Without a doubt, the ball went in. Kise cheered loudly. He heard Momoi calling out words of praise as he dropped to the floor, exhausted.
“I did it,” he said proudly.
Wasn’t idiotic to be proud of a single three-pointer? Maybe, but at that moment, Kise felt ridiculously happy with himself. It didn’t matter that it was only once. It didn’t matter that he was too exhausted to move while Aomine was still standing and well.
“You did well, Kise-kun,” a soft voice said from behind him.
Too tired to even be startled by Kuroko, Kise just turned to his friend with a bright grin. “Of course I did. Kurokocchi had been practicing a lot with me.”
Aomine dropped by his side and handed him a water bottle Kise didn’t request. Ryouta takes a few sips nonetheless.
“Excuse me?” Aomine scoffed. “Kurokocchi my ass. That was my play you just tried. And it wasn’t even a perfect imitation.”
“Shut up, Aominecchi,” Kise said.
Aomine took the bottle from Kise and drank some of the water without bothering to clean it before. Aomine was fast to get comfortable with his friends like that and, although Kise seldom appreciated people getting in his space like that, he found he didn’t mind. He felt at ease with Aomine as well.
“Getting cocky, are we?” Aomine smirked. “Maybe I should stop helping, then, let you deal with Haizaki alone.”
“Nooo,” Kise whined. He was confident he could steal Haizaki’s spot on his own, but training with Kuroko and Aomine was more fun. Ryouta had been having fun. “You helped me! You helped me so much, Aomine-sama, how can I ever repay you?”
“You could give me a kiss,” Aomine said with a sly smile. “No, wait… two kisses.”
Kise punched him in the arm, pouting. “You know how I feel about that shit. Stop it.”
“I had to try,” he shrugged.
“No, you hadn’t,” Kise retorted, struggling until he was on his feet again.
As he walked away, he heard Kuroko say: “Or you could actually hit on him properly.”
“Shut up, Tetsu,” Aomine said.
To that, Kise simply rolled his eyes and started jogging to the locker room, paying no mind to the implications. He knew Aomine would flirt with anyone that was remotely attractive. And being in the basketball club had been fun. He’s finally at home. Kise wasn’t about to ruin everything by becoming friends with benefits with one of his teammates, regardless of how attractive he was.
There is something about going back home after a long time. Everything is somewhat familiar, with a feeling of deja vu that doesn’t feel quite right, because everything is different at the same time. Years passed, places changed, people grew and you find yourself back to the place where you’ve been before, but not really. Is it still home? Can you even call it that?
Kise Ryouta is a 29-year-old homeless man, if you think about it.
As he strides through the airport, he thinks that he may not be homeless in the classical sense. No, of course not. He never really went through the broke student phase since he had a steady if a bit unusual, job since middle school. Plus he was a talented young man, son to well-fared parents and lived in comfort through his whole life. He never had to sleep on the curb, not even after he passed out drunk a couple of times. Ryouta was also lucky enough to have caring friends to pick him up and send him home safe in an Uber.
Ryouta wasn’t homeless in the tragic sense, he was homeless in a privileged way. In the sense that he never felt truly at home, in spite of the many places life had taken him to.
Nonetheless, he still remembers the way out of the airport. Like many other things about him, Ryouta’s sense of memory is remarkable. It’s been three years since he last came to Japan, but he still navigates the place with ease, pretending not to notice the heads that turn to him as he walks by.
He politely dismisses the cab drivers that try to lure him into paying way too much for such a short ride.
Three years, Ryouta thinks, and longer before that. He didn’t take a pilot job because he liked to stay in the same place for too long and he always made a point to spend prolonged vacations away from the place he first came from.
Still, he walks to the train station as if he does that every day and finds the right platform. He doesn’t know why he’s back. There was no real reason for him to come here. You can say it was a whim born out of boredom. Ryouta doesn’t know why.
Ryouta might feel homeless, but he still has a small apartment in Kanagawa. It’s in a nice neighbourhood, well located. And it’s Ryouta’s and no one else’s.
It isn’t home, but it’s something. He seldom used it, but it felt nice to be able to say he’s a capable adult, with a place and a job and all that. (In your face, Midorimacchi.) It was barely decorated and it had no personality, but perhaps that’ll change now that he’s back for good.
It’s a short walk from the train station to his place, too. He can’t stress enough how convenient that is. And, even if it’s been years, he takes that walk without taking wrong turns. He walks into the familiar, but not really, building and takes the stairs, even though he lives on the seventh floor. He takes the keys out of his suitcase and prepares to go inside. Something feels odd about it. The key feels odd on the lock. Ryouta tells himself to stop being melodramatic. He can’t even blame it on jetlag. He’s better than this.
Then Ryouta unlocks the door and it hits him.
“Jesus shit Mary fuck,” he hisses, his eyes widening.
