Frowning slightly at the unknown number displayed on his phone, Himuro picked up the call.
"Good afternoon, Himuro-kun. This is Kuroko Tetsuya speaking." a soft voice replied.
"Kuroko? How did you get my number?" the Yosen player asked, though he already had a fair idea of the answer.
"I sneaked it out from Kagami-kun's phone. Am I bothering you?"
"Not at all. What can I do for you?"
"I'd like to apologize for Kagami-kun's behaviour."
Silence followed. Then:
"I'm not sure I understand." Himuro said politely, breathing out slowly.
"Kagami-kun can be clueless beyond imagination, but I think you already know that."
"... I sure do." Himuro let out a short, bitter laugh. "I take it he told you about... us?"
"Yes. I apologize if it looks like I'm meddling with something which isn't my business."
"It's fine. But why would you apologize?"
"I am pretty frustrated about Kagami-kun's behaviour."
"He's not entirely to blame." Himuro sighed. It felt strange, being brought up that topic by someone he had hardly talked to. He wasn't certain he wanted the conversation to go on, yet at the same time he was intrigued at what the Phantom player had to say on the matter.
"He won't understand unless he's told bluntly that he is hurting you."
The dark-haired teen stiffened at those words.
"You don't plan to tell him–"
"I don't. I'm not supposed to have any say in this, but it pisses me off to be partnered with a human being whose brain seems to have shrunk to basketball only."
"That is harsh." Himuro couldn't help but chuckle.
"However, I believe this matter isn't leaving Kagami-kun completely unfazed." There was a pause.
"Do go on." Himuro requested, trying not to let his growing impatience show.
"He hasn't been acting like his usual self, even though he will deny it. He may be on his way to realizing that he perhaps doesn't see you as a brother anymore."
"That is all I wanted to say. I'm sorry if this felt sudden and out of place."
"Don't worry about that. I'm actually grateful that you called."
"I hope you manage to sort things out."
"I appreciate the thought."
"Goodbye, Himuro-kun. And good luck."
Himuro hung up, not exactly sure about what had just happened. Talk about a peculiar conversation. He wasn't even sure what Kuroko's purpose had been; was it a subtle hint that he should simply lay his feelings bare to Kagami, perhaps? Or had Kuroko merely called on a whim? From what he knew about the Seirin player though, he highly doubted it was the latter.
A quick glance at his calendar showed him one uncrossed day before next month.
One day to make a decision.
He'd think about it tomorrow.
Kagami slammed the ball through the hoop before landing heavily with a screech of shoes on the floor. Panting heavily, he swiped away the beads of sweat dripping down his face with a rough gesture of the arm.
"You're on fire today, Kagami." Izuki pointed out. "Pissed at something?"
"Huh? Not really. I always play like that." the redhead blinked in surprise.
"You should cool down a bit, Kagami." Kiyoshi intervened. "There's still a full hour of practice and you're already spent."
"I'm fine, really!" Kagami protested before something hard and round hit his back.
With a furious glare, he turned to the perpetrator of the mischief, only to be faced with a pair of wide sky blue eyes staring at him in their usual fashion. Sometimes Kagami wondered if those eyes were even human.
"What was that for?" he snapped at the shorter Seirin member.
"You should listen to your senpai, Kagami-kun." Kuroko merely stated, a ball in his hands.
"I said, I'm f–"
"Shut up, Bakagami!" a female voice rose with authority.
Riko Aida strode to the power forward and crossed her arms, visibly unhappy.
"I don't know what's wrong with you today, but you're obviously putting a bit too much effort into practice today." she said.
"And that's a bad thing?" Kagami frowned.
"Considering that you already made a foul on Teppei, a foul on Mitobe and a foul on Furihata within fifteen minutes of practice, yes, it's a bad thing." the girl shot dryly.
That reduced Kagami to silence. Lowering his eyes and scratching his head, he spoke again after a few seconds:
"Sorry, I guess."
"Hmph, go home for today." Riko sighed.
"What? But I can still play, I'll cool down, I swear!"
"Go. Home. Now." the brunette ordered. "Get a long, relaxing shower and some tea or whatever for tonight. I want you in a good shape for tomorrow's practice session. We'll survive better without you today anyway." The words were sharp, but Riko's tone revealed genuine concern.
"Riko's right." Kiyoshi cheerfully patted Kagami on the shoulder. "Get some rest for tonight and come back to us in a better mood tomorrow."
Kagami felt like protesting again but quickly gave up. Well, they weren't exactly wrong; he was in a slightly tenser mood than usual, for some reason.
"Fine, fine. Sorry about that." he apologized again with a sigh of defeat.
"Don't mind it. Just get some rest for tonight." Riko replied.
A mere ten minutes later, the teen was outside, heading back home and his mind in a rather troubled state. There were two main reasons to it: one was Kuroko, and two was Himuro. Kuroko, because of their little conversation two days ago; and Himuro, well… because it was Himuro.
