice slightly trembling. "Why would you do that to me?"
The dark-haired teen didn't reply immediately. Instead he stood up and grabbed Kise's collar so that the gap between the blonde boy and himself was only an inch wide. There was no trace of the affected boredom left on his face anymore; instead he glared grimly at Kise who remained unflinching.
"You're asking me what my problem is? Well, right back at you. What the fuck do you think you're doing? You keep saying you don't want any relationships and yet you flirt with all those chicks! Don't blame me if they run after you when you won't stop giving them false hopes like that." Aomine stated icily.
Dark blue eyes stared into surprised golden ones. "Wh-What do you mean, giving them false hopes? I'm not–" Kise started, but Aomine cut him in:
"You're not? Well, how about that wink you gave that girl earlier while putting on your pretty smile? She was making a whole fuss over it." he added with disdain.
It took Kise a full second to register what Aomine was talking about. His eyes widened. "Why the hell would I wink at that girl? I was winking at you!" he snapped back, taking the other boy completely off guard. The hand holding Kise fell limply in disbelief.
"Why the hell would you wink at me?" he asked dumbly.
"Why not?" Kise retorted with clear exasperation in his voice.
"Because guys don't wink at each other!"
"Why not?" Kise repeated, more and more irritated.
"Because it's weird, that's all!"
"It doesn't mean I can't do it!"
"Well, you're a weirdo!"
"That's not the point! And you're completely changing the topic here." Kise crossed his arms again while Aomine was rolling his eyes. "I was asking you why the hell you'd prompt that girl to ask me out when you know perfectly well that I don't want any relationship anymore."
The taller teen opened his mouth to reply, then closed it and opened it again, searching for a decent reply. He found one, though it couldn't really be qualified as being 'decent'.
"Because I was pissed at you." he said, shrugging. "I saw you wink at that girl and it pissed me off."
"But I told you I wasn't winking at her!"
"Well, how the fuck was I supposed to know?" Aomine inquired, annoyed.
"I thought you knew me well enough for that." Kise replied, and now there was a hint of disappointment in his voice. "And still, assuming I actually winked at that girl, it doesn't change the fact that what you did wasn't quite nice."
For a second, Aomine felt like a child being scolded by his parent and his cheeks turned a faint shade of red as he gazed away. Kise's last words stabbed him deeper than what he wanted to admit, and sudden guilt seized him. He was still pissed at Kise – though for no valid reason – but seeing the blonde teen's dejected face stirred up some memories of the same teen, standing crestfallen in the gymnasium of Teiko Middle School. Aomine bit his lower lip. If there was something he hated even more than girls hitting on Kise, it was seeing Kise with such a despondent look.
It was only after gathering a great deal of courage and putting aside an even greater deal of pride that he turned his eyes back at Kise.
"Sorry." he said very seriously.
A second of silence followed his short apology, before the blonde player sighed. "Fine, I'll forgive you, but it's really because it's you. Anyway, I have an exam tomorrow so I must go and study a bit. See you around." he said with as neutral a voice as he could, walking past Aomine to head for the door.
The other teen stood there, clenching his fists and cursing himself silently. He had hurt Kise again while he had promised to himself never to be the cause of Kise's losing his smile. He had made him disappointed in him while all he wished was for the Kaijou Ace to always be able to rely on him.
He was the worst. But there was still time to make up for it.
"Kise, wait." he called out to the blonde boy who turned his head to him. Even though the latter wasn't irritated anymore, he wasn't displaying any of his usual smiles either. Aomine scratched his head in embarrassment. "How about… we go have lunch?" he offered, speaking the first idea that crossed his head. "I mean, it's almost noon and I figured you'd like to eat something before studying. My treat. As an apology."
Kise didn't reply at once, and Aomine feared he was going to turn down the offer; yet after another sigh, the model's face was lit up by a smile and he nodded.
"I want okonomiyaki." he said.
The second time Kise said 'yes', around two months had passed since the break-up. Showing up at the practice session holding a girl's hand triggered various reactions from his teammates: Akashi and Midorima merely glanced at her before focusing back on warming up while Murasakibara plainly ignored the new couple and Haizaki snorted with an eerie smirk. Aomine frowned thoughtfully, his lips pursed while dribbling mechanically, as if he had forgotten that the ball was there.
"What is it, Aomine-kun?" the smallest of all players inquired. Kuroko's round eyes were staring at him as if he was the centre of attention here.
Aomine stopped dribbling at the question and switched to spinning the ball on his index while resting his other hand on his hip. The crease between his eyebrows deepened; however, his only answer was: "Nothing."
