Hello again friends! It's been a while! And of course, I'm going to apologise for taking so long to update this fic. This semester at uni has been...draining, and it's been sucking the enjoyment out of things and sapping away all motivation to write, which has been the worst. Ahh, sometimes life happens. But here we are, and thank you to everyone who has patiently stuck around for this!

It's long! And I'm sorry if you don't like how this one's written, but I'm gonna say that that's just how it is. Apologies. I'm just glad that I managed to finally continue with this, seeing as I've had such support, and have loved writing it so much!


This was a routine he had gone through many, many times before. It was almost aimless, the way he wandered down the street; so familiar with the route from school to the basketball courts that he could well have walked it in his sleep. It often didn't matter if he'd already had practice that day; he'd usually find himself shooting hoops until late –usually to sort of regret it when he discovered that he still had homework he hadn't done.

At some point –Kagami wasn't actually that sure when –he'd started winding up with company at the courts. He wasn't exactly sure how it happened, but at some point, there was a taunt made; a challenge thrown down, and Aomine had started becoming a part of that routine.

It wasn't often, at first, really, because they weren't friends, as much as their mutual acquaintances really would have appreciated them getting along. It was simply that they both wanted to pit themselves against a strong opponent, and neither of them could back down from a challenge.

But then, familiarity grew, and things started changing, and the routine with it all. Kagami had lost count of the amount of times he had run through this now; meeting up with Aomine at the court, playing basketball until it got dark –sometimes even later –and then they would head to the nearest burger joint, or Kagami's, for food. They would argue on the court, try and rile each other up during their games, and probably fight over who was paying for dinner. That was just how things ran, and it was a routine that Kagami had come to, well…enjoy.

Today though; on this particular day, something felt different. He was walking the same path as he always did, towards the pattern that he and Aomine had so naturally fallen into, and yet, it didn't feel nearly as effortless as he was used to.

He was dragging his feet, for one thing, which was unusual. Most days, he'd be stalking towards the courts, practically dripping with determination to put the smug bastard in his place, or get revenge for his last loss. More recently, there had been a bit of embarrassing spring to that haughty stride, betraying his excitement at the promise of seeing the other ace.

Today he was better at hiding that though, but that didn't change the fact that, as he often did, he kind of wanted to see Aomine. A kind of anticipation had been building since Aomine's call just yesterday, and had Kagami's chest not felt quite so heavy, and the action not seemed so lame, he might have run to the court.

He hadn't slept well the night before, but the weight in his chest had little to do with the lack of sleep, and a lot more to do with what had been keeping him up. This morning, he'd turned up to class looking as red eyed and dead as he usually did before basketball games –having been unusually restless throughout the night. As much as he'd tossed and turned and struggled against his bed, he hadn't been able to get comfortable –and at any point that he started feeling as though he might actually drift off, his mind had started whispering.

The nagging questions that had plagued Kagami for the better part of the week –probably longer, in fact –they had come back in distracting, uneasy mutters, fighting against the part of his mind that was trying to convince himself that nothing had changed; that there was no reason to be stressing.

Why? Where do we go from here? Was this a one-time thing?

…Did it mean anything to you? It did to me.

What…what is this, now?

Those were the questions. Those were the ones that had been spinning around in his head for a while now, and he had lain there in bed, staring at the roof, and wondered how many of those he was going to find an answer for. Also…he wondered what it would be like…

Will it be weird to see him?

He wasn't exactly sure why it would be. They'd definitely pushed beyond the boundaries of 'friends' before, and the other times, sure there'd been a touch of awkwardness and their fair share of tenseness, but they'd managed to get through all of that, sort of. Staggered and stumbled through it all, but they'd come out well enough on the other side, in the end.

Kagami knew that he shouldn't be thinking so hard. People slept together all the time, and it didn't get any kind of weird, right? If it did, then relationships just wouldn't last. Things didn't necessarily need to change or get weird just because someone's dick had been somewhere new…although admittedly, that thought itself was a little…awkward, and something that liked to creep back into his mind when he wasn't expecting it.

Even as he neared the basketball courts, he was still caught up in his thoughts; a little more tense than he rather wanted to admit to himself. It bothered him, maybe a little, that all of a sudden, things that he'd never really put thought into; like what he should say, or what kind of face he should make; they'd started flitting through his mind.

He didn't want to be putting thought into things like that. He wanted things to be…well…like they had been.

Normal. Or something.

In the distance, Kagami heard the sound of a basketball beating against concrete, and he found it oddly soothing. He kept pace with the sound, spying the fence of the street court just up ahead.

He knew instantly that it was Aomine. How could he not? He'd know that figure and that form anywhere. But it was unusual to see him actually on time for something –Kagami's deliberate slowness had relied on Aomine's habit of being late. The rhythmic drumming of the ball quickened, and Kagami's heart with it, as Aomine dribbled across the court, dodging imaginary foes and darting forwards with that incredible speed of his. He paused; calculating, almost; faking, just slightly –the kind of fake that an ordinary player would fall for, before driving past the shadow foe with all that power that the redhead was used to facing.

The ball went sailing through the hoop, and it took Kagami a moment to realise that he'd stopped walking; hand clenched on the wire fencing.

Without missing a beat, Aomine retrieved the ball and was back in action again, unaware of the red eyes watching him from the distance. Playing against him was what Kagami enjoyed best, but he had to admit, that actually watching the other ace play…it was just as entrancing. Each of his movements were fluid and powerful; graceful, almost; practically a blur on the concrete. The ball moved easily in his hands; like there was nothing more natural to him –but though he moved effortlessly, Kagami noticed that the other ace's brow was creased in deep concentration that seemed rather out of place.

But god did he look just…so…cool.

He swallowed nervously; his fingers gripping the fence a little tighter as he felt a blush rise to his cheeks. Was he fucking lame or what? Who apart from Kise actually thought that Aomine was cool?

Dammit.

Letting out a low breath and shaking his head to try and clear it a little, he broke away from the fence and headed towards the court. What the hell was he doing getting all flustered about something as simple as just a game of basketball?

…Maybe it was because he didn't know what was going to happen. He could tell himself over and over again that this was just another game...but all these questions...

So immersed in his own thoughts and the game against no one in particular, Aomine didn't hear Kagami approach. The redhead was about to call out to him, but before he got the chance, the other ace lined up one of his insane formless shots and released the ball, sending it arcing through the air and down through the hoop.

The ball hit the ground and rolled towards Kagami's feet.

Reaching out a hand to stop its advance, he chuckled, almost to himself, and let some of the tension leave his shoulders.

"I must have you pretty scared if you're getting in some extra practice," he commented, lifting the ball from the ground, his eyes rising as he straightened. He hadn't noticed; eyes trained on the ball, but at the sound of his voice, Aomine had stiffened slightly; thankful his back was turned, lest Kagami catch sight of the flash of relief that crossed his gaze.

"…Tch, I almost thought you weren't coming," Aomine scoffed, and though the bluenette had meant for it to sound like a sneer, even he heard the almost sombre air to his words. He swallowed it down, refusing to betray himself.

"Like I'd miss the chance to kick your ass," Kagami snorted arrogantly, and Aomine couldn't help but smirk, glancing back over his shoulder.

Their gazes met, and instantly, Kagami felt his entire body heat up furiously.

Reality sucker punched him as soon as he saw Aomine's face. Images, thoughts and memories all poured crashing through Kagami's mind; all fuelled by the other ace's expression. He was smirking, yes –that infuriating quirk of his lips…but there was that god-awful look in his eyes that never failed to make Kagami's heart swell. It reminded him of playful morning kisses, and intense longing stares just so full of him, and the glint they'd had as they ran down his naked body. A sudden wave of embarrassment washed over him, suddenly feeling laid bare all over again.

Since the weekend, he hadn't been able to stop thinking about it –and therefore, about Aomine. It was embarrassing about how frequently his thoughts had drifted back to that night; the images, and the feel of the other ace on top of him, kissing him, being inside him. It was worse than how things had been at the carwash, because where all of that had been fantasy; distracting thoughts of wicked things and terrible, exciting daydreams –this was more than imagination. And even though it was a part of reality, all of that was just him distracted by the ghosts of touches; by memories and poorly-timed flashbacks.

But as of right now, he was actually confronted with the living, breathing, hot-as-fuck reminder of the rather mind-blowing sex he'd had with Aomine Daiki.

I had sex with him, was the first thing that Kagami's mind decided to announce to itself –just in case he'd forgotten. The mental gasp felt almost incredulous…mostly because there were times when Kagami forgot how actually very attractive Aomine was. Usually, that bored scowl, or whatever was spouting from his mouth managed to distract from the fact that the other ace was a rather good looking guy. But, as Aomine turned; his smirk bordering more on smile, Kagami couldn't help but admit that he thought he was hot.

