Game Again

By miku

* Standard disclaimers apply. Thank You. *

Author's Note:

This fic serves as a sequel to "Expectations". For those who haven't read it yet (and are not planning to ^^;), I'll provide enough flashbacks or helpful information to help you understand the events.

To those who do not want Sendoh and Rukawa together, I warn you already.

************

Rukawa:

Sigh.

I was invited to a basketball camp. Not that I hated it; after all, I liked anything that involved basketball. But it was somewhat different this time. I was requested to help train high school basketball players. I did not agree at first but after so much coaxing from Hanamichi (who was the one who referred me to the organizer) and Ayako (one of the organizers), I finally accepted the part.

It had been two years and I was now no longer in the Shohoku Team. I entered a particular university with Hanamichi. Kogure and Miyagi were also there and some non-Shohoku players like Fujima, Rango, Jin and Nobunaga. We composed almost the whole of basketball team of our new school except for Kogure who wanted to concentrate in his studies. Akagi was granted a scholarship to America and he pursued his course there. I too, received a scholarship the same scholarship but I was still thinking about it.

Hanamichi did not want me to leave but he was trying to be more understanding knowing that it had been my ultimate dream.

I did not want to leave, too, even though I was not sure what was really holding me back.

I zipped close my duffel bag and stared at the clothes I would wear – blue denims and maroon shirt. Hanamichi also lent me his sweater with an eye-catching "TENSAI" in front. I sweatdropped. I would never wear that one. I opened my bag again and stocked the sweater inside. Then I grabbed a towel and headed to the bathroom.

************

My baggage was already waiting for me at the door but I was still waiting for Hanamichi to arrive. He went to buy me some foods for my trip even though I told him that it was not necessary anymore; I would just sleep the whole ride anyway. However, Hanamichi was persistent, as always.

I propped myself to the couch and closed my eyes.

I was not into socializing but I would sure need it during the camp because I would be training the participants. It would be hard doing my responsibility without saying anything. Or maybe I could experiment on that one. What, do some hand signal or write my messages on a paper and let my student just read them? I pictured myself doing that and I sweatdropped. I was being too silly already… might've been Hanamichi's influence.

The door swung open and Hanamichi, carrying a load of groceries, came running straight to the kitchen. "Sorry for taking too long! Wait for your food okay?"

I sighed, stood up and followed my lover to the kitchen. I leaned to the doorframe and watched how my redhead rushed in packing my snacks. I felt my lips twitched in a slight smile.

Hanamichi was very kind to me and sometimes I thought that I did not deserve his kindness. I could not even utter the words "I love you". I have told him those words how many times? Once or twice? And to think that we have been living together for almost two years!

When can I be true to you, Hana? That was all you were asking me to do, but I could not… I could not grant your only wish…

I've changed somehow but the most important aspects were still withheld…

Because…

Because what…?

Because I myself was still incomplete?

Because I could not be true to myself, what more to you?

But I did not know what's missing, that's the truth.

I felt Hanamichi's hand lifting up my chin. "Thinking again, precious?"

I smiled wistfully. Am I really precious to you, Hana?

"What are you thinking about? The camp?" he followed asking noting the sad expression on my face. I shook my head and answered, "No. About us…"

A wide genuine smile trailed in his face and he pulled me to a tight and passionate embrace. "I don't want you to be sad whenever thinking about us," Hanamichi whispered huskily in my ear. Then he patted me on the back and gave me my pack. "Take care of yourself there, okay?"

"Okay…"

"I'll miss you."

************

"Okay everybody! Please settle down!"

Ayako clapped her hands cheerfully. There were many eager participants this year after learning that the best basketball players would be the one to train them. Ayako was so happy noting the numbers but I was not.

I was just standing beside Ayako, arms crossed on my chest and eyes looking dead. Maki and Fujima were also invited. They were with some of the participants, talking as if they knew one another a long time ago.

"One more important person and we're going to start! He said that he'd be late for fifteen minutes so let's just wait for him, okay?" Ayako announced to the excited crowd who were so engrossed with guessing who could that person be.

Hn.

"Rukawa-kun," Ayako called. "It had been a long time. Good thing you agreed to take part on this camp."

Ayako had never changed – physically and socially.

You coerced me, just to remind you. But instead of saying those words out loud, I just snorted and turned my eyes to the open door of the gymnasium hoping at least to see something interesting. But of course there was none.

"You never changed, Rukawa. And how's Sakuragi?" she continued inquiring. She checked her watch and then checked the participants again.

