1. America, It’s Not
The thing is, Taiga hadn’t even wanted to go to America in the first place. He’d have been perfectly happy staying in Japan, where he had friends and spoke the language and didn’t feel like a freak for having a weird name that half his teachers mispronounced as Tay-ga Ka-ga-me and the other half wanted changed to Taylor or Tyler or something.
But then, Tatsuya happened, and basketball, and Alex, and basketball, and his English teacher, Mrs. Ash, who gave him a Reese’s Piece whenever he wrote his homework in cursive, and basketball, and yeah, it was still a fucking pain whenever some idiot asked him why he had red hair if he was Japanese, but he was starting to like America.
Even later, when he didn’t have Tatsuya anymore, or Alex, really, and Mrs. Ash had retired, he still had basketball, and that was enough. He had it all planned out: he was going to play college ball, like Alex; then he was going to go pro. He’d play for the Bulls, power forward, and single-handedly lead them to victories the likes of which they haven’t seen since the mid-nineties. He’d beat out Derrick Rose by winning the MVP award at 21, and at the presentation ceremony, His Fucking Airness himself would personally come up to him, shake his hand, and ask if he’d like to play a little one-on-one sometime.
What? A guy could dream, couldn’t he?
All right, so fine, he’d maybe underestimated Japanese basketball at first. Can anyone blame him, though, in a country where the average height of a man is 5’8 (or… 170-something… centimeters; seriously, switching to metric is hard)? Taiga had Googled Japan basketball; even the top-tier guys in the JBL, most of them had blank Wikipedia pages. He’d watched Japanese basketball on Youtube, and it wasn’t bad, but it was just… boring. Taiga liked foot-pounding, heart-throbbing games with lightning-fast plays and dunks that looked like the player was defying gravity, not this passing back and forth and fakes and shit.
Tabuse Yuta was pretty awesome, though; Taiga would give Japan that.
So no, he wasn’t exactly thrilled about signing up for his high school’s basketball club (that was something else that was weird: club , not team ), and remained not exactly thrilled right up until Kuroko and Kise and Kuroko (who gets two mentions because Taiga hadn’t known, the first time, and Kuroko’s more than gotten him back for what he’d said so Taiga refuses to feel guilty) happened, and yeah, okay, being number one in Japan sounds pretty fucking awesome now.
3. Cold, Why is it so fucking
When Taiga was still living in LA, he used to snicker at other people when they’d break out the winter gear as soon as it dropped below 60 degrees. Wusses, he’d call them, whenever he’d see news broadcasters act like a cloudy day was a sign of the impending apocalypse.
So maybe he deserves what he’s getting now.
“Is Kagami-kun preparing for battle?” Kuroko asks, blinking owlishly up at him.
“Shut up,” Taiga replies, though with his face covered with two scarves and a hat, it probably comes out as, “Mmmph mmmph.” He paws clumsily at his collar with his double-gloved hands, and immediately regrets it when his bare skin, damp from the condensation of his breath, is stung by the cold air. “It’s freezing. How the hell are you just wearing that?”
Kuroko looks down. He’s only wearing a scarf over his uniform, which Taiga thought was just an anime thing and not something people did in real life when it was snowing outside. “It’s not very cold yet.” He nods toward Nigou, happily frolicking in the snow. “Look, Nigou’s enjoying himself.”
“He’s an Alaskan Malamute.” A brisk wind buffets them suddenly, and Taiga shivers again. He’s definitely breaking out the space heater as soon as he gets home. “Look, can we go back now? I think he’s had enough exercise for one day. I’m starting to lose feeling in my toes.”
“Of course, Kagami-kun.” Kuroko calls for his dog, who trots obediently towards him, tongue lolling and tail wagging. Kuroko picks him up and starts to brush snow off his fur. “I deeply apologize,” he says in his most demure voice, “I was not aware that Kagami-kun was of such a delicate constitution, and I’m very sorry to have caused Kagami-kun such harm—”
And then Taiga has absolutely no choice but to grab a handful of snow (fuck, cold, fuck) and stuff it in Kuroko’s face.
4. Cultural Festivals
Coach wants him to do what now? While wearing what? The fuck is a maid café? What does that have to do with culture?
He’s being punked, right? This is a joke? He’s not really going to have to wear a dress?
Okay, so this one isn’t really a Japanese thing, because they have dogs back home, too. But at least the dogs in America are on leashes where they belong and not sitting on people’s heads and running around in gyms when people are trying to play basketball. And the little mutt gets away with it too, because their coach thinks it’s cute, and the rest of the team thinks it’s funny to watch Taiga run away from a tiny dog, even though everyone knows that the tiny dogs are the most bloodthirsty.
