If Found, Volume One

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This has been reformatted from the previous version which was done as a prose-script hybrid. The process required some editing, so please do read it again.

Where to Begin?

The Letter, Part One

[Battery: 67% | Time: 7:38 PM]

From: Kise Ryota
To: Kagami Taiga
Subject: I hope this finds you well

Hey!

I know this is long overdue, but better late than never, right? You’re probably really mad at me and I’m sure you have a lot of questions. I don’t know how many answers I have for you, though. Sorry for not responding to those emails you sent. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t. I think this is going to be long and I’ve never written anything like this before, so bear with me; you used to be a pro at that…

I left without a plan. That was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. I’m sure you can probably think of plenty that might beat that, but for me, that was it. When I first left, I didn’t even go that far, just to the end of a train line. I figured, once I got there, I could chart the rest of my course. When I got there, I holed up in this place that was straight out of a 70s film, but everything was brand new. But not? I guess it was the lighting, because even I looked old under it. 0/10, would not recommend. It only took a day and a half for me to realize that I wasn’t far away enough. It was so easy to go back and I just couldn’t risk that, so I hopped a plane and 12 hours later I landed, then I hopped another one and I’ve been here ever since. Don’t mind about where here is.

After, Part One

A day like any other. Aomine and Kuroko stopped by Kagami’s place for a late lunch. With their appetites sated, Aomine and Kagami savored their satisfaction as they teetered between full belly stupor and food coma. Kuroko watched over them in between scenes of that day’s reading choice.

“Kagami-kun, wake up. You’re phone is ringing.” Kuroko tapped purposefully on Kagami’s knee with his foot.

Kagami wasn’t actually sleep, but he felt like it. He opened and closed his eyes a few times attempting to focus, but not quite managing to. He leaned over toward the left arm of the sofa and slipped his hand in his back pocket to retrieve his phone. He looked at the quiet slate and then at Kuroko.

“No, your other phone,” Kuroko said as he nodded in the direction of the hall.

It only took a second for Kagami to realize before he leapt off the sofa and onto the coffee table, using it as a launchpad to bound down the hall. Although shocked to alertness, his body and mind had not had a chance to sync themselves, so he could not measure his stride and ended up crashing into the sideboard, but not before grabbing the phone.

“Hello!” Kagami was curled on the floor, trying to catch his breath; he held his stomach where it had met with the corner of the sideboard with one hand and gripped the phone with the other. Most of the interest dropped out of his voice when the caller wasn’t who he was hoping for. “Yes…that’s me.”

Even though it wasn’t the voice that he wanted to hear, he would have been fine with that if it hadn’t become a siren warning that history was on the verge of repeating itself.

The commotion in the hall pulled Aomine from the brink of his stupor. He and Kuroko looked on. “Why does he still have that phone anyway,” Aomine asked, his tone full of pointless frustration. “It’s old and from the States, right? There’s no way it still works.”

“It does,” Kuroko replied. “He tried to put the card in the dual sim he bought, but it would not carry over the text messages.”

“So?”

“Have you really forgotten Aomine-kun? That’s the phone that–” His words stopped abruptly and he watched as the particulars dawned on Aomine. “I don’t see how you could have forgotten.”

“It’s been five years! Who remembers that kind of shit?!”

Kuroko looked at Aomine who then quieted his voice.

“Don’t tell Kagami I said that.” He glanced quickly at the hall. When he returned his attention to Kuroko, there were a pair of questioning eyes set upon him. Aomine retreated into the back of the sofa on impulse. “What?!” The eyes now bore a slight crease in the brow above them. Aomine lowered his voice again. “What?”

“Are you still upset?”

“About what?” 

“He’s your best friend and even you don not know where he is. And he only said goodbye to Kagami-kun.”

Aomine turned his attention to the floor and searched for nothing in particular. “What is there to be mad about? He must have his reasons. Besides, there’s no fun in being mad at someone who’s not there to feel it.”

“You sound an awful lot like Kise-kun.”

Aomine caught Kuroko’s eyes in his periphery. “Where do you think I got it from?” Feeling the need, he dropped to a whisper. “Did he ever tell you what happened? Do you think they…?”

“Other than when Kise-kun first left he has not talked about it–will not talk about, but even when he did… You were there for that–all he ever said was, ‘I don’t know.'”

“But do you think they…?”

“I think there is something or was something…” 

“But not officially?”

Kuroko thought for a moment. “Since he has always been against relationships, if there was anything, it may have just been one-sided on Kise-kun’s part.”

“Really?” Aomine assumed that rumors regarding Kagami’s disinterest in relationships were a running joke of some sort. How could it not when people of all stripes flocked to him?

“About Kagami-kun?”

“Yeah…”

“Kiyoshi-senpai says that he will not even entertain the thought–he even shuts down customers without so much as a smile.” 

The description seemed familiar, but now the meaning registered differently to Aomine. “But he wasn’t always like that, right? …As far as I can remember, he was just stupid and shy.”

“No, I think he was, but when we were younger, he may have not realized it or he did not know how to reject people and he came off as shy.” A handful of memories poked at Kuroko. “He would always–“

They froze as their attention was abruptly drawn to what they assumed was the sound of the sideboard being pushed back into place. No sooner than they registered the noise did they see Kagami fly out of the hallway and halfway down the stairs that lead to the bar.

Kagami stood on the second landing. “Kiyoshi!” He was slightly out of breath even though he hadn’t run the far. No answer. He called again. “Kiyosh–!”

Kiyoshi opened the door and called up the stairs. “What’s all the noise about?”

“I’m leaving and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

Aomine looked at Kuroko; he wondered if that even qualified as an acceptable explanation.

” …Alright, then.” Kiyoshi started to close the door. “Call me when you get there.”

Aomine’s look intensified.

Kuroko shrugged. “He can be like that.”

Kagami moved about the flat as if they weren’t there and he would have left without a word if Kuroko hadn’t stopped him.

“Kagami-kun, what happened?”

“I’m going to Yaeyama.” And with that, Kagami walked out.

There was no need to ask, it wasn’t hard to guess what was up. However, Aomine was alarmed at Kagami’s destination. “Yae-Yaeyama…? That’s in…”

“Okinawa?” Kuroko was just as surprised. “So he’s been in Japan all this time?”

Aomine jumped up and started for the door. “Where the hell does he think he’s going without me?!”

Detective…” Kuroko said, his intonation insistent, “unlike him, you can not just fly off to distant corners of Japan. He will get in touch with us as soon as he can. In the meantime, you should check in with Momoi-san and go see about emergency time off. I will clean up here.”


Kagami’s plane wasn’t set to take off for another 2 hours. At present, his mind and body were a ball of knots with a headache looming, so he did his best to clear his head and ignore the pain that had since spread across his midsection. With all other thoughts pushed aside, there was nothing else to do but replay the phone conversation in the vacated space.

Kagami: Hello!

Caller: I’m calling from the Patient Care office at Kenritsu Yaeyama Hospital for Kagami Taiga-san.

Kagami: Yes…that’s me.

Caller: Oh, I’m sorry to disturb you Kagami-san, but we found your name and number inside the wallet of a patient here.

Kagami: You said you’re calling from a hospital?

Caller: Yes, Kenritsu Yaeyama in Okinawa Prefecture. Are you acquainted with a Kagami Ryou-san?

Kagami: …N–…Yes.

Caller: Are you his family?

Kagami: …I guess I was something like his…guardian? Is he alright?

Caller: Kagami Ryou-san was admitted into our care two weeks ago after he…

The Letter, Part Two

[Battery: 67% | Time: 7:40 PM]

I managed to rent a little house on the grounds of this onsen and for the first year I just kind of hung out and read a bunch. I never quite got why Kurokocchi always had his nose in a book when we were younger, but I think I get it now. I’ve been all over the world, went deep sea diving, climbed a thousand mountains, and hung out in Nanchou during the 50s…the 1350s, that is! All from that ugly sofa.

I got bored with doing nothing. Not that reading is doing nothing; it kept my mind busy, but my body was nearly atrophied, not really, but there would be days after days that I didn’t move at all. So I got permission to renovate this place. That was another year and change. I attached before and after pics so you, too, can revel in my awesomeness!

Here’s the before (so tragic!):

okinawa before-11

okinawa before-10

[Battery: 66% | Time: 7:41 PM]

And here’s the after. I will be happy if I never see another bucket of white paint. I tried to copy your kitchen, just on a smaller scale. How’d I do?

okinawa after-01

okinawa after-04

okinawa after-05

okinawa after-10

Good work, right?!

After, Part Two

An unwelcoming concrete build that had probably seen its best years sometime during the Showa era stood before Kagami. Not that he cared all that much after a three-hour flight and a 30-minute taxi ride. A relatively short journey, for sure, but the knots remained tied and only seemed to pull tighter the closer he got to his destination. His eyes scaled the three-story hospital and he commiserated with the gloom it projected.

