A/N : And I'm back with another KnB story, requested by calloutyoru and re-interpreted by me (not sure that's what you had in mind but that's how it came out on the paper -_-) Enjoy!
"I no longer knew what was real and what wasn't. The lines between reality and delusion had become so blurred."
― A.B. Shepherd, The Beacon
Ever since he first asked Kagami to play basketball back then in the US, Himuro had watched him. He had watched him miss his first shots, watched him play his first matches in the streetball court, watched him improve amazingly quickly as he taught him how to dribble and shoot properly, with that vague and lingering feeling that one day, the wild tiger could very well surpass him and leave him behind. It was a fear which he had always kept silent and which would sometimes poke him, leaving an unpleasant touch of uneasiness behind. Needless to say, he had been overly happy when the both of them had agreed to call each other 'brother' and had sealed the oath of brotherhood with a ring which he treasured more than the most precious gem. By doing so, Himuro had insured that his little brother would always stay close to him, and he would be able to keep watching him.
In spite of this, he was a sensible man enough to know that it wouldn't last eternally, and his predictions had turned right when Kagami took that fated plane to Japan and flew away from him, right after that farcical match. Himuro didn't resent him for it – never had and never would – for he knew that the strength of their bond would allow them to cross paths again. He had been proven right again not so long after, upon joining Yosen High School, and had been delighted to see that Kagami Taiga was still as fierce and fiery as ever. And was still calling him his brother.
"Hey, you're spacing out." A loud voice dragged him back to the reality of a streetball court and a certain tiger dribbling in front of him.
"Am I now?" he questioned back with a smile. "You should have seized your chance to score then, Taiga. Because you won't be getting any other."
"Heh, I don't rely on chance to beat you." Kagami replied, his mouth stretching into a cocky smirk.
Himuro narrowed his eyes and watched. He watched the swift movements of Kagami's muscles as he dribbled, the slight frown creasing his forehead as he was thinking how to get past him, the tiny drops of sweat beading on the tips of his hair, and as always, that intense look in his eyes reflecting his determination.
Unaware of the scrutiny which he was the target of, Kagami pushed on his feet and dropped his defensive stance to sprint forward, deftly dodging Himuro's arm and heading for the basket. Half a second later, he was in the air, the ball in his right hand ready to be dunked through the loop.
"Not yet, Taiga!"
The Yosen shooting guard sprung between Kagami and the basket, teeth gritted and an arm stretched to the ball. There was no way he'd let Kagami score so easily; yet at the last second, the redhead changed the ball's trajectory and switched it to his left hand before smashing it into the basket.
A heavy thump was heard as both players landed on the ground at the same time, followed by the ball which rolled to Himuro's feet. The latter picked it up.
"What do you think of that?" Kagami beamed, with both fists on his hips.
The other teen smiled, acknowledging defeat. People were often mesmerized by his basketball style, cool and collected, stating that his form was absolutely perfect from every angle; but to him, Kagami's form wasn't any less perfect. It was explosive, passionate and maybe too rough according to some; still, there was a balance and mastery within that outbreak of power which made Kagami's every action beautiful to watch, and the pinnacle of perfection was reached when Kagami entered the Zone. During those moments, all known and unknown cataclysms could befall the entire world that Himuro would still choose to watch Kagami play. He could never get tired of it, even after the defeat at the Winter Cup.
"Your left hand control has greatly improved, Taiga." he praised, noting the genuine satisfaction on the redhead's face.
"Thanks, but you almost got me there. If you had been serious, I'd probably have missed that one."
Himuro patted his shoulder. "Don't be so modest. It's a fact that you've improved on every angle since our days in America. I should really stop calling myself your big brother." he replied with a chuckle.
The tone was light enough to conceal the traces of melancholy behind, yet Kagami frowned at those words.
"Hey, I already told you... I don't mind at all if we could just keep staying brothers, you know." Seirin's power forward said as he scratched his head, embarrassed. His eyes mechanically lowered to the ring around Himuro's neck. "I mean, I owe you for introducing me to basketball after all. It doesn't really matter who's better, does it?"
A soft smile appeared on the shorter player. "You're right. And we've already settled this in a previous conversation, haven't we? I'm sorry, I was being stupid again. Another round?" he offered, making the ball spin on his finger.
"I was stupid too." Kagami grinned. "Bring it on!"
The afternoon saw both boys playing to their hearts' content, amidst the screeches of shoes on concrete, the sound of the ball bouncing repeatedly and the laughter. By the time streaks of orange started searing the sky, both players were breathless, spent and incredibly happy.
"We should do that again, Tatsuya." Kagami declared, picking up his bottle of water on the bench.
"Any time, Taiga." Himuro replied. "You know, it reminds me a bit of America. We used to play almost every day like this, even when it was raining."
"That's because Alex was a real dictator about our training." Kagami groaned. "Damn, speaking of rain, I wish we had some now. It's freaking hot." he added, removing his T-shirt with a grimace.