They really increased in number this year.

"Still do'aho…" I answered smiling inwardly upon remembering the redhead's face. He really looked so stupid yet cute nonetheless.

I heard Ayako sighed and then she looked at me with her knowing eyes, now slyly narrowed as if telling me something I knew would irritate me. I just rolled my eyes and looked at the door again.

As if waiting for someone…

Oh yes… I was indeed waiting for someone- the important person who just informed us that he would be late. Not that I was interested nor that I cared… I just wanted the day to end as early as possible to rest. The trip really exhausted me…

I suddenly wondered if it would be cold tonight. I shiver at the thought - not of the cold but of thinking if I would forced to wear that "tensai" sweater of Hanamichi. I did not bring along with me any jacket; I guess that was not a good decision. I sighed and glanced at Fujima and Maki. They were talking to one another. Perhaps reminiscing their past high school days where their teams were rival?

"AH! Sorry everybody!! I see I'm the only one missing!" A stentorian voice caught my attention. I turned my eyes to the open door and there I see a very familiar image.

The image of the person I loved before.

The person I tried to forget…

By learning to love Hanamichi…

Because that's the way it should be…

He was the one who told me these words…

Sendoh Akira…

"Yes. We were waiting for you, you know? What happened?" Ayako queried while walking to him. I saw Fujima and Maki going to him, too. They must've missed the presence of Sendoh. I knew that they admired his skills in basketball… and I guess he did not change on that one.

He did not change at all…

That silly smile was still plastered on his bright face… his hair was still spiked… his built was still the same except that he grew just a tad bit taller.

Sendoh…

I caught his eyes somehow darted towards my direction, but I guess he did not see me because he just continued talking with the three. And why did I feel hurt? Hn. This was much better after all… not having to socialize. But then…

It was not the reaction I thought I would gain from him… It was not like him at all…

Not that I thought of ever meeting him again but… knowing Sendoh… knowing him… the one who once told me those words… It was really not like him at all…

I heard Ayako clapped once more. She, together with the three players, made her way in the middle of the gym where I was standing. Then the seminar started with the presentation of the participants. Then the four of us basketball players were requested to share experiences. I chose to be the last. I did not want to really but of course… I had no choice…

I told them that I was a member of the Shohoku team once and that Ayako was our manager that time. I also told them that we had played with Kainan and almost beat them… Maki snickered… That was the truth, you know? If only I had a stronger stamina that time. Then I told them that we had entered the National Championship where we beat Sannoh. Hah! Take that note. We beat the supposed-to-be best basketball team! But of course I did not say that out loud. It was Ayako, not I, who told the participants that I was a member of All Team Japan. The participant seemed so amused. Oh yeah… right… whatever…

I sighed.

I was not really used to speaking too much. Good thing that there was a god. The organizers finally told us that we could spend the whole day relaxing. I thought that I could quickly get to my room but Ayako asked me to join her so that we could talk about… past days…

"How are you and Sakuragi-kun?" she asked me. We were both leaning against a huge sakura tree, adjacent to one another. I wish I could just snort but then…

"Things are fine," I answered nonchalantly.

"Really… I actually thought at first that your relationship would not work out, you know?"

I glanced at her, observing her expression. She was still smiling… contentedly… and I could see that she said those words without really intending any harm. I just sighed and focused my eyes to the scenic view in front of me. The lake was shimmering with the light of the orange sky reflected upon it. Around the lake were full bloom flowers of different kinds…

I slightly smiled thinking how wonderful this place would be at night.

"I admire you both," she continued while I just kept on listening, "Even normal relationships seldom last long like yours do, you know?"

Yeah. Ours was abnormal. But then what could you expect with two abnormal people anyway?

I guess she finally realized that I wanted to rest that she offered me to show my room.

"You would not mind having someone's company, ne, Rukawa-kun?" she asked me as we walked the silent hallway of the inn. I just shrugged as my response. It would not matter as long as that person would learn to keep his mouth shut whenever I would be around… and that he would not snore when he sleep and that he would be neat with his things and that he would not ask me to wake him up and that…

I sighed…

Am I too demanding?

I sighed again…

Hanamichi… he snores, he's untidy, he's loud… always late in waking up… yet… I managed to somehow get used to it. However, he tried to change those unpleasant ways he had for me… I guess I'd been selfish.

