lacewood: (Default)
Pei Yi ([personal profile] lacewood) wrote in [community profile] toxicskyremix2013-03-01 03:48 pm

kuroko no basket - high school geometry

Spoilers up to the Seirin founding story/manga chapters 99.

-----

Equilateral triangle: A triangle in which all three sides and internal angles are equal.

1.

At age 11, Hyuuga Junpei’s honest opinion of his classmate Aida Riko boils down to one word: scary.

By age 15, Hyuuga has revised his opinion of Riko from “scary” all the way up to “scariest person he knows” - not that he’s stupid enough to admit this anywhere she could hear him.

He doesn’t mean it in a bad way though.

(Usually.)



2.

Hyuuga quits basketball with the same fervent determination he used to devote to playing it.

He changes his hair. He changes his hobbies. He changes his attitude (though not as much as he thinks). He’s wasted three years building his entire life around basketball. If he has to, he’ll take it to pieces, down to the foundations, and put them back together again basketball-free.

He has to. If he doesn’t, if he lets himself look back for even one minute...

He’ll change his mind.

And he can’t.



3.

Riko takes one look at his new dye job and laughs her head off for five whole minutes. She doesn’t even try to hide it, just sits down, holds her sides, and laughs right in his face.

Hyuuga scowls at her. “It doesn’t look that bad,” he mutters in self-defense.

She doesn’t bother to dignify his protest by stopping.



4.

Then Kiyoshi Teppei ambles into his life and the best laid plans of mice and high school boys go inevitably awry. Within two weeks of bumping into him, Hyuuga is captain of a newly minted basketball club and has already had to stop himself from punching Kiyoshi four times.

He has a bad feeling this doesn’t bode well for the next three years.



5.

Sometime in the middle of the Seirin basketball team’s first official practice, Riko looks up from the paperwork to say, “Kiyoshi, you didn’t fill in your registration form properly, you missed out the second page.”

“Oh, I did? Sorry, I’ll fill that in now. Anyway, just call me Teppei.”

Riko blinks at him for a moment. Then she shrugs. “Okay. Don’t forget to give that back to me by tomorrow, Teppei.”

And that’s that.

Wait, that’s it?! Hyuuga has known Riko for five years and she’s never called him Junpei! (He never asked.)

It’s not like Hyuuga is usually a petty guy. But this definitely ranks somewhere in his Top 5 Reasons He Hates Kiyoshi’s Guts. Number 4, at least.



6.

Against all expectations, Hyuuga receives his first and maybe only confession in his first year of high school. Her name is Ayano and she’s from the class next door. She likes his spirit, she tells him, before blushing and ducking her head.

“Eh?” She can’t be serious. She’s totally serious. Faced with the impossible, Hyuuga’s mind fizzes out into an treacherous blank.

She peers at him nervously through her lashes. Half of his classmates have already informed Hyuuga that Ayano is cute, if not especially pretty, shy but nice. Her favourite subject is History, so they share something in common. She clearly has abysmal taste in boys, but that’s to his advantage, right?

“B-basketball c-club,” he croaks. “I’m sorry but we’re always really busy, and--”

She nods so quickly, he thinks she already expected the answer. “I thought so,” she says and tries to smile. “But I - I wanted to try anyway. I’m sorry for taking up your time.”

“No, that’s nothing, I’m--”

“Do you already have someone you like?” she suddenly asks, then looks away at the floor, hands clasped before her.

Hyuuga splutters. “What? There’s no--” Blind denial crashes into the brick wall of honesty and he stops short. She was brave enough to tell him this, so he - he probably owes her a little bit of truth too. “M-maybe. I guess... I do,” he admits. Now he’s the one looking away, flushed and hoping she can’t tell.

“I thought so too,” she whispers, almost to herself. This time, she manages a genuine smile. “I wish you all the best.”



7.

“So how was it? Your first precious love confession,” Riko asks later after practice.

