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Laree's Slam Dunk Fanfiction
Down a Different Path
Part Four

Five Years Before
Outside the Takeishi Junior High Gym

"Oi!  Sendo.  Get your ass off of there and back into the gym right now before I'm forced to drag you back inside."

" Drag me back inside, Mit-chan?" Sendo repeated with a small smile.  He raised an eyebrow as he pointedly examined the older boy that had sat himself down beside him.  Mitsui, though a year older, was at least some three inches smaller than him, and was of a lighter build.  " Can I ask how you will succeed in doing that?"

" Don't get cocky just because you're an overgrown giant."

" Overgrown giant?"  Sendo snorted.  " The only overgrown giant around here is the one in the gym right now masquerading as our captain..."

" So that's why you stormed out of the gym, huh?  Got sick of Tokito picking on you..."

" Who wouldn't?"  Sendo demanded, fuming.  He brought his balled up fist angrily against his thigh.  " It's like I'm all that he ever sees, Mit-chan.  It's always Sendo, don't do this! Sendo, you're doing that wrong!  Sendo!  Why don't you get a few shooting tips from Mitsui here?"  The younger boy snorted, wondering what he had ever done to deserve all of that from the Tekeishi basketball team captain.

" Maybe he has a crush on you..." Mitsui suggested with a small smirk.

" Oh, please.  Now you've succeeded in giving me nightmares for the rest of my days." Sendo shuddered at the image of their big, brawny captain, kneeling in front of a shrine with an enlarged picture of himself surrounded by incense and flowers.  " I don't need that sort of thought at the back of my mind.  Now I'm probably going to burst out laughing every time I see Tokito's ugly face..."

" Ugly, and yet a strangely appealing guy..." Mitsui agreed, laughing as he remembered his reaction the day that he had been introduced to their captain's gorgeous girlfriend.  How someone with a face that only his mother could love had ended up with a girl that pretty was completely beyond Mitsui's comprehension.  He guessed that there had to be something more to their captain than met the eye. 

" Whatever appeal Tokito has is lost to me..." Sendo muttered, still angry.  His cheeks still burned when he thought about the scolding that he had been given inside the gym about his shooting skills.  He had been so embarrassed having the captain shouting at him and comparing him to Mitsui right in front of the whole team.  The cruelest thing about that was that Mitsui Hisashi had been there to witness everything.  Mit-chan, his best friend, and the person that he completely idolized.

" Maa, Sen-chan..."  Mitsui casually draped a heavy arm around Sendo's shoulders.  The younger boy worked hard to keep his face from reddening visibly without much success.  A person couldn't control the blood flow to his face no matter how hard he tried after all.  He was sure that this was nothing more than a friendly gesture on the older boy's part, and yet, these days, he had been reading more and more into Mitsui's actions. Something that he knew wasn't right.  Mitsui was his best friend.  Mitsui was a guy!  Like him for God's sake...Besides, he was sure that Mitsui, a guy's guy, if Sendo had ever seen one, would simply freak if he found out about the recent changes of his feelings towards him..." Do you want to know why Toki-chan is that way?"

" He was born naturally bad tempered?"

" No.  Toki-chan is actually quite nice, once you get to know him.  And actually, in my first year here in Takeishi, he was the same way with me too.  He was only the vice captain back then, like I am right now, and he was always shouting at me, yelling at me about all of my mistakes and never seeing all the things that I did well.  Yes, Sen-chan, I know that this is hard for you to believe, but even I, Mitsui Hisashi, the ace player of Takeishi, wasn't always as good at basketball as I am now..." Mitsui either didn't see, or chose to ignore Sendo rolling his eyes.  " I got really pissed off with him because of that.  I've never really been able to take criticisms all that well, Sen-chan, you know me.  So I confronted him.  I asked him why the hell he was always picking on me and you know what he told me?"

" He was trying to shoot down your over inflated view of yourself?"

Mitsui glared at him.  " I'm trying to make you feel better here."

The younger boy smiled.  " I know."

" So anyways..." Mitsui gave him a look which clearly told Sendo not to try interrupting him with any more of his droll comments unless he wanted to be seriously injured.  " He told me that all he was trying to do was to encourage me."

" Encourage you?"  Sendo repeated in bewilderment.  " He thinks that yelling at you constantly about your minor mistakes is encouraging?"

Mitsui shrugged.  " Hey, who ever said that our dear Captain's reasoning is easy to understand?  But that's the way that he is.  He thinks that by pointing out all of your mistakes, he can goad you into improving your skills so that you become even better.  To tell you the truth, his tactic actually works too.  All of his mocking pushed me to practice perfecting my already great basketball skills until I became the Ace that I am now.  He likes you, Sen-chan.  He thinks you have talent.  That's why he always picks on you.  I think you're going to be a great ball player too.  Someday soon."

Sendo looked inquiringly at Mitsui, wondering if the older boy was fooling around with him again, as he usually did.  But to his surprise, he found a dead serious Mitsui looking right back at him.  His cheeks reddened and he hurriedly tore his gaze away from Mitsui's steady blue ones. 

" So you understand now why Tokito is so hard on you?  And why I don't do anything to stop him when he is?"

Slowly, Sendo nodded.  He wondered if Mitsui knew how much his words meant to him..' I think you're going to be a great ball player too.  Someday soon...' The words played  over and over in Sendo's mind and right then and there, he swore to himself that he would fulfill Mitsui's prediction.  He would prove Mitsui right.  One day, he was going to be a top class player, right up there in the older boy's league.  One day, Sendo would proud to play with Mitsui as his captain.

" That's good then..." Smiling, the older boy ruffled his hair playfully as he got up to his feet.  " Better get back to practice then, ne?  Or Toki-chan will be after your head..."