He was sweating lightly; white tank making his tanned skin seem bronze, and muscled shoulders rolling to loosen a kink. His face, softened by the curl of his lips and the way his eyes had lit up slightly, was undeniably attractive –the kind of guy that girls could drool over.

And he was the person that Kagami had lost his virginity to.

Somehow, despite all his thoughts and reassurances, Kagami couldn't help but spend a few mortifying moments as a deer in headlights; brain smoking with the effort of drowning out the sirens that seemed to sound along the lines of holy shit, this guy had his dick in my ass…..

It was a struggle to keep his face neutral, and to not give away the fact that there were currently not-so-PG memories flashing through his mind; images of Aomine hovering over him; body moving heatedly against his own, pants bursting through parted lips. But he managed, somehow, swallowing slightly as Aomine's brow tightened into a small frown.

Was Aomine thinking the same? What was Aomine thinking? His expression seemed impassable –but there was obviously something on his mind.

"You gonna stand there all day looking like an idiot, or are we gonna play?" Aomine drawled flatly –tone almost teasing as he steeled his gaze. For a moment there, Kagami was a little taken aback by the familiarity, and then relaxed; the tension leaving his body as he chuckled sheepishly; lips twitching into a smile.

Normal.

Instead of replying, Kagami just biffed the ball at Aomine's face. The other ace scoffed, catching it with ease before dribbling slowly back towards the centre of the court. Kagami quickly dumped his bag on the bench that Aomine had already claimed, trying to remember how to hide a grin with a scowl and quite unable to. They'd gone for periods without playing against each other before, but this time it felt as though the days had dragged on. It felt like eons since their last game, and Kagami found that he was rearing to go.

" –Looking a bit stiff, Bakagami," Aomine snickered mockingly, as Kagami jogged back over, excitement flooding his system.

"I'll still crush you," the redhead snorted determinedly, deciding to not remind the bastard that he was responsible for him not being able to play for half the week, and therefore indirectly the cause of his stiffness. "Bring it on."

As soon as they faced off on the courts, Kagami felt it –that competitive heat flaring up between them; that intensity that had revived the old ace of Teiko. He let out a low breath, relaxing and trying to focus his eyes only on Aomine and the way the ball bounced evenly against the concrete.

The air was tense –the way it always was on the court. He could see Aomine's eyes narrowing; calculating, scanning him for signs of weakness. He didn't want to show any. This was their place, after all; the place where they were most comfortable, and where they fought their best battles.

Aomine shifted slightly, and Kagami's eyes tracked that subtle movement, judging it, and feeling a burst of adrenaline beginning to course through him. It felt good to be playing again –to be on the court, hearing the sound of the beating ball, and facing off against Aomine as the opponent he was made to be.

The air practically crackled, and with a swift acceleration, Aomine made his move.

Kagami's eyes narrowed as his pulse thudded deafeningly in his ears as he mirrored him, following the familiar movements. There was elation in Aomine's gaze too, but that wasn't foreign to the redhead at all. As much as the other ace might deny it –he truly did enjoy playing against him.

And for a moment, it was just how it usually was.

It wasn't unexpected for Aomine to be close –there were only the pair of them, after all, and he always took particular delight in slipping past Kagami's guard, and yet, somehow, it seemed to take him by surprise.

It stunned Kagami, himself. He didn't know what suddenly came over him, only the next thing he knew, he was hearing the sound of a ball clattering through a hoop. Spinning around in dismay, he was horrified and annoyed by the realisation that in that moment of pause, Aomine had managed to drive past him towards the hoop, where he was now swinging down from.

What was that? Was the question that suddenly struck both of them, though Aomine's face remained unreadable. Kagami, however, was less inclined towards a poker face, and didn't manage to hide the visible shock that the other ace had managed to get past him so easily.

It had only been a moment, he could've sworn!

They'd been facing off, like they always did, and then, all of a sudden, when Aomine had gotten so close –too close, it seemed –Kagami had paused. He'd felt that spark that always jumped between them when they faced off on the court, but this time, it had reminded him of another kind of spark –the hotter, more steaming kind. Aomine's eyes had flicked to him; just once, and he'd found his breath hitching and his body heating up at the raw intensity in that blue gaze.

And even as he celebrated internally at this game being just like any other, Kagami's heart had thudded and frozen. Feeling that magnetism; that pulsing energy between them and the rush that their basketball had always brought him –that had confirmed where they stood, and would always stand, on the court. Feeling that other kind of heat, however, reminded him that he had no idea where they stood off it.

And then, trapped as he so was in the memory of what that kind of heat led to, and that distracting, heavy thought, Aomine had shot past him.

"What was that about crushing me?" Aomine mocked with a raised eyebrow, and Kagami scowled crossly –annoyed mostly at himself for being so damn stupid and letting Aomine distract him. He couldn't let that happen. "You're going to have to do better than that, Bakagami."

"I'm just getting warmed up," he defended flatly, speaking mostly to himself as reassurance that it was completely understandable that it might take a few minutes to get back into the rhythm of things. That, and he wanted to get rid of whatever lump might threaten to build in his throat. He wanted a game; he wanted to just play. He didn't want to be distracted –couldn't afford to be, when Aomine was his opponent. This was their basketball, and he wanted it uncomplicated, and…fun. He couldn't lose him as a rival on the court; he just couldn't.

After his initial slip up, Kagami was determined to get the upper hand, and forced himself to focus.

But something wasn't quite right, and it was bothering him. There wasn't anything he could peg it on, so he wasn't sure if this niggling feeling was something real or just a figment of his imagination. Because, really Aomine didn't seem to have noticed anything out of the ordinary –apart from the fact that Kagami maybe wasn't as focused as he usually was. In fact, for all outward appearances, Aomine seemed completely normal.

Too normal, almost?

That…that was it, actually. That was the thing that Kagami was finding a little unsettling. Whereas he had wandered up to the court, obviously under a little bit of tension and with something playing on his mind, and entered into the game only to –rather shamefully –be immediately distracted by the sensation of Aomine's body passing him…Aomine…

He didn't seem to be having those sorts of problems.

He looks totally normal, Kagami couldn't help musing to himself; occupied enough by that thought that Aomine managed to slip past him –just barely. He regained ground almost as quickly as he lost it, though, and managed to catch sight of the other ace's face. He looked deep in concentration –but there was something off about him, and the redhead couldn't entirely place it.

Was it meant to annoy him, the fact that Aomine seemed as though nothing had changed? Because, that was what Kagami had been hoping for in the first place –at least, that's what he'd thought he wanted. So why was Aomine's ease irking him? Kagami was slightly on edge; slightly disarmed –his questions echoing through his head and teasing snippets of memories dotting his vision and throwing him off a little…

And yet, Aomine was playing as though…even…as though nothing had happened.

Was that meant to hurt? Dimly, Kagami was hit with the realisation that there was a big difference between nothing changing, and acting like nothing happened, and his chest constricted slightly.

But then there was Aomine again; bursting forth with that amazing and borderline frightening speed, and Kagami was forced to push all of that aside as his body moved automatically to bar his way, annoyance having suddenly flared into life at having been made such a fool of just before. He'd been playing against Aomine for a long while now, he reckoned –and he knew that as soon as Aomine kicked into gear, so would he. Maybe it was somehow ingrained into him by now to push back; to match him, mirror him, challenge him?

Almost without realising, his hand connected with the ball, sending it flying free from Aomine's reach and allowing Kagami to counter. And as his body moved through the motions; the rush of adrenaline that flooded him suddenly managed to drown it all out again.

They were on the court now, and the game was what mattered. There was no way in hell that he was going to let Aomine think that he could just walk all over him. So, all those things that had definitely gone unspoken of for this long…well, another game longer couldn't hurt. And if things were going to blow up in his face, he might as well face it with another victory under his belt.

So he pushed aside all else; took himself back to the days when Aomine was an asshole and basketball was the only thing between them. Simpler times, he knew, but he…now, maybe, he was man enough to admit that he didn't want to go back to them. They still had their basketball, but now there was more than that.

There were stolen kisses after games; heated looks and video games, spending time together and the less-than-subtle text conversations in class that Kagami's grins always gave away. And it wasn't just those things with Aomine, he had just recently realised (how could he have not seen it before) –where there had before been rivalry and a bit of mutual respect between all their teams, and teammates…now there was actual friendship, and that was kinda nice, too.

