"Let me get this straight," Aomine says, leaning against the wall and spinning the basketball on his index finger. "You want me to help you annoy Tetsu?"
Now, when he puts it that way... Taiga frowns. "First off? I didn't call you," he points out, snatching the ball from Aomine and bouncing it a few times against the cement. Indoor balls just don't have the same feel as the outdoor balls he's used to. "Second? I figure if he gets how annoying it is to have something he doesn't like shoved in his face every five minutes, then maybe he'll stop putting Nigou in my damn gym bag."
Momoi-san giggles. "But Nigou is so cute, Kagamin," she says.
Taiga snorts. He'll admit the dog is not nearly as ferocious as the German Shepherd his neighbor in the States had, but still. It has teeth. Teeth and Taiga's hands, arms, legs and ankles do not mix. Not if he wants to keep playing. "No," he says, shaking his head. He passes the ball to Aomine, who catches it and immediately lobs it at the basket. He misses and Taiga rebounds, laying it up. "I figured Momoi-san could give me some ideas."
"Well," Momoi-san says. "Tetsu-kun isn't really afraid of anything."
Aomine steals the ball and takes a fade away shot before Taiga can pivot and jump. "That guy doesn't get annoyed easily, except about basketball."
"That's not entirely true," Momoi-san cuts in. She bites her lower lip and looks at Taiga, who zeroes in on her mouth. Aomine throws the ball at him and Taiga catches it on reflex, turning his head to glare. "But, I think it would be betraying Tetsu-kun to help you, Kagamin."
Taiga shakes his head. "You're just telling me things about my partner." He pauses to grin at Aomine, who is glaring at him.
"Just tell him, Satsuki," Aomine says, taking the ball out of Taiga's hands. "If we're lucky, this idiot will annoy Tetsu so bad he'll transfer."
Taiga watches as Kuroko freezes, mid pass. Kise, either completely oblivious or just ignoring the irritation radiating off of Kuroko, flings himself across the court to attach himself to Kuroko's back. "Ah, Kurokocchi," Kise says, grinning. "We're going to have so much fun today!"
"What are you doing here, Kise-kun?" Kuroko asks, straightening himself out and attempting to pry Kise's fingers from his jersey.
"Didn't Kagamicchi tell you?" he asks, directing Kuroko's icy gaze at Taiga. "I'm going to be practicing with you guys this week." Kise is positively glowing, which only serves to make Kuroko's expression darker. "We're going to have so much fun," Kise is saying, but Kuroko doesn't appear to be listening. "It's going to be just like old times, right, Kurokocchi?"
An angry Kuroko is a beautiful thing to behold, Taiga realizes, trying to stifle his laughter. Kise hasn't budged from Kuroko's side the entire practice: he keeps pace during laps and liners, cheerfully partners up with him for stretches and passing drills, and absolutely refuses to be on the opposite team during scrimmages. Taiga figures that Kuroko's face might freeze in a perpetual scowl any second now.
Coach Aida keeps shaking her head, but she's never one to pass over extra training, and even though Kise is sticking to Kuroko like glue, he's pushing everyone to their limits. Even Taiga has to admit that practicing with Kise is different; not bad, just different.
Kise is grinning at him, eyes narrowed. He has control of the ball and Taiga is marking him, waiting for the right moment to steal the ball and make a break for the hoop. No opening comes, though, and Kise passes the ball and darts forward into the paint right in time to receive Kuroko's pass.
"Shit," Taiga says, sprinting forward, but it's too late; Kise jumps and releases the ball, which falls perfectly into the basket.
"Nice pass, Kurokocchi!" Kise calls.
Taiga's team loses by 41 points. If Kuroko's glare is anything to go by, Taiga is pretty sure he's in for more of the same all week.
"Man, Kagamicchi," Kise says later, after Taiga has already downed ten burgers. "Your guys' practice sure is rough. If Kasamatsu-sempai found out how hard Aida-chan works you, he'd try to work us harder."
"I'll be sure to let him know," Kuroko says icily.
Kise clutches his chest. "Kurokocchi is so cold," he laments.
"For crying out loud," Taiga yelps, glaring. "Would it kill you to make some noise before giving me a heart attack?"
Kuroko stares balefully at him. "My apologies, Kagami-kun," he says, completely unapologetic. "I had a question."
Taiga rolls his eyes and shoves his sandwich in his mouth. "What?" he asks around the bread and lettuce and lunch meat.
