No Sweet Talk

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001

Late Afternoon at the end of August. Kise and Aomine are returning to Kise’s condo in the upscale Rittenhouse Square* neighborhood.

Made uncomfortable by the feel of Aomine’s hand on his butt, Kise swats it away.

Kise: Come on, Aomine. Stop it.

Aomine: What did I tell you about that? Call me like you used to and don’t act like you don’t like it.

Kise: I’m only calling you by your name. And whether I like it or not is not my point and you know it. I’m not sleeping with you. We aren’t that way anymore and you’ve had more than a year to get used to it, so I’d appreciate if you’d act like it.

Aomine closes in on Kise and drapes his arm around him.

Aomine: That was your decision and besides, sleeping is the last thing I want to do. For old time’s sake, Kicchan?

Kise: Aomine, I already told you I’m not going to be a fill-in for you anymore. You need to take your sorry butt back to your beloved Tetsu or whomever you’re chasing these days and work out whatever happened this time because…

He slips out of Aomine’s embrace.

Kise: …I’m not interested. And don’t call me Kicchan; it’s gross coming from you.

Aomine: Oh, what, now I’m boring and gross?

Kise: I’m not having this conversation with you again.

Aomine quickens his stride to gain ground on Kise. Once in front of him, he starts to walk backwards to keep eye contact.

Aomine: What if I’m chasing you?

Kise: Oh no, don’t start that mess. I refuse.

Aomine: Kise, I’m ser—

Kise: Hey, Aomine…

He points at the guy setting up for a 3-pointer.

Kise: Doesn’t that guy look familiar?

Aomine: Eh? That’s just some dude.

Kise: No, really. We know him … that’s … Hey! Kagami—

The rumble of a passing truck drowns out the rest. Kagami releases the ball and watches until he hears the swoosh of the net, then turns to find the source of the voice beckoning him.

Kise: It’s him! Told you, Aomine!

Aomine is somewhat disgusted.

Aomine: So it is.

Kise raises an eyebrow to Aomine’s tone, but chalks it up as Aomine’s playtime being interrupted.

Kise: It’s you, right, Kagamicchi?

Aomine’s face contorts at Kise’s endearment of Kagami’s name.

Aomine: He gets it, but I don’t?

Kise: Old habits, don’t mind it.

Kagami strolls over to the fence separating out from in and once his eyes fixed on his summoner, he felt his facial muscles do something they hadn’t done naturally in a long while: form a smile.

Kagami: Is that you, Kise? Kise Ryouta?

Kise drags Aomine with him.

Kise: Ah! You remember me?! It’s been a while!

Kagami: It really has. How have you—

He pauses, his smile fading a bit, when he notices who Kise has in tow.

Kagami: How’ve you been?

Aomine drapes his arm around Kise and breaks in.

Aomine: We’ve been good. And you?

Kise elbows Aomine for his obvious stance.

Kise: I’ve been pretty good. Aominecchi’s been better, I suppose. What are you up to these days? Are you here for a show?

Kagami: Nothing much. Just settling into my new place before the next season begins.

Kise: You moved here?!

Kagami: Yes, about a month ago. Oh! I suppose congratulations are in order for you, Kise.

Aomine notices the lilt in Kagami’s voice on that last word.

Kise: Me?

Kagami: I heard your company took over the licensed apparel contract for the NBA.

Kise’s excitement comes through in his voice and Aomine looks on, unimpressed.

Kise: Ah! Yes! Thank you, Kagamicchi! We worked really hard for that, so I will gladly accept any praise!

Aomine flinches at the sound of Kise’s trademark suffix. Kagami blushes in embarrassment and shock. Aomine smacks Kise in the back of his head.

Aomine: Don’t mind this idiot, he’s been in the U.S. too long. He’s lost practically all his modesty… before long, he won’t even know how to do a simple bow.

Kise smooths his hair down.

Kise: That hurt, Aomine! And you’ve got no place to talk; you can’t even spell modesty, let alone knowing what it looks like.

Kagami: I see you’re still getting along as usual.

Aomine grows hostile.

Aomine: We certainly are.

He readies his hand to catch Kise’s elbow that would usually jab him right about then, but he gets nothing.

Aomine: Didn’t you live on the West Coast before? What brings you East?

Kise: Hold that thought! Kagamicchi, we’re going to grab something to eat, you wanna to join us?

Aomine/Kagami: Huh?

He speaks through clenched teeth.

Aomine: I thought we were going home?

Kise: Change of plans.

He redirects his attention back to Kagami.

Kise: You still eat, don’t you?

Kagami: Y-Yeah, but I don’t want to impose.

Aomine: See, he doesn’t want to— Ugh!

The elbow Aomine was waiting for is finally delivered.

Kise: Nonsense! We’re so close to one of my favorite spots. Let’s go!

001 Footnotes

  • Rittenhouse Square – Expensive residential neighborhood, business and retail district located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

002

Late afternoon at the end of August. Kagami, Kise, and a disgruntled Aomine find themselves at the Good Dog Bar*.

Nostalgia leans on Kise when he sees Kagami’s face stuffed with food.

Kise:  How’s your burger?

Aomine eyes the well-endowed server as she handles the table next to theirs before his attention is called by Kise’s question; his mouth is half full.

Aomine: Is this place new? Why haven’t we been here before?

Kise: You only want to eat at my place. What’s the point of inviting you anywhere? …Kagamicchi?

Kagami gives up on trying to talk without any food in his mouth.

Kagami: It’s really good! Even with the dogs, this place is nice, too.

It’s not lost on Kagami that Kise picked a place where he, in sports attire, and Aomine and Kise, in well-put together threads, would both be welcomed.

Kagami: How’d you find this place? It doesn’t seem like your kind of food.

Kise: That’s all thanks to Aomine.

Aomine smiles with a mouth full of fries, happy to hear his name coming from Kise’s mouth.

Kise: I came to visit him when he was still playing for the Sixers* and he told me to meet him somewhere, but he gave me the wrong directions. I got lost. I was out front and they were just arriving for the day and I guess I actually looked lost, so they helped me out.

Kagami: There are a bunch of places on my list to visit; I put all the ones in and relatively close to my neighborhood at the bottom of the list, I’m not even sure if this one is on there.

The conversation continues over another round of fries and darts.

Aomine: Why Philly? Isn’t your restaurant and studio at L.A. Live*? You were living there with Himuro-san, right?

Kagami paused on his turn for darts.

Kagami: Yeah. I lived in L.A. before I returned to Japan back in the day. When I came back to the states for uni, I was in Arizona*. He came over after my injury and L.A. was the most comfortable place for both of us, so we set up shop there. Now with the show seeing a third season and the restaurant practically running on its own, I wanted to get a different perspective, so I switched coasts.

Kagami waits for it… thwwip… thonk… bullseye!

Kise: But wouldn’t you be better in New York with all the foods and restaurants?

Aomine: ESPN’s* there, too.

Kagami: That’s the first thing everyone thinks, but Philly holds its own in both sports and food, and I get the added benefit of less hype. So it suits me well. I could ask the same of you two

Aomine starts to ease up now that he believes his “territory” is not being invaded.

Aomine: I had a place here, but since I switched teams, I parked my crap in Upstate New York.

Kise, intrigued, watches as Aomine plays a game he’s never played.

Kise: I guess I feel the same way you do. All the access, all the creativity and none of the hype.

Aomine: Ah! Your dart is in the way Bakagami! I almost had a bullseye!

He looks over his shoulder.

Aomine: I keep telling you, if you move with me, you’ll be the same distance away.

Kagami raises his eyebrows, his interest piqued. Kise raises his hand to call the server.

Kise: And I keep telling you, it’s not about distance.

Kagami: So, your studio’s here?

Kise: No, that’s in Jersey*, just my office is here. I work from home most of the week. Well, when I’m not travelling.

A blush flashes across the server’s face as she greets the table.

Server: How’s everything so far?

She acknowledges their nods.

Server: What can I get for you?

Kise: I heard you guys came across some Seasoned Oak Finish last week. Got any left? If you do, can you bring three and the check?

Server: Um, let me see what I can do!

Kise: Thanks.

Aomine: What did you order?

Kise: A surprise for you!

Happy that Kise is being nice to him, Aomine becomes uncharacteristically bashful.

Aomine:  What are you doing, idiot?! I don’t need anything.

Kagami watches their interactions and feels jealousy creep up one shoulder as sadness mounts the other.

Kise: Ahhh whatever, just enjoy it.

The Owner: Kise! I had to see for myself who was ordering from my special stash! How are you? Are you back for a while?

Kise: Hey, you’re here! I was sure you’d be travelling. Had I known, I would’ve checked in. I’m back for a while.

The Owner: And who do we have here?

Kise: These guys and I go way back.

He gestures to his right.

Kise: This is Aomine…

And now across the table.

Kise: And you might know this handsome guy, his name is Kagami.

Aomine is nonplussed about his lackluster intro.

The Owner: Kagami? Chef Kagami of Kahi?

Kagami puts in his share of bashfulness for the day.

Kagami: Yes, that’s me.

The Owner: My brothers and I watch your show whenever we can! I can’t believe it! Chef Kagami in my place! You’ve been holding out on me, Kise!

Kise earns a side-eye glance from Aomine as he oozes a charm that’s been conspicuously absent in their interactions of late.

Kise: But it’s forgivable, right?

Sunny: Of course. Of course.

The owner turns to the server.

The Owner: I need four and water!

Kise catches the server before she leaves.

Kise: Ah! Wait! Here’s my card; it’s all together.

Kagami: Eh? Kise, I can’t let you do that.

Aomine leans back in his seat.

Aomine: Let him spend his own money for a change.

Kise side-eyes Aomine. The owner claps his hands together as the drinks arrive.

The Owner: Yes! Yes! For you. For you. For you, Chef, and one for me!

Aomine looks on, clueless. Kise notches the foot of the glass in the first bend of Aomine’s fingers and thumb, correcting his hold.

Kise: Hold the glass like this.

The Owner: Chef, will you do the honors?

Kise: Hehe! Kagamicchi!

Aomine cringes. Kagami thought to decline at first, but sees Kise’s excitement and changes his mind.

Kagami: I don’t deserve the honor, but I will accept. …OK.

Kagami proceeds to instruct the table in the art of tasting.

Kagami: Swirl. Bring it to the nose and breathe in through the mouth… Now, pull it away. What’s the first thing you get?

Aomine: Detroit?

The owner and Kagami raise their eyebrows.

Kise: Hehe! No! He’s right. He’s right! I’ll explain later, hehe… but let’s continue.

The owner and Kagami shrug.

Kagami: Alright. Back to the nose and breath in through the mouth… pull away. Now what?

Kise is practically glowing inciting a wave of red across his companions’ faces.

Kise: It’s kind of spicy and fruity mmmm… When can we taste it?

Kagami looks to the owner for the O.K.

The Owner: It’s your call, my friend.

Kagami: …You want to sip this…breathe through your nose and hold it in your mouth. Swish it around a bit…try to catch all the flavors before swallowing.

Aomine: Woooo! That was smooth, but it tasted kind of spicy like cider and kind of like, uh, the outdoors… is that right?

Kise: And fruity…

Kagami: Peppery…

The Owner: I got lots of smoky oak and I caught just a bit of caramel at the end.

Aomine takes another sip.

Aomine: I got the fruit. It’s kind of like melon, maybe? What is this?

The Owner: Woodford Reserve Seasoned Oak Finish.

Aomine: Huh?

Kise clarifies in his best southern twang.

Kise: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey!

Aomine: Whiskey? That old man’s drink?

Kise: I told you it wasn’t an old man’s drink. You’ve just been drinking…

Kise looks at the owner.

Kise: What did you call it?

The Owner: Rotgut.

Kise: Yeah! Rotgut!

Aomine takes the last swig and then hooks his arm around Kise to plant a wet one on his cheek.

Aomine: You’re the only idiot who would give a gift like this!

Kise’s glow turns into a warm blush that spreads to his fingertips.

Kise: I’m glad you liked it!

Kagami tries to stop himself from wishing that it was him that made Kise blush that way. He can see that, despite their bickering, his old rivals look happy together. No good will come from wishing things from the past into the present. He leans back and is a little surprised when a sigh escapes.

Kise: Kagamicchi? You alright? Was it not to your liking?

Kagami: Excuse me, that was rude of me. Everything’s fine, great actually. I left my place to check out a few courts and ended up tasting one of the Woodford Reserve Master Collections with some old…

He raises his glass to the owner.

Kagami: …and new friends.

He downs the last of his whiskey.

Kagami: What’s not to like?

The owner gets called away.

The Owner: Sorry, my friends, duty calls, but it was great seeing and meeting you. Don’t be a stranger!

He turns to leave, but stops and spins back toward the table.

The Owner: Right! I’ll never sleep if you don’t tell me about Detroit.

Kise: Oh! Detroit! Yeah! Since you have to go, I’ll make it quick! During our last summer at Syracuse*, when Aomine was really hype about his future, to calm him down, I took us on a trip to a few pro arenas during the off-season and one of them was The Palace*. We caught them when they were in the middle of stripping the floors. It was quite a production. Anyway, for days after we left, Aomine kept talking about this woodsy scent and, long story short, even though The Palace’s court is a maple-oak blend, when they were treating it, the oak was really strong.

The Owner/Kagami: Ah hahahhhaaaahahaha!

Kagami: Only a basketball idiot.

The Owner: I see. I see. Detroit, I like it. Well, I gotta run. Enjoy the rest of your stay if I don’t see you!

Aomine wants to kiss Kise again, less chaste this time, but he just smiles like an idiot instead. He can feel Kise’s love for him. He wishes that feeling could drown out the things he doesn’t want to think about, but they begin nudging his conscience. He’s brought back to the present by the deep and easy, but tired voice from across the table.

Kagami: That’s really cool, though. I wonder if I can do that now? Where else did you guys go?

Aomine: Our first stop was the The Garden* to see some of the old parquet floor from the original.

The day seems to have caught up with Kise, he muffles a yawn in response.

Kise: It was the closest to school, too, well, besides Madison, but we were saving that for last. After that was The Palace and then we went to the Fieldhouse* in Indianapolis.

Aomine briefly drops his guard.

Aomine: You would have loved it, it’s totally old school. You know when you watch clips of Roger Brown, Dr. J, and Larry Bird making their way down the court? It’s like being in the stands in those clips!

Kagami: I’ve been there! It was awesome; they were hosting Denver, they took it 144-113—ya boy was hot that night!

Kise: Who, Dunleavy*?

Aomine: It’s gotta be.

Kagami: Yeah, he shot his way out that slump he was in. It was nice, but I wish I could have seen it the way you saw it: empty and quiet.

Kise: It wasn’t quiet! Aominecchi wouldn’t shut up about the smell! ‘Where’s the scent?’ ‘There’s no scent!’ And on and ooooooon!

Aomine’s ears perked at the sound of Kise’s endearment attached to his name.

Aomine: It was a good scent!

Later.

Kise stands in the doorway of the master bath, his head shrouded in a towel and with just a pair of basketball shorts on looking just as fit and fine as he did when he was still holding down the key.

Kise: What time are you leaving tomorrow? Do you need a lift?

Aomine plops himself on Kise’s bed and admires a view he’ll never get tired of.

Aomine: Was that really Kagami?

Kise: What are you talking about?

Aomine: He was so calm, strangely calm. He didn’t respond to a single one of my taunts. And he didn’t flinch at any of the dogs!

Kise: OH! I forgot about his thing with dogs! I hope he doesn’t hate me. Anyway, it’s not like we were playing ball, what was he supposed to be responding to? Do you think everybody stayed a brat like you?

He gives his hair one last blotting and then tosses the towel over the door to dry.

Kise: How many years has it been since you played against him? We’re in our 30s, we have to grow up sometime.

Aomine: I made sure to mark my territory in front of him.

Kise’s open palm swiftly meets the side of Aomine’s head.

Aomine: Hey!

Kise: What did I tell you about that?! I am not your territory; I don’t belong to you.

He points to the empty side of his bed.

Kise: Move over or get out!

Aomine rubs his forehead before rolling over to his usual side.

Aomine: Yeah, yeah.

Kise: Why would that matter to Kagamicchi anyway?

Aomine: What the hell’s up with that?! Why does he still get that nickname?

Kise: A habit. Just leave it.

Aomine: …Anyway, I saw the way he used to look at you. He had a thing for you.

Kise: HAHAHAHA! You think everyone has a thing for me!

Aomine: Have you seen you?

Kise: Everyday. He’s not interested in me. He’s been moony over Himuro-san since way back. He’s still wearing their ring!

Aomine: Whatever, idiot. You see everything, so don’t tell me you never saw him looking.

Kise: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Aomine: Like I said, “whatever.” I don’t know nothing about “way back” or about that ring, but I do know he was looking and I do know he’s not the same Kagami we knew before.

002 Footnotes

  • Jersey – New Jersey; makes up the tri-state area along with Delaware and Pennsylvania (where Philadelphia is).
  • Dunleavy – Mike Dunleavy, former SF for the Indiana Pacers.
  • Fieldhouse – Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, sports arena, home of the NBA team, the Pacers, located in Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • The Garden – TD Garden, sports arena, home of NBA team, the Boston Celtics, located in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • The Palace – Sports arena, home of NBA team, the Detroit Pistons, located in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
  • Syracuse – Syracuse University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • ESPN – The most popular sports channel collective in the U.S. and other places.
  • Arizona – University of Arizona, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • L.A. Live – An expansive entertainment complex in L.A. that includes, among other things, hotels, the Grammy Museum, an ESPN studio, residences, and restaurants.
  • Sixers – 76ers, an NBA team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Good Dog Bar – A bar in the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia.

003

Late October. Aomine is in Brooklyn getting ready for his 2nd season with the Nets and Kise is recovering from Fashion Week and preparing for his NBA licensed apparel contract debut.

Aomine worries his phone as he tries to figure out what to say to Kise after seeing him and Kagami in the news twice since he left for New York. Kise rolls his eyes at the pink settling into his cheeks at the sight of Aomine’s name on his caller ID. Though there’s really no question about what is what, his feelings remain mixed.

Kise: Now what?

Aomine: Can’t I just call to talk?

Kise: Didn’t I tell you I’m working? The Kintsugi* team has to be ready for the new uniform debuts. Five of them! Six calls in the last two hours and you still haven’t said anything. This is really cute, Aomine, but I have a company to run.

Aomine: When are you coming to see me?

Kise: What’s wrong, the girls in Brooklyn not puttin’ out?

Aomine: Ha! Never that. How could they say “no” to me?

Kise: Then, what? Your boss put you in your place again? It’s one thing to hit on your boss’ wife, but it’s something else entirely when his wife is– Hahahaha! I can’t believe you tried to hit on Beyoncé*!

Aomine: That was a misunderstanding! And you know she’s not even my type!

Kise: Right, you’ve always been more of a breast man.

Kise laughs to himself at how ridiculous it is to have this kind of conversation with the man he loves… laughing to keep from crying.

Aomine: If you know that—

Aomine’s realization that he is digging a ditch hits him suddenly.

Aomine: Lately, your mouth has been a little—

Kise: Speaking of… what’s up with you lately?

Aomine feels provoked and now questions about Kagami are piling up on the tip of his tongue.

Aomine: I want to ask you the same thing!

Kise: The frequent texts, the pointless calls, and what was up with that comment during your interview?! You may take me for a joke, but don’t you ever do something like that again with my company!

In typical fashion, Aomine misses the point.

Aomine: Man, it was just a joke. So when are you coming?

Kise is simply too fed up to argue, but his irritation won’t subside without at least one crack at Aomine’s ego.

Kise: Aren’t you coming here in a few weeks? It can’t be…that you miss me…right?

Aomine: …D-Don’t be stupid! It’s-It’s because you want to see me, so I’m just trying to help you out!

The call ends abruptly. The dead air sends tremors to every one of Aomine’s nerve-endings and they carry with them the understanding that the ditch just got deeper. He knows he deserves it, but he didn’t expect it. He also knows that Kise has his limits and then he has his limit, but Aomine isn’t sure which one he just pushed him to. The uncertainty dredges up and introduces other things he doesn’t want to reason. His possessiveness of Kise for which he would not exchange fidelity. The years he had purposely held Kise’s feelings hostage. The eventuality of a rival which, with Kagami’s appearance, seems to loom ever closer. His love for Kise which he selfishly refuses to admit to when passion and desperation are not clawing at him. The persistence of Kise’s love for him. The first time Kise hung up on him. The lonely eight months that passed before he spoke to Kise again. Three weeks from now when they’ll be in the same city. Three weeks may not be enough. The deathly cold feeling that he has pushed Kise too far. Now he feels anxious and a little sick.

A little over a week later, Kise is still recovering from Fashion Week; and Kagami talks about recording the 1st episode of his 3rd season of On Fire! in his new Philadelphia studio.

Kise: What’s with you and this movie? Every time I come here you have it playing like background music.

Kagami looks and studies Kise as he gets comfortable on the chaise across from him.

Kagami: Have you ever watched it?

Kise: No, but I know what it’s about.

Kagami: You gotta watch it. You want to watch it now?

Kise takes note of the papers spread out on the coffee table.

Kise: Aren’t you in the middle of something?

Kagami: Yeah, but I’ll be finished soon.

Kise leans forward in anticipation.

Kise: Sooooo?

Kagami: Yeah?

Kise: Your first show! How did it go! You have to tell me everything~~ since I couldn’t make it!

Kagami: Oh, yeah. It was long.

Kise’s shoulders drop in disappointment.

Kise: Huh?

Kagami: It usually takes us about 90 minutes to film the show. That includes on and off-camera prep, last minute staging, finished dish, and a bunch of other things. But on a new set with half the people on the crew new to the show, it took us 4 hours even though we’ve done dry runs before this.

Although Kise played dumb when Aomine said that Kagami was different, he saw it, too. He was actually intrigued by the change and wanted to know why, how… Kagami was cute before; honest, loyal, and easily embarrassed, but this refined and mature Kagami that he decided to invade with his friendship fanned a flame in Kise who had been silently grappling with his own maturation. Would Kagami be his proof that you could go through something life-changing and still come out alright on the other side? Maybe better for it? Just one question: was this Kagami better?

Kise: That doesn’t sound like fun at all.

Kagami: It was definitely a trying time, but I did have a lot of fun. Getting to know the new crew members made it worth it. I’m just hoping we can get it together before Commissioner Stern* comes on.

Kise: I heard he was stepping down.

Kagami: Same here, but I don’t know if there’s any truth to that.

Kise: He’s been there for what, 30 years?

Kagami: Yeah… These days, I can’t imagine anything lasting that long.

Kise: That’s such a grim outlook. What’s going on with you?

Kagami’s phone rings. He bows to Kise in apology and gestures to him to hang on a minute.

Kagami: Yeah. […] Did you get my message? […] You can turn over the keys to Rik– […] Well, she’s my lawyer. […] There really isn’t anything I want to talk about right now.

Kise practically falls off the chaise as he leans to listen in on Kagami’s conversation.

Kagami: Alright! Al-right, we can talk, but now is not a good time. […] I have company […] That sounds more like something you would do, doesn’t it? […] Look, I’ll call you tomorrow. […] No. Tomorrow. […] Yeah. Save it.

He jumps when he finds a pair of captivating eyes staring him in the face as he turns around to return to the living room.

Kagami: Ki—!

Kise is wide-eyed with curiosity, but he tries to hide it.

Kise: Ka— Whoops!

He steps back.

Kise: If you’re busy, I can come back.

Kagami shrugged off the anger.

Kagami: What are you talking about, aren’t we watching a movie?

Kise: Uh… are you s—

Kagami: Do you want anything to eat?

Kise takes the hint and reconciles backing off with the thought that if the conversation Kagami just had was with who he thinks was Himuro, it wasn’t any of his business.

Kise: What do you usually eat with this kind of movie?

Kagami: Haha! I don’t know if there’s an answer for that, but how about some gyoza?

Kise: Hehe! Please feed me! It’s been so long since I’ve tasted your handiwork!

A short while later.

Kagami places Kise’s food in front of him.

Kise: Yay! Food!

Kagami bops Kise on the head with a tissue box.

Kagami: Here.

Kise: Food? Tissues? Kagami-san?! Are you trying to get me to watch a kinky porno?!

Kagami blushes and snatches the box back. He thought to keep it, but playfully smashes it in Kise’s face instead.

Kagami: Shut up, idiot!

Kise: Don’t be embarrassed! Hehe, it’s only porn!

Kagami gets even more flustered.

Kagami: Shut up and eat!

003 Footnotes

  • Beyoncé – Beyoncé is married to Jay-Z who is one of the owners of the Nets (the team Aomine plays for).
  • Commissioner Stern – David Stern was the NBA Commissioner for 30 years, 1984-2014.
  • Kintsugi – The Japanese Art of repairing cracked/broken pottery with gold dust and lacquer. This is a significant concept for Kise in the story.

004

Late October. The film’s come to an end and Kise’s trying to think of a good way to bring up the conversation that he overheard, but Kagami asks an unexpected question that puts Kise in the hot seat. So Kise answers, but warns Kagami not to seek deliverance in his story.

Kise’s fingers peck at the tissue sprouting from the box as he hics, cries, and grieves almost incoherently.

Kise: Kagami…but…why…? He died… He…died…

Kagami is isn’t sure if he should try to comfort Kise. Though touching him would probably be a comfort in itself, he opts not to and ends up patting Kise’s head as one would a strange dog’s.

Kagami: Yeah, I know.

Kise’s blubbering begins to subside as he tends to the resulting sniffles.

Kise: They were so happy and so perfect together, you know?

He looks up at Kagami red-faced and teary-eyed.

Kise: Perfect, like no matter what happened, it would always turn out alright because they had each other…perfect.

He climbs onto the sofa from his spot on the floor. Kagami places his arms on the back of the sofa to brace himself. He leans back as Kise gets closer. Something is stirring. What is he to do with Kise now kneeling on the sofa looking to him for some kind of answer?

Kise: You understand what I mean, right? And the other guy, he’ll never know the truth. She tried so hard but they still couldn’t make it.

He falls into Kagami’s side and Kagami stiffens even though he likes how different Kise’s warmth is from what he’s used to. Kagami slides his arm down from the top of the sofa to carefully comfort Kise. He’s not really convinced when he reasons that it’s just a friendly gesture.

Kise: I can’t believe this is what you have on repeat; it’s too sad… I didn’t know it was that sad.

He blows his nose rather loudly and garners a wide-eyed look from Kagami.

Kise: Whose fault do you think this is? Anyway, don’t meditate on something like this.

Kagami speaks more to himself than anything.

Kagami: I guess it is a kind of meditation.

He looks down at Kise.

Kagami: But isn’t that better?

Kise lifts his head to look at Kagami and notices the distinct features that make the right side of his face so handsome. He wants to take in the other side, but knows that would just be too sudden and too weird. He blows his nose for the last time instead.

Kise: What are you talking about? The truth is always better!

Kagami looks down at this guy who’s not that much smaller than him curled up under his arm with watery eyes and a tissue blooming from his nostril. Why in the world does he find this endearing?

Kagami: Really? You think he would have been better off knowing that even after everything he did, they did, that he’d been manipulated, lied to, betrayed, and that he’d been looked down on all that time, to the very end?

Kise: Well, when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound so great, but I still think knowing is better. At-at the end, there isn’t much you can do about it, but if it’s still going on, it’s…

He hesitates, feeling as if he might say something he’s not ready to say.

Kise: …better.

Kagami: I can’t understand that.

It was just a movie, but all of a sudden Kise feels like he has a point to defend, but he’s not so sure he wants to use his personal arsenal of wins and losses to get that point across though.

Kise: Wh-When you know, you can regain some control. Like, your mind can do a lot with a modicum of control even if your heart is working against it.

Kagami’s still not convinced, but now he’s gripped by Kise’s obvious change in demeanor.

Kagami: Is this hypothetical or are you talking from experience? Because what do you do if you know your mind doesn’t really have a chance of winning over your heart?

It isn’t Kise’s intention, but his tone comes off somewhat dismissive as he snuggles up closer to Kagami..

Kise: You can’t know something like that before hand.

Kagami tries to steel himself against the chills coursing up and down his spine. Kise’s too close right now; he’s practically on his lap. He fears that if he doesn’t create some distance between them soon, the light from Kise’s flickering brilliance is going to start seeping into those dark places he’s sealed off. He can’t have that, especially not for someone that’s already taken. He’d be no different than them. Though, thinking like that hasn’t done much for him in recent months, he still errs on the side of caution. He gives Kise no warning when he stands which causes Kise to fall over into his vacated spot.

Kagami: OK! So, say you know, say you find out, what do you do if the knowledge is killing you and then the only thing you want is to return to blissful ignorance? I mean, at that point, it’s already too late, right? What do you do then?

Kise props himself up on his elbows.

Kise: You sound like you’ve already been defeated. What happened to your endless drive to conquer everything? Right now, all I hear is “I can’t.”

Kagami slouches at the observation.

Kise: Does this have anything to do with your conversation earlier?

Kagami’s shocked face says more than any words he might have tried to utter in response. Suddenly he feels like he might collapse.

Kise: I’ll take that as a yes.

Kagami turns to Kise.

Kagami: What about you? You never answered my question. Are you speaking hypothetically or from experience? It’s hard for me to believe that you know what that’s like. By my count, you’ve been with Aomine for about 15 years, right?

Kise sits up, stunned as if he’s never heard something so unbelievable in his life.

Kise: Huh?

Kagami: That kind of connection… That way of being special to someone… That “perfection” you were crying over…that’s your experience. I know it may not happen for everyone, but it’s real, right? I mean, that’s what you and Aomine have.

Kise:  HAHHHAHAHAH! HAHAH! AHAHAhahaha haaa haha ha hee…

Kise tries to catch his breath from his unexpected outburst. He wipes futilely at the tears in the corner his eyes.

Kagami: What’s so funny?

Kise: Ha ha hehehe heeee… Aomine would die laughing if he heard you say that!

Kagami dismisses Kise’s last statement as teasing.

Kagami: How do you do it?

Kise: Heheheeeee… D-Do what?

Kagami: You guys were close even when you were rivals in high school and now you seem just as close, if not closer than when you were both playing for Syracuse. These days, how can you take the long separations, the celebrity, and the egos when there are people who are never apart that can’t even keep it together?

Kise sobers up and he leans forward. He locks eyes with Kagami, who is now sitting on the coffee table in front of him, and then takes his face in his hands.

Kise: It’s all smoke and mirrors. The great and powerful Wizard of Oz…that kind of thing.

Kagami: You expect me to believe that? I’ve seen it. He loves you. You love him. You guys bicker, but whenever I see you together, it’s like you guys are in your own world. I’m envious.

Kise chokes back the gyoza and bile threatening to make its way up and out. How much should he say? Kagami’s obviously searching for something, but will his words help or hinder him?

Kise: I’m not sure what’s going on between you and Himuro-san, but don’t envy us.

Kagami didn’t feel it when Kise’s hands first touched his face; he just assumed they were warm, but after Kise pulled away he felt the warmth returning once Kise’s cold fingertips released him. He grabs Kise’s wrists before he moves too far back and finds that his skin is cold there as well.

Kagami: …Kise?

Kise is hesitant to say anymore than he’s already said. He knows once the words are spoken, there really will be no going back. His resolve has been years in the making and he has always imagined that he’d wake up one morning and know that that day was the day and he’d wear his resolve like armor on his way to confront Aomine. But here he was with Kagami who has nothing to do with the mess he’s in, feeling like that moment is now, feeling like the things he’s always trying to push to the back of his mind should be confessed aloud so that he can hear the truth in his own voice. But can he do it?

Kise: You’re right, though. I love Aomine…to the point of ruin. And I know he loves me, but it’s not the same.

Kagami’s hands tighten around Kise’s wrists which are now in his lap.

Kagami: But you guys are trying to work things out, right?

Kise tries to free his hands from Kagami’s grip, but stops when their palms touch.

Kise: Honestly, I know what it looks like, but he and I aren’t together. Aomine and I have never been together…not properly anyway. He gets bored easily, so he prefers…a variety.

Kagami tries to meet Kise’s lowered gaze.

Kagami: I don’t understand. What’s been going on since high school?

Kise’s hands tingle as the heat from Kagami’s own lingers after he lets go. He covers his face because, even though he feels like this is the moment, he doesn’t want to say it, he doesn’t want to make it real. A laugh escapes him–only he would find comfort in the sent of Kagami on his hands at a time like this. He takes a deep breath and then lets his hands fall to his side.

Kise: That was just me…blindly in love. Just me accepting everything. Just me not wanting to let go.

Kagami: Kise, it’s not just you. I’ve seen the way he looks at you, the way he never wants you out of his sight. He’s just as much in love as you are!

Kise: I’m not being modest here. I’ve know him for a long time and I can read him like a book. He loves me and he wants me, but more so as a safety net and so no one else can have me.

Kagami: So, you’ve stayed with him even though he makes you feel that way? Even though he treats you that way? Are you a masochist or something?

Kise holds back his tears with a sarcastic laugh.

Kise: Ha…hahahaha…ha… A little, maybe? But it’s not like I’m desperate or anything. But it would be nice if it was that simple. God, I wish it could be described so succinctly, so matter-of-factly…

Kagami: I don’t get it. You guys act like lovers, but you’re telling me he sleeps with other people and you’re just okay with that? How is that not desperate?

Kise could get up and run out now, but then what? He knows that it’s really time to let go, time to say it and make it real. But will he be able to get Kagami to understand?

Kise: Look, I wasn’t okay with it, it just happened! I always hoped since he was in a similar boat, somehow he would…something would…but that didn’t work out so well.

Kagami’s brow furrows even deeper as he looks at Kise. What happened to the guy he knew back in high school? Although his foppishness was unmitigated, he had a confidence you couldn’t help but admire.

Kagami: Wait, are you saying he was in love with someone else?

Kise: What’s that look for? You keep saying you don’t understand, so I’m telling you.

Kise stands up, goes to the closet, grabs his jacket, and heads for the door. Unsure of what’s going on, Kagami stands up, too.

Kagami: Wait, where are you going?

Kise huffs and grunts as he struggles with the door.

Kise: I know I’m a mess. I am well aware.

He tries the door handle again.

Kise: So I don’t need to be reminded by you.

Although he wrenches at the door handle, the door doesn’t budge.

Kise: Let me out of here!

Kagami moves towards Kise.

Kagami: Hey! Don’t do that, you’ll break it. Anyway, why are you so angry all of a sudden?

Kise: Let me out of here. You must be crazy if you think I’m going to sit here while you look at me in disgust.

Kagami: Disgust?! I wasn’t looking at you in disgust!

Kise: Pity, then? Either way, your eyes are condemning me for something and I don’t like.

Kagami: Not that either. Hold up a second.

He reaches for the handle.

Kagami: Let go of the door.

Kise: No. I wanna leave!

Kagami: I get that, I’m just trying to show you how to unlock the door before you break it.

Kise, so used to the back and forth nonsense with Aomine, is caught off guard by Kagami’s acquiescence.

Kise: …Oh.

Kagami pulls the handle down about an inch along a track that Kise hadn’t noticed before. He then steers the bottom of the handle to the right along an arc of about 30º. The lock disengages. Kagami steps back.

Kagami: There you go.

Kise: Uh…thanks.

Kagami: Before you leave, can I just say that I wasn’t thinking anything like that? I don’t know what my expression was like, but my head was confused. It’s been a long time, but I don’t remember you being the kind of guy that would really put up with something like that. I can’t say much for Aomine, because I’m not really surprised, but right now I can see it in your eyes that you’re not happy with things and I… I just don’t–

Kise: “Understand”? Yeah. It’s a lot to take in, even for me and it’s my life. I can only imagine how it all seems to an outsider. Don’t trouble yourself, Kagami, just be glad that you don’t have to work it out for yourself.

His anger has subsided a little and he doesn’t feel like leaving anymore, moreover, he hasn’t quite said what he needs to say to make it real, but he’s exhausted and really wants nothing more than to go home and lock himself in. He opens the door a little more.

Kise: I’m sure you and Himuro-san will sort your problems out in due time, but just remember, they’re issues that exist between the two of you. No matter what someone else’s situation looks like, you never know what’s happening behind closed doors, so don’t envy it.

Kagami: “Envy it”?

Kise: Yeah, I know you were trying to parse out my experiences to make sense of whatever’s going on between you two, but there’re a lot of dots to connect and you don’t even know the half.

Kagami: Ah, I’m sorry about that.

Kise: Nah, don’t worry about it. But all the same, I don’t have any answers for you. There’s no moral to this story, there’s no redemption and there’s no happy ending. I can only tell you about a two lost souls and their impossible dreams… That’s all I got.

Kagami: I see.

Kise: But some other time; sleep is calling, so I must answer.

Kagami: You could always stay the night here…

Kise catches Kagami out the corner of his eye. Kagami realizes what his offer sounds like.

Kagami: Oh, no! I didn’t mean it that way. Not. At. All.

Kise turns to meet Kagami face to face. Even as done with the day as he is, he wouldn’t be himself if he let an opportunity to tease Kagami slip by.

Kise: So…

He steps closer.

Kise: …you’re not even…a little interested?

Kagami starts to blush, much to Kise’s satisfaction. Even though he has his whole flat behind him, Kagami feels crowded, so he pushes his arms out to keep Kise from getting any closer, and then gives him an answer he probably wasn’t expecting.

Kagami: Whoa…that’s uh, a whole other conversation.

Kise: Is that so~?

Kagami: Uh, weren’t you leaving?


Open Book Volume 1: Kise’s Pieces

These songs were originally part of a playlist created for one of my OC’s and was entitled Broken, but as soon as I started writing Page 005 (the original), this playlist started playing in my head. Despite it being re-purposed, I think it really reflects some of the things Kise’s trying to cope with in this part of the story. It’s relevant mostly to Pages 005-007.

  1. If You Can't Say No Lenny Kravitz 5:17
  2. Somebody Already Broke My Heart Sade 5:01
  3. So Have I For You Nikka Costa 5:09
  4. High Life Mono 4:17
  5. No Distance Left To Run Blur 3:26
  6. End It on This No Doubt 3:46
  7. Distractions Zero 7 5:17
  8. Bitter Me'Shell Ndegéocello 4:15

005

Late October. Faced with the choice of either running away and pretending like he didn’t just cross the point of no return or making his decade plus struggle real, Kise decides to put both feet over the line as he elucidates for Kagami the hows and the whys of this thing he’s got going on with Aomine.

Kagami: Didn’t I just talk to you on the phone? What are you doing here?

Kise: You said you were about to start making breakfast.

Kagami: And…?

Kise: That’s totally relevant to my interests.

Kagami: Yeah…?

Kise: Man, get a clue! I’m hungry.

Kise slips into Kagami’s flat and makes himself at home.

Kagami: You get a clue, this ain’t no diner.

Kise: You’re a chef, right? Plus, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you.

Kagami: What?! You were here just last night!

Kise: Details, details. I came to talk, so just feed me already.

At that, Kagami shuts up. He chalks up Kise’s flippant tone to anxiety.

Later.

Kagami: So…?

Kise: Yeah, I kind of fell for him when we were at Teikou. But there was really no room for anything but basketball, so I didn’t dwell on it. Then, by the time we were graduating, I had already realized that he liked Kuroko. But back then I thought that Kuroko was, you know, so I thought that wasn’t going anywhere. And I just kind of sat back and watched and before I knew it, high school was over and, as you know, we ended up at the same university.

Kagami: You guys were pretty close in high school and nothing happened?

Kise: Nothing. I thought to confess a few times, especially after all that drama with Haizaki, but it was clear to me that he was still pining for Kuroko.

Kagami: Are you dragging this out on purpose?

Kise: A little, maybe?

Kagami: Fair enough. But while you’re hemming and hawing on that, explain something else to me.

Kise: Huh?

Kagami: What’s up with your, uh, your nickname?

Kise: My nickname? I don’t have one.

Kagami: Uh, no, I mean the one you call people.

Kise: Oh, that? You mean like Kagamicchi?

Kagami bristles and his face goes sour for a brief moment. He doesn’t actually like the nickname and was glad to not hear it for once, but he’s curious about the disappearance of something so symbolic of the guy he knew.

Kagami: Yeah… so?

Kise looks down at his plate and bullies the last lonely mushroom about with his fork.

Kise: Enh, you know people grow out of things.

Kagami: Why don’t I believe you?

Kise: I don’t know…

He pierces the flesh of the mushroom and puts it in his mouth.

Kise: Why don’t you b–

He was trying to be coy, but the mushroom was cold and the balsamic vinegar from the steak and the lime flavor from the rice that had managed to remain separate when he was enjoying the food earlier somehow came together at that point and he was sure the gagging face he was making was so far away from being coy that it was just completely unattractive with no way of playing it off. So he just let his tongue hang out of his mouth for a minute.

Kise: Ulgchh! Gross!

Kagami does nothing to hide just how much he’s entertained by Kise’s misery.

Kagami: And that’s what you get for lying. So, let’s hear it.