He wasn't sure how long they played. They were locked in their own, timeless world where the only things that existed were the ball, the court and each other. Neither of them gave an inch of ground; their chests heaving from exertion and their eyes still unwaveringly sharp and focused. Kagami refused to let their game pause; pushing himself, and therefore Aomine, for all he was worth.

But he wished Aomine would smile.

Maybe that was what felt off. Without realising, he'd grown accustomed to seeing that wide grin plastered across Aomine's face when they played –that honest-to-god happy smile that would spread to his eyes and make Momoi tear up and make Kagami want to grin right along with him. But today, he really noticed its absence.

They dove back and forth; two blurs against the court. Sometimes a passer-by would see them and stand in awe at their strength and focus, but they went unnoticed. Tension radiated outwards –emanating competition and something else. Their eyes followed every movement; every twitch –glimmering in the reddening afternoon light. And Kagami might have wished that Aomine would grace him with one of those real smiles, but he failed to notice that his own expression was just as stony.

It made Aomine frustrated, and worried.

He'd wanted to see him; wanted to play against him, like they usually did. That was why he'd called. Well, that was mostly why he'd called.

The thing was, he and Kagami weren't exactly renowned for their talking. At times they could be blunt to a fault, which inevitably led to an argument –their standard form of communication –but it had kind of gone unsaid that neither of them was exactly good at this whole…sharing aspect. It was all well and good to decide that he wanted to clear the air, as it were, but how exactly did one go about that without making things awkward and-slash-or looking like a total loser?

He'd turned up early to the court; wanting to distract himself a little –he didn't know how to start the conversation he wanted to have…didn't even know if he really wanted to have it; just in case –well, he didn't know what was going to happen. And if life was a basketball game, he would've found that exciting –not knowing where the game was going to go…

…But this wasn't a match, and though he'd made up his mind, there was that little whisper of doubt that refused to vanish; that little shred of fear that whispered sour warnings of rejection. It had made him tense, so he'd practiced, just by himself; imagining that the invisible player he was facing was Kagami at his finest –focused solely on defeating him. And then when the real Kagami had turned up, his spirits had lifted and that low-burning fire inside him had flared to life in anticipation of one of their games and relief that he'd actually turned up.

This game felt like any other. Mostly. Aomine was feeling drained –the kind of exhausted that made him feel unbelievably alive –and Kagami wasn't letting up. Every time he faked; every time he tried to shoot, Kagami would be there –trying to block, barring his way, in sync with him; making every point a challenge.

Focused solely on him.

And every time, Aomine's heart pounded louder in his chest, and he was sure it wasn't just to keep oxygenated blood circling. It was a reminder of what he loved about basketball; a reminder that he had found the rival that he had been yearning for, and more. It was that intense, blood-burning rush, and he knew that Kagami felt that too, at least.

But he and Kagami had been playing against each other for long enough for him to not realise that there was something…up. He couldn't pinpoint if there was something wrong, but he knew that there was definitely something off.

It was in Kagami's focus. Of course, it was expected that the redhead would be concentrating awfully hard when playing against him –Aomine would've been insulted if he wasn't. But this kind of intense focus was different –he seemed like he was concentrating too hard. The pressure he was exerting was insane; it made Aomine's blood race like nothing else, but something felt off about the exaggerated intensity in Kagami's face, and the look of veiled, almost...worry there as though there was something more to the way he was playing today.

Aomine didn't quite know what to think, but it unsettled him, a little.

He wondered where to go, after this. It seemed certain that talking on the court wasn't an option; they were both too absorbed in losing themselves in the game. Food, maybe? Suggest they go back to Kagami's? Or would that sound too presumptive? What he really wanted to do was steal a kiss –he'd been tempted to, a few times now, but it…it hadn't seemed like quite the right mood to do some. He wasn't feeling smug, or cheeky now, or teasing –the kinds of moods he was usually in when he nipped at Kagami's lips mid-game as a taunt and an indulgence.

They were both tiring. Kagami wasn't sure just how long they'd been playing for, only that his lungs were tight and his body was aching. He was burning; hadn't had a game of this intensity for what felt like too long –but admittedly, his concentration was slipping slightly, and slowly, the realisation that any time soon their game might have to end, was coming back to him.

The formless shot wasn't unexpected. It was as maddening as ever how Aomine could manage to take shots so ridiculously, but he was sure he was getting used to them. Over-eager to block, he jumped too soon.

Stuck in mid-air, it quickly became very apparent what was about to happen.

Aomine's hands released the ball; his torso lowering towards the ground in that ridiculous, monstrous way of his. Kagami's hand came slamming against it, swatting it away; a successful block. But his momentum, not only carrying him up, had also sent him forwards; straight towards Aomine's hovering figure.

With a violent curse, Kagami's body crashed down into Aomine's; the pair of them tumbling ungainly back to earth. Aomine managed to stand, briefly; his legs taking the brunt of the blow before the rest of him crumpled under Kagami's weight; the force of his jump ploughing him forwards.

It was only by some miracle that no bones connected and no bones were broken. Kagami could feel his knees stinging; scraped against the concrete, and his wrists felt uncomfortably jarred; but he'd managed to avoid crushing Aomine as he landed.

"Oi…" he heard Aomine growl, though he didn't sound all that annoyed despite the fact that Kagami had practically dunked him to the ground. "…Kagami…"

The sound was from under him.

He didn't realise he'd closed his eyes.

One crimson eye slowly opened, and then the other, even more tentatively. His breath suddenly ran dry in his throat; that supreme focus he'd been working so hard on –well, that was gone. And back in its place, in full force, where those strange, uncharacteristic nerves that had plagued him on the way over.

Their faces were too close. Aomine was lying there beneath him, propped up on grazed elbows and face curled up into a wince of pain.

"Oh…" Kagami croaked out; suddenly feeling the kind of breathless that wasn't due to failing stamina. Those blue eyes were staring at him intently from under hooded lids, only to flick down to his lips, and then back up to meet his gaze. Something about the air felt strangely thick; a kind of tension that radiates from the elephant in the room.

Aomine shifted up slightly; tilting his head as that rush continued to assault him -that burning, fiery rush tinged with desire that numbed the stinging of his body. Kagami was frozen; cogs whirring at high speed to process the situation –Aomine could tell. Screw this. Screw the talking. Aomine wanted to kiss him, and wondered if that would suffice. He'd make it soft, and slow –the way that always made the other ace melt –and make it say everything that he hadn't said, but should've.

Letting out a low breath, he leaned upwards with intent; undeniably aiming to plant a soft kiss against Kagami's lips. He could practically taste him now; could practically feel that mouth pausing in shock, and then folding; moving against his own. Kagami would grip his hair tightly as their breathless lips moulded together. His shaking lips would part for Aomine's tongue; only to swallow him up greedily and welcome him deeper, drowning in the heat of them.

But Kagami recoiled.

No slap in the face had ever stung as much.

Kagami forced himself to look away, furrowing his brow and unable to watch the way that that stunned expression on Aomine's face darkened and withered. When he stumbled to his feet on aching knees, the other ace didn't try to stop him. A lump was rising in his throat, and guilt washed over him –because that hadn't been one of his playful attempts of batting aside Aomine's teasing…that had been a somewhat brutal denial.

He couldn't let Aomine just get away with kissing him like that. Not when he didn't know what was going on. Not that he didn't want to kiss Aomine; he wanted to, very much –but there was something about kissing him that had a way of disarming him and Kagami always seemed to wind up getting swept away. And those sorts of kisses, though sparking some sort of fire in him, were also confusing and distracting in the aftermath –because god only knew what was going through Aomine's mind. And getting dragged in deeper without any inkling of that; that was exactly what he didn't need.

Swallowing and putting on his best confident smirk, he gathered up the ball again and turned back to face Aomine with a challenging stare; dribbling the ball as if to remind him that they were still playing.

He didn't like the way that Aomine's lips curled down into a dissatisfied, and slightly hurt frown, but whatever the other ace was thinking, he still took up a defensive stance opposite him.

But something had definitely changed just then. It was like that moment had changed the flow of things; put a damper on the fire fuelling their game, and begun to smother it. It felt heavy; the way Kagami's chest had felt on the walk over –and though his limbs had been running light on adrenaline before, they were beginning to grow sluggish.

He gritted his teeth; trying to will everything back into motion; trying to snap back into focus…but it wasn't working. Everything that he'd managed to put aside with his almost one-track focus on the game, was dragged to the front of his mind.

The game began to turn pear-shaped.

If felt like something was weighing Kagami down now. He felt slower; his reflexes felt dulled by the nagging throb of those thoughts that refused to be shaken off. He couldn't get his mind back on the game –and it pissed him off to no end. And it seemed too, that Aomine's concentration was wavering too –more of his shots clattering against the edge of the hoop in a way so very unlike Touou's ace. It was undeniable, the fact that the unexpected, far-too intimate moment before had somehow knocked them astray.

