IT IS A well-known fact that the Kiseki no Sedai can singlehandedly populate the Manual of Mental Disorders with their combined neuroses, and Akashi has the godlike patience required to be the leader of such a group. That being said, even he lasts through barely ten minutes of Kise and Aomine squabbling for Kuroko's attention before he picks up Midorima's lucky item of the day and says brightly, "Why not cut Tetsuya in half? You can each have a piece, and then perhaps you'll stop disrupting practice."
Midorima takes time out of pretending that he doesn't know any of them to explain that this is probably a biblical reference rather than a manifestation of Akashi's inner psychopath. Even so, Kise and Aomine are both quiet for the rest of practice, because Akashi spends most of the warm-up period stroking Midorima's chainsaw with a dreamy expression in his eyes.
Akashi's tactics are a success, as always. But he's never been satisfied with short-term solutions, so at the end of the day he calls a meeting of the regulars and delivers his judgment with only the slightest hint of a sadistic smile.
Momoi laughs until she cries. Midorima pushes his glasses up with one finger and turns his face away. Murasakibara gives Kise and Aomine a slow, thoughtful glance and offers them a congratulatory box of Pocky.
"I wish the greatest happiness for you both," Kuroko tells them, his expression carefully blank, as Akashi calls the meeting to a close and walks out the door.
"What does he mean, all of our attention towards Kurokocchi is mere subterfuge for our romantic interest in one another," Kise wails, once the others have gone. "Hey, Aominecchi!"
Aomine stares back, fingers clenched around the strap of his bag, and says nothing.
The thing is, Akashi Seijuurou is always right. It's a law of nature, just like gravity or the laws of motion or the fact that all sports teams are rampant breeding grounds for unresolved sexual tension. So if he predicts that two of his subordinates are soon to be enjoying the contents of one another's pants, it's only a matter of time before it happens, and there's nothing either party can do to stop it.
This doesn't prevent Aomine from trying to fight it. It's not at all surprising, but Akashi still feels an odd twinge of pity when Aomine comes storming towards him, like he's watching a puppy run headfirst into a wall.
"I like girls," Aomine says, flinging the words out in sharp staccato bursts. He waves a gravure spread in front of him like a banner of war. "So whatever this thing is with Kise --"
He pauses before going as far as to say that Akashi's wrong, because he doesn't yet have a death wish. Akashi leans back against the bleachers, eyelids lowered in faint boredom, and says, "Your heartbeat is elevated to 1.43 times its normal level whenever you look at Ryouta."
"And your pupils dilate," Kuroko says helpfully, popping out of his alternate dimension to wreak havoc upon Aomine's psyche. Akashi gives him a slow smile and he returns it, quick and bright. "Also, every time Kise-kun gives me one of his magazine spreads, you refuse to shut up about it for the next several days."
"Only to talk about how disgusting the pictures are!" Aomine yells, dragging Kuroko into a pretend stranglehold.
"Have some self-restraint," Midorima cuts in, sniffing scornfully as he passes by. "Stop metaphorically molesting Kise."
Aomine lets go of Kuroko like he's been burned. Across the court, Kise looks betrayed and slightly violated.
"Just so you know," Aomine says to Midorima's back, "I hate all of you."
Akashi, who is nothing if not kind and well-meaning, replies, "I only have your best interests at heart. After all, if not Ryouta, the only one who can beat Daiki off will be Daiki himself." He pauses to let that bit of clever wordplay sink in.
Because Akashi is a tactical genius, his prediction has the desired effect of turning practice into the model of machine-like efficiency he's always wanted: Both Aomine and Kise are unfailingly polite towards each other and treat Kuroko like he's a carrier for the black plague. This has absolutely no effect on their games, which invariably function as every-man-for-himself competitions, except for the time a defender shoves Kise into Aomine and renders the rest of the match terrifically awkward.
(What happens is this: Kise tumbles onto Aomine in a sprawl of long limbs and Aomine instinctively reaches out to catch him, so that his fingers end up lying flush against the curve of pale skin where Kise's shirt has ridden up from the fall. Kise lets out his breath in a surprised huff, warm against Aomine's throat, and shifts in an attempt to push himself up, his legs sliding against Aomine's. Then Aomine jerks back at the feel of Kise's hips grinding against his own, and Kise pauses to look at him through his retardedly long eyelashes, and Aomine feels the heat rising to his face even as Kise's lips part in surprise and then the defender says, "Um -- I'm sorry, do you guys need a hand getting up," which is when both of them realize that they're in the middle of a full stadium.
Midorima is practically paralyzed by secondhand embarrassment, Kuroko is staring in a way that implies he is judging them harder than anyone has ever been judged before, Murasakibara is eyeing his snacks on the bench with clear yearning, Momoi is taking notes on the amount of time needed for Kise's face to reach its maximum blush for her creepy information system, and Akashi is watching them with a sort of detached amusement, like they're mice in a maze. It is this last that prompts Aomine to throw Kise off him and stalk off the court, calling for a player change, because he's over his quota of points and besides he desperately needs to punch something in the face.)
The thing is, though. Aomine hates thinking about his problems; he's more of a take-action kind of guy, and the longer he spends without bothering Kuroko or playing against Kise, the more of a problem he has with the situation. So after practice one day he corners Kise in the locker room and demands a one-on-one, looking him straight in the eye to prove that he can.
