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That's what friends do

Chapter Text

The streetlights were shining softly through the narrow space between the curtains of the young boy’s bedroom. They light wasn’t bright at all and normally he’d just continue sleeping, but this day was a very important one. Due to his nerves, the streetlights woke him up earlier than usual.

The boy groaned and rubbed his eyes, sitting up straight in his bed. With his eyes half-closed he started feeling the wall to find the light switch. It was difficult to see without his glasses, so it took him longer than it would take a normal person.

Eventually he was able to switch on the lights and he took his glasses from the small table standing beside his bed. The boy put them on, pushing them up the bridge of his nose with the slender fingers of his left hand. Now being able to actually see something, he looked at the clock hanging on the green walls of his bedroom. It read 5 in the morning. Way too early for him to rise. Knowing that there was no way he could go back to sleep, he decided to read a book until his mother would come to wake him.

Today was his first day at his new school. He was no longer an elementary school kid, from now on he’d be attending Teiko middle school. He wasn’t a child anymore, so he knew that he shouldn’t be this nervous for something as simple as a first day of school, but he’d never been good at making friends, so he was scared to end up alone. Not that he would ever tell his parents about that.

The boy pushed a stand of green hair out of his face. Another thing he was worrying about. In elementary school, older kids often bullied him because of his unusual hair color, hobbies and height. Standing 174 cm at the age of twelve was very unusual in Japan, where many full grown men barely reached that height.

You would think that people would be scared of him because of this, but because he usually spent all his free time alone reading a book, he got the image of a complete nerd. His love for horoscopes and fortune telling didn’t help either. His frowning face made him look scary and distant. Hard for the other children to approach. People saw him as a tall, obnoxious horoscope freak with no friends, which made him an easy victim to bullying.

When he eventually told his mother about this, she told him that he shouldn’t be bothered by their mean words and insults, after all, there was a certain talent that made him stand out. A talent that could lead him to great places later in his life.

Shintaro Midorima was incredibly skilled at basketball. His great knowledge in math and physics gave him the ability to quickly calculate how to release the ball so it would fall perfectly through the hoop high up in the air, gaining three points each time. That combined with his delicate touch and precision made him a deadly weapon. On top of that, his unusual height was actually helping him out in the game as well.

This talent was the exact reason why Shintaro had chosen Teiko middle school. The school was nationally famous for their strong basketball team.

‘But what if I’m not strong enough?’ Shintaro sighed absently. Having lost the focus to read his book, the green-haired boy fell back against his pillow and started staring at the ceiling.

‘I just don’t know what to do. Will they like me there?’ His mind went black with negative scenario’s floating around.

‘Better check up on today’s horoscope. I can’t let bad luck ruin everything.’ He said to himself as he walked over to the small computer standing on his desk. Shintaro turned on the device and entered his password. He put on his headphones and listened to what was to be expected from this day.

“Today will be a new start for you, Cancer. You’ll meet new people and friendships will be formed. But beware, you might meet someone that you might strongly dislike, but you mustn’t push that person away because there is a chance that this person might be the one you’ve been waiting to meet your whole life. Remember, today you rank 3rd, so don’t forget to bring your lucky item with you! Today it is a pink, stuffed animal. Good luck today!” Spoke the all too familiar voice.

‘It certainly sounds promising… maybe I will actually get some friends then.’ The green-haired boy said to himself, feeling somewhat reassured. He closed down his computer and walked over to his closet, where various weird things were stored. After searching for a little, Shintaro found what he was looking for. A little, pink stuffed lion. He took the item form the shelf and blew the little layer of dust way.

A knock sounded on his bedroom door. ‘Shintaro, sweety it’s time to wake up!’ The cheerful voice of his mother spoke to him. She was a little out of breath, but that wasn’t really strange for a woman that was now entering her 7th month of pregnancy, or at least, that was what Shintaro had read about in his books about medical studies.

He had always been an only child, but since h was very little, Shintaro had known that his parents wished for a second child. However, it just wouldn’t happen. Shintaro remembered his mother often being sad after another negative test. They had given up hope by the time Shintaro turned 10. So it was a very big surprise to him when his parents happily announced they were going to have a baby when Shintaro had just turned 12. Slowly things around the house started to change, a baby room was being decorated and baby clothes started to pile up in the house. Shintaro didn’t mind getting a little brother or sister, but he was kind of nervous, because he didn’t really know how to act around babies.

‘Yes mother, I’ll be out in a few minutes.’ He replied. He walked over to his chair where his new school uniform was stored. From now on, for the next 3 years he would wear this uniform every day. He quickly dressed himself and went to the bathroom which was connected to his room where he brushed his hair and re-taped his fingers. Another habit of his, Shintaro had been taping the fingers of his left hand ever since he started basketball. It prevented him from injuring his fingers and breaking his nails. Small things like these could completely mess up his shooting rhythm and cause him to miss his shots, which was something he could not afford.

---

Shintaro went downstairs, taking the stuffed lion with him, to have breakfast with his mother. His father had already left for work. Both of his parents were well-paid doctors in a prestigious hospital and usually had to start working before dawn. But due her pregnancy, his mother was now free from work and could spend some time with her son. It was an unspoken rule in the Midorima household that Shintaro would end up working as a doctor as well.

Yes, if everything went like his parents planned, Shintaro would graduate middle school and then high school. He would later go to an international university where he’d study to become a doctor. At age 24 he should have finished all his education and he would get married to a pretty lady from a rich family at 26. They would have their firstborn when they were around 29 and maybe a second child in the future.

Shintaro didn’t really have a say in all of this, so he kept quiet about the little secret he carried with him. A secret which he would kept hidden until he could take it with him into the grave. He knew that if his secret was exposed, his parents would be furiously disappointed and devastated. All the future plans they had made for him would break into pieces. Shintaro didn’t want to hurt his parents like that. Because he loved them, even if they didn’t have much time for him. All he wanted was for them to be happy, his own happiness would have to take second place.

The thing was, that while all the other boys in his class started to get interested in girls and breasts, Shintaro realized that he didn’t feel the draw to look at girls at all, in fact he preferred to look at the other boys instead. Homosexual or gay, that is what they called it. A mental condition which causes a man to fall in love with another man. Or a woman to fall in love with another woman. Something that is not always accepted. Shintaro knew that certain countries have legalized same-sex marriage, while others, Japan included, had not. Shintaro wasn’t exactly sure what his parents would think if he were to come out. He assumed that his mother would be more or less supportive, since she’s always been open-minded. It was his father that he was most worried about. Raised in and orthodox Christian family, homosexuality was a true no-no. The green-haired boy didn’t want to risk a crack in the relationship with his father, so he wasn’t planning on telling him any time soon.

So Shintaro would just continue to study hard and get good grades, to keep his parents and future sibling happy.

‘Darling, did you sleep well?’ His mother asked, with a smile on her face. She had the same eyes as he did, the same vibrant green color. The only difference was that his mother didn’t have the need to wear glasses.

‘It could have been worse, in fact.’ He replied.

His mother sighed. ‘Oh Shintaro, don’t worry so much. They’ll like you, just believe me will you?’ She said as she ruffled his green locks. She knew her son very well, when she expected he was scared or nervous about something, she’d always try to console him.

They ate the remaining part of their breakfast in silence.

At 8 ‘O clock, Shintaro and his mother got in the car to drive to school. The green-haired boy nervously clutched his lucky item in his hands. The trip felt way to short, even if it had been over 20 minutes.

‘Well now, Shintaro. Wipe that frown of your face and go make some friends, okay? I’ll see you this afternoon. Bye and good luck!’

‘I’ll do my best. Goodbye, mother.’

---

‘Alright now newbies. Welcome to the Teiko basketball club. My name is Kōzō Shirogane. I’m the head coach of the team. Because this is a strong school, with a lot of members, we will use the first week to determine in which string you’ll be placed in. we have the first string, which is the official team, the second string, some matches will be played in there and then there’s the third string, for the people who have yet to learn more before they can play in games. Don’t let your ranking discourage you, 1st years rarely get into the second, let alone first string. We look forward to train with you.’

---

‘We have decided which string you will all be placed in.’

‘What do you think you’ll be into? I really hope the first string, but first years will never get in.’ A tall boy with dark hair whispered to a shorter boy standing next to him.

‘Yeah. Second string is the best we’ll ever get.’ Came his reply.

‘In the first string we’ll be joined by the following boys…’ Before the coach could finish his sentence, people started whispering to one another in surprise.

‘What? There will actually be first years to join the first string!?’

‘I wonder who that’ll be, he must be really strong!’

‘What! Are they for real!?’

‘Please remain silent until I have finished my announcement.’ The head coach continued. ‘As I was saying, the boys that will be playing in the first string are Aomine Daiki, Akashi Seijurou, Murasakibara Atsushi and Midorima Shintaro. We look forward to working with you.’

Shintaro felt people stare at him in awe. The green-haired boy turned his head to see who else in the room would be playing with him. He saw a tall, dark-skinned boy pumping his fist in the air, smiling brightly, a boy with flaming red hair smiling confidently and an abnormally tall boy tilting his head in some sort of lazy confusion. He recognized them from trainings the past week. All three of them were better than all the others, of the same level as Shintaro himself, maybe even better. A small smile crept onto his face, maybe Teiko junior high wasn’t all that bad after all.

Chapter Text

‘I spoke way to soon. Teiko is in fact that bad.’ Shintaro thought to himself after having trained with his new team for 2 week. It was true, all of them possessed great talent for the sport, but they were all just plain weird and annoying.

Akashi Seijurou wasn't really all that bad, but Shintaro just felt a little uneasy around him. Perhaps it was the fact that the small redhead was to intelligent for his age, even more so than Shintaro himself. There was just a certain feeling around the boy that Shintaro couldn’t really put into words.

Their team captain, Nijimura-san, was a nice man and a strong player, but the way he treated Haizaki (someone Shintaro would kill one day, damn that guy was annoying) sent shivers down his spine.

 Aomine Daiki was the worst. The blue-haired boy had extreme talent and a good heart, but he was extremely stupid and loud. Shintaro, because he is such a responsible person, had become something like his private tutor, because if he didn't help him, the green-haired boy knew Aomine would die because of stupidity.

Then there was Murasakibara Atsushi, Shintaro wondered if the kid even had parents, because he had no manners at all. He would spend all day eating junk food and he constantly fell asleep during break, classes and even practice. He also had a strong hate towards basketball for some reason, stating that effort is a useless thing and that the sport is unfair and favors those who are tall and are naturally skilled. Which are both things the purple-haired boy possessed. He still claimed that he only played because he’s good and because he hates losing even more.

‘Then why does he even play?’ Shintaro thought bitterly.

Another thing Shintaro couldn't stand about the purple-haired boy, was the fact that he seemed to have grown every day they met. Seriously, what 12-year-old is nearing 190 cm? There was also the fact that Murasakibara wasn't stupid per-say, his grades were actually very good, but he always forgot to wash his hands or to duck when walking through a doorway. Causing the boy to slam his head into the doorpost, only to sink down to the floor with a pout on his face. Every time again.

Before he'd even noticed, Shintaro had started to correct the tall boys strange habits. Telling him to wash his hands, to stop leaving crumbs everywhere and to look into people's eyes when talking to them. Shintaro also reminded him to duck his head every time they walked through a door.

Sadly, Murasakibara just didn’t care at all. The tall boy continued to misbehave and slam his head into all kinds of stuff. So Shintaro told himself that he didn’t care when Murasakibara hurt himself. It was his own stupid fault anyways.

Murasakibara also had the annoying habit to give him a stupid nickname. “Mido-chin" that's how the tall boy called him. No matter how many times Shintaro asked, as usual Murasakibara didn't listen.

The two of the were as different as fire and ice, thus they violently clashed. They'd get into all kinds of pointless arguments. Shintaro wondered why he even bothered talking to the childish giant. Perhaps it was his responsible personality feeling the need to correct the easy-going, childish giant.

---

Even if they were annoying and weird, they all seemed to somewhat like Shintaro. Even Murasakibara seemed okay with him, when they weren’t fighting at least. They were accepting of his lucky items and didn't care for his weird looks at all. After all, they didn't look exactly normal as well. So they became a common group around the school. Four talented basketball players with weird hair colors. They weren't really friends, but they also weren't not friends.

Not that Shintaro cared. Why would he? The only reason he hung around them was to help those people to become slightly normal. Because their parents must be suffering.

‘Yo! Midorima, get your ass over here. I wanna play basketball!’ Aomine yelled, from the other side of the hallway after the last period of the day.

Shintaro flinched. ‘Why does that moron yell in the school hallways?’ He sighed, knowing that if he said no, the basketball-idiot would keep on asking him until he’d eventually agree. ‘Fine. I'll play with you after I've finished my homework. I'll beat you, in fact.’ The green-haired basketball player replied, adjusting his glasses.

‘Ha, dude you're on!’ Aomine grinned. ‘I also asked Akashi to join, he said yes. But Murasakibara said no.’

‘He says hates basketball, of course he'll say no, Ahomine.’

‘But we could always ask Haizaki to join, right?’ Aomine said, a puzzled expression on his face.

‘I'd rather not ask that person, in fact. I really can't stand him.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Come now, Midorima you hate everyone. Or you claim to, but I just know that you love me. Because I'm just that awesome.’ The dark-skinned boy said.

‘I most certainly do not love you, Aomine.’ Shintaro replied, massaging his temples.

‘You tsundere!’

‘I'm not a tsundere.’ Shintaro hissed.

‘Haha, yeah right. Tsundere boy.’

---

In the end, Murasakibara did show up to play basketball.

The four of them played until the sun started to set. The only one that didn't lose a single game was, of course, Akashi, which caused Aomine to complain about life being unfair.  Murasakibara wasn't interested at all and just continued eating.

Shintaro walked home by himself, after having said his goodbyes. They sure were a weird bunch of people. But… maybe, just maybe, Shintaro had grown fond of them. Even if they were some of the most annoying people he met.

Aomine was completely obsessed with girls, to a point where it became almost worrying. Shintaro couldn't relate one bit. Which made the green-haired boy realize that he was different all over again. When Aomine would point out a girl that was “hot", Akashi would sometimes nod in an approving way. When Aomine asked Shintaro for his opinion, he'd simply say that “he doesn't have time for this nonsense.” Murasakibara just never replied, except the one time he did reply and said that the girl in question was way too thin and that she should eat more snacks.

‘All on that brain of his is food. How will someone like that even last in a world like this?’ The traffic lights turned green and Shintaro moved along with the stream of people. It sure was weird. While everyone was different, they all lived by the same rules and did the same things. So the “everyone is different” adds you’d see were really just wishful thinking. In the end, everyone really is the same.

Shintaro had learned at a young age that only a few people in the world had the power to truly stand out. It was something you were born with, not something you could gain, no matter how hard you might try. Once in a decade, a person like that would be born. In very rare cases, two were born in the same decade.

Maybe in this decade it was someone that could unravel something ground-breaking about the human mind, or a prodigy in classical music, perhaps a girl that could start a revolution in her country.

Once, and only once in a decade, a person like that was born, but sometimes they’d disappear before they could accomplish anything, or they never found out about their hidden talents. So they would just die like everyone else. Leaving God to find a new person to entrust with that power.

‘It must be hard, being one of them… never living a normal life once you unleash your special gift from god. Man proposes, God disposes. That’s how it’s always been and how it always will be. Free will doesn’t apply there.’ The boy was lost in thoughts by the time he had crossed the street. A car honking in the distance brought him back to reality.

His eyes fell on a huge billboard on one of the buildings. It was some kind of add for an expensive brand of clothing. The boy on the picture was very beautiful. He had bright blond hair, a white, flawless skin and eyes with the color of melted gold, framed by obscenely long eyelashes, a dazzling smile on his lips. The soft lighting made him look almost angelic. Shintaro recognized the boy, he went to the same school as he did. They even shared the same age. Kise Ryouta.

He might just be one of those people that got an exceptional gift from God. Talent for acting and a stunning appearance. According to rumors at school, the model was also the star player of the schools’ baseball club. A prodigy, as he heard. The miracle of the past decade. The chosen one, selected by God himself.

Shintaro felt himself enchanted by the beauty of the young model. Something that had also enchanted many girls, possibly more boys like Shintaro himself as well. Those that are different. Those attracted to men while being one themselves. Also something God decided. Perhaps as a punishment for a mistake in a possible past life, or just a coincidence. No one would ever know until the angels fall down from heaven to speak to mankind.

Even if it was weird or wrong, Shintaro didn’t feel ashamed or disgusted by his sexuality. He was perfectly at peace with it. After all, to him it didn’t matter who you fell in love with (As long as it’s not Aomine. Because, Hell no) and as long as you cherish the one you love, nothing could be wrong. It made him feel sad that not everyone shared this opinion with him. Because how could they not see it?

Kids at school that came out for their homosexuality were often picked on and got called names. Whenever that happened, Shintaro just wanted to scream. Not that he’d ever do that. He was expected to always keep his calm, so he did. What he felt internally didn’t matter in situations like that.

Not that he’d ever been good at expressing his feelings. Shintaro often caught himself lying to people about what he really felt. He wasn’t able to deal with the embarrassing truth when Aomine asked if he considered them to be friends. So he said no. He knew that his blushing face probably said otherwise, but everything was better than admitting out loud that he in fact did like the blue-haired boy. Even if he was loud and weird.

Shintaro was often jealous of people that could show their feelings so easily. The way Aomine would smile when he liked something, the way Murasakibara would outright say what he was thinking (Seriously, the moron had no filter between his mind and his tongue) and the way Akashi would show clear discontent when someone did something to annoy him. Even if he felt that Akashi hid a lot of his feeling behind a mask as well.

He’d heard somewhere that the redhead had lost his mother at a young age and that his father was very strict on him. So he knew that the boy must be struggling with some sadness and perhaps anger at least.

---

Lost in thoughts once again, Shintaro reached his home. Switching his lucky item of the day from his left hand to his right, he searched for his keys in his bag. After having found them, he unlocked the front door and undid his shoes, placing them tightly next to one another in the corner of the small shelf.

‘Mother, I’m home.’ He announced.

‘Welcome back dear! Had a nice day?’ His mother replied, walking towards him.

She must have been preparing dinner, Shintaro noted. She was wearing her apron and in her hand was a wooden spoon. Her stomach had become very large, after all the baby would be born in a couple weeks, possibly even sooner.

The baby room was now completely finished and everyone was ready for the baby’s arrival. Shintaro had even read books on how to be a good sibling to a newborn. Recently he had learned that being a good brother wasn’t something that came naturally.

Apparently, Murasakibara was the youngest of five. He had three older brothers and an older sister. He told that the four of them once forgot him at the supermarket when he was very little, one of his brothers had tried to cut Murasakibara’s hair once, ending up with the little boy walking around with ruined hair for weeks, they had also almost drowned him in the bath once. Those were things Shintaro planned on not doing to his sibling.

He decided that he would read all kinds of information to make sure he would treat his sibling right. He also promised that he would bring his sibling’s lucky item with him every day. So the child would be safe from harm and misfortune.  

Shintaro didn’t know what gender he wanted the baby to be. Sure, a little brother would be nice, but so would a little sister. He knew that his mother most likely wanted the baby to be a girl, but his father would prefer another son. A boy would mean a stronger chance of having successful children in the future, because Shintaro was very aware that even if it seemed different, men still have a higher social ranking than women do. A concept that the young boy just couldn’t understand.

Aomine had a girl friend, they had been close since early childhood, almost like siblings. The girl in question was very smart and nice. She had a great eye for details and was good at analyzing all kinds of stuff. Even better than most of the males he knew of. Still, there was a big chance that Momoi Satsuki wouldn’t get a job that paid her as much as she would get if she had been born a boy. There were many girls like that. Shintaro wished that he could just change the world all by himself, but that’s just wishful thinking. Everyone wanted to change the world after all.

---

After dinner Shintaro went up to his bedroom to finish some homework and to prepare himself for bed. His father wouldn’t be home until very late, so he wouldn’t see the man before bedtime. Sometimes he wished his parent’s wouldn’t work as much as they did.

Aomine would in weekends go out with his dad to do all kind of stuff and when his mother comes home from America at the end of the season, the whole family would spend time together until she had to leave again. Murasakibara would go on small trips with his family, nothing fancy, because 5 kids is a lot and it would be way to expensive, but they still always had a great time. Momoi would go shopping with her mother and she would visit museums with her father.

Shintaro didn’t like it to be jealous, but he had to confess that he was. He never spent much time with his parents, they were really good for him, he knew that. But still he silently hoped to go to a museum, or to go on a holiday trip together. He was still a child after all. Mature for his age, but still a child.

He also felt like his parents deserved a break. They worked way harder than the average person. Shintaro had heard somewhere that overwork could result in a mental breakdown. He didn’t want to see his parents go down that path, yet he never dared to say anything.

Shintaro looked over to his clock, seeing that it was already past 9, he decided to go to sleep. Changing into his sleepwear, he put his glasses on the bedside table and climbed into bed, turning of the lights.

The last thing on his mind before he drifted to sleep was a realization. Shintaro realized that there was a chance that he himself, or one of his friends, or maybe his yet to be born sibling was one of the chosen ones. With a talent, yet to be unleashed.

Chapter Text

May 27th, Midorima Takara was born. A healthy little girl, born without any complications. Suddenly, Shintaro had a little sister. His parents were overjoyed, family members he hadn’t seen for years showed up to see the baby. Every single one of them would comment on how tall Shintaro had gotten. He was already taller than every woman in his family and some male family members as well. His cousins wanted to play all kinds of games with him, but the green-haired boy would usually decline and wait for the visitors to leave again.

About two weeks after Takara was born, his mother asked if Shintaro wanted to bring some friends over to see the baby. Shintaro accepted and so it happened that on a warm afternoon his mother met his friends for the first time.

---

‘Hello there, kids. My name’s Midorima Miho, Shintaro’s mother. It’s nice to finally meet you all. Because my boy rarely tells me anything about you, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you all. He’s always been a little tsundere after all.’ Miho spoke with a smile, waving for the three boys to come in. Shintaro wanted to disappear. Are all mothers like this? Always embarrassing their kids in front of their friends.

‘Midorima-san, it’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Akashi Seijurou. I wanted to congratulate you on the birth of your daughter.’ The redhead spoke, offering his hand to the woman on the other side of the door.

‘What a well-mannered young man you are. Nice to meet you as well, Akashi-kun.’ She smiled at the boy in front of her.

‘I’m Aomine Daiki, congratulations with your baby, Miss Midorima.’ Aomine said. Shintaro wanted to slap him. How could that moron suddenly behave himself, while he’s usually a loud, ignorant moron? Couldn’t he just behave himself at other times as well?

‘Ah, thanks a lot, Aomine-kun. I take it that you’re the heavily talented boy on the basketball team?’

‘Uh… yeah, I guess that’s me.’ Aomine replied sheepishly.

‘I’m Murasakibara Atsushi. Mido-chin’s mother, congratulations with your daughter.’

‘Awww, nice to meet you. Shintaro, all your friends are cute, why didn’t you introduce them to me earlier! Anyways, come in boys. I’ll go get Takara downstairs. Shintaro, could you make some tea please?’  Miho said, waving for the boys to come in.

‘Yeah, I’ll do that.’

---

‘Mido-chin, your new sister is really cute. I like her better than my own sister. She’s always so mean.’ Murasakibara said, as he looked down at the little girl he was holding.

‘You have siblings yourself?’ Miho asked, sipping from her tea.

The whole group was sitting in the living room. Shintaro was sitting on the sofa next to Murasakibara, who was currently holding Takara on his arm and Aomine was sitting on the other side of him. Akashi was sitting in a chair next to the sofa. Shintaro’s mother was sitting across from them, watching their interactions with a smile on her face, sometimes engaging in the conversation they had.

‘Yeah, I do. I have three older brothers and an older sister. My oldest brother is 25, and then comes my second oldest brother, he’s 21 and then there’s the twins, who are 17. They are mean to me most of the time, because I’m the youngest. I think they are just jealous because I’m already taller than they are. Taka-chin doesn’t bully me, so I like her better.’ The giant replied.

‘That must be hard on you, dealing with four older siblings. I couldn’t imagine, I think one older sibling is more than enough. You really are a tall boy though. I had always thought that Shintaro was tall for his age, but that’s nothing compared to you now is it? Your height must come in handy while playing basketball, doesn’t it?’ Shintaro watched as his mother had a lighthearted conversation with his friend, she was smiling and Shintaro was sure Murasakibara hadn’t talked this much in the two months that they had known each other.

‘It comes in pretty handy. I can easily crush my opponents, so I always win. I like winning, so it’s fine. But sometimes I wish I was a little shorter, because I keep on hitting my head on stuff.’

‘You moron, that’s because you never listen to me when I warn you!’ Shintaro thought bitterly.

‘Hey, Midorima, do you play the piano?’ Aomine suddenly asked, pointing to the piano standing in the corner of the room.

‘I do, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.  He’d been playing the piano ever since he was six years old. His father also played, and ever since he could walk, Shintaro would sit on the ground to listen to his father play. And sometimes he’d try to play himself, with his still tiny hands it was really hard for him, but he really liked to play nonetheless. So he of course he was very excited when his parents told him he could start taking lessons when he turned six. Ever since that day, Shintaro had practiced playing every single day. By now, he’d become quite a good pianist. He could play some pieces after just hearing them. He’d instantly figure out the right notes and accords to play. Once a year, the music school would organize performances for its’ students, Shintaro would participate and he’d always manage to get the audience moved by his music.

‘Aka-chin also plays the piano, right, Aka-chin?’ Murasakibara asked the redhead.

‘I do, but I also play the violin.’ Akashi replied.

‘I used to play violin as well when I was still a young girl. I wasn’t very good at it and I didn’t have enough patience to practice, so I stopped playing. Now, many years later I think it’s a shame I stopped playing.’ Miho replied. ‘I’m happy to see that there are still kids that do like playing classical instruments.’

‘Mido-chin’s mother, Taka-chin started to move really weirdly, I think she might be hungry.’ Murasakibara said, looking at the baby with a puzzled expression on his face.

‘Ah, I’ll come get her. It is almost time for her bottle after all.’ She said, walking over to take the small girl with her.

Takara was a very quiet baby, she wouldn’t cry very often. Shintaro noticed that when she was hungry, or upset about something, his little sister would start to move around more. Something that he could live with. Because he’d heard that a lot of newborn babies would cry in the middle of the night and just not stop, no matter what you did. So he was very glad that his sister did not do this very often.

‘Your mother’s really nice.’ Akashi said, after Miho had left to feed the baby. He had a smile on his face, but Shintaro could tell that Akashi wasn’t happy at all. It must be because the redhead missed his own mother deeply. Shintaro had noticed that whenever someone talked about their mother, Akashi would have a sad expression. The green-haired boy never knew what to do when Akashi looked like that. He knew that no words could console the pain the boy must be feeling in moments like those.

‘Yeah, she is. That’s how she’s always been. But this does mean she likes you, because she doesn’t act nice to people she doesn’t like.’

‘Just like you.’ Aomine added, with a teasing smirk on his face.

‘Just like me indeed. That’s why I always ignore you, Ahomine.’ Shintaro replied, rolling his eyes. Suppressing the smile that wanted to form on his face.

‘Ouch, why must you hurt me like that?’ Aomine replied, dramatically placing his hand on his forehead.

‘Mine-chin, it’s because you’re noisy.’ Murasakibara replied.

‘H-hey! Don’t team up against me!’

---

In the end, Akashi, Aomine and Murasakibara ended up staying for dinner. They also met Shintaro’s dad, who was glad to finally meet his son’s friends. He talked with the three boys about basketball and music, Aomine and Akashi enthusiastically joining the conversation, while Murasakibara silently listened to what they were saying. After all, he didn’t share the same love for basketball as Aomine and he didn’t have a passion for music as well. Shintaro felt himself often glancing over to the tall boy, wondering why he looked so bored all the time.

After dinner, the four of them went to a nearby court to play some streetball. As usual, Akashi wouldn’t lose.

When they got back, Miho had told her son to see his friends to the station, but Akashi told that his personal driver would come to pick him up; Aomine said that his house was very nearby, so he would manage to get home without any problems. Shintaro ended up walking Murasakibara, who lived on the other side of town, to the station.

---

The two of them walked in silence, because neither of them were big talkers. Shintaro didn’t know why, but he felt a bit uneasy. Somehow, he was more aware of Murasakibara’s presence than he had been before. Maybe this was because the two of them rarely spend time with just the two of them. Akashi and Aomine would always join them sooner or later.

Shintaro side-eyed the boy next to him. The tall boy seemed lost in another world, not aware of anything that was happening around him. He didn’t seem uneasy at all, he was just like his usual self, Shintaro noted. For a while, nothing changed. The two boys kept on walking in silence, as cars and people passed them by. Shintaro wondered how many of the people that passed them by would actually reach their destination. How many of them would still breathe tomorrow morning.

It was a strange thing to realize, many of the people you saw once at the mall, at a venue or festival were now no longer walking on this earth. Death itself wasn’t something Shintaro was scared of. It was dying he feared. Once you’re dead, everything is fine. You’ll be at peace. Shintaro wasn’t afraid of achieving that peace at all. But the way towards it frightened him. Losing consciousness, drawing your final breaths, knowing you’ll leave behind your loved ones. He was deadly afraid of dying. Suddenly, his train of thoughts was interrupted by a very unusual question.

‘Mido-chin, where do you think we’ll be going? After we die, I mean.’

Abruptly, Shintaro stopped walking and turned his head to the side. Wide-eyed, he stared at the boy next to him. ‘How… when I was just thinking about death? Did he sense it?’

‘Are you okay, Mido-chin? Should I not have asked that?’ Murasakibara said, after seeing his friend freeze up like that.

‘Y-yeah… I’m fine. You just caught me off-guard, that’s all. But to answer your question, I’m not sure, in fact… But why suddenly ask a question like that, all out of the blue?’

‘Well, today when seeing Taka-chin, I realized how easy life can begin. But it’s also able to suddenly end. So I was just wondering where all the dead people would go. But I guess this sounds out of character for me, right? After all, all that Mido-chin probably thinks of me is a lazy, weird person.’ Murasakibara said, eyeing the sky.

‘That’s… I mean…’ Shintaro struggled to get the words out. He didn’t know what to say. Because he didn’t want to hurt one of the few friends he had. It was hard for him to lie, but to speak the truth; it really was all that he thought of the purple-haired boy next to him. Shintaro was aware that if he confirmed this, he would probably hurt the tall boy next to him. He really had always seen him as a lazy, self-centered and childish person. Because of the unusual turn of events, it was only now that Shintaro realized that there was more to him than just that. Maybe he was a thoughtful person underneath.

Thinking back, had they ever had a serious conversation before? They called themselves “friends” yet they barely knew each other. Shintaro knew he was mostly to blame. He was a person that judged people by their first appearance and when he didn’t like that appearance, he’d subconsciously keep his distance, even after becoming friends. Perhaps, Murasakibara had been doing the same thing. After all, Shintaro had never really been nice to the boy. He always meant well when he scolded Murasakibara’s bad habits, but the tall boy perhaps took these critics as insults instead of ways to help him fit in better.

‘I used to, honestly.’ Shintaro eventually replied, feeling ashamed of himself. He felt even worse when he saw a flash of hurt creeping onto Murasakibara’s face. ‘I’m really sorry I was such a selfish jerk. Sorry that I didn’t actually try to get closer to you. Except, I kept on pushing you away. If only I had the courage to actually say that. Instead I’m just here making things worse.’

‘I see. It’s a little bit sad, especially since I have liked Mido-chin since we met. I mean, Mido-chin can be very annoying while always nagging me about everything and we’re also always fighting, but I still like Mido-chin. He’s not noisy.’ Murasakibara said, while suppressing a yawn.

Shintaro felt his face heat up. ‘You idiot! Why do you say embarrassing stuff like that? How am I supposed to respond to this!?’

‘I mean, I like Mine-chin and Aka-chin as well, but they talk a lot, don’t you think? I also think Mido-chin is pretty. I like Mido-chin’s eyes.’ The giant nonchalantly added.

‘YOU WHAT NOW!? You really have no filter between your brain and you mouth!’ Shintaro was sure that by now he must be looking like a tomato with glasses. Shintaro was used to his aunts saying things like that, but he had never experienced a person of his own age saying something like that. Especially not a boy. How did you react to something like this? ‘What do I do now? I mean, I have to say something, right? But how could I possibly reply to something like this? My horoscope didn’t warn me for this! I should have brought a bigger lucky item.’

‘Mido-chin, do you have a fever? You’re all red all of a sudden.’ Murasakibara asked, looking genuinely confused.

Shintaro was just internally screaming at himself how Murasakibara could be this oblivious and to just say something already, because this awkward silence was making everything a lot worse. ‘I-I’m fine. I don’t have a fever.’ Was what he forced out.

‘Then it’s good.’ Murasakibara replied, like nothing of the awkward things had happened. Maybe that was for the better, because Shintaro knew that he would probably die if he had to talk about it. Perhaps one day in the future they would.

---

The two of them continued the remaining walk talking about some popular gossip at school, mainly stupid rumors about the schools’ own famous model Aomine had heard from god-knows-where. (Lately, Aomine had been a little obsessed with Kise Ryouta for some reason.) It looked perfectly normal to anyone walking past, two friends walking and talking about school. Shintaro had never been so happy that people couldn’t see what was happening on his inside. His heartbeat hadn’t settled down ever since the conversation earlier and his thoughts were a mess.

‘Anyways, we’re at the station, you’ll be able to go home from here on, right?’ Shintaro asked as soon as he saw the station, happy with the suitable excuse to get out of the awkward situation.

‘Mhhh, I guess I will. I’ll see you tomorrow at school. Bye, Mido-chin. Let’s be friends from now on, okay?’ Murasakibara said, as he walked towards the board to see which ticket he had to buy in order to get home.

‘Yeah, let’s do that. I’ll see you at school.’ Shintaro replied, feeling his face heat up again. He hastily turned around and started walking home, when he was sure he was far enough from the station, he started to run. Red-faced and unable to understand why his heartbeat wouldn’t settle down. He felt like a school girl in a shoujo-manga. How did it end up this way?

‘Murasakibara, you idiot! Why did you say all that? Now I can’t think about anything else!’

As soon as Shintaro got home, he kicked of his shoes and hurried up to his bedroom. He closed the door and dropped himself face-first onto his pillow. Which was a bad idea, because he was still wearing his glasses and they bumped painfully into his face.

‘Ugh. Stupid me.’ Shintaro muttered, as he placed his glasses on the table besides his bed. He just knew that this was going to be a very long night. The sleep would probably not get to him, because he would start over thinking stuff.

‘Well, nothing to worry about right? Tomorrow everything will be completely normal again. If anything, this whole thing was probably for the better. He didn’t mean anything by it; it’s just me over thinking things. We’ve actually worked past our issues and we’re now friends. That’s a good thing isn’t it? But somehow… the word “friends” really stings. Well, whatever. Cancer ranks first tomorrow, so I’ll have a great day. No misfortune will be threatening me, on top of that, I already have my lucky item prepared.’

Shintaro felt his eyelids become heavy after a little while, something he was very grateful for. However, he suddenly jerked upright in his bed, realizing what was really going on here, why a simple word as “friends” was burning so much. Heart pounding in his chest, eyes blown open and mouth slightly agape. He didn’t want to believe it, but he knew that it was probably the truth.

‘Have I seriously developed a crush on him?’

 

Chapter Text

It was June 17th, cancer ranked last today. That day, a single week had passed since the moment Shintaro realized his feelings for a certain purple-haired titan. Surprisingly, up until now Shintaro had been able to hide everything extremely well. Not a single time had he stuttered or blushed whenever he talked to Murasakibara. Since that night, their friendship had really improved. They still fought from time to time because of their opposite personalities, but the fights that made their teammates think someone was going to die had ceased. For now, everything went just as Shintaro had planned in his head.

According to the internet, a crush will only last for 3 to 4 months. If it lasts longer, it means that you’ve fallen in love. The chance that someone’s first real crush will turn out into falling in love is very small. Especially at Shintaro’s age. He’d planned it all out; act calmly around him, just keep on acting like you’ve always done. When the time comes, the crush shall fade from existence and everything will be just like it used to be.

This was the best solution for everyone. Murasakibara shouldn’t have to deal with a boy crushing on him, besides everyone and their mother knew that relationships between teammates were complicated and could mess-up the dynamics in a team.

‘Not that we’d ever start dating, of course. I’m sure Murasakibara’s not attracted to guys. To be honest, I can’t picture him liking anyone in a romantic way at all. Because that’s just how strange and asocial he seems. Besides, if he ever did like someone, he would probably just tell them in the most direct way there is.’ Shintaro mentally told himself.

If the thought of confessing ever crossed his mind? No way. Shintaro would rather die. He knew himself very well, if he were to confess he’d be as red as Akashi’s hair and he’d probably faint on the spot before he could even say anything.

---

Last week, out of the blue, a letter had been dropped in his locker. When Shintaro opened it, he found a neatly written love-letter. The signature at the bottom showed that the writer was a girl from his class. She wrote that she’d fallen in love with him, a lot of details about how, when and why she liked him and if he wanted to meet her at the roof to give her his response to the letter, after school.

Shintaro didn’t know what to do at all. This was the first time he’s ever been confessed to. He knew that facing the girl and declining her feelings would be hard on both of them. Shintaro knew that the girl would probably burst into tears and call him insensitive. Or even worse, she would ask if he was already in love with someone. In the end, Shintaro decided to do the easiest, yet most un-cool thing; he decided to write her a letter.

In the letter Shintaro explained that he didn’t return her feelings, telling her that he didn’t know her well enough and that he didn’t have time for a relationship, with school exams and the preliminaries of interhigh tournament coming up, matches that he’d have to play in. Trying to cease the crack in the girl’s heart, he’d also written that it wasn’t about her not being good enough, he told her that someone that could treat her the way she deserved would cross her path soon. Shintaro knew that this cheap strategy probably wouldn’t do much to stop the girl’s heart from bleeding, but it would be better than not doing anything. The excuse he used for not coming to the roof was that practice would take longer than usual.

After he’d placed the letter in her locker, he didn’t hear from her again. For the first few days, whenever they were in the same room, she’d sit as far away from Shintaro as possible, but a few days later, she’d gone back to normal. There had even been rumors about the girl chasing after Kise Ryouta, like many others did. The only thing that was different from all the other girls, was that she’d supposedly had tried to charm the model by undressing herself in front of him. When Shintaro heard about this (from Aomine, of course) he’d bitterly laughed to himself. Why would that girl think the immensely popular model would accept her feelings, when he had thousands of other girls falling for him? Of course, he seriously doubted these strange rumors, why would he even believe something as insane as this?

Shintaro knew that he himself wouldn’t be able to handle a heart-break as good as the girl did. He knew that it would take serious time for him to heal and to be able to act normally again. So slowly easing his crush out of his life was the best option. No one would have to be rejected and they could remain friends without issues.

---

‘Hey, Midorima, have you heard?’ Aomine asked while the two of them walked towards the gymnasium of the first string for practice.

‘Heard what? Be more specific, you idiot.’ Shintaro replied flatly, it would probably be another stupid rumor about the blond model that Aomine picked up somewhere.

‘Well, Miki Ikehara, you know, the tall girl with that light brown hair from class 1-c has confessed to Murasakibara today! I know, ‘cause I saw them together behind the school. I didn’t hear, but I think he accepted, ‘cause when Ikehara-san walked away, she didn’t seem down at all. Isn’t that like, super cool!? He’s probably got a damn girlfriend! Ah, I’m so jealous.’ Aomine sighed.

Something inside Shintaro’s head seemed to have stopped working, because he couldn’t move a muscle. He could only stand, frozen on the spot, an expression of hurt and disbelieve on his face.

‘What? But I… I planned everything so we both wouldn’t be hurt in any way. And now I’m the one hurting even when I didn’t do anything. He’s got a… girlfriend.’ To his horror, Shintaro felt tears burning in his eyes. He didn’t dare to blink, because he knew that if he did, those tears would fall down and when that happened, Aomine would instantly know two of the secrets Shintaro had been hiding so deeply.

‘Oi, Midorima are you okay? I mean, I know that Murasakibara is one hell of a weirdo, but you don’t have to be this surprised about him getting a girl. I mean, he’s got good grades, he’s talented at sports and he doesn’t look half-bad at all. That must outnumber his weird quirks and all.’ Aomine said. For the first time, Shintaro was glad that Aomine had shit for brains and could be completely oblivious about a situation right in front of him.

‘I-I’m fine. I think it’s great that Murasakibara’s found someone to make him happy, in fact.’ Getting these words out felt like pouring gasoline down his throat. It hurt; it hurt the green-haired boy so bad.

‘Well, it’s fine to be jealous, I’m sure we all are. We better hurry though, Nijimura-senpai’s gonna kill us if we’re late.’

The tears managed to stay inside, but it was a hard task.

---

Practice was as hard as ever. Endless running exercises and strength training, only for the real training to begin afterwards. Everything in the atmosphere showed that the important matches were going to begin soon.

Normally, Shintaro would be pumped for practice. He’d give his all in the practice games and after that, he’d stay behind to practice his shooting. Making endless goals until he was satisfied with his work. But today he couldn’t do it. A complicated swirl of thoughts was soaring through his head. These thoughts hurt and he couldn’t concentrate at all.

‘I can’t let this affect me this much. I know that! Then why am I this shaken up? Get a grip, Shintaro!’ He told himself, over and over again. Still, the green-haired boy felt himself staring at the person responsible for his hurting. No, that wasn’t quite right. Shintaro knew that he couldn’t shove the blame to Murasakibara. After all, the tall boy hadn’t done anything wrong. After practice, Shintaro decided he would talk to him then, and ask if what Aomine had said was true or not.

Right now, the first string was playing a practice match against the second string. The first string was winning by a great point difference, as expected. Shintaro suddenly had the ball in his hands, he wasn’t really paying attention, but he shot the ball right through the hoop, gaining three more points for the first string.

‘Nice shot, Mido-chin.’ Shintaro heard Murasakibara say. It made him feel happy to be noticed by the purple-haired center.

‘But it doesn’t matter anymore; he probably has a girlfriend now.’ Shintaro reminded himself.

The 4th quarter had just started when it happened. Everything was going just fine without any trouble. The head coach seemed satisfied with the progress of both the first and the second string. Shintaro was on defense, his back facing the basket, when suddenly the person he was defending decided to try and dunk the ball. This person, however wasn’t yet able to do anything like that and the ball bounced away. Shintaro quickly took a step backwards, because the boy that just jumped was still flying forwards, almost bumping into Shintaro. As if a miracle just happened, the boy managed to reach the hoop, grasping it with both hands.

‘MIDORIMA-KUN, WATCH OUT!’ Someone yelled, Shintaro couldn’t hear who did, but when he looked up, he knew what the person was warning him for.

Because of the brute force that was created by the failed dunk and the fact that Teiko’s gymnasium was pretty old, causing some screws to be rusty, the basket had broken loose from the wall. Shintaro caught on to the situation within milliseconds.

“Oh god. Am I really about to get crushed under a basket? This is just to strange, right? Thinks like this don’t just randomly happen. I mean, sure cancer did rank last today, but I brought my lucky item and did everything I could to prevent myself from misfortune. Still, first I get to hear that my love interest is dating someone and now this? Faith must really hate me.”

Time seemed to slow down as the heavy object came falling down. Shintaro knew he could never get away fast enough, even if he tried, his legs would still be crushed. So he used his arms as a shield for his head, made himself as small as possible and braced himself for the impact.

“Fuck my life…” Shintaro thought.

The impact came less than a second later. The basket, including the backboard and construction to hold it up the wall ended up hitting him on the back, and probably on the back of his head as well, because Shintaro was suddenly extremely dizzy. His back… it hurt a lot. He felt like he could vomit from the pain. A thick, warm liquid dripped down the back of his head. Shintaro registered that it was probably a mix of practice sweat and blood.

He was pretty confused and dizzy, so the screams from his teammates seemed to be really far away. He couldn’t tell them apart easily, but unconsciously, he knew what shout belonged to every person.

‘OH MY GOD!’ Probably Aomine.

‘Oh my god, Midorima-kun! I’m so, so sorry!’ It was most likely the boy who caused all this. Shintaro figured he was probably hurt as well.

‘Go call an ambulance!’ That must have been Akashi; he could hear it because of the odd calmness in that voice.

‘He’s bleeding!’ A very high pitch and a sound of pure terror. That was most likely Momoi.

‘Everybody stay calm!’ Nijimura-senpai for sure.

‘Midorima, hey kid! Can you hear me? Hello?’ That must have been the head coach.

‘Oh, shit! Did he die!?’ Fucking Haizaki.

‘Mido-chin, stay awake, okay?’ That was Murasakibara. Shintaro heard that his usually monotone voice had now raw concern laced through it. Even with the pain killing him, Shintaro was really glad to hear that little detail.

He wanted to reply, say to his friends and teammates that he was okay, but he couldn’t do that, because he was slowly losing consciousness.

---

When Shintaro woke up, it took him a little while to realize he was in the hospital. He blinked in confusion and stared around the room. He didn’t see much, because he didn’t wear his glasses. Shintaro noticed a tube stuck in his wrist, an IV, he knew.

‘What on earth happened? Why am I in the hospital?’

His answer came when Shintaro tried to sit up in his bed. His back hurt incredibly much. With a hiss, Shintaro carefully laid himself back on his bed. ‘I don’t remember anything? How’s that possible, wait, my head hurts as well. I think I might have hit it…’

A nurse walked into the room. ‘Ah, Midorima-kun. You’re awake. You must be confused, right? I’ll explain what happened.’

‘Yes, thank you.’ Shintaro said, politely bowing his head.

‘You got yourself injured during practice. A complete basket collapsed on top of your back and head. You could call yourself very fortunate, because your spine wasn’t fractured and there’s no serious damage to your head. Your back has been seriously sprained though and there was a deep cut, however, it wasn’t very wide, so we were able to glue it together instead of having to use stitches, it will most likely not even leave a scar. The damage to your head is a concussion of a medium level and the wound wasn’t deep enough to need any special treatment, so we cleaned the wound and bandaged it. The IV in your arm contains a strong painkiller, because the sprain in your spine would give you too much pain for you to handle if we didn’t supply you any. We’ve kept you asleep with a mild sleeping drug for the past 24 hours, so the worst pain could fade before you woke up and for your head to get the ultimate rest to help the concussion fade. According to the doctor, you’ll be able to go home sometime next week, after 6 weeks you’ll be able to go back to your everyday life, until then you need to take it very easy.’ The nurse explained.

‘So… I’ve been here for a full day?’ Shintaro asked. He wished he’d remember it himself, but it was all a blur. How could that basket have fallen of top of him in the first place?

‘Yes, you have. Your friends came to visit you yesterday, when you were still asleep. They were all very worried, I suppose they’ll be back again this afternoon. Your parents have also been walking in and out your room whenever they could. Your mother will be relieved to hear you’re awake, she was really beside herself with worry.’ The nurse chuckled. ‘Mothers are always like that, aren’t they?’

‘Yes, I suppose you are right. Did my friends say anything?’ Shintaro asked. He knew that the question he really wanted to ask was “Did Murasakibara say anything? Was he worried?” but he didn’t.

‘Oh, yes, they did. Let’s see… I believe the boy with the red hair said that he was glad to hear you would be fine, the boy with the dark skin said that you’d scared him half to death. A pretty girl with pink hair was just crying and begging for you to wake up again. And the incredibly tall boy just looked really sad the whole time, and he left you some candy on your beside table. He said you liked those. The boy that caused the accident also came by, he left a card to say sorry. He’s fine, except for a broken wrist and a few bruises here and there.’

‘Okay, thank you.’ Shintaro replied. He was really glad to hear his friends cared so much, he discretely side-eyed his nightstand, seeing that Murasakibara had left him some kind of candy. It was strawberry-flavored, something Shintaro really did like. The sorry card from the boy was laying down next to it, it was a nice gesture, but Shintaro couldn’t bring himself to read it yet. Besides, he was more interested in the fact that his purple-haired crush cared about him enough to leave him candy.

‘So he really did remember, from when we were talking about what foods we liked and disliked that one time, when all of us had just met.’

It was a small thing, but it made Shintaro feel like the happiest person alive, even with the sharp pain in his back and head and the IV coming out of his arm. Even the fact that Murasakibara was probably dating Miki Ikehara, didn’t seem to matter at all.

Chapter Text

‘Midorima-kun, there’s a visitor for you.’ The nurse said.

Shintaro put down his book, his mother had given it to him yesterday. So he wouldn’t bore himself to death, she had said.  After all, lying in a hospital bed all day did get boring very fast. Today was his third day in the hospital, his first full day to be conscious again.

‘A visitor? At this hour? Is that even allowed? I thought the visitor’s hour ended at 8 p.m.’ Shintaro thought. It was probably his father, who was done with his shift. He was probably allowed to visit Shintaro since he worked at the hospital.

Earlier that day Akashi, Momoi (who burst into tears the moment she walked in and practically crushed his bones with her hug) and Aomine had come to visit, later Nijimura had also dropped by with flowers, saying that everyone on the team wished him the best. His father came by whenever he could take a break from his work at the hospital, his mother, who was still on a leave from work because of the birth of Takara, came by every visitor’s hour, bringing him all kinds of stuff to read and to do. In the evening his grandparents from his mother’s side came to visit. The grandparents of his father’s side lived in Germany, so they couldn’t come over, but they had sent him a card with their best wishes.

At some point of the day, a girl was brought into the room, she was now laying in the bed next to his. They’d talked a little. Apparently, she had an accident with a saw in art class. She lost three of the fingers of her left hand, but she wasn’t all that broken about it, since she was right-handed and the doctors had told her that she could be operated, since someone remembered to put the fingers on ice. She would have them all back again. The girl had now gone into the operation room, she wouldn’t be back until somewhere late on the evening. The room was quiet, even for the silent person that Shintaro had always been the silence was deafening, so he was happy with a visitor coming over.

Basically everyone had already come to see him, so Shintaro didn’t know who to expect. The only one that hadn’t come by or sent anything since Shintaro was awake was Murasakibara. Shintaro felt sad about this. And a part of him felt betrayed. But most of all, Shintaro just wanted to see him.

‘If only he would show up… It would make my day a lot better.’

As if God had answered his thoughts, a certain purple-haired boy came walking into the room, remembering to lower his head. This time.

‘Mido-chin, are you feeling better? I’m happy to see you’re awake, Mine-chin said that he thought you looked better than yesterday, but you still don’t look very good.’ Murasakibara said while pulling a chair next to Shintaro’s bed, acting as if he didn’t just insult his friend. Not that the tall boy even noticed that he did. He was just being himself, saying whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

‘My back is still hurting a lot, but I feel better compared to yesterday. I almost don’t feel any pain in my head anymore, my memories from the accident are also coming back. I think that that’s a good thing, in fact.’ Shintaro replied, ignoring the insult and the increasing speed of his heartbeat.

‘Ah, I’m glad to hear Mido-chin’s feeling better! I’m sad that I couldn’t visit this afternoon, but I promised Ikehara-chin that I’d go see a movie with her. I’ll just visit Mido-chin twice tomorrow, m’kay?’ Murasakibara said, softly placing one of his huge hands on top of Shintaro’s head, softly striking through the unusually green strands of hair. Shintaro noticed Murasakibara was being very careful not to hurt him. Shintaro felt himself glow at the warmth of the other boy’s touch. When Murasakibara retreated his hand, Shintaro suddenly felt cold, even when it was rather warm in the small room.

‘That’s strange… just a little over a week ago, I would have furiously slapped his hand away, yet now I…’ Shintaro had heard that romantic feelings could screw with a persons’ head, that you’d subconsciously set other boundaries for that. That was probably true. Whenever Aomine put an arm around Shintaro’s shoulder, he’d push the dark-skinned boy away, yet Shintaro knew that if Murasakibara were to do the same thing, he’d be more than okay with it.

‘Yeah, it’s a deal.’ Shintaro replied, he could already feel his face heat up. Not only his face though, his whole body felt warm, like it was being embrace by an invisible warmth that brings happiness into one’s body. Shintaro let himself enjoy the warmth for a short moment. Then he braced himself to ask the question he’d rather avoid. He really didn’t want to, but he knew that he had to ask at some point. If he didn’t, he would be wandering in the dark about it forever. Shintaro wasn’t a person to easily let go of things.

‘I didn’t know you and Ikehara-san were dating?’ Shintaro felt the words being forced out of his throat, which started to close down more by each syllable. He hoped that it sounded casual enough to not raise any suspicion.

To his surprise, Murasakibara looked confused. ‘What are you talking about, Mido-chin?’

‘Aomine told me he saw you two together, on the day of the accident, in fact.’

‘Ah? Mine-chin is dumb. I’m not dating her. Ikehara-chin confessed to me, that was on the day that Mido-chin got hurt, Mine-chin was a little right after all. She told me that she likes me, then she asked if I would like to go see a movie with her. I said that I didn’t feel the same, because we barely ever talked. Who even falls for someone they don’t know? That’s weird, right Mido-chin? I didn’t wanna hurt her, so I said that we could go see that movie to see how that works out, and then we could look if we’d continue to date. Ikehara-chin accepted this, so we went to a movie and went out for dinner afterwards. At the end I told her that I’d rather stay friends, because I didn’t feel attracted to her. She was a little sad, but she was okay with my decision. Ah, I’m not ready to be in love~’ Murasakibara explained. Halfway through his explanation he seemed to lose focus and he started absentmindedly looking around the hospital room. Probably looking for something to eat, Shintaro thought.

Shintaro really wanted to shout in happiness at that moment, but he didn’t, of course. That would be dumb and illogical, besides Shintaro knew Murasakibara didn’t like loud noises. He mentally reminded himself to thank the gods for this fortune. The whole thing was just a misunderstanding, because of Aomine’s love for gossip and his weird obsession for girls. This also meant Shintaro could continue his plan of getting over his crush without having to be sad. Murasakibara wasn’t in love with someone else after all. It felt good, yet also a little sad to know that. Shintaro knew that he selfishly wished that Murasakibara would fall in love with him too.

‘Oh, I see. That was a very mature way of turning her down.’ Shintaro decided to say in the end. He sincerely hoped Murasakibara didn’t notice the smile that was threatening to show on his face.

‘Mhhh, I just did what my second brother, Aki-chin, told me to do in a situation like that. He’s good with girls, even has a girlfriend. If I recall correctly, she’s one of that famous boy’s sisters. You know, the blond boy Mine-chin is obsessed with. Aki-chin is with his second sister, not the famous one.’

‘A-ah… I see.’ ‘I should’ve known he would never think of something like that by himself!’

‘But Mido-chin, did you know that right after the accident they started to renovate the gym? The basketball club will get new baskets with a safer construction, so this won’t ever happen again. Which is good. And it also means everyone get’s three days off from practice. That is good.’ Murasakibara said. For some reason, Shintaro felt mixed feelings in the tall boy’s tone.

Lately, Shintaro had started to doubt Murasakibara’s claim on hating basketball. The shooting guard didn’t know why Murasakibara always said he hated the sport, while it was so clear to Shintaro that he didn’t. Had it anything to do with the fact that the center could rarely go all-out to an opponent? Maybe he was like Aomine, wishing for someone equally strong and tall to show up and give the game more thrill. The only difference was of course that Aomine still really loved basketball and would go all-out, even against weak opponents. But then again, Murasakibara and Aomine were very different.

While Aomine was extroverted and social, Murasakibara was a total introvert and he wasn’t good at socializing at all. Shintaro suspected that the purple-haired boy might have a form of high-functioning Autism. The fact that Murasakibara detested loud noises, his awkward way of socializing (when he did, because the giant rather avoided any kind of human contact), his love- perhaps even obsession- for certain things and of course his extreme talent on one front, while he wasn’t really all that good at the other things. On top of that, Murasakibara was a very intelligent person. He could remember things from studying them once, explaining why his grades were good even when the boy was too lazy to study much. He also seemed to be good at remembering small things from a long time ago and, just like Shintaro himself, the tall boy had a great eye for detail.

Shintaro had started to notice this all and had started to give these things a place after he read a book on the Autistic spectrum. This book and new-found knowledge also caused him to understand Murasakibara a little better. His way of thinking and acting had started to make more sense to Shintaro now. He no longer thought the boy was just “weird.” Shintaro now suspected that Murasakibara had a mental disorder, he wasn’t a just a weird guy, he was just like all the others with the disorder. Different, but not weird, insane or intentionally rude at social gatherings. Not to say that Murasakibara wasn’t weird at all, though.

‘Akashi wasn’t all too thrilled with that, I assume?’ Shintaro replied. He could imagine the face the redhead must have made when they announced practice would be cancelled. Akashi was really a fanatic when it came to practice, after all, the short red-head already seemed to be aiming towards the global stage.

‘Yep, Mido-chin is right. Aka-chin was all grumpy, Mine-chin too. He wanted to practice a new dunk he was working on with a defense. Zaki-chin was very happy and he made annoying loud screams, but Nijimura-chin slapped him on the head and made him run thirty laps around the school, even when there was no practice.’

Shintaro laughed softly. ‘He must have caused a scene. Too bad I missed that.’

‘Mhhh, yeah. It was pretty funny. Sacchin had tears of laughter on her face, while Zaki-chin was constantly complaining while running.’ Murasakibara said, a small smile forming on his lips.

Shintaro suddenly noticed how nice the boy looked when he smiled. He suddenly seemed so reachable, even if he was tall enough to make most fully grown men around the globe look up to meet his eye, even if he crushed everyone on offence and defense while playing basketball. Shintaro also noticed that Murasakibara’s hair had grown longer; it was now almost reaching his shoulders. Shintaro wondered how the purple locks would feel in his hands. He imagined they would be soft. For a split second, Shintaro felt the urge to reach out and touch the strands of purple hair, but he suppressed the urge just as fast as it came. He knew he couldn’t let himself be tempted like this. He might be able to suppress himself now, but Shintaro feared that he’d crack at a certain, yet undetermined point. That, he could not allow to happen.

Shintaro was confused about how someone he used to fight with whenever they even took a glance at one another had become so dear, so special to him. All in one split moment, a little over a week ago, one sentence that made Murasakibara look different from everyone else Shintaro had ever met. It had to be some kind of faith, Shintaro was sure of that. But he also knew that it could never work. Not because they were both guys, not because they were completely different, not because there was a big chance that the tall boy didn’t feel the same. No, the reason why they were destined to fail before they even started was that Shintaro’s faith had already been decided. His parents had probably already picked out the right girl, from the right family for him to marry. His parents would probably introduce her to him when he turned 16. Dating anyone before that day would just be a waste of time; the relationship would be forced to break anyways. No matter how strong it might be.

‘Ah, before I forget, Mido-chin, I made and collected notes for you from what you’ve missed in class. I have history, math and biology. Aka-chin made some for geography and Japanese literature and Sacchin made some for English. Mine-chin didn’t make any because he always sleeps in classes, but he said that everything is easy for you anyways.’ The giant said while taking a small bundle of papers from his schoolbag. ‘I’ll place them on the nightstand.’ He finished.

‘Oh, thank you. That’s a huge relief; I was thinking that I was going to have to ask every teacher for the notes, in fact.’ Shintaro said. He was very glad that his friends went out of their way to help him stay up-to-date with his classes while he wasn’t there.