The sound of a successful dunk rang through Kagami's ears, and he couldn't help but curse as failed to catch up to Aomine again. This was not how this was supposed to go! It was like suddenly, their wavelengths were all out of sync, and Kagami was trying to fix it, but he'd hit some kind of wall, and no amount of frustration could reach that reservoir of strength.

Aomine thudded back to earth as the ball began to roll, and Kagami almost gave chase to retrieve it until he realised that the other ace was making no move to give him a run for his money. Slowing, and breathing heavily from frustration as well as exertion, he staggered on his stinging knees to pick up the fallen object.

"What's your problem?" Aomine suddenly snapped from somewhere at his back; his voice clearly irritated and slightly aggressive.

"Tch," Kagami snorted as he picked up the ball and held it, staring down at it with downcast eyes that, had Aomine been able to see his expression, would have instantly given away that he was doing a particularly poor job of playing dumb, "What are you talking about?"

" –Oh, so you just let me pass you just then?" he growled darkly; with more than a trace of bitterness.

"Like I'd ever do something like that!" he scoffed, as though the notion was completely ridiculous.

"Well that's exactly what it fucking looked like," Aomine snapped back, his tone almost confrontational –the kind of tone that made Kagami want to rear his hackles and bare his teeth. But instead of doing something so primitive, he opted for spinning the basketball on the tip of one finger. It was a little soothing. "Oi, Bakagami, did you hear me –"

"Yeah, I heard you, Ahomine," the redhead drawled back flatly, gritting his teeth and feeling that familiar tug of annoyance and probably sexual tension that always seemed to spark up whenever they argued.

"Answer me then."

" –There's nothing –"

"Bullshit."

That simple interruption brought disquiet crashing down upon the court. The ball toppled from Kagami's finger to the ground and bounced; each thud loud and ominous in the silence between them. Aomine's hands curled into fists; unsure of what this disheartened feeling was –this frustration at the way Kagami's sudden withdrawal had made it just so damned hard to concentrate on anything else.

And on top of that, the moron's own game had to go and plummet too. Why? He was the one who'd pulled away! He was the one who –

"Actually…"

The word was muttered, so Aomine, for a moment, thought that he'd imagined Kagami speaking. But when it finally did register that the other ace had admitted, just slightly, that there was something bothering him, the confusing mash of emotions thinned out, leaving apprehension paving the way.

"…This is about last weekend, isn't it?" Aomine voiced aloud, tucking his hands into his pockets. It was a statement that had his throat running dry.

"…Of course it's about last weekend!" Kagami scoffed, almost incredulously –as if it could be about anything else. He scratched his head, finally turning to face Aomine again, though he couldn't quite meet his gaze; his expression a wince. "…And the other stuff, too..."

The redhead's face didn't fill Aomine with any kind of confidence.

"…If you hated it that much, then you should've said…" Aomine muttered, trying to keep bitterness out of his voice, though the tenseness was showing in his shoulders. He had to look away; didn't want to see regret in Kagami's face –didn't want to see or hear him say that it was a mistake, or that it shouldn't have happened…or any of those phrases that sometimes passed between friends who crossed that line when they shouldn't have.

"What?" Kagami blinked, startled by the bluenette's words, "I…I never said I hated it!" He swallowed sheepishly, looking away as he rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously, "If I didn't want to do it, then I wouldn't have done it!"

His cheeks burst into flame, and an awkward silence descended. And then he made the terrible, terrible mistake of looking up.

Blue eyes were watching him attentively; elegant brows pulled down in a somewhat puzzled frown despite the sudden, albeit awkward admission. Aomine had felt a small surge of smugness at the embarrassment plastered across Kagami's face, but he quickly pushed that down. He knew that he'd made Kagami feel good –the way he'd been moaning and clawing at his back and needily arching his body up against him had been testimony enough. But that wasn't anything concrete. That didn't explain anything.

"…So what's the fucking problem then?" Aomine drawled, deadpan –not daring to get his hopes up; not just yet. Kagami's brows narrowed into an annoyed scowl, and something about it sent a small shiver through the bluenette's body –the kind that knew one of their arguments was brewing.

"The problem, Ahomine, is that…" he snapped, stalking a little closer; hands balled into fists, "…I…" He paused, gritting his teeth as though making an attempt to swallow pride and further embarrassment, and then finally managed to snap, "I can't stop...thinking about it...and...It's not like I do that sort of stuff with just anyone, you know?"

Aomine almost laughed.

"That sort of stuff," he repeated, deadpan –knowing that he probably shouldn't be amused by the fact that Kagami could still act so innocent. "Sex, Bakagami," he explained –as though the redhead were a little stupid; leaving no doubt in anyone's mind what they were talking about, and bringing that out into the open.

"We had sex."

The flat, simplicity of the statement left Kagami's ears ringing.

"Shut up!" he hissed, red eyes glinting as he quickly scanned the perimeter to make sure there was no one left in earshot to hear something like that. Their game had left his heart pounding, but something about hearing those words –that deafening confirmation –spoken aloud, made his pulse quicken.

"Why?" Aomine scoffed flatly. "…It's true."

"W-Well…yeah…but…" Kagami spluttered, "Y-You can't just go around saying shit like that!" Aomine gave him a dry look, glancing around rather pointedly at the empty courts –their shadows the only ones lengthening in the ageing sunlight.

It came to the redhead's attention that they were well and truly alone, without even the sound of shoes and a ball beating against the concrete to fill the void. He took a moment to inwardly curse his fucking fat mouth for admitting something was wrong, but took it back an instant later as he realised that maybe it had really been for the best.

"So what's that got to do with how shitty you were playing?" Aomine abruptly inquired, snapping him back to the topic at hand. Despite knowing that those last few plays weren't his best, Kagami felt his pride twinge at the cheap stab.

" –Like you can talk," he snapped back in annoyance, hands balling up into fists, "I was playing fine up until you –" He broke off his sentence with a curse and looked away, refusing to finish the sentence. But the words hung heavy in the air, and he didn't need to say them for Aomine to hear them and flinch.

…Until you tried to kiss me.

"You never had a problem with it before," Aomine grunted moodily, and Kagami found himself increasingly disliking the other ace's attitude and tone. This was too much like the sullen Aomine he'd been faced with before; the kind who withdrew and went cold for god knows how long, for reasons he infuriatingly kept to himself.

"Yeah, well, that was…that was…before," he growled in frustration, "…I didn't mind because…coz it didn't mean anything!" Even as he said it, he knew those weren't the right words at all, and the aggravated crease in his brow softened; a little perplexed, and a little bewildered.

"Or…well…it wasn't supposed to."

Those words had come out quieter than he'd intended –not that he'd actually meant to say anything like that. His stupid, traitor tongue had gone ahead and acted without his brain's consent, and now the rest of him had to deal with the strangely taken aback expression that the other ace was wearing.

"…You thought it didn't mean anything?" Aomine quizzed, his eyes narrowing with uncertainty and his tone unusually low. Of all the things that he could have said, that was not how Kagami had imagined he'd react. It sounded like almost like an accusation, and set off a small shiver through his body.

"Well…" Kagami stammered, looking away and swallowing a scoff to hide the sudden nervousness that had sprung up unbidden, "It's...it's not like we were actually together, right?" He didn't look at Aomine then, and was annoyed at himself for being so damn bashful –he almost wished that the other ace would poke fun at him; make a joke, rile him up. They didn't talk; the pair of them; they fought.

And yet, Kagami had just let slip something that he desperately wanted to talk about.

"…Not for real, I mean," he continued, shaking his head as though he was speaking more to remind himself of it, rather than to convince Aomine, "We were just pretending, weren't we? Before, it was just a stupid thing that Kise got us mixed up in…and all that was just part of it…"

"Pretending," Aomine repeated in a scoff, but Kagami immediately cut him off again.

" –I said before, asshole!" he snapped sharply, before letting out a hot breath of annoyance. Even after all this damn time and those damn thoughts, why couldn't he just say the right things? "It was like that before, okay?"

Something about that seemed to strike Aomine dumb.

" –Because…well, you were just some guy who pissed me off," he ranted aggressively; taking advantage of the fact that something about his previous statement had managed to knock the smart comments right out of his rival's mouth. "You were an arrogant pain in the ass, and I had no fucking idea why anyone would ever believe we were actually together –but we did what we had to do, right?"

"Right," Aomine replied; his voice strangely flat.

"…And then it was more than that." Kagami wanted to swallow down the words as soon as he spoke them aloud, but the damage was done and there was no taking it back. Those fists of his tightened again, and then softened; resolve steadied.

