Helping Out
Part One

Rukawa glared down at the big red F on the top right hand corner of his test paper as though this would somehow magically change it into an A.  He had been resigned to the fact that he would fail that test, how could he not after he basically slept through the whole unit of Chinese Dynasties?  He didn't give a damn about any of those families whose names all sounded frustratingly alike.  The only thing that he cared about was basketball and now it looked as though that was about to be taken away from him.

" Mr.  Rukawa?  Do you understand how serious this is?" Demanded Mr. Murasaki as he polished the lenses of his glasses with a blue piece of cloth.  " Though you may not think so, Academics do come first before Athletics.  This is an institute of learning after all.  I'm well aware of how important you are to the basketball club but I can't allow you to continue with this atrocious performance in the classroom!  I'm afraid that if you don't show some improvement in this class I will have to talk to the coach and advice that you be suspended from the team until you finally buckle down..."

" Suspended?" Rukawa whispered disbelievingly.  No!  They couldn't do that to him!  He was an important part of a team!  Moreover, what would he do without basketball?  That was the only thing that he had going for him after all.  As was obvious, he wasn't exactly gifted when it came to academics.  The game was his life!  He liked it that way.

" Yes.  The first thing to do, of course, is to try and stay awake in class and to actually pay attention.  Do you think you can do that?" The teacher waited expectantly for a reply but got none.  He sighed.  This boy was even more exasperating than that red head who kept on staring at Akagi Haruko throughout class.  The red head, Hanamichi, wasn't doing quite as badly as Rukawa but he was still a thorn in his side.  Come to think of it, that boy was also part of the basketball club, wasn't he?  He sighed.  That team was made out of troublemakers.  The only decent students in that bunch was Akagi and Kogure...Inspiration struck him.  " Maybe you could also get some help from somebody.  Get a friend to tutor you.  Might I suggest Kogure Kimonobu?  You are friends with him, are you not?"

Rukawa just shrugged.  He was still shell shocked from the news.  Besides, he didn't really have friends.  He had team mates but not friends.

" Are you going to take my advice, Mr. Rukawa?"

Another noncommittal shrug.  If it was the only way he could keep on playing then he guessed that there was pretty much nothing else he could do but to ask for some help.  This thought did not appeal to him at all.  He had always been self reliant and he didn't like the idea of having to start depending on another person.  He scowled.  The only thing that was keeping him from quitting school was the basketball team.  God help him if even that was taken away from him!


" Stupid Kitsune!" Hanamichi chortled gleefully after hearing the whole story from a stony faced Rukawa.  He was not in the least upset by the news.  In his opinion, the loss of Rukawa Kaede would have no effect on the team besides good ones.  Rukawa was such a ball hog after all.  If he was gone, there would be more chance for him to show off his genius in the basketball court.

" Do'aho." Came the familiar reply.

" Hey, don't call me a do'aho!  I'm not the stupid one that's failing History, am I?" Hanamichi snickered.  "And I thought kitsunes were supposed to be clever!  You're the stupidest kitsune that I've ever met in my life!  You're stupider than any kitsune that ever graced Japan!  You make rabid, spastic kitsunes look smart compared to you!"

Rukawa rewarded Hanamichi with a view of his back for his little commentary on the intelligence of foxes.  He couldn't care less what the do'aho thought or said about him.  He only wanted to make sure that he wasn't kicked off the team just because of one incredibly worthless subject.  Where the hell would he be able to use the knowledge of The Chinese Dynasties anyways?  It wasn't as though he was going to join one of those stupid game shows on T.V any time soon!

" That's right, Hanamichi.  That's very nice.  Kick him while he's down, why don't you?" Mitsui remarked, shaking his head.

" Oi, Missy.  I can kick the Kitsune any time I want to!" To prove his point, Hanamichi raised one sneakered foot, but Rukawa turned around before his toe could make contact with his backside and gave him a threatening look which clearly dared him to try.  He lowered his foot carefully.

Mitsui smirked.  " Thought you said you could kick him any time you wanted?"

The red head opened his mouth to reply, but soon forgot what he was about to say when a knock to the top of his head sent him sprawling to the locker room floor.  " You.  Shut up." Akagi rumbled dangerously.  He then turned his attention to Mitsui.  " And you.  Stop encouraging him."

" You never hit the precious Kitsune..." Hanamichi grumbled under his breath as he got up, sending Rukawa some death glares.  " ...Hope he does get kicked off the team!  Wish he'd just turn into the Kitsune that he is, run out into the road and get run over by some twenty wheeler truck...Favoritism...Favoritism is what it is..."

" So what do we do?"  Ryota demanded, running a hand agitatedly through his dark hair.  " The team needs Rukawa!  He-"

" We don't really need him!" Hanamichi corrected the smaller boy.  " I mean, I'm still here, aren't I?  The great Tensai!  We'll do fine as long as I'm still on board!"

