Concept: Himi | Art: Romax | Edit: Himi
Fandom: Kuroko no Basuke Pairing: Kagami & Kise Summary: Not too long after his birthday, Kise was moved to a rehabilitation center. It was mid autumn when he finally returned to his place on Kohama. He was still in recovery and knew he would be for some time before he would regain his previous levels of health and strength. But knowing didn’t make things easier. Even still, with the support of his friends and family, he made progress. All was relatively well until winter began making way for spring. This story, Volume One, in particular, is told in reference to three points in time: Status
Fandom: Kuroko no Basuke
Pairing: Kagami & Kise
Summary: Not too long after his birthday, Kise was moved to a rehabilitation center. It was mid autumn when he finally returned to his place on Kohama. He was still in recovery and knew he would be for some time before he would regain his previous levels of health and strength. But knowing didn’t make things easier. Even still, with the support of his friends and family, he made progress. All was relatively well until winter began making way for spring.
This story, Volume One, in particular, is told in reference to three points in time:
Leave Me Alone
Kiyoshi hung up the phone; he had been speaking to Kise. Kagami slammed half a bottle of Black Nikka on the bar top. It was the end of a bad day and he didn’t think it could get any worse until Kise refused to speak to him again.
Kiyoshi checked Kagami out the corner of his eye. “You break it, you bought it.”
Kagami muttered something under his breath, pulled out his phone, and scrolled to the most recent entry of Kise in his call history.
“You’re not helping your case at all.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do?! He won’t talk to me!”
“That’s your fault. I told you. Kuroko told you. Aomine told you.”
Kagami dropped his head. He couldn’t get around it. He kept the letter from Kise and he was paying the price. ” How can I apologize if he won’t talk to me?”
Kiyoshi sighed. “Maybe he doesn’t want an apology.”
“Then what? How can I fix it? What do I need to do?”
Having to think for two people made Kiyoshi lose his count. He dumped the coins back in the till and started again. “Do what he asked you to. Leave him alone.”
Kiyoshi held his hand up. “I already know what you’re going to say, but it’s been close to a year, man. He’s gotten better. No more black outs. His appetite returned. He’s walking on his own. And don’t forget,” Kiyoshi looked up as he finished counting, “he has a nurse on call.”
Kagami sucked his teeth, now hating what he had always appreciated about Kiyoshi: he was always right. “Then, why do you still go there? The inn is pretty much done.”
“I like it there. Plus, he’s my friend; if he asks for my help, I’m gonna to give it to him.”
“You need to let it go,” Kiyoshi protested.
Kagami was still holding onto the bottle of Black Nikka. He gripped the neck tighter. “How can I?! I think, even before he found out about the letter he was already done with me… What did I do wrong then?
Kiyoshi sealed the deposit envelope and tossed it on the back shelf. He looked at Kagami. He felt sorry for him, but then again, not really. ” It was too much for him,” he said as he hoisted himself up on the bar and let his legs dangle. “If he was still in the hospital and his doctor saw how you were with him, you definitely would have been banned again. You made it too hard for him.”
“Hard?!” Kagami slammed the bottle again.” How did I?! I did everything I could to make things easier for him!”
Kiyoshi watched as the amber liquid settle in the bottle. He was used Kagami’s shout first, think later attitude and it never really bothered him, but if Kagami was going to be so keen on abusing the merchandise, Kiyoshi was going to have to do something about it. “Kagami, you treated him like he was incapable of taking care of himself.”
“But, he was!” Kagami said as he threw up his hands holding tight to the bottle. His voice was strained in his clenched jaw.
“For a while,” Kiyoshi nodded, agreeing more with himself than Kagami, “yeah, but he was in recovery, meaning he was working towards getting better–he wasn’t permanently disabled. By doing so much for him, you made his physical recovery harder than it needed to be. Let’s not even talk about his mental recovery… You really set him back when you acted like you withheld the letter out of concern for him. Like you pitied him or something. No one wants to be pitied by the person they love.”
“I don’t pity him! I wanted to help him! And–” Kagami finally let go of the bottle. He rested his elbows on the bar and held his head in his hands. “And…he doesn’t love me–not the way you keep saying it; he’s gone from keeping me at a distance to straight up pushing me away.”
Kiyoshi was sightly amused by Kagami’s selective memory. “Weren’t you the one creating the distance?”
Kagami opened his mouth to retort, but thought better of it.
“Anyway, there’s a difference between what you were doing and helping.” Kiyoshi hopped of the bar and leaned on it, next to Kagami. “You were basically suffocating him and no matter what he said, you always acted like you knew better. You made him your world and…that’s great and all, but what you were doing–the way you were doing it–it wasn’t what he wanted.”
“But I can’t give him what he wants.”
Kiyoshi shrugged. “Then you have no choice but to respect the boundaries he’s setup.”
“See that?” Kiyoshi tapped firmly on the bar top. “That’s one of your problems, right there.” He straightened up. “It’s not about you. I don’t know if it’s fear, stubbornness, or if you really do not believe in relationships, but regardless of your reason, you don’t know the first thing about them. The space you want to take up in Kise’s life and the type of accountability you want to have with each other is on a level most people reserve for the person they give their heart to.”
“That makes no sense. If I’m doing all the stuff he wants, why is he refusing me?” Whatever was going on had Kagami completely out of his element and the longer the mess he was in dragged on, the more confused he grew.
“Dense as ever.” Kiyoshi folded his arms across his chest. “It’s because you don’t want it in the same way he does. If he let you go on, he’d still be in an unrequited love and getting no benefits.”
“It’s like asking him to change his phone plan and rather than paying less or getting better perks, he loses the privilege of future upgrades and gets nothing but hassle from customer service when he tries to change his plan or leave.”
“Future upgrades…? What?” Kagami asked as he came to his full height.
Kiyoshi threw his head back in disbelief; a woefully labored sigh escaped him. “Your stupidity is wearing me out.”
“What the hell?!”
“SEX!” Kiyoshi yelled as his fist rattled the glasses under the bar when the side of it came forcefully into contact with the top of it. “Sex, dammit! Sex and physical intimacy.”
“H-How do you know that?!” Kagami tripped over his words as if it Kiyoshi’s declaration couldn’t possibly be. “Is that what he told you?!”
“He didn’t have to tell me, it’s obvious that sex is part of the relationship plan he wants to sign up for.” Kiyoshi dragged his hand back from his forehead to the back of his head as he shook it. “Really, you’re probably the only one who hasn’t figured it out. Or refuses to.”
In fact, it was a door Kagami had refused to open time and time again, but he was feeling like soon he wouldn’t have a choice.
“…Look, man,” Kiyoshi said, waving his phone around, “I’ve got a text asking me to help keep you away.” When he received it, he wasn’t sure what to make of it since Kagami was supposed to with Kise at that time, but he figured something must have happened and simply agreed. He was sure he’d hear all about it later. In the end, he heard three versions: Kise’s, Kagami’s, and Aomine’s. Even now, he still hadn’t read the letter, so he didn’t know how much damage withholding it had done, but he’d already decided to protect Kise from Kagami and Kagami from his own ignorance. “Personally, I don’t mind, but I think it would work out better for you if you did it on your own. So, do as he asked and leave him alone. Unless you’re finally going to admit that you’re in love with him and that you want to be with him the way he wants, just leave him alone. Use this time to think about what you’re really doing here. If you keep going on like this, one day you’ll be so far gone that there won’t be anything to come back to.”
And like that, though not with full consent, three months passed before Kagami spoke to Kise again.
Kise stared at the cursor blinking in the white text field. It was going on five hours since Momoi asked if she and Aomine could throw him a birthday party and if it was alright to invite Kagami. Technically, Kise hadn’t forgiven Aomine yet, but he wasn’t exactly upset with him anymore either. So the party sounded like a good way to get things somewhere near normal with him. But Kagami coming was a whole other deal. Kise didn’t hate Kagami, but he didn’t know how to deal with him the way things were. And every time he heard his voice, he was reminded of the argument they had when he found out about the letter.
Kagami slid the door to Kise’s place to the side, kicking off his flip flops before stepping in. He saw Kise and Aomine standing in the archway that lead to the bedroom. Kagami called out a greeting. No one answered. “Everything alright in there?” He made his way towards them; Aomine acknowledged him first. He was still advancing when Kise turned furious eyes on him. Kagami stopped cold.
“You!” Kise charged Kagami, moving faster than he could maneuver his cane, brandishing his tablet. If Aomine hadn’t grabbed him, he might’ve impaled Kagami, or at least knocked him back a few steps. Kise immediately realized that all of those quick and tense movements weren’t such a good idea, but he’d deal with that later. “What the hell is this?!”
Kagami stepped back as he tried to focus. “What the hell is what?”
Kise pointed at the screen of his tablet which he held up close to Kagami’s face. “This! What the hell is this?!”
Kagami caught Kise’s hand to steady the tablet and pull it away from his face so that he could see it. When he registered what was on the screen, he dropped his hands and his eyes darted to Aomine. “What the the hell, man?!”
Kise stepped deeper into Kagami’s personal space. “Hey! I’m the one talking to you!”
Kagami’s attention quickly turned back to Kise whose eyes were wet with anger. “Kise…”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this?!”
“How could you keep this from me?!”
“Kise, I’m sorry…”
“You can shove your fuckin’ ‘sorry’! You knew! You see how much I struggle remembering things. You know how hard I’ve been trying to…to know who I was…”
When Kise started to turn away, Kagami reached out to him, but he dropped his hand when Kise jerked back and tensed in frustration. Kise pushed Aomine to the side as he made his way to his bedroom. From the archway, he tossed his tablet on the bed. Kagami and Aomine looked on, at a loss for what to do next. Kise pressed his face into his free hand, his breath shook as he exhaled.
“I want to know, right now,” Kise said as his cane pounded the floor in time with his demand. He remained with his back to them.
“Kise…I’m sorry, I just didn’t want to complicate things.” Both he and Aomine jumped when Kise spun to face Kagami.
“Complicate what? I didn’t just see that!”
Aomine leaned back to escape the arc of Kise’s wild swing as he pointed behind him in the direction of his tablet.
“I read it! Over and fucking over…”
“With everything going on now, I thought that it would be better if you didn’t have to deal with that too. I mean, you seemed like you were dealing with a lot when you wrote it.”