"Here you go, this is your key," she announced waking me up from my yet another reverie. I took the key and stared at the door as if it was something new. Oh boy… I'm getting really silly already… "That's a door, Rukawa-kun. It opens when you turn the knob and…"

I glared at her and she stopped explaining. Of course I knew this. Do'aho. No… I'm calling myself do'aho and not Ayako.

"Well then, don't be scared to enter okay? I'll be just in my room. Number 307." Then she left while humming a song.

For the third time, I sighed and inserted the key. It did no effect to the lock so I guess it was open already. Perhaps the person who would share with me this room was already inside. I turned the knob, pulled the door open and silently came in. The first thing, rather, figure, I saw was a man lying on one of the beds, arms behind his head and looking above the ceiling as if contemplating something.

I knew him.

Am I fortunate or what?

I set my baggage beside the unoccupied bed and then opened the closet just beside it. Empty. He had not yet placed his things or maybe not planning to. I started unpacking. The first thing I saw upon opening my duffel bag was the "tensai" sweater of Hanamichi. I sweatdropped. You would not leave me in peace, would you? I threw the sweater to my bed and let it stayed there for quite sometime. I'd find a good place for it later.

After transferring some things on the closet, I left enough space for my companion's; I turned and observed the sweater. I smirked upon remembering Hanamichi wearing it. That was one of the things that did not change in him – his claim of being a genius. Oh well… at least let him feel something good about himself.

I planned on just hanging it on the clothes rack together with my jersey and some shirts. After fixing everything, I carefully sat on the bed, my back against my all-the-while-silent companion.

This was so unlikely of him.

This was not like Sendoh Akira at all…

But then, now I realized why. Things were different now. And the way we parted was quite… a wistful memory and I guess… he could still remember.

Like me…

I could still clearly remember that they when we bid good-bye to one another. Because we had to. Because I already had Hanamichi and he already had Koshino back then. And continuing seeing each other would just be very painful.

But fate was really twisted and unkind.

Both of us in this training camp, spending our one-week in the same room.

If Ayako knew what happened back then I would say that she planned all of this. But she did not so I have no claim… wait…

She knew some part of it… she was there when Akira announced that he… well… had feelings for me. Had, okay?

Oh… wait again… I have no right to call him Akira anymore.

So if that was the case, could Ayako really planned this at the start? She was like that, you know? Oh well… I should not get affected, right? Right.

But I was.

It had been years since I tried to forget him. I thought I succeeded. I thought that being with Hanamichi would help me forget.

But.

Just seeing him once again, without even talking to him, without even touching him, I suddenly became uncertain of my feelings again. But no, I was certain all along, but I kept on trying to deny it.

Because it was wrong.

Because it should not be.

Because we had our own lives and worlds already.

I should not love him anymore.

I laid my body on the soft bed, one foot still hanging at the side. How could I endure seven days like this. If it were just anybody, I would not mind. But it was Sendoh.

My eyes were getting heavy already. Good thing that the trip spent almost all my energy. At least I would not go on thinking about a lot of things anymore. Maybe I should just stay in this room to sleep and do some necessary stuffs. In that way I could avoid him… avoid the memories…

Hn.

Being a coward again, Rukawa?

Ah… I just want to sleep.

************

Hmm… I still wanted to sleep but…

I shoved the blanket aside, sat and rubbed sleep off my eyes. Hey, wait a minute…

I could not remember wrapping myself with that blanket. Oh well, I do silly things when I'm awake what more when I'm asleep?

I glanced at Sendoh's bed. He was not there anymore. His bed was neatly fixed already. I roamed my eyes around the room. I could see from the window that it was still dark outside. The light in our room was still turned off yet there were lamps illuminating the corners. I noticed a ray of light coming from the bathroom. Perhaps he was taking a bath…

Quite unusual… (not that he was taking a bath, okay! :o) He told me back then that he always woke up late…

Well, it had been two years anyway and how would I know what changed in him?

The door opened and Sendoh appeared with only a dark blue towel wrapped around his waist.

Dark blue was one of his favorite colors. He said that it matched his eyes. And that it reminded him of the color of my eyes. Well, that was before. I doubted he could even remember me fully…

Sendoh…

It hurt me honestly, you know? Being close with you yet… unable to be present in your eyes…

AH! I was staring too long at him, I guess. I felt blood rising in my face. Good thing it was somehow dark...

Damn me! Why am I acting like this?

