- If Found, Volume One [Text Only]
[Cover: Imagine Kise holding open one side of his jacket and attached to the button of the inside pocket is a photo booth pic of Kagami and Kise.]
: Kuroko no Basuke
: Kagami & Kise
: It’s been five years since Kise left Kagami’s place in LA with barely a word. Their friendship had hit a rough patch, but nothing major, so Kagami thought. Five years and nothing more to go on than the pics Kise sends his mother every few months. Just him, a recent headline from The Tokyo Shimbun
, and a wall.
Until one day, Kagami gets a call.
Now, unfortunate circumstances have forced Kise to reunite with Kagami and the other people he left behind. Five years is a long time. Will they forgive him? Will they be able to pick up where they left off? Do they even want to?
- Circumstances: Future AU; 30ish; Japan
- Cast (Appearances by/Mentions of): Kise, Kagami, Aomine, Kiyoshi, Mitobe, Kuroko, and the rest.
- Genre: Drama/Angst/Romance?
- Rating: Teen
- Warnings: Controlling behavior.
- Word Count: One: 12,900~ | Two: ?? | Three: ??
This story, One, in particular, is told in reference to three points in time:
- the past – Before (the letter)
- the letter
- the present – After (the letter)
- Volume One: COMPLETE
- Volume Two: Will begin posting early 2016
- Volume Three: Will begin posting a month or so after Volume Two ends.
N.B. Qwerqs of Fiction will always be ahead of Tumblr and AO3 won’t be updated until the current part is complete on Tumblr.
One: The Letter, Part One
I know this is long overdue, but better late than never, right? You’re probably really mad at me and I’m sure you have a lot of questions. I don’t know how many answers I have for you, though. Sorry for not responding to those emails you sent. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t. I think this is going to be long and I’ve never written anything like this before, so bear with me; you used to be a pro at that…
I left without a plan. That was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. I’m sure you can probably think of plenty that might beat that, but for me, that was it. When I first left, I didn’t even go that far, just to the end of a train line. I figured, once I got there, I could chart the rest of my course. When I got there, I holed up in this place that was straight out of a 70s film, but everything was brand new. But not? I guess it was the lighting, because even I looked old under it. 0/10, would not recommend. It only took a day and a half for me to realize that I wasn’t far away enough. It was so easy to go back and I just couldn’t risk that, so I hopped a plane and 12 hours later I landed, then I hopped another one and I’ve been here ever since. Don’t mind about where here is.
One: After, Part One
It was a day like any other. Aomine and Kuroko had stopped by Kagami’s place for a late lunch and Aomine and Kagami were now savoring their satisfaction as they teetered between full belly stupor and food coma. Kuroko watched over them in between scenes of that day’s reading choice.
Kuroko: Kagami-kun, wake up. You’re phone is ringing.
Kagami wasn’t actually sleep, but he felt like it. He opened and closed his eyes a few times attempting to focus, but not quite managing to. He leaned over toward the left arm of the sofa and slipped his hand in his back pocket to retrieve his phone. He looked at the quiet slate and then at Kuroko. Kuroko nodded in the direction of the hall.
Kuroko: No, your other phone.
It only took a second for Kagami to realize before he leapt off the sofa and onto the coffee table which he used as a launchpad to bound down the hall. Although shocked to alertness, his body and mind had not had a chance to sync themselves, so he could not measure his stride and ended up crashing into the sideboard, but not before grabbing the phone.
Kagami was curled on the floor, trying to catch his breath; he held his stomach where it had met with the corner of the sideboard with one hand and gripped the phone with the other. Most of the interest dropped out of his voice when the caller wasn’t who he was hoping for.
Kagami: Yes…that’s me.
Even though it wasn’t the voice that he wanted to hear, he would have been fine with that if it hadn’t become a siren warning that history was on the verge of repeating itself.
Aomine: Why does he still have that phone anyway? It’s old and from the States, right? There’s no way it still works.
Kuroko: It does. He tried to put the card in the dual sim he bought, but it wouldn’t carry over the text messages.
Kuroko: Have you really forgotten Aomine-kun? That’s the phone that–
Aomine’s eyes bulged with recollection.
Kuroko: I don’t see how you could have forgotten.
Aomine: It’s been five years! Who remembers that kind of shit?!
Kuroko looked at Aomine who then quieted his voice.
Aomine: Don’t tell Kagami I said that.
Kuroko’s eyes questioned him.
At the slight crease in Kuroko’s brow, he lowered his voice again.
Kuroko: Are you still mad?
Aomine: About what?
Kuroko: He’s your best friend and even you don’t know where he is. And he only said goodbye to Kagami-kun.
Aomine turned his attention to the floor and searched for nothing in particular.
Aomine: What is there to be mad about? He must have his reasons. Besides, there’s no fun in being mad at someone who’s not there to feel it.
Kuroko: You sound an awful lot like Kise-kun.
Aomine caught Kuroko’s eyes in his periphery.
Aomine: Where do you think I got it from?
He dropped to a whisper.
Aomine: Did he ever tell you what happened? Do you think they…?
Kuroko: Other than when Kise-kun first left he hasn’t talked about it–won’t talk about, but even when he did… You were there for that–all he said ever said was that he didn’t know.
Aomine: Do you think they…?
Kuroko: I think there’s something or was something…
Aomine: But not officially?
Kuroko: Since he has always been against relationships, if there was anything, it may have just been one-sided on Kise-kun’s part.
Aomine: I always thought that was a joke.
Kuroko: About Kagami-kun?
Kuroko: Kiyoshi-senpai says that he won’t even entertain the thought–he even shuts down customers without so much as a smile.
Aomine: But he wasn’t always like that, right? …As far as I can remember, he was just stupid and shy.
Kuroko: No, I think he was, but when we were younger, he may have not realized it or he didn’t know how to reject people and he ended up seeming shy. He would always–
They froze as their attention was abruptly drawn to what they assumed was the sound of the sideboard being pushed back into place. No sooner than they registered that noise did they see Kagami fly out of the hallway and halfway down the stairs that lead to the bar.
A door opened.
Kiyoshi: What’s all the noise about?
Kagami: I’m leaving and I don’t know when I’ll be back.
Aomine looked at Kuroko; he wondered if that even qualified as an acceptable explanation.
Kiyoshi: …Alright then, call me when you get there.
Aomine’s look intensified and Kuroko shrugged.
Kuroko: He’s like that.
Kagami moved about the flat as if they weren’t there and he would have left without a word if Kuroko hadn’t stopped him.
Kuroko: Kagami-kun, what happened?
Kagami: I’m going to Yaeyama.
And with that, Kagami walked out. There was no need to ask, it wasn’t hard to guess what was up.
Aomine: Yae-Yaeyama…? That’s in…
Kuroko: Okinawa? So he’s been in Japan all this time?
Aomine jumped up.
Aomine: Where the hell does he think he’s going without me?!
Aomine started for the door.
Kuroko: Detective, unlike him, you can’t just fly off to distant corners of Japan. I’m sure he’ll get in touch with us as soon as he can. In the meantime, you should check in with Momoi-san and go see about emergency time off; I’ll clean up here.
Kagami’s plane wasn’t set to take off for another 2 hours. At present, his mind and body were a ball of knots with a headache looming, so he did his best to clear his head and ignore the pain that had since spread across his midsection. With all other thoughts pushed aside, there was nothing else to do but replay the phone conversation in the vacated space.
Caller: …I’m calling from the Patient Care office at Kenritsu Yaeyama Hospital for Kagami Taiga-san.
Kagami: Yes…that’s me.
Caller: Oh, I’m sorry to disturb you Kagami-san, but we found your name and number inside the wallet of a patient here.