As of now, he still hadn't figured out what had upset Kuroko so much after he had told him about Himuro and himself, though somewhere in the depths of his mind, he could feel that there was definitely something fishy, and – to his shame – he was also convinced that he most likely had a big part of responsibility in it. As for Tatsuya, nothing seemed to have changed much despite that small incident back then at his flat.
At least, that was what Kagami wanted to convinced himself of. It was his imagination, he told himself, that gave him the impression that his childhood friend seemed more distant at times, that his eyes were sometimes veiled with strange sadness, that his voice occasionally bore a somewhat tone of reproach, or that his kisses seemed to be longer and deeper. Once, he tried to inquire about the topic only to be replied with a smile and a shake of the head, leaving him even more befuddled.
Too complicated. Too much of a hassle. Why must people be so complicated to grasp? Why couldn't everything be as easy as basketball? Kagami tousled his hair as he tried to dismiss the gloomy thoughts and the headache they induced. He was a simple creature and as such, hated everything too complex. Some may call him simple-minded, but he didn't care. What was wrong with preferring clarity and directness over confusing twists and turns? The world would be so damn easier to deal with.
Too bad Himuro didn't seem to think the same. Almost as a reflex, he checked his mobile for any message and a pang of disappointment seized him as he saw none. Well, Tatsuya was also in the middle of practice and would drop by his place in an hour and a half only, for their last night together.
What the hell was he going to do in the meantime? He had already prepared dinner on the previous day; beside playing basketball, there wasn't much for him to kill time. Well, first he'd get a shower and plan things afterwards.
Himuro was the first one to spot the figure standing by the school gates as he along with his teammates were walking back to the dorms after practice. It was too dark for him to determine the intruder's identity at first glance, yet a spark of intuition whispered to him that this tall silhouette could only belong to one person.
"Go back without me." he told the others.
"Hm, there's someone over there." Fukui cocked an eyebrow. "Hey, isn't it that Seirin's number 10?"
"I think it is. What's he doing here at this hour? He's your friend, if I remember well?" Liu asked, turning to Himuro. The latter nodded.
"Hnnn, so Muro-chin isn't eating with us tonight either." Murasakibara noted casually as he opened a bag of sweets.
"Sorry, I'll eat with you next week. It's a promise." the shooting guard smiled.
"So that's where you disappear every evening?" Okamura intervened, smirking. "And here I thought it was because you found yourself a nice chick."
"Sorry to disappoint you." Himuro replied apologetically. "Well then, I'll see you all tomorrow."
Leaving his teammates behind, he hurried to where Kagami was standing. The latter cracked a smile upon seeing him.
"Hey, Taiga. What brings you here? I know it's the last day, but are you so eager to see me that you couldn't wait for me at home?" the dark-haired male teased. As expected, a faint blush bloomed on Kagami's cheeks.
"Let's say I had some free time."
"Didn't you have practice as well?"
"Yeah but the coach pretty much kicked me out, she said I needed to cool down for tonight. So I came back for a shower and decided to wait for you here." the redhead shrugged. "Wanna go to my place now?"
"Sure, if I can borrow your shower and clothes there."
"'Course you can!"
"One more thing."
"You haven't greeted me properly yet."
"Oh." Kagami blinked, then glanced behind to make sure the other Yosen students were out of sight before he pulled Himuro in a soft kiss.
It was one of the last he'd receive from his Taiga, Himuro remembered with a pang of sadness. A few more hours and the illusion would come to an end. But for now, Kagami was still his, and he promised to himself not to waste a single second with him. He deepened the kiss, not caring the least bit that they were outside; he only wanted to forever imprint in his mind the feel of Kagami's lips on his, of his hand holding his, of his fingers caressing his hair.
It was all he wanted.
Kagami was the one to break the kiss, apparently needing some air. Even with so little light, Himuro could guess the faint colour on his cheeks.
"Hm, let's go now?" the Seirin player suggested.
"Let's go." Himuro smiled.
The clocked indicated 8.10 pm when they reached Kagami's flat and Himuro vanished into the bathroom. In the meantime, Kagami busied himself with setting the table and reheating the dishes, hardly paying attention to the faint sound of water running. A dozen minutes later, footsteps indicated that Himuro was done.
"Alright, let's ea–" Kagami interrupted himself involuntarily as he raised his eyes to the Yosen player.
The latter was wearing clothes borrowed from Kagami's wardrobe, therefore they were a bit too loose for him and Kagami regretted for a short second that they weren't large enough to uncover more of Himuro's skin. 'I haven't just thought that.' he scolded himself incredulously. Another disturbing fact was Himuro's wet hair which he had tucked behind his ear, displaying the too rare sight of his fully exposed face.
It wasn't the first time Kagami saw it, yet this time, for some obscure reason, it struck him harder than usual. He was well aware of his friend's reputation of looking handsome enough to make any girl's eyes turn to him, but for years it had never occurred to him that he could also find himself admiring that very same face. Until now. Though a tiny voice at the back of his head murmured to him that maybe, just maybe, he hadn't been as insensitive to Himuro's charms as he wanted to believe those past few days. 'OK, now this is getting weird.' He mentally shook the thoughts off his head and coughed lightly to conceal his moment of distraction.
