Fandom: Kuroko no Basket
Rating: PG for now.
Pairing: Kagami/Kuroko and some strange combination of Aomine thrown in there as well.
Crossposted: Tumblr and LJ
Summary: Kuroko no Coffehouse A/U
A/N: I feel like I need to sit everyone down and explain this first. Most important thing to explain, before anything else, is that I am largely incapable of writing anything short. So this is destined to be long. Really long. The premise is “Coffeehouse A/U”, because I realized that I’ve been fandom life for over a decade and have never written a coffeehouse A/U (what is wrong with me). Now, because I can’t do anything halfway, I took the concept way too far.
Set in America. The West, at any rate. This seems inconsequential to me. I write what I know, and setting an entire novel in Japan was enough. Their names remain. Now, since I had no idea what to do with coffeehouse people, I again went to what I know.
Kagami is a successful sports journalist starting his first novel. He sets up workshop in the Rainbow’s End coffeehouse, which is probably the most pretentiously hipster place he could have imagined ending up. There he makes some acquaintances that will throw all of his plans off track, but not exactly in a bad way…
Instead of being King B-Ball Swag in this universe, Aomine is King Hipster. I think that alone is worth the price of admission. Let’s begin.
Alex is in my dream again. She looks sort of like she did when we first met, in dire need of a haircut and pushing her bangs aside constantly. It’s a bizarre take on something that actually happened and it’s also a dream I used to have when I was a kid, meshed together in that way dreams manage. The details aren’t important, because there’s nothing less engaging than hearing the details of someone else’s dream. But Alex is there, like she broke into the scene like color refracted through glass, with her hands in the pockets of her hoodie whenever she isn’t messing with her hair. Just like when I told her I was going to move away, going to try and write a novel.
She lowers her head and glances aside for a moment, and before she can stop herself I see her head start to shake. When it really happened, it was only a moment, and she’d try to make up for it over the course of the next year with praise and encouragement, but she could never assuage my conviction that she didn’t believe I could make it. Now the memory is invading my dreams. I could have been dreaming of so many more interesting and gratifying things. Instead there’s my editor, wearing a look on her face that eats, and eats, and eats at my confidence in the worst moments of light sleep or heavy daydreaming.
Morning is the worst; waking up in the morning, trying to figure out what I’m doing on any given day. Sitting on an open schedule, knowing I have to fill it with work. Knowing I have to wake up. Budget my time. Put on pants (that’s my least favorite part). Doubts come flooding in as my eyes start to focus, and normally I let the overwhelming silence of the room get me restless enough to finally get up and remember I have absolutely nothing to doubt.
The room isn’t particularly quiet this morning, though. I remember as I grope for my phone to see what time it is, that I have a boyfriend now. It’s been a nice couple of weeks, and somehow I’ve managed not to let it distract me. Not too badly, anyway. I’ve only had a couple of mornings to suss out his habits, but I didn’t expect him to be a snorer. Not like this. Not at all like this.
The noise is actually quite horrible, really. And it’s 7:18 a.m., a.k.a. way too early for me to be thinking about putting on pants.
“Kuroko,” I say, as firmly as I can in a sleepy, grunting voice. I repeat myself and kick my leg back to the other side of the bed. No response.
“Yes?” His voice comes from the doorway. I look up and over to see him standing in one of my wrinkled dress shirts and a pair of socks, holding a mixing bowl in his hands. As always, he shows no emotion as he says, “I’m sorry if I woke you. I’m going to make pancakes. I’ve never tried them before. Do you have eggs?”
I’m not awake enough for this. I stare at him open-mouthed for a few moments. In any other situation I would be distracted by how adorably huge my shirt is on his frame. I can only wonder who is sawing logs in the bed next to me as my brain starts to reacquaint itself with my timeline. Something is telling me that I’ve forgotten something very important about last night. A feeling of dread curls up from my stomach and tickles the back of my throat with pre-emptive sickness as I turn halfway.
Kuroko turns to walk out of the room. “I’ll find them. Hold his nose, by the way. That’s the only thing that will wake him up.”
His stupid glasses without the lenses are still on, skewed aside where one arm is thrown over his forehead. His mouth is wide open in sleep and he’s completely clothed. Even with his face mostly hidden, I recognize his standard hipster uniform of a shirt, tie, and cardigan. For the movie deals and major house advances, you’d think he could afford better than Old Navy, or at least you’d expect him to be hipster enough to go unbranded. My first instinct is to shove the pillow into his face. Not to suffocate him, but because Kuroko told me to hold his nose and a pillow seems more my style.
I slap his arm instead. “Jesus Christ, quiet down!”
He opens one eye but it’s obvious that he doesn’t really see me. His breath clicks in his throat and he grunts before pulling his arm away and trying to get more comfortable. In my bed. In most of my bed. He’s back to sleep in an instant. At least he stopped snoring. At least nothing really happened last night.
