Helping Out
Part Two

" You want to take a break?" Kogure asked Rukawa as the boy let out another heavy sigh.  They had been immersed in the thick History book for an hour and a half by then and so far, Kogure didn't think he was helping one bit.  Rukawa spent most of his time with his chin resting on his arms, his eyes half closed, once in a while letting out suspicious, snuffling noises or absently staring out of his bedroom window.  He was beginning to think that maybe it would have been better if Akagi had taken charge of this.  Then maybe Rukawa would be more attentive.  He had the sneaking suspicion that the freshman wasn't taking him very seriously.

Rukawa lifted his head and looked at him through sleep blurred eyes.  " What was that?"

" I think we should take a break."  Kogure repeated himself, closing the history book with a soft snap.  " We're not getting anywhere here."

" Oh.  Fine." Rukawa got to his feet and stretched his arms out lazily. God.  Was there anything more boring than memorizing dates and names that meant absolutely nothing?  Of course, he managed to remember the statistics of his favorite NBA players flawlessly but when it came to remembering the names of shoguns from the past, that was another very different thing.  " You want a drink, Kogure-san?"

" Yeah.  Thanks..." Kogure allowed his gaze to wander around the room.  It was impeccably neat.  The walls were plastered with posters of basketball stars, and an amazing array of trophies were on display on top of a dresser along with a few pictures of Rukawa in action on the court and with his team members from his Junior High ( though he looked as remote as he did now even back then ).  His eyes then zeroed in on a strange sight.  At the door of his closet was a blown up picture of Sendo Akira's face mounted on a cork board.  There were numerous punctures on the photo's glossy surface and a dart stuck out from one corner of Sendo's mouth.

" Oh, that." Rukawa muttered.  He picked a dart up from his desk, aimed and threw it at the picture.  He was a good shot.  He got Sendo right in the middle of the forehead.  " Just something I do for fun..." He explained with a shrug as he ambled out of the room to get Kogure his drink.  Which was just as well since he didn't see the strange look that this got from the older boy.

Kogure shook his head.  He knew that Rukawa considered the captain of the opposing team his rival but he hadn't thought that the feeling was that bad between them.  He really couldn't understand the guy.  Always so immovable and emotionless.  Come to think of it, none of the guys in the team knew much about Rukawa's life outside of the court.  He had never gone anywhere with the others, always just disappearing after practice...

He picked up a sketch book that lay on top of a small pile stacked neatly at one side of the desk.  Hmm...This was interesting!  Was Rukawa an artist?  He put on his glasses  and turned the cover.  His eyes widened in surprise as he flipped through page after page of sketches of Sendo Akira.  The drawings were quite good.  They were an incredible likeness of the basketball player, but each picture had been scribbled over with a black marker.

" Here, Kogure-san..." Rukawa's words trailed off.  Kogure had tried desperately to shove the book back into the pile without getting noticed but he had been too slow and he had still been seen.

The older boy's eyes darted guiltily from the sketch book to Rukawa's stony face.  He felt horrible!  As though he had violated the guy or something.

" Sendo has an interesting shaped head.  That's why I drew those."  The explanation sounded stupid, like something that would come out of Hanamichi, but he couldn't think of any better way to explain himself to his team mate.  " But they ended up all looking stupid so I just did that..."

" Oh..." Kogure scuffed his shoes against the carpet.  " I...I thought they looked good.  I didn't know you were an artist, Rukawa."

" There is a lot of things you people don't know about me." He replied cryptically, holding out his hand for the sketch book.

" We'd all like to get to know you better, Rukawa-kun, but you never let us." Kogure pointed out softly, accepting the cold can of Coke that was proffered to him.

He shrugged at this and dropped back down onto his seat.  " What do you want to know?  I guess I owe it to you to tell you something about myself since you're being so great helping me out and everything."

Kogure laughed.  " Actually, I don't think I'm helping you much at all!  You've barely paid attention to me the whole time!"

" I'm sorry.  I..." Rukawa paused to consider his words.  " I just can't seem to be able keep my mind on these sort of things these days."

" Well, you have to try, Rukawa-kun.  I know you definitely don't want to be suspended from the team.  So you have to try to forget about whatever it is that's bothering you." Kogure advised.  It would be a blow to the Shohukan team if Rukawa was prevented from playing.  It would affect the dark haired boy greatly too.  After all, the College Scouts couldn't be expected to notice him if he was side lined.

Taking a sip of his drink, Rukawa checked the time on the clock on his study table.  " I think I've had enough of this studying, Kogure-san.  What about you?"

" Well, we have been at it for long enough, I think." Kogure made to rise, " I'll see you again tomorrow then?"

" It's not that late.  We could still fit in a one on one game can't we?"

Kogure shook his head.  " From the way you were nodding off while I was tutoring you, I would have thought that you had no energy left in you to keep your head up, let alone play basketball!"

" Well, I've recovered enough!" Rukawa declared, setting his can of coke down and going over to his closet to dig out his basketball, " Let's go, Kogure-san!  This time, I'll be the tutor!"


" Ugh.  I think I've had enough!"  Kogure declared, his chest heaving as he watched Rukawa get another beautiful shot in.  It had become somewhat of a custom for them to go over to the basketball court near Rukawa's home after each tutoring session for a quick game and they had both come to enjoy these occasions greatly.

" Giving up already Kogure-san?"

He laughed, wiping away the sweat from his brow with the edge of his shirt.  " I know when I've been bettered!"

" Well, this just wasn't your day, was it?"

" Better be careful, Rukawa.  I'll get you back tomorrow!"

" You're on." They walked over to the side of the court in companionable silence to gather their things and to head their separate ways.

" Rukawa-san!  It's you!" Came a loud, rather annoying voice.  Beside him, Kogure felt his companion freeze.  " We haven't seen you in ages, Rukawa-san!  You are so mean!  You've been neglecting us!"

Slowly, wiping his arm across his mouth, Rukawa turned to face the speaker and his companions.  "Hikoichi."

" What?  Taking no notice of me?" Sendo Akira demanded, coming to a stop beside his friend.  " You are getting very mean, Rukawa-kun.  We are old friends after all, aren't we?"

Rukawa shrugged.  " If you say so." He muttered.  He gave Akira's other companion, who he recognized as Koshino, a cursory inspection before turning his back to them and fixing his attention on his duffel bag.

Sendo graced Kogure with one of his friendly smiles.  " Hello there!  You're the vice captain of Shohuku, aren't you?" He asked pleasantly.  " We haven't formally met before!  I'm Sendo.  Sendo Akira." He stuck out his hand and shook Kogure's hand firmly.

" Oh."

" What were the two of you doing here?" He asked with genuine interest.

" What do people usually do in a basketball court?" Rukawa retorted.  He pulled at Kogure's shirt.
" Let's go, Kogure.  It's getting pretty late."

Sendo twirled a basketball around on his index finger.  " Sure we can't interest you on a two on two game?  Koshino and I versus you and your Kogure."

" No thanks."

Sendo shrugged and bounced the ball over to  Koshino.  " Suit yourselves.  Hope I see you around, Rukawa-kun!  You've been acting like a stranger lately!"

" Hasn't he always?" Koshino muttered darkly, glaring at Rukawa's retreating back.  " I don't know how you could have stuck with him for as long as you did."

" Well, it's over now, isn't it? Has been for a while." Sendo couldn't take his gaze of Rukawa walking side by side with the vice captain of the Shohoku team.  " Hey!  Kogure-san!  Take care of him!" He called out before they could walk out of earshot.