Kagami: You said you’re calling from a hospital?
Caller: Yes, Kenritsu Yaeyama in Okinawa Prefecture. Are you acquainted with a Kagami Ryou-san?
Caller: Are you his family?
Kagami: …I guess I was something like his…guardian? Is he alright?
Caller: Kagami Ryou-san was admitted into our care two weeks ago after he…
One: The Letter, Part Two
I managed to rent a little house on the grounds of this onsen and for the first year I just kind of hung out and read a bunch. I never quite got why Kurokocchi always had his nose in a book when we were younger, but I think I get it now. I’ve been all over the world, went deep sea diving, climbed a thousand mountains, and hung out in Nanchou during the 50s…the 1350s, that is! All from that ugly sofa.
I got bored with doing nothing. Not that reading is doing nothing; it kept my mind busy, but my body was nearly atrophied, not really, but there would be days after days that I didn’t move at all. So I got permission to renovate this place. That was another year and change. I attached before and after pics so you, too, can revel in my awesomeness!
Here’s the before (so tragic!):
[Imagine nine images of the interior of a cottage, lots of wood.]
And here’s the after. I will be happy if I never see another bucket of white paint. I tried to copy your kitchen, just on a smaller scale. How’d I do?
[Imagine eight images of the same cottage, just whiter.]
Good work, right?!
One: After, Part Two
A three-hour flight and 30-minute taxi ride later, Kagami stood in front of the three-story hospital. He didn’t have to walk far to find the information desk.
Attendant: Good evening, sir. How may I help you?
Kagami: My name is Kagami Taiga and I was told to ask for the Patient Care office.
The attendant punched a few keys. She looked at her screen, looked at Kagami, returned to her screen, and then pursed her lips in assent.
Attendant: Kagami-san, would you happen to have your ID?
Kagami pulled his wallet and presented his ID. She looked over it and pursed her lips again.
Attendant: Just a moment while I ring someone to meet you.
Kagami exhaled and it felt to him like it was the first time he had breathed since the phone call some hours ago. But there was no real change; he still hadn’t managed to untie himself. His shoulders were tense, there was a tightness in his chest, a headache was pounding in his ears, and though it was duller now, the pain in his midsection persisted. He felt like he would collapse at any moment. However, at the same time, he felt numb to it all. At the mention of his name, his eyes drifted slowly to the right. The Patient Care representative, a young guy, probably in his late 20s, with a welcoming face, stood about two feet away from him.
PCR: Kagami Taiga-san?
The PCR extended his hand in introduction. Kagami accepted it and moved right into his question.
Kagami: When can I see him?
PCR: We can go now, but there are some things I’d like to discuss with you. Can we talk on the way?
Kagami: Sure. …On the phone, you said he’s been here for two weeks… Why was I only contacted now?
PCR: We had some trouble recovering the wallet.
PCR: The doctor can give you more information, but he had the wallet in his hand when he was knocked down. At some point, possibly from the impact of the fall or one of the beams that pinned him, he broke most of the bones in that hand. However, and we aren’t sure why, but when he was brought in, that hand was suffering from some form of non-congenital myotonia and… that would be a prolonged muscle contraction.
Kagami: I’m aware.
PCR: Oh, good, then I’ll skip ahead. Right this way.
Kagami turned in the direction indicated and saw a single elevator at the end of a very long corridor. As they got closer, he noticed that there were no buttons, just a glass plaque on the wall to the right.
PCR: So with his hand locked in that manner and the bones being broken, we wanted to be very careful with the extraction and resetting.
Kagami: And now?
Kagami’s brow furrowed and raised as he watched the PCR flash his badge in front of the glass plaque which responded with a small, blinking blue light. A tinny pling–nearly muted–announced the arrival of the elevator. They stepped in and he watched once more as the man’s reedy fingers inserted a key and flashed his badge again, but in front of what, he couldn’t tell. There were no buttons on the inside either. The doors closed and the elevator hitched a bit before…descending? A new, ominous feeling broke through the numbness.
PCR: We managed to cast–
Kagami felt a slight panic rise, but he did his best to keep it out of his voice.
Kagami: What’s with this?
Kagami waved his hand about, suggesting the current situation.
PCR: I’m sorry?
Kagami: The security measures… Isn’t this kinda over-the-top? He hasn’t been in the public eye for seven years.
Kagami reasoned that the hospital was ensuring anonymity for Kise due to his former status as an internationally recognized model.
The PCR wasn’t sure what to make of that.
PCR: …My apologies, I’m not at liberty to say, but the officer stationed at the room should be able to fill you in.
Detective: After rousing the staff and securing everyone outside, he got the irrigation system working and was trying to douse what he could and that was when the foundation on that side gave way and he was caught by a falling beam. Another one fell and he was trapped. Fortunately he called emergency services as soon as he saw the fire and one of the staff members is a retired medic, so they had that on their side. Out there, dire situations can turn deadly as it’s difficult to get emergency vehicles over some of those roads and emergency medical care is limited.
Kagami: Where do you come in?
Detective: It has been determined to be a case of arson and we suspect that it’s related to the family’s longstanding refusal to sell their land to the Kanagusuku-kai. Things have been quiet for about 7 or 8 years; however, during that time it’s been slow going for the establishment since people have been hesitant to patronize a place that had a known connection to the bouryokudan–even if they were on the right side of the law.
A severe hollowness had grown out from the pit of Kagami’s stomach and seized the whole of him. All the anger and frustration that had collected over the past five years seemed utterly inconsequential when he considered what Kise had found himself in the middle of.
Detective: I need to make a call, if you have any more questions, the guy at the door can answer them or I can when I get back.
Kagami sat in the chair next to Kise’s bed. He was a sight–tubes and machines casting a ghostly green light over him… the purple and brown bruises were striking against his pale complexion–a complexion made even paler by his condition… Something jabbed at Kagami’s heart.
One: The Letter, Part Three
After that was done, the old couple that ran the place asked if I could help renovate some of the rooms there. TAIGA!!!!!
Oh, yeah, so… It’s okay, right? I mean…you don’t like Kagamicchi and it’s not like you can stop me, so…
Taiga, it was really cool; it was hard work, but I had a lot of fun working on the place I’m staying at, but that was really for my own benefit. Then when it came to the guest quarters, it was like a switch was flipped. It was kind of strange… I was so used to being the one getting dressed and primped and made over–it was kind of surreal being the one dressing and primping and stuff. Surreal or not, it was great; everyday that I worked on something left me feeling at peace and it’s been so long since I felt that way that I almost didn’t recognize it.
One: After, Part Three
Kagami switched his phone to his left ear.
Kagami: I almost didn’t recognize him–his piercings are gone and his hair is long and black.
Aomine: Black? …I can’t imagine. What about everything else…how bad is it?
Kagami: It’s…pretty bad. He suffered head trauma, but nothing is cracked inside. It’s called DAI–something something axon…axonal injury…? They said it’s like his head got stretched and turned like he was in a car accident, but it doesn’t appear to be severe. However, there’s no treatment for it, it just has to heal on its own. He also has a small contusion, but no more swelling, so they are just keeping an eye on it. As for the burn, it’s third degree, well most of it. It runs across his shoulder blades and kind of snakes down his left side and on the back of his left arm. The part that snakes was caused by the cable that was attached to the beam that knocked him out, but it also partially cauterized it; thing is, the burned area is like four or five inches across like it slid or was dragged across while burning him. His doctor said that if he only had one or the other, he probably would have woken up by now, but the DAI, though extremely mild, coupled with the shock his body experienced with the burn and broken hand seems to be holding him hostage. They’ve been havin’ a time tryin’ to keep him in a good position. He spends most of the day on his stomach for the sake of the burn and has this hole cut out to support how his head needs to be positioned, but it’s not great for his breathing–especially since he started breathing on his own–so they prop him up on his side every now and then, but since he broke most of the bones in his left hand and has a cast past his elbow, neither of those positions are ideal.
