The first time someone convinces Yukio that Kise is into him, that someone is Kuroko Tetsuya.
Which is kind of funny, when he really thinks about it. He doesn’t remember ever talking to the guy outside basketball games or tournaments, but it’s him who gets Yukio at his weakest. The two of them are lying spread-eagle on the grass, watching Kise and Kagami play a very intense one-on-one when Kuroko says, “Kise-kun is really happy around you, Kasamatsu-san,” as though he were making a very apt observation of some sort. It unsettles Yukio. He’s not sure what he’s supposed to say to that.
“Um,” he says.
“No, I mean it.” Kuroko waves a hand, grunting when he flops back down. He has this smile on his face, equal measures enigmatic and threatening, like he’s a man on a mission. “Like, really mean it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kise enjoy someone’s company as much as he enjoys yours. He wouldn’t shut up about you he first joined Kaijo. Always Kasamatsu-senpai this, Kasamatsu-senpai that. It’s nice to see he had someone to look out for him this entire time.”
It’s only been a year since he met Kise Ryota. And it’s not even a full year – just a few months here and there. He’s never thought about that time as this entire time but he always thinks of it as not enough time. He wishes he were Hayakawa. He’d give anything to play with Kaijo some more (play with Kise some more) to stay in school some more, skipping class with Moriyama in favor of dribbling a basketball somewhere outside school grounds. Listening to the sound of Kise calling out for him when he entered the gym for practice. Senpai. He thinks it’s a bit unfair.
“Thanks?” He eventually says, trying not to sound too shaken up that someone had noticed that he actually liked having Kise around. “I mean, Kise is a bit of a headache, but nothing I can’t deal with.”
There’s a long pause. Yukio listens to the sound of Kise’s rambunctious roars mingled with Kagami’s outraged chuffs and the sound of the wind. It’s nice, like this. He was supposed to have gone home a couple of hours ago (extension class had finished around the same time as basketball practice, so he’d volunteered to walk Kise home, never mind that Yukio’s house is on the other side of town, and they’d found the other two runts playing basketball and Kise just had to join in, which means Yukio had to as well. Teammates don’t let other teammates do dumb shit together) but it’s surprisingly comfortable to sit like this, on the dewy grass, listening to everything pass him by like a sped up movie. Yukio had been pretty against playing streetball this close to exams (though his real worry was that Kise’s mom would kill him if her son came back late from school), but this is fine.
Finally, Kuroko says, “Kise-kun likes you, Kasamatsu-san,” and the tone he uses, like he’s kindly telling a child to throw a candy wrapper into the waste-basket, like he’s patronizing him, almost makes Yukio blanch.
They don’t talk about it again. Kuroko gets up when it becomes apparent that Yukio isn’t going to say anything to that, slings his bag over his shoulder and says, “It was nice talking to you, Kasamatsu-san, but Taiga-kun and I should get going,” and Yukio blankly watches him jog up to Kagami and drag him out of the court by the ear. He watches them say their goodbyes to Kise, who runs back to Yukio as soon as the blue and red fades into the street.
“Senpai,” Yukio has never noticed how fascinating Kise’s eyes, golden with flecks of brown and grey in them, how the sight of his shiny teeth from his flowery lips caught the sunlight all the time when he smiled at him, “let’s go home.”
On the way to follow him, Yukio almost trips. He can’t stop thinking about all the what if what if what if what if what if what if that goes through his head while Kise strolls next to him, too casual for his own good. If he notices that Yukio’s quiet, he doesn’t say anything.
Kise-kun likes you, Kasamatsu-san.
Yukio slams his head against the lamppost outside Kise’s house when the door has shut behind him.
Upon realizing that he’s way past avoiding the incoming Crisis™, Yukio does the only thing any basketball player in a pressurized situation would do: he keeps a cool head and tries to gather information that could either prove or dispel the assumption that Kise likes him. He quickly finds that it’s a horrible idea. Proving and dispelling the claim takes a fair bit of observation, which means that, for three or four days straight, Yukio does nothing but stare at Kise.
(And Yukio falls for him. Hard.)
He picks up the little things at first: it starts when he notices that Kise always plays with his hair when he’s nervous, or when the notices that the boy always struggles with his earring after practice because his adrenaline is always running so high. Then he starts noticing the bigger things. Kise has a bump on his knuckles from where he’d stupidly crushed his hand on the door of the gym. Kise has calloused skin on his palms. There is a cluster of freckles at the point where his jaw meets his neck. He has pretty hands. His teeth are even.
Then he notices the big things.