But the worst part is that Nigou, for some reason, seems to like Taiga. Which Taiga doesn’t understand – aren’t dogs supposed to like, sense human emotion or some shit? What part of, “get the hell away from me” translates to, “please come closer and sniff my crotch”? And why does it only do that to Taiga? When literally anyone else tells it to do stuff, it fucking does, and then everyone coos over how adorable and well-trained it is.
And the worst – okay, worst worst part is that Taiga can’t even say anything, because then Kuroko gives him the sad eyes , and so does his fucking dog , and Taiga doesn’t know why no one believes him when he says that Kuroko is an awful, manipulative person, because he really, totally is.
Well, no, Midorima would probably believe him, but he’s an asshole too, so fuck that guy. Though Kuroko did tell him about the time Nigou peed in Midorima’s rickshaw, so maybe it’s not that bad… you know, for a dog.
Contrary to what a lot of people would believe, Taiga is not actually that ignorant about Japanese social etiquette. Even when they were in the States, his dad spoke Japanese to him at home. They had a slipper cubby in their entrance way, and everybody took off their shoes when they came in. Sure, Taiga might not know how to conduct a tea ceremony, or the exact angle your bow is supposed to be when you’re introducing yourself, but he says his please and thank yous, and he always brings a gift when he’s visiting someone’s home for the first time.
In fact – and this is something he’ll never tell anyone, because no one will believe him – when he was a kid, a lot of the adults he’d met would praise his parents for having raised such a polite boy.
And even in Japan, he’s not rude or anything, he’s just not formal enough – but it’s not like anyone bothers teaching eight year-olds keigo, so it’s not his fault he never learned it. And if he’s being honest, the way some people talk here is just weird. Like, when Kuroko’s being all polite and formal, even though he’s actually throwing like, five kinds of shade at people. Or when Coach does that cutesy little girl voice while she talks about how she’s going to make them do footwork drills until they beg for mercy.
One thing that seems to be a universal constant, though, is the fact that it really is the sweet, polite ones you’ve got to watch out for.
A.k.a., the bane of Taiga’s existence. That was a word he didn’t even know until it showed up on his English exam. Which, by the way? Was fucking ridiculous, because – one: nobody talks like that in real life,all “could you direct me to the train platform bound for Kyoto?” and “I will have completed my homework by the time you arrive tomorrow”; and two: who the fuck cares if doesn’t know the difference between a direct and indirect object? Taiga would like to see any of his classmates who are getting perfect scores in English actually try to have a real conversation with a real English-speaking person and not a fucking textbook.
It’s frustrating, because Taiga was never a great student, nothing like how his dad was when he was Taiga’s age, but he was always at least average back home. Here, though, he’s barely scraping the bottom of the academic barrel. And it’s not just that Taiga’s a lifetime behind in subjects like social studies (or whatever they call it here), or that he knows about as many kanji as an eight year-old, but even the stuff that Taiga does know – science, math – is suddenly so much harder because everything’s in Japanese.
Oh, and also? Japanese literature makes no sense. How is this conversation about love when it clearly says that they’re talking about the moon? Why don’t any of the characters just say what they’re feeling? It’s like every book he reads is written in a code that everyone understands except him.
“I give up,” Taiga moans, letting his head drop onto the table, a thunk punctuating every word. “I’m. Never. Going. To. Get. This.”
“Please don’t make so much noise in a library, Kagami-kun,” Kuroko admonishes. “Besides, there’s only one more question.”
“How can rain even be a symbol? It’s rain.”
“It symbolizes his anguish at being powerless to protect someone he cares about.”
“Seriously? Ugh. Why does he even care? He’s known that girl for like, two weeks."
“She changed his life,” Kuroko says, quietly. “She saved him, and then showed him how to save others. Of course he’d care.”
Taiga looks at him. He never knows how to react when Kuroko talks like this; it always makes him feel like they’re actually having two conversations, but Taiga can only hear one of them.
But clearly Kuroko’s better at reading Taiga than vice versa, because he smiles and says, “There’s a public basketball court just a few minutes’ walk from here. If Kagami-kun finishes quickly, we can get in at least an hour of play time before it closes.”
The first time Taiga steps into a Tokyo grocery store, he immediately understands why Japanese people are so small.
Seriously, he thought LA was expensive, but 2,000¥ for three oranges? What the fuck? And peanut butter – peanut butter! – is how much?
It’s a good thing his dad’s generous with his spending money, and that he doesn’t have any hobbies other than basketball, because with how small the portion sizes are here, he’d have to live on bread and ramen otherwise.
And that’s another thing - why are all the portion sizes so tiny? The first time Taiga ordered a large soda to go with his meal at Maji Burger, he thought they’d made a mistake. And he knows a box of large fries is larger back home. And that is the thinnest fucking beef patty he’s ever seen, no wonder he has to eat like, 20 of them to feel full.
