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No Sweet Talk*

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Late afternoon at the end of August. Kagami, Kise, and a disgruntled Aomine find themselves at the Good Dog Bar*.

Nostalgia leans on Kise when he sees Kagami’s face stuffed with food.

Kise:  How’s your burger?

Aomine eyes the well-endowed server as she handles the table next to theirs before his attention is called by Kise's question; his mouth is half full.

Aomine: Is this place new? Why haven't we been here before?

Kise: You only want to eat at my place. What’s the point of inviting you anywhere? …Kagamicchi?

Kagami gives up on trying to talk without any food in his mouth.

Kagami: It’s really good! Even with the dogs, this place is nice, too.

It’s not lost on Kagami that Kise picked a place where he, in sports attire, and Aomine and Kise, in well-put together threads, would both be welcomed.

Kagami: How'd you find this place? It doesn't seem like your kind of food.

Kise: That’s all thanks to Aomine.

Aomine smiles with a mouth full of fries, happy to hear his name coming from Kise’s mouth.

Kise: I came to visit him when he was still playing for the Sixers* and he told me to meet him somewhere, but he gave me the wrong directions. I got lost. I was out front and they were just arriving for the day and I guess I actually looked lost, so they helped me out.

Kagami: There are a bunch of places on my list to visit; I put all the ones in and relatively close to my neighborhood at the bottom of the list, I'm not even sure if this one is on there.

The conversation continues over another round of fries and darts.

Aomine: Why Philly? Isn't your restaurant and studio at L.A. Live*? You were living there with Himuro-san, right?

Kagami paused on his turn for darts.

Kagami: Yeah. I lived in L.A. before I returned to Japan back in the day. When I came back to the states for uni, I was in Arizona*. He came over after my injury and L.A. was the most comfortable place for both of us, so we set up shop there. Now with the show seeing a third season and the restaurant practically running on its own, I wanted to get a different perspective, so I switched coasts.

Kagami waits for it... thwwip… thonk... bullseye!

Kise: But wouldn't you be better in New York with all the foods and restaurants?

Aomine: ESPN’s* there, too.

Kagami: That’s the first thing everyone thinks, but Philly holds its own in both sports and food, and I get the added benefit of less hype. So it suits me well. I could ask the same of you two

Aomine starts to ease up now that he believes his "territory" is not being invaded.

Aomine: I had a place here, but since I switched teams, I parked my crap in Upstate New York.

Kise, intrigued, watches as Aomine plays a game he’s never played.

Kise: I guess I feel the same way you do. All the access, all the creativity and none of the hype.

Aomine: Ah! Your dart is in the way Bakagami! I almost had a bullseye!

He looks over his shoulder.

Aomine: I keep telling you, if you move with me, you'll be the same distance away.

Kagami raises his eyebrows, his interest piqued. Kise raises his hand to call the server.

Kise: And I keep telling you, it’s not about distance.

Kagami: So, your studio’s here?

Kise: No, that’s in Jersey*, just my office is here. I work from home most of the week. Well, when I'm not travelling.

A blush flashes across the server's face as she greets the table.

Server: How’s everything so far?

She acknowledges their nods.

Server: What can I get for you?

Kise: I heard you guys came across some Seasoned Oak Finish last week. Got any left? If you do, can you bring three and the check?

Server: Um, let me see what I can do!

Kise: Thanks.

Aomine: What did you order?

Kise: A surprise for you!

Happy that Kise is being nice to him, Aomine becomes uncharacteristically bashful.

Aomine:  What are you doing, idiot?! I don't need anything.

Kagami watches their interactions and feels jealousy creep up one shoulder as sadness mounts the other.

Kise: Ahhh whatever, just enjoy it.

The Owner: Kise! I had to see for myself who was ordering from my special stash! How are you? Are you back for a while?

Kise: Hey, you're here! I was sure you'd be travelling. Had I known, I would've checked in. I'm back for a while.

The Owner: And who do we have here?

Kise: These guys and I go way back.

He gestures to his right.

Kise: This is Aomine...

And now across the table.

Kise: And you might know this handsome guy, his name is Kagami.

