Title: Five Times Kuroko Pretended to be Fine, and the One Time He Didn’t
Fandom: Kuroko no Baskuke (Kuroko’s Basketball)
Characters: Kuroko Tetsuya, Kagami Taiga
Word Count: 1,111
He can still remember the pencil sharpener if he tries hard enough. It was an orange one, small and faded badly with age, and if he hadn’t smashed it when he had, fed up and trembling too hard to be bothered with the too-small screws holding the blade firmly in place, then he surely would have thrown it away.
He regrets it come morning, of course, because the lines on his wrist are painfully clear, bright red and too swollen to be cat scratches, but being invisible has its perks. He makes it halfway through practice under the radar, until he moves to pass to Kagami and the redhead hesitates. Kuroko’s almost certain he’s gotten away with it when Kagami dunks on Shinji, but the power forward approaches him in the locker room before he can slip away.
“What happened to your arm?” Kagami asks, gripping Kuroko by his jersey.
“I fell in a rose bush, Kagami-kun,” Kuroko replies. Kagami must be convinced, because his face softens, and he lets his teammate go.
From then on, Kuroko wears sweatbands.
He tries too hard not to think about Kagami as the forward scarfs down the third of six cheeseburgers, because if he does, he’s certain he’ll vomit his soda. Still, he’s almost impressed that the other boy can eat as much as he does and not get fat. Sure, he’s heavy, but with Kagami, it’s all muscle. Kuroko glances at his arm out of habit. He’s not good enough; he’s pale and scrawny and his ribs are showing faintly through his skin, anyone can see it, but it’s still not enough. He wraps his thumb and forefinger around his right wrist.
“What are you doing?” Kagami asks. Kuroko lets go of his arm hastily, like he’s been caught by his mother with one hand in his pants and wants desperately to deny it.
“Nothing,” he says.
Kagami holds out one of his burger in offering.
“You should eat something,” he says.
“I ate a big lunch,” Kuroko says. He tells himself it’s not entirely untrue, because he did eat a big lunch, once. It just wasn’t at all recently.
Kagami doesn’t persist.
He doesn’t hear Kagami come into the locker room. He wasn’t expecting it, of course; practice is long over, and Kuroko’s been alone for at least half an hour, a small mountain of food spread out on the floor at his feet and still more stashed away in his locker. He has his back to the door, and he almost chokes on a potato chip when Kagami taps him on the shoulder.
“Why are you here?” Kagami asks, sounding equal parts puzzled and amused. Kuroko doesn’t look him in the eye. The floor is a mess of apple cores, candy wrappers, chip bags, and half-eaten snack cakes. Kuroko puts down the bag he’s working on and shrugs.
“I lost my house key,” he says.
“Then where’d all this food come from?”
Kuroko doesn’t answer. He stands up quickly. He can’t bring himself to stay there any longer, his cheeks burning under Kagami’s gaze, and anyway, he can feel the bile at the back of his throat.
If Kagami hears him heaving in the bathroom, he doesn’t say a word.
He’s never been one to skip practice before; he shows up even sick, and on more than one occasion, Riko’s sent him home the minute she catches sight of him, pale and clammy and shivering violently.
So of course he’s not surprised when Kagami and Shinji burst onto the roof, followed at the heels by Tetsuya #2. He slips his blade into his pocket before either of his teammates can see it and pulls his sleeve down over his bloodied arm.
“Come on, Kuroko,” Kagami scolds, seizing him by the wrist and all but dragging him back down the stairs. “Coach has half the team out looking for you.”
Kuroko’s cuts sting horribly under Kagami’s iron grip. He squeaks a bit, gritting his teeth.
Nobody hears him, though.
He’s not sure why he does it.
He doesn’t really want to die. At least, he doesn’t think so. But his blade’s vanished somehow, and someone must have complained of ants, because his locker’s been cleaned out, and Riko gives him a slap on the wrist for it; before he really knows what he’s doing, he’s lying on the train tracks, and between the insomnia and his eating habits, he’s unbearably lightheaded, and his eyelids are so heavy it hurts.
And then Tetsuya #2 has to go and ruin it, barking loudly enough to wake half the neighborhood and pulling frantically, almost violently at Kuroko’s pant leg until someone calls the police. Kuroko laughs it off, tells the paramedics that he fell asleep by accident. No, he’s not suicidal. Yes, he’s sure. No seizures. Yeah, he’s anemic. No, he doesn’t have an eating disorder. No, he doesn’t need to go to the hospital. He’s fine now.
And then one day he’s not fine. He’s sick of it, of not being fine, and he’s done pretending that he is. The whole team’s there — they’ve just won another game, and it was Kagami’s idea to go out for dinner — and Kuroko eats. Everyone’s eyes are on him, even Kagami’s, but he’s so done, so not fine, that he doesn’t even care. He doesn’t know half of what he’s putting into his mouth; hell, he doesn’t even realize he’s been eating until his stomach gives a painful lurch and he stands hastily.
“Excuse me,” he mumbles.
He makes his way to the bathroom, vaguely aware of his team’s gaze on his back. He doesn’t bother closing the stall door behind him, never mind locking it, just drops to his knees in front of the toilet and shoves his fingers down his throat. He doesn’t care that Kagami’s standing in the doorway, dumbstruck, or that the rest of the team is probably close behind; he just kneels there, gasping and sobbing and trembling violently, whispering “help me” like a mantra, until Kagami crouches down at his side and wraps his arms around him.
“It’s okay, Kuroko,” he murmurs, running his hand through the smaller boy’s hair. “You’re okay.”
He’s not okay. There’s vomit on his hands and his arms are covered in scars and he can’t stop shaking, can’t stop crying. He’s so completely not okay that it hurts, and he tries to say so between shuddering breaths, but he doesn’t need to. Kagami knows.
So he buries his face in his light’s shirt and bawls.