Aomine: Is he–Is he going to wake up? Will he be able to use his hand again?
Kagami: The doctor said his chances of regaining consciousness are very good since there doesn’t seem to be extensive damage to his brain. For the hand though, it’s hard to tell at this point. They said 6-7 weeks–we’re just hitting three. And it’s not like you can really respond to motor skill therapy when you’re comatose.
Aomine: Has he woken up at all?
Kagami: Not really… Just once…they said they heard him mumbling something about being friends with trees and guns and gravity…in English…
Kagami: …The nurse that was taking his vitals when it happened said it barely lasted a minute. He thought it might be important even though it didn’t make any sense, so he transcribed what he could remember. But when they Googled it, it just turned out to be Finley Quaye lyrics.
Kagami shook his head in his hands.
Kagami: Finley Quaye… He was the first person we saw live after he started visiting me in LA.
Aomine: …What exactly is between you two?
Kagami: Who two?
Aomine: Who else?! You and Kise!
Kagami: Me and…?
The first answer that came to him was “five years.”
Kagami: …There’s nothing between us. That’s like asking what’s between me and Tatsuya.
Aomine: So…he’s like a brother to you?
Kagami: Well, actually… When the hospital called me, I ended up telling them I was something like his guardian.
Kagami: Oh! Right. I completely forgot to tell you…
Kagami: He’s been going by Kagami Ryou…
Aomine: Kaga– What the fuck?! HaHA! Are you sure there’s nothing between you?
Kagami: What the fuck do you mean am I sure?
Aomine: A’right, a’right, a’right… Geez, calm down. Have you at least considered it? Or…do you think he has?
Kagami: Well, I’m not interested and I don’t think he is either–I’m not even his type.
Aomine: You know his type?
Kagami: …No, but I’ve met some of the people he’s dated and about the only thing we have in common is that we’re breathing.
Aomine: I don’t know, man… I mean, he was using your name.
Aomine: “And” why? How many people does he know? So many names he could have picked. I’ve known him longer than you and you’re the one he said goodbye to when he first disappeared. Not me, not his family…you.
Kagami: Aren’t you reading too much into this?
Aomine: No. Anyway, why aren’t you interested–what’s wrong with Kise?
Kagami: Nothing’s wrong with Kise. I’m not interested because I’m not interested, period.
Aomine: Why not?
Kagami: …The thing about the name–
Aomine: So, you just gonna ignore me, now?
Kagami: …Don’t be a fucking idiot. My reasons and his feelings don’t matter–he’s laying here in front of me in a fucking coma and I don’t know if he’s ever going to wake up! So, I’m sorry if I can’t give half a shit about something as trivial as relationships right now!
Kagami: …Now, about the name… He didn’t have any identification on him and the only reason they have any kind of name for him is because that’s the name the onsen staff gave to the police. So, what I want to know is how much shit am I going to get from the police for not telling them his real name?
Aomine: Why didn’t you?
Kagami: Because they said that this whole thing has yakuza written all over it and I don’t know who I’m dealing with or which side they’re really on!
Aomine: From what I know of the situation, I don’t think they’re going to be after Kise. It’s not like he asserted himself against them. They’re after the land and Kise isn’t really an obstacle for them in that respect–he has no ties to ownership.
Kagami: But what if I give his name and someone connected tells them and they go after his family?
Aomine: I really don’t think they will, but– Wait, do they know?
Kagami: His family? …Yeah, I talked to his mom, but I told her that there were some things I didn’t want to get into right away. She didn’t like that, but I told her that I’d take care of him…but I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing!
Aomine: Like I said, Kise’s probably not even a blip on their radar–
Kagami: Then why all this security?
Aomine: Protocol. But listen, if he is, and they do start making waves in Kanagawa or Tokyo, then they’ll be moving about within my jurisdiction, and there’s no way I’m going to let them. But I’ll look into it more before I leave.
Kagami: When’s that?
Aomine: Hopefully soon; I’m waiting for my boss to get back with me ab– Oh, hold up, speak of the devil. Imma call you back–and keep your fucking phone on! Not being able to contact you for three days was some scary shit!
One: The Letter, Part Four
Most of the staff here are like, 50 and over, so they helped when they could, but I was pretty much on my own the first few months. Then, the owners’ grandsons came to visit after graduating uni and they helped me out a lot, so it only ended up taking a year to do the four main cottages and the six day rooms that are attached to the main building. Taiga, I thought I was going crazy…or they were. The grandsons came back a day after each other and maybe they decided to come at the last minute, but no one that told me they were coming. So, when they had the welcome party I was caught off guard, but it was a party, so… Then, the next day there was another welcome party and when they ambushed the same guy with hugs and whatnot, I thought that it must have been déjà vécu. But you know, it was cool; I had fun…again, I guess. But then it happened again. Three days in a row! I was looking in closets and under tables for Bill Murray. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was going to ask Obaa-chan, but I just said to hell with it and went back to my place and tried to sleep it off.
The next day was Sunday and that’s the day I have breakfast with the staff. So I’m sitting there enjoying my miso when–one by one–the grandsons came in and sat across from me–you couldn’t convince me that I wasn’t losing it. I’m guessing you probably figured out by now that they were triplets. And there was Ojii-chan standing behind them, just as proud as he could be. Part of me thought it was hilarious, but the other part didn’t agree, so after we were properly introduced and I finished my food, that part of me decided to call it a day. It’s strange how sometimes knowing the truth doesn’t necessarily make things better.
Once the renovations were done and the trio went off to do whatever, and I went back to my books until Ojii-chan had some back trouble and they asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping out. When I first got there, it was the off-season, so seeing only four guests didn’t seem all that strange, but after I started helping out, I saw that it was pretty much like that all the time. Business picked up after the renovations, but the guests still only amounted to a handful and a half–this place has 25 rooms. I don’t know how they keep the place going. One of the grandsons tried to explain it to me, but I didn’t get it; something to do with landholding and inheritance and some other stuff. But because of that, this place is prime real estate and more than just people looking to relax, it attracted a certain sort of scout. They said it had been a few years since anyone had bothered them, but when it looked like the place was on the verge of bustling again, they said they wouldn’t be surprised if their unwanted visits resumed.
One: After, Part Four
A little over a week had passed since his arrival and though Kagami had made some headway, it wasn’t much. He’d found out that due to his extensive injuries, Kise was flown to Kenritsu Yaeyama on Ishigaki-jima from the onsen and that most of the onsen staff were unharmed. For those who were, they had already been admitted to and since released from a medical center on Iriomote-jima which is closer to the onsen. The onsen itself is on Kohama-jima, a small island about 25 minutes off the coast of Ishigaki; he went there to pay his respects. He was under the impression that the whole resort burned down, but they explained that it was only the main building and the two unoccupied guest quarters that were closest to it.
Kagami spent a great deal of time talking to the onsen’s proprietress. Except for his manner of compelling people to want to hug him one minute and hit him the next, the quiet and generally reserved “Ryou-chan” the old lady told him about was nothing like the Kise he knew. He didn’t like the idea of Kise changing on him–a Kise he didn’t know made him itch. These thoughts made him uncomfortable; it had been so long since he’d allowed himself to give time over to thoughts other than punching Kise in that stupid face of his that it came as something of a shock to Kagami when he realized he missed him…still missed him. But unlike when Kise first left, he hadn’t been able to shake this feeling off.