Kise says senpai more often than he says anything else, and he says it with a sort of admiration that makes Yukio really think. He smiles with his eyes crinkled at everyone, but when he smiles at Yukio, his eyes are open. He gravitates towards Yukio all the time even though he’s not around very often these days and he’s always grinning when they see each other. Hayakawa is Hayakawa-senpai. Moriyama is Moriyama-senpai. Yukio is just senpai. He never noticed it until now, but now that he does, he can’t stop thinking about it.
“I think Kasamatsu is finally coming into terms with Kise’s giant, obvious crush on him,” Kobori remarks. They’re walking into the gym and Yukio’s eyes are immediately on the younger boy.
“I think he’s still working it out,” Moriyama says, “but when his crisis hits, we’ll be there for it.”
Moriyama is right, obviously.
Yukio spends the whole weekend on his couch after he comes into terms with the fact that Kise might like him (and that he might like Kise too, but he’s long since decided that he needs to think about that really soon, before he goes crazy) while Kobori reads his Modern Japanese notes out loud, so that Yukio could study even with his Crisis™. He doesn’t do anything much – just lies down and wonders what he’s been doing this whole time, not noticing a cute boy’s attention on him. He wants to die.
“I just don’t get it,” he says, words muffled by a pillow on his face – he’s trying to suffocate himself so that he can die before he inevitably decides to do something about this new found revelation, “I always thought it was an extreme hero worship case.”
Moriyama removes the pillow and replaces it with a textbook. The weight of it almost breaks Yukio’s nose. “Kasamatsu, don’t beat yourself up over it,” he says, “we’ve all been there, done that. What’s important is now. You can finally tell him how you feel without the fear of rejection!”
“Guys,” he grunts, “what if I don’t like Kise?”
Yukio almost laughs at himself. He doesn’t know who he’s trying to kid at this point. Of course he likes Kise Ryota. For all his overwhelming qualities, he’s everything Yukio would like in a human. He’s brilliant at basketball. He’s got a pretty smile. Eyes the color of the sun. The sky in his voice. Red on his cheeks whenever he gets praised. He’s beautiful – it almost kills Yukio to admit it, but he is.
Kobori blinks. “But you do,” he says, and Yukio knows he’s waiting for the affirmation.
“Yeah,” he mumbles. The first step to coping is admittance.
“See, that wasn’t too hard!” Moriyama says, cheerfully, even though he knows Yukio is red enough to combust. “Now, all you have to do is say the exact same thing to Kise!”
Kobori, thank god, takes a more practical approach to the situation. A pillow replaces the textbook on his face. “Do it in your own time,” he suggests, “and don’t listen to Moriyama. You can tell him whenever you want. Hell, you don’t have to tell us that you told him. Just know that we’ve got your back, always.”
(Yukio would realize later that Moriyama and Kobori were the next two people to have convinced him that Kise was into him.)
Yukio turns around to stare exactly at the same time all the other students who had exited the university turns around. Immediately, Kise flounders. He laughs shyly and waves a hand as if trying to ward off all the attention from himself (doing nothing to fix it, because everyone immediately recognizes him as Kise Ryota from Kaijo or Kise Ryota from the Generation of Miracles or just that banging model) and stumbles on his steps when he comes to stand in front of Yukio. Moriyama, the little shit, slinks away at the sight.
“Hi,” Kise breathes, and the silver hoop in his ear catches the light along with his eyes, “how was your exam?”
Bullshit, but Kise doesn’t have to know that. “Good,” he replies, and then, realizing that Kise’s house is definitely not in Akita, he narrows his eyes, “It’s a weekday, what are you doing here? Don’t you have school? Basketball practice?”
Kise blinks. “Oh, it’s Murasakibara-cchi’s birthday, so we came to throw him a party.”
Yukio twitches. “We?”
“The others.” Kise waves a hand awkwardly behind him. Yukio catches sight of green hair and glasses, followed by blue hair and a lazy voice, and light blue hair and bright red hair (who knew Kagami had the patience for this kind of thing) and another shock of red hair (Akashi, what the hell) and long, flowing pink hair. “Himuro-cchi said he’d let us in.”
Yukio can’t help the disappointing arch of his eyebrows. “And you’re skipping school for that?”
Kise laughs. His pretty, church bell laugh, with his eyes scrunched up and his lips parted slightly. Yukio averts his gaze, thinking strike me dead right now. “Senpai,” he says, a hint of a grin on his lips, “I have my whole academic life ahead of me, unlike you. I can skip as many classes I want and get away with it. When’s your graduation, anyway?”
Yukio shrugs. He doesn’t want to think about that. While he’s always known that he’ll have to leave Kaijo eventually, it unsettles him that his graduation is almost here. Soon enough, he’ll be preparing for university, then he’ll be in university, then he’ll be out of university, and he’ll have to get shit done on his own. Yukio doesn’t like the thought of that.