‘Mido-chin, you’re probably gonna be released from the hospital in a week, right? How long until you will come back to school? Just the classes, I mean. Not practice, because that will take longer, won’t it?’

‘The nurse said I’d be able to go back to my everyday life in six weeks, that means sporting included, the doctor who is in charge of my treatment said I could go back to school in three weeks, if I’m lucky two.’

‘Aaahh, so long! I hope it’s two. I kinda miss having Mido-chin around. Y’know?’ Murasakibara replied. Shintaro was once again jealous of Murasakibara’s ability to speak his mind. He could say those words so easily, yet Shintaro had to struggle to get them out. This struggle mostly resulted in him not saying the words he wished to say at all.

Because the truth was, Shintaro missed being around Murasakibara as well. He wished he could go back to school sooner, not because he was such a fan of school (not that he disliked it either), but mainly because he just missed his friends. The tall, purple haired center in particular.

‘W-well, I hope to be b-back soon. I kind of m-mi… m-miss having y-you around, too.’ Shintaro replied, red-faced and as a stuttering mess. Suddenly he realized his mistake. ‘All of you! I-I miss b-being around a-all of you, yes.’ He quickly added, in attempt to cover up his mistake.

‘That’s nice. Mido-chin misses me too~’ Murasakibara hummed with a satisfied smile on his face.

‘I-I… Hey! I said I missed all of you! D-don’t get a-ahead of yourself!’ Shintaro hissed, realizing that he really messed up. He felt his face become even redder. He was starting to think that his head could just explode.

‘Way to go, Shintaro. You’re a genius!’ The green-haired boy sarcastically told himself.

‘That still includes me, Mido-chin~’ Murasakibara teased, once again patting Shintaro’s head.

‘S-shut up!’

---

The visitor’s hour (which apparently ended at 10 p.m.) ended a little while ago and Shintaro already missed the presence of his tall friend. It was true, Murasakibara had been a little asshole, (teasing him like that, who does he think he is? Shintaro was gonna crush him on the court, next time he could practice.) But that didn’t mean Shintaro didn’t miss him.

‘Just as you accidently confessed, you idiot.’ Shintaro mentally reminded himself. He wasn’t sure what to think. Did Murasakibara figure out his feelings because of this? If that was the case, Shintaro Midorima would most likely be nothing more than a memory. He would be nothing more than an angel in heaven.

‘That’s maybe a little over-dramatic, but still, I’ll die.’

But what if Murasakibara felt the same after all? What if they started dating? How would it feel to be held in those long arms, how would it feel if they’d kiss? Shintaro couldn’t stop the thoughts from coming; he was beyond embarrassed and mentally screamed at himself to think of something else, anything else. Just not think about what it would sound like if he told Shintaro he loved him. Don’t think about that at all. Think about a poodle on a broomstick, for God’s sake!

Shintaro felt like a schoolgirl with a crush. He felt weak, embarrassed and yet if felt like he was glowing. It scared him. Did all people feel this way when they develop feelings for someone? Shintaro clutched his pillow with his hand, burying his face in the white fabric that smelled so much like the hospital he was being kept in. The pain in his back fading to the background. All that was on Shintaro’s usually full and busy mind was; ‘How long will I be able to keep this a secret?’

Chapter Text

The six long weeks of recovering had passed, Shintaro was incredibly happy about this. Because the past six weeks had felt like an eternity. Time wise, these six weeks had lasted just as long as any other six weeks, but they just seemed to never end.

It wasn’t like his friends weren’t there to help him get through the long, boring days, and after two weeks Shintaro could attend classes again, but he just really wished to play basketball again. He had been to a few trainings already, but it was nothing like an actual match. He wanted to feel the smooth, yet raw leather of the oh-so familiar orange ball, he wanted to feel the ecstasy of sinking a three-pointer, he wanted to feel the thrill of victory. Midorima Shintaro was starving to play, starving to crush his opponents. He hadn’t been able to play in a game since the day of the accident, June 17th. (Shintaro cursed that date, even more than Friday the 13th. He promised himself to go extra prepared every year from now on, such a tragedy should not happen again. Maybe he should bring two lucky items on that date from now on?)

He’d turned 13 as well, on July 7th, just a little after he was released from the hospital. He had a small birthday party for his family; his friends came to visit him the day afterwards. It had been pretty fun, but Shintaro wasn’t all too enthusiast about it all; he wasn’t really allowed to do anything but sit after all. Takara had already grown a lot. She was nothing like the small, fragile baby she had been when she was just born. She’d become more like a little person now. It was strange to see how much a baby would change in a short period.

Today, the first day of August was the day that he could finally go back to playing the sport he loved so deeply. Shintaro had missed the first 4 preliminary games for the interhigh, something he was pretty pissed about. However, Teiko was strong, way stronger than any other team. Even without their main shooting guard, they managed to blow past the opponents that stood in Teiko’s way to the national stage.

Shintaro had been able to attend two of the matches his team played, watching from the stands he saw what he’d never seen before, but what he already knew; Akashi, Aomine and Murasakibara played on another sphere. Even the most experienced third-years had to work harder than their hardest to even shut them down a little. The three of them were diamonds, still in their shell of grey stone, but ready to break through that shell any moment now. When that happened, Shintaro was sure that no one could stand equal to them. Not to brag, but Shintaro knew he was like that as well.

He wondered; was it faith that brought the four of them together?

There was another thing on his mind, why four instead of five? Shintaro couldn’t quite put his head around it, but he felt like something was missing, something about the team was incomplete. A fifth man, born in the same year and with great strength just like the four of them. That was what Shintaro was missing in the team. Haizaki was very strong, but Shintaro had noticed from day one that he was different. His natural talent was high, but his potential… Shintaro could actually see where it would end, while he couldn’t see an end to the potential of the others. Perhaps it was just his obsession with faith and fortune, but maybe he was right after all. A fifth star, to make Teiko truly shine had yet to be born.

---

‘Midorima, are you sure you can play today?’ Akashi asked, for the hundredth time that afternoon.

‘Jeez, Akashi! Quit nagging on the kid for like one second. You’re not his mom, are you?’ Aomine sighed.

‘But, I wouldn’t want him to reinjure himself! It’s only natural for me to care for my friends right?’ The red-head replied, looking at Aomine in confusion.

‘I’m fine, really.’ Shintaro replied quickly, because he didn’t want Aomine to pick a fight with Akashi, because it would only result in bloodshed on Aomine’s part. (Well, probably)

‘Speaking of who’s fine, where the fuck is Atsushi? The fucker usually never runs late.’ Haizaki said. For once, the grey-haired boy was on time.

‘Ah, yes. I forgot to mention. Murasakibara has a doctor’s appointment today. He said it was something about his joints being checked, because doctors said there’s reason to be worried about them, since he’s growing abnormally fast. He could damage them because of his size and age not matching up at all. He said that he has to go once every two months. So we’ll be playing without him today, which means that Midorima will play fulltime today, you’ll be fine right?’ Nijimura said.

‘I’ll be fine, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

Of course he had already noticed Murasakibara’s absence, instead of decreasing, his crush on the boy had grown bigger. Something he wasn’t all too thrilled about. However, hearing the story about the appointment suddenly made Shintaro feel worried.

It’s not a secret that extremely tall people often get problems with their joints, especially children still growing. Murasakibara was one of the people at risk. Being already 186 cm at the start of the year, supposedly even taller by now was an abnormality. He could seriously damage himself by the way he plays. Usually, people of his size are lanky and can’t move around very fast, however Murasakibara was an exception to the rule. The boy was very mobile and fast, not to mention that the boy could jump very high.

‘Constantly supporting that huge body and catching it from a fall must be really hard on his ankles, knees and hips.’ Shintaro thought. He didn’t want to imagine it, but the possibility of Murasakibara not being able to play basketball, or even walk anymore one day, was there. It was a real thing, not even that far-stretched to think about. Just the image of Murasakibara with crutches to support his walking, or even him sitting in a wheelchair made Shintaro’s stomach flip. He really, really hoped the gods were kind on the purple-haired boy.

‘Does that mean Atsushi is in actual danger? Who would have thought that Teiko’s star-center would go down like that? Too bad, really. I was kinda fond of that kid.’ Haizaki said, raising his shoulders, in a matter that showed that he didn’t care at all.

Shintaro felt rage boil up inside him. He really wanted to stab his lucky item (a fork) at Haizaki’s face. How could that asshole talk about Murasakibara, his teammate like that? Of course, Shintaro didn’t do it, but only because he didn’t want to go to jail for stabbing out a teammates eye.

‘Oi, Haizaki! What the fuck did you just say, you fucking asshole! Wanna fight, you bastard!?’ Aomine yelled, stepping forwards while clenching his fist. Akashi, however was quick enough to grab the blue-haired boy by the arm to keep him from killing Haizaki.

‘Aomine, I understand your anger, I’m pretty mad at him as well, but we have a game to play and I’d rather not have a fight now. And you, Haizaki, should be ashamed of yourself! How dare you speak of my friend, of our friend like that? Do not expect me to protect you from Nijimura this time.’ Akashi said, or more like he growled that last part.

Shintaro noticed it for the first time that day. Or more like, he noticed him for the first time. The one living inside Akashi’s mind, the second version of the boy he knew.

‘Uhm… okay, sure I guess.’ Haizaki said, his face filled with an expression of terror.

‘While we’re at it, there’s nothing wrong with Murasakibara, it’s just a preventive check-up, so all of you don’t worry about him. He’s fine and he’ll play on our side the next game and the game after that too etcetera.’ Akashi finished.

Somehow, his words felt soothing to Shintaro. It was in the way Akashi spoke them that it made Shintaro feel like they could be trusted. He had stopped worrying, and was able to concentrate on the game again.

‘Yeah, thank you, Akashi. Also, Haizaki, that’s thirty laps for you and I want you to write a formal letter to Murasakibara to apologize.’ Nijimura said.

‘Whaaaat? Why the fuck do I need to write a fucking letter when Atsushi ain’t even here? He’ll never know I said anything.’ Haizaki protested.

‘Because I said so. Now, get your legs working, you piece of shit.’

---

‘Midorima, could I please talk to you in private for a second? That’s okay, right captain-Nijimura?’

‘Yeah, sure. Go ahead, just be back in time for the match.’ Nijimura replied. Shintaro had noticed a long time ago that Nijimura would never really say no to Akashi.

‘Why’s that, Akashi? The match will start in less than 5 minutes, in fact.’ Shintaro replied in confusion.

‘It’s pretty important, just come with me for now, okay?’ The red-head replied.

Shintaro decided to just follow Akashi. The smaller boy led him to the bathroom and locked the door behind them.

‘Akashi, what’s the meaning of this?’ Shintaro asked, starting to feel uneasy.

‘You like him, don’t you?’ Akashi simply asked, yet the impact on the green-haired boy was huge.

Shintaro felt his heart skip a beat. Did he hear that right? Did Akashi somehow figure him out? ‘But how? I’ve never done anything to raise suspicion, how can it be that Akashi’s onto me! Shit, what do I do? Play dumb?’

‘Who are you talking about, Akashi? And just what are you suggesting?’ Shintaro replied, hoping the shock didn’t come through in his voice.

‘Midorima, we both know you’re smarter than this. Playing dumb won’t change anything. I was asking you if you had somehow developed romantic interest in Murasakibara, but just for your information, I’m not asking you this to judge you or to laugh at you. I’d just really like it to know the truth.’

‘How did he…? After all my efforts to hide it, Akashi sees right through it?’ Shintaro felt humiliated and exposed, he felt like breaking down in tears, yet he was unable to do so.

‘What are you talking about, that’s absurd! We’re both guys and on top of that, we’re barely even friends!’ Shintaro didn’t know what else to do, so he decided to deny everything Akashi said, but it wasn’t like Shintaro didn’t know himself. He would break under the frustration soon enough.

‘Listen, you know that’s not true. I’ve noticed that you tend to smile more when Murasakibara’s around, not to mention the fact that you ever so discretely allow him to touch you, while you completely deny the touch of others. However, like I said before, I don’t judge you in any way.’

‘You’re just imagining things, Akashi! Really… you’re just… you’re…’ Shintaro felt the door to his true emotions slip open, the handle to close it slipping out of his reach, Shintaro could barely grasp it now.

‘It’s okay, truly. I didn’t want to upset you, how about this; if you tell me the truth, I’ll tell you a secret of mine, alright?’ Akashi asked, a smile filled with sympathy on his face.

A single tear escaping Akashi’s left eye was all it took for Shintaro to spill the truth. Shintaro looked at the boy in front of him, his mouth slightly dropping, frozen in his spot.

‘Akashi… what’s going on?’

‘You’re right. As always, you were right. I do, in fact like him.’ Shintaro said, his voice barely above a whisper. Why, was Akashi crying instead of him? It didn’t make sense to Shintaro at all.

‘I see, that’s fine. I knew you could do it, I’m proud of you, you finally admitted to it out loud.’ Akashi said, placing a hand on Shintaro’s shoulder, the trace the tear left still wet on his cheek. ‘Finally, you’ve been able to fully trust me and you’ve let your walls down for the first time since I met you, that truly makes me feel proud.’

‘Aomine’s right, Akashi does act like a mother.’

‘You’re probably wondering why I wanted to know this so badly, it’s kind of got to do with the secret I want to tell you, but mostly because I was just thinking about how it would change the team, when you two were to start dating. Now as promised, I shall reveal the secret of my own. Don’t judge me too hard, okay? You see, I have-’

‘Akashi, Midorima, the game’s starting!’ Aomine yelled from the other side of the door.

---

The game went well, Teiko won with an overwhelming 34-to-89 score. Shintaro had been able to sink eleven shots and he was pretty satisfied with his performance on defense as well. Somehow, he felt lighter than earlier that day. Perhaps spilling his secret to Akashi had been for the better. The secret Akashi wanted to tell him didn’t matter to Shintaro anymore, Akashi could keep that one, judging by the tear Akashi wasn’t ready to tell it yet.

Shintaro now knew that he could express himself without fainting or embarrassing himself if he really wanted to and the fact that Akashi didn’t think he was weird for liking another boy also gave Shintaro confidence. However, there was one thing Shintaro couldn’t shake from his mind, no matter how hard he tried. “When you two were to start dating.” Akashi had said. What did he mean by that? Akashi isn’t a person to say stuff without a logic explanation and the fact that Akashi used “when” instead of “if” made it even stranger.

‘Could Akashi possibly be hinting that Murasakibara returns my feelings? Oh god, what if he had the same conversation with Murasakibara! What if he knows? How would I reply if he actually asks me out? No, I need to stop over-thinking; I’m getting ahead of things. Shintaro, just calm down and watch how things play out.’

Shintaro was nervously walking around his bedroom, he should be sleeping but he couldn’t. He was too busy thinking about everything that happened earlier that day. Murasakibara had come by after the match, he had been able to watch the final quarter. He told everyone that his visit to the doctor had gone well and that there was nothing to worry about for now.

The team had cried with laughter when Haizaki had to give Murasakibara his letter of apology. The purple-haired giant however, was just extremely confused on why he was receiving such a strange letter and started nagging Haizaki on his grammatical mistakes and his spelling errors. In the end, he even added that Haizaki’s writing was even worse than Aomine’s. This resulted in an argument between the ace and the center. Aomine being his usual, loud self while Murasakibara just stood there, eating some kind of food while teasing Aomine about everything the blue-haired boy said.

In other words; nothing had changed at all, everything was the same as it was before. Murasakibara didn’t act differently around Shintaro; he only complimented him about his shooting and had been a little shit, as always.

---

‘You made pretty nice shots, Mido-chin and so many! But I still think they are weird, that curve is way too high!’ The purple-haired boy said, sitting down on the bench next to Shintaro.

‘It’s on purpose, you idiot! That way I can calculate the angle better and it takes a lot of time for them to fall through the net that way to opponent has less time for a comeback. Besides if I want to face-off against people your size or even taller I need to make the trajectory high, so it won’t be blocked, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Mhhh, I’ll block your shot someday, Mido-chin.’ Murasakibara looked down, meeting Shintaro’s eyes a determined spark lit the purple irises. All Shintaro could say to describe it was the word “beautiful.”

‘Keep dreaming. I’ll just shoot even higher when that day comes, I’ll win, in fact.’ Shintaro replied, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, staring right back into his friend’s eyes.

‘Mido-chin, has anyone ever told you that your accent’s funny? Because I think it is~’ Of course Murasakibara would randomly change the subject and start teasing Shintaro out of nowhere.

‘H-hey! My accent is none of your business! It’s just the way I talk, in fact.’

‘Haha, so funny, in fact~’

‘Don’t copy me!’

---

Still, the conversation made Shintaro feel warm inside. It was the way that Murasakibara would tease him, his voice clearly showing that he meant no harm and that he only wanted to laugh at Shintaro’s embarrassed face. It made Shintaro feel loved, it was like an unspoken confirmation of their friendship, the same thing counted for Aomine, who was just as bad, if not even worse than Murasakibara. Akashi never teased anyone, but that was probably because the red-haired boy had no sense of humor at all.

Shintaro was grateful with the friends he had now, his life seemed to go by fine. He had a loving family, a loving team and loving friends. What more could he possibly ask for? And how long until misfortune would strike his path and screw things up?

‘Shintaro, sweetheart. Do you even know what time it is, go to sleep already, you’re making me nervous with all that walking around. Is something wrong?’ Shintaro heard his mother say from downstairs.

‘No mother, I’m fine. I was just getting into bed! Goodnight.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Ah, okay, but know that if something is wrong, you can tell me. I don’t care what it is, alright? Sleep well!’

‘Thanks, mother.’ Shintaro replied. Someday he would tell her, someday. When he was ready to take the step, he had come out to Akashi already, which had been a big step.

‘I’ll take baby-steps and one day, I’ll get there. One step at a time.’

Chapter Text

And then, the doors opened. Light was shining in their eyes, deafening cheers from the completely full stadium around them. It was overwhelming, never had they ever experienced something like this before. Hearing the name of their team, and their own names, shouted by hundreds of people. Camera’s pointed in their direction, live to the TV and for the sports magazines and newspapers of tomorrow. A microphone was shoved in their faces, unknown news reporters asking questions. The same questions over and over again. Shintaro didn’t know how to deal with all the sudden attention, so he tried to hide himself behind the group as much as he could.

‘Alright, kids. This is it. The moment you’ve all been training for. I understand that you’re all nervous, but you gotta go out there and win, okay?’ Nijimura said, with a grin on his face.

It was August 20th; the interhigh finals were starting in less than 3 minutes. Teiko had made it all the way there. Instead of substitutes, Shintaro and his friends had now become the core of Teiko’s formation, Nijimura being the only second year on the court. The third years had been skeptical at first, giving up their positions to a bunch of first years? That didn’t seem like a good plan to them, however they were convinced soon enough.

Shintaro looked over to the right side of the hallway they were standing in, their final opponent of the national championship, Kiyamijou middle school was standing over there. They sure looked strong. Opposite to Teiko, the school used their extremely strong formation of third year players, just like Teiko, they had been undefeated up until now. Even though it all seemed very threatening, Shintaro had a feeling that Teiko would overthrow the match, and walk away with the victory.

‘Yes!’ The team shouted in reply to their captain, even Haizaki seemed to be interested in the match.

‘Oh shit! Just a little over an hour until we’re national champions!’ Aomine said with a grin on his face. The blue-haired boy was even more hyperactive than usual; Shintaro could get a headache from it.

‘Oi, Mine-chin. We haven’t even won yet, don’t talk like we’ve won already, or else you’ll jinx us, right Mido-chin?’ The tall center said, side-eyeing Shintaro.

‘I wouldn’t know. I don’t really believe in curses, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

‘You what now? You’re always freaking out when you see a black cat or when I walk underneath a ladder and you always bring weird stuff so you’ll have good fortune! And you’re trying to tell me you don’t believe in curses?’ Aomine said, completely confused.

‘That’s different. Misfortune shouldn’t be laughed away. It’s a real thing, at least I am smart enough to protect myself.’ Shintaro said, pushing his glasses back in place.

‘Midorima, you’re a special kid, you know that? Very special.’ Aomine chuckled, Shintaro noticed that his other teammates were also trying to suppress their laughter. Their mistake, they would all meet their misfortune soon and Shintaro was just gonna stand there and laugh when that happened. They should have listened when they had the chance.

“And now, we welcome the school that can, without doubt be called the strongest in history! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls can I have a round of applause for Japan’s strongest middle school, Teiko Junior High!” The cheerful voice of a woman echoed through the speakers placed in the massive hall.

‘Okay team, time to get out there!’ Nijimura said, slapping his teammates on the back.

“Their team composition today is the following, #4 Nijimura Shuzo, position PF; #9 Akashi Seijurou, position PG; #10 Aomine Daiki, position SF; #11 Midorima Shintaro, position SG and #12 Murasakibara Atsushi, position C!” The voice on the speakers said.

Then they walked into the stadium, all the way onto the court, lining up in front of their opponent. Shintaro felt nervous from his head, all the way down to his toes. Even though he’d played in national games before, this was so very different. This couldn’t compare, not even to the semi-finals. He felt a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder, Shintaro turned his head to the left and came face to face with Aomine, who smiled brightly and stuck up his thumb.

‘Stop worrying, dummy! We totally got this!’ The boy said.

‘You’re right.’ Shintaro replied. He smiled and lifted his head, looking at the boy in front of him. Shintaro had heard that the boy was in the top 3 middle school shooting guards from Japan. However, the latest issue of Basketball Monthly had excluded the boy from the top. Shintaro still remembered how Aomine had come running to him, waving the magazine in the air.

---

‘DUDE! Look at this!’ Aomine yelled.

‘Aomine, I believe I told you this before, but I can’t see if you’re shoving a magazine up my face.’ Shintaro replied, once again annoyed by his friend.

‘Ah, sorry for that. It’s just that you need to see this! Here, read it! It’s so fucking cool!’ Aomine said, handing the magazine over to Shintaro. The green-haired boy rolled his eyes, he half-expected it to be another stupid gossip article about Kise Ryouta.

Shintaro started reading it anyways, quickly realizing that it was the new Basketball monthly issue. “Today, we have a new and updated list on Japan’s best shooting guards. We’ll start with the middle school level, because there have been some surprises there. Number 3; Higuchi Jason. This half-Japanese, half-American boy is the third-year shooting guard for his middle school, he is known for having a high accuracy of almost 80%! His fast and irregular shooting have earned him a place on this list. Number 2; Mibuchi Reo. Despite just being a second year, his outstanding talent has earned him a spot on this list. His three special signature shots (heaven, earth and oblivion) with high-accuracy and the ability to draw fouls, while sinking the shot, thus making it a 4-point-play, have made him a well-known and respected in the Japanese basketball world. And now we’ll continue with the number 1 on our list, the big surprise that took the Japanese basketball world by storm. This first-year shooting guard is known for his shots that never miss; on top of that, his shooting range is incredible as well, as it covers half-court! We are of course talking about Teiko’s Midorima Shintaro. To secure his perfect shooting, Midorima has made a tactic of shooting the ball with an extremely high trajectory, (the so called high-projectile three-point shot) causing even the tallest players not being able to block it. On top of that, Midorima possesses over incredible defensive skill and is able to shoot from the inside as well. Despite not having played any national tournaments yet, his talents have clearly shown in the regional championships and therefore have been praised with the top spot on this list.”

Shintaro couldn’t believe his eyes. He was regarded as the best shooting guard on the middle school level, it seemed unbelievable to him. Next to the article was a small picture of himself, in shooting motion. Shintaro was confused, when exactly did they take this picture?

‘Now, tell me that ain’t cool!’ Aomine grinned, throwing an arm around Shintaro’s shoulder.

‘Congrats, Mido-chin. You’re famous now.’ Murasakibara said, slapping him on the back.

‘Knock it off, you two! That hurts.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Ah, Midorima, brighten up a bit; it’s not every day that you get announced as the best shooting guard from the country. Technically, this means that you’re in the top 5 players, if we are looking position-wise.’ Akashi said.

‘I’m so jealous, man! I mean, I got 3rd on the best power forwards list, but that ain’t first!’ Aomine said.

‘Dai-chan, you need to work harder if you want the top-spot!’ Momoi said.

‘Shut up, Satsuki. You know damn well that I practice way more than those guys!’

‘In that case, you just suck!’

---

‘And now, it’s time for the Tip-off! Both teams, get ready.’ The referee said.

‘Murasakibara, remember not to touch the ball to early again!’ Nijimura said, before sending the center to his position.

‘I know already! So quit nagging me.’ Came the reply.

The whistle sounded loudly as the orange ball was tossed up high in the air. Both centers jumped at the same time, however to everyone watching it was quite clear who was going to get the ball. Kiyamijou middle school had no exceptionally tall players, their center stood at 178, still being the second tallest player on the court, but Teiko’s center was nowadays 188 cm tall. Not to mention that Murasakibara had exceptional leg-strength and could jump very high. So as expected, the purple-haired boy was able to get the ball, directly passing it over to Shintaro, who didn’t hesitate to dribble forward, suddenly coming to halt, successfully throwing off the defense and to directly make the shot. Putting Teiko on a three-point lead only five seconds into the game.

‘Alright Midorima! Nice shot. Everybody, get to defense!’ Nijimura yelled.

‘Good job, Mido-chin.’ Murasakibara said, high-fiving Shintaro.

‘Shit, sorry guys, I forgot that he could do that. I should have guarded him better.’ Shintaro’s opponent said.

‘Ah, don’t mind, the guy’s a real cannon after all. This was to be expected, since a fast play this early in the game will throw anyone off. We’ll just get the points back. From now on, try to make his shooting as hard for him as you can.’ The captain of Kiyamijou yelled to his team, while he was preparing for their attack.

However, no matter how talented their power forward was, he couldn’t break past Teiko’s iron defensive force underneath the hoop. He lost the ball, which Murasakibara passed over to Nijimura. The latter went into a full drive, all the way to the opposite basket, breaking through all defenses. He was truly a strong player, Shintaro noted. However, Nijimura found himself in a difficult position with a double-team suddenly guarding him, so he passed the ball to Aomine.

The blue-haired small forward grinned as he dunked the ball through the net. It was then that Shintaro noticed that Teiko’s power forward wouldn’t keep his position for a very long time anymore. Aomine was rapidly chasing his back, waiting until he could overthrow his captain.

From that point on, Teiko really got their engine rolling, Kiyamijou could barely keep up, much to their frustration.

The first quarter ended with a 14-to-27 points, in Teiko’s favor.

---

The cheers and cries where echoing through the gymnasium. After a beautiful, yet one-sided match Teiko had won the interhigh with a final score of 64-to-147. No injuries had fallen and neither of the teams could be accused of cheating. The match had been a clean and honest fight between two strong teams. The big difference in score just showed a clear as day picture of the difference in strength between the two teams.

‘Hell yeah! We did it!’ Aomine yelled, putting his arm around Akashi’s smaller frame.

‘I always had faith that we could do it.’ Akashi replied casually, but the bright smile on his face showed that the red-head was really happy as well.

‘Meh, I don’t care. I’m just happy that I can eat my snacks now.’ Murasakibara shrugged.

‘Come now, Mukkun! Be a little more enthusiast! Even Akashi-kun and Midorin seem happy!’ Momoi said, squeezing Murasakibara’s face between her hands, standing on the tip of her toes.

‘Sacchin, cut it out. That is annoying.’ The purple-haired boy said, not all too clearly since his face was being squished.

‘Not until I see you smile!’ The girl exclaimed.

‘Ugh, fine.’ Murasakibara replied, as he cracked the most awkward smile Shintaro had ever seen.

‘Uhm… I guess it’s a start?’ Momoi said, releasing the giants face while laughing nervously.

‘Why does it look like he’s possessed by some demon?’ Shintaro thought to himself.

‘Oi, Atsushi! Stop that, you’re scary as hell and you ain’t gonna get yourself a girl with that face, y’know.’ Haizaki said.

‘Who said I even wanna have a girlfriend? Sounds tiring.’ Murasakibara replied.

‘Whaaaat? How can you even say that? I mean, every guy wants to bone a hot chick right?’ Haizaki said.

‘Shut up, you moron. You’re like, what? 12? You shouldn’t speak nonsense like that, not everyone here’s as obsessed with sex as you are, not to mention they are all still little kids! So are you, but you’re beyond saving. Just look at Midorima, he looks traumatized!’ Nijimura said, smacking Haizaki on his head.

‘Ouch, cap, that hurts!’ Haizaki whined.

‘Ewww, Zaki-chin. You’re being weird.’ Murasakibara said, with a disgusted and confused expression on his face.

The newly crowned champions were sitting in their changing room, waiting until the medal ceremony would start. While half of the team was running around in happiness and shouting loudly, the other half was just contently sitting on the bench while talking about the match and Haizaki’s bad behavior. Except for Murasakibara, who was too busy eating snacks to talk.

Shintaro had been feeling it all day already, but the center had been acting strange since that morning. He talked even less than usual and during the game, he had barely participated on offense, only making 24 points. During the game, the boy had been looking over to the clock, as if he wished time would go faster, but the weirdest part of it all was that he seemed to be avoiding Shintaro for some reason. Not completely, but the boy wouldn’t talk to him as much as usual and kept a subtle distance between them. The change was probably too small for the others to notice (except for Akashi, perhaps) but for Shintaro, who was most likely in love with Murasakibara it was clear as day and it was scaring him a little.

‘I think he’s finally noticed my feelings for him. As expected, he now thinks I’m a freak, because that’s how the majority of the Japanese people still views people like me. Maybe he doesn’t even want to be friends anymore.’

A knock on the door awakened Shintaro from his thoughts ‘Excuse me, the ceremony is about to begin. Would you please follow me?’ A girl, most likely from the organization said. Shintaro felt shivers go down his spine when he noticed Haizaki’s not-all-too-subtle staring as the girl’s curves.

‘Alright, time to get officially crowned the best!’ Aomine said, as the group was walking towards the court for the second time that day. The only difference was that now they went in there as winners.

---

‘Man, that was boring. Like, why can’t they just give us the medals, take a few pictures and let us go afterwards? Was all the interview shit really necessary?’ Aomine complained.

‘You better get used to it, Aomine. With your talent, you might go big in the future. Don’t think that you won’t have to do interviews then, better practice now while it’s still small.’ Nijimura replied.

‘Hah! You bet! One day, I’ll be playing in the NBA and on the national team.’ Aomine replied. For most people, it might have sounded like the boy was simply bragging about his talent, but Shintaro knew that if he really wanted to, Aomine could pull it off.

The team had just returned from a long ceremony, where they first announced every player by name and position, then taking their time to talk about everyone’s personal performance, giving them their medals one by one. Because there were three teams that got medals, the thing took almost half an hour, after that, interviews were taken and photo’s were made. By the time everything was finished, it was well past 7 p.m. It had been a long they, they had been present for warm-ups and the finals for 3rd place at 11 a.m.

Shintaro was completely exhausted, and all he wanted to do right now was go home to sleep. But, sadly that wasn’t possible, since they interhigh had been played in Yamagata that year and Shintaro and his teammates had been staying at a hotel, where Shintaro had to room with Aomine. The latter didn’t hesitate to sleep in classes and everywhere else, but at night time, the boy preferred to annoy Shintaro to death, it seemed.

---

‘The worst part of it all is that we have school again Monday morning! We have only a half Sunday to rest, since we’ll be spending half of it on a bus!’ Aomine said. The team was sitting around a long table in some restaurant that Akashi paid for.

‘Mine-chin is right, don’t we at least deserve a day extra? Since we won and all.’ Murasakibara said, interfering with the conversation for the first time that evening.

‘As much as we’d all like that, it’s sadly not possible, oh and Haizaki, I’ll be checking your house to make sure you actually show up to school. I’m not gonna accept you skipping out again.’ Nijimura said, staring at the grey-haired teen with a murderous look in his eyes.

‘Yes sir!’ Haizaki said quickly.

‘Hey, Midorin, are you okay? You’re so silent, even more than usual I mean.’ Momoi said, concerned for her friend.

‘Actually, I’m not. I feel a little light-headed, in fact. I’m just going outside to get some fresh air for a little.’ Shintaro replied, ignoring the stares he got from his teammates.

---

Shintaro leaned his back against the wall of the building, slowly breathing in the night air. It wasn’t uncommon for him to have sudden headaches ever since the accident happened. The doctor had said that it could be a thing that would continue for a long time, if not forever. However, he shouldn’t worry about it, because it’s a very common occurrence by people who have suffered concussions in the past.

It wasn’t that Shintaro wasn’t happy with the championship game, but he just didn’t feel like celebrating while the person he liked kept his distance from him for an unknown reason. It felt a little sour. Shintaro was also worrying about what the future would bring, since Teiko’s team had been circulating around four first year students and one second year. They were already proven to be one of the strongest in Japan and Teiko was already the favorite for the Wintercup. The question Shintaro asked himself was; would Teiko, with this team ever lose? And what would be the price of always winning everything?

He didn’t know the answer nor did he want to know at this point. Sometimes Shintaro wondered how it would be if he could see the future. It would be a blessing in many ways, but wouldn’t it also be really boring to know what would happen, who you’d meet and how you’d eventually reach your final destination. Even though he was currently pretty far north, it was still pretty warm, it was a nice summer night, and the sun hadn’t begun to set yet.

He started to wonder how the team they beat today felt right now. The tears falling down their cheeks were still fresh in Shintaro’s memory. He didn’t feel bad for them, since they were the obvious weaker team, yet at the same time he felt some form of compassion; it could have been him and his team after all.

Shintaro looked down to his left hand, all five fingers neatly taped, protecting the delicate touch he needed for his shooting. His left-handedness had been discovered early, his father had complained about it at first; most successful people were right-handed after all and it wasn’t too late to change. However, his mother had protested and said that she wanted her son to grow up the way he wanted, she didn’t want him to change just because of some weird belief. Earlier today he’d proved once again his left hand was mighty, a true gift from God that only he had been gifted with.

‘Mido-chin, are you feeling better now?’ The sudden voice of his purple-haired companion made Shintaro wake up from his trip to his mind.

‘I’m fine, but what are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be celebrating with everyone else?’ Shintaro replied.

‘Nah, besides I just thought I’d check up on you. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something. For a while now.’

 

 

Chapter Text

‘Nah, besides I just thought I’d check up on you. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something. For a while now.’

Shintaro’s eyes widened, he knew what was coming next. A rejection of friendship and probably a homophobic comment. He wished he could just fly into the distance; disappear for a while until things had gone back to normal. But that wasn’t possible, because this was reality and not a dream. Shintaro had to be strong, he had to face it. Save the tears for later when you’re all alone, act it cool and pretend not to care, is what Shintaro told himself.

‘I think I know what you’re about to say. You don’t have to say it out loud, I get it and I’ll keep my distance.’ Shintaro replied, he noticed that even through all his efforts to mask it, his voice was clearly shaking.

‘Eh? Mido-chin, you’re being weird again. I don’t want you to keep distance, why would you even think that?’ Murasakibara replied yawning.

‘Well… I guess I just assumed it that way. Sorry about that.’ Shintaro replied, totally unsure of what to think. He didn’t know what to think anymore. This situation was such a mess, if only he’d been a normal person.

‘No. That’s not right I am normal.’ Shintaro quickly shook the thought out of his head. The strange taboo around homosexuality had also silently housed itself inside Shintaro’s head; he always tried to fight it, because he didn’t agree with the way of thinking. However, once a whole population of millions views something as a bad thing and are vocal about that, it will subconsciously rub-off on anyone.

‘Mido-chin, listen. I don’t want to force you into talking, but you’ve been acting quite strange, y’know? Is there something bothering you, are you not happy with the championship?’ Murasakibara asked. Shintaro knew that he couldn’t blame the boy for not knowing what was going on, but explaining the situation would be too much for him to handle. For one of the first times in his life, Shintaro couldn’t find a way out. He’d been driven into a corner. He could sweep it off with a lie, but something inside him told him that the purple-haired teen wasn’t going buy it.

‘No, that’s not it at all, of course I’m happy with the championship. There is something, in fact. But I’m not sure I can tell you. Not because I don’t trust you or anything, it’s just… I can’t.’ Shintaro replied. He felt sad that he had to take this path. If he’d simply been born as a girl, a situation like this would still be awkward, but it wouldn’t be weird. Then again, if Shintaro was a girl, he would’ve never met Murasakibara. Changing the past didn’t matter, the situation in the here and now would remain unchanged and Shintaro had to find a way to deal with it.

‘That’s alright. If Mido-chin doesn’t want to talk, that’s okay. It’s not what I came here for anyways. It’s actually a problem of my own I wanted to talk to Mido-chin about, if that’s okay?’ The center said.

‘Well… I’m not sure if I can help, but you can tell me, in fact.’ Shintaro felt somewhat relieved, it wasn’t something he did after all. Of course, I wasn’t fully at ease, because he was still shaking on his legs like a newborn lamb from the atmosphere around them just a moment ago. He had been terrified to the bone.

‘Aaahh, here goes nothing. Mido-chin, please promise me one thing? Don’t laugh, okay?’ Murasakibara said. It was for the first time that Shintaro had seen the tall boy look so vulnerable before, it was quite shocking to see. Unnatural. Whatever the problem was, Shintaro vowed to himself that he’d somehow make it disappear, he didn’t like seeing Murasakibara like this. He should forever be carefree, lazy and stronger than anyone else, as if sadness and time could never grasp him. He should always be moving one step ahead.

‘You know I’d never do that. I don’t laugh at people, in fact. Except for Aomine, perhaps. It’s hard not to laugh at his stupidity, in fact.’ Shintaro replied. He hoped to God that he sounded somewhat reassuring.

‘Yeah, you’re right. It was needless to even ask.’ The reply came with a shaky smile, which looked forced. Even more forced than the endless smiles of the many actors and models that had more secrets than anyone could know.

‘I’ll stop wasting time now and spill the issue. Mido-chin, I like you.’ It was spoken barely above a whisper, yet it sounded clear as day. Shintaro felt his heartbeat speed up, his eyes widening, but unbelief and denial directly started clouding his vision. Because that’s just what Shintaro has always been like.

‘Did he actually say what I think he said? That can’t be it right? I mean why would he even like someone as boring as me? I rarely do anything fun, Aomine has said that numerous times. But I heard it clearly just now. Or are my ears failing me? That would be really bad, considering my awful eyesight. Maybe I have to remain calm and ask him to repeat himself because I couldn’t hear it clearly, just to be sure. Yes. That is what I need to do right now.’

‘I’m very sorry, but I don’t think I caught that. Murasakibara, you need to speak louder, or else people won’t hear you, in fact. I believe I told you that before.’ Shintaro said. For once, he was quite satisfied with his acting. He sounded scolding, as he usually sounded like whenever he had to correct one of Murasakibara’s (or Aomine’s) bad habits.

‘I said that I like Mido-chin.’ Murasakibara repeated. This time, there was no chance of mistaking those words for something else, because it wasn’t a whisper, there wasn’t a sudden downpour of rain or a truck racing by. The words were clearly spoken, there was no mistaking here, Shintaro was being confessed to, by the person he had liked for a while. It was an actual happening event, not one of the unrealistic, perfect, yearning dreams he had been having day and night. This was right here and right now.

‘How should I reply? I suppose I should say I feel the same way. I’ll calmly and honestly reply to his confession.’ Shintaro thought to himself, it was now or never. Screw the plan of letting go of his crush, fuck the future his parents planned for him. Shintaro wanted to be with Murasakibara and he would do so. The future was a worry for later. Shintaro inhaled and exhaled again. The he took a deep breath and said it. 

‘W-w-what are y-you e-even s-saying, you idiot! T-this is way t-to e-embarrassing! You mustn’t s-say t-things like t-this s-so suddenly!’ He hissed, blushing like mad and internally screaming.

‘That was to be expected. Seriously, why am I like this?’

‘Sorry, I knew this would upset Mido-chin. But I just had to tell you, I couldn’t stand hiding it any longer, you see. I liked Mido-chin for a little while after all~ I realized a few days before Taka-chin was born, but I think it might have started when we trained together for the first time. I was just so in awe with Mido-chin’s shooting, I didn’t care that I lost and that I couldn’t block you. All I could think was how strong you were and how much I had waited to meet someone like you, because ever since elementary school I had been able to block everyone, sometimes even adults. So meeting Mido-chin was a nice change, I mean I also have a hard time with Mine-chin, but he’s annoying. On top of that, Mido-chin has very beautiful eyes, ah, but your face is very pretty as well~’ Murasakibara said.

It was a strange feeling, the boy was pouring his heart out, yet he didn’t even bother to look Shintaro in the eye and his voice sounded like it always did, perhaps it sounded more emotional. Shintaro couldn’t tell, perhaps that was just wishful thinking. Murasakibara was staring somewhere into the distance, or he wasn’t looking anywhere at all, lost in his own world. With Murasakibara you never knew at all. Shintaro knew that he had to get a grip right now, or he could ruin it all. This time, for sure he would do it. Oh how Shintaro wished that he himself had the freedom to speak as he wanted, instead of always turning into a mess when conversations became personal.

‘I… I’m not upset. I was just not expecting this. Please, don’t think I don’t respect you or that I think you’re weird now. In fact, the problem I had been dealing with was much like yours. You see I…’ Shintaro couldn’t finish his sentence; his voice just seemed to disappear. Instead of his usual, bright-red and screaming state of denial, Shintaro was now still bright-red but very silent instead, he slowly adverted his face, staring to the trash bins belonging to the restaurant, they had an awful smell. Once again he cursed his inability to speak his feelings out loud.

‘Mido-chin… You really don’t need to say anything you can’t say yet. For now, could you please answer my question with yes or no? Since I like Mido-chin and my sister says that people that like each other date, would you date me?’ Murasakibara asked, it was strange how his voice was as monotone as ever and how his face looked disinterested. The only difference was that for once, he looked Shintaro directly into the eye as he asked the question. The green-haired boy felt shivers go down his spine.

‘If I answered no, I’d regret it and I know that. On top of that, Murasakibara would become sad if I rejected him. I really have no reason to reject him, except my own stupid idea of not dating before my engagement is settled. It would be better for both of us if I said yes, right? So why am I worrying? I’ve got to get a grip now. My horoscope said that today’s a good day for cancer. It’s been proven with the national championship and now with this confession. On top of that, I have my lucky item with me. There’s nothing that could possibly go wrong, if I simply reply to this question, I’ll be with the person I like and I won’t have to walk on egg-shells around him any longer. I really have nothing to fear. It’s going to work out just fine. I’m not scared anymore, I feel secure. I’m okay now.’ Shintaro closed his eyes and smiled softly, he was almost completely at ease now.

‘Yes, I would like that.’ He finally spoke (almost) without stuttering. Shintaro was incredibly thankful that Murasakibara didn’t expect a return to his confession. The tall boy accepted Shintaro’s inability to verbally confess his feelings right now. Shintaro promised himself that he would do it someday, maybe not now or soon, but in the distant future for sure. He didn’t know how long their relationship would last, they were both young and hadn’t ever experienced the feelings they felt burning within before. But even though it was vague and unclear, Shintaro had a feeling that the relationship would last for a long time. He didn’t know how long, but he was certain that this wasn’t a one-month thing. By that time, Shintaro would be able to place his thoughts and feelings in order, he would fully accept them and would start coming closer and closer to the ability to speak them out loud. Shintaro knew that he would tell Murasakibara one day.

‘Yaaaaay!~ Mido-chin said yes!’ Murasakibara said, although his voice remained the same, his entire face seemed to lighten-up. A beautiful smile greeted Shintaro, how could he do anything else than to smile back?

There was no physical contact; they just stared into each other’s eyes for a while, both smiling. They weren’t bound to rules you would see in movies, where the kiss was shared right after the confession. They were themselves and they couldn’t care less about what was supposed to happen, they were too young and to awkward to do anything beyond the things that they just admitted to. They’d figure it all out along the way ahead. The cars racing through the streets, the people walking by, talking about their own lives, the awful smell of the trash bins and the distant barking of a dog didn’t fade away, it didn’t feel like they were the only ones in the world right now. Nothing seemed to have changed at all, they weren’t even sure if they could call themselves a couple, but it was all fine. For now, the moment was perfect.

---

Shintaro didn’t know how long they had been standing there, could be mere seconds, or it could have been five minutes, the only thing he knew was that the moment was ruined by a certain blue-haired boy.

‘Yo, my dudes, what the fuck are you still doing out here? It’s been like, 15 minutes!’ Aomine yelled. Both Shintaro and Murasakibara quickly turned their head around to their teammate, wide-eyed and red-faced.

‘Well, this couldn’t be more awkward.’ Shintaro thought.

Aomine just blinked at the duo in confusion. ‘What’re y’all so jumpy about? Just come back inside Haizaki is fighting with Akashi, it’s hilarious as fuck.’ He said.

‘Uhm, yes. We’ll be there in a second, go on ahead. Please.’ Shintaro said, he was sure he’d never been more annoyed with Aomine than he was right now. He knew that it was unfair to be mad at Aomine, since the blue-haired teen didn’t know he was interrupting anything. Still, that didn’t change the fact that the perfect moment had been completely washed away.

‘Sure thing, good to see that you’re feeling better. Satsuki was really worried y’know?’ Aomine said. He waved his hand to them as he walked back inside, leaving Shintaro and his newfound boyfriend alone again.

‘Wait, that’s true… Murasakibara’s my boyfriend now. Oh god, that sounds so official, but I really like the sound of that…’ Shintaro smiled to himself, how was he supposed not to?

‘So… what now?’ Murasakibara asked. ‘I’m totally new to this dating stuff.’ He finished. Shintaro saw that the boy wore a painfully confused expression on his face.

‘Well… I’m not sure, in fact.’ Shintaro replied, looking equally confused.

‘Ah, I see. Let’s go back inside then. We’ll figure this out later.’ The center said. ‘I’m tired and hungry now.’

‘Yeah, sure.’ Shintaro replied. He was glad that the purple-haired boy hadn’t changed at all after confessing. He was still the same, weird, lazy and food-addicted boy he had always been.

‘There’s one thing I want to ask you, if you don’t mind, that is. But, are you… you know, gay?’ Shintaro found it hard and kind of rude to ask it so directly, but he just had to know.

‘No, I wouldn’t say I am. I guess I just don’t care at all. There’s people I like and people I don’t like, what gender they are doesn’t matter to me at all. They call that bisexual, don’t they?’ Murasakibara replied. He raised his shoulders in a manner that showed that he really didn’t care at all or that he just wasn’t sure at all at this time.

‘Ah, I see. To answer your question, yes, they call it that, in fact.’ Shintaro replied. Somehow it felt good to know the answer, even if it didn’t make a difference at all. But then again, Shintaro had always been a person that liked certainty about everything.

Before they headed back into the restaurant, the green-haired boy felt a familiar, big hand patting his head and resting there for a little while. Even though this had occurred more times in the past, it felt different this time, because Shintaro now knew that this simple gesture was performed with a special meaning behind it.

Never before had Midorima Shintaro felt this warm and complete inside.

Chapter Text

The moment where Murasakibara had confessed his feelings to Shintaro was already three months in the past, the regional Fall-tournament had been closed with another victory for Teiko and the preliminaries for the Wintercup had already begun. The two boys had been “dating” ever since that moment, but nothing had changed at all. They acted the same as they did before; often got into arguments and they hung out with their mutual friends. They never hugged, kissed, touched one another in a different way or talked about their feelings.

Once and only once in the past three months did they hold hands. It wasn’t anything special, really. It happened one day during lunch break, when they had been dating for about six weeks. Aomine was out sick, Momoi was hanging out with her girl-friends and Akashi had a meeting concerning the basketball club. Shintaro was left alone with Murasakibara on the rooftop, where the four of them would usually eat when the weather was good. They had been eating their lunch while talking a little about things happening in their classes. The couple was sitting next to each other with their backs leaning against the fence surrounding the roof. It had come so naturally, neither of them knew when it exactly happened. Shintaro felt the big hand on top of his own, loosely intertwining those long fingers with the smaller, thinner ones. It took both of them by surprise. They stared at each other in confusion with a dark blush on both of their faces, releasing the others’ hand. They didn’t speak of it again.

The only thing that did change was the fact that they spend more time with just the two of them. Shintaro would come over to Murasakibara’s house (which was a relatively small apartment to live in with five kids) occasionally, causing him to meet all of his teammate’s siblings.

They were a lot different than Shintaro had expected. In his mental picture he always saw three tall, lanky boys with purple hair in different hairstyles and a tall girl with the same purple hair, only hers was very long and messy. They all had the same blank expression on their faces. In reality, however, Shintaro was greeted by a very cheerful, yet totally different pair of twins. They both had the same, deep purple eyes, but their hair was pitch black. The main difference was the fact that one of them was a boy, while the other was a girl. The boy had his hair cut short, while the girl had her hair styled in a half-long ponytail. The boy was skinny and around Shintaro’s height, while the girl stood around 180 cm. She had a strong muscular build, yet she came across as a very nice and funny person. She told Shintaro that she played basketball as well, she was a power forward and she would move to the USA after her final year of high school, because she had been scouted by the WNBA for her outstanding talent. It made Shintaro fall silent. This girl was going professional in the USA, especially as an Asian person that was something extremely rare.

Shintaro met the other two when he stayed for dinner one night. The oldest looked very young, despite his age. He had a nice expression on his face and seemed completely carefree. His hair was very dark and he had brown eyes. He was short for an adult, even shorter than Shintaro and he had an awful sense of humor, cracking the weirdest jokes Shintaro had ever heard. He had one thing in common with his youngest sibling; they both shared their love for sweets and junk-food. The second brother looked scary, in Shintaro’s opinion. He looked like a mix between punk, hipster and goth and had his lower lip pierced on both sides. His hair was purple, like his little brother’s but a lot shorter and his eyes were dark-brown. He wasn’t much of a talker, but he seemed to have the same bad humor as his older brother, because he couldn’t help but laugh at the weird jokes. He was a few centimeters shorter than his sister. If Shintaro recalled correctly, he was the one dating one of Kise Ryouta’s sisters.

The four of them had all been very kind to Shintaro and the green-haired teen felt like they actually liked him. He wasn’t sure if they knew that he was dating their little brother, but even if they knew, they didn’t seem to have an issue with it at all. They would sometimes tease him about his firm belief in astrology and the sister often went out with Shintaro and her little brother to play streetball with them. All in all, it was a funny group of people to be with, even if they were a bit loud.

Shintaro also met Murasakibara’s mother. A relatively tall woman with a long, purple braid in her hair and those all too familiar purple eyes. She was a single mother; the father had left the family a few months after Atsushi was born. He claimed that he couldn’t take it anymore, with five kids. She told Shintaro that she was so mad at the man that she changed back to her original family name and changed the last name of all her children as well. The oldest two could remember the happenings, so she asked them about it first, but Atsushi and the twins had been too small to understand the situation. Years later, when Atsushi turned seven, they got a letter sent from China. Apparently, the man had moved on with his life and had completely forgotten about his old family. He wrote that he was only writing to tell his ex-wife that he really did love her and the kids, but that it was too much for him. On which she called bullshit.

Murasakibara Ichika was a very nice woman and was very fond of Shintaro. She had told him many times how cute she thought he was. Shintaro knew that she knew. He felt it in the way she talked to him and the way she’d give him and her son as much space as she could. She didn’t seem judgmental and was always warm and open. She didn’t mind questions being asked and she loved it to hear more about Shintaro’s life. She was also very included in her son’s life, as she came to watch almost every single match they played. Shintaro felt at ease around her.

---

Murasakibara’s birthday party had been really nice, only a handful of the center’s family had been invited and Shintaro, Aomine, Akashi and Momoi were also asked to join. The party had been quite simple, just a few drinks and a cake, which was made by the birthday boy himself. The Teiko students had all been pleasantly surprised by the boy’s talent in the kitchen.

They also made another ground-breaking discovery; Aomine’s mother had come by to pick up her son, she was in Japan for her break from work. Audrey, as Aomine’s mother was called, apparently was a WNBA player. They had all been glaring at Aomine because he kept such an important detail hidden for them. When they asked him about it he replied that he had forgotten.

At least they now knew where the boy got his talent and dark skin. Audrey was a tall, African-American woman with a dark skin and blue eyes. When she realized everyone looked surprised, she playfully smacked her son across the head, stating that he was a moron.

She decided to tell her story, since her son hadn’t bothered to tell such an important thing. She had been playing basketball since she was a young girl. Quickly, officials had discovered her talent and she was appointed as official WNBA player at the age of sixteen, which was when she met Aito Aomine, her future husband. The two fell in love at first sight, but of course it couldn’t be that perfect. She got pregnant really young. She couldn’t play while pregnant, so she moved to Japan to be with her big love. Daiki was born when his mother was only seventeen. A year later, the two of them got married, everything seemed to be perfect. Sadly, Audrey started missing the basketball world after two years, she missed it so much that she got depressed. In the end, she had to make the painful decision to leave her son and husband behind to go back to America. Since then, she’d been visiting and calling them whenever she had the slightest bit of time. She played streetball with her son as much as she could when she discovered Daiki loved the sport as much as her.

Ichika was very glad to have Audrey, since she was pretty scared by the fact that her only daughter would move to the USA to play basketball at the professional stage. Of course nothing could prepare her better than an actual pro. They talked about it for a little while, Shintaro had been listening carefully, because perhaps one day… If he managed to convince his parents to not sending him to a university to become a doctor, he could make it to the NBA.

After the party was over, Shintaro’s parents had come to pick him up, Ichika had been completely in love with Takara, who had grown a lot in the past months. The baby was smiling almost 24/7 and seemed to like it to steal her brother’s glasses whenever she could. She had started “talking” as well, no one could understand the sounds Takara made, but it was always nice to hear the baby girl saying utter nonsense. It gave a warm feeling to the surroundings.

Miho and Ichika seemed to have become instant friends. They were now meeting up almost weekly to go for a run or to drink a cup of tea in the city. Probably spilling awkward stories about their kids. Great.

---

Shintaro had also brought Murasakibara over to his house a few times, telling his parents they were studying. Which they actually did. Sure, they would talk to each other, but they weren’t like other teenage couples that would shamelessly do dirty things while telling their parents they were studying.

Not that Shintaro nor Murasakibara felt the need to do something like that yet. Honestly, the first time they were together in Shintaro’s bedroom the green-haired boy was too nervous to even do anything at all. Murasakibara also seemed to be a little uneasy when they were together in his bedroom for the first time. For now, they were both content with the easy relationship they had. They were officially dating, but there was no pressure or rush. For now it was fine for both of them to act like close friends, the rest would follow eventually.

Shintaro really liked the time they spent together, it was relaxed and not all too awkward. Sure, the shooting guard sometimes thought about what it would be like if they kissed or sometimes even more than that, but what teenager didn’t? Still, that didn’t mean Shintaro didn’t feel embarrassed or grossed out with himself whenever he let his mind wander off to that point of imagination. He was sure Murasakibara often dealt with the same kind of thoughts.

Akashi knew. Shintaro nor Murasakibara had told the red-head, but a few hours after the confession, when the team had been walking back to their hotel the point guard had tapped both of them on the shoulder and he had said that he was happy for them. Murasakibara had looked Shintaro in the eye with a puzzled expression, saying “how does he even know that” without words. Shintaro had replied by shrugging. As if saying “Beats me.”

Aomine was clueless, as always. It wasn’t that Shintaro didn’t trust him, but he just wasn’t ready for the blue-haired boy to know yet, or more like, he didn’t want to tell him yet. Murasakibara accepted that decision. Lately, Aomine had been spending a lot of time with a new friend he recently made. Kuroko Tetsuya, that was his name. A painfully plain boy on the third string of the basketball team. The kid was honestly almost invisible. There had been rumors around Teiko that a ghost was using the 2nd gymnasium every night to play basketball, turned out it had been Kuroko Tetsuya all along.

Aomine told his friends that he’d promised Kuroko that they’d play on the same court together some day. Something Shintaro seriously doubted. Another thing was the fact that Aomine seemed to be a little overly interested in Kise Ryouta (Who had left the baseball team, despite being their best player. He was now at the volleyball team, he made it to the regulars in less than two weeks.) lately. Murasakibara had jokingly compared the blue-haired teen to one of the model’s fangirls one time and Aomine had become as red as a tomato, saying that he wasn’t like that at all. Of course, the purple-haired teen didn’t care at all and declared that Aomine must be in love with the model, causing the blue-haired boy to get even more defensive.

Momoi was the same sweet girl she had always been, but Shintaro felt her eyes on him more often even since he and Murasakibara started dating. He’d heard somewhere that certain girls have a so called “Yaoi-sensor” which means that they can sense it when two boys are in love with one another. It was a weird thing to believe in, but in Momoi’s case it could just be the truth. Aside from that, there was also the fact that she was extremely good in collecting data, so Shintaro wouldn’t be surprised if the girl was already onto them. Shintaro wasn’t worried about her approval, because according to Aomine, the pink-haired girl had a pretty impressive collection on Yaoi-fanbooks. How she could even get them at her age, no one would ever know.

The rest of the basketball team was doing very good. After winning two major tournaments in one year, they had become quite confident in themselves, causing them to work harder. Except for Haizaki, of course. The little shit was being a pain as usual, bringing a new “girlfriend” to practice almost weekly, performing gross acts of PDA all the time, causing Nijimura to get mad at him. It had become a familiar pattern, a very annoying one. It was weird to think that Haizaki was the same age as Shintaro, he acted like he was seventeen already. A very bad-behaving seventeen-years old.

Shintaro had been training very hard as well, for now he was working on endurance and on gaining muscle build. His technical skills were already on a very high level, but his endurance and body composition couldn’t keep up with that yet. So the boy performed more running drills, longer weight-lifting sessions and he practiced his shooting until late in the evening. He noticed his own progress, which motivated him to become even stronger.

The other players had become stronger as well, especially Aomine. The boy was improving at the speed of lightning. The four first years were now at a level where they could take on the third and second years, this greatly satisfied the coach. They had won the first three qualifying games for the Wintercup already and it wasn’t looking like they were going to lose any time soon. 100 games, 100 victories. The new Teiko team was about to make that reality.

The first exam period had also passed. Shintaro had been happy when he found his name on the second place of all first years, the one with the best results had of course been Akashi. One day, Shintaro promised himself that he’d beat the red-head at something. Didn’t matter what it was. Murasakibara and Momoi ranked somewhere in the top 25 and Aomine was dead last. On the school with almost 300 first years, Aomine had managed to get the worst score. He had to retake seven of eight exams. In the end, with a lot of help from Akashi, Momoi and Shintaro, he managed to get in the top 220, so he wasn’t expelled from club-activities. They had all managed to get a good laugh out of it.

All in all, the past 3 months had been pretty good.

Chapter Text

‘With a final score of 123-to-41, Teiko Junior high wins the 21th edition of the middle school boy’s basketball Wintercup tournament! Please have a big applause for our national champions!’

For the second time that year, Teiko had been crowned best of Japan. No one could make a different claim. Teiko hadn’t been in fear of losing once. Be it in official games or in a practice game. While the majority of the people supported and admired the team, there were some people that accused the Teiko team of drugging their players with some kind of strength-improving drugs, one even went as far to say that Teiko’s first years weren’t really human at all. Players of opposing teams had occasionally shamelessly slapped the label “monster” across their heads during games.

