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#Ordinary People: Midorima and Takao
#Beware of Feels

It takes a while to happen, but eventually Shin-chan winds down and runs out of steam. Not even he can rant forever, though it's certainly not for lack of trying. He trails off in one last discontented complaint ("It's not like I didn't know Aomine had the morals of a cat, but I honestly did think better of Kuroko than this") and drains his coffee. It must be stone cold by now, but Shin-chan doesn't even grimace. That's the nice thing about medical school: it trains all the pickiness out of a person, at least as far as caffeine delivery methods go. By the time they'd finished up clinic training and the certification exams, not even Shin-chan could be fussy about his coffee. He's tried to pick up the habit again, but he forgets to be finicky when he's not paying attention or when he's focused on other things.

Kazunari is saving up pointing this out for a special occasion, like maybe the next time Shin-chan gets particularly hoity-toity with the nurses. They'll appreciate the show, and it'll postpone the day one of them tries to strangle Shin-chan with his own stethoscope.

For now he shakes his head over the latest installment of the Love Quadrilateral of Doom story—sometimes he thinks about writing up a summary of it and submitting a proposal to a publisher or a television station or something, because it's just that ridiculous—and grins at Shin-chan. "Have I ever told you that your friends are a hot mess?"


Kazunari can't help grinning at the arid note in Shin-chan's voice. "Well, it's still true."

Shin-chan huffs. "I suppose I can't dispute that."

"Oh, please. You could have an argument with a blank wall if you wanted to." Although to be perfectly fair, that had been in the lead-up to exams. It was amazing what happened to the human nervous system after four days of barely sleeping. Kazunari's only real regret was that he'd been too strung out himself to manage to work the video camera in time to catch the best bits of the one-sided argument.

Shin-chan gives him a dirty look. "I told you never to speak of that again."

"Sorry," Kazunari tells him, though he's not sorry at all, which Shin-chan knows perfectly well. He switches tacks now that Shin-chan has gotten the immediate reaction out of his system. "So what's really bugging you about this? You already knew this was going to end in disaster." He hasn't known Aomine for as long as he's known the rest of Shin-chan's friends, sure, but it's not like the guy is subtle or anything. Admittedly, this ménage à trois thing was not the resolution that Kazunari was expecting, but there's a reason he thinks of the whole thing as the Love Quadrilateral of Doom—someone was bound to end up hurt in the end.

Shin-chan sets his jaw, mulish, and doesn't answer.

Kazunari checks the time and decides that yeah, he has enough time to have another cup of coffee and maybe also unravel this before he heads off for his graveyard shift at the hospital. He thinks about it as he pours himself a refill and gestures with the coffeepot—Shin-chan shakes his head, no, to the silent question. The ebb and flow of Shin-chan's outrages usually have a rhythm, if a person knows how to listen for it. This time, most of Shin-chan's complaint had focused on the selfishness of Aomine's decision, more than anything else. How hurtful it is.

Kise's name hadn't come up much at all, which said more than anything else, really.

He settles back in his seat and regards Shin-chan over the rim of his coffee cup, thinking. The thing is, Shin-chan is loyal. He's also terribly reserved and not particularly great at making friends, which is sometimes hilarious and sometimes anything but, so he sticks close to the friends he does have. Kise's one of the oldest friends Shin-chan has.

Yeah, Kazunari doesn't have to wonder why Shin-chan's so pissed after all.

His coffee cup clicks against the table when he sets it down; Shin-chan glances at him, his mouth still tight. Kazunari selects his words with care, because this is important and he wants to get it right. Shin-chan deserves no less. "They're all adults, you know." Technically, anyway. "I'm pretty sure they knew what they were getting into." He waits until Shin-chan gets the snorting out of his system and adds, as gently as he knows how, "Not everyone gets a happy ending, Shin-chan. You know that." Not that any of them are anywhere close to endings—they're not even thirty yet, for pity's sake, and barring catastrophe they're all a long way away from any kind of ending—but focus on the micro level for now and leave the macro for later.

Eventually Shin-chan kind of sighs a little. "They could at least pretend to be sorry about it."

There's a lot of things Kazunari could say to that, things like Who says they're not? or maybe But didn't any of you see the way Aomine looked at Kuroko, how could you not know what was coming or maybe just Who knows, maybe they'll work out a foursome. But he leaves it alone, at least as much as he can, and finishes his coffee. "I'd better get going," he says, standing again and rinsing his cup out in the sink. "Don't want to be late and give Miyaji another reason to ride my ass, right?" He stoops over Shin-chan and steals a kiss from him, quick and coffee-flavored. "That's your exclusive prerogative."

Shin-chan grimaces, but he can't fool Kazunari—he knows that expression for exactly what it is, which is Shin-chan refusing to smile even though he wants to. "Don't be vulgar."

Kazunari ruffles his fingers through Shin-chan's hair. "You know you love it."

"I know no such thing."

He really does need to head out the door, but Kazunari treats himself to another kiss just for that, lingering over it until Shin-chan softens and sways closer, relaxing into the slow intimate stroke of Kazunari's tongue against his. He regrets having to pull away from that and gives an earnest second's thought to calling in for the night—but no, Miyaji really will hunt him down and kill him if he does that. Shin-chan looks less broody, though, so there's that. "Hold on to that thought, mmkay? And I'll see you in the morning."

"Don't forget to pick up breakfast," Shin-chan tells him.

"Forget one time and he never lets you hear the end of it," Kazunari says, laughing, and ruffles Shin-chan's hair one last time on his way to the door. "Later, Shin-chan."

"Try not to kill anyone," Shin-chan says, which is his idea of an affectionate farewell and probably also Exhibit A for why he has such an intimate circle of friends. It takes a certain kind of personality to understand and appreciate Shin-chan.

It is kind of a shame about Kise, of course, but it's also early days yet. If he's learned anything from hanging out with Shin-chan's friends, it's that there's no telling what they'll do next.