It didn't entirely fool Himuro, though, as the latter cocked an eyebrow questioningly.
"Something wrong, Taiga?"
"Huh, no. Nothing. Let's eat." Kagami replied hurriedly. "I was a bit lazy so I just made curry."
"That's perfect." Himuro approved with a smile, sitting down at his usual place. "So, how about you tell me more about being kicked out from practice? That's rather unusual."
"There's nothing much to tell." Kagami pulled out an annoyed face. "Everyone was saying I was a bit too much on the edge or something."
Kuroko had mentioned Kagami not acting like his usual self, Himuro remembered.
"Really? How so? Did you destroy the hoop while dunking?" he asked jokingly, earning him a glare.
"Well, I did make three fouls but hey, even Aomine makes plenty of fouls. That's just how we play." Kagami muttered.
The Phantom player had also mentioned Kagami being in denial. 'Isn't there something else you're denying, Taiga?' Himuro thought wearily, though he was careful to keep a neutral expression as he conversed with the other teen.
"As far as I remember, you don't usually make fouls. Did something happen for you to get so upset?" he asked with a light tone.
"Not really." Kagami replied as he shoved a mouthful of curry in. There had been very slight hesitation in his answer but the Yosen player chose to ignore it.
"Are you sure?"
This time, the taller teen cocked an eyebrow at him, mouth still full.
"What do you mean? Yeah, I'm sure. I mean, school was like usual, nothing big happened."
"If you say so." Himuro smiled.
Dinner passed without anything extraordinary occurring. If anything, it was rather quiet for once. It wasn't out of character for Himuro not to talk much, but somehow Kagami had a strange feeling that he was more reserved than on the other days.
"Your curry was excellent, as usual." he heard Himuro say when they were done eating. "Your future girlfriend will be delighted."
Kagami was flattered by those words, really, yet something told him that he should have rejoiced more, though he wasn't certain which part of Himuro's sentence was the problem here.
"T-Thanks, I guess. Well, I don't know yet what she likes." he eventually replied, suddenly showing high interest in his plate.
"You didn't talk to her at all since then?"
"Not really. We did cross paths in the corridors, but that's about all."
"What if she believes that you rejected her?"
"What? No!" Kagami turned round eyes at him, starting to panic. "I mean, I told her to wait till tomorrow."
"Some people would take it as rejection." Himuro observed almost indifferently. Apparently the face Kagami pulled was eloquent enough for the latter to add hastily: "But I'm sure if she hasn't come to you again, it means she's still waiting, so you shouldn't worry about it!"
At this point, the power forward wasn't certain if he should be relieved or if his friend had simply tried to reassure him. He decided to play for the former. For the span of a second, however, a rather disturbing thought formed in his head: he actually didn't feel worried at all at the fact that the girl may reject him. He quickly dismissed it, putting it on the account of a frustrating day – as he didn't get to play basketball. He did want to work things out with that girl, didn't he? After all, it was for that purpose that he had been hanging out every day with his childhood friend, it was for that purpose that said friend had spent time and energy teaching him how to behave towards a girl, how to kiss, what to say and what to do. The least he could do now was to repay Himuro by making his first date ever work.
Pulling himself together, he resumed the conversation:
"...Right. Well, there's just tonight left anyway. And speaking of which, uh... I was wondering if we could, like... go over the whole thing again, to make sure I don't mess up or anything."
"A sort of review, you mean? Like before an exam?" Himuro chuckled, making Kagami scowl.
"Don't compare that to an exam, that's sick." he mumbled. "But yeah, that's the idea."
He watched as the Yosen player lowered his eyes, deep in thought.
"Hmm, I think you're doing fine, you don't need a review. However there's one last thing I'd like to teach you." the latter said after a few seconds of reflection.
"What is it?" Kagami inquired, curious, only to be met with an enigmatic smile.
"You'll see in due time."
"All right." the redhead replied reluctantly.
As he stood up and started piling the empty plates, the impulse to make a suggestion suddenly seized him. He had never really worded the suggestion out loud for he knew the answer was most likely to be negative, but tonight was probably the last night Himuro would come to his place, so he decided to go for it:
"Tatsuya, do you want to watch a movie tonight?" he asked casually. "I know you don't want to stay late here because of your bus, and you don't want to stay over either, but I'd really like it if you could make an exception for today. I've got this movie Kuroko lent me; apparently it's great but I'm not motivated to watch it alone. So, watch it with me? Please?"
The Yosen player was busy putting dishes in the sink, and given the few seconds of silence that followed, Kagami expected yet another refusal. However, the dark-haired male soon nodded at him with a smile.
"Sure. It doesn't hurt, once in a while. And it's the last night so I suppose I can make an effort. Let me just inform Atsushi not to wait for me."
"Great!" Kagami grinned. "I'll wash the dishes, then we can go watch it."