Dark stains cover the walls. The smell is too putrid to bear.
Ryouta might be homeless in the classic sense now.
Kise let out an indignant groan as he watches the popsicle melting against the asphalt. “Aominecchi, you fucking klutz!” He roars.
That would usually cause Aomine to snap on him. Grab him into a headlock and mess up his perfect hair. This time, however, even Aomine is reasonable enough to acknowledge that he was the one to blame.
“Yeah, yeah, my bad,” he says. Kise is sure that no one ever taught Aomine how to properly apologize. “Quit whining, it’s just a popsicle.”
Kise glares at him. “You’re unbelievable.”
He marches ahead, trying to leave Aomine behind… but he regrets it when he realizes how lonely it feels.
Which is stupid, because Ryouta always walked home alone.
He didn’t realize how easy it had become to be always surrounded by people. He would walk to the station with Aomine, Momoi and Kuroko so often it felt weird when they were not around. Sometimes Midorima tagged along. Sometimes even Murasakibara. Akashi had a private driver, so he didn’t join them, but he’d seek Kise to talk during class break sometimes.
Isn’t it stupid that he got used to their presence so fast after years and years of loneliness?
“Kise, c’mon,” Aomine whines, falling into step with him.
Kise pouts and glares at him. “You can’t just jump people like that, Aominecchi, you idiot,” he says. “What are you, a little kid?”
Aomine groans. “It was just a popsicle. Here, you can have mine.”
“It’s not about the popsicle,” Kise says, but he takes Aomine’s anyway. “What if we fell, got hurt and we couldn’t play for a while?”
That particular argument gets to him. Everything is basketball for that idiot.
(Not that Kise is any better, so he isn’t really complaining as things are right now.)
“Ok, fine, my bad, I won’t do it anymore,” Aomine says. “You’re such a wet blanket.”
Kise quirks an eyebrow at him. “I’m a wet blanket because I don’t like when you hug-attack me? What is it, you’re lonely or something?”
A few steps behind them, Momoi starts giggling. When Kise turns to look at her, she quickly turns her face away as if to pretend she hasn’t been listening to their conversation. Kuroko, on the other hand, holds Kise’s gaze for an uncomfortably long moment. Kise is the first one to look away and, to his surprise, he finds Aomine blushing by his side.
“What the… Aominecchi… You are lonely? Oh my god, come here, give me a hug, you cutie--”
Ignoring Kise’s open arms, Aomine shoves him, like the brute kid that he is. This time, however, it’s Kise who can’t stop laughing. He didn’t know it was possible to make that jerk flustered.
“I’m not fucking lonely, you asshole, don’t make this a thing,” Aomine protests. “Shut up!”
Kise giggles some more but decides to stop pulling his leg so much. Aomine isn’t obviously affectionate, but he does show physical affection quite a lot, Kise noticed. The fact that Aomine is always tackling him and throwing his arm around him - even if it causes Kise to drop his popsicle - it’s all a sign that Aomine considers him a friend.
Kise has friends now. Friends to walk home with, friends to play around and tease. And that stupid thought makes him all warm inside.
“Okay, maybe not a hug, but I’d be more than happy to walk around holding hands,” Kise says and he slowly puts the popsicle into his smirking mouth.
Aomine’s face explodes in red and Kise explodes in laughter.
He’s cold and angry as he walks alone towards the closest bar. And that’s not the worst part. The cherry on the top of Ryouta’s terrible, terrible day is that it is Valentine’s day. Flying all over the world can make a man disoriented and, although he remembers seeing ads on airport TVs and whatnot, he didn’t realize he’d be arriving in Japan on that godforsaken date.
So everything on the street is pink and annoying and there are couples everywhere reminding him of how long it’s been since the last time he hooked up with someone. And, although he’s pretty sure he could find one pretty easily, he’s not in the mood to do so. He simply walks into the nearest bar he can find and drops on the nearest stool.
He asks to start a tab and he asks to start it with the finest and strongest whiskey they’ve got there. Hell, send a shot to every loser sitting there. Ryouta is gonna celebrate. He doesn’t elaborate that he is celebrating the fact that he can’t go home anymore because his home has black fucking mould.
He didn’t think black mould was a real thing. He had never even heard from it in real life. Hell, he thought it was a thing people used in horror movies to make things seem spookier because it always meant demonic possession.
And maybe Ryouta’s home was possessed. It had been empty in more than one way for so long, a demon or two might as well have taken ownership of it.
What the fuck is he to do now? His sister is overseas. He hasn’t kept in touch with any of his Japanese friends except… No, he’s too far now. Kise is going to get more than a light kick if he calls Kasamatsu asking to stay over when he’s all the way in Hokkaido visiting his parents.
Kise is on his own. He downs a shot after the other, but he still feels so, so cold.