Aomine is nonplussed about his lackluster intro.

The Owner: Kagami? Chef Kagami of Kahi?

Kagami puts in his share of bashfulness for the day.

Kagami: Yes, that’s me.

The Owner: My brothers and I watch your show whenever we can! I can't believe it! Chef Kagami in my place! You've been holding out on me, Kise!

Kise earns a side-eye glance from Aomine as he oozes a charm that's been conspicuously absent in their interactions of late.

Kise: But it’s forgivable, right?

Sunny: Of course. Of course.

The owner turns to the server.

The Owner: I need four and water!

Kise catches the server before she leaves.

Kise: Ah! Wait! Here’s my card; it’s all together.

Kagami: Eh? Kise, I can't let you do that.

Aomine leans back in his seat.

Aomine: Let him spend his own money for a change.

Kise side-eyes Aomine. The owner claps his hands together as the drinks arrive.

The Owner: Yes! Yes! For you. For you. For you, Chef, and one for me!

Aomine looks on, clueless. Kise notches the foot of the glass in the first bend of Aomine’s fingers and thumb, correcting his hold.

Kise: Hold the glass like this.

The Owner: Chef, will you do the honors?

Kise: Hehe! Kagamicchi!

Aomine cringes. Kagami thought to decline at first, but sees Kise’s excitement and changes his mind.

Kagami: I don’t deserve the honor, but I will accept. …OK.

Kagami proceeds to instruct the table in the art of tasting.

Kagami: Swirl. Bring it to the nose and breathe in through the mouth… Now, pull it away. What’s the first thing you get?

Aomine: Detroit?

The owner and Kagami raise their eyebrows.

Kise: Hehe! No! He’s right. He’s right! I'll explain later, hehe… but let’s continue.

The owner and Kagami shrug.

Kagami: Alright. Back to the nose and breath in through the mouth… pull away. Now what?

Kise is practically glowing inciting a wave of red across his companions' faces.

Kise: It’s kind of spicy and fruity mmmm… When can we taste it?

Kagami looks to the owner for the O.K.

The Owner: It’s your call, my friend.

Kagami: …You want to sip this…breathe through your nose and hold it in your mouth. Swish it around a bit…try to catch all the flavors before swallowing.

Aomine: Woooo! That was smooth, but it tasted kind of spicy like cider and kind of like, uh, the outdoors… is that right?

Kise: And fruity…

Kagami: Peppery…

The Owner: I got lots of smoky oak and I caught just a bit of caramel at the end.

Aomine takes another sip.

Aomine: I got the fruit. It's kind of like melon, maybe? What is this?

The Owner: Woodford Reserve Seasoned Oak Finish.

Aomine: Huh?

Kise clarifies in his best southern twang.

Kise: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey!

Aomine: Whiskey? That old man’s drink?

Kise: I told you it wasn't an old man’s drink. You've just been drinking…

Kise looks at the owner.

Kise: What did you call it?

The Owner: Rotgut.

Kise: Yeah! Rotgut!

Aomine takes the last swig and then hooks his arm around Kise to plant a wet one on his cheek.

Aomine: You're the only idiot who would give a gift like this!

Kise's glow turns into a warm blush that spreads to his fingertips.

Kise: I’m glad you liked it!

Kagami tries to stop himself from wishing that it was him that made Kise blush that way. He can see that, despite their bickering, his old rivals look happy together. No good will come from wishing things from the past into the present. He leans back and is a little surprised when a sigh escapes.

Kise: Kagamicchi? You alright? Was it not to your liking?

Kagami: Excuse me, that was rude of me. Everything’s fine, great actually. I left my place to check out a few courts and ended up tasting one of the Woodford Reserve Master Collections with some old...

He raises his glass to the owner.

Kagami: ...and new friends.

He downs the last of his whiskey.

Kagami: What’s not to like?

The owner gets called away.

The Owner: Sorry, my friends, duty calls, but it was great seeing and meeting you. Don't be a stranger!

He turns to leave, but stops and spins back toward the table.

The Owner: Right! I'll never sleep if you don’t tell me about Detroit.

