Kogure Kiminobu stared down at the blue piece of stationary paper in his hand, his heart beating so loudly in his ears that it managed to completely drown out Mitsui’s disgruntled mumbling in the background. How had his best friend managed to get a hold of this? Had Rukawa asked him to deliver it to him or something? That seemed to be a highly unlikely prospect, but who knew with the ever-mysterious blue-eyed freshman?
He had been surprised when Mitsui had turned up unannounced at his doorstep and thrust the letter into his hands without a single word of explanation. His fellow senior had simply commanded that he read it and had pulled him into his room so that the two of them could have some privacy. Kogure had obediently done as Mitsui had asked, and after reading the first few sentences of the letter in question, and seeing the familiar, rather untidy characters in that unmistakable hand that covered the piece of paper, he had immediately realized that this was the long awaited confession from Rukawa that he had been hoping for. “ How did you get this?”
“ Sakuragi handed it over to me in the locker room.” Mitsui replied
This struck Kogure as a little odd. What would Hanamichi be doing with Rukawa’s written confession? The loud-mouthed redhead was the last person in the world that Kogure would have thought Rukawa would entrust with such a letter, and with good reason, but he couldn’t be bothered to dwell on some minute detail like that. All that was important right then was that he finally knew how Rukawa truly felt for him. He had had his suspicions, but they had never been confirmed until now. “ I can’t believe he finally worked up the guts to confess!” His delight obvious on his beaming face, Kogure hugged his pillow to himself, pretending that it was his immovable junior that he had in his arms and not some inanimate object stuffed with goose feathers.
“ So you knew about all of this and didn’t even tell me?” Mitsui gasped, outraged. Kogure was supposed to be his very best friend! They were supposed to tell each other things like this and not keep the other in the dark. How could he do this?
A little surprised by the reaction that he was getting from Mitsui, Kogure just shrugged, knowing that the guy had a bad habit of flying off the handle when he was worked up over something, as he obviously was right then, though he had no idea what it might be. “ Well, it was pretty obvious to me…I could see it from the way he was acting, but I didn’t want to push things with him. I wanted to wait until he felt comfortable enough to let it all out himself…”
Obvious? Mitsui had spent the whole thirty-minute walk to Kogure’s home looking back at all the time that he had spent with the redhead, and he could still see no signs of Hanamichi ever showing anything towards him other than friendship. Because despite of all the time that they spent at each other’s throat, there *was* a healthy friendship going on between the two of them. But then he wasn’t exactly the King of Sensitivity like Kogure was. He couldn’t read people the way that the brown haired senior could. Maybe he had noticed something that he hadn’t been able to?
Kogure took advantage of the lull in the conversation to ask the question that had been bugging him ever since Mitsui had handed him the letter. “ How did Rukawa get this to you?”
“ Rukawa? Why are you bringing Rukawa up in this conversation all of the sudden? He hasn’t got anything to do with this! What we should be talking about is Hanamichi and how the guy apparently feels for me!” He couldn’t believe how selfish Kogure was being right then, when usually he was so sensitive and sympathetic. He knew about the way that his friend felt about the fox eyed boy, but he didn’t exactly think that this was the moment to keep on bringing him up. They were talking about *him* right then after all!
“ Well…how *does* Sakuragi-kun feel about you then?” Kogure asked obediently, rolling his eyes. How the hell could Mitsui think that this had nothing to do with Rukawa? As usual, the Shohoku Shooting Guard was choosing to focus on himself instead of sharing in his happiness, as a best friend should have been right then. After all, he had had a crush on Rukawa for as long as he had known the freshman and this was a dream come true for him…
“ After reading the letter, how do you think?” The scar-faced basketball player demanded, running a hand agitatedly through his short-cropped dark hair. It was really annoying how Kogure had chosen this particular moment to act all dense, just when he badly needed advice from him.
