It was Daiki who mentioned it first, stroking his thumb along the line of Taiga’s collarbone one afternoon when they were all tangled together in Tetsuya’s bed, still a little sticky but catching their breaths again.
“You’ve stopped wearing that necklace all the time.”
“Mm.” Taiga shrugged a little, trying not to shove anyone off the bed, or scrape his shoulder blades against the wall, or show how the observation made him twitch. “I still have it. Just seemed like it was maybe time to take it off and put it away.”
Tetsuya turned, where he was lying between them, unfairly graceful and not elbowing anyone in the stomach. Taiga concentrated on that, and not the question in Tetsuya’s eyes. “Did something else happen between you and Himuro-san?” Tetsuya asked quietly.
Taiga sighed, giving in; he obviously wasn’t getting out of this conversation, especially since he was the one up against the wall and couldn’t make easy excuses to get up. “Nothing new,” he said, low. “Just, the more I thought about it, the more I realized Tatsuya was right. He’s not my nii-san any more.”
“Yousen’s Himuro Tatsuya?” Aomine asked, sliding a hand up to drape over Taiga’s hip, casual in contrast to the way he was watching Taiga.
“I knew him back in the States. He was the one who got me into basketball.” Taiga snorted at the way Daiki perked up. “The rings… it was a little kid’s pledge, I guess; he didn’t… he’s not…” He sighed and turned his head into the curve of Tetsuya’s shoulder, frustration bubbling up fresh. “I can understand if he doesn’t want to claim something he doesn’t feel like he can hold up his end of. But basketball wasn’t the reason he was my big brother! It didn’t have to be the only thing between us!”
Tetsuya’s fingers threaded through his hair, holding him closer. “He took care of you.” Taiga nodded silently. Yes, Tetsuya understood that.
“And now that you’re a better player than he is,” Daiki said slowly, thumb rubbing over Taiga’s hip, “he doesn’t think he can any more. What a moron,” he added, thoughtful.
Taiga snorted a pained laugh against Tetsuya’s shoulder. Yeah, Daiki, with his passion for people who didn’t give up, wouldn’t think much of Tatsuya’s choices. “I’m not mad at him. Not really. It… doesn’t change how he did take care of me, back then. It’s just different now.” If Tatsuya wouldn’t see that he could still be Taiga’s nii-san, no matter who won on the court, then it was time to put the ring away with the rest of his memories.
“Hmm.” Tetsuya’s fingers rubbed slowly over his bare nape. “Taiga. If you’ve taken off that necklace, would you let me replace it?” he said at last.
Taiga lifted his head and blinked down at Tetsuya. “Replace it?”
Tetsuya smiled and squirmed out from between them, sliding off the foot of the bed. “Here.” He padded across the room and took a small box out of his desk drawer, sliding back up onto the bed as he opened it. He laid the open box between Taiga and Daiki and sat back on his heels, watching them.
There were two slim, dark necklaces in the box, just a little longer than choker length, much shorter than the chain Taiga had kept his ring on. He fished one out, curious, and ran it through his fingers; it was finished leather cord, soft under his fingertips. He glanced up at Tetsuya. “You want to…”
This couldn’t be a simple pledge among the three of them, like the rings. There were only two necklaces, not three. And Tetsuya had set them very precisely in between Taiga and Daiki. Taiga could feel his face turning hot at the implication, and his voice was a little more strangled when he corrected himself. “You want us to wear…?”
Tetsuya was watching them quietly, not demanding anything, but there was a glint in his eyes that made Taiga hot in a different way.
Daiki lifted the second necklace, running it through his fingers and glancing back and forth between them. “You want the two of us to wear these?” he asked, toying with the slim cord. “For you?” When Tetsuya nodded, Daiki gave Taiga a thoughtful look and smiled slowly. “I will if you will.”
Taiga glared. That was playing dirty.
The corners of Tetsuya’s mouth were curled up in a silent laugh as he leaned forward and laid a hand on each of their wrists. “Only if you want to,” he said firmly. And then his fingers stroked the back of Taiga’s hand gently. “But I would like very much to be able to replace that necklace, for you.”
To replace the necklace. To replace what it meant. To take care of him. Taiga felt the curl of warmth through his chest that was becoming very familiar; it happened whenever Tetsuya made it clear how close he held them. And Tetsuya would never, ever give up his hold on someone just because they were stronger. Taiga had a year and more worth of proof of that.
