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Chapter 1 – The Coffeehouse

Ghouls. They have the same physical appearance as humans and the same intelligence. However, their physical biology is different. Ghouls have a higher capability than humans, with strength about five times that of an average human's, incredible regenerative abilities, heightened senses and much tougher bodies. In addition to this, each has a kagune: a muscle-like protrusion which varies between ghouls and can be used as a deadly weapon.

Some consider them to be an evolution of humanity, but many disagree due to their diet. Human food has the potential to kill or weaken a ghoul and it tastes foul to them. Instead they can only feed on human or ghoul flesh. Due to this they are prosecuted and hunted by the CCG (Commission of Counter Ghoul) and its Ghoul Investigators.

Most interestingly though, ghouls can digest one type of human food:

Coffee.


"Yo Kuroko!" The tall red head called to his friend as he walked into the café.

The coffee shop was of an average size, consisting of near a dozen wooden tables and five seats at the serving counter. There were a few customers sat at tables and a couple at the counter getting served by an energetic blond.

Kuroko looked up from his book to greet his friend who was approaching his table by the window, "Hello Kagami-kun." Kuroko was already settled at the table, sipping a vanilla coffee. He set down the book he was reading. "How was your day?"

"Ah, the usual really, just dealt with some minor fires and hung out at the station. Yours?"

"It's a Saturday so I brought the kids' workbooks here to mark. I just finished and decided to start reading my new book." Kuroko gestured to the book on the table. Kuroko had been a kindergarten teacher for about a year now, having graduated university the year before. Marking the kids' workbooks didn't take long and wasn't particularly difficult, but Kuroko made sure to leave helpful and positive comments in them to help the children improve further.

"You sure have been coming here a lot recently Kuroko," Kagami said thoughtfully. "Why do you like it so much?"

"It has a calm atmosphere and its usually quiet here so it's a good place for me to get work done in." Kuroko replied blankly.

"You sure you're not taking a liking to any of the baristas here?" The fireman smirked.

Before Kuroko had the chance to decline Kagami's ridiculous question, a young, dark-skinned barista walked up to the table. He was wearing an untucked white dress shirt and ebony trousers with a black apron and burgundy tie.

"What can I get you Bakagami?" he asked rudely.

"I'll have a cappuccino Ahomine." Kagami replied in annoyance.

"What'd you call me you bastard?!"

"You heard me idiot."

Kagami and Aomine started butting heads as usual. Kuroko reflected how little they had changed since high school as he watched their interaction. Forever a pair of idiots. He thought. Kuroko was about to politely ask them to stop when a warning voice interrupted their squabbling.

"Daiki," Kuroko noticed that Aomine immediately straightened up at the voice and turned to the man who was speaking to him. "I have told you before, I do not expect you to speak to customers in such a rude manner. Now get back to work." Kuroko recognised him as the manager of the coffee shop. He wore the same outfit as Aomine, but he had kept it much neater than the dark-blue haired barista, actually making the effort to tuck in his shirt and straighten his tie and apron. The manager was noticeably shorter than Aomine and Kagami, but stood about two inches taller than Kuroko himself. The features which struck Kuroko most however were his blood red hair and eyes.

Aomine walked back to the counter to fill Kagami's order whilst the red headed manager walked up to Kagami and Kuroko's table. "I apologise for his rudeness and loudness, I will make sure this does not happen again." he stated professionally with a bow.

"Thanks, but it's cool, we've been friends with that moron since high school." Kagami explained.

A look of recognition crossed the red haired man's face. "Ah, you wouldn't happen to be Kagami and Kuroko would you? My name is Akashi Seijuro. Daiki and I were both adopted into the same family so I have heard of you both frequently. He seems rather fond of both of you." Akashi smiled softly at both of them. After a short moment of silence he continued "I shall leave you in peace now and get back to work. Enjoy your evening." And after a slight bow the short red head walked out to the back of the shop.

A few minutes later, Aomine arrived with Kagami's drink. The navy head shifted uncomfortably before speaking to Kagami "My apologies for being so rude earlier…s-sir."

Kagami cracked up laughing at Aomine's faked politeness. Aomine tensed and had to bite his tongue to stop himself from retorting about what an idiot Kagami is, knowing that if he did Akashi would surely notice and have cause to reprimand him for poor behaviour.

"Kagami-kun, you said you wanted to speak to the two of us. What was it about?" Kuroko spoke up, bringing Kagami out of his laughing fit. Aomine relaxed a bit and pulled up a seat next to Kuroko at the table.

"Yeah, what did you want to say to us?"

"Ah, about that…well my dad called yesterday and apparently my cousin over in America invited me to her wedding. I thought it would be a good time to go back to America for a bit and see the family. I'm flying over there Friday morning and I'll be gone for five weeks."

"You're only telling us about this now?" Kuroko said.

"W-well, it seems dad forgot to tell me about the wedding until two days ago. Anyway, I thought it would be nice if the three of us went out for dinner or something before I go." Kagami said shyly.

Kuroko smiled at Kagami's proposal. "That would be nice Kagami-kun, where were you thinking we should go?"

"That new steak joint that opened up recently is apparently really good. I made a reservation for 7pm Thursday night if that's good for you guys."

"Sounds good to me." Aomine said.

"I am also free that night, I look forward to it Kagami-kun." Kuroko stated.

"Great! It's a date then! Wait…I mean…um…."

Aomine laughed at him. "Look you're getting all flustered Baka-….*ahem* Kagami-san."

Suddenly a green haired man appeared from behind Aomine and started yanking on his ear. "You don't get paid for gossiping with customers Aomine, even if they are your friends, now go help Kise behind the counter."

"Hey that hurts! Midorima, you bastard let go!" Aomine shouted as Midorima dragged him away from the table.

Kagami smirked as Aomine was taken away by Midorima. He then turned to his teal haired friend. "We best be going home now, it's starting to get dark out so I'll drive you."

"Thank you Kagami-kun." Kuroko said as he packed away his books into his shoulder bag. The blue haired man then put on his navy duffel coat, knowing that the cold winter air would be waiting outside. Though, it was now mid-February and the bitter temperatures were beginning to recede.

The duo walked out of the shop and down the street to where Kagami had parked his car. The coffeehouse was not far from Kuroko's house but ever since the increase in ghoul attacks in the area Kagami insisted that Kuroko only walks around at night when absolutely necessary. Kagami happily chauffeured his friend around on the rare occasions he needed to go out at night, comforted by the knowledge that his friend would be safe.

A few minutes later, Kagami pulled up by Kuroko's house. "Thank you very much Kagami-kun, I shall see you soon."

"You're welcome Kuroko. Don't forget, I'll be here to pick you up around 6:50pm Thursday night."

"See you then." Kuroko said as he got out of the car and walked towards his house with a smile and quick wave to his friend.

"See ya."

And with that Kagami drove home.


Entering his house, Kuroko closed the door before setting down his bag and taking off his jacket. He heard an excited 'Arf!' coming from the kitchen before an eager Nigou came running out to greet his master.

"Hello Nigou, how was your day?" he asked the dog as he began to pet him.

"Arf, arf!" Nigou barked energetically, his tail wagging furiously.

The Alaskan malamute had definitely grown since Kuroko found him back in high-school. He was now just shy of being two feet tall, however he was still just as intelligent and kind-hearted as he had always been. Kuroko smiled at his dog before standing up and moving to the kitchen. He started preparing his own dinner before feeding Nigou and moving into the joined living room.

The kindergarten teacher's house was not particularly large and had minimal furniture, but it was modern and comfortable. He switched on the TV and sat on his two-seater sofa to watch the news. There had been yet another ghoul attack in the area. Apparently the CCG had classed this ghoul as an S rated and had nick-named him 'the binge eater' due to his large amount of killings over the past few weeks. His feedings were grotesque, often leaving nothing but a bloody mess and bones. The presenters were providing tips on how to stay safe from ghouls and recommending that people stay in highly populated areas and well lit pathways when walking about at night. Kuroko was not stupid and knew of the dangers of ghouls. Unlike Aomine, he paid attention to ghoul safety notices.


"Aka-chin, what's wrong?" Murasakibara asked.

Six men were sat in the living room of the upstairs apartment of the coffee shop. Akashi had called a meeting with the café workers, but his agitated body language made it clear this was not simply a customer service review.

"This so called 'binge eater' is drawing far too much attention to the area. The amount of ghoul investigators has already started increasing. Not to mention I completely disagree with his ethics. I cannot let him continue acting in this manner." The red haired manager said.

"I assume you have a plan then." Midorima stated.

"Of course. I have asked Satsuki to analyse his attack patterns and where he is likely to attack next. Atushi, I would like you to contact Himuro-san. Seeing as he is a mask-maker he meets a lot of ghouls. Ask him if he knows anything about the binge eater or if he's heard any rumours. Once we have some information gathered I shall go looking for him. I'll give him a chance to stop and leave the area. If he refuses I will dispose of him."

"In the meantime, Ryouta and Kazunari, you two go on the food run tonight. We're running low. Make sure you are unnoticed, and be respectful to the bodies."

"Yes sir!" Kise and Takao replied in unison with a mock salute, before getting up and exiting the room.

Turning to Aomine, Akashi continued. "Daiki, I suggest you keep an eye on your human friends if you wish to keep them safe. The most recent attacks were not far from here." He said seriously.

"Of course. I hope you catch this son of a bitch before he kills too many more." Aomine couldn't bear to think about what he'd do if that asshole attacked Tetsu or Kagami. He knew Akashi would do his best to eliminate the threat. Whilst they themselves may be monsters, they hated killing humans. Generally, they collected food from the bottom of a cliff outside of the city. As sad as it is, it's a popular suicide spot and at least that way the humans can choose to die and the coffee shop ghouls can eat, preventing the mind numbing hunger taking over. Aomine had experienced it once before when he was younger and he prayed he'd never experience it again.

They acknowledged that other ghouls had to kill in order to feed, but this binge-eater was taking far more than was necessary to survive. Not to mention his activities were beginning to bring more CCG members to the area, creating trouble for all the ghouls in the 14th ward.

"You are all dismissed for the evening. Goodnight." And with that, Akashi stood up from his seat and walked out.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

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."

"Ah, really?!"

"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.

"Goodbye Kuroko-kun."

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

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 - Encounter

The next few days are fairly average for Kuroko. He goes to work at the kindergarten from 8am until 4pm. Late Tuesday afternoon however, he picks up Nigou and goes to meet Kagami at a nearby basketball court. Whilst Kuroko was still unable to play one-on-one with his light due to his very specific skill set, the two enjoyed practicing passes and watching each other practice shots.

"Nice one!" Kagami called to Kuroko, as the teal headed man scored a basket using his phantom shot. Kagami walked up to the shorter man to give him a fist bump. Kuroko smiled up at his best friend as he returned the fist bump.

A sudden 'arf!' was heard from the side lines, startling Kagami and causing him to tense slightly. He turned to see that Nigou was running up to him. Whilst Kagami was still cautious of the dog, he had accepted that Nigou was actually a kind-hearted dog a long time ago and now he trusted Nigou not to hurt him.

"Come on Nigou, you can join in too if you want." Kuroko said to the dog.

"Arf, arf!" Nigou barked enthusiastically. The two humans continued to play basketball, allowing the dog to join in with them. After about an hour of playing, they decided it was best to go home, both of them finding themselves somewhat exhausted. Kuroko and Kagami walked to the gates of the basketball court together.

"See you on Thursday Kagami-kun." Kuroko smiled, having had an enjoyable time with the taller red head.

"See you then Kuroko!" Kagami beamed at Kuroko.

"Arf!"

Kagami laughed. "And goodbye to you too buddy." Kagami leant down to pet Nigou farewell.


On the same evening, Akashi was sat in the living room of his apartment above the coffeehouse and began reading the new novel Kuroko had recommended to him two days prior. After only fifty pages, Akashi understood why the kindergarten teacher had recommended it to him. The diverse characters and interesting plot the novel had already set up had him engrossed and wanting to read on, however he was interrupted when a bespectacled green haired man walked in.

"Hello Akashi, I wanted to talk to you about our finances. It has come to my attention that-"

"Shin-chan!"

Midorima's brow furrowed and his expression became exasperated, knowing that Takao entering the room likely meant he'd be unable to discuss finances with Akashi.

"Where have you been today Shin-chan? I missed you."

"I have been working and then I went for a walk Kazunari, I'll talk to you later but for now I would appreciate it if you let me discuss important matters with Akashi."

"Aaaaaw, but Shin-chan, you've been working so hard recently that we haven't had much time to hang out." Takao said with pout.

"Shintaro, we can discuss business matters tomorrow morning. Unless it is urgent you should probably go home and relax a bit."

In all honesty, Akashi was tired and he just wanted to read in peace. The café had closed over two hours ago but he had continued working, making sure everything was in order and that everything was prepared for the next day. Furthermore, he knew Midorima had been particularly stressed the past few days, mainly due to the binge eater situation and the increasing number of ghoul investigators hanging about. Akashi knew it would be better for him to go and relax with Takao at home. The taller ghoul has known Takao since childhood and the two became lovers four years ago when they finally confessed to one another. Whilst Midorima may try to hide it from every person that wasn't the ravenette, he truly did love him.

"See, even Akashi agrees you should stop working so hard."

Midorima gave a small sigh, pretending to be displeased with the situation. "Very well then, come on Kazunari, let's go home."

"Sure thing." Takao responded with a smile. Before following Midorima to leave, Takao quickly leaned closer to where Akashi was sat before whispering a 'thanks' and following the green haired ghoul out of the apartment, leaving Akashi to continue his reading.

However, Akashi was interrupted once again only five minutes later when Aomine came in and sat down on the sofa, switching the TV on.

"Hey, Sei?"

"Yes Daiki?" Akashi looked up from his book, mildly frustrated at being interrupted yet again.

"E-erm, is what Kise told me today true? Did you go on a date with Tetsu?" The tanned ghoul asked, blushing slightly.

Akashi exhaled slowly, making a mental note to discipline Kise the next time he saw him. "No Daiki. Ryouta seems to have quite the active imagination and has misinterpreted Sunday's events." Aomine visibly relaxed at the red head's words. "Anyway, I think I shall be going to bed now, goodnight Daiki."

"Ah, okay. Goodnight Sei."


Wednesday afternoon Kuroko made his way to the café. He wouldn't be able to stay long, but he had a stack of books to mark and he had been craving a delicious vanilla coffee for the past few days. He also realised that a part of him was yearning to see Akashi again. The two had not known each other long, but Kuroko felt something between them, and he wanted to find out what it was.

Kuroko arrived at the café. He went to sit at a table by the window, on the opposite side of the room to the counter. A moment later, a green haired man, Midorima, Kuroko remembered, walked up to him. "What can I get for you sir?"

Kuroko looked up from the books he was marking. "A vanilla coffee please."

"I shall bring it over shortly." And after a small bow, the tall man left.

Kuroko sat marking his books for about five minutes when he noticed someone come and sit across from him. He peered up to see who it was and was happily surprised to see that it was Akashi.

"Hello Akashi-kun, how are you?"

"Hello Kuroko-kun. I am doing well. And you?"

"I'm good. Did you want to talk to me about something?" Kuroko asked, curious as to why Akashi had decided to sit with him.

"Yes actually. I started reading that book you recommended to me…" Akashi paused. Kuroko became slightly nervous for a moment. What if he didn't like it? Kuroko thought, but Akashi continued before the blue haired man could think too much about it.

"I'm really enjoying it. It's exactly the kind of book I was looking for, the characters and plot are so well developed! I love it. I just wanted to come over and thank you for recommending it to me."

"I'm very glad you're enjoying it Akashi-kun, it is one of my favourites after all." Kuroko's mouth turned up in a smile, happy from the positive feedback.

"I would like to talk to you about it once I've finished it if that's okay."

"I would like that very much Akashi-kun."

"Wonderful. For now I best be getting back to work. I'll see you later Kuroko-kun, take care of yourself."

"And you too. Goodbye Akashi-kun."

Akashi then left Kuroko alone to continue his work.


Later that night, around 7pm, Akashi had once again gathered the baristas in the upstairs living room to discuss the binge eater.

"Satsuki has informed me of where and when this rogue ghoul will likely attack next. As he is likely to attack tomorrow night Shintaro, you shall take my shifts in the café tomorrow so that I may sleep. I will then search for him in the night. Aomine, I am aware that you are busy tomorrow evening, however I would like you to join me in the search once you are done."

Aomine gave a nod of agreement before Akashi turned his attention to Murasakibara. "Atushi, did Himuro-san provide any information?"

"Yeah. He said that the rumours say he has messy light grey hair and is just over 6ft tall. As far as anyone knows he doesn't have a mask, and Muro-chin can guarantee he didn't make one for him. Muro-chin also heard that he has a rinkaku kagune similar to yours Aka-chin."

"Thank you Atushi, that should help me identify him, and possibly fight him. Tell Himuro-san thank you on my behalf."

"Yes Aka-chin~."


"Goodbye Nigou, please behave whilst I am gone."

Kuroko walked out of his house and closed the door. Kagami had called earlier that day and explained that his car had broken down that morning. He had offered to walk to Kuroko's and escort him to the restaurant, but Kuroko declined saying that it was unnecessary but that he appreciated the offer. His home was not too far from the restaurant and most of the route went through highly populated streets.

The sky was beginning to turn a dark blue colour as the sun finally set beyond the horizon on the Thursday evening. Kuroko snuggled into the white and blue, stripy scarf he was wearing seeking warmth as a chilling wind swept through the street.

Kuroko's walk was rather uneventful, however when he reached a quiet street he heard someone call to him from the shadows ahead.

"Hey buddy, can you help me out? I got mugged, I need to make a call home." The stranger said with a strained voice.

Kuroko looked at the silhouetted figure of a man crouched down at the edge of an alley. Kuroko's instincts were telling him to ignore the guy and keep moving, maybe even run, and get to the populated streets of the city. However, another part of him felt bad for the guy. What if this person sincerely needed his help? Could he really just leave him there, likely beaten up and hurting?

Kuroko hesitated, stopping in front of the man and he was opening his mouth to speak to him when a tentacle like organ reached out at Kuroko at a high speed. No no no no no, not again. The teal haired man began to panic. He recognised the thing lashing out at him as a ghoul's kagune. He tried to dodge backwards in fear, however the ghoul was too fast. The kagune wrapped around Kuroko and threw him into the alley.

Kuroko rolled across the ground, crashing into some trash cans, before trying to stand up again on shaky legs. He was terrified. For the second time in his life he was in danger of becoming food for ghouls, but this time he had no family there to protect him. It had been ten years since the last time…

Flashback:

Kuroko was frozen on the spot as the ghoul ahead moved towards him. His parents lay dead and torn apart on the filthy ground of the dark alleyway. They had been ambushed.

The cerulean haired boy shook with fear, knowing that he was very likely going to die right here, surrounded by three ghouls, with tears streaming down his face.

However, the view of the ghoul approaching him was suddenly blocked by a taller figure.

"Tetsuya, run!"

It was his step brother. He'd recovered from his beating in order to protect his younger sibling. Terror filled Kuroko's mind. He couldn't bear to leave his older brother. He loved him. But he was so scared. He wanted to be as far away from this place as possible.

Kuroko turned his back on his brother, running in the hope of finding help. He managed to escape, but when he did eventually return with two ghoul investigators, the ghouls had departed, leaving behind what little was left of the corpses of Kuroko's parents and no traces of his brother.

End Flashback.

Kuroko wanted to push back those memories and the feelings of despair but he knew there was no chance he could take on a ghoul. He knew first hand that they were faster and stronger. I'm going to die here. The thought flashed through his mind. He looked at the ghoul, trying to gauge if he could try to run past and shout for help, but what he saw was the tall, grey haired ghoul slowly walking towards him, a massive smirk on his face.

The ghoul took a look at Kuroko's face and burst out laughing. "You should see your face kid. I do love to see that look. The look of fear. Fear of your imminent death." Kuroko knew he could not just stand there waiting for the end, but he was in shock. His legs would not move. He was shaking all over. The ghoul was now directly in front of him and leaning in slowly. "Itadakimasu." The grey head whispered slowly into his ear.

The ghoul licked his lips before moving in to take a bite from Kuroko's shoulder. At that moment Kuroko managed to snap out of his trance and dodge the ghoul's movement. Kuroko tried to run behind the ghoul in the hope of escaping. The ghoul, in annoyance at his meal trying to get away, turned towards the man and stretched out his kagune, dealing a firm blow to Kuroko's chest, throwing him into the wall of the alley.

Kuroko was dazed. His head had come into direct contact with the wall, causing him to become dizzy and stunned. The ghoul sauntered over to him. "Tch. You should know better than trying to run from a ghoul, stupid human. Now stay there and let me eat." The grey haired ghoul lifted his foot as if he were about to kick Kuroko in the face, however the ghoul was suddenly flung across the alley.

Hope grew in Kuroko's mind. Looking around, Kuroko tried to catch sight of his saviour but his heart sank when he caught sight of their rinkaku kagune. It was another ghoul. It was not a saviour, it was one ghoul stealing another ghoul's dinner. Kuroko was unable to escape the alley, trapped between the ghouls and a dead end. He was left to watch the two fight instead.

The shorter newcomer was winning, having stabbed the grey haired ghoul through the shoulder. However, at that moment a punch was thrown at the new ghoul, who seemed to be dazed momentarily by the hit, leaving the taller one time to run away. The newcomer recovered and looked on, about to run after the ghoul, but he then turned to look at Kuroko. The blue haired man was starting to recover from the hit to his head and could now make out the finer details of the newcomer. He was a bit less than six feet tall and had a glorious red and gold fire dragon mask covering his face. What intrigued Kuroko the most was the blood red hair that reminded him so much of Akashi's. Is it possible that…he's about the same height as well…Akashi-kun?

The ghoul was staring at Kuroko with black and red eyes from a short distance, kagune still visible. A moment of silence passed between the two before Kuroko made a move. The ghoul did not seem to be attacking him so he began to stand up. He took a step forwards, about to offer his thanks to the ghoul, to thank him for saving him from the other ghoul. However the red head was startled by Kuroko's movements and took a swift step backwards before fleeing.

Kuroko watched the red haired ghoul turn back and run from him. A multitude of feelings rushed through Kuroko's mind but mostly he was shocked and confused. Memories which he had tried to suppress these past ten years had been brought back to the surface of his mind, a ghoul had just attacked him, tried to eat him and then another ghoul had appeared to save him. Why on Earth would a ghoul help me? A ghoul who reminds me an awful lot of someone I know... Kuroko thought to himself.

For now all the bluenette could do was walk out of the alley and continue towards the restaurant, with the hope that nothing else crazy occurs.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 – Post-encounter

"I shall meet you later Daiki, at the location I showed you."

"Yeah, yeah I know. See you later Sei." And with that Aomine departed to go for dinner. Soon after Akashi left to go to the first location Momoi had suggested to him. It was a quiet street on the edges of a shopping centre, seemingly uninteresting and like any other, however Momoi had assured him it was a likely attack spot.

It was becoming rather dark as the time approached 6 o'clock. Akashi was nearing the location now and so decided to put on his mask. It was a red and gold dragon mask specially made by Himuro a few years ago. The mask maker had included intricate details in Akashi's mask, with each scale being defined, the edges trailing off into curls to create a fire like effect and even two horn's protruding from the top of the mask. Akashi had little use for it as he rarely had to go 'hunting' in the city, but tonight he wanted to wear it just in case he ran into any unwanted company.

He was walking down the street when he heard a crash in the distance. Perhaps it's the binge eater Akashi thought. He picked up his pace, moving forward with a light jog, taking care to be quiet. He was nearing the alley he'd heard the sound coming from when he inhaled deeply through his nose. Akashi could smell that there was definitely a ghoul and human nearby.

When he reached the alley, he hid around the corner before peeking round to look at the scene unfolding before him. A grey haired ghoul with a rinkaku kagune was approaching a human slumped against the wall. The binge eater. Akashi smirked to himself, proud to have found him so quickly, however his moment of pride quickly died when he caught a glimpse of the human's teal hair. Is that Kuroko? What's he doing here? He's meant to be with Kagami and Daiki…

Akashi was brought out of his thoughts when he saw the binge eater lift his leg, about to kick the human. In a split second, Akashi ran over, into the alley and released his own rinkaku kagune. He lashed a tentacle out to knock the aggressive ghoul away from the blue haired man. Akashi looked to the human to confirm his suspicion. The human seemed to be quite out of it, however Akashi was sure now. It was Kuroko. He then hastily ran to attack the binge eater further. He knew he was supposed to be talking to him, giving him a chance to stop, but realising that it was Kuroko the ghoul was about to devour released a bout of anger and protectiveness from Akashi.

The binge eater released another three tentacle like kagune from his lower back, bringing him up to a total of four. Akashi seemed to have the disadvantage, only having two, however his skill and accuracy easily made up for the physical disadvantage.

Punches and kicks were thrown and dodged by both of the ghouls. Each used their kagune to deal strikes and defend however the grey haired ghoul was a moment to slow when Akashi's kagune made a jab for his shoulder. The tentacle sliced right through the shoulder area of the offending ghoul causing the binge eater to stagger backwards slightly. Akashi moved in to strike again, however a punch to the face caught him off guard, dazing him momentarily. He saw the binge eater getting away, likely having judged that he wouldn't win the fight. Akashi moved to pursue him but hesitated. Is Kuroko-kun okay? I haven't seen him move since I got here... Deciding that checking on Kuroko took precedence over pursuing the ghoul, he looked back to the human.

Kuroko was still leaning against the wall, looking rather stunned. At least he's still conscious Akashi thought before slowly approaching the man. A part of him was worried that he'd be recognised, but he could not just leave Kuroko here if there was a possibility that he was severely injured and needed to go to the hospital.

The red head froze when Kuroko's pale blue eyes looked up, gazing directly into his black and red ones. The two just stared at each other in silence for a moment. It was then that Kuroko began to stand up, taking a small step towards Akashi. This startled Akashi, causing him to take a small step away from the human. After a brief second of hesitation from Kuroko, Akashi decided that Kuroko was in a good enough condition to be left alone and so he turned tail and ran from him.


When Kuroko arrived at the steak house he realised he was slightly late. Kagami was already sat in there with Aomine so Kuroko walked in and sat down with them.

"Hey Tetsu! What kept you, you're usually slightly early, not late."

"He's right, I never thought I'd see a day where Aomine was more punctual than you." Kagami sniggered. Aomine shifted his gaze to glare at him in annoyance.

"Sorry Kagami-kun, Aomine-kun." Kuroko began, with a slight bow of his head to each he addressed. "I got caught up in something on the way here."

Both Aomine and Kagami turned to look at their shorter friend with worried expressions. "What happened?" Aomine asked with concern.

"Yeah Kuroko, you look kind of shaken up…" Kagami chipped in, having noticed that Kuroko was avoiding eye contact, instead looking around the restaurant as if looking for something.

"There is no need to worry yourselves. Nothing happened. I am fine, I was just held back a bit." Kuroko hoped the two would drop the subject. For one, the two were over-protective as it was and Kuroko didn't know if he could deal with them worrying over him anymore than they already do. Plus it's not like they could do anything about the situation now anyway. He also wanted to investigate further into what had happened on his own. He wanted to talk to Akashi and verify whether it was really him that was the ghoul who saved him. Like he'd reveal that he's a ghoul to me. He has no reason to trust me.

"If you say so Tetsu…" Whilst Aomine's words implied he was dropping the subject, his tone clearly indicated that he was still concerned and would be keeping a close watch on the cerulean haired male.

After a short period of awkwardness, the conversation between the three began to pick up. They discussed how their weeks had been and Kagami told them about all the stuff he was going to do when he got back to the States. The food was delicious, although Kuroko would never understand how Kagami could shovel so much food into his stomach. After they had finished the main meal and when they were waiting for dessert Kagami went to use the restroom quickly, leaving Aomine and Kuroko alone.

"Hey, Aomine-kun…"

"Yeah Kuroko?"

"I was wondering…about how you and Akashi ended up in the same family. How long have you known each other?" Kuroko had wanted to ask this before anyway, but after the night's events Kuroko was even more interested in the answer. If it was Akashi-kun who saved me, and Akashi-kun is a ghoul, then surely Aomine-kun must know.

"Eh, why do you want to know?" The dark blue haired boy looked suspiciously at Kuroko. Unknown to Kuroko, Aomine had received a text shortly before Kuroko arrived. Akashi had told him to keep a close watch over the light-blue eyed man, making sure that he was not feeling unwell or walking home alone.

"I've been talking to Akashi-kun a bit more recently, but he wouldn't tell me. He said it should be you who tells me instead. I would really like to know more about you Aomine-kun, but if you don't want to tell me now I will understand."

At that moment, Kagami returned and Aomine used it as an opportunity to drop the conversation. He didn't like talking about his past. He didn't want Kuroko's or Kagami's sympathy for having been abandoned as a child or for having his adoptive father crippled and there was no way in hell he was going to tell them he was a ghoul. He just wanted things to remain light-hearted between the three of them.

Kagami quickly diverted the topic of discussion and Kuroko decided to let it go for now.

Soon the evening came to an end, with all of them having finished dessert. As Kagami ordered the bill, Kuroko began to feel uneasy. He had not organised a way to get home, he would have to walk back. In the dark. Down that same street again…

"Hey Tetsu, you listening?" Aomine brought Kuroko out from his thoughts.

"I was just saying that my friend Satsuki agreed to give us all a lift home tonight, so don't worry about having to walk back. She should be here in a few minutes."

Kuroko visibly relaxed and gave a small smile to Aomine. "That is very kind of your friend Aomine-kun."

"Yeah, well she's like that I guess."

Six minutes later Momoi Satsuki texted Aomine, telling him that she was parked outside. The trio paid the bill and walked out to get in the car.

"Hey Satsuki." Aomine sat in the front passenger seat, whilst Kagami and Kuroko sat in the back together.

"Hello Dai-chan! I assume these are your friends!" Momoi turned to talk to Kuroko and Kagami. "Hello! My name is Momoi Satsuki, and yours?"

"H-hello, I'm K-kagami Taiga." Kagami stuttered out a response to the woman, his skin turning pink. Aomine laughed at Kagami's awkwardness and Kagami glared at him irately.

"I am Kuroko Tetsuya. It's nice to meet you Momoi-san, thank you for offering to give us a lift."

"You're welcome Tetsu-kun! Let's get going now." She said turning to the steering wheel and turning the ignition.


"Hey Sei, what was that text about earlier?" Aomine asked the shorter man he was walking the streets with. It was nearing midnight now, the moon high in the sky. Aomine had been confused enough as to why he had received the text earlier that evening, but when Kuroko arrived late and shaken up he knew something must have happened.

"I wanted you to make sure that Kuroko-kun was okay and would be safe. Nothing more."

"Yes, but you can't be telling me there was nothing that provoked that text. What the hell happened?" Aomine squinted suspiciously at the red haired man.

Akashi looked up to his adoptive brother with a serious look in his eye. "Do not flip out at what I'm about to tell you Daiki." Aomine became rather nervous at Akashi's words. Why would I flip out? What happened? "But I managed to find the binge eater-"

Aomine was puzzled by this. "That's great Sei! Then why are we-"

"I was not finished Daiki. Do not interrupt me. I found him attacking Kuroko-kun in an alleyway." Aomine paled at this. His confusion turning into rage. How dare anyone try and hurt Tetsu, I'll kill this asshole myself dammit. Akashi could see Aomine's fury and fear in his expression. "Daiki, calm down. Fortunately I was able to stop him from doing any serious harm, however I had to let him go in order to check Kuroko-kun's condition." Why didn't Tetsu tell me about this? He was attacked by a freaking ghoul and he didn't say anything! That idiot. Aomine thought as Akashi spoke. "Whilst I am glad that I was able to prevent the attack escalating any further, I am rather annoyed that I may have just blown our only chance to catch that bastard tonight. Not to mention there is a chance that Kuroko-kun recognised me. I was wearing my mask, but let's be honest, how many people have hair of my colour?"

At that, Aomine remembered the teal haired man asking him about his and Akashi's past. Maybe it was just as Kuroko said and he was just curious but maybe…

"He was asking about us actually…at the restaurant he wanted to know about our past."

This worried Akashi. He let out a sigh of frustration. I knew I shouldn't have got my hopes up. There's no way I can have a human friend, it's too dangerous. "Whilst this may just be a coincidence he must be, at the very least, suspicious that I was the ghoul. Few ghouls attack each other and then let the prey get away. I will have to avoid him from now on, only interacting when necessary." It was not what Akashi wanted to do. He had truly wanted to be friends with Kuroko. But what other choice did he have?

"Hey there's no need to be drastic Sei, just tell him it wasn't you if he asks about it." Aomine had noticed the two talking on Wednesday afternoon. Both had looked so happy to be in each other's company, and in all honesty they could both do with having more friends.

"It's hardly the most drastic solution Daiki. And do you really think that hasn't crossed my mind? If I were to lie to him, do you really think that would settle his suspicions? Because I don't. Anyway, I want you to drop the topic now. We may as well try to find this binge eater again. I will feel much better once he's out of our ward."

Aomine agreed as he watched Akashi walk slightly ahead of him. He was one of few who knew the man well. Looking at his brother's back, Aomine wore an expression of hurt, knowing that Akashi wanted to drop the topic because he was angry and upset.

Annoyed that he could no longer be close to Kuroko.


It was about 7am when Akashi returned home with Aomine. He heard Takao and Kise getting ready for work in the backroom. The two enthusiastic ghouls got on very well, often revelling in teasing the others, particularly Midorima. Akashi walked up the staircase to his and Aomine's apartment. Whilst the other four ghouls did not live there, they frequently visited the place and occasionally stayed overnight. Today, Midorima was sat in the living room reading a newspaper, likely waiting to hear back from Akashi on the night's events. Akashi and Aomine sat down on the sofa adjacent to the one Midorima was sitting on.

The green haired man looked to the two. "Did you find him then?"

The other two ghouls in the room looked slightly irritated with themselves.

Akashi spoke up first. "I did find him, however I lost him rather quickly. We continued to search for him, however we were unable to find him again."

"That is unfortunate." Midorima frowned before asking "Were you are least able to find anything else out about him?"

"I am afraid I didn't. All I know is that Himuro-san's and Satsuki's information was accurate. I will try looking for him again tonight." Akashi paused thinking of what to do next. "Daiki, if you would like to accompany me again then you may, however you need to cover my afternoon shift today, Shintaro needs to run some errands. Now I shall be going to bed for a few hours. Please wake me if anything important happens." Akashi then stood and left the room.


"Arf!"

"Sssssh Nigou." Kuroko looked worriedly at his dog. "You need to be quiet out here okay."

Nigou made a whining sound as his master tied his leash to a bike rack outside the café. Kuroko was only stopping by to grab a takeaway coffee today, as he wanted to take Nigou out for a walk before the sky began to darken.

Once he was sure Nigou was secure, he walked into the coffeehouse. Looking to the counter he saw Aomine and Kise bickering over something, and a shorter, dark haired man was cleaning the tables glancing over at them with a look of exasperation.

As Kuroko walked up to the counter, the blond greeted him energetically "Hello Kurokocchi~!"

"Hey dumbass get out the way, it's my turn to take care of the customers."

"Tsk, Aominecchi, you shouldn't use words like that, Akashicchi will punish you! And why can't I serve Kurokocchi?"