"Some stuff…we didn't have to do," he continued, "But I wanted to. And sometimes I thought that you actually wanted to do them to…but then you just…" He cut off his sentence with an annoyed growl, a familiar twinge of anger rising again at the reminder of how pissed off he'd been at Aomine on a fair number of occasions. Fucking hell, the roller coaster that Aomine had fucking taken him on –did he have any idea of how he could make him feel?

"I just what?" Aomine's tone was confrontational; almost daring him to answer.

"You just pissed me off!" Kagami snapped, his eyes flashing as he glared haughtily across at the motionless ace in front of him, "Like, you kept avoiding me –don't fucking deny it – and I didn't know what the hell was going on with you!"

" –I didn't know what the hell was going on," Aomine suddenly growled; his own voice mimicking the thinly veiled aggression audible in Kagami's. The redhead wasn't sure why he was so taken aback by the volume of Aomine's admission –it wasn't unlike the pair of them to get vocal and loud about it. Maybe it wasn't that then; but rather, the raw emotion –Kagami wasn't entirely sure which one –that was so suddenly expressed on his rival's face.

"What was I supposed to do?" the bluenette snapped, sending a sudden spark flying between them and reigniting that fierce, familiar tension, "Like you said; it was just meant to be some stupid thing! And then shit just started happening with you…" He glowered at the redhead and then glanced away, clucking his tongue mutinously. When he spoke again, he still sounded defensive, but it was softer; less sure, this time. "I was into chicks! And you…weren't one."

"…Why didn't you just end it, then? You could've, you know!"

"…I…No, I…couldn't." Aomine paused, using Kagami's momentary confusion to decide whether or not to think his answer through. But it seemed that his tongue had bypassed his brain, much like Kagami's, because the next thing he knew, he was blurting out, "I…because it was you!"

Kagami stared at him. "What?" The cogs turned, and yet, nothing. Aomine stood there, staring just as wide-eyed at what he'd said; apparently trying to gauge whether or not he should take it back.

"You heard me."

In the end, he didn't. Because, in the end, it was true.

How could he have broken up with Kagami? How could he have ended something like that; let go of whatever it was that had been building between them? As much as he'd deny it, he knew it; Tetsu and Satsuki and all their friends knew it –knew that when he and Kagami were properly fighting; when they weren't around each other, they were like moping dogs. They were rivals; friends –more than that, too. Somehow, he couldn't imagine any of that ever ending.

"Ugh, that doesn't make sense," Kagami groaned in apparent frustration, just as Aomine opened his mouth again to try and somehow put all of that into words, "What's that even meant to mean? Go on; tell me! Coz it's been a long time since I've known what the fuck's been going on with you…a-and with us…"

"…Us…" Aomine found himself echoing automatically, even as the word faded from the redhead's lips.

"Yeah, us," Kagami snapped immediately, heaving an exasperated sigh, "I used to know that it wasn't real and that it didn't mean shit, but now I…I just know that I can't pretend that it's still like that, okay?"

For just a moment there, Aomine felt as though time moved very slowly. The courts seemed to go on forever; Kagami's words echoing in his ears and dying on the soft wind. He saw the redhead opposite him grit his teeth, batting his eyes as he glanced away –and somehow, Aomine couldn't tear his eyes from the other man. A different kind of blush was spreading across Kagami's cheeks, and something about that made the bluenette's heart start to pound in that way that he knew was solely because of his rival.

"What are you saying?" Aomine whispered; eyes wide with the kind of disbelief a man wears when he's on the brink of daring to believe his ears. His throat had run dry. Even as he voiced his question aloud, Kagami looked up; seeming almost annoyed that Aomine hadn't fucking got it yet –and cut him off.

" –I'm saying it's not fake to me anymore!"

And then Aomine understood. Even as venom-less insults started pouring from Kagami's mouth to divert attention from the flaring colour in his cheeks, he understood. All those fragments of admissions from the conversation just been, and all those other things –the heated touches at the carwash; the returned good-bye kisses; the look of absolute trust, mingled with unbridled want that those red eyes had gleamed with as he had pressed their naked bodies together…

A relieved, almost disbelieving smile began to sink into Aomine's features, and suddenly he felt a sense of ease and hope wash over him.

"Kagami…" he breathed; his voice coming out a little huskier than he'd intended.

"I don't get it," Kagami continued, obviously trying to hide behind a façade of anger, or annoyance, or something –trying to act as though what he'd just said wasn't the biggest thing that had ever been dropped by either of them. "…Coz you're still a total asshole and all, but somewhere, it just started being different!"

"…Kagami –" Again, the redhead's name left Aomine's lip –a little louder; a little more insistent, this time. He took a step towards his suddenly rambling rival –this was the poorest he'd ever managed to conceal his embarrassment. But for each step Aomine strode, Kagami took one back –partly talking to himself; partly withdrawing from the situation because dammit he didn't know what he was doing just running his mouth like that! And how could he just stand there, with Aomine looking at him with that look in his eyes –and fucking hell why was it just so hard to spit out exactly what he wanted to say?

" –We were just pretending, but then all of that stuff happened," Kagami continued, shaking his head and not seeing the way that Aomine's face was softening with every word and with every step he took away. What Kagami did realise, however, was that he'd seen this in movies; he'd seen this breakdown of verbal filtering and the increasing clamminess of hands, and the impossible, awkward monologue-ing –all of which were fuelled by nerves, embarrassment and the understanding that not for the first time, Aomine was somehow making him feel as though he was some character in a romantic comedy.

He couldn't seem to recall how those scenes ended.

"And I didn't want it to end, but now I don't even know if all of this is real or fake anymore, and…"

"…Oh my god," Aomine whispered, a small, disbelieving chuckle escaping on a breath, "…You're such an idiot…"

"Shut up," Kagami growled, almost automatically, shaking his head as though Aomine's low rumble was irritating him.

"No, Kagami, I –"

"…But it's real for me, coz for some fucking reason I actually like you, and…"

And there it was. Finally. Finally.

Aomine swore that for a moment there, time stood still. He couldn't feel the wind; couldn't hear whatever Kagami said next, couldn't say with certainty that his heart hadn't, in some way, stopped. And then with a thick, roaring heartbeat, everything whirled back into motion.

"Taiga."

Whatever Kagami had been about to say next fell silent on his lips. He stilled, trapped from further retreat by a hand latched tightly on his wrist and the sound of his own name ringing through his ears in that deep, husky voice. Strange, that something so simple could stop him right in his tracks.

A familiar warmth was seeping into his skin, and he was met with the realisation of how close Aomine suddenly was to him.

And, just as suddenly, it all felt so private.

Annoyed with being interrupted, ignored and talked over by that mess that Aomine only distantly recognised as Kagami, the bluenette had strode over with the intention of finally getting his attention. Kagami's name had spilled from him without a thought; rolling off his tongue so easily and sounding good even by his own ears.

At least it had the desired effect.

Kagami was frozen again; wide eyed as he'd been when he'd toppled them both to the ground, what felt like hours before. With his brain trying to process exactly what it was he'd gone and blurted out, maybe he should've pulled back again…but he didn't –and neither did Aomine. And even if he'd wanted to, he couldn't; trapped by the look on the other ace's face –the one that said to trust him –the one that said everything was going to be all right. He could feel Aomine's breath fanning his lips; could feel the heat radiating from his rival's body; had only but to press forwards to be flush against him.

And then finally, Aomine spoke, and when he did, it was in a deep, almost vulnerable purr, and that simple, simple phrase sent a shiver up Kagami's spine and jumpstarted his heart into frenzy.

"It's the same for me."

This time, it was Kagami's heart that skipped a beat.

"Ao…mine…" If he even realised he'd let out a breath, he certainly didn't notice that Aomine's name had been exhaled on it. The hand gripping his wrist suddenly felt hot, but he couldn't find it in him to jerk away. Was he mishearing? He'd made a fucking dumb speech, after all, and that was what Aomine had come up with?

But strangely, it was almost all that he needed to hear.

Almost tentatively, Aomine's hand left Kagami's wrist; fingers trailing gently up his arm and leaving his skin tingling. Kagami felt his eyelids flutter as both of Aomine's hands reached up to lightly cup his face; smoothing the hair back off his cheeks –a soothing, unhurried motion. He wanted to say something, but knew he'd already said too much –and at the same time, maybe not enough. But his tongue seemed thick, and something about the sheer gentleness of Aomine's touch was making him feel disgustingly light headed.