Kise must have seen the way his lips tugged down, because he immediately says, “Chin up, senpai, it’s not the end of the world.”
“I know that!” Yukio snaps, and on instinct, his leg swings out to slam lightly against Kise’s shin.
“Ouch,” Kise says, but it has no bite in it. “Did anyone tell you that you look nice in a scarf, senpai?”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, Kise,” he says, but he’s grinning. From his peripheral vision, he sees the tall, green-haired protégé stare at them, so he says, “I think Midorima-kun is looking for you.”
Kise turns his head sideways. The freckles on the spot where his neck meets his jaw smiles at Yukio. “I guess so,” he says. His face breaks out into a grin, his even, shining teeth and his flowery lips. He holds a fist out, knuckles marred and calloused. “See you at school, senpai?”
Yukio bumps knuckles with him, and damn it, he can’t help the way his lips curl slightly. “Yeah,” he says, “yeah, I’ll see you at school.”
(Moriyama doesn’t stop talking about it for weeks.)
There are plenty of reasons Kasamatsu Yukio can’t be in love with Kise Ryota.
For one, Kise Ryota is sixteen, which means that Kise Ryota has several years of heartbreak and shitty crushes ahead of him. Kasamatsu Yukio is eighteen, which means Kasamatsu Yukio is responsible and logical and should be preparing to leave for whichever college will take him in despite his mediocre scores in everything except physics. (That’s right – he’s brilliant at physics, much to Moriyama’s amusement and Kobori’s amazement.)
For another, Kise Ryota is nothing like Kasamatsu Yukio. He’s high maintenance and shines like a lighthouse on a stormy day, and Yukio is simple compared to his intricacy. They won’t be compatible: Yukio prefers silence to anything else and Kise Ryota wants a desperate, life-changing kind of love, something Yukio could never give him.
There are many reasons Kasamatsu Yukio can’t be in love with Kise Ryota.
But he is.
Yukio revolves around Kise Ryota as if he were the sun. Yukio stretches and contorts like a flower towards sunlight when he’s with Kise. Yukio doesn’t deserve a boy as bright as that. Kise Ryota did not deserve a flower – he deserves an entire field of old, earthen trees.
But Kasamatsu Yukio’s heart still falls and Kasamatsu Yukio is not a man who’d like to be saddled with regret forever, so he decides to take Matters into his own hands.
And by Matters, Kasamatsu Yukio means the second button of his school uniform, obviously.
Kobori is the one who helps him unstitch the button from his uniform, as opposed to what Yukio was planning to do, which was rip it out with brute force. He undoes the threads and gently removes the button, shining and golden, and he slides it into Yukio’s hand. Then he looks up, grin blinding, and he says, “Go for it, Captain.”
Moriyama was still sitting in the fetal position he’d curled himself into when Yukio had explained why he needed the second button from his uniform. It doesn’t look like he’s about to move anytime soon. On his way out of Kobori’s room (what Moriyama was even doing there was beyond Yukio), he kicks his leg. Moriyama swoons and says, “Kise’s prince charming is so cool.”
“Shut up,” Yukio grunts, but his heart beats just a little faster at the thought of being Kise's.
The entire basketball team is there to cheer them on at their graduation, obviously. If anyone notices that the applause is specifically loud for the three starters on the team, no one says anything. When his name is called, the team gets up from their spots in the auditorium and bows, full ninety degrees, and Yukio feels his throat close up at the sentiment. He’s always been a bit privy about respect and the other team players have always been a bit privy about letting him have it. The open display of respect further solidifies the realization that, today, once he walks out of those gates, he won’t come back as their captain.
Kise’s blond head is the first to rise. He gives Yukio a cheeky wink, and the button in his pocket becomes impossibly heavier.
Moriyama is sniffling by the time they’re done shaking the hands of their old classmates. Kobori raises an arm and hits him square on the back, and Moriyama says, “Ouch, Kobori,” with tears in his eyes. Yukio doesn’t cry, but he comes damn close. He slams both their heads together and says, “Let’s head to the gym, the team is probably waiting for us,” and the three of them walk to the only home they’d known in Kaijo with nostalgia in the air.
Hayakawa is leaning outside when they finally get there. The collar of his uniform is a bit ruffled, like he’s been playing with it, and there’s no red on his cheeks. He says, “Moriyama-san is an ugly crier,” and hands him a tissue from his pocket. To Kobori, he gives a lollipop. To Yukio, he gives a basketball, and together, the four of them enter the gymnasium.