Kagami looked at his watch; Aomine’s plane would be touching down in about an hour. Just that morning, during his third visit with the owners of the onsen, they’d given him permission to stay in the house Kise had been renting. It was already quarter after five, so he figured he and Aomine would stay that night on Ishigaki and go to Kohama the next day because ferry service would be done for the day by the time they left the hospital. Kagami waited outside the terminal at the taxi station.
Aomine: Man, you look like shit!
Kagami looked around for the driver of the taxi he reserved and saw him chatting with another cabbie. He waved him over and then returned his attention to Aomine.
Kagami: I haven’t slept in two weeks, what’s your excuse?
They shook hands and embraced.
Kagami: How long are you here for?
Aomine: A week!
Kagami: How did you manage that on such short notice?
Aomine: “Special assignment.” My boss’ old partner is a Superintendent here, so she sent me to “go learn something.” I just need to check in at least three days this week.
The ride to the hospital was about 25 minutes. Kagami caught Aomine up on the onsen, its owners, Kise’s place, and things in general.
Kagami: It’s going to be too late by the time we leave the, so we can hold off on going to his place until tomorrow.
Kagami: Come on, man, spit it out.
Aomine: He’s out, right? Like nobody’s home…?
Kagami gave him a look, but he dismissed it.
Aomine: What do you do when you visit him? He can’t be good company.
Kagami: …I help with his physical therapy, sometimes I help the nurses tend to him…sometimes I…talk to him…
Aomine: About what?
Kagami: I don’t know…just stuff. I read the paper to him, talk sports, talk about you and Kuroko, the old couple…just stuff.
Aomine noticed the absence of anything specific to Kagami in that list.
Aomine: …And that’s all you do?
Kagami: Well, most of the time I just think about why and how all this happened. Like why did he leave and why has he stayed away so long and why…here of all places.
Aomine: Last time I asked, you were all zip-lipped, but did you guys fight or something before he left?
Kagami: …Not right before he left, but…I guess we just weren’t seeing eye to eye that whole last year. We’ve only really had one argument, though.
Aomine: What about?
Kagami: He had started acting up again.
Aomine: Wh-What does that even mean?
Kagami: You know how he ended up moving in with me in LA, right?
Aomine: No clue.
Kagami: Alright, so he was changing partners damn-near on a weekly basis, always staying with them, and I told him to cut that shit out. You could tell it wasn’t even making him happy. After that he started looking for his own place. He broke up with the last guy before he found one, so I let him stay with me for a while. It wasn’t much of a change, because even when he was dating, he spent most of his time at my place.
Kagami failed to catch the tone of suspicion in Aomine’s question.
Kagami: Yeah, and before I knew it, a year went by. And he chilled with all that nonsense, too. He was only with a handful of people the first two years and then he just stopped dating altogether. But, I don’t know what happened. Around that last year, he started getting buck wild again–changing people like underwear.
Aomine didn’t want to say it, but he really wanted to say it. He just couldn’t understand how he could see something was up and Kagami couldn’t. Was he really that dense or was he in denial?
Aomine: So…what exactly was your issue?
Kagami: With what?
Aomine: Why were you against him dating?
Kagami: I wouldn’t have a problem if he was actually dating, but he wasn’t; it was just one after another. When I called him on it, he stopped speaking to me for like, a month. Then he started dating, like really dating this one dude who was a no good, lazy ass, piece of shit. At first I wasn’t going to say anything because he manged to stay with him for a few months–you know, to each his own–but then he came home one too many times with a bruise, so I told him to break up with him or I was going to lock him in his room or some shit.
Aomine: What. The. Fuck?
Kagami: Yeah, the dude pissed me off.
Aomine: Fuck him! I’m talking about you! Yeah, that dude puttin’ his hands on Kise is a problem, but Kise…he ain’t gonna just sit there and take it–I’m sure the dude looked worse. But where the hell do you get off telling him who he can and cannot date? He’s a grown ass man and if he gets his kicks hanging out with assholes, that’s his fucking prerogative. I’m just guessing here, but it’s not like he was bringing these people back to your place, right? So why did it even matter to you what or who he was doing?
Kagami: He wasn’t happy! Not once did he seem like any of it was what he wanted! How could I stand by and watch him do that to himself?!
Aomine: …It wasn’t your place, man… you had no right… You called yourself his guardian, but that was a role you assumed on your own. It’s not like it’s 100% your fault, but I see why Kise left.
Kagami: What the hell is that supposed to mean?!
Driver: Yaeyama Hospital, sirs.
One: The Letter, Part Five
Speaking of unwanted visitors! I was thinking about the first time I ran into you in LA. I never had time to stay for more than the shoot before. I was glad that my first time hanging out there was with you. I especially liked seeing where you grew and things like that. I had fun…too much fun. It’s your fault I kept coming back, you know.
One: Before, Part One
Kise looked at the sleek black watch on his wrist. It wasn’t his, but he thought it was nice.
Kise: What are we waiting for?
Coordinator: Sorry, Kise. They sent the wrong line to our sneaker supplier, so the shoes he chose are total mismatch for the actual line. Even though it’s our fault, he’s having the right shoes rushed down. As soon as they arrive, we’ll get started.
Kise sat on the scaffolding, swinging his socked feet about like a kid. It wasn’t his first time in LA, but it would be the first time he didn’t have to fly out to make it to another shoot right away, so he was anxious for the day to wrap so that he could see what was so great about the place. From where he sat, Kise couldn’t see what was going on, but there was a bit of a fuss when the supplier arrived. He heard footfalls on the wooden plank stairs behind him. The coordinator yelled up to tell him that after the guy who was on his way up set the laces on the sneaks, they would begin. When Kise heard the the footfalls that signified that the guy had reached the level he was on, he carefully swung his legs around to present his feet, but almost fell back when he looked up to greet him.
Kise: Eh?! Kagamicchi?! What are you doing here?!
Kagami: Oh, it’s you? And you’re still calling people that?
Kise: I haven’t seen you in years and that’s all I get?! So mean!
Kagami knelt in front of Kise.
Kagami: Right foot. I’ve never seen you in this studio before.
Kise: This is my first time working for this designer. What are you doing here?
Kagami: Left foot. I brought the sneaks.
Kise: You work for the the supplier?!
Kagami: I am the supplier.
He put Kise’s sneaker-clad foot on the floor.
Kagami: Alright, you’re good for now. I’ll be back to change your sneaks after this set.
With each sneaker change, Kise worked his way closer and closer to drafting Kagami as an escort for the remainder of his stay in LA.
Kagami: Alright, last one.
Kise: Oh! I like these.
Kagami: Me too. They do seem like something you’d buy.
Kise: How much are they?
Kise: I-I-I… well it’s not like I’ve never dropped that kind of cash on anything, but…
Kagami: It’s not that strange, is it? The blazer you’re wearing will probably retail for about $25-$2600, I already know the watch is $3700… the sneaks are a bargain by comparison.
Kise: I never knew you were into these sorts of things–you always made fun of my work when we were in high school.
Kagami: It’s my business to know these things. Anyway, your work was fine–it was all those annoying fans that followed you everywhere that I didn’t like.
Kise: That’s right, back then, Kagamicchi was already a cantankerous old man and couldn’t understand the bliss and passion of youth.
Kagami: I’d hit you if it wouldn’t mess up your hair.
Kise: Oh, thanks. I don’t want to get yelled at.
Senior Coordinator: You guys can play kissy-face all you want later!
Kise turned his bright eyes to Kagami who was turning to leave.
Kise: Oh, can we?!