Aomine's face was inching closer; slowly, as though afraid that Kagami would flinch back again. His blue eyes wandered across his face; searching for rejection or uncertainty, or any kind of lie –in case this was all some kind of cruel joke. But Kagami wasn't laughing; and what Aomine found in his gaze was that by-now blindingly obvious desire to be kissed. It was in the way those red eyes hung at half-mast and the way his chin tipped up just so, and the way Kagami's breath seemed to shake as he drew closer. He'd seen it before; seen it before and not truly understood.

But that was different now.

And when Aomine whispered two words against the redhead's lips, Kagami felt them almost as clearly as he heard them.

"It's real."

It was a kiss like their first should have been. So many months ago, the first time their lips had touched, it was on a dare; on a challenge –a tense press of their mouths together; something kind of awkward and somewhat detached –and very drunk. It hadn't meant anything; wasn't supposed to have ever become anything.

But it had, and this was a kiss that truly, truly showed that.

At first, it was merely a light brush of Aomine's lips against Kagami's –that kind of almost tender touch that can convey all kinds of unspoken things; the kind of kiss shared in a moment when two people finally, finally know that they have found what they didn't even realise they were looking for. For an agonisingly long moment, his lips lingered there, until he felt the soft press of a familiar mouth kissing him back. It felt warm, and strangely affectionate and…and accepting.

If ever asked, they'd both deny that they'd closed their eyes. It was Kagami who moved again; lips more confident –more insistent, this time; prying a second kiss from Aomine –and then another, and another. He could feel air escaping his lungs, but couldn't find it in his pounding heart to breathe. Aomine's hands were hot on his skin; shifting against his cheeks and gliding back through his hair; willing him closer but giving him the freedom to draw away.

Kagami didn't.

Instead, he gasped into Aomine's mouth; his fingers sliding up the bluenette's chest and arms entwining around his neck. Some magnetic force drew their bodies closer, and, unable to resist that pull, they welcomed that heat and perfect fit.

It was nauseatingly intimate, the way Aomine was holding him; hands so loosely –so casually woven into red hair and yet making Kagami feel as though his rival just didn't want to let go. Their lips were meeting softly; tenderly, even –with that kind of smouldering, toe-curling passion that had for so long gone unrecognised for what it was.

It was real.

In that strange way that he always had, even without being required to, Aomine kissed him as he pulled back. It was gentle and lazy; as though he knew he had to pull back but his lips wanted to linger. Softly, his eyes fluttered open at the same time as Kagami's; red meeting blue in equally hooded gazes. One of those tantalising kisses, and then another, and then that final, long, simple brushing of lips that had always seemed too teasing; too sweet.

Kagami pulled back first; his eyes flicking up to meet Aomine's glazed blue gaze; only to drop to the pout of his lips as their noses brushed, just slightly. That might have been their moment –that unbearably saccharine moment where two people stare so longingly into one another's eyes that it seems like perhaps they could see into each other's hearts; that moment of understanding and acceptance and unspoken declaration of something more.

But they quite didn't reach that. There was something else that they were more prone to.

Even as Aomine watched Kagami draw back; eyes clouded with something soft and almost distant –he felt something shift in the air. In a snap, he saw it; saw Kagami's eyes change from dozy and intimate, to something that was so much more familiar to him. Feeling the tension rising in an instant, his arms slid from the redhead's neck to his body and curled around him tightly.

As one, they flung themselves together; lips meeting with something more violently passionate. One of Kagami's hands clenched tightly in Aomine's hair as his lips forced open his mouth and dragged his tongue out to play. This kiss was their other kind of heat; that blazing, wild fire that they lit in each other; the hot, raw chemistry that every searing touch ignited. That soft, sweet kiss had cast a dreamy haze over Kagami's body, but when he'd pulled back; pulled back and discovered their bodies so close; Aomine so close -he couldn't prevent all those memories; all those passionate, lustful images from welling up as well. And god he had wanted to be kissed like that again, too.

Their tongues clashed; their bodies met; Aomine's hands clawed possessively down Kagami's body –desperately coursing across the body that he so very much desired. A high gasp escaped Kagami's throat and Aomine let out a pleased hum in response; deepening their kiss and locking the redhead's body against his own. Their lips moved with fervour, as though starved of each other, simultaneous moans filling the evening air.

Aomine's mouth was hot against Kagami's; his breath warm and his tongue slick against his own. Neither of them was giving way; fighting to kiss the hardest; to kiss the deepest. There was triumph and relief pouring through the redhead's mind; elation that after everything –after all that had happened, and all that he'd said, Aomine was still here, kissing him like this. Fingers dug into his flesh; into his back, shoulders, ass, Aomine didn't seem to care, as long as he could touch as much as he wished. He could feel it all, for sure, now -all of that affection, desire...longing -and that heated, undeniable connection.

"Hah…" Kagami panted, feeling a little light headed and desperately needing to break for air. He only managed a quick breath before Aomine's lips were on his again; devouring him hungrily and needily. He clutched at the other ace's back, tugging on his shirt but unable to keep from kissing back. It was wet; a little sloppy, and full of tongues probing deep, and now, Kagami knew that maybe he could get lost in this. Those lips on him; those arms curling around his body; the feel of Aomine pressed so intimately against him…

"Mmm…" he moaned, his eyes fluttering again as, with a final kiss and a shuddering exhale, Aomine pulled back, licking his lips as though he had just realised what he found most delicious. Trying to hide how breathless he was, Kagami let his arms hang loose around Aomine's neck with the intent of pulling back; his rival's hands less-than-subtly slipping down his body to rest on his ass. Sheepishly, the redhead snuck a glance at the Aomine's face, only to see that the bluenette's lips were curled up into the kind of soft, rather smug smile that made the redhead kind of want to deck him. But it also kind of made him want to kiss him again.

God, his cheeks felt so hot. His entire body felt so hot. His heart felt like it was probably skipping a few too many beats and there was a combination of relief and elation pouring through him that he kind of felt like both punching the air and fainting. And with Aomine just standing there, so close; holding him, he reckoned that he wouldn't mind either of those options. Almost abashedly, his lips began to quirk into a small smile.

Aomine wasn't pulling back. He hadn't walked away, he hadn't laughed (even if he probably should've), hadn't thrown everything back in his face. In fact, he'd done exactly the opposite.

Instead of fleeing, Aomine had kissed him. Instead of laughing, he'd fallen into a stunned silence and listened –for the most part. And instead of throwing everything back in his face, he'd said…well, he'd said…

It's the same for me. It's real.

Kagami licked his lips, finding them swollen and a little tender. Had it always been this warm, or was it just him? Judging from Aomine's low, heavy pants, he was the same kind of breathless. Did this mean…

And then, even as Kagami swallowed in embarrassment, his arms slowly, and rather reluctantly withdrawing, the bluenette's expression curled into a deadpan of disbelief.

"You're a moron," Aomine declared, rather matter-of-factly.

Oh well, if anything could have changed the atmosphere just then; that was it.

It only took a moment for Kagami's hackles to rear up as an incredibly put out expression crossed his face.

"Like hell I am!" he snapped, almost automatically; tone full of incredulousness at Aomine having the gall to say something shitty like that just after having kissed someone like that and getting him more than a little hot and bothered. Aomine didn't rise, though, opting to simply gaze back at him with that lazy, disinterested look that only fuelled the redhead's relatively constant desire to hit him in the face.

"Well, you are," Aomine repeated, just as flatly, as a slight gust of wind buffeted the fallen basketball towards them and sent it rolling like some lonely tumbleweed. Automatically, Kagami's jaw clenched to prepare for another outburst at what an asshole Aomine could be. He wasn't like, a sap, or anything, but there were times and places for insults! Fucking hell; could the guy take anything seriously?

Before Kagami had the chance to deal out some angry retort, Aomine scoffed, almost to himself, and began wandering past him towards the fallen basketball. As he brushed past, he lightly shouldered him –almost affectionately, and Kagami heard the low, slightly reluctant admission that followed.

"…And I guess I am too."

Huh?

As much as he'd had to say only moments ago, Kagami was suddenly quiet, and Aomine could practically hear his heart thudding in time with his footsteps. It was sinking in. It was all sinking in, and he could barely believe that he'd ever been worried about a fucking thing. He really was an idiot. Stooping to collect the ball, he could feel red eyes boring into his back, and he couldn't help but mentally facepalm –resisting the urge to laugh maniacally at the absurdity of the situation; at the absurdity of them.

And at how goddamn obvious everything should've been.

"Tch, no wonder Tetsu wasn't surprised," he mumbled aloud, shaking his head at the impossibility that he hadn't seen what had been pretty much jammed up into his face.

"Huh?" Kagami deadpanned in confusion –again befuddled by the sudden leap in topic, "What about Kuroko?"