"Um, hello Aomine-kun, Kise-kun. Can I please order the usua-"

"Coming right up Kurokocchi/Tetsu!" The two baristas said at once before turning to scowl at each other and making a dash to make the drink for the teal haired male. The two butted heads and started bickering over who should make the coffee.

"Why the hell are you even adding 'cchi' to his name?! You don't even know him?!"

"I respect him a lot because he somehow manages to put up with your annoying ass!" The two began arguing, making no progress in preparing the shorter man's beverage.

Kuroko now understood the exasperated expression of the other barista in the room. Speaking of the raven haired man, he was approaching Kuroko.

"Sorry about these two idiots sir, they're always like this…well their not usually this bad in front of customers but…"

"It's okay, Ahomine is a friend of mine."

"Ah I see! Anyway those two don't seem to be getting far with your order. Just tell me what you want and I'll make it for you, it'll be much quicker than trying to stop their squabbling." Takao looked at the two across the counter. Aomine was now holding Kise in a head lock and the blond was crying with his usual exaggerated tears.

Kuroko noticed the black haired man's name tag Takao Kazunari. "Thank you Takao-san, that would be very kind of you. I would like a vanilla coffee to go please"

Turning back to Kuroko, Takao spoke again, "You're welcome sir. I'll have it ready soon!" and with that Takao walked behind the counter and began making Kuroko's coffee. The other two baristas had yet to notice Takao, who attempted to work around them as they continued fighting.

At that point, Kuroko's mobile went off, indicating he had received a text.

From: Kagami-kun
To: Kuroko Tetsuya

Hey Kuroko! I landed in America about an hour ago, safe and sound. Make sure you stay safe and keep that idiot Aomine company. See you in a month, feel free to message me whenever.

Kagami

Kuroko was glad that Kagami was okay and appreciated the text. He smiled at his phone before looking up at 'that idiot Aomine'. Watching his interactions with Kise made Kuroko laugh internally to himself. He knew from his experience with Aomine and Kagami, that if Aomine was acting this way with Kise it probably meant they were actually good friends. He was glad to see his old friend getting on 'well' with his colleagues.

Kuroko's mind began to wonder as he watched the two arguing. Where is Akashi-kun? I would have thought he would have shown up to stop their bickering by now...

Kuroko felt rather disappointed that his new friend was not around, however it was not particularly unusual. The baristas here frequently swapped shifts and it was perfectly logical that he may not be working today. But there was a part of Kuroko that thought What if it really was him last night? What if he's avoiding me?

Little did Kuroko know that Akashi was out back, seething with rage at the two idiots in his employment. The crimson haired ghoul was glad that Takao had at least tried to be polite and help out the customer, but he would definitely be reprimanding the other two for their rude actions. He would have gone out and disciplined them there and then, except Kuroko was there. He was not ready to talk to Kuroko and in all honesty, Akashi was trying to convince himself that it was best to ignore the teal haired man. Though he worried that if they were to talk anymore he would only become more attached and unwanting to let go.

"Here you go sir! One vanilla coffee to go!" Takao grinned at Kuroko as he handed over the hot beverage. "Have a good day Kuroko-san!"

"And you Takao-san." Kuroko replied.

With that, Kuroko left the coffee shop and untied Nigou before walking away.


A grey haired ghoul had returned to an abandoned warehouse late at night on Thursday. Having been interrupted by the red haired ghoul, he decided to change his plans.

As he staggered into the warehouse he was greeted by his boss. A tall, dark haired ghoul with large eyebrows. "What are you doing back so soon Haizaki? I thought you'd take a lot longer getting dinner." The taller ghoul had yet to notice the binge eater's wound.

"Yeah, well I got disrupted by some stupid scavenger with a red dragon mask. I was worried he might be looking for me so I came back here." At the mention of the red dragon mask the dark haired ghoul perked up.

"Hmmm, did this ghoul have bright red hair as well?"

"Yeah actually…anyway I'm going to lie down. If someone could go get me some food it would be much appreciated. Goodnight Hanamiya-san."

"Goodnight Haizaki." Hanamiya smirked to himself.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 – Confession

It had been two weeks since the incident with the grey and the red haired ghouls and Kuroko was now on his way to the bookstore after work.

He had not spoken to Akashi since that Wednesday evening a fortnight ago when the good-looking red head had mentioned the book he had been recommended. Akashi really must be avoiding me thought Kuroko sadly. It was not that Akashi had been absent all this time. Kuroko had seen him working regularly in the café, however Akashi had managed to avoid ever serving or talking to Kuroko, leaving it to the other baristas. This odd behaviour only made Kuroko more suspicious that the red eyed man really was the ghoul from that night.

Kuroko understood why Akashi would be cautious of him if his suspicions were correct. Humans are scared of ghouls and fear leads people to betray others. The two barely knew each other anyway, it was perfectly reasonable that Akashi would think that Kuroko would forsake him and report him to the CCG.

Nonetheless, Akashi's behaviour confused Kuroko. The red head seemed smart and sophisticated. Surely he would realise that dodging any interaction with the human would only serve to increase Kuroko's suspicion. Kuroko could easily report him regardless of having concrete evidence anyway, so why was Akashi evading him?

Thinking about it, Kuroko wondered why he had not reported the potential ghoul. Ever since he was a kid he's been told about how monstrous and bloodthirsty ghouls were, that they were the predator of humanity and should be hunted down. Not to mention he has hated ghouls ever since the incident with his family ten years ago. Yet, that red haired ghoul had done nothing to harm Kuroko. In fact, he had saved him from certain death at the risk of his own safety.

The thought caused Kuroko to question his view on ghouls. Perhaps they were not the murderous beasts he had always been told to believe them to be. He realised now that, like humans, there may be good ghouls and bad ghouls. Obviously killing people was inherently wrong, but could he really criticise their behaviour when it was all they could do to survive? When he thought about the fact that Akashi may very well be a ghoul he began wondering whether it would really matter. As long as Akashi showed no intention of hurting him and did not demonstrate unnecessarily cruel or evil behaviour, Kuroko imagined he would want to remain friends with the manager of the coffee shop regardless.

It also occurred to Kuroko that given Aomine and Akashi were brothers, who were on fairly good terms and living together, it was even more unlikely that Akashi would seek to harm him, especially if Aomine had anything to say about it.

Kuroko looked ahead to the entrance of the bookstore which was several shops away now. His train of thought was suddenly brought to a halt when he saw the crimson headed Akashi Seijuro walking into the establishment. This is my chance…if I corner him in there I can finally talk to him, find out the truth and explain my feelings. Kuroko's walking pace increased as he hurried to the bookstore.


That morning, Akashi had finished rereading the book that Kuroko had recommended to him a couple of weeks ago. He had truly enjoyed the thrilling read but he was in search of further distraction from the dullness that was everyday life at the moment and so decided to return to the bookstore to buy a new novel.

He was now stood in front of a set of bookshelves, reading the blurb of a book when a hand grabbed his arm. He immediately tensed, looking up, expecting to see a stranger. Who he saw frightened him.

Kuroko.

The bluenette was stood, looking into his scarlet eyes determinedly. Akashi was in a stunned silence, unsure of what to do. He made a weak attempt to pull away without saying a word, however Kuroko tightened his grip on the surprised man.

"Please do not run away from me Akashi-kun. I would like to speak with you." Kuroko said bluntly.

Akashi wondered what the best course of action was. Perhaps the best option would be to act cold, telling the man that he did not care for his company and that he wished to be left alone. Yet Akashi could not bring himself to do this, knowing it was not what he truly wanted. He just stood in silence looking at the kindergarten teacher.

Kuroko then looked down at the book in Akashi's hand. After a moment's pause Kuroko spoke again. "I think Akashi-kun would enjoy that book very much." He said with a gentle smile on his face. Akashi began to relax his muscles, realising he was in no immediate danger. Just talking to the slightly shorter male should not cause too many problems.

Akashi proceeded to buy the book, Kuroko keeping a grasp on his lower arm as he did so. The two were leaving the store when Akashi finally spoke up.

"You do not need to keep a hold of my arm, I will not run away Kuroko-kun." Akashi said softly. Kuroko loosened his grip for a second before letting go completely. The two were walking side by side on the pavement, heading towards the coffeehouse. They walked without speaking to begin with. Akashi was looking at the floor whilst Kuroko stared at the taller males face, trying to read his expression. However, Akashi was not letting his emotions show, hiding his thoughts. It was then that Kuroko really took in the red heads facial features. He noticed how defined and attractive his face was. How striking those red eyes were against his pale complexion. Kuroko immediately looked away, shaking away the thoughts. I can't go falling for Akashi-kun. There's no way he'd ever like me in that way.

In Akashi's absence Kuroko had felt a lacking in his life. Perhaps it was simply because Kagami had also left, but Kuroko had frequently found himself longing for Akashi's company. Longing in a way that he was unused to.

The blue haired human decided to speak up once more.

"Akashi-kun, I know you have been avoiding me and purposely not speaking to me. I can only think of one good reason you would do this. Surely you realise that I will only become surer that it really was you that night?" Kuroko spoke confidently though not loudly, deciding to be blunt about the topic. It was clear that something had changed between them after that night. Previously, Akashi was eager to become closer with him, yet after the incident, he would not even look Kuroko in the eye, let alone talk to him. Whilst Kuroko could have simply given up on him, he wanted to know if he really was his saviour and whether he truly did want to be his friend.

Kuroko's words had terrified Akashi. The blue haired man was being somewhat vague but it was clear to the both of them what he was talking about. Is it even worth playing ignorant at this point? What could I possibly say that would make Kuroko-kun believe me?

Akashi decided to try his luck. Putting on his best confused expression, he replied "What are you talking about? I know I've been busy lately but it's not like I was purposely avoidi-"

"Don't pretend to be oblivious Akashi-kun. I'm good at reading people, and it's clear you are lying even if you are good at hiding your emotions." Kuroko stopped walking and looked at Akashi's face. He was hurt that Akashi was so blatantly lying to him, yet he understood. He knew that a ghoul could not so easily reveal their identity. The red head stopped avoiding Kuroko's gaze and finally looked into Kuroko's eyes. He was torn. He could not just give in and admit to being a ghoul but he couldn't lie to this man either. However, Kuroko continued before Akashi could reply.

"I want you to know, whether or not that really was you, I don't care. I still wish to be friends with you Akashi-kun. I've missed talking to you these past few weeks, so please stop avoiding me." Kuroko was looking at Akashi with more emotion than Akashi had seen on the man's face before. It was somewhere between a look of hurt, pleading and hope. "And just so we're clear, I trust you and I would never betray a friend."

Little did Kuroko know that his words meant a great deal to Akashi.

Trust.

Never betray.

Friend.

Akashi looked at Kuroko in disbelief. Would this man really forgive him for being a ghoul? Would he really accept that? Would he really accept him? All his life he has had to hide a part of himself from every human he's ever come across. He has had to live with the monstrous hunger for human flesh. It made him hate himself sometimes, he could hardly imagine someone else accepting that side of him.

Just then, Kuroko began walking again, pulling Akashi along by the arm. They were nearing the café now. A moment of quiet passed before Kuroko continued.

"Akashi-kun, please be honest with me. I know you have little reason to be, but please tell me: What are you?"

The two now stood outside the window of the café. Kuroko looked up to the taller man with a determined look in his eye. Akashi finally decided to give in to his own wants. He wanted to be honest with Kuroko, regardless of the risks, regardless of the fact that Kuroko could easily be pretending to accept him and that at any moment this illusion of friendship could be shattered. He wanted to be trustworthy. To be his friend.

Akashi's next sentence was barely audible, but Kuroko caught it. "I am a ghoul." Akashi said looking directly into Kuroko's sky blue eyes. The teal head's reaction confused Akashi. Instead of disgust or fear, a wide, understanding smile spread across his face and the shorter moved in to hug the red haired man.

The next thing Akashi knew was Kuroko's arms wrapping tightly around his chest pulling him into an embrace. "Thank you Akashi-kun." Kuroko whispered.

The hug lasted only a few seconds before Kuroko pulled away. Akashi had been too shocked to return the embrace, though he now regretted not returning the smaller man's affection.

"B-but…how can you be okay with that? I've…I've killed people. I'm a monster" Akashi said quietly, filled with self-disgust.

Kuroko stared at Akashi with an expression of sympathy. "Have you ever killed or hurt anyone when you did not need to?"

Akashi hesitated for a moment, trying to think of a situation where he had killed anyone where it was not necessary. Truthfully, he had killed very few. A handful of ghouls had tried to attack him and his family over his life-time and he was forced to kill them in self-defence. Only on two occasions did he himself have to kill humans: the ghouls at the coffeehouse had run out of food and there was none to be found at the cliff. They were on the verge of starvation and Akashi decided he would take one for the team and do the killing. He made sure to look into the humans' pasts. They were cruel people, with no family to miss them. However Akashi still felt guilty for having taken their lives.

"No, but-"

Kuroko was relieved by the answer. "Then you only did what you had to in order to survive. I would also like to thank you for saving me from that grey haired ghoul."

Akashi sighed, not sure how he felt about Kuroko's overly accepting reply. "You should be more careful, if I had not been there…Just don't go out in the dark again, okay?"

"Is Akashi-kun worried about my safety?" Kuroko teased. Akashi blushed slightly but before he could reply Kuroko continued. "I better be going, it'll be getting dark soon. I hope that you'll let me talk to you tomorrow Akashi-kun."

And with that the teal haired human left, leaving Akashi stood, stunned, outside of his café. His heart felt so warm and light after speaking with the shorter man, particularly after the embrace. He felt like a massive weight had been lifted from his chest, allowing him to breathe again. Yet at the same time he was terrified. A human knew he was a ghoul, which was dangerous enough for him, but Kuroko also considered him a friend which may put Kuroko in danger. Humans should not get involved in the world of ghouls after all.

Akashi took a moment to regain his composure, before walking into the coffee shop, where he would inevitably be teased by the blond working the counter today who likely witnessed Akashi's interactions with Kuroko.

However, no-one had noticed the dark haired ghoul watching from across the street.


Akashi walked into the coffee shop. There were currently very few customers and as expected the excitable blond bounded up to him.

"Akashicchi! I just saw you with Kurokocchi! Did you two start talking again? I saw him give you a hug, it was so adorable Akashicchi!"

"Heh, seems like you couldn't keep avoiding Tetsu after all Sei." Aomine walked up behind Kise to join the conversation.

Akashi continued walking through their café, closely followed by the blond and bluenette. "He wanted to talk to me about what happened a fortnight ago. He knows." Akashi said matter-of-factly.

Kise looked at Akashi in shock. "Wait…you mean…he knows what you are? And he still hugged you? That's even better Akashicchi!"

"Keep your voice down Ryouta. I'm going out back, so please return to working. That is what I pay you for after all."

Akashi walked out back, hoping to avoid any questioning from the ghouls, however Aomine followed him into the small room.

"Hey, Sei. If he knows about you, do you reckon he'll get suspicious about me…I don't think he'll believe me if I just say I had no idea you were a ghoul…."

Akashi looked up to Aomine. "It's probably best if you tell him that you knew I was a ghoul at least. Whether you want to tell him about yourself or not is your own decision to make Daiki. I must get back to my work now, you should do the same."

"Sei…"

"Yes?"

There was a small hesitation before the navy head continued. "You would never hurt him right? Even if he knows?" Aomine was looking at him with a stern expression. He could not bear the thought of his own brother hurting Kuroko. Whilst he knew Akashi was not one to support unnecessary violence, this type of situation had never occurred in their makeshift family. He wanted to be sure.

Akashi looked at Aomine with knowing eyes. "Of course not. Besides, I…trust him."

Aomine gave a nod and started to walk out of the room when Akashi continued, with a whisper. "And I do not think I could bring myself to hurt him regardless of what he does." He said looking at the ceiling absentmindedly.

Aomine gave a small smile to his adopted brother, understanding his feelings.

"See you later Sei." He said as he left the red head alone in the backroom.


The whole way home, Kuroko could not stop thinking about Akashi's confession. Akashi had been honest with him. Kuroko smiled at that thought. Truthfully, Kuroko was surprised at how little convincing he had to do to get Akashi to verify his suspicions and a part of Kuroko wondered whether he should be worried. Perhaps the ghoul simply told the truth, safe in the knowledge that he could easily kill Kuroko at any time. Yet Kuroko was not concerned. He did not believe Akashi would be malicious. Not only had he never been given the impression that Akashi was a cruel guy, but Aomine was his brother. There's no way Aomine would let Kuroko talk to Akashi if he believed he posed a threat to Kuroko.

Speaking of which. Aomine-kun…Kuroko thought in dismay. Is it possible that Aomine-kun did not know about Akashi-kun being a ghoul? It seemed unlikely, but not entirely impossible. Kuroko made a mental note to invite Aomine out soon so they could talk about it.


That night Akashi lay in bed reflecting on Kuroko's reaction to his revelation. Akashi had managed to distract himself for most of the evening, burying himself in his work and reading. But now, as he lay in bed trying to sleep, his mind was left to think. It refused to sleep, still lost in thoughts about Kuroko. He wanted to talk to him. Yeah, just show up at his house in the middle of the night. That wouldn't be creepy. He laughed internally to himself. It was rare that he found himself unable to sleep, but when he did he found that a walk around the block usually helped clear his head.

He got out of his double-bed and threw on some casual clothes before leaving the apartment.

Whilst he walked the streets on the cloudy night he thought about his feelings for Kuroko. There was something about the man that was so different, yet Akashi could not place it. From all he could tell, Kuroko was fairly plain and average, yet the crimson eyed ghoul was always happy and subtly excited to see him. Even when he was avoiding contact with Kuroko, he had yearned to talk to him.

A thought flitted through Akashi's mind.

You love him.

He tried to shake the thought away, insisting that it was only a passing feeling of affection, yet it made so much sense to him. But how could he accept that? He could not love Kuroko, it was dangerous enough to be friends, let alone anything more.

It was at that moment that he saw a figure standing a dozen metres ahead.

The person ahead started walking towards him. Within seconds Akashi could make out his face and he realised who it was. His thoughts turned to those of anger and disgust.

"Well, well Aka-shi-kun. Long-time, no see." The man smirked.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 6 – An Old Enemy

"Well, well Aka-shi-kun. Long-time, no see." The man said slowly as he smirked.

The red head wore a grim expression. "What the hell are you doing here Hanamiya? I thought we made it clear that you are not welcome in this area." Akashi practically snarled.

"Oh, so is that why the CCG were on my tail for so long. Did you and your buddies tell on me after our little fight?"

Flashback:

The ghouls of the coffee shop had heard about the ghoul group 'Kirisaki Daichi' from Kiyoshi Teppei. When Kiyoshi was younger, his own mother had taken in a ghoul who would one day become the group's leader, Hanamiya Makoto. No matter how much they had tried to teach him to accept humans and live alongside them, Hanamiya would never listen, instead seeking to make them suffer. After a year of staying with the Kiyoshi family, Hanamiya ran away. Soon after Kiyoshi's mother died in a tragic accident leaving the tall brunette alone in the café.

The two did not encounter each other for several years after that. By the time they did, Kiyoshi was 25 and had employed the six male ghouls he had found in need of help. Akashi and Aomine were the only two who actually lived with him at the time, both about 16, but Kiyoshi was rather protective of all of them. The other four ghouls each shared apartments with slightly older ghouls whom they considered friends – Miyaji Kiyoshi, Kasamatsu Yukio and Himuro Tatsuya.

Hanamiya showed up one night in the cafe, Kiyoshi was downstairs cleaning when they confronted each other. "It's been a long time Kiyoshi-kun." Hanamiya smirked at the taller man.

"Unless you have come here to change your ways, you are not welcome here anymore Hanamiya. I know what you've been getting up to these past few years. I've left you alone because I do not wish to see you hurt, but do not bring your business to my home." Kiyoshi spoke seriously. He knew that Hanamiya had become the leader of a notable ghoul gang, and that he had been attacking and torturing innocent humans.

"Aw, I thought we were friends Kiyoshi-kun." Hanamiya mockingly pouted.

"We could have been. But we both know that what happened to my mother was not an accident. Now leave."

Neither of the two ghouls noticed a young Akashi, eavesdropping from the backroom. In the 7 years the boy had lived with the man, Akashi had never heard Kiyoshi sound so serious.

Hanamiya laughed at the brunette's words, which only served to make Kiyoshi angrier. Kiyoshi's mother had definitely been killed by a ghoul. Whilst he could not prove it, he was sure it was Hanamiya. Rumour had it that members of the Kirisaki Daichi must pass an initiation test before being fully accepted into the gang. This involved killing someone close to you to prove your devotion. Whilst Hanamiya had not been particularly close to Kiyoshi's mother, she was the closest thing he'd ever had to a family.

"Hmm." Hanamiya took a deep breathe in through his nose. He paused before glancing towards the backroom. "I think we have company Kiyoshi-kun." He said. Akashi knew he had been sussed out as he listened to the older two ghouls talk. Kiyoshi looked worriedly at the door which Akashi was hiding behind.

"Why don't you come on out kid?" Kiyoshi turned to stare threateningly at Hanamiya. He still did not know why the thuggish ghoul was here, and there was no way in hell he'd let him hurt his family ever again.

Akashi stepped out confidently. Though he was young, he was strong. So was Kiyoshi. He was not afraid of a single ghoul.

"He's cute Kiyoshi-kun, how old is he?"

"Leave." Kiyoshi said forcefully.

In all honesty, Akashi was slightly concerned. He had never seen Kiyoshi so severe and angry. He was usually the first person to make light of a situation yet clearly that was not the case tonight.

"But I haven't got what I came for Kiyoshi-kun."

"What do you want?" Akashi asked, standing a few feet behind Kiyoshi.

Hanamiya looked at the red head before answering wildly. "His suffering."

At that moment another three ghouls, minions of Hanamiya, broke through the door of the café.. All four ghouls from Kirisaki Daichi then released their kagune, ready to fight.

Kiyoshi's eyes widened in fear. He quickly snapped out of his panic before turning to Akashi. "Get Daiki and run! I'll hold them off as long as I can."

Akashi was rooted to the spot. How could Kiyoshi ask him to leave? To leave him there alone with four hostile ghouls? Akashi came back to his senses, a strong look on his face.

"No I will not leave you here Teppei-san. We can take them." He said confidently.

Hanamiya laughed at that. "Good one kid. But I'm afraid we're gunna kill you first." Two of the Kirisaki Daichi ghouls ran at Akashi. Kiyoshi was able to stop one of them, quickly releasing his koukaku kagune from his shoulder to use as a weapon. Akashi also let out his kagune, ready to fight. He was always worried something like this would happen. He'd prepared himself in case it ever did, training every day in the basement with Aomine to make sure he was fit and able to fight if need be.

Akashi dodged the first strike from the offending ghoul. The ghoul's bangs were so long that they covered his eyes but he could still see somehow. Akashi ducked under another swing of the taller ghoul's fist, before striking out himself. His kagune lashed out at the assailant knocking him backwards slightly. At that moment, Hanamiya appeared in front of Akashi, an insane grin across his face.

The dark haired man had been waiting a long time for this. He was sadistic in nature and wanted to see others suffer. He wanted to see Kiyoshi suffer. He wanted the brunette to realise that ghouls can't play pretend and lead 'normal' lives. That to do so was against their very nature.

Akashi managed to defend himself against Hanamiya's flurry of attacks, but he was losing ground and the other ghoul was beginning to sync his attacks with Hanamiya's.

Somewhere behind them, Aomine crept into the room, still drowsy from having been woken up by the noise and shouting. As soon as he saw what was happening he was hit with a shot of adrenaline, running to help his family. He started by assisting Akashi, the two managed to work together and beat Hanamiya's lackey into unconsciousness. However, at that moment the other two Kirisaki Daichi ghouls joined Hanamiya in attacking them, after greatly injuring Kiyoshi, leaving him unable to fight. The tall brunette was losing consciousness, but he saw Aomine and Akashi fighting against the other ghouls. Sure, they trained, but practising among friends and actually fighting for one's life are completely different experiences. They were going to lose.

Aomine was thrown to the back of the room leaving Akashi to fight the three ghouls on his own. He was already losing strength, having sustained a number of cuts and a stab wound to the leg. But he had to keep fighting.

Kiyoshi saw that Akashi was losing. He didn't care if his body screamed for him not to, Kiyoshi stood and lunged across the room. With the little energy he had left, he stabbed his kagune through Hanamiya's other two lackeys, throwing them away from the boys and leaving them to bleed out on the floor. Hanamiya looked to Kiyoshi before turning back to the red haired boy in front of him.

Akashi was not in good shape, kneeling on the floor, panting and looking as if he were about to pass out from his beating. Hanamiya was about to deal a fatal blow when Kiyoshi barged into his side and forced Hanamiya's attention back on him.

Aomine rushed over to his brother's side, helping him to stand. They both looked over to Kiyoshi. What they saw terrified them.

"Teppei!" both boys shouted as Hanamiya's kagune pieced Kiyoshi's spine from behind, stabbing all the way through his lower torso. A gut wrenching sound was made as the tentacle-like protrusion tore Kiyoshi's flesh and broke through his backbone. Hanamiya knew he was beat now that his subordinates were useless. The two younger ghouls were strong. Even injured, the two of them were too strong for him to finish alone right now, so he took satisfaction in hurting Kiyoshi more directly instead.

The dark haired ghoul dashed out of the coffee shop, leaving Aomine and Akashi to deal with Kiyoshi.

Ghouls heal quickly, sure. But injuries caused by kagune take far longer to heal, and Hanamiya had done some serious damage.

Aomine sat on the floor of the coffee shop, next to the only man who had accepted him and had helped him when he most needed it. The man who was now bleeding out, creating a pool of crimson. The blue haired boy took Kiyoshi in his arms as Akashi went to call Miyaji, the unofficial physician who Midorima and Takao lived with.

When he returned to Aomine and Kiyoshi, he noticed that the bigger man was still conscious.

"A-are you two, o-okay?" Kiyoshi stuttered out, blood leaking from the side of his mouth. Aomine held his body tightly.

"We're fine thanks to you Teppei-san." Akashi answered in a whisper. Both looked down at Kiyoshi with a pained look on their face.

"Good." Kiyoshi replied, a tiny smile crept onto his face before he lost consciousness.

End flashback

It had been Midorima who spread the anonymous rumours to the CCG of the Kirisaki Daichi's horrific activities. Hanamiya had been run out of town by the amount of ghoul investigators searching for him.

But it appeared that the sadistic ghoul had returned and now stood before Akashi. "So what if we did report you. You deserved it after all. Just be glad we didn't kill you." Akashi said viciously. In truth, the only reason he had not killed the tall ghoul stood in front of him was because Akashi knew it would only cause more problems than it solved. The ghouls of the Kirisaki Daichi gang would surely seek revenge for their leader and reek more havoc than ever.

"Well, just don't be surprised if I decide to get a little revenge."

'Revenge' Akashi thought. He wanted to punch the man for using that word. What they had done to the ghoul had been nothing but self-defense whilst what Hanamiya had done to Kiyoshi was simply cruel and psychotic. Akashi scoffed at his comment before replying. "Like you can threaten me. We both know I'm stronger now. You may have a lot of underlings, but they are weak. We could easily take them on."

Hanamiya gave a small laugh. "Perhaps you could Akashi-kun…" Hanamiya then leant in closer to Akashi before whispering. "But do you think that sweet smelling, light blue haired human of yours could take on even one of my subordinates?"

Akashi stiffened at the question. How the hell does he know about him? Kuroko only just found out about me being a ghoul, have I already put him in danger? Akashi pulled himself together, stepping away from the initial fear the question had caused him, instead seeking to play ignorant and careless.

"Who?"

"Don't play dumb with me kid. I saw you two today, hugging outside the café. So cute~."

"Oh him? He hugged me. He can be rather over familiar like that, but he means nothing to me." Akashi said coolly.

A sly smile stretched over Hanamiya's face. "Liar. I know you Akashi Seijuro. If you did not want someone to hug you, you would stop them." There was a short silence before he continued. "Perhaps I should have a talk with him and see how he feels about you, heh Akashi-kun?"

Akashi began to shake with rage and his hands balled up into fists at his sides at the underlying threat in Hanamiya's words. He would not let this monster close to Kuroko. This demon was known to torture humans, both physically and mentally, before finally killing and eating them.

"Stay away from him." He stated murderously.

"What are you gunna do, fight me?" Oh how Akashi wanted to kill him right there and then. Eliminate the threat in front of him and be done with it. But he knew better than that. If Hanamiya was planning some sort of revenge, he would have a back-up plan. The danger would never really be gone even if Akashi killed him now. Though it is tempting… Akashi thought.

Hanamiya chuckled at the shorter man before starting to walk off. He threw a hand up in a wave and turned to look over his shoulder at Akashi.

"See you around Akashi-kun."

And with that, Akashi was left in the middle of the pavement seething with rage and consumed by the darkness of the night.


The next afternoon, Kuroko was once again sat in the coffee shop at the counter. Akashi was not working today, instead the kindergarten teacher was greeted by Kise.

"Hey Kurokocchi! How are you today?"

"I'm good Kise-kun. How are you?"

"I'm great! You want the usual?"

"Yes please."

"Coming right up!"

Kuroko brought out his book, though he'd recently discovered that the blond no longer worried about bothering him as he read, instead choosing to freely talk with Kuroko. Although it was usually a rather one-sided conversation.

Kise soon brought over his drink and quickly got to talking to Kuroko. Apparently Kise had little sense of privacy as he started with "Kurokocchi, I saw you with Akashicchi yesterday! What were you two talking about?"

Kuroko had to think about his reply. He didn't want to lie, but at the same time he could hardly tell the whole truth. "I wanted to ask him why he hasn't been speaking to me much. Everything's okay now though." I think Kuroko mentally added.

"Aw, glad to hear it Kurokocchi! He'd kill me if I said it to him, but he could really do with more friends. He barely talks to anyone unless its about business, he must really like you a lot to want to be your friend." Kise said with a friendly smile.

"Really?"

"Yes!"

Kuroko pondered Kise's words. For some reason, hearing that he was somewhat special to have gained Akashi's attention filled him with a sense of joy and pride.

"Hey, Kise-kun? Is Akashi-kun here today?"

"I'm afraid he isn't Kurokocchi. He went out on business an hour ago. Sorry." Kise had heard Aomine mention that the manager had gone to speak with Momoi a little while ago and probably wouldn't be back until late.

"I see…" It saddened Kuroko that he would be unable to see Akashi that day but he had a back-up plan.

"Um, Kise-kun? I was wondering…could you please give me Akashi-kun's phone number? He isn't here today and I really wanted to talk to him so…" Kuroko's sentence began confident but it tailed off towards the end. He had been wanting to speak to Akashi all day and seeing as he must be busy right now, Kuroko saw this as the best solution.

Meanwhile, Kise was having an internal battle. He really wanted to give Kuroko Akashi's number, but at the same time he knew Akashi would scold him for giving away his number so easily. It's not like Kurokocchi's a stranger though…and Akashicchi would probably be secretly grateful if I gave it to him…

"Ah, sure thing Kurokocchi! Let me go get some paper and a pen to write it down for you." He said walking away from the counter.

A moment later, Kise was handing Kuroko a small piece of paper with a phone number on it.

"Thank you Kise-kun." Kuroko looked up at the blond, giving him a subtle smile.

So cute~ Kise thought. "You're welcome Kurokocchi! Er…but could you maybe not tell Akashicchi it was me who gave it to you? He probably wouldn't be happy about it." Kise shifted on the spot nervously remembering the last time he had annoyed Akashi.

"Okay Kise-kun. I will do my best."

"Thanks Kurokocchi~"

The two exchanged small talk for another few minutes before a giant, purple haired barista lumbered over.

"Mido-chin says you need to get back to work Kise-chin."

"Aw, but Murasakibaracchi, I'm entertaining a customer, surely that counts as work."

At that moment Midorima joined the three. "Bothering Kuroko with your constant babbling does not count as 'entertainment'. Now get some actual work done." With that Midorima and Murasakibara left to attend to customers and Kise said goodbye to Kuroko before moving to clean some tables.

Kuroko read for a little while, sipping his coffee, before he left the café to walk home.

There was actually a specific reason Kuroko had wanted to talk to Akashi. The light blue haired man had been thinking that the two still knew rather little about each other and Kuroko wanted to invite Akashi over to his house for a movie night in order to get to know him better.

As he was walking home he pulled out his phone and typed in the digits Kise had written down for him. After a couple of seconds the call went through.

"Hello who is this?" Akashi's voice sounded through Kuroko's phone.

"Hello Akashi-kun, its Kuroko. I have a proposal for you."

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 7 – Tetsuya

"Hello who is this?" Akashi asked after answering his phone from an unknown number.

"Hello Akashi-kun, it's Kuroko. I have a proposal for you."

Akashi's expression changed from one of concern to one of relief when he heard the human's voice. "Kuroko-kun? Hello, it's nice to hear from you, but if you don't mind me asking, where did you get my number?" Whilst Akashi was not unhappy to hear from Kuroko, he was still somewhat anxious as to how the male obtained his number.

"I'll tell you another time Akashi-kun, but I wanted to ask if you are free tomorrow evening."

Why does Kuroko-kun want to know if I'm free? Akashi thought before replying. "I should be free after 6pm, why?"

"I am inviting you to my house for coffee and movies tomorrow evening, if you'd like. At first I was considering making us dinner but…um…I remembered that coffee would probably be a better idea."

Akashi was honoured that Kuroko had invited him over, though he worried about the human's lack of concern for safety – inviting a ghoul round to his house? Of course Akashi meant no harm but there was no way Kuroko could know that for sure. "That would be lovely Kuroko-kun. What time, and where's your house?"

"At 6:30pm. I could walk you over to my house if you would like. I can meet you at the café."

Akashi considered the dangers of Kuroko walking around at that time, but decided that it shouldn't be too dark and that he would be able to protect him from potential threats anyway. Besides, according to Aomine his house was not too far from the coffee shop and the route was relatively safe. "Sounds great. I better be getting back to work now, but I look forward to seeing you tomorrow Kuroko-kun." His subtle happiness was evident in his voice.

"See you then Akashi-kun. Goodbye."

"Goodbye Kuroko-kun."

Akashi ended the call before putting his phone in his pocket. He was currently making his way back to his apartment after having met with Momoi Satsuki. She was a ghoul who specialised in gathering information about people and had been in debt to Aomine and Akashi ever since they helped her escape from her abusive boyfriend. Nowadays she happily did research for them and put together profiles on people that Akashi wanted to know about and keep track of.

Today, Akashi had gone to her once again to ask about the binge eater, whose attacks had been increasing yet again, but this time Akashi also questioned her about the Kirisaki Daichi gang. Apparently there was little activity from the group which only made Akashi more suspicious. Perhaps they were simply lying in wait somewhere, waiting for the right time to strike. Momoi said she would look into it further and email him any important findings.

However, Akashi was surprised when Momoi had informed him that a new ghoul faction was rising up. They called themselves 'The Jabberwocks' and apparently its leaders had moved over to Japan from America. Like many ghoul gangs, they were aggressive and anti-human. Great, just what this place needed. More monsters. Akashi thought bitterly. He decided to focus on the other enemies for now before dealing with these American ghouls.


Once Akashi arrived home he called together a meeting to discuss his findings. He liked to keep everyone up-to-date on events and wanted to see if anyone had any ideas on what to do. Whilst he did not explain that Hanamiya had made a pretty direct threat towards Kuroko, he did mention their meeting the previous night.