"Kise-kun's new girlfriend looks rather stupid." Kuroko let out bluntly, fortunately loud enough only for Aomine to hear. The latter let the ball fall, not expecting such a bold statement. It was Kuroko who picked it up and kept it between his hands.
"I rarely get to hear you badmouth other people like that." Aomine replied cautiously. "What's with the sudden dislike?"
"I was just reflecting your own thoughts, Aomine-kun. Though I must say that I agree with you."
"Wh-Hey! I never thought anything like that!" the taller player defended himself as he snatched the ball from Kuroko's hands. "Don't go spouting nonsense like that." he mumbled before turning half-way to the basket and throwing the ball single-handedly with such little care that it should be deemed illegal, Kuroko mused. Never mind that, the ball flopped perfectly through the centre of the basket hoop, as it always did.
"Then what were you thinking?" Kuroko asked again.
"I told you, nothing!" Did Kuroko seriously expect him to speak his mind and say that Kise must have hit his head hard to agree to go out with that girl? A quick glance was enough to tell that she was way too clingy, noisy and superficial. She had a decent chest but this observation held no importance now. Was Kise so desperate for a relationship that he'd pick anyone brave enough to ask him out? "Idiot." he muttered.
Kuroko heard it, but pretended he didn't. "I'm not sure about Kise-kun's choice, but you don't know until you try." he said.
"That's the most retard thing I've ever heard." Aomine replied with disdain.
Kuroko chose not to reply. Instead he turned his attention to Haizaki who had just walked to Kise and challenged – or rather, provoked – him to a one-on-one. Aomine noticed the very faint frown on his Shadow's face, though he was cut in before he could say anything:
"Kise-kun may want to be careful about Haizaki-kun." Kuroko worded out with a serious expression that was rarely seen on his face.
"It's not a secret that those two don't get along." Aomine commented with a shrug.
"I'm saying that it could go beyond a mere basketball rivalry."
"Huh? What makes you say that?"
Kuroko seemed to ponder for a second before he replied:
Aomine's hand caught the ball just in time to avoid a fatal collision with his head. With a pissed expression, he dropped it on the hard concrete of the streetball court and strode to the responsible for the attempt of assassination on his personage, namely a certain Seirin's Ace.
"What the fuck was that for?" he snapped, pissed off.
"You were spacing out." Kagami replied equally. "How the hell am I supposed to destroy you seriously if you're spacing out?"
"I was nicely giving you a handicap." Aomine smirked, which only resulted in irking Kagami even more. It was so easy to provoke the redhead that Aomine would never miss a chance to do so. Well, he wasn't so different himself either, but that was beyond the point.
"You seem to have forgotten that we kicked you out on the first round of the Winter Cup." Kagami retorted as he went to pick up the ball.
"Like hell!" Kagami growled as he started dribbling. "Are we playing or talking?"
"I'm going to make you regret not sticking to talking, Tiger." the Touou Ace stressed the nickname on purpose as he positioned himself in front of his opponent, ready to defend.
"I don't remember ever allowing you to call me that." Kagami lowered his body, his eyes scanning Aomine's every tiny gesture to find an opening.
"Tetsu says you love being called like that." the blue-haired teen sneered.
Kagami attempted a first feint, knowing perfectly well that it would require more than that to go past the monster that was Aomine.
"I tolerate it when Kuroko calls me that." Another feint, another failure. He expected that as well.
"How sweet. Aren't we all lovey-dovey with each other?" Even while mocking his opponent, Aomine was still focusing hard on every movement, every contraction of Kagami's muscles that could betray his next move. He couldn't afford to be any less careful when facing the Tiger, even though playing him almost every day had given Aomine a pretty good grip on Kagami's habits.
"That's not what Tetsu told me."
The Seirin power forward narrowed his eyes and made a powerful sprint to the basket, dodging Aomine's arm skillfully; yet within a second the latter was already in Kagami's way. However, what he didn't expect was for Kagami to actually step back and shoot. Mildly surprised, he turned his eyes to the basket only to see the ball roll around the hoop before falling outside. Kagami swore under his breath before addressing Aomine, both fists on his hips:
"What the fuck does Kuroko tell you anyway?" he asked with clear irritation in his tone.
"Among other things, that you can't shoot from a distance to save your life."
"You don't know until you try."
Aomine twitched at Kagami's words which echoed those uttered by Kuroko during that particular practice session in middle school. Kise had tried and paid the price for trying.
"And when you try and fail?" he asked, feeling unexplainably annoyed.