It gets easier over time. It helps that Taiga actually likes Japanese food, even though there are some days when he just really craves a hot dog (a normal hot dog, not one of those weird-ass black ones). He gets really good at finding the right time of day to go to the right places for the best deals, and he learns quickly to not buy spices at supermarkets when he can get them at Daiso for half the cost.
Of course, then his team finds out that he can cook, and he ends up blowing through his food budget anyway, feeding all of them. He minds it less than he’d thought, not that he’d ever let those free-loading jerks know. It’s more fun to cook for other people than to cook for just himself. He’s especially proud of the time he made Korean-style ribs and everyone went for thirds, even Kuroko.
9. Generation of Miracles
They’re all weirdos. He’s including Kuroko in this, and that Momoi chick. As much as Taiga appreciates having awesome basketball rivals, he also really hopes that they were weirdos before they started playing basketball, instead of them becoming like that because of basketball – because if that’s what Japanese basketball does to people, Taiga’s not sure if he wants to be Japan’s Number One that badly.
Well, he supposes Kise isn’t that bad, once you get over the sparkling and the fake crying and the stupid little nicknames. And Aomine is much less of a dick now, which means he’s still an arrogant jerk, but at least Taiga no longer wants to punch him in the face. And once he looks up what the word “tsundere” means, maybe even Midorima is… okay. Kind of. But Murasakibara is on his shit list forever, and he’s almost certain that Akashi is actually a serial killer. Or at least, a member of the yakuza.
It hasn’t escaped his notice, either, that they’re all freakishly obsessed with Kuroko. In fact, the first time Taiga met Aomine, he totally thought that he and Kuroko had had a thing (which, whatever, Taiga’s lived in San Francisco; he wasn’t going to judge). And the way Kise’s always all over Kuroko like he’s a dog or something – aren’t Japanese people supposed to be reserved?
He does feel a little left out, though, sometimes. He doesn’t really have friends here, other than his team, and even then, the senpai were already friends with each other, and he hangs out with Furihata, Tsuchida, and Kawahara, but they’re not close like him and Kuroko. Only Kuroko’s also got this other group of people who he has a history with, and sometimes, when they’re around, it’s like Taiga’s not even there.
Taiga doesn’t have anyone like that, except for Tatsuya, but that’s… complicated.
10. Himuro, Tatsuya
The thing is, Taiga knows that what happened between him and Tatsuya wasn’t his fault. Alex told him that even in pro ball, friendships sometimes are ruined by rivalry and competition. And he talked to Tatsuya after, and they’re good now. It’s not quite what they used to have, though, and Taiga knows it’ll never be.
Taiga’s okay with that, really. He’ll always be grateful to Tatsuya for looking after him back then, but he’s not a lonely, awkward kid anymore. He’s got friends, he’s got teammates, and he’s got basketball. Besides, even he can see that Murasakibara needs looking after way more than he ever did.
It’s just, he remembers what Kise had said to Kuroko that time, about how Taiga’s skills will separate them one day. And he can’t help but wonder if that will happen with Kuroko, like it happened with Tatsuya – that one day, Kuroko will decide that Taiga doesn’t need him anymore and just… leave.
He doesn’t think it’ll actually happen; Kuroko’s not the kind of person who just walks away from people like that (case in point: all of his old teammates). But he sees the way Aomine looks at Kuroko sometimes, when he thinks no one’s watching, and it makes a raw part of him ache, just a little.
So apparently, Christmas in Japan is a couples holiday. Taiga knows that now. Of course, he would have liked to know that before he invited Kuroko over for Christmas dinner and launched a school-wide rumor that he and Kuroko were dating. He then tried to fix things by inviting the rest of the team, but that just turned the rumor into him cheating on Kuroko with like, ten other people.
Everything was eventually explained, but not before all of Kuroko’s former teammates found out (Taiga has no idea how) and bombarded him with angry, threatening messages. Taiga doesn’t know how they even got his number, but apparently the Akashi family has “connections,” which is… creepy. Kuroko didn’t say that he had to talk Akashi out of sending hit-men, but he didn’t exactly deny it either.
On the plus side, he’s now fully informed about Japanese holidays, and fully intends to be absent on both Valentine’s Day and White Day.
12. Kirisaki Dai Ichi
Those CHEATING FUCKERS had better stay the FUCK away from Taiga if they know what’s fucking good for them. Taiga’s played rough ball before in America, but NO SCHOOL TEAM in his hometown would DARE pull shit like that, you know why? Because they’d get their ASSES beat in the parking lot afterwards by EVERY OTHER FUCKING TEAM in the entire district, THAT’S fucking why.