About 6 or so paces ahead of him, the entry doors parted to expel two kids who seemed untouched by the gloom. They were quickly followed by a middle-aged man whose face reported that the oppressive atmosphere was indeed in effect within and that kids could not be trusted. Kagami let them pass before approaching and stepping over the threshold. He looked about for some indication of his next move. On his second survey he spotted the information desk, just a few feet away.

“Good evening, sir. How may I help you?” The desk attendants voice matched the hospital’s interior which was a striking contrast to the exterior.

“My name is Kagami Taiga and I was told to ask for the Patient Care office.”

The attendant punched a few keys. She looked at her screen, looked at Kagami, returned to her screen, and then pursed her lips in assent. “Kagami-san, would you happen to have your ID?” She watched as Kagami pulled his wallet and presented his ID. The attendant looked over the laminated card and pursed her lips again. “Just a moment while I ring someone to meet you.”

Kagami exhaled and it felt to him like it was the first time he had breathed since the phone call some hours ago. But there was no real change; he still hadn’t managed to untie himself. His shoulders were tense, there was a tightness in his chest, a headache was pounding in his ears, and though it was duller now, the pain in his midsection persisted. He felt like he would collapse at any moment. However, at the same time, he felt numb to it all. At the mention of his name, his eyes drifted slowly to the right. The Patient Care representative, a young guy, probably in his late 20s, with a welcoming face, stood about two feet away from him.

“Kagami Taiga-san?”

“Yes?”

The rep bowed about 30° and was caught off guard when Kagami’s long-cached habit of shaking hands resurfaced.

Kagami remembered himself, returned the greeting and moved right into his question. “When can I see him?”

“We can go now, but there are some things I’d like to discuss with you.” The rep gestured to the corridor on the other side of the information desk. “Can we talk on the way?”

“Sure.” Kagami understood that such a question was a matter of protocol, but the answer was so obvious that it exhausted him further to respond. However, it did help by reminding him of some of the questions he thought of while he was on the plane. “On the phone, you said he’s been here for two weeks… Why was I only contacted now?”

“We had some trouble recovering the wallet.”

“‘Trouble’?”

“The doctor can give you more information, but he had the wallet in his hand when he was knocked down. At some point, possibly from the impact of the fall or one of the beams that pinned him, he broke most of the bones in that hand. However, and we aren’t sure why, but when he was brought in, that hand was suffering from some form of non-congenital myotonia and,” the rep paused, “that would be a prolonged muscle contraction.”

“I’m aware.” Kagami did not want to seem rude, so he hoped his tone did not betray him; however, when all that mattered at the moment was seeing Kise, each turn they made loosened his grip on his composure that much more. He prayed that their next turn would be their last. 

“Oh, good, then I’ll skip ahead. Right this way.”

Kagami turned in the direction indicated and saw a single elevator at the end of a very long corridor. As they got closer, he noticed that there were no buttons, just a glass plaque on the wall to the right.

The rep continued, “So with his hand locked in that manner and the bones being broken, we wanted to be very careful with the extraction and resetting.”

“And now?” Kagami’s brow furrowed and raised as he watched the rep flash his badge in front of the glass plaque which responded with a small, blinking, blue light. A tinny pling–nearly muted–announced the arrival of the elevator. They stepped in and he watched once more as the man’s reedy fingers inserted a key and flashed his badge again, but in front of what, he couldn’t tell. There were no buttons on the inside either. The doors closed and the elevator hitched a bit before…descending? A new, ominous feeling broke through the numbness.

“We managed to cast–“

Kagami felt a slight panic rise, but he did his best to keep it out of his voice. “What’s with this?” Kagami waved his hand about, suggesting the current situation.

“I’m sorry?”

“The security measures… Isn’t this kinda over-the-top? He hasn’t been in the public eye for seven years.” Kagami reasoned that the hospital was ensuring anonymity for Kise due to his former status as an internationally recognized model, completely forgetting that Kise was going by a different name.

“Oh…?” The rep wasn’t sure what to make of that, so he just tried to suspend Kagami’s wariness by deferring to someone more suited to address the issue. “…My apologies, I’m not at liberty to say, but the officer stationed at the room should be able to fill you in.


“After rousing the staff and securing everyone outside, he got the irrigation system working and was trying to douse what he could and that was when the foundation on that side gave way and he was caught by a falling beam.” The detective’s words were practiced and worn as if he’d said them a hundred times already.

Kagami followed along, soaking up every word, piecing together the picture that was being spoken to him.

“Another one fell and he was trapped,” the detective continued. “Fortunately he called emergency services as soon as he saw the fire and one of the staff members is a retired medic, so they had that on their side. Out there, dire situations can turn deadly as it’s difficult to get emergency vehicles over some of those roads and emergency medical care is limited.”

“Where do you come in?”

“It has been determined to be a case of arson and we suspect that it’s related to the family’s longstanding refusal to sell their land to the,” the detective cleared his throat, “Kanagusuku-kai.”

Kagami stared in disbelief.

“Things have been quiet for about seven or eight years; however, during that time it’s been slow going for the establishment since people have been hesitant to patronize a place that had a known connection to the bouryokudan–even if they were on the right side of the law.”

A severe hollowness had grown out from the pit of Kagami’s stomach and seized the whole of him. All the anger and frustration that had collected over the past five years seemed utterly inconsequential when he considered what Kise had found himself in the middle of.

“I need to make a call, if you have any more questions, the guy at the door can answer them or I can when I get back.” He grabbed his hat and headed out.

Kagami sat in the chair next to Kise’s bed, waiting for the doctor to arrive. He was a sight–tubes and machines casting a ghostly green light over him… the purple and brown bruises were striking against his pale complexion–a complexion made even paler by his condition. Something jabbed at Kagami’s heart.

The Letter, Part Three

[Battery: 66% | Time: 7:42 PM]

After that was done, the old couple that ran the place asked if I could help renovate some of the rooms there. It was really cool; it was hard work, but I had a lot of fun working on the place I’m staying at, but that was really for my own benefit. Then when it came to the guest quarters, it was like a switch was flipped. It was kind of strange… I was so used to being the one getting dressed and primped and made over–it was kind of surreal being the one dressing and primping and stuff. Surreal or not, it was great; everyday that I worked on something left me feeling at peace and it’s been so long since I felt that way that I almost didn’t recognize it.

After, Part Three

Kagami switched his phone to his left ear.

Kagami: “I almost didn’t recognize him–his piercings are gone and his hair is long and black.”

Aomine: “Black? …I can’t imagine. What about everything else…how bad is it?”

Kagami: “It’s…pretty bad. He suffered head trauma, but nothing is cracked inside. It’s called DAI–something something axon…axonal injury…? They said it’s like his head got stretched and turned like he was in a car accident, but it doesn’t appear to be severe. However, there’s no treatment for it, it just has to heal on its own. He also has a small contusion, but no more swelling, so they are just keeping an eye on it. As for the burn, it’s third degree, well most of it. It runs across his shoulder blades and kind of snakes down his left side and on the back of his left arm. The part that snakes was caused by the cable that was attached to the beam that knocked him out, but it also partially cauterized it; thing is, the burned area is like four or five inches across like it slid or was dragged across while burning him.

A chill crawled up Aomine’s back ans manifested as inward hiss.

Kagami: Yeah… His doctor said that if he only had one or the other, he probably would have woken up by now, but the DAI, though extremely mild, coupled with the shock his body experienced with the burn and broken hand seems to be holding him hostage. They’ve been havin’ a time tryin’ to keep him in a good position. He spends most of the day on his stomach for the sake of the burn and has this hole cut out to support how his head needs to be positioned, but it’s not great for his breathing–especially since he started breathing on his own–so they prop him up on his side every now and then, but since he broke most of the bones in his left hand and has a cast past his elbow, neither of those positions are ideal.”

Aomine: “Is he–Is he going to wake up? Will he be able to use his hand again?”

Kagami: “The doctor said his chances of regaining consciousness are very good since there doesn’t seem to be extensive damage to his brain. For the hand though, it’s hard to tell at this point. They said 6-7 weeks–we’re just hitting three. And it’s not like you can really respond to motor skill therapy when you’re comatose.”

Aomine: “Has he woken up at all?”

Kagami: “Not really… Just once…they said they heard him mumbling something about being friends with trees and guns and gravity…in English…”

Aomine: “What?!”

Kagami: “…The nurse that was taking his vitals when it happened said it barely lasted a minute. He thought it might be important even though it didn’t make any sense, so he transcribed what he could remember. But when they Googled it, it just turned out to be Finley Quaye lyrics.”