Shintaro felt that it was all a little overwhelming to take in. He knew that he shouldn’t take their insults to heart, but he couldn’t help it. In every single match until now, he hadn’t missed a single untouched shot. That said, the ball had only been touched a few times. So few in fact, that you could count them on one hand. Even on the global stage, there wasn’t and hasn’t been a single player with a similar percentage. The very, very best of all time had an average of 85%, if it wasn’t lower. Didn’t that mean that he was inhumane?

“Am I really human? I mean, the signs are there. I have green hair, for God’s sake. Maybe I was placed upon earth by aliens. Okay, Shintaro. It’s time to stop; you’re getting way to deep into this. Is this what it means when people say that fame can get to you mentally?” Shintaro sometimes coped with thoughts like these. He knew that they were utter nonsense, but he had always been one for over thinking.

Shintaro didn’t have the time to dwell on these thoughts for long, because right now he was standing in the middle of a completely with screaming people filled gymnasium. Confetti cannons were going off and the spotlight shined down upon him and his teammates. The other team was sulking in the darkness, their sobs overshadowed by the brightness of Japan’s strongest.

‘Aw, sweet! We won again!’ Aomine said, waving to the audience.

‘Hell yeah we did. Gosh, I’m so proud of you kids. Except for Haizaki, because you are a little shit.’ Nijimura said, slapping Aomine on the shoulder while giving Haizaki (who had shown up 15 minutes late for the finals) a creepy stare.

‘Jeez man, what’s your problem? I said I was sorry! You don’t have to keep treatin’ me like shit!’ Haizaki spat back.

Shintaro silently watched the conversation go on. People in the audience must be thinking that he wasn’t happy with the victory at all, but that wasn’t true. He just wasn’t as open about his happiness as the others were. Even Akashi was smiling with the others. Right now, there was no single sign that pointed to the darkness that housed underneath the perfect, pale skin of the red-haired boy. Akashi had never confirmed Shintaro’s theory, because he never asked. The truth was, Shintaro was scared to ask and scared to know. Suppose that his theory was correct, that would mean Akashi had very serious mental disorders. It was scary to think that one of his closest friends could be suffering an awful disease without getting any help. Shintaro hoped he was wrong. For one of the few times in his life, he wished to be dumb. He wished that his whole conspiracy was incorrect and awfully biased. Still, Shintaro could tell that the happiness Akashi was showing right now wasn’t faked. The emotions were as pure as freshly fallen snow on a winter day. Pure as the snow that was falling down outside the warm gymnasium.

Shintaro adverted his eyes from his celebrating teammates and stared at his opponents. Most of them had dried their bitter tears and seemed to start realizing that being the second-best in a whole country wasn’t a bad accomplishment at all. Smiles were cracking on their faces. The only signs the earlier sadness left were slightly swollen eyes and the fading tearstains on their jerseys. This is how it should be, according to Shintaro. Losing with dignity was the only acceptable form of defeat. The fact that the boys remained smiling even after their loss made Shintaro smile as well.

Suddenly, the green-haired boy felt a tip on his shoulder. He turned his head around, which he didn’t need to do because he instinctively knew who was standing behind him. His instincts told him right, because when he had turned around he was face-to-face (or face-to-neck, in this case) with his boyfriend.

‘What’s it, in fact?’ He asked the giant individual.

‘I was wondering if Mido-chin wanted to go out for dinner with me tonight.’ Murasakibara replied. They had never done that before, going out for dinner. Or anything else date-like, really. This would be their first official date, even if they had been together for four months.

‘I would like to, I’ll have to ask my mother, however.’ Shintaro replied. He really hoped his mother said that he could go. He didn’t know why, but he really looked forward to it already. It wasn’t like their previous time together wasn’t nice, but this somehow felt way more official. It felt like a confirmation of their relationship in the stage beyond friendship.

‘Okay. I’m looking forward to it, Mido-chin~’ Murasakibara seemed to completely ignore the fact that nothing had been confirmed yet. Normally, behavior like this would have pissed Shintaro off, but because of the smile that was directed to him, he couldn’t bring himself to.

‘Y-yeah sure, whatever.’ Shintaro replied, violently jerking his face away from the tall boy’s view. The green-haired boy covered his blushing face with his hands, silently cursing his inability to react normally to conversations that went deeper than usual. He wasn’t sure if Murasakibara had heard his reply, since it was very noisy in the gymnasium.

‘Yo, four-eyes and purple titan! Get over here, captain wants to do his victory speech!’ Aomine yelled, using his hands as a megaphone to reach over the roaring of the crowd and the music blasting through the speakers.

‘Mine-chin stop with that nickname, I’ll crush you!’

---

After Nijimura’s long victory speech and the medal ceremony and the interviews, the Teiko team was finally dismissed. The finals had been played in the morning, due to the high school tournament finals being right after it. Normally, they would just use the second gymnasium, but that was booked for the national volleyball championships that took place on the same day that year. It was around 5 p.m. when they walked out of the stadium.

Everything looked different, now that it was covered in a layer of freshly fallen snow. It had been snowing non-stop since very early in the morning and even now the flocks were still falling from the sky. The temperature had dropped exceptionally low for this time of the year, everyone outside was wearing a thick layer of clothing, some of them still shivering.

Most people were only complaining about the weather, but Shintaro loved it. It somehow looked so peaceful, like no evil existed in the world. The pure white made everything look serene and calm. The sounds of everyday life also seemed to be a lot softer, as if being isolated by the snow. Looking at it brought calmness to his overfull mind.

Next to him, Murasakibara was shivering from the cold. Attempting to sink deeper and deeper into his thick winter coat. His face had almost completely disappeared into his scarf, hands buried deep into his pockets and a cap covering his head and ears. It was a funny sight, the unbeatable giant being this vulnerable to a little cold. Shintaro wanted to walk closer to him; he wished to lean into the center’s side, to hold his hand so they could share their body heat. To act like the other couples passing by, it would be nice, he figured. But Shintaro wasn’t brave enough to do that, so they both remained cold.

Aomine, on the other hand was in his element, as he started throwing snowballs in Haizaki’s face. Of course, it turned into a fight. With Aomine ending as the winner. As the blue-haired boy was celebrating his victory, the volleyball players walked out. Coincidently, it was Teiko’s volleyball team that took home the cup that year. Right behind the captain of the team walked the ace, none other than Kise Ryouta.

‘I thought he was on the baseball team?’ Nijimura asked no one in particular. The other members of the basketball team started saying similar things, but Shintaro was busy looking at a certain scene which played out in front of him.

Aomine was standing completely still, his mouth slightly agape, eyes sparkling and a soft blush coloring his face. Silently, the blue-haired teen watched as the model walked by, he looked like an angel among men, his blond hair softly flowing in the wind, the white of the snow perfectly complementing his fair and pale skin, a calm expression resting on his features. In the second that Kise passed Aomine, the latter swallowed deeply as the blush on his tanned face grew darker. The blond didn’t even bother to look in his direction and just walked on, but Aomine didn’t seem to care. He kept staring and staring. In that moment, he seemed nothing like the loud, stupid boy he was. He looked like a young maiden, lost in love for an unreachable man. As the snow kept falling down upon his shoulders and head, as the wind was blowing in his face, Aomine stood there in awe, watching as the famous model walked away.

Shintaro noticed it right there. Murasakibara’s teasing comment was nothing but the truth. Aomine did have a crush on Kise Ryouta, a very big one at that. Despite never having met the boy in person, other than passing each other by in the hallways of Teiko junior high, Aomine had started pining after the blond boy. Shintaro knew that the ace wouldn’t admit to it anytime soon. Heck, he probably didn’t even realize his own feeling yet. Aomine was still convinced that he wasn’t into guys at all. However, Shintaro knew Aomine pretty well by now and he knew that subtle wasn’t the guys’ thing at all. He’d probably make some kind of outrageous plan to get the model to fall for him. If Aomine ever caught on to his own feelings, of course. Shintaro didn’t plan on saying anything to the ace. As he watched Aomine stand there, he knew that it would work itself out somehow. Aomine would realize it sooner or later and Shintaro had something to look forward to. He was quite convinced that Aomine’s miserable pining would be hilarious to watch.

‘Hey, Midorima, isn’t that Kise guy way to good-looking?’ Aomine suddenly spoke up, his eyes still directed at the retreating form of the model, who now was nothing more than a yellow dot in the white surroundings.

The question caught the green-haired boy off-guard. He didn’t really know how to reply. It was not worth the effort to deny the model’s attractiveness. Because even though puberty hadn’t taken a grip on the blond yet and the baby fat was still present on his cheeks, anyone could tell that puberty was going to change the model into something else entirely. His face would be thinning, fully exposing his sharp features and if he continued being a fanatic sportsman, he would also build up more muscles. All in all, in the next few years, Kise Ryouta would become twice as beautiful, trice as famous and four times as strong on the sports field. It really was unfair, Shintaro concluded. Aomine made a point; Kise Ryouta was way too good-looking.

‘He is an unnaturally attractive person, in fact. Sadly, it’s not something I can deny.’ Shintaro replied, adjusting his glasses.

‘I know right? It’s so unfair. I mean, just look at him. That face, those golden eyes and those eyelashes. How are those eyelashes real? It’s not fair at all; he’ll steal every single girl in a 500 meter radius! And then the fact that he, as the absolute star player and ace, quit the baseball team, only to become the volleyball ace and to win the nationals in less than 3 months! He’s way to perfect! He’s like a porcelain doll, pure perfection carved out of the most expensive material. I want to see what’s underneath, I want to make that porcelain model fall, and I want to shatter him to pieces and to see the soul inside. I want to know if Kise Ryouta is as pretty on the inside as he is on the outside, because no one can be that perfect!’ Aomine semi-yelled, causing Murasakibara and Akashi to turn around in confusion. Momoi came running over to check if Aomine had a fever and was hallucinating.

‘Mido-chin I was right, wasn’t I? Mine-chin does have a crush on Kise. He’s even talking in metaphors. This can’t be good, right?’ Murasakibara asked. The tall boy had slowly moved closer to Shintaro, they were now standing side by side, their elbows brushing at every movement. It felt natural, Shintaro thought that he could get used to these casual, secret moments of contact.

‘I sure suppose so. His metaphors even made sense. I think he’s on his final breaths.’ Shintaro replied, crossing his arms, trying to suppress his laughter and the blush that was threatening to break out on his face.

‘Wha-? No way, I do not have the hots for that Kise dude! You guys are screwed in the head. I like boobs, big ones at that! That dude might have a pretty face, but he doesn’t have boobs, so no way in hell I’d fall for him. Murasakibara, are you getting shortage of oxygen because your head’s so high up in the air? Is that why you are imagining things? I was just observing that he’s beautiful, because you can’t deny that. It doesn’t mean I like the guy! You two are seriously insane! And, who says I can’t use metapho-whatevers!’ Aomine sputtered, face growing redder by the second.

‘Aomine, I hate to side up against you, but Midorima and Murasakibara are right. I think you’re definitely crushing on Kise.’ Akashi replied.

‘Oh come on! Get the fu- even you, Akashi? I trusted you man! But you are just as insane as those two are! C’mon, Satsuki help me out!’ Aomine yelled.

‘Sorry, Dai-chan. But I’ll have to side with Mukkun, Midorin and Akashi-kun. You so are in lo-lo-love with Kise-kun!’ Momoi sing-songed.

‘NO I’M NOT!’

‘Yes you are.’

‘You are, in fact.’

‘Mine-chin, you are~’

‘Stop denying, Dai-chan!’

‘No, Satsuki, guys! Come on!’

---

Shintaro was waiting outside the restaurant where he was supposed to meet his boyfriend for their first date. It was a little post 7, meaning that the tall boy should show up any moment. It was still cold outside, but it had stopped snowing.

After the whole Aomine dilemma, they had all gone their separate ways. Shintaro had directly asked his mother if he could go out for dinner. She’d agreed and the shooting guard had taken a quick shower and he’d dressed up nicely, then he took the train to the station closest to the restaurant. He’d arrived 20 minutes early and had been anxious the whole time.

‘what if he doesn’t show up? Maybe he changed his mind.’ Shintaro thought. However, the thoughts were deemed wrong when a tall shadow casted itself over Shintaro.

‘Hey there, Mido-chin. Sorry I’m late, have you been waiting long?’ Murasakibara asked.

‘You’re not late, in fact. You are 3 minutes early. And I haven’t been waiting long, so it’s fine.’ Shintaro lied about that last part; he didn’t want the other boy to know that he was so nervous that he’d departed way too early. He really didn’t want to be the last to arrive, better way to early.

‘Ah, I see. That’s good. Let’s go inside, it’s cold.’ The center said, tugging on Shintaro’s sleeve to get him to follow.

---

About 2 hours later the pair walked out of the restaurant. They had talked about a lot of things over dinner, including how nostalgic it felt; they first got together after winning a national title and now they had their first date after winning another one. Another important topic was Aomine’s not-so-subtle crush. They both got to an agreement where they agreed that it was a good thing that they hadn’t been pining after one another like that. They were both sure that Nijimura or Akashi would have killed them both for messing up the dynamics in the team. They were glad they took things the easy way.

They slowly started their walk to the station. It had started snowing once again and the temperature had dropped even lower. It was dark outside; only the streetlights and billboards gave light. There weren’t many people outside, even if they were, they were travelling per car or per bus. It was so calm; it felt like a sudden peace before a very bad situation. Calm before the storm. Quite literally too, the weather forecast had warned the citizens that a snowstorm would be breaking loose around midnight.

During their walk, both remained silent. Shintaro felt that a moment like this didn’t need any words. They had started walking closer to one another and in a moment of bravery, Shintaro had grabbed Murasakibara’s hand in his own. The tall boy had looked at Shintaro in surprise for a moment, but easily accepted the newfound contact. Shintaro was glad that it was dark outside, because he was quite certain that his face was as red as a strawberry. The cold even cut through the thick layers of clothing they were wearing, but on the place where their gloved hands touched, warmth seemed to radiate. The moment could last forever, if you asked them. Sadly, all good things must come to an end sooner or later. The station came into view and they would have to go their separate ways soon. When there was only a little 100 meters until the station, they came to halt.

‘Mido-chin, I really liked tonight. It was nice.’ Murasakibara said, staring at the lights of the station.

‘You’re right, in fact. It was nice.’ Shintaro replied. Subconsciously, he tightened his grip on Murasakibara’s hand, which squeezed back in return.

‘We should probably head home though, or else our families will be worried.’ Shintaro said. He really didn’t want to leave, but he knew he had too. The both had too; they wouldn’t want to get caught up in the storm that was coming after all.

‘Yeah, you’re probably right. I don’t want mama-chin to get worried.’ Murasakibara replied.

Slowly, the couple let go of each other’s hand. They were facing each other for a moment, before hesitantly leaning in to share a short, but warm and affectionate hug. Shintaro rested his head on Murasakibara’s shoulder, fingers grasping the fabric of his boyfriend’s coat, strong arms holding him in place. He closed his eyes for a moment to enjoy the warmth radiating through his body. It was for the first time they shared contact that felt this intimate, yet it was still pure and innocent.

After a short while, they released each other, both facing the ground with a blush present on their cheeks.

‘So… Uhm, I’ll see you on Monday.’ Shintaro said.

‘Yeah, bye Mido-chin.’

---

They both barely made it to their trains in time.

Chapter Text

‘So… I might just have done something really stupid.’ Aomine announced. Practice had just ended and they were walking to the grocery store to buy ice cream, something they’d been doing quite often lately. Even Akashi had joined them today. Which was pretty rare, since the red-head usually headed straight home.

‘What’s new?’ Murasakibara mumbled under his breath while chewing a piece of candy. The bag with snacks he was holding was growing pretty empty.

Akashi let out a long sigh, Momoi face-palmed and Shintaro felt the urge to cry.

Kuroko was the only one that seemed willing to listen to the blue-haired moron.

Speaking of whom, Kuroko Tetsuya had recently become an official member of Teiko’s prestigious first-string after proving himself worthy of playing with the best during a session of games, with the heavy assistance of Aomine, who proposed to be kicked out of the team should Kuroko fail. Akashi had been right after all; Kuroko Tetsuya was indeed a great help to the team, he had been just what they needed, a passing specialist. Aomine had been overjoyed when the small boy was joining them for real, but Shintaro noticed that he himself had a little hardship with accepting the invisible boy as one of them, since he was remarkably useless for anything aside from passing. Murasakibara felt the same way, he’d personally told Shintaro that, but by now they both accepted and respected Kuroko’s special talents in their team. They were no longer first-years either, they had all successfully moved up a grade. How Aomine had done it, still remained a mystery.

‘What did you do this time, Aomine-kun?’ Kuroko said. The boy’s voice was almost just as unnoticeable as Kuroko himself.

‘Well… I might or might not have just purposely thrown a basketball at someone’s head. At my crush’s head, to be exact?’ Aomine laughed sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head.

‘YOU DID WHAT!?’ Momoi screeched. ‘Oh my God, this is priceless! Not only did you leave a horrible first impression, you also just confessed that you do have a crush on Kise-kun!’ She laughed.

‘I never said it was him!’ Aomine hissed back, with a very unconvincing red face. Aomine had been in straight-out denial of his crush on the model ever since that day of the Wintercup finals.

‘Mine-chin, we all know that you like him, stop denying. You’re painfully obvious and annoying.’ Murasakibara said.

‘And I actually saw you throw that ball at him, Aomine-kun.’ Kuroko deadpanned.

‘What!? You saw that! But how?’ Aomine screamed in agony. The poor boy was going to die from embarrassment any moment now.

‘As usual, I was walking right next to you, but due my lack of presence and your drooling over Kise-kun, you failed to notice me.’ Kuroko said. ‘Also, Kise-kun seemed very upset with you. I think you just blew all your chances. Or well, more like you blew the very little probability of you ever getting someone as good-looking as Kise-kun.’ He finished.

‘Tetsu, you little shit! Oi, Midorima, help me out here!’ Aomine said, directing his gaze to Shintaro.

‘What exactly do you want me to do? This is your problem, so sort it out yourself, in fact.’ He replied. Shintaro crossed his arms, trying to look serious. It was a real big task, since the situation was outright hilarious.

‘Awww, come on man! You know how to date and stuff right?’ Aomine was practically pleading at this point.

Somehow, the blue-haired boy had managed to find out about Shintaro and Murasakibara being a couple. How he did that was unknown, but Aomine had been nagging the two of them ever since. It wasn’t in a disrespectful way though; Aomine was accepting of their relationship and even told them that in person. It was just that the boy kept on asking outrageous questions that made Murasakibara drop his books and that made Shintaro flame up in embarrassment. Things like “so, who’s on bottom?” and stuff alike. Repeatedly, Murasakibara was the one that answered Aomine while grabbing Shintaro’s arm to keep him from walking away. Aomine had been seriously surprised when he learned that the two of them hadn’t done anything beyond holding hands and the occasional hugging at this point. After that however, Aomine did keep on asking them questions in the same style, but Shintaro supposed that it was just to mess with them. Aomine was one that loved it to mess with people after all.

‘That doesn’t mean I can help you! Unlike you, I didn’t throw a basketball at his head, you moron. You should just have talked to him or well, anything besides this ridiculous stunt, in fact.’

‘Hey, you owe me big-time, so better help out a friend in need!’ Aomine said, leaning in close while pointing his finger at Shintaro’s head.

‘And how exactly do I owe you anything? I do not recall being in your debt, in fact.’

‘You’re taller than me now, so you owe me for making me lose my superior position, obviously.’ The blue-haired boy replied, as if it was an all too obvious fact. It was true though, Shintaro had outgrown Aomine by a centimeter, something he was quite satisfied with. Not that he’d ever let Aomine know that little detail.

‘You’re making no sense whatsoever, Aomine. People do not get in debt because of height. You’re being outright ridiculous.’ Shintaro replied. He was seriously questioning how the blue-haired boy functioned. How did he even come up with something like this?

‘All I wanted was that he’d notice me, you know? I just wanted him to look in my direction for once. Kise’s always looking to the ground and he always seems to be so sad. I just wanted… to make him happy, I guess.’ Aomine said, suddenly sounding much softer. By now, even the tip of his ears had turned bright red.

‘Last time I checked, people don’t feel happy when they get a basketball thrown against their heads.’ Akashi stated.

‘Yeah, I know that, I’m not stupid! It was an impulse, okay? That ball rolled out of the gym and I was sent to pick it up, then I look to the right and I see that damn angel walking by, I was scared to call out to him, so I just did the thing my instincts told me; pick up the ball and throw it at his head. After I did that, I knew it was stupid, but it was too late. So I just told him that it was an accident and played it cool! Man, I screwed up, didn’t I?’ Aomine sighed.

‘Aomine-kun, Kise-kun didn’t buy your story, I could see it on his face. He knows you did that on purpose, he probably things you were jealous of him and decided to attack him.’ Kuroko said.

‘Tetsu, don’t make it worse! Aargh, I feel like such a moron!’ Aomine whined. He walked over to a corner and began sulking there.

‘Come now, Dai-chan. I’m sure that Kise-kun isn’t mad at you, well not for a long time at least. You should apologize to him sometime.’ Momoi said, hugging her childhood friend from behind while squeezing his face between her small hands.

The four boys found it really hard not to laugh at Aomine’s over dramatic actions and were silently laughing behind their hands. Some passerby’s talked to one another behind their hands, pointing at the ridiculous scene in front of them.

‘Satsuki, why couldn’t I just fall for someone who isn’t a famous model? Oh my God, what if he mentions me in an interview!? “Yeah, I had this crazy stalker throw a basketball at my head once.” I even told him my name! He’ll sue me for sure!’ Aomine panicked.

Momoi lost it at that last statement and ducked over in uncontrollable laughter while clutching her stomach. ‘Haha, Dai-chan you’re ridiculous! Haha, there’s no way that- Haha! He’ll sue you for something like that! Haha, I can’t breathe! Haha!’

‘I could always say that I saw Kise standing at the door watching Aomine pull off that dunk a little while ago and that he seemed completely enchanted. No, I mustn’t. He’ll have to talk to Kise by himself.’ Shintaro smiled to himself as the thought crossed his mind. Aomine would be fine eventually and for now they had the perfect entertainment.

---

‘Ne, Mido-chin? You saw it too right? Kise-chin watching Mine-chin, I mean.’ Murasakibara asked.

It was just the two of them now, the others had all gone home. Shintaro had stayed behind with Murasakibara, it had become routine by now; the whole team would go the grocery store together and afterwards the couple would take a little walk in the park together. Their personal version of a date.

‘Yes, I did. I didn’t know you saw that too, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

It was a quiet evening and not many people were in the park. The rain falling from the grey sky was probably to blame for that. It wasn’t pouring down in buckets, but it wasn’t very light as well. The cherry blossoms had started falling out, showing that the spring was almost over. The pink petals were lying on the path, withering in the puddles the rain had created. It was a sad sight, but it also promised the rebirth of those flowers in the spring next year. A never-ending cycle of blossoming and death. Marking the end of the season and the start of a new one. A new beginning always starts at the end. That’s what Shintaro learned from his mother and over and over again her words had been proven to him. He thought that it was something beautiful. Every beginning has an end, but every end brings forth a new beginning. As long as the world worked like that, nothing was ever truly lost. Even when the rain looked so sad.

The weather forecast had predicted this rain, which is why Shintaro brought his umbrella with him. Of course, Murasakibara forgot to bring his, which caused the two of them to walk close to one another to fit under the single, black umbrella. Shintaro didn’t mind in particularly, it felt cozy. The taller of the two was holding the umbrella above their heads, protecting them from the rain. Shintaro held on to Murasakibara’s arm, resting his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder. Something Shintaro could only afford this because of the umbrella shielded the view and the fact that there weren’t many people at all. He had grown adjusted to the casual touching, it was no different to him than talking. In the beginning, Shintaro had been very nervous and embarrassed every single time they shared physical contact, but that had started to fade recently. He could easily accept the casual hand-holding and hugging, as long as it was in private. Public display of their affection was something Shintaro was still on edge about. Not because He didn’t want other people to see, but because he didn’t want to be judged. That’s why he only allowed PDA when there weren’t many people outside. Murasakibara respected Shintaro’s wishes in that aspect very well, he had no expectations whatsoever. It was one of the main reasons that made their relationship work so well.

That doesn’t mean they didn’t bicker anymore. Two people that are as different as the two of them were destined to fight from time to time. It was never something major though and they always worked past the issue fast. Even though they were both still very young, their relationship worked in a mature way. Shintaro liked that about them. People might find it weird that they’d never kissed despite being together for over nine months, but it was alright because those other people didn’t seem to value the emotional bond over the physical bond like the two of them did.

Once, they had come very close to their first kiss. It had been on an afternoon in January, the two of them were alone in the clubroom, because they had cleaning duty. They had been cleaning the room like they were supposed to, but they found a stack of old magazines and had started to look through them, side by side. Shintaro’s hand on top of Murasakibara’s. One thing led to another and they found themselves staring into each other’s eyes. Their faces getting closer and closer until they were only centimeters apart. “Sorry, I can’t do it after all.” Shintaro had said, as he turned his reddened face away. “Yeah, same. I don’t think we’re ready for that yet.” Murasakibara had replied, also turning away. After that, both of them had started laughing and they continued to clean up the room.

Even though it was very awkward, it was one of Shintaro’s favorite memories. Their mutual respect for one another was clear as day and Shintaro just felt so loved. It was nice, being able to be yourself completely and being liked for that fact alone.

‘Ne, Mido-chin, wanna bet that Kise-chin is going to join the basketball club?’ Murasakibara asked.

‘Wanna bet that he’ll be all over Aomine in no time?’ Shintaro replied. He inhaled softly, enjoying the smell the rain had brought. He loved that smell, after a long and dry period, the rain cleansed everything and brought forth a calming smell which set you at ease.

‘Yup. That’s what I was thinking as well.’

---

‘Mom, dad, I’m home.’ Shintaro called as he closed the door behind him. He was a little later than usual, because he’d walked Murasakibara home. He didn’t want the purple-haired boy to catch a cold in the rain. Murasakibara had laughed at his proposal and patted Shintaro’s head. “Awww, Mido-chin is worried about me. How cute~” Was what the giant had said, of course, Shintaro denied everything. Saying that “I’m not worried about you, everyone would do this, it’s called manners, in fact. And I’m not cute!” In the end, Murasakibara won the argument, saying that yes, Shintaro was indeed worried and yes, he’s cute. At the front door of Murasakibara’s flat, the couple exchanged a short hug before Shintaro started his was back home. ‘Sorry I’m late.’ He decided to add.

‘That’s fine; we assumed that practice would take a little longer.’ Miho said with a smile. And equally smiling Takara was sitting on her arm, trying to grab her mother’s brown locks in her chubby hands.

 ‘Welcome home dear, did you have a nice day?’ His father asked.

‘Yes I did, practice was though, as usual, but I feel like the team is really making a lot of progress. And I got the marks for my practice exams back, they were all above 85.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Now, that’s my son! How’re your friends doing?’

‘They’re doing fine, Aomine is being a little stupid though, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.’

‘I see. What about your piano playing, how’s that going?’

‘It’s going well. I suppose I’ll be able to play longer symphonies soon, in fact.’

‘That’s good. Continue on like this, Shintaro.’

‘I will, father.’ Shintaro replied. He loved his father, he really did, but the pressure he put on his shoulders was heavy. Constantly being pushed to the limits, always giving his best performance, it was hard. Shintaro knew that he shouldn’t complain, because Akashi had a father that was even stricter on him and Murasakibara didn’t have a father at all. Still he could not help it. His father had planned his entire future already and would probably be sad if Shintaro took a different path, but lately it had started to be more and more clear to Shintaro. What he wanted to be when he grew up wasn’t a doctor. What he secretly wished was that he would be able to become a professional basketball player someday. He’d love it to be on the national team along with his friends, which was likely to happen, if they all continued to grow at the speed they were growing. He also wished that he could spend his future with Murasakibara by his side. He knew that that would probably change later in his life, because a first love like this one wasn’t very likely to last very long and they would probably fall out of love someday, meet someone else. For now, Shintaro wasn’t ready to give up on it and he wished to believe that they would last, that faith would allow them to last. Of course, he’d never mention any of this out loud, not yet at least. For now he decided that he would keep up the “perfect son” act for a little while longer, as long as it was still possible.

Because he loved his parents deeply and he’d never want to hurt them.

Chapter Text

‘There’s someone moving up to the first string today. Rumors say that he’s only been playing basketball for two weeks.’

‘Are you for real!?’

‘I heard it hasn’t even been two weeks. It was even shorter, I believe the rumors spoke about 9 or 10 days.’

‘Whaaaat? That’s just crazy.’

‘And impossible, I mean, have you ever seen our first string? We managed to win all major tournaments in one year. We are really strong, no way some guy that never played the sport before can just become that good in such a short period of time. Well, I guess he’s nothing compared to our regulars though, but as a first string player myself, I don’t like this at all. I had to work super hard for over a year before I finally got my spot on the first string and now this kid shows up, super late no less and gets the spot in no-time!’

‘Yeah I know right, It’s totally unfair if you ask me. He didn’t even have to do the advancement test! We don’t want a guy like that here. Ain’t that right, Aomine?’ One of the first stringers currently guarding Aomine in the practice game asked.

‘Well, beats me I guess. I don’t know who this guy is after all. We’ll just have to wait and see. He’s probably strong though, since he’s going up to the first string and all. Besides, Akashi would never randomly let someone join us. This guy must be the real deal.’ The blue-haired teen replied. He continued practice after that, breaking through the defense as if it was nothing.

‘Apparently, it’s that famous boy. You know, the one from class 2c?’

Aomine suddenly stopped moving, the ball he just released falling back on top of his head. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ He said.

Shintaro and Murasakibara exchanged a glance that said “told you so.” The shooting guard noticed Kuroko and Momoi doing the same exact thing.

‘I know right? How am I supposed to get a girl now? That little punk is good-looking as it is and now he’s coming for our spots on the famous basketball team? Damn, I hate guys like him. It’s like he’s got it all.’ The boy continued.

‘Nope, he’s speaking the truth, Dai-chan. Speaking of, I need to go get Kise-kun from the second-string gymnasium now. He’s gonna join us in practice from today on. Be nice!’ Momoi said, while suggestively winking to Aomine. Which of course caused the latter to turn bright red.

‘Yeah, sure. Whatever.’ Aomine replied. It didn’t sound all too convincing.

---

‘Okay, so why had Kise suddenly decided to join the basketball club? How did that happen? Why did that happen? Oh shit, it must be because he wants to take revenge on me for throwing that ball at his head earlier! Awww, man. My crush started to play my sport only to take me down for good and then he’ll sell me out to his fangirls and they’ll tear me to shreds for hurting their precious idol! Can’t believe the amazing Aomine Daiki is gonna die like this.’ Aomine said. The first string had a 10 minutes break from the harsh training schedule.

‘Aomine-kun, what the fuck?’ Kuroko spoke up. Everyone looked at the pale boy in surprise; they had never heard him curse before.

‘From the way you are mumbling right now, you’d think you were the one that got his head hit.’ Akashi said. ‘Just calm down, I’m sure Kise-kun has already forgotten the incident. I’ve been watching him and he’s gone above and beyond my expectations so far. I suggest you all watch your backs, because he’ll reach our level soon enough.’ The red-head replied. The aura around him had grown dark again. Shintaro instinctively knew that those words just now were spoken by the “other” Akashi Seijurou.

‘Ne, Mine-chin. Isn’t this a good thing? Kise-chin will be close to you now, which means that you can embarrass yourself with your pathetic flirting attempts for great amounts of time from now on.’ Murasakibara said. The tone of his voice and the look on his face made it clear that he was teasing Aomine, Shintaro noted.

‘Maybe he’s into stupid.’ Shintaro decided to join the little game.

‘You two are the worst.’ Aomine hissed.

‘Don’t worry, Aomine-kun. We’ll be your wingmen, right Murasakibara-kun, Midorima-kun? Akashi-kun will help plan the wedding.’ Kuroko said, patting his friend’s shoulder.

‘Kuroko, what are you saying? Underage people cannot get married and gay marriage is not yet legalized in Japan.’ Akashi replied.

‘No way I’m gonna do that, in fact.’ Shintaro replied. ‘I’m not going to do this with you guys. It’s going to be a train wreck.’

‘Yeah, Kuro-chin and I will be your amazing wingmen, this can’t go wrong.’

‘I seriously doubt that.’ Shintaro thought to himself.

‘And I’ll make sure Mido-chin helps too.’ The little shit said.

‘Tell me why I liked him again?’ Shintaro thought bitterly. ‘No, Murasakibara. I will not get myself involved in Aomine’s love life. You should stay out of it too, in fact.’

‘Ne, Mido-chin you’re no fun.’

‘I’m just playing it safe. After all, my horoscope told me to be careful with Gemini today. Which is Kise’s sign, in fact. So I must not risk it.’

‘… Why do you know Kise’s sign?’ Aomine asked.

‘Uhm.. No reason. Just came across it in a magazine once.’

‘When he found out you liked Kise-chin, Mido-chin searched up his birthday online to see if you two would make a good couple based on your horoscope, blood type and other stuff. He wanted to help you out.’

Murasakibara, I told you not to flaunt that to him! And I certainly did not want to help him with his love troubles, in fact.’ Shintaro shot back.

‘Mido-chin, your tsundere is showing again.’

‘Why do I like that moron so much. I’ve been wondering that al lot today, haven’t I? Still, I can’t bring myself to stop.’

‘I’m not a tsundere, Murasakibara. For your information, I was just hypothetically looking if those two would be compatible… for the team dynamics, in fact. And what I found out was that you’re not, at least not on the first look. Allow me to elaborate. His blood type is A and yours, Aomine, is B, which is why you should not get along well, in fact. Then again, you do get along with Kuroko, which might give you some hope, since he’s an A as well. However, Virgo and Gemini aren’t a very common match and aren’t very compatible on romantic terms, in fact. You two are very different, but you share a competitive spirit, which will cause you to clash since neither of you will want to ever lose. Personality wise, the two of you are-’

‘Don’t listen to him, Aomine-kun. Murasakibara-kun and I made a fail-proof plan. Tonight, after practice we’re taking Kise-kun to the convenience store with us and we’ll try to do some good words for you, however you’ll need to behave yourself like a normal person instead of a complete moron.’ Kuroko said, shutting Shintaro off in the middle of his explanation.

‘Midorima, I’m seriously wondering how you know all that stuff. Hold on, I bet you analyzed all of us before deciding if we were safe to talk with.’ Aomine said.

‘I did, in fact. I follow fate; therefore I must always plan and research what I’m about do in advance. Especially something like friendship cannot be left unguarded.’ Shintaro replied, pushing his glasses back in place.

‘Riiight… Anyways, Tetsu, Murasakibara, you guys are awesome! It’s a great idea. Man, I owe you both big-time.’ Aomine said, throwing his arm over Kuroko’s smaller frame.

‘You can pay me back with food.’ Murasakibara said.

‘Okay everyone, time to get back to training!’ The coach said.

---

‘Satsuki, who’d you bring with you?’ Aomine asked as Satsuki entered the gym with Kise by her side. He was hanging on the hoop after having dunked the ball through it.

Shintaro had to suppress the urge to slap Aomine in the face. ‘Pretending not to know who he is? Really, Ahomine? And how long do you plan on hanging there.’

‘Oh, this is Kise Ryouta. He’s going to be joining us on the first string from now on, even if he hasn’t been playing for two weeks yet.’ She said, seemingly playing along with her childhood friend.

‘Uh, are you for real, Kise? That’s really amazing for someone that just started!’ Aomine said, finally releasing himself from the hoop. After saying that, Aomine chased after the offense to shut them down. Everyone knowing the blue-haired boy even a little could see the blush on his face.

‘So you finally got to talk to him, huh?’

Shintaro glanced over to the model. He was really even more gorgeous in person, his presence was also overwhelming everyone else present in the gymnasium, as to be expected, there was a crowd of girls watching in the stands. But what was even more overwhelming was the adoration that was displayed on the blonds’ face. Adoration directed at none other than Aomine.

Shintaro noticed Akashi walking into his direction, stopping the practice game in the process. Something very unusual for the point-guard.

‘Seems like they’ll be fine, don’t you think?’ Akashi asked with a smile on his face.

‘I guess you’re right, Akashi.’ Shintaro replied. ‘Let’s just hope Aomine doesn’t screw this up.’

‘Oh, no he won’t. It’s just a feeling that I have.’

‘Those fangirls are annoying though. Must they be here all the time? Ne, Aka-chin can’t you send them away?’ Murasakibara asked. ‘They’re very noisy and I don’t like noisy people.’

‘I happen to agree with you, Murasakibara. We must really find a solution for that; we can’t have them here all the time. It’ll interfere with our training. But for now I can’t do anything, as the vice-captain I’ll have to have a chat with Nijimura-senpai first, who will then discuss this with the higher-ups.’ Akashi replied.

‘You three! I don’t care if your prodigies or whatever, don’t slack off!’ The coach yelled.

‘Yessir!’ The three collectively replied.

---

Even though Shintaro did say he wouldn’t go to the convenience store with the others, he found himself joining them anyways. Surprised to see Aomine walking next to Kise with his arm draped over the model’s shoulder. The latter only seeming a little uncomfortable, but otherwise laughing and talking with the boy next to him. They were all standing outside the convenience store, all except for Akashi, who had other business. Some conversation seemed to be taking place, however Shintaro didn’t really follow.

‘Okay, so who are you anyways?’ The model suddenly asked, gaze focused on Shintaro. The question caught him off-guard.

‘I’m Midorima Shintaro, one of the regulars, in fact. At least know who your regulars are.’ Shintaro replied.

‘I can’t help that I don’t know! I just joined today!’ The blond whined. Shintaro noticed that Kise Ryouta was going to be a handful.

The rest of the night went as well as you could expect. There was only that moment where some robber took an elderly woman’s purse and they had stopped the man because Shintaro took (a very confused looking) Murasakibara’s pack of maibo and threw at the guy’s head, causing him to collapse. When he tried to run, Aomine stopped him and when the man turned around, he met Murasakibara’s wrath for ruining his food. And Kise had screamed in surprise when he found out Kuroko also belonged to the regulars. They were now walking their way back while talking about basketball.

‘Kise-kun, did you know Aomine-kun likes your ass?’ Kuroko suddenly said.

‘Ehh? He does? That’s good to hear. I know my ass is lovely though, I ain’t a model for nothing after all. Thank you!’ Kise replied with a giggle.

‘WTF Tetsu!? Why must you say that?’ Aomine yelled, red-faced.

‘Way to go, Kuro-chin!’ Murasakibara said.

‘Kuroko, that was a very vulgar choice of words, in fact.’ Shintaro said as he face-palmed himself.

‘You have a funny accent, Midorima-kun.’ Kise said out of nowhere.

‘I know right? He’s all “in fact” this and that. He also believes in astrology and fortune telling.’ Aomine said, having forgotten Kuroko’s awful wingman-skills.

‘Ehh, really!? That is awesome! Can you read hands?’ Kise beamed. Shintaro noted that the boy was also overly energetic, pretty stupid and even more dramatic than Aomine.

‘I cannot, in fact. But I can tell your fortune based on your horoscope. To prevent yourself from danger, you should bring your lucky item with you every day. Today’s lucky item for Gemini is a Barbie-doll, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Ohhh, that’s so interesting!’ Kise said with sparkling eyes.

‘Oi, Kise, don’t go along with him. Or else you’ll end up being just as weird as that guy. Or even worse, you’ll end up wearing glasses and green-haired.’ Aomine said, pulling on Kise’s arm. Shintaro supposed that it was to keep the model from getting away from him.

‘Aomine, I did not get glasses and green hair because I follow astrology, in fact.’ Shintaro sighed at Aomine’s stupid comment.

‘Mhhh, I don’t know, maybe I should. After all, if you ask me, Midorima-kun is pretty hot.’ Kise said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. He then broke free from Aomine’s grasp.

Shintaro’s jaw dropped, Aomine choked on his drink, Kuroko tripped, Momoi laughed and Murasakibara only nodded in agreement.

‘Oi, you’re kidding right? I mean, Midorima?’ Aomine asked, horror showing on his face.

‘Nope, I’m very serious. I’ll show you.’ Kise said. He walked over to Shintaro. ‘Give me those.’ Kise said as he took off Shintaro’s glasses. ‘Here, see for yourself. Those glasses hide his pretty eyes and give him a nerdy look, but you must see through that. His features are nice and he’s tall with a nice muscle build. A natural born beauty! I don’t think my model company would mind having you, pretty boy!’

‘Please give me back my glasses.’ Shintaro said, embarrassed to death. The model did not.

‘I never looked at Midorin like that, but you’re right!’ Momoi screeched. ‘You’re so pretty! Come here, I need to squeeze your face!’

‘Is that some kind of thing girls do? Squeezing faces?’

‘Oh shit, you are right after all. Who would have guessed?’ Aomine said, genuinely surprised.

‘Told you so, Aominecchi!’

‘I… what? Aominecchi?’ Aomine said, looking at Kise with a puzzled expression.

‘I add –cchi to the names of people I admire.’ Kise said with a wink.

‘Right… That’s okay, I guess.’ Aomine said. Shintaro thought his friend looked very happy in that moment. But there were more important things on his mind right now.         

‘Could you please stop squeezing my face, Momoi? And Kise, give me back my glasses. Now.’ Shintaro said. This time, the blond did give the glasses, but not before putting them on and screaming about how blind Shintaro must be.

‘That was fun! I have to leave now though. Bye everyone! Aominecchi, I wanna go one-on-one with you tomorrow! So make some time for me, okay?’ The model said waving to the regulars from the Teiko team and their manager.

‘Sure thing, model-san. Just don’t come crying on me when I totally kick your ass.’ Aomine called after him.

---

‘Oh Dai-chan! How nice for you! Kise-kun admires you!’ Momoi said after Kise had left.

‘Yeah that’s nice and all, but I first need to kill Tetsu for being the worst wingman in history.’ Aomine said. ‘Hold on, where’d he go?’

‘Kuro-chin went home like, 10 minutes ago.’ Murasakibara said. Shintaro only then noticed Kuroko’s absence. The boy really was invisible.

‘Okay, so I’ll kill Tetsu tomorrow. And I’m really happy Kise said that to me and all, but he thinks Midorima’s hot and he actually thinks his astrology thing is cool, so I’m not sure what to think. Does that mean he likes Midorima then? I mean if Kise does like him, who says that four-eyes won’t dump Murasakibara and get it on with Kise? I mean, let’s be honest. Kise is way prettier than Murasakibara, no offense by the way.’ Aomine sighed.

‘Mine-chin, I’ll crush you.’ Murasakibara said with an angry pout on his face.

‘As if! What makes you think I’d do something as disgraceful as that? I wouldn’t trade Murasakibara for anyone, in fact. Why else do you think I started liking him in the first place? It’s not about looks here. I’d never dump him for someone else.’ Shintaro replied, his voice louder than it usually was. He felt his friends and boyfriend turn their gaze on him. It was only then that he realized what he’d just said.

‘Awww Midorin, so cute!’ Momoi squealed.

‘I’m flattered.’ Murasakibara deadpanned, but the smirk on his face gave him away.

‘Dude… Haha oh my god why didn’t I record that! The tsundere speaks up about his true feelings. I am so gonna use this as blackmail material! Just for your information, I was being sarcastic earlier; I knew all along that you wouldn’t hook up with Kise. But your reaction was pure gold!’ Aomine hollered.

Shintaro wasn’t sure if he could take the embarrassment anymore. His face was about to explode because of the blood that was pumped into it. It wasn’t like he didn’t mean what he said. He meant every single word. It was the fact that his confession had been open for everyone to hear instead of just for the person it was meant for. This wasn’t what he’d planned to happen.

‘Oha-asa should have done their job better.’ Shintaro thought bitterly

Part of him was glad though, he now knew that he could get the words out if he wanted too. That was a whole step forwards. He would talk about the happenings with his boyfriend later on, but for now he decided to make up a false excuse to get away from the teasing words of his friends in this awkward situation.

‘I must go now, my parents will be leaving for work duties and I need to watch over Takara.’ Shintaro said.

Then he bailed like a pro.

Chapter Text

A lot had happened in the past few weeks, including Takara celebrating her first birthday. But the real surprises were Akashi taking over the position of team captain from Nijimura, despite being a second year, Kise becoming one of the starters after four weeks of playing basketball and last, but not least Haizaki suddenly quitting the basketball team without giving any further notice.

Shintaro was the only one that remotely suspected it to happen, because on the day Haizaki quit, Akashi told him that he thought it would be best for Haizaki to quit the team as soon as possible. His other teammates had been completely surprised though.

---

‘Haizaki-kun quit the team?’ Kuroko asked.

‘He did.’ Akashi said.

‘Haizaki would just quit randomly though. Something must have happened. Maybe someone in his family became ill?’ Momoi said.

‘It’s nothing like that. I’ll be honest with you, I told him to leave the team.’ Akashi said. Everyone around him fell silent and stared at the new team captain in disbelief.

‘You ejected Haizaki from the club!?’ Aomine yelled in surprise, he was the first one to break the deafening silence in the gym.

‘Yes, that is correct.’ Akashi replied calmly.

‘But why would you do that? I know Zaki-chin is annoying, but he’s good enough to be a regular.’ Murasakibara added.

‘I do everything with reason. This action is no exception. But if you all must know, I did it to save Haizaki’s pride from getting shattered.’

‘Akashi-kun, I’m afraid you aren’t making any sense.’ Momoi said.

‘I’ll explain further. That one-on-one between Haizaki and Kise gave me a very clear view of what’s going on. We all know Haizaki was the obvious winner in that match, however I saw beyond that. Kise has been showing unnaturally fast progression ever since he joined a few weeks ago and according to my predictions, he should be surpassing Haizaki soon. Which would result in Haizaki losing his spot on the team, something his pride won’t be able to handle. So I gave him a choice. Stay here and watch Kise steal his spot, or leave with his head up high. It’s easy to tell what he picked.’ Akashi said. His eyes were cold and emotionless. Shintaro knew that everything Akashi was saying was based on true happenings, but he could feel that the redhead kept silent about certain details. He kept silent about the things the “other” Akashi had said or done.

‘So what you’re saying is that Kise-chin is now on the starting line-up instead of Zaki-chin?’

‘Yes. From this day onwards, Kise is an official starting member. Don’t be too hard on him in his first matches though. Because while he might be exceptionally strong, Kise has only just started playing and does not have game-experience like you all do.’

‘Yeah sure. I’ll try to be nice.’ Aomine replied.

---

It certainly was a strange thing to say for the power-forward. Because even though Aomine was head-over-heels in love with the blond model, all he ever did was scare and/or annoy the shit out of Kise. Aomine always teased Kise about everything, using the boy’s strong fear and disgust for worms against him by running after the poor boy while holding one of the strange creatures between his fingers. Kise would seek shelter behind either Akashi or Murasakibara while screaming for Aomine to throw away the worm.

No matter how many times Shintaro asked the power-forward if he was actually convinced that this immature form of “flirting” was the right one to use, Aomine would continue making Kise’s life “a living hell.” As quoted by Kise himself.

Kise had now been on the starters for four weeks and in that time, Shintaro had learned a lot about the way the model behaved and what his personality was like. Kise was a strange person; Shintaro had found that out pretty fast. The model always acted cheerful and impulsive when he was around them, but Shintaro once overheard a conversation between Kise and another boy he never met. It happened when Kise had still been on the volleyball team, just after the Wintercup, Shintaro assumed that the other boy was on the team’s starters as well.

---

Shintaro just wanted to get a drink from the vending machine, he never asked to see what he did. When he cut around the corner he heard a voice, belonging to the most gorgeous boy in school. However, the words that came out were just as ugly as the Devil.

‘You know, you should just quit the team already. You don’t have any talent for volleyball and all you do is drag us down.’ Kise spoke. Even from the distance, Shintaro could see the strange iciness in the golden eyes. It was quite a scary image, since the gold of the eyes resembled warmth instead of cold, yet these warm eyes were now ice cold.

‘What? Are you kidding me? You only started playing a month ago and now you think you’re all amazing just because you can hit some nice spikes? I mean, anyone as tall as you can pull that off. You’re nothing special yourself! I have been playing volleyball since I was in elementary school, I’ve been training hard for as long as I can remember, and now you are telling me to quit!?’ The boy replied in anger.

‘Talent is all there is in sports. Not all hard work is paid. There’s been a few people that made it to the top with effort alone, but let’s be honest, all world-class sportsmen and women were born with talent. Some have it, others don’t. I’m clearly the first and you’re clearly the second. I hate people like you, people that honestly believe they’re something special. People like you should just quit before they embarrass themselves.’ The model replied. Shintaro was shocked by the overwhelming resemblance between Kise’s words and those of Murasakibara.

Shintaro really did love his boyfriend a lot and because of that he was willing to (mostly) overlook a lot of Murasakibara’s personality flaws, but that had never changed the fact that he absolutely loathed the center’s negative view towards effort and sports. It was the only thing Shintaro would never be able to fall in love with. No matter how hard he tried.

‘How can you even say that? That’s very hurtful. Do I need to remind you that I’m your upperclassman?’ The other boy replied, his eyes were probably starting to water by now. Shintaro couldn’t see because the boy had his back turned to him.

‘Upperclassman my ass. Just because you were born a year or two before me doesn’t make you anything special. Because lets be real; I’m better at sports, I’m smarter than you, taller than you, more socially skilled than you, stronger than you and not to mention, I’m way better looking. It’s obvious who’s superior here.’ Kise said in a voice that was colder than ice. Shintaro had never, ever seen a person as arrogant as this boy before.

‘You’re a selfish brat, you know that, right?’ The boy replied. His voice was shaking.

‘So what if I am, I’m beautiful and talented. I don’t need anything else and if I want to, I can play the nice guy quite well, don’t you think, senpai?’ Venom was dripping from that last word. Maybe Akashi wasn’t the only one with serious personality issues.

‘You asshole. But you’re right… I really am worthless.’ The boy said, he was crying now.

‘You know what, stay in the volleyball club for all I care. I’ll quit team. I’ll just find another sport to be the best at.’ For a moment it sounded like Kise felt pity. It sounded like he regretted the words he had shamelessly thrown at the poor boy.

‘Have fun remembering the time when you won the nationals all thanks to a certain first year student.’ Kise said, smiling sweetly and waving as he walked past the shaking figure. As the blond model disappeared from his vision, Shintaro saw the poor boy sink down to his knees, crying in broken sobs and screams. A horrible, disgraceful thing to see.

‘Yo, Midorima, you coming or what? I’ve been calling your name for a minute now.’ Aomine called from behind.

‘Yes, I will. Sorry, I was just thinking about some stuff, in fact.’ Shintaro replied, taking his eyes away from the sobbing mess on the other side of the hallway. ‘Aomine, you have no idea what kind of monster your love interest is.’ Was the only thought crossing his mind at that moment.

---

However, there was more to Kise. Way more. Shintaro learned that Kise was genuinely nice to people he cared about. Including the Teiko starters. His smile when he was around them was real and unforced and Kise wouldn’t allow anyone to hurt his friends. Kise’s attitude towards Kuroko had changed a lot after the two of them had played a practice game together; he now treated the small boy with respect, maybe too much respect. Kise also added –cchi to all of their names much to Shintaro’s dismay. The blond was also excited about literally anything, except for worms. People that hadn’t seen the things Shintaro saw would assume that the model was a nice and bubbly guy, easy-going and not complicated in the least.

Kise was also extremely sly; playing mind games with people he needed for something. And it seemed like he had a new girlfriend every week, much to Aomine’s despair. However, when Aomine asked about it, Kise said that he didn’t actually like those girls all that much. Apparently, girls would often throw themselves at him and stick around, nagging him until he agreed to go out with them. Shintaro supposed there was a lot of truth in these words, considering how Kise always had an entire harem surrounding him.

All of these things were not really surprising Shintaro at all, what surprised him the most was that while arrogant and often selfish, Kise had a pretty low self-esteem.

For one, the model was actually insecure about his talent in basketball, saying that he was the worst player on the team by far. When Aomine not-so-friendly reminded the blond that the reason for that was the latter’s lack of in-game experience, Kise laughed it off, saying that it was obvious he just wasn’t on equal grounds with the others and that he would probably never be able to reach up to their level.

What was even more shocking was the fact that Kise was unsure about the way he looked. The most beautiful boy in school, maybe even in the entire city was insecure about his appearance.

Shintaro heard about this from Murasakibara, who’d found out about it the hard way. According to the purple-haired boy, he once walked in on Kise crying in the bathrooms. The model as white as a sheet with tear streaks on his pale cheeks He had been looking at his reflection in the mirror and didn’t notice someone else entering. When Murasakibara had asked what was wrong, Kise had stared at him in shock, quickly gathering his stuff, wiping his tears and walking away, saying there was a fly in his eye. However, before closing the door, Kise had said something remarkable. “Say Murasakibaracchi, how do you manage to stay skinny like that?” That question made the alarm bells ring.

Murasakibara had told Akashi about it as well, the redhead had taken immediate measures. Akashi sat Kise down after practice one afternoon. The conversation had taken place behind closed doors and no one other than the two of them knew what was said in there. After that chat things had changed a little, Kise would, without fail, eat with the six of them every break and Akashi would seek eye-contact with Kise ever so often, as if he was checking something.

Shintaro wasn’t sure about it, but he had his assumptions. The first thing that came to mind was an eating-disorder. It wasn’t uncommon for people in the model industry to develop one. Constantly being confronted with picture-perfect people around you would make anyone insecure. Even if they were one of those picture-perfect people. It was very common for them to lose self-confidence because another person was more popular, or thinner. Especially someone as young as Kise was an easy target for these disorders. However, seeing Kise laugh about some weird jokes Kuroko made or Aomine falling on his face, Shintaro didn’t have the heart to ask. Because maybe their presence had changed the model for the better.

There was one thing about Kise that Shintaro found disgusting. Something he couldn’t bear to look at; Kise’s fake-smile. Shintaro hated it when the model would crack an unnatural, forced smile on his face while being confessed to, or being touched in a perverted way by someone he didn’t know. It was painfully obvious that the blond felt uncomfortable and wanted to escape. Yet all he did was fake a smile on his face to hide his true feelings. Kise was really too nice for his own good. Very strange, considering the model’s ability to be cold and harsh when he wanted to be.  Aomine once asked Kise why he didn’t just punch those men that touched him so shamelessly. Kise replied that he didn’t like violence at all and that it was the risk that came with his job as model. He said that society was filled with perverted individuals that couldn’t keep their filthy hands to themselves. “Instead of hating those people, we should pity them. For their ignorance.” Shintaro thought those were some pretty big words coming from someone that failed almost all his academics.

Kise wasn’t stupid at all; he was just very easily distracted and couldn’t stay focused on his studies for longer than five minutes. Shintaro once tutored Aomine and Kise on mathematics, because a big test was coming up. It had been a horrifying experience. Aomine was just too lazy to do anything and Kise got distracted by anyone and anything. In the end of the session, they had solved one single problem and both Kise and Aomine still didn’t have a clue about what they were supposed to do and completely failed their tests.

When Kise found out about Shintaro’s relationship with Murasakibara he had been very unsurprised. Which caught them all off-guard. Kise just laughed and said that he always felt like there was something between them. He said that he couldn’t explain what it was, but that the chemistry between them was strong. He also said that he wasn’t blind and that the way they looked at each other spoke more than a thousand words. This statement, of course, embarrassed Shintaro thoroughly. Kise then found out about the shooting-guard’s supposed tsundere-syndrome and started teasing him about it. It didn’t help that all the others joined the model and collectively teased Shintaro about his social awkwardness. Kise said that it was “cute” and “sooooo adorable” and gave him a tackle-hug. At that moment Shintaro cursed the model’s existence.

Still, Shintaro had developed a soft-spot for the two-faced model. He cared about the latter’s wellbeing and subtly watched over him to see if he was in any form of mental pain. He would never admit it and he wasn’t going to be caught dead with someone knowing about it of course. It was just like Kise blended into the team like he never did anything else. It was as if the model had always been around them, like he had always been their friend. His personality flaws didn’t matter in the least, because all of them were far from perfect. Yet their personalities all contributed to one another, causing their friendship to become stronger than it had ever been. Sure, the fought a lot, but that was just a sign of their strong connection.

---

Long ago, Shintaro had felt like something was missing on the team, like there was a missing piece, or a missing prodigy to fill in the fifth position on the starting line-up. Kise had been that piece, he realized. Kuroko had been the unanticipated surprise and Kise had been the missing part. With their addition the Teiko team was polished to perfection. This clearly showed in games, the team was stronger than ever before and the gap in score and power grew wider and wider. The team started to become famous all around Japan, the absolute basketball team, the five once-in-a-decade prodigies and their invisible support-force, that one team with those incredible players, the team were that famous model plays, that team from Tokyo with that guy that never misses any shots, the team with that Aomine guy, the team with that second-year that’s over 195cm, Japan’s strongest-ever middle school basketball team, the emperor of the basketball world and many more names were thrown upon them. They were highly featured on sports-magazines and they were even featured on a commercial for basketball shoes, which had been hell for Shintaro and heaven for the boy living in the spotlights, Kise.

However since the last few days, the tabloids and press had found a suitable nickname for them, one single name that was instantly adopted by everyone else. One that would later become an infamous statement around Japan’s basketball world, sending shivers down the spine of people that were about to face them. A name that made them sound imposing beyond imagination. That team, that name, would soon become a legend among the Japanese sports world.

And that name was Generation of Miracles.

 

Chapter Text

‘Midorimacchi! I need your help!’ Kise yelled, running up to Shintaro.

‘Kise. What do you need, in fact?’ He sighed and put down the book he was reading. It was most likely another stupid request.

‘What is Aominecchi’s biggest fear? I wanna get back at him for scaring me with those disgusting worms all the time. I will get my revenge, but I don’t know what he’s scared of.’ The model said, with a frown on his face.

‘If I recall correctly, Aomine is scared of bees.’ Shintaro replied, the only reason he told Kise about this was because he kind of wanted to see the power-forward scream like a little girl. He remembered that in the summer of the past year a bee had flown into the gymnasium where the basketball team was practicing. Aomine had freaked out completely, running around waving his arms hysterically while asking forgiveness to the gods for all of his sins. It was one of the funniest things Shintaro had ever seen and he remembered that even Akashi couldn’t stop laughing.

‘Okay! Thank you so much! He will finally suffer the same way I did. Now, where do I get a bee?’ Kise said, mostly talking to himself as he walked away, presumably to search for a bee.

‘Mido-chin, what did Kise-chin want?’ Murasakibara said as he walked towards Shintaro.

‘He asked me what Aomine’s biggest fear is. Because he wants to take revenge on him, in fact.’ He replied. He shifted on the bench to make room for the taller boy to sit down next to him.

‘Oh. Well, I guess Mine-chin had that one coming.’ Murasakibara replied.

‘He did, in fact. I can’t see Kise ever forgiving him for that one time Aomine put a fake worm in his lunch.’ Shintaro said.