"Oh…" Aomine muttered, sending an almost careless sideways glance at the redhead, "I…told him."

" –Told him…?" If Aomine hadn't already pushed his luck on how many times he could get away with calling him an idiot, he would've repeated the insult right then. Instead, he settled with the most dramatic of eye-rolls he could muster, and hoped that that at least would indicate that it was obvious enough for the moron to click already.

Apparently it was, because a few moments later, Kagami's eyes bulged in shock and a slight brush of panic.

"W-What?" he exclaimed hotly; absolutely mortified at the thought of his best friend and his something discussing the finer points of their rendezvous, "Y-you told Kuroko? Why?"

"Oh, like he didn't already know," Aomine scoffed.

"Maybe he didn't!" The protest felt lame, even to his own ears, and the dry expression that his rival was wearing confirmed that. Ugh. It had taken Coach a couple of seconds to figure it all out –Kuroko could read him much better than that, and always seemed to have little ways of knowing things. The chances of him having bought the whole story about the basketball injury –despite his captain's assistance –were pretty damn slim. But even so…

"That still doesn't mean you had to tell him…" he grumbled crossly.

"Why wouldn't I? He's like…" Aomine seemed to fight for the right word for a moment, "…My best friend, or something."

"He is my best friend!"

"…Exactly."

Not for the first time, Kagami felt like he wanted to strangle the guy. Just a little.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded in annoyance, his tone making Aomine scoff just as irritably.

"Tch –I wanted to make sure he knew th…that I was serious, okay?"

"Well, jeez Ahomine, you could've told me that –" Kagami's sentence cut off abruptly as he heard his own voice echoing what Aomine had just said. Shock factor played a part in dampening his annoyance, and it was all he could do to blink as he processed this unexpected phrase. "Wait, what? Y-You're serious? Like, about me?"

"Don't put it like that," Aomine grumbled, taking his turn at averting his eyes and scratching the back of his neck almost sheepishly, "That's what I said, isn't it?" Was it a trick of the fading light, or was he blushing? As if he was aware that there was colour rising to his cheeks unbidden, Aomine distractedly started spinning the basketball on the tip of his finger. "That's why I…called you out here. To…confess, and stuff…" He snickered, almost to himself, and –the fucking nerve of the guy –suddenly looked up with a small smirk and a twinkle of superiority glinting in his eyes.

" –But…I guess you finally beat me to something, huh."

There was always something very satisfying about embarrassing Kagami.

"W-What?" the redhead suddenly spluttered, as though this was a preposterous accusation, taking a step backwards, "What are you talking…I d-didn't confess –"

"Uh, yeah you did," Aomine corrected him with a sly quirk of an eyebrow –and was most pleased to see that Kagami, despite having just denied it, was currently being confronted with the truth of his statement. He feigned lost in thought for a moment. "…What was it? Oh yeah; how did it go? 'For some fucking reason I actually like you', I think –"

"Shut up, asshole!" Kagami growled, slapping a hand over his face in the hopes that just maybe that would stop Aomine from seeing how fucking embarrassed he was. It wasn't like he'd ever been involved in a confession before! "If you were going to c-confess –"

Aomine had been going to confess. Kagami wanted to grin and laugh, but he was sort of leaning more towards annoyance right now.

" –Then why didn't you say something in the first place?"

I was scared, was Aomine's initial thought, but that seemed like something that would place him back in the embarrassment seat, so the bluenette decided against that kind of answer.

"I wanted to play." Well, that was true enough. He chuckled to himself as he tossed the ball into the air and caught in again with practiced ease, "And it seemed a shame to interrupt you…"

"Hey! I didn't know what the fuck to say!"

"Well it's not like I did either!"

With a simultaneous growl of irritation, they looked away, but the atmosphere was far from heavy. In fact, even as he averted his eyes, Kagami couldn't help a small smile from breaking out on his lips; something warming him in that way that made it damn near impossible to keep a grin off his face. Fighting with Aomine was aggressive –and admittedly petty –and yet so comfortable and natural.

Suddenly, he felt so very at ease.

Unable to suppress that smile, his eyes flicked across to Aomine, and, much to his amusement and slight embarrassment, caught his rival mid-sideways-glance; that now-familiar, small, honest smile curling his lips up at the edges.

"…So…" Kagami began, to break the soft silence that had descended, and to try and return a touch of normality to their dynamic.

"…So…" Aomine echoed, probably thinking somewhat along the same lines. "Ahh…it can't be helped…" He sighed heavily, yawning dramatically but not managing to hide his damned smug smile in the least, "You went ahead and confessed, so I might as well give you an answer…"

"Eh?" Kagami blinked at him. Was he missing something? Aomine seemed to see his confusion and snickered, unable to hide his amusement as he began oh-so-casually wandering back towards the centre of the court, pausing as he came toe-to-toe with the redhead. Resisting the urge to chuckle, he leaned in, and pressed a simple kiss against the corner of Kagami's lips; nose brushing intimately against his cheek as he drew away.

" –I'm saying I'll go out with you."

"Huh?" Kagami blurted out rather abruptly, without quite processing what Aomine had said. "I didn't ask you out!"

"Right," Aomine snorted, dribbling the ball casually as he rolled his eyes, "So what did you plan to do after confessing, then? Run away?"

"Like hell I'd run," Kagami growled vehemently, hands curling into fists at the accusation before he realised that Aomine was giving him that goddamn superior smirk that pissed him off, turned him on and made him really, really want to kick his ass in a one-on-one.

"Are we finishing our game?" the bluenette inquired, even though he seemed to already know the answer. Almost automatically, Kagami found himself stalking after his rival towards the centre of the court –all those things that had been weighing him down suddenly having melted off into nothingness.

"Of course," he snorted, as though any other answer was ridiculous, "You know I'll take you on any time."

And he meant it. His lips were still tingling from Aomine most recent, light kiss, and he could see a new kind of vigour in his rival's steps already –the kind that was already seeping into his own. It was the kind of excitement he felt in anticipation of a good game; that kind of joy he got out of the promise of a match bound to test his limits –and something more; the kind of thing that only Aomine could make him feel.

Lightly, Aomine glanced back over his shoulder.

"So, how about it?" he inquired, forcibly reminding Kagami of the answer that Aomine had given to the question he hadn't quite gotten around to asking. The redhead snickered, sprinting up past the bluenette and taking advantage of his surprise at the sudden attack to knock the ball straight from his hands. With a grin spreading across his face at that stunned look, coupled with the feel of the basketball that he so loved, he sprinted for the hoop. It only took a moment for Aomine to catch up again; barring his way, blocking him again, and again; reading his moves and his own mouth curled up into an equally Cheshire grin.

Once upon a time, Kagami had asked himself who on earth would want to date Aomine Daiki. The guy could be lazy, brooding, forgetful, arrogant, rude, and generally a pain in the ass. But, he was also more than all those sorts of things. He could be sweet (though he'd never admit it –and Kagami would never tell him that); and fun to be around, and loved what he loved, and life was certainly never boring around him. Not to mention he was easy on the eyes and more than satisfactory in bed, and made him feel all kinds of things that he'd never felt before.

So, in answer to that question that he'd once posed to himself…

For a moment, he could've sworn he flew. Did having your worries dispelled truly make you lighter? It felt that way. The force from Kagami's almighty dunk made the hoop judder and quake queasily. The roar of triumph left his lips almost automatically; lips curled back wide in excitement as he saw Aomine grit his teeth in determination and annoyance at having been bested this once. They both fell back to earth as if in slow motion, before collecting themselves; immediately on guard.

But there was still an eyebrow raised in his direction; an eyebrow waiting for him to say something as he gathered up the ball in anticipation of another round –and another, and another.

With a small snicker and a smirk with enough arrogance to rival one of Aomine's, Kagami stepped forwards and planted a fierce kiss against his rival's lips –short, hot and hard –before pulling back enough to meet the intensity of his gaze.

"Loser pays for dinner?" he proposed, cockily spinning the ball on a finger as if to goad him into approaching; to remind Aomine that he'd just lost that point, and that he had no intention of letting him get it back. Aomine, in return, rolled his neck with an intimidating crack, and despite the way that his eyes had narrowed at the challenge, Kagami could see that he was excited.

"Deal."

And with that, a tanned hand shot forwards; striking the ball clean off the top of Kagami's finger and sending it blazing down the court. With a curse that was more habit than offensive, the redhead was on the other ace's tail in an instant, his body suddenly sparked back into life by this entire turn of events, and the pair of them equally fuelled by that heat of each other.

Ahh well, he'd at least come to accept that, (probably despite his better judgement), he liked Aomine.