I slowly turned my face away and then stood up. I walked to the clothes rack, where he was standing near at the moment. Kaede, you're just going to grab your towel that's all. You would not do anything stupid, okay? Nothing stupid…

Yeah…

But I felt like I'm a walking ice block. I passed by him feeling the heat from his body and… the ice block almost melted…

Damn it! Why am I acting like a girl in a shojo manga anyway?!?!?

Damn it! He could read me! He's smirking insanely. Damn it, Akira! Leave me at peace, will you?

I pulled my towel, quite harshly, and I guess he was quite surprised. I walked to the bathroom hastily. Stupid me! I'm not like this!

I should not blame him, too. I was not his fault.

It's not his fault that I still love him…

Sendoh…

Why… why of all people…

************

Training ended at last. There was still another one scheduled in the afternoon, but at least I could relax. This was the only time I hated hearing the words" basketball court".

The participants were good actually. I could see my former colleagues with them - someone short but agile like Miyagi, quick-tempered but good three-pointer Mitsui. I even saw two people who were brawling with one another. They were like me and Hanamichi, always mocking each other. I laughed inwardly. So we looked like jerks before doing that? But it was fun insulting him. I smiled.

I was forced to wear Hanamichi's "tensai" sweater because the temperature this morning was far beyond my power. Ayako, Fujima and Maki actually teased me with that. Oh well, at least only the three of them.

This was what I should do, right? Think about Hanamichi and not Sendoh. But here I am again thinking about him, anyway.

I should try to avoid it.

The door opened rudely. I looked at it, surprised, and saw Sendoh standing there. He was facing me yet his eyes were darted somewhere. Now what?

"Your lover's on the phone downstairs," he announced coldly, even emphasizing the word "lover". Okay. Being cold is okay, but being rude is another thing. Anyway, why should I even think about it? As of now, I stood up a little cheerfully knowing that Hanamichi called.

Talking to him would help unwanted thoughts vanish.

I ran past him and descended the stairs.

Sorry. I should have not done that but he would not care anyway. Maybe he was mad that he was requested to call me. That was really unlike him. He changed so much…

Ayako was on the phone and she smiled upon noticing me. Then she handed me the phone and I quickly recognized Hanamichi's voice. Still cheerful… still warm… I nearly smiled if Ayako was only not there.

"Hana…"

It was only a day and he said he missed me already? Should I believe you? That's quite impossible you know? But then, thank you…

"Me too." That was true. I missed him already but not as much as he was claiming he was missing me. I was used being alone anyway… and being far from people. But I still missed his presence somehow.

I saw Sendoh descended from the second floor, picked up the newspaper at the table and sat at the couch. Ayako excused herself; I nodded in response while Sendoh smiled.

He could smile to others, I noticed.

I was actually grumbling at that fact but I should only focus on Hanamichi.

"Yes," he asked me if I were fine. He asked me if the weather was okay? I'm not a child anymore Hana, but thank you for the concern…

"What?!" I accidentally exclaimed hearing Hanamichi's, well, missing of something we do. It was not sex. We rarely had sex. It was just embrace and kisses and ,well, nothing so much literally below the belt. I sighed and almost smirked. "Get used to it, Hana. It'll only be one week anyway."

I love you, Kaede. There. He just said those words again and what? I could only smile wistfully knowing that I could not… well… I could! It was just a little difficult for me to say because it was unlikely of me, but he deserved it, right?

"Aa… I love you, too." There I said it at last but quite with a bit of hesitation? Hana… I don't know but you deserve someone better than me. I heard you laughing. You liked hearing those words from me, but I have only actually said them twice. Thrice, now.

Finally, we hung up. I sighed, turned and walked back to the room avoiding looking at Sendoh. I did not know why but it felt awkward…

************

Night again. At least it would be much easier than day. I could just force myself to sleep before I could do something silly again. I was lying on my bed now and Sendoh was washing his hair. I wanted to laugh but I could not of course. He should quit gelling his hair too much. It would ruin his hair strands someday I bet. Oh well, if that would make him happy...

There were knockings on the door and I opened it. Ayako was there holding two plastic bags of ice cream. She asked me to choose two so I did. Midnight treat she explained.

I chose strawberry and vanilla. I liked chocolate but Ayako said they were already reserved for her. So I chose vanilla. Sendoh liked strawberry.

As I closed the door, I saw Sendoh coming out from the bathroom, face in deep frown having been fixing his hair for almost an hour. I told you, quit the hair gel already.

He propped himself to the bed, turned on the TV and concentrated in watching. I went to him and handed him the strawberry ice cream. Then he looked quizzically at me. I cocked my head confused.

