Chapter 2 – Books
Kuroko woke up at 9am on Sunday morning, emerging from his warm blankets with a yawn. He stretched his limbs out before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and standing up. Both Kagami and Aomine were working today and Kuroko had finished his work for the weekend so he decided to return to the coffee shop for a relaxing morning of reading. Whilst it would be easier to remain at home and read, Kuroko enjoyed the company of others, even if he was not actually intending to speak with them.
It took Kuroko half an hour to go through his morning routine. He then slipped on his coat over the long sleeved, light blue shirt he wore and wrapped his scarf loosely around his neck before stepping outside and walking towards the coffeehouse.
A ring from the bell on the door was heard as Kuroko entered the coffee shop, signalling his arrival. As he walked in, he was immediately hit with the familiar scent of coffee and a warmth, which was rather lacking outside, consumed him.
There were only two other customers in the café this morning, both sat at a table, and the blond barista was once again behind the counter, currently restocking ingredients. Kuroko decided to change his recent routine of sitting at a table, instead going to sit on a stool at the counter. The coffee shop worker did not notice Kuroko's presence at first, however when he turned around he was quite surprised to see the short man sat there.
"Hello sir! What would you like to order?" the blond asked Kuroko.
"Just some water for now please."
"Coming right up!"
Kuroko took out some money, placing it on the counter before getting his book from his shoulder bag. He began reading. He was not particularly far into the novel, however the story and its characters had him engrossed in just a few pages. Kuroko was oblivious to the drink being set down beside him and oblivious to the fidgety golden eyed barista who kept looking at him with a torn expression. Kise had been wanting to talk to the blue haired man for a while now, but he always looked so busy and Kise did not want to be impolite by interrupting. He had to fight the urge to start a conversation.
The pale man set down his book for a moment, having noticed the cup of water, he picked up the glass before drinking from it. Kise saw this as the perfect opportunity to break his silence.
"Hey, you're Aominecchi's friend, Kuroko Tetsuya, right?"
Kuroko looked up at the blond. "Yes." He replied to the smiley barista.
"Cool! I'm Kise Ryouta. I've also known Aominecchi for a few years! Do you have any embarrassing stories to tell about him? He's always making fun of me, I'd love some black-mail material." His face became jokingly dark as he spoke.
"I do not think I should tell a stranger about my best friend's most embarrassing moments."
"Aw, come on! I'm not a stranger, you've seen me working in here for weeks." Kise whined.
"I know nothing about you. I only just learnt your name."
"Aaaaw, Kurokocchi come on, tell meeeee." The blond wailed. Kuroko continued to stare blankly at him before continuing.
"What did you call me? Also, I think I remember Aomine-kun talking about you now."
"Yes, he described you as 'an annoying, spoiled brat.'" Kuroko said bluntly.
Kise sobbed "Waaaaah, Kurokocchi why would you say that." Kuroko did not truly find Kise irritating, and would probably become good friends with the enthusiastic man if they spoke more. However he really wanted to get back to his reading for now.
"Ryouta, time for a shift change. Stop annoying the customers and go out back to take a break." The red headed manager said to Kise as he walked to the blond's side.
Kise says goodbye to Kuroko before taking off his apron and hanging it up by the back door. "See you around Kurokocchi!" And with that, Kise left.
Akashi moved to stand across from where Kuroko was sitting, tying his apron behind his back. "I do hope he didn't bother you too much Kuroko." The red head then looked down at Kuroko's empty glass before asking "Would you like another drink?"
"He wasn't bothering me too much. And yes, I'd like a vanilla latte please."
"Coming right up."
Akashi turned his back to Kuroko as he began to prepare the latte. The teal haired man caught himself staring at Akashi as he made the drink before quickly looking away and picking up his book again. After reading a few paragraphs, a sense that someone was watching him built within Kuroko. He looked up and discovered that Akashi was looking at him. "Here's your drink sir."
"Thank you Akashi-san." Kuroko passed a few coins to Akashi and was about to continue reading when Akashi continued to speak with him.
"Ah, I see you're reading 'Nihon no Higeki', are you enjoying it?"
"Yes, it is rather compelling, although I'm not sure if I like the main character. He is rather arrogant."
"I thought so too, but his character does improve somewhat later in the book."
"Oh, has Akashi-san also read it?"