“Yeah,” he said, a little husky. “Yeah, I’d like that too.”
“Good,” Tetsuya said softly, and lifted the necklace out of his hand. “Lift your chin.”
Taiga had to swallow against a sudden flutter of response low in his stomach as Tetsuya slid up the bed to straddle him, leaning in as he wrapped the slim cord around Taiga’s neck. The tiny snick of the clasp fastening, more felt than heard, sent a spike of heat right down Taiga’s spine. The delicate stroke of Tetsuya’s fingers over the cool line of leather made him shudder. “Tetsuya…” God, was he ever going to get used to the way it made him feel, when Tetsuya took control?
Daiki laughed beside him, husky. “Hey, no getting ahead of yourself. It’s my turn.”
Taiga opened half closed eyes to see Daiki hand Tetsuya the other length of cord, smiling. He turned over, bending his head down against Taiga’s shoulder, offering Tetsuya his bared nape, and Taiga wound an arm around him more or less by reflex. Daiki looked so vulnerable like this.
“Yes, it’s your turn,” Tetsuya agreed, voice gentle, and passed the soft leather carefully around Daiki’s throat and closed the catch firmly. Taiga felt a little shiver run through Daiki. He thought Tetsuya did, too, because he leaned down and pressed a kiss to Daiki’s nape, just over the clasp. Daiki practically purred, relaxing against Taiga, and Tetsuya leaned against them looking satisfied.
A thought nudged at Taiga, one that made his face heat a little once again, but he wasn’t going to lie to himself. He knew perfectly well what they were doing, what it meant that Tetsuya had put this on him rather than let him do it himself. It wasn’t like he objected, but that kind of meant he should ask Tetsuya about taking it off, too, right?
“I don’t think we should wear these on the court,” he said, touching the necklace. “They aren’t very heavy; they could get broken too easily.”
Tetsuya smiled, reaching up to stroke his cheek. “Of course. I want you to be sensible about them. Whatever you think is necessary.”
Taiga turned into that touch, mouth tilted ruefully as he acknowledged how it relaxed him to have Tetsuya’s agreement on that. His permission. Daiki stirred against his shoulder, looking up.
“I think I might be a little not-sensible.” Daiki’s eyes were dark, on Tetsuya, and Tetsuya’s smile turned darker as he met them.
“That’s fine too,” he said softly, reaching out to hook a finger under the thin cord and pull it taut. “I’ll put one of these back around your neck as many times as it takes.”
The sound Daiki made, husky and wanting, sent Taiga’s blood rushing to his cock. Tetsuya, still straddling him, laughed. “Come here, Daiki. Take care of Taiga for me.” He slid to the side, nudging Taiga into the middle of the bed, and pulled Daiki down by his necklace—his collar—until he was kneeling between Taiga’s legs, bent over to nuzzle against Taiga’s cock. “Yes. Like that.”
Taiga slid his hands down Daiki’s arms and over his shoulders, hands working against the sleek muscle there as Daiki licked his cock teasingly. “Daiki…” He loved the way Tetsuya drew them to each other, and it never stopped getting him hot, watching Daiki submit to Tetsuya, but Daiki could be a little disconcerting in bed. He teased even more than Tetsuya. Daiki glanced up at him, smirking a little but gently, and wound his arms around Taiga’s hips, long fingers spreading against his back.
“Shut up and enjoy it, Tai,” he murmured, and closed his mouth around Taiga, hot and slick and sure. Pleasure tightened on Taiga like a knot closing, and he gasped, trying not to rock up too hard while Daiki’s tongue stroked over him enticingly.
And then Daiki gasped around him, abruptly flushed, hands tightening on Taiga’s back. Taiga looked up and realized Tetsuya had settled behind Daiki, hands kneading over his raised ass. Tetsuya smiled just a little as he spread Daiki’s cheeks wide and rubbed slow fingers over his entrance. Tetsuya had not, Taiga realized, flushing a bit himself, reached for the lube yet. He knew Daiki liked Tetsuya to be rougher with him than he ever was with Taiga, but was Tetsuya really…? Tetsuya pushed a finger in, and the way Daiki moaned around Taiga sent a shudder of pleasure right up his spine.
“Tetsu,” Daiki gasped, head tipping back as he arched on his knees to push his ass up higher.
