Helping Out
Part Five

" We should be leading by way more than four points!"  Hanamichi growled, his fists clenched by his sides.  " Everyone seems to be doing their part but you, Kitsune.  What the hell is the matter with you today, huh?  You're missing more shots than you're making!"  But beneath the gruffness was a trace of worry.  It would be a big blow for the team if they lost this game and right now, that seemed to be a possibility.  Four points wasn't that big a lead after all!

" Shut up, Hanamichi!" Akagi gave the tall freshman a light blow to the head just to remind him who was in charge here.  " You've missed some shots yourself, all of us have.  So don't try to pin the blame on anybody in particular."

" Yeah I've missed some shots.  But I haven't been as bad as the Kitsune here, have I?"  Hanamichi pointed out, gesturing angrily at Rukawa who was standing a few steps away from where his team mates were clustered around their captain.  " Of course, you never really play that well to begin with, but I've never seen you do this badly!"

" He's right for once, you know, Rukawa."  Mitsui spoke up, running a hand agitatedly through his dark hair.  " You've missed your last two shots!  You let that guy steal the ball from you, and the guy you were guarding managed to get away!  You've had three fouls!  I mean, it might be perfectly normal for Hanamichi here to play like that-"

" Say that again, Missy?"

Mitsui ignored him pointedly, " But I never expected a game like that from you, Rukawa!  What the hell is going on?"

Rukawa just scowled.  He didn't need a reminder of how badly he was doing!  Dammit!  He was supposed to be a professional!  He was supposed to be able to keep his mind on the game.  After all, this was his life and soul.  He shouldn't allow himself to be distracted.  Even if Sendo Akira was there.  Right there in the bleachers.  With Koshino.

" Hey, everyone has their off days." Kogure spoke up suddenly.  Glaring at Mitsui.

" Oh, and here we have the defender of the downtrodden!  Kogure Kiminobu himself!" Mitsui said sarcastically, his eyes narrowing as they fell on the boy before him.  " I won't even begin about your game!  What's the matter?  Too busy checking up on your little protégé to concentrate or something?"

" Maybe somebody should learn how to stop accusing people of the most ridiculous things!" Kogure retorted, giving Mitsui a light shove.  " Somebody should learn how to keep his nose out of other people's business!"

" And maybe somebody should understand that that somebody only did what he did because he didn't want some idiot to get hurt!"  Mitsui shouted, his face reddening.  He had had just about enough of Kogure's behavior!  All he had wanted to do was to warn him, to show his concern and this was what he got for all of his troubles!

" Well, I'm not going to get hurt!  Because all your little accusations have no basis whatsoever!"

" That's right, Kogure.  Keep telling yourself that!  One word.  Denial."

" Two words.  Busybody.  Bastard."

" Three words. Public.  Lovers.  Quarrel."  Hanamichi contributed, looking expectantly at Mitsui.  " Your turn now!"

" Shut up, you idiot!"

" Now you, Kogure-kun!"

It was official, Akagi thought glumly to himself.  He was the only sane one left on the team now.  Kogure had finally crossed over to the other side.  And if this went on any longer, he felt certain that he himself would too!

" Look, why should you even care anymore, huh?"  Kogure demanded.  Hanamichi opened his mouth, about to point out that that had been seven words and not five but changed his mind when he saw the look on the guy's face. " It's over.  You said so yourself!"

" It may be over, but I still care.  You're my best friend.  But fine.  Do whatever you want.  I'll just stand here and watch you get hurt then..."

" I don't need your permission to do anything!"

" Hey, look.  We're in the middle of a basketball game here.  Do you guys think you can just concentrate on that and not on whatever the two of you are arguing over?"  Akagi demanded.

" I really am just trying to look out for you, you know."  Mitsui mumbled awkwardly, scuffing his sneakers against the ground.  " I never wanted you to get so angry at me.  I really do mean it.  About you being my best friend."

Kogure's face softened visibly.  " I know.  Don't worry about it.  I'm just sorry that I reacted that badly but you really got me angry, you know."

" And a friend's job is to stand behind you one hundred percent.  No matter what you do, so I guess I'll just do that then, huh?  Whatever you decide."

He grinned.  " I'd appreciate that." He stretched his hand out towards Mitsui who shook it gratefully, a big smile on his face.

" Now that the two of you have gotten that out in the open..." Akagi swept his hand towards the court.  " Think we'll be able to do better in this half?"

Rukawa didn't join into the enthusiastic cheering of his team mates.  He hadn't been listening to a thing that they had been saying.  He'd been too busy keeping an eye out on on Sendo and his companion.

" Frankly, I'm disappointed."  Sendo Akira commented, shaking his head as Rukawa's pass to Mitsui was easily intercepted.  " I expected Shohuku to be doing far better than this!  They're a much better team than the one that they're playing against after all!"

" Their so called ace rookie isn't making a good show at all." Koshino remarked, not without a trace of pleasure.  " I wonder why..."  He raised an eyebrow pointedly at Sendo.

" Probably just a bit distracted."  Sendo replied cheerfully as he caught the attention of Kogure.  The boy stopped in his tracks, his eyes darting from him to Rukawa.  Sendo saw him frown as  a look of understanding dawned on his face and watched as he walked over to Rukawa and held a brief, whispered conversation with him, afterwards patting him encouragingly on the back. He would have given anything to know what he had said to him.

From what Hikoichi reported to him, those two had been spending a lot of time out at the court lately.  Not that anything the two of them did ever indicated that they were a couple.  That didn't mean anything though.  Rukawa had never been particularly demonstrative.  One of the things that had bothered him.

He raised an arm in greeting when he noticed Kogure's gaze on him once more and clapped his hands together encouragingly.

" What did you do that for?"  Koshino demanded.

" What do you mean?"

" Why'd you wave at the guy?"

" Jealous?" Sendo asked, smiling as he bumped himself playfully against Koshino.

" No!  I just didn't think you knew the vice captain of Shohuku.  That's all."

" We met him in the basketball court near Kaede's house, remember?  He was with Kae-chan."  He replied without thinking.  He immediately regretted this when he saw the look on Koshino's face.

" I didn't know that court that we went to that day was near Kae-chan's house." He commented, his face darkening as he glared at his companion.  " Was that why you were so insistent that we go there instead of the one that was near your place?"

" No."

" Then why?"  His tone was icy.  The guy had better have a good explanation for that one.  He had tried to ignore Sendo's obvious hang up about Rukawa but after the picture that he discovered on top of Sendo's bedside table just the night before, he didn't think he could ignore any of it any longer.  " You must know what time Kae-chan likes to go there for his work out, right?  Did you just take me along to make him jealous or something?"

Sendo didn't reply, not wanting to reveal just how close this was to the truth.  In fact, this was the exactly his reasoning that day.  "  Look, I just like that court, all right, Koshino-kun?  Really."

" I bet it must have been a very unpleasant surprise for you when you saw your Kae-chan there with Kogure, wasn't it?"  Koshino remarked, getting to his feet.  " You strike me as the type of guy that's got a big enough ego to think that no person he's ever been with will be able to get over him.  Well, I've got news for you, Akira-kun...That's an easy enough thing to do!"

Sendo watched helplessly as Koshino walked away from him.  This sure as hell wasn't the way that things were supposed to be going!