It’s almost three weeks into school until Kagami even finds out that Aomine Daiki exists.
“Oh, yeah,” says Imayoshi, a perfectly obliging smile on his face. “He’s our ace.”
“I’ve…never seen him at practice,” says Kagami.
“He doesn’t come to practice,” says Imayoshi, doing up his laces.
“But…he’s our ace,” said Kagami.
“Yup,” says Imayoshi.
Kagami gives up and goes to ask Momoi.
“Oh, Aomine-kun?” she says. “We went to middle school together,” and pauses, unsure how to unpack that statement for Kagami; how to explain their history, and what it means for Touou. “He…doesn’t come to practice.”
“Yeah,” says Kagami, “But why?”
“He doesn’t want to,” says Momoi, then smiles and slips away.
“Because he’s an asshole,” Wakamatsu coughs up, finally, and Sakurai pipes up with “He sleeps on the roof, instead- Sorry.”
“Ah,” says Kagami.
It’s three weeks into school that Aomine is dragged, kicking and bruised and yelling, into practice, jacket torn and knuckles bloody.
“Take a fucking swing at me,” Kagami mutters over his split lip as Momoi administers first aid, and not gently. It’s part excuse, and part apology: he hadn’t gone up there to exercise his temper, and Momoi’s cry of “DAI-CHAN,” seeing Aomine draped over Kagami’s shoulder, much the worse for wear, had the ring of a much-awaited fear.
Imayoshi smoothes it over, with the correct but unflattering statement that every one of them has wanted to punch Aomine at least once, even Sakurai (who goes bone-white) and this is only the first time, but never again, okay?
Kagami shrugs his shoulders with victor’s ease, but Aomine spits until Momoi throws a towel into his face and tells him to apologize for trying to hit Kagami-kun in the first place.
“Fuck that,” says Aomine.
“Fine,” says Kagami. “Momoi, I’m sorry I beat him up.”
“You didn’t fucking beat me up,” says Aomine.
“Oh, he beat you up,” said Imayoshi, studying Aomine’s face with interested curiosity, like a museum exhibit, like he’s memorizing the shape a fist makes in their ace’s face. “You just also returned the favour. Not as thoroughly, but them’s the breaks.”
“I could beat you up,” said Aomine, grabbing for, and missing, the captain’s collar.
“If we quibble over who bent Aomine over his knee and made him cry we’ll be here all day,” says Imayoshi, sweetly.
“Captain,” says Momoi sternly, and Imayoshi subsides. Wakamatsu is near beside himself with glee, but everyone else watches them with a combination of awe and wariness.
Kagami cracks his jaw and looks at Aomine. He’s big, and fast, and good, but he’s never had to fight four or five people at once, back to back with Tatsuya in their misguided youth on street courts. Never watched Alex crack someone’s head open with one smooth move, and begged for lessons in that, too.
“Anyway, I was saying, if you’re part of the team, you should come to practice,” he says.
“Fuck you,” Aomine suggests, and Momoi pinches him. “Satsuki, can’t you be even a bit more-“
“No one’s too fucking good for practice,” says Kagami.
Aomine looks at him then in total surprise, and is this what no one has been telling him, what no one thinks needs to be said about Aomine. “I am.”
“If either of you think you’re taking one step onto the court in that condition,” says Momoi, recognizing the signs-
“Okay start, two hundred laps for fighting,” says Imayoshi, just as fast.
Aomine doesn’t argue, but maybe that’s because Kagami rolls off the bench and starts on them without so much as wincing, but he shoves his shoulder in Kagami’s when Momoi isn’t looking- and when Imayoshi almost certainly is- and says, “Satsuki’s got committee tomorrow. Gates after school.”
Kagami would make fun of him for being afraid of a girl, but then again, so is he, and Momoi lifts her head to stare at them with narrowed eyes, like she’s looking into their souls, and is about to smack their naughty little hands.
“You’re on,” he says, and lengthens his stride.
After, Kagami sits on the street court and pants, long deep breaths, until he’s capable of speaking again without a quiver.
“So you’re almost as good as you think you are,” he says, to Aomine’s faint smugness, the way he hovers, casting little glances at the hoop. He hadn’t known that Kagami would try that dunk, or that he could. He’d failed, of course, but he’d tried. “You can’t take a punch for shit, though.”
“Shut up,” says Aomine, and, his point made, turns to leave.
“Where are you going?” says Kagami, surprised. “Let’s play again.”
“You want to lose again?” says Aomine, and there’s an edge to it, a tilt to his shoulders that Kagami can’t be bothered to unravel. "The only one who can beat me... is me."
“Why not?” says Kagami, bristling. “I’ve missed streetball since I came back from the states.”
“You studied in America?” says Aomine, interested despite himself, and, well, what’s the harm? Tetsu hadn’t minded being beaten, and he’s got nothing else to do right now.
They play until the sun goes down, even past the time Kagami gets tired of losing, trading trick shots until Momoi stalks past and picks them up on her way home.
“How did you know we’d be there,” says Kagami, munching on his twentieth burger, while Aomine and Momoi watched him with varying degrees of fascination and disgust.
“Spies,” says Aomine, before Momoi can answer.
Kagami is disturbed that Momoi apparently has no better answer, only a “Mou,” and a helplessly, desperately tender look directed at Aomine, bloomed from watching him roll a ball around his shoulders as she first came into view, bouncing it off the floor and back onto his fingers in one smooth motion, laughing as he did it, at the look on Kagami’s face.