“ The letter?” The bespectacled boy repeated in bewilderment. The letter had nothing whatsoever to do with Mitsui or Hanamichi. He was sure of this. One look at the handwriting had assured him that it was definitely from Rukawa. And Rukawa only referred to *him* as ‘sempai’. It was like a little pet name…“What does this letter have to do with Hanamichi and you?”
“ Kogure! Hanamichi *likes* me. He said so in this letter!” Grabbing the piece of blue paper from the bespectacled boy, Mitsui waved it before his companions face, before sitting himself down onto a nearby swivel chair and perusing the rather short note that had gotten his emotions all in a turmoil with just a few, rather stilted paragraphs. He had read it at least fifty times by then and had memorized every word.
Kogure broke out into a smile, suddenly realizing that they had been misunderstanding each other the whole time and that Mitsui thought that the note had been meant for *him* and that it was from Sakuragi. Kogure was confident that this wasn’t the case, though. Besides the fact that he was certain that that was Rukawa Kaede’s sloppy handwriting that covered the piece of paper, he also knew that Hanamichi had never been in the habit of using the honorific ‘sempai’ when referring to his seniors. “ Mitsui, what makes you automatically think that any love letter you find is rightfully yours?”
“ Besides the fact that I’m the hottest senior in the basketball team?”
Shaking his head in disbelief, Kogure picked up a pillow that had been lying on the floor and hurled it towards his companion. Mitsui was able to dodge that easily but wasn’t able to see the other pillow that the bespectacled boy had picked up and thrown at him right after the first. “ That has got to be the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard coming out of your mouth! And believe me, I’ve heard plenty of idiotic stuff from you before!” He had always known that Mitsui had this unshakable belief in his own perfection and he had been okay with that, thinking that it was good for an athlete to have such faith in himself, but this was really going a bit too far. “ Hottest senior in the basketball team?” He snorted derisively to show his best friend just what he thought of this idea.
Mitsui shrugged nonchalantly. Despite of all the pillow throwing that he had been subjected to, it seemed as though he still hadn’t caught on to the fact that he had gotten Kogure upset. “ If not the whole school…”
“ Mitsui, you’re my best friend and all, and I’d hate to burst your bubble or anything, but really, you’re getting to be just as bad as Sakuragi!” Kogure fumed, his hand straying towards his alarm clock on the bedside table. That would be considerably more painful than a few pillows if it ever got Mitsui on the head…
“ Why are you bringing Sakuragi up all of the sudden?” Mitsui demanded, a suspicious frown on his lips. Kogure hadn’t seemed too eager to discuss the redhead before and now here he was, suddenly bringing him up…
“ Am I missing something here? Weren’t you the one that came barging into my house, telling me that I had to give you some advice because you *think* Sakuragi-kun is in love with you?” Sometimes, when he was having conversations with Mitsui, Kogure felt as though he were one of those hamsters just running around and around in an exercise wheels, doomed to never get anywhere. He was getting this feeling right now, as the conversation progressed. If it even really was progressing at all. Mitsui had made up his mind to think what he wanted to think, and the Vice-Captain of the Shohoku basketball club knew that there was no way that he would ever be able to change his mind on the subject, short of holding the much bigger guy in a choke hold, something he doubted he was physically capable of, until he agreed with him.
“ I don’t just *think* so, Kogure-kun! I *know* that this is the case!” Mitsui waved the blue piece of paper around in the air to remind his companion of its existence.
“ All right. That’s what you say anyway. And now, just to get my point across, I’m going to be spending the next…oh, half hour or so, expounding on why I think you’re mistaken…” Before Mitsui could comment on this, Kogure held up one finger and began to speak, “ First of all, I beg to differ on your ‘I am the hottest senior in the basketball club’ claim.”
“ Well, who do you think is the hottest senior in the basketball club then?” Mitsui challenged, a small smirk on his lips. “ *You*?”