"Ayako came and brought ice cream. I thought you like strawberry so…" I explained although I was not sure why. I saw a slight smirk in his face and he focused on watching TV while eating his ice cream. I could see him smiling – the first time I ever saw him smile with me… again…

Perhaps because of the ice cream?

Or the cartoon he was watching?

I sweatdropped. He was still Sendoh after all.

I sat at my bed, squeezed a pillow on my lap and watched TV, too, while eating my ice cream.

************

I could not sleep.

I wondered if a stroll near the lake would ease me. I thought that the lake would look splendid at night.

So I silently stood up, went to the clothes rack to find something to warm me but I found none. Hanamichi's sweater was stained a while ago. One of the participants accidentally spilled juice on it. So I had it in the laundry. Anyway, it would not be too cold for my system not to endure anyway. So, I left the room quietly.

As what I expected, the lakeside was bewitching. The moon and the stars were reflected on its clear and glimmering water. There were even fireflies in the darker part going to the woods. The scent of the flowers lingered in the air.

The place was intoxicating.

I leaned to a nearby tree and stared peacefully at the lake. I was hugging myself because it was cold. It was very cold actually but I did not pay so much attention to the temperature having in front of me one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

I let myself drift to serenity for the time being…

Until the place seemed darker all of the sudden. The light coming from the fireflies vanished swiftly. The atmosphere got colder as the wind blew softly giving me goosebumps. Unknowingly, dark clouds have made its way to the once shimmering sky. The reflection of the moon and stars was gone as the lake was perturbed by the light raindrops until it fell in its harshest. I immediately went looking for a shelter. The inn was a little far from here.

I found solace in the enclosed swing made for lovers…

I sighed…

I leaned at the metal post supporting the roof of the swing and hugged myself tighter. The swing rocked slowly causing a creaking sound. I sighed again… I should not stay here any longer but the the rain was pouring madly as if it was mocking me of my decision of going in this place.

I could run back to the inn but I'd be very wet.

Who would care anyway?

Hanamichi would. But he's not around so nobody would care if I'd be soaking wet tonight.

Yeah…

I slowly rose from my position. The wind blew again and I shuddered. I wrapped my arms around me again and shut my eyes tightly. I could almost envision myself looking so vulnerable with the coldness now… the coldness that I symbolized…

Then all of the sudden, I felt a warm cloth draped around my shoulder. I turned my head slowly and noticed that it was a blue jacket. Then I carefully turned around to see someone standing closely behind me his eyes staring intently at me and he was… slightly smiling.

"Akira…" I uttered softly, "I mean… Sendoh…"

He nodded and stepped closer to me leaving no space between us as he fixed the jacket which was hanging around me. "Why are you here?" he asked with unusual gentleness shown in his voice and eyes…

I could not answer for I was too entranced staring at how this tender expression suited him so much. I could feel my body shivering more although his body was warming me already.

"Let's go back," he offered and I only nodded in response. He moved a little away from me to open his umbrella. I suddenly missed his closeness already and I knew this was not right. Then he stepped down the swing as he held my arm obliging me to follow.

************

He handed me a towel and I dried myself. He was leaning against the wall and watching me the whole time, I knew.

"Thanks…" I spoke softly cursing my blushing cheeks. He might be laughing at me now. I lifted my face and searched for any expression in his face but… it was still the same… it was still gentle and… warm. All of the sudden, it felt unlike him already. I lowered my gaze and started folding the towel as if to disguise my discomfort.

"Why were you there?" he asked again.

"Just to get some air," I answered.

"And you did not even think about the weather and the time? It's already past midnight and it's cold. You did not even bring anything to warm you," he scolded… gently. If he were just some other person then I would just glare and yell at him to mind his own life. But he was Sendoh… and he cared. "What if you got sick?" he continued.

"I'm already a grown-up. I know how to take care of myself," I answered, a little annoyed, just a little…

"You do? But what have you just done tonight?"

I breathe in some air feeling my temper rising already. "It's none of your concern."

"None of my concern? If it's not then why would I be wasting my time going down searching for you?" he countered, his voice getting a little harsh…

"Yeah. Why? Why did you waste your time on me anyway?" I fought back glaring at him.

"Because I am concerned about you… because I still love you…" he answered returning my glare with a soft stare.

************

Next is Sendoh's POV. Review minna! Do you think I'm making any sense writing this story??? O_o