Kagami summoning him to the basketball court was unusual in itself, as Kise himself played basketball relatively sparsely and without Kuroko, he did not share too terribly much with Kagami in the first place. Still; his Saturday was free so he obviously rolled out of bed two hours behind schedule. Kuroko had already left for brunch with someone named Aomine, someone Kise had always heard of but had never met. He was apparently Kagami's closest friend and Kuroko had been taken to meet him when Kise was flying a layover in Turkey. Kuroko had few words to spare on Aomine, as he had few words to spare on anyone in particular, but they had been good words.

did you know about this, Kuroko texted him as he left the convenience store, fifteen minutes after Kagami's intended meeting time bearing sports drinks and some snacks for himself.

know about what? Kise texted back, but Kuroko did not answer and Kise was left to wonder on his way to the basketball court. He immediately understood when he finally reached the door of the chain fence circling the courts - Kuroko was sitting alone on a bench watching Kagami play basketball with someone Kise had never seen before.

"Hello," Kise greeted, painting on his most sparkling smile, the one that crossed from one ear to another. Kuroko offered him a single nod, his face dark, and shook out a cigarette from a pack. Kagami glanced at Kuroko for a split second before greeting Kise back. "You never told me it was like this," he murmured, handing Kagami his wares. Kagami pretended that he hadn't heard and beckoned the stranger over.

"This is my friend, Aomine," Kagami said, grinning.

"Nice," Aomine said, a bit of a grunt without finishing his sentence. "Aomine Daiki." He extended his hand, calloused and a little sweaty and Kise took it and felt shivers run through his arm, the feeling he got whenever he saw someone he wished to take home.

"Kise," Kise faltered. "Ryouta."

"I've heard about you. You're the pilot pretty boy, right?"

They had spoken about him. He had known about him even before they'd met. He was being so middle school right now, falling for someone he barely even knew. "Those are all true facts," he huffed, tossing his head to try and shake the butterflies from his stomach. He was an adult. Such things like love at first sight was for innocent, wide-eyed students.

Aomine laughed. "You're kind of arrogant but you're alright," he said. Kise pressed his lips together in something of a weak smile.

Kagami was looking at them strangely, and Kise did not really understand until Aomine spoke up again. "Well, I'm really sweaty and gross right now; I'll go get us some Pocari."

"Wait," Kise began. "I just…"

"Come with me, pretty boy," Aomine beckoned, and Kise found himself following faithfully like a puppy. What was happening to him? This was ridiculous. He glanced back and Kagami was staring down at the bag of sports drinks. Kuroko was smoking and had already retreated somewhere inside his mind. He lingered for a moment and Aomine called him and he found himself picking up his feet and following a man he'd only known for less than five minutes out of the court.

"Wait," Kise said, and Aomine continued striding away without a moment of hesitance. "Leaving them like that...you know about them, right? You've got to. They've...separated, it isn't good to do that, is it?"

Aomine turned to him, and for a moment Kise was certain he'd open his mouth berate him for being so dense and getting in the way - "I'm sorry," Aomine said instead, scratching at his cheek almost sheepishly. "I guess we should have told you how it was going to go down. I hadn't expected us to take our leave so soon."

"We were buffers," Kise realized. "Accessories to the crime."

Aomine grinned, and Kise thought about how Aomine was not traditionally very good-looking - he had a rough-looking face and a standoffish air to him, a bit of a lopsided nose and sneering lips and slightly big ears - but he looked so good smiling and Kise found himself hopelessly entangled in - something. "Did you know I'm a cop?"

It wasn't anything that unusual, but Kise felt himself light up in surprise and Aomine laughed again. "That face makes it look like you've done something wrong."

"I haven't!"

Aomine had a smile that was infectious, and Kise thought he may have misinterpreted; Aomine was not the intimidating guy he'd first thought, and that only made him suddenly more interested in getting in his good graces. "I'm just trying to help a buddy out. Kagami looked like he really needed to say some things and I thought this would be healthy, if they get back together or not. Sometimes you have to say things, you can't just bottle them up, you know."