Kagami shook his head in his hands.

Aomine: “Who?”

Kagami: “Finley Quaye… He was the first person we saw live after he started visiting me in LA.”

Aomine: “…What exactly is between you two?”

Kagami: “Who two?”

Aomine: “Who else?! You and Kise!”

Kagami: “Me and…?”

The first answer that came to him was “five years.”

Kagami: “…There’s nothing between us. That’s like asking what’s between me and Tatsuya.”

Aomine: “So…he’s like a brother to you?”

Kagami: “Well, actually… When the hospital called me, I ended up telling them I was something like his guardian.”

Aomine: “Guardian…?”

Kagami: “Oh! Right. I completely forgot to tell you…”

Aomine: “What?”

Kagami: “He’s been going by Kagami Ryou…”

Aomine: “Kaga– What the fuck?! HaHA! Are you sure there’s nothing between you?”

Kagami: “What the fuck do you mean am I sure?”

Aomine: “A’right, a’right, a’right… Geez, calm down. Have you at least considered it? Or…do you think he has?”

Kagami: “Well, I’m not interested and I don’t think he is either–I’m not even his type.”

Aomine: “You know his type?”

Kagami: “…No, but I’ve met some of the people he’s dated and about the only thing we have in common is that we’re breathing.”

Aomine: “I don’t know, man… I mean, he was using your name.”

Kagami: “And…?”

Aomine: “‘And’ why? How many people does he know? So many names he could have picked. I’ve known him longer than you and you’re the one he said goodbye to when he first disappeared. Not me, not his family…you.”

Kagami: “Aren’t you reading too much into this?”

Aomine: “No. Anyway, why aren’t you interested–what’s wrong with Kise?”

Kagami: “Nothing’s wrong with Kise. I’m not interested because I’m not interested, period.”

Aomine: “Why not?”

Kagami: “…The thing about the name–“

Aomine: “So, you just gonna ignore me, now?”

Kagami: “…Don’t be a fucking idiot. My reasons and his feelings don’t matter–he’s laying here in front of me in a fucking coma and I don’t know if he’s ever going to wake up! So, I’m sorry if I can’t give half a shit about something as trivial as a relationship right now!”

Aomine sighed; he hated that Kagami was right.

Kagami: “…Now, about the name… He didn’t have any identification on him and the only reason they have any kind of name for him is because that’s the name the onsen staff gave to the police. So, what I want to know is how much shit am I going to get from the police for not telling them his real name?”

Aomine: “Why didn’t you?”

Kagami: “Because they said that this whole thing has yakuza written all over it and I don’t know who I’m dealing with or which side they’re really on!”

Aomine: “From what I know of the situation, I don’t think they’re going to be after Kise. It’s not like he asserted himself against them. They’re after the land and Kise isn’t really an obstacle for them in that respect–he has no ties to ownership.”

Kagami: “But what if I give his name and someone connected tells them and they go after his family?”

Aomine: “I really don’t think they will, but– Wait, do they know?”

Kagami: “His family? …Yeah, I talked to his mom, but I told her that there were some things I didn’t want to get into right away. She didn’t like that, but I told her that I’d take care of him…but I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing!”

Aomine: “Like I said, Kise’s probably not even a blip on their radar–“

Kagami: “Then why all this security?”

Aomine: “Protocol. But listen, if he is, and they do start making waves in Kanagawa or Tokyo, then they’ll be moving about within my jurisdiction, and there’s no way I’m going to let them. But I’ll look into it more before I leave.”

Kagami: “When’s that?”

Aomine: “Hopefully soon; I’m waiting for my boss to get back with me ab– Oh, hold up, speak of the devil. Imma call you back–and keep your fucking phone on! Not being able to contact you for three days was some scary shit!”

The Letter, Part Four

[Battery: 65% | Time: 7:43 PM]

Most of the staff here are like, 50 and over, so they helped when they could, but I was pretty much on my own the first few months. Then, the owners’ grandsons came to visit after graduating uni and they helped me out a lot, so it only ended up taking a year to do the four main cottages and the six day-rooms that are attached to the main building. Taiga, I thought I was going crazy…or they were. The grandsons came back a day after each other and maybe they decided to come at the last minute, but no one that told me they were coming. So, when they had the welcome party I was caught off guard, but it was a party, so… Then, the next day there was another welcome party and when they ambushed the same guy with hugs and whatnot, I thought that it must have been déjà vécu. But you know, it was cool; I had fun…again, I guess. But then it happened again. Three days in a row! I was looking in closets and under tables for Bill Murray. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was going to ask Obaa-chan, but I just said to hell with it and went back to my place and tried to sleep it off.

The next day was Sunday and that’s the day I have breakfast with the staff. So I’m sitting there enjoying my miso when–one by one–the grandsons came in and sat across from me–you couldn’t convince me that I wasn’t losing it. I’m guessing you probably figured out by now that they were triplets. And there was Ojii-chan standing behind them, just as proud as he could be. Part of me thought it was hilarious, but the other part didn’t agree, so after we were properly introduced and I finished my food, that part of me decided to call it a day. It’s strange how sometimes knowing the truth doesn’t necessarily make things better.

Once the renovations were done and the trio went off to do whatever, and I went back to my books until Ojii-chan had some back trouble and they asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping out. When I first got there, it was the off-season, so seeing only four guests didn’t seem all that strange, but after I started helping out, I saw that it was pretty much like that all the time. Business picked up after the renovations, but the guests still only amounted to a handful and a half–this place has 25 rooms. I don’t know how they keep the place going. One of the grandsons tried to explain it to me, but I didn’t get it; something to do with landholding and inheritance and some other stuff. But because of that, this place is prime real estate and more than just people looking to relax, it attracted a certain sort of scout. They said it had been a few years since anyone had bothered them, but when it looked like the place was on the verge of bustling again, they said they wouldn’t be surprised if their unwanted visits resumed.

After, Part Four

A little over a week had passed since his arrival and though Kagami had made some headway, it wasn’t much. He’d found out that due to his extensive injuries, Kise was flown to Kenritsu Yaeyama on Ishigaki-jima from the onsen and that most of the onsen staff were unharmed. For those who were, they had already been admitted to and since released from a medical center on Iriomote-jima which is closer to the onsen. The onsen itself is on Kohama-jima, a small island about 25 minutes off the coast of Ishigaki; he went there to pay his respects. He was under the impression that the whole resort burned down, but they explained that it was only the main building and the two unoccupied guest quarters that were closest to it.

Kagami spent a great deal of time talking to the onsen’s proprietress. Except for his manner of compelling people to want to hug him one minute and hit him the next, the quiet and generally reserved “Ryou-chan” the old lady told him about was nothing like the Kise he knew. Kagami didn’t like the idea of Kise changing on him–a Kise he didn’t know made him itch. These thoughts made him uncomfortable; it had been so long since he’d allowed himself to give time over to thoughts other than punching Kise in that stupid face of his that it came as something of a shock to Kagami when he realized he missed him…still missed him. But unlike when Kise first left, he hadn’t been able to shake this feeling off.

Kagami looked at his watch; Aomine’s plane would be touching down in about an hour. Just that morning, during his third visit with the owners of the onsen, they’d given him permission to stay in the house Kise had been renting. It was already quarter after five, so he figured he and Aomine would stay that night on Ishigaki and go to Kohama the next day because ferry service would be done for the day by the time they left the hospital. Kagami waited outside the terminal at the taxi station. He looked up when he heard a familiar voice.

“Man, you look like shit!” Aomine threw the words at Kagami like they were really his and he was just giving them back.

Kagami looked around for the driver of the taxi he reserved and saw him chatting with another cabbie. He waved him over and then returned his attention to Aomine. “I haven’t slept in two weeks, what’s your excuse?” Kagami extended his hand to receive Aomine’s and pulled him into an embrace, the kind you grow accustomed to after hanging around certain groups of people in the States. That Aomine accepted such a thing from Kagami marked how far their friendship had come. “How long are you here for, anyway?”

“A week!”

Kagami stared. “How did you manage that on such short notice?”

A stupid smirk flashed on Aomine’s face. He raised his hands and hooked the index and middle fingers twice on both to effect air quotes, “‘Special assignment.’ My boss’ old partner is a Superintendent here, so she sent me to ‘go learn something.’ I just need to check in at least three days this week and I’m good.”

The ride to the hospital was about 25 minutes. Kagami caught Aomine up on the onsen, its owners, Kise’s place, and things in general. “It’s going to be too late by the time we leave the, so we can hold off on going to his place until tomorrow.”

Aomine didn’t say anything, but his whole demeanor screamed curiosity.

Kagami felt the pressure coming from his left–he didn’t even look when he asked, “What?”

Maybe the second time’s the charm, Aomine thought to himself.