And Taiga’s got nothing but MAD RESPECT for Coach and Captain for having the self-control to not MURDER those dickfaces after what they did to Kiyoshi-senpai, because if that RAT BASTARD Hanamiya had actually managed to land that hit on Kuroko, Taiga wouldn’t have cared if he got thrown out, or if he got banned from the ENTIRE FUCKING SPORT – Hanamiya would be SHITTING HIS OWN TEETH when Taiga was done with him.
Not that it wasn’t awesome to watch Kuroko take him down LIKE A BOSS, because holy fuck, when Kuroko gets mad, shit gets DONE.
Okay, so his Japanese isn’t the greatest. He sucks at kanji, and he’s still working on keigo. But honestly? He wishes more people would give him credit for the fact that he knows the language at all, considering the fact that he’s spent almost half of his life in another country. And anyway, Japanese is so unnecessarily complicated. Like, how many ways do you really need to write a single word?
Taiga misses English. English is easy, nice and direct. You want to insult someone in English, you call them a fucking asswipe. In Japanese, you can insult someone completely by accident, just by the way you say their name.
And what is the deal with the name stuff? Like, at what point do you drop the suffix? Or go from the last name to the first name? Does it have to be by mutual agreement, because Taiga can’t imagine Midorima ever agreeing to let his point guard call him “Shin-chan.” If someone calls you by your first name, are you supposed to reciprocate?
It’s possible that he’s overthinking this. It’s just, having spent time here, and having met all of Kuroko’s weirdo friends, Taiga thinks he’s starting to get it. Akashi (or, one of the Akashis? Taiga’s not really sure what’s going on there) calls his former teammates by their first names to make a point, like he’s saying they’re still his. Taiga has a feeling that Aomine still calls Kuroko “Tetsu” for the same reason. Kuroko doesn’t seem to mind what people call him, but he doesn’t drop the formality for anybody, even the guy who was basically his Tatsuya.
Taiga wonders what it would take for Kuroko to call him by his first name; though, knowing Kuroko, even if he did, it’d be “Taiga-kun” or, heh, “Taiga-san.” He thinks about it sometimes, usually late at night when he’s too tired to ask himself why he’s even going there – the way his name would sound in Kuroko’s voice, the way his mouth would form the syllables: the soft click of his tongue on the “t” and the subtle pulse in his throat on the hard “g.”
He wonders what Kuroko would say, if he does ask – what it would mean if he says no, and (this always makes his heart beat faster) what it would mean if he says yes.
Japanese people have some strange customs when it comes to personal privacy. They don’t like to touch, they barely look at each other on the train, but they’ll happily get naked in a public bath.
Taiga’s not body-shy or anything. He’s an athlete; he’s seen more naked guys in locker rooms than he can count. But it’s one thing to be naked with your teammates, and something else entirely to be with a bunch of complete strangers who aren’t shy about staring at your… everything. Taiga knows he’s bigger and more built than your average Japanese man, but – like, seriously, this one time, an old man who looked like he was at least ninety actually poked his dick and complimented him on how healthy he was.
“Please come with me,” Taiga begs Kuroko, the next time Coach tells him he needs a hot soak. “Or – do you have a bathtub? Let me use it?”
Kuroko shakes his head. “I do, but it would be uncomfortably small for someone of Kagami-kun’s size.” He frowns up at Taiga. “If the point is to be looked at less, I don’t see why my presence would help.”
“Can’t you use Misdirection Overflow or something?”
“Sorry, my misdirection doesn’t work like that,” Kuroko says, but he’s smiling, so Taiga figures Kuroko will at least humor him.
Kuroko’s right about one thing, though – having him there does nothing to divert the other people’s attention, even though he’s gotten, wow, a lot more buff than Taiga remembers him being at the beginning of the season. Like, he actually has guns now (little ones, but still), and his legs are all sleek, muscular lines from calf to thigh—
“Kagami-kun is staring,” Kuroko says, with enough disapproval in his tone for Taiga’s eyes to snap right up to his equally disapproving face, and right, now Taiga remembers why he’d asked Kuroko to come with him in the first place.
“Sorry,” he mutters, and quickly looks away as he lowers himself into the water.
Thankfully, Kuroko doesn’t say anything after that, just sits down beside him, leaning back, eyes closed.
After a few minutes, Taiga sneaks a glance at him. His skin is faintly flushed from the heat, and the steam is making his hair curl a little at the ends. It always surprises Taiga how someone with such little presence can be such a force on the court, but it’s not like Kuroko has an ordinary face, either. It’s so bland and expressionless most of the time that when he does let something show, you can’t help but look at him. It suits Kuroko’s personality. Taiga likes it. Well, as much as anyone can like just a face.