Kazunari reflects on that and laughs to himself. Maybe he will write up some kind of pitch and submit it somewhere; there must be other people out there who'd enjoy this ongoing melodrama.

#Catverse: What it Midorima had been the one to change instead of Takao?
#when writing idfic go big or go home

Takao chalks it up to the novelty of the situation, and who could really blame him? This isn't the kind of thing that happens every day, and in between Nakatani-san's exasperation and the ruckus that Shin-chan's parents raise and the general excitement of their teammates and classmates, there's a lot going on. It's not Takao's fault that it takes him a couple of days to catch on.

For one thing, it's Shin-chan, who doesn't know how to do anything the easy way. That's why he doesn't turn into anything compact and relatively simple to care for, like a cat or a gerbil or something. Oh, no, Shin-chan's gotta be special. He stands a full eighty-five centimeters at the shoulder and the top of his head hits right in the middle of Takao's chest, and Takao is absolutely willing to bet he weighs at least fifty kilos like this. Inoue, who knows dogs and dog breeds, says that Shin-chan looks like he might be a borzoi. In practical terms, that means that Shin-chan now has a long, tapering muzzle and wide-set eyes and an awful lot of long, silky fur. Takao has to commend Shin-chan's school spirit: his coat is white, marked with orangey-brown patches across his shoulder and back.

"It looks like you're still wearing your jersey," he congratulates Shin-chan on the first evening.

Shin-chan gives him a long look, full of silent woe, then pointedly turns his back on Takao and curls himself into a surprisingly compact ball for a dog of his size.

Shin-chan is staying at Chez Takao for a lot of reasons, chief among which is the fact that his parents kicked up a fuss about being on their way out of town and not having the time or inclination to deal with the fact that their son had turned into a giant dog—a giant dog that was clearly freaking the fuck out. It's about the time that they started talking kennels that Takao found himself stepping forward to volunteer himself as a temporary guardian, and privately, he thinks that it explains a lot about Shin-chan that they accepted the offer.

In any case, the first day is full of a lot of fuss, what with the surprise and trouble of getting his hands on dog supplies and then fast-talking his mother around to agreeing to host a surprise house guest for a few day and oh, yeah, talking Shin-chan down until he stops trembling and growling at anyone who approaches him. That itself is a job and a half and Takao feels pretty proud of himself when he finally figures out that Shin-chan has no idea why he suddenly has four legs and a tail and needs to have the whole fairy tale logic of it explained to him.

"Which I guess is the thing," he tells Shin-chan. He's sitting cross-legged on his bed, wearing his pajamas; Shin-chan is sitting bolt-upright and watching every move he makes. Takao has a sneaking suspicion that if it weren't for the advantage of holding the higher ground, Shin-chan would be taller than he is. "I guess we've got to figure out just what it is you need badly enough that you went and turned all fluffy to get it."

He has to admit, the way Shin-chan curls his lips off his teeth and growls is a very persuasive way to indicate irritation.

"Anyway, don't worry! Just hang in there, this shouldn't take more than a couple days to figure out."

It's really kind of insulting, the way Shin-chan contrives to look down his muzzle at him for that.

Day two is easier, mostly because Shin-chan seems to have resigned himself to his new form. That's the only thing Takao can figure when Shin-chan makes an immediate beeline for the rickshaw and hops right in, like he expects to be ferried to school as usual.

"Oh, come on," Takao says. "You're supposed to like running!" That's what the internet said about borzoi, anyway.

Protesting works about as well as it ever does, which is to say that it doesn't do any good at all.

He spends most of the day pretending to pay attention to the teachers and thinking about Shin-chan—what he needs that would have driven him to this point, and how to get it for him—while Shin-chan retreats from their classmates and ends up taking refuge under Takao's desk. That doesn't leave Takao much room for his feet, but that's okay: he just tucks them under Shin-chan's hindquarters and lets all that fur keep his toes warm.

Off-hand, there's only a couple of things he can think of that Shin-chan might want desperately enough to change forms for. Shin-chan's a relatively straightforward creature—no, really, he is, Takao should know, he's the guy's partner and maybe his best friend and all. Everything Takao knows about him comes back to basketball one way or another, so logically speaking, this probably does too, right?

He tries out a few theories at lunch, not that it does much good. The way Shin-chan keeps giving him withering looks as he offers guesses (about winning the Interhigh come summer, about beating Seirin, about beating Rakuzan, about going pro, and so forth) says that it's not about basketball after all. Which kind of sucks and leaves Takao kind of stuck on what it might be, but also means that Shin-chan is still four-legged when it comes time for practice.

As it turns out, Shin-chan does like to run after all, and that—that's something worth watching. It's nothing like watching him sink a three-pointer from all the way across the court, but it feels kind of like the same thing. Like Shin-chan's doing the thing he was born to do.

He's still running full-tilt, ears and fur rippling with every graceful bound, when the rest of the team keels over in exhaustion, and he only stops when Nakatani-san calls him to heel.

Despite that, Shin-chan makes Takao cart him home in the rickshaw after practice. So much for man's best friend.

Persuading Shin-chan that no, really, he needs to sit still and let himself be brushed—that takes some doing. In the end, Takao has to point out that he looks like a mess and he doesn't want to embarrass himself at school by showing up with his fur all out of order to talk him into it. Shin-chan's coat really isn't all that messy, but what's a little white lie or two in pursuit of getting to put his hands all over Shin-chan?

Okay, so it's pretty much not at all in the kind of circumstances Takao likes to imagine, and Takao definitely isn't having those kinds of thoughts about Shin-chan's present form because ew, but whatever. His coat is definitely as silky as it looks, and also, the look of horror on Shin-chan's face when Takao finds the spot that makes him kick his hind foot is pretty awesome. And hey, Shin-chan doesn't make him stop—the way Takao figures it, if Shin-chan really hated it, he'd use those teeth to make his feelings clear. Since Shin-chan refrains from biting him... well, Shin-chan must not hate it. QED, Shin-chan's just been all tsundere again, and that's nothing new.