The wait irritated Kagami. “Come on, man, spit it out.”

Aomine leaned forward. “He’s out, right? Like nobody’s home…?” Aomine dismissed the look Kagami gave him and pressed ahead, “What do you do when you visit him? He can’t be good company.”

“Oh, I…I help with his physical therapy, sometimes I help the nurses tend to him…sometimes I…talk to him…”

“About what?”

“I don’t know…,” Kagami shrugged, “just stuff. I read the paper to him, talk sports, talk about you and Kuroko, the old couple…just stuff.”

Aomine noticed the absence of anything specific to Kagami in that list and wondered what he was hiding. “…And that’s all you do?”

“Well, most of the time I just think about why and how all this happened. Like why did he leave and why has he stayed away so long and why…here,” Kagami’s hands pulled away from his body and moved about signifying their general location, “of all places?”

Aomine turn more towards Kagami, putting his back practically flush against the taxi’s door. “Last time I asked, you were all zip-lipped, but did you guys fight or something before he left?”

“…Not right before he left, but…I guess we just weren’t seeing eye to eye that whole last year. We’ve only really had one argument, though.”

“What about?” Aomine hoped he didn’t sound too anxious for answer. He was anxious, though, but he certainly didn’t want to seem like it.

“He had started acting up again.”

“Wh-What does that even mean?”

“You know how he ended up moving in with me in LA, right?”

“No clue.”

Up to this point, Kagami had been looking forward, only turning his head in Aomine’s direction every once in a while, but digging into a past that he’d tried to ignore for the most part compelled him to look Aomine in the eye. He turned to his left and rested his arm on the back of the seat. “Alright, so,” Kagami began, “he was changing partners damn-near on a weekly basis, always staying with them, and I told him to cut that shit out. You could tell it wasn’t even making him happy. After that he started looking for his own place. He broke up with the last guy before he found one, so I let him stay with me for a while. It wasn’t much of a change, because even when he was dating, he spent most of his time at my place.

Regardless of what Kagami maintained about his relationship with Kise, Aomine doubted the truth of it even more. “Seriously?”

Failing to catch the tone of suspicion in Aomine’s question, Kagami replied, “Yeah, and before I knew it, a year went by. And he chilled with all that nonsense, too. He was only with a handful of people the first two years and then he just stopped dating altogether. But, I don’t know what happened. Around that last year, he started getting buck wild again–changing people like underwear.”

Aomine just couldn’t understand how he could see something was up and Kagami couldn’t. Was he really that dense or was he in denial? He wanted to say something about it, but he wasn’t sure how, so instead he asked, “So…what exactly was your issue?”

“With what?”

“Why were you against him dating?”

“I wouldn’t have a problem if he was actually dating,” Kagami said as he leaned in, “but he wasn’t; it was just one after another. When I called him on it, he stopped speaking to me for like, a month. Then he started dating, like really dating this one dude who was a no good, lazy ass, piece of shit. At first I wasn’t going to say anything because he manged to stay with him for a few months–you know, to each his own–but then he came home one too many times with a bruise, so I told him to break up with him or I was going to lock him in his room or some shit.”

“What. The. Fuck?”

“Yeah, the dude pissed me off.”

“Fuck him! I’m talking about you! Yeah, that dude puttin’ his hands on Kise is a problem, but Kise…he ain’t gonna just sit there and take it–I’m sure the dude looked worse. But…,” Aomine throbbed with anger, “where the hell do you get off telling him who he can and cannot date? He’s a grown ass man and if he gets his kicks hanging out with assholes, that’s his fucking prerogative.” He took a minute to breathe. “I’m just guessing here, but it’s not like he was bringing these people back to your place, right? So why did it even matter to you what or who he was doing?”

The air about Kagami keened with offense… What kind of question was that? “He wasn’t happy! Not once did he seem like any of it was what he wanted! How could I stand by and watch him do that to himself?!”

“…It wasn’t your place, man… you had no right… You called yourself his guardian, but that was a role you assumed on your own. It’s not like it’s 100% your fault, but I see why Kise left.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” He couldn’t believe the insinuation.

Aomine looked away. He didn’t think he was ready to really lay into Kagami about what he thought, but how else could he answer that? Whether fortunately or unfortunately, he didn’t have the chance to.

The driver spoke up, business as usual. “Yaeyama Hospital, sirs.”

The Letter, Part Five

[Battery: 65% | Time: 7:47 PM]

Speaking of unwanted visitors! I was thinking about the first time I ran into you in LA. I never had time to stay for more than the shoot before. I was glad that my first time hanging out there was with you. I especially liked seeing where you grew and things like that. I had fun…too much fun. It’s your fault I kept coming back, you know.

For Every Ending

Before, Part One

Kise looked at the sleek black watch on his wrist. It wasn’t his, but he thought it was nice. “What are we waiting for?” His voice carried well from up high.

“Sorry, Kise,” one of the shoot’s coordinators said as she looked at her own watch. “They sent the wrong line to our sneaker supplier, so the shoes he chose are a total mismatch for the actual line. Even though it’s our fault, he’s having the right shoes rushed down. As soon as they arrive, we’ll get started.”

Kise sat on the scaffolding, swinging his socked feet about like a kid. It wasn’t his first time in LA, but it would be the first time he didn’t have to fly out to make it to another shoot right away, so he was anxious for the day to wrap so that he could see what was so great about the place. From where he sat, Kise couldn’t see what was going on, but there was a bit of a fuss when the supplier arrived. He heard footfalls on the wooden plank stairs behind him. His head nodded lazily as the coordinator yelled up to tell him that after the guy who was on his way up set the laces on the sneaks, they would begin. When Kise heard the the footfalls that signified that the guy had reached the level he was on, he carefully swung his legs around to present his feet, but almost fell back when he looked up to greet him. “Eh?! Kagamicchi?! What are you doing here?!”

“Oh, it’s you? And you’re still calling people that?”

“I haven’t seen you in years and that’s all I get?! So mean!”

Kagami knelt in front of Kise. He was surprised to see him, but he was in work mode, so the reunion atmosphere could wait. “Right foot. I’ve never seen you in this studio before.”

Kise obliged. “This is my first time working for this designer. I’ve been in suits for so long that I’ve forgotten what sportswear is like. I like their stuff, so, hopefully this won’t be my last time. But what are you doing here?”

“Left foot. I brought the sneaks.”

“You work for the the supplier,” Kise asked, his voice loud and excited and filling the rafters.”

“I am the supplier.” He put Kise’s sneaker-clad foot on the floor. “Alright, you’re good for now. I’ll be back to change your sneaks after this set.”

With each sneaker change, Kise worked his way closer and closer to drafting Kagami as an escort for the remainder of his stay in LA.

Kagami opened an empty box as Kise presented his feet to him. “Alright, last one.” With the old ones put away, he pulled out a pair of custom Air Force Ones.

“Oh! I like these,” Kise said as he thumbed the fuchsia stitching on the toe cap.

“Me too. They do seem like something you’d buy.”

Kise pointed at the blazer he needed to put on for the last set, asking Kagami to hand it to him. “How much are they?”

“$1900.”

Kise paused as he removed the blazer from the previous set.

The new blazer had a black and white striped lining. It wasn’t shown in the preview sheet he received at the last minute, but Kagami new something like it would be in the collection, so he was glad to see that the sneaks he just laced on Kise were the perfect complement for it. He was puzzled by the expression on Kise’s face when he handed the blazer to him. “What?”

“I-I-I…,” Kise’s tongue twisted around his astonishment, “well it’s not like I’ve never dropped that kind of cash on anything, but…”

“It’s not that strange, is it? The blazer you’re wearing will probably retail for about $25-$2600, I already know the watch is $3700… the sneaks are a bargain by comparison.”

“I never knew you were into these sorts of things–you always made fun of my work when we were in high school.”

Kagami caught sight of a pout from long ago and laughed to himself. “It’s my business to know these things. Anyway, your work was fine–it was all those annoying fans that followed you everywhere that I didn’t like.”

“That’s right,” Kise said, perking up, “back then, Kagamicchi was already a cantankerous old man and couldn’t understand the bliss and passion of youth.” He couldn’t even maintain a straight face with that and his laugh spilled over the railing and down to the main floor.

“I’d hit you if it wouldn’t mess up your hair.”

“Oh, thanks. I don’t want to get yelled at.” Kise eyed Kagami playfully, laughter still in his voice.

“You guys can play kissy-face all you want later!” The senior coordinator yelled from one of the lower levels.

Kise turned his bright eyes to Kagami who was turning to leave. “Oh, can we?!”

Kagami looked at Kise like he just said that natto flavored ice cream sounded like a good thing. “…No thanks.” He laughed at the resulting pout.