Mitsui snorted and rolled his eyes at the incredible ego of red head.  Of course, he had been thinking along the same lines, only in his version, the team would do fine as long as he was there.  " I'm not even going to start about what's wrong with that comment..."

" I'm not even going to start about what a bastard you are, Missy-kun."

" It's really all up to Rukawa."  It was the first time that Kogure had spoken and as usual, everybody paid attention to him at once.  The guy was quiet and soft spoken but he had a presence about him that made people listen to him.  " Everything depends on you and how much you want to stay in the team, Rukawa-kun.  You're a smart guy-" He was interrupted by a snort from Hanamichi, who immediately fell silent with one glare from Akagi, " You're just not putting out any effort.  If you try a little, I'm sure you'll find that you'll do much better than you're doing right now."

" So that's it?  We just let him at it himself?" Ryota was not satisfied with this solution.  There must be something more that they could do!

" Since you guys seem to think that the team would be better off with Rukawa, I can always get the Hanamichi gang to rough that Murasaki up a little!  Make him bring the Kitsune's grade up..."

" Hanamichi!"

" Fine...Umm..." He paused for a moment, considering the situation and possible solutions... " A bribe?  People are always talking about the low pay of teachers!"

After examining Hanamichi's face closely, Ryota realized that the guy actually was being serious.  He shook his head.  Unbelievable!  "  Hanamichi-kun, I don't know about you, but my parents would kill me if I was expelled from school for bribing  teacher!"

" Do'aho."

"You shut up you stupid Kitsune!"  Here he was trying to come up with a plan to help the bastard out and this was what he got for all his troubles!  " I don't hear you coming up with any good ideas!"

" Oh, is that what we were trying to come up with?" Mitsui  feigned surprise, " I thought we were trying to come up with some really stupid, far fetched course of action, what with the gems you contributed!"

" You're another stupid one, Missy.  Least I don't have a crush on Anzai-sensei!"

Rukawa watched the older boy's reaction with some interest.  He had never seen anybody's face turning red as quickly as Mitsui's just did.

" I mean yeah, he's all cuddly and everything and he's got that great bouncy neck thing but-"

" Don't talk like that about Anzai-sensei!" Mitsui flew at Hanamichi in a rage but was held back by Ryota and Kogure.

Akagi shook his head as he watched the two try to appease the fuming senior.  The whole team was made out of psychotic idiots.  Every last one of them. Sometimes he thought that the only sane ones left were himself and Kogure.  " Have the two of you finished?" He demanded once the two had tired themselves out and had gone to opposite sides of the room.

" For now..." Mitsui muttered darkly, glaring at the red head.

" Anzai and Mitsui sitting on a tree...K,I,S,S,I,N,G!"  Hanamichi's song was accompanied by a little dance number, " First comes love then comes mar-" just when Mitsui was about to go at him once more, Akagi put an end to the red-head's performance in his inimitable style.

Kogure sighed.  " To get back to the original topic, your suggestions were very interesting, Hanamichi-kun." Hanamichi flashed Mitsui a smug smile.  " But I'm afraid they're not really...well, they're not really convenient..."

" They were just plain stupid." Mitsui muttered under his breath, earning the finger from Hanamichi.

" No...Not stupid." Kogure demurred softly.  He didn't want Hanamichi to feel bad.

Finally, tiring of all of the idiocy that surrounded him, Rukawa spoke up.  " Mr.  Murasaki suggested a tutor."

Kogure nodded enthusiastically at this as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.  " I was just about to suggest that!  Akagi here gets very good grades in history!"

" He does?" Hanamichi asked disbelievingly.  Old Gori didn't look smart at all so he found this a bit hard to believe.  His idea of somebody smart was someone who looked like Kogure, all scrawny and with stupid glasses that were always falling down.

" Yes he does." The boy affirmed.  He turned to Akagi.  " Do you think you can tutor him, Akagi-san?"

Inwardly, Rukawa groaned.  Dammit.  He didn't want Gori tutoring him!  The guy was so intimidating and he'd probably hit him all the time or something!  He'd be too nervous to concentrate!  So he was greatly relieved when Gori shook his head regretfully.

" I've already got a full load, Kogure.  I don't think I can manage that too..." Akagi replied.  " But you're being modest.  You get even better marks than me!  Why don't you tutor him?"

" That would be fine with me." He replied agreeably.  " How about you, Rukawa?  Would that be all right?"

" I suppose so." He mumbled, thinking about how lucky he was that it had been Kogure saddled with the job and not the team's captain.  Kogure was soft.  He would probably go easy on him.

Hanamichi turned to Mitsui.  " A thousand Yen says he still fails even with Glasses boy tutoring him!"

Mitsui grinned and shook hands with the redhead.  " You're on!" Afterwards, as they were stepping out onto the court for practice, he told Rukawa, " Oi!  Rukawa!  You better make sure that you do well!  I've got my money on you!"