Kagami looked at Kise like he just said that natto flavored ice cream sounded like a good thing.
Kagami: …No thanks.
Kise: I get turned down for a kiss and I got yelled at anyway. This day needs to wrap.
Kagami laughed as he walked down the stairs. When the shoot wrapped, Kagami went up one last time to collect his sneakers.
He played with the laces.
Kise: How can I buy these?
Kagami: You like them that much?
Kise: Yeah…I don’t want to take them off.
Kise: What?! Really?!
Kagami: Think of them as an “I haven’t seen you in a while, you should buy me a drink” gift.
Kagami extended his hand and pulled Kise up.
Kise: I can do that!
Kise hugged Kagami and lingered.
Kise: Thank you! Now where should we get that drink.
Kagami: First, get off me.
Kise: So cold…
Kagami: Second, I have to get the rest back to the office and take care of some stuff. Let’s meet there. Think you can find it?
Kise: Yeah… Oh! We have the same phone! Can you beam me the address?
Kagami: Alright, be there by 10.
Kagami sat at the bar and looked at his watch. His phone vibrated.
Kagami: Where the hell are you?! It’s almost 11!
Kise: …I got…lost…
That was not the last time either. Kise had a knack for getting lost in LA and Kagami eventually developed a knack for finding him. But, at a certain point, Kagami decided that spending 45 minutes searching for Kise was not his cup of tea, so he settled on chauffeuring him around every time he would visit.
One: The Letter, Part Six
Oh! You would be so proud of me! You really would. You never said it, but I know it drove you crazy when I would leave my stuff all over the place. Why didn’t you say anything? Well, now, I clean a lot, all the time really. With all the books I’ve collected, mostly from used bookstores–there’s a really good one close by. I say “close by,” but it’s an hour away. Everything is an hour away, but that’s fine, I don’t need much these days. So, yeah, the books and this place is just naturally dusty for some reason…you’d think with all the rain it wouldn’t be, but I must be shedding something awful (this is where you should laugh; I’ll even accept a grin). I do laundry every other week–I don’t have much to wash because I don’t go out much and I walk around in a yukata all day. No dishwasher, so I do the dishes properly. Basically, I don’t live in a pig sty.
Insert praise here: _____
I learned how to make onion gratin. And then when Obaa-chan found out, she put it on the menu. Three pages of traditional fare and this one oddball dish pinned to the menu. Though, sadly, neither of ours is as good as yours.
This Obaa-chan is so sweet, but she keeps trying to marry me off. So that no one gets their hopes up, I tell her that my heart is already spoken for, but she won’t listen. Every time I say it, she looks around the room and sometimes, for extra dramatic effect, she’ll walk around me and ask me where this person is. At least once a week she tells me it’s not good to be alone. When I tell her that somethings can’t be helped she just gives me this look. I haven’t figured out if it’s pity or disbelief. I hope it’s disbelief. I don’t want to be pitied. I’m alright with things the way they are, not everyone gets what they want in life. Besides, I think I’ve been blessed with enough, so other people should have a turn.
That’s what I want to say, but… It doesn’t matter, I’ve just about learned to live with it. There are worse things than being alone.
On the subject of being alone, this is the first time I’ve lived alone, but I wonder if this really counts since they treat me like one of their grandsons. I still lived with my family even when my gigs had me travelling or because I was travelling. No point in spending money on a place I was never at. Then my string of exes and then you.
One: Before, Part Two
Kise signed a two-year contract with an Anaheim-based designer, so he decided to move to LA. When he first arrived he moved in with his girlfriend, but while everything was hot under the covers, their day in and day out just didn’t click. They broke up after a month; he stayed in her guest room for two weeks before moving in with his new boyfriend. Somehow, Kise managed to keep this kind of thing going for a year. Three months was his longest relationship. Although he was never without a place to stay or a body to lay, he could usually be found on Kagami’s sofa. Kagami would lecture him about jumping out of one relationship and into another and Kise would always wave him off, but he was getting tired of it–sooner or later they all ended and he didn’t know how much longer his heart could take it. When it looked like his current relationship was coming to an end, he started looking for a place of his own. When the relationship did finally end, Kise still hadn’t found a flat–not that he had put a whole lot of effort into it to begin with–so he parked himself at Kagami’s for a few weeks. Before they knew it, a few weeks became three months, then six, then a year. At some point he’d just stopped looking. It made no difference to Kagami, it wasn’t like he would be getting in the way of anything.
Initially, Kise’s more permanent change of address didn’t stop him from dating, however, he did slow down, but by the end of the second year, he’d stopped completely. Kagami just thought he had finally come to his senses, but Kise had actually come to something else. And then things started to change. He declined to renew his contract with the designer and chose to take some time off instead, but staying in the house with Kagami who had a habit of–more often than not–walking around in just a pair of basketball shorts was no longer something he could stand to do. So he started going out to random places and events. But since he really only knew the city in regards to how far and in which direction a place was from Kagami’s he tended to get lost when he went more than one place in a day. Kagami only laughed when he had to go rescue him.
Kagami: Are you serious?!
Kagami: This is the fourth time this month! You are absolutely hopeless.
When Kagami hung up, he was laughing; when he pulled up to the curb, he was laughing; when Kise got in, Kagami was laughing; and when they pulled off, he was still laughing. Kise sat in the passenger seat with his arms folded and ever so annoyed until he remembered…
Kise: Here, for you.
Kagami took the slip of paper Kise handed to him.
Kagami: What is this?
Before Kise answered, they passed under a street light that illuminated the inside of the car just long enough for Kagami to see that it was one of the pictures he and Kise took at a photo booth when they went for karaoke the other night.
Kagami: And what do I need this for?
Kise: So you’ll never forget my face.
Kagami: I don’t think that’ll be a problem.
The next afternoon as Kise was on his way out, Kagami stopped him, pulled open one side of Kise’s jacket, and affixed something to it.
Kagami: There you go.
Kise: What’s this?
Kagami: It’s just in case.
Kise looked at the paper only to find that it was the picture he gave Kagami the night before. He was kind of hurt.
Kise: And what am I supposed to do with this?
Kagami: Flip it over.
[Imagine Kise holding open one side of his jacket and attached to the button of the inside pocket is a photo flipped or to see the back that reads:
Kise couldn’t help but laugh.
One: The Letter, Part Seven
You were always with me when I was just visiting, but after I moved to LA and then moved in with you, you thought it was hilarious to leave me on my own. It was really scary at first and you were no help. All you did was laugh every time I got lost…except that one time you didn’t.
One: Before, Part Three
Kagami had just taken off his jacket when his phone rang. He looked at it and debated whether or not he wanted to answer the unknown number.
Caller: …I’m calling from the emergency room at Valley Presbyterian Hospital for Taiga Kagami.
Kagami: Yes…that’s me.
Caller: Mr. Kagami, we found your contact information amongst the contents of Ryouta Kise’s wallet.
Kagami: A hospital?
Caller: Yes, Valley Presbyterian in Van Nuys. Are you a friend or relation of his?
Kagami: Yes, a friend.
Caller: Are you in touch with his family?
Kagami: Not really; they’re in Japan.
Caller: Are you willing to take responsibility for him today?
Kagami: Yes. Is he alright?
Caller: Approximately 20 minutes ago, Mr. Kise was brought in unconscious with some minor cuts and a few bruises. He has since regained consciousness…
One: The Letter, Part Eight
“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” You hear that kind of thing and it just goes in one ear and out the other. Since I’ve been here, I’ve only gotten lost once. Well, that’s actually how I ended up at the onsen. I hadn’t learned my lesson, because I was in my own world and aimlessly wandering around my new neighborhood–neighborhood is too generous, really, there are like, ten houses and a jungle and swamps where I first stayed. I did learn that getting robbed in a place where no one lives is a thing. I had only been here about two days when I got jumped and everything but my wallet taken from me. If I hadn’t broken the one guy’s jaw and the other guy’s arm, they may have eventually found the wallet.