Kise rolls his eyes and downs the last gulp of his hour-old coffee. It didn’t help the taste and his face shows it. When Kagami laughs again, Kise reaches over and pulls him in for a kiss. Kagami’s at a loss; it’s probably one of the foulest combinations of flavors he’s ever tasted, but he’s being kissed by Kise, so it’s not like he can’t overlook that. In this moment, the world stops and he doesn’t realize he’s lost in the kiss until Kise lets go.

Kise: Don’t think it’s so funny now, do you? Anyway…

He looks at Kagami out the corner of his eye to see him stunned, but he just continues on like nothing happened.

Kise: It’s all BS, but apparently I was just too nice for the fashion industry. It’s like you can’t be serious unless you’re rude and bossy to everyone or a total eccentric. And I’m not even a nice person, but people weren’t taking me seriously, so I just got out of that and other habits. I mean, there was less than a handful of people who even deserved it, but whatever. I slip every now and then, but for the most part, it’s not a thing anymore.

Kagami had begun to tune in, but he was still mostly stunned.

Kagami: S-S-Sorry to hear that.

The corner of Kise’s mouth curls. He said he was there to talk, so he decides to stop stalling and jumps back into the conversation without notice.

Kise: When we got to Syracuse, it was kind of the furthest thing from my mind. Even though we were roommates, there was such an adjustment, especially for Aomine. I mean, he spent all that time before we left with you and Alex, but the only thing that really improved was his reading level. When we got here, he still couldn’t form a sentence to save his life. But once we were with the team all the time, he managed to get the hang of it pretty quickly. We made it to the end of the season and I had only been tempted once. We came back from hanging out with the team, celebrating our record, and he was still hype. He picked me up and hugged me and I was, you know, I was losing my mind. Then, in a matter of seconds, I guess, I thought about how far we were from home and how far he was from Kuroko, and I just went for it and kissed him.

Kagami: And?

Kise: And he kissed me back.


006

Late October. It’s take 2 for Kise as he talks about habits, questions friendship, and discovers a not so little secret about Kagami.
They move to the sofa and situate themselves at opposite ends.

Kagami: Um, so, I didn’t make you breakfast for “~he kissed me back~”

Kise knows he’s about to tear it all apart and wonders why he’s so calm. He clears his throat.

Kise: Well, after I kissed him, he paused for a second and then he kissed me back. We weren’t drunk and we knew exactly what was about to go down. We spent the rest of the weekend in bed, but by the end I was getting this feeling in my gut. It was all too much for me and I started feeling like if I told anyone about it, it would end. So I asked him if it could stay between us. He agreed without a second thought.

Kagami: You said you guys were never together, but wouldn’t that have been the time to talk about being exclusive or something?

Kise: I guess, but after getting what I wanted, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it.

Kagami: And what did you want exactly?

Kise: I wanted to have sex with Aomine. I wanted him to call my name while he was out of breath and on the edge of an orgasm. …Don’t look at me that way. You asked. Anyway, a few weeks after we started, we stopped and he went back home for the summer a week later to hang out with Kuroko. I had an internship so I couldn’t go. He was never into the whole communication thing, so I only talked to him once while he was home. He came back just in time for training and jumped right into it, the season began, and it was two months before he touched me again.

Kagami: Did you say anything to him?

Kise: What was I supposed to say? Especially when I could hear him jerking off in the bathroom. I cried for two days and let it go. I figured if I didn’t talk about it we could probably stay friends. And that happened for three years. We would start, stop and then he would go home for the summer a week later, I would stay, and then he would come back in time for training and not touch me for two months while jerking off in the bathroom.

Kagami: And you never said anything?

Kise: Nope. I don’t think he even realized that it had become a routine. So, in our last year, right before graduation and the draft, we decided to go home early before it got really hectic. The day we left, I asked him about it just being us, but you know, for real, and he said that we could talk about it after the draft. I didn’t think that was unreasonable. So we go and after we disembarked, we see Kuroko there to greet us.

Kise he pulls his legs up to his chest and starts to fold in on himself. Kagami sees Kise’s movements and leans in as if to catch him even though he doesn’t look like he’s about to fall.

Kagami: Ki—

Kise talks into his knees.

Kise: It had been a while since I saw Kuroko and I was nervous. I kept wondering if he’d be able to tell what was going on just by looking at me. Despite Aomine’s feelings, I was so sure that Kuroko wasn’t interested so, even though I had been jealous of him since way back, I had this strange confidence that he was no longer my rival and that it was just a matter of waiting until after the draft for us to become official. I tried to contain my nerves and make my greeting to him, but Aomine rushed over to him and kind of ushered him off towards baggage claim like he didn’t want us to talk.

Kagami moves in a bit closer, but he had no idea what he was preparing for. Kise rocked a bit and then he just let himself fall into Kagami. Kagami panicked for a second and then decided to just roll with it.

Kise: That hurt, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it. So, later that night we hung out with Kuroko, Momoi, Murasakibara, and Himuro-san.

Kagami cringed.

Kise: So we were all at Murasakibara’s place–

He looks up at Kagami when he feels him cringe again, but nothing shows on his face, so he continues.

Kise: Yeah, so we’re there and things are happening and then I’m helping Momoi in the kitchen and she starts crying and when I finally get her to tell me what’s wrong she says that she had waited and waited, but it really seemed like there was really no chance for her and Kuroko. And I’m confused because I thought she got over him a long time ago because he had no interest, but that wasn’t the case at all. She goes on to tell me how Kuroko told her straight out that he wanted to be with Aomine, but he wasn’t sure so he told Aomine to wait a few years and if they still felt the same, then he’d consider it. And apparently the week we were home was supposed to be like, the decision week.

Kagami: So what happened after that?

He had been in a ball since he fell into Kagami and now his back and arms were feeling it. He rolls onto his back and stretches out on the sofa. He feels Kagami’s thigh contract and relax after he rests his head on it. Kagami isn’t sure he can just roll with this, but he tries.

Kise: So glad you asked, hehe. Aomine managed to keep me and Kuroko from having a conversation for more than a minute so far that day, but after talking to Momoi, I didn’t care anymore. So on our way home, I told them what Momoi told me and asked if it was true. Kuroko said yes and Aomine stayed silent. And this is where the blanks begin. I think I told Kuroko something like, “I’m sorry and congratulations,” but I’m positive I told Aomine to go fuck himself.

Kagami: Wait a minute. Are you saying he had you in reserve all that time?

Kise covers his face in embarrassment.

Kise: Yeah, but I knew that he was hoping for Kuroko to “come around,” but I never thought it would happen!

Kagami: …Then what?

Kise sits up and stares across the room at nothing in particular. He feels heat spreading across his back, radiating from one spot. It’s Kagami’s hand and although he can’t hear his voice at the moment, he’s picks up the vibrations of Kagami calling his name. He comes to.

Kagami: Hey, are you alright? Do you want change the subject?

Kise takes a deep breath and stands as he exhales.

Kise: Nah. Unless…

He turns to look at Kagami.

Kise: Is this too much for you?

Kagami: No, but you seem like you need to talk, but aren’t ready to talk, so I guess I’m just following your lead…? If you want to, then we can, but if not…

Kise: I think I’m good.

Kagami sees Kise hesitating, so he moves back to his corner of the sofa.

Kise: Oh, uh, I think I’ll stand.

Kagami: That’s fine. Ready whenever.

Kise: You know…

He starts to pace.

Kise: To this day, I think I was more hurt by the fact that he couldn’t just say he wasn’t interested than what he did. All that time, I thought we were friends, even beyond the sex. I really thought we were, but friends don’t do things like that.

Kagami: After that?

Kise: Nothing. I don’t know. I mean, I left but, everything after that is a mystery.

Kagami: Did you get drunk or something?

Kise: Maybe? I don’t know. The thing is, I really have no clue what happened. No matter what I do, I can’t remember. It’s just a blank and the more time that passes, the more I wonder if I just imagined everything that happened before that time.

Kagami: So, what do you remember?

Kise stops mid-stride, does an about face, and crawls onto the sofa. He pauses when he sees Kagami draw back. He can tell that it was unintentional.

Kise: I’m not gonna bite you.

He settles in about a foot away from Kagami and readies himself to open still-healing wounds.

Kise: The only thing I know for sure is that by the end of that summer I was working for Marc Jacobs*. That’s crazy right? I mean, do you understand what that means?

He laughs; at first to himself and then out loud, almost hysterically.

Kise: …I still don’t get it, not really. I planned to be home for a week, but I found out later that I went back to school the next day. When I got back, I somehow managed to move off-campus, remove myself from the draft, reinstate and complete my internship, graduate, and then start working for Marc Jacobs. The funniest thing was that somewhere in the middle of it all I changed my phone number! I didn’t know anything and by the time I woke up, so to speak, I was a New Yorker, Aomine was a Hawk*, and our seasons were well underway.

Kise doubles over and laughs again, but the tears quickly come and he can’t stop them. He senses movement on the sofa and then that warm spot he remembers from earlier returns. He looks and sees Kagami sitting on the coffee table in front of him. He laughs–lazily swinging between quietly and frantically–as Kagami thumbs the tears away.

Kagami: Are you going to be alright? Do–

Kise tries to catch his breath.

Kise: I’ve…always tried not to think about it too much, but I’m here, so I managed to kind of survive it and talking about it can’t be nearly as bad as living it, right? So, I think I’ll be fine…soon…probably. For whatever comes after that, I don’t know, but I really hope so, because what good am I going to be to anyone if I remain as useless as I am right now?

Kagami: You’re not useless. Come on, sit up.

He supports Kise under his arms and pulls him up, practically lifting him off the sofa.

Kagami: And if you can crack lame jokes like that, I think you’ll be fine.

Kise: It’s not a joke, but there’s more to the story, you know?

Kagami: I think that’s enough for now. I’ll let you sleep on it. If you still feel like talking about it in a few hours, then we can get back into it, but I don’t think you can take anymore, so take a nap.

Kise: No way! I started this and I’m going to finish it! I just need a stiff drink. Make me something that will get me going and then knock me out!

Kagami: Sorry, but I can’t help you there. Besides—I guess it’s just hysteria—but you already seem like you’ve thrown back one too many.

Kise: I don’t want to get drunk, just wasted.

Kagami: Haha! Shouldn’t that be the other way around? Besides, it’s not a matter of which extents you’d like to go to; I don’t have anything stiff to…give…you… …

Kagami is in full on crimson blush and Kise’s laugh returns but this time the overall mood lightens with it.

Kise: Kaga…mi!

Tears stream down his red face as he reaches between Kagami’s legs and cups his crotch.

Kise: I’m sure that could change in a second or two, hehe!

Kagami: Hey! Idiot!

He yanks Kise’s hand away before he can notice his reaction.

Kagami: Hands off!

Kise: Whoa, I see what you’re working with!

Kagami grabs a pillow and covers Kise’s face.

Kagami: Seriously, Kise, stop it! I’m not going down that road with you.

Kise suddenly turns sullen and slouches into the back of the sofa.

Kise: Yeah…who wants damaged goods?

Kagami: That’s not what I meant. Come on…

He pulls Kise by his arms.

Kagami: Do you want to sleep here or in the bed?

Kise: Are you going to sleep in the bed with me?

Kagami smacks Kise’s forehead.

Kise: Owwwww!

Kise rubs his forehead.

Kagami: What did I just tell you?

Kise: I’ll take the bed.

Kagami: You would.

Kise stretches his arms out and looks at Kagami.

Kise: Carry me.

Kagami smacks Kise’s forehead again.

Kise: Hey! You’re gonna to make me stupid!

Kise covers up his forehead to guard against another attack.

Kagami: Too late, idiot! How much do you think you weigh?!

Kise: But you just picked me up off the sofa!

Kagami: Stop being cute. Get up there before I make you sleep out here!

Kise: Will you at least talk to me until I fall asleep?

Kagami looks at Kise’s weary but–though he feels it’s dangerous to admit–invitingly handsome face.

Kagami: Ugggh! Alright! But if it takes you more than 15 minutes to fall asleep, you’re on your own!

006 Footnotes

  • Marc Jacobs – American Fashion Designer.
  • Hawk – Hawks, an NBA team based in Atlanta, Georgia.

007

Late October. Seeing the toll it was taking on him, Kagami suggested Kise take a break and sleep on it. Kise sees the respite as an opportunity to steer the conversation back to Kagami’s phone call.
They made their way to Kagami’s bedroom. Kise’s tucked in under a blanket while Kagami sits on top. This arrangement is certainly not what either of them foresaw a few hours ago, but sometimes you just have to go wherever the day takes you.

Kise: Your bed smells good! So, what are we going to talk about?

Kagami: I agreed to talk to you; I never said anything about picking a topic.

Kise: OK. Well, why is your place so empty? The place you lived in back in high school was like that too.

Kagami: It’s just me, what do I need a lot of stuff for?

Kise seizes the opportunity.

Kise: Why is that? Why isn’t Himuro-san here?

Kagami: Don’t you think we’ve had enough of that kind of talk today?

Kise: No. There’s obviously something going on and I think it’s only fair that I lend you my ear after you allowed my heart to bleed all over your living room.

Kagami’s brows wrinkle and he cuts his eyes at Kise.

Kagami: No need to be so dramatic. Anyway, aren’t you supposed to be going to sleep?

He looks over at his clock.

Kagami: You’ve already wasted 5 minutes.

Kise rolls to his left to face Kagami.

Kise: Listen, I’m a mess and I probably can’t do anything for you, but if you’re going through even a fifth of what I am, I want to at least try to help you.

Kagami refuses to look at Kise because it’s dangerous right now.

Kagami: Thanks, Kise. I appreciate it, but don’t even know where to start.

Kise: Umm… Do you love him?

Kagami: …I don’t know.

Kise: Do you miss him?

Kagami: I don’t know.

Kise: Eaaaant! Wrong answer! We’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t tell the truth, Kagami! I told you before, the truth is always better.

Kagami: The jury’s still out on that one. What makes you think I’m not telling the truth, anyway?

Kise: I don’t think it, I know it. You love him and you miss him; you just wish you didn’t. And since that’s the truth, it makes it harder for you to make whichever decision it is that you’ve been avoiding.

Right now, what Kagami wants to avoid is making eye contact with Kise who is staring hard at him, waiting for him to show some sign of agreement. He leans forward and swings his legs off the bed, turning his back to Kise.

Kagami: Alright. You’re right. But admitting that doesn’t change anything.

Kise: Wrong again!

He sits up.

Kise: It changes everything! All this time you’ve been holding on to your I-don’t-knows, you were running in circles. Now that you have a firm answer, you have somewhere to start from. So let’s try this again.

Kagami: Your 15 minutes are almost up.

Kise: Nope. You lied, so the time gets extended. Ready? Do you love Himuro-san?

Kagami: …Yes.

Kise: Do you miss him?

Kagami: Yes.

Kise: Did you guys break up?

Kagami: Yes.

Kise: How long ago?

Kagami: Five months.

Kise: What?!

Kise grabs the back of Kagami’s shirt to make him turn around.

Kise: What have you been doing all this time?!

Kagami hangs his head.

Kagami: …Running in circles.

Kise: Do you want to get back together?

Kagami: …I don’t think that’s an option.

Kise: That’s not what I asked.

Kagami: …I don’t know.

Kise: …I’ll accept that. …So what’s in your way?

Kagami: Hmn?

Kise: What’s preventing you from being together again?

Kagami stays silent and not as if he didn’t hear or understand, he just doesn’t answer. Kise is almost afraid to ask.

Kise: Is… Is there… someone else?

Kagami rests his elbows on his knees and holds his head in his hands. Kise muffles a gasp.

Kise: Kagamicchi. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry…

Kagami freezes as Kise’s arms encircle his neck. The muted vibrations of his solacing chant are registering right in the crook. Kagami sighs as the warmth spreads over him like a sedative. Too close. He doesn’t want to succumb to the vulnerability and temptation that’s been tingling just below the surface of his skin, but the warmth… Kise’s hands are cold, but his body… is warm, so disarmingly warm. The sigh evanesces into a slouch just when Kise’s embrace tightens. This is trouble, but even this comfort can’t drown out the assumption in Kise’s words that echo the perceptions of someone else.

Kagami: Did it ever cross your mind that I could be the one with “someone else”?

Kise breathes in Kagami’s mellowing scent; it’s like honey and sandalwood.

Kise: No way, Kagamicchi. You always play fair; it’s just not in you to do something like that.

Kagami takes purchase of Kise’s hand. He turns around and flips Kise over, pinning him down, hovering over him with Kise’s boxer-briefed butt in his lap and his long legs flanking him. His tone is indignant.

Kagami: You, too? You don’t think I have that kind of thing in me?!

Kise is pissed. He understands that his words have triggered a bitter memory for Kagami, but being flipped over like this has done the same for him. It’s so stupid he almost laughs.

Kise: Et tu, your damn self, you fucking brute! What’s wrong with you idiots thinking you can just fling people around anywhichway?!

He feels the laugh surge, but he holds it. For the moment, he’s decided against breaking free. He’s honestly not sure what to do; it’s not as if Kagami is that much stronger than him, but when he looks at Kagami expecting to see anger in his eyes, he’s greeted only by fear and it weakens him. Kagami let’s go of Kise’s hands, but ignores his rant. He pulls him by his hips into his promising erection. The indignation is gone; bitterness and distress have taken its place.

Kagami: Do you feel that? That’s all you, Kise.

He places a splayed hand on Kise’s chest.

Kagami: I’ve been wanting to touch you all day. Do you still think it’s not in me to betray someone’s trust?

Kise’s face begins to mirror the fear in Kagami’s eyes. Kagami pushes up Kise’s borrowed t-shirt and presses his face into his abdomen, breathing in his scent. Even though winter’s right around the corner, each inhalation reckons memories of summer. He looks up at Kise for a moment and licks his lips. It’s hardly noticeable, but he puckers them and returns his focus to Kise’s well-toned belly. Kagami trails light kisses up to Kise’s chin and stops just short of his lips.

Kise: Mnnnnuh.

Kise curses to himself. Kagami’s heat is intense, warming up places he’s forgotten about, but he can’t let this continue. Neither one of them can afford another entanglement right now. Kagami grinds his lust into Kise, pushing hard into his cleft–only fabric between them. He leans his face in closer and whispers.

Kagami: Yeah. You don’t even believe what you said; if you did, you wouldn’t look so scared right now.

Kise smacks Kagami upside his head and watches as sadness overtakes the fear in Kagami’s eyes and the shadow over him recedes as Kagami rolls off of him and, as if he had no control over it, just slides off the bed and onto the floor.

Kise: You’re an idiot, Kagamicchi!

He sits up and crawls to the edge of the bed where Kagami is rubbing the side of his head.

Kise: You have no idea how scared you looked! If it’s not in you, it’s not in you! Why the hell would you want to be that kind of person anyway!

Kagami: …”That kind of person…” Disregarding people and doing whatever no matter who it inconveniences, what if being that kind of person…

The sound of the bed shifting fills the empty space where Kagami’s words trail off. Kise slides off the bed next to Kagami and leans against him.

Kise: There’s no way you’d be happy like that. You are who you are. If you become what you hate, the misery will never end.

Kagami: I never thought I was miserable.

Kise puts his left arm around Kagami’s shoulders and pulls him into a loose headlock.

Kise: I don’t know what you want to call it, but…

He takes Kagami’s face in his right hand and squeezes a bit.

Kise: …this is not the face of a man heartbroken from losing happiness. Anyway, aside from the obvious like being ridiculously handsome…

He squeezes a little harder.

Kise: …and ridiculously talented, oh! and let’s add ridiculously endowed to that list–though that shouldn’t be obvious to everyone…

Kise covers his forehead just in case.

Kise: …the Kagamicchi I know is also very caring, generous, loyal, and honest. Why would you want to be anything else?

Kagami: What if that’s not enough?

Kise: How can that not be enough? It’s more than enough! Most people are getting by with only half that hand and some of those people spend the rest of their lives harassing the dealer to hit them again.

Kagami: But it wasn’t enough. It was never enough for him.


Open Book Volume 2: A Good Night to Break My Heart

I didn’t compile this until I got to Page 012 (the original), but I think it echoes a lot of the sadness, anger, sarcasm, and something like relief that Kagami and Kise have been experiencing throughout the night. Relevant to Pages 007-011.

  1. Alone Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals 3:59
  2. River of Deceit Mad Season 5:04
  3. Blow up the Outside World Soundgarden 5:48
  4. Beautiful Way Beck 5:44
  5. Those Crimson Tears Ed Harcourt 5:10
  6. What Are You Afraid Of West Indian Girl 5:09
  7. Because The Bird and the Bee 3:38
  8. I Miss You Incubus 2:51
  9. Another Lonely Day Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals 3:43
  10. Junk of the Hearts Cardigans 4:10
  11. Not Your Year The Weepies 3:37
  12. Maybe Someday The Cure 5:07
  13. Fatal Flower Garden Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire 4:43
  14. Keep Close South 4:39
  15. The Hush Rae & Christian f. Texas 5:26
  16. War Cardigans 4:01
  17. Beneath the Heart of Darkness Ed Harcourt 7:20

008

Late October. Although Kise started the line of questioning to get to the bottom of Kagami’s situation, Kagami has started asking questions of his own.

Kise releases Kagami from the headlock and pushes him upright.

Kise: Did he say that to you or is that just how he made you feel?

Kagami: …The only thing he ever said was “next time.” It was always “next time.” After my injury, he constantly pushed me and encouraged me. “Next time we’ll do one more lap.” “Next time we’ll do 10 more reps.” He gave up a lot when he moved here to help me through my recovery, so I always pushed myself much further than I thought I could go. I wanted to make sure he stayed happy and never regretted coming.

Kise: So, what changed?

Kagami stands up.

Kagami: When I started my rehab, I was told that while rehab and therapy would get me back on the court and in damn good form, I’d probably never regain my previous level of strength and agility. I was also told that if I sustained one more injury to my right knee, I’d be done for good.

He walks into his closet to grab a pair of shorts.

Kagami: I decided to take it one step at a time. Well, that’s what I said out loud, anyway, but I really wanted to beat the odds. I was determined to. Here.

Kagami throws the shorts to Kise. Kise holds them up.

Kise: What’s this?

Kagami: Shorts. Put’em on.

Kise’s brows furrow in confusion and his lips pout in refusal.

Kagami: If you’re not going to be under the blanket, then you need to get dressed.

He sounds annoyed, but he’s actually confused.

Kagami: Actually, why are you still here?

Kise: What do you mean? We’re in the middle of a conversation.

Kagami: …Aren’t you mad?

Kise pulls the shorts on. 

Kise: About?

Kagami: About… About what I did to you.

Kise’s tone is somewhat dismissive.

Kise: That? I suppose, but it’s not just because of what you did, but why you did it.

Kagami: What’s the difference?

Kise: Your ego’s bruised, so you wanted to lash out, I get that, but it was for the stupidest reason. There’s no point in sinking to such depths for something so trivial. It pisses me off to know you would even consider it an option.

Kagami: …I’m sorry, Kise.

Kise waves him off.

Kise: I know. It’s all over your face. But as for what you did… We’re evenly matched, Kagamicchi, so if I really thought you were going to try to take something I didn’t want to give, I would have just beat some sense into you.

He stands up and walks over to Kagami.

Kise: And I know you don’t want to hear this, but you don’t have it in you to hurt someone without cause.

He pulls at the panels of Kagami’s open buttondown to bring him closer.

Kise: Aaaaaaaaaaaaand to be perfectly honest, I’m rather thrilled to find out you feel that way about me.

When Kise tilts his head to the side, Kagami averts his eyes, but not before catching a glimpse of his arched eyebrow and sly smile. He tries to pull away, but Kise pulls him back and kisses him on his forehead.

Kise: But that’s a conversation for another lifetime. Now, how about that stiff drink?

Kagami’s eyes follow Kise as he strolls out of the bedroom.

Kagami: That’s what I was trying to tell you earlier…

He catches up with Kise on the stairs.

Kagami: I don’t drink, so there’s no alcohol here.

Kise turns to look at him.

Kise: Hmmn… I never noticed.

He thinks back.

Kise: But at Good Dog you…

His thoughts drift and his words are almost an afterthought.

Kise: …only had the bourbon…

Kagami: Yeah, and that was just for business.

Kise follows Kagami into the kitchen.

Kise: Eh?

Kagami: The guy was addressing me as ‘Chef,’ so I played my celebrity role.

He returns from the fridge with a gallon of salted caramel ice cream in one hand and cucumber pineapple lime sorbet in the other, and a bottle of ginger ale under his arm.

Kagami: Take your pick.

Kise: In the middle of the day? We’re living dangerously now! …That’s a look I haven’t seen before.

Kagami: Hurry up and pick one before they start melting!

Kise: Alright, geez. I’ll go with cucumber, then.

Kagami puts the salted caramel back and starts to dish two bowls of sorbet.

Kagami: Umm… 

He wants to turn the conversation back to Kise, but mostly away from himself.

Kagami: …from where you left off, you weren’t in contact with Aomine, how did you go from that to now?

Kise: I’m not in contact with Aomine now either.

Kagami closes the freezer.

Kagami: Did I miss something?

Kise savors his spoonful.

Kise: When I think about some of the stuff that happened back then, I really have to admire my subconscious. I mean, even though I was running on autopilot, my survival instincts kicked in. If I had to deal with it now, I think I’d collapse under the pressure. But back then, rather than falling apart, I did everything I needed to do to make a new life for myself and leave him behind. Then I woke up and ruined everything.

Kagami hands Kise a glass of ginger ale.

Kagami: Here.

Kise sniffs it and he blushes a little when it tickles his nose.

Kise: Ginger ale?

Kagami: Yeah. It’s a great chaser for sorbet and ice cream.

Kise: I never knew. Speaking of things I never knew… I got a call from my sister last week because my old modeling agency wanted my contact info. She was talking about how annoying and persistent they were and how it reminded her of the time Aomine was harassing her for my new phone number and how she didn’t give it to him–well, she didn’t have it to give to him at that time–but she gave it to Kuroko when he requested it sometime later.

Kagami: When was that?

Kise: She said he was calling her nonstop after he returned to school and I’m guessing she spoke to Kuroko at the end of that summer because it wasn’t too long after that, just when I finally felt that I was really over everything that happened—I’d even gotten tickets to a game: New York vs Atlanta—I got an email from Kuroko asking if I had time to talk. I asked him where he got my info from and said my sister gave it to him. All this time I was under the impression that it was simply that. Until she told me, I had no idea that Aomine made any effort to reach me.

Kagami: Does that change anything?

Kise: …No… No, it doesn’t.

Kagami: I’m guessing you eventually talked to Kuroko?

Kise: …Yeah.

Kagami: What buurrRRRrrrRRrrrrp…burp…pardon me… did he say?

Kise: AHAHAHAHAHAH! What the heck was that?!

Kagami points at Kise’s ginger ale.

Kagami: What? You’ll appreciate yours in a minute.

Kise: What? Oh! It’s that kind of chaser! I see!

Kagami: So what did he say?

Kise: Oh, right. Apparently, whatever I said that night spilled the beans about me and Aomine, so he wanted to know what happened.

The spoons clink inside the empty bowls as Kagami collects and takes them to the sink to be rinsed before heading to the living room. Kise follows Kagami into the living room, ginger ale in hand. They find themselves in their former corners of the sofa and settle in.

Kise: I’d rather search for the highest bridge to jump off of before I’d talk to him about what went on between me and that idiot.

Kagami: So what did you say to him?

Kise: Nothing much. I just told him that I understood his curiosity, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I don’t know what difference he thought it would make, but he told me that he wasn’t with Aomine. And that was the last time I spoke to him for a while. After that, I was done. I was pissed off and I felt like the months I spent getting my shit together meant nothing. All my efforts nullified with a single conversation. Worst of all, I was starting to miss him. It had been about 7 months since I saw him or talked to h-him and… Shit!

Kise starts to tear up.

Kise: …And I just wanted to hear his voice. I wanted to hear him say that it had all been a nightmare and that it never happened and that just m-made everything hurt even more because we never had that kind of relationship. I wasn’t disillusioned about my relationship with him. It was all about sex. We had a really good friendship, so putting those things together it would certainly look like we were together and as far as I knew, we were exclusive about it when we were at Syracuse, but it really was just sex.

Kagami: And you were O.K. with that?

Kise: At first I was. Even though I was in love with him, I wasn’t into being into a relationship with all of its rules and promises and considerations. I loved him and I wanted to have sex with him. End of story. Later, even as I cried about him not touching me for so long, I still didn’t feel like I wanted more. But I think I just didn’t realize it. Then of course right before the draft…

Kagami: So, when did you see him again?

Kise: It was much, much later. One of my first solo assignments for Marc Jacobs was to have a chat with some sports anchors at CBS Sports about wardrobing. I was shaking hands and getting ready to leave just as this pre-season show for the previous year’s draft picks was ending. Two seconds after I left their office I heard someone call my name. I knew the voice, so instead of turning to see, I just jumped into the open elevator and hoped for the best. But that damn elevator was going up, so when I finally got to the first floor, he was waiting for me.

Kagami: What did he say?


009

Late October. Kagami and Kise have been trading tales of their shattered hearts and crushed spirits since morning. They’ve been getting by with quick and dirty rundowns, but to recount his reunion with Aomine, Kise decides to tell it blow by literal blow.

Kise: He didn’t say anything at first; he just stood there and watched as I walked out. He followed me without a word to the station and when I was about to go down…

::::: Aomine: Kise! Are you just going to ignore me?!

::::: Kise continues going down the stairs. Aomine follows him, but keeps a distance of about 5 feet.

::::: Aomine: Kise! I want to talk to you!

::::: Kise clears the last step and then turns the corner; he resists the urge to break into a sprint. Aomine knows that while Kise isn’t shy of the public eye, the social butterfly absolutely hates making the kind of scene the current situation is threatening to turn into.

::::: Aomine: I got it. I’ll just follow you.

::::: At those words, the still silent Kise relaxes his shoulders and quietly continues on to his next stop. After a stop at the post office and a magazine stand, Kise heads home with Aomine still following about five feet behind him. He lets Aomine in and lays his briefcase down on the console. In silence, he unbuttons his blazer and loosens his tie, and then he turns to Aomine who is standing in front of the closed door. The day that he’d anticipated for so long is finally here and now he wants nothing more than to fast forward to next week. He folds his arms and drops his center of gravity a bit to the left—his bring on the bullshit stance.

::::: Kise: Well?

::::: Aomine steps forward.

::::: Aomine: Where have you been?!

::::: Kise waits for something worthy of a response. In four quick strides, Aomine eliminates the distance between them, he reaches out and seizes Kise by his shoulders.

::::: Aomine: I asked you, “where have you been?!”

::::: Kise: Let go.

::::: Aomine gets more agitated.

::::: Aomine: Kise, you left without saying anything!

::::: Kise’s calm is waning.

::::: Kise: Let go.

::::: Aomine tightens his grip.

::::: Aomine: You withdrew from the draft! You moved! You changed your number!

::::: Kise: Ao—

::::: He stops quickly, not wanting to speak his name.

::::: Kise: This is the last time I’m going to say it. Let. Go.

::::: Aomine wraps his arms around Kise.

::::: Aomine: You left me! How could you leave me?!

::::: In nothing flat, Kise feels his left knee connect with Aomine’s obliques and then brings his foot down on Aomine’s. Aomine dips slightly to his right at the blow which opens up the space between them enough to free Kise’s right arm. As Kise pushes his arm up, he sweeps his left leg under Aomine’s right and follows him down to the floor with his hand around his throat. He takes in the look of utter shock on Aomine’s face. They lock eyes. Kise feels like he needed this moment and he won’t let anything interrupt it, not even the desperate pull of Aomine’s hand at his right arm, not even when it turns into a tight grip.

::::: Aomine :Ki… se…

::::: Kise: I told you to let go. I don’t know why you keep trying to take me for a fool. You look surprised. Has it really been that long since we went at it that you would forget?

::::: Kise lets go of Aomine’s neck and straddles his chest and kneels on his arms to keep him still instead. He watches as Aomine stretches his jaw and his neck to throw off the lingering tension and aid in attempts to catch his breath.

::::: Aomine: Ki—Ki … se …

::::: Kise wants to shove his fist into Aomine’s mouth because he’s tired of hearing him say his name. It’s making him weak.

::::: Kise: Don’t say my name!

::::: Although it’s difficult to move, Aomine tries to touch Kise.

::::: Aomine: Ki—se… Ki—

::::: Kise: Shut up! I don’t want to hear a word out of you! Shit!

::::: Kise tries to calm down, but he knows that feeling behind his nose means that tears are not far behind.

::::: Kise: Let’s see if I can address your issues, hmm? What was it? Oh, “where have you been?” I’ve been here, in New York. What else? Umm… “You left without saying anything.” What was there to say?

::::: Aomine opens his mouth to talk.

::::: Kise : Nononononononono…

::::: He presses his index finger to Aomine’s parted lips.

::::: Kise: Shhh shhh shhh shhh shhhhhh… I told you that I don’t want to hear anything from you.

::::: He looks up at the ceiling, trying to recall.

::::: Kise: What was the next one? Hmmn? Oh! “You withdrew from the draft. You moved. You changed your number.”

::::: He looks at Aomine again.

::::: Kise: Yes, I did. Funny thing about the number, though… I wonder who was more surprised by that change, you or me? I gotta tell ya, of all the things that happened after I got back to school…

::::: He swallows back the bitterness and tears.

::::: Kise: …not realizing that I changed my number until three months after it happened was the most… What’s the word? Hmmn…? I can’t think of it. Anyway, it was quite the wake up call.

::::: He feels Aomine cough and move.

::::: Kise: Hold on, now. There was one more, wasn’t there?

::::: Aomine coughs again. Kise bends forward to get close to Aomine’s ear and his voice drops to the most haunting whisper.

::::: Kise: I hate you.

::::: He jumps up off of Aomine and shuffles back a few feet.

::::: Kise: The last one was “how could you leave me,” right?

::::: He shoves his hands in his pants pockets and turns on his heels just in time to see Aomine standing up. His tone is filled with contemplation, sarcasm, and animus.

::::: Kise: How…could I…leave you? I didn’t, though. I left basketball. I left our dorm. And then I left Syracuse.

::::: He walks, almost skips, over to Aomine and then he pokes him in the forehead, each contact in time with his words.

::::: Kise: But. I. Never. Left. You.

::::: Aomine grabs Kise’s wrist.

::::: Aomine: You left me!

::::: Kise grits his teeth.

::::: Kise: You are TOUCHING ME!

::::: He yanks his arm away.

::::: Kise: Don’t touch me. You don’t have the right to touch me. And I didn’t leave you! We were never together!

::::: Aomine: We were!

::::: He sees the shock in Kise’s eyes and tries to grab his wrist again but misses.

::::: Aomine: And you left without saying anything! You didn’t even give me a chance to—

::::: Kise slaps Aomine; he does not want to hear another word fall from his lying lips. He waves his index finger threateningly in Aomine’s face.

::::: Kise: Don’t you dare! You had your chance! You had three and a half years to explain. Why didn’t you tell me?! Why did you let me find out that way?!

::::: Aomine: I didn’t mean for it to happen like that! I wanted to tell you… I just didn’t know how. And it’s not even like that anymore. Kise…

::::: Kise: Who gives a damn about “anymore”?! And what’s so damn hard about saying “I can’t kiss you, I’m already taken”? See?! I just said it! It’s easy!

::::: Aomine: …But I liked you. …I like you.

::::: Kise: Yeah, whatever! You didn’t seem like me enough to tell me the truth!

::::: Aomine: But you never would have agreed! Fuck!

::::: He holds his jaw. He’s more than a little confused.

::::: Aomine: You punched me…in my face?!

::::: Kise: Shut up! It was my decision! That was my decision to make! Not yours! How could you do that to me?!

::::: He sees Aomine getting closer.

::::: Kise: No! Don’t touch me! Don’t—

::::: Aomine pulls Kise in and stifles his words with a kiss, an angry, desperate kiss. His jaw hurts like hell, but he doesn’t care. These lips, this tongue, this heat, he missed it, he craved it, he doesn’t want to let it go.

::::: Aomine: Kise…

::::: Kise’s mind is a mess. I can’t! No! I can’t! I gotta stop! Why can’t I stop?! No! No! These protests sound loudly in his head. He knows it has to stop or he’ll never get away. He tries to regain some semblance of composure.

::::: Kise: No… No more… Noooo…

::::: The feel of Aomine’s tongue on his collarbone, his hand on his hip, his fingers in his hair, and that familiar shape rubbing against him–it’s just too much for Kise. His resistance is fading and he’s starting to hate himself even more than he hates Aomine. Aomine senses that the fight has gone out of Kise. His tongue abandons Kise’s ear and finds its way back to his lips, he bites and licks them until he feels him respond, his right hand continues to sift through and pull on Kise’s hair—which is shorter than he remembers—while his left hand slides around the back and grabs Kise’s butt. He savors the feeling.

::::: Aomine: I want you… Kise, I want to be inside you…

::::: Kise doesn’t resist as Aomine moves them toward the bedroom. When they reach the closed door, he gropes for the door knob behind him.

::::: Aomine: Kise… mnh… Kise…

::::: He moves down to Kise’s neck and continues his pleas between tastings.

::::: Aomine: Don’t leave me, Kise. Don’t ever leave me again. I was miserable without you…

::::: Aomine kisses Kise’s throat and smiles when he feels a moan writhe it’s way out. Oh, how he missed Kise’s moans.

::::: Kise : Oh! uh… nn… Ah!… Ao… Ao… Aominecchi… Th–

::::: That name, it feels foreign, yet familiar on his tongue. It’s been so long since he’s uttered that name; he thinks about the first time he said it and the last time he said it and all the times in between. He thinks about why it’s been so long since he said it, and then he turns cold.

::::: Kise: Th-This is bullshit!

::::: He pushes Aomine back and brings his right knee to his stomach.

::::: Kise: And you’re so full of shit! “Miserable”?! You don’t know what miserable is! I can’t believe I almost fell for you again!

::::: He marches to the entry door and swings it open.

::::: Kise: I hate you, you piece of shit! Get out!

::::: Aomine is slow to recover from the last blow, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He quickly moves towards Kise.

::::: Aomine: Kise! Ki—

::::: Kise holds his hand out to halt Aomine’s advance.

::::: Kise: You only got three choices: You can walk out, I can throw you out, or we can wait for a black and white* to escort you out…

009 Footnotes

  • Black and white – Slang for a police car.

010

Late October. Kise believes that he was the only one in love; Kagami tries to convince him otherwise.

Kise: What, you don’t believe me?

Kagami: It’s not that.

Kise: Then what?

Kagami: The more you tell, the further away you seem to get from what your relationship was like when we met a few months ago.

Kise: Yeah. And this is why I’m useless.

Kagami: I think I’m starting to understand your situation more, but I think you’re wrong about the way he feels about you.

Kise: How so?

Kagami: In essence, you kicked his ass, but yet, at some point, you started up a relationship again. Aomine’s as cocky as they come and that’s not to say he wouldn’t have insecurities, but I don’t think his run in the direction of low self esteem and I don’t think he’s a masochist. So it’s hard for me to believe that he isn’t in love with you when he gets his ass kicked by you, but still wants to be with you.

Kise: He is a cocky bastard for sure, but that cocky bastard has dependency issues.

Kagami raises his eyebrows.

Kise: Well, that’s what I think, anyway. At that time, it was as if he told time by my presence. Before we started, we would be together during practice and sometimes in the dorm, but since we didn’t have any of the same classes, there were a lot of times that we had to be apart. We hung out sometimes, but that was pretty much our first year. After our second year on the team got underway and we started up again, his attitude changed. On his demand, we started sleeping in the same bed and he’d whine when I would get back late. He learned my class schedule and would be waiting for me sometimes. Then there were the times when some of the team went out, he would rather take a bus with me if we couldn’t ride in the same car.

Kagami: You know, you’re not really making a case against my claim.

Kise: You’re probably thinking he sounds like a possessive boyfriend, right?

Kagami: Or obsessed.

Kise: Or that. At first, I was kind of happy about it. But he’s a creature of habit who doesn’t know he’s a creature of habit. So I started to realize that I was on his list.

Kagami: List?

Kise: You know how you have a before-I-leave-the-house checklist? Mine is: keys, phone, wallet, sunglasses. I was on his list, but his was more like a list of life anchors, like: basketball, Tetsu, school, Mai-chan, Kise, or whatever. I can kind of understand why, though.

Kagami: What were you thinking while all of this is going on? It doesn’t seem like you would be happy like that.

Kise: I don’t want to make it sound like I just fell into it, because I worked really hard on my admissions portfolio, but I chose fashion design as a major because I had some experience with the industry, but it turned out that I really loved it. I got to have sex with Aomine and I was playing ball in a Division I school. That was happiness for me. Same for him. But, however great we were in Japan, the US was a different story. We held our own and we earned our spots, but there was no slacking for him. He sought and found challenge after challenge, so he continued to advance. You know how it was. You went through it, too.

Kagami smirks as he fondly remembers his Division I days.