‘Yeah, Kise-chin was really mad that time. He even went to the bathroom because he’d gotten sick of it. Mine-chin went too far with that one.’

‘I just don’t understand how Aomine ever though that this would be a good way to get attention. I can’t even imagine doing stuff like that to the person I like, in fact.’

‘You better not. I’ll cry.’

‘I just said I won’t! And I’m sure it’s because Aomine does not follow fate and does not bring his lucky item with him to guide his way.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Mido-chin, your conclusions do not make any sense, y’know that?’ Murasakibara said, shaking his head.

‘They do, in fact. Why else do you think I always get perfect scores on tests, or why I never miss my shots? It’s all because I follow God’s path.’

‘I like you a lot, but you are a very weird boy, Mido-chin.’

‘I’m not sure if I should feel flattered or insulted right now.’

‘Mhhh… mostly flattered, ‘cause I like you more than I think you’re weird.’

‘You..! Why must you always say stuff like that! You know I can’t handle that, in fact! But… thank you… I guess.’ Shintaro covered his face with the book he was holding. ‘I really need to work on reacting better to stuff like this. Knowing him, he’ll do this over and over again. He really is incorrigible.’ Even if that aspect of Murasakibara was slightly annoying, it still brought a smile on Shintaro’s face; it felt comforting to know that the tall boy wouldn’t let anyone change him that easily.

‘You’re smiling now, aren’t you?’ The center said.

‘What!? How do you know that when you can’t even see my face?’ Shintaro said in confusion, slowly putting down the book.

‘I guess I just know you by now. Can’t believe it’s almost been a year since we first started going out. Time really goes fast, huh?’ Murasakibara said, stretching his long limbs.

‘It does, in fact. A-anyway, do you think that after Kise’s big revenge, the two of them will finally get together?’

‘Who knows? I don’t. Maybe Aka-chin does. But I do hope so; I’m getting kinda tired of watching them pine after one another as school girls in a shoujo drama.’

‘I agree with you. I would be best for them to get together fast.’

Murasakibara just nodded in response. The tall boy opened a bag of sweets and started chewing while Shintaro decided to pick up his book again.

 ‘It really has been a long time already, hasn’t it? Interhigh is almost starting again. A year ago I was silently pining after him, while hospitalized because of that stupid accident. Really, I still remember how my heart was about to explode the moment he confessed to me. But… even if we’ve been together for so long already, we haven’t really done couple things all that much… I mean, we held hands a few times and we hugged sometimes, but that’s about it. I think that me not being ready for other steps is to blame for that… What if he wants more and I can’t give him that? He’s been nothing but patient and respectful this whole time, but I cannot blame him for potentially losing that patience one day. It’s selfish of me to expect him to always do whatever I need? Maybe I’m over thinking again. After all, he never really implied wanting more than what we have. It’s not like I mean having… sex with him or anything, we’re way too young for something like that. But Murasakibara might want to kiss sometimes… or something like that. How do people even do that? Do you like, ask for it? Or is it a thing that just happens on a given moment?’ Shintaro was staring down at his book, but he didn’t really read anything. He was more or less just staring at the characters without actually reading them as his mind raged on.

It was an unsettling feeling, a feeling that was very hard to express in words. Shintaro knew that he had to break out of his protective bubble one day if he wanted to make this relationship of theirs work out. He didn’t even know what he was so afraid of in the first place. A kiss was a very simple, normal gesture of affection and was regarded as such by almost everyone living on the planet. Shintaro trusted his tall boyfriend with his heart, so it wasn’t that either. The thought of kissing Murasakibara wasn’t an unsettling one. Shintaro wouldn’t admit it to anyone, not even to himself, but he fantasized about the two of them kissing quite often. He’d imagine how they’d hold onto each other, how their lips would engage in tender contact and how the sparks of affection would flow between them. No, he wasn’t scared of any of that, yet he couldn’t figure out what he was so scared of nor could he get rid of his fear. Maybe he subconsciously feared that a kiss would permanently seal him away from the “normal” people. The ones that felt attracted to the opposite sex. Even if Shintaro felt no shame for being attracted to men, he knew that feeling that way wasn’t going to accomplish anything at all. He’d embraced himself for who he was long ago and especially now that he knew some of his friends were the same way as him, being gay wasn’t all that scary anymore. Why he was still so scared of it, deep down inside was most likely to blame on the Japanese culture. It was a culture where everyone had to fit in. If you stand out people can be disrespectful. You always need to behave yourself and live by the rules and you mustn’t do anything that will separate you from the others. Especially with a strict upbringing like Shintaro had, standing out is not option at all. His parents want nothing more than for him to be like any other child and maybe Shintaro wished to be like that too, deep in his heart.

However, the individual sitting next to him reminded Shintaro of the fact that being different wasn’t all that bad, that you could actually gain great things from being different. That you could meet someone that would always stay by your side, that would comfort you when you’re feeling sad, that you could fight with whenever you wanted, yet it would always be okay in the end. Shintaro wondered if he would have found someone like that in a girl, if he’d been “normal.” Love exists in many shapes and forms, but it’s always a good thing. Anything that makes someone suffer isn’t love. It’s something else, which people with mental problems view as love. For most other boys, love is a beautiful woman with flowing hair, curves on the right place and a sweet personality. In Shintaro’s case love is an abnormally tall boy with an addiction to junk-food, a prodigal talent in basketball and awful social skills. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as there’s no hurt or pressure, the two of them are just as valid as any other couple out there.

Perhaps, Aomine and Kise pestering one another was love too. Maybe the two of them deeply cared for one another and just like Shintaro, they were having issues with finding ways to express that love. They had to find their own way to make the message clear and did just that, arguably not the best way to do so, but they found one. Their weird love was valid too, it might seem like two dumb teenage boys fighting to any outsider, but their friends were the ones that saw the glances filled with admiration. They saw Aomine staring after Kise with a love-struck expression as the latter walked away. They also saw Kise following Aomine’s footsteps wherever the blue-haired boy might go. Some would call the two of them meeting through Aomine’s stupid action a while ago a mere coincidence; others would see the red string of faith between their beating hearts. Outsiders didn’t know Kise turned down the most beautiful girls in school only because he fell so deeply for the strongest power-forward in the country, they didn’t know Aomine made Momoi buy magazines for him featuring pictures of the blond model. They idiots were infinitely close to breaking though the thin layer of glass that was still separating them, it was only a matter of time until that wall would burst into a million little fragments. Finally allowing the fated ones to collide in the embrace of mutual love. Understanding that would take some time, but they would find their rhythm sooner or later. Perhaps with a little help from their friends.

Friendship is love too, although many people in history overlooked it. Shintaro’s friends were all different from the norm. All of them had flaws, be it a mental disorder, an opposing sexuality, a weird appearance or a strange hobby. They were not accepted by everyone, prejudgments were actually getting worse lately. They were often compared to monsters, yet some worshipped them as gods. Because they were all very unique persons they all dealt with this separately and in very different ways. Yet they always knew that they could confide in one another, that someone in their group would be willing to listen to their stories, no matter how strange or unusual they were. That too, is love. Shintaro was aware that love bloomed all around him and that he was included in that too. People loved him, even if they knew what weird quirks he had. And he loved those people, even if he knew theirs.

Shintaro knew that he too would have to find a way to break a layer of glass. The difference was that this wasn’t the wall between him and Murasakibara. It was a wall around himself, a wall which held him back from saying “I like you too” at the moment of confession all those months ago. The wall which held him back from kissing Murasakibara that one time in the clubroom. The very same wall as the one that continues to deny his love for his friends. The wall which continually holds him back from doing all sorts of things, like expressing his true feelings. If only there was a way to shatter that wall. Shintaro would search for it; he would continue seeking ways to break through. Because his loved ones deserved that. He didn’t know how long it would take and it didn’t matter, as long as he could break it one day.  

The school bell went of announcing the end of the break, telling all students to go back to their classes. Shintaro waved his boyfriend goodbye and walked to his next class, English. He wasn’t looking forward to that, because Aomine would be sitting next to him while bugging him with all sorts of questions.

Oh well. Answering them was love too.

Chapter Text

"Darling, could you please come down for a second? I want to talk to you about something.’ Shintaro heard his mother say.

He didn't even need to think one second to know what she wanted to talk about. His mother knew him through and through, so she must have figured it out by now. This was bound to happen. The unavoidable moment had finally announced itself, later than expected. Part of Shintaro wanted to run away, wanted to hide in his room for eternity. But he knew he had to face this moment sooner or later, so he decided to stay strong and dive into the conversation head-first. No lying, no denying.

‘Yes, mother. I'll be downstairs in a second. I just need to finish this biology assignment, in fact.’ Shintaro said. It wasn’t a lie, but it was very convenient. This gave him some time to prepare himself for the conversation which was to come. He took his time scanning the document on errors or sloppy handwriting and walked downstairs, but not without taking his lucky item (an orange towel) with him first. He felt like he'd need it in the following conversation. 

‘What did you want to discuss with me, mother?’ Shintaro said as he pulled out a chair to sit down on.

‘Well… please do not get scared or anything, I just want to clear some things between us. As mother and son. And Shintaro, you can always talk to me, you know that right? When Takara gets a little older I'll tell her the same thing. Do you understand?’ Then tone in his mother’s voice was serious.

‘I understand. I always have understood, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Okay. That's good to hear. I'll stop avoiding the real reason I wanted to talk and get straight to the point. Sweety, I do not want to judge you in any way and I'll always love you, but lately I have seen some things in your behavior which concern me a little. You’re a growing boy, so it's only natural for you to have some secrets from your parents… but you have been very distant lately. You haven't really been talking to me all that much and well… I have noticed that you have been spending more and more time with Murasakibara-kun. Now, I do not see that as an issue, since he's a very good boy and he's just one big sweetheart and he would never hurt a fly, but it's you I'm worried about. Because, Shintaro whenever I ask about him, you quickly change the subject to something else and you avoid looking at me or your father whenever Murasakibara-kun's name comes up. This lead me to the following; I think that you have developed some… feelings for him, haven't you? Please be honest with me here, okay?’ Miho said, her voice was calm and warm, her green eyes were narrowing ever so slightly.

'Even with me suspecting this, it's somehow still a surprise. I felt my heart skip a beat just now. I really don't want to tell her yet, because I know she'll tell dad and I fear his reaction. Maybe I can persuade her into not telling dad about this yet. I just have to remain calm now and not fly into panic mode. This is just my mother, this woman brought me into this world, she's always been good for me and she will love me no matter what I do. I'll just be honest with her and see how she reacts.’

Shintaro felt his hands get clammy from the cold sweat which was forming itself, the tape which was wrapped around his slender fingers slowly getting undone. Shintaro clutched the towel tightly in his hands, as if he was trying to absorb its' luck. Maybe he was, Shintaro wasn't really sure about what he was doing anymore. He always went into autopilot on moments like this. His nervous behavior being triggered by this autopilot. He wanted to talk, but the words that were created in his brain never found their way to his vocal chords. They remained unspoken, even Shintaro himself wasn't sure about what they were anymore. He'd forgotten the words just as fast as he'd made them up. His brain would not function the way he wanted, he didn't know things he had to know and he suddenly remembered the first time he and Murasakibara had hugged one another. That one evening in the snow. While nothing else was clear right now, the warmth he felt all those months ago was as clear as day and wrapped itself around Shintaro as a thick blanket filled with lingering touches and piercing stares, a haze of loving memories and warm smiles from a cold and distant person.

‘Why is this all coming back at a time like this?’ Was what Shintaro could vaguely think. Even if these memories were nothing but happy ones, they felt more like a threat to Shintaro now. While they would normally leave him feeling fuzzy and immensely happy, they now scared him to death.

‘Darling, please respond. You're being very silent.’ Miho’s tone was sterner now, more demanding. Shintaro realized that he must have remained silent for a long time, because his mother sounded very concerned. Shintaro knew that he had to speak up soon, had to answer his mother truthfully.  He didn't know what the worst thing that could happen was, but he was extremely scared. And lonely. 

Even though his mother was right there, loving and accepting him, Shintaro felt lonely. He longed to be with Murasakibara. Something he had experienced before, but never like this. Never had the yearning been this strong, the wish to feel those huge yet tender hands on his body had never felt like this before. Never before had Shintaro wished to be held close by his tall boyfriend, with no single layer of clothing between them. This was the first time ever he longed to be touched in ways that he did not yet fully understand. Shintaro wished for skin-to-skin contact where warmth would radiate between their bodies, being intertwined as one. It wasn't sex that Shintaro desired, not yet. He just wished to have Murasakibara with him as close as possible, coming to some sort of mutual understanding between them. Shintaro wondered what it would feel like when those lips trailed kisses down his jaw, how they would kiss away all his tears and sadness. Wondered how their bodies would fit against one another perfectly as they were laying between warm sheets and pillows, wordless yet fully understanding the other’s needs. Shintaro never experienced any of this, yet it felt as if he missed moments like these. One cannot miss what he’s never had, Shintaro knew that. So he couldn’t understand why he was feeling this way. Every second that passed made the yearning grow stronger and stronger, as if it was trying to make Shintaro lose his mind, as if it was trying to strangle him. This yearning was broken when all of a sudden, in his mind; Shintaro saw an image flash by. One that he would never be able to forget. Only if it had been there for less than a second

In that image, Shintaro saw an older version himself, smiling softly while holding a small girl in his arms. Her hair was an all-so-familiar shade of bright purple and her eyes… her eyes shone vibrant green like emeralds. Vibrant green like his own eyes. Next to the older Shintaro, shoulder to shoulder, stood an equally older Murasakibara, he looked the same as he did now, only more mature and muscular and his hair had grown longer. He too, wore a satisfied smile on his face and he was also holding a child. A small boy with green air and violet irises in his big eyes, framed by a small pair of black, half-rimmed glasses, from the look of it, he was younger than the girl Shintaro was holding. The two children were undeniably siblings, not to mention that they were undeniably theirs. Both adults had a silver ring around the fourth finger on their right hand. They were standing in a room, with a small, golden frame hanging on the wall in the back. In the frame was a picture. A picture of 6, no it was actually 8 players from the Japanese national team, each holding a medal made out of gold. Shintaro recognized himself and his Teiko-teammates immediately, they too, had aged. There were two faces that Shintaro couldn't recognize, or more like he couldn't see. Even if they were right there and visible, Shintaro could not see their faces. The only things he could see were the numbers ‘10’ and ‘14’ on their jerseys. Behind them, the 5 Olympic rings were proudly displayed. Everyone in the picture looked happy. The mental image made Shintaro tear up. Quickly and suddenly tears were rolling down his cheeks. He saw the horrified expression on his mother's face.

‘Shintaro! What's with you all of a sudden? Oh my, I'm so sorry for scaring you dear! I just wanted to help you, not upset you!’ She exclaimed. Miho stood up from her chair and walked over to her son. Shintaro felt her protective arms around his shaking form. He felt her familiar hands stroke over his head while she was allowing him to cry in her shoulder.

 ---

Shintaro didn't know for how long he'd cried. Nor did he remember the conversation all that well. He just remembered crying while he told his mother everything. From how he'd first fallen in love with Murasakibara up until now, where they had been together for over 10 months. During his entire story, his mother had held him close while telling him that it's alright, saying that she was happy for him and that she would not tell his father about this yet, she told him to do so when he felt ready to take the step. She also acknowledged that she understood Shintaro’s concern regarding his father, because he would probably not be as accepting as her.

After that, much to Shintaro’s horror, his mother had given him “the talk" as if she was an overprotective father preparing his daughter for her first date. She was completely ignoring the fact that he and Murasakibara were not even 14 yet. Shintaro had begged his mother to stop; told her that he was not yet wishing to engage in sexual contact, but she wouldn't butch one inch and completed her whole story (with way to much detail) with the most serious look on her face.

Shintaro was still embarrassed about it all half an hour later, while he was sitting on a chair with Takara in his lap, reading the little girl a story while she was busy sucking on Shintaro's lucky item while listening to her big brother’s story. Shintaro felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. It hadn't been easy at all, but he had finally come out to his mother and she had been accepting. Never mentioning any arranged marriage or any “but you’re both boys" statements. Shintaro was half-convinced that he had seen his mother look a little uncomfortable while explaining how two men did it with one another, but that was it. By her smile Shintaro knew that she really did accept him, and he also knew that his mother would be teasing him whenever he asked permission to go over to Murasakibara's place. Because that was just the way his mother was. He never understood how the two of them could be so different from one another while being mother and son.

Suddenly, Shintaro’s phone buzzed. He took the small device out of his pocket and saw that he got a text from a contact listed as “insufferable idiot” followed by a dark-blue heart, which was Aomine. Momoi had done the favor of taking away Shintaro’s phone and changing all his contact names, putting a heart in their hair-colors after each name. Shintaro opened the text and read its’ contents.

“From: Insufferable idiot <3

To: Midorima Shintaro

Sub: Hey, have you seen Kise today or yesterday? Because my mom just got a call from Kise’s mother asking if I’d seen him today and apparently it was because he didn’t come home after practice last night. His phone is turned off and he hasn’t been online since two days ago. His mom called his model agency as well, but he wasn’t there either. So everyone is kinda gone into panic-mode. Come to the school as fast as you can, we’re meeting with the team to look for him. If you can’t make it, please respond as soon as possible. We wanna head out before 4.”

Shintaro felt his stomach drop. He hadn’t seen Kise today, or yesterday after practice for that matter. He knew that the blond was a tough guy and that he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to himself that easily, but this was getting very concerning.

‘Mom, I need to go right now; Kise has gone missing. He hasn’t been home since yesterday morning. Me and the guys from the team are going to search for him.’ Shintaro said, placing Takara on the carpet where she could play with her toys.

‘Oh god, that’s awful… I’ll go call around to parents from your school and stay home in case he turns up here. Darling, please be very careful and be sure to turn your phone on so you can contact me or the police if you find something unusual. Situations like these tend to get nasty sometimes, I’d rather have you stay home, but I know that you wouldn’t listen to me now. But promise me you’ll be home before dark.’ Miho said, sternly looking her son in the eyes.

‘I promise.’ Shintaro said as he quickly tied his shoelaces. He forgot all about his lucky item and also forgot his coat. He slammed the door shut behind him. ‘Where could Kise have gone and what happened to him? Why did he disappear? It’s not like him to have his phone switched off either. This doesn’t sound good at all.’ Shintaro thought as he sprinted to the train station. The sky had grown cloudy and it looked like it was going to rain. It felt more like a fall day than a summer one. Shintaro couldn’t imagine what Kise’s family was going through right now, because even if he hadn’t known Kise for all that long, he was sick with worry. After all, Kise was an exceptional attractive boy and pedophiles loved to get their hands on boys like him, even prostitute them under force. It was a sad and sickening truth and Shintaro prayed to the Gods that nothing like this was what was happening to the blond. Kise was probably just staying over at a girl’s place and his phone battery died, that was the most logical explanation. ‘How are we even going to search for him in the first place? Kise could be anywhere by now. He could even be… No. I mustn’t think like that!’ Shintaro started to worry more and more and picked up his pace.

---

When he arrived at the school gates, he found his teammates already there, all with the same, worried expression on their faces. Momoi was there too, she was in tears while clutching Aomine’s arm. The power-forward smiled weakly and nodded in Shintaro’s direction as a greeting. Shintaro returned the gesture. Then he waved to Akashi and Kuroko to greet them too and walked over to where Murasakibara was standing. ‘We’ll talk about the conversation with my mother later, finding Kise is the most important thing right now.’ Shintaro thought.

It was Akashi that first spoke up.

‘Okay, I know that this situation isn’t a nice one and that we’re all very worried. But I still made a plan and I want everyone to stick to it. As you all might know, the police is already searching for Kise as we speak they’re professionals so the likelihood of them finding him is way bigger than our chances are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help. I don’t want anyone to go alone, so we’re splitting up in three teams. I’ll accompany Kuroko, Aomine and Momoi will be the second team and Midorima, Murasakibara you’re the last team. The police is searching placed where Kise often went, so we’re gonna look at different sports. I’ll take my team to the west-side of town, Aomine and Momoi will go to the shopping centre and Midorima, I’d like you guys to search the park. Be sure to look around and if possible in the…’ Akashi gulped and tightly shut his eyes. ‘Waters as well. We will all stay in contact by phone. Once we’ve finished searching our areas, I want us to meet up here.’ The redhead finished.

All people present gave their okays and they went their separate ways. Shintaro felt Murasakibara grip his hand. Normally, Shintaro would have told the tall boy not to, because they were in clear daylight, but today he really needed the confirmation of Murasakibara’s presence and so he gripped back as they headed out to search for their friend.

Chapter Text

‘I don’t see the point in searching further. I think it’s pretty clear that we’re not gonna find him, if even the police can’t do it. It’s been three days since he disappeared and we’ve spent two entire afternoons searching for him, yet we don’t even have a single clue.’ Aomine said. The team was walking towards Momoi’s house to talk about the plans concerning the search for Kise, who had been missing for nearly 70 hours already. The police was starting to suspect something bad might have happened.

‘How could you possibly say something like that, Aomine-kun? I thought you cared about Kise-kun!’ Kuroko said bitterly, he was almost shouting, which was a rarity for Kuroko.

‘Shut up, Tetsu! You know damn well I care about him, but I just… I don’t see the essence anymore. I don’t think we’ll ever find him. The police haven’t found any traces yet, so why should a groups of teenagers suddenly do? I want to find him as soon as possible, but I just know it won’t make any difference if we continue wandering around town! It’s been three fucking days, Tetsu! Three! Kise could be anywhere by now, could even be in Australia for fuck’s sake! Or he could be dead in some ditch!’ Aomine yelled. The frustration was clearly present in the blue-haired boy’s voice. It was almost as if Aomine could burst out in tears any moment now. It had been like this ever since Kise went missing, but not once had they actually seen Aomine cry. Shintaro suspected that that only happened at night time, when the blue-haired boy was alone in his room.  Where he silenced his sobs with a pillow, not giving anyone else a trace of his sadness.

‘Dai-chan, stop it! You’re allowed to have your opinion, but Tetsu-kun does too! We all get it, you miss Ki-chan, we all do! But don’t take your anger out on others! After all, none of us is happy with the situation.’ Momoi said.

‘I really hate to be that guy, but I think Mine-chin is right. What difference will searching even more make?’ Murasakibara said. This statement caused a pair of light blue eyes to glare in the tall boy’s direction.

Shintaro choose to remain silent, he knew that his personal opinion did not make a difference. It would only raise the tension between them all even higher. Ever since Kise’s disappearance, their friendship had been on thin ice. Everyone was visually sad and frustrated. This caused arguments to light up faster and more heated than before. This tension was visual in practice as well, which lead to the decision to bench them until this tension faded. Everyone was wondering why Teiko benched all their starters, only bringing the in when really in a pinch. It wasn’t like the prestigious Teiko basketball club they all knew. Playing without the Generation of Miracles was very unlike them and not understandable for most. Of course, everyone knew about the disappearance of Kise Ryouta, he was a famous model after all. However, most people just didn’t seem to get the link between the two situations. This was strange, if you asked Shintaro.

 ‘Oi, Akashi! What do you think we should do, huh? You know everything after all!’ Aomine said, turning to the smaller boy.

‘I- I… I’m sorry, for the first time in my life; I don’t know what’s right or wrong. All I know is that I want Kise to be back and for him to be unharmed. However, I’m not sure what steps need to be taken next.’ Akashi said. His expression was a strange one, his eyes were dead and hollow while a watery smile was plastered across his face, he had his right hand placed against his face, as if he was trying to keep his head up high, but wasn’t able to do so without having to support himself. It was a strange experience to see Akashi like this, no one had ever seen him look so vulnerable before. Everyone could harm Akashi right now, and that was a scary thought. Akashi is a person that should be untouchable, vulnerability doesn’t suit him in any way.

‘I still think we can’t give up on searching for him!’ Momoi said. As to be expected, she decided to side with Kuroko. Kise had been the first one to notice this, but Momoi developed some strong feelings for Kuroko. When he told them about his discovery, Murasakibara had flat-out responded with “Oh, poor Sacchin. I always suspected that Kuro-chin was gay.” Since that day, Momoi would always side with Kuroko, no matter how ridiculous the short boys’ standpoint was.

‘But would it really make a difference?’ Aomine replied.

‘It just might make a difference, but we won’t ever know unless we try! If we don’t do anything, nothing will change! Can’t you understand something like that!?’ Momoi snapped back.

‘You make it sound like you’ve already given up the hope of finding him, Aomine-kun.’ Kuroko said, narrowing his eyes.

‘I HAVEN’T! I haven’t given up, okay? I just… I don’t know how to put it into words, but when I have to search for him, I’m constantly reminded of the fact that all of this is real and not just some sort of sick joke! Whenever a day passes without any clues, I just feel so bad, you know? I can’t even bring myself to eat anything. I’ve been living on water and a cracker for the past few days! I want to find Kise, I really, really do, but I just don’t think our effort is worth it. Let’s be honest here, we’re all just wasting our time.’ Aomine said, his voice was trembling in a way that suggested a mixture of anger, panic and sadness.

‘I kinda get what Mine-chin is trying to say. Searching for Kise-chin is like rubbing salt in an open wound. It’s a constant reminder that he’s not here right now. It makes me sad.’ Murasakibara said with a pout on his face.

‘You make it sound like he died!’ Aomine said. ‘He’s not dead, you moron! Are you hallucinating again because your head doesn’t get enough oxygen that high in the air?’ Aomine glared at Murasakibara, who just ignored him.

‘Uhm… Dai-chan, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that.’ Momoi said, face-palming.

The interaction made Shintaro feel a little better; it reminded him of how it all used to be before Kise decided to disappear from the face of the earth. Aomine was still able to say dumb shit, Murasakibara still didn’t react to the power-forward’s insults and Momoi still tried to correct Aomine’s dumb statements. It wasn’t all lost yet, just different from how it used to be. Without Aomine scaring the shit out of Kise with worms in all sizes and the blonds’ terrified screams, it just seemed to be so silent. Like a memory calmly resting until it could be awakened again.

‘What if Kise doesn’t want to be found?’ Akashi suddenly said. It sounded like the redhead was talking to himself out loud. As if he didn’t mean those words for them to hear.

‘What do you mean, Akashi?’ Aomine asked. The boy was obviously confused because of Akashi’s words.

‘What I mean is that it could be that nothing bad has happened to Kise. Maybe he choose to run away. He might have some family issues or whatever reason you could think of. He might have been overstressed because of his academics, his modeling job or even the basketball team and decided to take a break from it all. He might have thought that hiding was the only option. He might come back when he feels like it. Kise disappearing doesn’t necessarily have to be cause of kidnapping or something alike. He could have thought about it deeply. Maybe he just needs to recharge and doesn’t want to be in contact with other people for a little while.’ The team-captain explained.

Shintaro felt like Akashi’s theory could just be very close to the truth. It might have been something like it. Still, there remained a certain uneasiness that Shintaro couldn’t put into words. The Kise they all knew was a cheerful, flirty and easy-going guy, but as Shintaro had seen once before, there was another side to Kise. He was a strong and cold person. Taller than the average Japanese man and with a surprisingly well-build muscular body on top of that, Kise was good at any sports. Fighting sports were no exception to the rule, as Murasakibara had once discovered while sparring with Kise in a PE lesson. If someone wanted to harm him, Shintaro had no doubt that Kise would be more than capable to defend himself. Kise had the habit of doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. The model wasn’t a person that took the feelings of others into consideration before doing anything. He would dive head-first into anything, as long as it didn’t contain worms.  Knowing all this, Shintaro still couldn’t imagine Kise choosing to run away by himself, after all, Kise loved having people around him. Why? What could have possibly caused Kise to suddenly disappear off the face of the earth, leaving no trace.

‘I see… Akashi-kun might just be right.’ Kuroko said. ‘After all, Kise wouldn’t go down without a fight. I think we must just believe that he’s out there somewhere, alive and kicking.’

‘Yeah, Ki-chan is too stubborn to die.’ Satsuki said. ‘Not that I ever assumed he was dead, of course.’ She quickly added when she saw Aomine’s horrified expression.

‘We’ll just need to have faith that he’ll be back soon. I want to establish something though, as soon as Kise returns, I want no one to judge him. Whatever his reasons might have been. People don’t run away without having been hurt badly. What might feel like a paper-cut to one person, could feel like a gunshot for another.’ Akashi said. As always, the words Akashi spoke were filled with wisdom, almost poetic as well. Akashi didn’t talk like a 13-years old, he sounded like the old wise men you’d see in movies.

Everyone nodded in agreement. Shintaro did too, he thought Akashi was right. Whatever reason Kise might have had, he wasn’t the one to justify or criminalize that reason. Only Kise and God had the power to do that.

‘And Mine-chin has to confess his feelings for Kise-chin.’ Murasakibara added to Akashi’s statement.

Once again, everyone nodded in agreement. Well actually, everyone except for Aomine did.

‘What the actual fuck! Do you think I’ve got the guts to do that?’ Aomine said. The power-forward elbowed Murasakibara’s side.

‘Mine-chin, da’s mean.’ The giant whined, clutching his painful side with his hands.

‘Dai-chan, don’t start a fight now!’ Momoi sternly spoke.

‘But HE started it!’

---

“…Now we have some news concerning a missing-person-case that has just been solved. A week after he’d been reported as missing, 14-year-old model and basketball prodigy Kise Ryouta has been confirmed dead by authorities. Today, at approximately 3:30 am, his body has been found by a fisherman in a small lake in the suburbs of Tokyo. Paramedics have been able to confirm that Kise-san was alive when he entered the water, but that the cause to death wasn’t drowning due the lack of water in the lungs, when Kise entered the lake, he was already close to death. A high percentage of painkillers had been found in his blood. Paramedics have confirmed the time of death to have been around 2 pm, July 26th.  The reason why Kise-san ran away from home a week ago is still unclear, authorities currently suspect a fight to have taken place within the family; however this has yet to be confirmed. Because all the factors lead to suicide, a further investigation will not be taking place. A memorial will be held for close friends and family exclusively at July 29th and a memorial for Kise-sans’ classmates, colleagues and fans will take place on the first of August. The funeral will be held on the second of August and will be open for everyone that feels addressed. We wish friends and family of the victim a lot of strength. Now on to the weather, tomorrow-…”

Shintaro bolted upright in his bed, he was gasping for air as he felt around his wall for the light-switch. His body was covered with cold sweat and tear-traces were present on his cheeks. It took him a little while to get adjusted to reality. The nightmare had seemed so real, it had been horrible. Just thinking about it was enough to bring him back to tears. Shintaro left his bed behind to get a glass of water. As we walked downstairs silently, taking care so he wouldn’t wake Takara or his parents, he slowly started to feel slightly better. He didn’t know what to do, all he knew was that he wanted to talk to someone that’d understand him. He needed to share that awful dream with someone, he needed to confirm that it had been nothing but a nightmare. His mother was the first person that came to mind, but then his eyes fell on a small green device lying on the kitchen table, his phone, Shintaro knew. He couldn’t really see it with his glasses, but he was certain that it was indeed his phone. Without thinking any further, Shintaro dialed the first number that came to mind, ignoring the fact that most people were asleep at this hour of night. He waited for the phone to connect, hoping that someone would answer.

A very sleepy Murasakibara answered his call. ‘Ehh? Mido-chin, why’d you call me at two in the morning?’ He asked, obviously confused and barely awake.

‘I’m sorry… Did I wake you?’ Shintaro asked. He suddenly cursed himself for calling.

‘Mhhh? Yeah, ‘f course you did. But what’s wrong, you-’ The sentence was interrupted by a yawn. ‘You’d never call at a time like this.’ The center finished.

‘It’s… well I had this… horrible dream, in fact. And I just had to talk to someone… And I just really needed to hear your voice right now. Sorry, again.’ Shintaro said, felling more and more guilty by the second.

‘Don’t worry about it, ‘s fine. Mido-chin can call me anytime. So, spill it. I’m listening.’ Came the reply. Shintaro heard some shuffling at the other side of the line; he assumed that Murasakibara was sitting up in his bed.

‘Well… I had this dream. I-It all felt so real, I really couldn’t tell that it was a d-dream, in fact. So in this dream I was just watching the n-news and then they suddenly started to talk about a b-body that had been found. It was K-Kise’s body. He k-kill… killed himself. Overdosed on painkillers and then fell into a lake. The report was just so detailed and I-’ Shintaro couldn’t finish that line. He’d started sobbing, using his hand to cover his mouth in an attempt to conceal noises.

‘You believed it was real?’ Murasakibara spoke. He sounded genuinely concerned.

‘Y-yes. That’s it, in fact. Again, I’m v-very sorry for calling you at this hour. Thank you for listening to me.’ Shintaro said when he was able to speak again.

‘It’s no problem, I’ll always be here for you if you need me. But, Mido-chin, are you crying?’ Murasakibara asked.

‘No, of course I’m not!’ Shintaro quickly replied. He knew that it was no use, but his pride didn’t allow him to confirm it. Murasakibara knew him too well to fall for his attempts to hide his sadness behind a lie.

‘It’s okay to cry, you know? You don’t have to keep it all locked up. A dream like that would bring everyone to tears. You know what, Mido-chin? I’m very happy that you called me.’

Shintaro’s eyes widened, that familiar warm and fuzzy feeling only Murasakibara could give him started to blossom inside his stomach. He felt the blood rush up to his cheeks. He clutched his phone tightly in his hand. It was a confirmation of trust and loyalty.  Murasakibara would get mad at anyone else that disturbed his sleep, yet he was willing to listen to Shintaro even in the middle of the night and was even happy about it. That was so incredibly special, it made the pain cease.

‘I’m happy that I called too. Thank you for being here.’

‘No problem, ‘s nice to see that you can finally open up a little more to me every now and then. That you’re not trying to face everything alone anymore, y’know? And, we’ll see Kise-chin again soon, I promise you that he’s coming back to us all and that Mine-chin will confess so that he stops being such a hopeless case.’ Murasakibara said, in his own way, he was trying to make the situation better.

‘Yeah, sure. I’m keeping you that that promise.’ Shintaro said. He used his free hand to wipe the last tears away from his face. ‘Soon everything will be as it used to be, won’t it?’

‘It will be.’ Shintaro could hear the smile in Murasakibara’s tired voice, a contagious smile, he noticed because he had started smiling as well.

‘Next time you call be when you’re sad, promise to call me or else when I suspect something is wrong, I will just come over to your house. Do not test me, ‘cuz I will do it. Even in the middle of the night. I will just break in.’ Murasakibara said. Shintaro could tell that the tall boy was just teasing him right now, but a part inside of him realized that Murasakibara would probably actually do it if ever needed.

‘Oh, please don’t. I don’t think my parents would appreciate you breaking in to our house all that much, in fact. But… I’ll promise to call you, but only if you do the same.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Fine, fine. I won’t break into your house, if you insist. And I promise to call you when I feel bad. We’ll always be there for each other, okay?’

‘Y-yes… we uhm, we will.’ Shintaro said.

‘Why is he still saying embarrassing stuff like that when he knows that it gets me flustered? Maybe that idiot just enjoys teasing me.’ Shintaro thought. ‘If that’s the case, please never stop doing it.’

‘Hey, Murasakibara?’ Shintaro said. His palm was becoming clammy as he clutched his phone even tighter. He wanted to say what he’d been denying to say for so long. What he had known all along, but never said aloud. ‘Before I hang up the phone so we can both resume sleeping, there’s something I really need to tell you…’

‘What’s it?’ The giant replied, slightly confused.

‘I… I like you, in fact.’

---

The first time Midorima Shintaro awkwardly spoke his feelings for Murasakibara Atsushi aloud was almost a year after they had started dating. On a warm night in July, in a conversation on the phone, held at 2 am. After which the shooting guard had extremely quickly ended the call as he raced up to his bedroom to scream in his pillow because of the embarrassment he was currently feeling.

Chapter Text

It had been a little over a week after Kise disappeared when there was a break-through in the case. A very unexpected one, no one saw it coming because a lot of people had given up the hope to ever find Kise. A week was basically the deadline for “innocent” disappearances.

Even though Aomine had not wanted to keep searching for Kise after that one afternoon where he told the team that he thought quitting the search was the best thing to do, he had been searching for the model every single day. All by himself. After convincing everyone to let it rest, Aomine had continued to try and find his friend. No one actually saw him do so, but Aomine made up an excuse to avoid practice every day, it had become suspicious, according to Akashi. When he confronted Aomine with it, the power-forward had confessed that, yes, he had been searching for Kise. He also told that he’d been calling the model every single day, hoping he would answer his phone. Akashi said that it would be better for Aomine to stop, this way he only made things worse for himself.

That afternoon, Aomine decided to call Kise one last time, before definitely giving up, while in the presence of his friends, he dialed the to him all-so familiar number. And that’s when against all odds, Kise answered.

‘Oh my god! It’s connecting!’ Aomine said in disbelief, he quickly put the phone on speaker. Shintaro could feel his heart skip a beat. Could it finally be over?

“…Aominecchi?” Kise’s voice sounded strange over the phone, like the model had been crying. Maybe he had been, Shintaro didn’t know. He assumed so though, since running away from home was never fun or easy.

Everyone held their breath and excited exchanged glances as they heard Kise’s voice over the phone. It had to process in their minds that this was actually happening; Momoi was actively trying to choke down tears. No one knew what to say in that moment, they all remained silent. Akashi gestured Aomine to answer, the phone was shaking in his hands as he pressed the device close to his ear.

‘Oh my god, Kise! Where are you? How are you? Are you okay? We were all worried sick, you dipshit! Why didn’t you answer my calls before?’ Aomine yelled in frustration, but he quickly realized that this might not have been the best way to talk to a possibly traumatized person. ‘Sorry, didn’t mean to yell at ya. It’s just that… I guess we’ve really missed having you around. You know, Kise, that I’ve been wandering around town in the hopes of finding you every single day? I don’t know what made you leave your home in the first place, but you should know that we’re all worried about you. Your parents and sisters too, y’know? Even Midorima was worried! I guess I was too… very much so actually. I mean, with you gone, who else would go one-on-one with me every day? And the police are also searching for you, your fans are scared and everyone in the team is worried about you as well. And it’s not like I cried or anything, but I’m still very sad that you just left me behind with these morons, y’know? Tetsu is even shittier to me now, and did I already say that I miss playing one-on-one with you? Even though I always win. Please, tell me you’re okay.’ Aomine said. The blue-haired was talking faster than a train and no one really understood what he was talking about.

“I’m sorry, Aominecchi. I didn’t want to upset all of you, but I just… can’t go home right now. I just want you to tell my parents and the guys on the team that I’m save and that I’m eating and drinking enough, but that I don’t know when I’ll come back home. I don’t want to go into detail about why I left yet, I’m not ready to discuss it. We’ll surely play together again someday, that’s a promise. I just can’t tell you when that’ll be.  So, I’ll see you later; give my regards to the others as well. Bye.” Kise said. It was clear that he was intending to end the phone-call.

‘NO, WAIT! DON’T HANG UP, PLEASE! ’ Aomine yelled, but it was already too late. The boy on the other side of the line had disconnected the call.

Everyone stood there in silence, staring at the phone in the hope that it would ring again. There was so much they wanted to say, but no one knew how to present the emotions currently inside their hearts. They all had some form of relief, because they now knew Kise was definitely alive and he would come back one day. Because Kise Ryouta never failed to keep a promise related to basketball. Yet worry took over all their emotions, because Kise said that for some reason he wasn’t able to go home.

‘GODDAMNIT, KISE! WHY CAN’T YOU JUST COME BACK!?’ Aomine shouted in frustration. He threw his phone on the floor, Aomine could call himself lucky that the device didn’t break from the shock. ‘Forget about practice, I’m going home.’ He said. He completely forgot about his phone, the small piece of technology remaining on the concrete floor of the clubroom. The remaining part of the team silently watched their strongest player walk away. They all visually flinched as the blue-haired teen slammed the door shut behind him, making the old walls of the building shake as the floor trembled.

‘I don’t feel like training anymore after all this, too.’ Kuroko sighed. He said what they were all thinking, or at least, that’s what Shintaro suspected.

‘We should probably bring Aomine’s phone to the police station, they can trace where the call came from, in fact. Although, it doesn’t make me feel eased. Kise clearly stated that he can’t go home right now. Whatever the reason might be, I feel as if we should have to respect that. While on the other hand, it’s technically a crime to hide important things from the police on cases like these, in fact. Besides that, there’s also the fact that the police offers help to the victims, no matter what they were a victim of, support from a professional is probably what Kise denies at the moment, while he unquestionably needs it the most.’ Shintaro said. He was more thinking out loud than really speaking to anyone in particular, but he felt as if these thoughts were too important to be left unheard by the others.

‘You’re definitely right, Midorin. I understand what you’re trying to say. It doesn’t sit well with me either, but I do think we should go to the police as soon as we can. Or rather, you should go there. I think Dai-chan needs me right now. He really seems to be taking this to heart. And I can’t let him walk around town when he’s in such a destructive mood. He might end up hurting someone, most likely himself.’ Momoi said.

‘You should undeniably go after him. Midorima and I will go to the station. Murasakibara, could you please return the key to the administration?’ Akashi said. The redhead gave Momoi an encouraging push to go after her childhood friend.

‘Yeah, sure. I’ll return it. Aka-chin, Mido-chin, good luck at the station. See you both tomorrow.’ The giant said.

‘Yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll text you to tell how it went at the station, or maybe I’ll call, it depends on how much happened.’ Shintaro said as he and Akashi walked away to bring Aomine’s phone to the station, in the hope that they might finally be one step closer to finding Kise.

---

On the way to the station, Shintaro remained silent. For some reason, the air between him and Akashi was thick and suffocating. Something was off, or more like, there was a third individual that shouldn’t be there. The second presence residing inside Akashi’s mind felt stronger than ever before, as if he was trying to take over. Although this was all still Shintaro’s personal theory, he had to come to believe it more and more in the past week. The unfamiliar gold in that usually maroon eye came to shine brighter and more frequent in situations of stress or discomfort, Shintaro had noticed. Akashi’s form of speech would also show slight differences and Akashi seemed like the evil, mischievous villain from some movie, silent, smart and deadly. Which was the complete opposite of the “real” Akashi, who was caring (still smart) and kind to everyone? Shintaro wasn’t sure which one was the real Akashi, though. Because he had been around the “nice” version most of the time, he had taken a strong preference to believing that he was the real one.  He still didn’t dare to ask Akashi about this, he didn’t want to risk Akashi getting sad or worse.

Shintaro had always been a very observant person and unlike popular beliefs, this also applied to emotions. Shintaro could easily tell when someone felt bad, or if someone was in love. Most of the times he could even tell which person the point of their affection was. In contrast to these exceptional observation skills was his own disability to fully express himself. It would take a pair of immensely sharp eyes to tell what was going on in his mind, until of course Shintaro got embarrassed by something; it was clear as day then. Sadly, this disability to express emotions and feelings openly also extended to his tongue. Shintaro wasn’t able to ask someone a personal question until all walls standing between them had been shattered. But sadly, up until now no one and not even Shintaro himself was able to gain that privilege. Shintaro could even hide his own feelings for his own mind, or more like he just wouldn’t let his mind acknowledge them. When it came to others though, Shintaro could always tell when something was off (except that one time he didn’t notice Murasakibara had feelings for him) or different. That’s why Shintaro was mad at himself for not noticing any sort of change in Kise’s behavior prior to his disappearance. He didn’t blame himself, no. Yet he still felt as if he should have been able to prevent it from happening. Deep inside his consciousness he knew that whatever he might have tried wouldn’t have been enough to stop Kise from leaving, because the model was extremely stubborn and would just do whatever he wanted to do. Not even God would be able to persuade Kise into changing his ways.

‘Midorima, we’re almost there.’ Akashi said.

‘Yes, I noticed that too.’ Shintaro said, still not able to get rid of the awkward atmosphere between him and the smaller boy.

---

‘How can I help you?’ The lady between the desk of the station said with a vibrant smile on her face. She was probably in her mid-twenties. She had a pretty face, but her hair was cut short to her head, it suggested a boyishness which you would occasionally see with woman working on the police force. Her name tag said that she was called Takagi Rin, judging by her full uniform, Shintaro could tell that her function was usually not sitting behind the front desk, she usually worked on patrols. Hence her bored expression. ‘Found an ID on the street, or some lost keys?’ She clearly assumed it must be something unserious since they were both still children.

Shintaro let Akashi take the word. ‘Actually, we have a lead for the missing person case of Kise Ryouta. He is a close friend of ours and today he picked up a call that was started from this phone, we spoke with him for a short moment, but he quickly hung up again, we thought that you might be able to trace where the call came from.’

Takagi-san’s expression suddenly changed. They seemed to have caught her attention. ‘Very well, boys. If you could wait a little, I’ll request for someone to take over the desk so we can have a talk about the call so we can see what further actions to take.’

It took less than five minutes and they were seated in a small, windowless room. Shintaro assumed that they took interviews with criminals there as well.

‘Okay, so before we start I need you two to know that everything you say in this conversation will be noted, for the report. You have nothing to worry about. First I’d like your names, schools and your relationship to Kise-kun, please.’ She asked, taking out a small notepad with a pencil from her breast pocket.

‘But of course. I am Akashi Seijurou, second year at Teiko. Kise is a good friend of mine and a reliable teammate in the team.’ The smaller boy said, gesturing to himself. Takagi-san rose one of her eyebrows, most definitely recognizing the name of the infamous Akashi-group. Akashi seemed to understand this, judging by what he said next. ‘You might have heard my name before, I’m the rightful successor to the Akashi-group, so my birth was all over the news back then.’

‘Ah, yes. So that’s where I heard your name before, thanks for clarifying.’ She said, noting down the information on her note pad. ‘And you, dear?’ Takagi-san said as she turned to Shintaro.

‘I’m Midorima Shintaro, I also attend Teiko Junior High, in fact. Kise is a valuable player on the basketball team and he views me as a reliable teammate. So we’re getting surprisingly well, even though we’re very different in personality. I suppose you could call us good friends.’ Shintaro said. He didn’t feel the need to add more detail to his introduction.

‘Very well…’ Takagi-san said as she was scrabbling some more on her note pad.

‘So tell me, what exactly did Kise-kun say when you talked to him on the phone?’

---

Takagi-san had send Akashi and Shintaro home with a promise to let them know when there was a new development in the case. She thanked them greatly for the new information they had given and stated that she had high hopes for the case being solved fast. As promised, Shintaro texted Murasakibara to tell him about the development.

From: Midorima Shintaro
To: Shingeki no Mukkun <3 (Momoi should be blamed for that name)
Sub: Akashi and I have just returned home from the police station, we gave a detailed explanation about the phone call and left Aomine’s phone there. The lady that spoke to us thanked us for the information and said that the hopes were high that the case would be closed fast now. They are now trying to trace the call. I had to leave my contact information there, so they’ll contact me if there’s new development. I’ll keep you updated.”

Shintaro received a reply almost immediately, which was rare for Murasakibara, because the purple-haired giant couldn’t find his phone 90% of the time. The fast response suggested that he must have been waiting for this text.

“From: Shingeki no Mukkun <3
To: Midorima Shintaro
Sub: Okay~ I hope they’ll find him fast.”

As expected, the text was short, but delivered just the information Murasakibara wanted to deliver. Just as when the tall boy was talking, there were no unnecessary words. No elaborations of emotion, just simple words delivering the exact meaning, no use of artsy or creative words, just simple and pure. In contrast to Shintaro’s on speaking manner, which was very detailed and the use of difficult words and synonyms was very present. Of course the way he ended his sentences was regarded strange as well. Something as easy as the use of words already showed how different Shintaro and Murasakibara really were. You’d think that they’d share basketball as a mutual passion, but even that wasn’t true. You had Shintaro, who played to win and because he loved the sport and in contrast to that, you had Murasakibara that played because he was good at it and due to his mildly sadistic nature, enjoyed it to take opposing teams down with his overwhelming strength and talent. There wasn’t much that they could relate on, maybe that’s why they worked. They complimented the shortcomings of the other.

The things they did have in common were their preference for standing in the background rather than to be the center of attention. The second thing they could relate on was their unparalleled care for one another, even though they both expressed this in different ways, the core of the emotion was the same.

Shintaro was considering if he should reply to Murasakibara’s text, but decided against it. He had nothing to say and he wasn’t up to having an argument about which snacks tasted the best or some other nonsensical chat they usually had while bored.

They weren’t a couple of many words, that’s why it wasn’t really easy to tell if they were together or not for outsiders. This was something Shintaro also felt, since they never really did couple things. With the present situation, he wasn’t really thinking of anything related to the subject, finding Kise was a vast priority before he could think of anything else. But perhaps, after everything settled down they could talk about it once. Because sure, Shintaro was still very awkward whenever they hugged or held hands, but the same applied to Murasakibara, who just had less explosive reactions to the affection he received from Shintaro. This happened rarely, since 9 out of 10 times it was Murasakibara that initiated any form of physical affection. Not that the giant seemed to mind, because he seemed to enjoy seeing Shintaro blushing all kinds of shades of red, much to Shintaro’s dismay. The worst part was definitely that Shintaro was no longer able to say that he disliked the affection, because Murasakibara simply knew him too well by now and would accuse Shintaro of being a tsundere. This had only gotten worse ever since Shintaro had confessed his feelings over the phone that one night. Murasakibara would constantly remind him of the fact that he couldn’t claim to hate their moments of intimacy anymore since he clearly loved him. Shintaro had not yet given up on protesting against this.

Shintaro’s mother hadn’t really talked much about it to him anymore, but she did tell Murasakibara she knew about them being together when they came to Shintaro’s home together after searching for Kise one day. Shintaro still had to chuckle every time he remembered Murasakibara’s confused face when Miho reached to pat his head. Being as tall as he was, a woman patting his head was very unusual. Much to Shintaro’s displease, Murasakibara had started to call his mother mama-in-law-chin. But of course, the center wouldn’t be corrected.

---

July 29th, Kise had been found. Everyone had been happy to receive the news. The boy had been temporarily placed to stay at the house of an aunt, because he was still unable to return home, it was stated that Kise would return to school after a week. The model himself stated that he was a little mad at them for going to the police while he clearly told them he didn’t want to go home yet. Two days later, after having calmed down a little, Kise asked his friends to come hang out with him so he could explain everything to them. Shintaro was on his way there now. It was a pretty chilly day even though it was summer. They were all supposed to meet in the park, so Shintaro decided to wear a jacket, but he kept it unzipped because the temperature allowed that.

Upon arriving there, he saw that Kise, Akashi, Murasakibara and Kuroko were already present. Shintaro didn’t even have the change to say hello before he found himself on the receiving end of a  tackle-hug from Kise. He was surprised, to say the least. ‘Uhm… Kise, I can’t breathe, in fact.’ He said, trying to squirm out of the blonds’ embrace.

‘Midorimacchi, I’ve missed you!’ Kise said, something was off. The boy sounded as if… ‘Oh god, please don’t start crying! I don’t know how to deal with that!’

‘Ehh… I’ve missed you too?’ He tried, in the hope of getting released. Surprisingly, this seemed to work because he felt Kise letting go of him.

‘Don’t worry, Midorima-kun. He did that to the two of us as well. Seems like he hasn’t changed at all.’ Kuroko said.

‘I just was so happy to see you all again! Don’t judge me. You should all be flattered; many people would like to be hugged by me.’ Kise said.

‘Look, there’s Sacchin and Mine-chin.’ Murasakibara said, pointing into the direction where the childhood friends came from. Shintaro knew exactly what the tall boy was playing at; he wanted to see Aomine’s expression when Kise jumped him.

‘AOMINECCHI!’ Kise yelled as he ran towards the still unsuspecting Aomine. He was gonna say something in return but he got cut off by Kise slamming their bodies together. Shintaro saw Aomine’s eyes growing twice their size as his entire face turned red. The blue-haired boy awkwardly placed his hands on Kise’s back as he tried to form the right words to say. Shintaro had to admit that it was, indeed a very funny scene. ‘I missed you a lot, you know?’ Kise said, squeezing Aomine even closer.

‘Uhm, holy shit. Yeah, sure I missed you too. Or something…’ Aomine said. The displease on his face was clear as day when Kise released him and moved on to Momoi.

‘Momoicchi! I’m happy to see you again!’ Kise said as he lifted Momoi from the ground and spun her around in the air as if she weighed nothing at all.

‘Haha, Ki-chan put me down! Jeez, I’m really happy that you’re back, but I’m getting dizzy.’ Momoi said between giggles.

They reunited friends spend some time just chatting about useless stuff, teasing one another a little just like they used to. They did this for a while, until the mood got right to move on to the more serious side of the story.

‘Alright, before I start, I just want you all to know that it was nothing any of you did. Without any further ado, I’ll just get to the point as why I decided to run away from home.’ Kise said. It was clear to Shintaro that whatever had happened still haunted the boy. ‘Okay, so on the day I ran away, I overheard a conversation between my parents, or so I thought, that wasn’t supposed to be for my ears. As it turns out, the man that has been raising me since I can remember isn’t my real father. Years back, just after the birth of the youngest of my sisters, my mother had an affair with a Swedish business man, she confessed this to the father of my two sisters, naturally, they broke up. My mother moved to Sweden with him and my sisters and four years later I was born. But he got sick and passed away when I was barely 5 months old. Devastated, my mother moved back to Japan. The man I have called father my entire life had never stopped loving my mother, even though he was very mad at her for what she did and she fell in love with him again, so against all odds, they got remarried. They never told me anything and they weren’t planning too, I heard from the conversation. I got extremely upset and quietly left my home, I didn’t tell my parent’s that I’d heard anything. So they didn’t see it coming. I was just devastated and felt as if everything suddenly went wrong in my life, my sisters were suddenly my half-sisters and my father had no blood relationship to me at all…’ Kise paused his story as he wiped away some tears that had started falling. Aomine placed an arm around the model’s shoulder in attempt to comfort him if even a little. ‘And my mother was an unfaithful woman and a liar on top of that. My sisters were so small that they didn’t understand, so I don’t blame them for anything. I just couldn’t stand it and I didn’t want to go home, I just wanted to be alone. I mean, deep, deep inside I might have suspected something, you know? No-one in my family is a natural blond, I’m way taller than any other boy in my family, it’s not in our genes. It’s my European genes that caused these, it suddenly all made sense to why I don’t resemble my so-called father in the least. I just never allowed myself to believe that. I hope that it’s a little clearer as to why I disappeared now. I really didn’t want to hurt you all.’ Kise finished.

No one really knew what to reply. In the end they settled by saying they were sorry for him and they spend the remaining part of the afternoon just talking about it and they tried to comfort Kise as well as they could. They didn’t ask Kise about what he wanted to do with his parents yet, time would show that someday. Luckily, Kise stopped crying after a while and they could slowly revert back to talking about better subjects, thankful that everything was fine again.

Chapter Text

‘Everyone, I need your attention for a moment.’ Akashi said. The Teiko first string was currently waiting to get on the bus that would bring to the interhigh which was held in Nagano this year. Teiko had qualified for the tournament without any issues; some matches were even easy enough to let the Generation of Miracles off the hook, because while they were the pinnacle of the team, the other regulars were strong too.

The first string silently listened to Akashi explain some things about “behaving ourselves” and “let’s all do our best” and more sentimental speeches everyone would usually just talk throughout. But no one dared to, because they knew Akashi wasn’t having something like that. After that, the team got on the bus and they departed on the trip from Tokyo to Nagano.

Shintaro noticed that Aomine, who was sitting one row before him, fell asleep instantly. His head rested on Kise’s shoulder. However, the blond got annoyed and pushed Aomine’s head away so it was resting against the window. Three seconds later Aomine had placed his head on Kise’s shoulder once again and the cycle repeated itself a few times. In the end, the model gave up and allowed Aomine to sleep using his shoulder a pillow.

Akashi and Kuroko were playing some kind of card-game with Momoi, who was sitting one row in front of them. Of course, Akashi would end up winning, no matter how many times they would play.

Shintaro was sitting next to Murasakibara, naturally. The taller of the two was quietly staring out the window while sucking on a lollipop. Their hands were calmly resting on the armrest between them, fingers subtly intertwined. This didn’t matter because they were in the far back of the bus and no one could really see it. Shintaro had put on his headphones to listen to some classical music, turning up the volume to the max to make it drown out the sound of the CD Kise had put on. It was Kise’s turn to pick out the music for the ride and everyone had been expecting some cutesy band or pop-idol, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Kise had proudly presented a CD of his favorite artist, some band Shintaro had never heard of before, when the music started everyone looked at Kise in the most horrified yet confused expression. Shintaro couldn’t really put a direct genre on what music was currently blasting on the speakers; all he knew was that the music Kise apparently liked was highly indecent for anyone to listen too. The music itself was totally chaos and the vocals were weird and creepy, they were high-pitched, but not operatic and they didn’t really connect with the music and were floating above the instruments, sometimes these vocals suddenly dropped down and it sounded as if someone was vomiting. The voice was so strange, that Shintaro couldn’t manage to put a gender on the singer. They lyrics weren’t understandable most of the time, but Shintaro had a gut feeling they contained highly indecent verses, in the sense of them being pro-devil. When Aomine asked Kise “what the actual fuck am I listening too?” the blond had cheerfully called it to be “Atmospheric black metal.” Now, Shintaro knew something like black metal existed, though he preferred to stay away from something so vulgar, but atmospheric black metal was a new one. No one seemed to appreciate Kise’s weird taste of music except for Kuroko and Murasakibara, the two claimed it to be very interesting and it sounds nice. For a moment, Shintaro lost all faith in human society. This weird music preference is definitely a thing Kise’s fangirls didn’t know about the model, because Shintaro was sure that if they knew, they wouldn’t be all that fond of him anymore.

Shintaro tried to focus on his own music to avoid getting a headache. His own favorite music, where the instruments joined together in a beautiful harmony and perhaps he also tried to focus on the warm, big hand that was softly holding his own. Their relationship was still going smoothly. There were no issues of jealousy (even if there were any, Murasakibara was damn good at hiding this, because Shintaro never noticed) and cheating behavior was out of the question. They weren’t looking for ways to trouble the other and respected each other’s needs, even if they were strange. For outsiders it was nearly impossible to see that the nature of their relationship went beyond friendship, they showed their affection for one another in small gestures, such as the brush of hands and subtle smiles directed at one another. Not judging the other for their abnormalities could be considered as such a gesture as well. They still fought with one another from time to time, but that would probably never change and it was fine. The two of them were different in so many ways, so it was only natural for them to clash and as long as they continued making up after their arguments, it was fine.

Shintaro also noticed he was getting more and more comfortable around Murasakibara, he dared to talk to the other boy almost openly now. Sure, he might still stutter a little when it came to personal topics, but he could manage to finish his sentences and when Shintaro struggled to form his words, Murasakibara would give him the time he needed without getting impatient. Murasakibara still wasn’t what you’d call talkative, so most of the time he only talked in short sentences. More often than not, the purple miracle just silently listened to whatever Shintaro was saying.

Shintaro had once asked the taller boy why he did that, the center had replied that he simply liked Shintaro’s voice. This resulted in Shintaro blushing furiously while telling Murasakibara not to say something like that. The taller of the two had just casually replied that he could say whatever he wanted and that he knew Shintaro secretly liked it, which the shooting-guard vastly denied.