“ And why exactly would that idea seem so ridiculous to you?” Kogure demanded, his pride hurt by the fact that his best friend hadn’t even tried to conceal how ridiculous he thought this idea to be. It didn’t seem to be *that* strange a thought for Kogure, not that he was claiming to be the hottest senior in the basketball club. He wasn’t quite as conceited as Mitsui apparently was. And he wasn’t the perfect example of masculinity or anything, but he liked to think that he was pretty decent when it came to the looks department. “ Not that I’m egotistical enough, like some people, to claim this.”
“ Well, Kogure-kun, you’re cute. I give you that much.” Mitsui admitted. No one would deny the fact that Kogure had a certain appeal, least of all himself, who had been obsessed with the guy on their freshman year of high school, to the point of building a Kogure shrine in the family tool shed. A shrine which his older brother had found, taken as a sign of some deep rooted psychiatric problem, and had bought him a visit to the school guidance counselor for some serious interrogation about his intent for Kogure Kiminobu. “ But you’re… too cute! You’re the type of guy that girls just love to be friends with, you know? You’re the type that they like to mother and fawn all over. The type that they go to so that they can cry and moan about guys like *me* who are being bastards, but who they are deeply in love with!”
“ You’re right, Mitsui…” Kogure agreed placidly as he wiped the lenses of his glasses clean on the edge of his shirt.
“ I am?” The Shohoku shooting guard was rather surprised by his friend’s sudden agreement. He had expected more of a fight, even from someone as naturally sweet tempered and giving as Kogure was. “ I mean, yeah! Of course I am!”
“ Yeah. You *are* a bastard.”
Mitsui’s jaw dropped upon hearing this. Was the world coming to an end? Had he truly heard the word ‘bastard’ coming out of Kogure Kiminobu’s perfect, rosebud mouth? Hell, he could remember the time when he had been walking his dog in the park and had run into Kogure. His dog, which wasn’t very good in terms of self-control in the first place, had taken a dump by some bushes. Kogure had then pointed out that he should clean up the ‘fecal matter’. And that had been what, two weeks ago? How the hell had someone who hadn’t even been able to say the words ‘poop’ or ‘shit’ two weeks ago suddenly be able to spout out the word ‘bastard’ at will? “ I didn’t even know that that word was in your vocabulary, Kogure-kun…” he remarked pensively, the rather scary thought that Kogure might not be as much of a pushover as he had originally perceived him to be suddenly coming to him.
“ It’s become a necessary part ever since I first started dealing with you…”
“Oh, touché! I didn’t think you’d get this worked up over something like this! I mean, I never knew you to be the type who cared about these sort of things…”
“ And I’m not. But seriously, Mitsui! This whole ‘hottest senior in the basketball club’ thing is just ridiculous! How can you just immediately assume something like that?”
“ I’m not assuming. It’s the truth. Really, when you think about it, there’s not a whole lot of competition for me…” Mitsui pointed out, shrugging.
“ You’re really pissing me off now, Mitsui…” Kogure informed him through gritted teeth. All he needed was for the guy to insist one more time that he was right before he would hurl the first thing that came to hand right at his head. He’d pretty much given up on getting him to acknowledge the truth: that the letter was meant for him and that it had come from Rukawa. But that didn’t really matter, in his opinion. As long as he knew the truth about it, then what Mitsui thought meant nothing to him.
Everything was going wrong! The reason that he had dropped by Kogure’s home in the first place was so that he could get some advice from the smartest person that he knew, and with the mood that his best friend was in right then, it didn’t seem very likely that the Shohoku vice-captain would willingly impart any pearls of wisdom. “ Look, Kogure. I’m really, really sorry for everything that I said before…would it make you feel any better if I handed over the whole hottest senior title to you?”
“ *It isn’t yours to hand over in the first place, Mitsui Hisashi!*”
“ But right now, Kogure. Please. I need you to help me out in this one…”
Kogure scowled petulantly at Mitsui, trying to appear unaffected by the adorable pleading look on his fellow seniors face. “In the first place, Mitsui, what makes you think that this is from Hanamichi? Has he ever shown any interest in you in the past? No. Is this his handwriting, you don’t know, do you? Is Hanamichi in the habit of calling *anybody* sempai, least of all, you? No. So what makes you so sure that this is from him when all evidence points otherwise?”