Kise: The court was a familiar place but everything else was quite literally foreign to us. And Aominecchi’s English was nothing to write home about, so he struggled a bit at the beginning with day to day life off the court. And that’s where his anchors came in. I was just one of them.

Kagami: When did you realize that you wanted more than sex?

Kise covers his face.

Kise: I told you I was useless, Kagamicchi.

Kagami never liked Kise’s way of nicknaming people, but it was like his calling card, so it’s strange when he doesn’t use it, regardless of what reason he has for not doing so. He still isn’t fond of it, but he can’t help but be curious about why Kise keeps switching back and forth with his name.

Kagami: I’m not going to agree with you no matter how many times you say it.

Kise drags his fingers down his face and brings them to rest laced under his chin.

Kise: It wasn’t really one defining moment. When I asked him right before the draft, I was kind of testing it out, I think it was while I was talking to Momoi and I realized it wasn’t going to happen and how much more it hurt than I thought it would. And then again when I saw him at the CBS studio.

Kagami: So what happened after that day?

Kise: He left and it was about a year and a half before I saw him again.

Kagami: And all that time apart, you didn’t date anyone?

Kise: Nope.

Kagami: Why?

Kise: I used to say that I was tired of it and I just wasn’t interested, but to be honest, I missed him. And I couldn’t even begin to consider anyone to fill that void. I only wanted him. Despite everything, I still wanted him and it hurt so much. So, by the time I saw him again, I was exhausted and I was tired of fighting it.

Kise looks around the living room; his eyes dart back and forth.

Kagami: What are you looking for?

Kise: A clock.

Kagami: There aren’t any. Where’s your phone?

Kise pats himself down, though it’s just for show because he’s wearing Kagami’s clothes, none of which have pockets.

Kise: I think it’s in your bedroom.

Kagami: Mine, too. Come on. Let’s go.

Kise: Huh?

Kagami: It’s gotta be like 6 by now. I want to take a nap before dinner. Tell me the rest in bed.

Kise claps his hands together.

Kise: Oh, Kagamicchi, I like it when you take charge!

Kagami side-eyes Kise.

Kagami: After the day we’ve had, I think we’re safe.

Kise pouts.

Kise: Man, you should at least play along~~

Kagami blushes and pinches Kise’s nose.

Kagami: What did I tell you about being cute?

Kise opens his mouth to retort.

Kise: Buuuurrrrp burrrrRRrp   burrrp burRRp burrp  burrrRRRrrrrrP … Burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp!

Kagami rolls his eyes.

Kagami: Aw man, that’s gross!

Kise: HAHAHAH AHAHHhhahaahhAHHA AH ah aha ha haheheh aha eh eheheah he ahe ahe ehehhh heeeeee hahahaha! You were right! I really do appreciate that! Hehe!

After he catches his breath, Kise stands up and follows Kagami towards the stairs, but then decides to hitch a ride.

Kagami: Umph! Dammit Kise! Get down!

Kise: Come ooooooon! Just to the top!

Kagami: No. Get down. It’s dangerous.

Kise whines as he slides off of Kagami’s back and follows him up the stairs.

Kise: I guess you’re right.

Once they reach the landing, Kagami stoops to the floor.

Kagami: …How long do you plan to make me wait?

Kise ruffles Kagami’s hair.

Kise: Aww, Kagamicchi! You’re too good to me~

Kagami: It’s just to the bed, so shut up and get on before I change my mind!


Kagami’s Condo – Bella Vista


011

Late October. In search of time, they head back to Kagami’s bedroom.

On the left side of the bed, Kise lays on his stomach and rests his head on the pillow with his arms underneath. Kagami lays on his back next to him with his fingers laced behind his head.

Kise: Do you have to work tomorrow?

Kagami: I have 2 conference calls, but the first one isn’t until 2. Why?

Kise: Am I keeping you up?

Kagami: No.

Kise props himself up on his elbows.

Kise: Something else I want to ask…

Kagami: Yeah?

Kise: Why are we talking about this stuff?

Kagami: Hnh?

Kise: I mean, why are you listening to me talk about how much of an idiot I am? And why did you tell me about your deal with, uh, you know?

Kagami: …I guess, if anything, we both needed someone to talk to. But what does it matter at this point? Aren’t we a little too far along for why to matter?

He thinks on it a minute and then turns to Kise.

Kagami: Kise, are you stalling again?

Kise buries his face in the pillow and kicks his legs about. His voice is muffled.

Kise: Kagamicchi!

Kagami: If you don’t want to continue, we can change the subject or we can go to sleep. Don’t feel like you have to keep going.

Kise pulls his face out of the pillow.

Kise: …Can you turn your back to me? You can still hear me if you face the other way, right?

Kagami stares puzzled for a moment, but obliges by rolling onto his side away from Kise. Although he obliged, he wonders why Kise wants him to turn his back to him; they already talked about so much, so it couldn’t be embarrassment, right?

Kagami: Whatever floats your boat.

Kise inches closer and huddles against Kagami’s back. Kagami wonders if he does these things on purpose.

Kise: Can you hear me?

Kagami: Yeah.

Kise: Where was I?

Kagami: …You didn’t see Aomine for a year and change.

Kise: Oh, right. So, the next time I saw him was the week he was traded to the Sixers. I was visiting UArts* and was hanging out with some of the students and I ran into him. We talked for about 10 minutes about his last year in Atlanta and his trade. When we were parting, he hugged me for a long time and then he left. Even though nothing really happened, I was kind of a wreck later that night. And the days after, I was just kind of numb. You know, all this time I don’t remember crying. Not once since the moment it happened. Though I feel like it now. Anyway, more than a year later…

::::: Kise pulls on his t-shirt and shuffles to the door as he holds up his basketball shorts.

::::: Kise: Coming~

::::: Aomine is dressed for the court, holding a basketball on his hip. He smiles as soon as the door opens.

::::: Aomine: Happy Birthday! How ‘bout a game of one-on-one?

::::: Kise stares, eyes wide and mouth agape.

::::: Aomine: And you’re already dressed for the occasion!

Kise inches closer to Kagami.

Kise: That bastard! In all of our years of knowing each other, he never once acknowledged my birthday on his own and it was always me chasing after him for a game. Even though I hated him, even though I couldn’t forgive him, I was so tired of it. I was tired of hating him, I was tired of avoiding him. I was…

He knows it’s no use to try to stop his tears, so he stumbles through the sniffles and the hics and the exhausted sighs.

Kise: …so lonely for him and I…just didn’t care anymore. I just let everything go and gave in. He stayed with me for a week and by the end of the week I was just numb…numb to everything. It was hard at first, but th-the more….we touched, the weaker I got, the e-easier it g-got. I di-didn’t…want to… bu-but I-I couldn’t help it. …Giving in…hurt so…much, but…I didn’t have it…in me to f-fight it anymore.

Kise felt the mattress shift as Kagami moved.

Kise: No! D-don’t turn around! …Don’t—

The feeling of Kise shuddering against his back became too much for Kagami, so he rolls back to face Kise and gathers him in his arms and lets him calm down. After a while, he pulls away a bit to see how Kise is doing.

Kagami: Did you fall asleep? Geez, this day was too much. Talking shouldn’t be this taxing.

Kagami gingerly rolls Kise off to the other side. He looks down to see the mess Kise made of his shirt, pulls it off and uses it to wipe Kise’s tear-stained sleeping face. He gets out of bed, tosses the blanket over Kise, grabs his phone, grabs another t-shirt and a blanket, turns out the light, and heads for the sofa.

After the best sleep he’s had in forever, Kise wakes up to find himself alone in Kagami’s bed. He looks at the clock. He’s not sure he should believe it. Did he really sleep for 12 hours? Seeking his host, he makes his way downstairs, but before he can make contact, he’s surprised by the rather acrimonious tone of the conversation he overhears Kagami having.

Kagami gets up off the sofa–his third time since the conversation started–and walks into his office.

Kagami: I’m not discussing that anymore. We settled that two months ago. […] What?! […] Are you kidding me? […] I don’t want to know anything about that. […] Save it for that damn wookie! […]

Kise covers his mouth as he tries not to laugh. He wonders who Kagami is calling a wookie.

Kagami: Whatever, I’ll call him any name I damn well please. […] Look, I didn’t want to talk, you did, and it’s too early in the morning for this, so stop talking about all of this unimportant shit and get to your point. […] What the f— I don’t five fucks that you “just want to talk”! […] What do you mean “why”? Either you are overestimating my sense of decency or you are still trying to take me for a fool. Whichever way, I’m not having it. […] Tatsuya! Tatsuya! T— […] Bullshit! You were fucking another man in my kitchen! How can I misunderstand that?! […] Who gives a damn that it was only once?

Kise takes in the conversation.

Kise: “Tatsuya”? That’s Himuro-san’s name, right?

Kagami thinks that if he rakes his fingers through his hair one more time, he’s going to go bald.

Kagami: And like I’m really going to believe you! That damn titan has been hanging around for almost a year and you want me to believe it was just that one time?!

At first Kise laughs, but then the gears began to turn.

Kise: Himuro-san and a … woo … kie … titan …? Murasakibara? No!

Kagami’s anger turns into exhaustion.

Kagami: This is the same conversation we had before I left. I’m tired of this. […] What…do you want from me? […] If that’s really what you wanted…you…would be here.

Kagami hangs up and leans back in his desk chair and looks out the window. Kise takes a deep breath, goes down the rest of the stairs, hangs a left, and tip toes to Kagami’s office door. He stops at the doorway.

Kise: Kagami …?

Kagami continues to look out the window.

Kagami: How much did you hear?

Kise: …Uhhh…

Though he isn’t angry with Kise, Kagami’s words make no distinction as he stands and turns to face him.

Kagami: How much did— W-Where the hell are your clothes?!

Kise looks down to admire his boxer-briefs.

Kise: Oh, I don’t like sleeping in clothes, so I usually end up stripping in my sleep.

Kagami walks past Kise.

Kagami: Please put some clothes on.

Kise grabs Kagami’s arm as he goes by.

Kise: Kagami…?

He watches as Kagami acknowledges his hand and he can practically feel Kagami’s eyes as they follow his arm up to his shoulders, up his neck, to his lips. Kise’s skin starts to tingle when he realizes that Kagami’s eyes are lingering there. He tilts his head in an attempt to meet Kagami’s eyes. When their gazes lock, Kise puts his hand out to stop Kagami as he tries to move in. He’s kind of pissed.

Kise: I don’t do angry sex and I’m not about to let you do anything that we’ll both regret. But if you’re in the mood to get sweaty, how about a game of one-on-one?

011 Footnotes

  • UArts – University of the Arts, visual and performing arts university in Philadelphia.

012

Late October. The denouement of an NBA era plays in the background as a few truths come to light.

Kise runs up the stairs toward the bathroom.

Kise: Kagamicchi! Kagamicchi!

Kagami wishes that Kise’s voice didn’t carry so well. Did he have to call his name in such an excited tone while he was in the middle of working out the frustration he’d accumulated since Kise visited him the day before? It’s a good thing he locked the bathroom door, otherwise… He tries to hide the lazy contentment in his voice.

Kagami: I’ll be out in a minute!

Kise: Hurry up! We were just talking about this yesterday!

He looks around.

Kise: How do you turn this thing on? Where is your remote?

Kagami: See the silver slate on the right night table?

Kise: Yeah?

Kagami: Use it.

Kise crawls across the freshly made bed and is reminded how much he loves Kagami’s scent. He grabs the remote.

Kise: OK…so what am I sup— Oh, look at that!

He marvels as the device wakes up and touch screen buttons appear.

Kise: You’re gonna miss it!

Kagami exits the bathroom with a towel around his waist and one around his neck, he crosses between the bed and the TV to get the closet.

Kagami: What’s all the fuss about?

Kise’s eyes can help but follow the dripping Kagami. But now’s not the time to indulge.

Kise: Come on! It’s gonna start any minute now!

Kagami sits on the bed.

Kagami: Why are we back in my bed?

Kise: Because your bed smells really good!

Kagami: You keep saying that, but…

He leans over to sniff Kise’s neck.

Kagami: …I think you smell better.

Kise: GAaahaaAhahhAhaahaha! Kagamicchi! You’re hair is still wet!

Kagami: Hahaha! Sorry, sorry. Here.

He hands Kise the towel from his neck.

Kagami: Now wha—

Kise wraps the towel around Kagami’s head to dry his hair.

Kise: Come here. You need it more than I do. Seriously Kagamicchi, what are you wearing? Your scent is intoxicating.

Kagami sniffs himself.

Kagami: I’m not wearing anything. Just soap and the shampoo you made me buy in Milan.

Kise: Nuh unh, I use the same shampoo and I never feel like I’m getting drunk off myself.

Kagami innocently sniffs himself again.

Kagami: I guess it’s just me, then.

Kise turns to face Kagami. He leans in to sniff Kagami directly. Kagami nods towards the TV.

Kagami: Is this it?

Kise is caught off guard or more like he caught himself.

Kise: Is wha— Whoa!

He loses his balance and falls into Kagami and slides down on the bed. He ends up with his back against Kagami’s chest, so he just settles in between his legs but before he could get really comfortable his attention is grabbed. He turns up the volume.

Kise: Ah! This is it!

Kagami: Stern? What’s go—

A caption appears on the screen.

Kagami: Really?!

In his excitement, he wraps his arm around Kise.

Kagami: So he really is stepping down…

Kise lets go of the remote to hold onto Kagami’s arm, knowing that they need to stop with all of the intimate interactions, but not wanting to because it feels so good and despite the cluster of emotions they’ve run through during the last 24 hours, it’s the most relaxed he’s been in a very long time.

Kise: Who do you think will succeed him?

Kagami: Probably Silver*.

Kise: Hmmn…

Kagami: You disagree?

Kise: Not at all; it wouldn’t make sense for it to be anyone else.

Kagami: Not to change the subject, but…how are you feeling? …From last night…

Kise covers his face.

Kise: Nnnnnn!

Kagami: What? You hid from me last night, too.

He squeezes Kise a bit.

Kagami: You’re still embarrassed even after everything we’ve already talked about?

Kise: I felt like it was coming and I didn’t want you to see me cry. And why didn’t you wake me?!

Kagami rests his chin on Kise’s head.

Kagami: I tried to wake you, but you were dead to the world. And since I saw it all—tears, snot, swollen eyes, red face—you can stop hiding now.

Kagami starts to rock Kise side to side.

Kise: If you keep this up, I’ll fall asleep and then I’ll never leave. Can we just stay like this?

Kagami stops rocking.

Kagami: You know we can’t. As you’ve reminded me so many times since yesterday, it wouldn’t do either of us any good right now.

Kise: Huuh, I know. We’ve been prying open each other’s wounds as well as suspended reality a time or two–

Kagami: But as much as we may like each other—and I really do like you, Kise …I have for a long time—we both have things to sort out before we can “just stay like this.”

Kise: You never said anything.

Kagami: About? … Oh, well … it wouldn’t have done any good, you were preoccupied.

Kise: Ha!

Kagami: Kise, are you really not with Aomine?

Kise: I told you, we were never together. Even after we, uh, reconciled on my birthday, there were no promises made and he was with other people. I figured he was trying to fix things with me because Kuroko said he couldn’t be with him after what he did. Then, when he told me that Kuroko said he’d consider forgiving him if I forgave him, I thought so even more.

Kagami: Did you forgive him?

Kise: No, but I finally decided to tell him how I felt and that I wanted to be with him, but that I didn’t want to feel like a second choice. I don’t know what he was really thinking about, but after a minute or two of silence, he asked me if I do forgive him to please tell Kuroko.

Kagami puts Kise in a headlock.

Kagami: What do you see in him?!

Kise: Well, I think it was more than just his relationship with Kuroko; he had pretty much stopped talking to Aomine, so I think he was trying to get his friendship back more than anything. But I really don’t know what I see or saw in him. He became like a vital organ and for a long time I didn’t know how to live without him.

Kagami: There are doctors for that…you can get a transplant.

Kise: Ahahaha!

Kagami relaxes his arms around Kise.

Kagami: So, what did you say to him?

Kise: I hung up. We didn’t talk for eight months. It was during that time that I made the decision to finish what I started.

Kagami: What?

Kise: I wanted to leave Aomine…for good.

Kagami: Yeah? Uhhh…how’s that workin’ out for you?

Kise somewhat playfully elbows Kagami.

Kise: Don’t make fun of me. It was an easy decision to make, but I didn’t bother lying to myself about how difficult it would be to carry out. It was time for me to move on from a lot of things and start putting myself back together. I left Marc Jacobs, worked in London, then Brazil, and then Amsterdam, and then I started my company.

Kagami: Kintsugi, right?

Kise: You know what it is, right?

Kagami: Yeah, gold dust and lacquer pottery repair, right?

Kise: Yeah. It’s an art. I actually took some classes on it with Akashi’s uncle.

Kagami: Did you do that piece that’s near your door?

Kise: Yup. It was my final project for the class.

Kagami hugs Kise.

Kagami: Good job!

Kise: You are making fun of me, aren’t you, Kagamicchi?

Kagami: Not at all! It’s fitting, I think.

Kise: How so?

Kagami: Your intentions, the meaning behind the name… Like, you’re both the cracked pot and the gold dust. So instead of filling the cracks with other things or people, you maybe want to be your own solution. Or something like that.

Kise covers his face to hide his sudden weepiness.

Kise: Kagamicchi…That’s it…that’s really how I saw it, how I felt. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to move, everything I thought of was related to him and I realized that since forever, everything I was into, I allowed it to be dictated by where I stood with him…I got into basketball because of him and I left basketball because of him. I felt like I didn’t really know what I wanted anymore.

Kagami: How do you feel about your company’s new contract?

Kise uncovers his face.

Kise: It was really hard to distinguish what I liked from what I liked because it connected me to him– basketball being our greatest connection… I lost a lot of sleep while coming to the conclusion that I loved it both because of him and the sport itself. After a while I just said “screw it” and decided to fully claim it as my own. I mean, there was no real way of separating him from it or it from him, but if I kept trying to extract him out of my memories I would still be letting my standing with him control me.

Kagami: So, where exactly do you guys stand now?

Kise: When I hung upon him, I thought I would be done and I would just start making plans to move on—and I didn’t truly understand this until recently—but that abrupt cut-off doesn’t work for me, so a few months later we were back at it. Although it was a little different this time. I stopped being at his beckon call. I stopped planning things with him, I stopped making an effort. The only thing I didn’t stop was saying “yes” to sex.

Kagami: Hmmmn…

Kise sits up and turns to Kagami.

Kise: What? I’m not allowed to use him for sex?

Kagami: That’s not what I was thinking. I’m just wondering how you can manage two opposing agendas.

Kise: Oh? I couldn’t. It was a struggle, but him being on the road for a good part of the year made it somewhat bearable. Then, one day he came to my place smelling like someone else. He only stopped by to drop something off, so there wasn’t going to be any hanky panky, but in all the time I’ve know him and even when I knew he was sleeping with other people, I never smelled anyone on him. I was done. After he left, I called Kuroko and told him that I forgave Aomine…even though I really hadn’t.

Kagami: What did he say?

Kise: No much, but it was the first time we really talked since everything happened. He apologized. I apologized and I told him I never wanted to talk about it again.

Kagami: Then what?

Kise: I hung up feeling like I had just gone through that night all over again, but that didn’t last. I can’t fault him for it. That’s who he is and it’s not like he knew what was going on.

Kagami: Did you tell Aomine?

Kise: Hell no! I did not want to be involved. But the next time I saw him I told him that I wasn’t having sex with him anymore. That didn’t go over too well, but he backed off for a while. His first season with the Nets was about to start and I was going to Italy for a while so there weren’t going to be many opportunities. So it’s been about a year since then. And—

Kagami leans forward and grabs Kise’s shoulders. For some reason he thinks it’s a shame that Kise has gone so long without sex.

Kagami: A year?!

Kise looks at Kagami’s hands.

Kise: Yeah…? Why are you so shocked?

Kagami lets go and leans back. Then he realizes that he’s only talking about Aomine and that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been with anyone else. He knows he has no right, but he’s a bit frustrated by the thought.

Kagami: I-I don’t know. Sorry. …And now?

Kise: …Even though I was done with him, I remembered we had something like a friendship buried somewhere in all of the crap and I thought we could try to salvage it. But now I realize that we can’t. We haven’t had sex for more than a year, but he still thinks of me as his and he acts like he’s just waiting it out. Also, I know that he’s back in touch with Kuroko, but he still hasn’t told me. Well, it’s not all him. I know I’ve been sending mixed signals.

Kagami: Are you still in love with him?

Kise: I don’t hate him, but I can’t trust him and I know he’ll never be all mine and although I’ve let it go for years, I’m really too selfish for that kind of relationship. Besides, I don’t think I have it in me to be that way with someone anymore. I’m tired.

Kagami knows that it’s the least of his issues now, but still wonders if that includes him.

Kagami: I see.

Kise misses the question in Kagami’s tone. He pulls his phone out of his borrowed shorts.

Kise: It’s almost 2 o’clock. You have a conference call, don’t you?

Kagami: Well the call at two actually happened this morning instead.

Kise crawls out of Kagami’s space and stops mid-traipse.

Kise: Where did I put my keyOWWWWW!

Kagami is even more flustered after smacking Kise’s butt.

Kagami: Get your ass out of my face!

Kise pouts and rubs his butt.

Kise: Kagamicchi, that hurt! I’m not into that kind of thing. You’re gonna have to think of some other way to seduce mEEEeee! Uggh! Kagamicchi! You didn’t have to kick me off the bed!

Kagami: Shut up idiot! And don’t “Kagamicchi” me! Keep it up and you’ll find yourself falling off the bed for a completely different reason!

Kise peers over the side of the bed.

Kise: You know…that’s not really a threat…

Kagami: Shut up, idiot!

012 Footnotes

  • Silver – Adam Silver, Deputy Commissioner under David Stern from 2006 to 2014 at which time he became the new Commissioner.

013

Early November. Two down, three to go. Kise’s in the middle of a 5-city tour to debut Kintsugi’s contribution to the dawning of a new era in professional basketball. His uniform redesigns have garnered much attention for his fledgling company and as he should be, he’s very happy and proud. But the excitement also serves double duty as a distraction. The NBA isn’t the only one approaching a major turning point.

Kise: I’m horny, damnit! I’m horny! Horny! Horny! Horny! Ho—

Kise looks at the screen of his ringing phone. He swipes to Answer.

Kise: I’m horny! […] Well, not really, but you can meet me in Milwaukee* if you are so inclined. […] Ah! Kagami, you’re no fun! […] Eh? […] Tomorrow is OKC* in the afternoon and Memphis* in the evening and then I’m heading home. And I expect you to be ready for our rematch. […] Uh unh! You cheated! […] You took off your shirt! That’s a technical! […] Whatever, you just better be prepared. […] Haha! […] Eh? […] I think my plane lands around 7. Why? […] Um. Sure. […] Huh? Oh. I told you I was horny, so I’m going to go take care of that. […] Haha! Wouldn’t you like to know? […] Cool. Bye.

Though he seems to be in high spirits, Kise’s an absolute wreck. In just a few days, it all ends. After nearly two decades of chasing after Aomine, he isn’t sure how a complete dissolution of their relationship is going to work, or if it’s even possible. But he’s been dragging it out long enough. And although he’s been preparing for this, he’s scared. It’s been almost three weeks since he last spoke to Aomine. If he knows him as well as he thinks, Aomine probably believes that he’s giving Kise space and they’ll reconcile when the Sixers host the Nets in just a few days. For Kise, the only thing left to decide is to go to the game or not. Without a doubt, regardless of what transpired during their last phone call, Aomine will expect Kise to show up at the game. If he goes, he can say what he needs to—in a public place—and be done with it. If he doesn’t go, he knows Aomine won’t waste any time making his way to his place after the game. If that happens, he’ll have to deal with it privately, and he’s not sure what Aomine might do beyond the stare of the public eye. Decisions, decisions.

Game day. Five hours until tip-off.

Kagami walks towards Kise’s kitchen.

Kagami:  Did you buy everything?

Kise’s not really paying attention.

Kise: It’s…uh…

Kagami: Kise?

Kise: Oh. Sorry. The stuff is in the bags on the counter.

Kagami: You bought 3 kinds of cheese, do you want to use all of them?

Kise: Uh…sure.

Kagami wants to ask why Kise’s so distracted, but he promised to make his favorite onion gratin for lunch and he was already an hour late because of an unexpected phone call. Kise kneels in a ball on his sofa, rocking and mumbling.

Kise: I can’t do it…but I have to…but I can’t. No. I can. I can. I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t. I can? Maybe? Yes. No, but…

Kagami: Kise, do you want artichokes or spinach?

Kise continues to rock and mumble.

Kagami: Kise…?

He he peeks into the living room, but he doesn’t see Kise.

Kagami: Kise…?

He steps farther into the living room at which point he hears Kise mumbling.

Kagami: What are you doing?

Kise looks up, just a little dazed.

Kise: Nothing, really. I’m just trying to psych myself up.

Kagami: For…?

Although he’s talked to Kagami about his relationship with Aomine, Kise doesn’t feel right confiding in him about his plans before he breaks it to Aomine.

Kise: Uh…life in general.

Kagami raises an eyebrow and stares at Kise. He waits for the truth, but all he gets is a smile that’s only half its usual radiance.

Kagami: If you say so. Anyway, what will it be, artichokes or spinach?

Kise: Artichokes. What about the meat?

Kagami: There’ll be salmon in the salad.

Kise: Yummmm!

Kagami: Can you set the table? Everything will be ready in about 15 minutes.

Kise: M’kay.

Later.

Kise admires his belly which he is forcefully protruding.

Kise: Man, I’m stuffed! That was the best! You should cook for me all the time.

Kagami: No chance.

Kise: Why not?!

Kagami: You take forever to choose what you want to eat, and when you finally decide, it’s always the same thing.

Kise moves on from admiration to self-gratification as he rubs his belly.

Kise: Doesn’t that make it easier?

Kagami side-eyes Kise.

Kise: Anyway, what’s for dessert?

Kagami grabs his jacket off of the ottoman.

Kagami: There’s a half gallon of the sorbet you like in the freezer.

Kise: You’re leaving already?

Kagami: Yeah. Don’t forget to do the dishes.

Kise: Why so soon?

Kagami: You have something to do tonight, right? Besides the game, I mean.

Kise looks at Kagami with ‘how do you know’ splashed across his face. Kagami puts his jacket on.

Kagami: Aomine’s not the only creature of habit who doesn’t know he’s a creature of habit. For a while now, you’ve been asking me to cook for you right before you have something big to take care of. I don’t know what it is, but you’ve been a bit distracted since I got here, so I’m guessing it’s something major. You probably need time to prepare, so I’m leaving now.

Kagami ruffles Kise’s hair. Kise thinks it feels good only when Kagami does it. He grabs Kagami’s hand.

Kise: Thanks.

Kagami feels a little embarrassed, but he squeezes Kise’s hand.

Kagami: Geez, what’s with that face? You look like it’s the end of the world. You handled everything up ‘til now, I’m sure this one will be a piece of cake.

Kise returns Kagami’s squeeze.

Kise: Thanks, Kagami.

013 Footnotes

  • Milwaukee – Milwaukee Bucks, and NBA team based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • OKC – Oklahoma City Thunder, and NBA team based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Memphis – Memphis Grizzlies, an NBA team based in Memphis, Tennessee.

014

Early November. Fourth quarter. A minute and four seconds left on the clock. The Nets are down by 5. The Sixers have the ball.

Even though they won and he scored 40 points, which is already an improvement on his sophomore year with the Hawks and the Sixers, Aomine’s got the feeling that these highs are only a prelude to some major lows. He sneers as his team captain pats his head.

The Captain: You did good, kid. You’re putting me to shame.

Aomine casually swats his hand away.

Aomine: Man, what did I tell you about calling me ‘kid’? I’m older than you and taller than you.

The Captain: So you keep telling me, but I’m your captain so I get to do stuff like that. I just wanted to say that you were really good out there tonight—more relaxed than you’ve been the last few weeks. I hope it means that you’ve started to feel at home, because I think the rest of the team’s happy to have you.

Aomine wasn’t expecting that, but he was grateful to hear it, though it didn’t do much for the inauspicious feeling creeping up his spine.

Aomine: Well, I’m already off to a better start than my first two sophomore years, so maybe the third time’s a charm?

The Captain: Ha!

He pats Aomine on the back.

The Captain: That maybe the case. You didn’t drive today, right? You need a lift?

Aomine: Nah, my ride’s waiting for me, actually. Thanks, though.

Later.

Kise looks at the text message that just arrived from Aomine letting him know he’ll be out in a minute. He takes a deep breath and then gives directions to his valet.

Kise: He’ll be out in a minute, can you pull up to the exit? Thanks.

Aomine crawls into the back of the satiny gold Range Rover HSE. He knows Kise well enough to know that the crème brûlée colored leather interior was custom.

Aomine: When did you get a new car?

Kise raises his window.

Kise: I got it about a month ago.

Aomine slides the privacy glass over.

Aomine: Same driver, though.

Kise: Why would I change drivers?

Aomine shrugs his shoulders and makes his greeting.

Aomine: Hey Mike!

Mike: Good evening, Mr. Aomine.

Aomine shudders.

Aomine: I will never get used to being called ‘mister.’

Kise: Ha! How long have we been here? No one here’s gonna call you Aomine-san. Come to think of it, no one back home’s gonna call you Aomine-san either.

Aomine: Shut uuuup!

He leans over to kiss Kise.

Aomine: Mmn…You taste like pineapple.

He leans in again.

Aomine: I want more…

Kise places his hand on Aomine’s shoulder to halt his advance.

Kise: We need to talk. Where do you want to go?

Aomine bites his bottom lip as he struggles to keep that feeling from overwhelming him.

Aomine: Your place. Why are you in such a pissy mood?

Kise: I’m not. Mike, can we take 76? Broad Street’s probably still backed up.

Mike: Certainly.

Aomine: You are. You miss me that much?

Kise rolls his eyes.

Kise: Did you miss me?

Aomine: I’m here now, aren’t I?

Kise: That’s not an answer.

Aomine: See? Pissy.

He tries to sound as casual as possible.

Aomine: What are we talking about anyway?

Kise: We’ll be there soon, just wait.

Aomine is not satisfied with that answer at all, but he tries to remain cool. He leans back and gets comfortable.

Aomine: Alright, then. Wake me.

They arrive at Kise’s condo.

The second he opens the door to his place, Kise exhales and realizes that he’s been holding his breath since Aomine got in the car. He gestures to the armchairs in front of the fireplace to the right of the entrance.

Kise: Have a seat.

Deaf to Kise’s offer, Aomine drops his bag and heads straight for the kitchen.

Aomine: Where’s the beer?

Kise hangs his jacket and settles into the chair closest to the door.

Kise: I’m out.

Aomine grabs a bottle of IZZE Sparkling Ginger thinking it’s a wine cooler.

Aomine: What’s this sparkling pansy shit? When did you start drinking coolers?

Kise’s been keeping it together so far, but he’s starting to feel like an endless tirade is making its way to his lips. He yells back over his shoulder.

Kise: It’s not a wine cooler! Either take it and drink it or put it back! Whatever you do, close my fridge; you’re letting all the cold air out!

Aomine grumbles to himself; he decides to take it. He heads back into the living room.

Aomine: So, what’s up?

Kise looks over his shoulder and gestures to the chair across from him.

Kise: Have a seat.

Aomine does not want to sit, especially since that ominous feeling decided to take root in his chest.

Aomine: So…?

Kise inhales slowly and exhales even more so.

Kise: I don’t want to be involved with you anymore.

Aomine hears the words, but he doesn’t want to believe them, so he plays dumb.

Aomine: Didn’t we already have this conversation? It’s been more than a year since we had sex.

Kise knows Aomine is skirting the issue. He tries to maintain his composure.

Kise: That’s true, but I’m not talking about sex. What I mean is that we should not see each other anymore. We should cut—

Aomine clenches his jaw to steady his voice.

Aomine: Why?

Kise braces himself.

Kise: I’m not happy and I’m tired of feeling like this.

Aomine: Are you saying you don’t love me anymore?

Kise: Do you love me?

Aomine he knows, but he doesn’t want to know; it’s that feeling, he’s sure of what it means now. He stalls.

Aomine: Don’t answer a question with a question! Why would you even ask that, anyway?!

Kise is determined to remain calm.

Kise: Because I’ve never gotten an answer.

Aomine: How long have we been together?

Kise: Aomine, we have never been together.

Aomine leans forward in his chair.

Aomine: What’s that supposed to mean? What have we been doing all this time?

Kise shifts in his chair and straightens his posture.

Kise: We have been friends for a long time and we were having sex for many of those years, but we were never a couple. You have never been mine. There have always been other people for you.

Aomine jumps up.

Aomine: So, it’s my fault?!

Kise: I didn’t say that. While I do blame you for some things, I know I’m mostly responsible.

Aomine throws his hands up.

Aomine: I don’t get it! What, you got a new man?! It’s Kagami, isn’t it?!

No longer able to remain calm, Kise springs out of his chair and into Aomine’s face.

Kise: Leave him out of it! He has nothing to do with this!

Aomine: Bullshit! You didn’t start acting like this until you started hanging with him! Isn’t he still with Himuro-san?! So you really are OK with that that type of thing?!

The way Kise cut his eyes at Aomine was sharper than any blade could ever be honed and he knows Aomine felt it. He restrains himself with all his might. He wants to send his backhand flying, but he doesn’t want the argument to escalate to such a degree.

Kise: You… Are you that fucking blind?! Are you so wrapped up in your own fucking pretenses that you can’t see the shit that’s been going on between us?! Huh?!

He steps forward which forces Aomine to take a step back.

Kise: Are you?!

Aomine: So, it is him?! Why h—

Kise: It’s not him! It’s not anybody! I…

He takes a deep breath.

Kise: …just don’t want to be with you.

Aomine feels a lump in his throat and all five of his senses grasped the truth in Kise’s words. He hesitates.

Aomine: …Why?

Kise: ‘Why’ what?

Aomine: Don’t you love me?

Kise: That is why! That, right there! I can’t even be mad at you, because you have always been like this. Instead of asking if I love you, why can’t you tell me you love me? Or that you miss me or want me or need me?

Aomine: But I—

Kise: I’m not talking about as some bargaining chip when I’m mad at you or you feel desperate for some reason or your dick is buried in my ass. What about just because you want me to know. I’m not stupid, I know how you feel even if you don’t want to admit it and you don’t want to tell me…I know.

Aomine: If you know, what’s the difference?!

Kise: Because I want to hear it, dammit! But it doesn’t even matter anymore.

Aomine reaches for Kise’s arm.

Aomine: So, if I say I love you, everything will be OK?

Kise escapes Aomine’s reach.

Kise: No! Dammit! I don’t want to have to explain this shit to you now! I’ve been telling you this for years! Even if you say it now, it’s too late.

Aomine: Why don’t I get a say in any of this?!

Kise: You’ve had years to have your say, but you haven’t said shit! I’ve asked you how you feel about me so many times and what did I get? I got kissed and fondled and fucked!

Aomine: That was my answer!

Kise: That’s not a fucking answer; that’s a distraction! You think I didn’t know?!

He takes a deep breath to regain his composure.

Kise: Look, I told you, I know you love me, but—

Aomine: Kise, if that’s so, then why?

Kise: Be—

He stops himself; if he answers, they’ll just keep going around in circles and it will never end. He knew Aomine wouldn’t just accept it, but he was hoping he wouldn’t have to go into all the reasons why. If he can, he still wants to avoid opening the deepest wounds.

Kise: H-How about you tell me why? Why does it matter to you if we never see each other again? Why do you care if I’m with someone else? Why do you care if I still love you?

Of course Aomine would never consciously admit to it, but he thought he’d be able to talk his way out of whatever Kise threw at him, but this, it’s the first time it has been tied up with “never,”–it’s always been “for now.” He’s not stupid either, he knows what Kise wants, but he’s not ready. He’d have to let go of other things, other people. He needs more time. He reaches out and pulls Kise into his arms and leans his head on Kise’s shoulder.

Aomine: I love you, Kise. I love you. How could you think I would be OK with this?

He feels Kise squirm and crushes Kise against him.

Aomine: I don’t want to lose you, please… What do you want me to do? How can I convince you to st-stay?

Kise is struck by the thought that Aomine’s voice just cracked and even more startled by the dampness on his shoulder he can hardly bring himself to believe it’s caused by tears. It’s just not possible. His anger dissipates immediately. Quietly, with an almost imperceptible amusement in his voice he speaks.

Kise: Hey. Look at me. Aominecchi, look at me. Where was this a year ago? A decade ago?

Aomine knows this is it; this is the end. This is a tone he’s never heard from Kise. He lifts his head and loosens his embrace. He’s now face to face with Kise, but his eyes are closed.

Aomine: …Kise…

Kise reaches up to wipe the tears from Aomine’s eyes, he dries Aomine’s cheeks with the back of his hand. He speaks barely above a whisper.

Kise: You know, it’s heartbreaking to see you like this, but there’s nothing for me to tell you. I love you, Aomine Daiki. I’ve loved you for so many years. I’ve held back, I’ve lashed out, and I’ve put up with a lot, but I can’t do that anymore. I want to be happy, but I can’t be happy with you.

Aomine’s eyes flash open

Aomine: But! But I love you, Kise. I need you.

Kise looks directly into the most beautiful blue he’s ever seen.

Kise: I know you do and I’ve never questioned that, but while all I ever wanted was you, I’ve never been enough to be all you ever wanted. I don’t want to compete for your love and I don’t want a time-share lover. If you can’t be mine alone—heart, mind, body, and soul—we can’t be together. And after everything we’ve been through, going back to being just friends…it’s just been too long. I-I’m sorry.

Aomine’s heart in his throat. He takes Kise’s face in his hands. he sees the exhaustion and pain in Kise’s eyes and he realizes it has been there for a long time, he just ignored it. It’s over, he knows. He rests his forehead against Kise’s.

Aomine: No…I’m sorry. I’m sorry for putting you in this position. I’m sorry for not letting you go. I’m so—

Suddenly, Kise is kissing Aomine. He didn’t know whose heart was beating louder–could Aomine also feel as if he was a split second from being pushed off a cliff? Knowing this would be the last time he would feel this familiar fever, he would breathe in the familiar scent, and he would be able to savor the heretofore unforgettable taste of Aomine was just so… Kise pulls away, but Aomine pulls him back in and  now his arms are around Aomine’s neck. They are pacifying each other with their lips and tongues–trading heat–but this was not their routine devouring of each other, this was a kiss filled with nearly 20 years of pain, love, happiness, regret and compromise; a kiss to say all the things that were never said and to murmur once more the things that were; a kiss to end the abiding heartbreak and to arouse the desire to move on. This was a long farewell

Aomine regrets that he was out of time, out of chances and soon to be out of Kise’s life. He pulls back to look over the face he will never forget, adoring it up close for the last time. He kisses Kise once more and slips his tongue in, tracing Kise’s gum line and he almost forgets to breathe when Kise responds again. He lets Kise pull away. He sweeps the golden bangs back away from Kise’s face and plants a soft kiss, next to the corners of his eyes where tears are threatening to fall. Aomine lets the bangs fall as his hands drop down to grasp Kise’s–a kiss on one and then the other.

Kise returns the favor. His lips land on Aomine’s forehead…

Kise: We were given time, but we squandered it.

On his right hand…

Kise: I love you, but…

On his left…

Kise: …now it’s time to move on.

And finally on his lips…

Kise: Be happy…


015

Early November. It’s been about a week and Kise can’t seem to get rid of the uneasiness and apprehension and it’s not just because he’s in an unfamiliar place. He’s not ready to talk to Kagami about what happened, but he wants to talk to someone … even if it’s not about Aomine … he just needs to connect.

<◄<◄[ ]►>►>

US AIRWAYS FLIGHT 750 TO BRUSSELS, BELGIUM NOW BOARDING. US AIRWAYS FLIGHT 750 TO BRUSSELS, BELGIUM NOW BOARDING.

<◄<◄[ ]►>►>

Kise closes his laptop and gathers his jacket.

Kise: Nee-san, they’re calling my flight; I’ll call you when I land. […] OK, I won’t forget. Bye.

The gate attendant tries not to drool all over her uniform as she assists one of the most exquisite examples of a human she’s ever laid eyes on.

Gate Attendant: Ticket and passport, please. …Is this your first trip to Belgium, Mr. …Keese?

Though her complexion is reminiscent of stained walnut, Kise can still tell that she’s blushing.

Kise: Hehe. You’re so cute. Thanks for trying. It’s Keyseh. And yes, this is my first time.

The gate attendant’s blush grows.

Gate Attendant: My apologies, Mr. Key-seh.

She returns the stub and passport.

Gate Attendant: Please enjoy your flight and I hope that Belgium is all that you’ve hoped for.

Kise slides the stub and passport into his hidden pocket.

Kise: Thank you…

He reads her name tag.

Kise: Marisa.

He departs with a wink.