(He finds out that he was right, too: when they're both sitting on the floor, Shin-chan is definitely taller than him. Life just isn't fair.)

By the time he finishes getting Shin-chan's coat all brushed out, the air is full of fine white and fawn dog hairs and Takao's arms are sore. It's totally worth the effort, though: not only is Shin-chan positively resplendent, he also looks totally relaxed and maybe even a little bit blissed-out, which is a nice change from the usual. Takao can't help smiling at it, even though he knows it's probably a sappier expression than he ought to be showing Shin-chan. "You know, this isn't a bad look for you."

Before this, Takao would have sworn there wasn't any possible way a dog could deliver a death glare, but somehow Shin-chan manages it.

He laughs. "Okay, okay, I know, you don't wanna be stuck like this. Be a lot easier to get you unstuck if you could just give me a hint, though."

Shin-chan stares at him and whuffs out a heavy, long-suffering sigh. It's one part Why do I bother with you? and one part This is horribly embarrassing, I can't believe you're making me do this and one part Well, it's about time you caught a clue. And then, quite deliberately, Shin-chan stretches himself out and rests his chin on Takao's knee. He gazes up at Takao, and Takao—

Takao blinks, not entirely sure that he's reading this hint properly. Sure, Shin-chan has a remarkable range of expression for someone currently spending his time in the canidae family of the animal kingdom, but even so—that look can't possibly mean what he thinks it does. "Shin-chan..."

Shin-chan heaves another of those sighs—this one has a note of Why aren't you paying attention?—and belly-crawls closer, until he's in position to nudge his head under Takao's fingers.

Oh. Maybe that look does mean what he thinks it does. "Most awkward confession ever, huh?" he says as he curves his palm around the dome of Shin-chan's skull and rubs Shin-chan's ears. "Well, who wants to do things the easy way, huh? That would just be boring."

Shin-chan peers up at him; the sound he makes is practically a whine, nearly subvocal, and there's definitely a worried note in there. Yeah, Takao gets it—one of them is going to have to use his words, and unfortunately, Shin-chan's currently out of the running for that one.

He rubs Shin-chan's ears gently and decides to go with what's easiest. "I like you too," he says.

Shin-chan heaves a sigh; this one is much less exasperated and much more relieved.

It makes Takao smile. "Sorry," he says, running his fingers through the luxuriant ruff around Shin-chan's neck. "I was trying to figure out how to tell you. Guess I should have moved faster." When Shin-chan snorts, he laughs. "But then I wouldn't have gotten to see what a fantastic dog you make."

And it must be love, because not even that makes Shin-chan try to bite him.

#Midorima as a surprisingly competent butler
#it was either this or the Wodehouse riff

For all his dire threats, imprecations, and maledictions on the heads of their classmates, Shin-chan was pulling the whole butler thing off with a certain style and flair that was frankly quite impressive. Unlike some of the other guys in their class, he wore his suit with no apparent self-consciousness whatsoever, apparently as perfectly comfortable in its precisely fitted layers as he was in track pants and a t-shirt. His suit actually fit him, too, not that it was obvious unless he was standing next to Inoue, who had clearly grown a few centimeters since the last time he'd had to wear his suit, or Asada, who must have borrowed an older brother's suit and wasn't doing such a great job of filling it out. Shin-chan's jacket lay smoothly across his shoulders and his shirt cuffs peeped out at his wrists, just the barest finger-width of white to set off the black of the suit itself. What was more, he had tied his own tie—once, properly, without having to be helped and certainly without having to compromise with a clip-on.

But all that sartorial elegance was nothing compared to the surprising fact that Shin-chan was actually pretty amazing as a butler. Oh, he had railed against the class decision to host a butler and maid café for the school festival, and he had just about sprained something in his strenuous efforts to escape being drafted as one of the butlers, and he'd spent the lead-up to the day of the festival in a distinctly dour mood once it had been made clear that he could not escape his fate. But now that the day had come, Shin-chan was performing admirably. He greeted each new batch of customers in perfect form, unlike Inoue (who was a born clown and couldn't help mugging for their giggling customers) or Asada (who had come over unexpectedly tongue-tied in the face of some doting senpai—not that Takao could blame him for that, since they'd also looked sort of predatory).

Shin-chan, though, was correct on every point. He conducted each of his customers to her—or, his in the case of the basketball club, which had descended on their classroom en masse in order to have the pleasure of ordering Shin-chan around—seat with quiet deference. He hovered over his customers solicitously as they pored over the menu and stayed close at hand while they drank their tea or coffee and nibbled on the cakes and cookies that the girls working the cooking station were plating up as fast as they could. The whole maid and butler café thing was definitely turning out to be a success for their class, there was no doubt about it, and it was clearly thanks in no small part to Shin-chan.

"I dunno," Miyaji-senpai said when Takao confided this in him. It was Miyaji-senpai's third visit to their classroom, and he was clearly enjoying their service quite a bit, even if he'd ended up in Takao's section this time around instead of Shin-chan's. "I think you're underestimating yourself, Takao-chan."

Takao put his hands to his cheeks and did a fairly credible giggle, if he did say so himself. "Oh, you," he trilled. "You're going to make me blush."

Miyaji-senpai snorted. "Yeah, somehow I doubt that." He peeled some more coupons off his stack and thrust them at him. "Go get me some more coffee, and bring me some more of those little cookie things with the sprinkles."

"Right away, senpai," Takao lilted. He made sure to put some extra swing in his hips, just for Miyaji-senpai's benefit, because hey, he wasn't going to complain if the basketball team wanted to spend all their money on making Shin-chan cater to him while they laughed at the frilly maid dress that was his own lot for the day. For one thing, the class was making serious bank because of that.

