Helping Out
Part Seven

" I don't know how I let myself get talked into these things..."  Hikoichi muttered to himself as he suppressed a sneeze that was threatening to come.  Hiding behind some bushes in such a beautiful afternoon was not his idea of fun.  It was stupid.  But what could he do?  He did what Sendo Akira wanted him to.  For some reason, he just couldn't say no to the upper class man, no matter how much the guy's latest whim might inconvenience him.  He was one of the many charmed by the boy's perfect smile and good looks.  He supposed that he could just consider this as practice for his journalism career when he would have to go undercover and search out leads for stories.  Still, he felt exceedingly stupid.

There were a lot of easier methods that Sendo could have employed to find out what was going on with Kogure Kiminobu and Kaede Rukawa.  One that sprang immediately to mind was that maybe Sendo should just approach his precious Kaede himself and ask him outright, but when Hikoichi had suggested that in a vain attempt to try and get out of his little assignment, Sendo had immediately blown off the idea, saying that he didn't want to appear desperate.  Hikoichi had pointed out that he was desperate and Sendo had not appreciated that comment much at all.

He had started going on and on about how friends were supposed to do things for each other, reminded him of all the times that he had helped him out with something, like the time that he had fixed a date for him with the girl that he liked, until Hikoichi had finally relented, unable to resist him any longer.

So, that was how it came about that he spent his third afternoon in a row, crouching behind some thick bushes and peeking out once in a while to see what it was that Rukawa and Kogure were doing.  Nothing more interesting than two friends playing one on one against each other.  Hikoichi shook his head.  Sendo was losing it.  Everyone in the basketball team had been up in arms lately, the tension between Sendo and Koshino was making everyone jumpy.  Koshino was going around, making comments about how sweet it was that the Shohuku boys were sticking to their own kind now, something that somebody from their team should learn to do himself, not that he cared, Sendo's smile had begun to falter and a biting note in his tone had lately developed.

If this whole mess wasn't fixed soon, Hikoichi was afraid of what would happen to their team.  This was all tearing them apart.  This wasn't good.  Especially not in the middle of the season.

Still.  He didn't see why he had to be the one to try and help mend everything.  He had no business meddling in Sendo's love affairs after all.  Maybe the great team captain should try fixing things on his own for once!

Yeah right.  Like that would ever happen.  People like him were placed in this world to take care of the dirty business of their superiors after all.  The world wouldn't function without them!  They were the ones that took care of all the shit while said superior was off at some karaoke bar with the rest of his pals, letting out all his emotions in front of a microphone...

He snickered.  Come to think of it, maybe his lot wasn't so bad after all!  He had heard Sendo at it before and it was definitely not a good sound to be subjected to.  The guy should have been kept away from microphones and karaoke.  The only time that he could ever recall Rukawa with even a small smile on that face of his was when Sendo had been emoting while he was ' singing ' one of his favorite songs.

At that thought, he peeked out from  behind the bushes once more.  He hadn't checked in on Rukawa and Kogure for a while...

There it was again.  Throughout the game he had thought that there was somebody out there behind the bushes keeping an eye out on him and Kogure but he hadn't been sure until he had seen a dark head pop out from behind the said bushes.  He was sure of it now.  He even knew who the culprit was. Hikoichi.  That Sendo must have put him up to it, dammit.  What kind of stunt was that idiot trying to pull now?

" Anything wrong, Kaede-kun?"  Kogure inquired, noting the sudden darkening of his features.

" No.  Don't worry about it." Rukawa replied, heading towards his bag which he had thrown by the side lines.  " Good game, Kogure-san."

" Yeah, I guess, but you seemed a little distracted..." He commented, trailing after him.

" Did I?"

" Well...yeah.  What's the matter?  Is the whole Sendo Akira thing still bothering you?"  He was hoping that Rukawa would maybe say no.  That he didn't care about all of that stuff any longer and had completely given up on Sendo, thanks to the conversation that they had had very early that morning.

" I guess you can say that..."  Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Hikoichi peering back out at them carefully when he thought no one was looking.  What the hell was he doing spying on him like that?  Shit!  It wasn't as though there was anything going on!  All that he had to report to Akira was that he had spent a great afternoon working out with the only friend that he had from school!  What could be interesting about that?  And why the hell should Akira even care anymore now that he had his Hiroaki?  God, what a stupid name.  What sort of parent would give their child such and ugly name for the rest of his life?  Of course, it suited that bastard perfectly.  " Hey, I've got something for you!"

He rummaged around in his bag and brought out and awkwardly wrapped package. " I'm not that good at wrapping things up."  he explained, handing it over to Kogure.  " As you know, I couldn't sleep yesterday so I managed to finish this earlier than I expected.  It's to say thank you for all the time that you spent slaving away with me and helping me out.  I got a B on my quiz, you know?"

" Yeah, I know."  Hanamichi had been very disappointed when he had found out that Rukawa wasn't going to get kicked out of the team after all.

" Aren't you going to open it?"

Kogure obediently began to tear the paper.  When he had finished, he brought out  the framed picture that Rukawa had so lovingly worked on for the past few days.  He stared at it, open mouthed, not knowing what to say.  At that moment, it seemed to him as though Rukawa would be able to read  the overwhelming surge of love that he suddenly felt for him in his eyes.  Mitsui was right.  For the first time in a long, long time, he was finally in love again.  He swallowed, trying to compose himself.  What was he supposed to say?

" You like it?" Rukawa prompted gently.

" I...I love it."  Kogure muttered, his eyes on anything but Rukawa's face.  I love you...he wanted to add.

" That's good."  Rukawa frowned a little when he caught sight of Hikoichi looking out at them once more, trying to see what it was that Kogure was holding in his hand.  Fine.  He resolved.  If he wanted something interesting to report to that Sendo Akira back at headquarters, he would give him something interesting.  After all, two could play this game.

Sendo wanted to flaunt Koshino in his face.  That was perfectly obvious to him.  Now he would flaunt Kogure at them.  See how that grinning fool, Sendo Akira would react to that!  He stepped up closer to Kogure and without any warning whatsoever, wrapped his arms around his slender waist.  " I'm going to kiss you."  He whispered into his ear as he leaned in closer.

" Wha-?" Kogure began, his words being cut off as Rukawa pressed his lips firmly against his.

" Oh.  My.  God..."  Hikoichi gaped openly at the two boys making out at the basketball court , his jaw hanging open in shock.  " Oh.  My.  God."  All right.  He had never expected this.  Never in his life had he seen Rukawa give any sign of public affection while he had been with Sendo.  Sendo had had always been the one to initiate anything and now here he was, grabbing Kogure in open day light as though he couldn't keep his hands off him for one second longer.

This was bad.  How was Sendo going to react to this?  He didn't think it would take much more for the older boy to finally snap.  This would just about do it.

He sighed.  Well, nothing he could do.  He would just have to report it to the guy the way that he saw it.  Even as Hikoichi scuttled away to try and find Sendo Akira, the two boys from Shohuku was still at it, seemingly oblivious to the world.