Despite the words, she doesn’t sound like she’s going to make fun of him. He shrugs. “I said no. There’s no way I’d have time, not with school and training.”

“Isn’t that a waste?”

“She’ll find someone better,” Hyuuga says.

“You think so?”

“Yeah,” he says. “Definitely.”



8.

To Hyuuga’s mind, romance is still a distant mystery, attractive in theory but alien to real life as he knows it. It’s not like he looks at Riko and the world changes or something. Hyuuga hasn’t even let himself think about her hard enough to be sure that he could call this like or - or love.

All he knows is - somewhere along the way, Riko his smart bossy classmate became Riko his scarily sharp friend, and then, between one blink and the next, she became Important. Hyuuga has never had any real defences against Riko.

By the time he realised this, it was already too late to try.



9.

Kiyoshi, on the other hand.

Hyuuga’s built trenches and bunkers and steel walls against him. But somehow, like an idiot (by this point Hyuuga can no longer decide which one of them is the bigger idiot), Kiyoshi keeps plowing through all of them anyway.



10.

“What’s that, ‘Uncrowned General’, taking it easy because this is just a practice match? Is it only exciting if it’s a real match? We’re already 10 points behind!” Hyuuga says. It’s Seirin’s first practice match, against Nekoma High School, and they’re getting their asses handed to them, standing on the court with just six first years and a little over two months of real training.

Kiyoshi looks pained. “Please don’t call me that. I’ll work harder next quarter!”

“Oh, so now you’re embarrassed? The rest of us normal people didn’t get cool nicknames in junior high, so I guess we’ll have to leave it up to you, Mr ‘Iron Heart’--”

“I said don’t call me that!” Kiyoshi flares. The team jumps at the sudden outburst and stares at their ace. Kiyoshi’s never shown any signs of having a temper before and - is he sulking? The Iron Heart’s impregnable good cheer cracked over something so small as this?

Hyuuga is never going to let this go.

“Sure, try and stop me, Uncrowned General.”

“Shut up!”



half time

But that was before Kirisaki Daichi.



11.

Hyuuga knows he’s basically a normal guy. He’s not too smart, not too dumb. He doesn’t have any special talents. He isn’t naturally athletic. He has no gift for basketball - every scrap of ability, he earned with sheer persistence and hard work. Things don’t come easy to him.

Seen that way, he doesn’t stand out at all.

He knows, okay? That’s why when he does something, he doesn’t hold back. He can’t afford to. He can’t coast on natural aptitude and expect things to fall in place. If he wants to get anywhere at all, he has to give it everything he has.

But the cold hard truth is - even that isn’t enough.

He really did believe they had a chance this time. Seirin’s not the same team they were last year. And between Kagami and Kuroko, he seriously thought they could make it to the Inter-High and beyond.

(Hyuuga might have also secretly imagined Kiyoshi’s face when they won Japan #1 without him. A couple of times. Usually when he was trying to distract himself from the too-real possibility that Riko’s training regime might kill them before the next match.)

But Seirin has lost, and lost again, and they’re right back where they stood one year ago. It’s depressing. It pisses him off. Some mornings he wakes up and wonders why he’s still doing this to himself. But if he’s learned anything, it’s that he’s worse at quitting than he is at anything else. And he’s not going it alone.

Riko tells them, “He’s coming back soon.”

This is where it really starts.



12.

Practice is over for the day and they’re heading back, about to split into their separate routes home, when Kiyoshi tosses a ball at Hyuuga and says, “One-on-one?”

It’s been a week since he returned and Kiyoshi has thrown himself back into the team like a kid in a candy shop. He seems to think he can pack a year’s worth of basketball into a month - he'd practice all day and night if they let him. He’s tried to pester one-on-ones out of everyone he can get hold of, even the first years.

Hyuuga snorts. “Do I look stupid? No way. I’ll tell Riko.”

“I already asked her, she said it’d be okay if it was just one game!”

"So? Go ask Kagami or something then.” The look Kiyoshi gives him is so insistently hopeful, Hyuuga chucks the ball back in his face on principle. “Quit giving me that look!”

