AN: This has been in the works basically since the first story in this series (Fear to Fail) was finished, but it's finally done! I hope it is worth the wait, and that you'll stick around for the rest of the series as well. ;) Enjoy!
TW: I don't know if this needs one or not, but just in case, there is some harassment throughout this story. Nothing is specific or graphic, but if this could be triggering for you, please be careful and use your own judgment about it!
For the first time, Kagami wishes he had Kuroko's disappearing ability.
The thought takes even him by surprise, since all his life he's been loud and bold and unashamed to be the way he is. But now, watching six sets of rainbow-colored eyes narrow in on an individual in uncanny unity, he wishes he had just that little bit of extra protection to keep that attention from turning to him.
The individual in question, a mediocre player who has just started to play against Kaijou, is of course completely oblivious to the murderous stares he is receiving. Instead, he is down on the court, leering at Kise and getting into the model's personal space as often as the game allows.
Kagami had long since realized that beneath the popular and bubbly airhead that was Model Kise there was the sharp-eyed, sharp-witted Basketball Kise who ate other players for breakfast. Basketball Kise in several weeks had destroyed the morale of Teikou's clubs as a hobby when bored, while Model Kise dripped crocodile tears all over them afterward and had them forgiving him in an instant.
He had never truly seen the two mix while on the court, since if there was anything Kise took seriously it was basketball, but here, caught between the creep and a screen and in the middle of an official match, Kagami can see both sides swinging like a pendulum as the blond gets more and more distressed.
"I don't get it," he finally says, shifting in his seat, just as uncomfortable at the sight as everyone else in his team. "If he's so uncomfortable why doesn't he just...?"
"He can't," Kuroko replies, voice low and blank the way it only is when he's furious, and Kagami can't help but suppress a flinch, remembering what happened the last time his best friend had gotten so angry. "Since he began modeling, Kise-kun has been forced to accept the interest of many people. He loves modeling, but if he ever refused someone publically his image would take a hit, and his agency at the time would have been mad. So he gave them what they wanted: an idol to be admired, forever available, forever in reach to fans."
"That's . . ." Hyuuga trails off, frowning down at the court.
"That's fucked up, is what it is," Kagami says in disgust, casting a sympathetic glance down at the court again, ignoring the looks his language got him from the surrounding players. "So, what, he's not allowed to tell that creep to back the hell off?"
"He is, now that he's no longer with his old agency," Aomine responds, eyes glinting at the statement in a way that has Kagami tensing warily. "But some habits are harder to get rid of than others. His first agency did a number on him, and he was too young at the time to know better than to stay with them."
Down on court, Kise is running hard, doing his best to outpace the creep and failing as the others on the guy's team block him. Ordinarily, he could have easily broken through, but with the guy getting up in his space and breathing down his neck Kise is too distracted to focus right. His blank mask slips for a second, revealing his frustration as he passes backward to a different member of Kaijou.
The crowd is beginning to notice the problems too, confused, irritated, and outraged murmurs breaking out among the people watching the game. Anyone who has played Kise before can also see the problems, and the teams around the court are silent, exchanging loaded looks among themselves and with other teams in their vicinity.
Still, the guy won't leave him alone.
"Was... was this a common problem for him to deal with?" Aida asks quietly, from where she's seated with the rest of Seirin on the other side of Kagami.
"It was not a common issue he faced with other boys or basketball teams often," Midorima announces, fixing his glasses with one hand to hide his expression. "With them, it was usually envy at his skill or the attention, or disdain for his choice of job if they had issues with him. In middle school, the harassment usually came from his fans - both in our school and outside of it."
"There was that fucker, Haizaki," Aomine mutters, glaring. "Pretty sure he hated Kise half because of his skill and half because he was into him and Kise couldn't care less. I swear the only reason he kept dragging girls to practice all the time was to try and make Kise jealous. Not that it worked, obviously."
"Outside of it?" Takao asks, moving the conversation along as he decides he isn't going to touch that conversation with a ten-foot pole. He looks up at his basketball partner curiously for a response, but when it comes, it isn't from Midorima.
"Ki-chan was often stopped by other students when we were out and about," Momoi says softly, eyes sad as she glances at the rest of them. "We didn't go to many public places with him often, as a result, whenever we wanted to spend time together."
"Tch. You're also forgetting the other people who stopped him," Aomine scoffs, glaring down at the court. "Kise would also get stopped by high schoolers and even adults sometimes. It was fucking disgusting. He even had to deal with a stalker or two, since we met him."
Kagami reels back at the new information, trading disgusted and horrified looks with his teammates. He glances back at Kise in sympathy and new understanding.
"If he had to deal with all that, why didn't he stop?" he asks, and this time it's Kuroko who answers.
"Because he loves it," the blue-haired boy says simply. "Kise-kun loves modeling, and he does enjoy the attention most of the time. Usually his fans are pretty respectful and not too intrusive, it was just a few of the persistent ones that soured things for everyone involved."