Tetsuya smiled slowly. “I told you to take care of Taiga,” he reminded Daiki, working his finger in and out of Daiki’s ass with short little thrusts. Taiga could watch it, from where he lay, and see how Daiki’s eyes went darker at the quiet command in Tetsuya’s voice.
“Yes, Tetsu,” he murmured, and lowered his head again, wrapping his lips around Taiga’s cock and lapping at him quick and firm, just like the movement of Tetsuya’s hand. When Tetsuya pushed two dry fingers into him, Daiki shuddered and sucked on Taiga like he could coax Tetsuya’s fingers deeper that way. It felt incredible, like Taiga was part of what Tetsuya was doing to their lover, and maybe that was why he whispered, “Tetsuya, please…”
Tetsuya looked up, holding Taiga’s eyes as he twisted his fingers deep in Daiki’s ass. “You think I should give him more?”
Taiga shuddered softly with the vibration of Daiki’s moan. “Yes!”
Tetsuya laughed softly, drawing his fingers back and reaching for the bottle still tangled in Taiga’s sheets. “Very well.”
Taiga swallowed, throat dry as he watched. He knew how it felt, knew so well how it felt to have Tetsuya’s hands wrapped around his hips, holding him while Tetsuya’s cock pushed in slowly, slowly, opening him up. So he knew exactly why Daiki was making those husky sounds and why his hands were clutching at Taiga’s back and why Daiki’s mouth was desperate against him. He was pleading for both of them when he moaned, “Please, Tetsuya, harder…”
And when Tetsuya shifted, leaning over Daiki and driving in deep and hard, it was Taiga who came undone under the slide of Daiki’s mouth all the way down his cock. He lost track of watching Tetsuya, but he could feel everything Tetsuya was doing in the pressure of Daiki’s mouth on him as he clutched at Daiki’s shoulders, gasping with the pleasure wringing him out. “Tetsuya…! God, Tetsuya, please!”
By the time he came back down, Daiki was sprawled across him, just as messy and breathless as he was. Tetsuya was arched taut behind him, buried deep inside Daiki, flushed and gasping softly. The sight wrung another moan out of him, and when he looked down Daiki’s eyes were fixed on him. “I can see it,” Daiki told him, husky. “I can see how he looks in how you look right now.”
“Mmm.” Tetsuya slowly opened his eyes again and released Daiki’s hips to stroke down his back. “Yes. Just like Taiga could tell what I was doing and what you needed.” He eased free of Daiki and pushed him gently down against Taiga, keeping a hand on Daiki’s back as he settled beside them. “We’re doing this together, and there’s no competition between you. Remember that, all right?”
Daiki froze, staring at Tetsuya with wide eyes. “I…”
Tetsuya smiled and cupped his cheek, stroking a thumb over the sharp line of his cheekbone. “You think I wouldn’t see it, when you were my partner for so long and you’re my lover now? I want both of you,” he told Daiki softly, touching the cord of leather around his neck. “Never doubt that.”
Slowly, Daiki nodded, relaxing against Taiga, eyes lowered. “Yes, Tetsu,” he said, more subdued by Tetsuya’s quiet words than Taiga had ever seen him, even when he was tied up. Taiga wrapped his arms around Daiki, holding him close. He knew how that felt, too. It was, he thought, exactly why both of them were willing to walk around wearing the delicate collars Tetsuya had clasped around their necks, and he smiled against Daiki’s hair.
They were all together in this, all right.
Izuki Shun had always watched the people around him; it was one of the habits that made him a good point guard. And his teammates were always worth watching, for the amusement value if nothing else. So he’d noticed a few months ago that Kagami had stopped wearing the ring on a chain around his neck that used to always be there, even during practice. And he’d noticed about a week ago that Kagami had started wearing a simple leather necklace, the kind that you could find at any accessory stall in any shopping district. That, though, he carefully removed and tucked away whenever he changed for practice or a match.
Which was, perhaps, why it took so long for anyone else to notice. Shun had laid a tiny bet with himself on who it would be, and he won it the evening Koganei looked up from tying his shoes and suddenly grinned.
“Hey, Kagami.” Koganei’s tone was as good as a knowing nudge in the ribs. “You’ve got a new necklace these days. Is there someone who wants you to wear her present, instead of your old girlfriend’s?”