"Yes, I have. I enjoy reading, though I usually prefer reading non-fiction. But I do read fictional novels a fair amount too. Actually, I haven't bought any new novels recently…" Akashi's voice trailed off thoughtfully.
Kuroko did not really have any friends who appreciated books or his love of reading. He did not mind this, but sometimes he craved to talk about them. To be able to exchange opinions about the novels he had read. Not to mention, for a reason he couldn't quite explain he felt somewhat drawn to this handsome red head. Thus he saw this as the perfect opportunity to make a new friend. "Perhaps Akashi-san would like to accompany me to the bookstore later. I was planning on going anyway and I would appreciate the company."
Akashi gave a small smile to the blue haired man, making Kuroko's heart flutter slightly. "I would like that very much Kuroko. I have an hour long break in about two hours if you can wait."
"Of course Akashi-san." Kuroko returned the smile, glad that Akashi had accepted his request. "I was planning on staying here to read anyway if that's okay with you."
"You are welcome to stay as long as you like Kuroko."
Just then, the bell of the door rang and Akashi moved to serve a new customer. Kuroko watched him go before turning back to his book. He smiled to himself, hopeful that this could be the start of a new friendship.
Akashi buttoned up his long, black coat over his uniform as he moved to stand next to Kuroko who was still sat at the counter. "I'm ready when you are Kuroko."
The teal head turned to look at the manager before replying. "Okay then let's go." Kuroko then stood up and put on his coat and scarf before picking up his bag. The two walked out of the coffeehouse and into the chilly street. As they walked Akashi followed Kuroko's lead, not knowing which bookstore they were headed to.
Kuroko pondered what the two could discuss whilst going to the bookstore. The cerulean haired man was not the best at social interactions, often depending on others to spark conversation. The silence was unbearable. He thought about bringing up the topic of books as it was their common interest, but where would he begin? Fortunately, Akashi interrupted his thoughts. "You've been coming to our café a lot recently Kuroko. May I ask why?"
Kuroko decided he should go into to some detail to keep the conversation going.
"I didn't know very much about Aomine-kun's home life or work life. He would never talk about family or colleagues and whenever Kagami or I brought up the topic he would evade it. We decided to stalk him home two months ago and found that he worked and lived at your café. I'd been looking for a nearby, peaceful place to do my work in for a while now. I had not heard of your café until then but I find it the perfect place for concentrating in. It also means I get to see Aomine-kun more often."
Akashi was not surprised to hear that Aomine had kept his home and work life from them. It was dangerous for humans to be involved with ghouls, knowingly or not. Whilst the ghouls in the coffeehouse would never seek to hurt humans like Kuroko, being close to them could put them at risk if they were not careful.
"Interesting. Well I'm glad you found our café, it is nice to have you around."
A light pink spread across Kuroko's cheeks. "Thank you Akashi-san."
The red eyed man gave a small chuckle. "You may speak to me more familiarly if you wish Kuroko. Akashi-kun would be fine."
"Yes Akashi-kun." Kuroko responded bashfully.
Akashi, noticing Kuroko's awkwardness, decided to change topics.
"So how did you and Kagami meet Daiki?" Akashi asked, curious as to how Aomine had become friends with the two humans.
"We all played basketball in high school. Whilst Aomine-kun did not attend the same school as Kagami-kun and I, our teams faced off in the Interhigh during our second year. It was an intense match, ending in a tie. Afterwards our teams went out for dinner together. Aomine-kun and Kagami-kun couldn't stop fighting, but somehow we began to get along once we realised we all loved basketball." Kuroko hesitated before continuing. "So what is the story behind you and Aomine-kun being adopted to the same family?"
The topic caused Akashi to give a lopsided frown. "I think it would be better for Aomine to tell you about that."
"That is unfair Akashi-kun. I have started telling you about myself yet I still know nothing about you."
"That is not true. You know that I like reading, that I was adopted and that I am the manager of a café. I do not even know what you do for a living."
"Akashi-kun, that is not very much to know about a person and if you wanted to know my occupation then you should have just asked. I am a kindergarten teacher. Hence, I usually come to the café on weekends and around 4pm on weekdays."
Akashi was rather surprised to hear that the blue eyed man taught young children. Kuroko was quiet from what he could gather. He seemed to lack the strong communication skills and enthusiasm it takes to be a kindergarten teacher. Trying to imagine Kuroko taking charge of a class of 30 rampant five year olds was near impossible. Akashi's expression must have given his thoughts away as Kuroko continued to speak.