I wish I could say that it was easier to get back to rights the second time around, but it was actually harder. So much harder. I mean, this time, there was no way you could find me, not this far away. But it’s what made me realize that leaving was the right thing to do. I was relying on you entirely too much and that just brought all kinds of trouble with it.
Obaa-chan found me on her way back from some late night market and rolled me into the back of her cart. She looks like she weighs half a feather, but she’s ridiculously strong–all the old people around he are like that. I guess that’s rural life for you. My head was in a fog for a few days after and when I came out of it, I was staring into the face of this toothless ojii-san. His brow was all jagged with worry, but his eyes were so kind. Reminded me so much of you and that grumpy face of yours. Those wrinkles permanent yet? I’m sure you have less now that I’m gone.
So, that’s about it for the first three years. The last two years have been…well, there’s been some things, but nothing worth mentioning, not like it’ll change anything. Not that any of this will change anything.
So, what about you? How’s LA? How’s the sneaker biz? Didn’t you want to open a bar? Did you ever get around to it? How’re your parents? Did they manage to stay together this time? I know how you feel about it, but I think it’s great that they still try. They obviously love each other–just a shame that their temperaments don’t match. But it kind of makes you believe that there’s someone for everyone. There’s always exceptions, of course, like you who wants nothing to do with that kind of thing and me…everything is either out of reach or in only in my head, but after after a while, there’s even distance in there.
One: After, Part Five
They’d barely spoken a word since they arrived and the ride down in the soundproof elevator only emphasized the screaming silence between them. When the doors opened, they were greeted by a nurse who asked to see their IDs and escorted them to Kise’s room after reviewing them. Aomine surveyed the place as they went.
Aomine: Have these measures been in place the whole time?
Kagami: Yeah, pretty much. …What?
Aomine: To be perfectly honest, the outside looked like the inside held nothing but butchers and quacks, so I didn’t think they’d be this tight.
Nurse: All the better for concealment, Detective.
Aomine: You got me there.
The nurse left them with the officer stationed outside the room. They flashed their IDs once more and then Kagami entered the room while Aomine hung back a minute to talk shop. Kagami walked around to the right side of the bed and sat in his usual spot; it was the direction Kise’s face was usually turned when he was on his stomach. He took his right hand and started to massage it; it had become a habit over the last two weeks. He was sort of entranced and didn’t hear when Aomine came in.
Aomine: So, there’s more going on than just talking and thinking.
Kagami looked up for a second.
Kagami: …He might feel it. I mean, I hope he does.
Aomine rolled his eyes at the clueless lovesick fool before him.
Aomine: …I hope so, too.
They sat awhile and talked about what Aomine dug up and Kagami felt just a little less anxious when Aomine assured him that Kise was not on anyone’s hit list. After Kagami stepped out to go to make a call, Aomine found himself talking to Kise. It began with how he missed him, how glad he was that he was alive, and how he wished he’d hurry and wake up, but before long, the bitterness and betrayal he thought he’d put to rest surfaced and he just let it out. Upon returning, Kagami heard the tirade; he looked at the officer and reached for the door. The officer shook his head.
Officer: No, it’s just him.
It took some time, but Kagami eventually stepped back and decided to give Aomine his privacy. Aomine had gone three rounds cursing out a still unresponsive Kise; he looked almost as done as Kagami. Only after the room had been quiet for about 10 minutes did Kagami knock on the door to make his presence known. Aomine heard the knock and turned toward the door.
He was kind of embarrassed.
Aomine: I-I’m sorry… I just…
Kagami: …No, I did it, too. A couple times, in fact. And I don’t think I’m done, but I’m trying to hold out until he’s awake
Kagami/Aomine: Since “there’s no fun in being mad at someone who’s not there to feel it.”
They looked at each other and laughed–a bit uneasy, but still considerably relieved. Some of the tension from earlier faded with the sound.
Aomine: Well, he was right about that.
It had been a terribly long day for both of them and when they finally left the hospital, it was nearly midnight.
One: The Letter, Part Nine
I had it in my mind that I wouldn’t apologize to you because I truly believe that leaving was the right thing to do. But when I think about what must have been going through your head when you realized I wasn’t there and wasn’t coming back… Did you get that message? I sent it to the same phone. Yeah, I know. Sending it to a phone I knew you had pretty much stopped using is cheating, but I figured if you got it, it was meant for you to get. Same with this message. If by some miracle you still have the phone after all this time or are still using this email address… If you don’t, at least I got this off my chest, so it’s fine if it slips off into the void never to be known or felt again.
So, before I fade into that void as well, I want to thank you again for everything. You did so much for me and I repaid you in such a terrible way.
I think most people can’t see themselves change, for the worse, I mean. You know, if you could see yourself becoming uglier and uglier by the day, something in you would have to tell you to stop before it was too late. If you could see it, there’s no way you’d want to keep going, right? So, that’s were I was; I really saw myself and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I was angry at you and angry at myself, but I could never get the words out. But it was for the best…saying anything would have just ruined everything and I didn’t think I could handle it. But the genius that I am went and disappeared and ruined things anyway. Some days I wish I could have been like you, but I need that closeness. Though it seems silly saying it now since it’s been years since I felt it. If I knew it was going to turn out like this, I would have stayed. But I suppose, either way, you would have still ended up hating me. And if you were going to hate me regardless, I’d rather not be there to feel it.
One: Before, Part Four
Kise opened the front door, but a second later, out the corner of his eye, he saw Kagami’s hand rush by to close it.
Kise: What the hell?!
Kagami: Where do you think you’re going?
Kagami: So you can come back with another bruise?
Kise: What is your deal?!
Kagami: What’s yours?! Running around like some horny teenager, hooking up with losers like you got no common sense!
Kise had grown tired of the lectures. If it was jealousy, they’d still be annoying, but at least that would explain them. Why couldn’t it be jealousy? That would make everything so much easier. If it was jealousy he could just say that the feelings were mutual. If it was jealousy, he wouldn’t have to struggle to keep his feelings hidden. If it was jealousy, there’d be no need for him to be toppled by fits of anguish every time he resolved to leave. If only it was jealousy, but no such luck. Kise couldn’t understand how he had reached that point, how he found himself in love with Kagami, Kagami who would not love anyone.
Kise: You got something against me…having fun?
Kagami: Since when is getting hit by your boyfriend fun?
Kise: That’s…none of your business.
Kagami: Ugh! I don’t understand you, it’s not like you even need to be in a relationship to “have fun”!
Kagami: You see me doing that shit?! We’re friends; we hang out all the time and I’ve got a invoice for a broken hotel mirror and a towed car receipt to prove that there’s no shortage of excitement when we do.
Kise turned to face Kagami.
Kise: …Friends? …Friends?
Kagami: Yeah, aren’t we?
Kise couldn’t decide if he should laugh or what.
Kise: Ho-ly shit! Are you that fucking clueless?! It’s not the same! And don’t go comparing me with you! I don’t want to live a life like that. I can’t shut myself off from my feelings.
Kagami: So be it, but why can’t you just get it from one person? And not that dipshit you’re with now…
Kise: One person, 100 people. What does it matter? Do you think I just date people because I’ve got nothing better to do?
Kagami stared at Kise. He did think that, but he suddenly realized how it would sound for him to say he did. Kise’s face twisted at the insult.
Kise: …You do…don’t you?