Kagami promptly turned red and sputtered. “It’s not like that!” Shun had expected that kind of response, because Kagami really was awfully innocent in some ways. The surprising part was the way Kagami hesitated as he fastened the necklace, looking aside, and added, “Not exactly.”
Of course, that was as good as waving a feather in front of a cat. “Not exactly?” Koganei pressed, sidling up to throw an arm around Kagami’s shoulders despite the height difference. “So there really is a girl, isn’t there? Come on, you can tell senpai all about it…”
Kagami was sputtering again, and Shun was preparing to take pity on the poor guy and intervene when Kuroko beat him to it.
“Koganei-senpai,” he said, sharper than Shun had ever heard him speak to any of his seniors, “that’s private. You shouldn’t tease Kagami-kun about it.”
The entire club fell quiet for a moment, staring. Kuroko tugged down his cuffs and stood, looking back levelly. It wasn’t quite the way Shun had seen him stare down opponents, but it was close. He didn’t blame Koganei for stepping away from Kagami, hands raised.
“Just kidding around.”
And quick as that, Kuroko was back to his usual self, calm and at ease, giving Koganei a very proper little bow. “Of course, senpai. Excuse us, please.” He slung his bag over his shoulder and led the way out, and Kagami followed him.
There was, Shun noted, predictable relief at being rescued on Kagami’s face, but there was also something soft along with it. As unusually soft as Kuroko had just been sharp. He considered that thoughtfully, as he pulled on his jacket.
Maybe this was something he’d keep a particular eye on.
Junpei had separated from the rest of the team in the wake of the first winter preliminaries, and was walking home beside Riko and Teppei, when Riko finally spoke up.
“So. Did you see Aomine when we passed Touou, on our way out?”
Junpei winced. He’d foolishly hoped she hadn’t noticed. “It’s none of our business,” he said firmly.
“What isn’t?” Teppei blinked at them.
“Teppei!” Riko huffed, obviously exasperated. “Didn’t you notice that Aomine was wearing a necklace just like the one Kagami wears these days?”
“Well sure,” Teppei said calmly. “I’m glad those two seem to be getting along so well.”
Junpei buried his face in his hands, groaning. As if Riko wasn’t bad enough! “It is none of our business,” he repeated hopelessly.
“I wonder if Kuroko set the two of them up,” Riko speculated with gleaming eyes, completely ignoring him. “Maybe that’s why he was so defensive when Koganei was teasing Kagami.”
Teppei made a thoughtful sound. “I have to admit, I always expected all three of them to be together, but maybe you’re right. At any rate, he doesn’t seem to feel left out, and that’s good.”
Junpei wondered wistfully if putting his hands over his ears would drown them out.
“Oooo, if they are all together, maybe that’s what it is!” Riko clasped her hands in front of her mouth, eyes dancing. “Maybe those are actually Kuroko’s necklaces they’re wearing.”
“Kantoku!” Junpei finally yelled. “Quit talking about our players’ love lives!”
From the way she broke down giggling, he figured she’d just been trying to get a rise out of him anyway, and sighed. And swatted at Teppei’s hand when it landed on his head and rumpled his hair ‘comfortingly’.
“Oh, don’t worry.” Riko bumped her shoulder against his arm and grinned up at him. “It’s not like I’d say any of this in front of them.”
“Although, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kuroko had it in him,” Teppei started, and Junpei cut him off sternly.
“Both of you shut up about this, or so help me I’m going home alone tonight.” Which, since his was the only house at which the three of them could reasonably spend an evening together out of reach of paternal death-threats or grand-parental ears, was a significant enough threat to make them stop.
That didn’t stop him from remembering the conversation, every time he saw Kuroko smile while Kagami fastened that necklace on after practice, but he’d already become resigned to the fact that being a boyfriend to Riko and Teppei did bad things to a man’s brain. He figured it was worth it.
Takao Kazunari had never really been surprised by how often Shintarou wanted to visit his ex-teammates in Tokyo. For all his quirks, Shin-chan was pretty much born to be a team player, and Kazunari actually had no trouble believing he’d been the voice of reason on the Teikou team.
Considering who else had been on that team, after all.
So, even before Kagami and Aomine started sneaking out to see each other, Kazunari had been driving his partner back and forth across central Tokyo at least once a month to give Kise or Kagami or Kuroko very backhanded advice, or to trade insults with Aomine. It was unquestionably good muscular and cardiovascular training, and some days, like today, it was good entertainment, too.