Almost automatically, the Yosen player looked away, pretending to be busy putting his bottle back into his bag. The last thing he needed to see was Kagami's muscles flex at the slightest movement, sweat dripping on them and sliding down every curve as if to remind Himuro that his friend's body was exceptionally gorgeous, really, just in case he happened to forget. And the explanation to his high awareness of Kagami was simple.
For he had long gone past the stage of considering Kagami Taiga as a mere friend, or even a brother. After spending all those years watching him grow from the cub he used to be to the proud tiger he was today, wasn't it a natural development for his feelings to grow similarly from friendship to something much stronger? At least it was what Himuro believed, and therefore he wasn't too much troubled by it. It sometimes pained him a little that his Taiga didn't seem to see him that way; to him, they were brothers and that was it. It didn't really matter. Himuro would gladly bury his feelings away for the sake of their friendship. And he was currently doing a good job at it.
"Wanna come to my place for dinner?" Kagami offered, catching the towel which Himuro tossed at him. "Thanks."
"The offer's tempting, but I promised Atsushi to help him study tonight, so I have to go back to the dorms."
"Oh, fine then. Hopefully I won't find Alex in my bed when I come back." the redhead added sullenly, earning a chuckle from the other boy. "I was hoping you could drive her off."
"You're probably the only guy on earth who dislikes having a fine woman in his bed."
"Believe me, you'd freak out too if she suddenly popped up at your place and walked around naked."
"Coming from her, it hardly surprises me." Himuro replied, amused.
"Hey, I could tell her to crash at your place."
"I share a room with Atsushi in Yosen's dorms, Taiga. And as much as I'm used to her strange habits, I'm sure he is not."
"I don't get how you can be used to that." Kagami shook his head as he put his T-shirt back on and grabbed his bag. "I mean, the first time she did that, everyone from Seirin was there too, and I think they were all about to kill me, thinking she was my g-girlfriend or something."
Himuro stifled back a chuckle upon hearing Kagami stutter. As expected, he was still as innocent and clueless as ever whenever it came to girls, and it wasn't Alex who was going to help him on that matter. As they exited the court, he suddenly asked:
"Would you like to have a girlfriend, Taiga?"
Unsurprisingly, the Seirin player choked at the question.
"I-I haven't really thought of that. I'm just fine with having friends." he replied nervously.
Himuro smiled again. "Well then, I need to catch my bus. Let's have another match soon."
"Yeah, I'll call you." Kagami replied, grinning.
They bumped fists before walking their separate ways, both looking forward to the next time.
The next time they met, however, was not to play basketball. The Yosen player was waiting by the gates of his school, his back against the wall and hands stuffed in his pockets. Crowds of students were exiting the premises, some heading for the dorms, others to hang out with friends, others back home. Himuro paid little attention to them, his mind bearing more important preoccupations. It was quite rare for Kagami to ask to see him after school for something other than basket, therefore it was with mild curiosity that he gazed at the redhead who was hurrying to him, waving at him like a kid. Outside the basketball court, there was always something childlike in Kagami's every gesture which Himuro was very fond of, for it gave his Tiger a somewhat cute side, even though he was probably the only one to think so.
"Yo Tatsuya, 'sup?" Kagami greeted when they were close enough.
"Good afternoon, Taiga." the other replied with his usual smile. "So, what brings you to my school? I hope you don't want to watch us train, because our coach won't even let you close to the gym." he added jokingly.
Strangely enough, Kagami merely looked away and Himuro had to blink twice to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating: his Taiga was actually blushing.
"No, uh, I didn't come for that, uh... A-Actually..." The power forward started glancing around him rather nervously, which only serve to increase Himuro's confusion. "Could we, uh, go to some quieter place?"
The dark-haired boy frowned, but nodded. "Let's go inside the school then." he replied, motioning to Kagami to follow him.
They walked a bit further away from the packs of students in awkward silence. Now Himuro was really curious; what exactly was making Kagami so embarrassed that he'd want no one to hear them? And what was so urgent that he couldn't tell him over the phone?
"Is here OK?" Himuro asked, to which Kagami nodded.
"So, care to tell me what's troubling you so much?" Himuro inquired patiently.
Kagami scratched his cheek at the question, avoiding his friend's gaze.
"I actually need a favour." he finally let out.
"Is that all?" Himuro asked, genuinely surprised. "You know you can ask me anything, there's no need to be so shy about it."
"Yeah well actually, it's kind of a, uh, weird favour."
Himuro smiled. "Thanks to Alex, I'm pretty used to anything weird now, so go ahead and ask."
"But this is really weird."
"I, uh, you see, uh... Ah, damn it! Why is it so fucking complicated?" Kagami exclaimed, tousling his own hair in annoyance.
A hand rested gently on his shoulder.
"Take your time, Taiga. If it's too complicated, maybe you'd want to think over it a bit more before telling me?"
"No, no, it's not like that. I mean, I've thought enough about it but it doesn't make it easier to say." The redhead sighed. "I'm not even sure where to start, to be honest."
"Then may I suggest in a very unoriginal fashion that you start at the beginning?"
"The beginning... right." Kagami's cheeks were still a deep shade of pink and Himuro had to fight a pressing urge to actually pinch them. "I suppose the beginning would be when that girl asked me out today." he mumbled almost inaudibly.