And now, it was fine to admit that, because he knew that Aomine liked him back.


"I can't believe you thought I was still pretending…" Aomine snorted condescendingly, later that evening, as he sidled into the booth opposite the rather pleased-with-himself redhead. With an affronted snort over the sudden lightness of his wallet and stinging pride, he dumped his heavy tray down between them, helping himself to two of the burgers and pushing the rest across the table. He wanted to be moody about the results of their game, but the look of pure glee currently plastered all over Kagami's stupid face was making it pretty damn hard to act pissed off. Not to mention, he kind of felt like he was on some mellow high -also probably that moron's doing...

But seriously, he was gonna have to ensure that this losing thing wasn't a regular occurrence. He was pretty sure his wallet wouldn't survive.

It had been getting pretty dark by the time they'd decided to call it quits for the night, having fallen into their old pattern of playing until they lost all sense of time. Wandering down the streets towards the nearest burger joint –stopping at the convenience store so that Aomine could snag himself a new magazine –well, it had been comfortable again. Something about their sort-of-argument and their game had diffused that god-awful heavy tension that had been plaguing them.

It probably helped that the air had been relatively cleared and that they had both been feeling in embarrassingly good moods –Kagami more so, because, well, because he'd managed to kick Aomine's ass and was getting a free meal out of it. Every so often, as they walked, their elbows had bumped, and though they'd toothlessly snapped and shoved and snorted about personal space, neither of them flinched away when their fingers accidentally brushed.

" –Well how was I supposed to know?" Kagami growled flatly, through a mouthful of burger, unable to believe that Aomine was pulling him up on this, right now.

"…We slept together, didn't we?"

" –Oh, like you've never had meaningless…s…one night stands…"

"Bakagami…" Aomine actually face-palmed this time, noting with amusement that Kagami's voice managed to drop in both volume and pitch in a rather appealing kind of way –never mind the fact that he already had smudges of food on his face. Under the table, their legs brushed, and Aomine sneakily nudged his a little closer to keep the contact. "Seriously?"

"Shut up. Sex. Okay, see? Happy now? I said it."

"You also did it."

" –Did you wanna say that a bit louder, I think there are people all the way over there that didn't fucking hear that…"

"We –"

"I was being sarcastic."

Aomine snickered at the way Kagami glared at him, that rather enjoyable blush rising to his cheeks again as he stuffed a burger in his mouth in that almost hypnotising way, as his way of telling Aomine that he wasn't impressed. Blue eyes followed the way the tip of a tongue flicked out to snatch up some crumbs that lingered on his lips. Was it terrible that he wanted to just kiss him here?

"And anyway…" Aomine decided to add, a hand snaking out and casually taking one of the cheeseburgers that had been intended for Kagami –despite still having one of his own left. "…It's not like I go around sleeping with guys –you're diff –oi –what was that for?"

"Stop stealing my food!"

"I paid for it."

" –Yeah, well, you should've gotten more, then."

"Like I can afford it after buying half the burgers in this damn place."

"…Well, you lost."

Deliberately, Aomine unwrapped what had once been Kagami's burger, and defiantly took a ginormous bite. The redhead across the table looked decidedly miffed for a moment, before his expression softened with a sigh of resignation, quietly adding, "…I'll pay next time…"

Why did the promise of a next time have to feel so good?

Aomine excused himself to the bathroom in a mutter, wondering for the hundredth time since their stumbled conversation earlier, why he was suddenly feeling so pleased. It wasn't like things had changed, really –after all, they'd done the kissing and the touching and the sort-of dating, and those other things that real couples did… but all of a sudden, he was revisiting those giddy, sort of nauseating feelings he'd had that had eventually lead to him understanding that he was maybe actually feeling something real for Kagami.

He grinned at his reflection. This was just the best.

Kagami was really ploughing through his burgers when he heard Aomine's familiar shuffle coming up beside him. By some miracle he managed to keep a straight face through a full mouth as the bluenette sank into the seat opposite him, and was about to keep on eating until something seemed to stop him right in his tracks.

Managing to hide a snicker, Kagami innocently looked up to see that Aomine's face was frozen somewhere between expressions of confusion, disbelief and a flash of mortification; eyes glued to the item currently sitting right next to his half-finished burger. For a moment there, he just looked entirely caught off guard; not exactly sure what he was seeing. Blue eyes flicked up to meet Kagami's, widening when they realised that the redhead was beginning to smirk quite mightily.

"I got you something," Kagami elaborated, since it seemed that Aomine was looking around the burger joint for an alternative explanation for why there was a daintily wrapped, horrifying familiar, small bouquet of a certain orange flower, sitting in front of him.

"Y-You got me fl…" It was a nice change to see Aomine looking dumbstruck.

"Tiger lilies, I think they are," Kagami informed him simply, resting his chin in his palm nonchalantly and trying his best not to look too gleeful. "You like em?"

"…Who would like getting dumb flowers?" Aomine muttered in a grumble, a hand reaching out to toy with the stem of one of them. Oh, this was the worst; this was the worst! His cheeks were aching with the effort of not breaking out into some cheesy-ass smile, because fucking hell, getting given flowers wasn't supposed to feel this nice! And alongside that, he was awash with embarrassment all over again at the reminder of standing outside a certain someone's door, fidgeting with a bouquet of bright orange flowers…

Wait, tiger lilies?

Oh god.

"Hmm…I kinda liked it," Kagami mused aloud, and was most satisfied with the somewhat trapped look that Aomine looked up at him with. Aomine's hand closed around the bunched stems as he glanced away; a soft, but still rather distinct blush creeping across his cheeks.

"W-What are you talking about, idiot?" he scoffed; the guiltiest and most embarrassed of expressions gracing his features. "Tch…why would I know anything about that?"

"…Never said you did."

Aomine wanted to choke on his burger, and moodily glared back across the table at the redhead –daring him to make fun of him. But Kagami seemed perfectly satisfied with how Aomine had successfully walked right into that one, and snickered to himself –equal parts playful and triumphant. And then, he grinned –that happy, kinda lopsided, slightly goofy, toothy grin that somehow gave off a kind of heat that could melt away the hard lines of Aomine's face.

This time was no exception. All Aomine could do was shift the flowers; peeking down at them in veiled admiration as he moved them to one side, but still noticeably within the distance of a cheeky glance. It was simpler than the bouquet he'd gotten for Kagami, but the flowers still looked nice, and he wanted to thank him –but couldn't bring himself to do that. He'd thank him later –when he kissed him goodnight; because he knew there was a goodnight kiss just waiting for him, if the way Kagami had been eyeing up his mouth throughout the journey from the courts.

"…Idiot…" was what he said, instead, in that affectionate kind of way that the insult had come to be exchanged between them. And there it was; their familiar, comfortable routine. Kagami still felt on a kind of emotional high; just…pleased, and reassured and...a little excited. He could feel Aomine's leg brushing up against his own underneath the table, and knew that that was more than a little suggestive. On the hunt for food, with every brush of Aomine's fingertips against his, he had felt a shiver of electricity shoot through him; the desire to have those hands back on him -to feel Aomine and hear him and see that look in his eyes that he knew now wouldn't make his chest hurt quite so much.

…But there too, was the embarrassing want to perhaps clasp those fingers –just a little.

And then there was that one other thing that had cemented his good mood.

He'd spotted the flowers in the store while Aomine picked up his magazine, and thought of him. And he'd known that he had to get them; even if just to see the look on his face. So while Aomine had been distracted, he'd snuck up to the counter with them, and received a smile from the obviously rather weary clerk.

"Oh, these are a lovely choice," she'd remarked; her expression softening –Kagami had the feeling that he'd been looking most pleased with himself. "Special occasion?" she'd added, upon seeing his smile, and assuming exactly that.

"…I guess so," he'd admitted with a sheepish chuckle.

She'd asked what colour ribbon he'd like with them. He said blue.

"I hope she likes them," the lady had said, as she handed over the flowers, and watched Kagami tuck them into his bag as best he could without mulching them. Something about her comment had made him pause, the comment, "Actually…" spilling from his lips without a second thought. She'd looked at him a little strangely, then –expecting a continuation. It had taken Kagami less time than he thought for his expression to break into a bold, excited smile.

And, only a moment later, he almost proudly expanded on this, with complete and utter certainty.

"They're for my boyfriend."


Finally. It took a lot of words; a terrible speech and a bit of fumbling, but finally. It's real, it's real, it's real. Sorry again that it took me so damn long to post this! I'm making no promises, but I will endeavor to take less time on the next chapter! Uni's getting better, and nearly finishing for the year, so hopefully it stops putting a damper on the will to write.
Hope you enjoyed!
As always; much love

xx K