Helping Out
Part Nine

" You're not going anywhere." A voice behind Rukawa growled.  A strong hand grasped him by the back of his shirt and pulled him back into the locker room, slamming the door and locking it after them.  "The two of us are going to talk, Rukawa.  The two of us are going to have a nice, long talk."

Rukawa stared right back at Mitsui, his face betraying no trace of emotion whatsoever.  As though it was perfectly normal for one of his team mates to pounce on him like that.  " We're supposed to be practicing."  He pointed out, reaching for the door knob.

Mitsui pushed his hand away, scowling at him.  " Don't you even think about trying to get away!"  There was pounding on the locker room door and the sound of Akagi's voice coming from the other side, demanding that the two of them get out on the court this instant.  " We're only going to take a while, Akagi-san.  Just talking to Rukawa."  He called out.

There was a snort and Hanamichi's familiar voice came through to them.  " Yeah, right.  The two of you are probably in there going all sorts of weird things to each other, huh?"

" Do'aho."

There was a loud thump as though someone had thrown himself against the door.  " I'm going to get you for that one, Kitsune!"  Then the sound of somebody protesting as he was being dragged away.  Once this had all died out, Mitsui turned his attention back on Rukawa.

" You bastard."

" I seem to be getting that a lot lately."

" What else could a stupid bastard like you expect?"  Mitsui took a deep breath.  What he wanted most in the world right now was to put his fist directly in that stupid, expressionless face.  " If I hadn't promised Anzai-sensei that I wouldn't fight anymore, I would knock your face in.  I swear I would."

" I don't doubt that."  The look on the guy's face made it clear that he was here in serious business and he could guess what this was all about anyway.  Throughout the day he had tried to be as inaccessible as he could, fearing just this.   An angry Mitsui seeking out revenge for his little darling.  He had even half hoped that once he got to school, Kogure would have forgotten everything and things would be normal between the two of them again.  It hadn't.  " Where is Kogure-san anyways?  I didn't see him around school today..."

" How could you possibly  expect the guy to go to school after what you bloody well did?  Do you think he even wants to face you or anyone else right now?  This is all your fault!"

" I didn't realize that me kissing somebody would render them incapacitated." Rukawa commented coolly.

" I swore to him that I wouldn't meddle into this..." Mitsui muttered as he began to pace agitatedly.  " But I can't help myself!  How dare you do that?  You didn't see the way he was yesterday.  How upset he was about everything.  He was helping you out!  He was being the friend that nobody else was willing to be and this is what you do?  Your gall is unbelievable!  How dare you?  You dirty, stinking rat!  He saw something in you that nobody else did, and then you turn around and do this to him!  How dare you?" He pulled his fist back  to hit him but was able to stop himself just in time.  He would never forgive this bastard for what he had done.  Nobody hurt Kogure and got away with it.  Kogure might not want to do anything, preferring to just curl up into a ball and hide away from the world rather than confront the problem, but Mitsui wouldn't let this bastard get away that easily.

" Look, Mitsui.  Nothing is going on with me and Kogure-san.  He's all-"

" That's exactly the problem."  Mitsui growled, beating his fist against one thigh.

Rukawa blinked.  The only indication that he gave of surprise.  He had thought that Mitsui was here because he didn't want anybody kissing his Kogure.  " You're upset because there isn't anything going on between us?"

" God knows I would have picked somebody a bit more worthy of Kogure than you."  Mitsui snapped, given a choice, he could have thought of plenty of other guys that would be perfect with him, but unfortunately, Kogure had set his heart on this particular cold hearted idiot.  " That guy is one of the best people that I've ever met in my life.  He changed me.  He brought me to where I am now.  Because of him, I'm here playing basketball with a team that has a very good chance of going into the Inter High championship and not out in the street somewhere getting beaten into a bloody pulp.  I owe him so much, as you do.  Every life that that guy touches seems to turn out for the better while you seem to have precisely the opposite effect."

Rukawa had actually been thinking the same thing only a few days ago.  " You're right."

" Damn right I am." Mitsui sighed, his shoulders slumping as he recalled Kogure's misery the night before.  The way that he had cried in his arms as though he would never be able to stop, how uneasy his sleep had been..." You have the ability to make him so happy, Rukawa.  Something that I would give anything for.  But you also have the ability to hurt him, and you did.  Very badly."

" By kissing him?" This was what he couldn't get.  How could somebody get that upset over just one kiss?

" Usually, Rukawa.  Kisses mean something."

Rukawa looked at him.  He still didn't get it.