“Kagami-kun is staring again,” Kuroko says, without opening his eyes.
Taiga startles, water splashing around him as he jerks away from Kuroko. “I—I was not,” he denies instinctively. Geez, when the hell did he get that close? “How do you know, anyway? Your eyes are closed.”
“How would Kagami-kun know that, if he wasn’t looking at me?” Kuroko asks. He cracks open one blue eye, and his lips curve up at the corners, just a little.
Taiga dunks him, feeling his ears burn.
15. Realizing you might be gay for your best friend
Shut up, he’ll blame this on Japan if he wants to. He’s never had a single gay thought in his life until he came to this godforsaken country that contains people like Kuroko, who are unfair because they distract you with stuff like being an awesome basketball partner and an incredible person, while they sneak up on you, and then one day you wake up and it’s like – BAM! Feelings!
It’s so stupid, because Taiga doesn’t even think he’s all that attracted to Kuroko. Like, if he found nudies of Kuroko on the street, he’s not going to go home and jerk off to them or anything. He just… wants to be with him and play basketball with him and stand beside him as he shows the world that the Phantom Sixth Man is better than the rest of those stupid Miracles put together. But he also wants to touch Kuroko and smell his hair and make Kuroko look at him the way he does sometimes, like he can’t believe Taiga’s real, which is funny because that’s how he feels about Kuroko most of the time.
The internet isn’t much help either. All Taiga gets is gay porn (which is kind of traumatizing), or a bunch of big words like sexual fluidity (which Taiga doesn’t really understand), or reassuring videos about how it’s okay to be gay (which Taiga already knows), or phone numbers for support groups and suicide prevention hotlines (which… yeah).
He ends up calling Tatsuya, mostly because he’s pretty sure Kuroko would see right through him if he tried the “So, I have this friend” tactic.
“Well, first of all, congratulations on hitting puberty,” Tatsuya says, with the lilt to his voice that means he’s probably laughing. “Alex and I were starting to worry.”
“I hate you both,” Taiga replies bitterly.
“Secondly, I’ve got to say, I’m seeing a whole new side of you – I mean, it’s one thing to appreciate a guy’s ass, but to know that you like the, and I quote, ‘little scrunchy face he makes whenever his dog licks him’ is just—”
“Oh, fuck off.” Why are all of Taiga’s friends such horrible people? He’s a good person. He deserves better than those jerk-faces.
“And I think you should tell him.”
He laughs. “Yeah, I’ll get right on that, next Tuesday after never.”
Tatsuya sighs. “Taiga, he’s going to find out. Not only are you the worst liar in existence—”
“—have you forgotten what his style of basketball does?”
“Shit.” Taiga drops his face in his hands. “What do I even say? You know I’m no good with… you know…”
“You can say ‘feelings,’ dumbass, it’s not going to bite,” Tatsuya says, unhelpfully. “And that’s for you to figure out.”
16. Romance, How to Fail At: a One-Man Show Starring Kagami Taiga
Love is complicated all over the world, but for some reason, it seems especially complicated in Japan. There’s a whole process, apparently, involving letters in shoe lockers and after school confessions and something about buttons?
Well, fuck that noise – there’s no way Taiga’s going to write Kuroko a love letter (and not because his writing’s so bad Kuroko wouldn’t be able to understand it, shut up Alex, he can’t believe Tatsuya told her – bro code, man, bro code). Taiga’s just going to march up to Kuroko and tell him—
“Tell me what?”
Taiga’s feet are a foot off the ground before he even registers what happened. “What the hell, Kuroko, stop doing that!” he shouts.
“I was here before Kagami-kun walked by,” Kuroko says calmly, like he hasn’t just given Taiga a heart attack. “Tell me what?”
Right, the confession. Taiga stands up straight, squares his shoulders, and stares down at him. “Kuroko,” he says.
And that’s as far as he gets, because Kuroko’s… looking at him. With his face. And those eyes.
Shit, what was he thinking – he can’t just tell Kuroko how he feels! What if Kuroko doesn’t like him back and things get awkward between them? What if he thinks Taiga’s been perving on him and thinks it’s gross? What if he doesn’t want to be basketball partners anymore? Fuck, what if he can’t stand to be around Taiga so much that he ends up transferring schools?
Taiga blinks. He’d almost forgotten, as his brain was hamster-wheeling what-ifs, that Kuroko’s still standing there. He contemplates just staring him down for about half a second, before remembering that this is Kuroko, who could win a staring contest with a statue. “Nevermind,” he mumbles, and quickly walks away.
Okay, he runs away. He’s not proud.