Apparently Kagami seemed to find the question quite peculiar given the stare of disbelief in his eyes. "Has your brain shut down today? When you fail, you try again, obviously. That's how we beat the crap out of you."
Aomine snorted. "As I said, a mere fluke. You're not even halfway to my level."
"Oh yeah? Then how about you shut up and play so I can prove you wrong?" Kagami taunted him. "I'm going to crush you this time."
"Hah! That's some confidence, Tiger. What makes you believe you can?" the taller teen asked cockily.
Kagami gave him a predatory smile.
"Intuition." he replied.
The Touou Ace opened his mouth to reply before changing his mind, not quite sure whether to feel amused or exasperated by the answer. Tetsu and his new Light were too much alike for their own good.
He didn't even attempt to fit a comparison between himself and Kise; and why the hell would he suddenly want to do that? Their relationship was nowhere near the one Tetsu had with that idiotic Seirin redhead, so why even bother?
Aomine caught the ball which Kagami threw at him and focused his mind back on the game.
Kuroko's intuition was sometimes frighteningly accurate, and this time more than ever, Aomine wished it wasn't.
It didn't take much effort or time for that girl to be lured into Haizaki's arms. The victorious and cunning smirk on Haizaki's face as he showed up for practice on that day with the girl clinging at his arm made Aomine want to commit murder. There were comments and whispers and quick glances cast at Kise who was busy lacing his shoes. When he raised his eyes to the new couple, something quite unexpected happened: instead of a dumbstruck and incredulous expression, it was only resignation that painted on the blonde's face, as if he already knew that it was doomed to happen one day or another. There was no rage, no shouts, not even a semblance of a will to hit Haizaki; which only served to increase Aomine's own fury tenfold.
"Aomine-kun, you can talk to him later if you want, but please don't start a fight here." Kuroko advised with a neutral tone.
"You knew something like that was going to happen, didn't you?" the tanned player asked between gritted teeth.
"I had a feeling something would happen, but I wasn't sure what exactly."
"I'll fucking destroy that bastard." Aomine declared grimly.
"Kise-kun may be more worthy of your attention, Aomine-kun."
Aomine remained silent for a second before clicking his tongue of annoyance. Tetsu was right, as always. Never before had the practice session seem so long, and never before had Aomine's blood boil so much under his skin, while feeling all the more frustrated as he couldn't do anything to make Haizaki pay. If it hadn't been for Tetsu constantly reminding him to cool down, he may have probably been expelled by now.
It was past 8 pm when the players exited the locker room, and Kise was the last one to step out, long after the others. Surprised reflected in his amber eyes as he saw Aomine waiting in the corridor, his back against the wall, hands stuffed in his pockets and his sport bag at his feet.
"About time." the latter growled.
"Aominecchi… what are you still doing here?"
Aomine shrugged. "Just thought you'd like some company. Tetsu wanted to stay as well but he had a few errands to run."
"Oh. Thanks." Kise cracked a genuine smile. For whatever reason, Aomine's heart chose that particular moment to flutter. He ignored it, though not without some trouble.
"What the hell was with that weak reaction by the way?" he asked with a pissed voice, to cover for his own troubled state.
"Huh? What do you mean? I was just thanking you."
"Not that. I meant earlier. If it had been me, I'd have punched that bastard to next week."
"Oh." Kise said again before sighing. "You know, I pretty much expected it, and I don't really mind."
"What do you mean, you 'don't really mind'?" the blue-haired boy burst out. "He freaking stole your girlfriend from you just like that, and that's all you find to say?"
"Aominecchi… I appreciate your concern, really, but trust me, I'm fine." Kise replied wearily. "Honestly… I know it was a mistake to agree to go out with her, but she wouldn't leave me alone so I thought I could give it another shot." He sighed again. "You could say I'm more or less grateful to Haizaki for ridding me of her."
The next second, Kise found himself pinned roughly against the wall, his breath cut off suddenly by the hand gripping his collar. The sport bag fell off his shoulder with a soft thump.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Aomine snapped, eyes set ablaze with fury. "You went out with that chick just so she wouldn't pester you anymore? That's the most stupid thing I've ever heard! After being dumped once, you'd think you'd choose them more carefully instead of picking the first one who shows up like that!"
"What right do you have to yell at me like that?!" Kise retorted back angrily as he slapped Aomine's hand away. "It's not your business who I go out with, and I already told you I'm fine!"
"Anyone with a pair of eyes can see you're not fine, and it is my fucking business!"
"Oh yeah? And may I know why?" Kise asked defiantly.