“The two of you have no discipline whatsoever,” Shintarou sniffed, adjusting his glasses as he gave Aomine and Kagami unimpressed looks. Admittedly, they both looked pretty scruffy at the moment, wringing wet and gasping for breath.
“Oh, come on Shin-chan,” Kazunari called, bouncing the ball easily and keeping a sharp eye on Kuroko. “How long were they been playing for before we got there?”
“That,” Shintarou said in arctic tones, “is exactly my point. Both of them should have the strength to go for longer, if they ever bothered to pace themselves properly.” He swept back his hair, sweat-soaked for all his breathing was still disgustingly easy, and gave the two other aces a thoroughly disgruntled look.
Kazunari was hard-pressed not to laugh at the way both Kagami and Aomine seemed torn between glaring at each other and glaring at Shintarou. “Give ’em a break, Shin-chan. We can go bug Kise, if you want more of a work-out.” That suggestion focused both glares firmly on him, and he smirked back at them. He was pretty sure they’d be pacing themselves more carefully, after having to hear something like that from him; never let it be said he didn’t look after his partner’s interests.
“Midorima-kun is right, that’s enough for today,” Kuroko put in, and Kazunari blinked, finding his hand abruptly empty of the ball. Kuroko was getting sneakier every month, he swore. But that little coup seemed to be enough to settle Kuroko’s own partners, and they all trouped off the court together. Kazunari stretched his calves thoughtfully as they fished out water and towels, wondering if he’d really make it to Kaijou and back without his legs giving out. Which wasn’t a problem in and of itself, but Shin-chan would lecture him just as mercilessly as he did his ex-teammates. From the look in his partner’s eye, though, Kazunari really didn’t think Shintarou would be satisfied with this game alone, today. He’d been restless all morning, and looking forward to a hard game.
Sure enough, Shintarou was tetchy enough that even watching Kagami fasten a plain and unassuming necklace on was enough to rouse his ire. “You’ve always been careless, Aomine,” he snapped. “I notice you didn’t even bother taking your frivolous decorations off while you played.”
Huh. Now Shin-chan mentioned it, Aomine did have on a necklace a lot like Kagami’s, a plain leather cord number. In fact… it looked almost exactly alike. More to defuse Shintarou’s temper than anything else, Kazunari grinned and asked, “What, are you two married now, as well as rivals?”
He blinked when they both turned red and sputtered.
“I mean, not like that…”
“Seriously, well okay, not exactly like that, but seriously…”
Kazunari’s eyes widened with delight at every jumbled denial. “You are, oh that’s so beautiful.” They nearly gargled at him, at that, reduced to non-verbal protests, and he laughed.
He’d never claimed that he didn’t have an evil sense of humor.
Before he could wind them up any more, though, Kuroko straightened up from zipping his bag and said firmly, “Enough.”
The command in his tone was a little startling, but Kazunari had seen Kuroko play hot, and he’d seen Kuroko angry once or twice. He knew Kuroko had a cutting edge under that smooth expression. What was a lot more startling was the way both Kagami and Aomine fell quiet at that one word.
At that order.
It all fell together at once, the matching leather necklaces, the way Aomine kept his on and Kagami had flushed just a little deeper putting his back on, the way that one word had pulled them up short. Kazunari pursed his lips and whistled quietly. “Well, well. Congratulations, then,” he told Kuroko, perfectly in earnest. He was impressed.
When Kuroko just dipped his head, accepting it as his due, Kazunari had to grin.
“In that case, we’ll just be off and let you three get on with things,” he said cheerily, slinging an arm, or at least a hand, around Shin-chan’s shoulder and tugging him toward the corner of the court where he’d left the bike and cart.
Shintarou frowned down at him in obvious puzzlement. “Takao, what–?”
“Shh.” Kazunari laughed under his breath. “Tell you later.” Aomine and Kagami were both red in the face. “Not that I’m actually all that surprised,” he added as he unlocked the bike and wheeled it around. “I mean, it’s always the ones you wouldn’t expect, right?” He paused, struck by an enticing thought as Shintarou gave him an exasperated look. “Hm. Speaking of which, what would you say to going straight home instead of visiting Kise?”
Shintarou looked down his nose. “And why would I agree to that, when Aomine and Kagami were barely a challenge today?”