Everything feels hot and heavy, breathless and hushed. Kise is pushed against the locker and he somewhat likes the sound that it makes, even if it hurts a bit. Aomine tries to pull away to check on him, but Kise is quick to reel him back and smash their mouths together. He doesn’t need Aomine to ruin the moment by talking - which is something Aomine does a lot.
On that moment, Kise’s mind is blissfully free of thoughts, however, only focusing on the feeling of Aomine’s tongue sliding against his own. He forgot about his rules, about everything. He’s just dumb and full of hormones and all that crap and he loves every second of it.
Aomine chuckles against his lips, sliding his hands up and down Kise’s torso and sliding his shirt up a bit. Kise loves and hates that the small brush of rough fingers against that little strip of skin gets him riled up. He loves and hates how into this he is.
It isn’t his first kiss. He has fooled around with some other models before and they were definitely more skilled. There is something about his clumsy, annoying friend that’s just clashed their teeth together twice in his desperation to get all of Kise at once.
Maybe it’s the fact that Aomine obviously wants Kise and that much it’s obvious. Kise adores being adored like that.
(It’s definitely not the fact that Kise wants him just as bad because he definitely doesn’t.)
The sound of a door opening makes the two of them pull apart with a startled wet sound.
“Who the fuck is still there?” a deep voice calls from the entrance.
Crap, crap, crap--
They stand as far from one another as they manage and try desperately to fix their clothes. A second later, their freaking captain walks into view.
“What the heck? I expect this kind of shit from Kuroko, the hell are y ou two doing here so late?”
“Kise wouldn’t stop pestering me to do him,” Aomine says. Kise punches his shoulder more out of reflex than to having actually understood what he meant. “PLAY HIM. He was asking me to play him.”
Nijimura frowns and then scowls and then his expression goes completely blank, making Kise think he just went through the five stages of grief in less than a second. Perhaps he noticed that Kise’s unfairly pale skin is still flushed. Or that Aomine’s shirt is all crooked. Perhaps he realized that two dishevelled 14 year-olds on the pinnacle of puberty didn’t stay late in the locker just out of love for basketball.
Which is completely unfair, because they kinda did. Until, like, three minutes ago.
“Look… I don’t care what you two do in your spare time,” Nijimura says, sounding more tired than ever. “Just… don’t get in trouble. And particularly don’t get in trouble in the fucking club room or the court or our damn locker, or I’m gonna whoop both of your stupid asses so hard you won’t be able to “play” each other for months.”
The fact that he makes air quotes at the word “play” has even Aomine blushing. They rush into getting changed into clean clothes and they basically run outside, never stopping until they’re far, far away from Nijimura’s attentive eyes.
“Holy shit,” Aomine finally says, once they’re halfway to the station. “Guess we can’t do that anymore.”
“Of course we can’t,” Kise ruffs. The cold shower he took under their freaking captain’s glaring disapproval made him remember more than a few important things. “Jesus, that was stupid.”
“Stupid,” Aomine parrots with a scoff. “You seemed pretty into it.”
“What-fucking-ever,” Kise retorts. He isn’t ashamed of that. He was into it. Still… “It was fun, but we can’t be doing that. It’s gonna get in the way of basketball.”
Aomine stops walking. “Wait, what?”
Kise stops as well and eyes him, confused. “Wasn’t that what you meant when you say we can’t do that anymore? It was stupid. We’re friends and we’re teammates. We’re not ruining that just because we were a bit horny.”
Aomine stays silent, his forehead puckered. Kise always wants to poke that frown, to tell him he’s gonna look like he’s 40 in high school if the doesn’t stop scowling so much. He doesn’t, however, waiting for Aomine’s response.
Aomine doesn’t say anything.
“Aominecchi?” Kise presses.
“Yeah,” he finally says. “Yeah, whatever. Horny shit. I can do better than you, anyway.”
Kise scoffs. “You wish.”
Aomine shoves him and Kise shoves him back and they bicker all the way to the train station. Kise must have only imagined things. There is nothing to worry about.
Ryouta is so, so fucking worried. He downs a drink after the other to try and forget about it, but it suddenly occurs to him that he has nowhere to go after the bar closes. He drinks more and the burning in his throat does very little to make him feel better. He should never have come back to Japan. He should have moved in with his sister when she offered. He should…
He freezes. Then slowly turns around. His blurry eyes can barely make a tall silhouette approaching him. That voice sounds so freaking familiar, though.
“ Aomineccssshhhhhhi ,” he slurs.
“Holy fuck, it’s you. What are you doing here? I thought you fled the country or whatever.”
Ryouta starts giggling. He did flee the country, didn’t he? He did everything in his power to stay away and not hear from anyone from his past. It was all too empty, all too painful, all too cold and alien. Because after the warmth and homey feeling he experienced, everything else pales in comparison, seems like a cheap imitation, and that’s how he ended up there, homeless, cold and worried. It’s so funny, he can’t stop laughing.