" You're very dense when it comes to emotions, aren't you?"  Mitsui remarked with a sigh.  " You probably never even had any idea about the way that Kogure really felt about you.  That was why you were so bloody insensitive.  Am I right?"

" Kogure is my friend..." Though it didn't seem as though that was the case anymore.

" I thought so..." Mitsui shook his head.  God.  What a mess this was.  He still didn't get what it was that Kogure saw in the guy but there must have been something in him, somewhere behind that icy exterior, that had gotten Kogure to fall for him.  The guy had good taste after all when it came to choosing his guys and was a good judge of character so he guessed that there was something to Rukawa Kaede that he must have missed.  " Rukawa, this may seem strange to you but when Kogure feels something for somebody, it's intense.  It's the best feeling in the world to know that that guy loves you.  I speak from experience.  It's just...Incredible, the way he makes you feel about everything.  About yourself, the world in general.  You've been with him.  I bet that every time the two of you are together, he makes you feel as though you're the only person in the world that matters, as though he doesn't care what the hell you are or how you act or anything because you're perfect the way that you are.  You're always at ease with him and you can talk to him about anything.  Am I right?"

" Yes." Rukawa agreed.  But the things that Mitsui had mentioned had only been the tip of an iceberg.  Mitsui hadn't spoken of the sense of security that you had around Kogure.  As though he was sure to be there if ever he needed him.  He even managed to give you the feeling of being needed, of importance.  Something that he had never gotten from anybody.

" He cares for you. Rukawa.  For some reason, he does.  In fact, care is too mild a word.  Love may be more appropriate..."

" Love?" Rukawa repeated, testing the word out stupidly.

" Yeah.  Kogure, he's always been a chicken when it came to admitting his feelings.  Hell, it took a while for me to get him to come around to admitting it even to me!"  Mitsui chuckled, recalling the rather awkward situation of a few years before, " Till the very last moment when I kissed him, he kept on insisting that we were nothing more than friends, that I'd been misreading him.  But, well, that's just the way he handles things, I guess."

" But he never did anything to imply it!"  Rukawa muttered, desperately looking back to the events of the past and trying to see any hidden indications back then.  He saw none though.

" I guess he's more like you than I thought." Mitsui shrugged, not exactly understanding the way that Kogure thought either.  " Maybe he just loved you so much that he couldn't bear the thought of being shot down by you.  Maybe you just meant so much to him that he couldn't bear the thought that it might not work out for you two or something.  Obviously, it didn't.  What you did, Rukawa?  Using him like that, that was the most inexcusable piece of idiocy that I've ever encountered in my life.  Stupider than anything that Hanamichi could ever possibly do!"

" I didn't know!"

" It's just common sense, you idiot!"  He thought that he had had his temper pretty much under control so he was rather surprised with himself when he started shouting at the guy.  He just wanted some sort of reaction out of him, dammit!  " You don't use another person to try and get back at somebody!  Even if that person feels absolutely nothing for you, which, incidentally, isn't the case with this one!  It's just a plain stupid thing to do!  Nobody has the right to toy with a person's feelings, you idiot!"

" Akira was doing it with Koshino..."

" I don't give a damn about what the Sendo Akira does to that Koshino.  I only care about what you did to Kogure.  That's my only concern!"  Mitsui shook his head.  " Yesterday, Rukawa.  When I saw Kogure there crying his heart out at my doorstep, I was ready to kill you.  I was ready to come right over to your house and beat the crap out of you but he said no.  He said that I couldn't do that because you didn't know.  You weren't the type who would understand such a thing so you couldn't be held accountable but I think that you should be!  Can you imagine the way that he must have felt after that little episode with that Hikoichi?  The guy that he had fallen head over heels for had just kissed him.  His dream come true.  Of course, he thinks that something will happen between the two of you, and then suddenly, you open your stupid, stupid mouth and tell him that it was all just so that you could make an old boyfriend jealous!  Imagine it, Rukawa!"  He pushed the boy back, causing him to slam against the lockers.  " Just imagine how you would feel if that ever happened to you?  If Kogure just decided to use you to get me jealous, though he isn't insensitive enough to ever do anything that foul, thank God!"

" I'm sorry..." Rukawa muttered, picking himself up, a rather stricken look on his face.  Oh, God.  What had he done?  He hadn't thought...Well, that was his problem.  He didn't think anything through!

" So why are you telling me that?"  Mitsui asked, pulling the locker room door open.  " it's Kogure that needs to hear it."