Kise settles into the quietude of the gîte he’s renting and reaches out.

gitachou ::2:03 AM:: where are you now?

crackedpot ::2:03 AM:: brussels

gitachou ::2:03 AM:: that’s what 8 hrs back? shouldn’t you be sleep?

crackedpot ::2:03 AM:: yeah, it’s like 2 in the morning, but I can’t sleep.

gitachou ::2:03 AM:: so?

crackedpot ::2:04 AM:: what’s up?

gitachou ::2:04 AM:: aren’t you the one who started this conversation?

crackedpot ::2:04 AM:: how’s the tour?

gitachou ::2:05 AM:: tiring. we have 5 shows in 4 cities between now and next friday, a month off and then we head off to the uk and the netherlands

crackedpot ::2:05 AM:: is four-eyes with you?<3

gitachou ::2:06 AM:: nah. he’s home with the kids, but they’ll be joining us in the uk

gitachou ::2:06 AM:: brb

crackedpot ::2:06 AM:: k

gitachou ::2:15 AM:: back

crackedpot :: 2:15 AM:: you get lost?

gitachou ::2:15 AM:: i told you I’m at rehearsal

crackedpot :: 2:15 AM:: OH! senpai! guess who I ran into?!

gitachou ::2:16 AM:: ?

crackedpot ::2:16 AM:: KAGAMI!!!!

gitachou ::2:16 AM:: you only know how to keep company with idiots

crackedpot ::2:16 AM:: he’s not an idiot! he’s nice. he’s sweet. he can cook and he still plays ball.

gitachou ::2:17 AM:: speaking of idiots … when are you gonna lighten your load/

gitachou ::2:18 AM:: *?

gitachou ::2:18 AM:: the time for playing around has passed

crackedpot ::2:19 AM:: what do you mean?

gitachou ::2:19 AM:: you think I don’t know you call me every time you’re having a serious problem with that Touou kid?

crackedpot ::2:19 AM:: no i don’t! don’t make stuff up senpai

gitachou ::2:20 AM:: i can almost hear your voice going up an octave

crackedpot ::2:22 AM:: senpai

gitachou ::2:22 AM:: ?

crackedpot ::2:22 AM:: are you happy?

gitachou ::2:23 AM:: about what?/

crackedpot ::2:23 AM:: life in general

gitachou ::2:23 AM:: yeah

crackedpot ::2:24 AM:: even though you didn’t continue playing ball

gitachou ::2:24 AM:: basketball was really important to me, but it never defined me.

gitachou ::2:25 AM:: i’ve got two beautiful kids and Shinya

gitachou ::2:25 AM:: and I get to make music that people like.

gitachou ::2:25 AM:: touring can be hard and I miss my family, but this life has given me the security and flexibility to be able to enjoy and really appreciate the time I’m not on the road

gitachou ::2:26 AM:: and it’s not like I’m unable … i can play ball anytime

gitachou ::2:27 AM:: and you? are you happy with the course your life has taken?

crackedpot ::2:28 AM:: i guess

gitachou ::2:28 AM:: yu guess? that sounds like a no to me

crackedpot ::2:28 AM:: i don’t hate my life

gitachou ::2:29 AM:: but you don’t love it

crackedpot ::2:29 AM:: some parts are good and some parts aren’t, but everybody’s like that, right?

gitachou ::2:29 AM:: yeah, but I think your reasons are a little different

gitachou ::2:30 AM:: this is just my opinion, but I think you’d feel differently about your life if you were still playing ball

gitachou ::2:30 AM:: even though you won’t tell me, i know you ended up where you are now because of that idiot

gitachou ::2:31 AM:: i’ll never forgive you for wasting your talent like that

crackedpot ::2:32 AM:: i’m sorry senpai

gitachou ::2:32 AM:: you should be apologizing to yourself

gitachou ::2:33 AM:: don’t get me wrong i can see that you are doing well now and from what you told me last time, you are really passionate about your company, but

gitachou ::2:33 AM:: we both know you belong on the court

crackedpot ::2:35 AM:: i can’t do much about it now

gitachou ::2:36 AM:: i’m not saying you should unravel your life and go play ball

gitachou ::2:36 AM:: i just hope what ever sacrifices you made have been worth it and if not, i just hope you’re doing something to get yourself back to being OK

crackedpot ::2:37 AM:: Kintsugi’s doing well and it looks like it will continue to grow. I enjoy what I do a lot

gitachou ::2:38 AM:: i told you i can see that, what I’m talking about is you, your heart. that kid is no good for you.

crackedpot ::2:38 AM:: i know

gitachou ::2:39 AM:: if you know then what are you doing about it?

crackedpot ::2:40 AM:: i ended it

gitachou ::2:40 AM:: ended it?

crackedpot ::2:40 AM:: yeah

gitachou ::2:41 AM:: Kise, if all you did was ignore his calls like last time, that’s not ending it,

crackedpot ::2:42 AM:: i did it face to face. it’s really over, senpai

gitachou ::2:42 AM:: if you don’t talk to him directly, you’ll just end up where you are right now

crackedpot ::2:42 AM:: oh ehen

gitachou ::2:42 AM:: *when?

crackedpot ::2:44 AM:: about a week ago

gitachou ::2:44 AM:: really? how are you doing?

gitachou ::2:45 AM:: why didn’t you tell me this a half hour ago?!

crackedpot ::2:45 AM:: i wasn’t sure if I was ready to say it

gitachou ::2:46 AM:: I guess I can understand that

crackedpot ::2:47 AM:: i thought i would feel relieved afterwards, but I don’t, i just feel empty and anxious

gitachou ::2:48 AM:: don’t be an idiot

gitachou ::2:48 AM:: you just broke something, you have to give it time to heal

gitachou ::2:48 AM:: dammit! it’s time for the sound check. I have to go.

gitachou ::2:49 AM:: if you want to talk call me around 3, my time

gitachou ::2:49 AM:: i mean a voice call

gitachou ::2:49 AM:: i’m proud of you. i have to go.

crackedpot ::2:50 AM:: thanks senpai. tell Nakamura-senpai and the kids I said hello

gitachou ::2:50 AM:: will do. later.

crackedpot ::2:51 AM:: later


016

Mid December. It’s been more than a month since Kagami’s had contact with Kise. His voicemails, texts, and emails have all gone unanswered. Although he keeps reminding himself that they have no obligation to each other and he shouldn’t expect Kise to report in on his every move, it doesn’t stop Kagami from being concerned, but what is he going to do about it?

Kagami: Hey, Kise, it’s me. You just sort of disappeared, so I’m a little worried. I know you have a lot on your plate, but just get in touch with me to let me know you’re alright. See ya.

He ends the call, looks at his phone, and wonders how many calls is it before it gets to be harassment.

Later.

Kagami’s eyes open with a start, it seems he fell asleep on the sofa. He hears a voice and looks around; his eyes haven’t focused yet, so he can’t tell what he’s looking at, but the scent of vanilla and amber with a hint of citrus tells him it’s Kise, he bolts upright.

Kagami: Kise!

Kise looks down at Kagami.

Kise: Hey sleepyhead, you’ve been looking for me?

Kagami: Yeah!

His eyes, now focused, take in the face he missed much more than he realized.

Kagami: Where the– Where have you been? I was worried about you.

Kise steps toward the sofa, but changes his mind and decides to sit on the chaise.

Kise: I’m sorry. I had some stuff to deal with.  Hehe. But I’m here now.

He says with an affected giggle. Kagami dials back his anxiety.

Kagami: Are you OK? What have you been doing?

Kise feigns contentment.

Kise: I’m cool. Everything’s cool. I went to Brussels and Luxembourg, museum hopping.

Kagami: What do they speak over there?

Kise: A bunch of things, but they speak English in some places and I know enough French to get by.

Kagami is surprised and a little turned on.

Kagami: You speak French?

Kise: Oui.

He raises his eyebrows, tilts his head to the side, and playfully pouts as he brings his finger to his lips.

Kise: Impressionné, non?

Kagami: Ha! Well, I suppose I am.

Kise: I had fun, but enough about that, what have you been up to?

Kagami understands that Kise doesn’t want to talk about himself, so he allows the conversation to move on. He relaxes a little.

Kagami: Not much. The show’s finally filming under an hour and a half, so now we can get back to filming 3 shows a day and I can have my weekends back.

Kise knows if he stays too much longer he’ll start getting comfortable.

Kise: Have you eaten yet? You want to go out?

Kagami: Uh… Okay. Where?

Kise: You choose.

Kagami: Hmm…? You up for leaving the city?

Kise: … Sure.

Kagami: Cool.

He looks at his watch.

Kagami: Dinner starts in an hour, let’s go.

In Kagami’s car.

While he was there when Kagami ordered it, this is Kise’s first time in Kagami’s new car.

Kise: This is a Lexus what?

Kagami: LX 570.

Kise looks around.

Kise: Wait! This isn’t the interior you chose. What happened?

Kagami: Remember I wanted an all-black interior, but they only had the mahogany trim? Well, the guy called me later in the week and told me they could contract out for ebony wood, so I told him to go for it.

Kise: But isn’t it too dark in here at night?

Kagami: Yeah, but…you’ll see. Have you been to Con-sho-hocken* yet?

Kise: Uh…once. I went to a bar. What’s in Conshy?

Kagami wonders if there’s more in Kise’s language repertoire than just Japanese, English, and French,

Kagami: What’s in what?

Kise: Hahaha! Conshy… Con-shee… Hehe… That’s what the natives call it.

Kagami: Haha! “The natives”? … Blackfish* is in Con-shee.

Kise: Never heard of it. Is it seafood?

Kagami: Yeah, mostly.

On a good day it would have been a 20-minute drive, if that, but late afternoon on a Friday meant rush hour traffic. Kagami can see their exit about a half a mile up, but they’ve been inching along the expressway for 15 minutes and it feels like they’re getting nowhere. The sky is growing purple and Kise has dozed off.

Kagami sees that it’s gotten dark enough, he turns the custom interior lighting on to its lowest setting. He speaks loud enough to wake Kise.

Kagami: You know, it’s rude to fall asleep and the leave the driver awake by himself.

Kise rouses, but keeps his eyes closed.

Kise: Says who?

His eyes open slowly to a soft amber glow.

Kise: Oooooh… Kagamiiiii! This is so coooool! I want this in my car! It’s like we’re in that Jurassic Park ojiisan’s sceptre-thing!

Kagami: …I guess you’re right.

Kise: This is really nice… Um, how close are we? Do I have time to go back to sleep?

Kagami: No, idiot! What did I just tell you?

Kise huddles in on himself.

Kise: You’re just making stuff up. Wake me when we get there.

Kagami nudges Kise with his elbow, but when Kise doesn’t respond, he starts playing with Kise’s ear.

Kise: Nnnn…

He lazily knocks Kagami’s hand away.

Kise: Stooooop…

Kagami: Wake up then. Wake up or I’ll lick you.

Kise is still drowsy.

Kise: Ha! You wouldn’t.

Kagami slides his hand behind Kise’s neck to cup the right side of his face and pulls it toward him to meet his waiting tongue and proceeds to lick up Kise’s cheek and near his ear.

Kise: Ah! Ah! AAAH!

He covers his ear.

Kise: Not my ear! Don’t lick my ear!

Kagami: Told ya. Wake up and keep me company.

Kise keeps his ear covered and sulks.

Kise: The only thing that needs to be kept is your eyes on the road.

Kagami: Ha! What? You don’t like people licking your ears?

Kise: No! It’s gross!

He shudders.

Kise: Ughhh! Just the thought of it creeps me out.

Kagami: Really?

Kise: Yeah, but it’s really just the inside that feels gross. Eewww.

Kagami: Heh, that’s cute.

He points to their right.

Kagami: Look, we’re here.

016 Footnotes

  • Conshohocken – A suburb of Philadelphia.
  • Blackfish – A nicely appointed seafood restaurant in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

017

Mid December. Stimulating atmosphere, great food, engaging company, and almost enough laughs to camouflage the elephant in the room. Kise knows he’s not accountable to Kagami, but whatever it is that they’ve been slowly building won’t survive if they can’t be frank with each other. Meanwhile, Kagami doesn’t want to press him, but the trepidation Kise’s trying to pass off as giddiness is doing nothing to lessen his concern. Who’s going to crack first?

Kise: Zip up your jacket, Kagami; it’s cold out here.

Kagami: It’s 40°(F). It’s not that cold.

Kise: I’m going to Boston on Monday, so if you get sick, I won’t be here to take care of you.

Kagami: I’m not going to get sick from this, and if I do, I can take care of myself.

Kise: Alright, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Kagami: So, what now? You wanna take a walk?

Kise: Are you crazy?! Didn’t I just tell you it’s cold out here?!

Kagami throws his arm around Kise.

Kagami: How ’bout I warm you up?

Kise ignores Kagami’s offer, but lets his arm stay.

Kise: Are we lost? I don’t remember walking this far.

Kagami feels jilted. He aims his fob to start the car.

Kagami: It’s right there.

Kise shuffles ahead and jumps in the candy-finished claret SUV’s front passenger seat. He settles in as Kagami closes his door.

Kise: Why didn’t you tell me to get this one?

Kagami gets in, closes his door, and secures his seatbelt.

Kagami: Huh?

Kise pouts just a little.

Kise: When we went car shopping, why didn’t you tell me to get this one? My last car was a Lexus, too.

Kagami: Mr. “I’m important, so I have a driver” needed a car that was suitable to be chauffeured and the Range Rover already had the long wheelbase option, so it was better to go with that than go custom to that extent on a Lexus. What are you sulking for?

Kise leans back and crosses his arms.

Kise: I’m not.

Kagami: Then what do you call that? …Kise, what’s wrong? Are you really upset about the car or is something else bothering you?

Kise feels bad, because nothing’s really wrong, he’s just in a mood and he doesn’t mean to take it out on Kagami and he isn’t even sure how to explain his behavior when he isn’t even upset.

Kise: I’m…I’m sorry, Kagamicchi. I’m not upset. I don’t know…I’m just…I don’t know.

Kagami: If it really is nothing, that’s fine, but you know you can talk to me about anything, right?

Kise: I’m sorry. Thanks, Kagami. Can we go to my place?

Kagami: …Sure.

Kise: Turn on the lights.

Kagami turns the dial.

Kagami: Is this good or do you need it brighter?

Kise: This is good.

His eyes survey the dash as he tries to locate the sound system controls.

Kise: How do you turn on the music?

Kagami flicks the switch on his steering wheel and the boom, tss, and rattle of the title track on Outkast’s first album flows out of the speakers. Kise leans back as the southern drawls urge him to nod his head to the bass filled beat.

Kise: So this is what you listen to?

Kagami: Among other things.

Later.

Kagami turns on his right signal so he can pull into the front driveway of Kise’s building. Kise hears the tic-tec-tic-tec of the turning signal and reaches over to touch Kagami’s shoulder.

Kise: If you have time, why don’t you come in?

Kagami: Alright.

He finds it strange that he can feel Kise’s body heat through Kise’s gloves and his own leather jacket, especially when Kise’s finger tips are usually ice cold… Or is he imagining things?

Kagami: Do you have the tag for me to hang on my mirror?

Kise: No, I’ll just text the desk and let them know you’re parked in one of my spots. What’s your license plate?

Later.

Kise grabs the house system’s remote off the console as soon as he walks in. he turns on the low lights and the fireplace, and then kicks off his shoes.

Kise: You want anything to drink? Seltzer, soda, juice, water?

Kagami: Water’s fine.

Kagami hangs his jacket on the hook in the closet and then turns toward Kise to find a gray wool coat flying at him.

Kise: Can you hang that up for me?

Kagami laughs to himself about how unpredictable Kise can be sometimes, at first glance he looks like this well put together guy who’s got everything under control and then some, but once he opens his mouth and starts moving about, he’s loud, sarcastic, flirtatious, and just generally kind of a handful.

Kagami: Sure thing.

Kise hands Kagami a glass of ice water.

Kise: Here.

Kagami: Thanks.

Kagami looks around trying to figure out where he wants to sit. His choice is made for him when Kise pats the sofa cushion next to him. Kise opens and takes a sip of the warm Sparkling Ginger IZZE that’s been in his living for more than a month.

Kise: I’m sorry for disappearing on you. I had some things to take care of and…

Kagami: Is it all sorted out?

Kise: Not really. I completely ended things with Aomine. I mean, I severed ties with him.

Kagami: Oh, we’re talking about this?

Kise: I’m telling you this as a sort of update from the last time we talked about it, but also because you and I have been toeing the line, but to be honest, I’m not ready to be involved with anyone.

Kagami takes it all in.

Kise: And even if I was…

He eyes Kagami’s neck.

Kise: You’re not ready.

Kagami: Are you…breaking up with me…before anything even starts?

Kise: Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. But I got two decades worth of stuff to let go of. I don’t even know where to begin and I don’t want to confuse the issue by introducing someone else into the mix.

Kagami feels his ire rise.

Kagami: So what are you telling me?

Kise takes Kagami’s hand.

Kise: I think we get along really well. I really like you, Kagami. And I’ve actually found myself wishing that we could get past all this and be together, but that’s not going to happen overnight. So I want to draw a line between us for awhile.

Kagami slowly pulls his hand away.

Kagami: So, you’re saying you just want to be friends?

Kise: I know it sounds lame–

Kagami is not totally surprised, but it still hurts.

Kagami: No. I understand.

He stands up.

Kagami: You’ve just been playing around all this time. It’s cool. I get it. I guess I was safe, right?

Kagami turns toward the closet. Kise follows after him.

Kise: No! Kagami, I may have been playful…

He grabs his arm.

Kise: …but I wasn’t playing.

Kagami slips his arm out of Kise’s grasp. Kise catches Kagami by the shoulder and pushes him against the closet door.

Kise: Kagami, look at me.

He moves side to side trying to meet Kagami’s eyes as Kagami does his best to avoid him.

Kise: I like you. I really like you, but I can’t give myself to you until I understand what it is that I’m giving. I don’t want to rush into anything just to find out it’s not what I want.

He hangs his head.

Kise: And I especially don’t want you to become a casualty of the mess I’m in. You have to be patient with me. If you can’t be patient with me now, then how are you going to be patient with me later? How are you going to deal with me when I screw up because I’ve never been in this kind of situation before? If you can’t manage that, then maybe I was wrong, maybe we aren’t so good together and maybe we should cut ties as well.

Kagami lets his gaze meet Kise’s. He realizes that Kise is right, he’s not ready either, if he can’t keep himself from projecting Himuro’s betrayal onto other people’s actions and being suspicious of everyone’s motives, he’s never going to be able to truly trust himself or anyone else again.

Kagami: I-I don’t want that. I’m sorry.

Kise: Can we sit?

He steps aside to allow Kagami to return to where they were sitting. He kneels on the sofa next to Kagami and takes a deep breath.

Kise: So, along with the patience, I need you to understand that this is not a promise. I don’t know what’s going to happen a few weeks or a few months from now. We may feel differently then or we may not. I hope we don’t, but if you can’t take the uncertainty, I understand.

Kagami has been holding back, but he decides to give into his urge, and pulls Kise into his arms. He whispers.

Kagami: Kise, I hope your feelings don’t change; I want us to be good together, but no matter the outcome, as long as you get where you need to be, that’ll be enough.

Kagami kisses Kise’s forehead and then lifts him off and ruffles his hair. First Kise’s eyes and then his body follows Kagami as he goes to retrieve his jacket from the closet. He helps him put it on.

Kise: I’m feeling like I won’t see you for a while.

He straightens Kagami’s collar.

Kise: I know I don’t have any right to say this, but please don’t disappear on me.

Kagami: Well, you need time and space, so it would probably be best if we didn’t see each other as much as we have been. But I promise, I won’t disappear.


018

Early February. It’s been about two months since Kagami talked to Kise and not a day has gone by that he hasn’t thought of him. And it’s been more than a month since he rung in the new year, but the sting of what transpired at that time still lingers.

Voicemail: Mr. Kagami, this is Annaline from Aida & Associates. We have completed the background checks on the final list of candidates that Mr. Koganei submitted. The reports were emailed to your office on Friday, February 8th. Ms. Aida would like to set up a time to discuss the list with Mr. Koganei, Mr. Mitobe, and yourself. Ms. Aida’s direct line is 323-###-####. Please contact her at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

Kagami knows he needs to talk to Riko about the new sous-chef for Kahi, but he really doesn’t want to deal with it. Discussing it means narrowing down the list and narrowing down the list means flying back out to L.A. to hold interviews. L.A. is the last place he wants to be, especially not so soon after what happened right after the new year…

::::: Kagami paces in front of the bar in Kahi as Himuro stands behind it.

:::::  Kagami: Hell no! We may have functioned as partners, but don’t forget that this is my company and your employment is at-will!

::::: Himuro: Who do you think has been running this place since you ran east?

::::: Kagami turns mid-pace and follows his finger to Himuro’s face.

::::: Kagami: Don’t give me that shit! You think I don’t know that Mitobe-senpai has been handling everything while you’ve been off doing God-knows-what?!

::::: Himuro leans forward on the bar.

::::: Himuro: “God-knows-what”? I have been headhunting! You left and that mute took over your duties as well as maintaining his own, so we need a new sous-chef because he can’t keep going on like that!

::::: Kagami slams his fist on the bar, rattling the glasses waiting to be put away.

::::: Kagami: Tatsuya, I told you to leave it alone! You agreed to scale back over the last few months and I told you I would handle the recruitment! I wanted you to transition out of your position, not take on a responsibility that would keep you in it!

::::: Himuro: Recruitment is part of my responsibilities!

::::: Kagami: Was! Recruitment was part of your responsibilities! I made it clear before I left that Koganei-senpai would be assuming your responsibilities. He’s been your lieutenant for more than a year, it really should not take this long for him to take over.

::::: Himuro: You really think he can handle it? You think either one of them can handle it?

::::: Kagami: If I didn’t think so, then I wouldn’t have asked them to come to the States in the first place. Who do you think ran the office when you went home for two months and I was filming on location?!

::::: Himuro: Are you saying you were planning to replace me more than a year ago?!

::::: Kagami: Don’t twist my words and don’t change the subject. You have a week.

::::: Himuro switches gears and dons the mask of sincerity as he comes from behind the bar.

::::: Himuro: Can’t we talk about this?

::::: Kagami: I’m tired of “talk!” I’ve got shit else to say. Don’t act like I’m throwing you out on your ass. I know you have somewhere to go. Just… You can’t be here.

::::: Himuro steps closer to Kagami and catches his hand.

::::: Himuro: Taiga…

::::: Kagami: Get off! What do you want from me? I’ve given you everything I could for the past nine years, but it was never good enough. I have nothing else to give you.

::::: Himuro: I just wanted you to be happy, to do your best, be your best. You have so much potential; I didn’t want you to waste it.

::::: Kagami: I gave everything I did 120%. How is that not my best?

::::: Himuro’s mask slips a bit.

::::: Himuro: You gave up on basketball… I wouldn’t call that 120%.

::::: Like a domino effect, one thing occurs to Kagami and that leads to another and another and another. And just like that he understands.

::::: Kagami: That’s it?! That’s what your issue has been all this time? That’s what you were pushing me towards? Well, fuck you! I can’t believe this shit!

::::: Himuro: I didn’t say that.

::::: Kagami: No. No, you didn’t. You said, “next time.” It was always “next time” with you. You know, it was great at first. “Next time we’ll go another mile.” “Next time we’ll do another 10 reps.” It got me through recovery. Without you pushing me day in and day out, I don’t think I would have bounced back as quickly.

::::: Himuro steps into Kagami’s space.

::::: Himuro: But then you gave up!

::::: Kagami: I didn’t give up! I made a decision! And it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make! How could you not see that?!

::::: Himuro: They said you could go back! They said you could play! But you gave up and just let all your talent go to waste.

::::: Kagami: Shut up!

::::: Himuro steps back.

::::: Himuro: You-You…fucking leaking talent all over the damn place like pheromones when other people try their whole lives to achieve what you have and you j-just fucking waste it!

::::: Kagami: Shut up!

::::: He closes the distance between them and grips Himuro up by his collar.

::::: Kagami: Shut! Up!

::::: Himuro is pissed and tries to provoke Kagami.

::::: Himuro: What?! Are you going to hit me again?! You won’t be able to blame it on alcohol this time! Go ahead!

::::: Kagami lets Himuro go and steps back.

::::: Kagami: Fuck! Why did you stay?! I made the decision not to go back seven years ago! If you disapproved of my decision so much, why did you…stay?

::::: Himuro: I left behind a lot to be with you! I made a commitment to you!

::::: Kagami: What the hell?! We weren’t even dating then. I don’t understand? Did you just want me to feel like I never quite lived up to your expectations? Is that why it was always “next time”? I got the Division II assistant coach position and you said, “next time, Division I.” I got the Division I assistant coach position and you said “next time, NBA.” When I turned down the D-League* assistant coach position to open Kahi why didn’t you understand that I wasn’t going back on the court. You stayed.

::::: He is exasperated.

::::: Kagami: Why?

::::: Himuro: I stayed because I loved you.

::::: Kagami: Not enough to be honest with me. Not enough to accept the fact that I chose my health over basketball. Not enough to stop yourself from fucking someone else.

::::: Himuro: You chose your health? Bullshit! You were a coward! They told you could go back, but you fucking wussed out! You spent all that time just wasting your talent.

::::: Kagami: It was my fucking career! It was my fucking knee that couldn’t take another hit! It was my fucking dream! You think I let that go so easily?! Dammit!

::::: He feels himself getting choked up.

::::: Kagami: That decision broke my heart, but I would much rather bow out than be forced out. Why don’t understand this?

::::: Himuro: You didn’t even try!

::::: Kagami: Try what?! Try being satisfied playing with less intensity for fear that my knee could go at any time?

::::: He slides his palms down his face.

::::: Kagami: …I still don’t understand…if you thought so little of me, why did you kiss me? Why did you start something with me? It would have been fine! We would have been fine! You could have disagreed and gone back to Japan and we could have gotten past it and we still could have been… Why did you have to ruin it?

Kagami is exhausted just remembering it, but he recalls passively promising himself that he wouldn’t let it interfere with the things he needed to do. He dials.

Kagami: Ahhh… Riko– […] Yes, I got your email. When do you have time to go over the candidate list? […]

He looks over the Kahi schedule.

Kagami: They both should be available right now.

018 Footnotes

  • D-League – The official minor league of the NBA.

019

Late March. After three months of zero contact, Kagami received an invitation from Kise to join him in watching the Sweet Sixteen*. March Madness* has descended. Although they agreed to trade off hosting, they’ve ended up watching most of the tournament at Kagami’s place. Both of their alma maters look as though they’ll advance to the Elite Eight*, however, Kagami has promised that if his team doesn’t, he’s going to root for whichever team Syracuse goes up against.

Kagami opens the Menus folder on his tablet and tosses it to Kise.

Kagami: You want to order in?

Kise catches the tablet and pouts.

Kise: I thought you were cooking.

Kagami: We filmed today. I don’t feel like it.

Kise: Your game starts at 7:20.

Kagami: And yours?

Kise: Like 10 or something.

Kagami: I want a turkey hoagie*.

Kise flips through the menus.

Kise: Aren’t we doing the Philly thing tomorrow?

Kagami: So we’ll start early.

Kise: I only like Gennaro’s hoagies, but they’re probably too busy today.

Kagami: Tell’em it’s me, we’ll get it quicker.

Kise: And who the heck are you, getting perks like that…? Well, alright then. I think I’ll get a grilled chicken Caesar hoagie with extra onions.

Kagami yawns as he heads upstairs, dragging his feet.

Kagami: Cool. I’m going to take a nap. Wake me at 6 and don’t you dare watch the Home Shopping Network!

Kise lowers the remote because he was just about to switch to that channel.

Kise: Why? What do you have against the Home Shopping Network?

Halfway up the stairs, Kagami turns around.

Kagami: Nothing. But all you do is laugh obnoxiously at it and talk loudly at the TV and…

He yawns again.

Kagami: I’ll never get to sleep if you do.

Kise: Just close your door… or are you keeping it open for a reason?

Kagami side-eyes Kise and decides to ignore the last part.

Kagami: Alright. You go ahead and find out what I’m like when I can’t sleep.

Kise feigns resignation.

Kise: Fiiiiiiine.

It’s natural for Kise to reply in a flirtatious way, but he’s been trying to curb it, although he isn’t always successful. He wonders if the line they drew is as tempting to cross for Kagami as it is for him. Although he said that he needed to figure out who he is before he could get involved, he never imagined that completely letting go would be so easy and that understanding himself could start with something so simple as waking up and doing whatever he felt like doing and ignoring how anyone else would feel about it. He was actually prepared for months of crying and sleepless nights, but other than when he slept in Kagami’s bed, he can’t remember a time when he slept better. Lately, all he can do is think about Kagami; he just wants to be in his presence, but he doesn’t want to say anything to Kagami because he’s afraid of not being taken seriously. When will enough time have passed? But in the end, it doesn’t matter much, because even though Kagami says he and Himuro are done and he’s moved on, the chain around his neck tells a different story.

Later.

Kagami rolls over when he hears an alarm going off, he’s confused because he knows he didn’t set one… His turn is interrupted by something hard and warm, he opens his eyes to see Kise curled up on his bed.

Kagami: This guy. Is he playing with me?

He stares at the long lashes underlining Kise’s lids and the blond hair messily framing his face. Thinking nothing of it, he brushes the wayward strands behind Kise’s ear and leans in to kiss his cheek, but he changes his mind. He, instead, decides to lick his ear, and then he kicks him off the bed.

Kagami: Wake up.

Kise: Huh? Ah! Ugh. What?

He sits up.

Kise: Ooooowwww!

He looks around and sees Kagami walking into the bathroom.

Kise: Hey! I’m delicate! You should wake me up in a nicer way!

Kagami hears the reminder alarm go off.

Kagami: Turn off the alarm. Wasn’t it you who was supposed to wake me up? How were you planning to do that when you can’t even wake up to your own alarm?

Kise wipes his ear and frowns.

Kise: Groooooooss! Did you lick me?!

Kagami: What do you think? Don’t wait too long to order the food. I want steak fries*, too.

Kise hoists himself up onto the bed.

Kise: With barbecue sauce on the side?

Kagami: Yeah. Don’t mess up my order. If I get barbecue sauce on my sandwich again, I’m going to make you eat it.

Kise: Man, let it go. It happened one time.

Kagami: Once is enough. And stop getting in my bed.

His tone is tinged with sarcasm, but he’s 100% serious.

Kagami: Remember “the line.”

Kagami quickly turns on the faucet to drown out any possible rebuttal from Kise.

Kise: What if I want to erase the line? What if I want you to erase it for me?

Kagami turns the water off and dries his hands. Kise’s tone didn’t seem like he was being a smart ass, so Kagami asks anyway.

Kagami: What was that?

Kise looks down.

Kise: Uh…nothing. I was just asking if you wanted me to order drinks.

Kagami: You know what’s in the fridge. Do we need anything?

Kise: Uh…um… N-No. I guess not.

Kagami stands in front of Kise and lifts his chin.

Kagami: Are you still asleep?

All Kise wants right now is for that hand under his chin to be in his hair, pulling it back to further expose his neck to give Kagami unobstructed access to do as he pleases. He’s got to snap out of it. He stands up and heads toward the bathroom, forcing Kagami to step back.

Kise: Of course I’m not still asleep. Who could sleep through being kicked off the bed?

Kagami quietly congratulates himself for controlling his reaction to the sexy-sleepy look that was in Kise’s eyes as he pushed past him.

Game over. Arizona vs. Belmont* 81/64. Syracuse vs. Montana* 81/34.

Kise gathers up the trash.

Kise: Your boys only won by 17 points. They better wake up or Syracuse is going to be toe to toe with somebody else at the Championship.

Kagami: Stop talking smack. Like 17 is something to laugh at. You only won by 47 because Montana was asleep the whole game. Don’t worry about my kids, half your starters are injured; how far do you think they’re going to make it like that? Tell you what, if your invalids make it to D.C.*, I’ll take you to the game.

Kise: You don’t want to see your little kittens*? Or have you lost confidence that they’ll make it past the third round?

Kagami bops Kise on his head with an empty water bottle.

Kagami: Don’t call them kittens! And it’s not that… I just don’t want to go to L.A.

Kise hesitates to ask because he doesn’t want to see the sour look Kagami always gets when Himuro comes up in conversation, but he really wants to know what’s going on.

Kise: …Speaking of… Have you talked to Himuro-san since then?

Kagami makes no effort to hide his annoyance.

Kagami: No. There’s nothing else to talk about.

Kise: Is he still at Kahi?

Kagami: No.

Kise: So, how are Mitobe-san and Koganei-san working out? And the new sous-chef?

Kagami: My senpai are awesome, of course. I assume as much about the newbie. They had a lot to deal with when they got back, so I haven’t had much contact with anyone since they were here the week of the renovation.

Kise: That kid was so cute. She was undressing you with her eyes every chance she got. Hehe! I’m sure she wanted to sample whatever it was that you were serving up.

Kagami: I seriously doubt that. She knows I’m gay.

Kise gets up to take the trash into the kitchen.

Kise: What does that matter? I’ve seen plenty of straight guys look at you in the same way. I’m not saying she wanted to turn you; the girl just wanted to rip your clothes off and wring you dry…not that I blame her. Pure lust. Physical attraction is simply that.

Kagami ignores the comment Kise slipped in there.

Kagami: Well, she knows her way around the kitchen and senpai likes her, and that’s all I care about, so she can lust all she wants.

Kise: Tomorrow?

Kagami sits up and turns toward the kitchen.

Kagami: I know it’s your turn, but I’m closer to the food, so lets do it here.

Kise: We’ve only watched two games at my place. Why do we even bother making plans?

Kagami: That’s your fault. What’s the point of going to your place when you keep coming here before you go home? Anyway, I already ordered the pretzels. Cheesesteaks are coming from Ishkibibbles*.

Kise: I’ll pick up the water ice* and the krimpets*.

Kagami: Oh yeah, I finally get to taste this imitation kakigouri you’ve been raving about.

Kise: I told you, it’s like it, but it’s not. And it’s not just any shaved ice. I don’t care what you’ve had, this is the best!

Kagami: Why are we doing this again?

Kise: Because~ it’s the perfect occasion! We’ll be watching Philly schools tomorrow, so we should celebrate with Philly foods!

Kagami: Of course.

Kise: Someone suggested Yuengling, too. It’s not Philly, but it’s close enough.

Kagami: Yuengling is a lager, right? I’ll pass.

Kise: Oh! He said Frank’s Black Cherry Wi– Wi* … something or another. It’s a soda. And the peanut chews*.

Kagami: Who’s going to eat all of this?

Kise returns to the living room and places the back of his hand on Kagami’s forehead.

Kise: Are you feeling well?

Kagami slaps Kise’s hand away.

Kagami: I’m fine. I’m just saying, it’s a lot of sugar. I need more meat.

Kise: We’ll be watching three games and we have all day. We can order a tomato pie*.

Kagami: I said meat.

Kise: Haha~ You want some scrapple*? Let’s have it for breakfast!

019 Footnotes

  • Sweet Sixteen – An elimination round leading up to the National Championship.
  • March Madness – Annual NCAA Tournament leading up to the National Championship.
  • Elite Eight – An elimination round leading up to the National Championship.
  • Belmont – Belmont University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • Hoagie – Usually cold sliced meat with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and mayo or oil on a long roll. Toppings such as pickles, oregano, hot peppers, are common. Also called submarine/sub or hero depending on where you are in the U.S.
  • Steak Fries – Thickly cut french fries.
  • Montana – University of Montana, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • D.C. – Washington, D.C., the location of The Verizon Center, where Syracuse will face Marquette University to be defeated or advance to the Final Four and ultimately the National Championship.
  • Kittens – Kagami went to the University of Arizona and the team is called the Wildcats.
  • Ishkibibbles – A take-out only steak, hoagie, and pizza joint in Philadelphia.
  • Water Ice – A frozen treat consisting of shaved ice and flavored syrup. Similar to kakigouri, but never served with milk.
  • Krimpets – An iced snack cake made by a Philadelphia snack company called Tastykake. The most popular flavor is butterscotch.
  • Kakigouri – Japanese shaved ice treat made with flavored syrup and condensed milk.
  • Frank’s Black Cherry Wishniak – a soda produced by a Philadelphia beverage company named Frank’s.
  • Peanut Chews – Peanuts and molasses covered in chocolate.
  • Tomato Pie – A cheeseless pizza that’s usually served at room temperature.
  • Scrapple – A mishmash of pork offal and cornmeal and other ingredients formed into a brick or a loaf and then sliced and fried. Usually eaten for breakfast.

020

Rather than go home just to return the following day for the Second Round of March Madness, Kise opted to stay over. Always one to do as he pleases, he ignores Kagami warnings and attempts to crawl into his bed again, but this time he’s got something other than sleep on his mind.

Kise waits until Kagami had been asleep for a while before he tiptoes into his bedroom, sidles up to his bedside, and leans his back against the bed, he was nervous and frustrated because of it, but he felt that he should just get on with it. Kagami hears Kise come in, but decides not to react. Instead he listens as Kise speaks just above a whisper.

Kise: Hey… I know you’re awake now, but could you just pretend you’re still sleeping? I want to talk to you, but I’m really nervous, so please just listen and don’t turn around. And I’m sorry if none of this makes sense. First, thanks for putting up with me. I know I called you out of the blue after disappearing again. I wanted some distance because I needed to think about what I was going to do with myself, but I ended up spending more time thinking about you than anything else. And that worries me. I feel like I’m not enough for myself, like I have to be tied to someone. I don’t want to be that way. On the other hand, I can’t help but question that because I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel, what I should be thinking about, or what I should be working towards. I thought I would feel lost and numb and need a lot of time to work things out, but other than being generally lost, this is not what I expected and I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

As if he has just run out of energy and can no longer hold himself up, he lets himself fall to the floor and starts talking to the ceiling.

Kise: How long is the “get your shit together” period supposed to last? Are there checkpoints I should know about? How do I know when I’m ready? How can I be sure that I’ve actually moved on?

Kagami wants to respond even though he doesn’t have all the answers, however, Kise’s words have made him wonder if he’s as ready as he thinks he is. He’s already decided that there’s nothing else to be done with his relationship with Himuro, but is that decision alone enough?

Kise: I know this is weird, me telling you this, you listening to me work out whether or not I should be with you, or anyone for that matter. But I don’t know what else to do. I can’t help but second guess everything I do. At first I didn’t mean much by my flirting, but it wasn’t long before I realized that I was genuinely interested in you. I felt guilty, especially when I realized that you were interested in me, but that obviously didn’t stop me from flirting. I kept wondering if I was wrong for doing that. I was still tangled up with Aomine and you were dealing with Himuro-san and neither of us were really available. Like, emotionally. Then I think if I wait too long, what if you get used to it, you know, and you go back to seeing us as friends? I just can’t seem to settle on anything and even when I think that I might have, there are like two major things that I can’t seem to reconcile no matter what.

He sits up intending to crawl over Kagami onto the bed to face him, but when he turns his head, he sees Kagami’s blanketed profile has flipped and is now facing him.

Kise: AH!

He almost falls back.

Kise: Don’t sit there quietly like that; it’s creepy!

Kagami: You told me to just listen.

Kise: I also told you not to turn around! Geez, you almost gave me a heart attack!

Kise’s feelings of embarrassment and self-consciousness come before he even has time to brace himself.

Kagami: You were saying?

Kise covers his face.

Kise: I-I don’t think I can say it now. …Whaaah!

Kagami doesn’t think about it too much before he props himself up and reaches out and grabs Kise under his arms to lift him onto the bed. He settles Kise on top of him, first, and then onto the empty side–just like that.

Kise’s mind is spinning. It’s not impossible, but he still can’t believe that Kagami picked him up…from that position, like it was nothing. The wrong things are stirring in him and being on Kagami’s bed isn’t helping. It always smells so good. He’s too close; he has to settle down. It was fine when he meant to do it himself, but he feels that his whole plan is thrown off now that Kagami seems to have taken over.

Kagami rolls Kise over to face the wall leading to the bathroom and then pulls him close, his body following the contours of Kise’s, curve for curve. His voice is low and unsteady.

Kagami: I guess I want to talk to you, too, but first you’ve got to stop hiding and be straight with me.

Kise: “Straight”? I think we might have a problem there.

Kagami: Come on, Kise. Stop messing around… Please?

Kise has no idea if he’s going to be able to get it out, but Kagami’s way of saying “please” is just too convincing, so he can only try.

Kise: Th-the first thing is that the more I’m with you…

He takes a deep breath.

Kise: …the more I want to be with you.

Kagami wasn’t deliberately being unfair when he nuzzled encouragements for Kise to continue into his neck. Kise tries to contain the shudder that’s ready to launch from the base of his spine.