“Bullshit! I just told you I read it! What is that supposed to complicate?” he asked, pointing to the tablet again. “All it tells me is that I was in love with you.”
“I thought that you might not want to deal with that when–“
“Who are you?!” Kise stepped closer to Kagami. “Who the hell are you to decide what I can and can’t handle? I am so sick of you! You come here and you–” Kise’s words faltered in sync with his heart. “You make yourself a part of me, but you keep me at arm’s length. Day in and day out–you visit or you call and you’re just…always here for me… And I was fa–” He didn’t want to say it; he didn’t want to make it real. “And yet, all this time you’ve been withholding a part of my life from me? Who gave you the right?! Why in the world would you even think keeping it from me would–” Kise stopped, his words cut short by a thought that demanded his attention at that very moment. He swung around towards the small dining area to his right where Aomine stood quietly–half wanting to disappear. His hand found its way to cover his mouth as he turned the thought over in his head. He searched Aomine’s eyes for confirmation. He didn’t find anything so finite, but Aomine’s look of “Oh, shit, this is about to get worse, isn’t it” was enough.
Kagami watched Kise, wanting to apologize, but afraid to say anything. He flinched when Kise’s hands fell to his side in fists.
Kise turned again, this time towards Kagami. He took a few steps forward, but stopped quickly and turned back and then back again. He was confused. No. His mind was clear, but his whole being was teeming with bitterness and resentment. He wanted to speak, calmly, but he felt like if he opened his mouth he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from yelling or crying. He took a deep breath, rocked back on his heels and tried to speak, but rather than words spoken calmly or otherwise, a impassioned laugh was let loose. Surprised and exhausted and everything hurt. He tried to catch his breath as his free hand reached behind him to find the back of the sofa. His body relaxed into its aches as he sat on the sturdy frame. With his hands atop the curved handle, Kise steadied his cane between his legs; he bowed his head and rested his forehead against his hands which were now trembling since they were no longer balled into fists.
“It–” He coughed. After a few deep breaths, Kise raised his head and tried to reconfirm what he had chanced to see in Aomine’s eyes. A calm set about him and he was sure he could do it this time. He turned to study Kagami. “It wasn’t about me, was it? You were the one who didn’t want to remember.”
For the moment, words failed Kagami.
“Why? Was it such terrible thing?” Kise was quietly relieved that his words bore no evidence of the heartbreak and frustration behind them.
“I never thought that!”
“No? That’s not why you’ve been so close, but so weirdly distant all this time?”
“Of course not!”
“I just… I can’t do that kind of thing and I didn’t want things to go the way they did last time. I didn’t want you to disappear on me again.”
Kise sighed, his calm was in danger of turning into resignation. “You don’t– I’m sorry. You can’t be with me but you don’t want me to leave you?” He snickered. “I guess some things haven’t changed. I’m as much of an idiot now as I was then, it seems.”
“Gotta be to fall in love with you twice.” Despite his flippant tone, it hurt Kise deeply to say that out loud.
Meanwhile, Kagami couldn’t speak; it was exactly what he didn’t want, what he tried desperately to avoid.
Kise leaned forward and pulled his phone out of his back pocket. His frustration grew as he tried to get his hand to cooperate. He had a shit grip and limited dexterity and though you’d think that a touchscreen keypad would help, Kise’s coordination was still a bit off, so it all just ended up being exasperating. He wanted to throw his phone, but it would be the fourth one since his discharge. The first one was an accident, but the other two… One met with a wall and the other was lobbed long over the water. His mother and Aomine both urged him to use the voice recognition feature, but he refused to. He was determined to recover his fine motor skills, even if it killed him–or another phone. He finally managed to find his way to what he was looking for. “1 contact and all of their linked contacts will be deleted.” Kise tapped with the underside of his thumb. He took a breath and turned to Aomine.
“Go home.” He rose unsteadily, ambled his way through his bedroom to the door leading to the shore, and stopped. “And take that selfish bastard with you.” Kise slid the side door aside and walked out. He sat on the engawa, made great efforts to tap out a text, and wondered if he should just cry, because it felt like it had been forever since the last time.
Kagami moved to go after Kise, but was stopped when Aomine placed his whole body in front of him.
“Yo! Leave it for now.”
Kagami tried to move past Aomine.
“I said leave it! You wanna upset him even more?!”
“How could you do that to me, man?!”
Aomine pushed Kagami back and exhaled the tension that kept him quiet during the previous exchange. “Don’t even…” He was nonplussed about the situation he found himself in. Being forced to side between friends knowing both action and inaction could cost him–had already cost him. He didn’t side with Kise because they had history or because he thought Kagami was completely in the wrong. He came clean because he saw the path Kise’s actions would likely lead him down and he didn’t think it was fair that he journeyed unprepared. He was already at a disadvantage–being interested in Kagami–so Aomine felt it was only right to help even the playing field as best he could. “He asked me if you were dating anyone.”
“You fuckin’ doorknob! What do you mean?! You heard him, right?” Aomine asked as he gestured furiously in Kise’s direction. “Or were you still too busy trying to avoid the topic? His fucking poor taste has lead him to fall in love with you. Again!”
Kagami threw his hands up. “This is what I was trying to avoid! I didn’t want it to be like this!”
“No fuckin’ way!” Aomine shot back as he stepped in to jab his into the middle of Kagami’s chest. “I told you, time and time again! You should have been the one to tell him! And soon! But you didn’t. This is your fault. You were only trying to avoid dealing with it, you fuckin’ coward.”
Kagami tried to slip by again. “Whatever, man. I gotta fix this.”
Aomine blocked him again. They were evenly matched.
Truth be told, the letter did complicate things, but not in the way Kagami meant. The letter broke a dam somewhere in Kise’s mind. Forgotten memories and missing pieces emptied into his consciousness–it was like a thousand domino reactions going off at once. When he left out, he didn’t slide the door closed, so he could still hear them, past and present mingled, but he was mostly tuning them out. However, the sound of furniture scraping across his floor made him tune back in.
Kise jabbed his cane in Kagami’s side, which caused Kagami to coil and interrupted the swing he was about to take. “I thought I told you to leave.”
Kagami whipped around. “Kise…”
Now that Kagami was distracted, it was easier for Aomine to push him off. Kagami rolled onto the floor with a thud, but soon got to his feet.
“Kise, I’m sorry. H-How can I…fix this?”
Kise looked up at Kagami, genuinely puzzled. “Fix what?”
“I made you mad. I’m sorry.”
Kise’s confusion quickly morphed into bitter curiosity. “Fix. What?”
“…Things between us.”
“And what’s between us?” Kise waited, but no answer came. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
“Your first answer was closer to the truth.”
“I’m sorry. I felt bad that I didn’t realize how you felt back then. And worse because you didn’t feel like you could tell me.”
“What was I supposed to tell you? ‘Oh, I know you’re repulsed by the idea of romance, but I’m in love with you’? I mean, that’s right, isn’t it?”
“I’m not…” Kagami paused for a moment, considering the word, “…repulsed, I’m just not into it and…there’s more to it than that.”
“Well, you can stop worrying your pretty little head. I promise I won’t confess to you. And just to make it easier on both of us, how about we just end…whatever this is? Sound good to you? Good, good. Now that we got that all sorted out…”
Kagami reached out for Kise who was turning away from him.
Aomine grabbed Kagami’s arm. “Come on, man. Leave it for now.”
Kagami yanked his arm away and paid no mind to Aomine. “Are you saying that we can’t even be friends?”
Kise stopped, but didn’t turn around. He wanted to say that that was exactly what he meant. “I…don’t know. I can’t think right now. And being around you when I still haven’t figured things out is more than I can deal with.”
“Then…what can I do?”
“…Leave me alone.” It was the only thing he felt right saying.
“Please!” Kise’s shoulders tensed and his head started pounding. “I can’t deal with you right now! …Just…just go home.”
If he couldn’t get past that, Kise knew he’d never get past anything. Even now pieces of his past were still missing. Reading the letter, Kise had been overwhelmed with emotions he didn’t know what to do with. It was both familiar and foreign. He could remember feeling those feelings, but most of the days and months and years that created them? He was at a loss. What had Kagami said or done that was so appealing, so incredible, so much of something that he fell in love with him and fell so hard? Now, though, he was overbearing, hardheaded, and stubborn. And yet, Kise somehow managed to fall in love with him again.
Kise wondered if he himself was so different now that he wouldn’t feel the urge to flee when things got too hard to bear. Having at least three hours between them was probably for the best, but was that enough? Was it okay? Should there be more? Less? Should he just cut him off once and for all? Kise lost count of how many times he’d had this conversation with himself, but his half-empty bottle of naproxen sodium bore witness to the number of headaches that train of thought had induced.
Would talking to Kagami help? Maybe. Maybe not. But there were some answers he’d never get if he only talked to himself. Kise woke his phone and was greeted by the blinking cursor accompanied by no more text than it was the last time he looked at it. He replied to Momoi in the affirmative on both counts.
Come When I Call
Rather than room separately, the party-goers–Momoi, Aomine, Kiyoshi, Kuroko, Murasakibara, and Kasamastu–who were free to stay the whole weekend, reserved one of the intermediate quarters that dotted the property. The elevated structure sat atop a hill overlooking Kise’s place, thus sharing the same beautiful view. The main celebration wasn’t going to kick off until Saturday night, so those who had arrived Friday afternoon were able to experience the five-star hospitality the onsen prided itself on.
Kise looked over the group. Momoi seemed to be holding court while Kiyoshi and Aomine took in the view from the engawa. He stooped behind them, draping his arms over their shoulders in a decidedly purposeful manner. “We seem to be missing someone.” He glanced at Aomine. “Is he coming tomorrow?”
Aomine nodded in Kiyoshi’s direction. “Ask him.”
Kise leaned into Kiyoshi. “Where is that pain in the ass?”
“He’s not coming.”
Kise’s face contorted in disbelief as he looked at Aomine again. “Did you tell him I said it was okay?”
“Have you two made up yet?”
“No, they haven’t,” Momoi answered as she walked up behind them.
Aomine, Kise, and Kiyoshi turned to acknowledge her. Kise stood up.
“Can someone call him?”
Kiyoshi looked over at Kise “He’s not budging. Maybe if you called him.”
Kise looked down, somewhat embarrassed, but unsure why. “…I can’t.”
“He’d definitely give in if you invited him personally.”