For another, not that Takao would have admitted it for the world, it was deeply gratifying to sashay past Shin-chan on their way back and forth from the cooking station and flutter his eyelashes down at him. The platform heels the costuming committee had foisted on him were killing his feet and were probably going to cripple him for life, assuming he didn't break his ankles falling off them first, but Takao didn't care. It was totally worth it for the way Shin-chan's eye twitched every time he had to tip his head back to look up at Takao for a change.

#Midorima/Takao, photoshoot
#in which 'pics or it didn't happen' is a perfectly valid response

"Wait," Takao had said, grinning ear to ear, "wait, no, I don't believe it. You, Shin-chan? You? I don't believe it. It's impossible."

Nettled, Midorima had replied without thinking. "Are you calling me a liar?"

"I'm saying pics or it didn't happen," Takao replied instantly. For some reason, his grin looked rather shark-like. "No offense, Shin-chan, but you gotta admit that it's just not probable."

"I don't keep copies," Midorima said, irritated. "What do you even think I am, some kind of egotist?"

Takao lounged back on his hands, flicking his gaze over Midorima, head to toe. "Well, I don't know. I definitely didn't figure you for an underwear model, that's for sure."

"Then obviously you figured wrong." Midorima glared at Takao, who didn't seem to be particularly moved by this argument and was still eyeing him with obvious skepticism. "Fine. You may as well come and see for yourself."

The moment the words left his mouth, he knew that they were a mistake, but by then it was much to late to take them back. Takao's grin turned even toothier. "I think I'm going to have to," he agreed, and at that point, Midorima knew that it was all over but the crying.

He was fairly certain there would be crying; he'd seen Takao laugh himself to the point of tears before.

Ultimately, it was all Kise's fault, of course. Midorima would never have thought of modeling of any kind at all if Kise hadn't taken it into his head to join the basketball team. He'd brought his fans with him, naturally, and he'd also brought his agent, a sharp-eyed woman who had taken one look at Teikou's starting line-up and nearly swooned on the spot with glee. To his knowledge, none of them had been much interested in modeling. There hadn't been any basketball involved, which had lost Aomine right away, and Murasakibara had said it sounded like too much trouble. Akashi had declined because he'd thought his father wouldn't think it seemly, and Midorima himself had thought that the whole thing was simply preposterous. (And, of course, Kise's agent had overlooked Kuroko altogether.)

That had been before his parents had decided that they were tired of purchasing lucky items and told Midorima that he would have to find his own way to finance his collection. Midorima had weighed the limits and constraints of his allowance and crunched the numbers and reluctantly realized that needs, as it was said, must.

He still thought the whole thing was preposterous, but the money wasn't bad and for the most part the final copy rarely showed anything much above his collarbones, and since he strenuously resisted Iwao-san's efforts to get him to branch out into more diverse lines of modeling, he had relatively little publicity to care about. It was a satisfactory arrangement, as far as it went, and Midorima had thought very little about it... at least until Takao had pestered him into explaining why he would not be available on a particular Saturday afternoon. It would have happened sooner or later, Midorima supposed, but he had to admit that he had really been hoping for later.

It couldn't be helped, and though he brought several misgivings to the scheduled photoshoot along with Takao, at first everything seemed to go all right. Takao's natural gregariousness meant that he was at home almost as soon as he'd clipped his visitor's badge to his collar, and Midorima left him asking Kaida-san surprisingly intelligent questions about photography when he went to get dressed and styled.

He even dared to hope that this would be a sign that this excursion would go smoothly and unremarkably as he wrapped a robe around himself to keep the chill off.

Of course, he should have known better.

The funny thing about modeling was how little of it was actually about sex, at least while they were actually in the middle of a shoot. Once upon a time, that had surprised Midorima—had seemed odd when he'd realized that when they were working, no one was paying attention to the fact that some of the people involved were standing around in nothing but their underwear. It hadn't made sense, not until he'd realized that during the shoot itself, he was as much of a prop as the set itself, and that all that really mattered was the effect being achieved by how he held himself. No one was really looking at him—they were looking at the cumulative effect of light and shadow and shape.

Kise had made a great deal more sense to Midorima after he'd realized that.

Takao was hanging back, talking animatedly with one of the set gofers when Midorima strolled onto the set and exchanged nods with the other models. Satisfied that Takao was behaving himself and not disrupting things, Midorima turned his attention to the job. It wasn't particularly exciting work, actually; it involved a lot of adopting a pose, holding it while Kaida-san took several shots, making minute adjustments to how he was standing, and then holding still some more while they repeated the process. The whole thing was very tedious, really.

Or it was tedious until Midorima turned in obedience to one of Kaida-san's instructions and caught sight of Takao watching him. Takao wasn't looking at him the way anyone else on the set was, as though Midorima was no more than a breathing mannequin. He was watching Midorima as though—as though he saw Midorima, was looking at him and liking what he was seeing.

Kaida-san snapped at him, irritably, and Midorima belatedly dragged his attention back to the job at hand, more or less. He couldn't quite banish the uneasy awareness of Takao's gaze lingering on him, strangely heavy for something absolutely intangible. It wasn't the first time someone had ever looked at him like that—professionalism was for the duration of the shoot, not necessarily the aftermath—but it was peculiarly jarring to feel while the camera was clicking away, and from someone he knew and... from someone he knew. He had trouble staying focused on what he was doing, suddenly and sharply conscious of his body, the rhythm of his heartbeat and his breath and the heat of the studio lights on his skin and the positively flimsy layer of cloth that really wasn't doing anything at all to preserve his modesty—

Midorima hadn't been this relieved to be dismissed at the end of his first modeling session, and hurried to dress himself again with more haste than was seemly, though he wasn't entirely sure what, if anything, he was supposed to do with this new awareness.