" I'll be right there.  I just need a drink..." Sendo told him, as he watched Mitsui walking away..

Mit-chan...I'm going to become a great player...Like you want me to.  And then I'll help you bring Takeishi the championship...Sendo vowed, as he too rose to get a drink before returning to practice.


Four Years Before
In Sendo's Room

" I've been...We'll...I've been hearing a lot of weird things about you lately, Sen-chan..." Mitsui muttered, as his hands fidgeted nervously with the miniature basketball that he held in his hand.  He fixed his gaze on the hoop nailed into the wall across him, took aim and let the ball fly.  It went in cleanly.  The perfect shot, as always.

" What sort of things?  And what have I supposedly done this time?"  Sendo asked, not really too concerned.  The students of Takeishi had always been a talkative and rather inventive bunch.  Sendo and Mitsui both being popular and high profile guys around campus, were quite often made the subjects of much gossip, so Sendo was used to hearing all sorts of things about himself.  He and Mitsui often discussed them, finding them funny, so he wasn't too alarmed when the older boy brought up this topic.  He didn't notice the hesitation of the newly declared Takeishi Basketball Club captain.

" Well...Stuff...Stuff about you and...Well..." Mitsui cleared his throat uncomfortably.  " Stuff about you and this...guy."

" What guy?"

" I have this cousin in Kainan Junior High School...You know him, right?"

" Nobu-chan?"

" Yeah.  Nobu-chan.  And...Well, he and his parents came over to visit yesterday and Nobu and I got to talking and he brought up the subject of this guy named Maki Shinichi, the captain of their basketball club...He...Well, he sort of mentioned that there was a rumor going around Kainan that you were going out with this guy.  This Maki."

Sendo nearly choked on the soda that he had been drinking.  Oh God.  It had gotten out.  He cast around frantically for some way to get out of answering this question.  He wasn't ready for his relationship with Maki Shinichi to be out in the open yet.  Most of all, he wasn't ready for Mitsui to find out the truth.  Not yet.  " Shin-chan?"

Mitsui's eyebrow raised at the familiar way in which he had referred to the guy in question.  " This isn't...True, is it, Sen-chan?"  the older boy asked him warily.  " I mean, okay.  So I've found a few yaoi doujinshi around your room once in a while, and so you like Ai No Kusabi...I'm sure that doesn't mean anything, though...Even I have looked through some yaoi doujinshis just to see what they're all about...And I've got to admit that Ai No Kusabi really has quite a good plot...You're not...Gay, though, Sen-chan...Are you?"

Sendo didn't reply.  Instead, he just answered Mitsui's question with another one.  " Would it matter if I were?"

" Sen-chan?"

" Would it change anything?"

Mitsui shrugged.  The truth was that he didn't know.  Sendo had been his friend since childhood, but he really wouldn't know how he would react if he found out that what he had been hearing from his cousin had been the truth.  At least not until he heard Sendo's answer.  " I...don't know, Sen-chan."

Sendo looked up at him sadly, feeling his heart break as he saw the embarrassment on Mitsui's face.  This confirmed Sendo's worst fears.  The look on his childhood friend's face told him that he would never be able to confront the older boy with his feelings, the feelings that he had been hiding for the past year or so, and which he had tried to forget by getting involved with another guy.  A guy who he liked very much but who, truth be told, would never be able to compare to his Sempai.

" Please, Sen-chan.  Just tell me the truth..."

Sendo closed his eyes in an attempt to block out the image of Mitsui's beautiful face.  But in his mind's eye, he could still see it.  The expressive blue eyes, the sexy mouth which was always so ready with a smile or an encouraging comment...The older boy was asking him for the truth, and yet Sendo knew that he wouldn't like it.  That everything would change once he told him, and he didn't want things to change.  Actually, he did.  He wanted Mitsui.  He wanted Mitsui to look at him and not just see a friend, but a lover.  But those were not the sort of changes that his confession would bring about at that moment.  Of this he was sure.

In a moment of clarity, Sendo made his decision.  It was better for him to have Mitsui as just a friend than to not have him at all.  Telling his best friend the truth, the truth about himself, and the truth about the way he felt for him. could come later.  Later on, once he knew that the older boy would be able to handle it.  

Taking a deep breath to compose himself, the spiky haired boy opened his eyes, his lips quirking up into a big smile.  "Of course it's true about me and Shin-chan, Mit-chan!" Sendo exclaimed.  Well, it was...So he wasn't exactly lying to Mitsui then, Sendo reasoned out to himself.  He could see a look of alarm crossing the captain's face.  He went on, "And that thing about me and our coach is true too!  And you know that rumor where I'm supposed to be going out with that Uozumi guy from that other High School?  That's also true!"  Laughing wildly at nothing in particular, Sendo collapsed onto his bed, clutching his stomach.

After a while, Mitsui also joined him in his laughter.  " I thought it was only a rumour..." Mitsui said, sounding incredibly relieved.  " I bashed Nobu-kun when he told me about it.  I insisted that you weren't a fag.  God... I wonder where these people get all these sick ideas!  It's those yaoi doujinshis that you're so fond of!"

Sendo shrugged.  " I just want to see why girls find them so interesting!  Research, you know?"

" Research, huh?  Speaking of research, I've been doing some of my own and guess what I've found?"

" What, Mit-chan?"  Sendo tried his best to sound interested.

" There's this girl from the Volleyball Club, quite pretty in fact, who has a big crush on you!  I say go for it, Sen-chan!  To prove to everyone that you're no fag..."

Sendo listened all the while to Mitsui going into great detail about the girl.  No one, he thought to himself, as once in a while he nodded and smiled at Mitsui's ramblings, can possibly know how awful it feels for me to have to keep this stupid smile on my face while my heart is being broken by the guy that I love...

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