“…I can’t call him…I deleted his number.”
Momoi, Aomine and Kiyoshi stared at Kise, now weighed down by the true gravity of the situation.
“So, whose call won’t he ignore?”
Aomine, Momoi, and Kiyoshi, in their own ways, indicated Kuroko.
“Right,” Kise sighed. He went back into the common area where Kuroko, Murasakibara, and Kasamatsu were showing off pictures of their kids on their phones. Kuroko of the canine variety, Murasakibara of the confection variety, and Kasumatsu of the human kind. “Kuroko…kun…?” Kise paused for a second, the address feeling unnatural on his tongue.
Kuroko looked up. “Kise-kun?”
“…That’s not right, is it?” Kise asked as he knelt beside Kuroko. “What do I call you?”
“Really?” Kise’s mouth pulled down in disappointment. “Ugh, that’s such a mouthful. I’ll call you Kuroko. That’s fine, right?”
Even though he had regained a great deal of his memories, Kise often had to be reminded of some things. One of which was this–he couldn’t seem to keep straight how he had addressed everyone, so he’d gotten in the habit of simply bypassing any kind of address and would just talking to people when he couldn’t remember. On occasion, if it seemed like it mattered at that moment, he’d ask.
Kuroko gave Kise a slight nod, his expression failing to give away that it was the fifth time they had the same exact conversation.
“Alright, then, Kuroko, I need your phone.”
Kuroko, seemingly in an indulgent mood, handed his phone over without question or protest.
Kise took the phone and placed it on the low table in front of them. He flexed his fingers in preparation to swipe and tap his way to a conversation he didn’t actually want to have. He attempted to straighten his index finger to swipe but it wouldn’t go on its own. Kise slid the phone closer to Kuroko. “Actually…” he said as he balled his hands into fists in his lap. “Can you call Kagami for me?”
Upon hearing Kise say Kagami’s name, Kuroko wondered how many times he’d had the name conversation with him. Kuroko swiped to his phone app and tapped Kagami’s speed dial. He watched as Kise smiled and then grimaced when he saw Kagami’s profile picture appear. Kuroko slid the phone back in front of Kise.
Kise waited for Kagami to pick up.
“Yeah?” Kagami always sounded annoyed when he answered the phone, so it was hard to tell when he really was.
Kise exhaled. “Since you seem to require a personal invitation, consider this it.”
“If I don’t see you here by tomorrow morning, I’ll never forgive you.” Kise managed to end the call with the side of his thumb. He slid the phone back to Kuroko and threw a word of appreciation over his shoulder as he marched back to the engawa.
Momoi turned to Kise who was now standing beside her. “So, is he coming?”
“He is now.” Aomine and Kiyoshi answered in unison.
Half the Battle
Instead of charging ahead with might, Kagami backed off just like Kise wanted, just like Kiyoshi suggested. He didn’t always heed his advice, but Kiyoshi had never steered him wrong. The second half of his suggestion was just as difficult as the first. Thinking things through had never been Kagami’s forte. He knew he was hotheaded and impulsive and even though it got him into more trouble than he cared to admit, he’d never stopped to really think about what his actions were doing to or for the people around him. He wasn’t always the blind bull in the china shop, but the times he considered the consequences of his actions beyond the moment were few and far between. Later though, and only later, he would think back on this time and understand just that much more how terrible he’d been to Kise.
How had he gotten here? Kagami had already had five years to think, but he was clueless and hurt back then, so it didn’t actually count. Now he knew things. Whether he wanted to or not was a different story. But knowing what he knew and being told by Kise–not by way of an empty room, not by way of a letter, but in person, in Kise’s own voice–that he didn’t want to be around him… It hurt so much more than not knowing. So, in those few months during which he’d had no contact with him and only the facts of the situation to keep him company, he made the best of it and pulled himself apart.
Holding on to a conviction he’d formed in his naive youth had done him no favors. Never entertaining other possibilities had kept him distant and inexperienced. Now, he was paying for it. He was at odds with many of the people closest to him all because he was exactly what Aomine called him: a fuckin’ coward. He knew if he continued to hold on that he really would be too far gone. And even though it was hard and he was scared–though he had yet to figure out, or rather, remember why–he tried, in earnest, to see things differently instead of being stubborn and close-minded, he tried to take things as they came instead of viewing everything with a one-size fits-all slant.
It was hard and he was scared–being vulnerable never seemed worth it; from his parents he only understood the pain–but he fought through it. Well, it was more like he didn’t resist. It was no less scary and he didn’t exactly happen upon a wealth of conclusions, but one thing he did come to understand was that he’d never know for himself unless he tried. If he just did that, he would have already won half the battle.
Five hours after his one way conversation with Kise and calling Kiyoshi to get his flight reservation exchange code, Kagami touched down in Okinawa. If he had ignored the initial invitation and the event had passed without incident, he had been prepared to continue digging into the mess that he was. Of course he wanted to see Kise, but having not exactly completed his period of introspection, he wasn’t sure how seeing Kise would affect the state he was in. He was anxious to see what Kise had to say about it, but he’d also come to the conclusion that if he only went on what Kise said, it wouldn’t mean much, because it wouldn’t be the same as understanding for himself.
On the other hand, when he told Kiyoshi briefly about his apprehensions, as a nudge of encouragement, Kiyoshi said that Kise saying that he would never forgive him meant that he, on some level, had the intention to. Because of that, Kagami felt that staying back would likely kill any chance, so he disembarked, sure of very little, hopeful of even less.
When Kagami arrived, Kasamatsu, who had brought his guitar, and Kise were entertaining the others. It took a while to place, but when Kise slowly crooned “sha-la-laaa, I sing for you” he realized they’d turned Veltpunch’s “Crawl” into a languid ballad. Weird. The room acknowledged his entrance with a mix of proper greetings and teasing remarks–all things he was used to from most of the people present. Unsure of what to do he picked a spot next to Kuroko and settled in. When he looked up, Kise had just turned his way. Should he wave? Smile? Nod? He’d just settled on nodding when the corner of Kise’s mouth curled up into a wink.
He smiled. It was mostly nervous, but Kise seemed to either not notice or not mind. Kagami thought that is was a very Kise thing to do. But not the Kise now. It was something the Kise he shared a place with in LA would have done. It unsettled him; for all the thinking he’d done, not much was spent considering how to interact with the Kise from before. Having only come to the realization now, he feared that the last few months of contemplation would all be for nothing. What little hope he’d had was pretty much gone now.
A few more pop tunes turned into syrup and nearly everyone was singing along, getting a kick out of sounding like dying winos. Shortly before the end of the last song, one of the attendants knocked to alert them that the pavilion was ready. It was still relatively light out, but the lanterns along the path had been lit. The usually unpleasant rapeseed oil odor that was the downside of using traditional lanterns was almost undetectable above the early blooming sagaribana. In ones and twos, the group tread the path until they met the partially sunken pavilion. Before them lay a not so modest spread of sunui, rafuti, soukini, and hira yachii. Heaping bowls of chanpuru, yaeyama kamaboko, and beni-imo chips also graced the table and there was so much more. The attendant stood to the side and guided everyone in.
Momoi rubbed her hands together as she took everything in. Noticing a bottle of something likely alcoholic in front of every place setting, she nudged Aomine. “Don’t get carried away Dai-chan.”
Aomine looked down at her, unsure of what she was getting at and follow her gesture toward the bottles.
“Just because you have a bottle to yourself, doesn’t mean you have to finish it by yourself.”
Aomine’s brow wrinkled at the implication. “It’s just one bottle.”
“True, but along with the last drop goes your ability to limit yourself.”
“I’ll be fine.
“You say that now,” she looked up at her husband, “but the only one here who can carry you back to your room is Kagami-kun and you guys haven’t spoken in months.
“Woman, I can handle my drink. Besides…” Aomine pointed at Murasakibara who was already shoving a handful of beni-imo chips in his mouth, “He’s here.”
Momoi snorted in such away that it could only be taken as ridicule. “He hasn’t changed in all these years, just as lazy as ever. He won’t be paying you any mind.”
“Then,” Aomin said as he looked around, “Kiyoshi.”
Kiyoshi scooted past them on his way to the other side of the table. “Probably not.”
“Looks like you’re on your own, Dai-chan,” Momoi said, doing nothing to control her giggling. “And don’t expect me to do it.”
“I can’t be you…both of you. That’s messed up, man. Anyway,” Aomine clapped his hands together as he scouted a seat, “like I said, I’ll be fine.”
Everyone found a place and settled in. The conversations were lively, but everyone instinctively steered clear of topics that could dampen the mood. Halfway through, most of the bottles were nearly empty and some people had already started on their second, but Kise’s remained untouched. Kagami did join in, but he was mostly quiet. After a bottle and a half of what turned out to be awamori, he went to the main building to relieve himself. As he was returning, he saw someone waving at him from the direction he was headed.
“Taiga-chan! Taiga-chan! It’s so good to see you!”
Kagami realized it was Obaa-chan, so he jogged toward her. “Obaa-chan, how are you?”
“Good, good. Enough about me though, I haven’t seen you in so long.” Obaa-chan slipped her arm into Kagami’s and nudged him ever so escort her back to the main building.
Kagami let her lead. “Yeah… I… I’ve been working,”
“Ryou-chan is so happy to have you here!”
“Well, I think it’s been a while since he’s had so many people from back home visit, so…”
“Oh that may be so, but it’s you he’s happiest about,” Obaa-chan said in knowing tone.
Obaa-chan dismissed Kagami’s tied tongue. “Well, you’re the one who has his heart. And it seems like he’s got yours, too.”
“Et– Ut– Wha… I-It’s–” Kagami stumbled. “We’re not like that.”
“Is that so? I guess these old eyes of mine are starting to see things that aren’t there.”
Kagami looked down at her. “R-Really, it’s not.”
Obaa-chan squeezed his arm. “Oh, don’t worry about that none. I was surprised with you both being so handsome and all, I wouldn’t believe that you weren’t courting two or three young ladies. But you can’t help who you love; you can only help what you do about it.” She tipped her head towards the figure on the engawa on the left side of the main building; they seemed to be awaiting her arrival. “We were almost disowned, but he refused to take over this place unless his family accepted me. He was the youngest, but the only son and all his sisters had already been married off into families elsewhere.
Kagami looked ahead and then back at Obaa-chan.
