Disclaimer : Slam Dunk is owned by Takehiko Inoue. Keitaro is mine!
Note: Sentences in italics are thoughts.
*******mskitsune - I love 'kilig' love stories heheh....
hibari – Thanks! I limit my chapters to less than 2,000 words because I know how tiring it is to read long chapters. Yep, no matter how it may seem, I have other things that occupy my time *grins* and I try not to neglect my two other fics as well. Yep, there's a chapter where it says that he thought of her while he was in America. ^_^
AjA – You keep me going!
zidane – Thanks…. the kitsune and the do'aho worked together against Sannoh. I want to make things more realistic, people certainly do change over time.
Jo – Wow! Long and touching scenes? I bet you would like Follow Your Dream, though I have to admit it would be very a very slow story.
Ginny W – Boys will be boys. ^_^;;;
Shinomori no Kami Daiji – Salamat! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your constructive reviews. Yea, working on my grammar is harder for me than making up stories. English lessons, anyone? *grins* Patay na patay ka talaga kay Hanagata, ha? Heheh.... I can't blame you. *winks*
frozenfemale – Thanks! My cousin did something weirder. He proposed in front of his fiancee's officemates, on bended knees. *LOL*
Afrokane – Yep, I also notice in the anime that Rukawa does roll his eyes a lot.
tensai-yuki – I am so glad you like it. Yea, we can't miss that.
lambie – Yeah. Things do change. People do change. Even their priorities change as they mature. Ok, I better stop. *LOL* Yup! I hear you!
Unquestionable – Reunion is on Chapter 10. I guess it's a normal feeling when you see your crush, feeling all so happy and excited it makes you want to jump up and down. Yea, it's a normal feeling. Happy reading!
ayu – Yup! I hear you! Thanks!
Rook - Whoa! you are such an angel! Here's the continuation. Gomen for the late update.
Chapter 11: Her Misgivings
Tired after a long day at the reunion, her son climbed up to his bed after he got cleaned up and put on his pajamas. Haruko laid the blanket over him and sat beside him. She couldn't help but notice the happiness in his eyes as he spoke.
"Rukawa-san plays really great ne, Okaa-san?" Keitaro's eyes beamed at the recollection of his mentor's display of skills. "One day, I would be just like him!"
Haruko smiled at her son's determination. It seems that basketball runs in the blood of the Akagi family. Her eyes landed on the basketball resting on the floor as she thought of how the sport had dominated her life as well.
"Hm?" Haruko looked into her son's eyes.
"Do you like Rukawa-san?"
She was completely taken aback by her son's seemingly innocent question. Nevertheless, she smiled and answered him. "O-Of course, because he's good to you, Kei-chan. I like anyone who is good to my baby."
Little Keitaro's face lit up once again. "Really? Why don't we just let him stay with us then?"
Haruko gaped at her child's innocence.
How beautiful it must be to live in a child's world where everything seems so perfect and every dream can come true.
Just like in a fairy tale.
"I really like him, Okaa-san. Maybe he can be my father!" He declared nonchalantly.
Haruko felt a prick in her heart and she wanted to cry.
This was the only regret she had for getting the divorce. Keitaro would grow up without a father figure to look up to. And now, her son was obviously enjoying Rukawa's company.
She bit her lower lip and fought hard to hold back her tears.
How can I possibly deny him that?
She willed herself to smile again. "Kei-chan dear, I don't think he would like that. He has his own house to stay, remember?" She planted a kiss on her son's forehead. "You go to sleep now so you'll grow faster, ok?"
"Ok, mom. Goodnight." He dragged his blanket up to his neck and closed his eyes.
His house was empty once again. Just a few hours ago, his house was alive with the loud chattering of his former teammates.
He was alone once again.
He might have a nice house but it felt empty. How perfect it would be if Haruko and Keitaro were with him.
I want to marry her.
He said it so easily to the do'aho.
To him, it was a sign of respect for the former rival. It was like he asked for his permission to pursue her. Well, it wasn't exactly an act of imploring but more of a statement of conviction. But then again, he was always known for doing things differently.
I think you should tell her.