"Because–" Aomine stopped dead, his fists clenched. He stared back at the blonde player, unflinching, while realizing that he had no clue what to reply. Which pissed him off even more.
"Because what? I'm listening." Kise urged him, impatience and irritation filling his voice.
But Aomine's brain stubbornly refused to come up with a satisfying answer. Noticing as much, Kise let out an exasperated noise and grabbed his bag, throwing it over his shoulder.
"Listen, I guess we're both tired so we'd better go back and get some rest. Just… mind your own business from now on." he said as he started making his way to the exit. He glanced one last time back at Aomine who still hadn't moved.
More than Kise's words, it was that last glance which made Aomine freeze. It had been quick, and yet he felt his heart sink though he was incapable of finding the reason why. Kise had looked at him as if he had expected something from him; an explanation, a comforting gesture, anything. But Aomine had failed to provide any of them. He watched as Kise walked away, biting his lip. Deep inside, he knew that he should have said something else and done something else; however there seemed to be an invisible force – he refused to call it pride – preventing him from acting as he should have acted towards his friend, and for the second time in his life he felt sheer disgust towards himself.
Why could he only seem to hurt Kise when the latter needed help most? Why could he never find the right thing to do to make Kise smile again? If Tetsu was there… no, there was no use thinking like that.
Aomined punched the wall, but it didn't help ease the bitter feeling of powerlessness tying knots in his throat.
"Aomine-kun, you are not very bright, are you?"
The Touou Ace popped a vein while Momoi almost choked on her strawberry shake but managed to reduce her laughter to a stifled chuckle.
"Hey, I didn't ask for your opinion." he grunted back sullenly as he put down his glass of coke a bit too abruptly on the table. The same question crossed his mind for the tenth or twelfth time since he was there: what exactly was he doing here? It was a very rare occurrence for Satsuki to insist on dragging him inside the Magi Burger on a Friday afternoon after classes, but as soon as he spotted a light-blue-haired head at a table next to the window, he understood. Of course Satsuki would want to see Kuroko whenever she could, and well, truth be told, Aomine never really minded spending a bit of time with his former Shadow.
His first mistake was to actually sit at the same table as Kuroko.
His second mistake was to sit at the same table as Kuroko, with Satsuki.
His third mistake was to have let the conversation take such a turn.
It had started very innocently, with Satsuki clinging to Kuroko – nothing out of the ordinary there – and asking to share his vanilla shake, which Kuroko had very politely refused. It had resulted in the pink-haired girl pouting, claiming that as her only crush ever, he should show some sympathy; to which Kuroko had replied that he didn't even share his vanilla shake with Kagami, boyfriend or not. And somehow, the conversation had managed to shift to Aomine and the absence of any girlfriend, and it was then that he had made his fourth mistake:
"I'm not like Kise." he had stated bluntly. The frown on Satsuki's face and the reproachful gaze in Kuroko's eyes had been enough to shut him up. Then came the fated question:
"Aomine-kun, you are not very bright, are you?"
And now the dark-skinned teen was feeling no different than a defendant in a court trial.
"But I agree with Tetsu-kun. No matter what, I'm always amazed that such a brilliant basketball player like you can be so dumb when it come to social relations." Momoi said after taking another sip of her shake.
"Well, it's probably the main reason why I'm not interested in such relations." Aomine snapped dryly as he leant against the back of the chair and crossed his arms.
"And here you go again." the girl sighed while Kuroko made a slurping sound with his straw; to Aomine it sounded almost like a snort. "Dai-chan, we aren't talking about you here, but about Ki-chan. Or more exactly, about your relationship with him."
Aomine started lightly. "Where did that even come from?" he asked, annoyed. "Don't make it sound like so ambiguous." His throat felt slightly dry for some reason as he uttered those words.
Momoi pursed her lips and Aomine was ready to bet that Kuroko would have rolled his eyes if that was in his habits. Instead, the Seirin player merely drank his shake while giving him his usual ghost-like stare.
"See? That's your problem." Momoi went on. "You don't even realize it. And you're lucky that Ki-chan isn't here to hear you, or you can be sure we'd have been in for another round of consoling him again."
Now Aomine looked utterly confused. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Momoi crossed her arms, visibly trying to contain her impatience. "You have the knack for hurting him without even realizing it, or when you do, it's already too late, and it's usually up to Tetsu-kun and I to fix the broken parts. Remember that time in middle school? After his second break-up."
"Vaguely." Aomine lied. "What's your point?"
"You went and gave him a lecture instead of supporting him. Don't tell me you actually forgot about that." Momoi said reproachfully.