Himuro's heart made a sudden somersault in his chest, though not in a good way. On the outside, he looked as composed as ever; however, each of his limbs was frozen stiff. He must have misheard, he told himself. Kagami was still refusing to look at him. With his best smile and his most natural tone, the Yosen player managed to articulate:
"And? You said yes?"
"I-Idiot! I can't say yes just like that!" Kagami replied, sounding almost panicked. "I-I mean, she's nice and all b-but–"
"You're fine with just having friends." Himuro finished for him, patting his shoulder and expecting his friend to nod.
Too bad his expectations were crushed so soon.
"Actually..." The redhead scratched his cheek again. "I told her to wait a bit for my answer." he went on, still avoiding Himuro's gaze. The shorter boy's grip tightened ever so lightly on Kagami's shoulder, though the latter didn't seem to notice.
"Why so?" Himuro asked, faking composure to the perfection.
"Promise me you won't laugh or anything." Now Kagami looked more embarrassed as ever.
The Seirin power forward inhaled deeply, then opened his mouth:
"I've no idea how to date someone." he confessed, looking utterly dejected.
Himuro blinked several times at him, speechless for the span of a minute. Anyone in his situation would have probably laughed, or at least giggled; but right now he was in every mood but one for laughing. He sighed, then asked the question which he perfectly knew the answer to:
"And? What do you need me for then?"
"Please teach me how to date someone!" Kagami blurted out, his eyes finally landing on Himuro. There, he had said it.
Among all favours to ask, that one was probably the last one Himuro would have expected to hear from the mouth of his little brother. In his mind, Kagami was the kind of person to abide only by one passion, to commit only to one cause – namely basketball. The mere thought of him being actually interested in a girl had hardly crossed his mind. Unless the girl was a basketball freak, which he doubted. And now he was tasting the bitterness of reality. A reality where his Taiga was starting to act like any other normal teen his age. It wasn't surprising, after all, but the realization didn't make it less unpleasant.
"Why are you asking me?" he questioned with a hint of weariness in his tone. "Why not Alex? She's a woman, after all."
"B-Because I figured if there's anyone here who could teach me, it's you! I basically told the girl to give me till the end of the month so I could have some time to learn a thing or two. I mean, I've no clue how you deal with a girl, all I know is basketball! And since you've always been the popular one even in America, I thought you'd be able to help me. And about Alex, for some reason I don't see anything good coming out from asking that woman." Kagami added with a clearly disillusioned tone.
Himuro would have probably found the last remark funny, were the circumstances any different. Nevertheless, he forced himself to keep a smiling face.
"Taiga, I'm not sure what exactly you think I did in America, but I've only dated one girl in my entire life, and it lasted two months." There was no need to specify that those two months were the months which had followed Kagami's departure. Or that the girl had left him after accusing him of not being serious enough about her. Well, no shit Sherlock.
"But you're naturally good with people. Kuroko keeps saying I'm a catastrophe when it comes to dealing with girls." Kagami admitted reluctantly, suddenly remembering a painful event involving Momoi crying over a certain Aomine in Seirin's gym.
"Knowing you, I have no trouble believing it." Himuro chuckled, much to the other boy's annoyance. "But what exactly could I teach you that Kuroko or any other of your teammates could not?"
At the question, Kagami turned a shade redder, if that was even possible.
"W-Well you know, for example, uh, k-kissing and stuff like that." he mumbled. "I'd need you to help me... train with that or something. You're the only one I can ask." If it had been possible, Kagami would have probably sunk to the centre of the Earth.
This time, the dark-haired boy found it impossible to remain impassive. His body betrayed him for a very short second during which his eyes turned round and his heart made a particularly powerful leap in his chest. He felt blood rush to his head. 'Do you even have the faintest idea of what you're asking of me? What you're doing to me?' No, of course Kagami didn't. His empathy level had always been about as low as his jumps were high.
The next second he was back to normal, and the redhead hadn't noticed a damn thing. Himuro sighed. His Taiga was progressively getting out of his reach, it seemed, yet it was still time to catch him back before he drifted too far way. He could simply persuade Kagami that dating a girl wasn't such a good idea; he wouldn't have time for her, being the crazy basket addict he was. He should focus on winning the Winter Cup and the next Inter High while he could still afford it. Kagami considered him his big brother; he'd listen to what his big brother said, wouldn't he? It was despicably selfish, but if it meant keeping Taiga close to him, then he was ready to bear all the vices of the world.
However, another thought was slowly struggling its way to the Yosen student's head. An even less honourable thought. There were a bit more than two weeks left before the end of the month. It was short, but at this point he was ready to take anything. And do anything. Even if it implied using Kagami to satisfy his own unhealthy desires. Even if he knew perfectly well that it'd be but an ephemeral illusion. If he was going to lose him anyway, then he may as well use the little time given to him to pretend that Kagami was once his.
"I'll teach you." he said.
Himuro's dark side, or something. HimuKaga is a pairing I really like (among others) so I hope you won't be disappointed with this story! It'll have around four chapters or so.