Kise: Oh! Detroit! Yeah! Since you have to go, I’ll make it quick! During our last summer at Syracuse*, when Aomine was really hype about his future, to calm him down, I took us on a trip to a few pro arenas during the off-season and one of them was The Palace*. We caught them when they were in the middle of stripping the floors. It was quite a production. Anyway, for days after we left, Aomine kept talking about this woodsy scent and, long story short, even though The Palace’s court is a maple-oak blend, when they were treating it, the oak was really strong.

The Owner/Kagami: Ah hahahhhaaaahahaha!

Kagami: Only a basketball idiot.

The Owner: I see. I see. Detroit, I like it. Well, I gotta run. Enjoy the rest of your stay if I don't see you!

Aomine wants to kiss Kise again, less chaste this time, but he just smiles like an idiot instead. He can feel Kise’s love for him. He wishes that feeling could drown out the things he doesn't want to think about, but they begin nudging his conscience. He’s brought back to the present by the deep and easy, but tired voice from across the table.

Kagami: That’s really cool, though. I wonder if I can do that now? Where else did you guys go?

Aomine: Our first stop was the The Garden* to see some of the old parquet floor from the original.

The day seems to have caught up with Kise, he muffles a yawn in response.

Kise: It was the closest to school, too, well, besides Madison, but we were saving that for last. After that was The Palace and then we went to the Fieldhouse* in Indianapolis.

Aomine briefly drops his guard.

Aomine: You would have loved it, it’s totally old school. You know when you watch clips of Roger Brown, Dr. J, and Larry Bird making their way down the court? It’s like being in the stands in those clips!

Kagami: I've been there! It was awesome; they were hosting Denver, they took it 144-113—ya boy was hot that night!

Kise: Who, Dunleavy*?

Aomine: It’s gotta be.

Kagami: Yeah, he shot his way out that slump he was in. It was nice, but I wish I could have seen it the way you saw it: empty and quiet.

Kise: It wasn't quiet! Aominecchi wouldn't shut up about the smell! ‘Where’s the scent?’ ‘There’s no scent!’ And on and ooooooon!

Aomine's ears perked at the sound of Kise's endearment attached to his name.

Aomine: It was a good scent!

Later.

Kise stands in the doorway of the master bath, his head shrouded in a towel and with just a pair of basketball shorts on looking, just as fit and fine as he did when he was still holding down the key.

Kise: What time are you leaving tomorrow? Do you need a lift?

Aomine plops himself on Kise’s bed and admires a view he’ll never get tired of.

Aomine: Was that really Kagami?

Kise: What are you talking about?

Aomine: He was so calm, strangely calm. He didn't respond to a single one of my taunts. And he didn't flinch at any of the dogs!

Kise: OH! I forgot about his thing with dogs! I hope he doesn't hate me. Anyway, it’s not like we were playing ball, what was he supposed to be responding to? Do you think everybody stayed a brat like you?

He gives his hair one last blotting and then tosses the towel over the door to dry.

Kise: How many years has it been since you played against him? We're in our 30s, we have to grow up sometime.

Aomine: I made sure to mark my territory in front of him.

Kise's open palm swiftly meets the side of Aomine's head.

Aomine: Hey!

Kise: What did I tell you about that?! I am not your territory; I don’t belong to you.

He points to the empty side of his bed.

Kise: Move over or get out!

Aomine rubs his forehead before rolling over to his usual side.

Aomine: Yeah, yeah.

Kise: Why would that matter to Kagamicchi anyway?

Aomine: What the hell's up with that?! Why does he still get that nickname?

Kise: A habit. Just leave it.

Aomine: ...Anyway, I saw the way he used to look at you. He had a thing for you.

Kise: HAHAHAHA! You think everyone has a thing for me!

Aomine: Have you seen you?

Kise: Everyday. He's not interested in me. He’s been moony over Himuro-san since way back. He’s still wearing their ring!

Aomine: Whatever, idiot. You see everything, so don’t tell me you never saw him looking.

Kise: I don't know what you're talking about.

Aomine: Like I said, "whatever." I don't know nothing about "way back" or about that ring, but I do know he was looking and I do know he’s not the same Kagami we knew before.