Momoi Satsuki does not like change. She hates it so much that she often goes out of her way to make sure things don’t change — trivial things even, but things that matter to her, however small.
She knows she should get over it. Change is a part of life. But most of the changes in her life have been wholly unpleasant, so perhaps it’s not her fault she has a screwed vision of change.
But . . . despite everything, change happens. And there’s nothing she can do to stop it. Because feelings can’t be easily altered.
The first time she noticed it was after the Touou versus Seirin match in Winter Cup. Aomine Daiki, her best friend, the ace of the Generation of Miracles, had just lost for perhaps the first time in his life.
Satsuki didn’t think he was mad. Disappointed, sure. Devastated, maybe. But not angry. She didn’t really think he could be angry at Tetsu-kun.
Anyway, she found him lying outside, staring up at the sky. He wore a glazed expression. It was unusual for him, she thought. Then she amended the thought — not unusual for him, just unusual of late. He hardly ever looked . . . well, dreamy anymore. Most of the time, it was sleepy and bored.
But now, it was almost like he was at peace.
Something deep inside her fluttered.
And that night, she called him Dai-chan, the nickname she’d used for him when they were kids.
That was the first clue.
There wasn’t really anything in that that should’ve told her things were beginning to change, that something was off. There wasn’t, but looking back at it, she should’ve known.
The second clue came after Seirin had beat Rakuzan, and miraculously won Winter Cup. Tetsu-kun had called her, much to her surprise and pleasure, asking for a photo from their middle school days.
Of course, she rushed to meet him, grinning, and when she saw him, she expected her heart to leap —
But it didn’t.
And that was the second clue.
You see, lately, Satsuki has been spending more time with him lately. Aomine Daiki, her best friend, the ace of the Generation of Miracles. Now that in itself is not unusual. She’s always with him — people call her his babysitter, after all.
No, she’s actually been spending time with him. Shopping or going out to eat, like they used to before his talents grew and everything in Teikou happened.
They don’t speak that much. They’re best friends; they don’t have to talk to understand each other. Just a few words here and there are enough.
Satsuki should be happy — and she is. Really happy. This is what she wanted. This is what she asked Tetsu-kun for. She should be spending time with him, though, thanking him for what he did. It’s because of him that Aomine is now back to his normal self. It’s because of Tetsu-kun . . .
Satsuki takes in a shuddering breath. Currently, she and Aomine are in one of his favorite shoe shops, browsing the aisles. Or rather, he is. Lately, she’s been caught up in her thoughts . . .
“Oi, Satsuki,” he says. “What do you think of these?” He holds up a pair.
“Mmm?” She hums at the sight and bobs her head.
He scowls. “You’re not even looking.”
She dashes her eyes over the shoes. Black with streaks of deep, dark blue, and a lighter blue. She wrinkles her brows, and says, “The toe area might be too tight.”
“Are you saying my toes are fat?”
That hadn’t been her intent, but basically, yes. His toes are wider than normal. Although Kagami-kun has a worse problem.
“I’m going to try them on anyway,” he says, and she nods absentmindedly.
A few minutes later, they walk out without the shoes. Her prediction had been correct (of course).
He grumbles beside her as they walk, talking about how they’d been the perfect blend of colors or whatnot.
As for Satsuki, she can’t help but think about how it was like the two colors represented the two people most important to her.
The next few weeks pass uneventfully. Soon, it’s February — which means, Valentine’s Day. Which means . . . Satsuki groans to herself as she walks to the gym. She almost always gives Tetsu-kun chocolate.
But now? She’s not so sure. She’s seen him a few times over the last few months, a grin plastered over her face each time, keeping up her bubbly persona, but for some reason . . . each time, it becomes harder and harder.
She wonders if he’d be disappointed if he didn’t receive chocolates from her this year. Knowing him, probably not.
As she enters the gym, she’s so absorbed in her thoughts, that she misses the errant ball racing toward her — and Wakamatsu chasing after it.
He bowls into her, unable to stop his momentum, and the two crash to the ground.
The breath is crushed out from under her from the large center, and a for a moment, she can’t see anything — whether she’s fallen unconscious, or it’s just his black uniform, she’s unsure.
Then, someone’s lifting Wakamatsu off of her — no, not lifting.
It would be better to say that Aomine positively hurls him off her.
“Satsuki!” he says. “Are you all right?” His eyes are wide.
She rolls onto her knees and heaves in air, not answering him.
“Quiet,” she hisses.
He falls silent.
By that time, the rest of the team has gathered around to witness her humiliation. Her cheeks flame.