“I get turned down for a kiss and I got yelled at anyway. This day needs to wrap.” Kise folded his arms in mock childish brooding.

Kagami laughed as he walked down the stairs. When the shoot wrapped, Kagami went up one last time to collect his sneakers.

“Hey!” Kise called to Kagami as he played with the laces of the sneaks. “How can I buy these?”

“You like them that much?”

“Yeah…I don’t want to take them off.”

“Keep’em.”

“What?! Really?!”

Kagami extended his hand and pulled Kise up. “Think of them as an “I haven’t seen you in a while, you should buy me a drink” gift.”

“I can do that!” Kise draped himself around Kagami’s neck and lingered. “Thank you! Now where should we get that drink.”

“First,” Kagami said, pushing Kise away, “get off me.”

“So cold…”

“Second, I have to get the rest back to the office and take care of some stuff. Let’s meet there.” Kagami pulled out his phone. “Think you can find it?”

“Yeah… Oh! We have the same phone!” He shoved his in Kagami’s face. “Can you beam me the address?”

“Alright,” he agreed while moving Kise’s hand, “be there by 10.”


Kagami sat at the bar and looked at his watch. Kise was late. Kagami’s details were beamed over with the location, but he didn’t get Kise’s so he could only wait or leave. Then, his phone vibrated. “Where the hell are you?! It’s almost 11!”

“…I got…lost…”

That was not the last time either. Kise had a knack for getting lost in LA and Kagami eventually developed a knack for finding him. But, at a certain point, Kagami decided that spending 45 minutes searching for Kise was not his cup of tea, so he settled on chauffeuring him around every time he would come to visit.

The Letter, Part Six

[Battery: 65% | Time: 7:48 PM]

Oh! You would be so proud of me! You really would. You never said it, but I know it drove you crazy when I would leave my stuff all over the place. Why didn’t you say anything? Well, now, I clean a lot, all the time really. With all the books I’ve collected, mostly from used bookstores–there’s a really good one close by. I say “close by,” but it’s an hour away. Everything is an hour away, but that’s fine, I don’t need much these days. So, yeah, the books and this place is just naturally dusty for some reason…you’d think with all the rain it wouldn’t be, but I must be shedding something awful (this is where you should laugh; I’ll even accept a grin). I do laundry every other week–I don’t have much to wash because I don’t go out much and I walk around in a yukata all day. No dishwasher, so I do the dishes properly. Basically, I don’t live in a pig sty.

Insert praise here: _____

I learned how to make onion gratin. And then when Obaa-chan found out, she put it on the menu. Three pages of traditional fare and this one oddball dish pinned to the menu. Though, sadly, neither of ours is as good as yours.

This Obaa-chan is so sweet, but she keeps trying to marry me off. So that no one gets their hopes up, I tell her that my heart is already spoken for, but she won’t listen. Every time I say it, she looks around the room and sometimes, for extra dramatic effect, she’ll walk around me and ask me where this person is. At least once a week she tells me it’s not good to be alone. When I tell her that somethings can’t be helped she just gives me this look. I haven’t figured out if it’s pity or disbelief. I hope it’s disbelief. I don’t want to be pitied. I’m alright with things the way they are, not everyone gets what they want in life. Besides, I think I’ve been blessed with enough, so other people should have a turn.

That’s what I want to say, but… It doesn’t matter, I’ve just about learned to live with it. There are worse things than being alone.

On the subject of being alone, this is the first time I’ve lived alone, but I wonder if this really counts since they treat me like one of their grandsons. I still lived with my family even when my gigs had me travelling or because I was travelling. No point in spending money on a place I was never at. Then my string of exes and then you.

Before, Part Two

Kise signed a two-year contract with an Anaheim-based designer, so he decided to move to LA. When he first arrived he moved in with his girlfriend, but while everything was hot under the covers, their day in and day out just didn’t click. They broke up after a month and he stayed in her guest room for two weeks before moving in with his new boyfriend.

Somehow, Kise managed to keep this kind of thing going for a year or so. Three months was his longest relationship. Although he was never without a place to stay or a body to lay, he could usually be found on Kagami’s sofa. Kagami would lecture him about jumping out of one relationship and into another and Kise would always wave him off, but he was getting tired of it–sooner or later they all ended and he didn’t know how much longer his heart could take it and being nagged about it wasn’t helping.

When it looked like his current relationship was coming to an end, he started looking for a place of his own. When the relationship did finally end, Kise still hadn’t found a flat–not that he’d put a whole lot of effort into it to begin with–so he parked himself at Kagami’s for a few weeks. And before they knew it, a few weeks became three months, then six, then a year. At some point he’d just stopped looking. It made no difference to Kagami, it wasn’t like he would be getting in the way of anything.

Initially, Kise’s more permanent change of address didn’t stop him from dating, however, he did slow down, but by the end of his second year living with Kagami, he’d stopped completely. Kagami just thought he had finally come to his senses, but Kise had actually come to something else. All was well for a while, they had their routines. Kagami cooked, Kise cleaned the kitchen. Kagami paid all the bills and Kise paid for most of their entertainment. and the wait they partied–or rather the way Kise dragged Kagami around hither and yon–it was practically an even trade. But one day, things started to change.

Kise declined to renew his contract with the designer and chose to take some time off instead, but staying in the house with Kagami who had a habit of–more often than not–walking around in just a pair of basketball shorts was no longer something he could stand to do. So he started going out to random places and events–taking up just about everyone on just about every invitation. But since he really only knew the city in regards to how far and in which direction a place was from Kagami’s he tended to get lost when he went more than one place in a day. Kagami only laughed when he had to go rescue him.

“Kagamicchi…”

“Are you serious?!” Kagami snorted. “This is the fourth time this month! You are absolutely hopeless.” When Kagami hung up, he was laughing; when he pulled up to the curb, he was laughing; when Kise got in, Kagami was laughing; and when they pulled off, he was still laughing.

Kise sat in the passenger seat with his arms folded and ever so annoyed until he remembered… “Here, for you.”

Kagami took the slip of paper Kise handed to him. “What is this?” Before Kise answered, they passed under a street light that illuminated the inside of the car just long enough for Kagami to see that it was one of the pictures he and Kise took at a photo booth when they went for karaoke the other night. “And what do I need this for?”

“So you’ll never forget my face.”

“I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” he said as he slid the photo into his interior blazer pocket.

The next afternoon as Kise was on his way out, Kagami stopped him, pulled open one side of Kise’s jacket, and affixed something to it. “There you go.”

Puzzled, Kise looked at Kagami. “What’s this?”

“It’s just in case.”

He looked at the paper only to find that it was the picture he gave Kagami the night before. Kise was kind of hurt. “And what am I supposed to do with this?”

Kagami pointed at it. “Flip it over.”

jacket02-01a

At the sight of the message instructing people to return Kise to Kagami if they found him, Kise rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help but laugh.

The Letter, Part Seven

[Battery: 65% | Time: 7:53 PM]

You were always with me when I was just visiting, but after I moved to LA and then moved in with you, you thought it was hilarious to leave me on my own. It was really scary at first and you were no help. All you did was laugh every time I got lost…except that one time you didn’t.

Before, Part Three

Kagami had just taken off his jacket when his phone rang. He looked at it and debated whether or not he wanted to answer the unknown number.

Kagami: “Hello…?”

Caller: “…I’m calling from the emergency room at Valley Presbyterian Hospital for Taiga Kagami.”

Kagami: “Yes…that’s me.”

Caller: “Mr. Kagami, we found your contact information amongst the contents of Ryouta Kise’s wallet.”

Kagami: “A hospital?”

Caller: “Yes, Valley Presbyterian in Van Nuys. Are you a friend or relation of his?”

Kagami: “Yes, a friend.”

Caller: “Are you in touch with his family?”

Kagami: “Not really; they’re in Japan.”

Caller: “Are you willing to take responsibility for him today?”

Kagami: “Yes. Is he alright?”

Caller: “Approximately 20 minutes ago, Mr. Kise was brought in unconscious with some minor cuts and a few bruises. He has since regained consciousness…”

The Letter, Part Eight

[Battery: 65% | Time: 7:54 PM]

“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” You hear that kind of thing and it just goes in one ear and out the other. Since I’ve been here, I’ve only gotten lost once. Well, that’s actually how I ended up at the onsen. I hadn’t learned my lesson, because I was in my own world and aimlessly wandering around my new neighborhood–neighborhood is too generous, really, there are like, ten houses and a jungle and swamps where I first stayed. I did learn that getting robbed in a place where no one lives is a thing. I had only been here about two days when I got jumped and everything but my wallet taken from me. If I hadn’t broken the one guy’s jaw and the other guy’s arm, they may have eventually found the wallet.

