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Of Inspiration and Mortification

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"Taiga! Taiga Kagami, over here!"

Taiga took his jersey in hand, wiping his face of his sweat while he turned towards the mass of interviewers. Lips pursed and brows drawn in his usual scowl, he took a few steps away from them with a polite wave. But then his teammates were on him, slapping his back and hooking arms around his neck and shoving him to the wolves with microphones and flashing cameras.

A thousand miles away, Tetsuya couldn't help but smile, both sympathetic and amused. Taiga looked so much smaller when he was on a TV screen.

He knew how much Taiga hated being questioned and interviewed, forced in front of TV crews and magazine writers. Taiga would much rather just play the game he loved, and then leave the court without a fuss until the next match. But being the ace and rising star of a professional team didn't grant him that kind of privacy or patience, as there were too many curious eyes and invasive journalists.

The crowd instantly bombarded him, questions thrown without waiting for answers. Tetsuya's English still wasn't great, but even he could tell each of them talking over the next until it was just a muddle of sound.

"Congrats on another win!"

"That's another game in the bag!"

"You were amazing tonight, Taiga!"

Taiga rubbed at the back of his head, mussing his hair nervously like always. "Ah, thanks. The whole team was really good tonight."

Tetsuya scratched behind Nigou's ears as he watched Taiga answer question after question, carefully avoiding the more personal ones and eagerly answering the basketball-related ones. It was still strange after all this time, to realize people didn't know Taiga like he did, that they even had to ask these questions of him.

The flood continued, and Tetsuya could tell Taiga was getting tired of it. Apparently, the press could tell too as their voices grew even louder and more frantic, pouring over each other as microphones were shoved in Taiga's face.

"To what do you owe your success?!"

"How do you get ready for a big game?!"

"Who's been your biggest inspiration?!"

Out of all the questions, Taiga turned almost excitedly to the woman who asked that one. Tetsuya blinked, surprised Taiga would even want to answer a question like that. There were a number of players it could be, but Tetsuya was almost positive it had to be Michael Jordan, if the shoe collection in their closet were to say anything.

Taiga answered with no hesitation.

"My husband, Kagami Tetsuya."

All the way across the country, Tetsuya couldn't watch anymore. Because his face was too busy burying itself in the couch pillows. And he was almost certain he was dying.

Taiga smiled earnestly, teeth glinting with joy and pride. "He's always been a big inspiration to me, y'know?! He's always made me a better player, and a better person too. There's no way I could be here without him."

Tetsuya was definitely dying.

As the questions morphed into—unsurprisingly and to Tetsuya's steadily increasing embarrassment—what it was like to be in a gay relationship as an NBA player, Taiga waved them off and went back to join his teammates. With one last peek of the screen, of Taiga's back clad in the yellow-purple of his jersey, Tetsuya clicked the TV off.

In the silence of their apartment, Tetsuya collapsed on the couch, his heartbeat pounding in his ears like the dribble of a ball pounding on the court.

For all of his past accusations against Tetsuya, Taiga could say the most embarrassing things without flinching or delay too. He was simple and blunt, so perhaps worst and best of all, he always meant them with his entire being. It ended up being a combination that wasn't good for Tetsuya's heart, not even after hearing so many heartwarming and sweet things whispered to him for so many years.

Nigou jumped on the side of the couch with a bark, breaking the silence as he licked Tetsuya's cheek. Sometimes he forgot he wasn't the only one who missed Taiga. With a pat, Tetsuya smiled as he scratched Nigou's head, almost laughing as his dog's tongue lolled happily and his leg thumped on the floor.

After a few more beats of quiet, Nigou's panting and the rubbing of his fur the only sounds, Tetsuya came to a decision.

He would have to have a talk with Taiga when he got home. About how embarrassing things needed to be said in private. Not on national television for everyone to hear.

But, at the same time, he couldn't help the tilt of his lips or the pleasant knots in his stomach.

When his phone went off, a series of texts from all of their friends, Tetsuya felt his face flush hot again.

His mortification had only just begun.

 


 

Taiga dropped his bags to the floor with a grunt. The loud thud brought Nigou running, barking loud and tripping over himself in his excitement. He kicked the front door shut behind him as Nigou bounced around his feet. Never in a million years did he think he would be so happy to see a dog in his house, but here he happily was.