Rukawa smiled to himself as he remembered what his 'friend' said. Friend? Yes, as weird as it might seem, he found a friend in Sakuragi.
I think you should tell her.
His friend's words kept ringing on his ears.
It was more than an encouragement.
It was an assurance that there wouldn't be any hard feelings between them.
Haruko turned to her side and let out a soft sigh. She thought she would easily fall asleep after a very tiring day but her thoughts were preoccupied of what had transpired at the reunion. She remembered how odd her high school friend acted that day and smiled at the remembrance of how the redhead practically threatened the basketball player into marrying her.
Sakuragi has always been the clown of the team.
Always the joker.
The life of the party.
Nevertheless, she knew Sakuragi was the kind of friend who would stick through thick and thin. He always did for all of them. She convinced herself that the redhead was just trying to annoy Rukawa. They've been that way since high school.
Then she remembered how nice Rukawa had treated her during the reunion. He helped her in every way he can, even in setting up the webcam. Flashes of what happened at the hall kept coming back to her.
Rukawa was so close.
Unlike before when he was so unreachable.
So distant. And so cold.
Yet just hours ago, his touch was so warm.
How can someone who was supposed to be so cold be so warm?
Haruko shook her head.
Stop it, Haruko. Stop thinking about him!
He was just being nice.
Haruko stopped at that word. Nice? Rukawa was not even known for being nice. How can he be nice to her? He's the ice king, remember?
Memories of the past haunted her. Her heart ached as she looked back at the times when Rukawa ignored her.
The times when he brushed her off.
But then again… people change.
He has changed.
He even smiles now.
Is it possible? Am I just denying the fact that he did changed?
After all, change is the only thing constant in this world.
Haruko sighed wearily and thought it was futile to think that there might be a chance for them. He never got interested in her before. Why would he be interested in her now? She's just a single mother who is trying to pick up the pieces of what's left with her life. She's not asking to be rescued. For so many years, she had faced the consequences of her decisions no matter how hard they were.
Keitaro jumped and raised his fist in the air as the last shot went in. Rukawa has been teaching the little boy lay-ups and made a deal with him that if he makes at least five baskets for that afternoon, he would treat him to an ice cream. In between countless missed attempts, the little boy was able to complete the required five shots.
The child slumped on the ground and panted heavily but felt very satisfied. He reached out for his bottled water and drank from it. His mentor sat beside him and gave him an encouraging pat on his back.
"Hm… at this rate, if you do this everyday, you would be very good by the time you reach junior high," the basketball player commented and sat beside him."
"Do you really think so, Rukawa-san?" Keitaro's eyes lighted at the prospect.
"Hm," he nodded at him.
"I want to be very good just like you and that boy in the story. My okaa-san always tells me the story of a boy who wanted to become the best basketball player in Japan!" Keitaro innocently beamed at him.
"Is that so?" He smiled back at the little boy. "That should be interesting. I want to hear it."
"Is that his son?"
"I didn't know he's married."
"They do have the same hair though."
"Aww.... they look very cute, don't they?"
"Still, I didn't know he's married."
Rukawa overheard some of the conversations inside the ice cream parlor. So, he and Keitaro looked like father and son? He chuckled and ruffled the hair of the little boy as a warm feeling washed over him.
"So," he turned his attention to Keitaro, "what about that story of a boy who wanted to become the best basketball player in Japan?"
Keitaro waited for the ice cream to melt in his mouth, then he started to narrate the same story he heard from his mother. The story he never knew was the story of the man in front of him.
Rukawa shifted on his seat as he immersed himself in the story of his life. He marveled at how much the young boy knew so much about him. He watched the innocence the little boy radiated, how the child could make things look and sound so easy. Then again, he was just like him when he was little.
Young and full of hopes and dreams.
His heart ached at the thought that when Keitaro grows up, he too, would realize that to achieve one's dream, one must overcome countless disappointments and even hurt people in the process. He knew he hurt Haruko when he wouldn't even pay attention to her because of his vision to become the best.
How he wished to tell him that relationships are far more valuable than all the fame and fortune the world could offer. That in the end, it's still the people who love you that mattered the most.
Then again, that's what life is all about: learning. He cannot walk Keitaro's path for him but he can be there to guide him.