Kiyoshi catches it and says, “But we haven’t played together since I got back.”

“What are you talking about, we play in practice all the time.”

“Yeah, but it’s different in one-on-one! Remember the first time we played together?”

“Who the hell wants to remember that? I lost!”

“Haha, but my skills are so rusty now, maybe Hyuuga will beat me this time.”

“Don’t give me that bullshit, you think I’ll fall for that?”

Despite the argument, they’ve already drifted off course towards the street court rather than the train station. Hyuuga grumbles. “Fine. One game. Don’t think I’ll go easy on you or something!”



13.

Kiyoshi claims that he’s fully recovered and most of the team believes him. But Hyuuga remembers all too well how he’d gotten into trouble in the first place, and he takes everything Kiyoshi says about his injury with a generous serving of suspicion.

Riko isn’t convinced either.

She doesn’t say anything, but Hyuuga sees the intent way she looks at him, a gimlet eye trained for the slightest sign of pain or weakness. All of them learned a hard lesson last year, maybe Riko most of all. There’s a careful rigour to the way she watches the team now, and ever since his return, she watches Kiyoshi closest of all.

Sometimes, they catch each other in the act, lines of sight intersecting across the gym. They don’t talk about it, but they don’t really need to.

It won’t happen again. Not if they can help it.



14.

“So I heard Aida gives amazing massages,” Matsura says one morning. “Must be nice to be in the basketball club, huh?”

“Ha?” Hyuuga says, looking up from his notes. Matsura leers to make sure Hyuuga really gets the point

Riko is out doing the usual student council runaround she gets up to before class starts, otherwise Matsura would never have the guts to broach the topic. Around them, most of their neighbours are clearly listening in with interest. The only exception is Haru, who has the seat behind Riko.

She twists around to make an unimpressed face at him. “Mou, what are you trying to say here? Don’t be such a pervert!”

Matsura gives her an exaggerated shrug, palms up. “I’m just asking! So why don’t you set the record straight, ‘Captain’?”

Hyuuga looks at him - and smiles.

“Oh, they’re definitely amazing. You’re curious, huh? Why don’t I ask Riko to arrange a special session for your shitty face?” Matsura blinks, taken aback. Hyuuga continues, “It’s a Aida gym specialty she learned from her dad. If you’re lucky, maybe the Thousand Years of Torture will only make you cry. But given what a pathetic moron you are, she’ll probably just break you in two.”

Reaching out, he grabs Matsura by the collar and yanks him over. “How about it?” he demands, eyeball to eyeball.

Matsura swallows. “Um. I - I think I’ll pass...”

“Then don’t even fucking think of trying that again, fucker,” Hyuuga says. He releases him and looks around to find half the class staring at him.

“So that’s what Riko meant by clutch mode,” Haru observes, mostly to herself. She flashes Hyuuga a thumbs up, then turns back to her own desk.

No one else tries asking about Riko’s “massages” after that.



15.

If one year is all they have - then they’ll just have to make the most of it.

If six months is all they really get - the plan doesn’t change. They know the rules of the game. If you want to stay on the court, if you want to make it to the end, the only thing you can do is win and win and win until you get there.

Seirin’s not looking for second chances.



16.

The night before the Winter Cup finals, Hyuuga dreams that he oversleeps and misses half the match and they lose to Rakuzan in four digits and then, as the finishing touch of horror, he confesses to Riko in his boxers in front of the entire stadium.

If Dream Riko has an answer, he doesn’t find out before he wakes up. It takes him five minutes of panicked staring at the ceiling before he realises it was only a nightmare, and when he heaves himself up and reaches for his phone, it tells him 4.45am in glowing blue numbers.

He groans. It’s too early to get up, but he’s too wide awake to go back to sleep. Just what he needed. On the bright side, nothing else that happens in their match today could possibly be worse.

(He hopes.)



17.