I wish I could say that it was easier to get back to rights the second time around, but it was actually harder. So much harder. I mean, this time, there was no way you could find me, not this far away. But it’s what made me realize that leaving was the right thing to do. I was relying on you entirely too much and that just brought all kinds of trouble with it.

Obaa-chan found me on her way back from some late night market and rolled me into the back of her cart. She looks like she weighs half a feather, but she’s ridiculously strong–all the old people around he are like that. I guess that’s rural life for you. My head was in a fog for a few days after and when I came out of it, I was staring into the face of this toothless ojii-san. His brow was all jagged with worry, but his eyes were so kind. Reminded me so much of you and that grumpy face of yours. Those wrinkles permanent yet? I’m sure you have less now that I’m gone.

So, that’s about it for the first three years. The last two years have been…well, there’s been some things, but nothing worth mentioning, not like it’ll change anything. Not that any of this will change anything.

So, what about you? How’s LA? How’s the sneaker biz? Didn’t you want to open a bar? Did you ever get around to it? How’re your parents? Did they manage to stay together this time? I know how you feel about it, but I think it’s great that they still try. They obviously love each other–just a shame that their temperaments don’t match. But it kind of makes you believe that there’s someone for everyone. There’s always exceptions, of course, like you who wants nothing to do with that kind of thing and me…everything is either out of reach or in only in my head, but after after a while, there’s even distance in there.

After, Part Five

They’d barely spoken a word since they arrived and the ride down in the soundproof elevator only emphasized the screaming silence between them. When the doors opened, they were greeted by a nurse who asked to see their IDs and escorted them to Kise’s room after reviewing them.

Aomine surveyed the place as they went. “Have these measures been in place the whole time?”

“Yeah, pretty much. …What?”

“To be perfectly honest, the outside looked like the inside held nothing but butchers and quacks, so I didn’t think they’d be this tight.”

“All the better for concealment, Detective,” the nurse couldn’t help but chime in.

“You got me there.”

The nurse left them with the officer stationed outside the room. They flashed their IDs once more and then Kagami entered the room while Aomine hung back a minute to talk shop. Kagami walked around to the right side of the bed and sat in his usual spot; it was the direction Kise’s face was usually turned when he was on his stomach. He took his right hand and started to massage it; it had become a habit over the last two weeks. He was sort of entranced and didn’t hear when Aomine came in.

“So, there’s more going on than just talking and thinking.”

Kagami looked up for a second. “…He might feel it. I mean, I hope he does.”

Aomine rolled his eyes at the clueless lovesick fool before him. “…I hope so, too.”

They sat awhile and talked about what Aomine dug up and Kagami felt just a little less anxious when Aomine assured him that Kise was not on anyone’s hit list. After Kagami stepped out to make a call, Aomine found himself talking to Kise. It began with how he missed him, how glad he was that he was alive, and how he wished he’d hurry and wake up, but before long, the bitterness and betrayal he thought he’d put to rest surfaced and he just let it out.

Upon returning, Kagami heard the tirade; he looked at the officer and reached for the door.

The officer shook his head. “No, it’s just him.”

Kagami hesitated, but ultimately decided to Aomine his privacy.

Aomine had gone three rounds cursing out a still unresponsive Kise; he felt like a small weight was lifted, but knowing it fell on deaf ears kept him from feeling any real relief.

Only after the room had been quiet for about 10 minutes did Kagami knock on the door to make his presence known.

Aomine heard the knock and turned toward the door. “…Um…” He was kind of embarrassed. “I-I’m sorry… I just…”

“…No, I did it, too. A couple times, in fact. And I don’t think I’m done, but I’m trying to hold out until he’s awake”

“Since ‘there’s no fun in being mad at someone who’s not there to feel it.'” Their sarcasm rang out as their sentiments synced. They looked at each other and laughed–a bit uneasy, but still considerably relieved. Some of the tension from earlier faded with the sound.

“Well, he was right about that,” Aomine said, in hopes of  closing the rift.

It had been a terribly long day for both of them and when they finally left the hospital, it was nearly midnight.

The Letter, Part Nine

[Battery: 65% | Time: 8:00 PM]

I had it in my mind that I wouldn’t apologize to you because I truly believe that leaving was the right thing to do. But when I think about what must have been going through your head when you realized I wasn’t there and wasn’t coming back… Did you get that message? I sent it to the same phone. Yeah, I know. Sending it to a phone I knew you had pretty much stopped using is cheating, but I figured if you got it, it was meant for you to get. Same with this message. If by some miracle you still have the phone after all this time or are still using this email address… If you don’t, at least I got this off my chest, so it’s fine if it slips off into the void never to be known or felt again.

So, before I fade into that void as well, I want to thank you again for everything. You did so much for me and I repaid you in such a terrible way.

I think most people can’t see themselves change, for the worse, I mean. You know, if you could see yourself becoming uglier and uglier by the day, something in you would have to tell you to stop before it was too late. If you could see it, there’s no way you’d want to keep going, right? So, that’s were I was; I really saw myself and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I was angry at you and angry at myself, but I could never get the words out. But it was for the best…saying anything would have just ruined everything and I didn’t think I could handle it. But the genius that I am went and disappeared and ruined things anyway. Some days I wish I could have been like you, but I need that closeness. Though it seems silly saying it now since it’s been years since I felt it. If I knew it was going to turn out like this, I would have stayed. But I suppose, either way, you would have still ended up hating me. And if you were going to hate me regardless, I’d rather not be there to feel it.

Pages Left to Turn

Before, Part Four

Kise opened the front door, but a second later, out the corner of his eye, he saw Kagami’s hand rush by to close it. “What the hell?!”

“Where do you think you’re going,” Kagami asked as he crowded Kise.

Kise continued to stare at the door. “Out.”

“So you can come back with another bruise?”

“What is your deal?!”

“What’s yours?! Running around like some horny teenager, hooking up with losers like you got no common sense!”

So tiresome. These unsolicited lectures of Kagami’s… Kise’d had his fill. If it was jealousy, they’d still be annoying, but at least that would explain them. Why couldn’t it be jealousy? That would make everything so much easier. If it was jealousy he could just say that the feelings were mutual. If it was jealousy, he wouldn’t have to struggle to keep his feelings hidden. If it was jealousy, there’d be no need for him to be toppled by fits of anguish every time he resolved to leave. If only it was jealousy, but no such luck. Kise couldn’t understand how he had reached that point, how he found himself in love with Kagami, Kagami who would not love anyone.

He’d done so well in keeping everything under wraps that there were times that he actually believed that he was over him, but then, one thing would happen, one smile, one favorite dessert, one middle of the night rescue and Kise knew that all of those horrible feelings were still there. But this? Was it worth it just to be near him? Of course not, none of it was worth being looked down on by someone you couldn’t help but love.

Kise knew the day of is departure was coming, had to come, but he didn’t know how to make it come faster, so until he had the strength to forget, he endured. “You got something against me…having fun?”

“Since when is getting hit by your boyfriend fun?”

“That’s…,” not what they’re from, he wanted to say, but what did it matter? “None of your business.”

“Ugh!” Kagami slams his fist on the door.  “I don’t understand you, it’s not like you even need to be in a relationship to ‘have fun’!”

“…What?”

“You see me doing that shit?! We’re friends; we hang out all the time and I’ve got a invoice for a broken hotel mirror and a towed car receipt to prove that there’s no shortage of excitement when we do.”

Kise turned to face Kagami. He was completely baffled by Kagami’s reasoning. There’s no way he could be serious, right? “…Friends? …Friends?

“Yeah, aren’t we?”

“Ho-ly shit! Are you that fucking clueless?!” Kise couldn’t decide if he should laugh or what. He hid his face in his hands trying to understand. “It’s not the same! And don’t go comparing me with you! I don’t want to live a life like that. I can’t shut myself off from my feelings.”

“So be it, but why can’t you just get it from one person? And not that dipshit you’re with now…”

“One person,” he said as he shoved his index finger in Kagami’s face, “100 people. What does it matter? Do you think I just date people because I’ve got nothing better to do?”

Kagami stared at Kise. He did think that, but he suddenly realized how it would sound for him to say he did.

Kise’s face twisted at the insult. He meant it to be a throwaway question, so it took Kise by surprise that he hit the mark. “…You do…don’t you?”

Kagami considered feigning contrition, but he didn’t really feel it; he was honestly confused. “If that’s not the case, then why?”

“Because it never works!” Kise grabbed Kagami’s shirt and balled it into his fist. “Every time, I’m serious. Every time, I try,” he lets go, feeling defeated, “but it never works out.”