"Right," Kise said breathlessly.

"Do you know? Why they broke up, I mean?"

Kise shook his head. He knew this feeling. He was starstruck. And for what? A boy he knew nothing about beside he played basketball and knew Kagami and was a police officer and was simple-minded according to Kuroko. Perhaps he was sexually frustrated. When had been the last time he had slept with someone? But it was still a foreign thought to him - the idea of sleeping with Aomine Daiki. He couldn't even wrap his mind around it. This was so irrational. The way Aomine was looking at him indicated he was supposed to chime in with his thoughts.

"Kurokocchi's been really quiet about the whole thing," Kise offered. "He's quiet about a lot of things, though."

Aomine made a face that mostly summed up Kise's thoughts on the matter. "Did you know him well?" he asked. "Kurokocchi, I mean."

"What's with that nickname?"

"It's just a thing I do. With people I'm familiar with."

"So what am I?"

"You're," Kise says, "Aomine."

"So I've got to earn it," Aomine concluded, still grinning, and Kise quietly promised that Aomine could have anything he wanted. "I'm not too terribly close to Tetsu. Not as much as you would be, I'd imagine. As a roommate, after all. I've only really spoken to him once or twice, and usually with Kagami. He seems like a cool guy, though. Even if he broke things off without any warning."

"Well, there was," Kise hesitated, and Aomine stopped to look at him. They weren't heading to the convenience store. Kise didn't know where they were going. He felt the pang of guilt again. "He called me a week before he broke up with Kagami...I was on a flight to Mongolia...and he told me he was going to do it. I tried to stop him."

"Don't beat yourself up about it. There wasn't anything you could do if Tetsu'd already decided on it. Kagami always said he had a weird way of getting his way."

"That's because it was Kagami." Aomine laughed at this and Kise had decided he wanted Aomine to at least think of him fondly like that once. "Where are we going right now? Now that we've politely stepped out, as it were."

Aomine considered him. "I guess you could leave, since our purpose was only to mask Kagami," he suggested, and he allowed a moment for Kise to have a minor internal panic attack at Aomine offhandedly telling him to shove off, "but that's only if you want to. I mean, it would be awkward for you to be gone when we go back, wouldn't that make things more transparent than they already are? I kind of want to get ice cream, but whatever you want to do. I mean, we're in this together, sort of."

"We could get ice cream," Kise agreed, wonderous at how the whole set-up seemed so youthful and high school when he was already in his late twenties and this was his idea of wooing and being wooed. "Except...maybe I won't, I'm not too fond of excessively sugary ice."

"Of course, model-san, we wouldn't want you to gain any weight," Aomine mocked, though devoid of real venom, and he reached over and pinched Kise's waist. "You're pretty fit. You can handle it. It's on me." Kise tried to quash the thought that he'd probably eat anything Aomine wanted him to at this point.

"Yeah, sure," Kise said. "Okay."

[=]

"So," Kagami began, cautious and nervous as he balanced his weight to equalize the bag of sports drinks in his right hand. "It seems like they went to go get drinks or whatever. Weird, right?"

"I didn't think you capable of sneak attacks like this," Kuroko said, blowing out a mouthful of white smoke. "It was my mistake for taking you lightly."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Sure you don't."

He had planned an elaborate monologue and a list of things he had wanted to ask, but looking at Kuroko's figure sitting on the bench, matter-of-factly smoking a cigarette with doleful eyes, was throwing his plan to the ground and he was scrambling to pick up the pieces. Once, Kuroko had held his head in bed and told him how damn honest he was. He wasn't yet old enough to tell if that was good or bad.

"Listen," Kagami said, hesitantly. "Listen, Kuroko…"

"I don't want to hear it," Kuroko insisted. "Honestly. You know how I feel about it."

"Yeah, but I don't understand it. Did I do something wrong?"