In the same way Hyuuga watches Riko and Riko watches Kiyoshi, Kiyoshi - sometimes he watches Riko too.

Hyuuga doesn’t know why he’s noticing this now. Maybe he’s always known without knowing. Maybe it’s only in the post-tournament lull following the Winter Cup that he’s finally paying attention. The point is - now, he notices. Knowledge is a can of worms: once opened, the consequences are impossible to ignore.

And he would be lying if he said he didn’t care.

Shit, he thinks to himself.



18.

Kiyoshi’s basketball is nothing like him.

It’s not just that no one looking at Kiyoshi’s size would expect his speed and mobility on the court. They didn’t call him an Uncrowned General for nothing. His skill, control, power - they’re impressive, but Hyuuga would have expected as much from his reputation.

But it’s only watching him in game that you realise how much he sees around him. It’s like a switch goes off in his mind when he jogs across the sideline - he might not have Izuki’s eagle eye, but his ability to track every player and maneuver the game around them is just as strong. On the court, he moves with a purpose he never shows out of the game.

It pisses Hyuuga off. If Kiyoshi can keep up that kind of focus in the middle of a match, then there’s no way he doesn’t know what he’s doing off the court. It’s like he wants to be a dumbass on purpose and he thinks the rest of them will just fall for it. Hyuuga can never tell what Kiyoshi is thinking (or if he’s thinking at all). But they’ve played long enough that he knows Kiyoshi’s logic now.

However much he might try to hide it, in his basketball, Hyuuga can always read his train of thought.



19.

“Is something wrong?” Kiyoshi asks. “The club’s starting to wonder.” He shoots from the free-throw line and the ball sinks through the hoop, smooth and easy.

For a fatal moment, Hyuuga freezes. “Nothing’s wrong,” he mutters, retrieving the ball. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He takes up his own position at the three-point line again and shoots - the ball arcs through the air, hits the rim, circles the edge and then, finally, tips out of the hoop. Hyuuga scowls as it bounces across the school hall. This makes his 3-point average today, what, 5 out of 10 shots? Embarrassing.

Kiyoshi just looks at him, his focus clear and undisguised as it rarely is. “Riko thinks you’re avoiding her, but she doesn’t know why,” he says.

This, Hyuuga hadn’t realised. He hadn’t meant to do that. He certainly hadn’t meant to be obvious. “I just talked to her yesterday,” he says, even as he recognises the weakness of the defense.

Kiyoshi bounces the ball for a bit, then drives it across the court and dunks. His operation is scheduled in two weeks - he shouldn’t be showing up to practices at all, much less wandering into Hyuuga’s extra shooting practice, but no one has the heart to ban him, not even Riko. He’s even offered to be their club manager next year, though Riko’s only answer so far has been to stare at him and say she’ll think about it.

Hyuuga stares at Kiyoshi’s back and hates him. It’s a familiar feeling but it’s become less so in the past year, as if Hyuuga has to remind himself of the fact now, rather than take it for granted as the given it used to be. He has a bad feeling he knows what this means, the way he knows what the unspoken thing between Kiyoshi and Riko means, but hasn’t been ready to face either.

“If you like her, you should just tell her,“ he says before he can stop himself.

The words hang in the air, an irrevocable echo. Then Kiyoshi says, “Isn’t that more true for you?” He turns and they look at each other.

What do you say to that? Hyuuga feels a sudden surge of anger - at Kiyoshi, at the ball’s stubborn refusal to go where it should, at himself most of all.

“It’s true,” he says. “But more true? Don’t give me that. There’s no more or less about it. Either you like someone or you don’t.”

“Sure,” Kiyoshi says, “I like her.”

The words hit like a punch in the gut. But before Hyuuga can even begin to think about what they mean, a noise and muffled squawk from the door makes them turn. The rest of the club should be long gone, who else could still be--

Hyuuga looks out the door and stops. “Riko?!”