"Hanamiya is back. Last night, I was confronted by him. I want everyone to be on alert and be careful of unfriendly ghouls, preferably we should remain in at least pairs at all times."

Everyone clearly tensed with anger at the mention of Hanamiya's return. After what that bastard did to Kiyoshi, none of them could forgive him. Not to mention, the ghoul himself was a sadistic maniac.

"In other news, the attention from the CCG is getting to be too much. The day after tomorrow, Aomine and I shall drive a long way out of town to our distant gathering spot for food. We shall also check in with Himuro-san and Teppei-san whilst we're out. That's all for now, thank you."

With that, the rest of the ghouls began to leave the room about to head home, but Akashi stopped Takao and Kise with an arm before they could exit. "You two are off on Saturday right? The day Aomine and I will be out."

"Yes, but we were going to help Shin-chan and Murasakibara with their shifts that day. Why?"

"I would appreciate it if the two of you would keep an eye on Kuroko Tetsuya, the light-blue haired-"

"Yeah, we know who Kurokocchi is, but why?" Kise asked with a look of concern.

"I'm worried about what Hanamiya has planned and would appreciate it if you kept him safe in my and Aomine's absence." Akashi stated coolly.

Takao gave a thumbs up before speaking. "Sure Akashi, you can count on us!"

"Thank you." Akashi said, lowering his arm and allowing the ravenette and blond to leave.


The next day's events began rather averagely, with Akashi, Murasakibara and Takao working the shop. Aomine had gone out to play basketball with Kuroko and Nigou that afternoon as he often did, however, today he brought Kise with him.

"Yo, Tetsu!" Aomine shouted to the cerulean haired man on the street basketball court.

"Hello Aomine-kun. I see you brought Kise-kun with you."

"Hey Kurokocchi! I didn't know you had a dog."

"Hello Kise-kun, this is Nigou."

"Eh? 'Nigou', why would you call him that?"

As Kise and Aomine were approaching Kuroko and Nigou on the court, the dog ran up to them. Kise leaned down to pet the panting Alaskan malamute when he noticed the eyes. "His-his eyes look just like…" Kise muttered looking at the dogs face and then up to Kuroko's face.

Aomine joined in with petting Nigou and laughed at Kise's surprised expression. "That is why he is called 'Nigou'. Well technically Tetsuya Nigou, right Tetsu?"

"Yes. Apparently he somewhat resembles me."

Having greeted the newcomers, Nigou bounded back over to his owner's side, his tail wagging frantically.

"Anyway, let's play some basketball." Aomine said as he started standing up from his crouched position. Kuroko then passed the ball to him. "Howabout you and me vs Kise and Nigou eh Tetsu?"

"I think that would be a bit unfair Aomine-kun. Perhaps I should play with Kise and you can have Nigou."

"Fine then." Aomine agreed, slightly annoyed that Kuroko didn't want to be on his team.

Wow Kurokocchi must be really good at basketball if Aominecchi wants him on his team Kise thought excitedly, having never seen Kuroko play basketball.

Kuroko walked over to the blond. "Please be ready to receive my passes Kise-kun."

There two-on-two game of basketball was a rather short one. Kise and Kuroko won. Aomine may be stronger and better at basketball than the other two, however he can't play to full effect without being able to pass to a player with opposable thumbs.

"What even was that Kurokocchi?! You seemed to disappear and reappear!"

Aomine walked over to the two, Nigou close at his heels. Throwing an arm around Kuroko's shoulders he laughed at Kise. "That's his party trick, although it works a lot better when he has a whole team to be honest."

"It's so cool!"

"Thank you Kise-kun."

The three males continued to practice basketball together. Kuroko enjoyed watching Aomine and Kise face off in a one-on-one game. Aomine won of course, although it got pretty close with a score of 10-8. After a while Kuroko took out his phone to look at the time. It was about ten minutes past six.

"It's past six now guys, maybe we should start heading home."

"Aw already?" Kise whined.

"Eh, really? Okay then let's go."


The three men and Nigou arrived at the coffee house about ten minutes before Kuroko had agreed to meet with Akashi.

Kuroko stopped outside. "Goodbye Kurokocchi! See you soon!" Kise said, moving to hug the man with sky blue hair.

Kuroko side stepped the incoming embrace before bowing. "Goodbye Kise-kun. Goodbye Aomine-kun."

The two walked inside the closed coffee shop leaving Kuroko and Nigou standing outside. As they walked through the backroom, about to head upstairs, they caught sight of Akashi putting on a coat.

"Hi Sei." Aomine said before ascending the stairs to their apartment. However Kise lingered.

"Hey Akashicchi! Where are you going?"

"I'm meeting up with a friend of mine."

"Eh, Akashicchi has friends?" Kise said jokingly, however he wished he hadn't the moment he saw the look on Akashi's face.

"Yes, I do Ryouta. Does that surprise you?" The red head's voice remained even but his gaze sent daggers at the blond.

"N-n-no Akashicchi. Who is it anyway?"

Akashi's cheeks seemed to be tinged with pink. Who the hell is he meeting?! Akashicchi would never blush! Unless maybe…Kurokocchi?! Kise thought.

"That's none of your business. Please remind Aomine that I should be back later tonight. Goodbye."

And with that Akashi left the room, heading towards the front door.

Kise remembered how Kuroko had seemed to remain outside the door as if waiting for someone. Kise snuck a look into the shop and watched as Akashi sauntered out to greet Kuroko, a smile spreading across his face.


"Hello Akashi-kun. I'm sorry, I was a bit early." Kuroko said as he saw Akashi walking up to him.

"Hello Kuroko-kun. It is fine, I wasn't really doing anything anyway. How are you?"

"I'm good thanks, and you?"

"I'm fine. Glad to have finished work for the day." Akashi said, exhaustion clear in his voice. There had been an influx of customers earlier that afternoon and the two baristas working out front today had struggled to keep up with the orders.

"Arf!"

Akashi looked down to Kuroko's side where a dog stood, panting. "I assume this is your dog." Akashi said interestedly, leaning down to pet Nigou.

"Yes, his name is Nigou."

The Alaskan malamute seemed extremely happy to see Akashi, despite having never met him before. He began licking the man's hand and wagging his tail excitedly. "Arf arf!"

"Nigou, stop that." Kuroko said worriedly. Hopefully Akashi-kun likes dogs.

Akashi gave a chuckle "Its fine. I rather like dogs. I'm particularly fond of obedient ones."

Kuroko relaxed. "You should get on just fine with Nigou then."

"Arf!"

"Why did you call him Ni-" It was then that Akashi got a good look at the dog's sky blue, round eyes, answering his own question. "Nevermind. Let's get going before it gets dark."

The two made casual conversation on the way to Kuroko's home. Discussing how their days had been and the book which Kuroko had recommended to Akashi over a fortnight ago. They each became gradually more enthused as the discussion about the book went on, excited to be able to share their views on the characters and plot, but they soon arrived at their destination.

The two entered Kuroko's house, both taking off their shoes and coats before the blue haired man offered for Akashi to sit on the sofa while he went and made coffee in the joint kitchen.

Akashi took the offer and sat down on the black, leather sofa. Nigou followed him into the living room, trotting over to the small sofa and jumping up onto it before curling up to the left of Akashi. The dog had calmed down significantly since they had first met, now much more placid.

The crimson haired ghoul took in his surroundings. The room had minimal furniture, although Akashi did notice a handful of picture frames which stood on the side table and a large bookcase by the wall that was filled with books. He was about to get up to go look at them when Kuroko walked in with a hot beverage, a vanilla milkshake and a light blue blanket.

"Here you go Akashi-kun. It's not as good as the coffee at your café but I hope you enjoy it."

"I'm sure it'll be great, thank you."

With that, Nigou jumped off the sofa to allow his master to sit next to Akashi. Kuroko grabbed the remote as he sat down, turning on the TV and placing the blanket to his left whilst Nigou went to lay in his bed beside the sofa, curling into a fur ball.

A brief few seconds passed in silence before Kuroko spoke up. "Akashi-kun?"

"Yes?"

"I-I wanted to ask you what it's like being a ghoul." Kuroko had been nervous to ask the question. He did not like acting so nosy, but he wanted to understand ghouls, and more specifically Akashi, a bit better.

"What do you mean?" Akashi asked, his eyebrows knitting together, a slight frown on his face.

Kuroko's gaze dropped, looking at his hands in his lap, as he avoided eye contact with the ghoul. "I feel like it must be difficult. To be an outsider in human society. To be hunted by the CCG and other ghouls. To only be able to eat…It must be horrible." Kuroko truly looked distressed. Ever since he had thought about the possibility of good ghouls he began to think about the discrimination they had to face and how they themselves probably did not take pride in their eating habits. Of course he understood that humanity could not just allow ghouls to go around killing and eating people, but it still seemed so unfair.

Akashi could hear the sincerity in Kuroko's voice and was once again surprised by the human's sympathy for ghouls. Humans were raised to fear and hate ghouls, yet Kuroko had shown no such emotions towards the red haired ghoul ever since Akashi had told him the truth.

The ghoul took a deep breath before replying. "Of course a lot of bad things have happened to me because I'm a ghoul Kuroko-kun, but it's not so bad. I have a family which looks out for me, I have a home and a job. I'm pretty well off for a ghoul."

"That may be but-" Kuroko tried to continue, seemingly frustrated that Akashi brushed off his suffering so easily.

Akashi grabbed Kuroko's hand with both of his own causing the teal head to finally look up at him. "Kuroko-kun. There is no need for you to get worked up over this. It is simply the way things are. I came to accept that a long time ago."

A sad frown painted Kuroko's face. "You can't even enjoy vanilla shakes though. It must be awful."

That made Akashi laugh lightly. "I'll just have to make do with this delicious coffee then."

Kuroko continued to look Akashi in the eyes, as if he were about to say something important, but clearly changing his mind he instead looked away and asked "What kind of movie would you like to watch Akashi-kun?" Before replying, Akashi wondered what the man had wanted to say. However he did not press the matter.

"I do not mind Kuroko-kun, whatever you would like."

Kuroko began flicking through the movies on demand. "Hmmmm…how about this one. I remember Kise-kun talking about it earlier this week. Apparently there's a lot of action scenes and some really good plot twists."

"Sounds good to me."

Kuroko started the movie. He then grabbed the blanket, covering himself in it, though there was still a lot of excess so Kuroko offered to throw the rest of it over Akashi, apologising that the heating in his home had broken recently. Akashi accepted, snuggling under the blanket. The two were sat right next to each other now. Kuroko sat comfortably with both of his legs up on the sofa, whilst Akashi sat more awkwardly with a straight back and feet still on the ground.

About half way through the movie Kuroko became rather drowsy, his eyelids drooping every time the loud action scenes ceased. Eventually he could not fight off his tiredness and his head fell onto Akashi's shoulder.

The red head tensed at the weight now acting on his shoulder. He looked at Kuroko who had now fallen asleep. One part of Akashi wondered why the teal haired man was so tired, it wasn't even 9pm yet. The other part of him looked at the man's peaceful sleeping face and thought how adorable the human was. Akashi's heart fluttered looking at Kuroko breathing lightly on his shoulder, completely distracting him from the movie.

After a dozen seconds of Akashi's staring there was a loud explosion in the film, startling Kuroko awake. He looked around wearily before he noticed that he was leaning on Akashi and moved to sit up, his usually pale cheeks tinting rose as he murmured apologies. "It's fine Kuroko-kun, honestly." Akashi responded with a gentle voice.

They spent an awkward moment in silence before Kuroko turned and looked deep into Akashi's crimson eyes and breathed in. His next sentence took Akashi by surprise.

"I like you Akashi-kun."

'Like'? Does he mean…

"Yes, in that way. I think it would be unfair of me not to tell you that."

Kuroko had been wanting to tell the red head his true feelings for the whole evening but could not decide how to say it. He knew that he wanted to be honest with Akashi, particularly as Akashi had been so honest with him (after some convincing) about what he was. In the end however, Kuroko's confession had come out more awkward than the human had expected.

Akashi sat in a stunned silence. Is Kuroko-kun really admitting that he has some sort of crush on me? Akashi felt the same way but had dared not ruin their chances at friendship in fear of rejection and in fear of putting the kindergarten teacher at even greater risk. However Kuroko took the passing silence the wrong way.

"I'll understand if my feelings make you uncomfortable Akashi-kun. You may leave if you'd like…I'm sorry." Kuroko sounded so dejected, it broke Akashi's heart. Kuroko began moving away from him, lifting the blanket off of himself as he motioned to stand up.

Akashi grabbed his arm, an imploring look on his face. "Don't go, it's fine. I feel the same way." Kuroko stopped and looked at Akashi, somewhat taken aback. The red haired man snuck an arm around his waist pulling him closer before raising a hand to Kuroko's chin and tilting it.

It was Kuroko's turn to be surprised as Akashi advanced forward and placed a brief, chaste kiss on his lips. Akashi then pulled away slightly before whispering "I really admire you Tetsuya."

The blue eyed man stopped breathing for a second. The use of Kuroko's first name added to the effect of Akashi's words and action. Kuroko gave in to his desire and grabbed onto Akashi's shirt before pulling him into another kiss. Kuroko shifted so that the two were pressed intimately close together, Kuroko now fully facing Akashi and sat slightly on top of him. The red head then moved his hand to thread it through Kuroko's soft baby blue hair, his other arm still wrapped around Kuroko's waist, pulling him closer.

Kuroko's tongue outlined the line of the barista's lips, seeking entrance to Akashi's mouth. Akashi gladly granted him access, parting his lips. The ghoul noted a distinct taste of vanilla, mingling with the taste of coffee, as Kuroko deepened the kiss. The two have become rather heated, getting lost in the sensation of being so close, however Kuroko soon needs to break away to breathe.

The teal haired man rests his forehead against Akashi's, breathing heavily. Both of Akashi's hands were now gripping onto Kuroko's back, holding him in an embrace though taking care so as to not be forceful. Akashi noticed that Kuroko's skin was now completely flushed with pink, as was his own. The two sat for a moment enjoying the closeness and recovering from the suddenness of their actions.

"Will you be my boyfriend Tetsuya?" Akashi asked quietly.

"Yes Akashi-kun." Kuroko whispered happily.

Akashi gave a slight laugh. "You can call me by my first name if you'd like Tetsuya."

"Okay Seijuro-kun." The human smiled.

The two snuggled together, the movie completely forgotten.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 – Visits

The next morning, Akashi wakes up confused. He immediately realises he's not in his own room and bolts upright. However, after taking in his surroundings he quickly remembers the situation.

Flashback:

"You can sleepover if you'd like. I only have a single bed but you can sleep on the sofa." Kuroko suggested. The two had fallen asleep in their embrace with Kuroko sat on Akashi's lap, waking up a few hours later.

"Thanks that would be good." Akashi said drowsily as he buried his face back into the nape of Kuroko's neck. The blue haired man gave a small gasp at the action before he pulled away, starting to stand up. "I can get you some of my pyjamas, they're baggy on me so they should fit you just fine." Kuroko said, rubbing away sleep from his eye with a fist.

"So we're already jumping to sharing clothes and sleeping over are we?" Akashi teased.

"Aka…Seijuro-kun, I'm just trying to be helpful." Kuroko blushed. "You're tired and you shouldn't be walking about at night, no matter how strong you are."

"Yes, yes." Akashi said, standing up. "Don't you find it rather ironic that you're concerned about a ghoul's safety?" The thought made Akashi laugh, though he was still amazed by the human's tendency to trust him so wholly.

"I don't care what you are Seijuro-kun, I care about who you are, so no I don't find it all that ironic. I don't want you to get hurt." Kuroko said blankly before he then left to get pyjamas for Akashi. When he returned, he passed the white and grey striped clothing to his new boyfriend. "I'll be just upstairs if you need anything, and the bathroom is the first door on the left once you climb the stairs."

"Thank you Tetsuya. I appreciate it." Akashi leant over to cup Kuroko's face and to give a delicate kiss on Kuroko's cheek.

"I'll see you tomorrow morning, sleep well Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said looking up to the red head with a small smile.

"Goodnight Tetsuya." Akashi said fondly.

End flashback

Akashi stretched his arms before slipping off of the sofa. Looking at the silver clock on the wall he saw that the time was 7am.

The ghoul walked into the joint kitchen and found Kuroko sat at a small table eating a light breakfast.

"Good morning Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said once he noticed the taller man approaching.

"Good morning Tetsuya. I'm sorry, but I better get ready to leave. I have organised to go out on business at 8 o'clock."

Kuroko was a bit disappointed that his newfound partner had to leave so soon. It was now the weekend so Kuroko had the whole day off, but he couldn't really criticise the ghoul for having to leave seeing as Kuroko had already received more time with him than he had thought he would. "Okay. Feel free to use my room or the bathroom to get changed."

After Akashi had finished freshening up and changing back into the clothes he'd been wearing the evening before, he said his farewell to Kuroko with a brief but passionate kiss, promising that he would contact him soon.


"So where the hell were you last night?" Aomine spoke bitterly to Akashi.

Aomine was driving them out of town in their small van. They had decided to go out early so that they may go talk to Himuro before driving a few miles out of town to get some food. The two additionally wanted to check on Kiyoshi and catch up with him.

However, when Aomine had woken up that morning to find his brother not at home he had been very worried. Fortunately, it was not long after his awakening that Akashi arrived home.

"I stayed over at Tetsuya's. Did you not get my text last night?"

"You what?! Why were you at Tetsu's?! And no I didn't….I may have…lost my phone..." Aomine said, mumbling the last part.

"He invited me over and then it is your own fault that you did not know where I was."

"Oh… so why did he invite you over?"

"I believe his reason was that he wanted to get to know me better."

"So he really is okay with you being a ghoul then huh? Anyway, I wanted to say to you, Tetsu isn't usually one to make friends, people barely ever notice him, but he seems to really like you so don't waste this chance at happiness or mess around with his feelings okay." Aomine felt like he was acting more like Kuroko's big brother than Akashi's brother but he wanted to be sure that Akashi was not just using Kuroko.

"It's fine Daiki. Although I should probably tell you…"

"Tell me what?" Aomine said with concern.

"I do believe Tetsuya and I are now dating."

"WHAT?! THE HELL DO YOU MEAN 'DATING'?!" Aomine nearly choked at the revelation. Akashi chuckled at Aomine's reaction whilst the dark-bluenette became flustered.

"You're kidding right…there's no way…Hey! When you said you stayed over you don't mean…?!"

"No, no. It wasn't like that Daiki. I was just tired and Tetsuya was being polite. Now concentrate on driving."

The navy haired man shut up after that. Staying in his own head, pondering how the hell his brother had managed to get Kuroko to go out with him so easily. Sure, he had noticed a bit of chemistry between the two but he did not expect it to escalate that quickly.

Meanwhile Akashi was pondering the fragility of humans. Last night, he had accepted and reciprocated Kuroko's feelings, giving in to his own desires and offering a deeper relationship than simply friendship. However, now that he was thinking clearly again the nagging sensation of worry built in his mind. If being friends with a human is dangerous, how bad would it be to be going out with one…? He thought. But he came to the conclusion that he would just have to do his best to protect Kuroko from any potential threats, and that started with finding out more about the Kirisaki Daichi from Himuro.


Unfortunately, Himuro had little extra news about the Kirisaki Daichi. Although he did tell them about an interesting rumour that the binge eater was actually a part of Hanamiya's gang.

The thought made Akashi more anxious. Whilst there were a number of fairly strong ghouls in the Kirisaki Daichi, there was only one S-rated one he knew about – Hanamiya himself. If they had the binge eater as well, they would be much more difficult to eliminate.

He decided to not think about it for a while, it was just a rumour after all. Though Himuro-san's 'rumours' tend to make a habit out of being true… The red eyed man thought.

Soon the two ghouls arrived outside of an apartment after over an hour of driving. Aomine knocked on the door in front of them.

Hyuuga Junpei answered, opening the door. "Hey you two! I wasn't expecting you…" He said, surprised to see the two younger ghouls.

"Sorry for not calling in advance but we wanted to drop round to say hello." Akashi said respectfully.

"Well, Teppei's in the living room with Riko, go on ahead." Hyuuga told them, tilting his head in the direction of the living room. With that, he let the two in before closing the door and heading into the kitchen. The two younger males walked towards the living area.

Kiyoshi and Aida were talking and joking with one another when Aomine and Akashi walked in, however once they noticed the two younger males, Kiyoshi stopped, his eyes lighting up.

"Daiki-kun, Seijuro-kun! What a nice surprise, I didn't know you were coming today." Kiyoshi said with a grin spreading across his face.

"Hello you two!" Aida greeted.

"Hey Teppei-san! Aida-san! How's it going?" Aomine beamed.

Akashi said a simple hello with a small grin, glad to see Kiyoshi's kind face again.

The two young men strolled over to sit by Kiyoshi, who himself was sat in the wheelchair the two ghouls had bought him a few years ago.

When Hanamiya had dealt the devastating blow on Kiyoshi, he had caused some irreparable damage. Whilst Kiyoshi's legs were not completely paralyzed, they were extremely unreliable. He'd originally insisted on not needing a wheelchair, arguing that his walking would only be able to improve with practice. However, after he fell over a dozen times in one day the others decided it would be best to get a wheelchair.

"I'm well Daiki-kun. Junpei and Riko have been taking good care of me. How are you two though, I haven't spoken to you in weeks! How's everything at the café?" Kiyoshi asked the two.

"It's been running fairly smoothly at the café. As for myself, I am doing well." Akashi responded.

Kiyoshi noted that Akashi truly did seem quite happy, though he also detected a hint of anxiousness in his body language.

"I'm good too Teppei-san."

"I'm glad. What brings you two here today anyway?"

The smile Akashi had been wearing faltered. "We wanted to come see you of course, but I also wanted to tell you about something I recently discovered."

"Eh? What's that Seijuro-kun?" The taller brunette asked, uneasiness beginning to leak into his voice.

Akashi's smile was now completely replaced with a bitter frown. "Hanamiya has returned to our ward. I'm worried that he may be planning something, so please keep your heads down."

The mood in the room had become rather dark. After a brief silence Kiyoshi spoke up. "Thank you for the warning Seijuro-kun. Make sure you guys stay safe too for me okay?" He said, worried that Hanamiya would make another attempt to take one of their lives. "Now why don't you tell me more about what you two have been getting up to these past few weeks."

The conversation moved on as the four people in the living room began gossiping and making small talk for the next few hours. Aomine would have taken great joy in teasing Akashi by telling Kiyoshi about the shorter ghoul's new boyfriend, if said boyfriend were not Aomine's best friend that is.


Kuroko decided to do his work at the library today, in search of a change of setting. It was a Saturday so Kuroko did not have to go into work and after Akashi left, the teal head had lazed around the house the whole morning before idly getting ready to go out in public.

He reflected on the previous night's events. He had been so nervous to confess to Akashi, but he had felt like it would be wrong to lie to the crimson haired ghoul. Especially after how Akashi had trusted him with such an important secret. Whilst Kuroko would have been satisfied with just friendship, he had realised his heart yearned for something more, and Akashi had graciously allowed him a piece of that closeness he wanted last night.

He stopped off at Maji burger to grab a vanilla shake on his way to the library. The time was now 2pm and Kuroko was sat in the local library marking the worksheets the children had done throughout the week. He enjoyed being in the library. It was a peaceful place and the nostalgic smell of books filled the air, serving to relax the cyan haired man.

The serene atmosphere was shattered when he heard a loud, excited "Kurokocchi!" across the large room.

Kuroko looked up, although he already knew who had called out his altered name. He saw the blond walking over to him, a beaming smile on his face. However the smile quickly disappeared when a librarian came over to scold him for his loudness. The ravenette, who Kuroko recognised as Takao, that was accompanying Kise continued walking in his direction though.

"Heya Kuroko." He whispered as he took up a seat next to the human.

"Hello Takao-kun. What are you two doing here today?"

Takao looked away nervously. In truth, the two had been stalking Kuroko all day and neither had ever set foot in a library until that afternoon. "Um, we came here to sit and read for a while…."

Kise sauntered over at that point, looking rather dejected after being reprimanded. Though his mood perked up as he sat on the other side of Kuroko. "Hello Kurokocchi! What a coincidence, I didn't think we'd meet you here!" He whispered excitedly.

"Hello Kise-kun, it's a surprise to see you two as well. I'm sorry, but I can't chat too much, I really need to get these marked."Kuroko said, gesturing to the papers in front of him.

"Ah, it's fine Kurokocchi, Takao and I will get on with…um…reading."

With that the two ghouls got up and looked for a decent book to read before settling back down in their seats. Neither of them particularly enjoyed reading, mainly due to the fact that neither had learnt how to until their early-teens when Midorima, Kiyoshi and Akashi had taken it upon themselves to teach them how. Instead each preferred more active hobbies such as basketball or running. But they did not complain about the situation, knowing that if they left Kuroko alone and something happened to him there would be hell to pay from Akashi.

Unfortunately for Kise and Takao, Kuroko spent four hours in the library, marking papers and reading all the while. Both ghouls had nearly nodded off on multiple occasions throughout the afternoon. Their mood finally picked up when Kuroko began to stand up, announcing that he was heading home for the evening.

"We can walk you home Kuroko, seeing as we live close by!" Takao said cheerfully, glad to finally be able to leave and stretch his legs.

The three walked home together, chatting as they went, although Kuroko did very little talking as the other two kept up the light conversation. Kuroko found himself becoming rather fond of the two. They had much more of a knack for socialising and were both energetic and chatty, unlike Kuroko, yet that seemed to put him at ease around them as he did not have to worry about carrying a conversation, instead just enjoying their company.

Soon, they had arrived outside Kuroko's house.

"Hey Kurokocchi, would you mind if I used your toilet? I really need to go."

"Sure Kise-kun." Kuroko said as he put his house key in the lock, opening the door. The two ghouls followed the blue haired man into the hallway, but as soon as Kuroko closed the door behind them they both bristled.

Kuroko turned to look at them and noticed a change in their mood, suddenly the two baristas had become serious looking.

"Um…is everything okay? The toilet is just upstairs Kise-kun if you still-"

"Well, well you're finally home." A new voice came from the doorway to the living room. A shiver ran down the bluenette's spine. He recognised it as the voice which belonged to the grey haired ghoul he'd met over a fortnight ago.

Kise and Takao immediately went on the defensive, keeping Kuroko behind them. They told Kuroko to run back out of the front door and head to the coffeehouse. Kuroko began to do as they said and opened the door but was unfortunately greeted by another ghoul.

"Now, where do you think you're going?" It was another man with grey, almost purple, hair. His bangs were so long they covered both his eyes.

"Tch." Takao moved to stand between Kuroko and the new aggressor. It was another ghoul, he could tell that much. In fact, Takao could swear he recognised him from something. Then it hit him. It's Kazuya Hara, that high ranking ghoul from Kirisaki Daichi…

"What do you want?" Kise said threateningly.

"Eh, we just wanted to visit your little friend here and say hello, it's Kuroko Tetsuya right?" Haizaki said.

Kuroko's eyes widened. Why in the world would they want me? I haven't done anything, so why? He thought. Kise very nearly growled, recognising the unfriendly tone of the opposing ghoul and lunging forward to attack the binge eater. However he was surprised when yet another ghoul joined the fray.

"Ki-chan!" Takao shouted in an attempt to warn the blond before the new ghoul could land a hit, but he was too late and whilst Takao was distracted, Hara, the ghoul with long bangs stood in front of the raven haired man, took advantage and began to attack Takao.

Kuroko was stuck between the two fights, his hallway now feeling even more cramped than usual. He was terrified. Not just for himself, but for Kise and Takao, who were so bravely trying to defend him. It suddenly occurred to him that perhaps it was not a coincidence that they had accompanied him that day. Perhaps they suspected something would happen, but why? And how can they fight ghouls…? Kuroko was brought out of his thoughts when he saw Kise release a colourful wing like kagune from his shoulder.

Kuroko stood stunned at the discovery. Kise-kun is also a ghoul? Then is Takao-kun…? Kuroko turned to look at the dark haired man just in time to see him releasing a tail like tentacle from his coccyx area. Are all the baristas ghouls?! Kuroko thought in shock. He'd suspected that perhaps Aomine was a ghoul or at least knew Akashi was one but he had been given no reason to suspect the others. They had simply seemed to be employees at the coffeehouse. Part of him was thankful though. Thankful that at least they would have a fighting chance against these offending ghouls.

Kise managed to steer the fighting out of the hallway and into the living room. Unfortunately for him, there was yet another two intruding ghouls in the room. Kise cursed. His ukaku kagune was not suited to close-ranged attacks. Kuroko moved into the kitchen area hiding behind the counter, to allow Takao to also move into the living room and assist Kise.

From what Kuroko could see, the two baristas were strong, however he now counted five offending ghouls in his home.

They were outnumbered.

Could they really beat them all?

Kuroko pulled out his phone. He would have called the CCG but they would very likely kill or imprison Kise and Takao which he did not want, so instead he tried to call Aomine, knowing that Akashi was out of town. Of course, Aomine didn't answer. The teal head truly felt helpless. There was nothing he could do to help the two baristas in the room. Even if he punched one of the intruders with all his might, he doubted they would even notice him.

Just then Kuroko noticed a whimpering off to his side. He turned to see Nigou lying on the ground about a metre from where he was hiding. The teal head shuffled over to his dog's side, his face painted with deep concern.

"Hey boy." Kuroko whispered petting his canine companion lightly.

He was given a whine in response.

Luckily, the dog did not seem to be bleeding but he seemed to have been thrown against the wall or floor as his front right paw was twisted at an unnatural angle. Kuroko carefully petted Nigou's head in an attempt to comfort the dog however an offending ghoul chose that moment to come up behind Kuroko, grabbing him by the hair and throwing him over the counter and into the living room.

"Don't touch Kurokocchi!" Kise shouted with a fire in his eyes.

Takao considered telling Kuroko to run, but decided it was a poor plan. The two ghouls could not distract the five intruders long enough for Kuroko to even make it to the door, let alone the café. Not to mention, for all they knew there were more ghouls lying in wait outside.

They only had one option. We have to defeat these ghouls or die trying. He thought.

So far they had only managed to take out one of the ghouls. Whilst that was good progress the two coffee shop workers were already low on stamina. These were not just the everyday, thuggish ghouls found in alley-ways late at night. Haizaki was an S-rated and Hara was an A-rated ghoul, each more ferocious than either of the two baristas.

Takao knew that Kise was at a further disadvantage, seeing as an ukaku kagune is designed for high speed, long-ranged attacks. Plus they lacked any good defence. The black haired ghoul tried to take on as many of the aggressors as possible to remove the pressure from Kise and Kuroko. However, it did not work in his favour. Haizaki distracted Takao with flurry of strikes whilst Hara aimed a stabbing strike at his abdomen.

Kuroko was lying on the floor of his living room as he watched it happen, and tears came to his eyes as he cried out in horror. Hara's kagune pierced straight through Takao's stomach before scrambling the insides of the shorter ghoul. Once the tentacle retracted, Takao coughed up blood everywhere before collapsing to the ground and passing out.

"Takaocchi!" Kise screamed, moving to attack the one who had just hurt his friend.

Kise, realising there was no way he could win alone shouted at Kuroko, telling him to try and run.

Kuroko hesitated. This was all too familiar. He didn't want history to repeat itself, to run away and return to nothing but loss. Yet if he stayed there would be nothing he could do. He considered the possibility of running. On one hand, it would be wrong to just leave Takao and Kise here at the mercy of these ghouls. On the other hand, he could not let them suffer in vain and if he did manage to escape he could seek assistance.

After a split second of thinking, Kuroko looked at the blond with an apologetic look before he attempted to sprint out of the house. Sadly, he was intercepted by the binge eater after entering the hallway. Kuroko felt a rinkaku tentacle wrap itself around him before throwing him back into the living room with great force, causing Kuroko to crash into his side table and the photos that stood upon it.

"You're not allowed to leave I'm afraid. We've got orders from the boss to bring you back with us. We wouldn't want to make the boss angry now." Haizaki sneered.

Kise was doing his best to defend against the other three ghouls, however he was thrown against a wall one too many times. He sank to the ground looking dazedly and frustratedly at Kuroko. I'm sorry Kurokocchi…I'm so sorry. Tears welled up in his eyes before he lost consciousness.

The remaining four assailants lost interest in the now unconscious baristas and moved over to where Kuroko was hunched over. "Knock him out, we need to get going before anyone else shows up."

With that, Kuroko felt a hard blow to the side of his head before he fell into darkness.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 9 – Breaking

Note: Miyaji's first name is Kiyoshi, so don't be too confused when Midorima starts calling him Kiyoshi :')
Also – warning for torture and violent scenes in the this chapter.


Kise stirred from where he was sat leaning on the wall. He didn't know how long he'd been unconscious but all the invading ghouls had left, apparently leaving him alive. The only other person he could see was Takao lying on the floor with an alarming amount of blood surrounding him.

"T-Takaocchi?" The blond nervously called, hoping for some sort of response.

He was given none.

Wanting to go help the raven haired man, Kise tried to sit up from the wall so that he could stand. But the blond's body rejected the movement, protesting with sharp pains across his whole body. He also noticed then that his right leg and left ankle seemed to be broken, crushing any hope of walking over to his friend.

Kise felt so useless and weak as he sat, looking over at Takao in the centre of the room. This was not the first time in his life that someone had been hurt trying to protect him, although at least this time Kise managed to put up a fight. Not that it mattered. Kuroko had still been taken. Takao was mortally wounded and for all Kise knew both could already be dead.

The situation made Kise think back to the night he had lost his sisters. He had only been 12 years old when they were taken from him. They had been living on the streets for years, moving from ward to ward. It was just an ordinary day when the three were attacked and his two older sisters defended him. They managed to win the fight, but both were seriously wounded. They each died within the hour following the fight, leaving Kise alone to fend for himself in the harsh world.

He had hated being by himself, but he had found it hard to trust anyone. It wasn't until Kiyoshi and Aomine had found him nearly a year after his sisters' death that he began to let people close to him.

But now, he was somewhat alone again.

Tears came to the blond's eyes as he thought about the hopeless situation he was now in. He had considered trying to call one of the other baristas to come help them, but he found that his phone had been smashed to pieces when he was thrown into the wall. All he could do was hope that they would come find them before it was too late.

At that moment, Kise heard the door to Kuroko's house creak open.


It was pitch black by the time Aomine and Akashi arrived home. It was about 12am and they discreetly brought the 'food' they had collected in from the cooler van through the back door. After having dealt with that situation, the two walked upstairs, ready to lie down after a tiring day.

Akashi was surprised when he found a pacing Midorima in their living room. It immediately set off alarm bells in Akashi's mind. Something was up. Usually the green haired man would have gone home with Takao by now.

"What's wrong Shintaro?"

Aomine walked over to join the conversation.

Midorima raised his head to look at the two. "I've been trying to contact Kazunari, but he won't respond. Whilst he did say he may be out for most of the evening, it is unusual that he would not reply to my texts or calls."

"Tch. Knowing you, you're probably just being overprotective of him. Maybe he just left his phone somewhere or something." Aomine suggested, not too concerned about the situation.

Midorima seemed slightly annoyed at Aomine's first comment. "Kise isn't responding either. It says his phone has been disconnected."