16. Romance, The Sequel: Running Away From Your Feelings
Taiga would have loved to just avoid Kuroko for the rest of the day (or, you know, the rest of his life). But that’s kind of difficult, considering the fact that they have most of their classes together, and Kuroko generally sits right behind him. So Taiga just keeps his eyes forward and tries really hard to not think about the eyesthat he can feelburning holes into his back. His Japanese teacher even keeps him after class to tell him how impressed he is that Taiga was so focused on the lesson. Taiga doesn’t have the heart to correct the man.
He’s out of his seat as soon as the lunch bell rings and is out the door before Kuroko even finishes putting his books away. He’s too tall to really blend in with the crowd, so he pretends to be going up to the roof like he always does, only to turn a sharp corner and run up two flights of stairs to the third years’ hall and then run down the set of stairs at the opposite end of the school. He makes another few turns, looking carefully at his surroundings, until he ends up in the library, which is perfect because no one would think to look for him there.
The only flaw in his plan is that he’s not allowed to eat in the library, and Taiga’s not usually one for rule-breaking, even if there’s no one around to see it. He compromises by dragging over a trash can and eating his lunch over it, so that it will catch any crumbs that might fall. He’s just about finished his third (of five) sandwiches when his phone buzzes in his pocket.
Have you told him yet?
Taiga sighs. I’m working on it, he texts back.
A few seconds later, his phone buzzes again. Working on it = hiding from him like the loser you are?
Tatsuya’s reply is a photo of a drawing of two stick figures, a small one with a blue head and a much bigger one with a red head. The red headed one is wearing a big poofy dress and a veil.
Taiga jumps, fumbling his phone so badly he almost drops it into the trash can. He’s glad Coach isn’t here to see this pathetic lapse of motor skills. “How did you—how long have you—did you see anything?”
Kuroko tilts his head, lips pursed in polite confusion. “I’m not sure which question Kagami-kun actually wants me to answer.” He looks down at Taiga’s lunch. “Eating is not permitted in the library.”
“I know, geez,” Taiga grumbles, and pulls himself to his feet, stuffing the rest of his food into his bag. “What are you even doing here, anyway?” He tries to walk past Kuroko, only to be stopped by a hand on his arm.
“Kagami-kun,” Kuroko says, and Taiga really doesn’t want to think about what it means that he can tell Kuroko’s not happy with him just by the way he says his name. “Have I done something to offend you since yesterday?”
Taiga grimaces and looks away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“That’s a lie, Kagami-kun.” Oh great, now he sounds disappointed. Taiga hates the disappointed voice; it always makes him feel like he’s a kid who’s just let down his favorite teacher.
“Ugh, can’t you mind your own damned business for once?” he snaps. “There’s nothing you can do about this anyway, so just… leave me alone, okay?”
He knows it’s the wrong thing to say as soon as he says it. He can almost feel Tatsuya, all the way in Akita, face-palming at Taiga’s natural-born talent for sabotaging his own chances at love and happiness. “Sorry,” he mutters, belatedly.
Kuroko stares at him for a long moment that’s even more unnerving now that Taiga knows how observant Kuroko is. “Okay,” he says, finally. “But if you’re ever ready to talk about it, I’ll be here.” Then he smiles, soft and achingly gentle, and walks away.
Taiga waits until Kuroko’s turned the corner, before he goes up to the nearest wall and bangs his head against it.
16. Romance, The Threequel: Man the Fuck Up, You Loser
In the end, he decides to text Kuroko. He does it during math, which is one of the few classes they don’t have together.
Wanna come over for dinner tonight? I want to tell you something.
His plan is simple: Kuroko likes his cooking, so making him dinner will hopefully remind Kuroko that Taiga’s good at non-basketball stuff too, and he should totally want to date him. Kuroko’s also really polite, so this will make him feel obligated to at least let Taiga down gently if he doesn’t feel the same way. And being at his place gives him the home court advantage, which he’ll need, if only for emotional support.
He keeps one hand on his phone the whole class, and hears absolutely nothing except the thumping of his own heart, until his phone buzzes.
It’s a good thing that he doesn’t have any tests coming up, because Taiga’s basically useless. He barely gets through practice – which is mostly fitness and endurance drills, thank God, because if he can barely look at Kuroko, he doesn’t want to think about how terrible their coordination would be.
The train ride to Taiga’s apartment is quiet. He and Kuroko don’t usually talk much after practice (too tired, thanks to their sadistic coach), but it’s never been unnerving until now. Kuroko sits and reads his book; Taiga sits and tries to suppress the urge to jump out of the moving train and just put himself out of his misery.
Dinner is pretty simple stuff. He makes a quick chicken and vegetable stir-fry, and fries up a few dozen gyoza to go with it. It’s not his best, but it’s not like Taiga has any room left in his stomach, what with all the butterflies. He’s beginning to see the appeal of the love letter method of confessing your love. He’s also never going to make fun of his classmates for confessing ever again, because this is so stressful.