And how exactly could he forget? The downcast expression on Kise's face on that evening had haunted him for days, and how many times had he cursed his own cowardice that had prevented him from giving his teammate the support he had sought? But this was currently not the problem.
"How the hell do you know about that?" he asked acidly.
"Well, it was part of my job to supervise you guys, and my observation skills are pretty good, if I must say. He didn't tell me much, but I could easily guess the rest."
The navy-haired boy frowned, more and more confused, but before he could reply anything, Momoi went on:
"Every time you hurt his feelings – which tends to happen quite often in my opinion – it affects him much more than if it was anyone else. He's been admiring you since the first time he saw you playing basketball so it's only natural that anything coming from you will hold a strong meaning to him. Back on that day, he just told me that the two of you had had a small argument. Coming from him, it definitely meant that you were an ass."
"Hey, I didn't–"
"And it wasn't the first time he was down like that because of you." Momoi ignored Aomine. "All I'm saying is that you should be more careful on how you handle Ki-chan. I think… well, I'm not entirely sure about it, but I think that Ki-chan…" She paused, as if looking for the right way to speak her mind, but it was Kuroko who finished for her, impassive:
"Kise-kun likes Aomine-kun, though I am certain he doesn't realize it himself."
If the Touou Ace had been drinking, he'd have probably spilled everything. Instead his mouth merely fell open in a very un-Aomine way.
"Tetsu-chan! I told you that it wasn't a good idea to put it that way!" Momoi exclaimed. "He's going to freak out–"
"Momoi-san," Kuroko cut her in quietly, "Please remember that Aomine-kun is generally not so bright and requires us to state things out clearly for him to understand."
"That's it." Aomine slammed both his hands on the table as he stood up abruptly. He glared at Kuroko. "Even if it's you, Tetsu, I can't let it pass when you insult me twice in less than five minutes. I don't even know why the fuck I'm still here, listening to your stupid blabbering. I'm off."
He grabbed his jacket and strode to the door, ignoring Momoi's requests for him to wait. This was getting ridiculous. Kise, liking him? What a joke. Of course he knew of the blonde's admiration for him, but to Aomine, it was all it was. Admiration. Maybe fascination, because who wasn't fascinated after seeing him play once? It was natural. It was the normal reaction he triggered in every person who had seen him play. He wasn't boasting, he was simply stating a fact. It was no different for Kise.
And what the hell did Tetsu know about it? Did he imagine it could be so simple as how it was between him and Kagami?
And right when the thought formed in his mind, fate decided to play with him a bit more. A flash of red was the first thing he spotted as he pushed the door open. He'd have ignored it if it hadn't been for the all-too-familiar voice hailing him:
"Hey, did you intend to kill us with that door?"
Speak of the devil. 'Mind your own business' was what Aomine was about to reply when his attention got caught by the second person standing by Kagami's side. 'The hell! Is today Piss-me-off Day?'
"Kagamicchi, you didn't tell me that Aominecchi would be here as well!" Kise then gave Aomine a broad grin.
"Kuroko didn't tell me anything when I called him. Anyway, you're leaving?" Kagami asked the tanned teen.
But Aomine was only half-recording what was being told to him. His mind was still absorbed by the statement Kuroko had made just two minutes ago.
Kise-kun likes Aomine-kun.
Ridiculous. Kise liked girls. That was a verified fact.
A hand gripped his shoulder, prompting him to step away from the door.
"Hey, if you don't plan on answering, at least move from the door." Kagami said with a hint of impatience in his voice.
"Don't touch me." Aomine snapped a bit more aggressively than what he had intended. Mild surprised showed on both other boys' faces.
"Well, it seems like Ahomine is in a sour mood today. Kise, come on, Kuroko's waiting inside."
"I'm not in a sour mood, Bakagami." Aomine retorted. Then he smirked. "And yes, I was leaving when I heard you'd be coming. Don't wanna spoil your lovey-dovey date with Tetsu."
"Again, we're not lovey-dovey with each other! And this is not a freaking date! Are you too blind to see that Kise's with us?"
"Ah, don't make me sound like I'm the third wheel, Kagamicchi." Kise said jokingly as he patted Kagami's shoulder, and for some reason, the gesture irked Aomine.
"Sorry sorry, I didn't intend to sound like that at all." The redhead apologized, scratching his head in slight embarrassment. "Anyway, let's go in."
"Wait! Aominecchi, you're really leaving?"
Was it only Aomine's imagination or did the question almost sound like a plea? Despite the apparent cheerful face Kise was displaying, the Touou player could have sworn that there was disappointment in those amber eyes.