They’d talk about anything and everything now, but strangely enough, they still rarely spoke about basketball. Despite it being one of the key-elements in their lives. Surely, their conflicting opinions on the sport were to blame for that. Neither of them enjoyed fighting and shouting, so for the sake of their relationship they just avoided the topic as much as they could, they already had practice and matches together anyways. There was nothing they could talk about that the other didn’t already know and if Shintaro wanted to talk NBA-matches or something, all he had to do was call Aomine and he would be stuck with the blue-haired for three hours. (They once had a lengthy argument about which team was the best, they still hadn’t reached a conclusion on that one.) The few times Shintaro did talk about basketball with his boyfriend usually ended up with both of them standing there in an awkward silence that they’d both rather avoid. Shintaro noticed that whenever the subject came to the surface, Murasakibara had a painful expression on his face, as if he was hurt somewhere. Shintaro couldn’t stand seeing the tall boy look sad and decided to leave the topic aside for as long he possibly could.

Even though talking about basketball brought painful conversations, they still had fun when they played together. Murasakibara seemed to enjoy it to slam down Shintaro’s shots; the faint smile on his face gave that away. Shintaro was less thrilled about getting blocked, but he would be lying if he said that he wasn’t enjoying it to see the center smile while playing. The shooting-guard also learned new things by getting blocked over and over, his release became quicker and the arc of his shots became higher, which automatically expanded his shooting range. His accuracy never wavering. Something else that Shintaro had picked up from going one-on-one with Murasakibara was blocking more efficiently. The purple-haired being a defense expert made it easy for Shintaro to pick up certain movements and absorb them into his own play. The same thing could be said about his offense, because Murasakibara’s defense was so strong, he couldn’t always shoot. So Shintaro had quickly learned how to do other things aside from shooting three-pointers, this had caused him to beat Aomine in a one-on-one once. The entire team and, of course, Aomine himself had been shocked to learn that Shintaro was able to perform a perfectly executed dunk. Shintaro wasn’t the only one that had learned from their one-on-ones, Murasakibara had learned things as well, for example the outside shooting of the center had greatly improved due Shintaro’s influence. This made Shintaro feel certain happiness, seeing his boyfriend adopt a small piece of him and the other way around left a permanent mark of their relationship, a mark that would remain existing so that neither of them could ever fully forget what they had, even if they ended up breaking up.

Their one-year anniversary was coming up in just a little over a week and Shintaro wanted to plan something special for that day. He was still unsure of what that would be, but he wanted it to be something they both enjoyed to do. Shintaro knew that Murasakibara would probably enjoy anything he organized, yet he was still nervous about it.

Shintaro got lost in a train of thoughts as he looked out the window. Seeing how big, green fields passed him by. The sky was blue and the sun was warm, but irritating Shintaro's eyes. It was a stereotypical summer day like you’d see in movies. Sadly, they'd be spending most of it on a bus. Shintaro had looked it up online before they left; the trip would take around 4 hours, that was excluding possible traffic issues and stops for lunch or because someone decided to get sick. 4 long hours of driving, listening to Kise's weird music and watching how Momoi was hanging all over Kuroko. On the other side it was 4 hours of doing absolutely nothing, Shintaro could completely relax and he could keep on holding Murasakibara’s hand, something he couldn't do as much as he'd like.

The taller boy seemed to have understood this thought, because Shintaro felt his hand being squeezed by the other boy, not to soft and not too hard. Shintaro turned his head around and was surprised to see Murasakibara looking back at him. The latter offered a small smile, which Shintaro returned without hesitation. 

 ‘This would be a perfect moment for a kiss.’ Shintaro thought. They still hadn’t taken the step, neither of them had the courage to do it. Shintaro knew he wanted to, but he was still afraid to actually kiss his boyfriend. He wasn’t scared of rejection, he wasn’t scared of it being gross and he even wasn’t scared of the huge possibility that his kissing skills would suck. He didn’t understand why he was so afraid. He also didn’t know why Murasakibara never made any advances on him, he guessed that it has to do with the fact that Murasakibara was a very respectful person, under his lazy external appearance and was scared of doing something Shintaro felt uncomfortable too. Maybe it was that the tall boy was actually scared and nervous as well or that he just didn’t know what a romantic relationship contained. Because with Murasakibara, you never knew after all. The giant surely knew more than his appearance let on, but he could be completely oblivious to certain things as well.

 The thought wavered as fast as it came and nothing ended up happening. This was mainly to blame to the fact that the bus was literally filled with people. But also to Shintaro’s own cowardness. He noticed that Murasakibara wanted to say something; he could read it in his posture. To allow the purple-haired boy to speak, Shintaro turned off his music and put his headphones away.

 ‘Mido-chin, I was wondering if… well, Aka-chin said we could pick our own roommate during interhigh, right? So do you  wanna… maybe, share with me?’ Murasakibara said, a feint blush was present on his cheeks. Shintaro thought it was adorable whenever that happened, but never allowed himself to say that to the person in front of him. It was then that Shintaro realized what his boyfriends just asked him.

 He asked. To. Share. A. Room. 

 'How do I react to a question like this? I mean, it’s not weird to say yes right? What are his expectations? Does he mean that he wants to…? God, Shintaro get a grip! He doesn’t mean it like that! You mustn’t think of things as inappropriate as that. He just wants to be in my company, no ulterior motives. This is a good sign; he still wants to be with me. Still, asking me to share a room with him just like that, he should know better! That idiot. But I guess… I'm happy that he asked me.’ Shintaro had been unable to stop himself from blushing and he couldn’t look Murasakibara in the eye, afraid that if he did, his heart wouldn’t stop pounding.

 ‘I… I don’t particularly mind s-sharing a room with y-you, in fact.’ He stammered as he was nervously fidgeting with the thread of his headphones. Shintaro knew his voice had been very silent, he hoped the younger teen had been able to hear him. He didn’t have it in him to repeat himself.

 ‘Yeeey~ Mido-chin said yes. I'm so happy right now~’ Murasakibara replied. It still struck Shintaro as odd how the tall boy almost never changed his tone or facial expression. Shintaro knew Murasakibara was genuinely happy right now, but that was only because they were so close. That monotone voice rarely showed emotion, but Shintaro had found a way to distinguish between the ever-so-subtle change in tone or pace. This might be a side-effect from Shintaro’s love for music and his perceptive nature.

 Murasakibara then proceeded to hug Shintaro; much to the latter’s protest. But, with the center being his usual self, all protest was done in vain.

 ‘Tch, of course you are; now let me go, people can see us, in fact!’ Shintaro hissed as he was attempting to pry away the long limbs that were curled tightly around his body.

 ‘But Mido-chiiiin, I don’t wanna let go. I wanna hug you more~’ Came the reply.

 Murasakibara placed his cheek flush against Shintaro’s own and calmly stayed there. The tall boy could probably feel the heat radiating from Shintaro’s blushing face.

 ‘Ugh, troublesome.’ Shintaro replied while rolling his eyes.

 He resisted to the touch one more time before giving up his fight. With a sigh Shintaro closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around the taller boy's body. Letting himself enjoy the warmth, the love and the tickling on his face caused by Murasakibara’s long hair, the unnaturally sweet scent of various different kinds of candy tickling his nostrils. It was a smell that Shintaro had learned to enjoy with time, even though he had detested the smell at first, it always made him feel right at home now.

 Even though everyone could see them right now and their relationship could be exposed to everyone, Shintaro couldn’t bring himself to let go.

 ‘Oh well, a little longer won’t hurt.’ He thought.

Chapter Text

Of course, they just had to get stuck in traffic. It felt like they had been stuck on the exact same spot for over an hour, they were only a little past half-way their destination, which means that even without the awful traffic jam they still had about two hours to go. Because it was so unnecessarily hot outside and the sun was shining a little too bright, it felt like they were all thrown into some kind of sauna on wheels. Not exactly pleasant. However the worst part was that since they were a sports team, most of the people on board weren’t exactly made to sit still for an extended period of time. Causing them to get out of their seats and run around the buss, ignoring all protest from teachers and the driver. They were shouting and throwing with all kinds of stuff. Not to mention that Kise’s weird music was still blasting on the speakers. The driver seemed to like it, for some reason. Shintaro noticed himself getting kind of pissed by all the commotion. He really didn’t ask to be stuck on a bus to a week-long tournament which they would win anyway.

He hated to think like that, but the chance of them losing was just near zero percent. Their line-up was the strongest by far, even if you were to exclude all of the prodigies, Teiko was still one of, if not the strongest team out there. Shintaro didn’t really like the way things were going, he always wanted to win of course, but if victory could be achieved without doing anything special at all, then what was the point of even playing the game? Shintaro hated to say it out loud so he never did, but he knew that Aomine was currently strong enough to beat any averagely strong school all by himself. Shintaro had a gut feeling that in a short period of time, the ace would be able to do the same with strong schools. Aomine was an undeniable prodigy, even among the strongest players all around Japan, he shone the brightest. However, even though it might seem impossible now, Aomine’s level wasn’t unreachable. Shintaro was well aware of the fact that the same monster that housed inside Aomine was living inside his own body as well and in those of Kise, Murasakibara and Akashi as well. One day, the four of them would reach that unbelievable level, maybe tomorrow, maybe after they graduated middle school or maybe even later. All that was certain is that the day would come sooner or later. That day, they would laugh at old articles that described them as monsters, because on that day they would have risen above monsters.

They had stopped depending on true teamwork a long time ago. They would still play using passes to one another, but the unspoken rule was that Teiko relied on their ace’s indestructible power. They played together, the four of them did. But Aomine played alone, as a lone warrior that never faced any form of defeat, pulling his teammates to victory. It wasn’t like they didn’t do anything to contribute to the team’s victory, they all scored at least 20 points per game, was a lie. But in the end, everyone depended on Aomine. The ace loved basketball from the bottom of his heart, even an idiot could see that, so the weight that was put on his shoulders didn’t hurt him; it made him feel happy since it allowed him to go all-out. Teiko would win the interhigh; everyone was aware of that. Even opposing teams. Somewhere in his heart, Shintaro felt guilty about this, it was his team that made the sport unpleasant to so many people. He just had to keep reminding himself of the fact that life wasn’t always fair and nothing could change that fact.

Somehow, Aomine had managed to stay asleep the whole time, and even now he was still peacefully sleeping on Kise’s shoulder. The blond had tried to wake the ace many times, probably just for the sake of pissing him off, but Aomine wouldn’t awaken and Kise eventually gave up and had started reading a manga which seemed to be about some kind of apocalyptic world, judging by the cover. Akashi was also reading, but his book seemed to be more intelligent than Kise’s manga, the captain’s face was utterly focused on the words written in the book. Sometimes, Akashi would smile a little, probably when he thought something in the book was funny. It usually wasn’t really funny, because Akashi had no sense of humor. Kuroko didn’t look all too well, the invisible boy seemed to be a bit carsick and his pale complexion was even paler than it usually was. Momoi fussing over him didn’t make it any better. The pink-haired girl was constantly bugging Kuroko with questions. Asking if he needed something, or if they had to pull over. She meant well, Momoi always did, but the phantom 6th man didn’t really appreciate all the attention, after all he rather stood in the shadows.

Murasakibara had fallen asleep a little while ago, which was probably for the best, considering how much the taller boy detested loud noises and would just do about anything to make people shut up. His head was resting against the window, because the headrest was too low to support someone of his height. It looked uncomfortable, but Shintaro didn’t mind it in the least, because the tall body of the person next to him blocked the sun from irritating his eyes and Shintaro found it somewhat endearing to look at. He had nothing better to do anyway. He did bring a few books with him, but he knew that if he were to start reading in the slowly moving and then abruptly stopping bus would make him carsick; his face would resemble the color of his hair within minutes.  Akashi possessed some wild powers; reading in a moving bus without getting sick was no joke.

Instead of trying to copy Akashi, Shintaro just spent his time silently staring at his boyfriend’s sleeping face. Memorizing the contours and uncovering small details he never noticed before, such as how the eyelashes of the center weren’t really black, but a dark shade of purple or how young the other boy really looked. His height and usually bored facial expression gave people the impression that Murasakibara was way older than he actually was; many people had trouble believing the center wasn’t even 14 yet. However, seeing the boy’s face so up close and relaxed showed the evidence that he was only just a child. His jaw line was softly rounded instead of sharp and the baby fat was still slightly present on his cheeks, it was clear that puberty hadn’t really started to change the other boy yet. While Murasakibara might look older than he really was, his mental state was definitely that of a child.

‘A child with a loose screw, if you asked.’ Shintaro thought bitterly. He didn’t want Murasakibara to change himself, after all Shintaro had fallen in love with him the way he was, but a little more mature behavior from time to time surely wouldn’t hurt either of them. And of course the fact that Murasakibara could be really, really weird sometimes was hard to deal with, because you never know what he’s thinking or if he’s really serious at all. Shintaro had learned to somewhat understand the center considering all the time they spent together, but sometimes the tall boy was still a mystery to him.

Shintaro was aware that he himself was still a child as well (and pretty strange too), they all were. That’s why he wondered if it was a good thing that Teiko was stimulating them so hard to become stronger. Drilling these thoughts of victory being more important than having fun in their heads. Training their bodies to just barely before their breaking points, setting strict rules on how much goals they had to make in each match (at least one hundred, twenty points per person), learning them not to feel bad for their opponents when they were sad after losing and more things like these. Teiko was even overlooking decrease in their grades. While this didn’t apply to Shintaro and Akashi, because they kept on working hard for their school work, or for Murasakibara who had always gotten good grades without studying for some reason, it certainly applied to Kise and Aomine. The model had always had pretty good grades before joining the first string of the basketball team, however they had started to drop lately and Aomine who always barely passed his classes, had started to fail miserably, but the school didn’t seem to mind it all too much as long as they performed their best on the court.

There were many things Shintaro could say about that, but he respected the will of his seniors and the elderly, because that was what Japanese society was all about. It wasn’t his place to object, even if he was strongly convinced that education was far more important than sports.

Aomine and Kise would both say the same when asked about this; why do grades matter when I’m good at basketball?

Shintaro could understand that statement in certain ways, because if Kise and Aomine would continue to grow and learn, if injuries stayed out of their ways and if their love for the sport never wavered, they had real chances of becoming professionals one day. Which would earn them an unbelievable amount of money and they wouldn’t ever need their education.

However, Shintaro was convinced that one must always have a backup-plan just in case something did go wrong and without proper education, it was very hard to find a job in the current society. So he found it very difficult to accept the way Teiko treated their sports-prodigies different from the other students. The school might just be trying to show themselves to the country, they use their incredible athletes to gain national fame and to gain more students. And it worked. Nearly everyone in Japan that ever watched the sports-news, read a newspaper, or a sports magazine had heard the name “Generation of Miracles” at least once.

Middle- and high schools with a basketball team were all very aware of them too, so much that whenever Teiko traveled to a school for a practice match, people would look up and stare in wonder. They would open the doors for them and treat them as if they were royals from a country that was closely related to theirs. All they saw was a flawless team filled with stars of the future generation, they saw five prodigious players walking by with their heads up high as if they were demanding everyone to bow down for them and then look up at them in awe. The untouchable gods of the Japanese basketball world.

Oh how they betrayed those students, oh how they fooled everyone that thought that way.

They weren’t perfect at all; Akashi was most likely developing a Dissociative Identity disorder on top of his unusual intelligence due to his father’s pressure, Kise was struggling with a two-faced personality, which caused him to be extremely arrogant and narcissistic, even though he was uncertain about himself and he was dealing with some nasty family issues, Aomine showed signs of a slowly developing depression in its early state and an arrogance problem which seemed to get bigger by the day, Murasakibara had an unhealthy coping mechanism by eating his problems and insecurities away and Shintaro was well aware that his obsessive behavior with horoscopes and his extremely introverted personality weren’t normal at all. On top of that, they all had strange views on the meaning of victory and had natural weirdly colored hair for some reason. That last bit wasn’t really an imperfection. It was more of a peculiarity, if you asked Shintaro.

However, it could still be said that the Generation of Miracles were a deeply flawed team; to be perfect at something means you will be lacking in other aspects. That’s basic human understanding and Shintaro just couldn’t understand why other people thought they were “perfect” while their flaws lay just an inch below the surface.

Perfection was something he wanted, but it was also something he hated. So Shintaro tried to compensate for his own imperfections by bringing his perfections to the surface. He knew the others did the same thing. They were wearing a specially carved mask which could hide their secrets so well even though it was invisible.

Shintaro often thought about what people would think if they knew.

What would they do when they knew of the imperfections? Would they still adore them; or would they be rejected like a pop-idol that lost her voice?

Shintaro knew what being hated for your imperfections could feel like, his father made homophobic comments on a daily basis. The man still didn’t know about his son’s sexual orientation, Shintaro still couldn’t tell him. It was just too hard and too scary; the risk of their bond falling apart was too big. But just because his father didn’t know about it yet, it didn’t mean it didn’t hurt Shintaro whenever he said that homosexuals are sinners because they did not follow god’s path or because they could not reproduce.

Shintaro knew he was just postponing the faithful conversation with his father. He knew that he had to do it someday. Or well, only if he wanted to maintain his current relationship he had to say something. There was another way; a very sad way.

 Once his father introduced him to his future fiancée, he could break up with his boyfriend and start a life where he pretended to be happy and “normal” alongside her to make his father happy. He would treat the girl in question as a true woman and he would never make her cry; that he swore to himself. He would slowly forget about all that happened back in the day and in a matter of time, all his lies would be lasting long enough to become the truth.

Thinking about these things wasn’t easy. Shintaro felt like he was deceiving someone. Or more than just one person. He was deceiving his father, his boyfriend, future fiancée and even himself. He was telling himself to put on an even bigger mask in the future. He would wear a mask over a mask, he’d become unrecognizable to everyone. On his wedding day he’d smile and he’d greet his wife and first-born with smiles also. Fake smiles, all in the sake of making his father proud of him.

Shintaro felt himself getting sick. Sick with his own thoughts. He hastily looked around him, in search for something to do so he could distract himself. But outside of the window, the sun still irritated his eyes and the scene behind the window didn’t change because they were still in traffic. Murasakibara was still asleep and Shintaro couldn’t bring himself to wake the other. Not when he was looking so peaceful and relaxed. Besides, talking to him now wouldn’t make Shintaro feel any better, considering how he just thought of backstabbing the other. The thought alone was disgusting enough and he really didn’t want to be reminded of how awful his personality really was.

‘Who in their right mind thinks about the person they love in such a disgraceful way?’ Shintaro thought as he stared at Aomine slumbering on Kise’s shoulder. ‘Why can’t I love someone in such a selfless way? Why do I always have ulterior motives or backup-plans? Why am I already thinking of breaking up even though I don’t want to? Why do I even consider hurting him that way? He doesn’t deserve that in the least. I hate that my mind works this way; I hate me.’

Shintaro just sat there in silence, shocked by the realization he just made. He couldn’t believe it, Shintaro was a very prideful person after all. Selfish and a true performer in all aspects of sports and intelligence.

‘Do I really feel that way, that can’t be it, right? I can’t comprehend it, I can’t understand it. I don’t have a low self-esteem and I’ve never experienced any form of hatred towards myself before. Yet now I’m here wondering why I am so selfish and evil, I wonder why someone like him would ever love someone like me. The human mind is powerful; I shouldn’t dwell on these emotions. I can’t let them overtake me and push me over the edge. I don’t want to develop a depression. I need to conceal these absurd thoughts and focus on something nice.’ Shintaro tried to calm himself down by drowning himself in the music that was blaring through the bus.

After a while, he came to the conclusion that the music wasn’t as bad as he’d originally thought. The vocals were awful, sure. But the music actually started to make sense. There was a harmony between the instruments. The composer had done a pretty good job on the overall composition. The variety in speed and volume was done incredibly well. The lyrical theme wasn’t something he could enjoy, but the choice of words and the poetry that was involved were outstanding. As a person that loved poetry and music, Shintaro could appreciate it.

Shintaro sighed, happy that he had been able to distract himself. Subconsciously, he had started leaning into Murasakibara’s side, comfortably resting his head on the other’s shoulder. The warmth wasn’t unwelcome, even if it was hot enough in the bus without the extra heat. His worries just seemed to fade away and Shintaro knew that there was no place he’s rather be right now. And to think he was thinking about giving all of this away just a moment ago. What a foolish idea that was. Shintaro closed his eyes for a moment, he felt at ease.

Until he realized what he was doing of course.

Shintaro quickly tore himself away from the tall boy’s side and quickly looked around to see if there was anyone that noticed what he did. He let out a sigh of relief when that didn’t appear to be the case; everyone was still doing their own thing.

‘I need to get a grip on myself. I can’t just do things like that in public! What would people have thought if they saw! I mean, their assumptions would probably be right but I don’t want anyone to judge me. Or more importantly, judge him. I can do this later when we’re alone.’ Shintaro mentally scolded himself for his carelessness. He’d never been so careless before, not once.

‘Love sure makes you do strange things.’ He thought.

Chapter Text

After a trip that had lasted over 6 hours in total Shintaro and his teammates had finally made it to the hotel in Nagano. Everyone was exhausted from the trip, but they all knew they still had practice later on the day, so they couldn't fully rest yet.

Shintaro took his phone out of his pocket and sent his parents a quick text saying that he'd safely arrived. He then went on to pick up his luggage from the small truck that carried all their baggage, since the baggage of a weeks’ worth of over 30 students and 6 adults didn’t simply fit into a single bus.

Sadly, they didn’t go unnoticed; there was no way they could. Not when they had the name “Teiko” printed on their bags in huge characters, a flashy model, the strongest power forward in the country and a nearly two meters tall purple haired center standing with them. Other schools staying at the same hotel immediately recognized their bags and starters. Shintaro saw how they all started whispering to one another, sending not-so-subtle glances towards them.

A few girls noticed the presence of the famous model and came asking for autographs and pictures. Kise was just too nice to reject them, so he just went along with it all. Faking smiles his fans couldn’t detect and the afterwards, he would complain about it to his friends. Highly annoying, yes. But it was worth seeing Aomine’s expression, which resembled that of a five year old not getting any candy while his siblings did get some. Jealousy was a funny thing when it came from stupid people. Shintaro noticed that Kuroko secretly took pictures sometimes, probably for blackmailing purposes.

Shintaro recognized some teams from last year. Teams they had beaten in great numbers at past tournaments and friendly matches. They were looking for revenge, that much was clear. Their eyes sharply focused on the Generation of Miracles, determined expressions on their faces.

‘What a highly foolish thought, history will only repeat itself. They might have grown, but so have we, the gap between us has only grown wider. No matter how fast they might run, they’ll never catch up to us. Faith hasn’t chosen them.’ Shintaro couldn’t help but think that way; he wasn’t always a nice person. He was a realist and in every realistic outcome, Teiko would be victorious. They had Kise and Kuroko as newly added members to their team, they weren’t there last year and now that they were, Teiko’s power had sky-rocketed.

He appreciated the effort the other schools put into their training, he wasn’t a person that blamed people like them for trying. Sadly, effort didn’t always pay off. It did a lot of times, but in the world of sports the strongest would come out on top. Just as in is in nature; survival of the fittest. In this case, the regulars of Teiko were the fittest. And not only that, Shintaro was pretty sure that Teiko also trained the hardest. Their everyday practice schedules were no joke at all, they left everyone tired. The school hosted 4 training camps each year; compared to Teiko’s regular training those camps were an absolute hell. The alarm would go off at 7 in the morning, everyone needed to have eaten and washed up by 8 and then they would have to go on a 10km morning run. The rest of the day was filled with stamina training, practice games between the members of the first string and building up a steady shot. By the time it was lunch-break, everyone was already nearly dead and by the time it was finally time for dinner, everyone was too tired to do anything. They would eat in silence and then wash up and go to sleep, only to repeat that same hellish schedule the day after. Many people even quit the team after camps like these, that was why only the strongest stayed behind, Kuroko being the sole exception.

Shintaro tried his hardest not to look back at the other schools hungering for victory. He didn’t want to receive the attention and he didn’t want to give them attention either. He focused his gaze on the ground instead.

After a little less than half an hour, they were all checked-in at the hotel and they went to their respective rooms to dump their luggage and to get dressed for afternoon practice in the stadium.

Teiko had rented it for the afternoon, no other teams were allowed until they were done with practice. It was unmistakable that Teiko invested the most money into their basketball club, this gave them a huge advantage when it came to privileges.

After practice, another event was scheduled; for the regulars exclusively.

An event that Shintaro didn’t look forward to at all; interviews for magazines.

He just didn’t see the point of it all. They were middle-school boys, not some big-shot professionals. On top of that, Shintaro was pretty sure that they were all just going to ask those same, obvious and boring questions. Questions they’ve answered many times in the past.

“How do you see your chances of victory, Akashi-san?”

“How do you view your opponent for the first match, Aomine-san?”

“What does it feel like to win a hard game, Midorima-san?”

“How do you view your personal skills, Kise-san?”

Questions not worthy of their time and effort. Was it so hard to come up with more original questions? Or was it even necessary to interview them all? They were all just going to answer the same thing with different words. And if one of the interviewers had some form of originality, it usually contained personal questions about family and things like “is there a girl you like?” Shintaro didn’t want to answer. It simply wasn’t their business.

Akashi and Kise didn’t seem to have any troubles with the interviews, and if they had they were great at hiding it, Aomine liked all the attention, but got bored very quickly and Murasakibara just didn’t care at all. He only got annoyed when the interviewer was taking too long or if they were being repetitive with their questions. Shintaro was simply too shy and socially awkward to be able to enjoy these kinds of things.

Shintaro looked at the keycards he was holding in his hand and saw the room-number 368 on it. He looked at the signs displayed in the reception hall and saw that his room was all the way on the seventh floor. He then looked around in search for a head full of messy, purple hair, which he found within seconds. Shintaro walked over to his boyfriend and gestured him to accompany him to their room.

‘Here, this is your keycard.’ Shintaro said as he handed the small piece of plastic over to Murasakibara. ‘Don’t lose it.’ He decided to add.

‘Yeah yeah. I won’t lose it, thanks, mom.’ Murasakibara replied teasingly.

‘Please don’t call me that, it’s highly inappropriate, considering our relationship.’ Shintaro hissed back. ‘Also, our room is on the seventh floor, so we should go search for an elevator, in fact.’ He continued in a normal voice.

‘Mido-chin, you’re no fun~’ The taller of the two complained, but he went to search for an elevator anyway.

---

Once the pair arrived at their room, Shintaro was wondering just how much money Teiko had in their budget. The room was way too fancy for something like a middle-school sports tournament. They’d be rarely spending time at the hotel anyway, so just a plain, cheap room would be more than enough. Teiko apparently liked to be extra, because these rooms were anything but simple.

The entrance was pretty basic; there was enough room to store bags and coats. The only thing that made it stand out was the deep colored oak-wood that covered the walls and the tiles made of marble. A door on the right side led the way to the bathroom and a door to the right led to the toilet. Just the fact that those two were in separate rooms was enough to prove that this hotel wasn’t just your cheap average. The bathroom housed a shower, which was adjustable in height, something that was important considering that most of the basketball players were too tall to be able to fit under a regular one, a marble sink and a bathtub. The floor and walls of the bathroom were decorated with the same tiles as the entrance hall, but the color was a deep shade of green while those in the entry were black and white. A white carpet was stylishly placed on the floor in front of the sink; a border of led-lights was placed around the mirror hanging on the wall. A pile of neatly folded towels lay on a small shelf that was placed next to the bathtub.

The bedroom as after the door that went straight ahead. It was a very spacious room with a huge window, allowing a breathtaking sight over the city since they were seven floors up, a deep red carpet clad the floor. Two beds were placed in the room, the sheets freshly washed and as white as snow. A nightstand was placed next to each bed and another one was placed in the small space between the beds. On the wall behind the beds the same wood as in the entrance hall was decorating the white walls, standing in a beautiful contrast between white and the dark color of the wood. A small table with two seats was standing in front of the window and a huge television hung on the wall with a small sofa placed in front of it. Some beautiful pictures of scenery in some desert were placed on the wall in gold-colored frames. There was one more room, which held an actual sauna.

‘Is it just me, or does our school have way too much money on their hands?’ Shintaro said as he was perplexed by the luxury the room provided.

‘No joke, this room is almost as big as the apartment I live in with six people.’ Murasakibara replied with an equally perplexed expression. ‘I wonder if I’ll be able to fit in the beds though.’

‘I think you’ll be fine, they look pretty spacious.’ Shintaro replied as he stared at the beds, they weren’t small at all, he judged. Even though they were single beds, they could easily hold two people of an average stance.

‘Which bed do you wanna have? I don’t really care as long as I can sleep.’

‘I’ll take the one on the right, since that is better according to my horoscope, in fact. It will have a negative effect if I were to sleep on the left side, something I must not risk.’

‘Whatever you say, Mido-chin.’

‘You don’t believe me, do you?’

‘I didn’t say that~’ The purple-haired boy teased.

Shintaro rolled his eyes, he couldn’t help it that his idiot-boyfriend was too proud to believe in horoscopes.

‘Or would you prefer to sleep with me, ne?’

Shintaro could swear that his glasses should have been cracked due the heat that flamed on his face. He turned his head around to glare at Murasakibara, who remained unfazed.

‘Y-you’re kidding right!?’ Shintaro yelped in an odd mix of embarrassment and shock.

‘Hehe, yeah. I’m just kidding~’ Came the reply. In response, the giant placed one of his huge hands on top of Shintaro’s head, lovingly rubbing his hair in the way only he could.

But, just because his boyfriend was being sweet right now, Shintaro wasn’t just going to let him off the hook with such an outrageous, nonsensical comment. ‘H-how can you say s-stuff like that with a straight face? And why would you say that?’ He hissed.

‘Mhhh... I just wanted to see your reaction. You’re cute when you’re embarrassed.’

‘You’re an idiot. And I’m not cute.’

‘I guess I am, but you still like me.’

‘Ugh…’Shintaro replied as he adjusted his glasses and hair, because it got messed up by a certain someone.

‘Mido-chin is the cutest though.’

Shintaro settled by hitting the taller boy on the back of his head with a magazine he grabbed from one of the nightstands. It was the only way to make that giant understand that he wasn’t cute.

‘Still so cute~’ Murasakibara stated as he rubbed the back of his head.

Shintaro just gave up after that, some people never learn after all, but the true story was that Shintaro just couldn’t stay mad at the other boy. He just made him feel too happy to stay mad, even if he was the biggest (in the literal sense of the word) idiot on planet earth.

The two of them started to unpack their stuff while having small conversations about various topics. It was nice how easy they worked; they didn’t get in one another’s way at all. It was like they were made to simply coexist without causing trouble for the other. This was so special and so indescribably beautiful to Shintaro. He couldn’t help but smile. Just the feeling of being free to do whatever he wanted and being fully accepted as himself, it felt so good. No wonder that in novels love was always described as something so gorgeous. Shintaro didn’t yet understand the whole aspect of physical intimacy which was so romanticized whenever he read about it, but he did learn to understand the mental side of it.

He hoped that Murasakibara felt the same way. He couldn’t really tell. He wanted to trust his instincts and say that the other was just as happy with their relationship as he was, but his insecurities plagued his vision and he found himself being unable to properly judge. The only way to be sure was by having a heart-to-heart about it, but something like that didn’t suit him and it didn’t suit Murasakibara either. They weren’t a couple of words; they weren’t a couple of touch.

What they were, Shintaro didn’t know. All he knew was that it felt right.

Chapter Text

The days had gone by faster than expected and the evening of the day before the semi-finals had arrived.

As expected, Teiko had cleared their path without much effort, even being able to do so while reserving their prodigies as much as possible, playing two of them on the court while three of the others could sit out for the match. They kept that strategy up until the quarterfinals of the afternoon, where Teiko fell behind with 10 points after the second quarter. The coach hadn’t been happy at all and promptly shifted out all the others aside from Akashi and Kise, putting the three remaining miracles in for the second half of the match. Within five minutes, Teiko had grasped back the lead.

For the other team, it all went downhill from there, they fought hard until the end and they never gave up. However fighting five prodigies at once had been too much, their inside attacks had been completely shut down by Murasakibara and three-pointers weren’t allowed to be made by the others. The other team had a strong defense, but nowhere near strong enough to contain Aomine and Kise and due Akashi’s amazing and fast passes, Shintaro had been able to score basket after basket. Akashi was switched out in the last quarter and Kuroko came on the court, his coordination with Aomine was supreme as always and the ace racked up points at a horrifying pace. The game ended with Teiko winning by a 57-point lead.

After the game, Aomine had said something remarkable. “I wished we would have been further behind, it would have been so thrilling to play a game when we were like, 30 points behind. Coming back from that must even be hard for us, right?” Kise had enthusiastically agreed with the ace and Shintaro couldn’t help but agree as well. What if they could make a rule that every team could start with a 30-point lead when they had to play Teiko. Would they still be able to win so easily? Shintaro was well aware that basketball didn’t work that way, but that didn’t stop him from thinking that it would be nice.

Shintaro was sitting on his bed while trying to read a book; however, he found it hard to concentrate. He couldn’t put his finger on why he was feeling this way. It wasn’t like he was nervous for the game tomorrow. The team they would be facing was a little weaker than the opponent of today’s game. It was already established that the Generation of Miracles would play the full game for the semi-finals and the finals. If a miracle didn’t happen, Teiko would easily clear their path to the finals tomorrow.

Murasakibara was already asleep on the other bed, weird since it was only 7p.m. But Shintaro didn’t bother to disturb the other, he knew that the giant would just continue to sleep all the way until the next morning, unlike Aomine who’d fall asleep at 4p.m. and then he would wake up at 2a.m. because he couldn’t sleep anymore, being extremely tired and lazy the day after. So Akashi gave Kise, who shared rooms with the ace, the order to wake up Aomine whenever he went to sleep before 8p.m.

Shintaro didn’t want to go to sleep just yet, so he tried to focus on his book again. It was pretty interesting, a story about a young woman with many physical disabilities. She couldn’t walk, see or speak, yet she was fully aware of the world around her and possessed a high intellect. But trapped in her unmoving body, no one would understand her and they treated her as if she was stupid, because they didn’t know she was so intelligent. She had to listen to their talk all day, fully understanding that her family was struggling to take care of her. The woman would constantly try to reach out to them and tell them that she wasn’t stupid and that she wanted to apologize for being a burden. In the last few chapters of the book, the woman was plagued with suicidal thoughts, but she couldn’t act upon them. Her will to die got so strong that she slowly started to become insane.

Shintaro was amazed by how deeply the book touched him. The author had done an outstanding job at portraying the woman, you would be swept away by the story; it was as if you became the woman herself. Shintaro noticed that he really couldn’t focus today and decided to put the book away, because he thought it was a waste to read such a wonderful book without full concentration.

‘Ehh? Mido-chin, you’re still awake?’ Murasakibara suddenly said, Shintaro didn’t realize he had woken up.

Shintaro turned his head around and saw that the tall boy stretched himself as he yawned. It was a confirmation that the giant really had been sleeping and wasn’t just lazing with his eyes closed.

‘Of course I am, you idiot. It’s only half past seven, you just went to sleep ridiculously early, in fact.’ He sighed as he gestured to the clock on the wall.

‘Ah, that’s weird. I thought it was already late. Must have been because I had to play in the game today, what a drag. If only the others hadn’t fallen behind that far, I wouldn’t have had to play. I’m so tired now.’

‘What are you, an old man?’

‘Mido-chin, don’t be so mean.’ The purple-haired boy pouted.

‘I’m not being mean, I was simply comparing you to an old person because you get tired after playing for 20 minutes. Is your blood pressure too low or something?’ Shintaro replied.

‘The doctor said that it’s just fine. I’m just growing so fast that it makes me tired, that’s what mama-chin says.’

‘I really don’t get you. You have a high stamina, you are always on the top of your class alongside Kise when you have stamina tests in PE, yet you are always so tired that you fall asleep at 7 in the evening as if you’re very old or very young. That doesn’t add up at all, in fact. Are you sure you don’t need to go see a doctor?’ Shintaro tried not to make it sound as if he was worried, but the other boy didn’t buy it for a second.

‘Mido-chin, you’re always so worried about me, that’s so sweet, but you don’t need to be so worried. I’m just lazy. Come over here, I wanna hug you now.’ The other boy replied, dead serious.

‘Oh you are lazy alright? Also no, I don’t want to come over to you.’ Shintaro replied as he crossed his arms and turned away.

‘Ehh… I’ll just come to you then, tsundere-chin.’

Before Shintaro could even begin to protest or scold Murasakibara for calling him a tsundere, the other boy had already made his way over to Shintaro’s bed and wrapped his long arms around the smaller boy, pulling him close.

Shintaro let out an annoyed sigh, but still rested his head in the hollow spot of his boyfriend’s neck. It had become almost natural for them to be this close to one another. Shintaro would still blush a lot, but it wasn’t as bad as it used to be. He didn’t push the other away anymore, as long as they were alone, he allowed the touch. He didn’t just allow it, he also found himself enjoying it and on very rare cases, Shintaro even initiated the contact. Shintaro smiled as he hugged the other back, once again feeling so glad that they had found one another and that they didn’t let society’s rules stop them from being together.

Shintaro had his left hand placed on the back of his boyfriend’s neck, between all those purple strands of hair; strands that had grown so much longer from when they first met. His other hand was placed on the other’s back, fisting the fabric of the grey shirt the other was wearing. Murasakibara had his arms wrapped around Shintaro’s shoulders and his head was resting on top of Shintaro’s own. They had no rush at all, nowhere else to be. So they stayed like that, until the sun started to set.

---

Eventually, they broke apart, but they still kept holding onto each other. Shintaro silently gazed into Murasakibara’s violet orbs, he loved those eyes. Their color was so deep and beautiful, so easy to fall in love with. Shintaro could see his own reflection in those eyes, in that reflection he saw a happy version of himself, one that was rarely visible in mirrors. A version of himself that only Murasakibara was allowed to see. They didn’t speak; they just stared into each other’s eyes for a while. Shintaro had brought his hands up to the center’s face and was silently stroking his cheeks with his thumbs; the right one bare and the left one clad in tape as it always was. The always neutral expression of the other seemed to melt by the touch, shifting into a love-filled smile, so dazzling that it was impossible to look away, it seemed to glow. It was so bright that it was completely impossible to not smile back.

‘Mido-chin…’ Was all the purple-haired boy could say, he probably could have said more, but he didn’t.

‘Atsushi.’ Was Shintaro’s reply. He had wanted to call the other’s name; however it felt completely wrong to use his last name right now, because everyone already did. Shintaro decided to use his boyfriend’s given name. Atsushi. The syllables felt foreign on his tongue, but he liked the sound it made. He wanted to say that name over and over and over again, until he grew sick of it.

Shintaro saw his boyfriend’s eyes widen at the sound of his given name, a soft pink blush forming on his cheeks. He honestly looked like he was going to cry, but he never did. All that happened was that the radiant smile on his face growing even larger; even brighter than it had been before. It was blinding Shintaro, blocking all the other information in the room.

They both knew what had to be done next; they had been ignoring it for far too long already. Almost a year into their relationship, but they never took the step, because they had been too immature; too scared. They would take that step now, they didn’t speak this agreement out loud, their expressions spoke more than words ever did; enough confirmation for them both. Shintaro could feel his heartbeat speeding up, he felt his hands shaking, but not in a bad way. Nothing about the situation was bad. It was all a natural part of growing up and falling in love. They were still so young; it was a miracle that they had fallen in love so hard at this age, yet they wouldn’t trade it for anything. They were so different in many ways, but they were exactly the same when it came to their feelings for one another. Shintaro silently nodded at Murasak- no, Atsushi, who nodded back.

They were both unsure of what to do, so Shintaro just instinctively closed his eyes and slowly leaned his head forward, tilting it slightly to the side. He waited for a moment before he was met half-way by a pair of soft lips that touched his own. Time seemed to stop entirely; nothing moved, not even his heart. A shiver ran down Shintaro’s spine, sending a tingling sensation from the lower parts of his body all the way up to his mind. His senses seemed to be hyperactive in that moment. The feeling, the scent, the taste; it was all so very clear to him in those seconds.

Their first kiss was nothing more than a short touch of lips. There was no movement, no deepening and no tongue at all. They just softly pressed their lips together for no more than roughly five seconds, but it was perfect.

When they broke apart, all those feelings seemed to fade away like snow in the bright morning sun on the first day of spring. It disappeared, but just like the snow, beautiful memories where left behind. Shintaro could understand poets better now; he never imagined that a simple thing like a first kiss could make a person feel this way.

Neither of them had the courage to break the comfortable silence, so they just sat there kind of awkwardly holding onto each other, looking anywhere in the room but at the other’s face. They let go after a little while as they sheepishly smiled at each other.

‘I finally got to kiss Mido-chin.’ As expected, Atsushi was the one to break the silence. He sounded very pleased with himself and had a proud expression on his face. It was adorable; Shintaro couldn’t found another, better word to describe it.

‘I guess so, yes…’ Shintaro replied, unsure of what else he should say. It suddenly crossed Shintaro’s mind that he had never asked his boyfriend if he was okay with him calling him by first name. ‘Are you fine with me addressing you by your first name? When we’re alone, at least? I understand if you’d rather not have me do that, in fact.’ He decided to ask.

‘Course I am, Mido-chin. You can call me whatever you want, I don’t really care. But I suppose I like it when you call me by my first name.’

‘I see, that’s good.’

‘Do I have to call you by first name as well?’

The question took Shintaro off-guard. He never even considered it, he had already gotten used to the stupid nickname Atsushi always gave him. However, it wasn’t nice to deny the other boy from calling him by first name while he could do it himself. Shintaro hated hypocrites, after all.

‘You can, if you want to.’ He said.

‘M’kay… so… Shintaro?’ Atsushi said with a puzzled expression on his face.

Shintaro felt himself blush various shades of red upon hearing his boyfriend calling him by his given name. It felt special to hear it and not really unpleasant at all. Yet, it felt kind of weird; somehow it didn’t seem natural.

‘Ehh, that just sounds weird when I say it. Just Mido-chin is better, don’t you think?’ Atsushi seemed to be on the same page.

‘I… really don’t care.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Okay~ in that case I’ll just continue calling you Mido-chin.’

‘Sure.’ Shintaro replied. He wouldn’t admit it, but he had grown fond of that stupid nickname and he kind of liked to hear it, so he really didn’t care that Atsushi would stick to using it.

‘Anyway, it’s about time we get to sleep. We have the semi-finals tomorrow, so we should be properly rested, in fact.’

‘Yeah, sure thing.’

---

After they both went to brush their teeth in the bathroom, they went to sleep. Each in their own bed, of course. Atsushi had dozed off within fifteen minutes, while Shintaro was still awake. Scenes from what happened between them earlier kept playing in his mind and they gave him a warm and fuzzy feeling inside his chest.

He wanted to sleep, but it was nearly impossible to do so. The feelings inside his body couldn’t be ignored because they were too strong. It wasn’t really a bad thing at all; Shintaro didn’t mind not being able to sleep because of pure happiness. He wanted to hold on to these feelings as long as he could. It was just that the timing was so off. He had an important game tomorrow and had to perform at his best, being tired wasn’t an option.

‘We really kissed, huh?’ Shintaro thought. The simple sentence brought a smile to his face. He felt his cheeks heating up at the memories, he was lucky that it was so dark in the room and that his boyfriend was such a heavy sleeper, only Aomine was worse. The kiss hadn’t really been all that special, it was more a peck than an actual kiss, but to Shintaro it meant the world. He had been able to share his first kiss with someone he truly loved. He didn’t know if his feelings would always remain this way. They could always just grow up, break up and find someone else to love, but that didn’t really matter now. Shintaro told himself that he loved Atsushi now and that he wouldn’t regret it later in his life. Because even if they were to separate and find someone else, the love they once had was genuine.

Shintaro was happy that his first kiss hadn’t been at some part with a stranger because of some stupid truth or dare game. That would have been meaningless. Shintaro wasn’t really the type of person to believe in the loss of virginity or the first kisses being more important than the moments that came afterwards, but he was happy that something he would most likely remember for the rest of his life had been real and unforced. He didn’t count being raped as having sex for the first time, but the sad truth was that the victim would always remember it as her or his first time and that many people also viewed it that way. Shintaro hoped that he, as the time came for that, would also be able to have his first time in such a relaxed and natural way. Be it with Atsushi, or someone else entirely.

Shintaro shifted around in his bed to find a comfortable sleeping position, because he really had to sleep now. He shouldn’t start over thinking about stuff again, because he would end up being sad that way. Even if he started with happy thoughts, they would slowly turn black, just like how a piece of wet paper would slowly color black because of a drop of spilled ink.

He lay on his side with his back facing the wall and his eyes facing the other bed; by the dim light that escaped through the curtains, Shintaro was vaguely able to see Atsushi’s face. He couldn’t see it clearly because of the dark and because of the fact that he wasn’t wearing his glasses. But seeing his boyfriend’s face still calmed him down, made him tired. It also gave him the urge to reach out his arm and touch it, he could easily reach it if he wanted, the space between their beds was just a little over 40 centimeters.

There was no reason why he shouldn’t do it, so Shintaro extended his arm and gently brushed Atsushi’s hair away from his sleeping face, being careful so he wouldn’t wake the sleeping boy. The taller boy stirred for a moment, but went still again within seconds.

‘I love you, Atsushi.’ Shintaro whispered. He knew that even if the other boy was awake, he wouldn’t have been able to hear the confession, but that didn’t really matter to Shintaro. He was happy enough by just getting the words out.

 Shintaro smiled to himself as he retreated his hand and closed his eyes. His breaths slowed down and he felt himself slowly losing consciousness. His mind was still filled with all kinds of thoughts, but they faded to the background.

Somehow, Shintaro knew that he would have a good night of sleep.

Chapter Text

‘We did it!’ Teiko’s cheers filled the gymnasium. The players on the bench and in the stands had risen from their seats and were jumping up and down; the adults were celebrating as well. They were proud of their players for winning yet another championship. The cheers erupted from all around the stands, spectators and family members cheering for their children’s victory.

The five regulars were standing on the court as confetti came falling down from the air. Aomine and Kise flew in each other’s arms as the laughed loudly. Pumping their fists in the air while they celebrated their victory. After a little while, the two of them ran over to Kuroko who was seated on the bench and they picked the poor sixth man of the ground and lifted him up on their shoulders. Momoi protested a little at first upon seeing Kuroko’s horrified expression, but the ace and the model didn’t listen to her, after a little while she gave up. Akashi seemed to find the scene amusing, as he was suppressing his laughter.

‘Aomine-kun, Kise-kun! Please put me down!’ The sixth man protested.

‘Haha, no way Kurokocchi! You were so cool today and now it needs to be celebrated.’ Kise laughed. The smile on the boy’s face was brighter than the sun itself.

‘Tetsu, this is what you get for being small and not scary like Akashi!’ Aomine’s contribution was backfired with a deadly stare from Akashi, which caused the ace to swallow heavily.

Shintaro watched the scene with a frown on his face, he’d rather not see the small boy fall to his death. On the other hand, he was slightly amused by it all, so he continued watching. But before he could see anything else, he felt a small tap on his shoulder. Shintaro didn’t even need to turn around to know it was Atsushi standing behind him. He turned around anyway, because he knew the center was probably meaning to speak to him.

‘Mido-chin, you were really amazing today.’ Atsushi said. He patted Shintaro’s head a few times, like he always did when giving the shooting guard a compliment.

‘Thanks for the compliment. You've done really well too.’ They remained in a slightly awkward silence after that. Since the natural thing to do would be a hug, but in a gymnasium that was packed with people, that was not the best idea and even if his boyfriend did try, Shintaro would probably just straight up try to murder him because of his overwhelming embarrassment. And because in contrast to his weird boyfriend, Shintaro was a decent person with standards.

After their kiss two nights ago, they had been oddly comfortable with touch. It seemed like finally kissing lifted some stress off them. Casually touching the other hadn’t been as awkward as it used to be. They had kissed a few times after that first time. 4 times, to be exact, not that Shintaro was actually counting or anything. Once in the morning after their first kiss and one before they went to sleep again. This morning they had kissed twice more. Each kiss was more daring than the one before, they slightly longer and deeper with each kiss that had passed between them. It was still far from the passionate kisses always shown in the media, but they were slowly finding their way. The night before the finals they’d just lazed around in their hotel room. Atsushi had been sitting on his bed, head rested against the wall, playing a game on his phone. Shintaro had been reading a book, seated between the centers’ legs, calmly resting his back against his boyfriends’ chest. From time to time Shintaro could feel a small kiss being planted in his hair. It was moments like these that made him grateful for his boyfriends’ unusual height. It had been so incredibly nice, just the feeling of being together, undisturbed by anyone. Shintaro never imagined that it could feel so good to do such everyday things, just because you’re with a person you love. It felt wonderful to experience all these new things with Atsushi, Shintaro couldn’t be more happy.

Shintaro’s little flashback was broken by Akashi, who spoke a few words with Atsushi, signaling for a high-five. This resulted in the center raising his hand as high as he could, with a lazy smirk on his face, obviously amused by the fact that Akashi had serious trouble reaching him. Eventually the purple-haired lowered his hand and gave a semi-pissed-off Akashi a high-five, complimenting the shorter boy on his play.

The captain then walked over towards Shintaro, came to a halt and smiled, then held out his fist, signaling for a fist-bump. Shintaro returned it with a smile on his face.

‘You played well today, Midorima.’ Akashi said.

‘Thanks, Akashi. The same can be said to you, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

The captain nodded his head and smiled, muttering something about having to stop Aomine and Kise from tormenting Kuroko as he walked off. Shintaro nodded back as he turned around to shake his opponent’s hand. It was a simple gesture he valued and most of the time it was very much respected by the receiving player.

‘Congratulations, Midorima-kun. You played a great game.’ The shooting guard from the opposing team said. The boy was smiling, but it was obvious that he was holding back tears. Shintaro could understand. Coming so far into the national tournament with great results each game, only to be completely humiliated and destroyed in the finals. A final score of 147-to-73. Having scored so much  points, and still having your score doubled in the end. It was all just a simple example of the fact that while the other team certainly wasn’t bad, Teiko was just stronger. Teiko was the strongest.

‘Thank you, you were a really strong opponent, in fact.’ Shintaro replied, even though it was mostly a white lie. The truth is that it hadn’t been a very hard game, but he wasn’t going to say that of course. He wasn’t that kind of person. He wasn’t a liar either, but some truths are better of hidden.

A small chat and a few faked smiles later, Shintaro walked over to his teammates to join their celebration. Not that he really felt like it, but it was part of the sport and he had to live with it.

‘Midorimacchi! You were so awesome today!’ Kise exclaimed as he swung an arm around Shintaro’s shoulder. ‘You’ve made so many shots this game, it’s really unbelievable. You really never miss! That’s so cool, you’re just like Aominecchi, but with three-pointers and you’re a lot smarter too. But whatever, the point is, the both of you never miss and that’s super awesome.’ The model beamed.

‘Thank you, Kise. You did well too, but please don’t touch me in such a way, we've just played a game and haven’t even showered, in fact.’ Shintaro said as he pushed Kise’s arm away. He was a person that needed things to be clean and proper, he always had been. That’s why often found himself troubled by the behavior of others and he felt the need to correct them. On top of that, receiving a hug from an over-excited, sweaty, post-game model wasn’t something that was very high on his bucket list. It wasn’t on there at all, actually.

‘Awww, you're no fun! I'll just go hug someone else then! Let’s see… Murasakibaracchi!’ The model gushed before turning to the giant. ‘Murasakibaracchi, good game! You were so cool!’ Kise said as he hugged the center.

‘Yeeey, Kise-chin~’ Murasakibara said as he wrapped his long arms around his smaller friend, lifting the blond of the ground for a few seconds.

Shintaro rolled his eyes. It wasn’t like he was jealous. Not in the least. After all, Kise was probably just being a little devil as usual and was trying to make him angry, because Kise seemed to find it funny when serious people lost their composure. Well, too bad for Kise that it wasn’t going to happen. Shintaro didn’t care at all, because he was well aware that Kise had his eyes sighted on a different person. Or more like, different persons. It was hard to determine whether the blond liked Kuroko or Aomine. Shintaro found himself thinking about that a lot.

Kise talked about Kuroko non-stop and he was always all over the smaller boy. Always demanding the invisible boy’s attention. Kise was a person that naturally craved for attention, he was born to be in the spotlights; as a famous model and prodigy is basically every sport he had ever tried. Add a clingy personality to that and you’ve got yourself a disaster. For someone like Kise, who had always looked down upon people weaker than him, it was strange to admire someone like Kuroko. Shintaro had some trouble in the beginning to accept the blue-haired phantom as the sixth man of the team, it took some time before he could push his pride aside and welcome the smaller boy. He knew that Atsushi had the same problem in the past; they had talked about it a few times. That’s why Shintaro found it so strange that Kise had been so fast at accepting Kuroko. It lead to thoughts that perhaps the model had developed some special kind of feelings for the seemingly emotionless boy.

On the other hand you had Kise’s undying admiration for Aomine. The model had looked up to the ace ever since day one, always looking for ways to challenge the blue-haired boy, always wanting to win, but never succeeding. Shintaro knew the two of them played one-on-one almost every day, all these little games had the same outcome, Kise would end up losing. Yet, the ever so prideful model didn’t seem to mind losing over and over and over again. He always smiled when playing against the ace. Aomine had given Kise a reason to smile, the model had been so sad after all his over-successful sports-careers that left him sad and distant from his team, Kise had finally found a rival to look up to and a friend to play with. On top of it all, Kise seemed to really love all the attention Aomine gave him, sure it might be an annoying kind of attention, but Kise seemed to enjoy it. Next to basketball, it wasn’t uncommon for the two to hang out together. They had developed a very strong bond; best friends you could say. Shintaro was well aware that from Aomine’s side, there was something more than just friendly feelings, but with Kise he just wasn’t sure.

On one hand you’d say that, of course, Kise was in love with Aomine, on the other hand you could very well say that the model was in love with Kuroko instead. Or he didn’t feel any form of romantic attraction to either. It was hard to say with Kise, who was a naturally flirty person. Shintaro secretly hoped that the model did like Aomine, because that would end ace’s gross pining and awkward flirting. It seemed to get more embarrassing by the day, not just for Aomine, but for everyone listening. Except Kise, who turned out to be even more oblivious than a rock and just casually replied to Aomine’s stupid pick-up lines, obviously found on a shady internet-site.

Shintaro was very aware that it wasn’t any of his business to interfere with their relationship, but they were on thin ice. One of these days someone would yell at them to just get together already. And that someone could very well turn out to be Shintaro himself. Considering the fact that Aomine and Kise’s constant “flirting” gave him a headache.

‘Yo, Midorima. You’ve done well, man. Now do me a favor and crack a smile, will ya? We just became national champs! You should be going crazy with happiness.’ Aomine said. The ace gestured for a fist-bump which Shintaro returned.

‘You have done really well too, Aomine. Scoring nearly 50 points all by yourself; that’s very impressive in fact.’ Shintaro replied. He just ignored the rest of the ace’s words, knowing Aomine, they were already forgotten. He wasn’t in a very happy mood right now and didn’t feel the need to “go crazy” with his team.

‘Thanks! Now… time for the actually important questions. So tell me, have you slept with that titan boyfriend of yours yet?’ Aomine asked with a very annoying tone in his voice..

‘We’ve been staying in the same room, yes.’ Shintaro replied in confusion, why would Aomine ask something so obvious?

‘Dude, that’s not what I meant. I meant if you two had sex, of course.’ Aomine nagged with a mischievous smile on his face.

Shintaro felt his face growing hot. With embarrassment, but also with rage. Because how could Aomine ask something like that!? And how didn’t he realize that that was what the ace was after. It is Aomine “perverted asshole” Daiki after all.

‘Ehm… Aomine. That is a highly personal and indecent question to ask, in fact! Especially in the middle of a gymnasium full of people and, mind you live cameras that broadcast this on national television. And need I remind you, I've only just turned 14 years old and Murasakibara’s not even 14 yet, why would you even think about it? You shouldn’t even be busy with these subjects at this age! You perverted fool.’ Shintaro hissed. The urge to slap the ace across the face was strong, but his decency was stronger, so Shintaro stuck to quietly hissing his disapproval to the ace. Red-faced and shaking with cold rage.

‘Jeez, Midorima, live a little. Well, at least I guess I got my answer, because you’re basically saying it out loud despite not wanting to answer me. How can you be so damn pure, staying alone in the same room as your lover and not doing anything. Talk about self-control! Or talk about being a pussy, same thing in this case.’

Being firm clearly didn’t help, so Shintaro decided to play along with Aomine’s little game and use his sass, because he had plenty of that.

‘Well then, Aomine. Have you made a move on Kise yet? I mean, you two were so alone there together in such a small room and I can only imagine how beautiful a model must look when he's asleep. A tough guy like you surely must have made a move by now, am I wrong?’ Shintaro said sarcastically as he pushed his glasses back in place, a cocky smile on his face.

The strategy seemed to work, because the power-forward flamed up in bright red almost immediately after the words left Shintaro’s lips.

‘I… uhm. I didn't. I was planning to confess, but in the end I chickened out’ Aomine replied sheepishly. The ace was making all kinds of chaotic hand-gestures. Aomine always made those when he was feeling embarrassed or when he was hiding something.

‘Thought so. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go give a congratulations to Kuroko, in fact.’ Shintaro said. He was very much satisfied with the results of his tactics and he hoped it showed when he walked away, head up high.

‘Seriously, what is Aomine thinking just asking me things like that. What if someone else heard!? Ugh, that kid needs a lesson in decency!’ He thought bitterly.

‘Kuroko, you’ve done very splendid today, in fact.’

‘Thank you, Midorima-kun. You’ve performed great as usual.’

 

 


 

Bonus: a link to some Muramido art I did last week: IT'S THEM!

 

 

Chapter Text

‘Aominecchi, how do you really feel about today’s game? I noticed that you seem a little emotionally detached. It’s like you're not really happy about winning.’ Kise said, a worried expression was displayed on the blonds' ethereal face. Beside Kise, Kuroko nodded in agreement and also showed clear concern for his friend.

‘Ehh? What are you talking about, idiot. I'm fine! Don’t worry so much.’ Aomine replied. Even though the ace was basically insulting the model, his tone sounded very affectionate. Aomine had a vibrant smile on his face. A perfect smile.

---

Or so it seemed.

Shintaro noticed certain uneasiness behind that smile and sadly, he was also able to tell the exact reason for Aomine’s uneasiness.

It was evening now and the celebrations had all ended. Shintaro lay awake in his bed, not being able to fall asleep because the little scene from earlier that afternoon kept playing in his head. Over and over. He couldn’t shake it off, Aomine’s forced smile.

They had all noticed it; Aomine had grown so much more than they had. Suddenly and unexpectedly. It was like all the talent that had been carefully stored in the ace’s body was suddenly being released, all at once. Aomine was good now, so good that even the other miracles had to fear battling him.

They always had struggles to win against Aomine, sure. But they were able to light a candle in front of him, to block him and sometimes score against him. That chance they used to have existed no longer. Aomine Daiki was a league above.

