A/N: I know, I know. Chapter 6 and 7 really had Rukawa and Haruko too OOC. Unfortunately, I can't go on with the story without stretching thier personalities a little beyond what Inoue-san had given us. Yeah, fized the chaptering, too. Got a little problem with upoading chapter 6, but it's all fixed now.
Title: In the Rain [8/8]
Description: Haruko forgets to bring her umbrella one rainy afternoon, and then...
Notes: Inspired from the flu I'm having now and the rains outside... Set in their sophomore year. 'Nuff said.
Disclaimer: Slam Dunk belongs to Takehiko Inoue. The characters are only being used for fun. No profit is being earned. Please don't sue me.
The rain continued. The members of the basketball team didn't realize that it was already past seven because of the darkness.
"Okay, that's a wrap!" Miyagi called, clapping his hands, trying to make himself heard despite the sound of the rain against the ground outside. "Time to go home."
//What a day...// he thought as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with a towel that Ayako handed him. "Aya-chan..." he said with a smile as he watched her walk away.
From the corner of his eye, Miyagi saw Rukawa about to go for the shower rooms and recalled what happened earlier. As captain, he, of course, wanted to know what happened to Haruko.
"Oi, Rukawa," he called.
Rukawa didn't answer. Instead, he walked away, leaving a confused Miyagi to find out for himself.
The last thing he needed was somebody asking about what happened between him and Haruko. He didn't want to show disrespect to any of his sempai, and especially to the captain of the basketball team, but he just wasn't in any mood to talk (well, of course he's never in the mood to talk) about that day's events.
He simply walked into the locker room. Sakuragi was there to question him.
"Oi, Kitsune! What happened to Haruko-san?" he asked worriedly and angrily.
//Oh, great, another one...// Rukawa simply ignored him and rummaged through his locker for his towel.
"I'm talking to you, Kitsune!"
"Doaho..." he muttered then went into one of the empty shower cubicles, leaving the rest of the team to hold Sakuragi back from hitting him.
He didn't leave the shower until he thought everyone had gone. He stepped out and dressed up. When he was about to open the door, Ayako suddenly entered.
"Rukawa, how's Haruko-chan?"
//Oh, great...// Ayako was standing on the doorway, leaving him no exit.
"Yoohoo, Rukawa! I'm asking you..." Rukawa looked out for the paper fan, which, unfortunately, was still in Ayako's hands. He knew Ayako would hit him with it if he didn't answer right away, but he couldn't talk about what happened. He dind't want anybody to know about it, or even think of it.
Ayako sighed exasperatedly. "Fine, don't talk." She turned to walk away. "But whatever your problem with Haruko is, better fix it soon." With that, she went off, probably back to the gym to talk to Miyagi.
His problem with Haruko was starting to get obvious. It wasn't surprising that Ayako noticed. She had a good sense of how the people around her felt. But what if the others have already noticed, too?
Things were getting worse and worse...
He knew he should have said something other than a stupid "I can't". He should have done more than just stare at her like a blundering idiot. He could have said sorry or thanks for last week, but no...
He was Rukawa Kaede, after all, the icy ace of the Shohoku High School basketball team.
But couldn't he go just a little more beyond that?
He knew it was cheesy and stupid to admit that Haruko was the first girl that hit him (in many ways) that much. Now, she got him doubting. At the same time, thinking, if he should let things go on that way. Stay cold and quiet. Act like nothing happened, is happening or will happen. Sleep like you're dead and play basketball like you're mad. There was never a place in him for girls. He wasn't gay, of course. The first time he noticed girls in Junior High, he saw them as squealing, screaming and giggling creatures who talk about nothing but make-up and the opposite sex. Since then, that was the only image of girls he had in his mind. Another image he had of females were ones clad in skimpy blue cycling shorts and had paper fans that seem to be glued to their hands. But now he had a new realization.
Haruko was totally different.
Different from those three girls who claim to be his cheering squad and from the lion-hearted and fan-wielding Ayako. He couldn't say what it was that set her apart. She wasn't even anything in between. Kindness, perhaps? Of course, it wasn't her looks. He really didn't know. He couldn't tell.
But it wasn't the burning question on his mind.