She giggled. “They didn’t have much choice. He could have married into my family and done pretty well for himself. My family’s full of farmers and he’s a hard worker… But they hushed up and let us be.” Comforting him in his silence, she patted Kagami’s arm as they reached the front of the building. “Go on ’round the side and talk to him a minute. I’m gonna go up through here.”
Kagami went left to talk to Ojii-chan and she went up the 3-stair entrance.
“You! Where’ve you been?!” Ojii-chan barked. “That boy’s been so quiet. I’d rather hear you two have it out on the hour than have him all hushed up like that.”
Even thought Kagami tried not to think about the meaning of their words, he wondered if they planned this flanking tactic. “I’ve been working.”
Ojii-chan peered down at Kagami over his glasses. “‘Work’, you say?
“…Yeah.” He sat down out of kicking distance from Ojii-chan, it was his habit when he was picking on someone. Some people nudged with their shoulder, Ojii-chan kicked.
“You don’t seem like you’ll be leaving us any time soon.” Kagami said as he looked up at him, his words playful and sarcastic.
Ojii-chan howled and nearly doubled over. “Ojii-chan: Look at this kid! You’re damn right! Don’t have to worry about me. I ain’t going nowhere!”
Kagami smiled. Kiyoshi wasn’t the only one who’d gotten close to the onsen’s proprietors. They had a way of making everyone feel like family.
Ojii-chan pointed at Kagami. “Wait there a second,” he said and shuffled off. When he came back he offered Kagami a glass of shikuwasa, a sour juice that Kagami always hesitated to drink. He snickered as Kagami stared. “I didn’t forget. I sweetened it for you. You should be more like Ryou-chan; he drinks it straight. And that faces he makes after, like somebody pulled his tongue from the inside!”
Kagami accepted the glass. “No thank you, I’m not into suffering.”
Ojii-chan turned his ear to the kitchen–he was being called, so he stepped away.
Kagami idly sipped his juice and waited.
“Is this where you got off to?” Kise asked as he strolled up the walk.
Kagami was caught off guard and choked a little as he swallowed the last gulp. He cough and pounded his chest to clear his throat. “H-Hey.”
Kise sat down about an arm’s length away from Kagami who was rolling the glass between his palms to channel his nerves. “Glad you could make it.”
Kise snickered and caught the glimpse of an almost-smile at the tapering of Kagami’s lips. “It’s been a while.”
Kagami tucked his lips and nodded in agreement. He found it hard to look at Kise.
“How have you been?”
“I’ve been f–” Kagami stopped himself. Even if Kise was just making small talk, he didn’t want to just brush things aside. Not anymore. “If I’ve ever felt worse, I don’t remember it.”
Kise’s eyebrows raised as his eyes opened wide; he wasn’t expecting that. Sure Kagami was known for his straightforward honesty, usually bordering on tactless, but this was different. There was a vulnerability about it that Kise had never seen from him.
“I miss you,” Kagami said, still unable to turn to Kise.
It was almost too much for Kise.
“I’m sorry I was such a jerk to you and I’m sorry I lied.”
“Aomine says ‘by omission.'”
Kagami had a long list of things he wanted to know, wanted to ask Kise, but at that moment, there was one he wanted to know more than anything. “Do you…hate me?”
Kise could not contain his laughter. It was sudden and intense and his tears streamed. Kagami, somewhat shocked, finally turned to Kise and just watched him convulse. Still, he was largely unfazed as he had already resigned himself to take whatever Kise threw at him. Kise started coughing which forced him to pull it together. “I–” The last of his laughter fell out in short bursts of giggles and sighs. Kagami returned his focus to the glass in his hands. A final sigh and Kise was ready to answer. “I…don’t. I guess things would be easier if I did. I am angry, though.”
“I’m sorry. I was being selfish and a…uh…coward.”
Kise pulled his legs up on the landing and folded them in a half-lotus. He took a breath, then leaned back, supporting himself with his hands behind him. “Kise: There’s still this big, like, foggy spot about my– our life in LA. You talked about my work and high school, but I still don’t know what we were to each other. From the letter…I get that I was in love with you and that you didn’t return my feelings, but I have no idea what our day to day relationship was like. Or even why I was living with you. And it really pisses me off that you’re the only one who knows and you haven’t told me.”
Kagami’s shoulders sank a little, feeling selfish for wanting to know anything now that he was expressly reminded that this whole mess was because he suppressed information.
“You have been there for me since before I even knew, but why?”
“…It’s– Well, it was complicated.”
“‘Was,’ huh? And it’s not anymore?”
“Things…change,: Kagami said, at a loss of how else to explain all the things he’d been trying to work out over the last few months.
“From what I can remember and what I was told, my relationship with Aomine was one where we would do anything for each other. I feel like we were and could be again, best friends.” Kise palmed both sides of his head. “Even with the Swiss cheese I got for a memory, there’s something between me and him that seems…unbreakable. But I felt something different with you…rather, from you. Yet, you’ve had this wall between us.”
“What were we that you would devote so much time to me but still remain so distant?”
“What are you sorry for, though? That I’m upset? That your were close, but closed off? What?”
“I guess, all of that, too, but…” Kagami cleared his throat and his voice went gruff, but quiet. “…I didn’t know what to do. I still don’t. I didn’t know you saw me that way when we lived together. When you left I was at a complete loss. I didn’t know if I’d done something, or if you’d done something. And you told me not to look for you. I feared the worst and was out of mind trying to figure out why you would go that route. And then I just started feeling like I might have not known you at all. That was just in the first hour. Then, I had to tell your mom and Aomine that you left and I had no idea where you went.” Kagami clench his hands at the memory. “I got so much shit from them, but I couldn’t even begin to deal with it because I was still clueless; I hadn’t even gotten mad yet.”
Kise listened and realized that he never truly considered what Kagami went through all those years not knowing. It didn’t really occur to him that Kagami would have been hurt by anything from the past, maybe irritated, but not hurt. It didn’t change that he withheld information, but it made Kise see that it was going to be difficult to come to an understanding when neither one of them knew both sides of the story. That was something that had to be dealt with if they were ever going to be friends…again. He’d already made peace with that being shape of things to come. He wasn’t over him, but holding out for things that would never come seemed like a terrible waste of time. It was for the best…for more reasons than one, or so he made himself believe.
“But,” Kagami continued, ‘what I’m sorry for is that you don’t know that. You don’t know and you may never remember or truly understand what our life was like or what you felt the need to hide from me all that time. I was afraid that if you remembered why you left, you’d leave again or not want anything to do with me. I was–” Kagami cleared his throat again. “I was afraid that if even if you didn’t leave, things would only be awkward between us. I realize you don’t remember that my history with relationships wasn’t really, uh…a good one, but even though you didn’t agree with how I dealt with it, you understood it with out me having to spell it out for you. I don’t know where to start…with anything.”
“…I see.” And he did. Kise knew that Kagami was not good at expressing himself, at least not without getting frustrated. Yet another disadvantage. He could see that, with the mountain of explanations needed to bring about parity in their understanding, Kagami would probably lose it. Add to that his expressed fears and Kise could truly see the obstacles in Kagami’s way. How many other things did he miss? What else slipped by him? Not knowing was its own kind of fear, and not knowing what he had known before was the worst.
“But most of all, I’m sorry that you had to fall in love with someone like me who didn’t trust or understand things like that…and who it has taken this long to realize that he…” Kagami cleared his throat and turned, hoping to catch Kise’s eye. “…That I’m…in love with you, too.”
In the middle of July, Kise visited the mainland for the first time since before he moved to LA. He would have stayed with his family, but his mother moved out of his childhood home and into a one bedroom luxury apartment and he didn’t want to be fussed over at either of his sisters’ places. So, Kasamatsu invited him to stay at his place for a while. If he wasn’t going on tour, he would’ve let Kise stay for the duration of his visit, but since Kise still had occasional dizzy spells, Kasamatsu did not want to leave him alone. Kise said he’d be fine, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Kasamatsu got in touch with Aomine and Kiyoshi to see what he should do and Kiyoshi volunteered his place. Kise didn’t like being treated like a child, but he liked the idea of traumatizing someone if something happened to him and he was found too late even less, so he agreed and went to the bar to work it out with Kiyoshi.
Kise sat across the bar from Kiyoshi as he prepped the lemons, limes, and yuzu. “Senpai is the one who wants this, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Where you gonna go then?”
“I can get a room for a few weeks.”
“Not by yourself. And it’s stupid to pay all that money when you can just stay with me.”
“But… It’s going to be awkward,” Kise said, his voice fell into a whisper on the last word.
Kiyoshi snorted. “No more than it is now.”
Kise let his elbows slide out, left then right, and slouched on the bar.
“You’re here until…”
“Right, so, he’s going to be gone for a bit. To LA to visit his folks…”
Kise looked up, surprised.
Kiyoshi checked the calendar app on the register’s screen. “Kiyoshi: Kasamatsu said he was was hittin’ the road first week of October, right?”
“Cool, so that’s about the time Kagami’s leaving, too, so it works out.”
“Welllll…” Rather than feeling relieved, Kise was disappointed. Yeah, it would have been awkward being around Kagami after he’d all but dismissed his confession, but–and he knew it was selfish–him not being around at all was far from what he wanted. “…Tell me if I get in the way.”
“Even if you do, the invitation will stand.”
“That’s not really an answer.”
Kiyoshi looked at him. “That wasn’t really a question.”
Kise had become an early bird and generally made his way to the bar right before they opened to, as Kiyoshi suggested, help out to keep himself busy. He stayed away from the breakables, though, and kept to sweeping and wiping down surfaces.
Since Kagami usually closed, he and Kise scarcely set eyes upon each other. Before he left, there were a bunch of celebrations, but mainly his birthday and Aomine’s to deal with. They had sort of made up just by being around each other, but no real words were exchanged about their interrupted fight. He wanted to apologize to Aomine, but he knew Aomine would just get mad act like he was digging up things long buried.
Kagami didn’t want a birthday party and told everyone to save up their energy for Aomine’s. Himuro was disappointed because it would be the first time in a while that he was able to be in Japan to celebrate it; he managed to get Kagami to agree to just hang out at the bar after hours. Since Kagami’s birthday was on a Saturday, the regular crew gathered a couple hours before closing on Friday night to start the celebration. Here was a group of people in their late-thirties playing games like Truth or Dare, Yamanote Sen, Pin Pon Pan, and Ousama.