Being away from home, as much as he'd done it in recent years, never got any easier. He'd seen all kinds of views—the lights of New York City, the full seats of an entire stadium, the wisps of cloud edges from plane windows. But none of it compared to the sight of their little living room—old high school pictures sitting on Tetsuya's bookshelf, Nigou's food and water bowls by the kitchen, the curtains they picked out together.

There was nothing that compared to the life they made together.

"Tetsuya, I'm home!" he called out, giddy laughter dancing through his voice.

He sensed Tetsuya more than he heard the soft footsteps approach him. It was a sensation that he'd long gotten used to, and even found nice on most days. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, a vague smell that could only belong to his husband filled the room, and he could feel warm eyes on him all over.

Taiga couldn't help but open his arms wide with a grin.

Only for thin fingers to jab him in the ribs. Hard.

"Ow!" He doubled over and resisted the impulse to grab Tetsuya's head, instead glaring at him. "What the hell?! I haven't even been home to piss you off!"

Tetsuya's arms were thrown around his waist, and then he was being kissed all messy and eager. The momentum knocked him back against the door, a small groan escaping from him into Tetsuya’s mouth as Nigou scattered out of the way. He gripped Tetsuya’s backside on instinct, lifting him closer and kissing him just as eager, the pain in his side throbbing only faintly.

"That was very embarrassing," Tetsuya said between kisses. "Never do that again."

He pulled back, just enough for their eyes to meet. "...I have no idea what you're talking about."

Tetsuya stared up at him in turn, blue eyes unwavering and brighter than July. Always one for being honest and blunt, Tetsuya had never been one to hold back what he was thinking. And Taiga knew well that the look in his eyes meant that whatever he was about to say, he meant it with his entire being.

Taiga also knew that whatever he was about to say could also be the death of him.

Tetsuya answered with no hesitation.

"You're my biggest inspiration too."

It took all of about three seconds for his entire face to burst into flames, heat spreading from his cheeks all the way down to his chest. His heart felt like it was about to skyrocket right through his ribs, if his stomach didn’t beat it there first. To top it all off, just knowing that Tetsuya still had this effect on him, and Tetsuya knew he had this effect on him, made him even more embarrassed.

"Shut up!"

Tetsuya did not shut up. "Now imagine me saying that in front of possibly millions of people."

"No thanks."

With a laugh, Tetsuya cupped his face and kissed him again, sweet and warm like caramel on his lips. He couldn’t help but melt into it, even if he knew Tetsuya was doing this just because of how it affected the butterflies in his stomach. After all, he was home now.

"My mother called me,” Tetsuya said against his mouth. “The first thing she asked was if I had seen your interview."

His face blanched, eyes going wide as he pulled back. "Oh god, your mom watched that?!"

"Yes,” Tetsuya said with a proud smile. “She said you're very sweet."

He knocked his forehead onto Tetsuya’s shoulder, hiding into the crook of his neck with burning cheeks and a pained whine. "That somehow makes it worse!"

Fingers laced into the hair on his nape, petting slow through the strands. Tetsuya started to hum, swaying in place to the senseless tune and taking Taiga along for the dance. It was quiet for a while, as Taiga tried to school his face back into something normal and not completely, undeniably embarrassed.

But it seemed Tetsuya didn’t want to give him a minute to gather himself.

"I am so conflicted right now,” he started, “I want to scold you. Very badly.”

Tetsuya’s voice went soft and low, as he tugged Taiga’s hair. “But I also want to take you to the bedroom and inspire you in ways you could never imagine. Do you see my dilemma?"

All of the heat went from his cheeks and pooled in the expanse of his hips.

"...Not at all.” He looked up at Tetsuya, their lidded eyes meeting. “That should be an easy choice."

He grabbed around Tetsuya’s waist and hoisted. Up and over his shoulder, where he locked his arms around Tetsuya’s thighs to hold him in place. With a confident whistle and bags abandoned on the floor, he made his way toward their bedroom, purpose in his every step.

Tetsuya swatted at his back with a giggle, pretending to struggle out of his grip. "Taiga-kun! You're still in trouble!"

He returned the swat to Tetsuya’s ass. "But I thought you were going to inspire me for my next interview? Or should I inspire you?"

There was a pause, considering. Until Tetsuya went lax over his shoulder, fingers tugging up his shirt to press against the knobs of his spine. When he answered, it was with a giggle that Taiga loved.

"I don't see why we can't do both."

A grin stretched his face.

Taiga had a feeling he’d be keeping this inspiration private from his next interview.