Kise: Y-Yeah, but it’s…it’s stressing me out because I keep thinking maybe I haven’t spent enough time alone, you know? And that I should really do that before I get into another situation where the decisions I make always take someone else into consideration. That was why I wanted to draw a line. Then when I look at my situation, all I see is that I’ve only been involved with one person. Like, everything before him didn’t count; I wasn’t serious about any of them, but I liked the company. I like the idea of someone wanting to be with me and I had fun, I guess. Then I started up with him and at some point I got serious and it was like that until it wasn’t. How long was I living with that sort of mindset? And now it hasn’t even been six months and I’m already looking at another involvement with the intention of it being long term, like I can’t wait. I’m afraid I’m going to be one of those people who can’t function unless they’re tied to someone. Then I start wondering if it’s not really that big of a deal and that six weeks or six months only matters if you want it to. I keep flipping this thing over and turning it inside out in my mind trying to find the care instructions, but no dice.

Kagami pulls Kise closer.

Kagami: So what’s the other one?

Wrapped in Kagami’s arms, Kise could just stay like that forever. But for what he’s about to say, he feels as if it, more than anything, should be said face to face. He turns toward Kagami and pulls back a bit so he can see his face. With the shade raised only an inch from the sill, it’s still dark, but there’s just enough light for him to make out the features of Kagami’s face.

Kise: So…the other one is that I don’t think you’ve resolved your situation with Himuro-san and I don’t want to find myself in another situation where relationships aren’t clear or I feel like I have to compete with someone or your feelings for them. Because of this, even though I want to dive into the deep end with you, I can’t. N-Not yet anyway.

Kagami pulls back. The sliver of light coming in through the window behind him illuminates Kise’s face and he gets lost in the sight for just a moment. He understands that it’s his turn to speak.

Kagami: …First, about how much time… There’s no set rule. You go when you’re ready. It’s trial and error–that’s life. If you want to sit the round out, sit. If you go ahead and find out that it’s not for you, stop. Or you could do nothing, but you’d definitely regret that more. As for how I see you, we’ve flirted and what not, but I don’t know what it’s like to be in a relationship with you. What we are now is all I know, so no matter how long you take, there’s nothing for me to go back to. And even if I did get used to be friends, that doesn’t mean I would stop seeing you as I see you now. Can we only have one kind of relationship?

Kise covers his face. Kagami pulls at Kise’s hand.

Kagami: Stop doing that; I’m talking to you.

Kise: Sorry, I can’t help it.

Kagami: What are you so embarrassed about?

Kise: I say this stuff out loud and I don’t mind it too much because I hear it in my head all day, but when you respond, I realize that you were hearing it too and then I start worrying about how idiotic I sound and then I just can’t take it.

Kagami: Heh.

He squeezes Kise.

Kagami: You are an idiot. Didn’t you start this conversation with me?

Kise: Yeah, but…

Kagami: You know what? Let’s go.

Kagami releases Kise and rolls off the bed. Kise rolls over and sits up.

Kise: Huh?

Kagami: I want to talk to you, but I don’t want to say what I have to say in my bed.

Kise: Where?

Kagami: The weight room.

He catches and shakes Kise’s toe as he walks past the foot of the bed.

Kagami: Come on.

Kise gets up and follows Kagami down the hall and to the right. He takes a seat on the free weight bench. Kagami settles in crossed-legged on the floor in front of Kise and looks up.

Kagami: You are right. My situation with Tatsuya isn’t quite settled. I’m still angry about it and I know I need to deal with that. I’m not going to tell you that I don’t think about him or that I won’t think about him, but my feelings for him aren’t what they were.

Kise: That’s to be expected, isn’t it? You guys have been together since high school, at least, right?

Kagami: Um… No. We didn’t get together until sometime after my injury.

Kise: Eh? Then, what’s the story with the ring? You had that when I first met you.

Kagami: Tatsuya is– was like a brother to me. He’s the one that got me into basketball. I looked up to him, pretty much idolized him and the ring is a symbol of that relationship. Although, after all this time, I suppose it has gained additional significances. It’s part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to let go of my anger.

He leans back, bracing himself with his hands on the floor behind him.

Kagami: What he did cost me my best friend, my boyfriend, my partner, my brother, and the one person that I trusted more than anyone.

Kise: If you could, would you go back?

Kagami: Yes.

Kise can’t hide how much that word hurt him, he turns toward the door to leave. Kagami catches Kise’s arm and gently pulls him back to the bench.

Kagami: Listen to me. …I know that didn’t inspire any confidence in whatever lies ahead for us, but it will be a while before my answer changes.

Kise: Let go.

Kagami’s eyes widen as he remembers what Kise told him about the time he told Aomine to let go.

Kagami: I’m going to let go, but hear me out, okay? Please?

Kise rolls his eyes and turns back to face Kagami.

Kise: Alright… I’m listening.

Kagami: I wrestled with this for a long time. Kise, it was actually some of the things you said about what went on between you and Aomine that led me to that conclusion. I really wanted someone to tell me that it had never happened, that I was just having a nightmare. There are days I feel like I would give anything to return to the time before all of this happened; the times when I would talk to him about anything for hours; the times when he would get on me about my tendency to fly off the handle about things that didn’t matter in the scheme of things; or the times when I thought that there was nothing else and no one else I wanted more. I would love to go back to a time before I knew what this type of pain and loss and disappointment felt like. But it’s too late for that now; nothing that happened can be undone or unfelt.

Kise crosses his arms.

Kise: …What if he came to you now and said he wanted to be together again? You still love him, right?

Kagami: Like I said, it can’t be undone. I love the him that didn’t lie to me. I love the him that didn’t manipulate me. But I know now that person doesn’t exist, at least he hasn’t for a long time. So there’s no place to go back to. Besides, every time I see his face, I just want to… Arrgh! Let’s just say that it would be best if I didn’t see him. Which leads me to the other thing I want to tell you. After I found out about his relationship with that guy, I was…I moved out, but removing myself from the situation didn’t help. There were a few nights that got drunk, well honestly, I went on a bender. I started calling him. Sometimes I would curse him out and other times I would cry. That didn’t seem to satisfy me either, so I showed up at our place wasted and belligerent. I kept asking him why. I don’t even know if he said anything. I’d wake up the next day and he’d be gone and then I’d go back to the place I was staying. The next and last time I went there like that, it was about a month later. I wasn’t completely drunk and he hadn’t gotten home yet, so I just sat there and emptied a few bottles while I waited. As soon as he walked in, I just went off. I may have been drunk, but I could see the fear in his eyes clearly. The yelling and cursing and what not went on for what felt like hours and then he said something–it was the first thing he said since he walked in, I don’t even remember what it was–and I just hit him.

He held the back of his head and pulled it down to his chest.

Kagami: Kise, I was so freaked out by that, probably even more than him. It sobered me up in an instant. After all the hollering I had been doing, my voice was pretty much gone at that point, but I remember managing to rasp out a ‘sorry’ before I staggered out of there. And that was the last thing I remembered before waking up in the hospital.

Kise: “The hospital”?

Kagami: I didn’t know if it was a day or a week later.

Kise: Wha– Who– How-How did you get to the hospital?!

Kagami: It seems he called me a few times after that and I didn’t answer, so he called Riko and Alex to check on me. Apparently when Riko arrived, I was relatively fine, just a little out of it, but by the time Alex got there I had been retching in the bathroom for some hours. I don’t remember any of it.

Kise: …What happened after that? Is that why you don’t drink?

Kagami: I was treated for alcohol poisoning and yelled at in three different languages by Alex. I was never much of a drinker anyway, but after that, I just didn’t want to touch the stuff.

Kise: Not that I’m condoning your behavior, or that what I’m about to say makes any of it okay, but, you know, Aomine and I have come to blows on more than one occasion?

Kagami: Yeah, but, well, it’s not like Tatsuya is some defenseless weakling, but I’ve got like 3 inches and 40 lbs on him. It just felt so unfair. Any other day, I’d never think of doing something like that. I’ve never hated myself more than I did after that.

Kise lifts Kagami’s head up and wipes the tears from his cheeks.

Kise: That’s the thing Kagami, “any other day.” You weren’t your best self; you were stressed, hurt, and under the influence. But don’t look to me for absolution. I was usually the one to swing first in my fights and I was never drunk. And I’m not Himuro-san. I realize you want nothing to do with him, but if you want to get past this, he’s the one you need to talk to.


Kise’s Loft – Rittenhouse Square


021

The night ended with questions unanswered. Temple beat N.C. State 76/72 and La Salle won 76/74 over Kansas State. They are stuffed to the gills and Kise’s betting Kagami that the last game of the night between Villanova and North Carolina will follow the trend with the Philly school winning with a score of 76. And the winner gets what?

Kagami knows that it is time to really let go and that he needs to talk with Himuro; now it was just a question of when. And although Kise seems fine with believing that there were no set rules for moving on, the safety of the familiar makes him vaguely hesitant to do so. However, he tells Kagami that he thought he should, to which Kagami asks if that means that he is ready to be with someone else. Kise wants very much to say “yes,” but he tells Kagami that the thought is still new and he wants time to get used to it, so he says he’ll answer him later. As a means of setting up an intermission, Kagami offers to Kise, without conditions or pretense, the right side of his bed.

Kise: I’ll do my best not to strip.

Kagami: Don’t hold back on my account.

Kise raises an eyebrow in response.

Kagami: Look, I’m past all that. I’m not going to put up a chaste front around you anymore. I’m not going to do anything unless you want me too, but just know I’ll be thinking really sticky thoughts about you.

Kise: Kagamicchi!

The following morning.

Kise manages to stay clothed. If asked, Kagami would admit to being somewhat disappointed, though waking up with Kise in his arms was a fair trade. Fortunately Kise sleeps like the dead, so Kagami is able to slip out of the bed without disturbing him, but not before planting a kiss on his bedmate’s forehead. The only thing, is that Kise isn’t sleep. He watches as Kagami stands at his writing desk with his head bowed as if in prayer. Kise closes his eyes to temper the feeling that he is somehow intruding. The silence of a few moments is interrupted by the sound of Kagami stretching and his back cracking in resistance or surrender. Kise decides against opening his eyes and continues to observe Kagami with the rest of his senses. It is quiet again, for longer this time, then Kise hears a low sigh followed by a brief clunk and metallic slither as something comes in contact with the top of the desk.

Later.

Kagami puts Kise into a headlock.

Kagami: Ahhh! So close! So close!

Kise: I was robbed!

Kagami: Don’t be a sore loser. You just made a bad call…

Kagami can barely contain his laughter.

Kagami: …a really bad call!

Kagami ruffles Kise’s hair. For a moment he wishes for that hand to be somewhere else.

Kise: What?! The game was close! North Carolina only won by 7!

Kagami releases Kise.

Kagami: Yeah, 78 to 71 is close, but you know the Tar Heels* have had a pretty decent season compared to Villanova. ‘Nova was fighting tooth and nail in this game. Even if the Tar Heels didn’t have the extra incentive to make 700*, I think they still would have won.

Kise: Double or nothing?

Kagami: Hahahahaha… No. We can make another bet if you want, but I won this one and I will claim my prize.

Kise leans into Kagami.

Kise: Which is?

Kagami squeezes Kise’s cheeks.

Kagami: Now, now. Don’t you worry; all will be revealed soon enough.

Kise falls to the back of the sofa with crossed arms.

Kise: I’m not streaking, I’ll tell you that right now.

Kagami: Are you kidding? Why would I want other people to see all of your everything?

Kise is suddenly irritated by the thought of past incidents.

Kise: You’d think that, wouldn’t you?

Kagami turns towards Kise, wonderstruck.

Kagami: Wait. Are you telling me that you’ve done it before?

Kise realizes what he just implied.

Kise: Eh? Wha– I– Wha-What are you talking about?!

Kagami hears Kise’s voice go up an octave.

Kagami: Seriously? When? And how far?

Kise gets up to avoid the questions, but when looks back at Kagami, he sees a look on his face that says that he’s not giving up on getting an answer just yet.

Kise: Fwaaah! It was in uni. I just had to run around the perimeter of the dorm.

Kagami: Hahahahahahaha! Did anyone see you?

Kise: See me?! See me?! I got hit on by three students and some random ojiisan!

Kise mumbles.

Kise: And I swear someone took a picture.

Kagami: AhAHAhHahAhahahAhahAHAhAH! HA!

Kise takes his embarrassment out on the trash as he cleans up.

Kise: Don’t laugh! It’s not funny!

Kagami: Of course it is. It’s damn funny!

He playfully wipes at the corners of his eyes. Kise stands up, still a bit embarrassed.

Kagami: Eh? Leaving so soon?

Kise: I told you I have to fly out to London on Sunday. But I’ll be back in time for you to take me to see Syracuse advance.

Kagami: Oh? You’re so sure your boys are going to make it?

Kise: Hell to the yeah! You promised you’d take me to the game. Don’t back out now.

Kagami: I’m not backing out.

Kagami stretches himself off the sofa to walk Kise to the door. Kise opens the door, but turns back around to say something to Kagami, but he didn’t expect him to be right there.

Kise: Do– Whoa! Geez, man! Would you make some noise when you move around!

Kagami: Ah, sorry, sorry. What were you about to say?

Kise: Ugh! I forgot. Oh, wait, umm… do you want anything from over there?

Kagami: If you find the answer to my question over there, that’d be nice

Kise’s eyes drift to Kagami’s neck and his forehead and nose crinkle in bewilderment.

Kise: Hmn?

Kagami steps forward, leans on the open door, and looks directly into Kise’s eyes.

Kagami: You still haven’t answered my question; you said you’d answer it “later.”

Kise still isn’t ready to give his answer.

Kise: Still later. I’ll have an answer for you when I return.

Kagami’s eyes widen as if to ask “you’re making me wait a whole week?” Kise leans in to whisper in Kagami’s ear.

Kise: What’s a week compared to a lifetime?

As Kise pulls back, he slips his right hand around the back of Kagami’s neck and then pulls him in. Kagami is surprised that Kise’s fingertips don’t feel cold on his neck as they guide him into what he thinks is going to be the kiss he’s thought about since the first time he saw Kise in Seirin’s gym. He smirks when he feels soft, moist lips on his forehead.

Kagami: …Next Friday, right?

Kise steps out onto the walk.

Kise: I promise. I’ll be back early early morning. I’m packing my bag tomorrow, so I can just dump my London stuff and grab my D.C. stuff and come right over.

Kagami: Alright, then. Be sure to be here by 11 AM.

Kise: Eleven. Got it.

Kagami: I’ll see you then. Have a safe trip.

Kise: Thanks. See ya!

Kagami closes the door and decides to call it a night, as he winds down in the shower, he meditates on the word lifetime.

021 Footnotes

  • Temple – Temple University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • N.C. State – North Carolina State University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • La Salle – La Salle University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • Kansas State – Kansas State University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • Villanova – Villanova University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • North Carolina – University of North Carolina, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • Tar Heels – The North Carolina University team name.
  • 700 – The 78/71 win was the 700th career win for the Tar Heels Coach, Roy Williams.

022

Late March. Tossing and turning. It’s hard to sleep when he’s getting the cold shoulder and the fact that the icy blast is coming from someone who’s lying next to him–not in the least disturbed by his restless night; practically comatose–just makes Himuro feel worse.

Himuro rolls out of bed, grabs his phone, and trudges over to the window seat. He looks at his call history and remembers when a different name filled the screen. A blur of digital vibrance slides by as he swipes over to his contacts. It’s 6 AM there, but, whatever.

Himuro: Hey, it’s me. […] Yeah, I know what time it is. I’m sorry. I just needed to talk to you. […] I know. […] Yeah. I understand. […] Will you be available around 9–your time–tomorrow morning? […] No. That’s– […] Kise? […] I see… No. We’ll be done before 11; it won’t take that long. […] Yes. Thank you. […] Talk to you then.

Just as the screen returns to the contact detail page, Himuro hears the bed creak. He looks up.

Murasakibara: Who was that?

Himuro: Nobody.

Murasakibara: Well, tell Nobody that this is the sleeping hour.

Himuro: Yeah? What is sleep?

Himuro laughs, but before he could even finish that thought, Murasakibara is already breathing deeply again. Another thought crosses his mind, he wakes his phone, launches his reservation app and books a flight to Philly.

Later.

Himuro: Would you do something else besides lay around all day?! I thought you were looking for a job.

Murasakibara: Haha, Muro-chin, that’s funny. People only work to have money. I already have money, so I don’t need to work.

Himuro: That’s your parents’ money! You’re already past 30; where’s your ambition? You’ve been like this for too long.

Murasakibara: But that’s fine, right? As long as I do what I need to, it should be fine. Why are you so grumpy today?

Himuro: I’m not grumpy! And what are you talking about, “do what you need to”?! You don’t do anything and that’s the problem!

As if it’s the last thing he wants to do, Murasakibara rolls out of the hammock and plods off the veranda back into the sitting room.

Murasakibara: I suppose you’re right, Muro-chin.

He walks up to Himuro and embraces him from behind.

Murasakibara: It’s been two days since I’ve taken care of you.

Himuro tries to wriggle out of Murasakibara’s arms.

Himuro: I don’t need to be taken care of! Move! I have to clean this place before I leave tomorrow.

Murasakibara lets go and stumbles backward onto the sofa.

Murasakibara: Where did you say you were going again? Don’t forget to bring me something.

Himuro: I didn’t. And I told you not to worry about it.

Murasakibara: What am I going to do here by myself?

Himuro surveys the open plan space to see if there’s anything else that needs to be addressed before he packs.

Himuro: Don’t act like you’ve never been home alone. You could try cleaning for a change. Hand me that sweater and newspaper.

Murasakibara picks up the items and extends them towards Himuro, but when Himuro reaches out to receive them, he pulls them back causing Himuro to lose his balance and fall forward into his lap.

Murasakibara: Hehe! But you’re already doing it.

Himuro: Uhhhghhh! Stop playing around. I still have to–

As if he were cleaning a bowl emptied of butter creme batter, Murasakibara presses and curls his tongue around the inside of Himuro’s mouth, savoring every bit of it. And since he knows Himuro can’t resist when the tip of his tongue skates across the roof of his mouth, he does just that and watches as Himuro goes slack in his arms.

Murasakibara: Hehe, don’t worry, you’ll have time to finish.

He stands up and carries the hot and bothered Himuro to the bedroom.

Murasakibara: Just let me take care of this first.

In the bedroom.

Himuro knows that once they’re on the bed that it’s useless to pretend, however, he doesn’t like it when Murasakibara is agitated like this. But that’s the least of his worries as he tries to crawl out from under the hulking beast that–even without touching him–seems to have him pinned down.

Himuro: Nnnh…A-Atsushi…

Murasakibara slides his hand up the back of Himuro’s shirt and traces the curve of each muscle he glides over. Lacking all finesse, he pulls Himuro’s shirt off over his head and leans in to taste his skin. Though you wouldn’t be able to tell by his face, he’s relishing every moan and sigh his touch elicits.

Murasakibara: Oh, so you do remember my name?

Himuro discovers that it’s not hard to ignore that comment with Murasakibara’s lips acknowledging every centimeter of his nape, and with his hands turning their attention to his nipples, he knows it won’t be long before one of those hands makes their way to his–

Himuro: Ahhh! N-not so rough, Atsu–…Uh…

Murasakibara starts to lean the full of his weight against Himuro as he reaches for the warming gel.

Murasakibara: But I need to make sure you feel it, Muro-chin. You feel it, right?

This position is good for many things, Murasakibara continues to fondle and stroke Himuro, pinching his inner thighs along the way. He loves how it makes Himuro’s shoulders drop and drives his ass back like a cat in heat, but what he loves even more is the full-body shudder that overtakes Himuro when he rubs past his balls and slips his fingers between Himuro’s gorgeously toned cheeks and teases him.

Himuro: AHHH! N-No! Oh guh…oh god!

He clenches around Murasakibara’s index and middle fingers as they nudge and spread him apart, making way for another and eventually something more.

Himuro: Ahhhhhtsushi!

To Himuro, the heat he feels is menacing, melting him from the inside out, disorienting him, weakening him. When Murasakibara primes him like this, there’s no other way to describe it, but amazing; his forearm strokes his cock, the heel of his hand kneads his balls, and his fingers–god, his fingers!–work the back, and if that wasn’t enough, Murasakibara’s other hand is free to tease and torture some other part of his body or satisfy his own. Murasakibara grins to himself.

Murasakibara: That’s good, Muro-chin. I like the way you scream my name; it makes it seem like you’re ready for me. Should I put it in?

Himuro is barely holding himself up. His answer is forced through gritted teeth.

Himuro: Yes.

Murasakibara pulls his fingers out and slowly drags his splayed hand from under Himuro, transferring his diffusive fever into everything part he happens upon. He leans back and removes his shirt as he watches Himuro try to regain his composure.

Murasakibara: What’s that? I can’t hear you. Who should do what?

Himuro writhes, feeling anxious and abandoned now that Murasakibara is no longer on him. Between pants he manages to answer.

Himuro: Yes…ha…ha…Atsushi, you should…ha…haa…put it…in!

Murasakibara: I still don’t know if you really want it.

He comes out of his jeans and boxers and then pulls Himuro’s the rest of the way off. He slaps Himuro’s butt once to rile him up and again because he likes the sting on his hand. He stares as the blush spreads. He palms it, rubbing and squeezing, sliding his thumb up and down the cleavage, occasionally pushing it in. He takes himself in lubed hand and begins to usher his way in, but just after he gets the very tip in and he hears Himuro take a deep breath. He stops.

Murasakibara: I know. Why don’t you meet me halfway?

Himuro whips his head around showing that the blush has reached his face.

Himuro: What?!

Murasakibara tilts his head to the left and pouts.

Murasakibara: Aww, come on, Muro-chin, work with me here. We’re almost there; you just need to uh…back up a little.

He pushes in just the tiniest bit more.

Murasakibara: You can do that much, right?

Himuro: Stop playing! I’m sorry! How many times do you want me to say it?!

Murasakibara lets himself fall forward onto Himuro, careful not to go in any farther. He braces himself with his left hand next to Himuro’s head–which is now burrowing into a pillow–while his right finds itself gripping Himuro’s dick.

Murasakibara: That’s not it at all.

His grip tightens and his voice drops to a register Himuro’s never heard from him before.

Murasakibara: I’m dead serious.

The chills that were going up Himuro’s spine were cut short by the sudden rush of new blood to his stalled hard on. He can no longer control his body and is at once mortified that he appears to be backing up and practically convulsing with the knowledge that to-the-hilt penetration is inevitable.

Himuro: Tsss…nNnnnnh…Ahhh  Ah!

Between this slow, self-propelled entry and Murasakibara’s right hand moving furiously and skillfully as it cajoles a climax out of him, Himuro is drowning in anticipation. Murasakibara is halfway in and continues to entice an orgasm from Himuro with his right hand, but as soon as he feels Himuro constrict around his cock, signaling the culmination of his handiwork, he halts all progress, including Himuro’s release. Himuro was so close, but now he’s panicking.

Himuro: No! No! Let me come!

He whines and pleads.

Himuro: Pleeeeeease, let me come!

The chills return when Himuro feels Murasakibara’s hair sweep across his neck and his lips brush up against his ear as they prepare to deliver words in that unfamiliar register.

Murasakibara: Ne, Muro-chin… You can bring me treats from anywhere, but you can only get yours here.

Himuro: AHHHHH!

He screams as Murasakibara’s pelvis collides with his ass and his cock–harder and bigger than he ever remembers–reaches a new depth inside him, one so deep that he swears he can taste pre-ejaculate at the back of his throat. He tries to accommodate the new pressure, but he can only ride it out.

Himuro: A-Atsushi! A…tsu…shi…please…I can’t…I ca…I can’t…Oh! Fuck! Uuuhhh…Nnnnnnffffuuuuck! Yes! God, yes!

With one arm wrapped around Himuro’s waist, pulling him in, and the other still impeding Himuro’s orgasm, Murasakibara feels like he could just go on like this, but he knows Himuro won’t last much longer, so he starts towards his own orgasm.

Murasakibara: You understand, right? When you go to Philly, you go and you handle your business. You pick up some treats for…ugh…me…for me, but don’t even think about picking up anything…

He grinds in.

Murasakibara: …or anyone else. Fuck! Ahhh!

He lets go of Himuro’s dick and grabs his hips. He grinds in deeper and slams out his release, following right behind Himuro who, by some miracle, manages to brace himself for the final impact even though his body has just yielded to its own climax.

Murasakibara: Shit! Aww fuck! Muro–ahhhfuuuuuuuuuuck!

Himuro is as done as he’ll ever be, he’s too tired to argue with Murasakibara about what just happened, also, at the moment, he’s unable to do much of anything since Murasakibara has collapsed on top of him. He’s too damn heavy, so Himuro just lies there.

Himuro: Nnnnh…

Even though he’s spent, he gathers Himuro up and retreats to the bathroom for a shower. He doesn’t even mind that he’ll need to change the sheets because he’s just happy that despite the slight scowl on his face, Himuro’s eyes look like those of a satisfied man… He rinses them off and carries the enervated Himuro over to the bench, he runs a bath and places Himuro in it.

Murasakibara: Sit tight Muro-chin. I’m going to make the bed and then I’ll be back to get you.

Himuro laughs to himself because, right now, he’s feeling anything  but tight. He doesn’t even have enough energy to fully consider the fact that Murasakibara seems to already know his plans.

Shortly after.

If Murasakibara had to guess, the persistent pang he’s been feeling for the past 15 minutes is something along the lines of remorse, but it’s too troublesome, so he opts not to think about it. On clean sheets, loosely tucked in, he searches for sleep with Himuro in his arms. But before he surrenders completely, he figures one last reiteration won’t hurt. So he whispers into Himuro’s neck.

Murasakibara: You can keep saying “sorry” until my name is the only one you remember.

He kisses Himuro’s shoulder and holds him tighter.

Murasakibara: Goodnight, Muro-chin.


023

Late March. The Big Dance* hasn’t ended yet. Vague answers, impromptu trips, dubious intentions, unexpected guests, possible transgressions, and gray skies to boot? With all of this, it seems that basketball isn’t the only thing raining down madness this month.

Kagami’s precious Wildcats were bested by a last minute 3-pointer–73/70, Ohio State*–so they won’t be advancing beyond the Sweet Sixteen*. He’s been in a sour mood ever since. When his head hit the pillow at one in the AM, it was raining and while rain makes for great sleeping conditions, he hopes it clears up soon because he doesn’t want to travel in it.

Kagami: What?! Mmmnnn.

He’s startled awake. He looks at his phone and although it reads 8:30 AM which means he slept for seven and a half hours, he feels like he just went to bed. The doorbell sounds again.

Kagami: Why is he so early? And why is he making me answer the door, did he forget the code?

He really wants to just roll back over, but he forces himself out of the bed. It’s still dim out even though it’s so late in the morning; it must still be raining. He picks up the pace because he doesn’t want Kise standing in the cold, wet corridor for a second longer, but when he opens the door, rather than staring into a pair of amber eyes framed by golden strands, he’s looking down at a head of black hair. He almost bites his tongue.

Kagami: What the hell are you doing here?!

Himuro looks up, vision blurry from the rain. He sweeps aside his bangs and looks Kagami in the eyes.

Himuro: Can I come in?

Kagami can’t believe he got up for this. He wants to say “no,” close the door, and go back to bed, but Himuro looks to be the spitting image of a drowned cat, so he steps back to let him in.

Kagami: Just…Just put your stuff to the left and…don’t move…or touch anything.

Kagami ducks behind the staircase to grab a towel from the first floor bathroom. Himuro looks around checking everything out. It’s so different from their old condo. Then it occurs to him that what he’s currently surrounded by is Kagami’s aesthetic, this is Kagami’s taste; he had never really considered it before. Kagami returns to see Himuro standing in the same spot.

Kagami: Here.

He hands him the towel and stands in front of him with his arms crossed. He watches as Himuro unfolds it.

Himuro: Thanks.

Kagami: What are you doing here? How do you even know where I li–

He stops when he sees Himuro’s nose crinkle as he sniffles and shivers.

Kagami: Look, I still want an answer, but…

He points at Himuro’s luggage.

Kagami: I take it you’ve got clean clothes? If you go back to where I just came from, you’ll see a bathroom on the left. Go take a shower and we can talk when you get out.

It’s already 9, so Kagami decides to take a shower as well. Fresh out of the shower, now he’s definitely awake, wearing only a pair of jeans and a towel around his neck, he heads downstairs. After mopping up the water near the front door, he wrings the mop and then puts it away. He heads to his office but stops when he hears his name.

Kise: Kagamicchiiiiiii!

He tosses his bag toward the closet as he runs and jumps on Kagami who is now facing him and unmistakably shocked. He wraps his legs around Kagami’s waist and his arms around his neck and then kisses him in a way that says “this is not a whim.” Once he gets his fill (for the moment), he pulls back.

Kise: I missed you! I missed you!

Kagami hasn’t really caught up to the excitement, all he knows is that Kise just kissed him.

Kagami: I-I missed you, too!

He tries to focus his gaze to meet Kise’s so that he can figure out what’s going on.

Kagami: You’re-You’re early.

Up ’til now Kise’s managed to stay up by the strength of his legs, but he’s going to need more support for what he’s about to do next, so, one after the other, he guides Kagami’s arms down from their state of shock suspension to hold him under his butt.

Kise: What ‘early’? You said “by 11,” not “at 11.”

He looks back toward the door.

Kise: Is that all you packed? It’s three days, you know? Ah! Wait! that’s not even important!

Kagami is still in a bit of a daze.

Kagami: Huh?

Kise: Nevermind all that! …My answer is…”yes!” Now, kiss me!

Kagami stares at Kise a little longer. While he’s hesitating to get closer, Kise pulls him in. He can’t understand how he ever thought that the hands touching him now were ice cold. His brain is a tangled mess of the past and the present–his high school fantasies of kissing a cute and coy Kise overlapping and being rewritten by the aggressive and provocative man whose soft lips and acrobatic tongue are threatening to bring him to climax at any moment. When he was pulled in, he braced himself, resting his arms on the wall above Kise’s shoulders, so the hands that were moving about, touching and holding and rubbing weren’t his. But he wanted to join in. He wasted no time to press his hands into the warm flesh of Kise’s athletic build, kneading the muscles and sinew and working his way further down. Amazing…the taste, the scent, the warmth–that disarming warmth–completely taking over, eclipsing everything.

Kagami: OWWWW! My-My t-ton…

He can’t even get the word out.

Kagami: Kishe, why deh you bie mey?!

Kise seethes. He takes Kagami’s head in his hands and turns it so that he can look over his shoulder.

Kise: What the hell is that?

Kagami starts to regain some control of  his tongue.

Kagami: Fuck!

It was the only response he could give when Himuro–who’s only wearing a towel–comes into view.

Kagami: Kise!

He pulls him closer to him.

Kagami: Listen. This…nothing happened. He just got here. I promise, I didn’t touch him.

Kise lets his legs fall from Kagami’s waist as he tries to push Kagami away.

Kise: Kag– Let me go.

Kagami repeats a familiar scene as he desperately tries to meet Kise’s eyes.

Kagami: Kise, please don’t leave. I’m letting go, but please don’t leave.

Kise: Fine.

Kagami lets go and steps back. Kise turns toward the closet to grab his bag.

Kagami: Kise I–Kise, please! Listen to me!

Kise: This.

He finally makes eye contact with Kagami.

Kise: Is bullshit.

Kagami: Kise wait, please!

He quickly turns to Himuro.

Kagami: You! Don’t just stand there, put some fucking clothes on!

Himuro: “You”?

Kise slings his bag over his shoulder. He heads for the door where he encounters Himuro as he rummages for clothes. As he catches the door handle in his hand he remembers the last time he wanted to escape from this very place.

Kise: I’m done.

Kise walks out and doesn’t bother closing the door behind him.

Kagami: Shit!

He rushes to get his feet into a pair of sneakers and then dashes out after Kise.

Kagami: Kise! Kise! AHHHH! Fuuuuuck!

023 Footnotes

  • The Big Dance – Another name for the annual NCAA Tournament leading up to the National Championship.
  • Ohio State – Ohio State University, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.

024

And the madness continues. If heartbreak is the only thing Kise has to look forward to, then giving up and living a life of solitude sounds like the better bet.

All the strength Kagami uses to call after Kise obscures the gross feeling of having his naked back against a cold, wet pavement; the burning and stinging sensation of having the skin scraped off his arm; and the incessant throbbing radiating from his left knee. Even the people walking by and asking after his condition fade into nothing. The only things he’s aware of are the tears rolling into his ears and the fact that Kise hasn’t answered him yet. He holds his knee and ignores the commotion around him.

Kagami: Kiiiiiseeee! Kiiiiiseeee! Kiiiiiseeee, please!

All the energy Kise had moments ago completely drains from him and takes the color from his already pale complexion with it. He is so worn out that even though he wants to get as far away as he can as quickly as he can, his body refuses to move any faster which is why it seems all the more strange to him that Kagami–who seems to be causing a whole lot of ruckus behind him–hasn’t caught up with him yet.

Kagami: Kiiiisee! Ki … se … Ki–

Kagami coughs and gasps as he tries to catch his breath . He begins to feel a bit faint. Kise refrains from looking back and even though the pain in his heart grows every time he hears his name, he is determined to keep looking forward. That is until the calls cease and he hears someone yell “we need an ambulance!” His heart does everything but stop and although he thinks that all the energy that there was to leave has already left, suddenly his knees feel even weaker. And as if some invisible forces have taken over, his body turns to see, not Kagami, but about 10 or so people hovering over a spot where his heart tells him Kagami must be. The erratic pounding of his heart triggers an adrenaline rush which in turn increases the pounding, exponentially it seems. And he is off and running.

Kise: Excuse me! Excuse me! I’m sorry! Please move! Coming through! Let me through! …Ka-Kagamicchi! Kagamicchi! What happened!

He kneels on the ground and props Kagami’s head up on his lap. He slaps Kagami’s face a few times.

Kise: Wake up! Talk to me!

He notices the abrasions running up Kagami’s left arm with bits of dirt and gravel embedded. Kagami is hugging both knees so he’s unsure of which one he hurt. He looks around.

Kise: Can someone tell me what happened?!

Kagami rolls his head to the left and tries to open his eyes and when he manages just a sliver, he can make out a now red-faced Kise, just barely though.

Kagami: Kise? Kise!

His throat burns, causing him to gasp and choke. He quickly catches his breath.

Kagami: Ki–se! Please listen to me!

He tries to reach back to touch Kise, but the burning forces his arm to drop.

Kagami: Nothing happened! I swear to you, nothing was going to happen either…please…

Kise: Oh my god, idiot! Shut up! There are more pressing concerns right now!

He looks around to see if it might have fallen somewhere.

Kise: Where is your phone?

Kagami: …In my back pocket. …Listen. I didn’t touch him. Please believe me. I didn’t even know he was com–

Kise pinches Kagami’s nose.

Kise: Would you be quiet?! I can’t focus with you going on like that! You’re holding your knees, did you hurt both of them?

Kagami: …No…just the left one. Kise…

Kise: I need to unlock your phone. What’s the code?

Kagami: One-Zero-Two-Four.

Kise: One-Zero-Two-Four. That doesn’t work. Did you change it recently?

Kagami: …Uh, yeah. One-Zero-Zero-Seven…

Kise: One-Zero-Zero…

He bites his lip a bit and blushes.

Kise: S-Someone already called an ambulance.

He looks up at the remaining bystanders for confirmation.

Kise: What’s your ortho’s name? Did you get one in Philly yet? Which hospital are they associated with?

Kagami: Yeah…at Penn*.

Kise searches Kagami’s contacts.

Kise: Name. Gimme a name.

Kagami: She’s under DocT. …Kise…

Kise: Yeah, yeah. I know. “Nothing happened.”

While the line rings, he caresses Kagami’s head, smoothing down his hair.

Kise: We can talk about it later, okay? …I can hear the sirens. We’ll get you situated in no time. Okay?

Kagami: Kise…

Kise: Hmn? …Why are there so many prompts?! Do they actually want to help me? If I get one more– Oh wait; it’s ringing. …Hello…?

024 Footnotes

  • Penn – University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

025

Although madness abounds, there’s nothing that says that detoured plans can’t still be carried out. Somethings are just meant to be.

Kise jumps out of his chair and rushes to cover Kagami’s mouth.

Kise: Woah-ho-ho hold on there lady! I can’t believe I forgot about you. We’ll have none of that! These lips are spoken for. Get your own!

Alex: Geez… My bad. …Oh! That means…

She wags her finger to and fro.

Alex: …you two?

Kagami is perplexed by the conversation ping-ponging across his gurney.

Kise: That is precisely what it means.

He turns to Kagami.

Kise: Naked men in your living room, kiss fiends at your bedside… I see I’m going to have to lock you up somewhere.

Alex: Hehe… Watch out Taiga, this one seems like a handful~

Kagami looks at Kise with a mix of hope and confusion.

Kagami: Kise?

Kise: We’ll talk about it later.

Alex: So what happened, anyway?

Kise: He fell.

Alex: Is that right? I heard there was more to it than that.

Kagami: …Um, before we get to that… What are you doing here, Alex?

Alex: Oh, well, I originally had plans to hook up with some friends before tomorrow’s Women’s D1 game, but that was before Jersey passed the single-game betting law. And you know the league don’t go for that. So I decided to keep my plans and see my friends on my way up to Bridgeport*.

Kagami leans his head back and rolls his eyes.

Kagami: No. I mean here.

He points towards the floor.

Kagami: What are you doing in Philly, in my hospital room…

He looks at the wall clock.

Kagami: …less than three hours after I got here?

Alex: Oh! Ha! Yeah. Tatsuya called me and told me you busted up your knee again.

Kagami: I didn’t bust– Wait. How does he know?

Kise raises his hand.

Kise: I told him. Mike is bringing him here.

Kagami: Maaaan, I don’t want to see him. He’s the reason I’m here in the first place!

Kise: No. You’re the reason you’re here in the first place.

Kagami: How is it my fault? I didn’t put him on a plane and make him walk through the rain to show up at my door looking like a drowned cat! He said he wanted to talk! I was expecting a phone call, not a house call!

Kise: Nobody told you to open the door and let him in!

Alex enjoys the show and wishes for some popcorn.

Kagami: What was I supposed to do, leave him out in the rain?

Kise: Yes!

Kagami and Alex stare at Kise.

Alex/Kagami: Huh?

Kise: He showed up uninvited!

Kagami: Are you kidding?

Kise leans back in the chair and crosses his arms and legs.

Kise: No, I’m not kidding.

Kise’s ire rises–he can feel it. Although he reconciled somethings since this morning, there are still others. Things such as hearing Kagami’s given name from other people’s tongues–he knows Alex has known him for a long time, but that doesn’t stop it from chafing him. And there’s the fact that, if things had gone the way they were supposed to, he and Kagami would have touched and tasted each other 10 times over by now. He doesn’t want to take it out on anyone, but he’s finding it hard not be annoyed by all of this. Where was his after-yes euphoria? Where was the nervousness and excitement of preparing to bite into something he’s wanted to taste for months? He’s feeling slighted and it seems like nothing but a complete do-over for that morning’s events would appease him.

Kagami: …

Kise: I don’t see the point in being inconvenienced by unwanted company. You have to be more careful.

Kagami raises his brow in question.

Kise: I can’t deal with misunderstandings. I don’t have the patience for that kind of nonsense anymore.

His tone turns dismissive.

Kise: There can’t be another one.

Kagami sighs and looks down. On the one hand he understands where Kise’s coming from, but on the other, he’s just not the kind of person who can ignore someone in need.

Kagami: Kise…

Alex raises her hand.

Alex: Um…

Kise and Kagami turn to Alex.

Kise: Yeah?

Alex: Who’s Mike?

Kise/Kagami: Who?

Alex: You said “Mike” was bringing Tatsuya. So, who’s Mike?

Kise: Oh. M–

Mike: That would be me, Ms. Garcia.

Everyone looks at the door.

Alex: Eh? You know me?

Mike: Of course. We’ve never met, but I’ve been following your career since ULCA.

Alex: …Oh my god! A fan?! And a handsome one at that! Wait!

She cranes her neck.

Alex: Is that Tatsuya behind you? What are you being all quiet for?

Himuro: Alex.

Kise gathers his things.

Kise: Kagami, I’ll be back in a bit.

Although Kise has been switching back and forth, Kagami thought he had figured out the pattern of Kagami vs Kagamicchi. He was sure the current situation qualified for the latter, but no dice. Unsure of what that means, he reaches for Kise with pleading eyes.

Kagami: Where are you going?

Kise: I just need to confirm some things with Mike before he leaves. Himuro-san is here, so why don’t you guys talk.

He turns to Alex.

Kise: Coming?

Alex: I think I’ll stay and watch.

Kise gestures towards the open door.

Kise: Maybe next time.

Alex: You’re not nearly as fun as I remember.

Alex leans in to kiss Kagami.

Kise: Hey! What did I tell you?!

Alex: The cheek! I was aiming for the cheek! Sheesh! …Be good, Taiga.

Alex departs with a few pats on Kagami’s head.

Kise is in the hall with Mike and Alex.

Kise: You got here pretty quick. Did Commonwealth* have everything ready?