Ousama was the third game they played. Thanks to Kiyoshi’s Ousama command and Aomine, who had been convinced by Kiyoshi to give out the same one when he picked the Ousama stick in the following round, that game ended with Kise sitting on Kagami’s lap. Most of the party was half smashed by then, so even though those were the last rounds, it took them some time to move on to Yamanote Sen.
Kiyoshi was the strongest drinker among them and was always looked to to keep everyone in line, safe, and generally entertained. “Kagami, you can sit this one out. You, too, Kise.”
Kise, who’d only seen four in the morning half asleep on his way to the bathroom, made himself comfortable against Kagami’s chest and mumbled some vague acknowledgement. Kagami, for his part, was sober enough to understand what was going on, but too drunk to freak out over it. He had a feeling he’d surely regret it later. A few giggles and moans of agreement rippled through the group, but Ogiwara, who was still pretty clear-headed as the second strongest drinker, didn’t get it.
“I get Kise-kun, but why does Kagami get a pass?”
Riko, remembering a few past incidents burst into laughter. Ogiwara eyed her, his curiosity heightened.
“The Birthday Boy…” Aomine started, staring accusingly at Kagami, “Is notoriously bad at Yamanote Sen because he only knows the stops by how many of them there are from one landmark to another.”
“He couldn’t name them if you paid him,” Himuro chimed in.
“Nuh unh,” Kagami countered, inebriated for sure, “I know Tokyo, Ueno, and there’s like one or 40 that begin with shhh!”
The bar filled with drunken laughter and Momoi and Riko lapsed into giggle fits. Even Furihata, the drunkest of the bunch, wasn’t too far gone too find that funny.
“You see, he’s guaranteed to lose, so he’s no fun” Aomine concluded.
Once the laughter died out, everyone else carried on and left Kagami to look after Kise the lightweight. Kise stirred and opened his eyes.
Kise stirred, rubbing at his eye. “Kagamicchi?”
Oh, the regret came early. Kagami willed himself limp. He actually hated being called that, but it was from a time for which Kise’s recollection was muddled and elusive, so the connection moved him somehow. “Y-Yeah…?”
“I have to pee.”
Kagami felt oddly relieved. Although Kise knew his way around the bar, he was out of it, so Kagami spoke to him as he would someone visiting for the first time. “Second doorway, down the hall, second door on your right.”
Kise stretched up off of Kagami, but his balance didn’t follow, so he fell back.
Kagami sighed. His head began to clear as his caretaker instincts kicked in. He stood up with Kise gathered to him in one arm. He took worried notice of how thin he was. “Can you walk?”
Kagami turned Kise forward, took hold of his shoulders, and guided him through the labyrinth of tables to the bathroom. He stopped at the door. “It’s on you from here.”
Kise rested his arm on the post of the door and peered over his shoulder at Kagami as if he was trying to remember something. “Oh… I have to pee.”
Kagami rolled his eyes he as leaned against the wall outside, wanting to leave, but not wanting to leave Kise on his own. “When did you become such a lightweight?”
Kise walked into the bathroom. The stall doors seemed like too much of a hassle, so he turned to the urinals. Kise thought for a moment. “How was I before?”
“It would have taken you twice as much, at least.” answered, feeling tense. This was their first casual conversation about their shared past, the first one that didn’t start with yelling. On the other hand, it was weird to talk to someone while they were…
“I think this might be the first time I’ve had a drink.”
“Yeah…I think so.”
Kagami was in a bit of a fog thinking about that, but snapped out of it when he heard the faucet run.
Kise came out and looked at Kagami in the same way. Kagami briefly studied Kise’s face, now he seemed more sober than drunk. Kise hummed as he walked past. “I remember seeing you naked.”
Kagami jumped off the wall. “What?!”
“Kiyoshi-san said that you were going to visit your parents soon. What time is it?”
When they reached the archway that led back into the bar, Kise spun around to face Kagami, just missing colliding into him by a hair. “Are you going to see your parents?”
“Can you stick to one thing?!”
“Huh? I was just asking about your parents.”
Kagami couldn’t tell if Kise was doing it on purpose or not. Kise’s eyes gave away nothing. “…Yeah, in a month or so.”
Kise wanted to ask if he could go; they were still in a weird place with each other and it would be weird for Kagami to just show up at his parents’ place with an uninvited guest, so he didn’t. Besides, that was some weeks off–who knew what would happen in the interim? His eyes flitted about before they connected with Kagami’s gaze. When he heard a voice coming from behind him, he didn’t know how long he’d been staring. He turned his head toward the voice. “H…uh?”
“Are you guys just going to stand there all–” Kiyoshi put his hands up to brake his approach. “Whoa, am I interrupting?”
Kise followed Kiyoshi’s line of sight to his hand on Kagami’s chest. He snatched it away and held it to his own. “Oh, I, uh, I’m sorry.” He saw what might have been fear or shock in Kagami’s eyes. When Kise turned to face Kiyoshi, he moved his hand to lace with the other behind him and plastered on a “please forget what you saw” smile. “Did you need something?”
Kiyoshi looked from Kagami–who he thought looked like he was having a silent breakdown–to Kise, back to Kagami–who he was now sure was quietly falling apart. He attempted to run interference. “Oh, I just need to talk to Kagami for a sec.”
“Oh, okay, I’ll leave you to it, then.”
As soon as Kise was out of earshot, Kagami exhaled like his life depended on it.
“What did I just walk in on?” Kiyoshi asked through barely parted lips.
Kagami turned back down the hall and paced in frustration, mussing his hair with every step. His words were strained in his clenched jaw. “The hell if I know!”
“What were guys talking about?” When no answer came, Kiyoshi tilted his head. “…Well?”
“No, not that, we’ve bare spoken about the past. It was about me visiting them.”
Kiyoshi’s brow furrowed as he pulled back. “What do you mean you’ve barely spoken about the past?”
“We haven’t. Every time we get near it, we get interrupted or things get awkward.”
Kiyoshi glanced to make sure Kise was still out of range. “What about before the letter?”
Kagami gave Kiyoshi a knowing look.
“Right, well, that was your fault.”
“I know that! But now it’s… I don’t know, it’s like he wants to, but he doesn’t.”
“I…confessed to him when we were in Kohama.”
“You did what?!” A few heads turned their way. Kiyoshi slung his arm around Kagami’s shoulders and marched him down the hall and into the stairwell that led to the upper apartments. He turned Kagami around and sat him down on the steps like he was posing a doll. “You wanna run that by me again?”
Kagami rested his arms on his thighs and leaned over, his head hanging down. “I told him that I was– am in love with him.”
“Nothing. I don’t know if he was going to say anything, but before he could, Obaa-chan came out and that’s when we came back with the sata andagi. And the rest of the weekend was…”
“When exactly did you come to this conclusion?”
“At the airport,” Kagami said as he looked up.
Kiyoshi folded his arms across his chest and looked down at Kagami wondering if he should hit him now or later. “So…you just decide at the airport that you’re going to fuck with his head some more?”
“‘Fuck with his–‘ Hell no! You told me to think about what I was doing! I thought and I fucking thought and I nearly thought myself insane!”
Kiyoshi reached out towards Kagami, not intending to touch him, just to tame some of his anger. “Whoa! I’m sorry. Okay? You just have a habit of jumping into things… I’m sorry.”
Kagami clasped his hands over the back of his head and pulled it into his chest as he regulated his breathing.
“So, you love him…” Kiyoshi slapped Kagami on his shoulder. “Well, congrats on that, but you got a shitload of stuff to make up for. What are you going to do now?”
“What can I do?”
“You can bring yo ass back out here. Cuz, last time I checked, the party was for you,” Aomine said, butting in.
Kiyoshi leaned out of the stairwell and found Aomine posted against the wall. “Eavesdropping, are we?”
Aomine caught Kiyoshi in his periphery.
“How much did you hear?”
“I heard enough.” He turned and poked his head into the stairwell. “If you do fuck with his head, we gonna pick up where we left off a few months ago.”
Kagami stood up to jump at Aomine, but froze when he heard Kise’s voice.
“Are you fighting for my honor?”
Kiyoshi leaned out again as Aomine pulled back out of the stairwell. “You eavesdropping, too?”
“What can I say? I’m up on the latest trends.”
“I wasn’t…” Aomine mumbled apologetically.
“Sure sounded like it.”
“I was just…”
“Whatever you were doing, I don’t need it. Whatever fucking he does with my head is between him and me.”
“So, I guess a 3-way is out?”
The sound of Kiyoshi and Aomine’s laughter shook the walls. If there was more light in the stairwell, they’d be able to see how deep Kagami’s blush went, but as it was, he was hidden in the shadow, embarrassed, regardless. Definitely the strangest birthday Kagami’s ever had.
A Silent Spark
Everything was faster. People talked faster, walked faster, and the days went by faster. Now that he was in the thick of it, Kise realized that life in Tokyo–in any metropolitan area, for that matter–was not something he missed. He could probably get used to it again, but it wasn’t something he’d ever prefer over the carefree, I’ve-got-all-the-time-in-the-world-to-breathe day to day life on Kohama. The weeks passed as he busied himself at the bar and helping out at his eldest sister’s PR firm. The bar was easier. People came to eat, drink, and relax. No grandstanding, no pretenses. His sister’s firm was nothing but. And everything that she was involved in was full of pomp and circumstance. Even something as simple as renewing his passport–“just in case” is what she said–turned into a big production. How he lived in this world before, he didn’t think he’d ever understand. But, if nothing else, it was all an interesting change from days spent doing nothing but therapy and reading. Reading, he enjoyed of course, but when it seemed like the only world he knew, it wasn’t as much fun. There was a difference between being lost in a good book and simply being lost.
Kise stepped in as Mitobe held open the back door for him. It was usually Kiyoshi, so he was a bit surprised. “Morning. Is it just you and me prepping?”
Mitobe tilted his head ever so slightly to the left with a soft jerk.
Somehow understanding, Kise pressed on. “Someone else is here?” His eye followed as Mitobe nodded in the direction of the bar. He walked down the hall and came to a sudden stop when he stepped through the archway. “Kobori-senpai…?”
Kobori swiveled on the bar stool. “Oh, Kise-kun, it’s been a while.”