Mitsui groaned inwardly. Kogure and his reasoning! Why did he always have to be so analytical about everything? Why couldn’t he just *believe* in something, even if it didn’t seem plausible? “ He was the one who handed it over to me, all right? And…I just know. He likes me… I’m never wrong about these things.”
Kogure rolled his eyes. Well, Mitsui was wrong this time, he was pretty sure of that. He followed the blue-eyed player’s gaze towards a blown up picture of the Shohoku basketball club hanging on his wall. Only Mitsui didn’t seem to see the others in the photograph. His eyes were focused solely on the smiling redhead. As Kogure watched him, the scar faced boy’s lips turned up into a little smile. “ My God…” The vice-captain whispered, attracting his companion’s attention.
“ My God what, Kogure-kun?” Mitsui asked mildly, returning to his perusal of the photograph…
“ Nothing, Mitsui. Nothing…” Could it be that his best friend *wanted* Hanamichi to like him? Could it be that Mitsui was hoping for this to be the truth? After all, the senior spent a whole lot of time pissing Hanamichi off, hoping to get a rise out of him. And Kogure knew Mitsui well enough to know that he usually did this to people that he was attracted to, like how a little primary school boy would tip a bucket of sand into the front of the dress of the girl that he liked…
A slow, devious smile spread across Kogure’s face. Some people considered him to be a perfect angel, someone who would never be able to do anything that might hurt or embarrass another person. What they didn’t know, was that he could hold his own pretty well when pushed too far. And Mitsui had really pissed him off after he had scoffed at the thought that *anyone* could consider him hot. Right then, Kogure’s mind was telling him that this was the perfect time to teach Mitsui that some people could resist the charm of the self proclaimed ‘hottest senior in the basketball club’. And that person would be Hanamichi Sakuragi, the also self-proclaimed ‘Tensai’. “ So, tell me, Mitsui-kun…” Kogure had reverted to his old, pleasant tone of voice and tried to appear as welcoming as possible in able to get his friend to feel free to talk about things. “ Knowing now that…Sakuragi-kun…*likes* you. How does that make you feel?” Kogure felt a little twinge of guilt at the fact that he was leading on the guy that was supposedly his best friend like this, but a bigger part of him told him that he was right in doing this. It would take Mitsui down a peg or two at least.
“I’m surprised…” Mitsui stopped what he was about to say, a slight flush heating up his pale cheeks. “ Very…and…well…”
“ Well?” Kogure demanded eagerly.
“ I’m not as disgusted with the idea as I thought I would be or should be…” Mitsui admitted with a sheepish smile. One of the things that he had thought over as he had walked to the Kogure’s was the redhead and what he felt or *could* feel, after some time, for the freshman. Sakuragi was everything that he had never thought he wanted. He had always been more drawn towards people like Kogure, someone sweet tempered and unfailingly nice. But seeing his failure rate with such guys, maybe it was time for him to try with a different type. Who knew, this time, things might even work out.
Hearing the sincerity in Mitsui’s tone of voice, Kogure debated inwardly within himself whether it would be wiser for him to end the whole charade right then and tell Mitsui the whole truth about whom the letter was really meant for and who had written it. But he still felt as though the guy needed to be taught a lesson or two. “ So you think things could work out with him then?”
“ There’s a possibility…”
Kogure shrugged, walked over to where his best friend was sitting and patted him encouragingly on the back “ Then go for it! You have nothing to worry about since you know that Hanamichi likes you too…”
“ You think I should?”
“ Yeah. Do it.” Kogure insisted. He was being rather malicious and he was sort of enjoying it, he had to admit. He rarely had the opportunity to be such a bastard. “I’m sure that Hanamichi will be thrilled…”
~**~ To Be Continued ~**~