"You seem surprised by my choice in career, but I assure you Akashi-kun, I get on well with the children and they rarely act out. Anyway, you still have not told me anything more about yourself. Please do not change the subject."
"Well what would you like to know?"
Kuroko thought for a moment. Akashi had made it clear he didn't want to talk about his family earlier. As interested as Kuroko was he did not want to pry into Akashi's personal matters. "How old are you and how did you become the manager at the café?"
"I am 24, a year older than Daiki. The café is actually owned by my and Aomine's adoptive father. He used to manage it but he got caught up in an accident seven years ago. He was left unable to work so I decided to take over the management of the place." Akashi's tone clearly changed as he spoke, becoming somewhat sorrowful.
Guilt suddenly swelled inside Kuroko for possibly bringing up a touchy subject. "I didn't mean to bring up any bad memories, I'm sor-"
Akashi could see the hint of regret in Kuroko's expression and quickly set about putting the guilt to rest. "There's no need to apologise Kuroko. There was no way you could have known and he was only injured. He's not dead." A bitter-sweet look plastered Akashi's face.
After a small silence, Akashi asked the shorter man "And how old are you Kuroko?"
"I just turned 23 two weeks ago."
"Ah, so it was your birthday was recently?"
"Yes, on the 31st of January."
Kuroko struggled to think of something to move the conversation on when he realised that he could see the bookstore about a hundred metres ahead. "Ah, we're nearly there Akashi-kun. It's just over there." Kuroko pointed to a quaint little bookstore on the high-street. Akashi had been there before. In fact it was his main source of books. After a small silence Kuroko continued talking. "What kind of book are you looking to get today Akashi-kun?"
Akashi looked up at the grey, cloudy sky, thinking deeply about the question before answering. "I would quite like a fantasy novel. The good kind, with a detailed plot and well developed characters. Are there any you would recommend?"
After a moment of thinking, Kuroko looked up to Akashi with a small yet bright smile. "I know just the one! I shall see if I can find it for you. Hopefully you have not already read it."
Akashi reflected on how beautiful the man looked when he was smiling so genuinely, with a hint of enthusiasm gracing his usually blank face. For some reason the way Kuroko curved his lips and the way his eyes lit up caused Akashi's heart to beat more rapidly and made him want to smile too.
The two had just arrived outside the book shop. Akashi opened the door for Kuroko before following him in. Kuroko finds the book he wanted, as well as the one he wanted to recommend to Akashi, rather quickly. He handed the book to Akashi, giving a spoiler-free summary of the plot. Akashi was intrigued by Kuroko's explanation and decided to buy the book.
Afterwards the two looked around the store for a while, not intending to buy any more books. However, Kuroko ended up buying five other books. Akashi chuckled as Kuroko carried the stack of books out of the store as he held the door open again. "I thought you were only going to buy one."
Kuroko looked down at the pile of books, almost as if he had not noticed he'd just bought them. He then began shoving them into his shoulder bag. "Yes, well these looked interesting too and I have plenty of time to read so…"
Akashi laughed gently at the man. They began walking back to the coffeehouse and on their way they discussed books. Their all-time favourites, their favourite genres, their favourite authors. Before they knew it they had arrived back at the café and the time was 1pm. Akashi still had fifteen minutes left of his break and so asked Kuroko if he would sit with him for a short lunch so they may continue their conversation. Kuroko agreed happily.
They sat at a table near the back by the window. Kuroko had brought a bento with him and Akashi brought out his own bento too. The two continued their conversation further as they ate. The time passed quickly and it was soon the end of Akashi's break.
Akashi stood up and tucked his chair in. Kuroko also stood, looking at the time on his phone.
"I should be going now. My dog will be missing me and I need to take him for a walk before it gets too late.
Akashi raised an eyebrow. "You have a dog?"
"Yes, he's an Alaskan malamute. I found him a few years ago and became rather attached to him." Akashi noticed the faint smile that crept on to Kuroko's face as he spoke of his dog.
"I see. Well, thank you for taking me on an enjoyable outing. I hope to see you again soon Kuroko-kun." Akashi looked Kuroko in the eye, with a gentle and sincere smile.