Now that seemed much less likely. The two mentioned were often found attached to their phones and it was unlikely they had both lost their phones or allowed the battery to run out.

"When was the last time you had contact with them?" Akashi asked.

"About 6pm Kazunari sent a text saying that they were just leaving the library and heading towards Kuroko's home."

Akashi knew that it could just be his mind jumping to conclusions, but he was worried that something serious had happened to the three males. He took out his phone, quickly finding Kuroko's number and calling it. The other two watched in silence as Akashi tried to call the human. Of course there was no answer.

"Daiki, you stay here. Take my phone in case I need to contact you. Shintaro, we're going to go look for them."

Akashi and Midorima then walked back downstairs, putting their coats on and picking up their masks just in case.

"We shall go to Tetsuya's house first and then work our way back to the library, seeing as that is there last known location."

"Good plan."


The two arrived outside of Kuroko's household, the moon still high in the midnight sky. Everything seemed fairly normal from the outside until Akashi noticed that the front door was not actually closed. Deciding to investigate, the red head walked up to the door, pushing it open.

His nostrils were immediately greeted by the strong, familiar scent of blood.

"Shintaro." Akashi beckoned for the emerald haired man to come over. The two walked into the plain hallway, which was not particularly unsettled, cautiously.

"Tetsuya?" Akashi called, hoping for a reply. When he received none he eased the door to the living room open before entering with Midorima close behind him.

The sight that confronted them made both of their eyes widen in horror. In the centre of the room was Takao's limp body, lying face down in a puddle of blood with a giant hole through his middle. To the far side of the room was Kise who was slumped against a wall which was cracked and dented.

After recovering from the initial shock, the two quickly moved to help.

Midorima moved to assess Takao's condition. He was pale and had lost a vast amount of blood, but the wound to his gut seemed to be slowly repairing itself. Whilst there was a fairly good chance Takao could recover from this Midorima worried as to whether it could heal fast enough naturally. Ghouls have enhanced regenerative abilities but wounds caused by kagune are slow to heal and the damage done to Midorima's partner's internal organs was substantial.

Meanwhile, Akashi approached Kise. The blond looked badly beaten up, but his status was nowhere near as severe as Takao's. This was made clear by the fact that he was awake, though he seemed rather dazed.

"Akas-Akashicchi?" He said quietly, cracking his eyes open as he attempted to look up into Akashi's eyes.

"Yes, it's me Ryouta." Akashi said concernedly. He was glad that at the very least Kise did not seem to be in critical condition, though he noticed some broken bones.

Kise stopped trying to look up, instead bowing his head, before speaking with a shaky voice. "I'm-I'm sorry Akashicchi. We couldn't-We couldn't protect Kurokocchi." Soft sobs began to escape Kise's mouth, tears streaking down his face.

Dread built in the pit of Akashi's stomach. "Who did this Ryouta?"

"The Kirisaki Daichi." Kise whispered between his weeping.

Akashi's assumptions had been correct. They'd been waiting and they'd attacked what Hanamiya had likely identified as a weak spot. Though they had surprised him by moving in so quickly. Seeing as Kuroko's body was not in the room he assumed it meant they were keeping him alive. To torture. The red head thought with despair.

A burning anger grew in Akashi, that they would dare to hurt his family again, that they would dare to steal away his Tetsuya.

He would get him back. No matter what, he would get Kuroko back and he'd kill every ghoul in the Kirisaki Daichi if he had to.

But first he had to deal with his current situation. "Shintaro, what is Kazunari's status?"

"He…He's alive. Barely." The emerald eyed ghoul said, his voice breaking slightly.

It troubled the red head to hear the often stoic Midorima's emotional tone, but he was glad that at least there was hope for the ravenette to recover. "Lend me your phone so that I can call Daiki. I'll get him to bring the van so we can get these two back to the apartment. I will also call Miyaji-san for assistance in helping Kazunari and Ryouta." Akashi informed the taller man of his intended actions.

Midorima, for the first time in a few minutes, looked away from the bloody mess that was Takao, taking out his phone and tossing it over to Akashi.

It took Aomine a few seconds to answer.

"Yo, what's up?"

"Daiki, bring the van to Tetsuya's house. Now."

"Eh, why? What the hell's happened?" Aomine said, worry leaking into his voice.

"Don't question my orders Daiki. I'll explain when you get here, just hurry." And with that Akashi hung up.

He then contacted Miyaji, informing him that Takao and Kise had been injured and asking him to meet them at their apartment as soon as possible with medical supplies.

Aomine arrived soon after, knocking on the door to the living room before entering. His reaction to the scene was much alike to the other two baristas', except Aomine added some colourful cursing.

"What the fuck happened here?" He asked aggressively.

"It would appear that some ghouls from Kirisaki Daichi were ordered by Hanamiya to capture Tetsuya."

Double checking, Aomine looked around the room, confirming that Kuroko was not there.

"So he's…they…?" Aomine couldn't even stutter out a sentence, the rage and fear building inside of him was too much. He knew what Hanamiya Makoto was like, Momoi and Kiyoshi had told him enough, and now he had Kuroko. He couldn't bear to think what he would do to the fragile human. Not to mention he was now taking in the sight of a broken Takao and Kise. The two usually lively ghouls lying extremely still. The only sound in the room was that of the quiet sobs Kise released. But suddenly another sound was heard.

"Arf"

Aomine and Akashi turned their heads to look into the kitchen, where the sound had originated from. Aomine straight away identified it as Nigou's bark, however it was a lot more restrained than the yap the navy head was familiar with.

He walked behind the counter and found the dog limping slowly in his direction, keeping his front right paw off the ground. Aomine noticed that said leg was clearly snapped. He knelt down to pick up the Alaskan malamute. "Hey boy." Nigou responded with a whine before shuffling into Aomine's arms.

The bluenette made sure to hold the dog so that he wouldn't hurt his leg further. He stood before saying "We should get these guys home." Akashi then picked up Kise, doing his best to be careful not to jolt his broken leg. Midorima scooped up Takao in his arms and the three baristas then carried the injured ones out to the van.


Arriving back at the coffee shop apartment, Aomine carried Kise up to his bed. There was little that could be done to help him without going to a hospital so he lay him down and went to go get some pain killers.

Meanwhile Midorima carried Takao up to Akashi's room and the red head brought Nigou in whilst locking the backdoor.

Takao was still breathing, just about, but Midorima new that the wound in his stomach needed stitching up. Sure, it would likely heal itself eventually, but God knows how long that could take and he'd rather do everything he could do to ensure that fate would be in Takao's favour.

Midorima hated to see his companion like this. It reminded him too much of their first meeting. Takao had been living on the streets for years after running away from his abusive parents, fighting tooth and nail to stay alive. But the night Midorima found him, the ravenette had lost. The smaller ghoul, only 13 at the time, had lost a battle over food between another group of ghouls and had been left to die in an alleyway.

Whilst the green haired boy had been hesitant to help him at first, worried that he would turn out to be an aggressive ghoul, Midorima's kinder side took over. He was truly glad that it did. Miyaji, who had taken Midorima in at a young age, was able to nurse Takao back to health. The green haired ghoul soon learnt that although Takao had been quiet when he was injured, he could be incredibly lively when not.

Midorima wanted that energetic Takao back now. He wanted to see that stupid smile of his that let him know he was okay, that he was alive. Fortunately, Miyaji soon arrived with medical equipment and the two quickly got to work on providing Takao with medical attention.

"What the hell happened to him Shintaro-kun?" The physician asked sadly.

"There was an ambush waiting at Akashi's and Aomine's friend's house. Kise said he was overpowered by some high-ranking ghouls from the Kirisaki Daichi." Midorima replied grimly.

"Well this wounds gunna take a while to heal. He's probably going to be out of it for a week or two and even once he's woken up he'll probably still be pretty weak. Firstly I'm gunna stitch up this stomach wound and then I'll put a cast on his broken arm but honestly, there isn't much else I can do. After that it should heal up by itself eventually, Kazunari-kun is strong after all. I'll need to set up a water drip for him afterwards and you'll need to make sure you've got some food ready for when he wakes up 'cause he's probably gunna be hungry."

"Thank you Kiyoshi-san." Midorima said, with a bow of his head.

Miyaji could tell that Midorima was not okay and to be honest it didn't surprise him in the least. Considering the older blond was the one who had been housing and taking care of them all these years, it was only natural that he'd know when either of them were upset. He'd actually known Midorima since the green haired male was 6 years old, however it wasn't until Midorima had been kicked out by his mother at the age of 10 that Miyaji began taking care of him, often taking him to the coffeehouse to socialise with Akashi and Aomine and later Kise and Muraskibara.

It wasn't until four years later that Takao had joined them. Miyaji had been shocked to say the least when the bespectacled boy brought home a dying kid one day from what was supposed to be a normal walk home from the coffee shop.

Miyaji had not been surprised at all when several years later Takao told him that the two had started dating shortly after Takao turned 17. To some extent, having to live with a young couple was irritating but Miyaji was greatly entertained by Midorima's awkward blushing every time Takao showed him any sort of affection in Miyaji's (or anyone else's) presence.

"It's fine. Just make sure to care of yourself, and him of course."

"I will." Midorima promised, staring Miyaji in the eyes.

"You better, or else I'll throw a pineapple at your head!" He replied in a jokingly angry tone.

Midorima gave a tiny laugh at the running joke, appreciating that Miyaji was trying to lighten the mood somewhat.

"Well then, I better go and check up on Kise-kun. And I think Aomine-kun said something about a dog needing attention too…"


Akashi stood by the door of Aomine's room where Kise was now sleeping and Aomine was sat on the floor with Nigou in his lap watching over the blond.

"What are we gunna do?" Aomine asked in a troubled tone.

"Shintaro and Miyaji-san will work on helping Ryouta and Kazunari recover, meanwhile I will do everything I can to find out where they have taken Tetsuya. I would appreciate any help you can offer me."

"Is that really going to be enough? Hanamiya Makoto is a psycho. He'll torture him to the point where Tetsu'll beg for death." Aomine started to lose it towards the end of his words, his tone becoming much more emotional and tears welling in his eyes.

Akashi had been holding in the torrent of emotions he'd felt since entering the teal haired man's home and now, seeing his brother begin to lose it, Akashi's composure nearly broke.

He had spoken the truth. He would do everything in his power to rescue Kuroko, but in all honesty it would not be enough. It would be nowhere near enough. Hanamiya would not take his time in torturing the man, he would want to start straight away, dragging out every moment of torture, taking in the satisfaction of hurting Kiyoshi's family, of hurting Akashi's precious person.

"I'm sorry Daiki. I know it's my fault and I know it won't be enough, but it's the best I can do." Akashi answered sorrowfully, before walking out of the room. He could not stand to see anymore tears today.


When Kuroko awoke he could not see anything. The room he was in was completely dark with no lights or windows. The ache in his body was spreading and he found that his wrists were bound behind his back, though he was otherwise unrestrained. He quickly realised that the only clothes he still had on were the pair of boxers he'd been wearing the night he'd been taken, leaving him cold in the darkened room.

Unable to see, Kuroko moved to stand up. He wanted to be strong, to find a way out of this, but even as he tried to stand his legs shook in fear.

He'd been kidnapped by a group of ghouls.

Why? Kuroko thought. There were only two logical conclusions. Either it was simply a coincidence that these ghouls had chosen to target him or….

Or this has something to do with Seijuro-kun and the baristas in the café. He thought grimly.

Just then, the door to the room flew open, light flooding into the room. Kuroko was nearly blinded by its contrasting nature, falling backwards against the wall behind him as he lost his balance.

When he lifted his view up he saw a tall, dark haired man standing above him. "Hello Kuroko-kun~." The bluenette did not recognise the man at all, yet the taller man somehow knew his name.

There was a short pause before he continued speaking. "How rude of me. I haven't introduced myself yet. My name is Hanamiya Makoto and it is a pleasure to meet you. You'll probably be happy to know I decided to spare your coffee shop friends for today. I figured I should save some fun for after I'm done with you." Hanamiya then inhaled deeply through his nose, breathing in the smell of Kuroko. "You really smell delicious Kuroko-kun, but I guess I can't eat you. Not yet anyway."

"I'm sure you're wondering why I've dragged you here. Well, let's just say you should have been more careful in picking your friends Kuroko-kun."

The teal head refused to give into his fear, he looked directly into the older man's eyes with a determined look on his face. "Seijuro-kun will find me."

"Aw, you speak so familiarly of Akashi-kun. I can see why he'd like you, you're cute and defiant. Just his type I'm sure. But don't you realise Kuroko-kun, that he is the very reason I've kidnapped you?"

The revelation did not come as much of a shock to Kuroko, in fact he was somewhat glad to get some more insight as to why he was there. He continued staring at the long haired male defiantly.

"I really didn't appreciate him running me out of town, plus, I guess I've been pretty bored lately. So I thought us two could have a little fun." The manic grin that spread across his face with his last sentence unnerved Kuroko. "After all, Kiyoshi's little family of ghouls has been getting far too soft in my absence, and you'll do perfectly to make an example of why ghouls can never befriend humans."

Suddenly Hanamiya grabbed Kuroko's head in a vice-like grip and threw him at the adjacent wall. After the impact, Kuroko slid to the ground, now on his knees. Hanamiya gave a firm kick to his stomach, before punching him in the face, breaking his nose. The force of the actions knocked the breath out of Kuroko.

"It's been a while since I got to give someone a good beating. Although I should probably try and stop myself going too far. I wouldn't want you dying on me already now, would I?" Hanamiya then released his bikaku kagune from his lower back.

In truth, the kagune was overkill, but Hanamiya wanted to toy with Kuroko and to make him realise how weak he was. "I like that look in your eyes Kuroko-kun. You're trying to stay strong. You still believe they're going to come for you." Hanamiya wrapped the tail-like protrusion around Kuroko's neck, squeezing enough to cut off Kuroko's air supply.

"I can't wait to extinguish that hope."


The next day, a 'closed' sign hung from the door of the coffee shop.

Murasakibara arrived that morning at the usual time and was greeted by an irate Akashi.

"Ne, Aka-chin, why are we staying closed today?"

"There was an attack from the Kirisaki Daichi last night Atushi. Ryouta and Kazunari are injured and Tetsuya has been abducted." Akashi explained. The purple head's face showed a hint of shock at Akashi's words. "I would like you to go to Himuro-san's once again. I need any information he can get on Hanamiya's whereabouts and any allies he may have."

"Yes Aka-chin. I'll go over there right away." Murasakibara said.

"Thank you Atushi." With that, Akashi returned to Aomine's room.

"Daiki, I'm going out to search some abandoned buildings. I'd like you to call Satsuki and ask her to give research into the Kirisaki Daichi's activities top priority. Use the house phone and call me if you find out anything important." Aomine noticed that Akashi's body language was slightly off. He was usually acting all confident and absolute, yet today he wouldn't look him in the eyes. Aomine concluded that there was likely one main reason why. He's feeling guilty. To be honest, last night Aomine had blamed Akashi for what had happened. Not vocally, but internally. But he then realised that he could not be angry at the red head for simply becoming a friend to Kuroko. It was not truly his fault that Kuroko was in danger or that Takao and Kise were abnormally quiet. No. It was Hanamiya Makoto's fault.

"Sure thing Sei, but you shouldn't go out by yourself, I'll come with you."

"No. You need to stay here for today. Get some sleep and take care of Ryouta and Kazunari with Shintaro for me. I'll be back sometime tonight." Akashi said with authority.

"It could be dangerous, like hell I'll let you go alone." Aomine's tone started to get a bit angrier now.

"Daiki. I will be fine. Stay here. That's an order." And with that the red eyed ghoul left the room. The bluenette knew better than to argue with Akashi when he was in a bad mood so he let him go, though Aomine was not happy about it.

Before leaving, Akashi decided to quickly check up on Midorima and Takao again. He was about to knock on the door when Midorima opened it as he was just leaving the room.

"Hello Akashi, what do you want?"

"Hello Shintaro. I simply wanted to ask how you and Kazunari are doing."

"I'm okay. Kazunari…He's coping. Miyaji reckons he'll be unconscious for a while, probably a week or two, and it'll take him some time to regain his strength, but he's not in danger of dying anymore."

Akashi let out a breath. "I'm glad to hear that he'll recover. I'm going out for the day, I trust you and Daiki to take care of him and Ryouta."

"Of course. Please be careful while you're out Akashi."

"I will be. See you later Shintaro."

And with that, Akashi left the apartment.


Four days later

Hanamiya had been right. Kuroko had been trying to stay strong. He was a stubborn guy who didn't give in easily, but even Kuroko's stubbornness could not withstand torture.

The beatings had only been the beginning. Kuroko was starving. He'd had nothing to eat since he'd been imprisoned and only a small bowl of dirty water to drink. He had barely slept, only resting when his body couldn't take any more hits and he passed out. Hanamiya had started to bring in knives after his second visit to Kuroko. He had enjoyed cutting into the human's flesh, creating long, deep cuts across the teal head's torso, limbs and face.

Today, Hanamiya started straight away with using a knife to carve out random patterns in Kuroko's skin. The fresh wounds stung like hell. It had forced a small cry to leave the human, as tears began to run down his face. "Please. Please stop." Kuroko pleaded.

"Aw poor Tet-chan. Have you had enough already? Howabout we try something else then." Hanamiya smirked. It worried Kuroko, there was no way this 'something else' would be good and he dreaded to think what it could be.

Hanamiya shoved Kuroko down so that he was lying face down on the floor before grabbing his thigh. A twisted smile painted Hanamiya's face. "How about a nice hamstringing?" He then dug the knife in his hand into the back of Kuroko's thigh dragging it down to the back of his knee as he cut the tendons in Kuroko's leg. For the first time in his life, a full on scream was torn from the pale man. The pain was unbearable and Kuroko begged for Hanamiya to stop between his screams and sobs, but instead the cruel man did the same to his other leg.

After Hanamiya was done crippling both of Kuroko's legs he stood up to admire his work. The human had finally broken, rather than staying quiet and defiant he'd finally released his screams, losing his composure. That was exactly what Hanamiya had been waiting for. Now was the time for the next stage.


Kuroko had passed out after Hanamiya had severed his hamstring tendons. He didn't know how long he'd been unconscious for but it must have been a while as the bleeding from his legs and the cuts on his body had virtually stopped. However the pain had not. Kuroko whimpered at the agony his body was in. He wanted it to end. He wanted to be as far away from here as possible, yet there was no way he could escape. He'd had virtually no chance of running away before and now that his legs…his legs were crippled there was no way he could get out of this hell.

He was afraid. Afraid that he was going to die in this dark room and that the last face he'd ever see was that psycho's merciless expression. The only hope left for Kuroko was that Akashi may be looking for him. But a part of Kuroko began to worry. What if he's not coming? He'll know it's some kind of trap, what if decides the risk isn't worth my life?

The blue haired man lay still on the floor, too dizzy and in too much pain to move. After what felt like an age of lying there lost in his thoughts and the anguish of his injuries, Kuroko noticed light fill the room, indicating that someone had opened the door.

"Hello Tet-chan~. You still lying there? Here let me help you up." Kuroko felt Hanamiya grab the back of his neck before pulling him up. He tossed him down so that he was sat leaning against a wall. Kuroko gasped. The movement itself was not particularly harsh but the shifting of his leg released a second wind of excruciating pain causing Kuroko to scrunch his eyes and cry out in pain.

"So this is that Akashi's little pet huh?" Kuroko tried to concentrate on the voice. It was familiar, but not Hanamiya's. Whoever it was squatted down next to the human before pulling his head up so he could look at him face to face. Kuroko hissed at the jarring movement but now saw that it was the grey haired ghoul.

"Why did you call me here anyway boss? I thought you wanted to handle this yourself."

"Oh I can Haizaki-kun, but I thought you'd like to have some fun with him too." Hanamiya replied.

Haizaki smirked at that. "Thanks, that's kind of you Hanamiya-san."

The grey head moved to punch Kuroko in the face, however he was taken by surprise when a kagune wrapped around his arm stopping him. "That would be kind of me wouldn't it? But I'm not known for being kind. You've been too troublesome recently, building up all this unwanted attention from the CCG. You're just going to be a part of my game now Hai-za-ki-kun."

Whilst Kuroko's consciousness was still hazy, he did not miss Hanamiya's next action. His bikaku kagune stabbed through Haizaki's chest, right where his heart was, before the grey haired ghoul could even react to Hanamiya's words.

"What the hell?!" Haizaki coughed before spitting blood everywhere.

"I'm sorry Haizaki-kun but I'm going to need your organs." After that Kuroko watched, wide eyed as Hanamiya wrapped his kagune around Haizaki's head. The silver head had started to fight back, but he was no match for Hanamiya in his current state. The dark haired ghoul increased the pressure on Haizaki's head and Kuroko was horrified to hear a crack as the binge eater's skull began to fracture.

Paralysed in terror, the teal head could not pull his eyes from the scene unfurling directly in front of him. Finally, Haizaki's skull gave out and shattered. Watching the scene of the ghoul's head being shattered and bursting into a gory, bloody mess made Kuroko wretch. He would have vomited had there been any food in his stomach.

Kuroko's body instinctively began to shake with fear, regardless of the pain it caused him. Hanamiya dropped the headless corpse to the floor before turning to the light haired human. "I bet you're wondering why I did that Tet-chan." Kuroko expected Hanamiya to actually give him a reason as the taller leaned in as if to whisper something in his ear, however he was shocked when instead the tentacle attached to the taller man's back promptly moved to pierce through Kuroko's stomach.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 – Guilt

Note: Kakuhou - A sac-like organ in a ghoul which creates RC cells which create a ghoul's kagune.
Also – warning for torture scenes in this chapter.


Kuroko's world shuddered after Hanamiya stabbed through his abdomen, tearing apart his insides. He heard the ghoul say something about how tasty he smelt before he felt a harsh pain in his shoulder. "I've been wanting to try you for a while now Tet-chan, you're delicious."

Hanamiya was eating him. Kuroko realised it as he felt the warmth draining from his shoulder, blood leaking out of him. It was then that he thought that this was truly the end. The dark haired ghoul had stopped caring about holding back and Kuroko was going to die.

As Kuroko began to lose consciousness yet again he was vaguely aware of the tall man dragging his body out of the room alongside the binge eater's before his vision went completely black and he passed out once more.


Meanwhile, in Aomine's room three of the baristas were having a conversation about their search.

"The CCG have started investigating Tetsuya's house. Fortunately there's no evidence tying us to the incident as they don't have Kise's or Takao's details on the system. It does mean however that we can't go back there until we get Tetsuya back."

"In other news, Satsuki suspects these areas are most likely to harbour ghouls from the Kirisaki Daichi" Akashi explained to Kise and Aomine, pointing to circled locations on a map of their ward. "However she also said that they've been so inactive recently that it's hard to tell where they are."

As he looked up from the map to Kise, Akashi noticed that the man was not looking at where he was pointing to, paying him no attention.

"Ryouta, are you okay?"

There was a short pause. "No…It's…It's my fault that Takaocchi is hurt and it's my fault that Kurokocchi has been captured." The blond spoke softly. He had been acting unnaturally secluded and quiet ever since he woke up two days ago. Both Aomine and Akashi had guessed that it was probably to do with the shock of the incident and perhaps a hint of guilt, but it hurt them to know the quirky ghoul was feeling bad over the event.

"Kise, it's not your fault. There was nothing you could have done to stop it." Aomine said sternly to his friend.

"If I had been stronger I could have taken on those ghouls, but no. I had to watch because I'm too damn weak. I had to watch them tear into Takaocchi and throw Kurokocchi around like a ragdoll!" Kise was near shouting now and it hurt Aomine to see his friend so torn up. "If I were stronger like you two then maybe…maybe I could have protected them." Kise lamented as droplets began to well in his eyes.

"Ryouta, you are not weak. And if it's anyone's fault it is mine so be quiet." Akashi interrupted the blond's speech. "I should have stayed behind to watch him seeing as I'm the one who suspected he was being stalked by the Kirisaki Daichi. Not to mention, it is my fault that he was even targeted in the first place. If I had just left him alone then…" Akashi trailed off.

"Don't you go starting on this self-blaming shit too. The only person who is at fault in this situation is Hanamiya Makoto. What were you guys supposed to do eh? Sei, are you honestly implying that you'd rather have never met Tetsu? 'Cause if he were here he'd punch you for saying something so dumb. Stop blaming yourselves and focus on finding him." The navy haired ghoul said with frustration.

"Aominecchi…" Kise whispered, moved by his friend's words.

Akashi took a deep breath before speaking. "You're right Daiki. Our first priority is finding Tetsuya. Ryouta, please do your best to concentrate so that you can help us search for him."

Kise still felt bad about the whole situation but Aomine's words had lit a fire within him, giving him the push to stop wallowing in despair. "Okay!"


Kuroko felt like he was sinking.

He could hear distant voices but could not discern what they were saying. Then he sensed someone begin to wrap their arms around him from behind, and they began to propel him upwards towards a light.

Kuroko woke slowly. As his consciousness gradually returned he noticed that something felt off. Not necessarily painful, just wrong. An oxygen mask was attached to his face to assist his breathing. The table he was lying on was made of steel, cold and hard against Kuroko's naked back. The blue haired man tried to move but found that his legs and neck had been chained down to the table. Shifting a shackled arm down his body, he traced his stomach. All he could feel was a distinct line of a scar, as if the massive wound Hanamiya inflicted had somehow healed closed already. He also noticed the obvious lack of the other scars which had been marring his skin the past few days. Have I been in a coma? Where…where am I?

"Why did you choose him anyway? He didn't seem like the most obvious of candidates for my experiments. Haizaki was strong, but this kid…well he's pretty weak." An unfamiliar voice said.

"A bit of fun I guess. If I was gunna pick a human, I may as well screw with Akashi-kun and mess up his precious human. I just love breaking strong people and simply killing Tet-chan wouldn't be as entertaining. Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll even turn on Akashi-kun, after all it is his fault this happened. Ha, I'd love to see that, the look on Akashi-kun's face as he realised he's been betrayed by the one he cares for so much. But even if it doesn't work out that way, at least it should make Akashi-kun think twice about a ghoul's nature. Being friends with humans is wrong, he and every other idiotic ghoul who tries to live peacefully among humans should realise that." Said Kuroko's twisted tormenter.

Kuroko didn't quite catch all of Hanamiya's words due to the tiredness hanging in his mind but he got the general gist of his meaning. Kuroko began to turn his head wearily to look around the room with bleary eyes and noticed Hanamiya was now laughing at him. "Looks like sleeping beauty is finally awake." He teased.

"Thank you for providing me with a suitable test subject anyway Hanamiya-san." The unfamiliar voice came from the other side of the room. Kuroko turned his head heavily to look at the man. He had black hair and wore rectangular glasses and a doctor's coat. "I'm rather surprised he survived actually. It has been quite a while since I was last successful in converting someone. Anyway, you should probably let him heal up a bit more before 'playing' with him again, but he should be much more resistant to damage now. Being a one-eyed, with Haizaki's regenerative abilities, you should be able to chop off a limb and it'd grow right back. After a while of course. I'd appreciate updates on anything you find out about him."

A one-eyed? Haizaki's regenerative abilities? Kuroko was still rather dazed but he was still trying to piece the parts together to figure out what had happened to him between the last time he passed out and when he woke up.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll make some reports or something." Hanamiya said in a nonchalant tone.

"I'll leave you to it then. Your payment will be sent soon."

With that, the apparent doctor exited the room, leaving Kuroko alone with Hanamiya.

"How are you feeling Tet-chan?"

Kuroko hesitated to speak, thinking that his voice would likely betray him. However, his need to know what had happened overwrote that concern. "What did you do to me?" He asked bluntly with a weak voice.

"I was hoping you'd ask that Tet-chan~." Hanamiya walked over to where Kuroko was lying on the table, now standing by his side. "I've done you a favour. I've made you stronger Tet-chan! They say the stronger the ghoul the kakuhou is transplanted from, the stronger the one-eyed!" The contorted smile that pulled at the taller man's lips frightened Kuroko. What the hell has he done? What is he talking about?

"I'm sure Akashi-kun will be so impressed when he sees you. Now that you're awake, I need to inject you with some RC suppressant fluid, before you get any stupid ideas. Can't have you releasing your brand new kagune now can we?" Kagune?! What is he talking about, he's not explaining anything… As he was thinking, Kuroko noticed Hanamiya lean down to get something below the table he was lying on. When he rose Kuroko saw that he was holding a syringe which contained a green fluid. "Now that you're a ghoul, I can't inject this into your skin so I'm afraid you're gunna need to keep your head still for a second."

Kuroko was confused at first, but as Hanamiya grabbed his head to hold it in place and used his thumb and index finger to spread open his eye lids he realised what was coming. He saw that the needle was moving in. He tried to struggle, to get away from the needle but Hanamiya and the restraints kept him in place.

The dark haired ghoul brought the syringe in and penetrated the membrane of Kuroko's eye with the needle. A scream echoed in the room as Kuroko felt the needle pierce him and the liquid burn as it entered his body.

Kuroko let out a few gasps of fear and pain before he began to feel the effects. He felt weaker than he had before.

"And with that I'll be able to cut into that lovely skin of yours again and your regenerative abilities will be slowed somewhat." Hanamiya said, but Kuroko was no longer listening. His mind was racing and confused, he was still recovering from the pain of the injection and he was also trying to figure out what Hanamiya was talking about.

The sadistic male was making it sound like Kuroko was now a ghoul. But how could that be possible? It was common knowledge among humans that you can't turn into a ghoul. They're not like mythical creatures such as vampires which can turn people into their kind. You are either born a ghoul or not. So what was Hanamiya talking about?

The next thing Kuroko saw was the dark haired ghoul undoing his restraints. Hanamiya then grabbed Kuroko by the hair and roughly dragged him off the table and out of the room. The corridors he was hauled down were dirty and decrepit, with numerous battered doors lining the walls.

Kuroko considered putting up a fight but after some movement his body reminded him of the trauma it had been through. It may have started to heal but it still hurt. Not to mention, Kuroko noticed several people hanging around in the rooms they passed, they were likely 'friends' of Hanamiya's. There was no way he could fight them all, even if he was somehow a ghoul.

Still only wearing shorts, Kuroko shivered from the freezing temperature in the building. He looked across his chest with watery eyes and saw the lack of scars from the cuts the vicious ghoul had inflicted upon him. There were still some faint ones where the deeper wounds had been, but nowhere near as many as he remembered.

Hanamiya then threw Kuroko into a dark room which greatly resembled the place he had been kept in before, however this room had metal chains hanging from the ceiling.

"I thought I'd get some nice chains installed for you Tet-chan. They'll keep you from lying down too much or trying anything stupid." Hanamiya said as he tossed Kuroko's body into the centre of the room. Hanamiya then moved to chain Kuroko's wrists. Although Kuroko had previously dismissed the idea of attempting an escape, he now thought about the fact that he had nothing to lose. He reflected that this may be his last chance to get out as he was currently unrestrained and the door was wide open. Kuroko pushed himself up on his legs, about to run when his legs reminded him of the hamstringing he'd received before. The pain was not as intense as the day it had occurred, but it still caused Kuroko to pause for a moment in hurt.

Hanamiya quickly punched Kuroko down onto the ground and shoved him back to the centre of the room before attaching the heavy chains to his wrists. He then tied a piece of cloth tightly around Kuroko's head, covering his turquoise eyes, before gagging Kuroko's mouth with another rag. "Now be a good boy and stay here, I'll be round to play later after I deal with some business."

Kuroko was left alone in the dark room, kneeling on the icy ground, with his arms hanging above his head.


1 week later

Akashi was beyond frustrated. It had been 12 days and still none of his sources could provide any solid clues as to where the Kirisaki Daichi may be, only being able to provide vague areas that were more likely to house them than others. Akashi had also had no luck in his own nighthly searches for their hideout. All he knew was that apparently the 'Jabberwocks' were becoming a big deal.

But he really didn't care about that.

Right now all he wanted was to get Kuroko back. He knew that Kuroko wouldn't be okay when they found him, and he dreaded to think what condition the teal haired human would be in but he wanted him back at his side. He grimaced at the thought of the condition Kuroko would be in as Kise walked into the living room.

"Hey Akashicchi." He said softly. The blond had recovered quickly, now back to perfect health. He had insisted on helping Akashi in any way possible to help look for Kuroko after Aomine's little speech the previous week. The red head could tell that Kise still felt somewhat responsible for what had happened but he had become determined to help Akashi search for Kuroko, so the two, alongside Aomine, had been going out each night to search abandoned warehouses and buildings and wherever else they may find a band of ghouls. So far all they have found were random ghouls squatting in the otherwise empty buildings, but none were able to tell them anything about the Kirisaki Daichi.

The three ghouls had barely slept the past dozen days. They had intended to search at night and sleep in the day but they all found it difficult to sleep, ridden with the worry they held for the human bluenette.

Aomine was now in his room, searching for a pen when he finally found his phone buried under a pile of magazines. He took it over to its charger, plugging it in. He turned the power on, checking his texts. He started from the earliest.

4 weeks ago
From: Bakagami
Hey Aomine! I landed in America about an hour ago, safe and sound. Make sure to take care of yourself and Kuroko. See you in a month.

3 weeks ago
From: Bakagami

Yo, I went to see an NBA game today with my dad. You would have loved it! Hope you're getting on okay.

2 weeks ago
From: Bakagami

Ahomine, stop ignoring my messages.

2 week ago
From: Bakagami

Did you lose your phone or something idiot?

5 days ago
From: Bakagami

Hey, what's going on? Kuroko isn't replying to me either, are you guys ok? Are you just screwing with me? I swear if this is your idea of a joke, I'll punch you when I get back next week.

Aomine had felt slightly guilty for not replying to his texts, though he probably would have laughed at Kagami's reaction to his lack of response. He would have laughed if not for the last message. It reminded him that Kagami was coming back in about a week's time. If Kagami showed up and they still hadn't found Kuroko, what in the world was he going to tell him had happened? Even if we did find him by then, how would I explain the condition he's probably in? Aomine thought morosely. He was starting to get emotional thinking about the situation. It really hit home that Kuroko wasn't going to be okay and that they were going to have to deal with the aftermath of whatever Hanamiya had done to him and that he was going to have to tell Kagami about what happened to Kuroko. His mood worsened when he checked his missed calls.

Missed Call:
Saturday 28th Feb, 6:18
From: Kuroko Tetsuya

The dark skinned male stared at the notification, thinking about what Kise had told them about the attack. They left at six, so…he probably tried to call me….to call me when…oh god. Aomine furrowed his eyebrows in despair realising what an idiot he was. The call had been made the day that the ambush at Kuroko's house had occurred. If he'd had his phone he could have found out what was happening, he could have sent someone to help and maybe even have prevented Kuroko from being taken.

A tear started to slide down his cheek at the realisation. He knew it was hypocritical of him to feel guilty, but it did not stop remorse welling up inside him.

"Daiki, we need to get ready to lea- what's wrong?" Akashi said as he entered the room.

Aomine sniffed and wiped away the stray tear with the back of his hand. "I think he tried to call me when they…when they were kidnapping him. I'm such an idiot, if I hadn't lost my phone I could have…" Akashi realised what Aomine was talking about, his brow furrowing with sadness at seeing his brother so upset. He then looked at Aomine more authoritatively before speaking.