Mike: Yes. The gentleman said they were out of the deep crimson pullover, so they replaced it with a v-neck cardigan of the same color and it is Superfine merino* as well. They also provided umbrellas just in case.

Kise: Oh! I’ll have to be sure to thank them. And thank you, too, Mike.

Mike: You’re quite welcome, sir.

Kise: We’re still waiting for his ortho to come, so I don’t know how long we’ll be.

He looks at Alex.

Kise: Do you have somewhere to be? If not, you can cruise around with Mike or you can wait here with me.

Alex: Ah, you’re no fun, so if Mike doesn’t mind, I’ll tag along with him. …You should lighten up.

Alex ruffles his hair. Kise slaps her hand away. He sighs because he’s irritated at how irritated he’s been for the past few hours and he can’t seem to keep himself in check.

Kise: Sorry, I don’t like when people do that.

Later.

Kise looks up at the sound of the door next to him opening. Himuro pitches his thumb behind him.

Himuro: He’s asking for you.

Kise: Thanks.

Shortly after.

Kagami pats the empty space to his right. Kise walks around to the other side of the bed, sets down the totes and hangs up the garment bag. He motions for Kagami to move his hand and then he occupies the vacancy.

Kise: Hospital beds should be bigger.

Kagami puts his arm around Kise’s waist.

Kagami: Come on, get closer.

Kise: This bed is not made to be shared by two grown men.

Kagami: Says who?

He pulls Kise in closer and then plants a kiss on his forehead.

Kagami: We’re off to a great start, huh?

Kise: Hehe… What did you guys talk about?

Kagami: Hmmmn? …Nothing of note.

Kise: He flew across the country for “nothing of note”? I wish I had that much time to spare.

Kagami: Alright. …We uh…

He drops his head back and stares at the ceiling.

Kagami: We talked about perspectives, expectations, and resentment. He apologized…for a lot of things. And then we talked about the emptiness of apologies. I also told him if my test comes back positive, I will kill him.

Kise: …Yeah. If it was me, I would have just called.

Kagami: Heh, you would.

Kise: Most people would. …When did you get tested?

Kagami: Wednesday, so I should get my results in the mail by the middle of next week. It’s been a little over four months since the last one. You?

Kise: My quarterly checkup is actually scheduled for Tuesday.

He looks up at Kagami. This kind of talk…he’s never had anyone to discuss it with before. When Aomine started sleeping with other people, condoms and quarterly testing for both of them became mandatory, they only had the one conversation about it, but it was more of an ultimatum, so the casualness he is experiencing now is kind of strange, but it comforts him immensely.

Kise: Umm…

Kagami: What’s in the bags?

Kise: Oh…clean clothes. I had the guys at Commonwealth put something together while you were in x-ray.

Kagami: For me?

Kise: Yeah. Unless you want to go home in what you came in.

Kagami: Nah, I’m good. Speaking of being good… How are we? Is it still a “yes”?

Kise buries his face in Kagami’s chest.

Kagami: Maaaaan, come on. What are you hiding for now? Kise.

Kise: …

Kagami strokes Kise’s hair.

Kagami: At least look up.

Kise lifts his head up enough to meet Kagami’s eyes, but his mouth is still pressed against Kagami’s chest, so his words are somewhat muffled.

Kise: Kagami…I was serious earlier. I can’t take the drama. If another one of these “misunderstandings” happen, I won’t be able to get over it.

Kagami: This was just a bizarre event coupled with bad timing.

Kise: And what’s to stop it from happening again? I mean, not the same thing, but…  Are you going to be aware of your surroundings? Are you going to be able to pick up on people’s signals enough to know what they are really after?

Kagami: It’s not like I have people showing up on my doorstep all the time, nor do I have people throwing themselves at me left and right.

Kise: Yeah, but you’re “Mr. Nice Guy,” and I really love that about you, but I’m telling you, “what was I supposed to do? I just couldn’t leave xyz alone” is going to get real old, real fast. After a certain point I just won’t be able to trust it and in turn, you, and I don’t want that.

Kagami: Okay, I get where you’re coming from. So, while I can’t do much about what other people do, I will be sure to make it clear that I’m…off limits?

Kise: Okay, but not just off limits. I don’t want to be this vague, mysterious significant other. If people don’t know that we are together, then them knowing that you’re off limits doesn’t amount to much. When people know who the other person is, they’re less likely to pursue. Of course, there are people that just don’t care–and I’ve got something special for them–but doing this much, being open about it can…well, it will make me feel better.

Kagami: So, you’re fine with people knowing? What about back home?

Kise: I haven’t run to the rooftops to shout it, but I’ve never hidden my orientation. Besides, my family has known that I was bi since…high school, I want to say.

Kagami: Alright then. I have a question…and…I don’t want to upset you, but I feel like I have to ask.

Kise: I don’t like when people preface questions like that, but go ahead.

Kagami: Are you… This show of possessiveness and uh…your need to be clear about everything… Are you going to these extents because you didn’t or couldn’t with Aomine?

Kise: Why? Are you having second thoughts?

Kagami: No. I just…well, for one thing, you still haven’t said if it’s still a yes or not, so my thoughts only matter so much until you do. But also, I don’t want to deal with having to live up to all the things he didn’t. I don’t want to be compared to him…or anyone for that matter.

Kise: Fair enough.

He sits up.

Kise: …I guess that’s a yes and a no. Even if I wanted to claim him, he’s not the type to be claimed, so it would have been pointless to try. With him, I just wanted exclusivity in all areas, but I wasn’t worried about what other people knew or did. I just didn’t want to worry about what he was doing in his spare time or him coming to me smelling like someone else; I just wanted a clear understanding between us that there was ‘us’ and no one else. But even that was me settling. I am possessive, but I’ve never truly acted on it, even before him. At this point, though, I don’t have the patience to hold back. I’ll never get what I want if I don’t make it clear. I spent a lot of time chasing and then sitting and waiting. I can’t see myself doing that again. So, if this is too much for you, tell me now.

Kagami nods affirmatively.

Kagami: Fair enough.

Kise feels the need to lighten the mood. He turns toward the window and reaches for the garment bag.

Kise: Do you want to see what I got you?!

Kagami reaches for Kise.

Kagami: That can wait. I’d rather see what it’s going to take to get an answer from you.

Kise doubles over and sighs.

Kise: Huuaaah! You know, I had it all planned out. I’d arrive at your place early, greet you with a kiss, tell you how much I missed, give you my answer, and then make out until we coaxed every last drop out of us.

Kagami’s eyes widen. Blush is not far behind.

Kise: I really wanted to do it in your bed, but if we never made it there, that was fine. Your office or the staircase, maybe? Even the chaise. It didn’t really matter; I just wanted to get you up and get it on.

Kagami pulls a pillow from behind him and smothers Kise backwards over his lap with it.

Kagami: Shut up, idiot! What is that, a porno fairytale? How can you even say that with a straight face?

Kise pushes the pillow down to his chest and looks at Kagami.

Kise: Ha! You’re blushing!

Kagami slides the pillow back up to cover Kise’s face.

Kagami: Shut your face!

Kise snatches the pillow and tosses it aside this time.

Kise: Really, though… Am I not allowed? Are you not interested in that sort of thing? What is it? Even if it is a porno fairytale, it’s my porno fairytale and I think I have a right to see it through.

Kagami scratches the back of his head in embarrassment.

Kagami: It’s not that, but…well, you just said it so plainly, I–

He stares at Kise as he cracks up.

Kagami: What?!

Kise holds his stomach.

Kise: HahahahahahaHAHAHAhhahahaha! Oh my god! It’s you!

Kagami: Huh?

Kise reaches up and captures Kagami’s confused face.

Kise: This. Right here.

He squeezes Kagami’s face.

Kise: This is the Kagamicchi I know. The shy and cute Kagamicchi! I’m so glad you’re still in there!

He pulls Kagami’s face down to his and kisses him, at first it was just a peck, but after Kagami pulled back, still confused, he pulled him back in and introduced his tongue into the mix. In between kisses.

Kise: Kagamicchi…I missed you…Kagamicchi…I missed you.

Kagami’s  face breaks into a huge smile–very  happy, but mostly embarrassed.

Kagami: Are we picking up where we left off?

Kise smiles back.

Kise: Well, let’s see how far we can go.

Kagami: So, is that a yes?

Kise: …Yes, it’s a “yes.”

Kagami leans back in and returns the favor by introducing his tongue; he twists and swirls it around, occasionally catching Kise’s as his does the same, a shiver goes down his spine when Kise bites his bottom lip, he reciprocates by sucking on Kise’s top one. Everything is fading into oblivion for Kise. Kagami’s scent, the taste of his lips, and the heat he’s transmitting through his jeans is all that he knows right now.

Kise: Mmmn…Ka– Nnnnuh …

Kagami’s amused at how such an audacious guy seems to be quietly unravelling right before his eyes.

Kagami: More?

Kise: Mmmm…

He knows his remarkable sensitivity to what’s going on is due to his long stretch of inactivity and the fact that Kagami’s the one delivering it. He knows that this is not the place, but that doesn’t stop him from guiding Kagami’s right hand from between his thighs into his pants.

Kise: Yes…more…Nnnnuh Mmmmnmmmn…Kagamicchi…

Kagami: Kise… We can’t… Not that far.

Kise: We can… They won’t be back for another 10 minutes or so.

The Doc: Well, I’m here now. And it’s not that you can’t, but you really shouldn’t.

Kise and Kagami freeze.

Kagami: Uhhhh…

He jolts up.

Kagami: Doc!

The Doc: I did knock. Several times, in fact.

Kise is still lying back across Kagami’s lap, smiling; he looks back.

Kise: Hey there, could you come back later? We were just getting to the best part.

Kagami blushes.

Kagami: Idiot!

He grabs the tossed pillow and smothers Kise with it again.

Kagami: D-Don’t mind him!

025 Footnotes

  • Bridgeport – Bridgeport Connecticut. In 2013, initially, one of the NCAA Women’s Division I regional tournaments was supposed to be held in the state of New Jersey, but before that came about, Jersey passed a law allowing single-game betting. The NCAA does not hold tournaments where this type of betting is allowed, so they moved the game to a venue in Bridgeport. It’s in a different state, but only about 2 and a half hours away.
  • Commonwealth – Commonwealth Proper (CMMP), a really swank men’s haberdasher in Philadelphia.
  • Superfine merino – Superfine merino wool, high grade sheep’s wool.

026

Late March. It’s been quite a day.

Kise: Maybe it would just be easier if you went home.

Kagami: You don’t want me to stay at your place?

Kise: You know that’s not what I meant.

Kagami: Well…?

Kise: Maybe it’s too soon for us to be together around the clock like that?

Kagami: What are you getting at?

Kise: Um… Maybe we should ease into it, you know?

Kagami: No, I don’t know. Kise, what’s wrong? Why you are getting all weird on me?

Kise looks down.

Kise: I just…

Kagami: Are you having second thoughts about us?

Kise’s head snaps up, he feels insulted.

Kise: Of course not!

Kagami: What is it? Is taking care of me for two weeks too much for you?

Kise: It’s four weeks and no. I really want to, but…aren’t you going to get tired of me?

Kagami massages his temples.

Kagami: What?! I know I fell, but did you bump your head while I wasn’t looking?

Kise absentmindedly places his hands on his head as if to check.

Kise: …No.

Kagami: Then where is this coming from?

Kise: You said I’m loud and obnoxious. You said I move too much in my sleep.  You said–

Kagami waves Kise over.

Kagami: Come here.

Kise’s brow furrows, unsure what’s going to happen, but, however timid, he advances anyway and comes to rest alongside Kagami in his wheelchair.

Kagami: Closer.

Kise bends forward to meet Kagami, but before he can make it there himself, Kagami throws his arm around his neck and pulls him in for a kiss.

Kise: Nnnh…Kagami wa– nnh…my nnnnuh…

He tries to push himself away before his legs give out and he succumbs to the headrush.

Kise: Ka– wait…mmmn…

He falls to his knees, bracing himself from a full collapse by leaning on the arm of Kagami’s wheelchair. But only once he surrendered did Kagami release him.

Kise: Dammit!

Kagami: Hahahahaha! That good, huh?

He relishes in the sight of Kise being brought to his knees by his kiss.

Kagami: Well, this height is better anyway.

He ruffles Kise’s hair. Only when he does it does Kise blush.

Kagami: Look at me. …Yes, I said those things and probably whatever you were going to say after. So what?

Now Kise is annoyed and he’s not hiding it.

Kagami: You are loud, but that’s fine, it lets me know you’re there. You laugh obnoxiously, but I’m happy that you feel comfortable doing it in my presence. And yes, you do move an awful lot in your sleep aaaaand you have a habit of backing up and–

Kise’s eyes go wide and his jaw drops–his whole face opens up at the last bit. He can hardly believe it, especially since he’s known for sleeping as still as the dead. He bows his head in shame and rests it on the arm of Kagami’s wheelchair.

Kise: Please tell me you’re joking…

Kagami: No, not at all. Oh, and let’s not forget stripping! Heh. All that moving was a problem. First of all…

He pets Kise’s head.

Kagami: …you weren’t supposed to be in my bed and second, with all the fuss, I never knew what I was going to be up against, literally.

Kise whimpers.

Kagami: My point is, it’s all fine. I asked you knowing all that. Besides, I don’t think the last one is such an issue now, right?

Kise keeps his head down. He tries to cover his ears because he feels the heat of his embarrassment reaching them and he doesn’t want Kagami to see.

Kagami: You’re so cute.

He kisses the top of Kise’s head.

Kagami: Why are you even embarrassed about something like this? …Either way, it’s not gonna happen.

Kise pops his head up with confusion and disappointment painted across his face.

Kise: Huh?

Kagami: My place has stairs and a narrow kitchen. I’m going to be off my feet for the first two weeks. I don’t really want to sleep in my living room staring at a kitchen I can’t use. You know, normally, I wouldn’t impose, but…you’re stuck with me.


027

The fever of March Madness has come to an end. Syracuse made it to the Final Four, but was taken down by Michigan* with a low final score of 61/56. In place of the excitement, April bestows upon Kise a feeling he never knew he was missing: domestic bliss.

Kise sits on the side of the bed Kagami’s restless sleep has finally let him settle on. He admires his worry lines and strokes his hair.

Kise: How are you this morning? Does your head hurt? What about your stomach?

Kagami, more asleep than awake, snuggles up to Kise and allows his lethargy to respond.

Kagami: Mmmmn…

Kise speaks softly.

Kise: You should rest a bit longer, but not too long, otherwise you’ll end up feeling like this all day. There’s ginger miso on the stove and ginger IZZE in the fridge. Mike’s bringing lunch from Corner Foodery*, so if you want something other than your usual, text him before 11, okay?

He waits for an answer that may or may not come. He flips his hand over to check Kagami’s temperature and breathes a quiet sigh of relief.

Kise: It’s not as high as it was the last few days, but I want you to keep taking your medicine.

He stands in preparation to leave.

Kise: On my way back, I’m going to pick up your mail. Do you need anything else from your place?”

Kagami: Hmmn? …Mm mn…

The vise is squeezing his heart ever so gently, but Kise makes an effort not to sound worried.

Kise: I have meetings until 1 o’clock, so I’ll call you after that. Sorry I can’t stay with you while you’re not feeling well.

He brushes Kagami’s hair back from his feverish forehead and plants a few soft kisses.

Kise: Take it easy, especially on your knee. I’ll be back around 6 or 7. There’s water on the night table; drink it all.

As Kise steps away, he is halted by clammy fingertips weakly tugging at his own. Kagami is groggy and his energy levels are low. He wants to beg Kise to stay, but he knows he can’t today. He musters up just enough for a small gesture.

Kagami: Thank you, Kise.

The vise closes tighter around Kise’s heart and he kneels to get to eye level with Kagami. He takes Kagami’s hand in his and reassures him between kisses on his hand.

Kise: I really wish I could stay, but I’ll be home as soon as I can.

Kagami is tired even though he hasn’t done much since he got out of bed; it’s the middle of the day and he is bored out of his mind. He’s been at Kise’s for a week and though he’s been there before, it’s a different feeling being there for so much time without him. The place definitely matches his personality: a colorful and interesting collection of…things. Kagami was never one for having a lot of stuff, so the first few times he visited Kise’s place he felt a little claustrophobic, even though it’s a wide open space. But the more time he spent there, the less tense he felt and now, he is completely relaxed.
This time last year, he had no idea that he’d be in a relationship with anyone, let alone Kise. Kise for goodness sake. It isn’t like he is out of his league, but he is a walking, talking phenomenon who leaves Kagami in an unending state of awe, though he does his best to hide it. Kagami wonders if it’s even possible to keep Kise all to himself. In private Kise is cute, caring, funny, loud, clever, and impossibly sexy; but in public…Kise is captivating; he takes command of whichever room he enters and effortlessly bends people to his will with the slightest curl of the corner of his mouth. Kagami sees the public Kise basically as a king who is constantly holding court. His own celebrity is something that he has gotten used to, but how much will his life change once he’s linked to such a radiant spectacle? The thought of other people’s eyes taking in what he wants to keep for himself agitates him.
Kagami shakes it off and takes a deep breath. There is no point in getting jealous over something that was unavoidable, not to mention that hasn’t even happened yet. Seeing no end to the idle speculation, he leans back on the sofa, tries to clear his mind, and eventually nods off to sleep.
Kise returns home from work to find Kagami asleep on his sofa.

Kise checks Kagami’s temperature with the back of his hand. He pulls away slowly as Kagami stirs.

Kise: Hey…

Kagami lifts his head up, but doesn’t open his eyes.

Kagami: Hmmn? You’re home?

Kise: Why aren’t you in bed?

Kagami: I was thinking and then I fell asleep.

Kise: Aww, my little ojiisan~

Kagami: What?!

He opens his eyes.

Kagami: We’re the same age, what does that make you?

Kise: We’re not talking about me. Anyway, I’m not the one falling asleep while thinking, only old men do that.

He pulls a messy stack of envelopes from under his arm and shuffles through them.

Kise: You look better. How’re you feeling?

Kagami: I feel like crap. What you got there?

Kise: Mail. I dropped both stacks on the way in, so give me a minute to sort yours out. And before I forget, I have to run to Delaware first thing in the morning, but I should be back by 9, then I’ll be working from home the remainder of the week.

Kagami: Back by 9? What time are you leaving out, 5?

Kise: Yeah. That’s why I’m going to eat and go straight to bed.

Kagami: Eat? I don’t smell any food. I hope you don’t think I’m cooking.

Kise: You haven’t cooked once since you got here, why would today be different? The food should be here any minute.

Kagami: What’d you get?

Kise: I know you said you weren’t hungry, but just in case, I got soul food.

Kagami: From Savannah’s?

Kise: Yeah.

Kagami: Well, that changes things.

Kise: Thought so.

Kagami: What you sayin’, I’m predictable?

Kise: Here.

He hands Kagami his sorted mail.

Kise: Not so much you, but your appetite…

And as if it was on cue, Kagami‘s stomach growls and the doorbell rings.

Kise: Ha!

Kagami: Shut up.

After dinner.

Kise puts away the leftovers and tidies up the kitchen.

Kise: I want to change the sheets. Are you up to taking a shower tonight?

Kagami: …

Kise: What is the deal?

Kagami: …

Kise: Well?

Kagami: That means one or both of us will be naked.

Kise: That’s usually how it works.

Kagami is embarrassed to even have this conversation.

Kagami: I don’t think I can handle that yet.

Kise: It’s not like you’re in any condition to have sex.

Kagami: That’s the problem. You’ll be touching me and I won’t be able to do anything about it.

Kise: You didn’t seem to have a problem when the nurse was here on Monday.

Kagami: I wasn’t attracted to him, so it didn’t matter.

Kise: Whatever. You are taking a shower, I will be washing you, and you will just have to suffer through it. Besides, I think you got mail that you need to read.

Kagami’s eyes dart to the stack of mail he pushed to the edge of the coffee table. He sifts through and finds a nondescript envelope with his name and address printed on the front and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital’s information printed discreetly on the back.

Kagami: Hey! When is yours coming?

Kagami turns toward the kitchen and jumps a little when he sees Kise standing right next to him waving his own envelope. Kise hands him a letter opener.

Kise: Shall we?

Kagami: Wait.

Kise: …Yeah?

Kagami: Are you going to leave me?

Kise: Hmm… Well that depends on who has what.

Kagami: What?

Kise: Well, if you are positive, then you are and we’ll work through it. But if I’m positive, I’ll be going to jail for murder. So, I guess the question is are you going to leave me?

Kagami: Well, I guess it does depend on who has what, because I’d be going to jail, too.

Kise: Ha! Maybe we can share a cell.

Kagami: That’d be nice.

Kise: So glad we got that settled~

Kagami: Let’s trade.

Kise considers it for a moment and then hands over his envelope and takes Kagami’s in return. Their motions are almost in sync. Kise finishes reading first.

Kise: Negative and everything else is non-reactive.

Kagami holds up Kise’s results.

Kagami: Same. Now I really don’t want to take a shower.

Kise: Now, there’s no way you aren’t going to.

Both let it sink in for a minute.

Kise: Time for a little pre-consummation~

Kagami: I thought you were going straight to bed.

Kise: Well, this…

He fans himself with Kagami’s envelope.

Kise: …changes things.

027 Footnotes

  • Michigan – University of Michigan, NCAA Division I, Men’s College Basketball.
  • Corner Foodery – The Corner Foodery, an eclectic deli-type restaurant near Kise’s condo in the Rittenhouse area.

028

Mid April. After receiving negative results, Kise’s all ready to test the goods, but Kagami’s a bit nervous.

Kagami: Heyheyheyheyheyhey…hey hey. Don’t linger!

Kise giggles.

Kagami: I said, “hey!”

Kise: What~?

Kagami: Didn’t I tell you that it’s dangerous when only one of us has control of his balance?

Kise: Aww Kagami–

Kagami: And that, too. You’re going to make me go soft.

Kise: I’m sure I can get you up again.

Kagami: Kise.

Kise: You really don’t like it?

Kagami: No, I don’t. Especially when you’re all excited and call me that, I just… ulgh… eesh.

Kise: Why didn’t you tell me sooner?

Kagami: I know what it means…or meant to you, so I didn’t want to, you know? But I have to draw the line at being called that now that we are…

His hands gesticulate to fill in the blank.

Kagami: …and particularly when we’re about to…

Kagami’s hands continue to speak for him.

Kise: What are we and what are we about to do?

Kagami: Huh?

Kise: Don’t tell me you can’t say it.

Kagami: Say what?

Kise leans over Kagami’s soapy shoulders and makes sure to enunciate.

Kise: That we’re luh-versssssss.

Kagami: Come on man, that word’s gross.

Kise leans back and takes note of his now soapy shirt.

Kise: Alright, fine, but I’m serious, you can’t say it?

Kagami: Yeah, I can say it. We’re together, in a relationship, partners, you’re my significant other, my better half, my–

Kise: Alright, I get.

Kagami: boyfriend, my last valentine, my–

Kise’s slippery hands turn Kagami’s head towards him and he kisses him over his shoulder.

Kise: Don’t go getting me riled up; I’m not even undressed yet.

Kagami: You kissed me!

Kagami looks at Kise pensively and waves him closer.

Kagami: Come here, you got a little…

Kise leans in expecting Kagami to wipe something off his face, but he gets kissed instead.

Kise: Mnnmmnamm

Kise feels a bit weak and pulls away.

Kise: Didn’t you say it was dangerous?

Kagami: Well, quit wasting time and rinse me off so we can get out of here.

Shortly after.

While Kise finishes up in the shower, Kagami re-wraps his knee. He thinks he’s too old to be getting butterflies, but then again, even though they won’t be going all the way, they’ve never gone this far. Light pecks on the hands and cheeks, cuddling up while they sleep, that’s been the extent of it. He can’t help but be nervous.

Kise dries his hair and then wraps the towel around his waist. Even though the door is open, he’s hesitant to leave the bathroom. He looks at the clothes he prepared. Why waste time putting them on when they were just going to come off? But what if Kagami wants to undress me? Although these thoughts have caused Kise to feel like he is rooted to where he stands, he somehow manages to shuffle over and sit on the closed commode. He attempts some breathing exercises to slow down his racing heart.

Kise: Lights on or off?

Kise’s hand hovers over the switch.

Kagami: Off.

Kagami knows that even with the lights off, Kise’s floor to ceiling windows let in so much light that it doesn’t matter–he just likes the mood that overhead darkness sets. He stares as Kise makes his way to the bed.

Kise: How’re you feeling?

Kagami: Nervous.

Kise giggles.

Kise: So honest, but I meant your fever and your knee and all that.

Kagami: Ha! Yeah, well… I feel like I need a shot of B12, but other than that, I’m good.

Kise crawls onto the bed and kneels next to Kagami. He slides his hand up Kagami’s thigh and then in between his legs to touch his exposed erection.

Kise: Why are you undressed already?

Kagami: “Undressed”? I never got dressed. Why are you dressed when you’re just going to take it off?

Kise: I thought you might like it gift-wrapped.

Kagami reaches behind Kise’s neck to bring him closer for a kiss.

Kagami: Heh…You’re so thoughtful.

Kise falls into the kiss a little and then steadies himself holding onto Kagami as he moves to straddle him. Still kissing, he lowers himself onto Kagami’s lower abdomen and he feels it flinch when he rubs his butt up against his cock as it continues to swell behind him. He reaches behind and takes a hold of it.

Kise: You’re not even fully erect, are you?

Kagami reaches around and wedges his hand under Kise’s.

Kagami: Mm…’bout halfway.

Kise: Oh boy…

Kagami: You’ll be fine.

Kise: For someone who claimed to be nervous, you don’t seem like it.

Kagami: Come here.

Kagami slides his hand up Kise’s back and brings him closer until he is pressed against him.

Kagami: You feel that?

Kise lets out an anxious laugh.

Kise: I can’t tell whose is faster.

Kagami’s hand coasts back down and into Kise’s boxer-briefs and squeezes.

Kagami: Race ya~

Later.

Kagami: Kise…unh

He pulls all but two pillows from behind him so that he is positioned a little lower.

Kagami: That feels so good, but come here for a minute.

Kise lets Kagami’s sac fall out of his mouth and then licks and sucks his way up towards Kagami’s lips, making sure to smear the precum glazing the head of Kagami’s cock into a trail along the way. When they are eye to eye, Kise licks his lips.

Kise: You rang?

Kagami: Yeah, it’s my turn.

He catches Kise by his hips and pulls them toward him until his nose is steeping in the sultry scent of where Kise’s thigh and groin meet. He inhales.

Kagami: I just wanna…

While it’s still trapped in his underwear, Kagami traces and nudges Kise’s hard-on with his nose and his hands give rise to heat along the back of Kise’s thighs and his butt. When he feels Kise tremble, Kagami edges his fingers under his boxer-brief clad thighs and continues creating friction.

Kise: Mmmm…you know, they come off.

Kagami: I know, and they will soon enough, but for a minute, I just wanna…

Kagami’s nudging and tracing turns into prodding and burrowing as he uses his whole face to massage Kise’s cock.

Kise: God…what are y-you…ugh…Kagami…Kagami…please…take them off.

His body stiffens as the sensation races throughout his nervous system, slamming into every nerve ending.

Kise: Unh…uh…uh…come…on…if you…aaah…make me come like this, aahh…unh…uhhh…I’m gonna to be so mad…unh…

Kagami: Nhnhnhnhnhnhhahaa…

Kise nearly collapses at the vibration caused by Kagami’s laugh.

Kagami: I promise, I won’t let you come like this. Just be a good boy and leave it to me.

Kagami inhales deeply one last time before pulling Kise’s boxer-briefs down to expose his anticipation. Kise lets out a little shriek when he feels wet heat close around him. His posture slackens and his vision wavers as the coordinated motion of Kagami’s tongue, cheeks, and lips coax him toward an orgasm.

Kise: Kagami…Ka…I’m go…nna…come…


029

Late October. What was only supposed to be four weeks of nursing turned into half a year and then some of cohabitational bliss. But why is Kise talking about breaking up?

Kagami: Come on, Kise, why are you being like this?

Kise continues to stare out over Rittenhouse Square from the chaise in his bedroom.

Kise: Because you’re leaving and you don’t even seem like you’re going to miss me.

Kagami: You’re kidding, right?

Kise: Do I look like I’m kidding?

Kagami: Oh, I don’t know! You haven’t looked my way all morning! Anyway, I’ve been at your place going on seven months; that’s three and a half months longer than I needed for recovery and six months longer than I needed to be non-weightbearing.

Kise: But you seem so happy to be going home.

Kagami: That’s because I am.

Kise: See?! I told you you would get tired of me!

Kagami drags himself from the closet over to the bed, suddenly lacking the energy to keep packing.

Kise: I told you it was a bad idea.

Kagami: Kise.

Kise: You said I was loud and…

Kagami: Kise.

Kise: …obnoxious. That I move around too much in my sleep.

Kagami: Hey, Kise.

Kise: We don’t even like the same TV shows and I wonder if you even love me…

Kagami: Kise! That’s enough!

Kise is startled out of his rambling and whining. He turns away from the window to see that Kagami has closed the distance between them. He is slightly uncomfortable with a visibly angry Kagami towering over him, so he stands up.

Kise: Don’t call me like I’m your child.

Kagami decides to ignore that to avoid getting derailed. He sighs.

Kagami: …What’s really wrong?

Kise: Haven’t you been listening?

Kagami: Yes, I have! And you know that’s all bullshit! We had this conversation when we came home from the hospital. You are loud and obnoxious. I don’t even watch that much TV, so it doesn’t matter if we like the same shows or not. This has been the way for the last seven months and we haven’t had a problem. Why are you getting like this now?

Kise starts to walk past Kagami.

Kise: What’s the point? You’ll never understand.

Kagami: No. We are not doing this. None of this…

He waves his hand about to indicate the present situation.

Kagami: Either we talk now or we don’t talk at all.

Kise whips back around.

Kise: What?!

Kagami: Seriously. If you can’t be straight with me at all times, this isn’t going to work. And don’t act like you don’t already know this.

Kise: …

Kagami: Hey, if you need to get your thoughts together, I’ll give you the time, but we aren’t just going to drop this. Something’s bothering you and it’s more than me moving…back to my own place, might I remind you. And I am; there’s no discussion where that is concerned.

Kise: But why? Why can’t you just stay? When’s your lease up? Can’t you just move in with me instead of renewing?

Kagami: Lease? Kise, my place is bought and paid for. Unlike you, I’m not into that transient life.

Kise: You like it here, right? You could sell your place.

Kagami: Now you are seriously trippin’. I haven’t even lived their five years yet. I have put too much time and money into that place just to be abandoning it on a whim.

Kise: I’m a whim?

Kagami: Don’t twist my words. You are more than welcome to live out your lease and then move in with me, though.

Kise: Your place is too sterile.

Kagami: Well, excuse me for having an aesthetic. But it’s not like that can be changed.

Kise: And there isn’t enough space for me to work there.

Kagami: Well, not for your current set up, but the way you actually work…there is enough.

Kise: We–

Kagami: Before you think of another excuse, do you need time to get yourself situated or are you going to tell me what’s really wrong?

Kise: …

Kagami: Whether you like it or not, I am going back to my place today and that has nothing to do with whether or not I’m tired of you. And I’m not–I know you know that. So, what’s it gonna be?

Kise walks out of the bedroom and sulks his way over to the sofa. He looks back at Kagami who is now standing in his bedroom doorway and gestures for him to join him. Kagami walks behind the sofa to enter the seating area from the other side. Once seated, he pulls the pouting Kise from the other end of the sofa into his arms.

Kise: Too…close.

Kagami: No such thing. Now, talk.

Kise: I-I can’t move my arms.

Kagami: What? So you can cover your face? I thought we got past all that.

Kise: That wasn’t…

Kagami: Don’t even bother finishing that lie. Come on…

Kise sighs in resignation and then relaxes in Kagami’s arms.

Kise: You… You are going back to your place and I’m going to miss you.

Kagami: And?

Kise: What do you mean, “and?”!

Kagami: We have been coming home to the same place for nearly seven months. Changing things now…it’s a given that we will miss each other. So what else you got?

Kise: Hmph… Well, you haven’t told me that you love me.

Kagami: Neither have you. Next.

Kise: …

Kagami: So…?

Kise: We haven’t…

Kise mumbles the rest.

Kagami: What?!

Kise mumbles again.

Kagami: Ha! What are you so embarrassed about?! You’re completely red! Say it so I can hear you.

Kise whines.

Kise: It’s not funny.

Kagami: Come on, now. I want to get this settled. And don’t think you can stall me into staying over.

Kise: I wasn’t trying to do that!

Kagami: Then spit it out already.

Kise takes a deep breath as he wishes for the shelter of his hands. He exhales and lets his words rush out.

Kise: We’ve been together for seven months. You’ve been here for seven months and all we’ve done is get each other off and the two times we tried, you couldn’t get it in and I’m so pissed that Himuro-san can take you and I can’t and now I think you don’t want to anymore and I’m afraid that if you go back to your place we’ll never go all the way and then we’ll have to break up because we want to have sex but we can’t have it with each other and I don’t want you to want anybody else but me because I’m in love with you and I love you more than anyone else does and you should feel the same way because it’s about more than sex and I don’t think I can be without you now, but…

Kise catches his breath.

Kise: …the thought of never knowing you that way…h-hurts…

Kagami lets out a sigh of relief–he’s angry, though, but too exhausted to be properly angry. He loosens his embrace because it seems like both of them had been holding their breath. He kisses Kise’s forehead.

Kagami: You know, you’re an idiot. There’s no other way to put it.

Kise’s brow furrows.

Kise: Don’t make fun of me.

Kagami: I’m not. I don’t even know where to start.

He wipes the frustration from his face.

Kagami: …OK. First, I’m not going to break up with you just because we can’t go all the way, but if that’s what you want, I guess there isn’t much I can do about that. And about that–I can’t believe you’re making me talk about this–it took some time before Tatsuya and I could go that far. And even when we did it wasn’t always comfortable, for him especially. It took a lot of preparation, so we didn’t actually do it that often.

Kise: Is that why…

Kagami: “He cheated on me”? Possibly, among other reasons.

Kise’s face is awash with sincerity.

Kise: No, I was going to ask if that was why you’re so amazing at everything else?

Kagami: …I don’t even know…how to answer that… Anyway, I live 15 minutes away from you on a bad day; it’s not like we won’t have other chances.

Kise: But when? It was only twice in seven months. Is there like, a cap?

Kagami: That’s your fault.

Kise looks at Kagami in utter confusion.

Kagami: Well, not your fault, but if we add it up, you haven’t even been here for half the time. You’ve been off on a business trip every two to three days and sometimes you didn’t even come home in between. See, we can try anytime, but there has to be enough time for preparation and recovery; I’m not into unnecessary pain, especially when it comes to sex. But even beyond that, did you ever think of the other way around?

Kise: The other way around?

Kagami: Yeah…?

Kise: The other way… Wait! You mean…me in you?

Kagami: What else could I be talking about?

Kise: Really?!

Kagami: Is there something wrong with that?

Kise: No, of course not, but I just never really thought about it and you just don’t seem like you’d trust just anybody to do that.

Kagami: You’re not making any sense.

He jostles Kise a bit.

Kagami: It is about trust for me, but are you saying you’ll let just anyone do it to you regardless of how much you trust them?

Kise: Of course not!

Kagami: Then why would it be any different for me?

Kise: …

Kagami: Also, idiot, if I can’t trust you, then who can I? Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not always in the mood for it, but I’m certainly not opposed to it. But that goes for just about anything, right?

Kise: So, you and Himuro-san…

Kagami: Nah… He had an inferiority complex about the whole thing, so he wouldn’t even try. But you, certainly with Aomine, right?

Kise: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAhAhhhaHAhaaaa haha..haaa…

Kagami: I guess not.

Kise: Well, he would never admit that he was bi or anything, so it’s not like I was really surprised. I tried once and he kicked me out of bed and then another time I asked straight out and he locked me out of our dorm room for three days. It didn’t actually bother me, though.

Kagami gives Kise a look that asks, “why were you even with him?”

Kise: Yeah, he was an ass, but if he wasn’t comfortable with it, then that’s just the way it was going to be and anyone who was going to be with him would need to be okay with that.

Kagami: Yeah, that’s true. Anyway, enough about old flames, are we cool? Are you worried about anything else?

Kise wants to ask Kagami if he loves him, but he hesitates.

Kise: N-No. We’re cool.

Kagami: Good, because there’s something I want to say before I leave.

He takes Kise’s hands in his and hesitates on his first word for just a second.

Kagami: K-Kise, I do love you. I really do. This whole thing with you has been…amazing. I mean, you are amazing…in so many ways. I always worry if I can keep up with you. And… I also don’t want you to want anyone but me. I just hope I can keep you feeling that way.

Kagami bites his lip and looks away.

Kise: Why are you blushing?

Kagami: You are. too!

Kise: It’s only natural when you’re being told the things you just told me!

Kagami: W-Well, saying them is the same!

Kise lets the his remaining embarrassment fade into a giggle before tilts his head up and presses his lips to Kagami’s. They quickly melt into the kiss. Kagami pulls away before they go too far.

Kise: So, are you going to stay?

Kagami: …

Kise: I had to ask.

Kagami: Look, eventually we’ll have to talk about moving in together, but I haven’t gotten enough out of my investment to move right now. I meant what I said though, you are welcome to move in with me. Furniture can be changed.

Kise: But my workspace…

Kagami: I guess you don’t pay that much attention to what you’re doing. You have all that space over there, but you don’t even use half of it when you’re home. And if next year is anything like this year, you won’t even be home enough to use it. But if it comes down to it, you can use my office or we can convert the garage. It’s up to you; consider it an open invitation.


030

Late January. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Kise: I think today is the day.

Kagami: …Maybe.

Kise: You don’t sound excited. Does it bother you?

Kagami: I could ask you the same.

Kise: No. I mean, you… um…preparing does have its perks, like more action, but less physical stress…? But, if anything, I’m worried that you’re not getting enough out of it.

Kagami: Heh. Seeing you climax like that just because of my fingers is pretty high up on the list of things that make life worth living.

Kise: …

Kagami: Alright, alright. Well, the closer we get, the closer I want to be, but I don’t want to get my hopes up and, in the process, rush and hurt you or leave you unsatisfied. Anyway, half of the process is so unromantic; it takes the fun out of it.

Kise: Says who? I like seeing you all serious. I don’t want to be hurt either, but I have yet to walk away unsatisfied–if I was able to walk away at all. To be honest, I think I’m going to pass out because it’s going to feel amazing if your other skills are any indication.

Kagami: Don’t do that.

Kise: Don’t do what?

Kagami: What if I don’t meet your expectations?

Kise: But you’re always telling me “leave it to me” and I do and I’ve got no complaints.

Kagami: It’s different when I say it.

Kise rolls his eyes.

Kise: Whatever. You ready?

Kagami leans back against the headboard.

Kagami: Yeah. Which position?

Kise: You stay there, I’m going to get on you.

Kagami: If you still can’t take it, I think we should really consider using a device.

Kise: No. Out of the question. I told you how I feel about those things. Besides, I know you don’t keep your nails manicured for nothing.

Kagami: But this would go so much faster since there are devices specifically made for stretching.

Kise: Your fingers are enough. Now, get to work.

A week later.

Kise relishes the pull in his thighs and lower back as his hips rock and bear down on Kagami’s cock. He fainted shortly after the first time Kagami successfully entered him, or perhaps not so successfully. Kagami was more embarrassed than he was. But at this moment, from the looks of it, Kagami is the one about to faint.

Kise: What? You…can’t keep…up?

Kagami tightens his grip on Kise’s hips.

Kagami: Don’t…nmmnm…press your luck. I’m goin’ easy on you.

Kise: Don’t hold ba…back…

Kagami: Nah… You ain’t ready. We’ve…only…been at this…for an hour. You gotta settle in…to…ffffuh…this level…first.

Kise: Is that so?

He braces himself on the headboard and grinds down hard causing Kagami to gasp and pant.

Kise: I thought I was doing…pretty well.

Kagami: I see…you want to play it like that, huuuh?

Kagami sits up abruptly and catches Kise as the movement forces him back. He lowers Kise onto the bed and leans into him.

Kise: Ahhhh! Uhh…okay…huuuh…okay…you…were right…oh ffffffuuuh…

On his back with his legs and butt off the bed, folding into him, and Kagami resting his full weight on him while he is practically buried in him to the hilt, Kise is quickly running out of breath.

Kise: Kagami, I can’t…huuuhh…breathe…

Kagami slides his hand under Kise’s lower back and adjusts his angle before pulling out a bit and eliciting a drawn breath from Kise in the process. The subsequent exhale tickles Kagami’s neck.

Kagami: Better?