Kazunari leaned against the seat of the bike, crossing his legs, and fished a coin out of his pocket. “I was thinking there might be a form of exercise you’d like more, today.” He tossed the coin lightly from hand to hand, smiling up at Shintarou. “What do you say, Shin-chan? Heads, you let me suck your fingers while I fuck you. Tails, I let you fuck me wherever and however you please.” The corners of his mouth curled a little higher as Shin-chan’s eyes widened behind his glasses. “How’s your fortune looking today?” he purred, and flipped the coin into the air for Shin-chan to call. Past the flash of metal, his partner’s eyes gleamed.
It was always the ones you wouldn’t expect.
Himuro Tatsuya was not expecting to hear his name called. He’d put his back against a nice, sturdy brick wall and was just keeping out of the way as the howling packs of shoppers swept past. But when someone called, “Tatsuya!”, he recognized the voice and looked up with a smile. A tilted smile, because he expected Taiga to give him a certain amount of hell for his current errand, but a smile.
Taiga forged awkwardly through the crush, obviously still not used to how close people pressed. His clothes fit into the crowd down here well enough; the sneakers weren’t exactly stylish, but when you were built like Taiga a pair of jeans and a shirt thrown on over a tee were all you needed to make people look around for the photo-shoot. No one did, though, because Taiga was so completely unconscious and uncaring of how he looked in the middle of crowds bent on buying things to look prettier. He always had been, and Tatsuya had shaken his head over the fact for years. The only hint of fashion on Taiga, as far as he could see, was the necklace Taiga wore, no longer the chain and ring Tatsuya had gotten him but a leather cord. Even that probably wasn’t on purpose. He wondered, a little wryly, whether Taiga had just gotten that used to wearing something around his neck.
Taiga finally fetched up against the wall, a little breathless. “You didn’t say you’d be in town this weekend.”
“I didn’t know I was going to be until extremely early this morning,” Tatsuya said, dry. “Atsushi wanted to come buy some new kind of candy that’s being sold starting today.” He waved at one of the mammoth lines down the street, where one very tall figure could be seen looming over the competition. “First time I’ve ever seen him get up early.” He cocked his head up at Taiga. “So what are you in for?” He’d never known Taiga to willingly go out shopping for anything but groceries.
Tatsuya started at that quiet voice right at his elbow, and eyed Kuroko, who had appeared there. He was starting to suspect that Teikou’s old ‘invisible man’ got a kick out of doing that to people.
“At least this time I know they’ve actually got my size,” Taiga added, unsurprised. Maybe he’d gotten used to the jack-in-the-box act. “This time I ordered them ahead of time.”
Tatsuya could sympathize, especially after the coach put him in charge of ordering Atsushi’s supplies. No one stocked shoes that size. He’d finally resorted to online stores with direct shipping. Some of the other team members made jokes about baby-sitting, but Tatsuya didn’t actually mind. God knew Atsushi was pretty much at sea anywhere except a basketball court. Someone had to look after him.
Taiga had never needed looking after that way. Not really. He’d always had a solid core in him that held him steady. If it seemed weird for someone to be anchored by wild enthusiasm for life, well it had also been fun to be around. At least, it had been fun until he’d realized that Taiga didn’t need him. That Taiga had grown so much that he’d started trying to protect Tatsuya. That… that had been more than he could take.
That wasn’t something they could really talk about, though. It wasn’t something a person like Taiga would ever understand. So instead he laughed. “First time I’ve even seen you laying plans to get any kind of clothing, even for the game.” He added, teasing, “Though maybe you’re getting stylish in your old age.” He lifted a finger to flick at the cord necklace that had replaced his chain. Taiga rocked back from the gesture, almost a flinch, and a moment of remorse nipped at Tatsuya. There was no need to be cruel, just because Taiga had grown beyond him.
That wasn’t what stopped the gesture, though.
Tatsuya’s brows lifted as he looked down at Kuroko, who was abruptly standing between him and Taiga with an iron grip on Tatsuya’s wrist. “You have no right to touch that,” Kuroko said softly, every polite ending sharpened to a cutting edge.
“I think that’s Taiga’s to say, don’t you?” Tatsuya wasn’t going to stand for Kuroko trying to protect Taiga when Tatsuya couldn’t. It was ridiculous to imagine.
Kuroko’s gaze didn’t so much as flicker, and his voice was as hard as his grip. “This is mine to say. And you will keep your hands off it.” He nearly threw Tatsuya’s hand aside.