"The pleasure was all mine Akashi-kun. I will likely come back Wednesday afternoon. Goodbye until then." Kuroko said, giving a small bow to the slightly taller man.
With that Kuroko left the coffee shop. Akashi watched as the cerulean haired man walked out before going to put his bento box away and picking up his apron.
It was at this point that Kise, who had been working the counter in his absence, approached him.
"Akashicchi!" he called to him. Akashi gave a little sigh as the most excitable ghoul in the café walked over to meet him.
"How was your time with Kurokocchi? Did you have fun? You two are so cute together, it's adorable!" Kise said cheerfully.
Akashi's brow furrowed. "I think you may be misinterpreting the situation Ryouta." He replied, slightly annoyed.
"Eh, you mean you didn't just go on a bookstore date with Kurokocchi?"
The question of why are you calling him Kurokocchi? You've only spoken to him once! Flashed through Akashi's thoughts however there was a more pressing issue. A 'date'.
The stare Akashi gave Kise sent shivers of dread down the blond's spine. A moment later, Akashi regained his composure and replied. "We simply both needed to go there, so we decided to go together. It was not a 'date' Ryouta and you better not have started spreading any ridiculous rumours."
Right at that moment Takao walked out from the back of the shop. He saw Kise and Akashi. "Hey Ki-chan, Akashi!" He walked over to them. "How did your date go Akashi?" Takao smirked.
Akashi stared irately at Kise. The taller male gave a frightened shout before moving to hide behind Takao.
"Protect me Takaocchi!" he cried.
"Eh, why? Did I say something wrong?" Takao responded, slightly confused at Akashi's response.
"It seems Ryouta misinformed you Kazunari. There was no date, just a shopping trip with Kuroko-kun."
"That guy who started coming in here all the time? Aw, that's so cute Akashi, I'm glad you made a friend!"
Akashi was about to scold him for the 'cute' but a customer walked up to the counter at that moment pulling him from his annoyance. Kise went to talk to the customer, eager to get away from Akashi. Takao moved away to start cleaning the tables, leaving Akashi with his thoughts.
It had just been a friendly outing and nothing more. Akashi knew this, but even that was an odd occurrence for him. As a ghoul, every day was a fight for survival. It was less intense now that he had settled at this café, but his life was dangerous to say the least. He never had time for friends and the risks attached to having friends, especially human ones, were too great for Akashi to deem friendship worthwhile. Yes, he had the rest of the coffee shop employees, but they were more of a family. Not chosen friends, though Akashi found he got on rather well with them, particularly Midorima. Kiyoshi Teppei, his adoptive 'father' (though he was more like a big brother), had brought them all in when they were younger. The first of them that Kiyoshi found and had taken in was Akashi. Akashi was nine years old when his mother died and his father abandoned him on the streets. He was terrified. He couldn't fight the hunger but he could not kill a human. He was too weak. If Kiyoshi had not found him and brought him to this place he would likely have died or been taken by the CCG. Aomine had been left in a similar situation when Kiyoshi found him a few months after rescuing Akashi. The other four had a more complex background, but had all found themselves in Kiyoshi's care eventually.
It had been a good few years. Kiyoshi taught them to observe and respect humans. He taught them how they could survive without being cold-hearted killers. It was from Kiyoshi, that Akashi learnt how to blend into human society, how to control his kagune and force down human food without retching. And most importantly, Kiyoshi had allowed them to lead a fairly normal life with a family.
Akashi felt a pang of pain in his heart when he thought about Kiyoshi, however he knew his adoptive father was safe now. Living with his friends, Hyuuga and Riko, on the other side of the city.
I'm glad you made a friend! Takao had said. In all honesty, Akashi was scared to make friends. Scared they would be targeted or something tragic would happen to them. Especially if he befriended Kuroko. He was a rather frail looking human with a small build. He would barely have a chance fighting against most humans, let alone a ghoul. All his life, Akashi had simply kept to minimal contact between himself and humans, yet Akashi couldn't help himself when it came to Kuroko. Earlier, when Kuroko had asked him to go out to the bookstore, he hadn't hesitated in saying yes. There was something so enticing about the man that attracted Akashi to talk to him. He wanted to learn more about Kuroko Tetsuya, to become close friends with him. Akashi would just have to make sure he did not put Kuroko in any danger.
END OF CHAPTER