Takao seemed perfectly normal when Midorima found him again. He talked cheerfully about the homework that they had due Monday morning while they headed for the train station. Midorima tried to mimic his casual mood, which should have been easier now that he was armored in several more layers of clothing, but it was difficult. What, he wondered, had Takao meant by looking at him like that? What did he mean by acting as though everything was normal now?

He did not get an answer until they were nearing the place where their paths home would separate. "So, hey, thanks for letting me come along today." Takao had his hands stuffed in his pockets, slouching along and acting like Midorima had invited him to go to the movies or something normal. "It was interesting."

Now was the time to say something, to ask Takao what was going on. Midorima opened his mouth to do so and found himself saying, "You're welcome."

"Never would have expected to see that side of you," Takao carried on, blithely ignoring the stilted reply. He glanced at Midorima, watching him from the corner of his eye. "You're a complicated guy, Shin-chan."

Midorima wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed that Takao ignored the obvious joke about how much of him he'd seen. "It pays well."

"Mm." Takao hummed, quiet. After a bit, he said, "So, say someone asked you for a private modeling session. What would you say?"

Midorima kept his eyes focused straight ahead, conscious of the way his palms had gone a little damp, not to mention his relief that Takao had found a way to proceed. "I suppose it would depend on who did the asking. And how they did it."

"Yeah?" Takao hummed again. "I guess that's good to know." He was grinning when Midorima chanced a look at him. "Well, this is my turn. Guess I'll see you later, Shin-chan!"

"Yes," Midorima said, conscious of the speculative light in Takao's eyes. "I'll see you Monday."

Takao grinned at him and tossed a jaunty wave at him as he sauntered away.

Midorima watched him go and continued on his way with a number of new things to consider and a distinct sense that whatever happened next was going to be very interesting indeed.

#Kagami is trying to figure out what Momoi is thinking
#basically Alex is awesome and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise

"Holy shit," Taiga said, one cheek pressed flat against the table. "Alex, you've got to help me."

The connection wasn't too bad for a change, so Alex's laughter came across as clearly as if she'd been sitting right there, half-dressed and mocking his misery. "Just what kind of a mess have you gotten yourself into this time, Tiger?"

Taiga closed his eyes, knowing full well exactly how much this was going to cost him, and braced himself for it. "Alex, you've got to help me," he said again, for emphasis. "Tell me why girls are so fucking crazy."

As he had fully expected it would, this sent her off into whoops of laughter so loud that he had to pull the phone away from his ear for the duration. It took a while. "Could it be that you've finally realized that there's more to life than the basketball court?" she demanded once she'd caught her breath.

"Jesus, Alex, I'm seventeen. I've known that for years." He'd have preferred not to ever bring the matter up with Alex—oh, God, he'd been hanging around Izuki for way too long, he couldn't believe that he'd thought that, or worse, noticed it—but desperate times called for desperate measures.

"My mistake." Alex's voice held a distinctly amused tone; he could all but see the grin that went with it. Fuck, he missed having her around. "I guess this means that you're trying to figure out why one specific girl is crazy?"

As usual, she had put her finger right on the crucial point. Taiga sat up and groaned into the phone. "Alex, she's crazy. She's got to be. I can't figure out what's going on in her head."

Alex's chuckle rolled down the line, comforting as a warm blanket. "Well, tell me all about it and let me see if there's anything I can do to help you. Who is she? What is she doing that's so confusing?"

Thank God, she was going to help. Okay. "You remember Aomine, right?" Alex made an affirmative sound; yeah, he hadn't thought she would have forgotten her encounter with Aomine from just after the Winter Cup. Aomine had... fixated. "You remember his friend Momoi?"

The silence from the other end of the line lasted much longer than Taiga felt was a good sign. When Alex spoke, she sounded like she was being careful. "I do. I also seem to recall that she and your friend Kuroko were an item as well."

Shit, that was her I think you're about to make a really dumb decision but I won't say anything because this will be a valuable learning experience voice. He hated that voice. "Yeah, well, that's part of the crazy, okay?"

"I'm listening," Alex said. Careful. Neutral.

"Right." Taiga sank his fingers into his hair, setting his thoughts in order. "Right, okay. She does go around talking about how much she just loves Kuroko and stuff, but Kuroko swears that they've never actually dated or anything like that." Getting him to say so in plain terms had been a pain in the ass, since Kuroko was pathologically subtle sometimes. "If I'm understanding it right, the idea is that they're... teasing people, I guess." He could believe it of Kuroko, that was for sure, because Kuroko was made of evil.

"Uh-huh." That sounded somewhat less disapproving, anyway.

"So, yeah." Taiga pushed himself to his feet and began pacing, trying to figure out how to go on. "So I think that's not a thing. But there's the Aomine factor, and I have no idea what's going on there. Half the time she acts like his mom or his secretary or something, and half the time, I dunno, it's like she wants to strangle him."

"Tiger, sometimes it is so painfully obvious that you are an only child."

That sounded sort of encouraging. "You think that's what it is?" He perked up a little bit, because that would really take a lot off his mind.

"I think so, yes." Alex sounded amused. "From what I saw of them, and the stories you tell me, they sound like siblings." She hummed. "Well, codependent siblings."

"You said it first, not me." Codependent siblings. Well, he could deal with that. Probably. Though that did mean it was a damned good thing that he'd never actually punched Aomine any of the times he'd been tempted to do so.

"So far I'm not hearing any real problems here," Alex pointed out. "How much is this phone call costing you again?"

"Never mind that, you're not the one paying for it." Nevertheless, he plunged right into it. "What I can't figure out is what the heck she's thinking. Sometimes I think that she's flirting with me—" He was pretty sure it was flirting, though asking him coy questions about how he trained and the trajectory of his jumping power and sending him information about non-Touou teams didn't look anything like the shenanigans she and Kuroko got up to together. "But I can't really tell, because none of the girls here act like what I'm used to." They never said anything, and everything seemed to happen on an angle compared to what he was used to. "I can't even tell whether she looks at me any differently than she does anyone else. And she made chocolates for everybody, so that's no good."

