Helping Out
Part Three

They walked together in silence, Rukawa pulling agitatedly at one ear as thoughts of Sendo with Koshino ran through his mind.  In a rare display of temper, he threw the ball aside and quickened his pace, pulling ahead of Kogure.  Die, miserable Koshino.  Just die.  Not to forget that weird shaped head that had grown a body, arms and legs to become Sendo Akira.  Very long, beautifully shaped arms and legs when he thought about it, and he did.  Often.  That bastard.  How dare he still hang around in his thoughts even until now?

He felt a hand clamp down onto one shoulder.  " Rukawa-kun.  What was that?  What just happened back there?"

" I've never been in the habit of discussing my life, Kogure-san.  I'm not about to start now." He replied, still walking.  He only stopped when Kogure managed to get in front of him and stubbornly refused to get out of his way.

" I'm not going to let you just walk away when you're so obviously upset." This wasn't the truth.  Rukawa's face was just as impassive as ever with not a trace of emotion, but he had seen a flash of pain in those dark eyes when they had caught sight of the handsome basketball star and his companions.  "It helps to talk, you know?"

" I'm not the talking type."

" Look, would it hurt any if you just told me what it is that's upsetting you?  It's not as though I'm going to blab it to the whole team or something!  This is me, Kogure.  Dependable, reliable, always there Glasses Boy, to quote Hanamichi-chan."

Rukawa knew of Kogure's role as the confidante of most members of the basketball team.  He longed to just get everything out, to be able to talk to somebody about everything but he had never been good at sharing his feelings with people.  He could talk to Kogure though, he guessed.  Kogure was a nice guy...  "Look, Kogure.  I'm gay."

Kogure nodded, unruffled and without reacting the way that Rukawa had expected him to.  This encouraged him.  He had expected disgust, maybe some scorn.  Hell, he had expected the guy to run away, screaming at the top of his lungs, he just hadn't thought that he'd get this sort of calm, ready acceptance.

" I've known ever since Junior High.  On my last year, I met Akira and we hit it off.  I don't know why.  We're such opposites.  The only thing that we've got in common is basketball." Rukawa shrugged.  The world was full of mysteries.  Why did certain people end up together?  Who knew..." We started going out together on the beginning of my last year until about just four months ago."

" What happened?"

" ' The Frigid Ice Prince' happened." Rukawa could still remember the day that Sendo had broken it off.  God.  That had been the worst day in his life.  He had never said as much to Sendo but he had loved him dearly.  Far more than he knew how to express.  But he had tried to, in his own, cold way he had tried to show the older guy how much he had meant to him.  He guessed that it hadn't been enough.  " Akira is the expressive type.  Always wanting to cuddle and be cuddled, always needing to tell you how much he loved you, always wanting to be told how much he's loved.  I didn't do that enough and before I knew it, he was tired of me."

" And he broke it off?"

" Yeah.  His exact words were ' I've had enough of this, Kaede.  But thanks.  It's been interesting.' Interesting.  Well, I guess it must have been." He laughed bitterly.  " That was it.  The end.  It was interesting though..."

" You still love him?" This was more of a statement than a question.  Kogure had no doubt that the wound still ran deep.  He had seen the photograph that Rukawa used for practicing darts and the sketch book full of ruined pictures.  He guessed that the younger boy had done all of that more out of frustration and sorrow than anger.

Rukawa shrugged.  " You know that saying about first love dying hard." He said by way of explanation.

" Yes.  I do.  First hand experience, actually." Kogure replied as he cleaned out the lenses of his glasses.

" Oh, yeah?  Who?"

" Hisashi."

Rukawa raised an eyebrow.  " Well, that was unexpected."

" Not as unexpected as finding out about you and Sendo Akira." Kogure retorted, the comment earning a small smile from his companion.  " This seems to be a day of unexpected revelations, huh?"

" Yeah.  Can I ask you something though?"

Kogure shrugged.  " Anything."  He was glad that Rukawa had opened up to him.  It couldn't have been very easy to reveal everything that he just had.

" Promise you wont get mad or anything."

" Why would I?  You told me everything, didn't you?"

Rukawa paused to consider whether it would be wise to ask him something that had bugged him for a while now.  His curiosity soon took hold of him.  " Did you and Mitsui break up because of Anzai-sensei?"

Kogure tried hard to hold back his laughter and keep a straight face. " So you took Hanamichi seriously on that one did you?"

" I never take anything the do'aho says seriously."

He couldn't hold his laughter back any longer.  " No, Anzai-sensei didn't have anything to do with it!  Seriously.  Hisashi may have a little crush on the sensei, the guy is his inspiration.  His muse, I guess you can say but the sensei had nothing to do with it whatsoever.  Trust me.  I just got sick of his tough guy act after a while, though he's mellowed out somewhat now."

" Think the two of you will get back together someday?"

" I'm happy with just being friends but I don't see why not.  Who knows what the future has in store for me." He paused and placed a comforting hand on Rukawa's shoulder.  " Or for you and Sendo for that matter?"

Rukawa nodded, taking this statement as the encouragement that it was.  " Walk you over to the bus stop?"

" Sure."

" They seemed pretty close."

" How close exactly did they seem?" Sendo Akira demanded, exasperated.  His interrogation of Hikoichi seemed to be going nowhere whatsoever.

" Well, Rukawa smiled a little."

Sendo's own smile faltered at this news.  He had never been able to bring a smile on Rukawa's face no matter what he had tried and now here was that Kogure doing precisely what he had been unable to do.  " What were they talking about?"

" Kogure said that finding out about you and Rukawa was completely unexpected. Then Rukawa smiled. That was it."  Hikoichi flipped his notebook shut.

" Kaede didn't say anything else about me?"

" From what I heard, no." Sendo frowned at this news, to Hikoichi's surprise.  This was completely uncharacteristic of their team captain.  He considered the guy's erratic behavior of the past few months and the hopeful look that had briefly flashed on his handsome face upon the sight of ' his Kaede' in the court.  That look had immediately disappeared though, when he had noticed Rukawa's bespectacled companion.  He let out a loud squeal of outrage.  " Don't tell me you're still completely hung up on that guy, Sendo-san!"

Sendo raised his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture.  " Be quiet, Hikoichi.  This is a secret between the two of us.  Can you do that?  Can you keep a secret?"  He had his doubts about that, the guy was a blabber mouth after all but what did it really matter if it did get out?  He was just sick and tired of having to pretend that everything was fine when his Kaede wasn't by his side any longer.  It had been a horrible mistake to let him go like that.  He had realized this soon after the break up and now this feeling had intensified tenfold upon the sight of his Kaede-kun with another guy.  " Please Hikoichi.  Can you do that?"

The younger boy nodded obediently.  " But what about Koshino-san, Sendo?"

He sighed tiredly.  " Oh, yeah."  The messes that he got himself into!  Right at that moment he could have banged his head against the wall out of sheer frustration.

" You know what, Sendo-san?  I think Rukawa was jealous when he saw Koshino-san with you."

"Really?" Sendo asked with interest.

" Really.  You can't tell from his face, his face is always expressionless so you have to watch his eyes."  Hikoichi revealed.  He was good at assessing the feelings of other people.  Something that he hoped would help his journalism career later on. " He kept on looking from you to Koshino-san.  He was wondering what the two of you were doing together, I think."

" Good.  Very good." Sendo remarked, his thoughts already far and gone.  Maybe there was some hope for him and Kaede yet.  After all, who would choose Kogure, a so-so player with so-so looks over a good looking, ace player like himself?