“And that’s exactly why I don’t understand why anyone would want to be in a relationship. All that effort for nothing. Going around in circles, arguing all the time–”  Kagami steps away in disgust. “You’ve seen them, even now, my parents are still at it. They can’t decide if they want to be together or if they want to separate, and it’s been like that for years. Who wants to live like that?” He threw his hands up. “What’s the point?”

“’What’s the point’? You wouldn’t know, would you?!” Kise stepped to Kagami. ” You won’t even try!”

The point, for Kise anyway, was that there was no point in trying to get any of this across to Kagami. He knew that the only way he could even make a dent was to explain it in terms of his feelings for him, but even if he was crazy enough to do that, now was most definitely not the time.

“Try what?! What the hell are you talking about?!”

Kise just put his head in his hands and sighed. “…Nevermind.” He turned away from Kagami and started walking towards the stairs.

Now where are you going?”

“Bed. Mine.”

Kagami thought that if Kise took his advice he could stop worrying about him and while on the surface it looked to be going that way, something in the tone of Kise’s voice unsettled him. A week later, Kagami came back from a trade show to find Kise sitting on the sofa. At that time of night on a Friday, he’d usually be out, so Kagami plopped down next to him to see what was up; Kise didn’t look happy. “What’s up? You get stood up?”

Kise turned quickly to face him. “By who?”

“That fuckface you call your boyfriend.”

It suddenly occurred to Kise that he hadn’t talked to Kagami for a few days. “You know,” he said, raising his eyebrows, “you’re a little too passionate about dissing my S/Os.”

Kagami folded his arms across his chest. “I just call’em like I see’em.”

“…Whatever…” He stood up. Two days ago he thought that he’d finally try telling Kagami–as plainly as possible–how he felt, though this moment had quickly yanked him back to being unsure.” “Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that we broke up.” Kise started to walk towards the kitchen, hoping to find a moment to regain his courage.

Kagami moved after him and grabbed his trailing arm. “Hey… Don’t say that. You make it sound like I…” He pulled Kise towards him, into him, draped his arms over Kise’s shoulders, and settled his head next to his.

Kise felt the warmth of Kagami against his back. He wanted to resist, to run, but he didn’t. This was normal–no meaning to it–Kise blamed himself for making it that way, making their touching and closeness so normal that Kagami didn’t so much as bat an eyelash at it these days. He could feel Kagami’s breath on his neck. Was now a good time, Kise wondered.

“Why would I be happy when your face looks like that?” They were facing the same direction, so he couldn’t see Kise’s face, but he could tell it hadn’t changed since he left the sofa.

Kise supposed that anyone would assume his face was a reflection of his feelings about the end of the relationship, but it wasn’t. Well, not that one anyway.

“You know what would make me happy?” Kagami’s mood was suddenly lighter with just a hint of playfulness flitting around the edges. “You being happy would make me happy…and that guy just…he’s no good for you.”

Kise wanted to say, “you could make me happy,” but then what? It was the perfect opening, but… he bit his bottom lip. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for an answer that wasn’t in his heart’s favor. He let himself out of Kagami’s arms, stepped away a bit, and then turned to face him. “What is it that you think is gonna make me happy?”

“For starters…”Kagami said, his voice softening significantly. He reached out and touched a spot on Kise’s cheek where he remembered a bruise being some weeks prior and brushed his thumb across it. “Not getting hit by someone who claims to love you.”

Kise’s eyes looked down. He moved Kagami’s hand away from his face. He thought to hold onto it, but let it go. “He never claimed that and it’s…not what you think.”

“Well then, even more than that, being with someone who does.” Kise’s hands felt warm in his and the heat set his gears to turning. “…Look, I don’t get it, not one bit, but…fine, you want to be with someone, in a relationship, but maybe…maybe take a break for a while before you get into another one? Or…if you really don’t want to be alone…I could try.

Kise felt his heart stop and stammer to start up again. “…Try…what?”

“Filling in,” Kagami said, as his face broadcast how clever he thought he was.  “…Keep you company until you find someone worth your while. You’re not in it for the sex, right? Other than that, I should be able to do everything else. I don’t have much of anything scheduled for the next few weeks. Once we work out the details, you can hang out with me and try not to think about what you might be…other stuff–you can try not to think about other stuff. You know? Just…be…”

Kise stared.

And,” Kagami added, “if you make it through the first week without bailing, I’ll go to karaoke with you and I won’t complain. Deal?”

Kise hadn’t quite figured out if Kagami was stupid or just stupid. Kagami was looking at him, expecting something along the lines of “yes” to come out of his mouth, but there was no way. He was either going to confess or he was going to keep it to himself, but he’d be damned if he was going to be tripped up by some shoujo manga nonsense. Kise opened his mouth but nothing came out. It was his turn to speak, but he did not know what to say. Was now a good time?

Kagami’s face was lit with anticipation and it nearly blinded Kise.

“Kagamicchi…  I… I can’t do something like that…with you.” He looked down. “Pretending to be with you… when I feel the way I do…about you…” His eyes traveled up, hoping to see some sort of reaction, but just as he knew, feared, there was nothing but earnest anticipation. Kise sighed. “…I can’t…it would be too hard to keep things straight because, Kagamicchi… We– I’m i–“

“We’re just friends, I know,” Kagami interrupted, as he moved ahead with his assumption. “…And I’m not your type, but it’ll only be for a while…so you won’t be lonely.”

Kise dropped his head in resignation and exhaled in a whisper, “Lonely? Y–” He caught himself and laughed a little knowing that he almost asked, “you wanna know what lonely is…,” but even though he was angry enough, he still wasn’t brave enough to have that conversation. And, at this rate, he wondered if he ever would be. Besides, leveling with Kagami in the midst of this weirdness would only complicate things. His resolved asserted itself just a hair, “…Thanks…you’re really sweet, Kagamicchi,” he lifted his again, “…but I think I’ll be better off on my own.”

Kagami sighed; he sounded disappointed. “Alright, suit yourself…” He stepped closer to Kise, right in front of him. He didn’t notice Kise froze and continued. He placed his index fingers at the corners of Kise’s mouth and pushed them up. “Just do whatever it takes to get rid of this frown.”

Kise melted a little. With the corners of his mouth still propped up, he puckered. It was a long shot, but… “Maybe if you kissed me, that m–“

“If that’s all it takes….” Kagami interrupted.

Kise didn’t imagine it. It was slightly moist, warm, and very quick, but Kagami did kiss him.

“…I hope that helps,” Kagami said, a generous and concerned smile on his face. “Alright, I’m turning in.” He ruffled Kise’s hair. “You should too, you look exhausted.”

Exhausted? The word pulled Kise halfway out of his daze. He knew Kagami said something before that, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember–everything sort of went blank right after the kiss. Hearing Kagami’s footsteps over his head pulled him the rest of the way. Kise looked around and wondered when exactly did he fall to the floor? As he recovered, he mumbled to himself. “No. He’s an idiot. That’s already been established. I just have to forget about it. That’s all.”

Forgetting seemed like a good plan and it might have worked if Kagami didn’t do it again two weeks later.


Kagami came down to the living room to find Kise sleeping and the end credits from some movie rolling. He walked over to Kise to wake him up, but leaned down instead.

Kise stirred reluctantly before opening his eyes to Kagami looking down at him. He touched his lips. “Did you…kiss me?”

“Yeah,” Kagami answered as he poked Kise’s forehead. “You were frowning in your sleep. You want breakfast?”

Kise sat up. Shock? Nausea? What was he feeling? “…Um…no. I…I’m going to bed.” His legs hadn’t quite worked out what was going on, but Kise made his way up to his room as quickly as he could. He closed his door–harder than he intended–fell face down on his bed, and screamed into his pillow. His heart was racing and his blood was pounding in his ears and the tears were burning his eyes. He couldn’t take it anymore.

The following week and a half was a blur. First it was the exasperated sighs, then it was the clipped speech, and then came the dropped glasses and plates and the occasional slammed door. Kagami had already asked Kise what was wrong, but Kise told him it wasn’t anything important. If that wasn’t bullshit, Kagami didn’t know what was. He yelled up the stairs. “What the hell is wrong with you?! And don’t say ‘nothing’!”

Kise swung his door open and yelled back. “Nothing! Why would you think that?!” Kise tried for innocence, but his hostile sarcasm came through.

“Are you fucking kidding me?! Stop slamming the damn doors!”

“Sorry! I don’t know my own strength!”

And another door slammed.

This mutha…” Kagami was fed up. He Kagami sighed. He didn’t feel like dealing with Kise right now–he already had his parents and their 5th? 7th? 8th? threat to divorce to worry about–but he knew this couldn’t go on any longer. The next morning he went to knock on Kise’s door and heard, not loud sighs, not things being tossed about–making his room messier than usual–not creative expletives being shouted; he heard none of those things he’d gotten used to recently. What he did hear was singing. Kise only sang at karaoke or when he thought no one was listening. He had a great voice, so Kagami didn’t understand why, but regardless, this was an improvement. And, so as not to disturb Kise, Kagami withdrew his hand, made an about-face. He turned his attention to breakfast.