"She made—oh, I see." She was probably remembering the time that Tatsuya had brought her chocolates for White Day. Tatsuya always had been better plugged in to those kinds of things. Maybe he would have been the better person to call, but all that was still complicated and weird. Alex was definitely the easier route, even with the teasing. "So tell me, Tiger—you like this girl? You think she's something special?"

"Ye-es?" Taiga said, cautiously.

"Mmhm. Have you told her so? Or asked her how she feels about you?"

"Um." Taiga stopped pacing and stood at the window, grimacing out at the street. "I—kind of wanted to figure that out before I said anything." God knew he tended to miss a lot of the expected social cues around here. Being a returnee sucked sometimes. He really didn't want to fuck this one up.

"That's kind of what I thought you were going to say." Alex sighed. "Okay, Tiger, listen up. We've reached the valuable life lesson portion of our conversation. Pay attention to what I'm about to tell you and profit from my years of experience." She cleared her throat. "The only reliable way to know for sure how someone feels about you is to ask them directly and then take them at their word. How they act might give you some clues, sure, but in the end you're still going to have to talk about it if you actually want it to get anywhere."

Damn. He'd been afraid that that was what she was going to tell him. "Are you sure I can't tell from how she acts? Do you think it sounds like she might like me?"

"I met her once a year ago, Tiger. Chrissakes, how the hell should I know?" Alex sounded amused. "Just tell her that you like her and ask her out already. The worst that can happen is that she turns you down."

Taiga winced. "That's an awful lot of worst, Alex."

"Well, that's the risk, kiddo. Welcome to the wonderful world of romance. Sometimes it sucks." She paused. "And then, if you're lucky, sometimes it really sucks."

What—oh God. Taiga howled in anguish as her implication sank in. "Alex!"

She cackled. "I'm just saying."

"I am going to be scarred for life," he moaned.

She only laughed at his pain, which was fairly typical. "Wimp," she told him. "Anyway, man up and ask her out. If she turns you down, I'll buy a pint of Häagen-Dazs and eat it the next time we chat."

Taiga tried to figure out the logic of that and failed. "How would you eating ice cream make me feel any better about getting turned down?"

"It won't, but I'll enjoy it," she said.

"You are the worst person I know, and I know Aomine Daiki," Taiga told her.

Alex only chuckled at that. "Seriously, though. Just talk to her. You'll feel better once you've got an answer. And who knows? Maybe you'll get a girlfriend out of it!"

She had a point there, much as he hated to admit it. "...thanks, Alex."

"No problem, kiddo." She paused, and then turned very serious. "I just want you to remember one thing."

Taiga straightened his shoulders, coming to attention. "What's that?"

Very solemnly, she said, "If you love her, wear a cover."

If he—oh holy shit. "Alex!" He felt his face go hot as she whooped with laughter. "I'm hanging up now!"

She was still laughing when he hit the end call button. God. Women were all crazy.

Unfortunately, the fact that Alex was both crazy and downright evil didn't mean that she was also wrong, though he kind of hated to admit it. If she said the only way to deal with it was to actually say something... then she was probably right.

Taiga put his phone down and went to splash cool water on his face while he tried to erase the last part of Alex's advice from his brain. Then he took a deep breath and scrolled through his list of contacts, and selected Momoi's name. She answered promptly, sounding surprised to hear from him. "Kagamin? What can I do for you?"

Taiga closed his eyes and cleared his throat, crossing his fingers for luck. "There's something I wanted to ask you..."

#MidoKise, festival
#somehow the whole gang snuck their way into this one

For an outing that's supposed to be a touching, heartfelt reunion, they end up going their separate ways pretty quickly. Murasakibara, predictably enough, immediately veers off to investigate the food stalls. Midorima has little doubt that the next time they see him, he will be loaded down with all the snacks he can carry, more than would seem logical even accounting for the amount of energy it must take to power Murasakibara's massive frame.

It's Akashi they lose next, and that's not really a surprise either. The real surprise is more that he's even here at all, given how tenuously he was tethered to them in the first place. When he realizes that there's a play being staged, he drifts away from them to join the audience. Midorima thinks that he might join him there later, after he's had a chance to make a sweep through the vendor stalls for potential lucky items and to write out a wish. A play would certainly be more restful than being around Aomine, who persists in arguing with Kagami at the slightest provocation. Kagami—who by rights oughtn't even be here for this reunion but has nevertheless insinuated himself into their midst effortlessly, as though he's always been one of them—is perfectly willing to argue right back. Kuroko walks between them. Ostensibly this is to allow him to hold the peace between them, but it doesn't seem to be doing much good.

Midorima privately suspects him of enjoying the spectacle. It's certainly true that some of the things he says do more to stir the two of them up than it does to settle them down. Momoi isn't much help either. She flits from Aomine's arm to Kuroko's and even hangs off Kagami once or twice, laughing at all three of them indiscriminately. It's practically a relief when she decides that she wants someone to win her a fish, just like old times, Dai-chan, and this sparks another flare of competition. This time it's because Aomine affects to be bored with the idea and Kagami gallantly steps up to offer his fish-winning services. Aomine, not unsurprisingly, takes exception to this. Kuroko trails along after them as they make for the games, looking perfectly satisfied with this state of affairs as Aomine loudly proclaims that no one is going to win Momoi any damn fish but him.

"If Momocchi isn't careful, she's going to end up with a whole tank of fish," Kise remarks after their din diminishes with the distance.

"If she doesn't want a tank of fish, she should consider her audience more carefully before she speaks," Midorima replies.