"Is that code," Kuroko says, blinking guilelessly when Aomine snarls at him. Kise, a faint tinge of red cresting his cheekbones, says, "Okay, Aominecchi," and drops his bag back on the floor. The two of them head back to the empty court and manage to play productively for about three minutes before Aomine hurls the ball at the basket (it goes in because, possible sexual deviancy notwithstanding, he is still the king of everything) and says, "We need to talk."
Kise does his totally fake magazine-interview laugh and says, "About what?"
"Look," Aomine says, "I'm not in love with you, okay."
Kise just looks at him. His face is very still. This is not exactly the response Aomine's hoping for, but he plows on anyway and adds, "And I'm pretty sure you're not in love with me."
"Well," Kise says.
So one time Kise was just wandering along beautifully -- as he did -- in a state of utter ennui, because life was difficult when you were gorgeous and perfect and good at everything, when something hit him in the back of his flawless head. He turned to see a boy with dark skin and a wide smile and eyes the color of the sky and thought, I could lose myself in eyes like those, which was when he suddenly felt the need to reevaluate his life choices, because seriously, it wasn't healthy to have an internal monologue that was that pretentious, and by the time he'd finished this epiphany the boy had gone and all he could do was chase in his footsteps.
"Um," Kise says.
Another time they were playing in the street courts and Kise lost his balance and sat down hard when Aomine swerved past him with the sort of fluid grace Kise could only dream about, and before he could get back up Aomine had jumped for the basket, the sunlight outlining his entire figure in gold, a smile of such fierce joy on his face that it took Kise's breath away. "Why're you just sitting there," Aomine asked when the ball had swished through the net, holding out a hand for Kise to grasp. Then he laughed and added, "Don't lose heart. Not everyone can be as awesome as I am when they first start playing."
And Kise thought, How could I lose my heart when I know it's always with you, and then had to take a few minutes to beat his internal monologue back into submission.
"Er," Kise says.
And then there was the time that the girls in Kise's class had gotten hold of his latest photoshoot, and Aomine threw an arm around Kise's shoulders even as he sneered at the pictures. "What are you even doing," he said, staring at the one where Kise was draped in an assortment of jewelry and not much else. He was wearing an expression of horrified fascination, and his eyes were very blue and very close. "I'll never understand fashion," he added, tossing the book back to the girls and giving Kise a careless once-over. "I think you look good just like this." Then he was standing and moving for the door, slow and unconcerned, and Kise felt his heart thumping in his chest and thought shut up shut up shut up before his internal monologue could come up with something so awful that his brain commanded his vital functions to cease at once out of sheer embarrassment.
"I guess not," Kise says.
Aomine sits back, satisfied, and says, "So Akashi's probably wrong. But I was thinking we should settle this once and for all." He grins. "So I was going through Satsuki's manga --"
"She's going to hurt you again," Kise warns. Aomine waves his concern aside and continues, "Anyway, it turns out that if you're in love, or going to be in love, or whatever, there are like, fireworks and bubbles and explosions and shit when you kiss."
He waits for Kise to praise his overwhelming genius. Kise licks his lips -- Aomine's eyes track the movement -- and says, "...sorry, what?"
"You're kind of slow sometimes," Aomine says. Then he leans forward and slides one hand along the curve of Kise's cheek -- Kise sucks in a startled breath -- and presses their lips together.
It's awkward at first, because Aomine's never had much time for romance and Kise's used to taking the lead, but then Kise angles his head and lets out this tiny moan against Aomine's mouth that sends vibrations down his fucking spine. Aomine's fingers wrap themselves in the soft shimmering strands of Kise's hair and drag his head back. Then Kise's tongue swipes tentatively across his lips and Aomine makes this noise he's only ever heard in AVs and shoves Kise to the floor, and before either of them really understands how it's happened Aomine has his hand up Kise's shirt and Kise's fingers are prying at Aomine's waistband and then Aomine jerks himself away from the curve of Kise's throat and stares.
Kise lets out a desperate needy whine and tries to pull him back, but Aomine just looks at him, at the glazed eyes and swollen lips and the pale juxtaposition of Kise's skin against the floor.
He swallows hard.
"No fireworks, right?" he says, and Kise shakes his head and whispers, "None at all."
"So -- just friends, then," Aomine says, still kind of dazed, and Kise fists his hand in Aomine's shirt and drags him back down.
At practice the next day everything is back to normal, except that Aomine and Kise take time off from fighting over Kuroko to be strangely touchy with each other, which is good enough for Akashi. Aomine saunters over to Akashi during one of the water breaks to tell him that he was wrong about them, at which point Akashi's eyes go very, very cold and he says, "Wrong about what, exactly."
"You know," Aomine says, nonchalant. "No romantic interest whatsoever. We checked."
"I see," Akashi says, and then adds, deadpan, "Is that a hickey on Ryouta's neck?"
"Yes," Aomine says, "but it is a hickey of friendship."
Akashi gives him a long, level stare. "It seems as if my predictions are mistaken for once," he says, his voice perfectly flat, and turns his attention back to practice.
"Why do I feel like he's humoring me," Aomine asks Kuroko, who stares at him in silence. "Hey, Tetsu, say something!"
About six months down the line, Aomine finally admits that perhaps he's been misled by literature. Kise promptly announces this to the entire Teikou team, at which point Kuroko gives Aomine a celebratory fistbump that is only 75% mocking, Midorima brings the two of them sekihan, Murasakibara bakes them a fucking cake, Momoi gives each of them a file of secret information on the other, and Akashi takes a moment out of supervising his idyllic practice sessions to murmur that he is so very happy for the two of them.
"Right, that's it," Aomine says. "Never coming back to practice again."