On his side, Himuro found himself in a pretty conflicted state, not able to get rid of the main questions currently monopolizing his head: what was Kagami's purpose for suddenly offering him to stay over? Or wasn't there any purpose but just to watch that movie? Was it just a coincidence that he happened to ask just on their last night together?
Probably. Kagami would never have any ulterior motives, it wasn't in his character to do so. But what if? What if, for once, his Taiga actually had a reason behind his offer? And what if that reason happened to be the same as his? For yes, truth be told, if he hadn't been asked to stay, then he would have been the one to make the move. It was their final evening, after all, and he hadn't lied when he had said that there was still one last thing to teach his dear little brother.
Both boys soon found themselves seated comfortably on the sofa, the only source of light coming from the TV screen in front of them. Himuro had both legs crossed under him and was holding a steaming cup of tea in his hands.
"Apparently it's an action movie or something." he heard Kagami comment as the latter pressed a button on the remote to start the DVD. "Sorry it's not some mushy stuff for girls." the redhead added, grinning.
"I don't particularly fancy soppy movies anyway." Himuro grimaced.
The DVD started, prompting them to fall silent. They were seated close enough to each other for their arms to brush lightly, which per se wasn't strange given their bond; however the circumstances tonight gave a whole different meaning to such a closeness, at least from Himuro's point of view. In the past, they often sat next to each other to rest after a basketball match, or when they had meals together with Alex, or when playing video games.
The only difference was that Himuro would never reach for Kagami's hand to lace their fingers together, as he was doing right now. He felt Kagami start lightly though he showed no resistance at the touch. Kagami's hand was a bit cold, or maybe it was just his own hand which was too warm after holding the cup of tea. Not that it really mattered.
The dark-haired male would be lying if he said his full attention was directed at the movie; truth be told, his eyes may be watching the screen and seeing the images flashing by it, but his mind had long wandered to other places, centred on a certain redhead basketball player. His normal composure had somewhat left him to be replaced by a certain tension which he was trying hard to control. It was his last night at Kagami's place, which meant it was his only chance to claim the entirety of Kagami as his own. Taiga had requested his help on how to lead a relationship, and he would fulfil his duty faultlessly. His grip unconsciously tightened around Kagami's hand, but if the younger teen noticed it, he didn't show it.
Himuro's lips curved into a weary smile. If only he had been blessed with the same obliviousness and carefree attitude as his dear Taiga; it would have spared him a lot of mental strain. And if he had had just a bit fewer qualms, it could have relieved his conscience from the heavy burden of his feelings of guilt.
The movie dragged on for what seemed to be an eternity, in Himuro's opinion. Next to him, Kagami seemed to think otherwise given the constant spark of excitement in his eyes. From time to time, he would even make a few enthusiastic comments, to which Himuro would reply with a nod of approval and a smile. Inwardly, he didn't care much that the main character's idea to sneak into the enemy base through the sewers was brilliant, no more than he cared about how that female lead looked a lot like Alex.
"You don't like the movie?" Kagami inquired at some point, frowning slightly.
"Hm? I do, why are you asking?"
"Dunno, you don't look like you're enjoying it."
"Do I? Well, weren't you the one who said I always keep a poker face?" Himuro teased back, eliciting a grin from the other teen.
"Right. But it wouldn't hurt if you expressed yourself a bit more sometimes." Kagami added as he turned his attention back to the TV screen.
Himuro froze for a second at those words. Certainly, Kagami hadn't intended anything else when he had uttered them, yet they felt like a stick poking at him in an unpleasant way. 'I fear it would actually hurt a bit, Taiga. And what about you? Aren't you hiding something yourself?' Maybe he was deceiving himself, maybe his assumption was plainly wrong, maybe it was but a fool's hope, yet deep inside he wanted to strongly believe that Kagami was at least a tiny bit conflicted about his own feelings, too. The short conversation with Kuroko had played a part in consolidating his belief.
At the same time, he didn't dare push his hopes too high, for the higher they got, the harder the fall. Moreover, the probability for Kagami to give up on that girl was certainly about as high as the probability for him to give up on basketball.
It didn't matter. In two days, it would be different but for now, Kagami was still his and his only.
It was with both silent relief and stress that he saw the credits finally roll in. Stress because the tough part was coming now. Next to him, Kagami stretched his arms with a loud yawn.
"Well, that was a good movie, what do you think?" he addressed Himuro.
"Indeed, it was."
"I'll have to thank Kuroko for the recommendation." the Seirin player commented as he stood up from the sofa to take out the DVD and turn on the light, making Himuro wince at the sudden brightness.
"Yes, it was a good idea." he said, for lack of anything else to reply.
"Anyway, I haven't prepared the spare room yet." Kagami went on, putting the DVD back into its case. "Can you fetch some sheets and a blanket in the cupboard in my room?"
Himuro's pulse had started to accelerate, no matter how much he willed it to calm down. He took in a deep breath, and stepped closer to the younger teen.
"Taiga," he called out the name softly, "I told you earlier there was still one last thing for me to teach you, didn't I?"