How many more times would he have to be given that look? He hated it. He also hated that Kise was his only weak spot. Satsuki had told him that he was the one who affected Kise the most. What she ignored was that the opposite was true as well. He would have ignored anyone else – beside Tetsu and Satsuki, perhaps – yet the Kaijou player was the one person he simply couldn't brush off his mind.
He wanted to make Kise smile truly, he didn't want just a façade veiling his real feelings, therefore he was left with no choice but to sigh heavily and answer:
"I suppose I can do with another drink."
Kise's face lit up. Genuinely.
The third time, it seemed to everyone that Kise had finally found his destined match. For all those who knew her, she was a gem, pretty much like the first one. Kind and helpful and she even invited Kise over once to introduce him to her parents who confirmed that no, they had no plan on moving anytime soon, why did he ask? Another point in her favour was when she openly made a disgusted face and rejected Haizaki coldly when the latter attempted to lure her away from Kise.
At every practice session, Aomine noticed how blissful Kise looked; yet he couldn't bring himself to feel entirely happy for the blonde player. He wanted to call it paranoia, but what if that girl's lovely face was hiding something – whatever it was – which would end up making Kise miserable again? Sometimes she would attend the practice sessions as a spectator, and while she remained quiet, Aomine couldn't dismiss the uneasy feeling stirring up in his stomach whenever he laid eyes on her. She looked almost too chaste to be true, but his intuition had never been as good as Kuroko's when it came to reading people's hearts. He was only best at reading people's movements during a match.
Therefore on that afternoon, as he was half-sprawled on the couch at home, he grabbed his phone and sent the Teiko's Phantom player a message.
'What do you think about Kise's new catch?'
The answer came almost immediately, but not in the way Aomine expected. Frowning at the incoming call, he picked it up anyway.
"What is it, Tetsu?"
"It's rare for you to ask that kind of question." Kuroko's quiet voice replied.
"Huh? I ask that every time you call me."
"I was talking about the first question."
"Oh. Well you were right about the previous one, so I was just curious about your opinion on this one." Aomine said, trying to sound as detached as possible.
"You are worried about Kise-kun."
"I'm not! As I said, I was just curious so if you don't intend to answer, I'm hanging up."
There were two seconds of silence during which Aomine had no idea what Kuroko was doing on the other end of the line. Then:
"I think there is nothing wrong with her." Kuroko finally replied carefully. "They say that third time's a charm."
"Tch, I don't need any fancy proverb, but if you say so, then I suppose it should be good. That's all I wanted to know."
"Nothing. I'm hanging up now."
The line disconnected, leaving a confused Aomine. What was that for? Clicking his tongue with annoyance, he stuffed his phone back into his pocket and stared absently at the black TV screen in front of him. Kuroko's opinion should have reassured him, and yet there was still a feeling of disquiet disturbing him, as if he wasn't entirely satisfied with the answer.
As if he'd have been much happier if Kuroko had told him that it wasn't going to work between Kise and his new girlfriend.
'I'm such a horrible creature.' he thought.
Tapping the desk with his long fingers, holding his phone against the ear with his other hand, Aomine waited not so patiently for an answer to come.
"…I'm not sure I heard you correctly, Aomine." Midorima finally spoke out.
"And I'm damn sure you did." The Touou Ace retorted dryly, hardly concealing his irritation. "Don't make me repeat myself." It had already taken him a whole half an hour to make up his mind, torn apart between keeping his pride intact and the urge to know.
"I was always under the impression that you didn't believe in horoscopes. Was I wrong?"
"Are you planning to answer my question or should I just hang up right now?" Aomine snapped.
"That's not how you're supposed to address people you're asking a favour from, but I'll ignore it this time. In any case, the horoscope for Virgos today is mitigated."
Aomine grunted. Great. "Care to detail more?"
"Today is a favourable day for professional achievements. On the personal aspect though, Virgos should be careful as any mistake could bring about great damage to their acquaintances. Interactions with Geminis are particularly sensitive today and could turn out good or bad depending on how the situation is handled. Today's lucky item for you is a pair of dice."
"What the hell? This isn't helping at all!"
"I can't help it if you feel that way. That was today's horoscope for Virgos."
"How can anyone believe that kind of crap?" Aomine mumbled, forgetting for a moment that he was still on the phone.
"If don't believe in horoscopes, then I'll ask you not to bother me about it again. I made you a favour there." Midorima replied stoically, though his voice did betray a hint of annoyance.