Kise: Yeah… Sorry…

Kagami thumbs away the tears from the corners of Kise’s eyes and then kisses him. Despite his boasting, Kise is truly surprised that he is managing so well. He has seen many, but Kagami’s cock is by far the biggest, both in length and circumference and he feels every bit of difference between what he was used to and all the space Kagami is taking up now. Just the thought of it seems impossible to him because Aomine certainly wasn’t lacking. He wouldn’t outright call accommodating Kagami an accomplishment, on the other hand, he feels like he should be honored with an award for not passing out the second time.

Kagami: Don’t apologize and don’t rush. Who are you competing against? We got all the time in the world.

Kagami begins to pull out. Kise grabs his shoulder.

Kise: Wait! Where are you going?!

Kagami, now halfway in…

Kagami: I was thinking about picking up where we left off…just slower. Okay?

Kise nods and tries to relax as Kagami pulls all the way out and sits back with his legs folded under him. He doesn’t want to say anything about it, but now he feels an emptiness that is so much more than physical. His heart aches. He wonders if it’s really worth it for Kagami.

Kagami: Hey, hey. Why do you look like you’re about to cry?

Kise presses his hands against his face, trying to feel his expression.

Kise: I do? Hehe… I don’t know…

Kise sits up and kind of regrets doing so, but he moves through the soreness. He reaches out for Kagami who gathers him in his arms.

Kagami: What’s up?

Kise: Are we ever going to have normal sex?

Kagami: What’s not normal about what we’re doing now?

Kise: There’s so much stopping and starting and adjusting and talking and…fainting.

Kagami: It’s not unheard of for everything to go smoothly, but the nature of the thing kind of…breeds complications. I don’t know whether that makes you fortunate or not, but except for the fainting, all of that is normal. Besides, we’re new at this with each other and on top of that we have an unavoidable technical difficulty.

Kise reaches down and catches Kagami’s cock in his hand.

Kise: “Unavoidable technical difficulty”? This must be where all that food goes. Why is it never this big in my mouth?

Kagami: C-Could you stop being weird while you’re holding it?! Besides, it’s not like yours isn’t impressive.

Kise looks down.

Kise: Yeah, I’m rather fond of mine. But seriously, if I were to try to put this in my mouth now, I’d choke. Just thinking about it activates my gag reflexes.

Kagami: Are trying to make me go limp?

Kise: It might help. But I really want to know why it’s bigger now.

Kagami looks up at the ceiling and searches for a way out of the conversation.

Kise: So?

Kagami: Uggh… You don’t swallow, so it’s always somewhere else, like my hand, when it gets to this point.

Kise: Oh, well, that makes sense. Wait. Doesn’t that mean you’re about to come right now?

Kagami: Not exactly. C-Can we get back to it?

Kise: Huh? Oh, um, yeah.

Kagami: Alright then, on your side.

Kise: Like this?

Kagami: Yeah, that’s good.

He lifts Kise’s left leg up.

Kagami: Will your leg get tired like this?

Kise: No.

Kagami: See, this is so unsexy.

Kise: I dis–dis…

He stutters a bit at the sensation of Kagami’s cold lubricated fingers sliding into him.

Kise: …agree. Nnnh… There’s not much sexier than you caring about me.

Kagami: Then I must be the sexiest man alive.

Kise smiles at the implication.

Kise: Well…after me, of course…nnnuhaa…

Kagami: That goes without saying.

Kagami continues adding lube and priming Kise.

Kise: Khaa… Kagami, I’m ready.

Kagami: Okay, I’m going to go slow. Don’t hold your breath and tell me if it gets to be too much.

Kise, already feeling the heat rise…

Kise: ‘Kay…

Later.

Entering from the back is more comfortable for both of them, but it requires Kise to endure the motions as well as hold himself up. There’s the alternative of  leaning over, but doing that for too long in that position makes him dizzy and the warmth of Kagami against his back turns his knees to jelly. They cycle through a number of positions but eventually come back to Kise lying on his side.

Kagami: Kise…

He sinks his teeth into the firmness of Kise’s shoulder and when it feels like he is about to break the skin, Kise’s gluts spasm repeatedly. When it was just his fingers inside Kise, he’d press back against the constriction causing Kise to cry out, but now it was his cock that was deep inside and as that appendage was not quite as flexible, he was at the mercy of the pleasure and could not help but gasp and moan.

Kagami: Mmnnmmnuh… God, I just want to eat you upWhy are you so sexy?

Even though Kagami is thrusting with the all the urgency of a lullaby, their skin is slick with sweat. Kise’s half-closed eyes and parted wet lips dripping with praises for Kagami and requests for more continue to spur Kagami on.

Kagami: Is it…good?

Kise: Too good…

Kagami: No such thing.

Between the bites, nips, and licks that make him feel like he’s being slowly devoured and the pressure and subsequent relief caused by Kagami’s deliberate thrusting, Kise is being aroused out of and lulled into a euphoric daze. And Kagami’s sonorous crooning just makes him melt completely.

Kagami: Kise~

Kise: Kagami, pleaseI can’t…Khaaa…

Kagami bites Kise on the softer flesh under his arm and Kise just about loses it.

Kise: Unnnhhhhuhhh! Fffffffuuughh…noo…yess…

As Kise writhes and moans, Kagami kisses and licks the mark he made. All the while, the leisurely thrusting continues.

Kagami: Kise, I just wanna…

He leans in and captures Kise’s lips. They breath each other in and savor the unique musk the coming together of their bodies creates. Kagami whispers.

Kagami: I want to move faster, do you think you can take it?

Kise, with watery eyes and skin flushed from adrenaline and heat connects his wavering gaze to Kagami’s and manages a faint nod.

Kagami: Okay, here, hold my hand.

Kagami extends his left hand to Kise and supports himself with his right. Kise laces his fingers with Kagami’s and with one hand, brings them to his lips and with the other, he tends to his peak erection. Kagami increases his speed gradually; he starts with short thrusts, teasing Kise’s spot, then he works his way up to longer ones, extracting himself to just below the head, then plunging in, aiming for a direct hit. And he does, every time. They are both falling apart.

Kise: Kagami, Kagami, ohhh! gahh! Plee-ee-ee-ee-ease.

Kise’s pleas devolve into whimpers as he nears climax.

Kagami: Haaa… Just ask…fuuugh…

Kise whispers.

Kise: Fas…ter…unhfuuhhh…nnnnuh…

Kagami doesn’t need to be told twice. He pushes and grinds into Kise, forcing out a few unexpected obscenities with each impact

Kise: I’m…haahAHH!….AHH!… God, yess! YES! Uhhh! Unnnuh… Ohh…Oh… Ohshhihaaa…ohhhshhhiii, ohhshi, ohhshit…I’m gonna come! Kagami, Khaaa…hhaaa..

Kagami: Go ahead…

Kise: But…you…

Kagami: Oh, I’m right behind you, babe.

Kise shudders and whines as his orgasm seizes every inch of him. Kagami, only a few seconds behind finally does break the skin and releases as he gets a taste of the coppery rivulets slowly trickling from Kise’s shoulder. They collapse in a heap of sweat and moans and semen and ecstasy and exhaustion and tears. Kagami lifts up just enough to let Kise roll onto his back. Kise takes Kagami’s face in his hands, Kagami does the same and they wipe away each other’s tears. Kisses follow.

Kagami’s voice is hoarse.

Kagami: Don’t cry.

Kise’s voice isn’t much better.

Kise: We did it…hic…sniff… We finally did it…

Kagami: Yes, we did.

Kagami rolls off of Kise and pulls him on top of him and begins to rub up and down his back, paying particular attention to the lower muscles.

Kagami: You okay?

Kise sniffs and nods lazily, sleepily. Kagami reaches blindly off the side of the bed to find the sheet that slid off earlier. Once in hand, he pulls it over them.

Kagami: Go to sleep, I’ll wake you in an hour or so to take a bath.

Kise wastes no time to drift off. Kagami smiles at the soft vibrations of Kise’s respiration. He smooths Kise’s hair that’s slicked to his forehead back and plants a kiss.

Kagami: You did good…


031

Late April. With a long, troublesome year and their 5th anniversary in the rearview, Kise and Kagami talk about what’s next.

Instead of going on his usual run, Kagami decides to join Kise on his early morning stroll around the city.

Kagami: What did your mom say when–

Kise: Hi! We’re going house hunting!

Kagami: –you told her that we weren’t coming for Golden Week?

Kise: She said it was a miracle that I was there in January, so she wasn’t holding her breath. Yours?

Kagami: ‘Bout the same.

Kise: Hey there! We are going house hunting!

Kagami: Would you stop telling everyone we walk by!

Kise: Then who can I tell?!

Kagami: No one. You can’t tell anyone.

Kise: But I’m so happy! You finally said we can start looking. Aren’t you happy?

Kagami: Not at the moment, so cut it out.

Kise: God, you are in such a mood lately!

Kise crosses his arms and starts to walk faster.

Kagami: Ryouta.

When Kise doesn’t respond, Kagami takes a few quick steps to catch up with him and snags him by the arm. His voice is low and tight.

Kagami: Did we or did we not just finish dealing with a stalker?

Kise completely deflates. Kagami’s tone softens.

Kagami: I know you’re happy. It was a long year in and out of court, in and out of hiding, and I know you want to put it behind you, but don’t get careless.

Kise: Sorry.

Kagami: I’ll forever be amazed at how resilient you are, but you gotta rein it in sometimes. It’s hard enough as it is to keep people out of our business–don’t help them. And almost going to jail twice last year is enough for me; that’s my lifetime cap.

Kise: Sorry. But I’m so happy. We’re finally going to have a place that’s ours.

Kagami: Me, too. So do me a favor and put all that energy into actually finding a place. Okay?

Kise: So, that means no House Hunters International?

Kagami: Ryouta.

Kise: Okay, okay. So…where should we start?

They turn the corner and head for a quiet park.

Kagami: Hmmn… Build or buy. Philly or Elsewhere.

Kise: You’re willing to move out of Philly?

Kagami: I guess. I mean, I love it here, but I’m no longer tied to a studio, so it almost doesn’t matter where I live as long as we call the same place home.

Kise jumps on Kagami and clings to him much like a baby koala.

Kise: Taiga! You always say the sweetest things!

Kagami: Ryo– Would you get down?! You can jump all over me once we get home.

Kise: No. I’m really lovin’ you right now and there’s nobody around.

Kagami: Ryouta.

Kise: Kiss me.

Kagami: You are out your mind.

Kise: ♫Kiss me and I’ll kiss you back.♫

Kagami: Stop it.

Kise: ♫If you play with my tummy I’ll tickle your feet.♫

Kagami: Would you quit it!

Kise: ♫If you touch me here I’ll touch you there.♫

Kagami: Don’t. You. Dare.

Kise: ♫YEAAAAAAH, PUT LOTION ON ME!♫

Kagami: Uggh! I can’t stand you! Come here; I can’t kiss you like this.

Kise: Hehehe!

A week later.

Kagami returns from his morning run to find a light breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and mixed berries waiting for him. As they eat, they work through the pros and cons of relocating or staying put.

Kagami: Is that it for Philly?

Kise: I believe so.

Kise collects the dishes and puts them in the dishwasher.

Kagami: Alright, then last on the list are the pros and cons of moving back home.

Kise: Pro, our families are there.

Kagami: Con, it’s unnecessarily expensive, more expensive than Philly.

Kise: Pro, everyone speaks Japanese.

Kagami: Con, you would have to replace most or all of your staff.

Kise: …

Kagami: Con, your PDAs really will have to stop.

Kise looks at Kagami and wonders if he realizes what he just implied.

Kagami: Anymore pros?

Kise: No, but another con is that if you take up a position with the mentor program or return to coaching, you’ll be spending half your year back here.

Kagami: True.

Kise: Have you decided on that?

Kise returns to his seat.

Kagami: You know who else might be mentoring, right?

Kise: Yeah.

Kagami: How do you feel about that?

Kise: Are you going to leave me for him?

Kagami: Seriously, man.

Kise: Then, I don’t care. And you?

Kagami: Don’t know. And I won’t until I have to work with him, but I guess as long as he doesn’t start anything, it should be cool.

Kise: He’s not like that.

Kagami: If I screwed up and lost you, I’d be pretty bitter about it…for a long time.

Kise: Six years, though? A year, maybe, but after that, I doubt I was even on his radar.

Kagami: But didn’t you say he thought you were leaving him for me?

Kise: I told him I wasn’t and even if we are together now, it is what it is.

Kagami: …Alright.

Kise: And don’t be distant on my account. You guys got along pretty well way back when…in your own way, so if it clicks, just go with it. It can only make your jobs easier.

Kagami: I will keep that in mind.

Kise: As for moving back home, I don’t think it’s such a good idea right now. I don’t want a whole new staff and the thought of being away from you for half a year is…well, it’s not going to happen.

Kagami: I haven’t even decided if I’m going to accept the offer.

Kise: You will. It’s perfect for you. Besides, if you ever want to take up coaching again, maybe take ‘Nova up on their offer, it’ll be good that you’re still in the thick of it.

Kagami pushes his chair back and gets up from the table. Kise looks at him questioningly. Kagami leans over to kiss his forehead, but Kise tilts his head back and their lips meet.

Kagami: I’m going to take my shower now. You coming?

Kise: If you do it right~

Two months later. Opportunity knocked and Kagami answered, now a decision needs to be made.

Kagami: Gladwyne* or Villanova*?

Kise: I like both, a lot. You, too, right? And the only thing Gladwyne really has over Villanova is that we won’t need to paint every single room or take up the carpet and refinish the floors.

Kagami: So Gladwyne?

Kise: Villanova.

Kagami: Huh?

Kise: I’m going to be working from home full-time. Since you’ll be starting at the university, it’s better if we accommodate your commute.

Kagami: So, you want to make an offer?

Kise: …Yes. Let’s do it!

031 Footnotes

  • Villanova – An affluent community in the Philadelphia suburbs, named so for the university at its heart. It is not a city, town, or borough, but actually straddles two different real towns.
  • Gladwyne – An affluent community similar to Villanova.

032

Early July. Being a role model is hard work made even more difficult when personal feelings get in the way.

The Director: I heard you guys knew each other back in Japan.

Aomine: Yeah, back in high school.

The Director: I remember all the fuss about having some of you, what was it…?

Aomine is inexplicably embarrassed by his youth.

Aomine: Kiseki no Sedai… G-Generation of Miracles, you guys called us back then.

The Director: Yeah, the Generation of Miracles…come over to our universities. In the end it was only two of you. You keep in touch with that guy, the one who went to Syracuse with you?

Aomine: Not in recent years.

The Director: Shame. I wonder what he’s up to. Oh, well… Anyway, what’s the other guy like? To be honest, he was highly recommended for this program because of how he dealt with his injury and all, but I don’t know much about him… other than what I saw on that show he used to have.

Aomine: He’s… He’d definitely be a good fit for a mentor. He’s a straight shooter, so what you see is what you get. If the kids are going to learn sportsmanship and perseverance from anyone, it’ll definitely go well if it was from him. Though, this is just what I remember from back then, but he’s not really the kind of guy whose heart you’d expect to change all that much.

The Director: Seems like we’re in good hands, then.

They made their greetings at the mentor’s orientation luncheon, but it wasn’t until a week into the program that Kagami and Aomine worked together for the first time. With things unsaid, the atmosphere was awkward, but they wasted no time getting down to business. At the end of their first week as co-mentors, they sit down to lunch with three of the university-age students who want to get to know their mentors a little better.

Kid A: Mr. Kagami.

Kagami: I keep telling you, Kagami’s fine.

Kid A: Should I call you Kagami-san?

Kagami: We’re in the States; it’s weird if you do that.

Aomine arrives.

Kid B: Aomine, we’re halfway done. You’re food’s next to Kagami.

Aomine reaches over, grabs the bag, and then sits.

Aomine: Even back home it wouldn’t suit him.

Kid A: Aomine-san!

Aomine: It doesn’t suit me either. Besides, it’s really gross when you say it.

Kid A: I’m just trying to make you guys feel at home.

Kagami halts as he’s about to take a bite out of his sandwich.

Kagami: Well aren’t you a little racist?

Aomine raises an eyebrow. Though he doesn’t disagree, as a mentor, he wonders how Kagami will handle it.

Kid A: How is that racist?

Kagami: We are home, so to speak. We may have not been born here, but we live here now–pay more taxes than you do–and we don’t need your help to feel like it. ‘Sides, I lived here before you were born.

Kagami takes a bite.

Kid A: But you’re Japanese.

Kagami, with his mouth half full…

Kagami: Your last name’s Werner, right? What’s that, German? Dutch?

He swallows and takes a big gulp of his water.

Kagami: Should I start greeting you with “guten tag”? You’re pressing your luck if you think I’m going to call you Herr-anything.

Kid A: I was born here, though.

Kagami: Okay, so I’m here now and if I had a kid, they’d be born here too, but you’d probably think the same thing, wanting to slap a Japanese honorific at the end of their name. Or maybe you’d just ask them where the best sushi restaurant is.

Kid A looks on confused while Kid B rolls his eyes at the idiot carnival he’s witnessing. Kid C seems too into his burger to care and Aomine just continues to watch.

Kagami:  My point is, you’re singling us out based on our ethnicity which is not native to the US and approaching us in a way that emphasizes that, but neither is yours. So what you’re a 5th generation whatever, the fact remains that you and your people, though you like to forget, aren’t from here either.

Kid A looks at Kid B.

Kid A: Was that really racist?

Kid B: Quintessentially.

Kagami shovels a handful of fries into his mouth, but pauses before chewing because Aomine is staring at him.

Kagami: What?

Aomine: Nothing. Just, that was… I wasn’t sure how it was going to end.

Kagami shrugs.

Kagami: Well, it had to be said.

Kid C: But you’re not going to have a kid, are you? I mean, you’re married to a man.

Aomine chokes on his burger.

Kid B: Dude!

Kagami: First of all, I’m not married. Second of all, I said “if.”

Kid C: Dating or what have you, but no kids right? You’re gay.

Kagami: Are you what they’re letting into university these days? It seems compulsory education failed you on the process of human reproduction. I’m gay, not sterile.

Aomine: Why did you even bring it up? It was a hypothetical situation.

Kid C: I’m just asking. Have you seen his boyfriend?

Aomine just looks at the kid because he’s not sure where the conversation is going.

Kid C: He’s pretty hot. Like…model hot…too hot for him.

Kagami rolls his eyes.

Kid C: I heard that he’s bi, though, right? You guys ever do a threesome?

Aomine dodges as Kagami reaches across the table and grabs the kid by his throat. He grips Kagami’s arm to stop him from going any further. He tries to make eye contact with Kagami; his voice is calm, but stern.

Aomine: Kagami, let him go.

Kagami releases the kid and sits back down. Aomine turns to the kid.

Aomine: And you… Kids with attitudes like that are part of the reason this program exists. You come from your little corner of the world with your sheltered views or your spoiled upbringing and you think you can just say anything to anybody. You are going to have to learn and progress your way out of that or you’re going to find your path to be very difficult. I promise you, because I’ll be sure to make it that way.

Kagami exhales as he tries to shake loose some of the tension.

Kagami: Look.

He points at Kid A

Kagami: You’re just ignorant, so you need to think before you speak. Make sure you attend every session in the diversity workshop coming up next week. On the other hand…

He steps to Kid C. Aomine moves in to separate them, but Kagami gives him a look to let him know that he’s cool.

Kagami: …you are just a prick; I don’t know what to recommend for you except a beat down. But consider yourself warned. If I hear of you saying anything like that again to anyone, you will be promptly expelled from the program. And I don’t have to tell you what that will do for your future in sports. Don’t test me.

Kid C feigns disinterest, but all the color has left him. Aomine looks at his watch.

Aomine: Whoo, look at that. Lunch is just about over. Alright, we’ll see you guys back at the room in about ten minutes.

The kids walk off and Kagami and Aomine hear a loud smack followed by Kid B calling Kid C an idiot.

Aomine: Maybe it’ll be better received coming from his peer.

Kagami: Whatever, man. But I guess I should thank you for stepping in.

Aomine: Don’t mention it. Just be glad he wasn’t a minor.

Kagami: Shit! That would have been so bad. Sheesh! I guess I’m too wound up right now. I can’t wait until all the work is done on this new house. It’s stressing me the hell out!

They head towards the staff room to drop off their paperwork from their morning sessions. Aomine seizes the mention as a segue.

Aomine: You guys bought a new house?

Kagami immediately realizes what he said. He’s been avoiding talking about too much of his personal life around Aomine, but he supposes it can’t be avoided forever.

Kagami: Y-Yeah… About 15 minutes west of here. In Villanova.

Aomine: That’s right, you’re the new guy on ‘Nova’s staff. What they got you doing over there?

Kagami: Director of Student-Athlete Development.

Aomine: So pretty much what you’re doing with this program, huh?

Kagami: Yeah, pretty much.

Aomine: How you like it so far?

No one else is in the staff room, so they toss their paperwork into the admin’s inbox and head back out towards their latter sessions. Kagami falls into the flow of the conversation.

Kagami: I haven’t done much beyond meeting the rest of the staff. I have a meeting with the Dean next week and the week after I start working with the students. But enough about that, I heard the “R” word last time I heard someone talk about you.

Aomine: Ha! It’s coming, but not yet. I think I have at least three more seasons in me before I retire.

Kagami: Plans after?

Aomine: I was thinking about moving back home, but beyond that? I don’t know.

Kagami: We considered that, but it would require too much change and he didn’t want to be split up for half a year if I took on either of my new positions.

They approach the classroom.

Aomine: So…uh, how is he? …Kise, I mean…

Kagami: …He’s good.

Aomine: I-Is he…happy?

Kagami: …He’d be the one to ask about that.

Aomine: Can I?

Kagami gives Aomine a puzzled look.

Aomine: I mean… Are you alright with me talking to him?

Kagami: I don’t really have a say in the matter, but if you’d like, I can let him know that you want to talk.

Aomine considers it for a moment. He’s missed Kise so much over the last few years and he wants nothing more than to see him, but he isn’t so sure that it’s a good idea. Not much time for deliberating, though; with just a glance he can tell that all of their students are present. Aomine declines.

Aomine: Nah, you can just tell him I said “hey” and “happy belated birthday.”

Kagami: Will do.


033

Early July. They’ve both had a long day.

All Kise wants to do is go to sleep, but going to bed at 7pm is out of the question. He checks out a new book from the library on his tablet and settles in for a good read instead.

Kise looks up as Kagami comes into the bedroom and heads straight for the bathroom without a word.

The day is over and what’s done is done, but Kagami wonders if tomorrow will be any better. After his shower, he does a quick wipe down to dry any excess water and then begins drying his hair as he walks back into the bedroom.

Kagami: Hey.

Oddly, it’s the first word Kagami’s spoken to Kise since he got home. Kise looks at the time on his tablet and then at the naked Kagami as he walks towards the bed.

Kise: The game isn’t over, is it?

Kagami: Nah, I just decided to call it a night.

Kagami slips into the closet to put on something to sleep in.

Kise: Oh, alright…

Kagami gestures towards the tablet.

Kagami: What you got there?

Kise: Shibori.

Kagami: What?!

Kise: What?

Kagami: I’m not letting you tie me up. Don’t even ask.

Kise: Wha– Shibori, you idiot! Not shibari!

Kagami: Eh? What’s that?

Kise: It’s a fabric dying and design process, like batiking. You know what that is, right?

Kagami: Yeah.

Kise: Okay, so instead of wax like the Indonesians use, it’s done by manipulating the shape of the fabric. Folding and whatnot. It’s Japanese.

Kagami: Oh. Okay. Well, it’s nice to see you all fired up.

Kise: What’s that supposed to mean?

Kagami: You were really quiet during dinner.

Kise: It’s not like you had much to say, either, but I’m just…tired. Nothing went the way I wanted today and I’m worried about you. You’ve been in an awful mood lately. And since you came home, you just looked pissed off. So scary…

Kagami crawls onto the bed.

Kagami: Sorry about your day. Sorry about my face.

Kise: Oh, be quiet.

He puts his tablet to sleep and offers his cheek for Kagami to kiss. Kagami goes for his neck instead.

Kise: Are you going to tell me what’s up or…?

Kagami stops kissing and nuzzling Kise’s neck when he realizes that Kise’s not going to let it go unaddressed.

Kagami: Nnnn…

He leans up against the headboard and pulls Kise towards him and kisses the crown of his head.

Kagami: So far we’ve had two setbacks with the house and it’s frustrating. I just want it to be over with so we can move. We planned to be in the house before the fall semester, but if we have one more hiccup, we won’t make it.

Kise: Yeah… I stopped by there today and the floors are done–fully cured, too. No more of that weird yellow glow. They’re starting on the walls tomorrow, so once that’s done, we can call in for service on the utility equipment, get the security system installed, and then we can have the house thoroughly cleaned. That puts us at the end of the month, first week of August at the latest.

Kagami: Then we can move in.

Kise: Right. So it’ll be fine. Okay?

Kagami: I hope so.

Kise: So, what else?

Kise taps Kagami’s forehead.

Kise: The house doesn’t really explain these extra worry lines you’ve been wearing all night.

Kagami slides down on the bed, hugs Kise’s waist, and rests his head in his lap.

Kagami: There was an incident at the camp today and it kind of got out of hand.

Kise: …N-Not with Aomine, right?

Kagami: Huh? Oh, no. We were having lunch with some of the students and one started on some ol’ racist bullshit and the other was just being a dick. Like I tell everyone, “just Kagami” no “Mr.”, no nothing. So he’s all, “Kagami-san” and I tell him it’s weird and then other things were said and I called him a racist and…

Kagami tries to burrow into Kise’s lap.

Kagami: Ughh! I don’t think he really meant any harm–which is sometimes worse–but I can’t just let that kind of thing slide, so I called him out on it. But the other one… I was two seconds from breaking his face.

Kise: Oh God, Taiga, what did you do?

Kagami: Nothing. Aomine stopped me. Well, as soon as my hand closed around the kid’s neck I knew I wasn’t going to really do anything, but for a second, I really, really, wanted to.

Kise: What did he say?

Kagami: First it was about me being gay and then he brought you into it asking about you being bi and if we had a threesome.

Kise: God! What is wrong with people?!

He hugs Kagami and he can understand how he feels, but he still isn’t sure why this kind of thing happens.

Kise: Babe, answer me this.

Kagami: Yeah?

Kise: You’ve had many run-ins with people who feel the need to comment on your orientation or your sex life, but you always laugh it off or just ignore it.

Kagami: Yeah?

Kise: So why do you go off when I get mixed up in it?

Kagami: …

Kise: Don’t tell me you’re trying to defend my honor or some nonsense.

Kagami: What? …No!

Kise: Then, what is it?

Kagami: …You and me equals “us.” I won’t stand for anyone making light of our relationship. It’s hard for me to dismiss it when people take it for a joke or as some form of entertainment. It’s not and I won’t let them try and turn it into one.

Kise: I can’t believe I get to say this to you…

Kagami: Huh?

Kise: I get where you’re coming from, but you need to rein it in sometimes. The last two times almost landed you in police custody. I’m not down with conjugal visits.

Kagami: Ha! You wouldn’t visit me?

Kise: Oh, I’ll visit, but you love me too much to make me have sex in jail.

Kagami: I guess I do.

Kise: But seriously, Taiga, be careful. The only people who can say or think anything to change our relationship are you and me, so don’t let anything else get to you. Besides, if you go to jail, I’ll never forgive you for making me sleep alone.

Kagami: Will do.

Kise: Are you–

Kagami: Oh! One other thing.

Kise: What kind of day did you have?

Kagami: Oh, no, it’s not bad, or, well, I don’t know… It’s just something that happened.

Kise: Yeah?

Kagami: Aomine says, “hey” and “happy belated birthday.”

Kise: …

Kagami: I think he wants to talk to you.

Kise: …

Kagami: He asked if you were happy and I told him he should ask you. Then he asked if I was alright with it; I told him it wasn’t my place, but that I’d pass on the message. He changed his mind or something and just offered a greeting, but I think he really wants to talk to you.

Kise: How do you feel about it?

Kagami: You talking to him? I’m fine with it, I guess.

Kise: What could he possibly have to say after all this time?

Kagami: Only one way to find out. Besides, I think you still have things to say.

Kise: …

Kagami: Don’t make that face. I know you love me, but you’ve never really gotten comfortable talking about things that happened back then, regardless of whether they were related to him or not. You might want to get over that… Or not. It hasn’t really interfered with us so far, so I guess I’m cool either way… What’s it gonna be?

Kise: Nnnn…don’t wanna.

Kagami: Alright, no one’s forcing you. Plus, he didn’t actually say it, so I can just tell him you said “thanks.”

Kise: That should be fine, right?

Kagami: Yeah, it’s fine.

He props himself up and leans on Kise’s chest.

Kagami: You know what else is fine?

Kise: What?

Kagami starts to rub Kise’s thigh.

Kagami: You.

Kise slides down on the bed.

Kise: Me?

Kagami: Yes, you.

Kise: Is that so?

Kagami: That is so.

Kise: Well, you’re not too bad yourself.

Kagami: Whoa! That’s high praise coming from you! How can I show my appreciation?

Kise: …A kiss, maybe?

Kagami: I think I can manage that.

Kagami starts with light pecks on Kise’s chest, but soon begins to apply more pressure.

Kise: I said “a kiss”.

Kagami: Oh, but I really, really appreciate it.

Kise: Well, then, that isn’t going to be nearly enough.

Kagami: Will this do?

He moves up to Kise’s lips and nips and sucks them until Kise responds. Kise’s arms wrap around his neck and he lets him take over the kiss. Their legs move about until Kagami is hovering over Kise and Kise’s legs are wrapped around his waist. Kise breaks the kiss to trail kisses down Kagami’s throat. He bites into Kagami’s collarbone just enough for him to feel the impression of each tooth individually.

Kagami: Ahh! It’s going to be one of those nights, huh?

Kise: If you’re up for it…?

Kagami: I’m all yours.


034

Late July. This is a time of beginnings and endings and second chances.
With everything except the essentials packed up, they set their efforts to dismantling what they can of the weight room in preparation for the equipment’s donation to a community center. With their move date and Kagami’s birthday less than a week away, Kise wants to talk plans.

Kagami: We can’t go anywhere because of all the stuff that’s going on, so anything else is fine, I guess.

Kise: Taiga, you should really take your birthday more seriously.

Kagami: That’s your job, I’m just along for the ride.

Kise: Huh? It’s your birthday.

Kagami: Right, but every year you start by telling me how happy you are that I was born…

Kise: Of course.

Kagami: You call my parents to thank them for having me…

Kise: Well, you didn’t get here by yourself.

Kagami: And then you orchestrate some crazy affair and I’m just in the middle of it. So…do your thing this year, too.

Kise: …

Kagami: I’m not complaining. I like it.

Kise feels like he lost an argument even though they weren’t arguing and he was actually getting praised. With no comeback, he moves on to a different subject.

Kise: …Taiga…

Kagami: Hm?

Kise: Taiga…

Kagami: Hmmm?

Kise puts down the power driver and crawls towards Kagami.

Kise: Taiiigaaaa…

Kagami: …

Like a cat, Kise rubs up against Kagami’s side and then slips under his arms as they work to loosen a bolt and then he climbs into his lap.

Kise: Hello~

Kagami: You know I was in the middle of something, right?

Kise: Now, so am I~!

Kagami: You know I have the event tomorrow, right? Are you going to finish this room by yourself?

Kise wraps his arms around Kagami’s neck and continues his feline impersonation by rubbing his face against Kagami’s.

Kise: Am I invited?

Kagami: To what?

Kise: The Friends & Family event.

Kagami: Of course.

Kise nuzzles into Kagami’s neck.

Kise: What time?

Kagami: That depends. Um… Stop, that tickles. I think I’m going to be serving as coordinator during the first half, so I won’t be able to walk around with you until the afternoon. But, if you just want to wander, any time’s good.

Kise: I wanna hang with you…

Kagami: Alright…then I’ll call you when I’m free.

Kise:  So, what’s it all about?

Kagami: Some of the counselors and students will be doing presentations. There’ll be some gyms, community centers, and universities who’ve been invited to set up booths… Stuff like that. It’s the first year, so they’re trying to make sure the sports community remains invested in the idea.

Kise: What about kids?

Kagami: What about them?

The corners of Kise’s mouth turn down.

Kise: The sticky kind.

Kagami: Ha! I know the minimum age for the program is 16, but I can’t say much for the friends and family that are going to be there. Sorry.

Kise: It’s fine, I just won’t wear white.

Kagami: …Shame.

Kise: Eh?

Kagami: You look so good from the back in white.

Kise: …Only in white?

Kagami: Well, in the shower…

He hooks one arm around Kise’s waist.

Kagami: …in the bed…

He dips Kise to the side and rolls him until he’s on his hands and knees.

Kise: Whoa! Hehe!

Kagami hugs Kise from behind..

Kagami: …in my arms…

When Kise feels Kagami press against him, he raises his guard.

Kise: Hey! You’re not thinking of doing it in here?!

Kagami kisses the back of his neck.

Kise: But you never wanted to do it in here!

Kagami: Just think of it as one for the road…

The next day.

With their pinkies linked, they walk the grounds of the Friends & Family event, visiting booths and talking to vendors. Kagami isn’t going out of his way, but as they come across who he considers to be people of interest, he introduces Kise to them. It’s all a change of pace for Kise; the last few years have been super busy and he can’t remember the last time he had time to socialize without networking. He fiddles with the handles of the bags of swag and purchases in his hand and just tries to relish the normalcy of it all. Kagami is on the lookout for a food vendor because he can’t believe Kise has still not experienced funnel cake.

Kise: Aww, I feel so bad for that kid; he was so tongue-tied.

Kagami: But he recovered at the end. He’ll be fine.

Kise: Oh! Speaking of… you should point out those kids you had issues with at the beginning.

Kagami: For what?

Kise: Oh… No reason… I just wanna, you know, give’m whatfor!

Kagami: Ryouta, chill.

Kise: Why? You didn’t think I was gonna let them upset my Taiga and get away with it?

Kagami: Ryou, they’re kids. Leave it alone.

Kise narrows his eyes, bites his bottom lip, and waves his fist.

Kise: The sooner they learn, the better!

Kagami: Oh, you can defend my honor, but I can’t defend yours?

Kise: I’m not defending your honor, you can do that on your own. But that night, you looked so scary! I want to get them back for making your face look like that! My Taiga is a handsome man; there’s no way I should have seen such a sight when I looked at him.

Kagami can’t help but laugh at Kise’s nonsense.

Kagami: Heh. Alright, alright, but put your dukes away; save’m for some other injustice.

Kise: Maaan… Well, I feel sorry for the next guy, cause he’s gonna get double!

Kagami: Heh… Yeah, I’ll be sure to tell’em that if they make me angry, my big bad boyfriend is gonna come and beat them up.

Kise: You’re laughing now, but don’t be surprised when I show up for real.

Kagami: Ha! I’ll be laughing then, too.

Kagami finally spots a vendor serving funnel cake. He treats Kise to his first one. After the first bite Kise promptly gobbles up the rest and starts to reach over into Kagami’s plate.

Kagami: Hey! Get your own!

Kise: But I ate it already…

Kagami: Nobody told you to scarf it down like that.

Kise: But it was so goooood…

Kagami: Then go back and get another.

Kise: Eww, no, there are kids standing there now.

Kagami takes another bite as Kise looks at him with hungry eyes.

Kagami: Seems like you’re in a bit of a bind.

Kagami takes his second to last bite.

Kise: Taiiiigaaaaa~

Kagami: Don’t even…

Kise pulls a sad face.

Kagami: God! You’re such a baby! Didn’t you just turn 35?

Kise brightens up a bit because he thinks he’s won the last bite. Kagami picks up the piece and starts to move it towards Kise’s mouth. Kise’s a little giddy because he’s being fed food…in public.

Kise: Heheheheh!

Kagami: I can’t believe you would take my last piece.

Kise: I can’t believe you wouldn’t offer it to me.

Kagami: …

Kagami was going to trick Kise anyway, but now he won’t feel the slightest bit bad about it. He pulls the funnel cake back and shoves it in his mouth and walks away leaving Kise standing there with his mouth open. Kise opens his eyes to see what’s taking so long just in time to see Kagami sucking the confectioner’s sugar off his fingers and turning away.

Kise: Huuuh!

He crouches to the ground.

Kise: Oh my goodness, Taiga, how could you do that to me! I thought you loved me!

Kagami would usually chastise Kise for making such a scene, but his over-the-top dramatic tone is making it too comical for him to do anything but laugh.

Kagami: HAHAHAHA! Idiot…hahahahaaa… Would you get–hahahahaha…

Kagami walks back over to Kise and extends his hand.

Kagami: Come on, you big baby, get up.

Kise looks up and notices a bit of sugar on Kagami’s face. It bothers him that Kagami doesn’t know it’s there.

Kise: Not until you apologize.

Kagami: Oh, well, you can stay down there, then.

As Kagami walks away, Kise jumps up to chase after him and nearly trips over the bags in his hand. He ignores the stares.

Kise: Wait!

Kagami turns back and catches sight of Kise regaining his balance as he approaches.

Kagami: See that’s what you get for playing a–

Kise, looking slightly harried, licks his thumb and wipes sugar from the corner of Kagami’s mouth. Kagami looks from side to side to see more people staring.

Kagami: Did you just…?

Kise: I can’t have you walking around with food on your face.

Kagami tries to find the words to articulate his awe over how quickly Kise’s priorities shift. He knows he shouldn’t be surprised at Kise being Kise and just be glad he didn’t lick it off.

Kagami: Hey.

Kise: …Yeah?

Kagami: I love you.

He sees the beginning of a smile, but it never comes. Kagami notices that Kise is no longer looking at him, but past him. When he turns and sees Aomine, he steps back to open up the space as a gesture of invitation, but when he steps too far away for Kise’s comfort, he feels something catch his pinkie. He looks down out of the corner of his eye, then up at Kise’s face. He closes his pinkie around Kise’s and then turns his attention to Aomine.

Kagami: Hey.

Aomine: Hey.

Kise: …

Kagami soothingly rubs Kise’s pinkie with his thumb.

Kise: Hey.

Kagami: Well, no point in wasting time. I think you guys should talk, so I’m gonna leave you to it.

He quickly looks at Kise to check for any objections. None detected.

Kagami: Right, then. I’ll be…

He raises his hand and twirls his index finger about.

Kagami: …around.

Kagami walks off.

Kise: Oh, Taiga, wait. Can you take these to the car?

Kagami takes the bags being handed to him.

Kagami: Sure.

He turns and walks about four feet before he remembers that Kise drove his own car there. He turns back.

Kagami: Ryouta, wait a sec… Gimme your keys.

Aomine looks on.

Kise: Oh, here.

Kagami feels Kise’s hand tremble a bit. He whispers.

Kagami: You’ll be fine. I love you.

Kise whispers in return.

Kise: …Thank you. I love you, too.

Kise  turns back to and Aomine and now they look to be at a showdown. Aomine speaks first.

Aomine: Um… Wanna walk?

Kise: Okay…I can do that.

Aomine steers them to the steps of the main building. They can still see the festivities, but they’re at enough of a distance that they can go on undisturbed. Aomine exhales.

Aomine: So… How’s life?

Kise: …I guess I can’t complain too much. Some new things on the horizon, so that could change. You?

Aomine: Life is… life is good…I guess…

His volume drops.

Aomine: “Ryouta…”

Kise looks at Aomine like he just scalded him.

Aomine: …that’s what he calls you…

Kise: Well…yeah…

Aomine: And you call him “Taiga…”

Kise: Yeah…and?

Aomine: Oh, nothing…it’s just…nice…

They sit in silence for what seems like hours, but it’s hardly been two minutes. Kagami was right. Kise does have things to say, but the words themselves are painful and he’s afraid that even after he’s said them, nothing will have changed. Aomine’s response will mean nothing and he’ll have opened up the wound for nothing. He can’t gauge if it’s worth the risk. Meanwhile, although he’s matured, Aomine was never really one for subtlety, so Kise isn’t too surprised when he crashes through the silence with the question that he’s been dreading.

Aomine: Are you happy?

Kise: …You know, when Taiga passed on your birthday wishes and such he said that he thought that you wanted to talk to me and I didn’t know how to respond. Then he told me that you asked if I was happy and I was even more at a loss and even less inclined to talk to you.

Aomine: I guess that’s understandable.

Kise: Is it?

Aomine: Huh?

Kise: Is it? I can’t imagine that you really understand why I don’t know how to deal with you or why I would be so bothered by that question.

Aomine: We haven’t been in contact for a few years and then, out of the blue, I’m wishing you a happy birthday like nothing ever happened.

Kise: Well, I guess that’s part of it, but the biggest thing for me is why do you want to know? What difference does it make to you if I’m happy or not? What if I said I wasn’t?

Aomine: If you said you weren’t, then I would ask you to give me another chance.

Kise is startled back. He whips his head around to see if Kagami is within earshot and then turns back to Aomine, furious.

Kise: What?! Are you serious?!

Aomine: I still love you.

Kise: Forget that!

Kise leans in; his jaw is clenched and his voice is low and strained.

Kise: I cannot believe that you asked my man if I was happy with that kind of intention! That’s just low, even for you!