"Yeah, you did." Kagami replied, visibly intrigued by his tone.
"Now is the time for you to learn."
"Now? Isn't it kinda late? Can't you do it tomorrow morning?"
The Yosen player smiled and shook his head.
"Now is the perfect time. Tomorrow will be too late."
In the face of Kagami's questioning gaze, Himuro couldn't help but sigh with a resigned smile. His hand reached to Kagami's cheek in a gentle caress, his eyes staring straight into confused ones. He felt Kagami warm up at the touch, looking clearly clueless as for what was happening.
"There is a last step for you to take before I can let you go without any worries." he said quietly, his thumb hovering Kagami's lower lip.
"A l-last step?" the latter asked uneasily with a gulp.
Himuro nodded. While he was trying his best to keep his tone unwavering, his mind was the current ground for a hard struggle between himself and himself. For days he had planned this, though countless times had he given up for the sole sake of keeping his dear brother's integrity; now the battle between his conscience and emotions was more forceful than ever. The object of his desire was there, within reach, at his mercy. It would be easy to make his move, he simply needed to pretend it was for training's sake. Taiga trusted him, he would follow along if he was convinced it was for his own good.
It was where his conscience kicked in. Hadn't he abused that very same trust enough already? If he cherished Kagami so much, wouldn't it be the best option to give up on him now, before he did something he would regret for the rest of his life? After all, Kagami had already made his choice, and his choice wasn't Himuro. Therefore there was no need to further this masquerade anymore. It would only end up hurting him even more.
"Tatsuya?" Kagami called, a hint of uncertainty in his tone. "Is there something wrong?"
"Nothing." Himuro shook his head. "I was just thinking about how much you've grown."
"What's with that all of a sudden?"
Yet instead of an answer, the dark-haired male stood on the tip of his toes and connected his lips with Kagami's. There was half a second of resistance from the taller teen, probably due to being caught off guard, but no other complaint was emitted. Himuro's free hand then slipped slowly under Kagami's shirt, making the latter tense up at the touch. Truth be told, he wasn't much more relaxed himself, even though it wasn't the first time he touched someone that way. But it was the first time with Kagami. Getting bolder at the redhead's seemingly absence of rejection, he let his hand roam a bit higher on Kagami's chest, feeling with delight the lines of each muscle under his fingers, and farther on, the cold touch of Kagami's ring.
This time however, Kagami grabbed the wandering hand and broke the kiss, flushed.
"Tatsuya, wait." he managed to articulate despite the rather dazed state he was in.
"What is it?" Himuro asked gently. Kagami wasn't going to step down now, was he? He felt the pace of his heartbeat increase, and for a few seconds he stopped breathing. What if Kagami really rejected him? What if he saw through his real intentions? 'It would be better that way.' Himuro thought bitterly. It would be better, for it would prevent him from falling any further into that ridiculous farce that was bound to end with an indelible wound.
"It's just... you're... you're acting a bit strangely today." Kagami replied, as red as ever, though he made no gesture to push the Yosen player away.
"Taiga..." the latter sighed. It was with his eyes locked on Kagami and a knot in the throat that he uttered the next words: "If you want me to stop, just tell me now and I'll stop."
"Well, I..." Kagami bit his lower lip, flinching a bit under Himuro's gaze, and fell silent.
Something snapped inside of the shorter teen.
"Taiga. Look at me. Please." he commanded, though without raising his tone. As Kagami complied, he went on: "When you love someone, you cannot afford to love them half-heartedly. Now make up your mind already. I will not believe that you still don't get what I'm trying to teach you now, even if it's you. I know you aren't that clueless. Am I wrong?"
He watched patiently as Kagami widened his eyes before looking away again. He gulped and opened his mouth as if to answer something, though no word came out. Only a few seconds had passed, but it felt like an entire minute to Himuro. And then finally, against all hope, a pair of deep red eyes met his again, and what he read in them made his heart jolt.
He waited for Kagami to say something, hardly containing the sudden excitement surging in him. And say something the taller teen did.
"I get it, Tatsuya." he almost whispered. "I do."
"Will you let me show you then?" Himuro asked softly, his hand stroking Kagami's cheek in encouragement. His heart was now pounding against his ribcage, and he could tell that Kagami wasn't in such a different state.
And when the latter finally nodded silently, Himuro kissed him again. No words were pronounced when they moved to the bedroom, hand in hand and both impatient and nervous at the same time. However, Kagami emitted a sound of surprise when he found himself pushed on the bed with Himuro on top of him.
"Isn't it supposed to be... you know... the other way around?" he finished almost inaudibly, and Himuro saw him blush deeply in embarrassment, despite the darkness in which the room was plunged.
"I know I've always told you to pretend I'm your girlfriend," Himuro smiled, "but you need to be showed first how things are done. Don't worry, Taiga, I'll teach you properly." he added as he bent to kiss Kagami on his forehead.
He could feel the redhead panic, yet he was utterly pleased when the latter nodded again, trusting the one he had always admired until the end.