“Kagami-kun’s not being his usual glutton.”
Taiga startles a little, but manages to catch his chopsticks before they fall onto the table. “W-What? I’m not—I mean, yes I am! I mean—”
“Kagami-kun’s Japanese is also usually better than this,” Kuroko says, and there’s just the faintest hint of a smile before his face turns solemn again. “We don’t have to talk today, if Kagami-kun’s not ready.”
Oh fuck no, Taiga can’t handle another day of this. “No!” he shouts, and grabs Kuroko’s sleeve to keep him from getting up. “No. I’m—I’m ready.” His palms are sweaty, and his heart is pounding like he’s being chased by a bear and it’s trying to break out of his chest and save itself. It kind of feels like he’s about to play a really important game, except with none of the excitement and quadruple the pants-wetting terror.
“Kuroko,” he says. Tatsuya had said to keep it simple. Alex had said to just kiss him, but Alex is a freak so he’s not doing that. “I…”
Kuroko looks at him, with those wide, unblinking eyes and that bland expression, just waiting, and fuck, he can’t do this with Kuroko staring at him like that.
Taiga turns his head to the side, and takes a deep breath. “I like you. Please go out with me.”
There is a long moment of silence.
“Ah,” Kuroko says.
What? Taiga stares at Kuroko, who’s – who’s reaching into his pocket and pulling out his phone. “What kind of a—I just told you that I have… have…” Be strong, Taiga, you’ve got this, “FEELINGS for you, and you’re ignoring me for your phone?”
“No, no, it’s just—” Kuroko flips the phone open, and holds it out to Taiga. “I was thinking that this explains the messages I’ve been getting.”
Taiga scoots closer to look at it. The screen’s on Kuroko’s inbox, where the top five messages are from each of his former teammates. Kuroko opens the first one, from Murasakibara.
Kaga-chin’s good at cooking, so if he makes anything delicious, share with me, okay?
“What the—wait, Kaga-chin?”
The next one’s from Aomine: satsukis upset but she wont let me beat you up so tell kagami that the next time i see him hes getting punched in the face.
“But I didn’t—”
Kise’s message is just crying emoticons.
Akashi’s is short, to the point, and vaguely threatening: I trust that you know what you’re doing.
“What the hell?”
Finally, from Midorima: In case Kagami’s abysmal stupidity overwhelms the usual compatibility between Leo and Aquarius—
“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?"
—it is imperative that you keep your lucky item on hand. Today’s lucky item is a ball of red yarn.
“That’s just Midorima-kun’s way of showing his support,” Kuroko says. He rummages in his bag for a few seconds, then pulls out an unsharpened pencil. He takes a picture of it and sends it back to Midorima.
“What was that for?”
“It’s Scorpio’s lucky item for today.”
“Scorpio?” Taiga asks, confused. “Isn’t Midorima a Cancer?"
Kuroko smiles. “Yes, he is.”
Taiga stares back down at Kuroko’s phone. “How did they know? Hell, I didn’t even know until like, two days ago!”
Kuroko just hmms noncommittally and puts his phone away. “I apologize for that. Please allow me to give a proper reply to Kagami-kun’s confession.”
And just like that, Taiga’s heart, which has just returned to its normal rhythm, ratchets right back up to chased-by-a-bear mode. Seriously, Kuroko cannot be good for his cardiac health.
“Kagami-kun is very stupid,” Kuroko says, and Taiga almost face-plants on his table because of course Kuroko would say that, why did Taiga have to fall for such an asshole?
“But he’s also very loyal, and kind, and he never gives up on his friends.” Kuroko smiles at him, and it’s that smile, the one from after they beat Touou, when he told Taiga that he was glad to have met him. “Thanks to Kagami-kun, we won the Winter Cup. Kiyoshi-senpai can retire without regrets. And I was able to love basketball again.”
He reaches across the table and tucks his hand into Taiga’s, slotting their palms together. Their joined hands fit so well that Taiga just stares helplessly.
“I’m very grateful to have Kagami-kun in my life.”
Taiga ducks his head, scowling. He can feel his entire face burning, but even that’s nothing compared to the heat blooming in his chest, warming him from the inside out. “You always say such embarrassing things, you idiot,” he says, squeezing Kuroko’s hand tightly.
“Sorry,” Kuroko replies, and squeezes back, not sounding sorry at all.
Normally, Taiga likes his senpai. They’re reliable, they’re strong, and even though some of them are weird, like Izuki-senpai’s puns and Kiyoshi-senpai’s weirdly happy personality, they’re good, admirable people that Taiga’s proud to look up to.