Aomine wanted to snap back, but at the last second managed to cool down. "Sorry." he said reluctantly. "And thanks for the favour. I'm hanging up now."
He didn't even wait for the Shuutoku Ace to reply as he flipped closed his phone before lying back on the hard concrete on the roof of the school, a crease between his brows. How soft had he gone to believe for even a second in horoscopes? Well, it seemed to work pretty well for Midorima, most of the time.
Gemini, huh? A blonde head with sparkling golden eyes flashed through his mind, immediately followed by Kuroko's words. He rolled on the side, unable to chase those words away. So fucking great.
The phone was still in his hand, and it was only after a few seconds that he noticed that his fingers had moved on their own and had already scrolled through his contact list to stop at the letter 'K'. Now this was getting a bit worrying.
After a second of hesitation, he decided that he didn't care anymore what could happen next and dialed the number.
And he'd also have to find some dice somewhere.
He couldn't believe his ears. It had to be some kind of joke. Yet, no matter how many times he blinked, how much he stared, she was still standing in front of him, her head lowered a bit and both hands in front of her, fumbling with her skirt. Her cheeks looked like ripe tomatoes.
How was he supposed to react at her confession? He was too stunned to do or say anything at the moment, to the point that he almost jumped when the girl timidly called his name again:
His eyes narrowed dangerously as his stare turned to a disdainful glare. He could feel a pool of contained anger forming at the pit of his stomach.
"Last time I heard, you were still going out with Kise." he said coldly, which made the girl flinch a bit.
"Y-Yes, that's true…"
"So you already broke up with him? After not even a month together?" Aomine continued on the same icy tone, not caring if the girl was looking more and more confused.
"N-No, not yet. I… I haven't told him yet."
The answer made Aomine flare up. "Do you fucking realize you're trying to two-time here? You actually thought I was gonna say 'yeah, of course I'll go out with my best buddy's girlfriend!'?"
"I-It's not like that!" the girl shrieked. "You're the only I'm interested in! I-I never was really interested in Kise-kun to begin with! I planned to break up with him right after–"
"Shut up." Now there was clear rage displayed all over Aomine's face. His fists were clenched and slightly shaking and if she hadn't been a girl, her nose would already be broken. "What kind of crap is that? If you were never interested in him, then why even ask him out?"
"Be-Because it was the only way to get closer to you! You are Kise-kun's best friend, so I thought… I thought…"
"You thought you could reach me by deceiving Kise? You disgust me. I knew there was something fucking wrong with you."
"Get the fuck out of my sight, and don't get near Kise anymore or I'll make sure you pay for what you did to him." Aomine snarled, hardly unable to contain his rising fury.
He didn't care that the girl hiccupped as she turned round and ran away, he didn't care that her eyes were shiny with tears, he didn't care that she called him stupid. All he cared was to keep Kise away from her, by any means.
The next second revealed to him that it was already too late.
"A…Aominecchi? W-What was that about?" a weak voice asked behind him.
Aomine swore mentally as he quickly turned round, only to see a completely petrified Kise standing there agape and eyes wide in confusion and disbelief. The tanned boy started panicking. For hell's sake, what kind of timing was that? Before he could find anything to say, Kise's mouth twisted in a semblance of smile, though his lips were clearly trembling.
"H-Hey… Tell me it's a joke, right?" he asked with a broken voice. "She… she wasn't serious, right? Hey, Aomine…cchi…"
Never before had Aomine seen Kise so fragile-looking, and the only thing he wanted to do was pull his lithe and wobbling body into a tight embrace, stroke his hair comfortingly while telling him that it was going to be fine, that he deserved much better anyway and that she wasn't worth any tear.
It was exactly what he did.
If Kise was surprised by the gesture, he didn't show it, choosing to bury his face in Aomine's chest instead while clutching tightly at his shirt and inhaling Aomine's scent. There was no tear, but Aomine could tell without any trouble that Kise was currently a wretch and that the gaping emotional wound would take much more time to heal than usual.
"I'm sorry." he said finally said awkwardly. Kise raised his head to him.
"Why?" he asked.
"W-Well, it's partly my fault if this happened."
"It wouldn't have happened if I wasn't around you!" Aomine let out, exasperated.
Kise remained wordless for a few seconds before forcing a small chuckle. "Idiot. It's not your fault. And besides…" he paused, and Aomine could have sword he saw a blush on the blonde's cheeks, "I'd rather you stayed around me." he almost whispered.
Caught unaware by Kise's words, Aomine didn't find anything smart to reply at first and merely held Kise tighter between his arms. Then:
"I promise I'll stay with you then."