Now, outstanding talent or being the best doesn’t sound so bad at all. And it isn't, at least not at first. But Shintaro saw how the dark side of being the strongest started catching up with Aomine. It was only a matter of time before the ace would lose joy in the sport he loved so dearly.

From now on it was only counting days before the sadness would come in and take that spark away from the ever-so blue eyes, which shone brightly whenever they faced a strong opponent. Or whenever they looked at a certain blond model.

Shintaro didn’t want it to happen, but he knew that it wasn’t in his power to stop it. He was just a character standing on the sideline, not being able to do anything but yell or cheer, but not sure of ever being heard.

Shintaro looked over to his nightstand. His glasses and his newly achieved medal proudly displayed.  A proof of their victory, back-to-back champions of the interhigh. Would they become back-to-back champions of the Wintercup as well?

By then, would Aomine still smile? Or would that smile already be lost then?

So many questions that kept Shintaro from falling asleep. He worried too much, he knew that himself, but changing it was hard. Aomine was dear to him, a good friend, perhaps his least-favorite from the Generation of Miracles because he was so damn loud, but still a really good friend. A friend that he didn’t want to be sad about.

Aomine wasn’t the only one Shintaro worried about; it was Akashi and Atsushi too.

In Akashi’s case it was the weird, lingering presence Shintaro had felt few times in the past. That “other" Akashi. Within the red-head was another version of him, one that wasn’t so kind and selfless. The one that kicked Haizaki off the team, or so Shintaro suspected. Schizophrenia, or more likely bipolar or maybe even a Double Identity Disorder. Shintaro secretly wished for it to be un-true. He hoped that Akashi was just two-faced like Kise, but his instincts were almost never wrong; he feared for the worst.

And last there was Atsushi, tall and weird Atsushi, who always seemed to be living in another universe, who managed to look tired all the time, even when he was doing drills at full-speed in practice. He seemed to be unhappy whenever he stood on the court, didn’t participate in the offense quite as much. This sudden mood-change was only limited to the court though, whenever the subject of basketball was out of the picture the center of the Generation of Miracles was still himself. His tall, lanky, clumsy and goofy self. Always living with his head in the clouds; this could be taken both ways, in his case.

Atsushi would still munch down unbelievable amounts of food, even for someone of his height, he'd still say stupid and embarrassing stuff all the time and he still had that same old lazy smile on his face whenever he thought something was funny. Sadly, the habit of shamelessly trying to flirt with Shintaro in public hadn’t changed either. Someday, Shintaro would kill him for it. Atsushi was lucky enough that Shintaro hadn’t already done so.

All-in all, the purple-haired giant was still the same boy Shintaro had strangely enough fallen in love with, despite them not being all that compatible if you looked at their signs and blood-groups. He didn’t want that to change, even if these changes just happened on-court. Sooner or later they would affect Atsushi out of games too. That was a scary thing to think of.

Shintaro glanced over to where Atsushi was already sleeping, or so he suspected. But to his surprise he met a pair of equally open eyes.

‘Can’t sleep?’ Shintaro asked. His voice sounded a little hoarse, probably because he had been silent for so long.

‘Mmmh, not really. Guess I'm a little worked up. What about you, Mido-chin?’ The other replied. The syllables of the words were slightly slurred; the taller boy was obviously very tired.

‘I was just thinking about some certain things I noticed earlier today. I'm in a pretty pensive mood, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

‘What’s wrong? Aren’t you happy that we won? Did I do something that upset you?’ The giant seemed to be confused, which was clear by the way he spoke. He also sounded quite worried, even if his voice wasn’t all that different from its usual, monotone sound.

‘No, you did nothing to upset me, in fact. You know me well enough to know that I'll just tell people whenever they annoy me, even if it’s someone I love. It’s just that it feels like there’s some sort of melancholy to our victory. I'm happy with the effort we put in and our victory is what we deserved. It’s just that I've noticed that not everyone seemed to be happy. Especially Aomine seems kind of sad, lately. Akashi, we've talked about that before, so you know my concerns. And if I'm being honest, it's you as well. If there’s something wrong, you should tell me. I don’t want you to feel upset, in fact.’ Shintaro said, without taking a pause to breath.

With a heavy sigh he inhaled all the air he'd lost in his rambling. He cast his eyes down to the floor, not wanting to face his boyfriend right now. Not that he could actually see anything even if he wanted, because it was dark in the room and he wasn’t wearing his glasses either.

There was a long pause, Atsushi didn’t reply, Shintaro couldn’t see his face, which made his stomach flip. He was scared he upset Atsushi; maybe he'd been wrong in saying that he was feeling bad lately, or he had been right and the center was now at his breaking point.

‘Mmmh, well yeah. I guess you're right, I have been feeling a little out of it lately. But it’s not about anything related to you or us, so don’t worry about that, m'kay?’ Atsushi replied.

Shintaro sighed in relief; Atsushi had just been thinking about what to say. He didn’t trigger any nerves.

‘Then… could you tell me what is, in fact, bothering you?’ Shintaro tried.

‘Ehh… okay, that’s fine, I'll talk~ Can I come over to you first? I don’t like not being able to see your face when we talk.’

How was he supposed to refuse?

‘Yeah, sure. Whatever you want.’ Shintaro replied.

After a few seconds the sounds of shuffling fabric filled the room. Shintaro couldn’t see what was going on, so he just patiently awaited Atsushi climbing into bed with him. This happened shortly after, but Shintaro wasn’t expecting his boyfriend to bring along all his blankets and pillows. The bed creaked lightly underneath the extra weight and Shintaro felt a blanket being draped around his shoulders as Atsushi slid underneath the covers with him.

They lay down next to each other; from so up-close it was possible for Shintaro to see his boyfriend’s face. He could also feel the warm breath on his face. It smelled like mint, probably the toothpaste Atsushi used. It was a nice smell, Shintaro thought. The thought surprised him a little; he wasn’t good with people invading his personal space. He usually found their smell and presence unpleasant, but somehow Atsushi’s presence was comforting and enjoyable.

‘Mido-chin, you smell nice~’ Atsushi said. The giant then proceeded to press a small kiss to the tip of Shintaro’s nose and Atsushi then used his long arms to pull him to his chest. Shintaro was too tired to protest and just let it happen. Shintaro placed his face in the Arch of Atsushi’s neck, enjoying the way the strands of purple hair tickled his face.

They lay in silence, but it was a comfortable silence. They weren’t exactly sure of what they were doing, but neither seemed to mind. This was the first time they laid down in the same bed together. They had sat down on the same bed before, but lying down together in the fully darkened room, under the same covers in nothing but their thin summer sleepwear with their legs tangled up was very different. The conversation they were meant to have had been long forgotten.

But Atsushi brought it up anyway, after a while.

‘Oh, I promised to tell you why I'm acting a little different lately, right?’ He said, his voice was thick with sleep again.

‘You don’t have to talk now, you know. Only if you want to.’ Shintaro replied. He wanted to hear Atsushi’s story, but he could understand if the violet miracle wanted to sleep rather than talk.

‘It’s okay. I actually want to tell you and besides, I know you won’t sleep well not knowing.’

‘…you got me there, in fact.’

‘It’s nothing serious, really. It’s just that I've been a little over-conscious of my height and strength lately. It’s like I'm scared of hurting people when I come at them with full power. That’s why I decided that I wouldn’t play as roughly and offensively anymore. I mean, I don’t really care about what happens to my opponents, but I'm scared of hurting teammates too. Y'know?’ Atsushi paused his story for a little, allowing Shintaro to process it.

He nodded and told his boyfriend that he could more or less understand where Atsushi's annoyance came from.

‘The game plan I use now prevents that I hurt people, but it makes basketball even more boring. That’s why I'm kinda sad. Because it’s not like I don’t want to play with you all, for all it’s worth, basketball is at least a little bit fun because you're all my friends, but now I'm distancing from you all on the court so it makes the game just dull and boring. The opponents’ are even more annoying now, with all their talk about winning against us; they should know by now that there’s no way they can beat me. But it’s also the fact that I know I'll just become even taller and stronger. That kind of scares me, I guess. But it’s not really a serious issue, so don’t worry about it, Mido-chin. I'll be fine.’ Atsushi finished. He sounded reassuring and Shintaro believed him.

‘Ah, I see. Thank you for telling me, anyway.’ He replied, unsure of what else to say.

‘I guess I kinda feel better now that I've told you. ‘S nice to be able to talk to someone. I'll be going back to my own bed now so we can sleep. Goodnight, Mido-chin.’ Atsushi said as he made himself ready to go back to his own bed.

‘No, Atsushi, would you please stay here.’ Shintaro said, grabbing his boyfriend by his wrist to stop him from leaving. This action seemed to catch the center by surprise, because he stopped moving completely and turned his head around to stare at Shintaro with big eyes.

The words were out before he could stop himself and Shintaro felt his face heat up within seconds. He quickly let go of Atsushi’s wrist. He was surprised by his own impulsiveness and bravery. Normally he wasn’t even anywhere near brave enough to tell someone he appreciated their presence, but now he just asked someone to sleep next to him. How strange.

‘Only if you want to, of course.’ He quickly added in hope of fixing his mistake.

‘Yeeey~ I'm so happy you asked that, Mido-chin! Also, it’s funny when you get all red-faced and shy.’ Atsushi said.

‘Of course he had to add something like that, having a normal conversation with him is nearly impossible.’ Shintaro thought. He rolled his eyes, even though he knew that sign of annoyance wouldn’t be seen. It was just another habit of his, just like how he always adjusted his glasses and even did so when he wasn’t even wearing them, just because he was so used to it.

Atsushi didn’t waste a second and resettled under the covers, together with Shintaro. They cuddled up together; Atsushi was shamelessly pressing kisses in his hair and Shintaro, on his turn, pressed a small peck on his boyfriend’s forehead.

‘Goodnight, Atsushi.’ Shintaro said.

‘Night, Mido-chin.’ Atsushi replied.

---

It was completely silent for a good five minutes until Atsushi suddenly spoke up.

‘Did Mine-chin come ask you questions about whether we had sex yet too?’

‘He came to you as well!? That perverted moron! That’s it, I’m gonna murder him.’ Shintaro said as he took his glasses and got ready for his mission.

Chapter Text

The first round of the Wintercup in their second year was about to begin. Only a few more minutes of warm-ups until that stadium would be filled with spectators, wanting to see Teiko’s prodigies in action. The 5 prodigies that were going all-out for their official back-to-back title as national champions.

Aomine was worked up, excited, even. Everyone could tell. The miracle ace went all-out during warm-up and he was even smiling. It seemed to put everyone in a good mood. The match had yet to begin, but the crowd was already completely wrapped around Aomine’s finger. In awe they started at the young talent dunking the ball through the net, the screamed in joy when he landed on his feet again. They must have thought that if the ace was already so strong in warm-ups alone, he must be even more amazing in a match.

Kise was the first to comment on this sudden change. ‘You sure seem into it today, Aominecchi!’ The model said. Shintaro noticed excitement in his voice.

‘Ah, yes. I guess so.’ Aomine replied sheepishly. ‘Today’s opponent is pretty strong, after all!’ He added with a grin on his face. It was that all-too familiar grin the ace always had whenever he felt excited about something.

However, Shintaro couldn’t feel as happy as the others did, so he watched the scene in front of him with a frown on his face.

‘What’s the matter, Mido-chin? You’re kinda quiet.’ Atsushi noticed his uneasiness in a second. He should have expected this.

‘Nothing serious, really. It’s just something about today’s horoscope, in fact.’ Shintaro replied. He noticed a change of expression in Atsushi’s face. Even after all this time, the tall boy had never given in to Shintaro’s love and need for horoscopes and still thought of it as weird.

‘What about it? Did they predict bad luck for you today? It won’t be that bad, give me a break, Mido-chin~.’ Atsushi spoke in a scolding tone, but Shintaro did hear encouragement in it. This signaled that even if Atsushi couldn’t quite understand him, he was still willing to listen to whatever Shintaro had to say.

‘It’s not about me. Cancer ranked 3rd and I have my lucky item with me, so I’ll be fine. However, the one that ranked last and has been predicted awful luck today is Aomine, in fact. I can only hope that nothing bad will happen to him.’ Shintaro said.  

Atsushi remained silent for a little while and glanced over to where Aomine was fooling around with Kuroko while he threw a ball at Kise’s head for coming too close.

‘Yeah, I hope so too, Mido-chin.’ The center replied.

---

Aomine’s eyes were blown wide. His brows were twitching as he drove past the opponent he’d been looking forward to so much. Said opponent did not do anything. He just remained on the same spot as if he was nailed to the ground. Aomine shot the ball and scored, but he did not seem happy at all. The score was 150 to 81 with 3 minutes remaining. The chance of a comeback from Kamizaki was nihil, but what really was shocking was that the opponent had already given-up completely. They didn’t even bother to stop Teiko’s attacks anymore.

Aomine grew sadder and sadder as the match progressed, the opponent had started giving up during the 2nd quarter and it only grew worse as the game went on.

Shintaro stared. He knew he should be working on making points for the team, but he could only stare.

‘They’re facing Aomine in full bloom, and he’s actually giving it his all. Not to mention this difference in points. I understand that it must be hard to keep on standing motivated… but this is just a complete withdrawal from the game.’ Shintaro thought bitterly. Couldn’t they see they were hurting Aomine?

The ace was staring at his match-up with tears almost leaking from his eyes, wordlessly mouthing “why” as he slowly shook his head.

‘You’ve got to be kidding me, right? You have no idea how much of a monster you are. There is no such person out there that can beat you.’ The power forward from Kamizaki said.

Shintaro only vaguely heard what was being said, but he snapped his head around to look at what was happening. He noticed the others doing the same thing. A glance to the side caused him to stare straight into Momoi’s petrified face. He was expecting Aomine to straight-up punch the guy in the face for making such a comment, but that never happened.

‘Haha…’ Aomine laughed. Everyone stared at him as if he was insane. Aomine then turned to face Kuroko, who held out his hand for a fist-bump.

‘Tetsu,’ He began. ‘You weren’t wrong in what you told me, but in the end it’s no good. I now realize that there’s no way I’ll find what I’m looking for. The only one who can beat me… is me.’ Aomine said. He ignored Kuroko’s fist-bump and ran away, back to defense.

Everyone stared in shock. The scene had been incredibly painful for them all to watch. Aomine’s eyes had now lost all the light they once had. Cold, that was now the only way to describe the eyes of Teiko’s miraculous ace.

The last 3 minutes went by slowly. Painfully so. Kamizaki didn’t score again, which led the final score to 169-to-81.

---

 

The mood in the locker room was downright sad. Aomine was refusing to talk to anyone and moved aggressively as he took all his stuff.

‘Aomine-kun!’ Momoi yelled. It felt weird to hear her call him that. It was far from the usual “Dai-chan” the impacts of hearing Momoi call him by his last name made Aomine even more pissed.

‘What do you want?’ He growled at her.

‘Just now, why did you ignore Tetsu-kun? It’s not like you at all!’ She replied with a pleading look on her face. She didn’t want this.

‘Ugh, you’re so god damn annoying, you know that? Just shut up and leave me be. I want to be alone now.’ The ace replied as he stormed out of the room, closing the door with a loud banging sound.

Kuroko looked like he was about to cry and Kise looked horrified. No one really dared to say anything.

‘I never thought those predictions would come true in this way, in fact.’ Shintaro sighed to no one but himself. That horoscope was really never wrong.

‘When Mine-chin has this kind of emo-phase, isn’t Kuro-chin usually the one to go after him to talk some sense into him?’ Atsushi asked no-one in particular.

‘Yes, that is true. However, I think Kuroko is just as shocked as we all are. Therefore I don’t think he can bring himself to talk to Aomine now.’ Akashi sighed, he almost sounded defeated. That was scary. ‘However, our next game will start soon. Worst-case scenario is that we’ll have to play without Aomine. We can talk about all… this later after the game’s done. We now firstly need to make sure that we win.’ He finished. His voice was back to its usual high and mighty sound, which was pretty annoying, but at least it wasn’t scary.

Kuroko’s phone went off and the phantom player disappeared from the dressing room to take it. The others remaining there didn’t speak. The good mood of that morning was completely gone.

Eventually, Akashi started talking about the game-plan anyway; he gave everyone clear instructions on what to do if Aomine didn’t show up and what to do if he did.

---

To everyone’s surprise, Aomine did show up. He was barely on time, but he was fully warmed up and flatly told Akashi that he’d play in the game like usual.

But he didn’t play like usual. Aomine was merciless, his style unstable and floppy, but somehow he made every shot he took. His positions where strange, sometimes his body was almost parallel to the floor, but he’d still shoot and sink it. His posture was that of a broken man, but he we stronger and more invincible than ever before. Even Shintaro and the other Generation of Miracles felt that if they were to go up against Aomine now, he’d simply beat them into a pulp.

It was strange, while Aomine had become even better; Kuroko had become inaccurate with his passes, something that hadn’t happened ever since those first two games he played with them. Kuroko didn’t coordinate with them anymore and was careless, it was like the sadness of Aomine’s change had seeped deep into his body and made his plays useless.

Kuroko passed to Shintaro, but the pass was too far to the right for him to be able to catch it, the ball went out of bounds and Kuroko was substituted. The phantom sixth man left the court with tears in his eyes.

Aomine ended up scoring 40 points all by himself, Teiko won 97-to-39. They made it to the semi-finals with ease. Aomine was on a rampage and scored 51 points; he had stopped coordinating with the team and was completely isolated. It was a strong team, four players playing together and one by himself. Even with the status of sadness surrounding them, Teiko was still overwhelmingly strong and they made it to the finals of the Wintercup.

In the finals, they played Kamata west. A pair of identical twins standing before them on the court. Momoi hadn’t collected much data about them, which caused Teiko to be caught off-guard by the twins’ strategic ways of drawing out fools from their opponents. Within minutes, Kise had 3 fouls on his name. Well, two if you didn’t count the model’s own stupidity for adding that technical foul by shouting at the referee. That was why Shintaro didn’t care about Kise being swapped out.

What did bother him though, was that those awful twins were so good at drawing out fouls that Teiko had to drop their usual style and start playing as carefully as possible. This naturally caused a decrease in the amount of goals they made, but still something like this wasn’t expected to happen. But what was completely unexpected did happen.

Teiko ended the First quarter 5 points behind and Aomine had acquired his fourth foul. One more would mean the end of the game for the ace.

‘Even though we were all cautious with the fouls, Aomine still played recklessly and this is the result. He shouldn’t have accepted that little game of those twins so easily.’ Shintaro thought bitterly. It was moments like these that he realized that intelligence did in fact matter while playing sports. Even though Kise and Aomine always claimed the opposite.

During the interval between the 2nd and the 3rd quarter, Aomine was being kept apart from the rest of the team. They weren’t given a reason, therefore they could only speculate.

‘Oh my, I think Aominecchi is getting yelled at for getting so many fouls!’ Kise said.

‘No way, Kise-chin. If fouls were what mattered, you’d be called apart too for getting that technical.’

‘Ah! So mean, Murasakibaracchi! Are you still mad about that!?’ The model fake-cried.

‘Yeah, never forgive, never forget. Right, Mido-chin?’

‘How would I know!? Besides, Aomine is probably being called apart considering the happenings of earlier in the tournament. They’re most likely just checking up on his mental state, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Mhhh, that makes sense, I guess. But, oh! Where’s Kurokocchi!?’ The model panicked and hastily looked around in the hope of finding his small friend.

‘Kuroko’s out getting some air. We’ll need his strength for the second half, along with that of Aomine.’ Akashi said.

“What I want is a change, for example a sixth man that could enter the game when most needed and change the flow completely.” Shintaro suddenly remembered those words Akashi spoke to him when they were still in their first year. When at full-power, Kuroko was indeed such a player. Shintaro hoped that Kuroko was back to normal and was able to play strongly, like he always had before. If he did, they would be able to pierce that stupid defensive technique of the twins with ease. Because they might be able to temporarily shut down miracles, but they couldn’t stop what was invisible.

---

Both Aomine and Kuroko entered the court with a different expression on their faces. They looked confident and more than ready to win.

‘Sir, I have suggestion. For the 2nd half, could you send me out on the court, please?’ Kuroko said. This caused everyone to turn their head around and stare at the phantom player in shock. Ironic, because they usually forgot he even existed.

‘What? Whoa, that came out of nowhere! That didn’t sound like Kurokocchi at all! You don’t usually do things like that!’ Kise exclaimed.

‘That’s the first time he did such a thing, in fact.’

The coach seemed hesitant at first, he hadn’t forgotten about what happened in the last game Kuroko played in, but eventually he gave in to the fierce, yet cold eyes of the invisible sixth man. He also said that Aomine would play in the game, even with four fouls because his strength was very much needed for Teiko to win. He gave one last order: to give it everything offensively and take the championship home.

Back-to-back champions they’d become.

---

The players of Kamata west laughed at Kuroko’s small posture and low presence and at the foolishness of putting in a man with four fouls. But their laughing ceased when a sudden, curved pass pierced through their defense and ended straight in the incredibly big hands of Teiko’s center. Shintaro couldn’t help but smirk at the shocked faces of their opponents as Atsushi dunked the ball through the net with enough power to make a grown man scared for his life. As usual, everyone in the gymnasium was surprised and collectively started looking for what or who made such a pass possible.

Aomine scored. Shintaro then got passed too by Kuroko. He took the shot and just like that, the game was overturned in Teiko’s favor.

‘You’ve got the hang of it back, it seems. Did anything happen with Aomine during the interval?’ Shintaro asked. He was wondering as to why the sudden change from miserable to one of the most relevant players on the court.

‘No, it didn’t. I’ll tell more about if after we win. For now, I’ll focus everything I’ve got on winning the championship. Don’t worry about me anymore, I’m okay now.’ Kuroko replied.

Shintaro smiled. ‘You sound like yourself again. Finally.’ Shintaro replied.

The 3rd quarter ended with a solid lead for Teiko. Aomine had done most of the work, blowing past the defense again and again, and scoring goal after goal. And this all he did not without dramatically saying what appeared to be his new catch-phrase. Shintaro felt like sighing really loudly, because it was utterly ridiculous, if you asked him.

The twins where obviously out for blood in the final quarter and the coach seemed to notice. He didn’t want Aomine to end up injured or sent off the court, so he substituted Kise in the game.

‘Oi, Kise. Don’t get your stupid ass kicked out? Okay?’ Aomine said.

‘Jeez! I know, okay!?’ Kise replied, semi-pissed off.

Shintaro chuckled inside himself at the faces of the Kamata west bunch. They were sad that they missed their chance to kick out the ace. Well, good for them.

‘Now, team. Don’t let your guards down until that final whistle! Let’s win!’ Akashi said. He sounded like a real captain, Shintaro noticed.

‘Only eight more minutes and then I’ll be able to eat snacks again. Phew, that took long enough.’ Atsushi said.

‘For real? He just told us not to let our guards down. You’re unbelievable, in fact.’ Shintaro scolded his boyfriend as if the latter was a small child instead of a nearly two meters tall teenager. ‘But it had to be done.’ Shintaro thought.

‘Oh wow. Look at all the love I’m getting.’ The giant said sarcastically.

Shintaro just shot back an angry glare.

---

‘We did it!’ Kise yelled. Shintaro had a sudden déjà-vu to the interhigh last summer; it went almost exactly like this, except for the part where Aomine wasn’t smiling anymore.

Shintaro sighed in relief; they finally did it.

‘Haa, I can now finally eat my snacks, right? Do you want some, Mido-chin~?’

Shintaro was surprised to say the least; in their entire year and a half of dating, the giant had never proposed to share his snacks before.

‘Sure, I’ll have some, in fact.’ Shintaro replied.

It was Atsushi’s turn to act surprised, because Shintaro had also never shown any interest in the center’s snacks before.

‘Really!?’ He replied in surprise.

They just stared at each other for a while and then burst into laughter. Happy and relieved with their official back-to-back championship.

Aomine ended up joining the celebration anyway, with a smile. He got tackle-hugged by Kise as soon as he stepped onto the court. And for a while, everything seemed to be like it used to be again. In that moment, they were all truly happy.

But, oh god, how that was about to change.

Chapter Text

Takara was talking about something in her own little language as she was seated on Atsushi’s lap. She had grown very much attached to her brother’s gigantic boyfriend. It was a rarity for small children to not start crying whenever the giant approached them, but with the little Takara this had never been the case. She was quite attached to all of Shintaro’s closest friends and teammates, but her attachment to Atsushi was the strongest.

Whenever the center came to visit, she had always moved towards him. At first it was just her reaching out her little arms, later she crawled and now she walked towards him on wobbly legs. Shintaro found it endearing and he was happy that they got along so well. They were two of the most important people in his life, after all.

‘Taka-chin, don’t pull on my hair. That’s not very nice of you.’ Atsushi said as he did an attempt to release his hair from the little girl’s strong, but tiny hands. Takara didn’t really understand what was asked of her yet; she was only a year and a half old after all.

Her only response was to look up at Atsushi with big, green eyes while smiling in the innocent way only a child could. But she didn’t let go of his hair.

It was a Saturday afternoon and Shintaro’s parents were out on a date for their 20th anniversary; leaving him home alone to look after his sister. His mother had told him that he could invite some friends over if he wanted, as long as he'd take good care of the small girl. Shintaro had decided on asking his boyfriend to visit him that day. They had exams coming soon and they could get some studying done.

Which is exactly what they were doing now; learning for their upcoming biology test while looking after the small and energetic toddler while acting like everything was okay.

But it wasn't. Aomine’s state was worsening and started to affect the entire atmosphere in the team. The ace got mad at the tiniest things and often caused people to leave the team because he bluntly told them they sucked and should simply give up on basketball. Even Kuroko and Momoi couldn’t stop him anymore. On top of that, their head coach had needed to step down because he got a heart disease.

It felt bad the way all of this was heading and Shintaro had noticed more than anyone how the growth that had taken Aomine in its’ claws was closing in on Atsushi too. The tall boy was not only getting better at basketball, he was also getting taller and taller and strangely enough, faster too. His strength was becoming what they both didn’t want it to become. The things Atsushi had told Shintaro that one night at the hotel were becoming reality faster than expected. They both tried to ignore all of this when they were spending time together; they always kept their relationship as teammates and as lovers apart from one another. Maybe that’s the reason why they were still doing okay despite all that was happening.

The only thing that bothered Shintaro was the way that whenever they hugged, Atsushi seemed scared to let him go. The giant clung to him as if he were a lifeline and the only thing keeping him sane. His body trembling and his hands clutching the fabric of Shintaro’s clothes.

Up until now, Shintaro had never mentioned any of this to Atsushi; he was scared of the other’s reaction. Maybe he had his reasons for not saying anything; maybe the desperate way he’d cling to Shintaro was just him trying to forget all that was going on. He didn’t want to be the one to take that safe-haven away from his boyfriend while it was so clear that he needed it.

But it was there; a small distance that seemed to be slowly growing ever since the nationals ended. An ever so small distance between the two of them. Why it was there, Shintaro didn’t know. All that he did know was that his feelings for Atsushi hadn’t changed at all, but what about the other way?

He was pretty sure that his boyfriend still loved him, he could see it in the gaze Atsushi gave him, and he could feel it in his touch. But Shintaro noticed that there was something out of place. Maybe this all had to do with the current situation in the team; Aomine’s sudden change and the sudden collapse of the head coach affected everyone in a negative way.

Shintaro had a gut feeling that it would all get worse somehow. He felt it in his bones; a storm was coming and they'd have no way of stopping it. Kuroko and Aomine hadn’t spoken to each other since the nationals had ended; Momoi hadn’t called Aomine by her usual “Dai-chan" ever since that day. Aomine had stopped teasing Kise almost completely and the youthful innocence on his face had disappeared. Talking to Aomine almost felt like talking to a robot nowadays.

It felt all so out of place, so wrong. They were supposed to feel happy now that they just won their back-to-back championship, but why weren’t they?

Shintaro was the only one that really talked to Aomine right now, but the only reason for that was that they were in the same class and Aomine still sat down next to him nearly every class. They didn’t talk about basketball at all anymore and Shintaro knew that the main reason Aomine preferred a spot next to him was because he was smart and Aomine wasn't.

Shintaro wanted to go back; back to the time before they won the championship for the second time. If it already was this bad now; how would it be by the end of their third year? They were only growing stronger and stronger, the immense space between them and the other teams grew bigger by the day; Shintaro could say it right here, right now; this team would never lose. They'd continue their winning-streak until the graduated.

High schools were already starting with trying to secure one of the miracles for their team after they'd graduate in a year and a few months. Shintaro had gotten a lot of these requests already, but he didn’t feel like looking into them all that much.

He was well aware that they'd all go their separate ways in high schools; each of them would attend a basketball power-house and they would no longer be on the same team; they would be fighting each other.

That last bit didn’t seem all that bad, if you asked Shintaro. He thought that it would surely bring a thrill to them all to face someone of equal power for once instead of totally overwhelming the opponent. The nasty side effects were of course that they’d most likely be in different parts of the country; the number of extremely strong schools was limited and the way it looked now was that Akashi would go to Rakuzan, in Kyoto.

Shintaro didn’t really like the thought of his best friend going so far away from them all; he felt the need to protect the redhead. He knew very well that if anyone was able to stand on their own two legs, it was Akashi. But with all that seemed to be going on in Akashi’s mind, Shintaro was scared of what would happen. He felt as if he could somehow control or reduce the situation when he was nearby, which he knew was not the case at all.

And Atsushi… he'd gotten requests from Yosen, a school in Akita. A school famous for its' tall players and strong, unbreakable defense; exactly what would suit the center the best. What would come of them if they were so far apart? Would their relationship be able to hold when there was such a big distance between them? They wouldn’t see each other anymore.

The thought of breaking up was almost too painful to handle. Shintaro didn’t want it to happen, not ever.

‘Mido-chin~? What’s wrong?’

Shintaro looked up to see the worried expression on Atsushi’s face. He must have been spacing out for quite some time.

‘Ah, don’t worry, I'm okay. I was just thinking about some things concerning the team, in fact. I'm going to put Takara down for her afternoon nap now, she seems to be getting tired, we can have lunch after that.’ He replied. It was a little past 1, so Takara was supposed to go to sleep soon anyway.

‘Ah, I see. I'll be waiting here.’ Atsushi replied as he attempted to pry Takara away from his lap, but the little girl didn’t let go so easily, she wrapped her short arms around his neck and held on tight.

Shintaro chuckled at the scene, a giant guy trying to release himself from a barely 10kg girl, but failing.

‘Your sister sure seems to like me… Well, good for me, I guess. I like Taka-chin too, so it’s all good.~’ The center grinned as he finally managed to release the little girl from his neck and carried her over to her brother, but not before he carefully rubbed the toddler’s head with one of his huge hands.

‘Yeah, I suppose he does like you.’ Shintaro said as he took the little girl from Atsushi’s arms.

‘We're alike in that way.’ He thought.

Takara rested herself against Shintaro’s shoulder as she silently sucked on her thumb. She really seemed to be tired and she was honestly just so adorable that it made Shintaro feel all fuzzy within.

He really loved his sister a lot; he would do anything for her at any moment. He knew that he would be one of those over-protective big brothers in the future, doing background checks on Takara’s future boyfriends and such. That was one of the reasons why he was so happy with the fact that Takara liked Atsushi and vice-versa, he knew that his sister would never be in any danger as long as Atsushi was around.

‘Mido-chin, you look really cute like this.’ Atsushi said. He was sitting at the small table with his chin resting on his hands, a satisfied smile on his face. He looked at Shintaro as if he were the most beautiful thing in the world.

‘Just shut up.’ Shintaro said as he felt his face flame up like it always did when someone said these kinds of things to him. He didn’t mention how he had also thought that his boyfriend looked adorable while he played with Takara and how the way Atsushi looked at him made his heart flutter.

---

When he was putting Takara to bed, all Shintaro could think of was how much he did not want to lose Atsushi. He was also reminded of his future arranged marriage and how coming out too his father was the only way to prevent that from happening. It would all cause a massive scene for sure, the longer he could postpone it, the better.

He made sure to be careful while he dressed Takara into her sleepwear and he placed one of his hands behind her head as he laid her down in her crib, just like how his mother had learned him. He took a short moment to admire the way his little sister fell asleep almost immediately, it was so pure, so innocent. When he looked at her this way, he hated the fact that one day she'd grow up and would have to face all the struggles and problems life brought.

‘I just hope she'll grow up to be happy.’ He thought. Shintaro wondered if he would ever have a child of his own in the future; he was gay and in Japan it was currently not really possible for gay couples to adopt or have a surrogacy. He wondered if he'd ever be able to look at his own child in the way he looked at his little sister now.

Shintaro suddenly realized that he must be taking really long, so he went downstairs as fast as he could so that Atsushi wouldn’t have to wait so long; being at someone else’s house and then sitting there all alone was awkward as hell.

‘Sorry I'm so late; I got distracted for a moment.’ Shintaro apologized.

‘Ah, that’s fine. Don’t worry about it.~’ Atsushi replied with a smile.

Shintaro walked over to the table where Atsushi was still seated, with his incredibly long legs folded beneath him. He bent down and pressed a chaste kiss too his boyfriends lips. He'd worry about the future later; right now he just wanted to focus on the person he loved for as long as he still could.

Chapter Text

Instead of returning the ball to Akashi, the miracle center went for the shot by himself; the two people that were marking him didn’t even stand the slightest chance. Instead of taking a run-up first, he simply turned around and then jumped from his place and dunked the ball through the net with seemingly no effort at all.

The crowd went wild; screaming at the top of their lungs about how such a dunk is impossible for a middle school boy and how it resembled Shaq.

‘Wow…’ Kise breathed. The model was wide-eyed and simply in awe of the raw power and speed.

Shintaro didn’t like this; not at all. This was way too early. The crowd wasn’t wrong in the least; a middle school kid should indeed not be able to do something like that. It was putting a great strain on the still developing body of a child. Then there was the fact that this display reminded of Aomine all over again. Atsushi’s powers had been getting stronger over the past few months, but this sudden change was terrifying. The moment Shintaro had feared for all this time was catching up with him at the speed of light.

‘Murasakibara, it’s fine because you made the shot, but there were two guys on you. It would have been safer to pass it back to me.’ Akashi said.

‘Really? I made the shot, so it doesn’t matter, does it? I knew they wouldn’t be able to stop me even if they tried, so it’s fine, isn’t it?’ The center replied.

A quick exchange of eyes with Momoi was all confirmation Shintaro needed; this was indeed the same situation they experienced with Aomine.

‘It’s true… he really is becoming an amazing player. But it’s also terrifying. I don’t want to see another person I care about lose the light in their eyes.’ Shintaro thought.

The rest of the game went by as expected, Teiko winning by a landslide thanks to their newly awakened center. The strongest player of the court. Where Aomine was the fastest and most agile, Atsushi was the strongest and most indestructible. Their defense had turned water-tight and their offense was the strongest it had ever been. The points just kept on rising until far above 100.

---

‘You just let me pass you by every single damn time! Can’t you realize that your back-up doesn’t have any effect unless you at least try a little!?’ Aomine yelled at one of the other first-stringers.

‘Aominecchi, stop that!’ Kise shouted in the hope of breaking up the fight, however; the blond was completely ignored.

‘But I am trying! I am trying to stop you with all that I have! Really, I’m trying; it’s just that… no one can stop you, Aomine-san. You’re just too good.’ The boy tried in an attempt to stop Aomine from killing him. He didn’t expect the ace to look so terrified, sad. And then angry.

‘Ugh! FUCK IT! I don’t wanna deal with this right now!’ Aomine gritted as he stomped away, opened the door of the gymnasium and slammed it shut behind him.

‘Aomine-kun!’ Momoi shouted after him. Shintaro noticed how sad the poor girl sounded. It must have been the hardest on her, because she grew up alongside Aomine.

‘Wait, Aomine!’ The new head coach shouted. ‘The rest of you, continue your practice on the two-man! Understood?’ He yelled as he went after the ace. He didn’t bother to close the door behind him.

Shintaro could only look at the quickly disappearing figures with pain in his heart. He knew that Aomine wouldn’t come back to practice that day, maybe he wouldn’t come back to practice ever again.

‘Akashi-kun, could I please have your permission to go after him? I can’t leave him like this. I need to talk to him.’ Kuroko asked; nearly pleaded. The smaller boy looked incredibly sad and frustrated.

‘Even if I were to say no, you’d still go. So go after him and try to bring him back to his senses.’ Akashi replied with a sad smile on his face.

‘Why does Aominecchi have to suffer so much…?’ Kise asked in a sad, little voice. Shintaro wished he knew an answer to that question; even if it was just to comfort Kise at least a little, but he didn’t. Not this time.

‘I wish I knew.’ Akashi replied with the words Shintaro had thought just moments earlier.

Meanwhile, Atsushi looked mentally detached from the situation. He just stood there, with a blank expression on his face; it was impossible to tell what was going through his head. Even Shintaro, who knew the center the best, couldn’t tell.

‘We should continue with practice now. Everyone, resume with what you stopped at!’ Akashi said. Now that the coach was gone, he pulled the strings.

‘Yes captain!’ The players replied. Some more enthusiastic than others.

---

‘Don’t you think they’ve been out for way too long? I mean, practice is almost over!’ Kise said.

‘I think that the chances of them returning this day are very low, in fact. You shouldn’t count on it.’ Shintaro replied. He didn’t want to be pessimistic, but he had always been a realist and in this case the unfavorable outcome was the most realistic.

‘Akashi, Midorima, Kise, Murasakibara, Momoi. Please come over here for a second. There is something I need to discuss with you.’ The head coach was standing in the entrance of the gymnasium, the rain outside had soaked the man to the bone.

The five exchanged some glances, but no one seemed to know what the coach wanted from them. Hesitantly they dropped the balls they were holding and they walked over to the man asking for their attention.

‘I’ve had a chat with Aomine earlier. We made a decision, but it’s something you all might not agree with. I will be telling the other team-members as well, but you’re his friends and the ones that stand on the court with him the most, so I thought that you should be the first to know. In order to keep Aomine from getting even more sad and irritated, we have decided that he won’t have to attend practice anymore as long as he continues to play in games at full strength. You are free to have your objections on the matter, but I’m afraid that this is the only way for now. That is all. You are now dismissed.’ He said. He bowed his head and avoided eye-contact as if he were ashamed of himself.

Silently they started the clean-up of the hall, they didn’t know what else to say and they didn’t want to make the head coach feel even worse. He looked like he couldn’t use it right now.

‘So they both didn’t return in the end, huh?’ Murasakibara said as he was putting away the scoreboard.

‘So it appears to be.’ Shintaro replied solemnly. He was in a pretty bad mood because of all that happened.

‘And also what the coach, um I mean, Head coach said after practice. About that Aominecchi will play in matches even if he doesn’t practice anymore. I mean, I know Aominecchi is super strong and all, but is something like this really okay?’ Kise chimed in.

‘I honestly do not know what the head coach’s true intentions are with this, but I agree with your sentiments, Kise.’ Akashi replied.

‘Hey Aka-chin. About that, I hate losing, so I’ve kept coming to practice for all this time, but we can win now without all the hassle, so I don’t wanna practice anymore. If Mine-chin can do it, why shouldn’t I?’

Shintaro turned his head so fast that his neck felt like snapping. This wasn’t really happening, was it? It just couldn’t. He wished to say something, anything. He wanted to take back those words Atsushi had just said, but he wasn’t able to produce any sound. His throat was dry and his mind wouldn’t cooperate with his mouth. His heartbeat sped up and his palms became sweaty, but he still felt cold.

‘Don’t say such ridiculous things; there is no way that I could permit that.’ Akashi replied.

‘But I really don’t feel like I’ll lose any time soon. And you know, the reason why I kept following your orders all this time was because I felt that no matter what would happen; I would never be able to win against you. Lately, however, I felt like that might not be the case at all. I think I could beat you now and I do not want to listen to someone that’s weaker than me.’ The purple-haired boy replied.

Shintaro couldn’t believe his ears, this didn’t sound like Atsushi at all; was this really how he had been feeling all this time, ever since his powers awakened?

‘What did you say!?’ Akashi spat back. Shintaro had never seen the redhead like this before and it was honestly scary as hell.

‘I said, I don’t wanna follow orders from someone who’s weaker than me, ‘kay?’

‘Mukkun! What are you saying? You’re joking right? Please don’t fight; the coach will get mad if you do!’ Momoi yelled as she jumped in between the giant and the smaller boy.

‘Out of my way, Momoi.’ Akashi said, venom dripping from his words as he spoke.

‘I will not let this slide, Murasakibara. The captain doesn’t have to be the strongest player on a team, but I simply do not accept getting spoken to in this manner. I will show you that I am still very much able of beating you. Do not flatter yourself.’ Akashi continued. The redhead picked-up a ball and walked over to the giant. ‘We’ll have a one-on-one; the first one to take 5 points wins.’

‘What!? Akashicchi, you must be joking!’ Kise yelled.

‘Akashi-kun, do not engage in this nonsense! It’s not like you to be provoked like this!’ Momoi yelled in a final attempt to break-up the fight.

‘Silence, you two. Murasakibara, I will discipline you.’

‘Mmmh, we’ll see what happens, Aka-chin~.’

A few minutes later everyone was staring at the scoreboard with eyes wide open. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing; the numbers felt surreal.

‘He stopped him again! This can’t be happening, right? Murasakibara is totally overwhelming Akashi! He only needs one more point to win!’

‘I can’t believe what I’m seeing; on top of that, Akashi has never lost before. Not even during practice, unless it was intentional. But right now, is Akashi actually going to lose? It’s true that Atsushi is amazing not to mention stronger and taller. But also faster and more accurate? I never imagined that such a thing would ever happen. But it really looks like Akashi… for the first time in his life, will lose.’ Shintaro thought perplexed. It wasn’t as if he doubted his boyfriends’ power or anything; it was just that the image of Akashi losing a game and not being able to give more than what he was showing now was just an out-of-body experience.

‘I honestly thought you’d be harder to defeat, Aka-chin. But it seems like this is it then.’ Atsushi said. ‘I’m a little- no, very disappointed. I really won’t take orders from someone so weak. Ah well, whatever. You losing badly only means I’m winning greatly, so I’ll just quickly make this point and I’ll do whatever I want from then on~.’ He picked up the ball after he finished speaking.

Akashi, however did not move an inch. Pain and shame were clearly visible on his face. His pride had just been shattered to pieces and the initial shock of going to actually lose a game must have been really hard on the redhead, Shintaro assumed.

The center started dribbling just when Akashi suddenly spoke up. ‘I, who always wins am always right!’ He rose his head and the scariest facial expression Shintaro had ever seen came to light. Akashi’s eyes were blown wide and heterochromatic red and golden.

A nasty feeling started rising up inside Shintaro’s stomach. Cold, but also hot. His head was spinning and his vision became blurry, Shintaro felt like he was going to throw up because of the sudden impact; the feeling and knowledge that this must be him instead of Akashi Seijurou. And not just a fraction of him, but the actual, full being residing, sleeping inside Akashi for this long. The emperor had awakened.

‘Look! He got past him! Murasakibara’s gonna win this..!’ One of the guys currently present said. How foolish. He would not be losing, not ever.

Shintaro’s predictions were proved right when Akashi’s arm suddenly shot forwards and tipped the ball out of Atsushi’s hands. Or did he? Akashi had started moving before Atsushi did; as if he had looked into the future to predict the next move the giant would make. The ball bounced away as everyone except Akashi stared at it in shock.

‘What just happened!?’ Kise asked to no one.

‘I have no idea.’ Came the reply.

‘Akashi…-kun?’ Momoi spoke with hesitation in her voice. She was a smart girl, so she must have figured it out by now, about the boy in front of them not being Akashi.

‘I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself, Atsushi.’ “Akashi” said. The redhead never used their first names; he had always addressed them politely. ‘Do not make me angry. I’ll kill everyone that opposes me, even… if they’re my own parents.’

Shintaro only heard those last words bouncing around in his head on repeat. Echoing through the silence of the gymnasium. No one was speaking; no one could speak. Akashi had just indirectly told one of his friends that he would not hesitate to kill him and he meant it. Not to mention that everyone knew Akashi’s mother was not alive anymore and hearing the redhead say that he wouldn’t even hesitate to kill his parents was much more frightening this way. Shintaro knew Akashi hadn’t killed his mother; or he wished he knew. Every single syllable Akashi had just produced was a spoken truth. It was frightening, surreal and painful; the ever-so polite Akashi had turned into a monster.

Shintaro refused to think the little word been before turned; others would probably view it like this, but Atsushi wasn’t responsible for what happened to Akashi just now. Shintaro had always known about the “other” Akashi; anyone of them had been able to unleash it and he would personally tell everyone that blamed Atsushi that they could go and eat dirt or something, because it wasn’t true. He had been the trigger; but he wasn’t to blame.

Within mere minutes the whole game was turned over in Akashi’s favor. The redhead had made use of ankle-breaks repeatedly; no one knew how he did this.

‘Tch. Well, I’m going home now. Good work, everyone~.’ Atsushi said. He managed to hide his feelings quite well. Everyone noticed that the giant was pissed, but most of them didn’t see that he was shaken-up as well. Shintaro did see it. He saw how the boy so dear to him was subtly shaking all over his body.

‘Wait, Mukkun!’

‘Don’t worry, Sacchin~. It’s fine as long as I just show up for practice again tomorrow, isn’t it?’ Atsushi replied.

‘About that; it’s fine. Just do whatever you want, just keep on winning our matches.’ Akashi said.

‘What are you saying, Akashi!? That’s the opposite from what you just said!’ Shintaro replied in shock.

‘The same goes to you two as well, Shintaro and Ryouta. As long as you win our games, I won’t be saying anything.’ The way Akashi used their given names sent chills down their spines. ‘I just realized it during that one-on-one; at our level it’s simply pointless to keep trying to make everyone work together. I can even say it with confidence; that it’s more efficient if we don’t work together anymore.’

Shintaro had trouble breathing. The shock and the weight of Akashi’s words were simply too big for him to handle. Kise and Atsushi were also immobile for a moment.

‘What! But Akashicchi, that sounds like you are saying that we should abandon team-play!’ Kise shouted. Shintaro could see the disbelief in his eyes.

‘Exactly, Ryouta. It’s only natural to choose the most efficient ways to achieve victory; every player should maximize their strengths and I have noticed that us “Miracles” are the strongest on our own; therefore team-play is a hindrance to us. So yes, I am saying that we should let go of team-play.’

After those last words, no one talked anymore. The mood was dark and the atmosphere heavy. Everyone did their clean-up duties as they were supposed to in complete silence.

---

‘Akashicchi just now, what was up with him? It’s like he was a whole different person.’ Kise asked Shintaro while they were dressing themselves in the locker-room.

‘A different person is exactly what he was, Kise. Akashi has s serious mental disorder and the worst is; I knew about this already. I’ve seen this atmosphere around him for several times already and Akashi just now was exactly like him. I’m so dim-witted; I should have said something instead of keeping silent!’ Shintaro replied. He was beyond pissed at himself. Maybe if he’d alerted the coach or any other adult about his speculations they could have helped Akashi before this would happen. He felt tears pricking behind his eyes.

‘Midorimacchi, hey! This isn’t something you could know would happen!’ Kise replied, trying to comfort his friend.

‘It’s fine, Kise. Sorry, I just lost my cool a little. But I really should be leaving now… I really have to check-up on Murasakibara, in fact.’ Shintaro replied in a small voice. He knew that if he talked at a normal volume his voice would crack.

‘I understand and you should do that; please tell me how he’s doing, okay? He must probably blame himself for Akashicchi’s… change. I’m kinda worried about Murasakibaracchi to be honest...’ Kise replied with a weak smile.

‘I am too, Kise. I’ll tell you how he’s doing later, okay?’ Shintaro replied.

‘Thank you.’ Kise said as Shintaro walked away.

Chapter Text

Finding Atsushi wasn’t all that challenging. Shintaro knew exactly where he had to look in order to find him. Outside the rain was still pouring down, forming big puddles in the cracks and bumps of the roads. He didn’t have an umbrella nor a raincoat with him, because the weather forecast had been positive. He didn’t have the time to wait, so he decided to go outside; people didn’t actually get colds from the rain anyway.

With his school bag in his hand he ran through the rain in order to get down to the river as fast as possible. It was already getting dark outside and the street-lamps turned on due to their sensors being triggered. The cold of the air and the raindrops combined was biting his face, his cheeks red and painful. His glasses fogged up because of the heat that was coming from his skin, it was impossible to see well through them at this point. The rain had formed thick drops of water on the outside of the glass, deforming what was left of his vision. The world looked like an abstract painting through those glasses, just random shapes and colors blending together with small spots of light breaking the semi-darkness. It was dangerous to run like this, but he knew that if he took them off to clean them, they would revert to this condition again in no-time. Simply running without his spectacles was out of the question too, his vision was simply too bad.

The ground was slippery and Shintaro almost lost his balance, but he was able to regain it before actually falling. He cursed under his breath. He really didn’t have time for things like this now, but he knew he had to halt eventually because he couldn’t really tell where he was going at this point. He took off his spectacles and cleaned them of as good as he possibly could with one of the wet sleeves of his school-uniform. When he put the back on his face he saw the bridge he was looking for in the far distance. Climbed up the small, covered in grass hill separating the land form the river. He knew there was a path between the hill and the actual place where the river began. It was usually dry at this time of the year; it would be flooded a few months a year. But as he suspected, the road was now dry, as dry as it could be in this weather. Shintaro was grateful, because the small path beside the riverbank was the fastest way to get to the bridge.

He ran over the small path, it was muddy and every step he made was accompanied by the sound of water splashing. The raindrops falling down onto the river was a beautiful and eerie sounding thing Shintaro would be able to enjoy if he weren’t so worried. He usually loved the different tones and notes he could hear; a symphony only nature could make and it was never the same. The roaring of the wind was deafening.  A woman walking on top of the hill with her umbrella looked down at Shintaro; she looked as if she was judging him and also kind of worried. But Shintaro didn’t have time to tell her he was fine, so he just kept on running.  

His clothes were completely soaked, all the way down to his socks and underwear. He was cold, so damn cold. Even the constant running didn’t help anymore, his fingers felt lifeless and the taping of his left hand was coming undone. Shintaro wasn’t bothered by it, because the vague, white shapes, normally seen as the bridge were now only a couple hundred meters away from him. Getting there was all that mattered to him now, because he wanted to console the person he loved and under the bridge was no rain. He picked up his pace and sprinted those last few meters at full speed. All the run-training he got at the daily basketball practices did pay-off.

‘Atsushi!’ Shintaro shouted as he spotted a tall figure leaning against one of the pillars when he was only a couple of meters separated from the bridge.

‘Mido-chin?’ the figure replied. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I came to check up on you, obviously.’ Shintaro breathed. He stopped running as soon as he stopped feeling the rain. He took off his glasses again and wiped them clean. He saw Atsushi approaching him.

‘Are you okay? You’re soaked to the bone.’ The giant said. He reached into his bag and pulled out a towel, placed it on top of Shintaro’s head and carefully started drying the green hair with it.

‘I’m fine, thank you.’ Shintaro replied. He allowed himself to enjoy the way his boyfriend took care of him. ‘But it’s not about me now, are you okay?’

‘I have been better, I guess.’ The reply was short and didn’t signal room for elaboration. Atsushi didn’t seem mad though, because he was still continuing to dry Shintaro’s hair with all the care in the world.

‘Would you tell me about it, please?’ Shintaro asked.

‘You won’t take no for an answer, will you?’

‘That’s correct, I won’t. But that’s only because I’m very worried about you, in fact. Kise is too.’ Shintaro said with a sad smile on his face.

‘Fine, I’ll tell you, but only after you put on some dry clothes. You look like you’re freezing.’

‘I don’t have any dry clothes. Everything, including my bag got soaked, in fact.’

‘You can borrow some of mine then, my bag’s waterproof, they might be a little dirty, but everything’s better than staying like this. Just get changed behind that pillar. I promise I won’t look.’

‘Wha--’ Shintaro started.

‘No discussions, Mido-chin.’

Wordlessly Shintaro took the bag that was offered to him. He walked away in order to get changed. His face was beet-red, wearing each other’s clothes felt awfully romantic and domestic, even if the mood was so bad that you could just start crying. It was only after he got changed into his boyfriend’s practice-clothes that Shintaro realized how much bigger than him Atsushi was. The shirt was baggy and the pants were too long and too wide for him, the sleeves of the jacket covered his entire hands, but it was warm at least.

‘Thank you for lending me your clothes.’ Shintaro said as he walked back to where Atsushi was sitting, leaned against the concrete walls of the bridge. He sunk down next to him and pressed himself as close to his boyfriend as he was able to and placed his head on the broad shoulders belonging to the one he loved. They could share their body-warmth that way and it was also more comfortable like this. As if it were an automatic response, Atsushi laid his head down on top of Shintaro’s own.

‘I don’t know why I did that just now. These words… they just slipped out before I could even think. I have no idea why I suddenly challenged Aka-chin like that.’ The taller teen spoke.

Shintaro hadn’t expected him to start talking so soon and had to take a moment to process what Atsushi just said.

‘I guess I just can’t take it anymore. I lied to everyone; I do love basketball. I just hate the way how I always have to hold back to prevent myself from hurting anyone or blowing my joints. I was able to start enjoying the sport again when I met all of you; our friendship is the main reason why I started loving the sport again in the first place. But after Mine-chin changed…’ Atsushi paused and sighed. ‘I started feeling our bond as friends getting less close. I got worried and decided to try a little harder, in the hope that I’d be around the same strength as Mine-chin is so that he would feel better about himself; I just never expected that to trigger this sudden growth of mine. I am now so strong that I could end up hurting both friend and foe; I don’t have to rely on my team anymore to secure victory and that makes basketball so, so boring. When I heard that Mine-chin was allowed to skip practices, I thought that that would perhaps be the best for me as well. If I don’t practice; I won’t get any stronger, right? Not to mention that Aka-chin really was weaker than me. He didn’t stand a chance and you know it. I don’t know what or who it is that I have unleashed, but that person was not Aka-chin and to be honest; it scares me.’ A single tear rolled down his cheek. Shintaro brushed it away with his thumb, seeing it would only make him feel like crying too.

‘You know that this isn’t your fault, right?’ Shintaro asked.

‘What are you saying? It is my fault; if I hadn’t challenged Aka-chin like that this wouldn’t have happened.’ The giant replied, his voice cracked as he spoke.

‘No! You’re completely in the wrong here.’

‘How am I wrong, Mido-chin? I know you’re just trying to cheer me up, but… it’s not really working right now. I do appreciate the effort though.’

‘No, I’m 100% serious, in fact. I’ll explain it to you.’

‘Sure.’

‘I lied as well. You knew that I was worried about Aomine and Akashi, but I never explicitly told you what I already knew. I kept these findings of mine a secret; if I had told someone, this might not have happened at all. What happened to Akashi, it’s actually my fault.’

‘That makes no sense at all!’

‘It does, just… listen first. Akashi is in fact very sick. I’m not talking about a fever or the flu; I’m talking about a serious, complex mental disorder; a dual personality disorder, to be exact. I don’t know the source, nor do I know when he first got it. All that I know is that I’ve known about this ever since early into our first year. Akashi didn’t tell me, of course. I simply noticed. Within Akashi, there is another Akashi. That is the person who defeated you today; you were right when you said that Akashi was weaker than you were, but the other Akashi is stronger than every single one of us.’ Shintaro explained. He tried to keep the explanation as easy as possible and he noticed that he was sugarcoating the earnestness of the situation.

‘Well, I figured that it must have been something like that, yes. But I still do not see how that makes this less my fault and more yours.’ Atsushi replied.

‘I have known about this for a long time, but I kept quiet about it all, in fact. Chances are that if I had consulted with an adult, Akashi might have been able to get treatment before it got this big of a problem. That’s how it’s my fault. It’s not your fault because Akashi was mentally unstable; constantly slipping from personality to personality without a real pattern or leader. Anything could have triggered a sudden shift of gravity.’ Shintaro said. He paused and thought about how he would continue his story. ‘For example, if I were to be about to beat Akashi in a game of shogi, that might have triggered it. Or if Kise suddenly got better grades than him or whatever. All I’m trying to say is that you can’t blame yourself for Akashi’s illness. He was sick long before this and it was only a matter of time until he’d change. Look at it the same way as what happened to you and Aomine; you suddenly became extremely strong, but that’s no one’s fault. Not even your own, some things can’t be explained by simply pointing fingers, in fact. Do you get what I’m trying to say?’ He finished.

‘Mhhh~ I guess I do get it. But I just can’t seem to turn-off my guilt.’ Atsushi replied. ‘But I made an observation; you just said that it was no one’s fault, yet you also said that it’s your fault. That doesn’t add up; so I declare that it’s not your fault either.’

‘That’s nice of you to say… but I guess I know how you feel. Guilt is a very personal feeling, after all.’

‘Somewhere out there is a monster that caused Aka-chin to become this way. Let’s both blame him or her, then.’

‘I could live with that.’ Shintaro replied.

The sat together in silence until the last daylight had faded from the sky. The rain had stopped too. They both cried, but neither made an attempt to confront the other with it. They were both feeling grief; crying about it was only natural and while it didn’t change anything; it felt soothing to just let the tears flow for a moment. Nothing would be the same in their team ever again; they were both hyper-aware of that. Shintaro knew that Atsushi wouldn’t come to practice anymore. He also knew that his boyfriend didn’t do that with the intent of hurting him; Atsushi did it to protect him. However the empty spot under the basket would be a painful reminder of the fact that things weren’t the same as how they used to be. Shintaro didn’t know what changes this would bring to their relationship and he was scared to even think of it.

They weren’t broken, not yet. They also hadn’t fallen out of love, the way they were sitting here together seeking silent comfort in each other made that very clear, but things were different. The first crack in the glass had announced itself and everyone knew that once a glass had started to crack, it would never be returning to its’ old self completely.

Chapter Text

‘Neither Aomine nor Murasakibara showed up for practice today.’ Some kid said.

‘Yeah, seems like it.’

Shintaro gritted his teeth. He didn’t like the changes at all. Not to mention that no-one except the Generation of Miracles seemed to have noticed Akashi’s sudden change. No one else knew the real Akashi to begin with; so they simply saw a boy that had become stronger instead of a boy who had become a different person and the few that did notice thought nothing of it and just ignored it. This made Shintaro question his own judgment. Had he just made all of this up? He wasn’t sure anymore and that’s why he couldn’t reach out to an adult, not even now when the damage had already been done.

‘It’s really different now… isn’t it?’ Kise said.

‘What do you mean, Kise?’

‘I mean the atmosphere during practice… everyone still talks, but there’s always this certain pessimistic aura floating around. It feels like that feeling of friendship we all used to have is now completely gone.’ Kise sighed. Shintaro knew that Kise was talking about all the first string members, but it felt like he meant the Generation of Miracles in particular. ‘I mean, this team has always been competitive, that’s why everyone is so strong, but it seems even worse now. Ever since Akashicchi and the head coach changed the flow of the team, too much has changed. It feels kind of lonely. And Midorimacchi, you seem to be very sad and also a little mad.’ Kise finished.