"No," Kuroko sighed. "No, no, no." He took another drag of his cigarette, almost regretfully, and Kagami remembered the times he'd always complained after kissing Kuroko after a smoke break. "You're good. You're perfect. That's your problem."

"I don't understand that either."

"That's okay." Kagami put the bag of drinks down on the ground. If anything, he'd learned Kuroko was something akin to a nervous rabbit or a whiff of smoke and any sudden movements made him bolt, literally or figuratively into the recesses of his mind. He walked up to Kuroko, slowly, and Kuroko let him. He knelt, Kuroko's knees bumping into his chest, and his arms were long enough reach beyond the span of Kuroko's thighs for his hands to rub circles around Kuroko's shoulders.

"Get up," Kuroko whispered, frowning slightly, his cigarette dangling near Kagami's left bicep. "Get up, you look pathetic."

"I am pathetic," Kagami agreed, and he brought a hand up to Kuroko's chin. There was a small patch of stubble he'd missed. He was still not resisting. Kagami steeled himself for impact and leaned forward, pressing against Kuroko's knees, and kissed him gently on the mouth. He'd had his eyes closed, in the way he'd been brought up to believe, but he could feel Kuroko's gaze upon him and Kuroko strangely liked kissing with his eyes open in the first place. It was slight and chaste and lovesick.

"Don't do that," Kuroko murmured. "Don't do that anymore, please, Kagami-kun."

"Sorry," Kagami breathed. "You'll have to stop me first." And he kissed him again, a little more longingly, and Kuroko pressed the flickering ember of his cigarette into Kagami's arm.

"Look how easy it was to stop you," Kuroko huffed, when Kagami jolted back in surprise and discomfort. He put out the cigarette on the bench, singing the plastic slightly. Kagami rocked back onto the soles of his feet. "I don't think you'll change my mind. Please stop bringing up the subject."

"Do you want me to? Change your mind."

Kuroko leaned off the bench and pulled the bag of drinks toward him, rummaging around until he found a Pocari and threw it at Kagami. "Wipe yourself off. Get hydrated again. It wouldn't be good for a fireman to get out of the game because he was being stupid after playing basketball."

Kagami caught the Pocari. "Thanks," he said. "For worrying about me."

"I'm a teacher," Kuroko shrugged, taking a drink for himself. "It's my duty to worry about kids."

Aomine thundered back into the court, clearly believing things had been reverted back to their flawless, factory settings. "Sorry for taking so long," he grinned, thrusting a case of Pocari at them. "There was a huge line at the store." He blinked and registered the looks on Kuroko and Kagami's faces; while they were sitting close to each other, Kuroko's icy, distant look had not thawed and Kagami was looking a little more forlorn. "Didn't you guys talk or what?" he demanded, momentarily forgetting it was supposed to be a secret plan. He waved his soda-flavored popsicle in the air.

"Is everything alright?" Kise chirped, appearing behind him.

"That's unusual," Kuroko spoke up, staring pointedly at the ice cream in Kise's hands. "You hate that kind of sugary ice cream. Why did you get it?"

"You should have told me," Aomine insisted, turning incredulously, like it had not occurred to him that other people did not like gari-gari like he did. "I wouldn't have made you; I thought you just didn't want to."

"Eh," Kise sputtered. "Well, it wouldn't do to go against the crowd, it's like what they say about Rome, right?"

"What do they say?" Aomine asked with interest.

"I see the day was not a complete failure," Kuroko mused as they got on the bus to head back to their apartment. Kise fidgeted. Kuroko had watched him closely the entire time they were with Kagami and Aomine and he was pretty sure Kuroko's ability to read the atmosphere well had activated. "For you, at least."

"It's not like that," Kise protested. "Aomine's merely an interesting person, that's it."

"I see. Enough to eat convenience store ice cream and play basketball in your nice clothes with?"

"Don't bully me, Kurokocchi. Isn't it the same for you? What about you and Kagami?"

Kuroko's lips flew back together and all hints of a smirk disappeared. "Well played, Kise-kun. I'll leave you to your little budding romance then."