"It's no good looking into what you could have done Daiki. What happened, happened. Now take your own advice and don't blame yourself for the things you did or didn't do and focus on finding him. Come on, we're going for another look around the outskirts of town tonight, get ready." Akashi felt a bit bad for being rather blunt with his brother, but he knew it was what he needed to hear. He needed to turn that regret into motivation. Although it's not like we need any more motivation to find Tetsuya. Akashi thought to himself.


1 week later

Another knife cut through Kuroko's body. He cried out in pain at the action once again. Ever since he'd been moved in here, Hanamiya had been a lot less restrained when torturing him. No longer did he worry about keeping Kuroko alive, knowing that any wound would just regenerate to perfect health in a few days. He'd carved deep into Kuroko's flesh and even cut off his toes and fingers repeatedly.

Kuroko knew now. Something was wrong with him. He was no longer human.

The beatings had also intensified, with broken bones becoming a regularity. They simply started to heal themselves the next day, just so that Hanamiya could break them again.

"This is perfect Tet-chan. Now I have my own, regenerating punching bag." His statement was emphasised when Kuroko felt a clenched fist connect with the side of his face causing him to grunt in pain. The teal head was still blindfolded and gagged whilst his wrists remained chained, limiting his movements.

Hanamiya stabbed another knife through Kuroko's side and left it impaled in him. There were now five knives wedged in Kuroko's torso and two skewered through his right leg, preventing his body from healing the wounds and causing him further pain. Even though the RC suppressant is designed to weaken a ghoul's regenerative abilities, Kuroko's body still managed to heal itself in miraculous timing that surpassed even Hanamiya's expectations.

However, Kuroko still felt the torment of every cut, punch, kick and stab. Every snap of his bones caused him to cry out in agony. The bluenette had virtually given up on begging at this point, knowing that it was a waste of his energy. Instead he would usually try to retreat inside his mind, but it didn't work. The pain demanded to be felt.

"I thought we could try something new today Tet-chan. One of my subordinates brought in some interesting drugs recently. This one is supposed to cause excruciating pain and vivid nightmares. Sounds like fun, right Tet-chan?"

Kuroko could hear the smirk in his voice and began to shuffle away from the man, pulling on his restraints. "Stay still for me now, it'll be fine Tet-chan." With that, Kuroko let out a sharp breath as he felt the sting of a needle being plunged into his neck.

The effect was not immediate, but Hanamiya stood, waiting for the moment that the pain would hit.

When it did, Kuroko let out a heart shattering howl. Every muscle in his body was contracting, as he underwent severe convulsions. After what felt like hours of torture, but was actually only minutes, Kuroko's mind began to lose track of itself as his screams eased and he succumbed to darkness.


Where am I? Was Kuroko's first thought. He was stood in a living room. It was extremely familiar, and Kuroko felt a nagging sensation in the back of his mind. He knew he should recognise it.

"Hey Tetsuya, let's go out for some shakes!"

Kuroko froze at the voice. It clicked. This was his old home. He had not heard that voice in years. He turned to see his older step-brother, Mayuzumi Chihiro.

"Ch-Chihiro-nii?" Kuroko said with amazement. The boy in front of him was as old as the last time Kuroko had seen him ten years ago, hair as scruffy as ever.

"What's up Tetsuya? You look like you've seen a ghost, let's get going before it gets too late to go out."

The teal head watched as his only brother walked out the door. He made to follow him, not wanting this vivid dream to end. He'd do anything to see his silver haired brother again.

When he walked out of the same door however he was not greeted by Mayuzumi or even the setting of his old neighbourhood. Instead he stepped out into a contrastingly dark and morose alley, the door disappearing behind him. He instantly knew where he was.

"Why did you abandon us Tetsuya?" Kuroko froze, hearing his brother's accusing voice from behind him, sending shivers across his body. "Why did you leave us to die? Why did you leave me to be taken?" Mayuzumi said with a snarl that Kuroko was unused to hearing.

Slowly, Kuroko turned around to look where the voice had come from.

What he saw in front of him was a scene that had haunted his nightmares for the past 10 years. Kuroko's mother and step-father were lying on the ground, bodies ripped apart and barely recognisable. The sight made Kuroko take a step back as he released a small sob. He dragged his eyes back up to his brother. Mayuzumi had been 17 years old the night it happened whilst Kuroko had been 13.

"Y-you told me to run onii-san…I w-was scared, I d-didn't know what to do." Kuroko's voice shook.

"You weren't quick enough and I took the hit for it Tetsuya. I was taken away because of you."

"I'm sorry onii-san, please, I didn't mean to. I was s-scared." Tears were falling uncontrollably from Kuroko's eyes, the sight of his family and hearing his brother's say those words was too much for him.

"And I'm dead because you were too scared Tetsuya."

"I-I'm sorry…"


Kuroko began to regain his consciousness, floating away from his twisted worst memory into a blurry reality filled with pain. He began crying and screaming again as the convulsions continued. To add to it his body felt like it was on fire and his eyes were seared by the sudden light shining into them.

Had Kuroko not been lost in his pain and guilt he may have noticed that the blindfold, gag and chains had been removed and in front of him were two familiar faces.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 11 – Rescue

Midorima was sat on the edge of Takao's bed, checking the man's injuries once again. The shorter ghoul had awoken ten days after the accident. Although 'awoken' was a bit of a strong term. In reality he had only begun to swim in and out of consciousness, Midorima would not have counted him as being awake until four days later, when he was actually capable of speech and became aware of his surroundings.

Now, he was sat up in Akashi's bed allowing Midorima to look over his injuries. The major stomach wound had healed over now but Takao was still quite weak, so Midorima sentenced the ravenette to another week's bed rest.

"Kazunari, how are you feeling?" The green head asked Takao.

"I'm feeling much better thanks to you Shin-chan." Takao replied with a smile.

He was finally getting back to himself. Relief filled the green haired male's heart when he saw his childhood friend grin with his usual upbeat personality. He may still have been weak, but Midorima knew better than anyone that Takao would always put on his best smile.

"Do you need me to get you anything?"

"Howabout a kiss Shin-chan~." Takao teased his partner.

Midorima blushed, looking away from the dark haired male grumpily. "You really must be fine if you're back to asking for such pointless things."

"Stop being such a tsundere Shin-chan." Takao said softly before leaning in to peck Midorima on the cheek.

Before Takao could cause Midorima to die from embarrassment, Akashi walked into the room.

"How are you both?" He asked, genuinely curious.

"I'm good Akashi. Thanks for letting us borrow your room for so long." Takao replied. "But…erm…can I ask how the search is going?"

Whilst Takao had not spoken much to Kuroko before the day of the incident he had still acknowledged him as a good guy. He also noticed how much he meant to Aomine and Akashi and how his disappearance had even had a large impact on the usually cheery Kise.

Unfortunately, Akashi's mouth curved into a frown. "We still haven't found any leads. But we're running out of likely hideout spots to search, so hopefully we'll find something soon."

"As soon as I'm all better, Shin-chan and I can come help you guys!" Takao said in an attempt to lighten the mood a bit.

However Midorima scowled at him. "Idiot. They will have already found him by the time you're ready to get into a fight again, now get some rest."

The dark haired man pouted. "But Shin-chan it's so boring in here."

"I don't care. The more you rest the sooner you'll be feeling stronger."

Akashi decided to leave the two lovers in peace as they argued. After he left the room his phone began ringing. The red head took his phone out of his pocket and saw who was calling him. He hastily answered the call. "Himuro-san?"

"Yes, hello Akashi-san. I've got some good news for you. A young ghoul I believe to be from the Kirisaki Daichi is waiting in my store. I thought you might want to come over and talk with him."

Akashi's mind lit up at the news. "We'll be over there as soon as possible."

"I'll be sure to keep him here until your arrival. See you soon."

"Thank you."

The red haired ghoul hung up on the mask-maker as he hurried to Aomine's room.

"Daiki, I just got a call from Himuro-san. He's had a customer from the Kirisaki Daichi and said that if we get over there we can interrogate him. We're leaving now."

"That's great! Should I get Kise?"

"No, he'll take too long to get up, besides he could do with the rest. Now let's go."

The two drove to Himuro's, arriving 15 minutes after Akashi had received the call. The two were both hopeful as this was the first proper lead they had.

As they walked into the store Himuro greeted them.

"Hello Akashi-san and Aomine-san. The man I told you about is in the waiting room out back, feel free to go talk to him. There is no one else in there and I shall make sure you are not interrupted. Though, I would appreciate it if you didn't tell him I told you he was here."

"Of course Himuro-san, thank you for the help." Akashi replied politely.

With a nod, Himuro left them so that he could get back to his mask making.

The two baristas walked into the sleek looking waiting room and saw a young ghoul with light brown hair sitting on one of the sofas in the room.

Akashi had considered what approach he was going to take to the situation on the way to the mask shop. He had concluded that he wanted to get straight to the point.

The ghoul was the only other person in the room besides Akashi and Aomine, just as Himuro had said. The coffee shop manager walked over casually, as if he were going to sit next to the male but then lunged forward grabbing the ghoul's collar, pulling him up before shoving him against a wall.

"Are you a member of the Kirisaki Daichi?" Akashi asked in a deadpan voice.

The brunette seemed pissed off and was struggling to escape Akashi's strong grasp. "What's it to you?"

"I'll take that as a yes. Now I want to ask you some questions."

Akashi pulled the young ghoul away from the wall before thrusting him straight back into it, hoping to demonstrate his annoyance at the ghoul's struggling.

"Where is your hideout?"

"Like I'd tell you that!"

The red eyed ghoul, irritated at the younger's lack of cooperation, slammed his fist into the brunette's face. "I will not hesitate to torture you until you tell me, now where is the Kirisaki Daichi's hideout? Don't bother lying or I will hunt you down and make you wish you were dead."

Aomine was observing his brother and noticed the complete change in personality. He was releasing a murderous aura alongside a ferocious glare that even sent shivers down Aomine's spine. The taller barista knew the frustration that Akashi was facing. The past few weeks of searching and worrying combined with a complete lack of sleep only made them more desperate for a lead. To finally have found someone who could give them information was refreshing, but a lack of cooperation would only make it that much more frustrating.

"I-I don't know."

"Liar." Akashi snarled before punching right through the ghoul's shoulder, his patience wearing thin. "Tell me where it is."

The ghoul held against the wall howled in pain. "I-I-It's in the east side of town."

"I want specifics."

"I-I-t's the abandoned o-office building that used to be owned by Higashi Industries."

"Thank you." Akashi said, removing his hand from the ghouls shoulder, although he did not drop his intimidating stare. "Do you know Hanamiya Makoto?"

The youth responded with a hesitant nod as he held his injured shoulder.

"Have you seen a light blue haired human?"

"I-I haven't seen him, but I've heard about him from the other guys gossiping."

Tightening his hold on the man's shirt, Akashi pushed the ghoul further against the wall. "What did they say?"

"Just t-that Hanamiya-san was using him as a plaything to get some sort of revenge."

The red head seethed at his words. It wasn't unexpected, he'd guessed as much, but it still hurt to know. To know that it was his fault.

"Is that everything?"

"Yes."

"Then never speak of this conversation and get out of my sight. Now." Akashi pulled the ghoul away from the wall, throwing him in the direction of the door as he let go of his shirt.

The male ran out of the room deciding that he valued his safety over the mask he'd ordered.

Akashi took a moment to compose himself, sorting through his feelings and calming down. He was glad to finally have a starting point for Kuroko's rescue but a deep seated worry continued to push through. He turned towards Aomine.

"We'll go back to the house to check the location of this abandoned office building and to pick up Ryouta and Atushi. Then we'll head straight there."


"Do you all remember the plan?" Akashi asked the three other ghouls.

The sun had finally set and the baristas were waiting around the corner of a building each wearing their masks. Kise's resembled a golden wolf, Aomine's was a black panther and Murasakibara wore a simplistic mask decorated with lightning.

After Akashi had located the old office building, they had hurriedly driven to the site. The plan Akashi was asking about had been explained to the others on the drive over there.

"We will try to be stealthy and reclaim Tetsuya without a fight. We are going to split up into two pairs. Atushi you're with Daiki, Ryouta shall accompany me. But we will still search on the same floor in case a fight breaks out. If the situation is clearly not in our favour then I want you to retreat. We shall regroup here in an hour unless circumstances lead us to a forced retreat. Any questions?"

"What do we do if we find Tetsu?"

"You get him out of there of course. Preferably wait for us here, however if he needs urgent care take him to the hospital and leave a note somewhere around here."

"Yes." Aomine, Kise and Murasakibara replied in unison.

"Let us go then."


The blond and the red head were walking down yet another freezing corridor. They had found nobody yet, but Akashi was confident that this could be the right place this time as he was able to smell ghouls nearby.

"Akashicchi, do you really think we'll find Kurokocchi tonight?" Kise whispered hopefully.

"I do." At least I hope we find him. Akashi mentally added.

Suddenly, a heart wrenching scream was heard from somewhere nearby. Kise looked at Akashi worriedly. The corridor was currently empty so the two decided to make haste towards the source of the noise. However, as they did so a handful of ghouls exited another room ahead of them.

The unknown ghouls turned to look at the coffeehouse workers. "Hey…That guy has got red hair and a dragon mask…and the blond with the dog mask…didn't the boss say they're on our 'not welcome list'" A rather dim ghoul asked his friend.

"Yep. Hello, Akashi-san! Welcome to our humble home." It was a grey haired ghoul who spoke so mockingly. Akashi recognised him as Hara Kazuya from the Kirisaki Daichi. The cruel ghoul cracked his knuckles, indicating he was about to fight the two. More screams were heard in the distance, this time more intense.

Whilst Akashi could have easily taken them on, he was glad to see Murasakibara and Aomine appear behind them, ready to fight. The four baristas moved in to attack the other ghouls. Akashi and Aomine had both started intense combat training after the night Hanamiya attacked them in the café, frequently meeting up in the basement or in the woods outside of the city to practice. They now fought at the level of an S ranked ghoul, easily taking down the lower ranking ghouls. They were outnumbered, but by no means out skilled, although Akashi noted that Hara proved quite capable.

During the fighting, Akashi's attention was grabbed when he caught a movement down the corridor. Someone else had just exited another room further down the corridor. "What the hell's going on out here I'm trying to enjoy my-" He bellowed irately.

Akashi's eyes met the angered ones of Hanamiya Makoto's. A smirk stretched across the taller's face as their gaze connected. "I didn't expect to see you here so soon Akashi-kun."

Akashi threw the ghoul he was fighting in rage before dashing up to Hanamiya ready to rip his throat out. "Where the hell is he?!" Akashi demanded.

Yet more screams were heard and Akashi noticed that they were originating from the room next to him. The room the barbarous ghoul had just exited. "He's just in there Akashi-kun~. But before you go say hello, why don't we settle this?" Hanamiya sneered, however he was taken by surprise when a fist punched him in the head.

"What the fuck are you doing to him?!" Aomine shouted at the dark haired ghoul, before moving to beat him. Akashi took in the situation around him. As much as he'd have loved to join the navy head and punch Hanamiya in the face until his fists were bloody, he saw that Aomine seemed to be coping with Hanamiya by himself, releasing all his pent up frustration and anger. Kise and Murasakibara weren't doing too badly with the other ghouls either, a number of which were already lying dead or unconscious. This left Akashi able to go tend to Kuroko and so he entered the room that Hanamiya had exited.

The screaming had seemed to stop as Akashi eased the door open, but the sight he was met with made his stomach churn. Kuroko was strung up by the arms and kneeling on the floor, several knives sticking out of him and his body was wracked with convulsions. What was most disturbing about the scene though was the vast amount of blood that covered the floor and walls of the room, so much that Akashi was not sure how the teal head could still be alive. Akashi shook with fear seeing his kind and gentle partner like this.

He ran to his side and began removing the knives before getting rid of the chains, blindfold and gag and then laying him on the floor as carefully as possible.

"Tetsuya..." He whispered with a shaky voice. "I'm so sorry." It hurt the ghoul so much to see what Hanamiya had done to him. To realise that those screams he'd heard and shrugged off so casually moments ago were indeed Kuroko's screams. He hated himself for being the reason his boyfriend was in this situation in the first place and for taking so long to find him.

The red head was brought out of his grim thoughts when Aomine's voice broke through.

The navy head was stood in the doorway as he spoke. "That bastard ran off. I swear to God I'm-" It was then that Aomine actually looked into the room and saw Akashi kneeling beside Kuroko. "T-Tetsu?" He choked out. As soon as his eyes landed on the broken image of his best friend all of his anger faded, instead replaced with disgust, horrified by the state Kuroko was in.

Aomine sprinted to Akashi's side to help him with Kuroko, who seemed to be unconscious. "What's wrong with him? Why is his body shaking so much?" Aomine asked frantically as he heard the teal head let out small whimpers.

The red head had also wondered why Kuroko's body was acting so unnaturally. At first he thought that it could simply be a side effect of the stress of torture, however when he noticed the needle mark on Kuroko's neck and the empty syringe by the wall he realised that was likely not the case. "I think he's been drugged Daiki. We need to give him some room so we don't restrict his movements, he could end up hurting himself if we do."

Kuroko let out a small sob before murmuring things in his unrestful sleep. "I'm sorry onii-san…scared…..I'm sorry"

He has a brother? Akashi thought. "Daiki what-"

When Akashi saw the look on Aomine's blanched face he stopped speaking. Kuroko had told the navy haired male about what had happened to his family a few years ago.

Flashback

Aomine stood in the living room of Kuroko's new house, waiting for the human to get dressed before they went out for lunch. He noted that there was little decoration in the room, however the photo frames on the side table took Aomine's interest.

He walked over to them, looking at each. Most were ones of Kuroko with his friends from Seirin or with Kagami and Aomine or Nigou. However one contained people whom Aomine was completely unfamiliar with. Carefully picking it up and looking at the photo, Aomine took in the details of the picture. In it was a younger Kuroko, probably about 11, smiling alongside a taller, grey haired teen and behind them stood two adults, a woman with cerulean hair, the colour of Kuroko's, and a man with black hair. The grey haired male in the photo had his arm hung over Kuroko's shoulders and was smiling at the camera.

"I'm ready Aomine-kun." Kuroko said as he entered the room. As the light-blue haired man looked to Aomine he noticed the photo frame in his hand.

"Hey, Tetsu, who are these people?"

"They're my family Aomine-kun."

"How come you never talk about them?"

"That's funny coming from you Aomine-kun."

"Shut up! I just…"

"It's okay. I don't like thinking about it much but I will tell you about them if you want to know."

Aomine considered not pushing Kuroko further, realising that something bad must have happened between them or to them, but he was also curious.

"If you don't mind talking about it…"

Kuroko sat down on his sofa, taking a deep breath before starting his story.

"Six years ago, the four of us were going out for dinner. We took our usual route but that night we were attacked by a group of ghouls. My mother and step-father tried to stand between the ghouls and me and my brother as they told us to run." Aomine was still stood, listening as he watched Kuroko grimace. "There were so many. They killed my mother and father in an instant, tearing through their bodies and throwing them to the ground before some of them started eating them. They beat my brother and threw him into the corner. He called out for me to run but I froze. I couldn't move. They were about to attack me as well but onii-san managed to stand up and protect me before telling me to run again. I managed to that time. As I ran I saw that they grabbed my brother with their kagune and chucked him around, but they didn't kill him in front of me."

"It was horrible. They beat him and hurt him yet all I did was run away. We weren't too far from the city streets and I found a CCG officer in minutes but by the time we returned…all the ghouls had run away. They took my brother with them. I was told he's as good as dead."

"Afterwards, I was taken to the CCG offices so they could figure out what to do with me. I hadn't had contact with my biological father in years, he'd been abusive to my mother and lost the right to see me. There was no-one left to take care of me, so I stayed in a foster family until I was 17."

Kuroko stopped talking after that, refusing to make eye-contact with Aomine. The teal head had tried to be strong, but whenever he thought back to that night, to his family, he was weak. He missed them so much. He missed the sense of family.

What surprised Kuroko was Aomine kneeling down in front of him and hugging him. "Why did you never tell me you idiot?" The navy haired male asked softly.

"You didn't need to know Aomine-kun. Of course it hurts me and of course it's sad, but there is nothing you nor I can do to change it."

"Idiot. I may not have needed to know, but you shouldn't bottle-up shit like that. You can always talk to me okay Tetsu? I'll always be here for you." Aomine said, tightening his embrace around Kuroko's slender form. "I promise."

"Thank you Aomine-kun." Kuroko replied, hugging the taller male back.

End flashback

Aomine could only assume that Kuroko was having some sort of nightmare to do with the incident the human had told him about that day. It made him so incredibly sad to see his friend so damaged.

Akashi and Aomine remained knelt next to Kuroko. Akashi longed to hold the teal haired man close but he did not want to cause Kuroko any harm in doing so as it could lead to the human tearing his muscles, and thus he resisted the urge.

The two ghouls then noticed that Kuroko seemed to be regaining consciousness, his eyelids fluttering open slightly before he screwed them closed. That's when Kuroko began screaming and crying again.

"Tetsuya? Can you hear me Tetsuya? It's Seijuro. You're going to be okay now. I promise. I won't let him hurt you again." Tears began to run down Akashi's face for the first time in years. But Kuroko did not respond to the red head's words, too lost in his physical and emotional agony. Instead he continued to make distressed noises, tears streaming from his eyes as he convulsed on the blood covered floor. Aomine was also crying as he wished that he could wake up from this nightmare.

It was then that the teal haired male opened his eyes wide with fear as he screamed with all his heart. The sight made Akashi and Aomine stare in terror and confusion, for one of Kuroko's eyes was the colour of the sky on a beautiful spring day, whilst the other was jet black with highlights and an iris of crimson.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

"Sei, what the hell is wrong with his eye?" Aomine said with a shaky voice.

Kuroko was still weeping as he writhed in pain, oblivious to the two ghouls staring at him.

"I don't know. We'll deal with it when we're far from here and he's feeling better. It's going to be difficult to carry him out discreetly but we need to get him out of this place now."

The sight and smell of Kuroko's blood made both Akashi and Aomine feel sick. The metallic scent clung to the walls as a reminder of how long Kuroko had been left there. The thought that the smaller man had been in this wretched place for weeks horrified them both. But there was something particularly off about the smell of the blood, but neither ghoul could quite identify what.

Suddenly, Kuroko's body fell limp onto the ground as the convulsions ground to a halt. However his body continued to tremble violently. Kuroko was unconscious once again, though this time Akashi suspected it was due to exhaustion rather than the drugs. Akashi thought it was almost fortunate: The man would not have to feel the physical agony his body was undergoing for a while and the two brothers could get him out more easily.

The crimson haired ghoul scooped the shaking male up in his arms carefully. Akashi noted how incredibly light Kuroko was as he lifted him with ease before looking to Aomine. "I'll carry him, let's go."

The two walked out of the claustrophobic room to see Kise and Murasakibara finishing the last Kirisaki Daichi member who had yet to run away or be defeated. Both the blond and purple haired ghouls were looking fairly worn out, but they had avoided receiving any serious injuries.

Silence fell as the baristas who had been fighting all this time looked to see Aomine and Akashi leaving the room. Kise was relieved to see the teal haired human in Akashi's arms however he was also concerned by the vast amount of blood covering his body and the violent tremors he was going through.

"Is Kuro-chin okay?" The giant ghoul asked.

Both Aomine and Akashi grimaced at the question before the shorter replied with a "No." not wanting to lie. Kise looked at them sadly before asking "Shall we go to the hospital then?"

That had been their initial plan. They had all guessed that on finding the human he would likely require medical attention, but after seeing the bluenette's ghoulish eye Akashi reconsidered the idea of taking the man to the hospital. If somehow Kuroko had become some sort of ghoul there was no way they could possibly take him there as the general tests carried out by the doctors would immediately reveal Kuroko's species, whatever it may be. They would kill him or experiment on him. Neither of which Akashi could allow.

"We can't take him to the hospital. We will take him back to our apartment and get Miyaji-san and Shintaro to help him heal."

This caused Kise to become rather confused, ignorant to the fact that Kuroko may no longer be one hundred percent human. "Why aren't we just taking him to the-"

"We're just not okay Kise. Let's get the hell out of here." Aomine said grumpily, eyes still tinged red from crying as he walked down the corridor, making haste towards the exit. The others followed him. Kise and Murasakibara trailed behind, baffled as to why they would not take the clearly injured human to a hospital and Akashi walked directly behind his younger sibling as he carried his loved one in his arms.


Once they arrived back at the café, Akashi carried Kuroko out from the back of the van and into the store. Fortunately it was still dark out, preventing any suspicious looks from passer-bys.

The four ghouls entered the establishment and were quickly greeted by Midorima who had heard them approaching. Upon seeing the bloody, quivering mess in Akashi's arms, Midorima made way so that the red head could ascend the stairs to a bedroom.

Remembering that Takao was still residing in his room, Akashi headed to Aomine's bedroom instead, lying the teal head down on the messy double bed. The four other multi-coloured haired ghouls followed Akashi into the rather small room.

"Shintaro, could you please check his injuries. Atushi, go call Miyaji-san and ask that he visits here as soon as possible with medical supplies."

The two tall ghouls moved to do as Akashi had asked them. Whilst doing so, Midorima asked "Kise, could you please watch over Kazunari for me while I'm busy." In all honesty, the ravenette did not require some sort of babysitter, but Midorima would be happier knowing someone was there for him if he wasn't feeling well. The bespectacled ghoul also wanted less people in the room whilst he worked, but knew that the blond would not leave without a reason to.

Soon it was just Aomine, Akashi and Midorima left with the still passed out Kuroko.

"Shintaro…" Akashi spoke up as the make-shift doctor checked Kuroko's wounds and began stitching up the knife wounds.

"Yes?"

"I don't know how to put this, but when Daiki and I found him…obviously he was not well and in a lot of pain but…his eye…one of them was like a ghoul's."

"I thought it was odd that his wounds were starting to heal themselves already. He also smells…off. Not quite human, not quite ghoul. I'm not quite sure, but can he really be…" Midorima trailed off.

"A ghoul? But he's covered in stab wounds made by knives. You can't stab a ghoul with something as weak as steel." Aomine finished the green head's question.

"Yes, but if he's some sort of converted ghoul perhaps he does not share all the same traits as us." Akashi suggested. "Furthermore, I've heard that the CCG developed a drug to supress RC cells, allowing a ghouls skin to be pierced. It would not surprise me if Hanamiya had somehow got his hands on some to allow him to play his sick games."

Midorima interrupted Akashi's ramblings. "Regardless, there is little I can do for the drug induced convulsions and trembling. We shall have to leave him until the drug passes through his system. He should wake up sometime tomorrow and he'll be able to explain more about what happened to him. I'll watch over him for the rest of the night, you guys get some rest."

Aomine scoffed. "Like I'm gunna sleep tonight. I'll stay in here and wait for Tetsu to wake up."

"I shall also stay with him." Akashi added.

Knowing better than to argue with those two, Midorima agreed. "Very well, if you two aren't going to rest then I shall. Come get me if he wakes up or his condition changes."

With that, Midorima left the room to join Kise in Takao's room. The emerald haired man had been sleeping beside the raven haired ghoul in Akashi's bed ever since Takao's condition exited the critical status. On Midorima's arrival to the room, Kise left the two alone and went to sleep on one of the sofas in the living room, where he discovered Murasakibara to also be resting.

Aomine and Akashi sat on pillows on the floor of the navy head's untidy room in silence as they watched over Kuroko sleeping. An undeterminable amount of time had passed when Akashi found himself becoming frustrated at his lack of knowledge about what had happened to Kuroko. He decided to make a quick call to Himuro to enquire about the possibility of ghouls with only one kakugan.

Leaving the room, he entered the hallway and dialled Himuro's number. The red head was almost surprised when the mask-maker actually picked up at 2am.

"Hello Akashi-san, what do you need at such a late hour?" He asks sleepily.

"I'm sorry for calling so late Himuro-san, but I wanted to enquire about ghouls who only have one kakugan. I've never heard of such a thing happening and I was wondering if perhaps you had."

"Well, I've never met one myself so I can't verify this information, but I have heard of such a thing occurring in extremely rare cases. People call them 'one-eyed ghouls', though most say that they are only an urban legend. There are only two ways to create one from what I know. The first is that a ghoul and a human have a child together who is born half-ghoul, half-human."

Well I'm guessing it's not that Akashi thought to himself. Kuroko had definitely been human upon their previous meetings. Something had changed.

"And the second is to transplant the kakuhou from a ghoul into a human. If the rumours are correct, there are a handful of doctors in the world interested in such experiments as one-eyed ghouls are supposedly much stronger than your average ghoul. Although I heard the success rate isn't particularly high."

Akashi's eyes widened. Could Hanamiya really have performed surgery on Kuroko or have gotten someone else to perform it in his place? Why the hell would he do that? Akashi thought before a voice in the back of his mind answered his own question. To get back at you. Yes, Kuroko would now be strong, but God knows what his mental state would be. Not to mention, being a half ghoul may require some major lifestyle changes for Kuroko. It may even make the pale bluenette hate Akashi for bringing such horrific events upon him.

It angered Akashi that Hanamiya had made out to get some sort of revenge against his friends and family. That he had decided to play these messed up mind games. Akashi had done the ghoul no wrong, no one from the coffeehouse had. All they did was defend their own when the maniac almost killed Kiyoshi and had threatened the rest of the baristas.

Why the hell did he have to target us and play this vile game dammit? Akashi thought bitterly. They were a peaceful group who sought to be as little of a nuisance as possible, yet Hanamiya seemed to have sworn some sort of vow to make their lives hell.

"Akashi-san, are you okay?" Himuro asked after Akashi did not respond to his information.

"Yes, thank you Himuro-san. I apologise for interrupting your sleep, but would you mind looking further into this one-eyed ghoul business tomorrow? It would be very helpful to me and I'll pay you for it of course."

"If it will help you, of course I'll do it. There's no need to pay me Akashi-san. I owe you and Atushi my life after all."

"Still, I appreciate the help. I have only one more question for tonight."

"Mm? And what's that?"

"Do you know if these so called 'one-eyed ghouls' can eat human food? Or are they like us in that sense." The idea had crossed Akashi's mind the moment Himuro confirmed the possibility of a human-ghoul hybrid. Whether the answer to his question was 'yes' or 'no' would have great impact on Kuroko's future, if it turned out he was indeed a one-eyed ghoul that is.

"I'm afraid I do not know. I'll look into it some more for you though."

"I'll call you sometime tomorrow then. Goodnight Himuro-san."

"Talk to you then Akashi-san, goodnight."

And with that the dark haired male hung up on Akashi.

The burgundy haired manager sighed. He knew it was stupid of him, but he had been hoping that maybe, just maybe, he had misinterpreted the situation and perhaps the strange colour of Kuroko's eye had simply been a side effect of the drugs Hanamiya had forced into the younger male's system. But, having spoken to Himuro, Akashi now realised that it was entirely possible that Kuroko was no longer the delicate human whom he had kissed over a fortnight ago.

The ghoul slumped against the wall of the hallway before slowly sliding down it so that he was sat on the floor facing away from the door to Aomine's room. Thoughts of the teal haired human filled Akashi's head. His beautiful smile and gentle nature. The way he always seemed happy to see Akashi and how he had so graciously accepted Akashi as a ghoul and even invited him over to his home. Now those memories were tainted. Corrupted with the image of Kuroko's body convulsing and bleeding, covered in cuts and bruises. The blood curdling sound of what Akashi now knew to be his screams played over and over again in the red head's mind, overwriting the memory of the kindergarten teacher's angelic voice.

Tears began to run down Akashi's face, though no sobs accompanied them. The full impact of the night's events hitting him all at once. No matter how many times Aomine had told him it was not his fault that this had happened, but Hanamiya's, he still could not shake the feeling of guilt. Of course he loved Kuroko and was truly glad to have had the privilege of getting to know the man, but he still questioned whether their meeting was truly a positive event. Hanamiya had only attacked Kuroko after acknowledging him as a weak spot for Akashi. Maybe I really am cursed. Akashi thought glumly.

It was during this self-blaming session that Aomine walked out into the hall to check on his brother. As he did so, the older moved to try and hide the tears welling in and falling from his eyes. Akashi very rarely cried, but on the occasions that he did Aomine knew that he did not like to be discovered. But Aomine wanted to be able to comfort his brother.

The taller ghoul sat down next to the red head. Akashi kept his head bowed and his face buried in his hands, refusing to let Aomine see his tears, so the younger ghoul placed his hand on the shorter's head, lightly massaging Akashi's scalp in an attempt to soothe his sadness and to let him know Aomine was there for him.

The two just sat quietly like that for a few minutes. An eerie silence settled over the house, only interrupted by soft whimpers from Kuroko. But Akashi noticed that Kuroko's breaths were becoming heavier and then they were becoming something more. He slowly stood, surprising Aomine, and went back into the room in which Kuroko was resting. The man in the bed had started to murmur quietly in his sleep.

"Onii-san….please…I'm sorry." Kuroko whimpered with distress.

Aomine walked up behind Akashi and noticed the concerned look on the red eyed ghoul's face.

"I assume he has a brother then." Akashi directed the statement at Aomine though he was staring at Kuroko.

"Yeah. Although 'has' might not be the right word."

"He's not around anymore?"

"No."

Akashi could tell that whatever happened between Kuroko and his brother must have had quite the impact on the young male seeing as it was haunting his dreams. "What happened to him?"

Aomine gulped, obviously looking agitated. "His…His brother disappeared. When Tetsu was younger he and his family were attacked by a group of ghouls. His parents were killed and they never found his brother's body. The ghouls probably kidnapped him in order to…torture him or keep the meat fresh. Tetsu managed to get out of there though thank God." Aomine said quietly.

The story took Akashi by surprise. Of course quite a number of humans have lost family or friends to ghouls, it was only natural in this twisted world, but Kuroko had lost his whole family to ghouls and was damn near killed himself, yet he had still accepted Akashi? The thought made the manager's head spin. He trusted me so, so much and yet this is what I brought upon him? He thought to himself with disgust. Tears were once again brimming in his eyes.

Aomine could tell the gist of his brother's thoughts just by looking at his reaction. "Sei, I already told you to cut the self-blaming shit."

"I would if I were not at least partially to blame Daiki." His voice shook with emotion with anger leaking into his tone. "It's bad enough that I put him in danger in the first place but I should have taken better care, kept watch over him or made sure no-one knew we were close. I could have done something to prevent this."

"Sei!" Aomine shouted sternly. "Cut the crap with the 'should have, could have, would have's! I already told you, and you even told me, that this isn't your fault and we can't just think about the 'if's and the 'could have been's. Right now we need to think about the future and how we're going to help Tetsu, so stop looking at the past. Tetsu's hurting and he needs you to be strong for him dammit. It's clear you love him like hell, so act like it and do everything you can to help him now."

Akashi was dumbfounded by Aomine's sudden outburst. But he knew his brother was right. He was being selfish and stupid by thinking only about the past. Perhaps he simply didn't want to think about the things that were to come – Kuroko's mental state would surely be shattered after weeks of torture, not to mention he may actually have been turned into a one-eyed ghoul. The thought of how broken his boyfriend would be terrified him. What if he's realised that Hanamiya only hurt him because of me? What if he hates me? Akashi thought. But Kuroko's agony was the very reason Akashi needed to be strong. Whatever pain Akashi felt right now was nothing in comparison to the physical and mental anguish the cerulean haired man was in. Akashi needed to do whatever he could to fix the wrongs that had been done to Kuroko.