Tatsuya snorted. “Taiga, are you seriously going to tell me…” he trailed off, staring at Taiga. Taiga, who was watching Kuroko with suddenly wide eyes, whose hand lifted to touch that necklace lightly. Taiga who glanced briefly at him and then aside, color sneaking over his cheekbones.
“This is Tetsuya’s to say,” Taiga admitted.
For a long breath, Tatsuya’s brain flatly refused to put the pieces together, but they fit so very clearly that he couldn’t hold it off for long. That wasn’t just a necklace.
And if this was something Taiga wanted, then maybe… maybe they could have…
“Muro-chin?” Atsushi loomed out of the crowd, brightly colored candy bag already open in his hand. “And Kuro-chin.”
Tatsuya took a slow breath. No. Maybe if he’d known sooner, but it certainly wouldn’t work now. He had Atsushi to take care of, and judging by the narrow look Kuroko was still giving him he didn’t think Kuroko was the sharing type. “Well, good luck with those shoes, then,” he said, as easily as if nothing had happened. “I’d better get Atsushi back up to Akita before anyone misses us.”
“Probably wise, yes,” Kuroko murmured, and Tatsuya’s mouth quirked. Yeah, that was one possessive little bastard.
“We’ll see you at semi-finals, then,” Taiga added quietly, watching Tatsuya with shadowed eyes.
“Quit looking like that, Taiga,” Tatsuya told him easily. “It’ll be fun.” Probably more fun for Taiga than for him, but he was used to that. “Come on Atsushi, be thinking about what kind of station bento you want to get; if we miss another train because you couldn’t decide, I’m taking the cost of changing tickets out of your wallet.” He waved goodbye and led his teammate back out into the crush.
He was used to wanting things he couldn’t have. It was always best to just set it aside.
Daiki pretty much took Tai’s apartment as an extra home, these days, so he didn’t bother knocking before breezing in the unlocked door. “Hey, guys, up for a…” he trailed off, startled. Tetsu and Tai were on the couch; well, Tetsu was a least. Tai was on his knees, head buried in Tetsu’s lap, holding on to Tetsu like the last branch in a flood. Tetsu had his fingers buried in Tai’s hair, stroking it slowly, while his other arm stayed wrapped around Tai’s shoulders. He looked up at Daiki, eyes serious but not dark, and beckoned Daiki closer with a tilt of his head.
Daiki came and knelt behind Tai, pressing close against his back, and wound his arms around Tai. “Hey,” he said again, quieter. Tai made an acknowledging sound, but didn’t move, and Daiki looked up at Tetsu, questioning. “What happened?”
True anger sparked in Tetsu’s eyes, though his hands stayed gentle, stroking Tai’s hair. “We ran into Himuro-san today. He took notice of Taiga’s collar.”
“He let go so easy; he lets everything go so easy,” Tai finally said, voice rough and muffled against Tetsu’s lap.
Daiki thought about that. “Well,” he said at last, “it’s a good thing you’re with Tetsu, then.”
Tai finally lifted his head to blink at Daiki over his shoulder. “…huh?”
“That went by a little fast.” Tetsu was smiling, though, and he set his other hand in Daiki’s hair.
“Well, think about it,” Daiki pointed out, leaning into Tetsu’s fingers with pleasure. “Tetsu doesn’t let anything go. I mean, I’m here aren’t I?”
Tai blinked a few more times and finally looked up at Tetsu. “Not anything?” His voice was still husky, but it was starting to sound like Tai again.
There was fire behind Tetsu’s calm smile, the fire that Daiki had always seen in him, always loved in him. “Not anything,” he confirmed with absolute certainty. “Not Daiki. Not you.” He trailed his fingers down Tai’s neck to rest on the leather cord of his collar. “Not ever.”
Tai took a slow, shaky breath and let it out. “Okay.”
Daiki could feel Tai relaxing, between them, and pulled him closer with a little smile buried in Tai’s wild red hair. That was better. It just didn’t feel right when Tai freaked out; he was the steady one.
Tetsu slid his fingers through their hair, slow and gentle. “I don’t let go of what’s mine,” he said softly, and Daiki made a satisfied sound against Tai’s shoulder. That was the way it should be. He brushed his lips over the cord of Tai’s collar and purred at the feel of Tai relaxing some more.
They were together in this, and that was enough.