Kobori Kouji was just as Kise remembered. There was a strength about him that you wouldn’t know existed unless you saw him on the court. A quiet determination. A reliable presence. Kise was suddenly overwhelmed; other than Kasumatsu, Moriyama, and Nakamura, he hadn’t seen or even thought about anyone else from his high school team. A pillar of silence penetrated his reminiscence and he remembered that Mitobe was there behind him. “Oh! Sorry,” he said as he moved further into the bar. Kise stood for a moment before he decided to take a seat at the bar next to Kobori.
“It’s nice to be remembered.”
“I can guarantee that it’s even nicer to be the one remembering.”
“You’re the same as ever.”
“I wonder about that.”
Kiyoshi wrapped up the quartered and sliced limes and cleaned his knife before moving onto the yuzu. “What do you want to do today?”
Kise rubbed his eye like a sleepy child. “Um…”
Kiyoshi wiped off his hands and reached across the bar to grab Kise by his chin. He turned it this way and that. “You look like you need more sleep.”
“I think I’ve slept enough. But never mind that. You two are friends?”
Kobori raised his brow and gently bobbed his head in acknowledgement.
Kiyoshi let go of Kise and nodded too. “Yeah, but it’s really him” he said, gesturing with his elbow towards Mitobe.
“Eh?” Kise knew the were the only ones in the bar, but he turn in his seat anyway just to make sure it was Mitobe Kiyoshi was referring to. “You know each other?!”
Mitobe paused from taking down the chairs to smile a sliver of something Kise had no problem grasping.
“Oh! You know each other!” He swung back around to face Kobori. “When did this happen?!”
Kobori stood up, grabbed his Keys off the bar, and looked at Mitobe. “Ten years?” He asked while looking at Mitobe. It was certainly enough time for him to learn Mitobe’s language and decipher even the movements indiscernible to most. And now must have been one of those moments, because Kiyoshi and Kise caught nothing, and yet, Kobori went on to confirm. “Yeah, ten.”
“OhMyGod! Where was I?!” Kise exclaimed, stomping the bar rail.
Everyone just stared at him.
“Ha! Right…” Sometimes he forgot that he was living in a slightly different continuity than everyone else. He turned back to Mitobe. “…But what about KogayYEOWCH!” He palmed the back of this head and turn to Kiyoshi. “What was that–” His words caught in his throat, thwarted by Kiyoshi’s stare.
Kobori eyed them curiously. “Well, I gotta go. Kiyoshi, let us know as soon as possible.”
Kiyoshi glanced at Kise. “I’m sure I can work something out by December.”
Kise watched Kobori and Mitobe move toward the archway and then walked to the back door as he nursed the soreness at the back of his head. “Kise: No, seriously…” he said, turning back to Kiyoshi, “What’s up with Koga-san?”
Kiyoshi dropped his head and sighed. “They’re just friends.”
“Yeah? And so are Kuroko and Ogiwara-kun.”
“According to him, yes, but he’s supposed to be over it now.”
Kise’s mouth turned down as he rested his chin in his hand. “…How unfortunate.”
“It can’t be helped.”
“I guess… Well, I’ll finish taking down the chairs while he sees him off.”
Halfway trough his task, a light bulb when off in his head and Kise whirled around back towards the bar. “Oh! Do they live together?”
“Can you imagine how quiet their place must be?!”
Kiyoshi stifled his laugh as Mitobe walked back in. Mitobe, none the wiser, saw Kise taking over his duty, so he hitched his thumb over his shoulder to let Kiyoshi know he was going to start prep work in the kitchen.
Every time he turned around, there was some reason to celebrate. This night was for Kobori’s birthday, and in a few days would be Kasamatsu’s farewell. His band’s initial five-week gig turned into a eight-month world tour opening for BECR’s reunion, so a simple “see you later” wouldn’t be enough. After Aomine’s party, Kise thought that he’d had enough partying to last him another few years. But he still made an appearance at every subsequent one, always in Kiyoshi’s company. At the parties, Kise spent most of his time watching Kagami fail at socializing with strangers. The times that held his attention the most were when Riko couldn’t make it and Kagami had to fend for himself while he was hit on right and left. She often posed as Kagami’s date simply to help keep his suitors at bay because he was either tactless or hopeless when dealing with them, no in between. It annoyed Kise how popular Kagami was.
“You stare him down at every party, but you all but ignore him at the bar. Why?” Kiyoshi was also annoyed.
The parties always ran late and Kise was just not built for the night life anymore, so he always ended up huddled up next to Kiyoshi–for comfort and protection. Comfort because, although most of the people around were his friends, Kise found that he was not as relaxed as he thought he should be, but that being close to Kiyoshi seemed to negate that anxiety. And protection because, aside from Kagami’s, the first two parties he fell asleep at, he woke up to find that he had been used as a game board of sorts. No one messed with him during the party he stuck by Kiyoshi all night, so he was determined to keep it that way. Kise moved in closer as he sensed sleep on the horizon.
“It’s not like he talks to me either.”
“You are such a brat.” Kiyoshi nudged at Kise. “You know you have the upper hand. You’re fine with him one minute and then you start sending him these “stay away from me vibes” the next. You can’t expect him to just pull up a chair and start talking.”
Kise sulkily folded his arms across his chest. “He would have before.”
“‘Before’? Before when?”
“Have you guys even had a full conversation yet?”
“We talk at the staff meetings and that one time we went to the bank. There was his birthday party, too.”
“So that’s a “no”?” Kiyoshi sighed heavily, weary of the game his friends were playing and amazed that it had gone on so long. You guys need to talk. It was different when he was still clueless and probably did nothing but frustrate you, but he’s progressed so far as to confess to you.”
Kise remained silent.
“It’s pissing you off that there are people crawling all over him, but you’re all up under me, being a dick to him for no reason.”
“It’s not for no reason.”
“So, you don’t deny you’re being a dick?”
“It’s weird, okay?!”
Kiyoshi glanced at Kise out the corner of his eye. “Don’t yell at me. How is it weird?”
“He wasn’t like this before or even way before. I may not remember everything, but I do know that he was never this…this…docile.” Kise shook as Kiyoshi laughed.
“You know, that’s your fault. That boy was nothing but energetic, clueless, and hotheaded, but you didn’t respond well to that, so he was forced to change if you were ever going to give him the time of day again. Now look at him. And you’re complaining.”
“Well, yeah, but…” Kise gestured towards Kagami who looked like a dejected puppy even though he was being fawned over, ” …what is that?”
“That, is your fault. You two have been dancing around each other since you got here and you haven’t had one meaningful conversation. He confessed to you and, as far as I know, you haven’t given him any kind of response.”
“What am I supposed to say to that?”
“Now i know you’re playing dumb.”
“No, he’s not playing; he’s the real deal,” Aomine said, words devoid of sarcasm, but taken that way nonetheless.
Kise and Kiyoshi looked up at Aomine who had decided to join their party of two.
“Oh, shut up! You don’t even know what we’re talking about!”
“Let me guess. He called you dumb because you and the chick magnet over there keep acting like you don’t know each other.”
Kise leaned in closer to Kiyoshi. “Nobody asked you!”
“Anyway, I know you guys are friends, but why are you always clinging to Kiyoshi. Shouldn’t you be over there swattin’ away the flies that keep buzzing around him?”
“It’s safe here.” Kise cut his eyes to Aomine. “And he’s not my man, so I don’t have the right to say anything about who he talks to or who talks to him.”
“But you’re angry anyway.”
“Come on, Kise…it’s written all over your face. I’m sure if that doorknob over there even dared to look at you, he’d see it too.”
Kise sat up with a start. “It’s not…” he touched his face, trying to feel out his expression, “…on my face…is it?” he asked as he looked to Kiyoshi for confirmation.
“Oh, but it is” Kiyoshi said as he tweaked Kise’s nose.
“You, stop being cute with him!” Aomine snapped at Kiyoshi.
Kise jumped up as he tried to subdue the hissy fit that was aching to come out. It didn’t matter, though, his voice still vibrated from the suppressed tantrum. “I’m going to the bathroom and then I want to go home.”
Kiyoshi snickered as Kise stomped away. “But they’re so cute when they’re all out of sorts. I can’t help it.”
“‘They’? Wha– You’re–” Aomine glanced over at Kagami who had finally cast his resentment in their direction. “You’re doing it on purpose, aren’t you?”
“Look at the time. He’ll be back any second; I should get ready to go.”
Aomine didn’t know what to make of Kiyoshi. True, he seemed to be at the center of just about every bit of progress Kise and Kagami made, but was his way of stoking these little fires the best way?
One of the rare days Kise closed was finally over and he was sitting on the bar top as he addressed and sealed the deposit bags–out of the way as Kiyoshi mopped. After emptying the bucket and wringing the mop, Kiyoshi did one last run with a damp cloth across every bar surface and stopped when he reached Kise.
“Can’t you see I’m working here? Besides, is the floor even dry?”
“It’s been dry. Do it standing up.”
“Save that for someone else.”
“I want to finish this so we can goooo.”
“We’re going to the bank, so we can’t go until I finish this. I only have reg 1 and reg 3 left.”
Kiyoshi tossed the cloth on the back counter and wedged himself in between Kise’s legs and leaned in. “‘Only’? Don’t say it like you counted down 20 registers and you only have two left. We only have three.”
“It doesn’t change the fact that I only have reg 1 and 3 left.”
“Come onnnn, you’re so slooooow.”
“Well,” Kise’s took in the sight below him, “you leaning on my lap isn’t helping. What’s wrong with you today, Kiyoshi-san? You’re so…whiny…”
“My friends can’t seem to get their shit together and it’s really bring me down.”
Kise put the last sealed bag to the side. Ignoring the not so subtle complaint, he ran his fingers through Kiyoshi’s hair. “Kiyoshi-san, have you ever grown your hair out?”
“Oh, so we’re just ignoring things now?”
“Who’s ignoring what? You just told me about some random friends of yours, what do you want me to say?”
“Denial is set to full blast, I see.”
“…I don’t want to talk about it.”
Kagami came into the bar from the back. His stride hesitated at the sight of Kise and Kiyoshi. Unmoved, they looked at him. Then, Kiyoshi looked at Kagami’s hand.
“What you got there?”
Kagami rolled his eyes and mumbled something about them almost being out of deposit bags as he tossed a bundle of them on the back counter and turned back to head upstairs to his place.
Kiyoshi nodded his head in the direction of the closing door. “Aren’t you tired of that?”