"You're right Daiki. I'm sorry for being so foolish." The red head said quietly to Aomine, all the frustration in his voice and body language dissipating.

"Maybe we should try and rest for a bit. Midorima doesn't seem to think he's gunna wake up until tomorrow anyway and Miyaji's out of town at the moment so he won't be arriving 'til morning."


"Tet-chan~ are you ready?"

It was his voice. The one that belonged to the man who had been using him as a punching bag and as a source of entertainment.

"No." Kuroko whimpered, his voice muffled by the gag as he felt the razor sharp edges of a saw grazing along the skin just above his left knee. "Please don't." He tried to plead.

"It'll be fine Tet-chan, it'll grow right back just like it did last time."

But it hurts. It hurts so much. Kuroko thought to himself.

The jagged blade of the saw began to cut through the flesh of Kuroko's upper leg, burrowing its way through to the bone at a horrifying rate. A choked sob came from Kuroko as it did so.

"Glad to see that pain still affects you just as much as it did when we first met Tet-chan. It would be such a shame if I didn't get to hear your adorable cries every time I hurt you." Hanamiya mocked.

The blade began grinding against the bone as Hanamiya spoke, causing Kuroko to cry and shout out at the burning agony.

"There's no need to be so loud Tet-chan, no-ones coming to save you I'm afraid. Akashi-kun is probably far too busy for that. To be honest he's probably already forgotten all about you, but it's okay because I can keep you company in his place can't I Tet-chan."

As the sadistic man finished his final sentence, the saw finally emerged from the other side of Kuroko's leg, leaving his lower leg to fall to the ground with a thump.

"Hey Tet-chan, do you hate him? Imagine if you'd have never met him, you definitely wouldn't be here with me right now. Your left leg would probably still be intact too."

Kuroko made no attempt to reply. Not only could he not due to the cloth tied through his mouth, but he did not want to. On multiple occasions he could remember his torturer taunting him about Akashi. Whilst a part of Kuroko did indeed fear that perhaps Akashi would make no attempt to rescue him, that perhaps Kuroko had misinterpreted their closeness and in reality he did not mean as much to Akashi as Akashi did to him, not even for a second did Kuroko blame the red head. He knew that the barista had never shown any malicious intent. Had he wanted to hurt Kuroko, he'd had plenty of opportunities to do so, but instead Akashi had always been affectionate, gentle and polite to him. Additionally, had it not been for Akashi, Kuroko would have been eaten by the binge eater a month ago. Kuroko owed Akashi his life, but Akashi owed Kuroko nothing, at least in the bluenette's opinion.

"Oh right, you're still gagged. Well anyway, time for the next one Tet-chan."

The baby blue haired man cried harder as he now felt the saw rest on his right kneecap. However what he had feared was coming never happened.

Suddenly he could feel his whole left leg again and rather than Hanamiya's taunting voice he could now hear a more concerned voice calling out to him in the darkness.

"Tetsuya…okay….…here….again…..promise."

His mind was still too dazed from the fear of what he was beginning to realise was actually a vivid memory, though it had greatly resembled a nightmare, and so he was unable to identify the voice but it made his heart stutter for some reason.

"Please Tetsuya…Wake up" It was but a whisper now. Kuroko began to open his eyes, expecting the nothingness he was used to. He was surprised when light actually filtered into his eyes as he took a moment to adjust to the contrasting brightness.

Someone by his side once again murmured his first name, now more hopeful.

Kuroko's vision began to focus more and he could finally make out ruby red hair and eyes.

With a raspy voice he asked, "S-Seijuro-kun?"

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

The morning after the ghouls had rescued Kuroko, Kise and Midorima entered Aomine's bedroom to drag the dark skinned male out.

"Aomine, if you're just going to sit here all day rather than sleep, you may as well go and help Kise and Murasakibara with work downstairs." The green head reasoned.

"Yeah Aominecchi! We could really use some help." Kise lied. Truthfully, the other two ghouls would likely be able to handle the day's customers, after all it was usually quiet on a Thursday. However both Kise and Midorima had agreed that whenever the dark-blue haired ghoul was feeling down, as he definitely was today, it was best to distract him with stuff to do rather than let him wallow in despair.

"Shut up. I need to stay up here and keep an eye on Tetsu." Aomine seemed like he was about to continue speaking when Akashi, who had been present throughout the three's conversation, interjected.

"Daiki, I will watch over him. Make yourself useful and keep busy if you're not going to sleep. You can come check on him during your breaks." The words almost seemed harsh but Aomine knew that the red head only said them to give Aomine the push to do as the others asked.

The navy head gave a sigh before conceding, knowing Akashi would keep Kuroko safe for him, and honestly wanting a change of scenery. "Fine Sei. I'll go get changed in the bathroom, I'll meet you guys downstairs in a few minutes." And with that Aomine, Kise and Midorima left.

Shortly after they had left Akashi and Kuroko alone however Midorima returned with Miyaji who had finally arrived.

The two joined Akashi who was still sat at the side of Kuroko's bed.

"Akashi-kun, I would like you to tell me everything you know about his condition whilst I check him over." The older blond said, pulling the thin blanket off of the unconscious Kuroko.

"Of course." And so the coffee shop manager described everything he knew about what had happened to Kuroko. That Kuroko had been chained, gagged and blindfolded. That he had been stabbed multiple times and had clearly taken quite the beating. That it was very likely that Hanamiya had injected some sort of drug into his system and that the bluenette seemed to have one kakugan. He also made sure to tell him of the information Himuro had given him the previous night about one-eyed ghouls.

As Miyaji assessed Kuroko's body, he noted a distinct lack of the deep stab wounds that Akashi's description would have suggested would be there. "It seems the knife wounds you detailed have almost entirely healed already, there's just a few scars here on his torso and legs." Miyaji said, pointing to some thick lines on the smaller man's body. "Apart from that, there's no other physical damage I can see Akashi-kun."

The revelation made Akashi frown. For those wounds to have healed so quickly…there's no way Tetsuya can still be one hundred percent human… He thought, his earlier suspicions now pretty much confirmed. Though he was also glad to hear that at least Kuroko should not be feeling much physical pain once he woke up.

"The effects of whatever drug was likely causing the convulsions seems to be wearing off now, however you should be aware that prolonged sensory deprivation and torture can often lead to anxiety, depression and hallucinations. It's very likely that he was blindfolded and chained for most of his time there, so just be careful with him. Try to keep him calm and make sure he feels safe."

Akashi nodded in response to the street doctor. "Thank you Miyaji-san."

"It's fine. I should also mention that, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, he is not human anymore. Well at least not entirely. I believe you are correct in suspecting he is now a half-ghoul."

Midorima, who had been present throughout Miyaji's diagnosis, then spoke up. "Is there anything else we can do for him?" He asked in a low voice.

"Physically, no. If he really is a half-ghoul, all his physical wounds shall completely heal naturally, as they almost have already. But the mental damage caused by whatever tortures he's been through will not disappear so easily. All you can do is give him time to recover and comfort him."

With that the blond said his farewells to Akashi and left the room, Midorima following closely behind him as they went to go check in with Takao.

"Kiyoshi!" The ravenette exclaimed as the two entered his room, looking up from the video he had been watching on his phone.

"Hello Kazunari-kun. How are you?"

"I'm fine. Bored though. Shin-chan keeps insisting that I stay here for another couple of days." Takao said sadly.

"It's for your own good Kazunari." Midorima stated.

Miyaji sighed. "Shintaro-kun, he's fine to go out and about if he wants to by now you idiot. His wound has healed. Of course bed rest is good, but he's already been confined to this bed for weeks! He needs exercise."

"See Shin-chan! Even Kiyoshi agrees!" The dark haired male pouted.

Whilst Midorima was still concerned about Takao's health, a part of him knew it was unfair of him to make Takao stay indoors for so long. His lover was very much an active, outdoorsy person and he should've realised that detaining him in the rather small apartment would only make him upset.

The green haired ghoul gave in. "Fine. I suppose we could go out for a walk in a bit then."

Takao's face lit up at the statement. "Yay! Thank you Shin-chan!" The ravenette said as he got up and hugged his partner and kissed him on the lips.

"Gross." Miyaji said, seeing the mild act of affection, before heading towards the door. "Well, seeing as you're no longer being imprisoned here, I expect the two of you to be moving back in with me soon."

"Of course." Both Takao and Midorima said.


Downstairs, Aomine, Kise and Murasakibara were going about business as usual. No customers were currently in the shop.

"It really is a slow day." Kise whined from behind the counter.

"Kise-chin, don't worry, I'm sure they'll be more customers soon." Murasakibara replied monotonously whilst he was restocking the ingredients.

Aomine was remaining quiet as he cleaned the floor with a mop and bucket.

The blond watched him, noticing his furrowed brow and frown. "Ne, Aominecchi, do you want to go play basketball after work?" He asked, wanting to cheer his friend up. Of course, Kise had also been devastated to have seen Kuroko's state last night, but the event had impacted Aomine and Akashi far more than anyone else.

"I'm already tired Kise, no thanks." Aomine said with a disheartened tone.

"I know! I'll make Aominecchi his favourite type of coffee to cheer him up then!"

"Kise. We're working. Just shut up and-"

"But there's no-one here Aominecchi~. I'm so bored."

It was then that the sound of the bell hanging on the door rang, indicating a new customer. Kise quickly turned to look at the saviour for his boredom enthusiastically whilst Aomine simply glanced over at the door. Murasakibara did not even bother looking to acknowledge the customer.

When Aomine saw who it was he felt like his heart stopped.

"Aomine you bastard, why haven't you been replying to any of my damn texts or calls! I swear to God I'm going to kill you." Kagami growled at the navy head.

"K-Kagami?" Aomine spoke with wide eyes. Of course, it's been five weeks already dammit. He thought.

The tall red head in front of him was clearly angry, but he also seemed rather emotional and Aomine could just about make out that his eyes were puffy and tinged red as if he'd been crying.

The human began speaking again, in a slightly quieter voice. "I landed back in Japan last night, so of course the first thing I did this morning was go and see where the hell Kuroko is. Do you know what I found? His house covered in 'crime scene do not cross' tape. I thought maybe it was some sort of joke. But then his neighbour came out and told me that the guy living there had been kidnapped by ghouls."

"Please tell me it's a lie Aomine." The look Kagami gave him broke the navy haired ghoul's heart.

There was a short silence before Aomine said "I'm sorry Kagami." As he looked at the ground with a grim expression.

Aomine didn't know what to tell Kagami. He wanted so badly to tell him that the small bluenette was now out of danger and upstairs sleeping, but to do so would require so many explanations that may lead to unwanted questions such as 'how did you fight off ghouls?' and 'why didn't you take him to the hospital or the CCG?' In addition, Kuroko didn't seem to be human anymore and it could be dangerous to let Kagami see him until they fully understood what Kuroko is.

A firm punch to the face from Kagami brought Aomine out of his thoughts.

"Why didn't you call me? Why didn't you tell me?" Kagami's voice started trembling with emotion, having been given confirmation that Kuroko had been taken. As far as he was concerned, being kidnapped by ghouls was as good as a death sentence. There was no coming back from it. He'd never see his shadow again.

Aomine understood that this was probably what the red head was thinking and he realised that he couldn't just leave his best friend to think that their other best friend was dead.

"Kagami, why don't we go for a walk? I'll talk to you about what's been happening."

"Aominecchi…" Kise chirped in nervously.

"Fine then." Kagami replied.

Aomine started heading towards the exit of the café before saying "I'll be back later Kise."

And with that Aomine and Kagami left the coffee shop.


Later the same day, Akashi was still sat by Kuroko in Aomine's room.

Nigou, who had been resting in the ghoul's room, had recently moved over to Akashi's side, curling up next to his knee before falling asleep. The dog, who was usually quite playful had become rather lethargic these past few weeks as he was unable to use his front paw, though Miyaji had been able to set the bone and provided a cast to keep it in place until it had healed fully.

Lightly, the red head began petting the dog as he was reading his book. For some reason Akashi didn't quite understand, it brought him some comfort to have the furball by his side as he watched over the dog's owner.

Thoughts of the previous night were still running around inside Akashi's head. One of the things which had bothered him the most was the fact that Hanamiya had escaped, virtually unscathed. Akashi had let that monster escape alive and now he could be anywhere, plotting yet another vile scheme.

It was during these thoughts that Kuroko once again began murmuring in his sleep. He'd done it multiple times throughout the past night and day and each time it broke Akashi's heart to hear how afraid or saddened Kuroko sounded as he mumbled.

The shorter man was quivering as he slept and Akashi noticed how distressed he seemed to be as Kuroko's brow furrowed deeply and his eyes scrunched up.

"No…Please don't…" He pleaded in his sleep, whimpering like a kicked puppy.

Akashi moved closer to the bed, careful as to not disturb Nigou, in order to sit on the edge of it. He ever-so-gently began combing his hand through Kuroko's hair, which was still bloodied and dirty from Kuroko's time in that wretched cell. They had thought it best to wait until he woke up to bath him and clean him.

The baby blue haired male seemed to be more active than he usually was when he began to stir like this, speaking more clearly and shuffling where he lay. The older ghoul decided to try and talk to his partner in an attempt to provide comfort.

"Tetsuya, it's okay. I'm here now. I won't let them hurt you again. I promise." He said, hoping that his voice would reach Kuroko's consciousness.

When the sleeping man actually stopped whimpering and shaking in his sleep, Akashi wondered if perhaps Kuroko had heard his words and whether Kuroko was maybe beginning to wake.

"Please Tetsuya, please wake up." He whispered to him, desperate for the man to regain consciousness.

And then Kuroko cracked his eyes open, keeping them squinted as they adjusted to the bright room. Akashi was so relieved to see his boyfriend finally begin to wake up that he felt as if he were going to cry. "Tetsuya." He said quietly and hopefully.

Kuroko's eyes immediately looked in the direction of his voice, trying to focus on the man in front of him. "S-Seijuro-kun?" He asked with a raspy voice.

That did it. For the second time since they had brought Kuroko home, hot tears began to fall from Akashi's eyes. He leant in to hug the man lying in Aomine's bed.

"Tetsuya, I'm so sorry." He said, holding the bluenette tightly and resting his chin on Kuroko's shoulder.

Finally Kuroko could start to take in his surroundings. He was lying in a soft, plush bed and all the piercing agony he remembered was now gone, leaving only a dull ache throughout his body.

"Where are we?" He asked, wanting to know the situation.

"We're in my apartment. More specifically, Daiki's room."

"Is everyone okay?" He questioned worriedly.

It fascinated Akashi that Kuroko, who had been screaming in agony upon their finding him, almost instantly asked about whether everyone else were okay. His caring nature would never cease to amaze Akashi. "Everyone is fine Tetsuya."

On hearing this news Kuroko's body completely relaxed.

"Good."

They lay there simply embracing each other and enjoying the comfort and warmth of the other's body for a few seconds in silence.

"Tetsuya…I'm sorry. I'm so sorry this happened to you." Akashi spoke, his voice almost shivering with emotion.

"It's okay Seijuro-kun. It's not your fault." Kuroko said bluntly.

Akashi wondered whether Kuroko perhaps did not understand the reason he had been taken and tortured so brutally. He pulled back a bit at the teal head's words so he could look into Kuroko's eyes. The sky blue eyes which were now glistening with tears as Kuroko began to cry, a small smile gracing his lips.

"Thank you Seijuro-kun. For saving me again and being here for me." He whispered.

Akashi felt so light seeing the sight. He moved in to press a kiss to Kuroko's forehead. He held it for a moment before moving back to stare into cerulean orbs. "I love you Tetsuya." The red head said, tears still spilling from his eyes as he smiled at the man in front of him.

He meant it. He'd felt drawn to this man ever since he'd first met him. From his good looks to his intriguing personality and kind nature, Akashi had quickly found himself infatuated with the man. He would never have thought it possible that he could fall for someone as fast or hard as he'd fallen for Kuroko Tetsuya, but he had. And whilst he regretted the things which had happened to the beautiful man in front of him, he knew that he would never regret saying those four words to Kuroko.

Kuroko had not expected to hear those words from the ghoul but it warmed his heart to have had Akashi say them to him. To realise that perhaps he really was special and important to the red head, just as Akashi was special and important to him. "I love you too Seijuro-kun." He said as he moved to sit up, so their faces were centimetres apart.

The cardinal haired ghoul then pulled him into a kiss. He poured all of his emotions into that one, passionate kiss. His love and fear and relief all converging and Kuroko reciprocated all of those feelings in returning the kiss, moving a hand to cup the other's face as both clung to each other, not wanting to ever let go.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 14 – Hunger

"So he was taken a few weeks ago and you and your brother found his messed-up, empty apartment?"

"Yeah."

Kagami didn't know how to feel. He was pissed that Aomine had not contacted him the moment he found out that their sky-blue haired friend had been taken and he was depressed by the fact that he would probably never see Kuroko again, that Kuroko was very likely…

"Kagami..." Aomine trailed off. The two had stopped next to the street basketball court they frequently went to with Kuroko.

"Why didn't you tell me?" The red head whispered.

Aomine sighed. "Look, I was scared alright. I didn't know what to tell you, I was hoping that we could find him before you got back."

Kagami scoffed. "'Find him'? You know how good a chance there is of finding a human taken by ghouls? Virtually zero. You should have just…"

"Actually, that's kind of why I wanted to talk to you out here." Aomine cut Kagami off.

Kagami paused, wondering what the blue haired barista could mean by that statement and waiting for him to continue.

"I promise you that he's alive okay. I can't tell you where he is right now, but I can promise that you'll see him again." Aomine said.

"What the hell are you talking about?! These are ghouls idiot, they've probably already…Don't make promises you can't know are true, that you can't keep." Kagami choked out the end of his words.

"I know you moron, but I just…I can't explain it right now but please believe me when I say he's alive." Aomine wanted greatly to justify his words by telling Kagami more but he needed to talk it over with Akashi and Kuroko before he did - make up some believable lies and check that Kuroko wouldn't accidentally eat his best friend upon meeting with him.

Kagami could see the desperation in Aomine's expression but he feared that it was simply the navy haired man's intense want for their friend to be okay. Yet the look in Aomine's eyes made him want to believe his words.

"Please just trust me. I'll explain it to you soon, but not now."

The fireman gave a sigh, not knowing what else to say. "Fine." He conceded.

A glint of relief washed over Aomine's expression, glad that Kagami was not going to fight him on this one.

"I better get going. I've got to go back to work tomorrow and I'm jet-lagged as shit. But I'll be back at your damn coffee shop after work tomorrow and I expect some explanations."

"Sure thing. I'll see you then."


After Akashi and Kuroko broke apart from their ardent kiss the two simply sat with their arms around each-other and their foreheads pressed together, similarly to how they had done following their first kiss at Kuroko's house.

A long silence followed as Kuroko buried his face in Akashi's shoulder, a feeling of safety beginning to well within him now that he was with Akashi in this light, cosy room. No longer was he forced to dwell in the complete darkness of that cold, blood stained prison. He shuddered at the thought of not being able to see when he opened his eyes or being able to move freely. The thought of the pain he had endured.

Akashi held the smaller man close as he felt Kuroko's grip on his back tighten and his body shudder, moving one hand to rest in Kuroko's teal locks. A grimace spread across Akashi's face as he noticed Kuroko's subtle signs of discomfort. He really did not want to ask the question on his mind and disturb this rather peaceful moment, but he knew he needed to know the answer to it for Kuroko's own welfare. Begrudgingly, Akashi leant back a bit, pulling apart the embrace, though he kept one arm on Kuroko's back whilst he brought the other to hold Kuroko's hand against his leg.

"Tetsuya…I know you've been through a lot, and I am willing for you to talk to me about anything that happened anytime you need me to. I am aware that it's harsh of me to bring this up so soon after your rescue, but I need to know whether there's any chance that Hanamiya performed some sort of surgery on you whilst you were held captive." Akashi spoke softly as he looked at Kuroko's face.

At the sight of Kuroko's expression after his inquiry, Akashi really wished he had not had to ask about the topic. The previously hopeful and happy look had changed to one that could only be described as scared and confused.

"How did you know?" Kuroko asked in reply, confirming to Akashi that he must have had some form of surgery.

"I have a hunch. Now, I know it may be hard but can you tell me about the details." Akashi said, keeping up a calm voice to try and keep Kuroko as relaxed as he could.

"S-sure Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said, nervousness creeping into his voice. And thus, Kuroko recounted his memory of what had happened, telling Akashi of when Hanamiya had dragged a heavily injured Kuroko and the dead binge-eater away and how he had woken up to his wounds being mostly healed and Hanamiya saying strange things as if Kuroko were somehow a ghoul. He also mentioned the injection of the RC suppressant.

"I didn't quite believe him. I thought that perhaps it was just some sort of mind game, but after…but after that day my body somehow…healed every injury he inflicted on me, no matter how serious the injuries were." Kuroko continued. Whilst his voice did not shake as he spoke he was clearly distressed thinking about the topic. It was evident in his tone and the mild tremors that ran across his body. "I also got suspicious when I was still alive after not eating for so long."

Akashi was angered by the way Kuroko had insinuated that Hanamiya had repeatedly inflicted serious injury upon him, but he quickly shoved aside his hatred for Hanamiya to concentrate on the important facts. So he is a one-eyed ghoul. Akashi thought. He had virtually known already, but now that he had more information about the events that unfurled in Kuroko's absence he was sure.

Continuing to use a soft voice, Akashi replied to his partner. "Tetsuya, from what I've heard from you and from Himuro-san, I believe that you have been turned into a one-eyed ghoul. Hanamiya or this doctor who was allied with him likely transplanted the binge-eater's kakuhou into you. In all honesty, I had never heard of such a thing until last night and I don't know much about them, but I have a friend who's researching it on my behalf."

Still shaken up from the thoughts of his torture and the confirmation of being a ghoul, Kuroko sought comfort in Akashi's arms once again, leaning forward to hug Akashi. He had guessed he was some kind of converted ghoul, after all, it had been clear he was not human. The red head quickly reciprocated the hug, eager to ease Kuroko's sadness, though he quickly found himself drifting off into thought. Does this mean Tetsuya will have to eat humans too now? He wondered grimly. Kuroko had mentioned a severe lack of eating, which suggested a more ghoul like diet, where they could survive a month or two off of only eating a single body.

The teal head noticed that Akashi was lost in thought, a frown pulling on the crimson eyed ghoul's lips as he stared absentmindedly, and so he gave the coffeehouse manager a tender kiss on the cheek before resting his head in the crook of Akashi's neck.


When Aomine arrived back at the café there were a handful of customers in there drinking their various hot beverages. Kise saw him coming back in alone and gave a nervous smile as he waved at Aomine.

The navy head approached the blond behind the counter before Kise spoke.

"Hey Aominecchi, how did your talk with Kagami go?" His voice was less lively and more caring than his usual tone.

"As well as it could have I guess. I'm going to go upstairs to check on Tetsu, I'll be back soon."

"Okay Aominecchi, see you then." Kise replied before returning to work.

As the dark haired ghoul ascended the stairs he tried to think of what he was going to say to Kuroko if he was awake. What do you say to someone who has just been tortured for weeks by a merciless ghoul? Aomine knew that he should probably say something sappy and try to comfort him but he never was good at that kind of stuff.

It was then that he carefully opened the door to his bedroom, where he found his adopted sibling sat on the edge of the bed clinging to Aomine's best friend.

Aomine quickly looked away, a blush covering his cheeks. Cute. He thought. But he also considered it odd. He knew they had started going out, Akashi had told him as much, and such a display of affection was nothing unusual to see but still, it was strange to see the two so close to anyone, especially each-other. He remained quiet, so as to not interrupt their peaceful moment, however, it was then that he heard his friend call out his name.

"Aomine-kun?"

The short bluenette was looking at the dark-skinned ghoul who had been caught in the doorway.

"Uh…Hey Tetsu! Sorry…I didn't want to interrupt you guys…" Aomine trailed off.

"It's not often you're at a loss for words Daiki." The red head sat on the bed interjected with a smirk.

"Shut up!" Looking at Akashi with an annoyed expression which was combined with the pinkish tint gracing his cheeks.

Kuroko gave a small laugh, which almost turned into a sob, at Aomine's reaction. The navy head then noticed the tear streaks running down both Kuroko's and Akashi's faces.

"Ahomine-kun, please come over here." Kuroko said as tears began to fall from his eyes once again.

Aomine did as asked, walking up to Kuroko's bedside – though technically it was his bed's side. As he stood there he stuttered out the beginnings of an incoherent sentence, probably giving apologies or something meant to make the teal head feel better, but Kuroko shut him up temporarily by pulling him into a hug, glad to see his friend, who he had feared he may never see again.

"Aomine-kun?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you a ghoul too?" Kuroko asked, blunt as ever. The question had been tugging on his mind for a long time. Ever since he'd discovered Akashi to be a ghoul, he'd started to ponder the idea, but after seeing Kise and Takao fight for him before he was taken, he had become even more suspicious of his friend.

The question took both Aomine and Akashi by surprise. Of course Kuroko would want to know such things, perhaps Hanamiya had even told him about Aomine, but it was a bizarre thing to ask your friend straight after being reunited with them.

Aomine gulped, nervously glancing at Akashi. The red head gave him a small, encouraging nod, indicating that he thought Aomine should tell the truth.

"Yes Tetsu." He whispered.

Kuroko hugged him a little tighter.

"Idiot." He deadpanned. "You could have told me."

Aomine gave a short laugh. "I guess I could have, but it's not exactly recommended to tell humans you're a ghoul."

The teal head pulled away from the hug. He wiped away the remaining tears on his face before his hand moved to seek Akashi's hand.

"So…um…How long have you been awake Tetsu?"

To be honest, Kuroko had no idea how much time had passed since he woke to see Akashi's face, his sense of time had been virtually lost whilst he had been confined in that box like room.

"He woke up about half an hour ago." Akashi answered for Kuroko.

"Actually, that just reminded me: How long was I gone for?" Kuroko asked.

"Roughly three weeks Tetsuya. I must apologise for us not finding you sooner, but your abductors were not very easy to find."

It almost surprised Kuroko how short a time that seemed. Every moment he had spent suffering through torture or isolation had felt as if it had dragged on for eternity, it had felt more like 3 years than 3 weeks.

"It's fine Seijuro-kun. Thank you both for finding me."

"It's fine Tetsu." Aomine said, audibly sighing at the over politeness of his friend.

"Daiki, I believe it is only right that we inform you that Tetsuya is now a one-eyed ghoul. From what I know, it makes him like us in most aspects. Advanced healing and strength, and by the sounds of it, a kagune."

"But how is it possible to convert…" Aomine started to ask but Akashi cut him off.

"I'll explain it to you later."

"Seijuro-kun?" Kuroko chirped in.

"Mmm?" Akashi hummed in reply.

"I'm really hungry."

"Of course." It was to be expected that Kuroko would be starving after not eating anything for a month. But the fact put Akashi at unease. The fact that he had survived so long without food really did suggest a non-human diet would be required, suggesting a more ghoul diet. He wasn't sure how well the teal head would deal with such a thing, but it may be necessary for his survival and sanity.

"I had Shintaro fetch some food from the corner shop for you to try. But I should warn you Tetsuya…"

"It might taste foul? I know Seijuro-kun. If I'm like a ghoul in so many other aspects…I understand I may be like one in that aspect as well." Kuroko replied with a frown.

"Well there's only one way to find out I guess." Aomine said.


The three were stood by the counter in the small kitchen of the apartment. Akashi had lent Kuroko some of his clothes, a baggy t-shirt and a pair of jeans, before they left the room. We'll have to get him some more clothes. Akashi thought.

In front of Kuroko sat a bowl of noodles on the kitchen counter, freshly cooked and waiting to be eaten. Next to them, a chocolate bar and apple were placed so that, if necessary, Kuroko could try multiple types of food.

Hastily, Kuroko picked up the chopsticks in the bowl, excited by the prospect of finally eating food again. He placed a decent mouthful of noodles in his mouth, but as he did so he was not met with the pleasure of being able to eat again. Instead a vile taste was found and Kuroko quickly turned to the sick bowl Akashi had provided as he gagged on the disgusting food. He spat it all out into the bucket.

Both Akashi and Aomine grimaced at the reaction, knowing the feeling of how gross human food could taste.

Kuroko proceeded to try the other foods Midorima had brought for him, just in case it was simply a disgusting bowl of noodles rather than something more significant. However, he was met with the same repulsing taste, throwing up the food into the sick bowl. As he did so, he began shaking, both from the physical aversion and the emotional realisation of what this meant.

Akashi went over to the fridge and pulled out a package, all wrapped up. Kuroko could guess what this was.

"I'm sorry Tetsuya. When you're ready, try eating this." The ruby eyed manager said, truly sympathetic to Kuroko.

Kuroko stared at the package which was now in his hands. Could he really do this? He'd accepted that Akashi ate humans so easily, but now that it was himself…Kuroko was not sure how he could eat this without feeling as if he were violating someone. To eat something that was once part of a sentient, logical, thinking being, felt wrong. But he had to. He had heard that severe hunger drove ghouls to act on instincts alone, feeding off of the nearest source of human meat, no matter what or who it may be. Kuroko couldn't let that happen. He wouldn't become a murderer, at least not directly.

"I-I think I would rather be alone when I eat this." He stated, frightened by the prospect of his close companions watching him greedily devour human flesh.

"If that is what you wish Tetsuya." Akashi said with a bow of his head before gesturing to Aomine. "Come on Daiki." He beckoned. With that, the two left Kuroko alone in the room to eat.


"Sei?"

"Yes Daiki?" Akashi responded.

The two had left the kitchen and decided to go sit in the living room to watch some TV when Aomine spoke up.

"Kagami – mine and Tetsu's friend – showed up earlier. He found out about Tetsu being kidnapped. I don't think it's fair to let him think Tetsu is dead, but I thought I should ask you about what we should tell him."

Akashi digested the information. He agreed that they shouldn't leave Kagami to think Kuroko was dead, particularly as he knew Kuroko would protest to such an act. However, an extravagant lie would be needed to cover up all the details. Kuroko would be unable to return to his previous life for if he did the CCG would take him in for questioning and the hospital would likely want to check him over for injuries. There was no chance he would escape being discovered as a ghoul if that happened what with the scanners and blood tests. But how were they to explain that to Kagami without revealing that Kuroko was now a ghoul?

"Daiki. I have two ideas. Firstly, you could lie. Perhaps something along the lines of 'We found him in the street and don't know why the ghouls left him there and now he lives with us as he doesn't want to return home.' It isn't very convincing, I know, but it's an option. With a bit of work and co-operation we should be able to come up with a believable enough lie. On the other hand, I would ask how much Tetsuya and yourself trust Kagami-san. If you believe he can be trusted then you may tell him the truth."

Aomine considered the second idea. A part of him would love to be able to tell Kagami the truth and to believe that the double-eye-browed human would take the news well, similarly to Kuroko. Yet, a more pessimistic part of him was insistent that it was unrealistic to believe there would be no risk in telling Kagami. Sure, they had been friends for years, but on multiple occasions the tanned red head had expressed his disgust at ghoul behaviour, often calling them monsters. Aomine had felt slightly hurt by those words, but couldn't bring himself to disagree, after all, ghouls were a murderous, violent species.

"I'll talk to Tetsu about it soon." He replied to Akashi, refusing to make a final decision just yet.

"Good plan."

"Anyway, I better check on how they're doing downstairs, I told Kise I wasn't going to be long."

"Okay. I shall go find Tetsuya and see how he's doing."


Kuroko loathed himself. He had immediately smelt the delicious scent of the meat after opening the package and whilst he had hesitated to eat it, knowing its origin, he had still devoured it in moments after taking his first, small bite.

Afterwards, he had cleaned himself off at the sink, washing the scraps that had come off around his mouth. The satisfaction of eating again soon wore off, leaving Kuroko to reflect on his new diet, self-disgust building inside of him.

Fortunately, not long after he finished eating, Akashi entered, bringing in two mugs of coffee. He placed the two steaming hot beverages on the side and as he did so he noticed the now empty package on the side.

"I take it you ate it."

"Yes." Kuroko responded with a grimace.

"Well, at least we know what you need to eat then. You should still be able to enjoy coffee so I brought you this." Akashi said, pushing the drink towards Kuroko.

"Thank you Seijuro-kun." He said before picking up the mug and taking a sip. Vanilla. Kuroko noticed. To his delight, the beverage still tasted as wonderful as ever.

"Shall we go to the living room?" Akashi asked.

"Sure." Kuroko said.

And so the two wandered into the living room before sitting down on the sofa, the TV still on and displaying a random afternoon drama.

Soon after entering the room, Nigou trotted in. He had woken up in Aomine's room to find his previously sleeping master gone, now that he had found him and saw that he was a awake he had become much more enthused.

"Arf!" The dog yipped before bounding over – as well as he could with a casted leg – to Kuroko.

"Nigou!" Kuroko beamed. The bluenette leant forward to pick up the canine. He was surprised at how much easier it was to lift Nigou, as if he were much lighter.

"Arf arf!" Nigou began wildly nuzzling into Kuroko's shoulder, his tail wagging furiously.

Akashi laughed at the scene. "He certainly missed you."

In response to the dog's sentiment, Kuroko began petting him affectionately as Nigou continued squirming excitedly on his lap. The canine then promptly leant over to Akashi who was sat beside Kuroko on the sofa and gave him a big lick on the cheek. The red head quickly rubbed off the slobber on his face in displeasure.

"I think that was a 'thank you' Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said with a minute giggle.

"I'd prefer a less gross 'thank you' next time Nigou, if that's okay." Akashi replied with slight irritation.

"Arf!"

After a few moments, Nigou calmed down a bit, deciding to curl up and sit on Kuroko's lap in a protective, comforting manner. It was then that Akashi brought the conversation back to a more serious topic, much to his dismay.

"Tetsuya…I'm afraid that you won't be able to go back to your home now. If the CCG were to find you they would…"

"I know Seijuro-kun." Kuroko replied sadly, still gently stroking Nigou. "If I go they'll take me in for questioning and find out the truth."

"Exactly." Akashi said. "I just wanted to tell you that you're perfectly welcome to stay with Daiki and myself."

"That is very kind of you both." Kuroko said, a tiny smiling edging onto his face.

"By the way Tetsuya." Akashi began, before standing up and moving to the desk in the room. "Daiki picked this up for you from your home. He went back to fetch some things for your dog and yourself and he thought you'd want to have this."

The red head walked back over holding a photo frame in his hand. When Kuroko saw it, he immediately knew why Aomine would have brought it for him. Akashi gently placed it in the cerulean-eyed ghoul's hands before returning to his seat by Kuroko's side.

"I'll have to thank him later." Kuroko mumbled, staring at the photograph. This would now be his last momento of his family if he could no longer return to his home – though he suspected he could sneak in to pick up some things if necessary. He wasn't usually noticed much anyway. The photo itself was the one of his parents and step-brother, alongside himself, all smiling happily after Kuroko's mother and step-father had gotten engaged.

"Daiki told me about what happened to them. You kept calling for your brother in your sleep so I asked him about it." Akashi explained before continuing. "I know it doesn't mean a lot, especially not from someone like me, but I'm sorry for your loss."