Shintaro didn’t know how to respond. He didn’t realize that Kise knew him well enough to notice his feelings. ‘Well, you’re right about that, in fact.’ He decided to say. There was nothing for him to deny. ‘You see, I don’t really care about what kind of play is implemented. As long as everyone else agrees with it, I don’t have any objections either. Even if I had any, it wouldn’t be like I’d have a say in it. The change has already been made, you see. Those who I do disagree with however, are Aomine and Murasakibara. I know they both have their reasons, I understand their sadness, yet I cannot bring myself to fully stand behind their decision to quit practice, just because they were told that they could. That’s where my anger comes from, in fact. I always have a hard time getting along with people that do not do anything in their power to achieve peak-performance.’

‘I get what you mean. I mean but, unlike you, I haven’t spoken to Murasakibaracchi, so I’m not a person that is suited to judge him, but even if I did know… I think I would still feel the same way as I do now. Even if I really care about both of them. I’ll just try to stop caring then. That way they can see what they did.’ The model said. It was a very childish reasoning, yet Shintaro was able to understand Kise’s feelings pretty well. But he decided to warn Kise against it after all.

‘You don’t have to do that, Kise. You can be mad at someone while still caring for them. Don’t you think they’d only feel worse if you were to completely shut them out?’

‘So you still care about Murasakibaracchi?’

‘Of course I do! Don’t talk such nonsense, I’m not that petty. And if I stopped caring about him because of something like this; were there ever even real feelings to begin with? It’s not that black and white, there’s always a grey area, in fact. Please do remember this before you decide to give up on your friendships with them. Akashi too. I do understand where your feelings are coming from, but this isn’t a way to solve anything; it’s simply pouring fuel into an already burning fire.’ Shintaro replied. He normally kept these things to himself and he didn’t like talking about them to someone that wasn’t his mother or his boyfriend. He liked it even less to do so in a public space like the gymnasium, but the situation asked for it.

‘You really are much kinder than you let on, aren’t you?’ Kise said. ‘But I guess you’re right in the things you said. It was a stupid thing of me to say.’

‘It wasn’t stupid; when you feel sad you sometimes say things that you do not think about very well.’

‘I guess so, huh?’ Kise said. The model had a dull look in his eyes as he looked at some invisible thing in the sky. Shintaro saw that Kise, energetic, stupid and kind Kise, was also losing his passion for the sport. Shintaro realized that sooner or later, he and Akashi would be the only miracles attending practice.

The months moved by agonizingly slow. Shintaro was evolving at a rapid speed. He was getting stronger and better at every aspect of basketball; he too was approaching his break-through. Another thing had started to change as well, puberty had now fully started and Shintaro had to simply allow himself to get changed from a boy into a man. His voice started to get deeper, his muscles started to develop faster, he started to get taller at the speed of light and all those other things that happened to boys during this confusing period in life. Hormones were starting to take a bigger part in his life, testosterone started to kick-in with all effects included. His innocence was starting to leave him, sexual urges and desires were no longer strange, unexplainable things. They became a part of his life, just like with every healthy boy. Fantasies about fully unclothed skin-contact and heavy kisses became more frequent. The wish to make that one step to fully consummate his relationship with Murasakibara grew stronger by the day, but Shintaro never allowed himself to act on those feelings and wishes.

He noticed it all around him; the others had started to go through the same changes; even Kuroko’s voice had started to get deeper and Kise had started to lose the femininity and childishness of his face. Both Aomine and Murasakibara had started to eat even more, and the latter was getting absurdly tall. His height had always been quite into the extreme zone, but it was getting unbelievable. Furniture in his house had to get altered; doors had to be dressed with warning signs that reminded Murasakibara to duck his head; clothes had to be costume-made.

And they all got stronger and more independent. Victory wasn’t everything anymore, it was now simply all.

Shintaro’s father had announced the dreadful words that he had found a suitable girl for Shintaro to marry. They were destined to meet during fall. When his father had told him, Shintaro felt like the ground collapsed underneath him. He didn’t know how to respond, so he remained silent and just allowed his father’s explanation to waltz over him. His mother was sending him her most apologetic looks, but Shintaro didn’t need her sympathy right now. He had always known that this day would come, but until the actual engagement, he had nothing to care about. She meant nothing to him yet, Murasakibara meant everything to him now and that was all he cared about. Even if it meant that he had to someday face his father and spill the truth onto the table.

Kise stopping to come to practice consistently happened just a few weeks before the start of their final year in Teiko junior high.

And then, suddenly, they were 3rd years.

---

They didn’t hang out after school anymore. They didn’t celebrate after their victories. They never even smiled. Passes didn’t exist in their team; you got your hands on the ball and then you went from A to B, all alone. Everyone played on their own, but there was still some sort of harmony.

Double teams didn’t work on Kise, Akashi and Shintaro. Triple teams wouldn’t be enough to stop Aomine or Murasakibara from scoring. They’d just slam the ball through the net, above all three of them.  The games had never been easier; the victories had never been greater. But by each game they won, another thing was lost. Kuroko rarely came off the bench and when he did, his eyes would be blank. As blank as the eyes of a dead person, instead of those belonging to a boy only just starting his life.

Their fame was rising and they now responded to interviews as if they were professional players already, it was like they weren’t just middle schoolers anymore. Their biggest rivals from the past two years, the so-called uncrowned kings were gone. There was no-one left to challenge them, winning became as easy as blinking. The final-scores of their games got more and more absurd. 151 to 12, 187 to 23, 198 to 5 and one particular game ended in the unimaginable; 200 to 0.

The ace on the opposing team had managed to make Murasakibara angry. The violet miracle had proceeded to block every single shot they tried to make and racked up 100 points all by himself. No one could believe it; not even his own teammates and coaches. Something like that was nearly impossible to do in an actual game. But he just did it and Shintaro and the others made the other 100 points to get to that holy number of strength, 200 points in one single game. When Kise asked Murasakibara why he had gotten so mad, all the reply the giant offered was that the boy had been simply been saying mean stuff about them, about Shintaro in particular. He never admitted it, but he thought that it felt kind of nice to know that Murasakibara was willing to go to such extreme lengths to defend his honor. Even now.  

A lot had changed between the two of them. They were still technically in a romantic relationship, but they ceased to go on dates, nor did they go over to each other’s houses after school anymore; all the sappy lovey-dovey things had ceased. All that was left of the relationship they once had was the unbreakably strong mutual affection and love they still held deep inside their hearts. Shintaro’s heart would still flutter whenever they made eye-contact and Murasakibara would still treat him as if he were something even more precious than gold. All that they did that showed these signs of love was their mutual confiding. They’d tell each other everything, without holding back. They used the shoulder of the other to cry on, used each other’s presence to find comfort when things were getting particularly bad.

All these things took place in and around school. In the silent gymnasium where Murasakibara would come in secret after practice was already done. When he thought no-one was looking, he’d quietly train on his dunking and agility. No one knew, except for Shintaro, who was now the only person that stayed behind for extra practice. Shintaro had been surprised beyond belief when he found out that Murasakibara had, in fact, been practicing. It had become a routine. At least twice a week they’d meet in the empty gymnasium and sometimes they’d simply train and laugh together, but other days they talked, cried, kissed and held each other close until campus curfew.

If the mood had been different; these secret encounters had the potential to feel naughty or even arousing, but they were always filled with an atmosphere of sorrow instead. I was like they weren’t able to be truly happy anymore.

It wasn’t like Shintaro was never ever happy; no. He was still a human being, capable of feeling all kinds of emotions; that included joy, love and happiness. The happy feelings just showed up less now than they did in the past. “The change” was nearly half a year in the past now and everyone had gotten used to the new Akashi by now. They all dealt with their feelings differently.

Shintaro had gotten closer and closer to Kise; for a long time the model had kept on attending practice, it was only natural for the two of them to become close friends. Shintaro knew things about the model now that he never would have guessed in the past. It worked the other way around too. They often talked about the situations surrounding the team and Kise even attempted to understand Shintaro’s love for horoscopes. But their friendship also drowned slowly. Kise had started to take up more modeling work, resulting in his absence during practice

One of Kise’s preferred methods to forget about his internal conflicts and sadness was quite the unhealthy and questionable one. Kise had started hooking up with Aomine lately. The two of them weren’t dating, far from it.  Even when they were both obviously in love with one another, they refused to make their relationship official. They seemed to prefer to fuck around without allowing emotions like love and compassion to get in their way; they only seemed to care for lust and solace during those moment. Kise would go over to Aomine’s place when the latter’s father was at work and there they’d release all of their pent-up frustrations. Shintaro knew these details because Kise had told him all about it. It was something that he preferred not to know.

It was none of his business, of course and teenage boys going with their sexual desires wasn’t a very strange thing to happen at all, but he still wanted to scream at both of them and tell them that the way they were handling things was very bad and unhealthy. He wanted to make them confess love; maybe that way they’d find some actual comfort instead of the momentarily satisfaction they gained from their hook-ups. Sex was like alcohol or a drug; it made you feel better, but once it was over and done with; the effect stopped as well. Whereas love could work like a bandage on a bruised ankle; it offered constant support and even when you untied yourself for a moment, you could always choose to bring it back without much risk.

One day, Kise came with a ridiculous proposal; to play a game during their games. Kise proposed that they’d play a game of who could score the most points in the upcoming match. Aomine, Akashi and Murasakibara all agreed. Shintaro didn’t feel at ease with it at first; it felt like they were toying with their opponents rather than playing against them. However when the game started, Shintaro noticed that it seemed like his teammates had regained some passion and excitement. They looked like they were actually having fun playing their little game and for the first time since months; Shintaro witnessed his friends smile while playing basketball.

Even if unethical and ridiculous, Shintaro decided that he, too, would participate. Just for the sake of seeing his friends and boyfriend smile.

Chapter Text

He was all alone now. It was his own choice; no one could be blamed, except for him. He had started to distance himself from his friends. He didn’t like the game they played. He wanted to stay out of it. The faces of their opponents after a loss had always had an impact on him, but nowadays those sad, sad faces simply crushed his soul. Learning that their loss wasn’t really a loss; they were all just there to allow the Teiko-team to play against each other. They were the bridge to entertain the Generation of Miracles, no opponents. They were nothing in the eyes of the strongest.

Shintaro didn’t view them that way. Sure, he thought they were weak and not special in any way, but he didn’t look at them the way his friends did. Maybe he should be regarded the weakest out of the miracles because of this; or maybe this was a sign that he was the strongest out of them all. He did not cave under the temptation of joy and fun; he stayed professional no matter what. He still couldn’t believe that Akashi had joined the others in their ridiculous games. The only one, aside from Shintaro, that had stayed sane was Kuroko, but the two of them had never gotten along well, so Shintaro didn’t feel like seeking friendship in the blue-haired boy.

The last time they all went out together? Shintaro could no longer recall the day. They weren’t a team of friends anymore; they were a team of premature professionals. Interviews would come at them all one after another; they were a hype and the entire population of Japan wanted to know everything about them. They had actual fans. Girls and boys alike showed up at their school, asking for autographs and pictures. Their team-pictures grazed the covers of sport- and girl’s magazines alike. It was as if they were idols instead of basketball players. It was a surreal experience; one that Shintaro didn’t feel at home in. He never wanted to be in the spotlights like this. He wished to be a background character again, but he knew that something like that was impossible; faith had laid this path for him and he could do nothing but walk it to the end.

Basketball rapidly became a bigger and bigger part of his life. It was getting so tiresome to keep up with school, piano and sport. Shintaro was happy if he got 5 hours of sleep nowadays. School wasn’t the only place where he’d stop to be social; it was like that at home as well. He’d go to bed early and whenever he came home from practice; he’d go straight to studying. He knew that his mother was worried with his behavior, but she didn’t ask him about it. She came to watch most of his games, so naturally she should have noticed the state his team was in. There wasn’t a team to speak of; it was just Aomine, Akashi, Kise, Murasakibara and Midorima. Five powerful players that happened to wear the same uniform and all the points they made were counted as one. Instead of a simple basketball game, it was now two games in one. Teiko versus another team and miracle versus miracle. They didn’t even high-five after goals; everyone completed their job in silence.

The second Akashi had complete control over all of them. He had started to call himself the emperor and pulled the strings on the team. He decided the strategies for each game, decided who played and who didn’t. That was the only thing they had still in common even now; they all listened to Akashi without ever wavering for even a moment. Akashi was the one that always said it; his will was absolute and no one was allowed to oppose him.

Shintaro noticed that Kuroko would cry after matches. The small boy would excuse himself after games to go to the bathroom and when he returned, his eyes would be red and swollen. Shintaro didn’t push the subject; there was a reason why Kuroko locked himself up instead of showing his tears to the others. The phantom player must not want to come across as weak. Now that they were all 14 or even 15, their growth was at its’ peak. They all seemed to get taller by the day, and Kuroko must feel like he was left behind. He wasn’t getting all that much taller or stronger at all. Everyone blossomed their abilities to the very fullest, but Kuroko didn’t get the chance to do that. It was now more than ever that it showed that Kuroko wasn’t a talented player and that he simply never would become like his teammates. Shintaro could very much understand why that must be a tough one to swallow. The feeling of loss is a bitch.

The unavoidable moment of choosing a new school was drawing closer. Shintaro had interviews on a weekly basis. All these powerhouse schools wanted to have him, wanted to use his power, wanted to help him grow even more. The choices were numerous. All kinds of schools with all kinds of histories and reputations were out to get him and he knew that he had to turn down most of them, no matter how genuine they seemed. After a lot of thinking and chatting with his teachers and parents, Shintaro had been able to reduce his list to a top-five. He had looked at the average level of intelligence requirement, the location and the strength of the basketball club in particular. Other things he looked for were traditional ways of teaching; non-modernized classes and he also had a preference for a traditionally Japanese school, preferably in Tokyo. His top-pick for now was Shuutoku. A school in Tokyo with a ridiculously hard entrance exam, only allowing the smartest students to attend and their basketball team. Their team was one of the best in the entire country, always getting into the last eight of the national tournaments. It was an old school; it valued traditional education above modern and digital classes. It was a school where Shintaro could imagine that he would feel right at home.

Not that it would ever be the same as Teiko had been. The first two years had been great; he had a close, wonderful group of friends, a loving relationship and a successful career on both sports and exams. He would always cherish those times. He wasn’t pessimistic enough to think that he would not make any new friends on his new school, but he wasn’t optimistic enough to think that it would be anything like what he had with the miracles. They were all very popular and they’d get confessed to on multiple occasions, yet they also were the oddballs of the school. They were that one group that didn’t really have any other friends because they were weird or different. But instead of being weird in the way they dresses; they were weird in the ways that only geniuses were. But because they were all geniuses, they could understand one another, despite all being very different.

---

Shintaro knew that his relationship with Murasakibara wouldn’t break apart after they left Teiko. It would continue to burn on a low pit, but the small flame wouldn’t burn out. They were barely even talking anymore. When they passed each other in the hallways, all they did was nod in the other’s direction. When they played together on the court, all they did was fulfill their duty. In the dressing rooms Shintaro would secretly watch how the giant got changed, only to find the latter staring right back at him. They’d both quickly advert their eyes to the ground. They didn’t meet up after school.

They were barely even friends at this point. The situation was both painful and soothing at the same time.

They both had so much on their plates, they were still so young. They couldn’t work out all of their issues while also shouldering the crushing weight and commitment of a serious, well working relationship.

It was an un-spoken agreement, but they both wanted their relationship to last through this mess, so they had decided to take a step back. What they had was precious to both of them, neither wanted to lose it. After winning for so long without ever feeling the dread of loss, just thinking about it became terrifying. They’d rather stay in this now dysfunctional relationship where neither talked to the other than losing what they had. It was just like a parent that wished to lock their child in a box of glass to prevent any form of harm. Shintaro wanted to go back to the days where they’d goofed around, the days were they had slowly walked the path of love together in their own pace. Other, newly formed couples would pass them by in no-time, but it wasn’t a race for them. They didn’t look to lose their virginity as fast as possible, they didn’t look for the hottest scenario’s, they both walked at their own pace, hand in hand. You could say that they had stopped walking now, but they were still on the path, refusing to let go of the hand they were holding. As much as he wanted to continue their walk, Shintaro felt like freezing their relationship in time was the best decision. They could simply heat up the temperature when the time was right, when this mess was over.

Shintaro had to find himself in order to be able to understand what a true relationship meant; Murasakibara had his own problems to work through. They couldn’t do it together; if they tried it would probably be the end of their relationship. And oh god, how much Shintaro didn’t want that to happen. He’d rather die.

Sometimes faith plays a cruel game of patience, it numbs the senses, crushes the heart and messes with the head. In times like that, making big decisions is hard. No matter how smart you are. Shintaro was confident that he and Murasakibara had defied those odds and made the right choice, even if they had made it without ever speaking a word about it.

Shintaro loved Murasakibara in the same way as he had before; perhaps he loved him even more now. As weird as that might sound. Deep inside his heart, he knew that their relationship had no future; at least no future that lead past high school. Even if they remained in love, even if they managed to sort everything out, even if Shintaro managed to overcome his state of depression. After high school, it would all end.

Ikehara Itori-san, that was her name. The name of his future wife. He hadn’t met her yet, he hadn’t even seen a picture of her, but his father had proudly presented her name to him. She was the daughter of a very rich man, not as rich as Akashi’s father, but still very much loaded on money. Shintaro had no choice but to accept, or maybe he did have a choice.

Shintaro was scared to deny his father’s wishes; he didn’t have the guts to say no. He had seen his father get mad before, it wasn’t something he wanted to experience. He knew that if he had turned the arranged marriage down, he would have had to lay all his cards on the table. He would have to come out of the closet, he would have to tell his father about his relationship, he would have to tell his father about his wish to become a basketball professional instead of a doctor. The consequences of that would be disastrous for sure. His father might even deny him, force him into marrying her. His mother would surely stand up for him, but in the end she loved and feared his father too much to be able to actually deny his wishes. Their marriage wasn’t as happy as it appeared to be to the outside world, as they tried to make it appear to Shintaro.

They didn’t know that their son was smart and perceptive enough to see through it all. He knew that his father didn’t use violence on his mother, but he had a gut feeling that he might sink deep enough to go there eventually. A divorce was hanging above their family like a swaying blade. As long as they kept ducking their heads in time, nothing would be slain. But the problems were gradually increasing in size; eventually they would no longer be able to avoid that blade of divorce that had killed many families in the past.

When his parents fought, Shintaro would take Takara up to his room so he could try and shield her from the heavy atmosphere. But he had read somewhere that small children were exceptional in detecting stress or anger, so even if she wasn’t able to voice her concerns yet, Shintaro knew that she must be having some. Despite all of his actions to shield her.

All in all, Shintaro’s life was in one of the biggest downs he’d ever had. Not even his lucky items could brighten it all up. He was sad, his friends were sad, his boyfriend was sad, his sister was sad and his parents were sad.

He was growing into an introverted, stressed person. Midorima Shintaro’s once so perfect life was going under.

Chapter Text

Less than an hour until graduation, less than an hour left of their time at Teiko.

They won their final championships with the team; won their final match in the remarkable score of 111-to-11. They all stepped down from the team that afternoon, like seniors always do after their final game. The relief was visible in the eyes of all their former teammates, who had never gotten their chance to play on the court because they were overshadowed by the strongest.

The Teiko basketball team now had an even more impressive reputation; three years, no single loss, three championships; all with the same, single team of five superstars and one phantom. The remaining selection wasn’t weak, but they would ever be able to uphold this row of victory; they would eventually lose and destroy the path of victory that was built by the miracles.

Their names would be forever remembered at Teiko. They were the strongest middle-school basketball team in history, that was one reason to remember them, but they were also the guys that always got caught up in the weird situations. Whenever something unusual happened at Teiko; they would instinctively ask for the Generation of Miracles to come to the principal’s office; even if they hadn’t technically done anything wrong. The picture of them as little kids just winning their second interhigh would be standing in the basketball-club’s prize gallery for years to remain; thus immortalizing the time where the miracles were actually happy with their victories and the time were they were true friends to one another.

They were going to start anew, somewhere else, without the support of each other. They would be the absolute stars of their new schools; no longer overshadowed or undermined by each other.

Shintaro had passed Shuutoku’s entrance-exams without any difficulties; he’d gotten the highest score of all new first-years that took the exam that year. Aomine had, wonder above wonder, managed to get into Touou Academy, Kise had gotten a scholarship from Kaijo high, Akashi had naturally chosen to attend Rakuzan and got in with straight A’s on every exam and Murasakibara was going to Yosen. Moving to the other side of the country, just like that. Suddenly, they were torn apart.

The decision Murasakibara made hadn’t been a surprise to Shintaro. He had always known that they would most likely be separated when high school came around the corner. On top of that inner feeling, Murasakibara had also explicitly asked for his permission; something Shintaro had been surprised about, to say the least.

They hadn’t been talking to each other all that much, but one afternoon, about a month ago, Murasakibara had requested to have a chat. Shintaro had agreed to his proposal and followed him to the back of the school.

He remembered that conversation clear as day.

---

‘What did you want to discuss?’ Shintaro asked.

‘I have decided on a high school.’ Murasakibara replied.

Shintaro could feel his stomach drop. He knew what was going to come next. The high word would come out; a promise of separation.

‘Is that so? It was about time, in fact. Which school have you chosen?’

‘…I’ll be attending Yosen, the school from Akita. I’m sorry; we won’t be able to spend much time together anymore.’ The giant replied. He had a sad expression on his face.

‘Oh… I see.’

‘I’m really sorry, Mido-chin, I didn’t want to upset you or anything. But I really feel like this school is the right one for me. I would have followed you to the same school, if I knew that that was the right thing to do, but I really feel like that isn’t the case.’

‘You don’t have to apologize. You followed your intuitions, so it will most likely be the right path for you, in fact. You don’t always need to listen to your heart; sometimes your mind is right. I get that.’ Shintaro replied. Of course he was hurt, he had secretly hoped that they would be able to stay together, but he had always known that they wouldn’t and he knew that protesting would only make things worse. But above all, he felt like he had to support his boyfriend in the choice he had made.

‘But are you okay with me leaving?’ The center asked. He took Shintaro’s shoulders in his hands and looked him in the eyes. The purple-eyes gazed right into his soul, he could feel it.

‘Murasakibara; I am not your guardian, nor your teacher. I have no control over what you decide in life. That’s simply not my place, in fact. I’ll be honest with you though, because that’s the right thing for me to do; I hate the idea of you going to a school so far away from me, but I know that you’ve really though this decision through, so I’m not going to have any objections.’ Shintaro replied. As much as he didn’t want the other to leave him, he didn’t want to stop him from doing what felt best either.

‘I will really miss you though… I know that we haven’t been talking lately, but I still really care for you. So I guess I’ll be sad when I don’t get to see you every day anymore.’ Murasakibara said. He hesitantly took Shintaro’s hands in his bigger ones.

Shintaro didn’t really know how to react, it had been such a long time since they had been so close to one another, let alone actually share skin-contact. He didn’t pull his hands away though.

‘We’ll find a way to make this work, I know we will. I will… uhm, I’ll miss you too-- I also care about you… so-- naturally, I mean that’s obvious, isn’t it?’ Shintaro said. He cursed himself for not being able to say the words in a straight manner, without constantly stuttering or getting a red face.

‘You’re still so shy, Mido-chin~. I guess I could always come visit you right? I know the distance is pretty big, but there are so much people that have relationships with a much bigger distance, so it’s not really that complicated. We could do phone calls or something and I’ll need to visit my family anyway, so I’ll drop by at your place whenever I get the chance. How’s that sound, Mido-chin?’ The giant sounded like he had really tried his best to come-up with a solution. Shintaro found it honestly endearing.

‘It sounds good to me, in fact. Naturally, something such as a little distance is not so hard to overcome. It’ll take a lot more than that.’ Shintaro replied. He offered the tiniest, yet genuine smile he could manage.

‘Mido-chin, can I give you a hug?’

‘Fine, but be quick. We’re on the school grounds, in fact.’

---

The conversation had ended just like that. It had been a moment with many mixed feelings. Back then, roughly two months ago, their graduation-day had still seemed to be so far away, yet here they were, standing at their last assembly at Teiko Junior High; their very own graduation ceremony. Their names were called one by one, in alphabetical order. A teacher came on stage next to them to say a few short words about each student’s biggest accomplishments, some pictures shown on the big screen. After that, they got their diploma handed over and were then waved goodbye by all the students of the school, everyone was ordered to stay until the last name had been called upon.

The Generation of Miracles had already been graduated. Naturally their amazing contribution to the basketball team had been the main topic of their graduation speech. Their pictures on the big screen. Each of them had gotten a thundering applause from the audience, as if they were heroes. Even with all the mixed emotions about their three years at Teiko, no tears were shed.

Akashi had asked of them to come to the gym after the ceremony ended, so that was where Shintaro planned to go after the end of the ever-lasting ceremony. He had no idea what Akashi needed them for, but he didn’t really feel like fighting with the redhead on his very last school day, so he decided that he should just go.

---

When the last student had finally received their diploma, Shintaro quietly pushed his way through the crowd in order to get to the gymnasium where he had trained all those years. This would be the last time he ever entered that all-so-familiar room, it was a feeling of eeriness that attacked him when he stood there on the white circle that was painted on the overly waxed wooden floor. His friends were standing on that same circle, all with the same expression on their faces as they waited for Akashi to give the opening word.

‘From here on, we are all enemies. The next time we’ll meet will be at the high school national stage.’ Akashi said. His words cut through Shintaro like a knife.

‘Aaahh, even if that’s kinda true, do you have to say it so harshly?’ Kise said. Shintaro noticed that Kise must be feeling the same as he did. He, too, hated the way Akashi phrased his words just now.

‘Yeah, we’re only separating for a while, nothing extreme~.’ Murasakibara said. Shintaro felt happy to hear him say that; it meant that the giant still believed in a possibility where they could all be friends again. Something Shintaro wanted to believe in as well.

‘For a while, you say? No, Atsushi. You’re wrong.’ Akashi said. Shintaro’s eyes widened at that cruel statement, he looked around and saw the same expression on Kise’s face. Aomine and Murasakibara just looked disinterested. ‘Even though there are so many basketball teams in this country, there are not many teams that are regular attendees of the national tournaments. We all want a school like that, so what were the odds that none of us thought about joining the same school for even a second? Let me say this clearly for everyone; our thoughts are the same, that’s why we are called the “Generation of Miracles”. If we play against each other, we are sure to be able to actually compare our strengths, for a person stronger than us does not exist. For the sake of proving that point, we will not hold until we eliminated everyone from the competition, everyone but ourselves. This is not simply a mere theory of mine; it’s a fact which I have seen based on our strengths.’ Akashi finished. He had that scary expression on his face.

Even if Shintaro couldn’t appreciate the way Akashi had phrased everything just now, he had to admit that he did agree to the points the redhead had been trying to make. He too, in his own arrogance, wanted to prove that he could rise above everyone else, he wanted to see who of them was the actual strongest. ‘You’re right, Akashi.’ Shintaro decided to say.

‘Yeas, Akashicchi is right.’

‘This is it then, huh? The end of the era of the Generation of Miracles.’ Aomine said.

‘I have nothing against this. Just don’t expect me to hold back on you, Aka-chin. Or any of you, really. Not even you, Mido-chin.’ Murasakibara said.

‘Hmph, I was thinking just the same.’ Shintaro said as he adjusted his glassed.

‘What about Kurokocchi, though? Will he understand?’ Kise asked.

‘Oh, do not worry. Kuroko might not be here right now, but he will definitely join this battle, even if his goals are completely different from ours. He hasn’t found his answer yet, but he is already determined.’ Akashi said.

An exchange of glances was shared between the group of miracles. They nodded, their expressions determined.

‘Now then, I hereby dismiss you. Farewell, until we meet again.’ Akashi concluded. The redhead then proceeded to disappear, leaving the four other miracles on their own.

For a while, everything remained silent.

‘Goodbye, everyone.’ Aomine said, breaking the thick silence as he walked away, without looking back.

‘See you later, everyone.’ Kise said as he followed Aomine out of the gym.

Of course, it had to end this way. Shintaro and Murasakibara alone in the gymnasium, on their final moments together as teammates.

No words were spoken, only hands were held and a kiss was shared.

And then, those hands finally disconnected.

Shintaro went on, to his new life.

Chapter Text

‘Wow, you’re so tall! Would you be interested in joining the volleyball team?’ A boy with sparkling eyes asked.

‘I’m sorry, but no can do. I have already decided on the basketball club, in fact.’ Shintaro replied. He didn’t feel at ease when those eyes, so big and full of hope looked at him. He couldn’t deal with the happiness of others right now. He had many other emotions on his mind, but happiness wasn’t one of them.

‘Ah. I guess that makes sense too! Considering your height and all. Bring our school many victories, okay!?’

‘Rest assured; I’ll never miss any of my shots.’ Shintaro said. He didn’t speak it in emotion of promise, he felt nothing as he spoke, yet he knew that it was the truth, he would not miss. He spoke those words as if they were his purpose.

As if he had no single fragment of time to lose, Shintaro hurried himself to the stand of the basketball team, avoiding any further club invites. He didn’t feel like starting conversations, he just wanted to write down his name and leave again.

Part of him was happy to be in high school; the new things he’d learn, the tougher basketball competitions- battling against the Generation of Miracles-, and choosing the path leading to his future were all very exciting, but a part of him longed to go back to that beautiful first half of the second year at Teiko, where they were all friends, driven to win and most of all; happy. He knew that it was impossible to go back; Akashi was in Kyoto, Kise was in Kanagawa, Aomine, Momoi and Kuroko had disappeared to some unknown schools in Tokyo and Murasakibara was in Akita, so, so far away from where Shintaro wanted him to be.

The feeling of their last kiss in the Teiko-gym still lingered in his mind. The sadness, the hope, the pain, the promise, the anger, the love, the end. They hadn’t even told each other goodbye.

Ever since that day; all Shintaro had heard from his boyfriend was a text saying that he’d arrived in Akita safely, and a picture of his dorm room with the caption saying something among the lines of “Yeeey~ I have a room for myself alone” and later he’d gotten a message that simply said “I miss you.” That last text was from a week ago. He’d heard nothing more and nothing less. Right now, he wasn’t even able to tell if Murasakibara was alive with complete certainty. Though he suspected that if the giant had really died, he would have heard something at least.

Shintaro had been feeling sick all day, ever since he first woke up. He had wanted to stay home and pretend that Shuutoku high didn’t exist, but he couldn’t. He had to overcome this obstacle, after the first day, everything would get better, probably. Overcoming it was hard, however. When he put on his uniform, he felt like crying for some reason. It was a very nice-looking uniform, made and tailored to the right size and very traditional. The black was so different from Teiko’s light colors. He looked a lot more mature in his new uniform, while he certainly didn’t feel that way right now. He felt as insecure as a kid hat starts grade-school for the first time.

He didn’t know anyone at Shuutoku; he didn’t have his friends by his side, he had no Kise who’d just roll with his horoscope things like it was the most normal thing ever, he had no Murasakibara who would squeeze his shoulder and talk utter nonsense to him in order to calm him down during stressful times, he had no Akashi to talk to about serious subjects. Although he felt like he had lost Akashi a long time ago. He lived with a constant worry for his red-haired friend; the mental condition Akashi seemed to have was a very severe one and should not be left alone, but it was. That was enough reason for Shintaro to be worried about him. Would his new team be able to accept Akashi for the horribly dictating and scary person he’d become?

With all those many thoughts raging through his mind, he reached his destination. He looked down at the small stack of papers, all he had to do was fill one of those and he would be done. No big deal. God, how he hoped that his appearance wouldn’t cause a stir.

‘Hello there. How may I help you?’ A girl with a friendly face asked him. She was on the short side with a chubby face, definitely not a player. He assumed that she must be the manager.

‘I would like to join the team, in fact.’ He replied politely.

‘Alright! Please write your name, class, middle school, position played, further ambitions and reason for joining down on this form.’ She instructed him.

That was an easy task; he had to do the same on basically every single form he had ever filled in his life.

“Name: Midorima Shintaro.

Class: 1-A

Middle school: Teiko Junior High.

Position played: Shooting guard.

Ambitions: Winning the high school championships.

Reason for joining: To make this team the strongest in the country.”

As he finished writing, he rose from his chair and left. He didn’t want to wait around until it dawned on that girl who he was, he didn’t want her to make a fuss over it. He really felt nothing but disapproval towards the thought of people hanging around him and asking him all kinds of questions about Teiko and her miracles. He already stood-out enough as it is anyway. Practice would begin tomorrow, until then; he wished to remain a nobody. Just another first years entering high school, not an ex-Teiko basketball star.

With every step he took, he started to miss Murasakibara more and more. He missed the presence of his boyfriend, who was always walking next to him back in middle school. He missed the way Murasakibara’s giant body would cause shadows to fall over Shintaro’s own. He missed the way their hands would occasionally brush against each other, because they weren’t able to actually hold hands on the school grounds. He missed how the center’s grumpy face would brighten-up whenever they ran into one another in the hallways in between classes. He even started to miss the giant’s annoying habits he thought he would never miss. It was lonely. He missed his other friends too, but not nearly as much as how he missed his lover. And on top of that; they weren’t only in different schools now, they lived in different districts too. It was impossible to just run by on a random afternoon; they would be able to meet in person only a few times a year.

Would he ever be able to make new friends? Shintaro was very much aware of the fact that he looked and acted unapproachable, he also knew that most people thought he was weird and a genuine asshole. He knew that he was to blame for those assumptions and Shintaro supposed that they might even be kind of true in some ways.

Oh well. He was heading home now.

---

His first impression of his class was an okay one. The other students didn’t seem to be all that nosy and they just let him be. He recognized one or two kids from past tournaments, so they must naturally know who he was, but they didn’t come to ask him any questions nor did they come to state wishes of revenge or some crap like that. The homeroom teacher was nice enough, a friendly woman supposedly in her mid-thirties. She had assigned him a seat near the back, next to the window. He appreciated that, he never really liked sitting in the middle of a classroom anyway, way too much noise and triggers.

He noticed a group of girls looking at him and then, when they noticed he’d caught them staring, back to each other. They were giggling behind their hands. They were most likely making fun of him, he figured. Shintaro didn’t care. He could live with being made fun of. He’d been bullied and teased his entire life; he just never let it play a big part in his life. The bullying was mostly done by other basketball players that were jealous of his extreme talent. The remaining part of the bullies had something to say about his hair or height. Shintaro was simply too strong to care, he ignored them, rolled his eyes and brushed off their comments, not thinking about them again. So he decided that it would be no different in high school and paid no mind to the girls.

‘You’re Midorima-san, right?’ Shintaro looked up and saw one of the girls from earlier standing in front of his desk. He was surprised and low key annoyed that she had sought contact with him.

‘Yes I am, is something the matter?’ He asked as polite as he could manage. He didn’t bother to smile at her though.

She was pretty, but he didn’t like the look of her. She resembled one of those rich, arrogant types you’d see on television in those bad high-school soaps. He just hoped that she hadn’t come over to do something annoying.

‘Oh no, it’s nothing, really. Just that I think that you’re really handsome and I wanted to ask if you’d like to go out with me for a bite sometime.’ She replied.

‘…’

Shintaro didn’t know how to reply to that. He had never expected to be hit on, on his first day at that! He just sat there like a complete idiot, half-aware of his surroundings and his own red face. Naturally, he couldn’t agree to her proposal. He had valid reasons to reject her and on top of that, wasn’t it strange for a girl like that to ask him on a date out of the blue like that? He didn’t even know her name. He was completely convinced that she must be playing with him, attempting to hurt him by getting his hopes up. But the joke was on her, if that were the case. But just in case she was genuinely asking him out, he decided to reply in a civil manner that he couldn’t agree with her strange and sudden proposal.

‘Uhm… I-- Sorry. I can’t go out with you.’ He replied.

‘Why not? Do you already have a girlfriend or something?’ She replied. Her brows were furrowed and her lips were pressed together into a thin line, she looked pretty pissed at his rejection.

‘Something like that, in fact.’ Shintaro replied shortly. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the truth either. Not that he was ever planning on telling that girl that he was actually dating another man anyway. He also left out the fact that he didn’t like her and that he didn’t even know her name. A girl that shallow wasn’t worthy of his time anyway. The way she reacted too his rejection had shown him that she was very a very immature and spoiled brat.

‘Oh. I see. That’s a real shame. You better be happy with your girlfriend, because you don’t know what you’ll be missing by rejecting me!’ She said. She then turned around on her heels and walked away with her chin raised as if she was some diva.

‘Well that one is arrogant…’ Shintaro shrugged.

Throughout the rest of the day, Shintaro saw the girl glaring at him with an angry pout on her face.

---

His first practice with the team was about to begin. Shintaro listened to the introductions of each member; there were many of them, probably even more than what they had at Teiko. He recognized most of the upperclassmen from former tournaments and interviews in magazines. Shuutoku was a school that paid a lot of attention to their scouting, so they had gathered a lot of nationally strong athletes from various middle-schools over time. Now they had added a new jewel to their collection, one that shone even brighter than the others and that was no-one but Shintaro himself.

When it was his time to introduce himself he noticed all their eyes on him, staring in curiosity and when he told his name he saw their excitement, because what they had all been thinking had been confirmed.

He patiently answered the questions they asked him. In the drills and practice games, he performed his very best, feeling proud as he landed shot after shot. Not even the upperclassmen could stop him; they couldn’t block him because of his own height and the Murasakibara-proof trajectory of his shots. Yet he was able to block his opponents with ease and was able to keep them out of the two-point area at all costs, forcing them to shoot from the outside or pass the ball to somebody else.

During all that, Shintaro noticed one boy staring at him particularly hard and intense. He was of relatively short statue, with black hair. Shintaro had learned to know him as Takao Kazunari; they were in the same class and, if he recalled correctly, they had played against him back in Teiko. The constant staring was probably a revenge thing, he supposed.

The first impression Shintaro got of Takao wasn’t a very good one. Sure, the shorter boy was fast and handy with the ball and had a spectacular eye for passing the ball around, but he was also noisy and an idiot. Free-spirited, popular with his peers and above all; loud. Shintaro saw a little bit of Kise in him.

He also knew for a fact that Takao’s scores for the entrance exam hadn’t been all that high and Shintaro quickly noticed that Takao had the most annoying laugh in the entire universe. The feeling of dislike seemed to be mutual, because the way Takao looked at him was anything but friendly. Shintaro was very much convinced that Takao and he could never become friends.

That’s why he was so surprised to find Takao coming to meet him after practice.

‘Oi! You’re Midorima Shintaro, right?’ Takao yelled.

‘And who might you be?’ Shintaro asked with all the possible arrogance in the world. This boy wasn’t worthy of his time yet, he should earn his recognition first.

Chapter Text

‘Hey Shin-chan, those rumors about Teiko’s phantom sixth man; are they true? I mean I always wondered about it, But now I can just ask.’ Takao said. They were sitting on the roof; it was lunch break.

‘That’s not my name, Takao. But to answer your question; yes, Kuroko Tetsuya, or “the phantom sixth man”, as how you know him, is an actual person. He played with us during mainly our second year, before our talents bloomed.’ Shintaro replied.

‘What do you mean “before your talents bloomed”? And how the hell have I never noticed this Kuroko kid despite playing against you?’

‘Oh right, you believe the things the tabloids wrote too much. None of us miracles started out as extraordinary players, in fact. When we joined we were just guys with ideal body-proportions and an above average talent for the sport, it wasn’t until late into our second year that we became the way we are now. We used to need Kuroko’s passes to make plays against very strong opponents, he used his exceptionally small presence for that, but after we became stronger we were able to do it all by ourselves and Kuroko started to play less and less.’

‘Wow are you kidding me? I can’t even imagine you as a normal player, I mean when I look at you all I can think is how much of a monster you are. Just the thought that you were once small and average makes me laugh. Or the thought of you missing shots! Priceless.’ Takao said. He was, indeed, laughing behind his hand.

‘What about me doesn’t make you laugh like a mentally unstable clown?’ Shintaro thought bitterly.

‘Oh, now that we’re on the subject; what are the others like? I mean when they’re not playing basketball, because I know all about that. They were your friends at some point, right?’

‘Well, I can tell you that if you think I’m the only strange one, you’re utterly mistaken, in fact.’

‘You’re most definitely the strangest one though. I mean, can it really any weirder?’

‘You’re wrong once again, Takao.’

‘Oh my are you for real!? Haha-- well, they do say that geniuses tend to be strange people. I guess that applies to basketball geniuses too then.’

‘Shut it. But yes, I did consider them to be my friends. If you must know, we were the oddballs of our school, so we were naturally attracted to each other and became friends pretty fast in our first year, despite our numerous differences. Other students always kept their distance from us and I’m pretty sure that we were all laughing stock to them. We only started to get more “friends” once we became the most famous students on the entire school. Except Kise, who was already extremely popular and well-liked before joining the basketball team in his second year. He’s just like you’d expect him to be at first glance, meaning that he’s very positive and bubbly and annoyingly flashy, but he’s actually rather two-faced.’

‘The model, right?’ Takao asked.

‘That’s correct.’ Shintaro confirmed. ‘Although I did say that Kise was two faced, that applied to Akashi, the captain, in extreme manners. With Kise it was just one person with two sides, whereas Akashi was one body with two separate persons living in his mind. On one side, he was caring with a strong winners mentality, but his other self was merciless and would not accept anything but victory, he even claimed that he would kill people that disobeyed him.’

‘What, no way. I guess I get now what you meant by not being the strangest guy on the team. Geez. Threatening to kill people for disobeying you? What’s up with that?’

‘I didn’t mean Akashi when I said strange people. Sure, he’s an overly rich child with no knowledge of common fast-food restaurants and things like that, but his double identity isn’t a weirdness, it’s a serious illness, in fact.’

‘Then what did you mean by strange people?’ Takao asked in confusion.

‘I meant Aomine, the ace and Murasakibara, the center. In Aomine’s case it’s that he has some weird obsession over gravure models, has no brains whatsoever and somehow still managed to be close friends with one of the smartest and prettiest girls on the entire school. On top of that, Aomine used to be extremely obsessed with basketball and he played it nearly 24/7, in fact. He once called me at a Tuesday at 4a.m. with the question if I wanted to play basketball with him. Not to mention that he was obviously in love with someone, who was obviously in love with him as well, yet he never confessed, because he didn’t notice.

‘Lol are you for real?’ Takao snickered.

‘Yes, I am. He and Kise always got us in trouble by doing dumb things, in fact. They once broke a window during baseball and blamed me and Kuroko for it. And that is only one of the numerous examples I could come up with. They were really a disastrous duo, in fact.’

‘Your ex-team sounds like a damn comedy act!’ Takao cackled. ‘So what about that last guy?’

‘He’s basically an ridiculously overgrown child. While he is undeniably an amazing athlete, he’s bad at basically everything else. He hates loud noises, so he mostly spent time with Akashi and I back in middle school. Akashi and I used to play shogi pretty often, but Murasakibara would just quietly watch instead of playing with us. But the strangest thing about him might be how he never liked basketball at all. He always claimed that the only reason he bothered to play was because he liked to crush the hopes and dreams of other players. He also has absolutely no manners, so I often had to act like his guardian. Because of that he and I fought pretty often.’ Shintaro said. He tried to sound as disinterested as he possibly could; he didn’t want Takao to suspect something. Not that he believed that Takao would judge him for being gay; he was just worried because Takao had serious trouble keeping his mouth shut about anything and the last thing he wanted was for the whole school to know about his sexuality.

‘Wait what? Shin-chan fought with people? I just have to see that.’ Takao wheezed. Shintaro hoped that he would just choke on his food already.

‘Oh don’t worry, just a little more of your careless behavior and I’ll fight you.’ He deadpanned.

‘Oooh scary~!’

‘I’m serious, Takao. And don’t even think that you can win, for today’s lucky item is a knife, in fact.’ Shintaro said as he showed the 9 inch long blade to the smaller boy. He had bought it from the antique store in his street; he obviously made sure that the blade was wrapped in a cloth when he stuffed it in his bag to avoid any forms of danger.

‘What the hell, how did you get that thing to school without getting in trouble!?’ Takao screeched. ‘Anyway, all your stories still have me convinced that you are the weirdest person from your rainbow-squad. Also, what’s up with all your weird hair?’

‘We were simply born that way, in fact. Do not ask questions you know the answer too.’

‘Did you ever get a girlfriend?’

‘What!? Why would you suddenly ask me that? What kind of interview is this anyway?’ Shintaro hissed. He, once again, cursed his natural response to blush furiously after being asked questions like that.

‘Well, you’re tall, smart, athletic and easy on the eyes. I wouldn’t be surprised if some girl looked past your obsessive behavior, horrible personality, the fact that you’re a massive tsundere and weird speech.’

‘Oh wow, much thanks for the all compliments, Takao.’ Shintaro replied sarcastically. He hoped that Takao would leave it at that. After all, he would have to lie to his first friend on his new school if he decided to ask any further. He thought Takao was an annoying pest, but he also kind of liked the black-haired boy. After all, Takao was the only person that had dared to approach him to try and befriend him.

‘You’re denying my question, Shin-chan.’

‘Screw him. Now I’ll have to lie to him…’

‘No I never had a girlfriend. I have been confessed to a handful of times, but I politely declined. Are you happy now?’ Technically it wasn’t a lie, because he really never had a girlfriend, but it didn’t feel right either.

‘Not really, to be honest. Because if you had said yes I was gonna ask you if you’re a virgin to laugh at your face getting super red and your “Omg Takao, that is so outrageous, how dare you” stuff.’

‘You are the worst.’ Shintaro said as he rubbed his temples. Takao was on thin ice.

‘Eh? Who, me? No, you’re wrong. I’m obviously the cutest, Shin-chan.’

‘Please don’t make me barf, Takao.’

‘Moving on, the interhigh prelims are starting soon right? Any of your exes in our block?’

‘Ex-teammates. And no, in our block it’s just Seirin, which houses Kuroko, but he isn’t a threat without a strong team. The others went to different parts of the city or they even left Tokyo all together. If we go through the block-regional’s, we’d face Aomine in the finals league, but the others will only show themselves on the national stage.’ Shintaro explained.

‘Oooh exciting, isn’t it? Do you think they’d be able to block your shots? We’d be in serious trouble if they could.’

‘They are all prodigies, Takao. We’re all quite evenly matched, so yes, they might be able to block me a few times, but I can block them too. It really depends on the day and on what new things they’ll learn, because we all know each other really well.’

‘So they’re all at least at your level, right? That’s insane.’ Takao chuckled.

‘They are; Aomine might even be better than me. Not stronger, but better overall.’

‘This whole talk makes me feel like such a small fry, you know? Someone stronger than you? That’s terrifying to me.’

‘You won’t the one to guard them, so you have nothing to worry about.’

‘I’ll just leave them to you, Shin-chan! It’s really hard for me to imagine you’ve never actually lost at basketball before, my middle school team was good, but you know… when we played you it really killed my confidence in my talent. I had never lost so badly before and I just couldn’t do anything but to admire you and your talent.’ Takao sighed.

‘You’re good enough though… I guess.’

‘Awww what was that? Did the all mighty Midorima Shintaro give me a compliment? I’m so flattered right now. I think I’m gonna cry.’ Takao joked. ‘Anyway, I was gonna say that I stopped to admire you when I got to know you personally. I used to think that you were really cool, but it turns out that you were just a tsundere and a weirdo.’

‘You have such a way with words, you should become a poet.’

‘I know right? Maybe I should.’

Shintaro wondered why he was still willing to put up with Takao’s constant nonsense. Maybe it was the fact that Takao was his first real friend in high school. They didn’t get along at first; Takao was constantly getting under his skin with his obvious challenges and yelling, but somewhere along the way that had changed. They travelled to school together every day and sometimes Takao even joined Shintaro on his daily morning-run or decided to help him get his lucky item for the day. Shintaro decided that he was happy to have Takao in his life.

He wondered if Murasakibara had managed to make new friends as well. They’d briefly talked over the phone on multiple occasions, but their conversations were always pretty short and awkward for some reason. The easiness they once had whenever they talked seemed to have disappeared. It hurt quite a bit, but Shintaro figured that this was all just a part of life and love.

Another thing that he was constantly thinking about was the fact that his sixteenth birthday was creeping up on him, shortly after that day he would be meeting his arranged fiancée. He couldn’t help but wonder what she would be like, nor did he know what he should do. On one side he wanted to stay safe, meaning that he’d break things off with Murasakibara and just let his father’s plan commence without further ado. On the other side he wanted to talk to his fiancée, tell her the truth, hoping to have her understand, then talk to his father to tell him the truth about his sexuality and proceed to have a long and happy life with his boyfriend by his side. He knew that the first option was much more damaging for him, while the other option would damage his bonds with his family. He didn’t know what do decide, nor did he know who he could talk too about this.

Shintaro wanted to open up to someone, but he was so afraid to do it. Murasakibara knew about all these things already and surprisingly, the giant had replied in an understanding way rather than to get mad about the fact that Shintaro was practically already engaged. If only everyone could be so understanding, the world would be a better place.

‘Shin-chan, you’re kinda spacing out here. We’ve gotta head back to class now.’ Takao said.

Shintaro suddenly wondered if maybe he could empty his heart to Takao at some point. Maybe the answer was closer than he could think right now.

Chapter Text

Shintaro couldn’t be in a worse mood; he had just lost his first-ever basketball game. And against Kuroko, no less. He had followed his horoscope, did everything he could to push his fortune to the optimum, played as hard as he could, he scored more than anyone else, blocked people like a madman. Yet it hadn’t been enough and he had even gotten some of his shots blocked by a new guy; Kagami Taiga, who had suddenly appeared from the United States and decided to go toe-to-toe with the Generation of Miracles, so far succeeding in taking down Kise with the formidable Kaijo team, the king Seiho and Shuutoku and Shintaro himself. It was laughable, Seirin wasn’t a bad team, but they weren’t supposed to be good enough to take down a national class team with a miracle on it. Shuutoku was definitely stronger than they were. Shintaro couldn’t understand how he could have lost to them. Aside from Kagami, none of the players were really good. They were above average at most; the level the Miracles were on when they first stepped into Teiko.

In front of those who had beaten him and his team, he had put on a brave face; he acted like he didn’t feel anything after the loss. Which didn’t just mean that his perfect victory streak had been broken; it also meant that he had lost his chance to go to the nationals. This automatically meant that he no longer had the chance to participate in the oath they made on that final day of middle school and that the chance of him getting to spend some time with his boyfriend had significantly dropped.

For the next years it would be like that; they’d most likely only get to see each other during national tournaments or potentially in school-holidays, the fact that one of these was now ruined was very sour. The Wintercup was the only chance he had left, but winter was still so far away.

The way back to the locker room was long and silent, the coach didn’t speak and no one else did. Some were crying, upset with the loss they’d just suffered. Just before the coach started talking again, Shintaro asked if he could get some fresh air. He really needed to be alone for a moment and he didn’t feel like participating in the whole “we’ll train hard and do our best on the Wintercup” chat that was sure to follow.

‘Does he really feel nothing after losing?’ One of the benchwarmers asked.

‘Well, I always suspected him of being a robot anyway. So he probably doesn’t.’

‘Of course I feel things, you fools. All there is to it is that I’m simply strong enough to contain my posture.’ Shintaro thought as he closed the door behind him.

He managed to stay strong until he stepped outside, where the rain was pouring down from the darkened sky. Leaning against a wall, he broke down. He wasn’t violently sobbing, nor was he screaming in agony. He simply looked up at the sky and allowed a few tears to roll down his face. No one would even notice; everything was already soaked in water. He shouldn’t have lost, he couldn’t have lost. It was simply impossible. Both his fortune and his strength were the best, so how could he possibly have lost that game? He never would have guessed that losing would hurt this badly. His pride had been shattered, his chances had been ruined.

If only that worthless defense had tried a little harder; if only they had blocked some of that Hyuuga’s shots, aside from his relatively high accuracy, he wasn’t that good. Why didn’t they? They could have easily done that! After all, he had managed to score the most points all on top of guarding the second-strongest player on the court, pushing him past his breaking point. So why couldn’t those others try a little harder?

Otsubo could have scored and blocked way more if he just played a little more aggressively; if he had just played a little bit more like Murasakibara. Utilizing his height and strength, playing with intent to kill, with intent for absolute and undoubted superiority. Seirin’s inside was weak, very, very weak and their center was a decent player, but he wasn’t really all that tall, Otsubo could have completely crushed him.

Kimura and Miyaji didn’t even do anything at all. It seemed like they didn’t even try to Shintaro. For all that talk about how they hated to leave their team in the hands of two first year kids, they didn’t do shit. He was the only one pushed to his very limits, over them, even and he was still suspected to perform perfect.

Takao had played a good game, he was the only one Shintaro was willing to compliment on his effort. He had managed to shut-down Kuroko for the majority of the game, which was a real challenge, even with eyes like his. The raven-haired boy also delivered some great passes, but Shintaro supposed that Takao could have gone inside to score a little more.

Shintaro felt angry, he felt like he had to do everything by himself when facing a strong opponent. “We’re probably gonna be facing Seiho, Midorima, we’re counting on you to take on Tsugawa, because you’re the only one that can take him” “We’re playing Seirin, Midorima, you’re on Kagami and you need to score too.” and more of that. Weren’t they supposed to be strong too? Why would they always depend on him to make that final shot, to take the victory to their side? Team play or not; the others had to at least do everything that they possibly could. Shintaro felt like they hadn’t done that today.

It was now that he started to realize what it really meant to have played with the strongest for so long. You’d always get perfect passes; perfect lay-ups and everyone knew their role on the court. No one stood in one another’s way, even when they stopped playing as a team, everything still ran smoothly and without fail. Shintaro figured that he had simply grown accustomed to that perfection, and that even though Shuutoku was a national top 8 team, the gap between their regulars and Teiko’s regulars was just unbelievably big. He had to accept that he no longer played with the very best players from the nation; he had to learn how to deal with failing. Something he absolutely hated.

He hated to feel like a failure. Shintaro felt like he needed to be comforted by someone that understood him. He wanted to lay his head down on his boyfriend’s shoulder and let it all out, the fact that he wasn’t here right now was nearly unbearable. On top of that, it was nearly time for Shintaro’s 16th birthday and the knowledge that the person he loved wouldn’t be able to spend it with him was just painful. He figured that it must be the same way for Murasakibara.  

Several hundreds of texts had been sent between them since the start of the school-year in April. Every day without fail, Shintaro would send both a good-morning and a goodnight text; it simply became a part of his daily routine. Murasakibara would sometimes respond and sometimes not, saying that he lost his phone once again or that he forgot to charge it a day later. While other people would potentially see those things a signs of cheating, Shintaro knew that it was just the giant’s nature. He could even get lost on the way home some days, so he couldn’t really bring himself to get mad over things like that. Besides, Murasakibara would always feel bad after forgetting to reply and would proceed to send texts containing an overload of heart-symbols and messages like “Mido-chin I love you, but I forgot because I fell asleep while doing my homework.”

They’d call around once a week now, Shintaro decided to make a schedule for it so that those calls would actually happen. He was a person that heavily relied on routine and precision, Murasakibara was extremely laid-back and forgetful, so the easiest solution was for Shintaro to make clear agreements on when to call so that neither would forget. Up until now, it worked pretty well, if he were to say so. But a simple call couldn’t replace being in each other’s actual company, Shintaro started to notice that more and more as time passed by. Now, after this horrible turn of events, he just wished that he could go to Akita to sulk about the loss while Murasakibara attempted to cheer him up by feeding him all kinds of snacks he had never really liked, but would still eat because they were offered to him with love. He wanted to laze around together while the giant played some of his weird music, Shintaro would try to analyze the songs in his head, even if he honestly found them to loud or too chaotic.

But no such thing was possible now and Shintaro was still very much standing outside in the pouring rain, leaning against a small concrete wall connected to one of the gymnasium’s emergency exits, wearing nothing but his basketball uniform and a t-shirt, starting to get cold, causing the tips of his still naked fingers turning a weird shade of blue. His tears were now fully mixed with the rain and it was impossible to still taste the salt as they reached the corner of his mouth.

They would come looking for him sooner or later, they would be judgmental and threaten to throw a pineapple at his head for leaving for so long. They would find him with reddened rims around his eyes, a glazy expression hiding their bright colors. It would be impossible for them to tell or understand what he was feeling, because his face showed no emotion. He had stopped doing that a long time ago, only certain people would see through him and those were the people that deserved to see his few smiles and tears. The others didn’t, they needed to stay away from him, all they had to do was simply admire or dislike him. No neutral people were needed, no shameless attempts at flirting were appreciated and no half-assed proposals of friendships would be accepted. He supposed that his internal emotions had started to fade too. He still felt things, of course, but less than he had done previously. Shintaro felt like he was slowly becoming completely numb.

That’s what it means to be a genius. Only a small fraction of people will understand them, in return, the genius could also just understand a few people. That’s why the best and brightest are usually the loneliest. Sheep don’t mate with wolves, neither do they understand them. A wolf could pretend to be a sheep in order to fit in, but he’d still end up being alone.

His phone went off. He forgot he even took it with him; he was surprised the rain hadn’t yet ruined it. He half-hoped that it would be Murasakibara calling him, but he was disappointed and surprised to hear that it was Momoi.

‘Midorin! It’s been so long! How are you!? Did you win!? Did you lose!?’ The chirpy voice, belonging to the beautiful pink haired girl on the other end of the line, yelled.

It gave him a headache. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with such enthusiasm right now.  So he ended the call only to have his phone ring again a second later.

‘Enough already, Momoi just--’ He said, now highly annoyed.

‘Wow, man. So gloomy, you lost didn’t you?’ Shintaro’s eyes widened. The voice on the other side of the line unmistakably belonged to Aomine. Even though he sounded intimidating, the mental image of the tall, dark-skinned man talking through Momoi’s baby-pink phone was just too funny to be intimidated anymore.

‘Aomine,’ Shintaro said. ‘you’re right. You might want to be careful in the finals league, in fact.’

‘Hah, what’s gotten into you, you sound weird. Don’t be stupid, the only one who can beat me, is me.’

‘Tch. That’s catchphrase is still as annoying as it’s always been, Aomine. You haven’t changed one bit.’ Shintaro sighed. ‘You know what’s coming, right? Your next opponent will be, in fact, Kuroko.’

‘Don’t think so hard about this stuff, Midorima. Don’t get me wrong, but regardless of our past, Tetsu is just another opponent I’ll have to crush now.’ Aomine said.

‘Fine, whatever. I’m hanging up now, bye.’ Shintaro replied, annoyed by the way Aomine spoke so disgracefully about his former best friend.

‘Sure, bye.’

‘Midorin! Sorry for calling you when you’re feeling down, cheer up fast! Bye-bye!’ Momoi contributed at the last moment before the line went dead.

He knew she meant well, but her words really didn’t bring solace. He sank down to the floor and just remained sitting there for a while, allowing the rain to hit him in the face not even bothering to get up anytime soon.

A few minutes later, Takao found him. The others had already left, unbothered to even talk to their ace. It made Shintaro realize once again that they only cared for his ability, that they didn’t like him and only put up with him so that they could use his strength to win. But now that he had failed to do that, they had stopped caring and decided to literally abandon him here, maybe they would care again when he got stronger. It made him realize that Takao was his only “friend” now.

‘Come on, Shin-chan. Let’s go home.’

‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ Shintaro said as he accepted Takao’s outstretched hand.

‘You’ve played a great game; it’s not your fault that we lost. They don’t blame you either, I’m sure of that.’ The shorter boy said as he flashed a smile.

‘Thanks, Takao. You’ve done well too.’

‘Awww thank you Shin-chan! I knew you loved me!’

‘I really don’t.’ Shintaro said as he rolled his eyes.

‘On second thought, let’s get something to eat before we go home, I’m starving.’ Takao said.

‘I won’t say no to that, in fact.’

(Shintaro later wished he had; once he walked into that restaurant and was seated with Kise, Kuroko and Kagami, only to have Takao deliver the final blow by throwing his food right on his head.)

Chapter Text

He wasn’t very happy about the fact that he woke up this morning; he secretly hoped that he could have just died in his sleep the night before so he could avoid this moment. Shintaro had turned sixteen a few days ago, which meant that the time had come for him to meet his fiancée, Ikehara Itori. The encounter was scheduled at 11a.m. today, in some fancy hotel. It was almost 10 now, so he really had to get ready. He never knew that a negative mindset could impact someone’s ability to act to this extent, but he started to learn that feeling very quickly. His hands simply refused to tie up his necktie and he couldn’t bring himself to comb his hair.

Shintaro felt disgusted with himself; this whole situation was just so messed up. He felt as if he was about to cheat on his partner, which wasn’t all that far from the truth, in a sense. But if their engagement was already sealed since he was very young, didn’t that mean that technically he had been cheating on Ikehara-san ever since the moment he had decided to date Murasakibara? Didn’t this make him a bad person?

‘Shintaro, hurry up! We’re leaving in 15 minutes and no later! You can’t show up late for your first date!’ His father yelled from downstairs.

‘But what if I don’t want to go on this stupid date? This all just you pressuring me into becoming exactly like you.’ Shintaro thought to himself as he double-checked his appearance in the mirror, yet he made no move to finish up any faster. He took his time to secure his fingers with tape and carefully styled his hair. Just because he felt like shit didn’t mean that he didn’t care about looking presentable; for his father’s sake and for Ikehara-san, who certainly wasn’t at fault here. He wanted to make this date enjoyable for her, even if that meant to push away his own displeasure.

He looked at his phone, it had gone off a few times this morning, but he hadn’t bothered to pick it up to see who was calling. He did now, finding several unread messages and a few unanswered calls all from his boyfriend. He hesitated a few seconds whether he should call back or simply reply to the messages; he went for a call in the end. Anxiously sitting on his bed with his legs trembling because of the nerves he was currently experiencing. Murasakibara answered on the 5th ring.

‘Mido-chin, you called back~.’ The lazy voice on the other side of the line spoke.

‘Yes, I did. Sorry for not answering your calls earlier, I’m not really feeling well, in fact.’ Shintaro replied. Hearing the giant’s voice calmed him down somehow.

‘It’s about her, isn’t it? You’re meeting with her today.’ Murasakibara replied. His voice tone changed ever so slightly. Instead of pure laziness it had a sharp edge to it now, anger or maybe he was just being protective.

‘How did you know?’ Shintaro asked in surprise. He didn’t realize Murasakibara knew; or how he even could know.

‘You told me a few days ago, I don’t forget things Mido-chin tells me, especially not when they’re this important.’ Shintaro suddenly remembered that he did, via text messages, tell Murasakibara about the situation.

‘Ah, did I? I really don’t want to bother you with this; it’s my problem and not yours.’

‘It’s my problem too, Mido-chin. I’m really worried that this whole situation will break you. It’s why I called.’ The giant said. His voice was still sounding pretty strange, portraying an emotion Shintaro couldn’t quite phantom.

‘This won’t… it won’t break me, Murasakibara.’ Shintaro replied. His voice choked half-way through the sentence, much to his horror.

‘But you’re crying..?’

Those words made something snap inside of Shintaro, he suddenly felt so, so angry. He didn’t know who he was angry about, he just knew that he had to get it all out; or more like that he was about to throw it all out whether he wanted to or not.

‘Of course I am, idiot! I am forced to marry a girl that I have never met and now I have to go and meet her; the fucking person I’ll be forced to spend the rest of my life with! All because my father wished so, in fact. I’m not even allowed to choose who I want to be with; I am forced into a career that I do not necessarily want. I can’t tell my family who I really am, who I really want to spend my life with and what I really want to become, just because they’ll reject me if they found out! I feel pressured and caged and there are days when I just want to give up on it all! On top of that, my parents are always fighting lately, I’m still not feeling well at school and I don’t have you here with me! I don’t know what to do; I don’t really know anything at this point, in fact! How could I not be crying!? Explain that to me, huh!?’ Shintaro raged.

He spoke all these words without taking a breath; they just dripped out like venom. His chest was heaving up and down with the deep breaths he took. His head felt like it was spinning, he could feel his pulse in his temples, he could hear the blood rushing through his ears and the tears were leaking out of his eyes.

‘…’ The other side of the line remained dead silent.

It was then that Shintaro realized what had just happened; he had completely lost his temper and had just said a lot of things he couldn’t really recall anymore; he must have shocked Murasakibara and he suddenly felt very bad about it. ‘I’m so sorry, that was way out of line from me. Please don’t take it personally, that wasn’t an attack on you in any way.’

‘I’m fine, really. At least I now know how you really feel, Mido-chin.’

‘I just want you to be here with me.’ Shintaro sobbed. He had been able to dry his tears, but his voice was still not cooperating.

‘I wanna be there for you as well… Mido-chin, you can’t keep doing this to yourself. Or you’ll force me to travel to Tokyo straight away.’

‘You know that I have to do this, my father--’

‘You need to stop thinking about what your family thinks! You need to put yourself first for once.’

‘But I can’t do that, in fact!’

‘You can, but you’re just scared! Really, you’re one of the most selfish people I have ever met, no offense, yet when it comes to the really important stuff, you’re always neglecting your own needs. This is not what you want, right?’ The giant said. His voice was sterner now; Shintaro understood that he really wasn’t joking around. Right now, Murasakibara was dead serious.

‘Of course it’s not what I want, but-- Crap, I really, really have to go now. Can I call you again tonight, please?’

‘Of course. Why would you even ask? Mido-chin can call me almost any time.’ He suddenly sounded like himself again.

‘Thanks. Talk to you later, bye.’

‘Good luck out there, Mido-chin. I love you.’

‘I love you too… bye.’ Shintaro sighed weakly as he disconnected the call.

He quickly ran to the bathroom in order to fix his appearance and left the house a few minutes later; together with his family in his father’s car and without a single trace of his outburst from earlier.

---

Ikehara-san was a girl half a year older than Shintaro. She was of very thin and small statue; barely coming up to his shoulders even with the shiny, black stiletto’s she was wearing. Her hair was jet-black and fell straight down to just above her shoulders, causing her face to appear thin. Her eyes were a rich-brown color; they clearly showed intellect in them, as expected from the daughter of a well-respected surgeon. Her skin was like ivory, completely flawless. The dress she was wearing was a simple, yet striking one; a traditional A-line falling to just below the knees. Its velvet red color gave the girl a very elegant appearance. She was extremely refined and beautiful, almost like a doll. There were no other words for it.

‘Midorima-kun, nice to finally meet you.’ She spoke. Shintaro was slightly taken by surprise by the sound of her voice; its’ tone was a lot darker than he’d expected.

‘Likewise.’ He replied on auto pilot. He felt very uneasy, all despite her kind expression.

Their parents had left them alone together in order to “get to know each other.” The thought that the small woman in front of him was going to be his wife someday was something his mind would not quite progress yet. All he saw was a stranger, someone he had no ties too; but somehow his family had decided for him that he would be with her for the rest of his live, until death did them part.

‘You’re not what I was expecting at all, you know. I was expecting some mediocre-looking nerd, but geez, you’re really attractive and so tall too! You’re eyes and hair are so unique, is that really all-natural?’ Ikehara-san asked after she had given him a full-over look. She sounded like a normal girl, her speech wasn’t especially classy or anything.

‘Yes, it is. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I was indeed born this way.’ Shintaro replied awkwardly, he had expected the question to be asked at some point, everyone he had ever met wanted to know. He didn’t know what else he could say about it, how do you possibly explain the fact that you were randomly born with green hair?

‘You must be some kind of athlete, right? Judging from your build and all.’ Ikehara-san asked.

‘You’re right; I am an athlete, in fact.’ Finally a topic that he could talk about in a more relaxed manner.

‘Go me! What sport do you practice?’ Ikehara-san said. She sounded cheerful.

‘I play basketball.’ Shintaro replied.

‘Ah, I could have guessed that I; of course a guy as tall as you plays basketball. Are you any good?’

‘I don’t really like to brag about it, but I’m generally viewed as a prodigy. My middle-school team and I took the nationals three consecutive times so yes; you could say I’m pretty good, in fact. I was actually scouted to Shuutoku on a sports-scholarship, but I insisted on taking the entrance exams like everyone else, because I still value my education.’

‘Really? That’s crazy sick! You’re some kind of star already. I’d love to come and watch one of your games someday!’

‘That’s nice of you to say. Now that we’re on the subject anyway, do you practice any sports?’ Shintaro asked. He wanted to come across as if he was interested in her as well, just playing the dangerous game of acting.

‘I played soccer for a few years, but  I had to quit because of a knee-injury. Now I’m swimming. I’m not a prodigy like you are, I don’t even really have any talent for the sport, but I like doing it, so it’s fine. I’m happy this way.’ Ikehara-san smiled. ‘What about you? Do you want to go pro in the future? I don’t know much about basketball at all, but I heard that there’s big money involved in America.’

‘Well, it’s every teenage-boy’s dream to become a professional athlete at some point, and considering the fact that have the potential to actually pull it off; it is something that I would really like, in fact. However, my father wants me to major in medicine, so I think I’ll just stick to that.’

‘Really? Why would you do that when you have so much potential?’

‘I don’t really have a choice, I’ll be hated by him and my family if I decline that wish, because every boy born into my family becomes a doctor, in fact. I wouldn’t want it to be the one to break that tradition.’

‘Aah… I see. You too, huh?’ Ikehara-san sighed. Her complete aura changed from bright and cheerful too dark and serious. ‘I’m guessing that you have no intention of marrying me either, right? Or more like, you intend to marry me, but only because your family wants you too.’

‘What? That’s not--’ Shintaro started to protest; he didn’t want her to feel bad after all. He couldn’t have her break down into tears or something like that, that would be a horrible first impression on her family. But then again, maybe they’d cancel the engagement that way. Shintaro shook his head; he couldn’t think like that! There was nothing good about making an innocent girl cry.

‘You can drop the act, Midorima-kun. It’s okay, really. I feel the same way. While I do genuinely think you’re all kinds of attractive, smart and, mind me, pretty hilarious, I do not wish to be anything more than a friend to you. Not now and not ever. I’m only doing this because my parents wanted me too and I pretended to be legitimately interested in romantically in order not to embarrass you, but it turns out that you and I are the same.’ Ikehara-san said with a sad smile.

Shintaro’s eyes were blown wide. Never in a million years had he expected an outcome like this. He had fully prepared himself for a marriage that would leave him unhappy while she was happy, but as it turned out, they were both in the same boat and under the same pressure.

‘I don’t know how, but we’ve got to make a plan to get out from this engagement. I already have someone else I like, so I really don’t want to end up marrying a guy I feel no real connection too. You must have that too, right? A girl that you love and want to be with rather than me?’ Ikehara-san asked.

‘It’s something like that, yes. But how were you planning to do this? How could we possibly get out of this whole thing without hurting our ties to our families?’ Shintaro asked.

‘One of us could fake their death and move to a random island and change their name.’

‘That’s a horrible idea, in fact.’

‘Yeah, you’re probably right… silly me. I guess that we can pretend to be fine with this whole thing for now. Let’s just make a pact first; like we can see other people and we will never, ever fall in love with each other. You got any more?’ Ikehara-san said.

‘Yes, I do. We will support each other on the day that we decide that we want to tell our families that we do not wish to get married and everything that we discussed here will remain secret until that day comes.’ Shintaro added.

‘It’s a deal. Now tell me about this person you like!’

‘No.’

‘Awww, don’t be so boring!’

‘No.’

Chapter Text

He really planned not to attend any of the matches played in the interhigh, now that he wasn't participating himself, but when he heard what the first quarter final turned out to be, he couldn't pass on it. Shintaro simply needed to see it with his own eyes.

For the very first time; two Miracles would clash. Kise Ryouta and Kaijo high versus Aomine Daiki and Touou Academy.

A game that would not only be a spectacle to see, but that also would be a highly emotional event for both aces. Their history, the feelings they always harbored for one another, yet never spoke aloud still floating in between them. Their meaningless, lustful encounters, formed by their pride alone. Their bittersweet rivalry, one that had always been in favor of Aomine.

Shintaro knew that Kise would put everything he had into this game and possibly even more than that. All that the blond wished for was to defeat Aomine, make him fall back to earth; cease to be untouchable by others. His outstanding talent was the reason for his isolation from everyone and, Shintaro assumed, Kise wanted to end it by beating Aomine. The same strategy Kuroko had used when going against Kaijo, Shuutoku and, unsuccessfully, Touou.

Knowing all this, how could he possibly not come and see for himself? Shintaro had always been on the frontline to see the two idiots bickering and pining over one another. He, when seated next to Aomine in class, had the favor to see the stupid drawings in Aomine's notes. He had seen them play against one another countless times, over and over again.

Those one-on-ones where always heated battles, fought through tooth and nail. Even though the outcome was always in Aomine's favor, Kise never gave up and that was the only reason why Shintaro believed that perhaps; Kise would win this time. Against his better judgment; the knowledge that Aomine was simply stronger.

That's why, even though he'd planned to stay home, Shintaro had taken the effort to ask his coach if he could take a leave from the training camp he was currently on to see the game. He had gotten an okay and departed early. The regulars of his team would most likely be attending the interhigh quarter finals too, but he didn't want to view the match with them around. He could only watch it on his own; the others wouldn't understand his investment in the game. He didn’t want to deal with Takao’s endless questions about what exactly happened between Aomine and Kise in Teiko middle school.

He was standing alone, on a small seat less spot all the way up in the gym, silently watching from above. Some boys from a school that had previously been defeated by Yosen high had noticed his presence and where whispering to one another, pointing their fingers in Shintaro's direction. He chose to ignore them; of course he would stand out. Not only was he nearly two meters tall with green hair and his trademark taped fingers, glasses and a random object in his hand, he was also one of the most famed players in the country and there was simply no way that another interhigh contender wouldn't recognize him on sight, even out of his uniform.

He knew that they were all present; he felt it in his bones. He couldn't see them, yet he felt their presence. It was overwhelming, unmistakable in the thin air of the packed gymnasium. For the first time since graduation, the five prodigies of the famed Generation of Miracles and the phantom sixth man were under the same roof.

Shintaro didn't know what he would do if he ran into Akashi here or Murasakibara, for that matter. What would he say? What would they say? He didn't want to get the confrontation, he wasn't ready for it and it was not like socializing was his biggest skill. So he decided to stay low; he would watch the game and before anyone could see him or talk to him, he would be leaving.

He knew damn well that the others could sense his presence, just like the way he could sense theirs, but that didn't really matter to him. He didn't want emotional reunions, he didn't want the pain to see, once again, how much Akashi had changed. He wondered how Rakuzan was treating him, or more like how Akashi was treating them.

Murasakibara, however, was someone Shintaro did want to see. Very much so, actually. The thing was… he just really didn't know what to expect. He was scared that maybe the taller teen didn't want to see him and that he had maybe fallen in love anew with a person Shintaro had never met. Instinctively, Shintaro knew that those thoughts were a stretch. Murasakibara was a lot of things, but not someone that would cheat. If he had indeed found a new lover, the giant would have said so straight to his face.

Then there was the fact that Murasakibara had been completely out of reach for everyone for a while now. It was almost as if he were a god; taller, faster and stronger than any other player in the country. Untouchable for all, even for Shintaro. He often found himself wondering what would happen if the giant would be forcefully dragged down to earth. Would he change? Back to the way he used to be? Or would the influence of Teiko forever leave a scar? Shintaro didn’t know, or maybe he just didn’t want to know, hence why he didn’t want to talk face to face.

Yet still… they had been waiting for an opportunity to meet for so long and then it was suddenly there. They often talked on the phone, but it just couldn’t compare. Through a phone there’s always a distance that can’t be covered, no matter how hard you try. So why… even though he wanted to, even though they both wanted to, didn’t he want to? They were both not very strong on socializing and even though they had been dating for nearly three full years now, they were still not completely at ease when around each other. Shintaro didn't know if his partner felt the same way, but was always a little bit on edge whenever they were alone.

Even the time when they were alone in Murasakibara's room, about half a year ago. They had been making out, it wasn't very heated or sensual, but it was the furthest they had ever gone on the physical level.

One day after school, they had been lazing around on the bed, he reading a book and Murasakibara dozing off a little when Shintaro had decided to kiss his boyfriend out of the blue, the taller teen had kissed back eagerly, pleasantly surprised at Shintaro making the first step for once and soon the couple had started to experiment a little with tongues, the very first time for them both.

It felt a little strange, in Shintaro's opinion, but it was also really nice. They had softly roamed their hands over one another’s bodies, feeling and touching through their clothes, but up until then still carefully avoiding the private parts. The way their bodies were pressed up against each other had felt absolutely blissful and Shintaro couldn't help but desire for more. The wet sounds of their mouths moving against each other, the warmth of the big hand caressing his upper thigh, the other hand gently cradling his head and the heat of Murasakibara's breath against his face when they separated for a few seconds for air. These factors combined were clouding his mind, making him feel a little dizzy; he felt it down there as well.

The timing wasn't really all that bad, two and a half years of dating and an empty house, they were both 15 years old, a little young but still not a very uncommon age for Japanese teenagers to start being sexually active. He felt safe, he felt loved and he felt wanted, but he had still ended the kiss before it could have developed into something more.

He wasn't sure why he did so, Murasakibara seemed a little confused at it too, but he didn’t speak up or protest. With a red, burning face Shintaro had excused himself and locked himself into the bathroom where he washed his face with ice-cold water. He forced himself to slow his breathing back to normal, waiting for the pressure in his head to sink down and for his heartbeat to steady. After that they had just resumed to their earlier activities as if nothing happened. There was no lingering awkwardness, not even annoyance.

Even after all the time that had passed since the incident took place, Shintaro still didn't know what he had been so scared off all of a sudden, maybe there wasn’t even a reason. Maybe it was embarrassment to get out of his clothes, but then again it wasn’t like they hadn’t seen each other naked before. They were both guys and on the same basketball team, so they naturally got changed in front of each other all the time back then. He supposed that getting undressed in a dressing room with other people present was simply different from undressing each other in a bedroom.

The whole story made up for another reason Shintaro was hesitant to meet his boyfriend again. They were both older now and had spent a very long time apart. If they were to see each other again, wouldn’t there be a chance that all the cropped-up desire would decide to all come out at once? Once their eyes would meet, maybe there would be something that snapped inside of them both. Maybe his lover would just grab his wrist and pull him into one of the empty locker-rooms, where the door would quickly be locked and where he would get pressed up against a wall while roughly kissing. Clothes being thrown to the floor without a second of thought about the indecency of the matter, while low moans and whimpers filled the empty room, bouncing between the walls. Hands roaming over places they had never once touched before, the heat and desire burning, causing them to start sweating as if they were in the middle of a game and then--

Shintaro shook his head and slapped himself in the face. Completely embarrassed and disgusted with himself. How could he think of such vulgar things in a place like this? Did he have no shame at all!? That just sounded like the dirty fantasies middle school girls have over their ships form the bl-novels they read.

He hoped that no one could sense from his face what just went on inside of his mind. Besides, Shintaro knew that there was simply no way that Murasakibara would ever do something like that. The guy’s a giant child, does he even know what sex is? Okay, Shintaro knew that that wasn’t true; Murasakibara was more matured than he let other people see, he just didn’t bother to show it. But the chances of something like what he’d just imagined happening in real life were nonexistent. First of all, there was no way Murasakibara would disrespect him like that, secondly Shintaro would rather die than have his first time happening in some dirty locker room, not that he planned on ever doing “it” any other place than the bedroom anyway, he was a proper guy like that and the other reason was that even if Murasakibara were to try pulling something like that on him, Shintaro would literally just kill him.

‘Yeah, but it was you who just thought of all that stuff, you know?’ A little voice inside his head spoke. Shintaro felt his face growing red as he violently adjusted his glasses, pissed off at himself. It must just be the lack of sleep from the trainings camp. Who could possibly fall asleep in a room filled of sleepy, snoring guys? Well, certainly not him. Sleep deprivation can cause weird things to come up in your head, so Shintaro convinced himself that that was exactly what was going on here.

In order to just forget about all that went on inside of his messed-up mind, Shintaro decided to focus on the court, where the match was just about to begin. He saw the way Kise grinned at Aomine, a cocky smile filled with arrogance and self-confidence. Aomine smiled back in the exact same way, but perhaps even more arrogantly and even a little underestimation mixed in.

---

Shintaro couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed. Kise had somehow managed to make a perfect imitation of Aomine. “The only one who can beat me is me”, Aomine always said. Kise must have taken those words quite literal. There was even a little bit of panic in the expression Aomine wore as he suddenly became unable to stop Kise any longer. Fighting himself must have been harder than he thought it was.

It was like watching two Aomine’s. Their breathing, their movements and even their blinking was in perfect sync. Kise was no longer Kise, he was Aomine now. His long-time admiration for the blue-haired ace had finally paid it’s fruits, Shintaro thought. Only with thorough studying of the other’s play and habits could result into such a perfect imitation. It was almost as if Kise had been stalking Aomine for a long time in order to achieve this much information and data on his play-style. It was as if Kise’s data gathering was even better than Momoi’s.

Shintaro glanced at the clock, only a few seconds were remaining, he hated to say it, but Kaijo was probably unable to win by now. The gap was simply too big and even with Kise’s new-found strength, them making a comeback would be nearly impossible. But nearly is not zero, Shintaro had learned that from Kuroko. As long as there was some time, there was a chance to win. A lesson that he would never forget again.

The conclusion was sudden, Kise finally made a mistake in the end. Aomine would never pass a ball, causing Kise’s pass to be intercepted. From that moment onwards, Kaijo didn’t score again and lost. Kise fell to his knees and Shintaro noted that the blond was most likely injured, because no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get back on his feet. Shintaro watched in anticipation as Aomine stood in front of Kise, hesitation clear on his face. He wondered if Touou’s ace would help his former love interest back to his feet. Aomine didn’t. As soon as Kasamatsu offered his hand to Kise, Aomine turned around and left. Shintaro could understand why; to the untrained eye it might seem like Aomine just denied Kise, but he saw that what the ace did was actually a favor. A loser having to be helped up by a winner is sour, especially for someone as prideful as Kise and the fact that Aomine waited until Kise got help was a sign; a sign that the soft-spot Aomine once had for Kise was still there, now clouded with angst. But it was still present and maybe one day, everything would end up well between the two idiots. He certainly hoped so.

Shintaro then left his place and started making his grand escape, only to run into Takao in one of the crowded hallways.

‘Yo, Shin-chan. I knew you’d be here.’ The point-guard said with a shit-eating grin on his face.

‘Takao.’ Shintaro said with a nod.

‘Man, that game was intense, wasn’t it? They really are monsters, Aomine and Kise.’ Takao said. He stretched himself.

‘Don’t forget there’s a monster right in front of you as well.’ Shintaro replied. He really hoped he would get to play them in the Wintercup.

‘Well, I can’t really deny that.’ Takao said. ‘Anyway, why’d you go all tsun on us and watch the game alone? The whole team was here you know?’

‘I’d rather not talk about that to you, in fact. You wouldn’t understand, but just so you know, I had my reasons.’ He replied bitterly.

‘Sure you did.’ Takao replied while rolling his eyes. ‘Are you gonna come watch with us tomorrow, then? Rakuzan versus Yosen, they’re two of your old teammates as well, right? Should be an interesting game too.’

‘I’ll see. I’m not entirely sure if they’ll both play, if that’s the case, it’s clear that Rakuzan would win, in fact.’

‘What are you blabbering about, Shin-chan? Why wouldn’t they play? It’s the interhigh semi-finals, you know?’ Takao asked, a little confused.

‘You don’t know those two, Takao. I do. I know for a fact that Murasakibara does not want to fight against Akashi, ever. There’s a long story behind that, but not one I feel like telling you right now. There’s a big chance Murasakibara will decide to just not show up for the game, because he’s immature like that and knowing Akashi, he might sit out too, for his own random reasons. I can never predict what he’s thinking, in fact. So I don’t think I’ll be coming tomorrow.’

‘Jeez, you Generation of Miracles are really a bunch of weirdo’s.’ Takao sighed. ‘You guys think way too much about all this crap. Basketball remains to be just a game, you know? I should hit your heads against a wall some time; knock some sense into your skulls.’

‘Takao, just die.’

 

 

Chapter Text

At 2:43 a.m., Shintaro was awoken by a text coming in on his cell-phone. He groaned and rubbed in his eyes, he must have forgotten to set the device on silent before he went to sleep last night. Now that he was awake anyway, he decided he might just as well read the message he’s gotten from whoever was awake at this hour of the night. He switched on the night-lamp and searched for his glasses; he then took his phone and flipped it open.

“From: Murasakibara Atsushi
To: Midorima Shintaro

Mido-chin~~, I’m at your door. Can you let me in?”

Shintaro had to do a double take. He reread the message; it still said the same. He checked the time again; it was now 2:45. This had to be a joke right? What lunatic would do something like this anyway? Shintaro started typing a message of his own.

“From: Midorima Shintaro
To: Murasakibara Atsushi

Murasakibara, go to sleep.”

He sent the text and then prepared to go back to sleep, but his phone lighted up yet again.

“From: Murasakibara Atsushi
To: Midorima Shintaro

Are you really gonna make me sleep on the concrete of your doorstep while it’s raining? Mido-chin is so mean… (T-T)”

It was in that moment that Shintaro, in full horror, realized that the purple-haired teen was most likely being for real here. As much as he felt tempted to just let the giant sleep outside in the rain as atonement for this ridiculous action of his, Shintaro knew he legally couldn’t do that, so he put on a vest over his sleepwear and put on a set of slippers and quietly made his way downstairs towards the front door, careful to not wake his sister in the process. His parents were out on a business trip overseas and left Shintaro in care of the now 3-year old Takara, a literal angel. He didn’t really mind being home alone with the little girl. She was a very easy child and taking care of her was something Shintaro actually enjoyed. He loved his sister a lot and he would do anything to protect her. The fact that their parents were out also meant that they weren’t fighting in the house, which was a big relief. Those fights made Shintaro feel nauseous and stressed. Sometimes he silently prayed that his parents would just split up and that his father left the house; things would be so much easier for him that way. He knew that it was incredibly selfish of him to think that way, but sometimes you simply can’t control what you think about.

All his silent prayers for the text he had gotten to be just a joke turned out to be ignored, because when Shintaro approached the door, a giant silhouette was visible through the raw glass of the door’s window and unless it was the grim reaper personally coming to claim his soul, which was unlikely to be the case, no one else in Japan was that tall. With a sigh of irritation and also a happy form of anticipation he undid the locks and slowly opened the door.

‘Murasakibara, what on earth are you doing here; and at this hour no less?’ Shintaro spoke in a soft, yet condescending tone. He couldn’t really believe that this was real life, maybe this was just one of those hyper-realistic dreams you have sometimes. He could wake up any moment and it would just be a normal night.

‘Do I need a reason to visit you?’ The giant lazily replied as he undid his shoes and coat.

Shintaro could smell him, a sign that this was all very much reality, he could smell the rain from outside and he heard the faint sounds of water droplets falling down to the floor, out of the locks of Murasakibara’s hair, which had gotten long by now, falling down to the giant’s collarbones. Unsurprisingly; Murasakibara had also grown taller yet again, his eyes were now on the same level as the top of the doorframe; it used to be just the top of his forehead that reached that spot the last time they met. The taller teen had also built more muscle, Shintaro noted. He always used to appear like some kind of undead person, thin, long limbs hanging down a sluggish posture; it was mostly gone now, the giant’s body finally resembled that of an athlete in the present. All and all, the center had shaped and altered to look more mature, the trademark childishness had left his face, leaving the edges sharp and strong. It wasn’t all that weird; it had been nearly half a year since they last saw each other, of course there would be changes, they were both in the middle of puberty too. Yet these changes were uncanny, it almost felt like he was staring into the eyes of a stranger. At least those eyes were still the same.

‘No, you don’t. But that doesn’t mean you can just randomly show up at someone’s door in the middle of the night. Not everyone spends their time as carelessly as you do, in fact. That’s why normal people plan visits like this.’ Shintaro spoke as he rubbed his temples. It was really too late- or too early- for something like this.

‘Mido-chin~ Come now, don’t be like that. I just wanted to see you, so I got on the train to Tokyo.’ The taller boy said. He had already made himself comfortable by basically hanging himself all over Shintaro.

‘Cut it out; you’re heavy and your clothes are soaking wet.’ He sighed. The nearly 100 kilograms resting on his body were crushing him, especially since he just woke up a few minutes ago. ‘Really, I’m glad to see you, but the timing is really bad, in fact. Surely even you can understand that. Besides, aren’t you supposed to be in Akita right now?’

‘Nope, I have the day off tomorrow, or today, if we look at the time.’ Murasakibara replied as a matter of fact, not bothering to move away from his boyfriend’s body; despite the latter’s protests.

‘You should still have notified me of the fact that you were coming over, in fact. I do have school tomorrow and what would you have done if my parents were home? My father would not have let you in, you know?’

‘Yeah, yeah. I’ll be more responsible the next time~.’ Murasakibara replied, completely not interested in anything Shintaro was scolding him for. At least that part didn’t change, Shintaro was glad that it didn’t, even if it was highly annoying to be ignored like this.

‘There will be no next time. I will really leave you outside if you try to do something like this again.’ Shintaro said; and he meant it.

‘Mido-chin is always so nice to me…’

‘But now that you’re here anyway, you should drink something and then go to sleep. I’ll get you a glass of water. You go upstairs to my room and change into something dry; you’ll catch a cold if you keep walking around like this, in fact. There’s a clean towel in the bottom left drawer of my cabinet, you can use that to dry yourself off. And stay quiet; if you wake Takara I’ll kill you.’ Shintaro said.

‘Mido-chin, I missed you.’ The center said. He pressed a small kiss to Shintaro’s left cheek and then walked upstairs as he had been instructed.

‘I missed you as well, in fact.’ Shintaro said as he headed towards the kitchen, just because he was pissed didn’t mean that he didn’t care and that he wasn’t glad to see his lover.

‘That idiot! What in god’s name is he thinking? I wasn’t prepared for this in the least, what are his expectations? I can’t let him sleep on the floor, can I? But to just let him stay in my room… in my bed is a little-- No, no, no, no! That is definitely not what he’s here for. But what if he is? I do not even have any of the essentials! I have failed to prepare myself.’ Shintaro’s hands were shaking as he filled the glass under the tap. His own thoughts were making him so unsure of what to do and what to say, it was nearly unbearably annoying. Why couldn’t he just be more careless, not as careless as Murasakibara, of course, but just a little bit more… chill? ‘Geez, what am I even so worked up about, we’ve shared a bed before; this time will be no different. I’ve just got to make sure that I get him out of the house before I head to school tomorrow morning.’ 

Armed with a glass of water, Shintaro walked up the stairs, careful not to spill any of its contents. When he entered his room, Murasakibara was right in the middle of changing. He had his back turned towards where Shintaro was standing, the tight muscles beneath the skin moving with each movement. The sight of it was almost hypnotic; he couldn’t tear his eyes away. Swallowing thickly, Shintaro closed the door behind him and set the glass down on his desk.

‘I hung my wet clothes over the chair, if that’s okay.’ Murasakibara spoke as he put on a pair of dark grey sweatpants. The towel hung loosely over his hair, which wasn’t quite dry yet and occasionally a few droplets would run down his bare back. It was… distracting, Shintaro thought. He had never noticed before, or maybe it was because it didn’t use to be this way, but his boyfriend was quite hot now that puberty had really hit him. Shintaro couldn’t deny it even if he wanted to, but he wasn’t going to say that. Ever.

‘That’s fine.’ Shintaro replied, looking the other way. His attempts at not staring were far more obvious than just a casual bit of staring would have been, but as he was the embodiment of awkwardness, he did not notice this.

‘You know you don’t have to look away, right? I don’t really care if you see.’ The giant said, a faint amusement was laced through his voice.

Shintaro didn’t reply and just grumpily stared at the wall next to him, of course blushing like mad. He wondered if that trait of his would ever disappear, because it was extremely annoying. Murasakibara subtly making fun of him didn’t help either. God, he was so damn tired.

‘Mido-chin is so innocent~’ Murasakibara chuckled. His laugh had become deeper, just like how his voice had also changed. The sound of it was like a low rumble, barely audible unless you stood very close to him or in this case; in a completely silent room.

‘Please just shut up and go to bed.’ Shintaro sighed both exhausted and embarrassed, making a vague gesture with his hand towards the bed.

 The purple haired teen didn’t protest and finished getting dressed. He then sat down on the edge of the bed with a sigh and started to slowly towel his hair. Shintaro walked over there as well and carried the water with him; he left his glasses on his desk.

‘Here, drink some. I’ll dry your hair for you because you’re hopeless at it, in fact.’ Shintaro sighed as he offered the glass to the center.

‘Thanks.’ He muttered. He proceeded to take a small sip of the liquid while staring at the window, which was covered by the thick curtains, blocking out almost every little bit of light from outside.

Slowly, Shintaro moved the towel over his boyfriend’s hair, a little bit on the forceful side, but still careful not to hurt him. He continued his actions with great concentration and he found that he rather enjoyed the activity. It was such a simple thing to do, but it felt so intimate and serene. Tears were pricking behind his eyes and Shintaro was unable to explain why right now. Suddenly all the things that happened in the past few months- the break-up of the team, the separation, his first-ever loss, meeting Ikehara-san and the silently lingering loneliness he had felt ever since leaving Teiko- decided to come up in his mind all at once. It made his tears roll down and his heart ache.

He leaned down, snaked his arms around the center’s neck, buried his face in the damp strands of Murasakibara’s hair and then quietly sobbed. The taller boy said nothing, only placed one of his huge hands on Shintaro’s arm tenderly caressing the skin with his thumb. Shintaro didn’t know whether Murasakibara understood the reason of his tears or not, but the way the center calmly allowed him to cry was comforting.

They remained like that for a while.

Chapter Text

Waking up with someone else in his bed was weird; it had been a very long time since he’d last shared a bed. Shintaro was sore all over his body because no matter how you looked at it; his bed was just far too small for two individuals of their size. After sitting up he checked the time, seeing that it was just a little past six in the morning. That didn’t surprise him at all; it was not unusual for him to wake up at six or even earlier. He liked to take his time for his morning routine, just getting ready slowly with enough time to spare. He didn’t like it to be in a hurry, the fast-paced thinking made him open to possible dangers and mistakes.

He glanced down at the still sleeping boy next to him. He really did resemble a huge child, all curled up as small as possible, sleeping soundly and calm. Shintaro wasn’t really surprised at that either, after all sleeping was one of Murasakibara’s favorite things to do and he was ridiculously good at it too; on weekends he could sleep well into the afternoon and still go to bed as early as nine that same day. Too bad for him that his sleep was about to be cut short. Oh well, that was his own fault for showing up at 3 in the morning on a week day. Shintaro wasn’t letting anything disrupt his morning schedule, not even his idiot boyfriend.

With no time wasted, Shintaro pushed himself of the bed, put on his glasses and mercilessly slammed the curtains open, letting the bright morning light enter the room. It looked like it would be a beautiful day, seeing as how the skies were already completely clear. It put him in a good mood.

On the other side of the room, on the bed, the purple-haired teen stirred awake form his sleep because of the sudden brightness. Despite being an avid sleeper, Murasakibara was also a very light sleeper and he would wake up at the smallest noise or light. He glanced at Shintaro through angered half-lidded eyes. He looked completely pissed off, but Shintaro felt no pity. He wasn’t the guy that would tenderly kiss their lover awake; especially not if they had acted so idiotic before

‘Good morning, did you sleep well?’ He asked as innocently as he could manage.

‘I was sleeping well until you disturbed my sleep at,’ the giant paused to look at the time. ‘six in the morning, Mido-chin.’ He finished bitterly.

‘Well, unlike you I do have to attend classes and practice today, so naturally I need to get up early and I can’t exactly let you stay at my house by yourself while I’m at school, in fact.’

‘Mido-chin, how did it feel? Losing a game, I mean. I can’t remember the last time I lost. I haven’t asked you last night, but I had been meaning too.’ The taller boy said, seemingly ignoring Shintaro’s earlier words, which was, once again, not surprising in the least.

The question itself though was surprising as it came out of nowhere and Shintaro had to take a little while to think of a suitable answer to give.

‘It’s a highly irritating feeling, yet I feel grateful for it. It can’t really be explained. All that I know is that it leaves a mark on your pride. Ever since I lost that game I started viewing things slightly different. I now see the potential in team-play again; I have realized that relying on others doesn’t make you weak; it can make the outcome of your plans even stronger in fact. I suppose I also liked it that Kagami could challenge me directly he’s an opponent I have to play with my mind and all of my strength, someone I do not have ties with from the past. I hadn’t experienced such a thing in a very long time and it made me motivated to improve various aspects of my play.’ He said. He meant it; all of it.

‘This doesn’t really sound like Mido-chin at all. I thought I noticed last night and it seems that I was right. You’ve changed a little. You’re kind of less mean now and your eyes don’t look so empty anymore. There’s fighting spirit again, the same that you had while we were first years at Teiko.’ Murasakibara said. ‘But still… I can’t really imagine that losing that game was what made you this way.’

‘Some things cannot be imagined unless experienced. And it wasn’t just a loss; it was Kuroko that thought me a lesson about always giving everything and enjoying it while on the court; teaching me that there’s more to basketball than just winning. I once again came to love the sport. I really feel like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders. I hope you’ll get to have an experience like that as well soon. You look like you need it, in fact.’ Shintaro said. He got himself dressed while talking so he wouldn’t lose any time in his schedule.

‘It’s not possible; I won’t lose to anyone. Not even to you.’

‘You can’t say that. I know that now. Even the best player in the world has to lose some day, in fact.’

‘Even Aka-chin?’ Murasakibara asked.

‘Yes, even him. He’s only human after all. Even Akashi has to crack one day.’ Shintaro replied while buttoning up his uniform.

‘Say, Mido-chin?’

‘Hmm?’ He replied absentmindedly as he turned on his TV to look at his morning horoscope. 

‘Do you think that if he loses, the real Aka-chin will come back?’

‘I wouldn’t know, in fact. To be honest with you I’m not quite sure yet about which one is the original. They are both real, so it can’t really be said. However all that I do know is that if he never loses, he will never change. It has to happen and I plan to teach him the meaning of defeat, in fact.’

‘You want to challenge Aka-chin directly?’ Murasakibara replied in a slight shock.

‘Yes; I definitely intend too. I know him best, after all. It has always been my intention to defeat him at something, but it’s best if it’s basketball, in fact.’

‘But do you think you can actually do it? I mean… I’m not sure if you can.’

‘I do not know that. However I am confident enough to be willing to try. It’s not going to be an easy game for sure and chances are high that he’ll defeat me, in fact. Nevertheless, basketball remains to be a game were both parties have an equal chance at winning in theory.’ Shintaro said. He only half-believed what he was saying. He knew that it could be very different in reality. He had first-hand experience with it.

‘In reality it doesn’t play out like that, sadly. Sometimes the results are obvious from the very start. Like with our team back in the days.’

‘I already thought you’d say that. You aren’t wrong, in fact. Still, I never once thought that I would be losing to a shadow. Anyway, I should go and wake Takara, so if you’d be so kind to use that time to get dressed; we can meet downstairs for breakfast.’ Shintaro said as he turned off the TV. His horoscope for the day was pretty good; he didn’t expect to have any unpleasant surprises to deal with. His lucky item wasn’t all too complicated either, it was a doll and his sister had plenty of those he could borrow.

‘Sure, I’ll meet you there.’ Murasakibara replied with a yawn.

‘Don’t you dare fall asleep again, Murasakibara.’ Shintaro said.

‘ Ehh? How did you know I would?’

‘I’ve known you for longer than just today, you know.’

‘Mido-chin can be such a pain~, I’m tired.’

‘I am just a responsible person, unlike you. And why do you think you’re tired again?’ Shintaro sighed as he walked away.

---

He quietly opened the door of his sister’s room and walked over to the small bed standing against the wall. The 3-year-old wasn’t sleeping; she was sitting upright in her bed with a big grin on her face as she saw her older brother. It was a rule that she couldn’t go out of her room by herself before 6:30, so whenever she woke up before that time, she would just sit in her room to wait for her family to wake her up. Shintaro knew that young kids often woke very early; his sister was no exception to the rule. He wondered how she’d react to suddenly seeing another person in their house, he wondered if she even remembered who Murasakibara was, she was still so young and it wouldn’t be weird if she’d just forgotten him by now, despite her having taken a liking to the giant in the past.

‘Morning, Shintaro-chan!’ The little girl beamed at her brother, happily climbing out of her bed, her bare feet tapping on the floor as she ran towards him. Shintaro bent down to pick her up.

‘Good morning, did you sleep well?’ He asked.

‘Mhhh.’ The little girl nodded as she hugged herself closer to her brother.

‘That’s good. Listen, I need you to know that we have a guest today. He’ll join us for breakfast this morning, okay?’ Shintaro said. He used easy words and a calm tone to make sure his sister understood; her vocabulary wasn’t very big yet.

‘Who is it?’ The girl said. Her eyes were filled with excitement and curiosity. Takara was very different from him, Shintaro had always known that. She was a very social girl and was always happy to meet new people.

‘It’s an old friend of mine; we went to middle school together.’

‘Kise-kun?’ She asked. Shintaro was surprised she had remembered the model’s name, but then again, Kise had always left a big impression on every girl he’d met, even little ones, it seemed.

‘No, it’s someone else. Murasakibara, do you remember him?’

‘I know who he is, he is really big! Even bigger than Shintaro-chan and with purple hair, but his name is difficult to say.’ Takara replied. She stretched her little hands high up in the air as a signal that she very much remembered how big Murasakibara was.

‘Yes, that’s right. So we’ll get you dressed and then I’ll do your hair for you so that you can look pretty for our guest, is that alright?’

‘Yes! I want my yellow bow today, can I?’

‘Sure, if you can find it for me. I have no idea where you place all of your stuff, in fact.’ Shintaro said as he put the little girl back on the ground. She immediately ran towards her shelf, where she had a little basket in which she kept her bows and hair ties.

Shintaro picked out her clothes, a white dress with black leggings underneath and a brown vest. Takara was always dressed very proper, as per their family standards and since she had preschool today, it was required for her to dress neatly.

‘Found it!’ The girl squealed.

‘That’s good, come here, I’ll help you get dressed.’

A little while later Shintaro had gotten his little sister prepped for the day, he always took his time for it, never rushed. Her shoulder-length green hair was neatly brushed and then tied into two pig tails, the yellow bow placed on the right side of her hair. It had taken Shintaro quite some time to learn how to tie hair and stuff, since he wasn’t a girl and never had the need to practice such things before, but right after Takara was born he’d started to practice because is goal had always been to be a good brother on whom Takara would always be able to rely with whatever she might need.

The little girl would always come to him whenever she was troubled, sometimes her mother, but never her father. Shintaro suspected that she feared him. Because their parents had been fighting a lot since she could understand and remember things. It was true that their father could be quite scary and imposing, Shintaro knew that first hand. Even at the age of sixteen, an age that sees a lot of rebelling teenagers, Shintaro never once dared to go against one of his father’s wishes. Not in the open at least, not where he could get caught. It hurt him to know that she would have to obey those wishes of his at some point in her life too. No freedom in choosing a partner in marriage, no freedom in making a choice for her career. It hurt so badly. His own pain seemed irrelevant next to it, in his life he would never fall in love with a woman, he was sure of that and accepted it. So he decided that the one girl he had come to love so deeply would be the one that he would protect with everything had.

Once he’d finished preparing his sister for the day Shintaro stood up and straightened his clothes and adjusted his collar. The Shuutoku-uniform was classy and traditional, but the fabric was quite wrinkly, so he had to be careful with it. He wouldn’t want to walk around with wrinkled clothes all day. He then gestured the little girl to come with him. He didn’t want her walking down the stairs all by herself yet, he knew that she probably could, but he was maybe a little overprotective of her and didn’t want her to injure herself. So he set foot on the stairs first, so that if Takara were to trip and fall, he would be able to catch her before she could get endangered for real.

When they arrived downstairs, Shintaro could smell that someone had been busy in the kitchen. The smell of freshly baked bread was very easy to pick up in the house which was always spotlessly clean and usually had a bleach-like smell hanging in the rooms.

‘So he really did get out of bed as I requested. He even took the time to prepare food; I guess that would be his way of saying sorry for his ridiculous actions then.’ Shintaro thought. It put a smile on his face. He realized all over again that after all, no matter how much of an idiot the other might be, he still loved the purple haired center deeply. And he supposed that he maybe wasn’t even all that mad at him anymore for showing up at his house on such a ridiculous hour.

Chapter Text

‘You sure got big,’ Murasakibara said in wonder after they finished their breakfast. He bent his back to meet the girl on some sort of eye-level. ‘And you can talk really well now, the last time I saw you, you had just learned to say full sentences.’

‘You are bigger!’ Takara said. ‘When will I get tall like that, Shintaro-chan?’

‘Hopefully and most likely, never.’ Shintaro said. The image of his little sister becoming as tall as his boyfriend haunted his mind.

‘Really?’ Takara replied, she sounded a bit disappointed.

‘Ah, Takara-chin you shouldn’t be sad; it’s not really fun to be this tall. I can never really find clothes that fit and I constantly hit my head on everything. I also get stared at by people on the streets.’ Murasakibara said.

‘I’m sure that you will become a pretty tall girl judging from our parents heights, but not as tall as Murasakibara and I are, in fact.’

Takara thought about it for a little. ‘Like mama, then?’

‘That is very much possible, yes.’

‘When is that?’

‘Not very soon; it’ll take a while because you’re still very young, a little more than 10 years, probably.’

‘But will I not be dead in 10 years?’ Takara asked.

‘Of course you won’t. Wait, how old do you think our parents are?’

‘Papa is 12 and mama is 11!’ Takara said, completely sure of herself.

‘No, they’re a lot older than that. Humans live a lot longer than 10 years, even I am older.’ Shintaro said, suppressing the urge to laugh. The naivety of a child could be amusing at some times. Presumably the little girl had been taught the numbers up until 10, but not over it yet, so she presumed that higher numbers did not exist, that they were impossible.

‘I don’t believe you.’ Takara said in disbelief. ‘You are lying, because I know you are 6.’

‘I’m 16 and not 6, in fact.’ Shintaro said. He wasn’t really good when it came to his sister’s lack of knowledge on basic topics. He knew that she’d learn them eventually, but because he was so intelligent it was often hard for him to understand that not everyone knew what he knew. It wasn’t really frustrating, but more like something he still had to get used to.

‘Liar, liar!’ Takara yelled as she covered her ears with her hands and forced her eyes shut.

‘Mido-chin, she’s so cute.’ Murasakibara said, patting the girl on the head. ‘She’s way more fun than older siblings and less annoying, doesn’t take up much space, won’t randomly burst into my room just to slap my head, doesn’t try to drown you in the bath and won’t steal my clothes to use them as sleepwear.’

‘Well, I suppose that I’m indeed glad to have a single younger sister instead of four older siblings, but you are mistaken, she does randomly slap me. Don’t be fooled by her cute appearance.’

‘Ah, Takara-chin did you hear that? Your brother is saying mean things about you.’ Murasakibara said.

‘Oooh! Shintaro-chan I’m gonna tell mama and papa you were mean!’

‘Oh will you now? Well I suppose I could tell them you didn’t eat all of your vegetables yesterday.’

‘No, please don’t tell!’

‘Then will you eat them today? If you don’t eat them you won’t get big and strong.’ Shintaro said sternly.

‘I will! I really will!’ Takara frantically nodded her head as she spoke.

‘Good, now go wash your face so we can bring you to school clean. When you’re done you can go play with your toys in the playroom until it’s time to leave, in fact.’ Shintaro said as he pushed his chair away from the table and started piling up the plates to put them in the dishwasher.

‘Yes!’ The little girl yelled as she skipped away to do as her brother had told her to.

‘Ehh? Mido-chin you cook? But you suck at cooking; you almost killed us all when you had cooking duty with Sacchin at our training-camp.’

‘Murasakibara, shut up. That was 2 years ago; people learn from their mistakes.’

‘Time sure flies by fast, I can still remember the terrible aches I felt over my entire body as I fought against death himself.’ The center spoke.

‘Honestly, you never stop making my life hard, do you?’ Shintaro sighed in defeat. He carried the plates to the kitchen and started stocking them in the dishwasher.

‘Here, I got the rest of it.’ Murasakibara said as he walked into the kitchen as well.

‘How can you even carry all that stuff?’ Shintaro said in amazement as he saw his boyfriend carrying every single item that was still on the table.

‘I have big hands.’ The center replied.

‘That is not really what I meant.’

‘Ah, did I already tell you about this new guy that joined my team a few weeks ago?’ Murasakibara asked.

‘I believe you haven’t, in fact.’

‘Well, he suddenly shows up at school, Muro-chin came from America half-way through the year and I guess he’s pretty good- he plays on your position, but obviously he’s no match. But it’s just really hard to take him seriously because he looks like a 2000’s scene kid, complete with the hair and everything, yet he’s also stupidly good-looking despite the hair and all the girls in school constantly flock to him; it’s just as bad as with Kise-chin, maybe even worse. So he comes up to me one day after practice, because he was surprised by my strength and we became friends, sorta. Then he invites me to hang out in his dorm one day and I agreed, because he had food. So we’re talking a little and get to the topic of his stay in America and guess what I found out?’

‘Well, what is it?’ Shintaro asked.

‘He used to be so-called “friends with benefits” with Nijimura.’

Shintaro nearly choked on his own tongue. ‘What!? You can’t be serious. Our Nijimura-san; Teiko’s ex-captain?’

‘Yup, that’s him. Muro-chin showed me a rather… well, special picture of them. I wish I were joking, but it’s true. I haven’t been able to stop laughing about it, nor can I forget that picture.’

‘Out of everything I expected you to say; I never once saw that coming.’ Shintaro said. ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry right now, in fact.’

‘I can’t help but imagine Nijimura at an emo concert, standing angrily between every single scene kid of LA.’ Murasakibara said, barely being able to control his laughter.

‘Please stop, I will get a stomach ache.’ Shintaro chuckled from behind his hand. ‘Don’t let Kise or Aomine know; they’ll probably go into cardiac arrest from laughing.’

‘If Kise-chin knew, he’d call Nijimura to get the full story and then leak it to everyone on the planet.’

‘Nijimura-san and an emo boy… I just can’t wrap my mind around it.’ Shintaro said as he shook his head. ‘I always assumed him to be straight, in fact.’

‘Mmmh? You did? I always thought he had a thing for Aka-chin.’ The giant said. His brows furrowed as he thought about the subject. Thinking deeply didn’t suit him, Shintaro thought. Still, the expression was kind-of adorable, but maybe that was just his own biased mind playing him.

‘What? No, you’ve got to be joking, Murasakibara. Akashi and Nijimura?’

‘Yes, everyone knew but you and Aka-chin. Mido-chin has always been so oblivious to romances~’ Murasakibara teased. ‘What if I told you Sacchin likes Kuro-chin and Mine-chin likes Kise-chin? Or better yet, what if I told you that I like you?’

‘Oh shut it, you. I am in no way oblivious; I knew all of that already.’ Shintaro rolled his eyes.

‘You were always the last to figure it out though, Mido-chin.’ Murasakibara replied. ‘You are very smart, but when it comes to romance you’re not much better than Mine-chin.’

‘Did you just compare my intellect on romance to that sex-obsessed Aomine? I’m going to strangle you.’

‘No you won’t, because you can’t reach high enough.’

‘Stupid giant.’ Shintaro huffed upon seeing the shit-eating grin on the taller boy’s face.

He startled as he felt the strong arms of his boyfriend sneak around his waist, leaning his chest against Shintaro’s back and his forehead was placed on Shintaro’s shoulder.

‘Mido-chin~’ Murasakibara said quietly. ‘I’m gonna be in Tokyo until Sunday evening, so I will spend tomorrow and the day after that with my family, but can we go out on Sunday? I wanna spend some time with you, I really missed you. Aaahh~, why couldn’t you just go to Yosen with me?’ Murasakibara said as he hugged Shintaro tighter. The giant’s long fingers found their way under the hem of Shintaro’s jacket and softly pinched his sides.

‘Stop it you-!’ Shintaro began. Murasakibara knew damn well that he was ticklish.

‘Don’t wanna.’

Shintaro tried to pry Murasakibara’s hands away, but he couldn’t manage to do it; Murasakibara was still out of his reach when it came to pure strength. He was well-aware that his struggling would only encourage the taller boy to continue as he pleases, but Shintaro had found, to his own surprise and disappointment, that he actually sort of enjoyed it when the taller boy sought his boundaries. However Murasakibara was smart enough to know and feel where Shintaro’s real boundaries lay and always respected them.

Murasakibara would often push their physical contact a little, but Shintaro thought that this might just be good for them. They were a couple for quite some time now, but they weren’t very physically intimate. This was a way for him to get used to this form of love. In enclosed spaces he was now more or less fine with anything the giant threw towards him, he sometimes found himself wanting Murasakibara to do something more quite often. 

This was a different thing in public. Basically any form of PDA frightened Shintaro, because of the taboo that still housed around homosexuality and his own social awkwardness. He had allowed Murasakibara to hold his hand a few times, but only while it rained or other reasons why lots of people would stay inside. He was just so insecure of what others might think, he was afraid to be judged on top of being afraid that Murasakibara might get judged. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to walk around holding hands on a sunny day and then cuddle in the grass as they watched the setting sun; of course he liked the thought of it. It was just simply impossible for it to happen. They were kind-of famous in Japan and the last thing he wanted was a scandal.

Would it have been much different if he had been straight and fallen for his fiancée, Ikehara-san? Would he do these kinds of displays with her? Most likely not. He knew that the main part of the problem wasn’t his sexuality, but his introverted personality. He didn’t like it to share his feelings with others.

‘Murasakibara, you must let go right now. My sister can return any moment now, in fact.’ Shintaro didn’t think his sister would mind him dating Murasakibara, kids her age would believe and accept almost anything you told them. The real danger was that Takara had not yet developed a sense for secrecy. She didn’t know what it meant to keep a secret and might accidently spoil something without meaning to do so.

‘Fine, I’ll let go,’ Murasakibara whined. ‘But only if you give me a kiss~’

Shintaro sighed. He decided to just go about this the fastest way, it was the most effective. So he turned around, grabbed his partner’s face and gave a quick kiss on the other’s lips. ‘Now let me go.’

Murasakibara sighed as he withdrew his arms as slowly as humanly possible, Shintaro felt himself get annoyed about it. But as soon as Murasakibara had completely released him from his grip, Shintaro suddenly missed the warmth the other’s embrace had provided; the warm spot on his back was rapidly cooling.

‘You never answered me, Mido-chin. Do you wanna go out with me on Sunday? I don’t know what we’ll be doing, but Mido-chin will be with me so I’ll be pleased no matter what we do.’

‘You have turned into a sap, you know?’ Shintaro sighed. ‘I would like to hang out with you. I agree that we have not seen much of each other lately and spending time together will do us both good, in fact. Shall we meet up at the central station at 9?’ He proposed.

‘Mido-chiiiin~ it’s a Sunday, I wanna sleep long. We’ll meet at 10.’

‘Fine then; have it your way, but do not arrive even a second late.’

‘I promise.’

 ---

They walked Takara to school together; then went their separate ways after a casual goodbye. Murasakibara went to his grandparents and Shintaro made his way over to Takao’s house so that they could travel to school together as they did every morning. His hand reached for the small object in his pocket, a dark-green hair tie, as his morning horoscope instructed him to bring. It belonged to Murasakibara; Shintaro had borrowed it from him in middle school when it had been his lucky item on a day like this one. He had never returned it to him after that, but the center was totally fine with that. Shintaro glanced down at the object and felt a small smile forming on his face and decided that his pockets were no good; he could lose it too easily. He slid the elastic around his wrist and let it sit there.

He thought that it was strange how such a basic object was so dear to him, enough to make him smile in the early morning after a broken night. Any other elastic and he would pay no mind to it, but just because it had previously belonged to someone he loved it was now special. It felt as if this item would bring him extra luck for the day, a luck that would be sure to last until Sunday evening.

‘Yo, Shin-chan!’ Takao greeted cheerfully as Shintaro rang his doorbell.

‘Good morning, Takao.’ Shintaro said with a small nod of his head.

‘No lucky item today? That’s rare.’ The point guard said. He almost sounded relieved, which pissed Shintaro off a bit.

‘Oh no, I’m not that foolish. I have it with me; it’s just smaller than usual, in fact. It’s this, a hair tie.’ He replied bitterly as he pointed to the band around his wrist.

‘I see, well at least this won’t make me trip.’ Takao said. ‘Aaahh, I’m still sore from yesterday’s practice. Preparing for the Wintercup is worse than I imagined.’

‘We have to make it, Takao. I promised someone dear to me that I would.’ Shintaro said, thinking back to the discussion he’d had with Murasakibara earlier about defeat and victory and how it affected the mental well-being.

‘Is this another Teiko thing you don’t wanna discuss with me?’

‘Yes.’

They walked in silence for a while; Takao was humming under his breath. It was some cheesy J-rock song that had been popular lately. It was terribly off-tune, but Shintaro didn’t feel like commenting on the matter right now, some people just didn’t have a sense for music. It was still early, but it was clear that the day would get hot pretty soon. Shintaro mentally thanked himself for wearing his short-sleeved shirt underneath his jacket; the Shuutoku building was a few decades old, it got hot very quickly and there was no air-conditioning present anywhere in the complex safe for the gyms and the science classrooms. Shintaro could hardly bare the smell of teenage boy sweat that hung in the classrooms like thick air, it nauseated him. Was it really that hard to use deodorant or perfume?

He didn’t really look forward to practice either. It was hot and practice was rough, running laps outside in the burning sun was something very low on his list of things he wished to do that day. As long as they could stay inside the cool gym he was fine with it, but their coach really seemed to value running outside. He sighed; his lack of sleep had really turned him into a grumpy mess.

‘Say Shin-chan, are you free on Sunday? There’s this cool movie in the theaters right now, I thought we could go and check it out, unless you’ve got other plans.’ Takao said.

‘I can’t; I’m fully booked that day.’

‘Oh, my little Shin-chan’s got a date?’ Takao teased.

‘I do, in fact.’ Shintaro replied in a tone that suggested he did not wish to go into any detail. However the surprise on the smaller boy’s face was worth it for sharing the information.