Nothing really happened; which isn’t to say that things, in the less substantial sense, didn’t happen. But Aomine is still in my bed, while my boyfriend is in the next room attempting his way through breakfast, apparently okay with the scenario. This makes sense to me. Because I can weave the threads together and realize how we got here. On the other hand, anyone else – anyone else who knows us, for instance – would be (and probably will be) demanding to know what the fuck is happening.
I suppose it’s time to tell a story, though it’s hardly the one I set out expecting.
~ o1. Rainbow’s End
Sometime in the 1960’s, the place opened. At the time it was an Irish pub meant to attract the crowds from all the sporting events at the stadium on the end of B Street. When the stadium was shuttered in lieu of the shiny new complex on the waterfront about twenty years later, the pub fell into dive-bar obscurity. The owners sold it in the 90’s, in time for the stars to align at the cusp of the artisan coffee craze. The new proprietors kept the name and turned the shitty bar on the corner into a coffeehouse complete with local art, organic tea, ivy growing in through the windows near the patio, and a piano. A piano, I thought with mild ennui as I surveyed the place, new to the neighborhood, the town, and the business of working for myself. I was a few months off from having anyone else in my apartment, much less two men at once. Okay, that sounds a lot more lurid than it seems. I promise this isn’t that sort of story.
Okay, maybe it is. A little bit. Just a little bit.
The patrons were trying to ignore me, but I stood out. I could see their hesitant stolen glances, wondering where I’d come from and whether I’d wandered in unaware of the dress code. The dress code, it seemed from the clientele scattered around on the mix of couches and kitschy mis-matched tables, had something to do with thrift stores and scarves. A girl with messy braids almost smiled at me, but I might have misread the expression. She returned to her e-reader.
No one here, I was convinced within moments, had ever read a shred of my work.
I claimed one of the tables near the back with my laptop case and decided it would be the perfect place to settle in, do some people watching, and get a leg up on my inspiration. Not many distractions. No television, and only the most offensively indie music playing on the sound system. All I had to do was log off of Twitter and promise myself to at least figure out where I was going with the framework of my first novel.
I walked up to the counter and squinted at the menu board, trying to figure out what the place was all about. The entire thing was hand-written in chalk, with some of the words making typographic art. I’d never have gone near one of these places in my younger days, not even a few months ago. I stuck to gas station coffee and wrote at home or at the office. The office had been easy. I asked Alex where to go to get my mind in the right place for fiction, and she told me a coffeehouse. She laughed at the time, so maybe I missed a joke that was now on me. I was starting to wonder if there was such a thing as plain black coffee anymore when I realized there was someone in front of me.
My eyes focused on him before I even had a chance to react to his materialization. “Have you been helped?”
I took one step back in spite of myself, and wondered how I’d missed him. “Wow, you really came out of nowhere.”
“You seem confused by the menu.”
Though he was right, he didn’t offer to help me, which seemed rather rude. I knitted my brow and shot a sharp glare at him. He was considerably shorter than me, pale hair and sad, pale eyes, the sort of wimpy guy I’d expect to inhabit a place like this. He was my only hope, though.
“I just want some plain coffee. You guys have that, right?”
He answered bluntly without batting an eye. “It depends on the sort of coffee you like. If someone comes in and asks for black coffee I’ll usually give them Columbian brewed.” The intensity of his demeanor seemed to have some root in genuine honesty. The rudeness had been my conflation. He was soft-spoken, yes, but so tactless that he seemed detached from our encounter completely. Maybe that’s how you had to be, to get over the pretention. Either that, or he was a robot.
“Okay, give me that,” I said incredulously. I had no idea what he was going on about, and shrugged. “Geez, I feel like I need a Master’s Degree in coffee just to walk in here.”
I received to reply to my annoyance, and the barista returned a minute later, sliding a red coffee mug forward on a saucer.
“What is this?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, I assumed since you brought your computer that you’d be drinking it here.”
I blinked at it like the concept of a coffee mug was foreign to me. “I’m just not used to it, is all. I expected a paper cup with a… sleevy holder thingy.” That, and I wondered how I was going to take a saucer back to my table with any semblance of dignity.
I paid and glanced at his nametag as he changed my bills. Kuroko.
“May I offer you some advice?” he asked, dropping the change into my hand.
“I guess so.”
“That’s usually someone else’s spot. You may want to move to another table.”
My first instinct was to bristle at the idea of being pushed around like I’d wandered into a rough neighborhood that smelled of hazelnuts and patchouli, with the indignity of the saucer added like a blow to the back.
Kuroko picked up on the shift in my mood. “It was only a suggestion.”
“I’ll stay where I am. Thanks for the advice.”