Following Akashi's condolence came silence. Kuroko's gaze was fixed on the picture in his hands as he tried to overwrite his nightmares with the memory of the smiles depicted in the photo.

After a brief period of time Akashi spoke up again. "What were they like?" Akashi asked, wondering what Kuroko's past was like. He then caught that light smile, the one that could make his heart melt into a puddle, crawl its way onto Kuroko's face.

"They were the best." Kuroko said, thinking of all the little things that had remained imprinted in his memory all this time. His family had always protected him and comforted him, never showing him anything but love.

Flashback

"Tetsuya, it's okay." His mother whispered to him as she sat up to hold him in her hospital bed.

He was only 5 years old at the time and crying into his mother's lilac jumper.

"I'm sorry Okaa-san." He mumbled. "I'm sorry."

She held him close, knowing that he felt bad about something he couldn't have prevented.

The previous night her husband had returned home even drunker than usual. He became unreasonably angry at Kuroko for the mess he had made in the living room with his toys and made to hurt him. However, his mother intervened, taking the focus away from the small boy and directing his father's anger at herself. Fortunately, a neighbour had heard the commotion and called the police after hearing the loud, abusive shouts.

The police arrived shortly after, quickly restraining the violent drunk, though Kuroko's mother had already taken quite the beating by the time they arrived.

Having caught Kuroko's father in the act of violence, they needed no more evidence to handcuff him and drive him away to spend some time in a jail cell. An ambulance then escorted Kuroko and his mother to the nearest hospital, which was where they were now.

"It wasn't your fault Tetsuya. It was never your fault, only his. Do you understand?" She comforted, encircling her arms around him to keep him close. "Every bad word he's ever said about you is wrong Tetsuya. You're perfect and the most wonderful boy in the whole world. I love you so, so much." She said giving the top of his head a kiss.

His mother was always so kind and selfless. She would always take care of Kuroko when he was sad and play with him whenever she could. Kuroko continued to cry into the front of her shirt, clinging onto her as if his life depended on it. He didn't want to lose her. Not ever.

Realising she had little chance of consoling him right now, Kuroko's mother just held him tight and stroked a hand through his hair.


"Tetsuya, this is Mayuzumi Akihito and his son Chihiro-kun."

The small blue eyed 7 year old stood by his mother's side outside of their house, nervously clinging to her.

"Hello Tetsuya-kun." The man called Mayuzumi Akihito said as he crouched down to be at eye level with Kuroko. "How are you?"

Kuroko shied away at first but then replied, not wanting to be rude. "I'm fine."

"It's okay Tetsuya. Akihito is a very nice man and I get on with him very well, so I'm sure you will as well." His mother told him gently, hoping to give him some more confidence.

Akihito wondered if perhaps Kuroko would be more comfortable speaking to someone closer to his own age. "Hey Chihiro, come over and say hello." The older male instructed his son who had been standing a fair distance away from the others.

The grey haired boy, who was only 4 years older than the young Kuroko, stepped forward.

"Hello." He said, clearly disinterested but trying for his father.

"Chihiro acts a bit distant and cold sometimes Tetsuya-kun, but he's really a big softie on the inside." Akihito joked whilst Chihiro responded with a 'hmph'.

"Let's go inside and get some tea shall we?" Kuroko's mother said, leading the way back into the house.

The two adults made their way into the kitchen whilst they left the children in the living room.

Kuroko felt like he should at least try to make friends with the Mayuzumis seeing as his mother seemed to like them a lot and it was only fair that he made an effort to make her happy. After considering how to talk to Chihiro he picked up his favourite book off of the living room book shelf, carrying it over to Mayuzumi.

"Chihiro-nii, would you like me to read this to you? It's my favourite story." The blue haired child asked the grey head.

In truth, the young Mayuzumi had been dreading this day. He didn't particularly enjoy socialising and he was not very good at interacting with kids. But seeing Kuroko try to be friendly nearly made him blush at the adorableness.

"S-Sure." He stuttered out.

And so Kuroko sat next to him and began reading.

It was a rather simplistic book. Not too many words and a few illustrations decorated the pages. Though Mayuzumi thought it was quite advanced for a kid of Kuroko's age to be reading it so well.

Eventually, Kuroko finished reading the story and closed the book looking up at Mayuzumi to gauge his reaction.

The disinterested look from earlier had disappeared, replaced by an expression that indicated he had been engrossed in the story. The thought made the bluenette smile.

"Did you enjoy it Chihiro-nii?"

Mayuzumi responded with a shy nod, accompanied by a quiet "Yes". He then paused before saying "Thank you Tetsuya-kun. I can see why it's your favourite." And a smile began to creep onto his own face.

Meanwhile, their parents were stood, hidden, outside the door listening in on the conversation. Each gave a sigh of relief that the two boys were getting along well.


One day after school, a 15 year old Mayuzumi was walking to the street ball court he often met Kuroko at. Both had agreed to meet up there after school so they could go buy milkshakes together.

The two had grown closer over the past few years, a strong bond developing. They understood each other better and could talk comfortably among themselves now.

However, as Mayuzumi approached the basketball court he noticed a small group of kids on the opposite side. He then realised that they were beating someone up. They were beating Kuroko up.

Mayuzumi saw red. No-one was allowed to hurt his little brother. Kuroko may be an idiot sometimes but he would never be knowingly mean and he'd certainly never deserve to be bullied or hurt.

As Mayuzumi stormed across the court towards the handful of boys he heard words such as 'pathetic' and 'weak' coming from them in taunting voices, only serving to fuel his wrath.

When he got close enough he shouted for them to stop. Upon seeing the tall, enraged 15 year old, the three 11 year olds who had been giving Kuroko grief decided to make a run for it, not wanting to take their chances with fighting the frightening older boy.

For a split second, Mayuzumi considered chasing them down and giving them what they deserved, but he instantly decided against it, instead going over to his brother.

"Tetsuya?" He said as he approached, noticing tears on the boy's face. "Hey, it's alright Tetsuya. Onii-san is here." He continued before crouching down so he could talk to Kuroko, who was sat on the floor, more easily.

There was a cut located on his left cheek were someone had clearly punched him very hard. That's gunna bruise. Mayuzumi thought gloomily.

"Are you okay to walk?"

Kuroko gave a quick nod before wiping away the last of his tears and standing up whilst holding Mayuzumi's hand.

"Shall we go get some shakes?" He asked as he stood next to the shorter, not wanting to make a big deal out of what happened for now, knowing it would only make Kuroko feel worse.

The silent Kuroko then dived forward for a hug and said "Thank you." in an almost sob. He had been so relieved when the bullies had run away and Mayuzumi had come to his rescue. He always felt safer with Mayuzumi, he was much bigger and stronger than Kuroko and he repeatedly comforted him in a way that made Kuroko relax.

"It's fine Tetsuya. That's what family's for right?" The silver haired boy said as he ruffled Kuroko's blue locks fondly.

END FLASHBACK

Akashi noticed that Kuroko seemed to be deep in thought after answering his question and decided to let him be. Soon he found that Kuroko's eyes were drooping closed as he relaxed into a more comfortable position on the sofa, Nigou still on his lap. He's probably exhausted…I doubt he had any peaceful rest these past few weeks. Akashi thought.

In seconds, Kuroko had fallen asleep, his body lying against the back of the sofa and leaning on Akashi. It made the red head give an internal laugh, reminding him of the night Kuroko had confessed his feelings. He relaxed into the warmth of Kuroko by his side, leaning his own head against Kuroko's before succumbing to slumber himself.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 15 - Intermission

"That was fun, thanks for taking me out Shin-chan." Takao sang cheerfully.

"I'm glad you enjoyed going outside for a bit. Are you feeling alright?" Midorima responded.

"I'm fine Shin-chan, don't worry. A little walking never hurt anyone!"

The two had just returned to Akashi's and Aomine's apartment after a walk around town. They had visited Miyaji on their outing as well as a basketball court, so Takao could stretch his muscles. Upon arriving at the flat, the two had headed into the living room, hoping to relax for a while in there before packing there things to return to Miyaji's. However, what Midorima and Takao had found was their manager sleeping on the sofa alongside a certain blue haired man.

Flashback

"Takao, what are you doing?" Midorima asked, confused as to why Takao was standing in front of the couple and pulling his phone out.

"It's not often we get to see him so cute, Ki-chan will love it!" The ravenette replied before snapping a couple of pictures of Akashi and Kuroko on his phone.

"If he finds out you took those, he'll kill you."

Takao laughed nervously as he put his phone back in his pocket and walked back to Midorima's side. "He wouldn't be that mad right?"

"Let's go to the kitchen."

"You didn't answer my question!"

End Flashback

The duo continued to make general conversation as they sat down at the small table in the kitchen of the apartment. They were soon interrupted by a red head entering.

"Hey Akashi!" Takao called as said ghoul entered.

"Good afternoon Kazunari, Shintaro." Akashi greeted, Midorima giving a nod of acknowledgment.

"How are you, Akashi?" Takao asked, hoping to get a more positive answer than he had these past few weeks.

"I'm well. Now that Tetsuya is here and awake and we have a better understanding of his situation, I'm feeling much better. And yourselves?"

"We're good, right Shin-chan?"

"Yes." Midorima confirmed. "We had a pleasant trip out. Which reminds me, I wanted to inform you that Kazunari and I will be moving back in to Miyaji's house in a few hours, so you may have your room back."

"I'm glad to hear that you're well enough to return. The extra room will be advantageous seeing as Tetsuya will now be staying with us."

"How is he?" Midorima questioned.

"Better than I expected actually. He still has a strong grip on reality and he hasn't lashed out at anyone or had a complete breakdown, so that's good." Kuroko had genuinely surpassed Akashi's expectations on how well he seemed to be dealing with his trauma, but a small voice in Akashi's head kept nagging that perhaps Kuroko was hiding the extent of his anguish or that maybe something would trigger a sudden panic attack from him.

"That's good to hear Akashi." Takao said softly with an authentic smile.

"It is indeed." The green haired ghoul concurred.

Akashi pulled out his phone to check the time to find that a couple of hours had passed since he fell asleep on the sofa and that he had missed a call from Himuro. "Please excuse me for now, I need to contact Himuro-san." Akashi said as he made towards the exit of the room. "I'll speak to you both soon."

"Of course."


As Kuroko began to wake up, his first thought was Where am I? Soon followed by Where is Seijuro-kun? His heart rate increased as panic grew in his mind, but after taking in his surroundings he realised he was in a cosy living room and the memories of how he arrived there flooded back.

Deciding that he felt uncomfortable being alone, he stood, about to go look for some company. As he lifted his gaze he saw a figure standing in the doorway, walking into the room. Kuroko gave a startled jump, though once he noticed that it was just Aomine walking into the room he relaxed a bit.

"Hello Aomine-kun." He said, composing himself.

"Hey Tetsu, sorry if I scared you." Aomine said, slightly guilty.

"It's fine Aomine-kun. Is there something you wanted to talk about?" Kuroko asked having noticed the inquisiting look on the tanned male's face.

"Yeah actually." Aomine replied.

"What is it?"

"It's about Kagami. He found out that you were taken by ghouls. I thought we should talk about what we're going to tell him. Should we tell him the truth or…" Aomine tapered off.

Kuroko digested the information. He understood from Aomine's words and tone that they had to make a decision: whether to tell Kagami the truth or lie.

Both options came with their advantages, but equally, both came with disadvantages. Lying would prevent having any issues concerning the revelation of Aomine and Kuroko's ghoul sides but if not done correctly, it may lead Kagami to become suspicious of their behaviour.

After reflecting on the options, Kuroko responded to Aomine's words.

"I don't think I'm quite ready to tell Kagami-kun that I'm part ghoul. Maybe one day, but not now. I'm sure we could come up with a believable story. Bakagami probably won't question us too much as long as we keep our poker face." Kuroko said.

"Sure. I still don't think I'd be comfortable telling him about, you know, the whole ghoul thing, just yet. Have you got any ideas on what we should tell him?"

"I think so."

"Good. We should go over it with Sei in a bit. I may have told Kagami I'd explain everything to him tonight…"

As if summoned by Aomine's suggestion to talk to him, Akashi appeared in the doorway.

"Hello you two." He greeted.

"Hello Seijuro-kun."

"I apologise if I'm interrupting but I wanted to talk to Tetsuya about some things Daiki."

"Sure thing. I'll just go grab my phone, when I get back is it okay if we talk about the Kagami situation?"

"Of course." Akashi replied. With that Aomine left the others in peace.

"Tetsuya, I just got off the phone with a friend of mine. I'd asked him to research one-eyed ghouls but he didn't really discover anything that we didn't already know. Now that you're a half-ghoul, you're like us in pretty much every aspect, although you may be significantly stronger than average ghouls due to something called heterosis. Furthermore, you should have a rinkaku kagune, like mine, as that is the kagune which the binge-eater possessed. I, alongside some of the others working here, will help you learn to use and control your kagune, it's an important skill to have as misuse of your kagune could get someone killed or blow your cover. We will also assist you in learning how to swallow human food without retching immediately. If you want to continue living among humans this will be key to not raising suspicion. Finally, I wanted to give you this." Akashi leant over, placing a black eyepatch in Kuroko's palm.

"What's this for?" Kuroko asked bluntly.

"Himuro-san told me that it may be difficult to control your kakugan at first. To avoid any problems it would be good if you wore this over your left eye."

The younger man lifted the black material up to inspect it as he tried to decipher how to put it on. After a few seconds he figured it out, slipping it over the top of his head and placing it so that the eyepatch comfortably covered one of his eyes.

"It suits you." Akashi commented.

"Thanks." Kuroko said. "Not just for the compliment. For everything. I really appreciate you helping me out with all…this."

Akashi gave a slight frown. Kuroko shouldn't be thanking him so much. This was not simply a favour, rather something Akashi had to do. Both because he had been partly responsible for Kuroko's current situation and also because he cared greatly for Kuroko and to leave him to struggle alone when he could help him was completely out of the question.

"Tetsuya, it's nothing."

"I just wanted you to know that I am grateful. In fact, I would like to ask if you'll allow me to work at the café. I need to contribute somehow if I'm going to be staying with you and seeing as I can no longer go back to my old job I feel like that would be the best method."

"You have no obligation to work in order to stay here Tetsuya, but if you wish, I can teach you how to brew our coffee and to serve customers effectively."

"That would be great Seijuro-kun."

"Perhaps we can go downstairs in a bit, when it's quieter and there are less customers, and I'll show you the basics."


A few hours later, after Kuroko had taken a soothing bath and he had discussed their plans for what to tell Kagami, Akashi and Kuroko found themselves in the coffeehouse, which was rather empty, with just Aomine serving two customers.

"We have a number of methods to make coffee here. The simplest way uses this machine here. You simply press the correct sequence of buttons and place the cup here and the drink is made." Akashi explained, pointing to the machine. "This is generally used for more commercial purposes, it's much faster and more convenient. But we also use more traditional techniques. As I've been showing you here, we use whole coffee beans to brew our own drinks, this provides a more vibrant flavour."

Akashi then poured a dark bronze liquid from a clear brewing jug into two white mugs, before sliding one of the beverages over to Kuroko who was stood beside him at the counter. The red haired barista had just explained to Kuroko how to correctly brew the coffee in order to exploit the beans' potential.

The bluenette thanked Akashi before carefully lifting a cup up to drink. It truly was delicious and smooth. Not bitter like the coffee Kuroko had tried to brew himself at home.

"Now you try. I'll help you if needed." Akashi said, having just explained the process as he gave a demonstration.

Kuroko took care as he attempted to replicate Akashi's method, only making a few minor mistakes along the way. Having poured another two cups, the couple tried a sip of Kuroko's coffee.

"I'm impressed, it's not bad for your first try." Akashi said positively.

Kuroko had to agree that it was far better than any coffee he had prepared in the past, but it still wasn't perfect. It was slightly bitter and not quite as flavourful as Akashi's brew had been.

"Thank you, though I still have a way to go until it's as wonderful as yours."

"Still, it's very good Tetsuya. The more you practice, the better you'll get. Now why don't we move onto the machine made coffee, then we can look at the other beverages we provide."

Before Akashi could finish showing Kuroko any further demonstrations, another customer entered.

Aomine looked to the door and was shocked, and mildly horrified, to see that it was Kagami. At least 2 hours early.

Kagami stood frozen on the spot staring at Kuroko who was wearing a barista's uniform and an eyepatch.

"Ku-Kuroko?" He asked, stunned at the sight, not quite believing his eyes.

"Yes, it's me Kagami-kun" Kuroko replied fondly with a hint of a smile on his face.

Aomine walked over to the fireman, guiding him over to a table to sit down. "Hey, you okay?" Aomine asked with concern.

Fortunately, the last of their previous customers had already left the store premise, so there was no need to be discrete in their actions or to awkwardly shuffle out to the back room. Instead, Akashi quickly walked to the front door, flipping a sign so that it now read 'Closed' rather than 'Open'.

"W-What's going on?" Kagami asked. He was confused as to what exactly was going on, a myriad of emotions passing through his system. He was overjoyed to see his best friend, apparently safe and alive, but he was concerned and perplexed. Was Kuroko really okay? If he was, how? Was all the talk of Kuroko being kidnapped just a joke? There's no way they're that mean…Kagami reflected. Then what?

"It's okay Kagami-san. I'm sure you have a lot of questions." Akashi stated, interrupting Kagami's racing thoughts.

"You should take some deep breathes Kagami-kun, you're not looking too good." Kuroko commented after observing Kagami's expression and the way his skin had paled.

The tall red head did as his shadow suggested in an attempt to calm his thoughts.

"They said you were taken by ghouls, I saw the damn news articles, your house was a wreck. What happened to you?"

"He was taken by ghouls." Akashi answered on Kuroko's behalf. The two shorter males now stood by the table Kagami was sat at. Akashi had noticed subtle signs during their discussion earlier that Kuroko was uncomfortable with lying to his friend and thought it may be kinder if he did most of the fake explaining himself.

"Thankfully, they underestimated him and Tetsuya managed to sneak out of the room they were keeping him in. About two weeks ago some ghoul investigators arrived at the same time as Tetsuya attempted an escape and thus provided protection for Tetsuya and managed to get him out of there before much physical damage was caused." A pang of guilt ran through Akashi at that last part. To pretend like Kuroko had not suffered great physical torment. But it was necessary. There would be no simple way to explain such unnatural healing. "After the doctors checked him over and the CCG finished interrogating him, we met with Tetsuya. He no longer felt comfortable living in his home, and though he didn't say it, Daiki and I could tell he was afraid of being left alone again, so we invited him to stay at our place. Additionally, he will be working here seeing as the school let him go, afraid that his mental state may be too unstable to remain with the children alone."

Kagami took a long moment to take in the information before inquiring "Kuroko, is that all true?"

"Yes Kagami-kun. I'd rather that we don't talk too much about it though, I don't like thinking about what happened." Kuroko said, looking rather bothered by the concept.

"O-of course. Its fine, I'm just glad you're alive and here." Kagami said, relief bleeding into his voice, though a note of concern remained in his mind, after all, Kuroko clearly had been unsettled by his experience.

"Would anyone like a drink?" Akashi offered, trying to disperse the silence that followed Kagami's words.

"Yes please Seijuro-kun."

"Yeah sure." Aomine responded.

Kagami hadn't missed how Akashi had been referring to Kuroko by his first name, but he had dismissed it as perhaps a strange quirk of the red-eyed manager, however having heard Kuroko call Akashi by his first name was odd. Kuroko very rarely used peoples' first names when speaking to them.

Whilst Akashi was making the drinks across the room Kagami spoke with a quiet voice. "Are you two close or something?" He asked, wanting to understand why this person, who was virtually a stranger to Kagami, had the honour of Kuroko calling him by his first name. He also wanted to change topics, worried that dwelling on the bigger affair may upset Kuroko. I'll have to ask Aomine more about that later. He thought to himself.

"Seijuro-kun and I are now dating." Kuroko deadpanned.

"EH?"

Now that definitely wasn't what he was expecting.


It was later that night, after a few hours of reading beside Akashi in the living room, that Kuroko decided he wanted to go to sleep.

"Hey, Seijuro-kun?"

"Yes?" Akashi replied, looking up drowsily from the book he had been reading.

"Is it okay if I go to sleep now?" Kuroko asked.

"Of course Tetsuya. I prepared my bed for you, there should be some pyjamas set out for you too."

"Where is Seijuro-kun sleeping?"

"I'll take the sofa for the night."

"That doesn't seem fair…" Kuroko said sceptically.

"Its fine Tetsuya, you deserve a good night's rest in an actual bed." Akashi said. "By the way, I was thinking that perhaps tomorrow we should go for a trip to the bookstore. I'll buy you a new book to read."

"You really are too kind to me Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said, a light blush tinging his cheeks.

Akashi gave a short laugh. "And you're too cute Tetsuya." He said before pulling Kuroko in for an embrace.

"I know I've already said it but thank you so much, for everything." Kuroko murmured into the taller's neck. The two then parted with Kuroko giving Akashi a soft goodnight kiss on the cheek before he exchanged quiet 'goodnight's with the red head and went to bed.


"Hey Sei?" Aomine whispered, trying to gauge whether his brother was awake or not.

"Mm?" Akashi hummed in response keeping his eyes closed as he lay on the sofa under a thin blanket.

"I'm going over to Satsuki's for the night so you can use my bed if you want."

"It's a bit late to be going out isn't it?" Akashi said, now sitting up as he rubbed the sleep away from his eyes.

"It's only 9 o'clock you old man."

Akashi frowned at the comment. "I'm only a year older than you Daiki."

"Yeah, but you don't act like it."

The ruby-eyed ghoul gave a sigh. "Well just be safe when you're walking over there okay."

"Sure thing."

And so Aomine left the apartment and Akashi started heading towards Aomine's room.

On his way he heard harsh whimpers coming from his own room.

He knew that he needed to investigate so Akashi approached the door to his room and knocked on it.

"Tetsuya?"

There was no response and the cries continued.

The red head barged into the room and found Kuroko tossing and turning in the double bed, the duvet thrown on to the ground.

"Tetsuya." Akashi said with deep concern.

The man was shaking in the bed and sobbing in his sleep. "Please! Please don't!"

It was far worse than the distress Kuroko had shown in his sleep that morning, he couldn't seem to keep still and his begging, more desperate and clear.

Akashi stretched out an arm, trying to put it on Kuroko's shoulder, but it was immediately slapped away by Kuroko's shaky arm.

It made Akashi sick to see Kuroko like this, torn up and broken, but what was worse was not being able to stop it or even reach out to him.

Deciding to make a bold move, Akashi once again brought his hand to Kuroko's shoulder whilst doing the same with his other hand. Keeping a vice like grip, Akashi tried to shake the bluenette awake. At first, the action made Kuroko shout out in fear, but as Akashi started speaking to him Kuroko woke up.

"S-Seijuro-kun? What…wh-where...?" Kuroko stuttered, a look of anxiety and confusion on his face as his eyelids retreated, revealing cyan orbs. His body still shook, though the tossing and turning had come to a halt.

"Ssssh, it's okay Tetsuya. You're in my room, remember? You're safe. I'm here." Akashi reassured him.

"S-safe?" Kuroko asked, his eyes locking with Akashi's crimson ones.

"Yes. It was just a dream Tetsuya." Akashi said.

There was a moment of silence as the red head's grip on Kuroko's shoulders vanished and Akashi ducked to the side of the bed to lift the duvet up and lay it over Kuroko.

Akashi noticed that the half-ghoul's shaking had stopped now and his eyes were beginning to droop as the weight of Kuroko's exhaustion pulled on them. The manager bowed down to give Kuroko a chaste kiss on the lips with one hand cupping the other's face. "Goodnight Tetsuya." He said, thinking that Kuroko had already fallen asleep again.

He was surprised to find that when he leant back a small hand was clutching at the front of his pyjama top.

Kuroko's eyes were cracked open. "Please don't leave me alone," Kuroko said with a weak voice, clearly afraid of being left by himself.

Primarily, Akashi was somewhat surprised to hear such a request from someone who rarely asked anything of anyone, but he quickly realised it made sense. "Don't worry Tetsuya, I'll stay with you if that is what you wish." He said with a gentle tone.

Even after Kuroko received confirmation he kept his grip tight on Akashi's shirt, not letting go.

The ghoul decided to lie down in the bed, next to Kuroko, so that he could get some sleep whilst he comforted his partner. What he didn't expect was Kuroko to snuggle up to him as he did so, burying his tear streaked face in Akashi's shoulder. In response, Akashi dug his arm under the slim man lying next to him, wrapping the limb around him and keeping him close.

There were no more nightmares that night.


A few days later

Hanamiya returned to his new base of operations to find some gang of ghouls attacking his subordinates.

"I can't even leave for one day." Hanamiya murmurs to himself before grabbing one of his men who had been lying on the ground.

"What the fuck is going on in here" He snarled.

"S-some guys were asking to talk to you. Hara-san refused, telling them they couldn't meet you and they just…attacked." The ghoul sniveled.

Angered at how poorly his lackeys were doing against these opposing ghouls he quickly observed the situation, identifying the strongest ghoul and heading right for him.

The strong ghoul with dark skin and silver hair threw away the guy he'd been fighting to enable him to fight the new comer.

"What do you want?" Hanamiya asked bitterly.

But the offending ghoul charged at him, dismissing the question entirely. Hanamiya just about managed to dodge the attack and took the opportunity to take the offensive himself, releasing his kagune and going in for a shoulder stab. Unfortunately for him, it missed. The two continued the exchange similarly, rarely landing a hit.

Finally the ghoul stopped and listened, deciding this guy might be worth his time unlike the other losers he'd been fighting.

"I'll ask again then. Who are you?" Hanamiya repeated.

"Jason Silver. You?"

"Hanamiya Makoto."

The dark skinned male cocked an eyebrow at that and smirked. "Just the guy we are looking for."

"Well then, call off this attack and we can talk." Hanamiya reasoned.

The ghoul named Silver gave a signal with a whistle and the intruders backed off, halting the attack.

Another powerful looking ghoul walked up, his hair a rich blond colour.

"You found him?" He asked Silver.

"Yeah." He answered, tilting his head in the direction of Hanamiya.

The newcomer approached the black haired ghoul. "I'm sorry that we had to meet on such bad terms, but we don't like being told 'no' so you'll have to excuse us."

"Who are you guys?" Hanamiya asked, intrigued by the duo.

"I'm the leader of a gang called 'The Jabberwocks'. Maybe you've heard of us. From what I can gather, you and I share some similar views about humans." The blond smirked. "They need to be put in their place. They act as if this world is theirs to own, as if we are the vermin. What they don't realise is that we are the superior beings and they are merely cattle. Their existence is only necessary because we need them to eat."

"Well you're definitely correct about that." Hanamiya commented.

"Good. I wanted to propose an alliance. It won't make much of a difference for a while, but when the time comes I want to know that you and your crew will fight alongside us."

"Now I like the sound of what you're implying, but what exactly are you talking about?"

"We're looking to destroy the CCG and put the humans in their place. I'm sure you've heard a lot of people say stuff like that, but I think we've shown that we have the power to back it up." Gold said, gesturing around the room.

Hanamiya looked around, noticing how many of his guys had fallen in the fight but none were dead and the majority of the injuries sustained were nothing that would not heal given some time.

"Sure, you guys seem pretty strong. I suppose I'll take you up on this alliance."

"I'm glad you agreed." Gold said.

"Is there anything else you guys wanted?"

"Yeah," Silver jumped into the conversation. "Do you know anything about one-eyed ghouls?"

These Americans' questions truly were intriguing. "Why do you ask?" Hanamiya said nonchalantly.

"Because we're looking for one."

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 16 – Targets

"Well done Kurokocchi!" Kise praised the one-eyed ghoul.

"I just made a coffee, I don't see why you need to cheer just for that Kise-kun." Kuroko responded.

"It wasn't just any coffee Kurokocchi, you just served your first customer!"

"I still don't see the need for praise Kise-kun…" The bluenette trailed off.

It had been over a week now since Kuroko had been rescued from the Kirisaki Daichi and the teal head was becoming more and more accustomed to his new home and lifestyle. Kuroko had proved himself a quick learner too, taking in the information given to him and easily putting it into action as a barista in the café.

Today was his first shift and Kise was hovering over him, apparently making sure that Kuroko was comfortable with what he needed to do. They had specifically chosen to give Kuroko his first shift during an off-peak time so that he did not have to rush about too much, instead taking his time in getting used to the basics.

"So are you doing anything this afternoon?" The blond asked in the absence of any customers.

"Aomine-kun and I are going clothes shopping with Kagami-kun." Kuroko answered. "Howabout you Kise-kun?"

"I'm going to the cinema with my friend later, but I have to work here until 4pm." Kise said.

"I hope you have fun Kise-kun."

"Thanks Kurokocchi, I hope you do too!"

"Hey, Kise-chin, Kasamatsu is on the phone for you." The tall purple haired barista called as he walked over to the other two behind the counter.

"Eh? Okay, I'll go answer it. I'll be back in a minute Kurokocchi!" The blond ghoul said before turning to Murasakibara. "Murasakibaracchi, please take of Kurokocchi whilst I'm gone."

"Yeah, yeah Kise-chin."

After Kise left a peaceful quiet fell over the coffee shop.

Whilst both Kuroko and Murasakibara knew the shorter did not require constant supervision, he remained by Kuroko to keep watch over him.

"How are you Murasakibara-kun?" The former kindergarten teacher asked.

"I'm good Kuro-chin. Aka-chin wanted me to tell you that he's sorry he can't be here to help you on your first shift but he's busy with paperwork today."

"Thank you for telling me Murasakibara-kun."

The next few hours passed by rather uneventfully. Kise returned and took his place by Kuroko whilst Murasakibara returned to cleaning the café's facilities.

Around 1pm, at the end of Kuroko's shift, Aomine came downstairs to wait around with Kuroko until Kagami showed up for their outing.

"I'm surprised, you're on time for once Aomine-kun." Kuroko teased the navy head.

"Shut up Tetsu! I'm not always late dammit."

"Hey." Kagami greeted as he entered the room.

"Hello Kagami-kun. Shall we get going?" The new barista asked.

"Yeah let's." Aomine said.

And so the three went out shopping.


"That one really wouldn't suit you Kagami-kun." Kuroko said, providing his judgement on the vibrant yellow t-shirt Kagami was inspecting.

"Tetsu's right. It's a terrible shirt anyway." Aomine cut in.

Kagami looked at the shirt again before huffing and putting it back, now deflated because he thought it had been a rather cool shirt.

"Fine then, I think these four will do anyway." He said, gesturing to the four tops in his hand.

After paying for them at the till, the three walked back outside onto the high street, Kuroko sipping on a vanilla coffee he had bought whilst they were out.

"Does anyone need anything else?" The cyan eyed man asked.

"No I'm good." Kagami said.

"Same. Let's go home then, before it gets late." Aomine suggested.


The two ghouls and human had spent 4 hours out on their shopping trip, although almost an hour of that had been when Kagami insisted that they eat lunch much to Kuroko's and Aomine's dismay. When they had begun shopping it had been surprisingly bright and sunny out however now the weather had taken a turn for the worst as clouds loomed above and heavy raindrops began to fall.

As they took a short cut to the coffee shop, Kuroko noticed something odd about Aomine. The navy head kept looking back to the people rushing along behind them, giving them angry, suspicious looks.

"Maybe we should go this way." Aomine advised, making a turn to the right, heading towards a more populated route.

"Aomine-kun? Is everything alr-" Kuroko began before he looked back and stopped talking.

The group of four males in soaked hoodies who had been walking behind them had just begun to sprint directly at the group of three.

"Run!" Aomine shouted as he realised that the group were making a move.

Both Kuroko and Kagami followed him immediately, although Kagami was quick to question.

"What the hell Ahomine?! Why are we running?!"

Before Aomine could respond with an answer, yet another two people appeared in front of them, cornering them in the alleyway Aomine had led them down.

"Shit." Aomine cursed, as he, Kuroko and Kagami were brought to a standstill, surrounded by the six strangers.

Aomine had recognised the peculiar behaviour of the guys behind them and once he caught a glimpse of them and the symbol on their jumpers, he realised that they were big trouble.

"Well, looks like we'll be eating well tonight boys." The tallest of them said.

"Over my dead body." Aomine snarled.

It clicked in Kuroko's mind that the offenders surrounding them were ghouls. The strange smell he had detected earlier had been the giveaway that made Aomine so agitated. The teal head looked nervously at Aomine. Whilst Akashi had told him that the dark skinned male was an exceptional fighter, Kuroko figured that even for Aomine this would be a tough battle. Maybe I should help…Kuroko thought, but he wondered how an earth he could. Sure, he now had a resistant body with a lot of power behind it, but he had no skill, no training to hone that power and fight.

"Sounds good to me." One of the ghouls said before lunging forward and releasing their kagune, aiming a hit at Aomine.

The sight of the kagune, the bikaku kagune, the kagune just like his, made Kuroko freeze up, thoughts of the damage a similar kagune had done to his body flooding his mind.

Without hesitation Aomine brought out his own kagune. He was scared. He wasn't entirely sure he could really defeat these six guys by himself, especially not without Kuroko or Kagami getting hurt in the meantime.

As the thought rushed through his head, the other aggressors moved in for the attack, going for Kuroko and Kagami.

The navy haired ghoul swiftly dealt with the ghoul assaulting him before moving to help his friends, but there were still too many offending ghouls to deal with at once alone.

One swung a hard punch at Kagami's gut, sending him crashing into the wall behind him and almost knocking him out.

"Kagami-kun!" Kuroko called out worriedly as he was snapped out of his memories and the fear that they brought, adrenaline kicking in instead. Kuroko ran to prevent the ghoul heading towards the tall red head from getting any closer. Fortunately, Aomine had seemed to be okay dealing with three of the other ghouls, so only two now fought against Kuroko and Kagami.

One of them wrapped a large hand around Kuroko's throat, cutting off his air supply and raising up the shorter male. "Something's off about this one…He smells weird." He commented, inhaling Kuroko's scent. "Didn't the Jabberwock guys say something about halves smelling different to ghouls and humans?"

Kuroko began to shake with fear as he tried to pry the hand off of his neck whilst the ghoul spoke but he found that the grip was too strong. Instead he decided to try something he wasn't used to. With all his might he flicked his leg in a harsh kick to the ghoul's stomach, causing the offender to loosen his grip momentarily and allowing for Kuroko to escape his grasp.

After realising that he didn't need to be so scared, after all he was free compared to before - he could move, he could fight - Kuroko decided that he needed to do something to help Aomine fight, the half-ghoul proceeded to punch the assailant in the face. The move had a much better effect than Kuroko would have expected from his usually weak arms, as the ghoul fell to the ground, ready for Kuroko to kick him again.

The bluenette was not one for violence, but when it came to life or death situations, particularly when his friends were involved, he was not going to back down and let them do as they pleased.

Luckily for the group, the gang of ghouls were nothing special. All of them were fairly weak in Aomine's opinion and he dealt with them fairly easily. He came over to assist Kuroko with the final ghoul standing, beating him to the ground.

Once the attackers were all out for the count, Aomine's kagune disappeared and Kuroko collapsed to his knees.

"Tetsu, are yo-" Aomine started.

"I'm fine. How's Kagami-kun?" Kuroko panted, starinf at the bloodied ground. Aomine could see clear as day that Kuroko had been rattled by the fight, but he could deal with that once he made sure Kagami was alive and breathing.