Kise laughs. "You're so cold, Midorimacchi!" He stretches his arms over his head and catches the elbow of one with the opposite hand; the sleeves of his yukata slide down to bare his forearms. "Well, now what should we do?" He seems to take it as a given that Midorima both wants and expects his company for the evening.

Midorima begins to ask him what he means by saying we, only to remember at the last moment that Kise himself has been the motivating force behind this festival reunion, which is turning out to be not much of a reunion at all. He pushes his glasses back into place. "I haven't made my wish yet."

Kise flashes one of his incandescent smiles, the one that occasionally catches Midorima by surprise when he's leafing through magazines. "Let's start there."

As Kise seizes his hand and drags him in the direction of the waiting bamboo branches, Midorima can almost hear Takao's approving comment: Good job, Shin-chan! We'll make you into a real boy yet!

After he writes out his wish—to do with the tournaments and Shuutoku's advancement, because a little extra luck never hurts, especially given the quality of the competition—and hangs it up, he waits for Kise to finish struggling over the wording of his own wish. Midorima keeps his eyes averted from the thin strip of paper that Kise eventually fastens to a branch and straightens his sleeves instead. "Now what?"

"Now we explore," Kise proclaims. He hooks an arm in Midorima's and drags him out into the crowd, diving into the festival with abandon. He's perfectly at home in large groups and goes from stall to stall in apparent willingness to be pleased by whatever he finds. He's always had a talent for sweeping people along in his enthusiasm, when he chooses to exercise it. Midorima has always found that aspect of him puzzling, even after as many chances as he's had to see Kise deploy it with his fans. This time seems a little different, somehow—Kise's pleasure isn't as exaggerated as it normally is when he's performing. Midorima supposes that this means that Kise has either improved the quality of his acting or is genuinely enjoying himself. He chooses to believe it is the latter.

He's also enjoying himself, which is only appropriate given that it is a festival. He acquires another charm for good fortune, plus a small maneki-neko that will likely come in handy as a future lucky item. Kise buys a tray of takoyaki for them to share; Midorima returns the favor with a tray of dango. They run into Murasakibara, who has enrolled himself in an eating competition and looks as content with his lot as he ever is. Kise steers them over to the game booths after that. Momoi doesn't have any fish at all when they stop by that booth, but Aomine has forgotten to act like he's not enjoying himself as he strives earnestly to catch one of the goldfish swimming around in their tank without tearing the paper net in the process. It's probably just as well that Kagami is as bad at it as he is. Certainly the crowd of small children watching them seem to be highly entertained by their efforts, and Kuroko watches the two of them with a small, fond smile.

Kise elects to spend his efforts at a dart booth offering prizes for anyone who can pop enough balloons in an allotted amount of time. He charms the attendant into demonstrating just how easy it is to pop the balloons, and promptly obliterates several balloons himself. He selects a large, obnoxiously pink rabbit as his prize and immediately bestows it upon Midorima, ignoring all Midorima's protests and efforts to escape this gift. "It can be a lucky item!" he argues, so earnestly that Midorima distrusts him on principle. "You never know."

So Midorima finds himself carrying it through the festival as the sky begins to darken and the stars begin to emerge. Fortunately, he's already well inured to the potential awkwardness of such a situation and ignores those uncouth individuals who can't seem to stop themselves from staring.

Presently Kise says, "We should go find a place to watch the fireworks." He's not wrong: the stalls have long since lit their lanterns against the deepening violet of the sky, and the fireworks will begin as soon as it is full dark.

Midorima acquiesces to this plan and they begin to meander in the general direction of the bluffs on the far edge of the festival, which should make for excellent viewing when the fireworks. There should also be plenty of space for the rest of their party, if they can tear themselves away from their various amusements.

"Yeah, I guess so," Kise agrees when Midorima points this out, but it comes out almost absently, as though he isn't thinking of the rest of them at all. He's lapsed into these moments of abstraction off and on all evening, so Midorima sees no reason to think anything of it. Kise's always been the one of them most prone to mercurial changes of mood, generally in response to his environment and his audiences. Neither does Midorima think much of it when Kise turns to him and says, "This has been fun, hasn't it?"

"It hasn't been horrible," Midorima allows.

It makes Kise laugh, taking that precisely as Midorima means it. He smiles, a quiet curve of his lips that has very little in common with the flashy grin he reserves for public purposes. "Good," he says. His fingers brush against Midorima's, tangling with them briefly. "I'm glad you came."

Midorima nearly stumbles as several things he had construed one way present themselves in a different light, demanding a new, unexpected interpretation, one that makes a startling amount of sense. He clears his throat, not quite looking at Kise. "Yes," he says. "So am I."

And this time, when his fingers encounter Kise's, Midorima does not let go.

#knb_kink @ DW
#KagaKuro genderswap
#I just like girlsmut okay?

It's a damn good thing Kagami already knew what Kuroko was like on the basketball court. If she hadn't, the way Kuroko is in bed probably would have broken her brain a little, at least the first time, because it's not like Kuroko knows how to hold back in bed any better than she does when she's playing. Before they'd ever kissed, Kagami had been halfway persuaded that Kuroko would be at least a little shy or hesitant—who wouldn't be, kissing another girl, even in these modern and enlightened times?—but that hadn't been the case at all. Kuroko was the one who initiated the kiss and there hadn't been any doubts at all in the way she'd slid her tongue past Kagami's lips, licking into her mouth for the first time while Kagami stood still, her hands hovering over Kuroko's back. Kuroko had watched her until Kagami settled her hands against Kuroko's hips, and then she closed her eyes and let Kagami press her closer.