Kagami: If that’s not the case, then why?
Kise: Because it never works! Every time, I’m serious. Every time, I try, but it never works out.
Kagami: And that’s exactly why I don’t understand why anyone would want to be in a relationship. All that effort for nothing. Going around in circles, arguing all the time–you’ve seen them, even now, my parents are still at it. They can’t decide if they want to be together or if they want to separate, and it’s been like that for years. Who wants to live like that? What’s the point?
Kise: “What’s the point”? You wouldn’t know, would you?! You won’t even try!
The point, for Kise anyway, was that there was no point in trying to get any of this across to Kagami. He knew that the only way he could even make a dent was to explain it in terms of his feelings for him, but even if he was crazy enough to do that, now was most definitely not the time.
Kagami: Try what?! What the hell are you talking about?!
Kise just put his head in his hands and sighed.
Kise turned away from Kagami and started walking towards the stairs.
Kagami: Now where are you going?
Kise: Bed. Mine.
Kagami thought that if Kise took his advice he could stop worrying about him and while on the surface it looked to be going that way, something in the tone of Kise’s voice unsettled him. A week later, Kagami came back from a trade show to find Kise sitting on the sofa. At that time of night on a Friday, he’d usually be out, so Kagami plopped down next to him to see what was up; Kise didn’t look happy.
Kagami: What’s up? You get stood up?
Kise turned quickly to face him.
Kise: By who?
Kagami: That fuckface you call your boyfriend.
It suddenly occurred to Kise that he hadn’t talked to Kagami for a few days.
Kise: You know, you’re a little too passionate about dissing my S/Os.
Kagami: I just call’em like I see’em.
He stood up. Two days ago he thought that he’d finally try telling Kagami–as plainly as possible–how he felt; now he wasn’t so sure.
Kise: Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that we broke up.
Kise started to walk towards the kitchen, hoping to find a moment to regain his courage. Kagami moved after him and grabbed his trailing arm.
Kagami: Hey… Don’t say that. You make it sound like I…
He pulled Kise towards him, into him. Kise felt the warmth of Kagami against his back. Kagami draped his arms over Kise’s shoulders, and settled his head next to his. Kise wanted to resist, to run, but he didn’t. This was normal–no meaning to it–Kise blamed himself for making it that way, making their touching and closeness so normal that Kagami didn’t so much as bat an eyelash at it these days. He could feel Kagami’s breath on his neck. Was now a good time, Kise wondered.
Kagami: Why would I be happy when your face looks like that?
They were facing the same direction, so he couldn’t see Kise’s face, but he could tell it hadn’t changed since he left the sofa. Kise supposed that anyone would assume his face was a reflection of his feelings about the end of the relationship, but it wasn’t. Well, not that one anyway.
Kagami: You know what would make me happy? You being happy would make me happy…and that guy just wasn’t doing it.
Kise wanted to say, “you could make me happy,” but then what? It was the perfect opening, but… he bit his bottom lip. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for an answer that wasn’t in his heart’s favor. He let himself out of Kagami’s arms, stepped away a bit, and then turned to face him.
Kise: What is it that you think is gonna make me happy?
Kagami: For starters…
He reach out and touched a spot on Kise’s cheek where he remembered a bruise being some weeks prior and brushed his thumb across it.
Kagami: Not getting hit by someone who claims to love you.
Kise’s eyes looked down. He moved Kagami’s hand away from his face. He thought to hold onto it, but let it go.
Kise: He never claimed that and it’s…not what you think.
Kagami: Well then, even more than that, being with someone who does. …Look, I don’t get it, not one bit, but…fine, you want to be in a relationship, but why not take a break before you get into another one? Or, if you really don’t want to be alone…I could try.
Kagami: Filling in. Keep you company until you find someone worth your while. Oh, but no sex though. I don’t have much of anything scheduled for the next three weeks. Hang out with me and try not to think about what you might be missing, just…be… And, if you make it through the first week, I’ll go to karaoke with you. Deal?
Kise hadn’t quite figured out if Kagami was stupid or just stupid. Kagami was looking at him, expecting something along the lines of “yes” to come out of his mouth, but there was no way. He was either going to confess or he was going to keep it to himself, but he’d be damned if he was going to be tripped up by some shoujo manga nonsense. Kise opened his mouth but nothing came out. Kagami’s face, lit with anticipation, nearly blinded Kise. It was his turn to speak, but he did not know what to say. Was now a good time?
Kise: Kagamicchi… I… I can’t do something like that…with you.
He looked down.
Kise: Pretending to be with you…when I feel the way I do…about you…
He looked up hoping to see some sort of reaction. Nothing.
Kise: …I can’t…it would be too hard to keep things straight because, Kagamicchi… We– I’m i–
Kagami: We’re just friends, I know…and I’m not your type, but it’ll only be for a while so you won’t be lonely.
Kise dropped his head in resignation and exhaled a whisper.
Kise: Lonely? Y–
He laughed a little knowing that he almost said, “you wanna know what lonely is…,” but even though he was angry enough, he still wasn’t brave enough to have that conversation yet. And, at this rate, he wondered if he ever would be. Besides, leveling with Kagami in the midst of this weirdness would only complicate things.
Kise: …Thanks…you’re really sweet, Kagamicchi…
He lifted his again.
Kise: …but I think I’ll be better off on my own.
Kagami: Alright, suit yourself…
He stepped closer to Kise, right in front of him. Kise froze. Kagami placed his index fingers at the corners of Kise’s mouth and pushed them up.
Kagami: Just do whatever it takes to get rid of this frown.
Kise melted a little. With the corners of his mouth still propped up, he puckered. It was a long shot, but…
Kise: Maybe if you kissed me, that m–
Kagami: If that’s all it takes…
Kise didn’t imagine it. It was slightly moist, warm, and very quick, but Kagami did kiss him.
Kagami: I hope that helps.
He ruffled Kise’s hair.
Kagami: Alright, I’m turning in. You should too, you look exhausted.
“Exhausted,” the word pulled Kise halfway out of his daze. He knew Kagami said something before that, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember–everything sort of went blank right after the kiss. Hearing Kagami’s footsteps over his head pulled him the rest of the way. Kise looked around and wondered when exactly did he fall to the floor?
Kise: No. He’s an idiot. That’s already been established. I just have to forget about it. That’s all.
It seemed like a good plan and it might have worked if Kagami didn’t do it again two weeks later. Kagami came down to the living room to find Kise sleeping and the end credits from some movie rolling. He walked over to Kise to wake him up, but leaned down instead. Kise stirred reluctantly before opening his eyes to Kagami looking down at him. He touched his lips.
Kise: Did you…kiss me?
Kagami poked Kise’s forehead.
Kagami: Yeah, you were frowning in your sleep. You want breakfast?
Kise sat up.
Kise: …Um…no. I…I’m going to bed.
His legs hadn’t quite worked out what was going on, but Kise made his way up to his room as quickly as he could. He closed his door–harder than he intended–fell face down on his bed, and screamed into his pillow. His heart was racing and his blood was pounding in his ears and the tears were burning his eyes. He couldn’t take it anymore.
The following week and a half was a blur. First it was the exasperated sighs, then it was the clipped speech, and then came the dropped glasses and plates and the occasional slammed door. Kagami had already asked him what was wrong, but Kise told him it wasn’t anything important. If that wasn’t bullshit, Kagami didn’t know what was. He yelled up the stairs.
Kagami: What the hell is wrong with you?! And don’t say “nothing”!
Kise swung his door open and yelled back.
Kise: Nothing! Why would you think that?!
Kagami: Are you fucking kidding me?! Stop slamming the damn doors!