"Hey, Kagami? Are you okay?" Aomine asked, approaching his friend.

"What the…hell…just…" He stuttered out between heavy breaths before passing out.

Aomine gave his friend's injuries a quick look over, identifying that the significant blow to Kagami's head where it had collided with the wall was the greatest cause of concern.

"His head injury looks pretty bad Tetsu, we need to take him to the hospital."


"Is he going to be okay?" Kuroko asked the doctor in the hospital room.

"He's not doing badly. The head wound is not too serious, he just has a minor concussion and I've given him some stitches to close the wound. Besides that, he has two fractured ribs and severe bruising on his chest. He'll need to stay here for monitoring but he should be allowed to leave tomorrow evening provided his concussion does not prove more serious than it seems." The doctor informed Kagami's two friends.

Kuroko expressed his gratitude to the doctor before the doctor quickly dismissed himself to attend to other patients.

They had arrived at the hospital an hour ago. Kagami had been unconscious at the time which had concerned the medical professionals, however he soon came too and began complaining about the pain in his chest. The doctor then told Kuroko and Aomine to stay in the waiting room whilst he diagnosed the fireman and the nurses helped Kagami into his room.

Now the two ghouls were sat in Kagami's room, by his bedside, while the red head himself was lying in the bed, still a bit dazed but awake.

"How are you feeling Kagami?" Aomine asked.

Without making eye contact, Kagami stated "You're a ghoul." Whilst gazing at the ceiling.

Aomine frowned, before trying to recover with "Wow, that concussion of yours must be really bad if you were seeing things like that."

"I saw you, your kagune, before I hit my head. I know I did, don't lie to me." Kagami said through gritted teeth.

Knowing his defeat, Aomine wasn't sure how to react without knowing Kagami's feelings to the revelation. Shit, what am I going to do if he hates me now…if he tries to tell the CCG? Aomine cursed internally.

"Baka, why didn't you tell me? I thought we were close!" Kagami said, not really thinking about Aomine's point of view.

"Why? Maybe because all humans hate ghouls. All humans want us dead." Aomine muttered.

"That's not true Aomine-kun." Kuroko interjected sympathetically.

"Maybe not, but how am I meant to tell the difference huh? How can I tell who's going to give me up to the CCG as soon as they know?" Aomine nearly shouted.

"Do you really think so little of me Aomine? That I'd give up one of my best friends, just like that? Sure, it's bad but…" Kagami started thinking about the whole situation more. He would never betray Aomine but as he thought he realised what being a ghoul meant. It meant his friend was a killer. Though, the killing was for survival. Did that justify it? Could anything justify taking the life of another?

"Kagami-kun, Aomine-kun would never kill good people. Nor would he kill without it being absolutely necessary." Kuroko informed the hospital patient. "But to reveal that he was a ghoul would not be an easy task for him, so please don't be angry at him."

Kagami took a deep breath in the silence that followed Kuroko's words, whilst Aomine simply gazed at the ground, unsure of what to do.

"I'll keep it a secret. I'm not going to tell anyone and we can pretend this whole thing didn't happen, okay?"

Kuroko gave a small smile and Aomine looked up into Kagami's eyes hopefully.

"Are you sure?" The navy head mumbled.

"You've been a ghoul this whole time right? If you were gunna hurt me you would have done it by now, so I suppose I can trust you." Kagami mumbled.

"Thanks." Aomine sighed.

"Kagami-kun?"

"What?" Kagami responded, turning to the phantom man.

"I am also a ghoul…Kind of."

Both Kagami and Aomine stared at him for a moment in silence.

"Y-yo-you're…k-kind of?" Kagami stuttered.

"Tetsu…" Aomine said concernedly.

"I only became one recently though. I was human until after you left for America actually…" Kuroko said, trailing off.

"What?! Did it…Did it have something to do with your abduction?"

"Yes." Kuroko informed him. "Though I do not wish to recall the details now Kagami-kun. We've had an eventful day enough as it is." Kuroko continued, his brow furrowing slightly.

"S-sure." The double eye-browed man allowed. He was still dealing with the shock of both his best friends being ghouls. But Kuroko only became one recently? What the hell does that mean?! You're either born one or you're not! He thought, baffled by the shorter male's statement.

A silence settled over the room, no-one quite knowing what to say to each other. After a few moments a nurse entered the room to inform them that visiting hours were over for the day. Aomine was rather annoyed that they were basically being kicked out and that they had to leave Kagami alone, but he was also relieved to be released from the awkward atmosphere.

"We'll come see you tomorrow Kagami-kun, if you'd like?"

"That'd be great. I'll see you two then." He replied with a small smile, waving to his friends as they provided farewells and left.


"What happened?" Akashi asked insistently with his arms crossed.

"Look you don't need to panic okay, we just got unlucky. Wrong place, wrong time." Aomine asserted.

"Daiki, what happened?" Akashi very nearly growled at his adopted brother. He had received a text hours ago stating that Aomine and Kuroko had gone to A&E with Kagami.

"It was just a couple of ghouls okay. They caught a smell of Kagami and thought they could catch themselves a quick snack. Idiots didn't realise he was the only human. They were easy enough to fight off, so quit worrying."

"They weren't just random ghouls though, were they?"

Dammit. Aomine cursed internally. How can this guy see through everything?

"You shouldn't leave things out because you think it'll make me feel better. I need to know everything so that I can effectively protect everyone here. If there's even the slightest chance you were targeted we need to know." Akashi continued.

Aomine exhaled, once again realising that maybe Akashi was right.

"It was the Kirisaki Daichi. I saw the emblem stitched on their stupid hoodies." Aomine mumbled.

Akashi swore. "And you weren't going to tell me?" He asked, annoyed.

"Sei, I didn't want you to worry. I'm pretty sure it was just a coincidence."

"I know. But please don't withhold such information again Daiki." Akashi said with a sigh. "How's Tetsuya?" He asked, his voice softening a bit.

"He was quite shaken up in the battle, but he's fine now. He just wanted to grab a coffee before coming up here."

"Good." Akashi said, exhaling with relief. Though the mention of Kuroko being 'shaken up' didn't escape Akashi's thoughts. "You said you went to the hospital?"

"Yeah, Kagami got pretty beat up. He'll be okay though. I should probably tell you that he knows about Kuroko and I being ghouls. I couldn't really hide it from him, what with having to defend us."

"I hope he recovers soon. But…He won't be a problem will he? Do we need to move if he knows?"

"No. I don't think so…He seemed okay with it." Aomine said. It was difficult. He trusted Kagami, but this was quite an extreme situation, and the possibility that Kagami was only pretending to accept him was small but not non-existent.

"Keep an eye on him then. The last thing we need is the CCG knocking on our door."

"Of course Sei." Aomine said. "Anyway, I'm going to go chill in my room for the night, so I'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay then. Goodnight."

"Goodnight."


"I promise you I'm fine Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said for the umpteenth time, rather convincingly.

"Then why are you shaking?" Akashi retorted.

The two were lying in Akashi's bed. After the first night Kuroko had slept there and Akashi had joined him, he told the red head that they could share the bed as he didn't mind, also because Akashi had offered to stay with him if the nightmares continued. Kuroko had been surprised at how well the ruby eyed ghoul had comforted him that first night, leaving Kuroko feeling safe and content with Akashi's arms encompassing him and even though the memory of the nightmares lingered, Kuroko felt far more at peace in Akashi's company.

When Kuroko had awoken the next morning to realise that the two had been sleeping in the same be, snuggled up together, he had immediately felt embarrassed, an intense blush blooming across his skin. At his stirring, Akashi had begun to wake too and upon seeing his Tetsuya's cute face, he gave a light laugh.

"Good morning Tetsuya." He said before moving in for a forehead kiss.

"G-good morning Seijuro-kun. S-sorry for making you stay last night."

"It's fine love." Akashi said, wondering how Kuroko could really be apologising for that. "How are you feeling?" He asked with some concern.

"I'm well, thank you Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said with a minute smile gracing his lips.

"If it happens again, the nightmares, I will come and stay with you again, okay?"

"Okay."

The night terrors that night had been enough reason for Akashi to be concerned for Kuroko's mental health, but when they were out in town the next day he was given even more fuel for his worry.

Nothing major occurred, Kuroko didn't suddenly start screaming or sobbing whilst they were out in public, but Akashi picked up on the subtle hints of fear and discomfort. Every time someone brushed against the petite male whilst they were walking the streets or a loud noise was made, Kuroko would flinch and occasionally pause, a look of fear crossing his face.

As it happened, the nightmares started up again the next night, not even 10 minutes after Kuroko had fallen into slumber. Akashi had been quick to react, rushing into the room to sooth Kuroko's anguish and help him fall into a more tranquil sleep. After that, Akashi had gone to bed with Kuroko every night.

"I'm just cold Seijuro-kun." Kuroko mumbled, snuggling into the duvet and turning his back to Akashi.

"Liar." Akashi whispered, coming up behind the bluenette and wrapping his arms around the smaller man so that his defined chest pressed against Kuroko's clothed back.

The half-ghoul had not realised how tense he had been and how obviously he had been shivering, but as the café's manager pulled him close he relaxed his body, almost going limp.

"Please tell me when you're not feeling well Tetsuya. I do not wish for you to suffer alone. You are welcome to share your burden with me." Akashi told the sky blue haired ghoul, resting his chin on Kuroko's shoulder.

"Okay." Kuroko conceded. "Can we sleep now Seijuro-kun? I'm tired."

"Of course. Goodnight." He said, giving a gentle kiss to Kuroko's ear before moving his head to rest on the pillow behind Kuroko's.


Around 1am Akashi woke to the sound of buzzing. He turned to the source of the noise which was in fact his phone which was sat on his bedside table. He groaned groggily before moving to pick it up, as he removed his arms from around Kuroko's torso, the shorter made a quiet, subconscious whine at the loss of contact as he slept. Whilst Akashi had been intending on hanging-up on whatever idiot was calling him at this time so that he could hastily return to Kuroko's side, when he saw that it was Himuro calling him he changed his mind.

"Hello?" Akashi whispered, carefully moving so that he could get out of the bed without disturbing Kuroko too much.

"Akashi-san. I apologise for the hour of this call, but I just discovered something very important." Himuro answered. Akashi was intrigued and worried about what exactly Himuro had learned.

"What is it?"

"According to one of my more reliable sources, the Kirisaki Daichi has joined with the Jabberwocks. Whilst that alone is concerning, apparently the Jabberwocks have some big plans to over-throw the humans in power and to allow ghouls to take over the country. Part of this includes recruiting ghouls who are anti-human and taking out ghouls who are pro-human."

Akashi let that sink in. If Hanamiya was going to suggest anyone who was pro-human, it would be their group. And now that the Kirisaki Daichi's power was combined with that of the Jabberwocks…Akashi cursed in his mind.

"There was something else…" Himuro continued. Could it even get any worse? Akashi thought bitterly. "It was only a rumour, but apparently the Jabberwocks are looking for something. They may be looking for a one-eyed ghoul."

Akashi felt as if his heart had stopped.

"What?!" He shouted in a whisper.

"I'm sorry Akashi-san, but I thought I should inform you urgently. It's only a rumour, but it's always better to be safe than sorry."

Akashi took a breath whilst rubbing his brow with his fingers. "It's not your fault Himuro-san, I apologise. Do you know if it's a specific person or are they just looking for any one-eyed?"

"I don't know Akashi-san. Either way, please be careful. I've never heard of or met any other one-eyed ghouls. They're not exactly common."

"Of course." Akashi sighed. His eyes kept drifting back over to Kuroko who was still curled in the duvet on the bed, fast asleep. A frown pulled on Akashi's face. He's been through enough for God's sake. Why the hell does this need to happen? Akashi thought angrily.

"If I hear anything else, I'll contact you immediately. For now, I must go. Goodnight Akashi-san, stay safe.."

"Goodnight. And thank you once again Himuro-san." With that, Akashi hung up.

What am I going to do? He thought helplessly. They were very likely going to be targeted and fighting off the whole of the Kirisaki Daichi and the Jabberwocks would be near impossible, even with himself and the others fighting. On top of that he had to worry about Kuroko. What if they were targeting him? But why would they be targeting him? Akashi had specified that the Jabberwocks were looking for a one-eyed ghoul, not Hanamiya. Akashi had no direct quarrel with the members of the Jabberwocks, though he hated their ideals. A Japan run by ghouls, whilst all humans are enslaved and kept as cattle.

He was going to have to discuss this with the others. What to do. How to fight this.

At that moment Akashi remembered that he had yet to teach Kuroko how to fully-control his kagune or how to fight effectively. If he's in danger again, I need to make sure he can fight for himself. Akashi thought. Training would need to start. Soon.

But as the red eyed ghoul looked at Kuroko lying in his bed, he couldn't help but think how delicate and cute he looked. That's when he heard a small whimper escape the teal haired man. Quickly, Akashi returned into the bed, returning to his place by Kuroko and encased the half-ghoul in his arms once more.

END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text

Chapter 17 – Warm Up

"Again." Akashi commanded.

"I can't do it Seijuro-kun, you're too fast." Kuroko panted disheartenedly.

"You can, you just need to keep trying Tetsuya and don't hold back." Akashi insisted, taking up a defensive pose as he prepared for his partner to attempt an attack once again.

The two had started the training at 6am in the basement of the coffeehouse. They had only been training for an hour and Kuroko was already beginning to show vast improvement in his skill and strength. But even so Akashi wanted to push him as much as he could. If Kuroko were faced with an A or S class ghoul as his opponent, Akashi wants him to at least have a chance in defeating or escaping them. Though I hope he's never in that kind of situation again. The manager thought.

For the moment, Akashi was focusing on Kuroko's core fighting skills, without using his kagune.

Kuroko began his mock assault again, taking the stance Akashi had told him would maximise the amount of power he could put into his attacks. Akashi had taught him multiple moves and when to use them. Rather than using a routine, he instructed Kuroko to react to the situation and use sequences of moves he believed suited the circumstance.

Throwing a high kick, Kuroko tried to break through the red head's defence. During the brief moment that Akashi's arms were lowered, Kuroko threw a punch at his face, quickly followed by a gut shot. Perhaps if he had used full force, Akashi would have counted it as a successful assault but Kuroko was pulling his punches, not wanting to harm his lover too much.

Akashi barely stumbled backwards. "I told you there's no need to hold back Tetsuya."

"But I don't want to hurt Seijuro-kun."

Akashi sighed. To be fair, he understood that training was always different to an actual fight, in which someone's life was on the line, anyway. Most people fight their best when danger is presented to them, not when they feel safe. Not to mention, Kuroko never seemed like the violent type to Akashi.

Thinking about how to further the training, Akashi could only come up with one alternative.

"You did well today Tetsuya. In tonight's session I will be trying to attack you. I'll go easy on you but you still need to defend against me and attack when possible." Akashi informed him.

Kuroko frowned at the thought but conceded with an "Okay."

"Can I have a moment before we go back upstairs to meet the others?"

"Of course, what do you want?"

"I need to talk to you about something. I'm going to inform everyone of the situation soon, but I just wanted to give you some forewarning." Kuroko looked at the scarlet haired ghoul curiously as Akashi paused, taking a deep breath. "Last night, I received a call from Himuro-san. The short version of the story is that there is a good chance you, myself, and the rest of my colleagues here are going to be targeted by a large ghoul faction that is seeking to enslave the human race." He knew that he had to tell Kuroko the truth, not only out of respect but for his safety. But the ghoul was concerned that the news would trigger Kuroko somehow. "Also, they seem to have expressed an interest in one-eyed ghouls. Whether they are looking for a specific one or any one-eyed ghoul, I do not know yet. Though I do intend to find out."

The fear in Kuroko's body language was subtle, but existent. The way he tensed did not go unnoticed by Akashi. He's learning to mask it. Akashi noted with a grimace.


Following the training, Akashi waited for the rest of the baristas to arrive at work for an urgent meeting he had called.

"We've got a big problem."

The other six ghoul baristas in the room gave Akashi their full attention after noticing his serious, grim tone.

"Himuro called me last night to inform me that the Kirisaki Daichi and Jabberwocks have combined forces. They are planning on destroying the CCG and any ghouls who oppose them in order to enslave humans, which suggests they will likely be planning an attack on us in the near future."

The revelation led to some concerned expressions from the coffee shop workers and some choice curse words from Aomine.

"Shit." The navy head cussed.

"Quite." Midorima murmured in return.

"We need to decide the best way to deal with this." Akashi continued. "I would argue that we need to deal with them as soon as possible. The longer we leave them, the stronger they will become."

"Couldn't we just run?" Kise asked nervously.

"Idiot. Do you think Hanamiya would simply let us all get away?" Midorima scolded.

"Shintaro is correct Ryouta. Hanamiya is not one to let his prey escape him. Knowing him, he would probably enjoy the chase." The crimson haired ghoul said. "A fight between us and them is inevitable. Our best chance is to arrange a surprise attack on the Jabberwock leaders. If we can take them down, the rabble will be weakened and more easily broken."

"But how can we fight them if they're as strong as you say?" Kuroko questioned.

"It won't be easy, I know. But as I said, a fight between us is unavoidable. If we can time it right we will only have to battle against a dozen or so ghouls rather than the entire two gangs combined. We're going to be at a disadvantage numbers wise but with our superior skill and the element of surprise we could succeed." Akashi reasoned.

"I'm going to communicate with Satsuki and Himuro-san in order to get some names. Hopefully we'll be able to get some times and locations on the bosses of the Jabberwocks and find the opportune time to attack."


"You're looking for a one-eyed? Well that's interesting, I just happen to know of one." Hanamiya told Nash Gold and Jason Silver.

"Well we're looking for a very specific one." Silver growled, clearly holding some disdain for the ghoul they were looking for.

"We had a run-in a few months ago with some kid who seemed to consider himself some sort of vigilante or something. He told us that if we kept pushing forward with our plan he'd stop us."

"Yeah, the damn brat thought he could take us on, ha." Silver chimed in.

Gold scoffed. "You laugh but he actually took out a few of our best men. Whilst he doesn't pose much of a threat alone, he's a nuisance. We need to make sure everyone knows what happens to people who piss us off."

"Sounds good." Hanamiya smirked. "I've only ever met one half-ghoul before and I highly doubt it was him seeing as he was only converted just over a month ago. Do you have any leads as to who this guy is and where he could be?"

"He was converted a few years ago by some doctor, from what we can gather. We got some reports that he came to this ward a couple of months ago, we were planning on checking this place out anyway and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit."

"I'll make sure my men stay on look-out for any one-eyeds then."

"Good. Silver will give them the description of his appearance. Now then, shall we discuss our war plan?"


"I'm glad you never found this café in the bookstore. We may never have met if you had." Akashi said amusedly.

Kuroko gave the comment thought. "Hmm, perhaps. But the coffee isn't as nice and it's quite far from my house…"

"Oh? And how do you like the baristas?" Akashi asked with a teasing tone and smile.

Kuroko replied with an unimpressed stare at Akashi before taking a sip of his coffee. The two were sat by a window in a chic, chain coffee shop that was situated within another bookstore in the town centre. After the meeting that morning Akashi had brought Kuroko out to buy another book, giving them a little bit of private time to socialise before the storm of war came.

"What book did you buy anyway?" The crimson eyed ghoul murmured, changing the subject.

"It's the second in a series of mystery novels I've been reading. It's called 'A Fox's Tale'."

"Interesting. You'll have to tell me if it's any good once you finish it."

"Sure thing Seijuro-kun."

"And how is Kagami doing?" Akashi asked.

"He's okay. Aomine-kun and I took him home the other day, he took a week off of work so his ribs could heal some more."

"I hope he makes a swift recovery, but you should know that it's best that you avoid meeting up with him until we've finished our…dispute with the Jabberwocks." Akashi told the blue eyed man reluctantly. Kuroko frowned, but knew that Akashi was right to ask this of him.

Glancing at the doorway, Akashi picked up on some men staring at the couple from a distance. He locked eyes with the tallest of them, trying to read the man's intentions.

That's when all hell broke loose.

The sound of glass shattering broke the casual chatter in the room as a giant of a ghoul sprinted at Akashi and tackled him out of the glass window he and Kuroko were sat next to. Unfortunately, the café was on the second floor.

"Seijuro-kun!" Kuroko shouted from the other side of the destroyed window.

Tetsuya? Why does he sound so distant? Akashi wondered, his mind still muddled from hitting his head on the hard concrete pavement outside.

It didn't take too long for Akashi to react after the impact of the landing, regardless of how his head buzzed. The red head made haste to get up and went to tackle the attacker head on. He easily noticed the smell of ghoul on him.

Why on Earth are they attacking in broad daylight?! In front of a crowd?! As annoying as it may be, the fact still stood that if Akashi didn't want to have to go into hiding or risk the CCG showing up, he could not use his kagune whilst in the public's eye, nor could he use any super-human moves.

Akashi's arms locked around the offending ghoul as he tackled him to the ground. He was about to start beating on him when the other two ghouls he'd seen staring earlier appeared before him.

The two made to grab both of Akashi's arms in the hopes of restraining the crimson eyed barista, unfortunately for them, Akashi was not as out of it as they were hoping and the red head managed to pull the two down to the ground as well.

At least they must be after me not Tetsuya. He thought, knowing that had Tetsuya been the target they would not all have come down here to attack.

As Akashi fought with the three offending ghouls, who had in fact been sent by the Jabberwocks in an attempt to catch the powerful coffee shop manager out in the open, Kuroko looked on from the window above. He could hear screams and fearful talk amongst those in the café as well as outside.

What do I do? Do I jump out the window and help? Should I call Aomine-kun? Should I…should I...Kuroko's mind was racing with panicked thoughts on what he should do. He was afraid to fight again, especially seeing as it would be in public. What if my kagune comes out? I still can't control it and someone will inform the CCG! The thoughts wouldn't stop rushing until Kuroko heard a cry from his partner from the ground.

An offender had brought Akashi to the ground and punching him aimlessly. It was then that Kuroko's mind cleared. I need to help Seijuro-kun.

The cyan haired man carefully jumped from the window before moving to attack the ghoul holding Akashi to the floor.

With a strength he didn't know he had, Kuroko managed to kick the hooded ghoul before pulling him off of Akashi and throwing him towards the road. Once having done so, Kuroko offered his hand to Akashi so that he could pull him up, which the red haired ghoul quickly took and thanked him for.

The three ghouls made to attack again and Akashi, still gripping Kuroko's hand, pulled the teal head away with him as he began running. "We need to go somewhere more private if we're going to stop them." Akashi called back to Kuroko as they ran into an alley, their attackers close on their heels. He may be able to defeat the ghouls with his fists alone, but he couldn't be certain. He wanted to have the ability to fight at full strength.

However he was horrified to find that once he went down the long alley, two more ghouls were waiting. The other three ghouls soon caught up.

They were trapped.

"Tetsuya. If you see an opening I want you to run."

"Seijuro-kun, I can't leave-"

"You can and you will. They're after me not you."

Akashi did not doubt Kuroko's ability to fight, nor his strength. But the red head did worry about his mental well-being and safety. He could probably take these guys without Kuroko's help anyway now that he could use his kagune.

What surprised Akashi was when the thugs stopped, simply standing in a manner that blocked off the couple's only exits. He was even more confused when one of them started speaking rather than attacking.

"Oh, we're not gunna let him go. Sure you're the target but if he's your friend he's gotta go too. Bosses told us to kill anyone with you while we're at it."

A female ghoul asked. "But wait, the short one with the blue hair and eye-patch – isn't that the one that guy told us was a one-eyed? The boss is looking for a one-eyed, do you think it's him?" Akashi glared at the ghoul.

"Now that you mention it yeah…he doesn't quite fit the description but maybe we should bring him back alive anyway. The boss might like to have practice killing a one-eyed. He'd be real happy with us then." The ghoul smirked.

"I'll kill you before you lay a hand on him." Akashi snarled, an immense dark aura pouring from him.

The situation was reminding Kuroko all too much of the night he was taken. But-but this time I'm not defenseless. I c-can defend the ones I care about. Kuroko thought. Whilst his determination was clear he was still afraid and nervous as to what was about to happen. Yet another fight. He may even have to kill one of these ghouls in order to defend himself or Akashi.

Kill…Kuroko thought. He had still not performed the act directly, the idea seemed foreign to him. But if it was necessary for their survival then perhaps….perhaps he could do it.

Before he could think too much more about the situation, the ghoul who had spoken first made a move to attack Akashi. The short red haired ghoul was fast to react, releasing his kagune and dashing at the attacker.

In a rageful barrage of attacks, Akashi tore the ghoul apart. He wouldn't fail Kuroko. Not again. There was absolutely no way he would let these ghouls take away his beloved. Two more ghouls ran at Akashi, whilst the remaining pair made for Kuroko.

Kuroko took up the defensive pose that Akashi had taught him. I need to use the momentum of their attacks against them. He thought, remembering his lesson from earlier that day.

A ghoul surged forward at Kuroko, fist flying towards the one-eyed ghoul's face. Kuroko ducked down slightly and using his shoulder managed to flip the ghoul over his back and onto the ground with an audible thud.

There was no time for a celebration for the successful manoeuvre however as the next attacker was quick to follow, kicking Kuroko in the shins hard, causing Kuroko to fall to the ground.

The ghoul he had thrown to the ground now wrapped a muscled arm around Kuroko's neck, choking him. As he did this the other ghoul released her kagune and looked at Kuroko with a sneer.

Kuroko closed his eyes, preparing for the impact, when he felt a strange tingling in his lower back.

That's when the ghoul strangling him suddenly let go with a howl, which also caused the ghoul in front of Kuroko to stutter as she saw her fellow Jabberwock get stabbed by a rinkaku kagune.

Without Kuroko doing anything, his kagune had naturally released itself and acted on its own in order to defend Kuroko. Opening his eyes, Kuroko quickly went to attack the ghoul ahead of him whilst the other one lay on the floor with an impaled stomach.

Everything was happening so fast and all Kuroko could do was let his instincts take over and tell him what to do. In a blur of attacks, Kuroko brought the ghoul before him to her knees and his kagune quickly ended the fight.

"Tetsuya!" Akashi shouted, running towards the teal head.

Kuroko turned behind him to see Akashi stood over him, shielding his back with his body.

And blood that matched the colour of his hair was soaking into his white shirt as a tentacle like limb pulled out of his body.

Fortunately, Akashi's own kagune had stabbed the ghoul attacking him whilst he had taken the hit for Kuroko.

The fight was over.

Kuroko made haste to his loved one's side and brought him into his arms.

Akashi coughed up blood.

"Seijuro-kun!" He exclaimed concernedly.

"I'm okay Tetsuya." Akashi panted.

"I'd hardly call this okay Seijuro-kun."

Akashi would have laughed at Kuroko's worry were it not for the fact that he didn't believe his body could cope with that without hurling up blood.

"We're not far from your café, I'll take you there."

Kuroko moved an arm under Akashi's armpit so that he could use his shoulder to help him up. He was hoping that the red head may be able to take at least a bit of his own weight, but Akashi went completely limp.

"Seijuro-kun?" Kuroko asked worriedly.

No reply.

Kuroko looked at his face. He had passed out.

Deciding that his best option was to get Akashi home as soon as possible, the half-ghoul brought his other arm to Akashi's knees, before lifting the taller man up bridal style.

Kuroko hurried out of the alley, into a less crowded residential street. Whilst he was concerned of how suspicious it would look with him carrying a body covered in blood, he was lucky and managed to get by, using quiet alleyways and his natural sneaking abilities and low presence.

He used the back entrance of Akashi's home and shop. He knocked on the door using his foot, unable to use his hands.

Fortunately it was Aomine who opened the door.

"Hey Tetsu…" The navy head began before noticing Akashi in Kuroko's arms. "What the hell happened?!" Aomine said in a raised voice.

"They were sent to kill Seijuro-kun…They just attacked him out of nowhere." Kuroko said in a shaky voice, his eyes almost tearful.

Aomine gulped. "Are you okay carrying him?" Kuroko gave a nod in response.

"Take him upstairs, I'll go get Midorima from out front."


As Akashi fluttered his eyelids open he was made aware of a throbbing in the back of skull. He groaned at the feeling, immediately closing his eyes again. It wasn't until a few seconds later that he began to remember what had happened. I passed out in the street with Tetsuya after…after we were attacked…attacked. He thought dazedly. Tetsuya!

The ghoul sat up quickly, paying no attention to the pain in his chest and head. He saw that it was dark and he was in his own bed. To his right Kuroko was curled up on his side and fast asleep. His heart returned to a normal pace after confirming that the two were safe. Well…as safe as we can be at the moment.

He then checked himself and noticed bandages covering his chest and part of his stomach. That's when he heard Kuroko shuffling next to him.

"Seijuro-kun? You're awake?" Kuroko murmured, having awoken after sensing Akashi's stirring.

"Yes love." Akashi whispered, giving Kuroko a chaste kiss.

"You should rest some more, you took quite a beating." Kuroko said, anxious about Akashi's health.

"If you think that's best then I suppose I can stay here with Tetsuya for a bit longer." Akashi smirked, sneaking an arm under the one-eyed ghoul.

The two through the night.


The next day Akashi awoke to an empty bed and a phone call. He picked up the phone to hear Momoi informing him of some news she had come across. Whilst he listened to her talk he began to search around the house for Kuroko.

He soon found him in the kitchen, pouring out some food for Nigou. The two made eye contact and Kuroko gave the crimson head a warm smile which Akashi returned with a relieved one. Kuroko would have said something had he not noticed his partner was on the phone.

"Are you okay Akashi-kun, you sound worried." Momoi asked over the phone.

Akashi had let out a breath as he mentally eased upon seeing Kuroko. "I'm fine Satsuki. Thank you for the names and information. I'll make sure to put it to good use. Do you have anything else for me?"

"No that was everything. I'll speak to you soon. Stay safe!" She said.

"Thank you Satsuki. Make sure you keep safe as well."

"Of course. Bye. Tell Dai-chan I said hello!"

"Sure thing. Bye."

After hanging up the phone Akashi turned his full attention to Kuroko.

"And what are you doing up so early Tetsuya?"

"Nobody fed Nigou last night so he came in this morning to ask for food. I'm sorry if I worried you but it would have been cruel not to get up and feed him Seijuro-kun."

During the conversation, Akashi had crossed the space between Kuroko and himself so that he now stood directly in front of the shorter male.

"I see. I suppose that's a reasonable enough excuse. Although I'd prefer to be given a note next time." He said, encircling his arms around Kuroko's waist.

"Okay, I'll try to remember that for the next time." Kuroko agreed, returning the embrace and burying his face in Akashi's shoulder. "How are you feeling this morning Seijuro-kun?"

"Besides nearly having a heart attack when I realised you weren't there?" Akashi teased.

"I'm really sorry about that, I thought you would still be asleep by the time-"

"It's fine dear, I'm only teasing you. I'm feeling fine. Sleeping by your side did me some good."

"I'm glad to hear that."

"I'm sorry for ruining our date and losing your books yesterday."

"That was hardly your fault. Anyway, I'm sure we can go on another one and buy the books again some other time."

Akashi hummed in agreement.

"What did Momoi-san want? It was her on the phone wasn't it?"

"Indeed. She dug up some more information on the Jabberwocks. I'll discuss it with everyone in our meeting this morning. Before that though, I'm going to check in with Himuro-san."

"Okay. I'll be in the living room if you need me." Kuroko said before leaving.

Once alone, Akashi called Himuro.

"Hello Akashi-san."

"Himuro-san, do you have any updates?"


"So what's the plan Akashicchi?" Kise asked.

All of them were gathered in the living room yet again.

"Satsuki has given me information about the leaders of the Jabberwocks – their names, their skills and their history. Our two main concerns are Nash Gold and Jason Silver. Each of whom may hold power even greater than my own."

That earnt some very concerned expressions from his comrades.

"Gold has a koukaku kagune whilst Silver has a bikaku type. Thus, in an attack, I will face Gold as my kagune will be most suited to defeating him. I will leave Silver to Daiki and Ryouta."

"As for the rest, I do not know for sure who we shall be facing. I trust you all to make sensible decisions on the battlefield. Although try to make sure no-one is fighting alone."

"Where exactly is this fight going to happen Akashi? And how are you planning to orchestrate it?" Midorima inquired.

"Himuro has given me the location of their base. It's an old abandoned factory by the harbour. Satsuki has promised to run some interference. She's going to create some problems that will require them to send most of their men away. Once she has done so, we storm the base at full power. We end this before anyone else gets hurt."

"When is this going to go down?" Aomine asked.

"In 2 days. After the attack yesterday, we know that they're already targeting us. We need to be careful. Keep your witts about you until then." After a short pause, Akashi asked "Any more questions?"

"Aka-chin, doesn't Kuro-chin still need a mask?" Murasakibara reminded the red head.

"You're right Atushi, he does. I'll take him to Himuro-san's place tonight to get a mask fitted. Anything else?" When he was met with silence he continued. "Keep safe everyone. Tomorrow is your last day of work until this is all over."


After the speech like meeting with Akashi and once everyone else had left, Kuroko wandered up to the manger. "Seijuro-kun…"

"Yes Tetsuya?" Akashi said, detecting that Kuroko wanted to ask a question.

"Is there any chance we can get some sort of protection for Kagami-kun? I'm worried about him, what with all the ghouls who seem to be after us."

"I will ask Satsuki if she's willing to watch over him for a day or two."

"Thank you Seijuro-kun."

"Tetsuya?"

"Hmmm?"

"I love you." Akashi said with a smile.

Kuroko blinked. "I know. I love you too Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said softly, looking deep into Akashi's eyes. "And don't bother asking me not to fight alongside you guys, because I am coming with you."

"Tetsuya…" Akashi said with a sigh. Kuroko had quickly seen through his thoughts.

"Please don't tell me I can't join you. I know I'm weak. I'm not as strong or skillful as any of you but I can't bear to stay behind while you all fight."

Akashi closed his eyes for a moment. "I don't think you're weak Tetsuya. You're one of the strongest, bravest people I've ever met. But I don't want to push you into a fight that you are not ready for. Physically or mentally."

"I think if I am fighting alongside everyone, I will be okay Seijuro-kun."

Akashi gave a saddened smile. "If you feel you can then I will not stop you Tetsuya. But I need to warn you that Satsuki informed me that Hanamiya may be there. If that triggers y-"

"I will be fine Seijuro-kun. I want to do whatever is necessary to protect the ones I care about."

"Okay Tetsuya." Akashi conceded. This was a battle he could not win, and part of him knew that he couldn't justify stopping the man fighting. "I'll have to hasten the pace of your training for today and tomorrow though. And I want you to know that my offer for you to talk to me about what happened still stands. As it always will."

"Seiju-"

"You still whimper and cry out in your sleep you know? Begging and pleading for it to stop."

Kuroko looked down at the carpeted floor, greatly saddened. "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault Tetsuya. I just wish I could help you. Or better, do something to undo what he has done to you. To change what he did…" Akashi's fists clenched. In no way did Akashi want to force Kuroko into talking about what he went through back then but he also couldn't bear to continue to watch him suffer alone.

"We both know that's impossible Seijuro-kun." Kuroko said as he stared at his boyfriend grimly.

"I know." Akashi said giving the teal head a sympathetic look. "That's why I'll do everything in my power to stop anything like it ever happening to you again. I will always protect you Tetsuya."

END OF CHAPTER