"Is there any reason you invited Kise-kun to our practices?"
He shrugs. "They aren't practicing right now since season's over and he seemed bored." He eyes Kuroko. "Is there something wrong with that?"
"Not at all, Kagami-kun." He watches as Kuroko turns around and leaves, and suddenly, he feels cold.
"This is Kise-kun's last practice with us," Coach tells them after laps and warm ups. "Let's make it one he won't forget." She's sparkling at them, like this is going to be the best thing ever, and all Taiga can think is that he's going to need to ice his body after practice. "Everybody pair up!" She blows the whistle, and Kise immediately attaches himself to Kuroko.
"As fun as it was practicing with you and Kurokocchi," Kise tells him on their way to the train station, "I'm really glad to be done with that."
Somehow, he had been roped into seeing Kise off, which wouldn't normally be a problem, but his body aches and all he really wants to do is collapse into a pile somewhere and not move for a week. Coach wasn't kidding about making it a practice to remember; he was sure his body was going to remember it for the next year.
"I'll pay you back for those losses, you know," Taiga says and Kise laughs. "I'm serious. You only got that far ahead because of Kuroko."
Kise tosses an arm around Taiga's shoulder and grins. "Well, Kurokocchi and me just make a better team," he replies seriously. "It's the bond of love, you see."
Taiga snorts. "Bullshit. Most of those passes were aimed at your head."
"A special sort of love, then."
He wakes up to frantic vibrating. Groggily, he reaches for his phone and looks at the glowing screen. Twenty-seven messages are waiting for his attention. Taiga frowns and opens the menu; roughly more than half are from Tatsuya, a few from Aomine (how the hell that guy got his number is beyond him), two from Midorima and Murasakibara (did everyone have his damn number?) and the rest are from a bunch of numbers he doesn't know.
Tatsuya's are all essentially the same thing: "You never told me about you and Kise, Taiga." One of the messages is a link.
Taiga frowns and clicks the link. He is greeted with a grainy picture of him and Kise from the day before. Kise's arm is thrown around Taiga's shoulder, and Taiga's arm is a blur, but if you squint and turn your head sideways, it almost looks like it's slung around Kise's waist. His head is angled away from the camera, but anyone who knows him can clearly tell exactly who it is. The caption on the picture says Illicit, Forbidden Love?!? Kise Ryouta and his mystery man!
The picture is blocked by a new message. Wordlessly, he clicks it open and reads it. It's from Kuroko and simply says, "Congratulations, Kagami-kun."
The whispers start as soon as he hits campus, but he resolves to ignore them. It's just a rumor, after all; a really messed up one, because, even if he did swing that way, Kise is just way too flashy.
"Good morning, Kagami-kun," Kuroko says without looking up, but Taiga can see the small smile on Kuroko's face.
Taiga's eyes narrow. "Do you know anything about this?"
"About you and Kise-kun?" he replies blandly, turning the page in the book he's reading. "Congratulations."
"I'll get you back for this," he promises, and Kuroko looks up, gracing him with the most amused look Taiga has ever seen.
Aomine is laid out on the floor, legs kicking the air as he literally rolls in laughter. There are tears at the corners of his eyes. Even Momoi-san's eyes looks suspiciously wet, and little huffs of almost-laughter escape her every few minutes.
"I told you," Aomine says when he can breathe again. He wipes the tears from his face. "Seriously, I warned you."
Taiga kicks his leg. "Shut up and get up, asshole."
Aomine pushes himself to his feet and grabs the discarded basketball. "Man, Kise must have really pushed Tetsu to his limit this time."
Momoi-san agrees. "It'll die down eventually," she placates. "And Tetsu-kun won't stay upset for long."
"Nope," Aomine says, stealing the ball back from Taiga. "He's already wiped your face in the ground. Let him gloat for a bit, bribe him with milkshakes, and everything will be back to normal before you know it."
"I'm gonna wipe your face in the ground," Taiga growls and Aomine smirks.
"Try it, boy-toy."
Kise messages him later that night: "Kagamicchi~♥ I'll make sure to get better photographers for our next date!"
He scowls and deletes the message.
The next day at practice, Nigou falls asleep in his gym bag and Kuroko smiles placidly, as though daring Taiga to say something. Instead, Taiga grits his teeth and offers to buy Kuroko a shake after practice.
Kuroko nods and jogs off. Taiga shakes his head.
"It's just a dog," he mutters. "It's just not worth it."