Kise: Sorry! I don’t know my own strength!
And another door slammed.
Kagami: This mutha…
Kagami sighed. He didn’t feel like dealing with Kise right now–he already had his parents and their 5th? 7th? 8th? threat to divorce to worry about–but he knew this couldn’t go on any longer. The next morning he went to knock on Kise’s door and heard, not loud sighs, not things being tossed about–making his room messier than usual–not creative expletives being shouted; he heard none of those things he’d gotten used to recently. What he did hear was singing. Kise only sang at karaoke or when he thought no one was listening. He had a great voice, so Kagami didn’t understand why, but regardless, this was an improvement. And, so as not to disturb Kise, Kagami withdrew his hand, made an about-face, and went downstairs to start breakfast.
Kise: Waffles? I thought I smelled French toast.
Kise took a seat at the island counter. Kagami took a quick glance over his shoulder. It was an abrupt change, but he decided to just go with it.
Kagami: Cinnamon, nutmeg and honey in the batter. Bacon or sausage?
Kagami gestured his elbow towards the pan to his right.
Kagami: Can you flip that?
Kise grabbed a spatula and walked around the island to reach the stove. There was an egg white omelette in the pan. He knew it was for him.
Kise: Mushroom and chives?
Kagami: There’s Gorgonzola and crème fraîche chilling in the fridge.
Kagami: Is there any room temperature iced tea?
Kise: You know that’s gross?
Kagami: Do we have any or not?
Kise: One nasty warm tea coming up.
Kagami: Leave me alone! Let me drink my tea in peace!
They ate and talked like they did before things got weird. Kise was charming and funny and not at all irritated. They talked about the offers Kise had to return from his hiatus and how they should invite Aomine and Kuroko to visit since it had been so long since they’d seen them. They talked about who they liked for the draft. They talked about Kagami’s new email address and the phone he bought to go with it. They talked about a lot of things, but what Kagami really wanted to talk about was the past week because it was too bizarre, but he decided that it could wait a day or two. Then a week passed and then a month; things were back to normal as far as Kagami could see. He decided that if an opening presented itself, he’d bring it up, but otherwise, he would just let the issue be.
A couple months passed and that time was pretty much forgotten. Kise hadn’t taken up any new work yet, but he’d accepted invitation after invitation for various shows and, as a result, he was busy. So was Kagami. But there was a week where neither of them had much to do and it turned into Movie Marathon week–something they hadn’t done for a while. Sports movie day, Kanno Yoko soundtrack movie day, Wakayama Tomisaburou day, Miike Takashi day, Paradise Kiss day, soundtrack music video day, and series first episode day. The following week, their schedules picked up and they only saw each other in the mornings. While Kagami was out, Kise cleaned. While Kagami was in, Kise was out. Then one day…
Kise: Late night?
Kagami: My parents.
Kagami: You gonna be here tonight?
Kise: I don’t know. What’s up?
Kise looked at Kagami and waited for the rest.
Kagami: I’m thinking about moving, so I want to know what you want to do.
Kise had plans that night, but they could be cancelled. With all the things that had been swimming around his head, he wasn’t sure if he’d be in the right mind to have that kind of conversation. Though he couldn’t put it off for long.
Kise: …Um…okay… I’ll see you when you get home then.
Apparently the 1900s ran through Kise’s hotel and left the 70s behind. He was surrounded by rust–the armchair, the bedspread, the pinstriping on the gleaming gold wallpaper, all rust. Random blobs of gold, green, and cream dotted a field of rust on the velvet drapes. And the carpet matched. Kise couldn’t help but laugh at that. He could tell that everything was brand new, but the room was so badly lit that it made everything look old, including Kise.
It was kind of sudden and he didn’t really pack anything. He’d be good for a few days, but he knew he had to think of a real plan soon. It was barely 6 PM, but Kise just felt like sleeping. When he woke up the next morning, he noticed that even lit by daylight, the room offended his sense of style. He thought about going back; it wasn’t too late, Kagami probably wouldn’t even be suspicious–it’s not like he never stayed out overnight and Kagami slept in on the weekends, so he could slip back in like nothing ever happened. He wanted to go back, but he knew it for the bad idea it was. Two nights ago when Kagami asked him if he wanted to buy a house together, he told Kagami he’d think about it. Of course there was nothing to think about. Kise admitted that he was a coward for running away, but there was nothing to be done about Kagami’s naiveté…and even if there was, Kise was out of the courage, the strength, and the patience to attempt it. Kise groped blindly on the empty side of the bed in search of his laptop. He could use his phone which was face down on the pillow next to him, but if there was a notification for a call or message from Kagami, his resolve might waver. He took it as a sign when he found a flight with a last minute first class cancellation. He was third in queue when he sent a text and turned off his phone.
[Imagine a text from Kise reading: I’m not lost, so don’t look for me.]
One: After, Part Six
When Kagami and Aomine arrived at the onsen, the old man instructed his grandson to show them to Kise’s place. Inside, they looked around like they’d never seen anything like it before. It was strange seeing what his life had become without them. They were both grateful that he found a place to call home, but the gratitude wasn’t deep enough to win over the resentment that had settled within them over the years. The place wasn’t that big, so there wasn’t much to see and, actually, it took more time to look over a single bookcase than it did to walk from the front of the place to the back. From the bedroom, Kagami interrupted the moment.
Aomine: And lots of them.
Kagami: This looks more like Kuroko lives here.
Aomine: …Yeah… You think they were already here or could this be his collection?
Aomine: You think these are his?
Still nothing. Aomine poked his head into the bedroom. Kagami stood there, looking at his phone…the other one.
Aomine: Is the hospital calling you?
Kagami was still looking at his phone.
Aomine could see that he was trying to focus. Kagami looked up; his face was pale.
Aomine: Is it the hospital?
Kagami: …No…it’s an email…from Kise.
Aomine: What?! How?!
Kagami: Do you think he…?
Aomine: No, there’s no way, the hospital would have called you, right? He must have scheduled it.
Kagami pulled out his main phone and saw no notifications.
Kagami: Then, do you think he knew something was going to happen?
Aomine: M-Maybe? I don’t know. Read it.
Kagami sat down on the bed.
Kagami: Uh…you read it, too.
Aomine: I don’t know, he wrote it to you.
Kagami: He can be mad at me all he wants when he wakes up, but right now I need you to read this with me.
Aomine walked over to the low dresser and took a seat.
Aomine: Alright, go ahead and forward it.
And so they read.
One: The Letter, Part Ten
There was a time I thought that after I calmed down that I’d come back, apologize for disappearing, and hope that you’d find some way to forgive me, but life only gives you so many chances and you never know when you’ll run out. So while I’m still able, I want to thank you for everything and I want to say that I’m sorry–you’ll never know how much.
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m m(__)m
P.S. If nothing else, you should be happy that I refrained from using emoji until the end. After the dust settles, if I’m able, maybe I’ll go and find you.
One: After, Part Seven
When he finished reading the letter, Kagami fell back onto the bed and covered his face with a pillow. Aomine drew air through his teeth and hissed it back out. Kagami took that to mean he’d read until the end as well.
Having read the letter and knowing what he now knew, the torch of anger and betrayal Aomine pretended he’d doused, but still carried with him, dimmed, flickered and nearly went out. However, the vacancy was quickly back-filled with the frustration caused by Kagami’s inability to acknowledge what had really taken place. Aomine started to speak.
Kagami: Don’t say it.
Aomine tried again.
Kagami: Don’t say that either!
Aomine threw up his hands.
Aomine: Hey, as long as you know.
Kagami: But I don’t know! It’s not like he said anything outright!
Aomine: Read between the lines, idiot!