He remembers falling all over the place in his first year. On his back. On his ass. On his stomach. Basketball to his face, from when Kobori had miscalculated a throw. The ground cold and harsh from when he’d fallen from overexertion in his second year and Moriyama carrying him home later. Meeting Hayakawa, thinking that he could be a good captain one day. Horrible losses and great wins. The reserve kids who practiced and practiced and practiced and called him captain long before he was captain. Kise Ryota standing at the court, asking if senpai deserved respect just because they were older. Yukio resisting the urge to punch him across the face. Laughing together with the team. Crying alone in the lockers when shit went wrong because it wouldn’t have gone wrong if Yukio was looking out for the team the way he should have.
Captain. Hayakawa. The reserve kids. The ones who loved basketball.
Kasamatsu. Moriyama. Kobori. The coach.
Moriyama is gritting his teeth together and clenching his mouth but the tears don’t stop and if Yukio had a voice, he’d say, you’re so embarrassing, and make fun of him. Kobori doesn’t bother looking up from the spot he’s been looking at for the past six minutes. The entire team is silent.
“Oi,” Yukio says, like he doesn’t feel like he’s cutting a part of himself and leaving it in the gym, “get your shit together. We’re playing basketball.”
So they do. Moriyama doesn’t stop crying even after he takes a ball to the face, and Kobori cries somewhere between their fifth and sixth shot. Yukio doesn’t start crying until he’s standing in between the two of them and it signals the end of the last three-on-three he’ll ever play with the younger Kaijo recruits.
Kise offers him a tissue in the locker room and says, “You’re an ugly crier, senpai,” and it’s merely a reflex when Yukio swings his leg and kicks his shin.
“Ouch,” Kise says, grinning, and the familiarity of the situation is what makes Yukio smile, eventually.
They walk home together. Yukio’s parents and his siblings had told him to properly say goodbye to his basketball friends (a pathetic excuse: he’d seen the streamers and cake his family had hidden, which means he’ll have to pretend to be surprised when he does get home) and Kise always walks home alone. He walks close enough for his hands to brush past Yukio’s.
They’re almost at his house Kise breaks the silence. “You’ll call, right?”
“Huh?” Yukio takes a while to comprehend what he asked. “Yeah, obviously. Someone has to make sure you don’t kill yourself, Kise.”
“Akita is far away,” Kise comments.
“It is.” Yukio agrees.
“And it snows a lot.”
“I’ll miss senpai,” Kise almost sounds choked up.
“I’m not dying, Kise,” Yukio’s heart swells.
“If I see Haizaki Shogo, no one will be there to scare him shitless.”
“Call me, I’ll take a train from Akita just to yell at him.”
“Senpai,” Kise says, “I wish I had more time to play basketball with you.”
“Kise,” he says, trying not to grin, “I’m not dying.”
It’s silent for a while. Kise’s knuckles brush against his when he walks, and pauses in front of his house when Yukio tugs him back.
“Hey,” Yukio says, “hold your hand out.”
And Kise does. His hands are bigger than Yukio’s, more calloused, somehow, and Yukio likes the way they are. A basketballer’s hands, scarred and bruised and the show for all his hard work. Yukio takes a deep breath and places the button in the center of his palm. A single, golden drop on leather.
“Okay,” Yukio says, watching Kise’s eyes widen comically, “you can go home now.”
“Is this - ?” Kise breaks off, speechless. Yukio likes this surprised, what-the-fuck look on his face.
“Kise,” Yukio steels himself, “That is the second button of my school uniform. Now go home. You have practice tomorrow.”
He walks off like that, leaving Kise clutching the button in his hand as though he can’t believe what just happened. The train station isn’t that far. Yukio is trying really hard not to look back and listen to the rest of the world over the adrenaline in his blood.
He sees Kise’s shadow loom over him before he feels the fingers curling around his wrist. The next thing he knows, he’s being slammed against the nearest flat surface, Kise’s hands coming up to trap him, and he blinks a bit stupidly. The kid is grinning. Cotton candy lips stained pink and eyes the color of molten gold. Skin flushed red. Even teeth and pretty hands. Beautiful, Yukio thinks.
“Senpai,” Kise’s voice is surprisingly smooth even though his fingers trembling when he presses them against the hollow of Yukio’s throat, curving against his jaw, “I like you too.”
Yukio does the first thing that comes to his head. “Kuroko-kun told me so,” he says.
“Kuroko-cchi is a dead man,” Kise vows, and bends down to slot his lips with Yukio’s. He tastes like glory, or success. The high of a win. Better than the high of alcohol or drugs. Like the blue sky, if it had a taste.
Simple pleasures, little things.
Small things. Beautiful things.
Yukio smiles against his mouth. Kise does too.
Between their locked hands, the button grows impossibly warmer.
Kasamatsu-san, you’re welcome.