The scent of warm cinnamon, butter, and nutmeg, coaxed Kise out of his room and down the stairs. Before he stepped into the Kitchen, he took a deep breath and put on his new face. “Waffles? I thought I smelled French toast.” He took a seat at the island counter.

Kagami took a quick glance over his shoulder. It was an abrupt change, but he decided to just go with it. “Cinnamon, nutmeg and honey in the batter. Bacon or sausage?”

“Both.”

Kagami gestured his elbow towards the pan to his right. “Can you flip that?”

Kise grabbed a spatula and walked around the island to reach the stove. There was an egg white omelette in the pan. He knew it was for him. “Mushroom and chives?”

“There’s Gorgonzola and crème fraîche chilling in the fridge.”

“Drink?”

“Is there any room temperature iced tea?”

Kise’s mouth turned down in disgust. “You know that’s gross?”

“Do we have any or not?”

“I do not want to be a party to such deviance!”

Kagami looked at Kise as if he was looking at him over a pair of glasses.

Kise rolled his eyes and turned to go to the mudroom. “One nasty warm tea coming up.”

“Leave me alone! Let me drink my tea in peace!”

They ate and talked like they did before things got weird. Kise was charming and funny and not at all irritated. They talked about the offers Kise had to return from his hiatus and how they should invite Aomine and Kuroko to visit since it had been so long since they’d seen them. They talked about who they liked for the draft. They talked about Kagami’s new email address and the phone he bought to go with it.

They talked about a lot of things, but what Kagami really wanted to talk about was the past week because it was too bizarre, but he decided that it could wait a day or two. Then a week passed and then a month; things were back to normal as far as Kagami could see. He decided that if an opening presented itself, he’d bring it up, but otherwise, he would just let the issue be.

A couple months passed and that time was pretty much forgotten. Kise hadn’t taken up any new work yet, but he’d accepted invitation after invitation for various shows and, as a result, he was busy. So was Kagami. But there was a week where neither of them had much to do and it turned into Movie Marathon week–something they hadn’t done for a while. Kagami voted for featuring Yoko Kanno, and Wakayama Tomisaburou. Kise nominated Miike Takashi and Paradise Kiss. They both wanted a sports movie day and agreed that they wing it the rest of the days. The following week, their schedules picked up and they only saw each other in the mornings. While Kagami was out, Kise cleaned. While Kagami was in, Kise was out. but things couldn’t go on this way, could they?

Kise hip-checked Kagami who was rummaging through the utility closet. “Mornin’.”

“Mmmm…”

“Late night?”

“My parents.”

“…Oh…”

Kagami pulled out a back of D batteries and turned to Kise. “You gonna be here tonight?”

“I don’t know. What’s up?” Kise was intrigued.

“Moving.”

Kise looked at Kagami and waited for the rest.

“I’m thinking about moving, so I want to know what you want to do.”

Kise had plans that night, but they could be cancelled. With all the things that had been swimming around his head, he wasn’t sure if he’d be in the right mind to have that kind of conversation. Though he couldn’t put it off for long. “…Um…okay… I’ll see you when you get home then.”


Apparently the 1900s ran through Kise’s hotel and left the 70s behind. He was surrounded by rust–the armchair, the bedspread, the pinstriping on the gleaming gold wallpaper, all rust. Random blobs of gold, green, and cream dotted a field of rust on the velvet drapes. And the carpet matched. Kise couldn’t help but laugh at that. He could tell that everything was brand new, but the room was so badly lit that it made everything look old, himself included.

It was kind of sudden and he didn’t really pack anything. He’d be good for a few days, but he knew he had to think of a real plan soon. It was barely 6 PM, but Kise just felt like sleeping. When he woke up the next morning, he noticed that even lit by daylight, the room offended his sense of style. He thought about going back; it wasn’t too late, Kagami probably wouldn’t even be suspicious–it’s not like he never stayed out overnight and Kagami slept in on the weekends, so he could slip back in like nothing ever happened. He wanted to go back, but he knew it for the bad idea it was.

Two nights ago when Kagami asked him if he wanted to buy a house together, he told Kagami he’d think about it. Of course, there was nothing to think about. Kise admitted that he was a coward for running away, but there was nothing to be done about Kagami’s naiveté…and even if there was, Kise was out of the courage, the strength, and the patience to attempt it. He wanted to be mad at Kagami, he was mad at Kagami, but he knew it wasn’t his fault. Kise had never been completely upfront about his feelings, so he knew his frustration was all on him.

Kise groped blindly on the empty side of the bed in search of his laptop. He could use his phone which was face down on the pillow next to him, but if there was a notification for a call or message from Kagami, his resolve might waver. He took it as a sign when he found a flight with a last minute first class cancellation. He was third in queue when he sent a text and turned off his phone.

«I’m not lost, so don’t look for me»

After, Part Six

When Kagami and Aomine arrived at the onsen, the old man instructed his grandson to show them to Kise’s place. Inside, they looked around like they’d never seen anything like it. It was strange seeing what his life had become without them. They were both grateful that he found a place to call home, but the gratitude wasn’t deep enough to win over the resentment that had settled within them over the years. The place wasn’t that big, so there wasn’t much to see and, actually, it took more time to look over a single bookcase than it did to walk from the front of the place to the back.

Kagami was in stood lost; the view from the bedroom was magnificent and serene. He tried to understand what Kise thought when he looked out onto the shore. He turn to view the bookshelves that towered over the bed. “Books?”

From the living room, Aomine responded with a reciprocal level of awe. “And lots of them.”

“This looks more like Kuroko lives here.”

“…Yeah… You think they were already here or could this be his collection?” No response. “You think these are his?” Still nothing. Aomine poked his head into the bedroom.

Kagami was facing the bookshelf and looking at his phone…the other one.

“Is the hospital calling you” Aomine asked, as he braced himself for the answer.

“Hu…uh?” His speech was oddly protracted and overly breathy as if he were sounding out the word.

Aomine could see that he was trying to focus.

Kagami looked up; his face was pale.

“Is it the hospital?”

Kagami began to come to. “…No…it’s an email…from Kise.”

“What?! How?!”

“Do you think he…?”

“No, there’s no way, the hospital would have called you, right? He must have scheduled it.”

Kagami pulled out his main phone and showed it to Aomine. No notifications. “Then, do you think he knew something was going to happen?”

“M-Maybe? I don’t know. Read it.”

Kagami sat down on the bed. “Uh…you read it, too.”

“I don’t know, he wrote it to you.”

Kagami looked at Aomine with an expression that brooked no argument. “He can be mad at me all he wants when he wakes up, but right now, I need you to read this with me.”

Aomine walked over to the low dresser and took a seat. “Alright, go ahead and forward it.”

[Battery: 67% | Time: 7:38 PM]

From: Kise Ryota
To: Kagami Taiga
Subject: I hope this finds you well

Hey!

I know this is long overdue, but better late than never, right…

And so they read.

The Letter, Part Ten

[Battery: 65% | Time: 8:03 PM]

There was a time I thought that after I calmed down that I’d come back, apologize for disappearing, and hope that you’d find some way to forgive me, but life only gives you so many chances and you never know when you’ll run out. So while I’m still able, I want to thank you for everything and I want to say that I’m sorry–you’ll never know how much.

m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m

-Kise

P.S. If nothing else, you should be happy that I refrained from using emojis until the end. After the dust settles, if I’m able, maybe I’ll go and find you.

 

After, Part Seven

When he finished reading the letter, Kagami fell back onto the bed and covered his face with a pillow. He heard Aomine draw air through his teeth and hiss it back out. “You done?”

Aomine pulled his lips in as he inhaled deeply. His head shook slowly, like he was uncertain, like if he moved the wrong way or moved too fast, something would break and he wasn’t sure if it could be pieced back together. Having read the letter and knowing what he now knew, the torch of anger and betrayal Aomine pretended he’d doused, but still carried with him, dimmed, flickered and nearly went out. However, the vacancy was quickly back-filled with the frustration caused by Kagami’s inability to acknowledge what had really taken place. He started to speak.

Even before a breath escape, Kagami cautioned Aomine. “Don’t say it.

Aomine thought he caught a hint of refusal in Kagami’s tone. Or was that bitterness. Maybe both. He started again with the intention to say something else.

“Don’t say that either!” Again, Kagami cut him off, but this time with a definite edge of resentment.

Aomine threw up his hands. “Hey, as long as you know.”

“But I don’t know! It’s not like he said anything outright!”

“Read between the lines, idiot!”


Volume Two

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