I thought little of it, beyond that. For an hour I failed to focus, perusing ESPN and Yahoo! Sports in lieu of Twitter, logging into Twitter anyway, reading an article on The New York Times, and opening at least three tabs of unrelated but interesting links I saw along the way. Finally I realized what I was doing, remembered that the money in my bank account was (though considerable for the time being) finite, and that I had to come up with a follow-up to convince Alex she’d made the right move in letting me break from genre.
I was a sports historian, and only the niggling doubts in my mind wanted to convince me I wasn’t a novelist. Writing was easy so I had to do something different to keep myself interested. I had something vague in mind, but it wasn’t enough to pin down in the few minutes I decided to focus. Besides, my coffee mug was already empty.
Kuroko was still at the counter when I approached for a refill. “It costs a dollar,” he advised me, and when I told him to go ahead his eyes flashed almost imperceptibly at the door. I heard the bells jingle on the knob, alerting everyone that someone had entered. He handed me the freshly topped-off mug and, when I exchanged it with a dollar, he asked, “What are you writing?”
“How do you know I’m a writer?”
He just blinked at me. “So you’re not.”
“No!” I was aggravated by his tactlessness, somehow, as well as his apparent disconnect from emotional cues. “No, I am, but I’m wondering how you could have known that when all I’ve been doing for the last hour is dicking around on websites.”
“I’m not sure. I can tell, though. What do you write?”
I thought nothing of his weird remarks and decided to indulge him. “I wrote a few sports books. Team histories, two of them. Another, about the evolution of regional rivalries. My latest was an oral history of the Boston Celtics. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a journalist, to that end. Worked for a newspaper up in Philadelphia until this year. I’m starting my first novel.”
“That’s good to know.” While I puzzled over that answer, Kuroko glanced just beyond my shoulder.
This time, I was well aware that someone was close by. Moreover, I knew the sort of prickly cactus aura of someone who wasn’t quite pleased with me. The stern clearing of a throat helped tip me off. I turned halfway and was going to tell whoever it was to stop invading my space.
Instead, he leaned closer to the counter as if I wasn’t even there. “Tetsu,” he addressed Kuroko directly. “Did someone leave their things on my table?”
“Aomine, someone’s sitting there today. You can sit at another table.”
The scoff and chuckle I heard made me immediately brace myself, and my eyes scanned the figure so rudely horning in on my personal bubble.
Chambray shirt, knit tie, plaid scarf wrapped inexplicably around his neck even though it was warm out, and a plain white cardigan. His hair was trimmed short and he wore glasses, but when he turned his attention to me I noticed that they didn’t even have any lenses in them. There was a hoop ring on his eyebrow and a white stud on his bottom lip that stood out against his cinnamon skin. I glanced down and found my basketball shoes toe to toe with his dingy Converse All-Stars. His jeans were cuffed above his bare ankles.
I’ve found him, I wanted to whisper in awe. I’ve found King Hipster.
“I’m sorry, was I interrupting?” he asked, so flippantly that I wanted to make something of it, as they say.
“Yeah. I was talking to him.” I pointed at Kuroko.
He barely acknowledged me, and continued his conversation without breaking stride. I didn’t move over to offer him any breadth. “I actually can’t sit at another table. You know that.”
Jackass, I thought, and stopped just short of whispering.
“You must be talking about my stuff,” I said. He turned his attention back to me with a miserable look, lip curled in a slight sneer. “I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but you’re so rude I couldn’t help it.”
I heard him give me a throaty, deep chuckle, and then I had his attention completely. Kuroko had called him Aomine, hadn’t he? I was hesitant to use his name, though. I was holding out for some decency, which I didn’t really expect to receive. If not that, then some good old fashioned hostility would have to do on both our parts. But no names.
“I’ll buy your next cup if you give up your seat.”
“I don’t think I’ll need another cup. Besides, I’ve just hit my stride. No deal.” I breezed past him, feeling a rush as I smiled in the wake of our confrontation. “What’s so special about that seat, anyway?”
“I write best at that seat. It’s wasted on someone like you.” He regarded my t-shirt and jeans with a poisonous sweep of his eyes, and pushed his fake glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“Stay out of this, Tetsu.”
Pausing before taking my seat again, I quirked an eyebrow at him. I was quite convinced that he had no idea who I was. That was a great thing to feel, eminence. “Oh yeah? Well, that’s a shame. Sorry you won’t be able to work on your indie screenplay, then.”
I sat down, feeling more inspired than I had since I’d first moved into town. Before I could get a good look at my soon-to-not-be empty page, however, Aomine pushed my laptop closed and leaned over the table to narrow his almond-shaped eyes at me.
“Do you know who I am?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing.” I’d managed to be humble with Kuroko, but I was ready to throw my accolades in this guy’s face, if it came to that. I sat back with my hands behind my head.
“Looked at the New York Times Bestseller list recently?”