“You’re not even mad at him anymore. Why can’t you guys settle this?”
Kise squeezed Kiyoshi’s face. “What’s there to settle?”
Kiyoshi took Kise’s hands in his. “You know, he asked about us.”
“He thinks there’s something going on.”
Kise chuckled and hugged Kiyoshi to his chest. “When you keep doing stuff like this, anyone would think so. You don’t even hide it, so you’re not helping.”
Kiyoshi wasn’t trying to help in that way. He wanted to spark something in Kagami who seemed like he’d lost his fire, but he wasn’t going to say that. “Well…” But he wasn’t going to lie either. Kiyoshi hugged Kise’s waist tightly. “Even though you’re as skinny as a rail–“
Kise flinched and tried not to frown as Kiyoshi stopped to look at him. He knew he was nowhere near as built and fit as he used to be and he had sort of come to terms with that, but it still bothered him when people pointed it out.
When nothing else happened, Kiyoshi went on. “…You’re warm and you always smell good. And you never stop me.”
“Because it doesn’t matter. Neither one of us is dating anyone, so it’s not like we’re cheating. I like it and you smell good, too. What is it today, sandalwood?”
“If you were actually dating someone, I wouldn’t even think of doing this, no matter how much it didn’t matter. …Unless…”
Kiyoshi sniffed himself. “Yeah, sandalwood.”
Kiyoshi stood up. “…Unless I was the one you were dating.”
Kise’s left brow hiked up while the right one furrowed as he digested Kiyoshi’s words.
“Where did that come from?”
Kise pushed Kiyoshi back to read his face. “You can’t be serious…”
“Kiyoshi-san, you’re great and all–I really mean that–but I’m–“
“‘Still holding out for Kagami’?”
Kise twisted his lips in consideration. “No.” His delivery was firm and left no space for misinterpretation. “There’s no point in waiting for something that will never happen.”
“He’s already said that he was in love with you. What else are you waiting for?”
“His attitude about the whole thing…it has to change.”
“You never know, he might come around.”
“Eww… I don’t want anyone to ‘come around’. I don’t want anyone warming up to the idea of being with me; that’s just depressing.”
“So, why not me?”
“…I’m not waiting for him, but I’m…still in love with him, so…”
“So, you’re just going to be alone the rest of your life?”
“Ugh! I hope not!” Kise said as he threw his head back and cringed at the thought. “But I feel like I need to deal with him and our disaster of a friendship before I can consider anyone else. I don’t know how, though. There’s such a weird distance between us and I get headaches when I think of how to bridge that gap. Moreover, I don’t think it’s even possible to properly address our relationship until I’m over him. Everything would be a mess and I’m sure we’d just run in circles.”
Kiyoshi straightened up and leaned against the back counter. “I guess I can understand that, even though it sounds like an excuse.”
“It’s not an excuse!”
“If you say so.”
“I say so,” Kise said, pouting.
“Alright, then…what would be the perfect circumstance for you to be with him–assuming by the time whatever happens, you’re still in love with him?”
“Why would I even entertain such thoughts?” Kise’s face contorted in genuine confusion. “There’s no way the planets would align for that kind of development.”
Kiyoshi sat on the bar next to Kise. He picked up on of the completed deposit bags. “Ah, your penmanship has gotten better.”
“Yeah! Soon I’ll be able to do dishes for you.”
“No can do. We have gas stoves and Kagami says your not allowed back there until–“
“He should mind his business.”
“I know how overbearing and overprotective he can be, but, in this,” Kiyoshi said as he patted Kise’s knee, “I’m on his side. And you know it’s for the best until you can deal with fire without–“
“Freakin’ out?” Since the incident at the hospital, Kise only had one encounter with fire and that didn’t end so well. He seemed to be fine with guarded flames, like the ones in the lanterns that dotted the inn’s landscape, but open flames were still a no-go.
“If you want to put it that way, fine. But you know he– we’re only doing this because we care about you.”
Kiyoshi leaned into Kise. “Come on, humor me.”
“What would it take?”
“You’re still on that?”
Kiyoshi’s face was full of hope and anticipation.
“Arggh!” Kise threw up his hands. “Alright…” he sighed “It would have to be…” He sighed again. “It would have to be a situation where his feelings about relationships changed and not just with me. He would need to have a completely different set of ideas about what relationships are and what they aren’t.”
“Aren’t you the only one that matters?”
“People think it’s cute when someone makes that kind of exception for them, but it’s not. I don’t want to be at the center of his disillusionment. With the way he is, after the first fight he’ll be pointing fingers and saying stupid stuff like he ‘was right all along’ and I ‘had him fooled’ and all kinds of nonsense because he never believed it in the first place.
“But you guys do nothing but fight.’
“Hey,” yelled as he pointed at Kiyoshi, “you think I don’t know that?” Kise rolled is eyes. “Anyway, I don’t want those fingers pointing at me. If we try and it doesn’t work out, I need him to be able to understand that we weren’t compatible in that way and that it has nothing to do with the concept of relationships as a whole. I just need that to not be a crutch forgotten in the corner of his mind but close enough for him to grab and brandish at me or anyone when he remembers and sees fit. Then, and only then, would I put any stake in the words “I love you” or “I want to be with you” coming from him.”
“Looks like you’ve done more than “entertain such thoughts.””
“Oh, shut up.”
Kiyoshi, still leaning on Kise, looked up at him. “Eh? What does it matter? You already turned me down.”
Kise looked down at Kiyoshi suspiciously.
Maneuvers in the Dark
It had been about an hour since Kasamatsu’s farewell had wound down; Kise stayed behind to help clean up the bar. While cleaning the taps, Kiyoshi looked down at Kise who had traded tasks with Kagami and was squatting as he checked the bar supplies to see what needed to be refilled.
“Why don’t you stay tonight– today and I can take you home to pick up your stuff after the 2nd shift comes in?”
Kagami stopped sweeping. “Pick up what stuff?”
Kiyoshi looked up. “Kasamatsu is going on tour, right? So, Kise needs a place to crash for the rest of his stay. He’s staying with me.”
Kagami started towards the bar, moving tables out of his way as if he was going to jump over the bar a deliver a beat down, but then he stopped abruptly–catching himself. He pulled out the nearest chair, sat in it, and sighed. Kiyoshi looked on, thoroughly amused.
Meanwhile, Kise was frozen at Kiyoshi’s feet, worried for all the noise. He slowly rose and leaned against the bar. “Are you okay with that?”
Kiyoshi tilted his head towards Kagami in interest. “Not like I need your permission, but…are you?”
Kagami stared at the floor. “It has nothing to do with me, I won’t even be here.”
Kiyoshi only slept about four hours because he had a lot to do before he opened the bar. Kagami was flying out, so Mitobe was taking over the night shifts. Kiyoshi wasn’t usually one to wait until the last minute for things, but his aim for the day was all about timing and he didn’t know that things would work until the night before. He did Kagami a favor one time and that turned into him always handling his flight plans and accommodations, but that was totally to his benefit now. One part of his plan was set, but it wouldn’t mean much if the detail he was sorting out now fell through. Kiyoshi sent a quick text and then pulled his laptop from the foot of the bed, waking it in the process. He already had the page he needed up from when he checked the night before. A quick glance at his task bar told him he had less than an hour until he had to open.
Kise woke up just after three in the afternoon with a splitting headache. It didn’t help that it felt like gravity was doing its best to keep him flat on his back. After he left the hospital and rehab, something about sleeping on beds too high off the floor did not agree with him. He struggled to sit up when he heard a knock on the door. It proved to be futile, so he gave up. “Come in… ” Kise’s voice was weak and his mouth tasted like ass and not the good kind.
“How’s your head?” Kiyoshi asked as he pushed open the door.
“Nothing that some more sleep won’t cure.”
“I’ll be leaving to take Kagami to the airport around five. Since Kasamatsu’s place is on the way, I figured we could swing by and pick up your stuff.”
It wasn’t that bright in the room, but Kise still shielded his eyes as he cast his gaze out the window. “What time is it now?”
Kiyoshi looked at his phone and smiled when he saw a response to his text. “3:10.”
“Go upstairs and tell Kagami to cook you something.”
Kise sat up quickly. “WhaaaAAhshit!” He immediately reminded of why he was still laying down.
“You’re hungry,” Kiyoshi continued, ignoring Kise’s protest. “He cooks. Hurry up so he won’t run out of time to clean up afterwards.”
“Come onnnn, Kiyoshi-san… What about Mitobe-san?”
‘I already told him not to cook for you.”
Kise’s head was spinning. “Why?!”
“His door’s open. Just go in. It’s not like he’s gonna to turn you away.”
When Kiyoshi turned to go, Kise fell back on the bed with a grunt. He wanted to whine and complain some more, but his head definitely wasn’t going for that.
Twenty minutes later, Kise made his way up to the third floor, the aroma of fried meat guiding him. He knocked on the open door.
“Come in.” Kagami flipped an egg white omelette and looked towards the door. He could only see Kise’s right arm from where he stood, but he could tell Kise was fidgeting. “Have a seat at the counter.”
It was the first time Kise had been in Kagami’s place. To his left there was a door that opened to an office where one wall was covered top to bottom in individual shelves displaying sneakers. He did remember a sneaker wall, but he’d never been in here before, so he assumed what he remembered was from LA. Straight ahead was a hallway that seemed to go the remaining length of the place with a sideboard against the right wall and a door just beyond that. On his right was the living room which he only caught a glimpse of as he walked through it to get to the quick service-style counter that opened to the kitchen. Kise settled himself on the first stool.
“What do you want to drink?”
“Drink, what do you want?”
“Oh, water is fine.” Kise took the glass of ice water that was handed to him. The egg white omelette Kagami placed on the counter sent wafts of savory mushrooms and chives to tickle Kise’s nostrils and his memories. Kise looked up to see Kagami’s face, but he’d already turned away.
“Was this for you?”
“I don’t eat egg white omelettes.”
“But I just got here, so…how–“
“The room you slept in is right under my office,” Kagami said as he regarded Kise over his shoulder, “and I could hear you guys through the vent.”