“Momoi-san,” Wakamatsu starts. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you until —”
Aomine growls at him, and even though Wakamatsu’s the captain, he promptly shuts up.
Satsuki takes in one last breath, then braces herself and stands up. Her eyes sting, and she’s angry at herself for wanting to cry. Plenty of people get run over on the court. It’s nothing to be ashamed of that you were at the wrong place at the wrong time. So why? Why?
Maybe it was the look that Aomine gave her.
The look he’s giving her now.
He stares at her intently, and she notices that his gaze is soft, softer than usual. Has it always been like that? She’s not sure. Has she looked him in the eyes lately? She’s not sure.
She’s not sure.
“I —” she starts. “I’m okay. It’s all right, Wakamatsu-kun.”
The captain nods in relief. “I’m sorry again.” He flinches when Aomine turns to glare at him again.
But then, Satsuki does something that surprises everyone.
She doesn’t know what drives her to do it — the two clues from Winter Cup, demanding to be seen, heard, felt; the odd lack of feelings for Tetsu-kun; her hatred for change.
She marches straight up to Aomine Daiki, her best friend, the ace of the Generation of Miracles, and she pushes him back. Hard.
Normally, she’d never be able to move him an inch, but perhaps the anger in her eyes, the force of her rage, the surprise of her motion — maybe all that causes him to stumble back.
“Stupid!” she shouts.
And she storms out of the gym.
Satsuki needs to do something quick. Because where this is going is really, really bad.
She doesn’t even know where it’s going.
And maybe that’s the whole problem.
Satsuki whips out her phone, dialing the familiar phone number. She needs to confirm something. Right now. Because otherwise . . . she doesn’t want to think about that.
When she hears his voice on the phone . . . she doesn’t feel the usual fluttering and light-headedness, but she does feel calmer. He has that way about him that just makes you feel more at peace.
An hour later, Satsuki meets Kuroko Tetsuya outside the Seirin gym. Their practice had ended just a while ago, so most of his other teammates have already left.
Tetsu-kun eyes her carefully as she fidgets. “Is something wrong, Momoi-san?” he asks.
He probably thinks something’s up because she didn’t throw herself at him when she saw him.
“I —” She falters. She glances down at her nails and wrings her hands together.
His eyes narrow. “Is it about Aomine-kun?”
She freezes. “Well . . . not really. I mean, sort of. I mean, why would you think that, Tetsu-kun?” She laughs a little.
“Isn’t it always?”
Her heart thuds inside of her.
He always is.
No matter how she looks at it — whatever different angles she tries to view it at — it always comes back to him. Aomine Daiki. Best friend, ace of the Generation of Miracles . . . more?
“Tetsu-kun!” she cries out, and then she throws herself at him.
No matter how often she does it, he’s always stiff at first. Then he relaxes. And this time, he wraps his arms around her, too. Perhaps because this time, he knows she understands as well as he does — there’s never going to be anything between them.
“I love you, Tetsu-kun,” she sobs into his shirt.
He nods, because he knows. It’s not romantic at all.
And then his hand reaches up and grips hers, pulls her off him, and unexpectedly fast, swings her around.
Aomine Daiki stands before them.
Momoi Satsuki does not know her place in the world anymore. She is no longer Kuroko Tetsuya’s admirer, waiting for his love, a love that would never come. She is no longer just Aomine Daiki’s babysitter, either.
So where, exactly, does she fit in now?
As she faces Aomine, she feels a lump forming in a throat.
He doesn’t say anything, but stares at them, expressionless. Satsuki can’t even feel Tetsu-kun’s present behind them anymore (though that’s not anything unusual) and wonders if he’s left them.
Satsuki swallows. “What are you doing here, Dai-chan?”
“I was worried about you,” he says, and his voice is icy. “Guess I shouldn’t have been. I’m sure Tetsu can take care of you.”
He turns, leaving, and something leaps inside of Satsuki, a sort of yearning and desire.
Tetsu-kun (still there, apparently) practically shoves her forward. His eyes urge her to go after him.
She smiles at him, her first love, and whispers, “Thank you.”
Then she runs after Aomine Daiki.
She doesn’t know what to say to him when she reaches him. She has no plan, no idea of how the next few minutes will go — she just knows that if she lets him leave, lets him disappear . . . She wants to be by his side, so that’s where she heads.
He hasn’t gone far, ambling across the streets at an almost sluggish pace. Satsuki wonders, briefly, if he was hoping she’d run after him.