There was no turning back now. Himuro mercilessly stifled the tiny voice in his head that was still protesting against it, choosing to release instead the desire he had kept locked for so long inside him. What followed was but sheer instinct; each gesture, each movement, each whisper was passion-driven, rendering any thinking useless. They were perhaps sometimes clumsy, sometimes awkward, but they'd just chuckle it away and try again. Himuro could hardly believe what was happening. The one he had always been yearning after from a distance was finally surrendering to him, willing and welcoming the embrace without restraint. The pace was slow, for he wished for the night to drag on and on, eternally if that was ever possible; unfortunately, he knew that the word 'eternity' wasn't meant for human beings, therefore he made sure to carve permanently in his mind every minute, every second of this night. He wanted everlasting memories of the way Taiga was clinging to him, of each of his gasps, of every time he called his name with a pleasure-filled voice, of his perfect body laid bare just for him, of how they joined feverishly into one over and over again in the middle of rustles of sheets and soft cries.
Himuro's hunger never seemed to be sated, no matter how he fed on Kagami; on the contrary, it was growing more and more, driving both boys to the limits of exhaustion. He didn't care, and Kagami wasn't emitting any complaint. And so they went on eagerly, fervently, almost desperately, drowning themselves in a bliss they had never experienced and forgetting everything about teaching and pretence.
However, time didn't wait for anyone and the night had to fatally come to an end. Both boys were locked in each other's embrace, panting and sweating like after a match. Their matching rings were still hanging around their necks. Himuro brought a hand to Kagami's messy hair, stroking it slowly and absent-mindedly. He envied the younger teen for being able to fall asleep so quickly and peacefully like that. Like someone who had been yanked away too soon from a pleasurable dream, he once again fell prey to familiar torments.
It hurt. He had just obtained what he desired most in the world, and yet it hurt. It hurt because in one day Kagami wouldn't be his anymore. In one day he would leave his side for the sake of another person's happiness. Where would that leave him?
Kuroko Tetsuya had been wrong all along. Kagami didn't feel a thing for him. At least, he didn't feel what he wanted him to feel. And he had been a fool to cling until the last second to the Phantom player's words. He should have known better than to even hope for anything.
"Tatsuya, are you cold?" Kagami's drowsy voice snatched him out of his unpleasant thoughts.
"I thought you were sleeping." Himuro commented, slightly taken off guard.
"I wasn't. So, are you cold? You're shaking a bit. I'll pull the blanket over." the redhead decided, following his words with action.
"Thank you." Himuro nestled himself closer to Kagami's warm body. "We should really try to get some sleep. School starts in a few hours." he added with a sigh, glancing at the luminous numbers on Kagami's alarm clock.
The Yosen player closed his eyes, doubting that the few hours of sleep he'd get would soothe him in any way.
Kagami couldn't fall asleep. He simply couldn't. Not after such a night. Himuro's soft and regular breathing against his bare chest indicated that there was at least someone here who didn't share the same troubles as him. He wasn't exactly sure how things had ended up like this, to be honest. At first, he had thought that it would just be a nice evening in company of his closest friend, watching a cool movie and then maybe talk a bit about basketball before going to sleep.
But then Himuro had started to act funny. Maybe it was an automatic defensive mechanism, but Kagami had primarily stubbornly refused to understand what was going on. All this time he had felt comfortable and secure with how Himuro had been leading things; the latter had always showed a great deal of patience with him, even at his most clueless moments, but not this time. This time, he had driven him into a corner and left him with two choices: follow him or stay behind.
The situation was very similar to playing basketball against a member of the Generation of Miracles, and therefore the answer was also no different: when pushed to a wall, the only way out was to move forward.
So he had moved forward, yielding to Himuro's invitation.
And now his mind was a mess.
No matter how much he tried to convince himself that what they had done was fore the mere sake of teaching him, he couldn't help but feel that he was missing something really huge. His arms wrapped unconsciously tighter around the shorter male's frame. Should he even be holding the one he called 'brother' in such a way? Worse, should he have let himself be held by that very same brother?
Unless… unless the bond that was joining them wasn't really one of brotherhood anymore. Then, how was he supposed to call it? What did the rings around their necks mean now?
No answer came to him, much to his annoyance.
With a mental sigh, he closed his eyes, trying to empty his head. In a few hours, he'd go to school, meet the girl and give her his answer. In a few hours, he'd finally be able to put everything that he had learnt into practice.
And somehow, for some reason, he didn't rejoice as much as he should have.
When Kagami opened his eyes again, the first thing he noticed was that he was alone in the bed; however, the faint noise he could hear from behind the closed door reassured him immediately on Himuro's whereabouts. Though hardly able to stand up – because of the lack of sleep and another reason – he still managed to put on some clothes and get out of the room.
As expected, the Yosen player as in the living room, fully dressed and... ready to leave? The latter raised his eyes as he saw Kagami step in, and greeted him with a smile:
"Good morning, Taiga. I'm sorry, I didn't ask for your permission to use your kitchen, but I left your breakfast over there." he said, motioning to the table where rice, scrambled eggs, fish and stir-fried vegetables were laid.