Kagami doesn't see any reason not to let Kuroko set the pace, though, because Kuroko never gives her any cause for complaint, not when they're playing and not when they're like this, sprawled across Kagami's bed and all bare to each other. The afternoon sunlight is streaming in through the window and lights up Kuroko's skin, warming it to cream and rose and gold. Kagami's a little past the point of being able to appreciate that the way it deserves, because this afternoon Kuroko is in a determined kind of mood. (But when is she ever not?) Kagami has no idea how long it's been since Kuroko put down the kanji flashcards and suggested they take a break—hell, right now she's not even sure which kanji make up her own name—because Kuroko has her spread out against her sheets and is driving her insane. She's got one hand on Kagami's chest, cupped around her breast to stroke it; she keeps rubbing her thumb over and around the nipple, and there's just enough callus on her fingers to drag against Kagami's skin in a way that hovers on the edge of what she can bear.

Kuroko's using her other hand to hold Kagami's hip, bearing down on it with enough of her weight to keep Kagami pinned pretty much in place. This is necessary because Kuroko is lounging between Kagami's thighs and paying no mind to the way Kagami is writhing, scrabbling against the sheets and trying to find the purchase to do something, push herself away from the slow, insistent stroke of Kuroko's tongue or to rock her hips against it. Kagami doesn't even know what she wants anymore or how long Kuroko has kept her like this while she laps at Kagami, flirting just the tip of her tongue into her and tracing tiny, deliberate circles around her clit, but she does know that it feels like every muscle in her body is aching with how ready she is to come. Her throat is dry from panting and she's got both hands twisted in the sheets, hanging onto them for dear life, but it's not doing any good. She's on the cusp of coming, can feel the pressure of it singing up and down her spine, building with every soft brush of Kuroko's tongue, but she can't quite get there, not when Kuroko pulls back just a little every time Kagami can feel that crescendo coming.

"God," Kagami gasps, not sure whether she's speaking Japanese or English or some unholy blend of both. She doesn't care anymore, she doesn't care about anything as long as Kuroko will just let her come. "God, Kuroko, please...!"

Maybe that's what Kuroko has been angling for all along, because she strokes her fingers over Kagami's breast, rolling the nipple between thumb and forefinger as she slides the flat of her tongue over Kagami's clit. The sudden spike of sensation does it; Kagami loses track of everything, the way she's tossing her head against her pillow and the sounds she makes and the way her back comes off the bed. There's nothing but the ripples of pleasure running up and down her body and the way her vision whites out as she comes, and it takes a long time for her to subside again afterwards. Her body keeps seizing with the aftershocks of pleasure, shaking her while she gasps for breath, and she can't really do anything but lie there in a daze.

"Jesus Christ," she says after a while, once she can focus her eyes enough to look at Kuroko. "I think you killed me."

Kuroko's the best person she knows for keeping a straight face, but even so, that gets a little bit of a smile out of her. "You're still breathing."

"Barely." Kagami tries to summon the will and the strength to push the sweaty hair out of her eyes. The best she can manage is a sort of half-hearted flop of her arm. "Look, I can't even move."

Kuroko frowns. "That's unfortunate," she says. "And very selfish of you."

Kagami grins at her, not fooled. "You were the one who decided to turn me into a limp noodle."

Kuroko makes a little exasperated sound. "I suppose I have to do everything around here." She sits up, peeling away from where she's nestled herself against Kagami's shoulder, and prowls up the bed. Kagami's perfectly able to appreciate the view now and watches her with open satisfaction, enjoying the leanness of Kuroko's muscles and the small, soft curve of her breasts—Kuroko is annoyed by how flat she is, Kagami knows that, but she likes it. It just makes it clear to see how much work Kuroko puts into training—there's barely an ounce of spare flesh on her.

She particularly appreciates the view when Kuroko kneels over her, her knees planted against Kagami's pillow, and she reaches down to spread herself open. Kuroko's soaking wet and the heavy smell of her arousal spills down to Kagami. It hardly takes Kuroko's pointed, "If you wouldn't mind?" for Kagami to find the wherewithal to lift her head and bury her face between Kuroko's thighs. She loves this, loves the taste of Kuroko on her tongue and the softness of Kuroko against her mouth, the sounds Kuroko makes as she slides her mouth over her and the way Kuroko threads her fingers into her hair, holding Kagami right where she wants her. Kagami licks at her, long firm strokes to make Kuroko gasp and tighten her fingers in Kagami's hair, and short light laps around her clit to make her moan and shudder.

Some other time she'll pay Kuroko back for the way Kuroko drew things out a little while ago, maybe, but this time Kagami doesn't want to wait for that. She wants to see Kuroko as undone as she is, and maybe that's what lends her the necessary energy and coordination to lift her hand and slide her fingers into Kuroko. She presses them deep, two of them to curve against the slick grip of Kuroko's body, and she strokes them hard against the way Kuroko begins to move, rocking herself against Kagami's mouth as she begins to pant for breath. Kagami lets that be her guide, lapping at Kuroko steadily as she curls her fingers inside Kuroko, rubbing the tips of them against her when she finds the spot that makes Kuroko shudder. After that it doesn't take long for Kuroko to cry out, something wordless and surprisingly full-throated, as she bucks against Kagami's mouth and fingers, coming all over her.

Kagami lets her head fall back against the pillow, licking the taste of Kuroko off her lips and enjoying the sight of Kuroko flushed and breathless over her, and is there to catch her and ease her down when she finally subsides. Kuroko stretches out over her, still breathing hard when she presses her mouth to Kagami's. Kagami hums to her and curls an arm around her, opening her mouth to Kuroko's. Kuroko's mouth still tastes of her, which is almost enough to put a curl of arousal through her, but it's just as good to lie here with Kuroko and trade slow kisses back and forth, until she can't tell where the taste of herself leaves off and the taste of Kuroko begins.

Kuroko is the one who eventually says, "We should get back to studying."

"We should," Kagami agrees, but she makes no move to get up. She would feel guiltier about that but for the fact that Kuroko doesn't move, either.

They don't get much more studying done that afternoon, for some reason, but Kagami doesn’t mind that as long as Kuroko doesn't.
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