She catches up to him and grabs his arm. He’s thirty-one centimeters taller than her, so she has to jerk his head down and stand on her toes to even get her mouth near his ear. But she does it, and then she shouts, as loud as she can: “Dai-chan!”
He leans back. “What?” Irritation colors his voice.
A million answers to his question swarm through her. But which one should she pick? Which one would he react best to? Which one would he accept, and not turn away from her forever?
She doesn’t know. She may be Touou Gakuen’s manager, an intimidating data collector, but when it comes to things like this . . . she just doesn’t know.
Suddenly, there’s the noise of the car approaching, and a horn sounds. They both realize, at the same time, that they’ve stopped in the middle of the street.
Without warning, Aomine scoops her up into his arms and sprints to the safety of the sidewalk. She flings her arms around his neck, unable to do anything but hold on. The car passes in a flash, the sound of the honking fading away.
Aomine doesn’t put her down.
For a moment, she doesn’t want him to.
“Dai-chan,” she mutters. She pounds on his chest, lightly this time. “You idiot.”
“What’d I do?” he asks indignantly, and he gently lays her on the ground. Her knees bend, weak, and she almost falls, but she manages to stay upright.
She turns her face away from him.
“What’s wrong with you, Satsuki?” he demands. “You’ve been acting weird for weeks. Spacing out, and getting run over by Wakamatsu today. And I know I can sometimes be an idiot, but I haven’t even done anything!”
It’s preposterous. The very idea of what’s stirring inside of her. How could she ever tell him? He’s her best friend.
“I don’t get it,” he continues. “I mean . . . we’re . . . friends, right?” For a moment, it looks like hurt flashes over his eyes. “You can tell me what’s wrong. Satsuki . . . I mean . . . you’ve always been there for me . . . and now . . . well, I want to be there for you.”
It seems to take a lot of effort for him to say those words. Satsuki almost smiles. He’s never been that articulate, and it’s even worse with emotional speeches.
He’s looking at her again, that same intense gaze he’d pinned her with earlier. This time, instead of turning away, she looks back. She memorizes the creases of his forehead, the contours of his lips, the darkness of his eyes, the earnest expression on his face.
And she realizes, for the first time, that she wants something to change. That, for the first time, she doesn’t want something to stay the same way.
She starts to cry then. Because this epiphany has opened up something inside her, a possibility for a whole new set of opportunities, and now . . . now perhaps she’ll have the courage to tell him the truth.
“Satsuki.” His voice almost sounds pleading now. Most likely, he’s shocked from her crying. He’s seen her cry lots before, but mostly from trivial things, like when he put a frog on her head.
She doesn’t want to see him worried. She doesn’t want to see him hurt. And she’s hurting him right now — why is she hurting him? She should be ashamed of herself.
“Daiki,” she blurts out. He blinks. “I love you.”
There’s absolute silence. She can feel the pounding of her heart, and she swears she can almost hear the pounding of his.
Then he leans down and kisses her.
She gasps at the sudden roughness of his lips against hers, pressing hard and insistent. His arms encircle around her and bring her closer, and she throws hers around his neck, pulling herself up nearer to him.
Yes. This. This is what she never felt with Tetsu-kun.
This is what she’s always yearned for.
His lips soften against hers and they part, both breathing a little hard.
He stares at her, and he almost looks a bit nervous. She would laugh at that, if this was a normal situation at all. Aomine Daiki, ace of the Generation of Miracles, nervous?
He says, “Satsuki —”
“I’m sorry,” she says. “For hitting you earlier. And calling you stupid and an idiot and everything.”
He doesn’t say anything; he doesn’t have to. He’s her best friend — she knows that he’s already accepted her apology.
He tries again: “Satsuki” — and this time she lets him finish — “was . . . was that okay?”
She leans back slightly, surprised. “You mean the kiss?”
She laughs, suddenly, loud and clear.
He’s still thirty-one centimeters taller than her, so she still has to reach up and drag his head down, and stand on her toes to reach him — not his ear this time: no, this time, she presses her lips against his.
That Valentine’s Day, Momoi Satsuki makes homemade chocolates for Aomine Daiki. She puts all his favorites in the red ribbon-wrapped package. She would know — she knows him better than anyone. She’s made him chocolates before, of course — giri choko because they were friends, but now . . . now this is different.
Because now, he’s no longer just Aomine Daiki, her best friend, the ace of the Generation of Miracles, possibly more . . .
And she’s no longer the girl who’s afraid of change, who’s afraid she’s losing her place in the world.
Now, he has a definite role in her life, and she has a definite role in his.
He’s Aomine Daiki, hers.
And she’s Momoi Satsuki, his.