He likes them a lot less after he tells the team that he and Kuroko are dating, and Captain takes him aside and gives him The Talk. As in, the safe-sex-respect-your-partner-don’t-just-fall-asleep-afterwards-some-people-like-to-cudde talk. It’s uncomfortably similar to the one his dad gave him, before they returned to Japan. In both cases, he spends the entire talk with his eyes glued to the floor, hoping and praying that it will open up and swallow him whole; or that his head will heat up so much that he’ll spontaneously combust.
Taiga’s only consolation is that Coach gives Kuroko the same talk, and a bunch of instructional pamphlets, which make him turn so red that Taiga starts to worry for his safety and well-being.
“Do not get your information from internet porn,” she tells them both, pointing a stern finger. “Kuroko-kun, you’ll make sure to read these before you two do anything, won’t you? Don’t expect me to go easy on either of you in practices!”
Taiga’s not sure whether to be insulted that no one expected him to do any reading, or deeply and intensely grateful.
Coach keeps him back after practice that day, and has another talk with him. “I don’t know it is in America, Kagami-kun,” she says, looking serious and a little sad. “But here, this kind of thing is not… always accepted.”
Taiga nods. He didn’t exactly hang with the most open-minded people back in America. He knows damned well how lucky he is that the worst he got from his teammates was mild ribbing about not checking them out in the showers and jokes that now there are more girls left for the rest of them.
“I want you to keep an eye on Kuroko-kun, if people ever… say anything, because you may be able to ignore them but you know he’ll try to pick a fight.”
Taiga sighs. “Yeah, I know,” he says, and makes a mental note to sign them both up for self-defense lessons or something.
18. Tentacle Porn
So, yeah, Taiga watches and reads porn. He doesn’t do a lot of Japanese porn, though, partly because some if it’s weirdly censored, but mainly because of stuff like tentacle porn.
WHY DOES IT EXIST? And why are people always crying? And wet? And who even gets turned on by that shit, because Taiga watched about ten seconds of one video and his balls basically tried to shrink back inside his body. And did he mention the tentacles? Tentacles! Like Taiga needs another animal to be terrified of! How’s he going to eat calamari now?
For the most part, Taiga likes Japanese – the language, not the subject. The subject can die in a fire, because Taiga will never forget the fact that the only way he passed that exam was by relying on Midorima. But if there is one area in which English holds superiority, it’s the fact that English has the word fuck.
And hey, Taiga’s totally cool with insulting people by using an impolite form of ‘you,’ or saying ‘shit’ and stuff, but sometimes there’s only one word for a situation, and the word is FUCK.
“Fuck!” Taiga gasps, fingers gripping the sheets as he tries not to buck completely off the mattress. “Fuck, fuck, fucking – don’t stop! Why are you stopping?”
“I’m not sure if Kagami-kun is using that word as an expletive or a verb in the imperative,” Kuroko says, because he’s a little bastard, and oh man, Taiga’s going to remember this when it’s his turn.
“DOES IT FUCKING MATTER? Both, okay? Both! Come the fuck on, I’m dying here.”
“I’ll come the fucking, then,” Kuroko replies, only he says it in English, his terrible, badly pronounced English, and Taiga just loses it completely, coming so hard that he actually blacks out for a few seconds.
The thing is, Taiga doesn’t think he’s a uke. Yeah, he likes taking it up the ass (and hey, to all the haters: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, because it’s fucking awesome), and okay, he might have cried a little bit the first time he and Kuroko had sex (shut up, it was really intense, okay?). But he’s not like, weepy all the time, he doesn't constantly try to say “no” during sex, and let’s face it, he’s like, two of Kuroko in every direction.
But he doesn’t think he’s a seme either, which he’s actually pretty happy about because a lot of the ones he sees in porn are kind of rapey. The fact that a lot of them have huge hands also makes him really uncomfortable; he can’t look Kiyoshi-senpai in the eye for days. And it’s not like Kuroko’s delicate, for all that he’s tiny. He still remembers the first time he caught Kuroko’s Ignite Pass Kai; his entire arm had ached afterwards.
Whatever, labels are for losers anyway. Kuroko says the same. Well, technically, Kuroko spouted off a bunch of stuff about how yaoi isn’t really meant to reflect real life homosexual relationships, but Taiga’s gotten pretty good at listening for the “Yes, you’re right and I completely agree with you” hidden in Kuroko-speak.
So yeah, Japan does suck sometimes – like the way sales clerks actually look pityingly at him whenever he walks into a shoe store, and the fact that he’s still getting failing marks in Japanese and History. But he’s got basketball, with kickass rivals and an amazing team, and he’s got a fantastic partner on the court and off. On balance, he’d say coming to Japan was a pretty awesome choice, all things considered.