It's at this point that Kise flinches away from the guy on the court with a quiet yelp of surprise. It's soft enough that most people probably wouldn't have noticed it at all, however with the Miragen on high alert, it's enough to cause all six of them to stiffen at once. As Kise turns away from the guy so he can't see his expression, Kagami notices that he looks shocked and increasingly cornered.
The quiet threat in Akashi's voice is new - dangerous in a way that Kagami has never heard before, especially after Kuroko beat them all in first year, but clearly familiar to the others who don't even flinch. It takes a moment for Kagami to put it together, but the expression on Kise's face and the smug look on the asshole's suddenly click. He'd seen this situation play out with Alex a few times on the public courts before she felt comfortable making a scene in front of him and Tatsuya.
The asshole is starting to get handsy with Kise, and Kagami feels his own rage beginning to flare into an inferno alongside the Miragen's own.
"Kurosawa Ichirou," Momoi responds instantly, eyes flashing and voice hard as stone. "Mid-level player, has only played basketball for two years. He attended Kaishin before graduating and moving on to his current high school, receiving average grades. His blood type is B, and he is a Scorpio. His height is 173 centimeters, and his weight is 81.6 kilograms. He is failing two classes, is average in the others. Overall, rather mediocre and destined to drop out of college one year in, lose access to his parents' funding due to his budding problem with alcohol, and couch surf for the next few years before winding up in a job he hates, based on his increasingly grim disciplinary record."
Kagami just gapes at her along with Seirin and Takao, while the others don't even react, like the influx of insanely detailed information is normal. Then again, they are the Generation of Miracles, and she was their manager, so maybe it makes more sense than it should after all. Considering her information, Akashi tips his head to the side thoughtfully, gazing down at the player.
"Ah, yes, that does sound unfortunate," he muses slowly, sounding as nonchalant as if he were talking about the weather, rather than the grim future of the player on court. "It would be a shame if he lost his spot on the basketball team due to misconduct, as well, wouldn't it."
It's a statement, not a question, Kagami notes, glancing at the others. At that, all the Miragen - as well as Momoi - grin in perfect unison. It is eerie, and makes Kagami lean away from them and their bloodthirsty smiles that are more a baring of teeth than proper grins. He can't get far, nor does he want to, but they are unnerving in a way that he's never seen before and Kagami can't figure out how to react.
"Leave it to me, Akashi-kun," Momoi chirps, shifting back into her smiles and sunshine demeanor in an instant. "I won't let you down!"
The others ease in their intensity at Momoi's words, though their eyes remain locked on the asshole down on court for the rest of the game. Kaijou is getting close to snapping too - they can tell. The rest of Kise's teammates are glaring, and a few are sticking closer to the blond than before.
The guy's other teammates are beginning to notice the situation too, a few looking uncomfortable and several apologetic, with one doing his best to run interference between his teammate and Kise. That guy gets an approving look from the Miragen and none of the glares from Kaijou, even though his own asshole teammate is glaring at him.
Unfortunately the coach and team captain seem to be completely oblivious to the behavior, giving him more or less free rein. Since he is being careful not to break any of the rules, even the referee is unable to do anything and kick him off the court for harassing another player.
At another panicked look from Kise, Kagami is pretty sure he heard several growls coming from the Miragens, and he is pretty certain the chairs are creaking under the force of Murasakibara's hands.
Finally the game ends, and Kagami begins to relax, figuring there isn't much more the guy can do to make an even bigger enemy of the entire basketball circuit who have been watching this play out with disapproval and disdain. Turns out, he is wrong.
As all the players catch their breath on the court, Kurosawa stalks past Kise, pausing as he becomes level with the blond copycat. He leans in and Kise stiffens. The group of players surrounding the Miragen watch as he murmurs something in Kise's ear with a smirk, causing Kise to startle and jerk away, looking offended and uncomfortable. The rest of Kaijou see what's going on and drag Kise away with a host of glares and protective arms around their kouhai.
The crowd begins standing up to leave, and Kagami's section begins gathering their things to leave as well. After a moment, he realizes most of the Miragen still haven't moved. He turns his attention to them fully just in time to see Akashi rise to his feet, gazing imperiously down at the nearly-empty basketball court.
"Momoi-san?" Akashi's voice is too polite, too pleasant. It sets alarm bells ringing in Kagami's head, and sends a strong shiver up his spine.
"Yes?" she asks, all innocence and naivete. Kagami knows better, having spent over a year getting to know and befriending these talented weirdos. Momoi is the opposite of innocent and naive - hell, she might be the scariest one out of all of them, despite all of the others' size, power, and crazy abilities.
Akashi is clearly aware of this as well, for it is her that he turns to now, instead of the scissors Kagami has no doubt are still stashed somewhere on his person, despite his personality switch. His eyes are cold, and there is a flicker of gold in one of them that has Kagami stiffening in wary anticipation.
At the quiet command, Momoi stills. Then, she turns so that her eyes are locked on the player in question - Kurosawa, by her own information. She studies him for a moment and the way he watches Kise, before a cold smile slowly spreads across her face. Her eyes are a dark shade of pink, holding within them an expression that tells Kagami to run.
A moment later, she turns back to Akashi, cold smile still on her face.