“Holy crap, are you okay, Kise? Are- are you crying? Oh god, you fucking mess.”
“ Aomineccshhiiiii , still wanna hold haaaaaands?”
A sigh. “Come on. I’m gonna get you home.”
“Pfshhhh… I don’t have a home! Demons got my home.”
Ryouta can’t quite make Aomine’s expression, but he’s sure it is a funny one. He giggles harder.
“You’re so fucking drunk. What am I going to do with you?”
He grins. “Gimme a kiss. No… two kisses.”
And he gets up to get the kisses he deserves, thank you very much. Aomine’s lips were so, so warm that one time. Ryouta wonders if they still are. Before he can taste them, however, he hears Aomine cursing - he had always been so rude, that Aominecchi - and the world spins into complete and utter darkness.
Momoi sits by Kise’s side on the ground. There aren’t many girls allowed to come this close to him. His fans can be creepy sometimes, so he tries to establish boundaries. Momoi, however, is allowed into his personal space. First, because her head's so filled with Kuroko thoughts she’d never consider making a move on Kise. Second, because he likes her.
“So,” she starts, “Kaijou, huh?”
He chuckles. “Of course you already know that. Yeah. Kaijou. I was offered a scholarship and everything.”
Momoi nods slowly.
They watch people walking by, but no one notices them in their secret lunch spot right behind that big tree next to the gym. It’s amazing that they managed to hide there for the entirety of middle school.
“I’m going to miss you,” Momoi says, breaking the silence.
“I’m not gonna die, Momocchi. You can still call me and stuff. Or you could go to Kaijou with me. With your grades and your talent…”
She has a sad smile. “That would be fun. We could keep out lunch dates. It’d be so… so fun.” She turns to him and reaches for his hand. “There is someone that is more helpless without me, though. So I’m going with him. I trust you’re going to take care of yourself.”
Kise has a knot in his throat. It isn’t entirely related to Momoi, however.
“He’s going to miss you too, you know?”
Kise scoffs. “No, he won’t. This is the best option for him. If we’re not in the same team, it means I’m gonna beat him soon and he’ll stop being such an ass.”
Momoi chuckles. Kise thinks she has something else to say to him, but she says nothing. Instead, she lets her head rest on his shoulder and enjoys the rest of their lunch in silence.
Everything is pain. Ryouta is aware that he’s awake, but the first attempt to open his eyes burn so bad he closes them back immediately. His neck hurts, his skin is sticky as though he has dry sweat all over his body and his head... God, his head. It throbs .
Maybe he isn’t awake. Maybe the black mould demons got him and now he’s in hell. That would be an acceptable explanation.
“Maybe he’s dead,” a soft, high-pitched voice says.
“Leave him be,” comes a grumpy response. “Come have breakfast, you little brat.”
Ryouta scowls and squirms. What is that smell? Rice and… His stomach claims for food at the same time his throat threatens to send back whatever he attempts to swallow.
A gasp. “He’s awake! He’s awake!”
Ryouta dares to open his eyes… and finds that his face is way too close to a little girl’s.
He gasps in horror and all but jumps into a sitting position, which does not agree with his headache. He groans and has to hold onto something not to fall back into a lying position. It takes him a moment to realize he’s on a couch… and there is a little girl giggling at his discomfort.
“Hey, watch it,” a gruff voice calls, right before a man walks into view.
Ryouta’s heart skips a beat at the sight. This is Aomine, for sure, the same Aomine he remembers from high school. It’s been years, but Ryouta could never forget the face of his best friend turned biggest rival. Except Aomine looks older - of course - and in a very hot way. He’s wearing a flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up, the arms as muscular now as they’ve been in their athlete days. And he’s wearing a bright yellow apron.
Maybe Ryouta isn’t awake. Maybe the black mould demons got him and god, having taken pity on his stupid soul, took him to heaven.
“No swearing in front of the kiddo,” Aomine says.
“Aominecchi,” Kise huffs. It’s been years since he last said that stupid nickname.
“Kise,” Aomine says, his lips curling up slightly.
There is something about the way he says Kise’s name. His voice gets soft and tender. Like a gentle touch. Like a deep, hoarse touch. It sends shivers down Ryouta’s spine.
“What is… How is…” Ryouta shakes his head, confused. “Who… what.”
Aomine grins that superior grin Ryouta hated so much in high school… and the little girl runs to him. She then turns to Ryouta again and smirks the same smirk, looking uncannily like the man by her side, even though she’s not even half of his size or his age.
“It’s Aomine Daiki, your teammate from back then,” Aomine says with a smug smile. “And this is Megumi, my daughter.”
“Come have breakfast with us!” The little girl invites cheerfully.