Aomine leans forward and Kise leans back.

Aomine: I didn’t! I didn’t. …I mean, that wasn’t my intention, not initially. Honestly, I haven’t allowed myself to even think of it until now. I really wish I could ask for another chance because I do still love you, but I know that it’s not just a matter of whether you’re happy or not, it’s about whether or not you want to be with me and…I know that you don’t.

Kise covers his face. He is still at a loss. His arms fold across his chest as he takes a deep breath. He counts down from 10 before he exhales and wonders if starting at 20 would have been better. Aomine tries to recover or rather, he really wants Kise to understand that he didn’t mean it that way.

Aomine: Towards the end, you kept saying that we were never together. I still don’t understand why. I mean, what were we doing all that time?

Kise: …

Aomine feels like he’s floundering.

Aomine: The last time we met, you said you wanted to be happy, but that you couldn’t be happy with me, so when I asked, it was because I just wanted to know if you got what you wanted…and if he was what you wanted.

Kise relaxes his arms and stretches them over his head before letting them fall to his sides. He’s still hesitant, but he’s already here, so he just goes with it.

Kise: … … I made myself say that we were never together because…if I admitted we were, then I’d have to hold you responsible for all the shit you did to me and I knew you’d never own up to it. I’d have to admit to myself that I was in a shitty relationship and I was partially at fault because I let it continue. I’d have to admit to myself that I was never going to be good enough for you. If we were just fuckin’ around, I could write it all off as something to pass the time and I wouldn’t have to answer my heart when it asked why was I hurting so much. If I ever admitted that we were together, I knew there’d be no way I could stay with you.

Aomine: …

Kise: …Taiga once told me that happiness is fleeting and that it should never be the goal and that the question “are you happy” is really shorthand. No one wants to know if you’re happy. What they’re really asking is, with all the good and the bad and the in-between, is your life what you want it to be?” I don’t get that question too often, but I think it’s funny that you’re the one to prove his point. What I wanted was the kind of thing that’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it…but it’s more than him. I don’t wake up feeling like shit everyday. I don’t wonder anymore how my feelings are going to get hurt on any given day. I like myself a hell of a lot more than I did before; everything I do starts with me. As for him, he sees me. He’s not afraid of me or my feelings for him. I feel safe with him and I know that he feels safe with me. He’s not afraid to hurt my feelings, but he never tries to. His love is never hesitant and never forceful. I don’t have to beg for it or compete for it. It is mine alone. And I never have to wonder, because he makes me feel it everyday, in everyway. So, to answer your question: yes, I got what I wanted and he’s a big part of it.

Aomine looks at Kise whose eyes are bright and clear, something he hasn’t seen since Teikou. And he wonders when exactly did he start hurting him. Was it when he kissed him back in their dorm room knowing he was already in love with someone else; or was it when he found out about Kise’s feelings before they even left Teikou and just let him go on pining after him; or was it when he realized that his love for Kise had already overshadowed his first love, but he was just too scared to admit it?

He eyes the grey headband holding Kise’s hair back from his face–his hair is longer than he’s ever seen it–and he remembers when he told Kise, that his face looked strange with his hair like that, knowing that it would make him self-conscious. He hadn’t meant it, of course, it’s just that Kise looked really good like that and he didn’t want anyone else to see it.

Aomine looks at Kise’s hands as they lay comfortably in his lap with their fingers laced together and he recalls the first time those hands touched him in that way and the last time they touched him at all, and the extreme difference in temperature between the two. He looks at his own hands as they sit idle at his side and he knows that Kise will think the apology he has to offer is more for him than anything else and will tell him he doesn’t want to hear it, but it’s not. It really isn’t and because it isn’t, he really hopes he gets to express it anyway.

Aomine: …I’m…really glad to hear that. I am genuinely happy that you’re happy and I’m sorry that I made you feel like you could never be like that with me.

Kise: I don’t want an apology.

Aomine: I know, but can you please just listen to me for a minute. Please?

Kise: …

Aomine: Thank you. I know you think I’m doing this to make myself feel better, but I’m not. I’m doing this because, at the very least, you deserve the truth. So, I’m sorry that I lied to you. I’m sorry that I acted like I didn’t take you or us seriously. I’m sorry that I cheated on you and acted like that was just the kind of relationship we had. I’m sorry I never expressed how much I really loved you. I’m sorry I never told you when I realized that I loved you more than anyone else.

Kise wasn’t exactly looking down, but his head snaps up at Aomine’s last line.

Aomine: I’m sorry I used your love for me against you. I’m sorry I went out of my way to say and do things I knew would hurt you. I’m sorry I wasn’t brave enough or mature enough to be worthy of you. And I’m sorry I wasted so many years of your life trying to keep you tied to me while I was constantly running away. I know this changes nothing. I know these words can’t undo anything, but I want you to know the truth and I want you to know that I love you.

It does change some things, but Kise feels no need to share that with Aomine. He’s not in the mood to let too much of what was said sink in.

Kise: Well, I still don’t want an apology. However, what I do want is to know why.

Aomine: “Why”?

Kise: Before any of this started, I could have sworn we were friends, but I would never treat a friend the way you treated me. So, I want to know why. What did I do to you that made it okay for you to treat me the way you did? You were not exactly the nicest person when we were younger, but you were never maliciously cruel, so what was it? Or was I wrong about us being friends?

Aomine came with the intention to be honest, but he was hoping that they didn’t need to go where the conversation was about to head, because he still hasn’t quite sorted it all out for himself.

Aomine: Heh… You probably won’t believe me, but I never had to say this before: it’s not you, it’s me.

Kise snickers despite his feelings.

Aomine: But it’s true. I was scared of what loving you meant.

Kise: What does that mean?

Aomine: I thought falling in love with Tetsu was a fluke. And if that was the case, it was just a quirk I had to accept, but when I realized that I was falling in love with you, I didn’t even want to think about it. Falling in love with you meant that falling in love with Tetsu wasn’t a quirk and that I was actually attracted to guys. I didn’t want to be gay. But I was selfish and I didn’t want to let you go and I took it out on you.

Kise: Bi?

Aomine: Back then it was just semantics. I didn’t want to not be normal…not in that way.

Kise: Are you saying I’m not normal?

Aomine: You are you and you’ve always been this like, exceptional force and there’s no way I could compare myself to you. The rules for regular people never applied to you…

Kise: Eh?

Aomine: I don’t know how to explain it. But, for me, I didn’t want to deal with what being gay meant; I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to take responsibility for how it defined or changed my relationships.

Kise: I’m sorry to go back to this, but…you know there’s nothing wrong with being gay, or bi, or whatever alignment you happen to claim, right? It’s normal; love and attraction are normal for most people. I’m normal, Taiga’s normal, Kuroko is, well Kuroko is Kuroko, but Kasamatsu-senpai is normal, Murasakibara is normal. We wake up every morning, we brush our teeth we go to work or do something productive, we pay taxes, we bleed, we cry, we have hopes and fears, and we kiss our loved ones goodnight. That’s normal, right?

Aomine: It took a long time for me to understand that, but…

Kise sighs as he begins to understands.

Kise: But you’re still not there?

Aomine: …

Kise: …Then, I think I owe you an apology as well.

Aomine: Huh?!

Kise: I’m sorry I put my romantic feelings ahead of our friendship and took it for granted. I just assumed your avoidance of the topic was just your usual arrogance. I’m sorry I didn’t pay close enough attention to see that you were really struggling with it.

Aomine: Kise, it wasn’t your fault…

Kise reaches out and puts his hand on Aomine’s shoulder.

Kise: And I’m sorry I didn’t express what I felt for you enough so that you understood that I would be there for you, no matter what. If you wanted to talk, vent, yell, cry, scream–I should have made it clear that I would be there for all of that. Aomine, I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with this by yourself all this time.

Aomine bows his head into his hands and, though it’s slight, Kise feels him shudder just before he exhales.

Kise: Look, we can’t go back to anything that we had before, too much has happened, but…if you need someone to talk to, I’ll listen. Actually, we’ll listen; I can’t be alone with you too much, so if you want to talk about these things with me, you’ll have to talk with Taiga, too. He’s dealt with a lot of this and he’s helped a few other people, too, so he’s a really good person to talk to.

Aomine: …

Kise: It will probably be awkward at first and Taiga’s probably gonna kill me for suggesting it, but he can’t turn away from people in need. And if it’s not us, then you have to find someone, because you are…in need, that is.


035

Late July. The road to ever after is not without its speed-bumps.

Kagami takes off on his early morning run, but he doesn’t even make it a mile before he has to stop to catch his breath. Usually seven or eight miles and a cold shower would get him to relax when he’s stressed, but there’s no chance if he’s bailing so early in his course. He sits on the front steps of a closed office and just lets himself breathe as he mulls things over.

They’re moving in two days and Kise hasn’t gotten out of bed and has barely uttered a word since the Friends & Family event. If he doesn’t get up today, it’ll be three days he’s been like that. It’s not like Kagami didn’t expect some kind of fallout from their meeting, but he wasn’t expecting this. Although he said he was okay with it, he now realizes how much it pisses him off that Kise is still affected by Aomine. He knows he shouldn’t be worried about their relationship, but Kise rejecting his embrace at night when they usually sleep wrapped up in each other isn’t helping matters.

There’s no point in being out in such disgusting heat if he’s not going to run, so he goes back home. He heads straight for the bedroom and sees that Kise hasn’t moved an inch; but he can tell he’s awake by his breathing. Kagami sits on the floor and leans his back against Kise’s side of the bed. He suddenly feels like he wants to cry.

Kagami: Hey. I don’t think I ever told you, but I was in the stands for that game that you scored 67 points against Penn. This was a couple weeks after my second surgery and I had to come all the way over to the east coast to see an ortho at Penn for an evaluation. I ran into Penn’s team doc who I knew when he was Arizona’s team doc and he invited me to the game. The ‘Cats played some good games against you guys when we were in uni, but I rarely ever got to just watch you play until that game…not live anyway. You were beautiful on the court. To this day, I still haven’t seen a sight like that. I think about that a lot when you feel distant to me. I think about how if what went wrong between you and Aomine didn’t, you’d have definitely gone to the NBA and would probably still be there and while we would have crossed paths, we wouldn’t be what we are. I know it’s selfish of me, but I’m glad it didn’t work out for you two. I’m glad I’m the one that gets to be with you and that I’m the one that gets to be loved by you.

He slouches down and sighs.

Kagami: …I’m sorry if I pushed you into talking to him when you weren’t ready. I don’t know if I can do anything for what you’re going through right now, but I’m here. Even…even if you want to talk about…him…I’ll listen.

He feels like he can’t hold himself up anymore, so he lies down on his side. He isn’t thinking about anything in particular and before he knows it, he’s drifting off to sleep. When his eyes open, he figures he’s been out for about 15 minutes or so. Before they even focus, he realizes that there’s something heavy on him.

Kagami: Hmmmn…?

He cranes his neck to see a 185 lb burrito sitting on his hip.

Kagami: R-Ryouta?

Kise: I don’t think anything would have prepared me for that conversation, so don’t blame yourself for that.

Kagami: …

Kise: Taiga…

Kagami: …

Kise: I’m sorry.

Kagami: …For?

Kise: I’m sorry for shutting you out. I was overwhelmed with everything and there were– are a lot of things from the past that I’m having trouble reconciling, but I should have talked to you about it. I’m sorry, will you forgive me?

Kagami: …That depends.

Kise: On?

Kagami: Are you done? Are we going to talk? And…is that talk going to end us?

Kise: NO!

Still swaddled, Kise jumps up and hops around until he’s facing Kagami who is still lying on his side.

Kise: Taiga, no! Not ever!

He tries to kneel but just falls to his knees.

Kise: Oh God, Taiga! Have you been thinking about this the whole time?! No. We are it. I’m sorry! I’m so sorry.

He wants to get lower, to get face to face with Kagami, but he can’t seem to work it out because his movements are restricted by the sheet he’s wrapped in, so he just lets himself fall over onto his side which lands him pretty much where he wants to be, just sideways.

Kise: Taiga…

He inches closer.

Kise: Look at me, please. I’m done. Let’s talk. Let’s talk about everything. Are you listening? There is no end to us. Taiga…

Kagami rolls onto his back and sighs in relief. Kise sees a tear fall out the corner of his eye.

Kise: Nonononononononono!

He thrashes about.

Kise: Fuck! I can’t touch you, I can’t hug you like this. Get me out of this fucking thing!

Kagami grapples the agitated Kise and presses his face into Kise’s chest. Kagami’s at a loss. He doesn’t want to think about the possibility of Kise leaving him, but he can’t help it. He has yet to find the words to express his fear. And even though Kise has exclaimed to the contrary, he still finds it hard to feel completely relieved. So at this moment, all can do is hold on. As Kagami’s embrace grows tighter, Kise takes a deep breath and screams it out until it breaks down into whimpers.

Kise: TAIIIIGAAAAAuh-uh-uh-uh…

Kagami wishes he could do the same, but the ability to do anymore than he’s doing now has temporarily taken leave. Kise is in agony and he’s out of breath; the pain of knowing he worried and hurt Kagami is compounded by the pain of not being able to hug Kagami back. 

Kise: I love you… I love you… Only you…Taiga…

Did they lie there in silence for two minutes or two hours?

Kagami’s head is addled and his arms hurt. He relaxes and lets go of Kise. Kise opens his eyes, tears still threatening to fall.

Kise: Taiga?

Kagami: …Hm?

Kise: I’m sorry.

For Kagami, the words have still yet to come.

Kagami: …

Kagami sits up, reaches over, and begins to unravel Kise. Once his arms are free, he hugs Kagami. He keeps squeezing tighter until Kagami hugs him back. Kagami tries to stand up, but Kise is still clinging to him, so he pulls him up too. With his legs now free, Kise wants to jump around to shake it off, but his body is stiff; he can’t move like he wants, so he just stands there and rocks from side to side. Kagami sits in the chair by the window, the fog in his brain is starting to lift.

Kise: Hey.

Kagami: …Hm?

Kise: Ready to talk?

Kagami: …Sure.

Kise: Under water?

Kagami: Huh?

Kise: I need a shower and I don’t want to let you out of my sight.

Kagami: …I’m not going anywhere.

Kise: Still…

Kagami: …Sure.

After the shower.

Kise: Are you mad?

Kagami: At what?! That he said he wanted to take you away from me or that you volunteered me to counsel the guy who said he wanted to take you away from me?

Kise: For the record, he didn’t say that…not exactly.

Kagami: “Not exactly”?! Are you kidding me?!

Kise: Taiga, I understand why you’re upset, but he was just answering honestly.

Kagami: Are you defending him?! Him?!

Kise: …

Kagami: You are?! What the fuck?!

Kise: I’m not saying that I’m okay with it and none of this excuses all the stuff he did, but it’s not like he was actually trying to get me back. I told you that he knows it’s not possible. And I’m not that easily swayed.

Kise knows what he’s about to say will probably make things worse, but he hopes it’s only temporary.

Kise: I know him and he’s not that kind of person.

Kagami: Would someone who’s “not that kind of person” hurt you the way he did?

Kise: I didn’t say he was perfect, but he does have his limits and trying to break up relationships is beyond them. Also, he gets that you trusted him enough to even pass on his message, so I don’t think he’d try to stab you in the back like that. Especially not the way he is now.

Kagami: And if I say “no”?

Kise: Then, that’s that. Like I said, I told him that if he wants to talk to me about it, then he has to talk to you too. And if I think about it, he’d be better off just talking to you and leaving me out of it completely.

Kagami: Fuck!

He turns away.

Kagami: Why?! Why did you put me in this position?!

Kise: Because he’s hurting and he’s been hurting for a long time.

Kagami snaps back around.

Kagami: So?! Let him go to a psychiatrist! Why does it have to be you?! …Us…?

Kise: You remember back when Himuro-san showed up here and you let him in because he was wet? Even though I was pissed and wished you hadn’t, I did understand why you did it. That’s the kind of person you are. Aomine’s situation is so much more dire than some guy catching a cold. And I regret that I never noticed. I never struggled with it, but you have, so you know what it’s like and he’s the same age as us. Imagine what your life would be like if even now you still hadn’t come to terms with it. Taiga, please…

Kagami: Shit! …Just…just let me think about it.

It’s not all bad.

Kise: HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Kagami: That guy?

Kise: I kid you not, he was white as a sheet! And he just kept begging for me not to tell you that part. I told him there’s no way I can keep it from you. So, the next time you see him, he’s probably going to be a little jumpy.

Kagami: It’s not like I’m going to hit him.

Kise: Taiga, you’re scary when you get really angry–and he saw you grip up that kid, so I’d be at least a little worried if I was him.

Some time apart. Some time to breathe.

Kise: Taiga, have you thought about it?

Kagami gives Kise a look that says, “don’t push me.”

Kagami: …

 Weathering adversity takes practice.

Kise: That’s not true!

Kagami: Hahahaha! That’s what you think! I know that you hum the Kappa Mikey song when you think no one’s listening.

Kise bows his head onto the table and covers it with his arms.

Kise: Nooo… Why do you know that?! And how long have you known?!

Kagami: The first time I heard you, you were still living in Rittenhouse.

Kise: Oh, God!

He lifts his head up.

Kise: Were we together yet?

Kagami: Nope.

Kise: Oh, God… that long?  Well–well, you do weird stuff too when you think no ones looking.

Kagami: Like?

Kise: …Oh! I remember one time I came home, it was the day after we went to the flea market and you bought all those cassettes, and I saw you–we still had the glass pane in the side door–I saw you moonwalk from the living room into the kitchen. And then when I opened the door Michael Jackson was blasting on that dinky little tape deck you bought because we had nothing to play the cassettes with.

Kagami is speechless and an interesting shade of crimson.

Kise: I saw it all!

And perseverance.

Kagami: Fine. But I’m setting some ground rules. I feel like I should be allowed to punch him…just once.

Kise just accepts the answer and smiles, not wanting to chance anything.

On the eve of Moving Day.

Kise tosses his shirt aside and then starts taking off Kagami’s who’s too busy sucking on his nipple to do it himself.

Kise: Come on, arms up, you can get back to that in a second.

Kagami raises his arms and Kise removes his shirt, but rather than go back to what he was doing he drops to his knees, taking Kise’s boxer-briefs down with him. He runs his tongue up the underside of Kise’s cock, sucking in the head when he reaches it. After a few more rounds, he abandons the erection for something a bit more malleable, a little further down. Kise closes his eyes and braces himself on Kagami’s shoulders as his balls bathe in the temperate confines of Kagami’s mouth. Kise’s leg slips out of his underwear that are pooled at his feet as Kagami lifts the leg  and positions it atop his shoulder, thereby spreading Kise so that he can get in between. Kise shivers as the cool air of their room comes in contact with his wet skin once Kagami moves on to the skin that’s now exposed.

Kagami takes pleasure in the sound of Kise drawing air through his teeth as his own sink into the smooth skin and taut muscle of Kise’s inner thigh. He licks and sucks at the redness radiating from the bite. When Kise sways and Kagami looks up; Kise has that half sleepy, half hungry look he gets when he’s halfway there–he won’t last long upright.

Kagami: Hey…

Kagami stands up.

Kise: Hmm?

Kagami picks Kise up in a fireman’s carry and then drops him on the bed. He settles in the middle, spread eagle. Kagami admires the view.

Kagami: Aww man, you gone get it tonight…heh.

Kise quickly hugs his knees to his chest.

Kise: NO! I refuse to have make-up sex with Kaga-ji!

Kagami tries to part Kise’s legs.

Kagami: Heh, heh, heh…

Kise: So gross! Don’t touch me!

Kagami: HAHAHAHAHAHA! Haaaaa… What are you going to when we are old men?

Kise: If you can still get it up, you’ll have earned it, but until then, I don’t wanna see Kaga-ji.

Kagami: So, should I be preparing to be left for a younger man?

Kise: You are a younger man.

Kagami: You–

He stops himself because he’s actually uncomfortable with this whole line of thought.

Kagami: Hand me the gel.

Kise notices the slight change, but lets it go.

Kise: Here.

Kagami: Is it still considered “make-up sex” when it’s a whole day after the argument?

Kise: It’s been two years, you know?

Kagami: Two years for what?

Kise: It’s been two years since we had make-up sex AND this the third time we’ve had it.

Kagami: Why are you even keeping track of something like that?

Kise: It’s a good way to tell how good we’re going.

Kagami thinks about it: three times in nearly five and a half years…

Kagami: …I guess.

Moving Day.

Kise yells from the bottom of the stairs.

Kise: Alright, the last box is on the truck!

Kagami reaches the top of the stairs as he turns off the hallway light.

Kise: The movers said they’ll be pulling off in about 15 minutes.

Kagami: I guess this is it.

Kagami walks down the stairs.

Kise: And tomorrow you’re gonna wake up and be 35 in our new home!

Kagami: How ‘bout that…

Kagami turns off the lights and they walk to the side door.

Kise: Taiga, I’m so happy!

Kagami: …Ever since he asked, I’ve been wondering…

Kise: If I’m happy?

Kagami: Yeah…?

Kise: He told me what he really wanted to know is if I got what I wanted and if you were what I wanted.

Kagami: See?

Kise: Yeah, I know. I told him about the shorthand, too.

Kagami: So…?

Kise: I…really like my life. I like who I am, I like where my career is going, and I’ve been in love with the same person for five plus years.

Kagami: …

Kise: I fell out of love with Aomine very early on; if I had to put a number to it, I’d say I was only in love with him for like a fourth of the time I was involved with him and actually, most of that time was before we even started anything. So, that I’m still in love with you is amazing to me. There’s so much I want to share with you and do with you to continue nurturing our relationship, but to be honest, I’m so certain about you and our future together, that I actually feel like it’s one less thing to worry about. So, in a nutshell, I am. …What about you?

Kagami: Very. There’s a lot going on and some of it is frustrating, but all of that stuff’s temporary. I’ll be 35 and I’m moving into my fourth profession. I never saw myself here or anywhere but the court, for that matter, but here I am. Everything could have stopped with my injury and I could have been who knows where by now.

Kise: It’s not like you to give up.

Kagami: I had to remind myself about that a lot. When Coach first suggested opening a restaurant, I thought she was crazy. I was always hosting dinners for my teams and staff, but to do it for strangers never crossed my mind, but once we sat down and talked about it seriously, it seemed like something I could really do. And when I started looking into it, everything clicked, even things that escaped me in my studies started making a lot of sense when I approached them in terms of running a restaurant. But even before that, when I was approached about being a coach, I was like, “me? Really?” But it turned out to be a good fit. Even the show, I’m still surprised that I got to do that–wanted to do that. And all of my experiences have come together to put me where I am now and I couldn’t be more satisfied with how things have turned out.

Kise: You make it sound like someone sprinkled fairy dust on you and voila! your life was good, but, Taiga, you worked for all of it. People may have seen your potential, but you’re the one that made it happen. Don’t cheat yourself out of that.

Kagami moves a little closer and wraps his arms around Kise’s waist and then kisses him on the nose.

Kagami: And, as if I wasn’t fortunate enough. I get to be with you. I get to laugh with you and, not like I want to, but there’s no one else in the world I’d rather cry for or with. Though, I am always worried that I won’t be able to keep up with you. Or maybe you’ll get fed up with me because I’m not as spontaneous or as expressive as you, but then I realize that I’m still with you and that means I still have time to catch up.

Kise: No way. If you were as spontaneous or as expressive as me, we would have long since had a record for public indecency. Your father would never forgive me.

Kagami: Ha! I suppose that’s true. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t have any confidence in us, because I do and I see us years from now, but you get bored with things rather quickly and once you’ve figured them out, you tend to move on. I just don’t want to be one of those things.

Kise cups Kagami’s face in his hands.

Kise: Taiga, you’re not a thing; you’re a person–my favorite, in fact–and people are not so easy to figure out. I told you that there are so many things that I want to do with you and we’ve barely scratched the surface. So unless you stop growing as a person, there’s really no way I’m ever going to truly master you. I’ll be working on my Ph.D. in Kagami Taiga until I’m old and gray.

Kise brings Kagami in for a kiss. Kagami pulls Kise closer while his hands slip under the waistband of Kise’s basketball shorts. Kise throws his arms around Kagami’s neck and they stumble back into the closet door. Their heart rates are up and other things are soon to follow. They’re not ready to come up for air, but when the truck horn beeps, they realize they have to.

Kise: Can’t we just–

Kagami: “Finish this tonight”?

Kise: That’s not what I was going to say.

Kagami: Too bad, we gotta go.

Kise: Not even a little?

Kagami: We can just all night, but right now, we have to beat the trucks there, so get your stuff.

Kise: I’m gonna hold you to that.

Kagami picks up his travel bag and pulls Kise in for one more kiss, a quick one. When they break away, Kise chases it with a peck.

Kise: I love you.

Kagami: I love you, too.

Kagami slaps Kise’s butt.

Kagami: Alright, let’s go.


street-court-01-1680-out-header-02

001 – Vestibule

Kise: Welcome to our home! It’s great, right? It’s a quiet neighborhood and in a good location–that was ultimately why we picked it. The house is situated on a hill in a pseudo-development style area; we have neighbors, but as you can see, they’re not exactly next door. It looks like we’re in the country, but if you drive four, five minutes either way, you’ll see we’re not at all.

Kagami: When we started looking for at houses, Ryouta said that he didn’t like being accosted by everything as soon as he walked in. We toured 11 houses, only two had some form of an entryway to kind of ease you into the living space and this place was not one of them. Originally, the right wall was a wide opening that looked into the living room.

Kise: I had to keep an open mind since we weren’t building from scratch. After envisioning a wall there the second time we viewed the house, I told Taiga that if we could do that, the house would be one of the ones at the top of my list.

Kagami: It was an experience, but I’d had enough of completely gutting out a place with my condo, so I didn’t want to do a whole lot of remodeling. We agreed that if there was more than the new wall, the plan for the office, and the reworking of the master suite that Ryouta suggested when we first visited, we’d have to scratch this house off the list.

Kise: Amazingly, we managed to avoid any other major remodeling.

Kagami: Yeah, it was amazing how many changes I had to talk you out of. But this space was pretty straightforward; with the exception of the map of Los Angeles, which was my choice, all the furnishings were his. Though we had to agree on the wallpaper since it was going to be used in the hall, too.

Kise: Then, because of an incident involving an invasion of our privacy, Taiga insisted that the lights in the genkan– oh, I mean the…um…vestibule…that the lights in here and the hall be equipped with motion sensors. Plus, if they only come on when we are in the space, it will save us a bit on our energy bill.

Kagami: Especially because somebody has a bad habit of leaving lights on when they’re not in use. I had to work with the security company to set up a system where the rest of the house is set to motion detection for some time after the alarm is disarmed for occupation and other situations.

Kise: So once we’re in the house, we can still see if there is movement in rooms we’re not in. Taiga’s so smart!


002 – Hall, Powder Room, and Utility

Kise: At the other end of the hall is the kitchen. On the right are the doors to the living room, the powder room, and the utility area. They were all original to the house…the doors, that is.

Kagami: But we removed the doors from the kitchen entrance and put them on the new entrance to the living room.

Kise: Taiga called the previous owners perverts because all of the doors have clear glass panes…even the bathrooms! That’s why you’ll see curtains behind them. I chose all the artwork down this hall.

Kagami: The powder room, as well as the one his office and the guest bathroom are 100% Ryouta. There wasn’t much to do in the utility area. It’s just laundry and serves as a gangway to the garage and his office. But I chose the paint color.

Kise: I was surprised at his choice, but it’s a really nice color. It reminds me of strawberry sorbet.

Kagami: …It does…doesn’t it?

Kise: …Taiga, you didn’t!

Kagami: And what if I did?

Kise: I can’t believe you chose a color because it reminds you of the first food you ate…off of me… Oh, Taiga, you used to be so innocent! What happened?!

Kagami: Not that I was in anyway innocent, but…you happened.

Kise: Oh, in that case, good job me!

Kagami: Moving on… The hall on the left leads to the master suite, two guest bedrooms and the guest bathroom. He told me to hang stuff down this hall. I didn’t have the slightest idea what I should do with the space. I had basketball stuff on my walls when I was younger, but that was really about it. When I got older, anything beyond picking furniture was more than I cared to do. I mean, there were a handful of images that have really stuck with me over the years, but, looking back, I realize that I was never really settled in my previous homes, so I never got into decorating them to that extent. But this place being ours–mine and his–it didn’t seem so strange. It was hard to track down some of the photos. Eventually, I did find most of them. So my hall is kind of a tribute to jazz and soul and some of my favorite artists.

Kise: This choice also surprised me. I expected basketball everywhere; he had a lot of signed and framed posters and all kinds of stuff in the back of his closet.

Kagami: Well, that stuff was in my office at the studio, but when I decided to end the show, I didn’t have anyplace to put it. And now it’s all in my office at the university.


003 – Living Room

Kagami: If it was just us, we wouldn’t care about doing anything to the living room.

Kise: Yeah, we usually spend most of our time reading, watching TV, and hanging out in the bedroom. But with Taiga’s position at the university and his role in the mentor program, I thought that he would probably be entertaining, for one reason or another, at least once a month, so I figured we shouldn’t skimp on this room. This was all Taiga, though.

Kagami: I tried to combine the looks of both of our living rooms. My monochromatic aesthetic married to Ryouta’s obsession with color. The mural was first seen by Ryouta when he went to Belgium for the first time. An American photographer was exhibiting there. He sent a pic of it to me. Even though I’ve changed phones three times since then, I kept it on the card.

Kise: Even after all these years… He’s so cute!

Kagami: I picked out the maps because he likes maps. I was trying to find one I could live with for the mural before I decided to pursue the use of the photo.

Kise: I was in London when Taiga was looking for pillows. He sent me about 50-60 close-up pictures of them and told me to pick about 10 or so that I liked. I had no clue what I was picking, so when I came back and saw those familiar patterns…

Kagami: He was so happy, I thought he was going to cry.

Kise: He was so cute for doing that! We had a lot of sex that night.

Kagami: Ryou, would you–!


004 – Kitchen and Dining Area

Kise: I do cook, but not often and it’s usually just breakfast. And it’s really not fair when you live with a world-famous chef. This is Taiga’s domain.

Kagami: I’ll occasionally play guest chef at one of my restaurants, but I’ve pretty much hung up my celebrity chef apron. For years now, Kahi has continued to flourish under the management of my senpai, Koganei and Mitobe. It’s basically their place, but every year my share in the profits drops by 2%, so in another five years, the place will really be all theirs. By default, since I’m closer, my restaurant in Philly, Citrine, has been getting most of my attention since I started it three years ago. I’m still in charge of the menu and I make an attempt to run the kitchen two weekends a month.

Kise: He tries, but he’s so busy, but he left it in capable hands. And now, without the constant rush of a public service kitchen, he no longer needs that antiseptic room he called a kitchen to counteract the chaos.

Kagami: Not antiseptic, clean. I still prefer a clean look, but I was willing to branch out a bit for this. It’s my second favorite place in the house.

Kise: He asked my opinion on the chairs and the wallpaper, but he pretty much chose everything himself. The base cabinets were already there, but he switched out the upper cabinets bought new appliances because the previous owners took theirs with them. The bookcase was his choice as well and includes the three full sets of the eight cookbooks from the eight seasons that his show aired–one set in English, one in Japanese, and one in Spanish.

Kagami: There’s also books from fellow chefs, a lot of the books Ryouta collected on his travels, and boxes of polaroids and scribbled recipes of the food I make.

Kise: I think some of the photos from my trips are over there, too.

Kagami: Yeah, I think so. Now that Ryouta works from home full-time, we get to eat dinner together more often. He was used to finishing his food and moving on to the next thing, but I’m a lingerer. I like to hangout afterwards.

Kise: I had to get used to that when we started hanging out. But it was nice. We always had really good conversations. Sometimes it was like time stopped. I think I needed that kind of thing in my life back then. Buuuut, it was during one such dinner way back when that I realized that it was no longer what I considered harmless flirting and that I was really falling for him.

Kagami: Is that so?

Kise: I got scared and when I first realized, I was still kind of attached. I had a lot to figure out. Though, some stuff I didn’t until recently. It didn’t happen right away, but that pretty much sent me off and running to Brussels.

Kagami: Seriously?! That’s why you disappeared?!

Kise: Yeah…sorry. That aside, this space is so pretty; I really want to christen it.

Kagami: No way. Not the kitchen.

Kise: …Not yet.


005 – Home Office/Studio

Kise: I wanted a space that could easily be converted into a gallery. The bulk of my work is still in fashion design focusing on branding, but I’ve spent the last three years finding my way through textile design. I’ve had a few private showings of my and some of my staff’s work.

Kagami: There’s photography, too.

Kise: Yeah, but that’s more of a hobby. Recently I’ve started to develop an interest in photography beyond spur of the moment travel photos…maybe one day far, far into the future I’ll considering holding a private showing or two for some of those efforts. Maybe not. But it’d be a good use of the space. If it wasn’t for stuff like that, I wouldn’t need so much space. It’s just me and my two main assistants; the other three work from home and come here about once a week.

Kagami: Ryouta initially wanted the wallpaper in our bedroom closet, but it was too much for me. Since he wanted to use it in a place he could see it everyday and I didn’t want it in the house at all, I suggested the office.

Kise: But it wasn’t like settling, I really love it here. It’s actually better. This space was completely blank when we bought house, so the choice of the wallpaper so early on pretty much set the mood. Taiga chose the bookcase that’s being used as a sculpture in the waiting area, but other than that, everything else was me. Oh, but I did copy Taiga’s glass wall idea from our bathroom.

Kagami: Since this was really all him, I didn’t get too involved with the planning and I didn’t come here much during the renovations, so when I saw the glass, I was kind of surprised. I don’t come here much now either, so I always have to take it in; it’s such a nice space.

Kise: If it’s so nice, you should visit more.

Kagami: It’s not like I never come in here.

Kise: True… I’m always surprised when he does. It’s really cute, though. Taiga’ll bring his laptop and pull up a chair and work with us all quiet like. Once he even brought goodies!

Kagami: And like he forgot where he was, he started purring and rubbing his head on my shoulder as thanks.

Kise: Yeah, but you pet me in return. And with all his fussing, you’d think he hates PDA.

Kagami: You know I don’t like it.

Kise: Oh, is that right? Then how come me having to stop my PDA was a “con” when we were pro-conning moving back home, hm?

Kagami: …

Kise: Right. Anyway~ my staff thinks we’re an idiotic couple, but I think they all secretly want to be like us. I mean, who wouldn’t?!


006 – Guest Quarters

Kagami: I wasn’t too concerned with what happened with the guest rooms, especially since we wouldn’t be having any overnight guests for a year. That was Ryou’s insistence.

Kise: I don’t know why you think it’s weird.

Kagami: I don’t think it’s weird, it’s just not something I would have considered.  You wanted it to just be ours for the first year, but I didn’t care either way, so I just agreed.

Kise: Since we wouldn’t need them, the guest quarters remained empty for like, the first five months. And when we finally got around to it, he was all “do your thing.” But I insisted that he choose the appointments for at least one of the rooms. I took the first guest room and the bathroom and he took the room across the hall from us.

Kagami: Sometimes I think we are an idiotic couple.

Kise: Maybe. We seem to regard each other in strange and subtle ways and that was something we kind of realized in a very definite way when we were done with our rooms. I took my cue from his old place, his living room and office in particular. I always thought they were too sterile, actually, every place except for the bedroom was kind of stark. So I tried to imagine what they could have been like if they maintained his basic aesthetic, but had a little extra personality injected into them.

Kagami: Mine was a bit different. Back when we first started hanging out, like early, early on, he went to France for a bit and he just loved the look of the gîte he rented. And he basically lost his mind over the bedroom. Before he even unpacked, he sent me a bunch of pictures of it. Like I said, it was early on, so I wasn’t quite used to Ryouta’s habit of inundating me with things he was excited about, and even if I thought I was, I didn’t get the pictures of the gîte. You see him, you’ve seen a lot of his work, right? It’s all color and energy and “you can’t help but notice me.” But the images of the gîte were nothing like that; it seemed too serene. It wasn’t until weeks later that he mentioned how calming the place was for him and if he ever went missing, that was where I could find him. At the time, though, I thought that part was a joke.

Kise: I only started really getting it relatively recently, but Taiga’s really sentimental–he keeps all kinds of stuff and he kept those pictures and used them as reference when he did the room.

Kagami: We agreed on a list of things the rooms should have at minimum, but we didn’t reveal our rooms until we finished, though he did try to peek a few times. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw his room, because I knew exactly what he was going for. But when Ryouta saw mine, he says he wasn’t, but I’m telling you, he was crying.

Kise: I keep telling you, I wasn’t.

Kagami: Well, your eyes were wet and your face was leaking.

Kise: I wasn’t, but I did actually run away, but the gîte was already being rented when I needed it. However, the owner had a similar place in Brussels and that’s how I ended up there.

Kagami: The chests of draws were his and they were just sitting in storage, so it’s not all that strange that we both used them, but the ceiling light is something else altogether.

Kise: I think we both marked that one when we were doing our bedroom, but we decided to go with something else.

Kagami: What was your thing for the bathroom?

Kise: Truthfully, I was running out of steam, but fortunately I didn’t have to do much with it. I chose the armoire, the towel heater, the curtains, and the yellow; everything else was already there.


007 – Master Bedroom

Kise: Taiga sleeps on the side closest to the door and I sleep near the window. Somehow it’s just like that. His clothes are on the right side of the closet and mine are on the left. He keeps his toiletries in the cabinet above the right sink and mine are on the left. I think we both used to sleep in the middle of our beds when we slept alone, but we’ve never really had a discussion about sides; it just turned out this way.

Kagami: Yeah… I never noticed it until now, though.

Kise: He loved his cave-like bedroom at his old place so very much, but I always had to open the curtains; I prefer a lighter atmosphere for where I’m sleeping.

Kagami: I told him that he could choose anything for the wall treatments and accent colors so long as I got to choose the bed–no arguments–and we would have a more subdued bathroom. I still want to do something else with the windows and I’m favor of keeping with the rest of the house, but since he wants to do something else we haven’t been able to agree on anything.

Kise: So we just left the blinds that came with the house.

Kagami: And as I mentioned earlier, I had to say no to the closet wallpaper, so he chose this one instead. I asked him many times if he was sure about the size of the closet because it was relatively small in his plans, but he ended up donating a lot of his clothes before we moved. Though he’s all about seasonal rotation, so he keeps the rest stored safely in the storage room in the garage.

Kise: if I made the closet any bigger, we would have lost room in the bathroom and we needed every inch. Shrinking the bedroom was also out of the question. And don’t act like you don’t a lot of clothes, too.

Kagami: And whose fault is that?

Kise: Certainly not mine.


008 – Master Bath

Kise: This was the first collaboration, I think. My floorplan and color accents. And Taiga picked the main color palette, the hardware and fixtures. And he added the glass partitions. He has a strange fondness for rectangles.

Kagami: It’s not strange. When we were looking at the house, we spent most of our time pacing around the bathroom. None of the houses had exactly what Ryouta wanted, but after the second visit, he said this property had the most potential to become perfect. Initially the closet was an “L” shape and was behind the bathroom, but he reconfigured the layout of the three rooms into what you see now. He basically switched the order of the bathroom and the closet. He can’t draw to save his life–how he graduated with a fashion degree is beyond me–so he used a ruler and drew a bunch of perpendicular lines until it ended up looking like a floor plan. I couldn’t tell what was what until he was finished.

Kise: Look, sometimes simple lines can convey complex ideas and I relied on that to get me through uni and it hasn’t failed me since. And as you can see, the contractor managed to get it because this layout is exactly what I envisioned. The work necessary to remodel this suite of rooms took the longest–even longer than my office.

Kagami: I’m glad that we were able to get the permits for both in time for the work to start around the same time. Otherwise, who knows how long it would have been before we could move in. It was enough that they had to redo the wood floors. And repaper the kitchen. Just remembering it stresses me out.

Kise: Yeah, but at least nothing went wrong with the bathroom. I can’t imagine how much scarier you would have been back then.

Kagami: I already apologized for my face.

Kise: HAHA! That’s right, you did.

Kagami: The original bathroom had the same tile wall and floor as the guest bathroom.

Kise: A lot of it could be salvaged, but Taiga wanted something different. I told him to donate it to the school’s art department, but there are still stretches of tiled wall in the garage.

Kagami: Soon, soon.

Kise: After we moved in, the bathroom was the first place we christened.

Kagami: He looked at me and said, “let’s do the whole place.” And when he said it, I knew he meant that night.

Kise: This old man wasn’t having it.

Kagami: You’re older than me. Anyway, I was tired and I felt that, if anything else was going on that night, it would be in a bed.

Kise: Yeah, the only thing that happened that night was deep sleep.

Kagami: You were tired, too. And you know, since then–and he thinks I don’t know–Ryouta has kept track of where we’ve done it in the house so far.

Kise: Why do you know something like that?! …Oh, hey! Is that why you never stay too long in the guest rooms with me?

Kagami: I have to draw the line somewhere.


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