She stares at him and even in the dim lighting outside, he can see that she’s turned crimson. In her hand - the keys to the hall. That she must have dropped. Because--

“Oh, Riko,” Kiyoshi says from behind him, even as she says, “I was just coming to lock up for the night!” and Hyuuga chokes out, “You heard!”

They stare at each other, Hyuuga and Riko in a mixture of confusion and embarrassment and horror, Kiyoshi’s expression blankly surprised.

“It’s not what you think,” Hyuuga blurts out.

“Haha, we were just talking,” Kiyoshi agrees.

Riko stops blushing and narrows her eyes at them. “Really? So what were the two of you talking about?”

“Um...”

“Things?” Kiyoshi says unhelpfully. Then he adds, “I was saying that I like Riko. But I really like Hyuuga too, you know.”

“... What?” Hyuuga says.

For a too-long heartbeat, Kiyoshi blinks at their gaping faces. Then he laughs his big stupid laugh, the one that makes it so deceptively easy to believe he can’t have two brain cells to rub together. “As friends! I mean as friends, of course!”

“You’re lying!” Hyuuga snaps. Does he think they’re idiots? He laughed that exact same way when he tried to pretend his knee injury was nothing!

He looks at Riko and they recognise in each other the same helpless, exasperated amazement.

“You too. You’ve been wondering, right?” Riko says to him.

All that time he spent stuck on a question with no answer (the wrong answer) and it never occurred to him that maybe the others - the others had been wrestling with their own stalemate too. The tension has snapped, leaving unexpected relief behind it.

Riko turns her face away, shoulders shaking, and a small giggle escapes. “I can’t believe this,” she tells them.

“You think you can just barge your way in and then pretend it’s nothing?” he says to Kiyoshi, at the same time Riko says, “I just can’t leave you two idiots alone for one minute.”

He gives her an affronted look. “I’m not the idiot here.”

“Yes you are,” she says, laughter still singing in her voice. “We all are.”

“I do mean it,” Kiyoshi says, even as he starts to smile at them. “I’m glad I met you. Both of you.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it!” Hyuuga says, jabbing a finger in his face.

“Maybe...” Riko says, expression considering. “Maybe... we don’t have to choose.”

“This is crazy,” Hyuuga tells them. He knows nothing about romance. He can’t say where the indefinable line between friendship, and the world that lies just beyond it, could be. They stand in the borderlands of foreign ground, and the landscape before them - it’s even stranger than he thought it would be.

But this is Riko, who’s never backed down from a challenge. This is Kiyoshi, frustrating and yet impossible to turn away from. They grin at him and he can’t deny them, even as Kiyoshi closes the distance between all of them and Riko reaches out and pulls him in.



20.

Hyuuga knows, familiar as the ball in his hands: the quick, sure energy of Riko’s hands, never still but never aimless; the nameless tune she hums when she’s in a good mood; the specific warmth when she brushes against his side.

He also knows, instinctive as the muscle memory of a shot: the exact tenor of Kiyoshi’s real laugh; the furrow between his eyebrows when he’s forced to remember that he has a temper to lose; the particular weight when he leans in and slings an arm on Hyuuga’s shoulder without asking.

What he doesn’t know as well as he thought he did: all of the above.

The spaces between them are changing their shape. Every now and then Riko studies them, expression distant yet intent, as if she’s working through the formula to a new and particularly challenging Math problem. Kiyoshi drifts his way into every crack and corner between them, until it feels like he’s everywhere at once, annoying in his overwhelming there-ness.

Sometimes Hyuuga looks at them and the wanting hits like a tidal wave, leaving him spluttering in its aftermath, horrified by the force of it.

He has no idea how this will turn out. It’s not like promising to be the best in Japan. There’s no roadmap for what they’re trying to do. But if Hyuuga was the kind of guy who ran away just because something looked hard, he wouldn’t have been stupid enough to choose basketball in the first place. He already tried running away once, and look where that got him.

Hyuuga doesn’t know a lot of things. But he knows he’s all in, no holding out, no turning back. And in the end - that’s the only answer he needs.



end

February 2013