Kise wasn’t sure if he was embarrassed or what. He hated how sweet and attentive Kagami could be. It was things like this that always left him confused and made it difficult for him to let go. It was like this when he was still in rehab, but at the same time, he had felt suffocated by the hollowness that resonated in Kagami’s presence. Once he left rehab, that feeling began to fade; there was a disarming comfortableness about being with Kagami in the place he called home. Eventually the hollowness completely gave way to an attraction that felt both familiar and new. Then it all went downhill from there. But, by some miracle, there was still something between them. Neither one of them seemed to want to let go, and there in lied the struggle.
Before digging into his own plate, which looked nothing like Kise’s with it’s mile-high pile of fries smothered in onions and peppers and cheese, Kagami topped Kise’s omelette with bacon and sausage and set two small bowls next to his plate.
Kise looked up. “Gorgonzola and…?”
Kise eyed the thick and creamy white dollops that fill the bowl.
“You like it.”
Kise scooped some from each bowl and dug in. All the while, he overwhelmed by an uncertain sense of nostalgia. He’d eaten stuff from the bar’s kitchen, but this was the first time he’d eaten Kagami’s cooking made just for him. He didn’t realize how much he missed it or rather, that he was missing anything at all. “Oh! God! This is so good! If only sex could be like this!”
Kagami paused mid-forkful.
Kise did a double take and then realized what he said. “Oh…sorry…” His remorse lasted all of three seconds and then the giggles started, but they quickly turned into cackle-like squeals.
Kagami just smiled and ate. He didn’t want to ruin the moment by speaking. So nostalgic.
Kise’s laugh started to peter out as he tried to talk. “Honestly, I wouldn’t even know.” His tone suddenly sobered. “I can’t remember the last time I had sex.”
Kagami choked on an onion.
Kise jumped up and set to rubbing and patting Kagami’s back. “I’m sorry! Are you okay?!”
Kagami coughed and pounded his chest. His head nodded a bit. Kise, unfiltered; this was a familiar moment as well. Except for Kise’s questionable moans, the remainder of the meal passed in relative silence. Could it be this easy? Could they just be in each other’s presence? Could he just knock down the wall he’d been slowly building? Was this how it used to be? Kise wished he knew.
Kagami finished quickly and started to clean up, but Kise told him that he would take care of it. With that off his plate, Kagami went to check over his luggage once more. With his belly full, his headache gone, and the dishes done, Kise sat back on the stool, but this time he faced the living room. Since the stairs wound left all the way up, Kise wasn’t sure which way Kagami’s living room windows faced, but if it he couldn’t see the sun, then, they must face east, meaning that Kagami’s bedroom’s windows faced west and overlooked the street, and thus had a great view of Tokyo Bay…and the sunset. He wanted to see it. Kise got up and headed for Kagami’s room but stopped at the sound of Kagami’s voice.
“Kiyoshi say he’ll be ready to go in about 10 minutes.”
“You can go on ahead. Tell him I’ll be down in a minute.”
“O-Okay.” Kise about-faced, disappointed, but told himself that there would be other times and other sunsets. He stood at the doorway, ready to go down, but he couldn’t move. Would there be other times? In that instant, Kise regretted all the time he wasted not talking to Kagami, not trying to understand him, and not trying to work things out. They were both at fault, but he did them no favors by taking his frustration with himself out on Kagami. But now Kagami was leaving. It was only for a few weeks, he knew that, but something made him feel like it was too much time, enough time for Kagami to forget him. He didn’t want to go down yet. He just wanted a few more moments with him.
Kagami sat on the foot of his bed, doubled over with his head in his hands. He’d already gone over it a thousand times in the last 20 minutes, but he couldn’t stop himself from running through it again: It was all normal, right? The food was good. Kise laughed. I didn’t say anything stupid. He didn’t get mad at me.
It felt like old times and that was what worried Kagami the most. He didn’t want to know that comfortable feeling again if it was just going to be followed by another period of absence. The way things were, he wouldn’t be surprised if Kise disappeared again–he had no guarantee that he wouldn’t. He heard his name being called, but it sounded so far away. Over and over he thought about it, and each time he tried to forget it. Right in the middle of it he heard a yell that snapped him out of his daze. He looked to his left where he felt something on his shoulder. A hand? He followed it up and saw Kise’s face–he looked concerned.
“Kagami, are you okay?”
Kagami looked around. “What was that yell?”
Perplexity washed over Kise’s face. “…That was you.”
“Yeah. Are you okay?”
“…Uh, yeah.” He stood up. “I’m, uh, good. I thought you went down.”
“I was about to, but I came back to ask if you needed help with your bags.”
“Oh, no.” He pointed to the two bags sitting under his window. “Just those.”
Kise walked over to pick up one and caught a view of the sun, still relatively high in the sky, but definitely on its way down. He peeked through the blinds. “Oh! This view is so pretty!”
Kagami stepped behind Kise to reach the blinds’ pull to raise them.
At first Kise was in awe at the full, unobstructed view of the bay, but then he realized Kagami was still behind him. It took everything he had to not make it weird. He slowly released the breath he was holding and just tried to enjoy the moment. It seemed that they both enjoyed it for a little too long. First Kagami’s phone buzzed and then Kise’s.
Kise checked his phone. “I guess we should go.” He handed Kagami one of the bags.
“Kobori-senpai, where are you going?”
Kobori turned to look at Kise who was in the back seat next to Kagami. “I’m just a long for the ride. You know, you can drop the ‘senpai’.”
“Oh, don’t tell me that. I have a hard enough time remembering names as it is, please don’t ask me to change what I do remember.”
“Oh, well, carry on.”
Kiyoshi sat in the driver’s seat and turned the ignition. “Seat belts. You got everything?”
“Yeah, I’m good,” Kagami responded with out hesitation. “You have my reservation code?”
“Yeah, I’ll text it to you in a minute.”
When they pulled up to Kasamatsu’s place, Kise got out and told them it would probably be two trips, but that he’d be quick about it. Kobori offered to help.
“Why do you keep lookin’ at me in the rear-view?”
“If you weren’t looking at me, you wouldn’t know, so why are you?” Kiyoshi feigned innocence.
“Because you’re up to something.”
“Since last night y–” Kagami held his tongue when Kobori knocked on the back door for Kiyoshi to unlock it.
Kiyoshi acknowledged Kise who was standing next to the car outside his window. “You got every thing?”
Only 15 minutes into the drive and Kise was knocked out. Kiyoshi saw the next turn as an opportunity to be a little aggressive with the wheel and Kise ended up leaning against Kagami, who was also dozing. Kobori stifled a laugh. Later, Kise woke up to find Kagami leaning against him.
“About five minutes. Wake him up.”
Kise ran his fingers through Kagami’s hair a few times before letting them trail down to his ear. He really hated himself in that moment; he was going to miss him. He tugged on Kagami’s earlobe. “Hey, wake up.”
Kagami opened his eyes and pushed himself up straight when he realized that he had been sleeping on Kise. “Oh, sorry about that.”
Kise looked out the window, hoping to hide his blush. “It’s cool.”
Kagami looked at his messages. “My code?”
“Oh yeah. I’ll send it to you as soon as we pull up.”
Kagami looked at Kiyoshi in the rear-view. “…Alright.”
They pulled up to the section of the walk designated for unloading. Kiyoshi pulled his phone off the dash cradle and tapped and swiped away. Kise looked at his phone.
“Kiyoshi-san, I think you just sent the code to me.”
“Oh, did I? Sorry about that, let me send it again.”
Kobori peeked stealthily at Kiyoshi.
Kiyoshi re docked his phone. “Cool.” He returned Kobori’s glance, though completely without stealth–his plan was already underway and they’s already surmounted the last obstacle which was getting Kise’s luggage. He looked into the rear-view. “I talked to Alex on Monday, she said your place was cleaned last week and that your cable and stuff would be on by yesterday.”
Kise grabbed Kagami’s arm. “You’re not staying with your parents?!”
Kagami looked at Kise in mild shock; he didn’t get why that was anything to get hype over. “Uh, no, my place is still there.”
“The-The place I stayed at?” Kise asked, growing more anxious.
Kise loosened his grip and sat back “Oh… Well, that’s…nice.”
“Yeah, why pay for accommodations when you don’t have to?” Kiyoshi chimed in.
Kise remembered when Kiyoshi told him the same thing.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea.”
Kise and Kagami trained their eyes on the mirror.
“Since he seems interested, why don’t you take Kise with you.” Kiyoshi’s smile read mischievous.
Kagami and Kise screeched in concert. “What?!”
Kagami wasn’t against it, but his flight was taking off in about an hour and…
“That would have been nice,” Kise said as he found his composure, “but there’s no time and, I can’t just impose like that and I’m still wearing my clothes from yesterday–I look gross!”
“I’m sure Kagami doesn’t mind. Besides, going back might do you some good. Both of you.”
Kagami and Kise looked at each other for a split second.
Kagami coughed. “…Maybe next time, there’s too much to do to make it happen now.”
“Well, I say, there’s no time like the present.”
“I–I can’t. It’s– There’s just not enough time,” Kise whined.
“You have a passport, right?”
“You’re clothes are in the trunk, right?”
“You can stay with Kagami.” Kiyoshi turned around to look at Kagami.
“Well, yeah, but there’s still no time to get a ticket for him. And there’s no guarantee that I can change mine. And I don’t like the idea of him travelling by himself.”
“What?! I’m not a child!”
“No, but you get lost, all the the time. And…if I couldn’t find you…” Kagami trailed off as memories flooded his mind.
Guilt laid itself on Kise’s heart.
“Well, if that’s the only thing left, then consider it done.”
“What?” Both Kagami and Kise assumed that couldn’t be beat, but here they were, shocked again.
“I’ve already sent your reservation codes to you.”
Kise looked at his phone and Kagami stared at Kiyoshi.
“Don’t look at me like that, I changed your reservation this morning.” Without waiting for their response, Kiyoshi tapped Kobori and they got out and went to the back to start unloading.
“I didn’t think you could pull it off,” Kobori said, more in awe than underestimation.
“Well, I had a few moments of doubt–I usually screw up in one way or another when it comes to this type of maneuvering, but they’re so easy, that it just all kind of fell together.”
“So, how is this supposed to help me out?”
“When they return all back in love–and they will–Kise’s not going to want to go back to Kohama right away, so I’ll offer him a position to fill in for Mitobe and that will take care of scheduling so that you guys can go on your astrophotography-whatever.”
“So, this is you ‘working something out’?”
“I told you I would.”
Kobori looked at Kiyoshi. “You might be in the wrong profession.”