Because his mind was still in a foggy state, it took him a few seconds to register Himuro's words.
"Oh, uh, thanks." he managed to reply after a while. "Wait, you're leaving now?"
"I have to go back to the dorm to drop my stuff and get changed before going to school." the other teen replied. "I'm borrowing your clothes again but I'll give them back once I wash them."
"I'll be leaving, then." There was a pause. Then: "Good luck."
Again, there was a delay before Kagami understood what Himuro was talking about. His eyes widened when he finally did, but Himuro was already walking towards the door, apparently taking his silence as a dismissal sign.
"Wait, Tatsuya!" Kagami hurried after him and grabbed him by the wrist, eliciting a surprised reaction from Himuro.
Their eyes met, and for the span of a second Kagami was about as startled as the other teen. Startled, because of the distress he saw reflected in Himuro's eyes. It was a mere flash, but Kagami was certain he hadn't been mistaken. He opened his mouth but his brain was drawing a blank as for what to say.
"I really have to go before I'm late." Himuro let out with strange weariness, turning his head away and pulling his wrist back with no effort.
"It's just that... it feels kinda strange for you to leave just like that." Kagami replied uneasily. He disliked that kind of awkward atmosphere, and he disliked it even more when Himuro was involved. They were brothers, everything between them was supposed to be transparent, wasn't it?
The shooting guard sighed. "Sorry, it's just that I don't want to be late for school. That's why I have to hurry. Anyway, I hope everything will be all right for you. I'll... call you later."
As he was about to leave though, hesitation painted on his face; turning back to Kagami, he gently prompted him to lower his head and gave him a kiss on the forehead. The next second, he was there no more, leaving a rather befuddled redhead behind.
Kagami was normally not one to possess great intuition, yet this time, his intuition told him that Himuro wasn't telling him everything. And what had that pained expression of his meant? Had he done something wrong? If so, why hadn't Himuro told him anything?
He tousled his hair, clicking his tongue of annoyance. Today was the big day. He was supposed to be at the best of his shape and yet here he was, having hardly slept and his thoughts in complete disarray. 'First, eat. Then, think.'
After a short trip to the bathroom to freshen up, he headed for the table where the various dishes were waiting for him, still hot. He didn't remember having ever tried Himuro's cooking before, and he regretted the fact right on the first bite. Though simple, the dishes were truly tasty. 'Damn him. Next time he comes here, I'll let him cook.' he thought, before remembering that he had no clue when 'next time' would be. Starting today, the one he'd invite to his place wouldn't be Himuro anymore. The one he'd hang out with most of the time wouldn't he Himuro anymore. The one he'd kiss wouldn't be Himuro anymore.
And suddenly his chest tightened, and he realized that something was terribly wrong with him. For the first time, a new, pernicious thought surfaced in his mind; a thought he had never wanted to pay attention to.
He wanted Himuro Tatsuya back.
But now it was too late, wasn't it? And what about her? He couldn't simply show up and turn her down just like that. Guilt seized him at the mere thought of it. From the little he had seen and the few glimpses he had caught of her, she was sweet, kind, and above all, she had been willing to wait for him while other girls would have probably just given up and found someone else, as Himuro had observed. He would not easily find another girl like her.
And yet, whenever he tried to picture her face, her long brown hair would find itself shortening and darkening, her green pupils would slowly shift to grey and her round features would sharpen a bit more to turn into an entirely different person. Then those eyes would look at him with affliction.
Kagami shook his head. He was tired and he lacked sleep, it was why he wasn't able to think clearly. Still, the queer gaze Himuro had had before they parted was bothering him to no end.
He wanted his Tatsuya back.
But the feeling was probably not mutual. After all, the only reason Himuro had agreed to help him was because they were childhood friends and, in a way, brothers. Why else would he have gone through all the trouble of teaching him, if not for that reason? But then again, he had gone far beyond what Kagami had expected in terms of teaching, and the Seirin player found himself blushing madly again as glimpses of their past night together came back to him: Tatsuya's gentle caresses leaving trails of fire on his skin, his lips wandering in places he'd never have imagined possible, their bodies entwined together, moving together until his mind was but blankness.
Himuro didn't have to go that far for his sake, and yet he had.
When you love someone, you cannot afford to love them half-heartedly.
Kagami jumped. At first, he hadn't paid further attention to those simple words, that obvious statement that had been pronounced; but now it came back in full force, hitting him straight at his face. It couldn't… it couldn't be… right? Given his natural awful perception of human feelings, he wasn't quite certain yet of what the cogs of his brain were trying to make him realize, though a tiny, remote part of him already knew.