The next day, they both acted normally towards each other, not mentioning what had happened and not willing to. It didn't matter to Aomine.
What mattered was that Kise would smile at him whenever he saw him.
As much as he willed it, Kise was unable to control the abnormally quick pace of his heart beating against his chest. What was he so nervous for? Aomine was probably just joking, right? The next second, he would laugh at his face and tease him on how gullible he was, and Kise would get angry at him for playing with his feelings, punch him and walk away, and everything would go back to normal on the next day.
If only it could be that simple. If only Kise had seen it coming. But how could he have? How could he have suspected that Aomine had called him in the desert streetball court for anything else but a match? He had even brought a ball and made a few shots while waiting for Aomine to come, only to drop it on the ground with disbelief upon hearing the blue-haired teen's words.
Said teen was currently standing in front of him, staring unflinching at him with piercing eyes while anyone else would have normally had the decency to at least pretend to be embarrassed. But this was Aomine Daiki they were talking about; there was no way someone like him could feel embarrassed, no matter the circumstances.
Seeing that the Touou power forward was still waiting for an answer, Kise tried a different approach and forced a chuckle:
"Aominecchi… That wasn't a very good joke, you know… But coming from you–"
"Coming from me, you should know it's not a joke." Aomine replied very seriously, which made Kise gulp.
"Do you even realize what you said?" he asked with a sigh.
"Of course, who do you think I am?" Aomine asked back, annoyed.
"But I'm a guy… I thought you liked girls."
"They're too much of a pain."
Kise lowered his head, a faint and melancholic smile gracing his lips. "Tell me about it."
"So, what's your answer?"
The smile vanished. "Aominecchi… are you really asking me seriously?"
"Stop making me repeat myself." The taller boy crossed his arms with impatience.
"But you know that all my past attempts were failures." Kise murmured.
"Don't put me on the same level as them." Aomine said with disgust, earning himself a chuckle again.
"Sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to. I mean, it's not that I don't trust you, but I'm not sure I want to–"
"Listen," Aomine cut him in dryly, "I'm not gonna move anywhere, you can ask my parents. I'm also pretty sure Haizaki won't try to hit on me, or he'll be the one to get hit. And though I'm very awesome, I can guarantee you that I won't fall in love with myself. And they say fourth time's a charm."
Kise looked at him, blinking once, then twice before bursting out laughing, making Aomine twitch.
"What's so funny?" he snapped.
"Idiot, the correct saying is 'Third time's a charm'." Kise replied while trying to quiet down the laughter.
"Doesn't matter." Aomine grunted, visibly pissed off, but as Kise was still giggling, he decided to settle for a radical way to shut him up.
When Kise felt a pair of lips touching his, a shiver ran down his spine. His eyes were wide open and his brain still trying to register that it was Aomine, among all, who was kissing him. The laughter died in his throat, replaced by a stifled – and weak – sound of vague protest, but when two strong arms circled his waist, his last defences fell. The gesture was familiar, as well as the scent, and the blonde teen soon found himself giving in to the warm feeling swallowing him up. He had been resisting all this time, for fear of getting hurt again, even when it came to Aomine. That's why he expected to feel anger, that's why he expected each of his brain's alarms to activate and order him to push the taller teen away and stop this masquerade; yet a deeper part of him simply refused to move, choosing to yield to Aomine's protective embrace instead.
The kiss was surprisingly soft, very not-Aomine but Kise suspected that it was due to his inexperience. He had no doubt that after a few practice sessions, the Touou monster would reveal his true colours. He blushed madly at the thought; it meant that he did intend for him and Aomine to do this again, didn't it?
After all, why not? Aomine had presented irrefutable arguments to defend his case. Smiling mentally, Kise wrapped his arms around the taller boy's neck and took the lead, parting his own lips as an open invitation for Aomine; the latter didn't waste a second to deepen the kiss, clumsily at first, then with his usual self-confidence, much to Kise's pleasure.
When they finally parted, their eyes were locked on each other, their breaths matching, faces only an inch apart. Kise's hands slipped to Aomine's cheeks.
"You're not leaving me, then?" the blonde teen asked softly.
"I did promise to stay with you, or are you too old to remember?" Aomine sneered before wincing as Kise pinched both his cheeks.
"Idiot!" he replied, laughing. "I never forgot. I just wanted to make sure you didn't either." he added before pulling Aomine back into a kiss.
Fourth time's a charm, huh? Perhaps some old proverbs were simply just not made to be followed, and neither of the boys was going to complain about it.
Aaaand done! Hope you enjoyed reading it!