//What do I do now?// The events had gone out of hand. Haruko just sort of 'confessed' to him and in the most unthinkable and unimaginable manner. If anyone had seen that scene, that person would probably go off and scream "Rape! Rape!". The events seemed so unlikely. In fact, it was unbelievable that the conversation in the hallway was actually between the two of them.
But still, he thought he was stupid.
He didn't thank her for her help. He didn't apologize to her when he did something wrong.
All of his mistakes had piled up. He had to do something before things get even worse. All he could do now, was to answer Haruko, in some way or another. It was already too late to thank her or say sorry. He had no plans to answer her question a while ago, but he knew he had to respond to the 'confession' she gave him.
He couldn't think of anything. He may have a lot of tactics on the court, but none in relating to people, and especially in this kind of situation.
He closed the door quietly and walked through the hallway. The rain outside was getting stronger and stronger. He looked at the dark sky from the window and saw nothing but streaks of water splashing against the glass. The moon and the stars were blocked by the clouds, thus, blocking any kind of source of natural light.
It would be very dangerous and lonely to go home alone that night.
"Arigatou gozaimasu," Haruko said and bowed with respect to the nurse.
"Hhhmmm... maybe you should call somebody from your house to fetch you," the nurse said worriedly.
"No, I'm fine, thank you." Haruko bowed again. It was already eight o'clock. It wasn't really late, but it was too dark. No one at home was available that night to fetch her from school. Both her mom and dad had to attend a party that night.
"Maybe there's still somebody on campus who could at least walk you to the train station," the nurse thought and bent over to take a peep at the window. "Ah, there's someone!"
Haruko followed the nurse's gaze and saw a tall figure sitting on the stairs of the school's entrance.
"Wasn't he the one with you earlier?" the nurse asked.
"H-hai..." her voice trailed off. She didn't know if she wanted to see Rukawa at that moment. What happened earlier was terrible. She surely didn't want to face him. At the same time, she wanted to know if Rukawa had something to say other than "I can't" about what happened.
In fact, she was quite surprised with herself. She never expected herself to say those words, and she knew nobody would. The words just came out like the rains pouring outside. She didn't expect Rukawa to say something, as well. The events were very unlikely.
She was still partly agnry at him, but this time, she admitted to herself that she still had feelings for him. Unlike before, however, she lost all hope that Rukawa would pay attention to her, or would consider her different from all those other girls who scream whenever they see him. She expected nothing from him now, maybe not even an answer.
"He seems to be waiting for you. Is he your boyfriend or something?"
"IIya da..." Haruko tried to cover the light shade of pink on her cheeks.
"You look really cute together."
"Ah, I'll go home now," Haruko said. She walked towards the door. She felt much better now, but her nose was still a bit clogged.
"I'll walk you to the entrance," the nurse offered and followed Haruko to the door.
He couldn't understand why he waited thirty minutes for something, rather, someone he wasn't even sure about: Haruko.
//What if she took the other gate?//
//What if she's gone home already?//
He was waiting for her, all right. He wasn't even sure if she'd come. And if she does, what could he do? Stare at her again and make futile attempts to talk? He had absolutely no idea about what he was doing.
"Rukawa-kun?!" a female voice called him form inside the school lobby. It was the nurse, and someone was following her from behind. He wasn't surprised to see that it was Haruko, although it made him quite nervous. The nurse was holding Haruko by the hand, as if almost dragging her.
"Do you need to go home early?" the nurse asked him when they were finally within talking distance. "Your girlfriend here needs a walk home."
He saw Haruko blush, and felt his own cheeks redden as well. The crimson shade visibly contrasted against his pale face. //Shit.// He turned his face away.
The nurse laughed. "I'm just kidding. Hora, hora..." The nurse grabbed Haruko's hand and tried to put it on top of Rukawa's, but he was quick enough to put it in his pocket.
"Take care, you two." With that, the nurse walked back inside the lobby. Leaving the two of them alone.
"I'll go now," Haruko said and opened her umbrella, preparing to walk in the rain. Rukawa wanted her to wait for him, but he couldn't say it. This was probably his last chance. "Ja ashita ne," she added.
"It's dark," were the words that suddenly came out of his mouth. Haruko stopped in her tracks, surprised to hear something from Rukawa. She wasn't expecting him to do anything. So she just looked at him, waiting for whatever he had on his mind.
"Ah, it's nothing..." He still had no idea.