It was simply so huge that he had completely – and ironically – missed it all along. However, understanding it didn't mean he was out of trouble, far from that. Until now, it had been so easy. There was only one straight path in front of him, leading to that girl. But now, a new one was progressively tracing itself, more devious, less distinct and definitely not within Kagami's calculations. And he still wasn't positive where that one was leading to. Which path was he supposed to follow? The easy, straight and safe one, or…
Choices were a tremendous hassle, Kagami reflected as he angrily shoved a piece of fish into his mouth. Then he put down his chopsticks on the table and sighed loudly, gazing for several minutes at the dishes without really seeing them. After a while, he shut his eyes tight. Slowly, two people took shape in his mind, standing in front of him and holding out their hands to him. And here he was, not knowing which one to reach for. He tried reaching for the first one; he felt sympathy, kindness emanating from that person, and yet it left him with a bitter taste at the back of his throat and an aching void in the pit of his stomach. He tried reaching for the second one, and the bitterness and the ache were no more.
When Kagami opened his eyes, hesitation left place to resolve. There was only one possible path for him, and Kuroko was right: he was an utter idiot for not having realized it earlier.
Wolfing down his breakfast, he hurried to get ready for school.
Himuro had left his phone turned off for the entire day, to resist the urge of sending any message to Kagami. Later, he told himself. He'd inquire about Kagami's new girlfriend later. Maybe.
The bell rang the end of classes and already, most students were chatting happily among themselves to discuss about tonight's plans. The Yosen shooting guard was in no mood for that. Grabbing his back, he headed mechanically back to the dorms, hardly paying any attention to his surroundings. If someone called his name, he didn't hear it.
Nevertheless, at some point he glanced by luck – or was it intuition? – to the school gates and frowned. Behind the stream of uniformed boys and girls flowing out, he easily spotted a taller redheaded figure. His chest tightened at the sight. What was he doing here? He should be in a café, in a park, anywhere with that girl but here! The distance and the crowd prevented Himuro from determining whether Kagami was accompanied or not. Maybe that idiotic little brother of his had brought her here to introduce her to him. Great. It was the last thing Himuro needed.
Torn between curiosity and complete refusal to meet with Kagami, he eventually picked the latter option. Turning away from the school entrance, he strode towards the dorms, shutting out the annoying voice in his head that kept nagging him about his stubbornness.
Too bad not everything could go as smoothly as he wanted; a few seconds later, a familiar voice called out his name:
"Muro-chiiin~" a certain purple-haired teen drawled, catching up with Himuro in no time.
"Atsushi." the shorter male greeted him with his characteristic smile.
"You're not gonna go?"
"Go where?" Himuro cocked an eyebrow. Murasakibara vaguely gestured towards the school gates.
"He's here today too. You didn't see him?" he asked, sounding as uninterested as usual.
Himuro tensed up automatically. "… I did."
If the Yosen ace found his answer strange, he didn't press it. It was one of the reasons Himuro enjoyed Murasakibara's company: the teen was too childish to bother with grown-ups' matters.
"Hmmm… He's coming over here." the latter commented as he produced a bag of crisps from his schoolbag.
Himuro jumped, immediately checking the veracity of his friend's words. Indeed, it wasn't hard to spot a redhead walking against the flow and heading towards him, unaccompanied. He was tempted for a second to pretend he hadn't seen him and hurry back to the dorms, but how would he explain that to Kagami? With a sigh of exasperation, he resigned himself to face his little brother.
"Tatsuya!" the latter called as he got closer, visibly flushed by a bit of sprinting. He gave a short nod at Murasakibara who merely picked another handful of crisps and shoved them in his mouth.
"What are you doing here, Taiga? You shouldn't be within our school grounds, especially when there are still so many people around." Himuro declared flatly, his tone as detached as possible.
"Well, you weren't answering your phone at all, even after I left you four messages." Kagami replied, scratching his head.
"My phone ran out of batteries this morning."
"What do you need, Taiga? I don't have all day." the dark-haired male urged, slightly annoyed.
"Well, huh…" Kagami hesitated, glancing towards Murasakibara who seemed completely oblivious to the situation.
Taking the hint, Himuro patted his teammate's arm.
"Atsushi, could you go back first? I won't be long."
"Hm? OK." the latter shrugged and walked away with indifference. As he did so, Himuro turned back to Kagami:
And listen he did. And the words he heard were ones he hadn't even hoped would ever come out of Kagami's mouth. The words he heard made him stare at the Seirin power forward with round and incredulous eyes, they made his legs wobble and his heart race and pound heavily against his chest, they made him stand speechless like an idiot; and they finally made him lace both his arms tightly around Kagami's neck, not caring the least bit about the queer looks they were receiving from the students around them.
And he whispered back words at Kagami's ear, a genuine smile on his lips, overwhelmed with bliss as the taller teen returned the embrace clumsily and nestled his face in Himuro's neck.
As the Yosen player held Kagami's deep red cheeks between his hands and pressed his lips to his, he formed an apologetic thought to Murasakibara to whom he had promised to have dinner with.
That'd have to be postponed.
A/N: And that was the last chapter! Hope you enjoyed it! I'll confess it wasn't the easiest pairing to write, but hey, I like a bit of challenge.