“Yes, it’s usually full of celebrities and shit Oprah’s been shilling.”
“My name is Aomine Daiki, look it up. And know your place.” He was possessed of an intensity I’d only seen while writing about the fiercest sports rivalries of the century. Of course, it did nothing but encourage me. I couldn’t figure out how someone could be so fired up about something as ultimately inconsequential as a chair. It felt like grade school, and I wanted to be a total ass and ask him if he wrote his name on it. Instead, I brushed his hand away and moved to open my laptop again.
“Well. If you’ll excuse me, I have to get started. Thanks for the tip.”
“Yeah, good luck,” he muttered as he turned and walked to the table across from mine. He collapsed into the chair like a marionette off its strings. He barely reigned in his petulance with every movement, and flipped his screen up with one finger. It made me want to laugh, but I was too busy feeling something I hadn’t felt in months.
I glanced aside and somehow I knew the weird little barista would be watching me. Sure enough, Kuroko’s eyes were curiously directed at my table, which was soon to become my regular spot. Something about the entire encounter had given me the boost I needed. I half-nodded at Kuroko and dove into the document just as someone else at the counter shouted at him to pay attention and do an Arabica pour-over.
Recklessly, I started to write. I didn’t even care what it was about. I just started to put things into words, and refused to stop. Occasionally, I’d glance up, and Aomine would catch my eye. He sneered whenever he did. It spurred me on. Only when he left the shop to take a phone call did I chance tabbing over to Google and plugging in his name. The auto-complete knew his name within five characters. I saw the title of what I would soon learn was his bestseller, Myranda Wall, as one of the options. Beneath that, another suggestion caught my eye: “Aomine Daiki Generation of Miracles”.
The curiosity was too much. I clicked it, just as I heard a voice very close by. Directly behind me, in fact.
“Oh. So you honestly didn’t know who he is.”
I started and turned in my chair, knowing it was Kuroko but too stunned to react with anything but a mild heart attack. “Fuck’s sake, give me a break!”
“I’ve been here for about two minutes.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better!”
“If the Generation of Miracles sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard of them without really hearing about each of them. Not individually, at least. People didn’t like to talk about them without mentioning the rest, because it wasn’t as good a story.”
I perused the Wikipedia page dedicated to the subject, and all at once it came flooding back to me. It had been about five years ago, when I was in high school. This group of five kids from a school in California came out of nowhere and became mass media darlings. I don’t remember what each of them did, separately, but I’d heard my dad talking about them being writers, artists, musicians, photographers. All of them were nationally recognized and lauded by luminaries in their fieldseven at such young ages, and all of them happened to pal around together, intending to make good on promises of huge projects with the right funding. Apparently they made one of the biggest deals in history to develop a film project called Miracles, only to have the whole thing dissolve in the eleventh hour. The media called them the Generation of Miracles from then on, and I hadn’t paid much attention after that. I was usually flipping to the sports page by the time I even digested the headline. If I’d taken a little extra time, I’d have seen Aomine Daiki’s name in those sub-headers since the dissolution of the Generation of Miracles.
He’d been, the article went on to say, first to make good since then, with his postmodern style that took David Foster Wallace and ran it over with James Joyce a few times. Aomine didn’t seem to write with any particular necessity or intention, and instead managed to do magical things with words themselves, which led to endless debates on whether the young prodigy’s works were a satire of language itself, freeform poetry, or garbage. He may have been a subject of controversy, but it was very lucrative controversy. His most cohesively narrative novel, The Way of Hurricanes, had secured a movie deal earlier that year. I would have expected to be scowling at such a list of accomplishments being attached to such an asshole, but unexpectedly I felt my excitement soar.
Kuroko was still next to me. “Yeah, because I thought this whole writing a novel thing was going to be boring. I came from the world of sports; competition drives me. I thought it was going to be a walk in the park, getting this done and capped off and sent out, no challenge to it at all. But now I’m pumped!”
I looked up at Kuroko, who opened his mouth to say something but refocused his attention when Aomine walked back into our scene.
“Tetsu,” he began, ignoring me completely. “If I run off for a bit, can you watch my things?”
“Yes. What’s the matter?”
He ‘tsk’ed bitterly. “Momoi’s in a snit about something at the apartment. I need to go, but I’ll be right back.”
“Don’t let this guy do anything to my stuff!” He pointed at me with a flick of his wrist.
“I’ve got a name.”
“Don’t really care.”
“It’s Kagami. You need to get used to it. I’m going to be seeing a lot of you, if you keep hanging around here.”
“Ass. Why did you have to choose my coffeehouse?”
I felt a strange lightness of certitude as I looked over and shrugged, catching Kuroko in my periphery. It wasn’t entirely about needling Aomine. It was something else, but it was something I felt deeply. “I don’t know, I just really think this place is… inspiring.”