Haruko just nodded and began to walk away. On the other hand, Rukawa just stood there and watched her. He failed again. He wanted to bang his head on the wall for being unable to say anything decent at the chance given to him. He knew he wasn't mute or anything, but why did he have to be so speechless?
The rain started too lighten.
He started to walk, increasing his pace with every minute. It wasn't too late. Not yet, not now... He still had some time. He just couldn't let this chance go.
//So I guess that's it...// Haruko shivered as she went past the school gates. She hoped that she wouldn't faint on the way home. Although she was feeling better now, the flu still hadn't completely left her body, and once more, she was feeling its effects. Her nose was a bit runny, and her vision blurred once in a while, but not as often as earlier. Still, she hoped that she had a companion with her, just in case.
Or just someone to keep her company. It was lonely. The usually filled streets of Kanagawa were empty that night, due to the rains that seem to have been pouring endlessly that past week. At the same time, it was so cold. Someone to talk to would also be of help. At least it will keep her mind off the fact that she was feeling feverish.
It was indeed a rainy week. Especially for her.
She wondered at what could have happened if Rukawa did follow the nurse's instructions and walked her home. She then thought that it was downright impossible and useless. In fact, his presence might even make the night much colder... and lonelier.
She knew he wouldn't say or do anything. He'd just stare at her like she was a rock lying on the street. He was as cold as the night, and nothing can really affect his non-existent feelings. It wasn't wrong to have a crush on him, but she shouldn't expect anything anymore.
//I'm not mad. I'm not hurt anymore, either. Just a lesson learned...// This time, she knew she wasn't lying to herself. But still, a very small part of her wished that Rukawa would walk up to her side and walk with her in that cold rainy night.
//That's too much to expect. Wake up, Haruko.//
She stopped and turned to see who the owner of the voice was and felt that her secret wish was granted. Rukawa was standing there, with his umbrella in hand, looking like his cold, usual self. There wasn't really anything different with him.
"Oh, it's you," Haruko tried to say as plainly and as casually as possible.
Rukawa walked towards her. "You okay?"
Haruko couldn't understand what he was trying to do. She started to walk, and Rukawa followed. She increased her pace to lose him, but he increased his pace, as well. She understood, though, because he had to pass by the train station to get to his house. But, was he actually following her? Haruko took a peep. Rukawa was still behind her, probably around a meter away. His gaze seemed to be directed towards the ground.
//Must have fallen asleep aagin...// Haruko thought. She couldn't help but giggle.
She walked on without minding a sleeping Rukawa right behind her. At least, she wasn't that lonely. It was always fun for her to watch people sleep. Finally, she arrived at the train station. She looked around if Rukawa was still behind her, but he was gone. She gave a sigh of relief.
//Finally lost him...// She wasn't sure if she was happy about the thought or not. At least, he was now off her mind. She had to start getting over him. She knew that she'd only end up hurt if she'd continue to love him. There was no hope. She didn't need to hate him, but she just had to give up.
The rains have lightened to a drizzle, although it was still cold. No matter how much the sun would shine she knew that it was hopeless, like an eternal rainstorm. She shivered again.
She stepped to board a train, thinking about what she should cook for herself. She'd be home alone that night. Perfect. She wanted to be lonely, for some reason. Probably to think things over...
All of a sudden, someone grabbed her hand. She was alarmed, thinking that it was a thief trying to take her money. She turned to look. Upon seeing the person's face, she couldn't decide whether to smile or to frown. She never expected him to come up to her at that very moment.
"It's kinda lonely tonight."
He continued to hold her hand.
His hand was warm, although, he didn't look like it. His face remained still, but his eyes flickered like a soft flame that gave light to the dark night.
The train began its journey. Haruko heard nothing but the soft chatter of the people and the hummming of the engine. She sat and smiled to herself. She wasn't going to chat with anybody, but at least, she wouldn't be lonely, even just for the trip for someone sat beside her and held her hand. She squeezed it.
Haruko watched the drizzle from the window. The streets were still empty, but she knew that tomorrow would be a sunny day and people would once gain return to their normal activities, just like the way she would. She finally got off the train, and still, he continued to hold her hand, and both of them walked in the rain. Neither one of them was feeling lonely now.
He didn't need to speak, for he had just given all the warmth she needed that could never, ever be expressed in words.