© March 2004 Himitsu Star

Disclaimer: Fanfic. By a fan. For fans. Slam Dunk created by great mangaka Takehiko Inoue. This work not at all associated with Takehiko-sama. This work not associated with anime version of Slam Dunk. This piece of fanfiction work belongs solely to Himitsu Star (see Berne Convention and other copyright laws and international treaties).

Warning: Depicts romance and love between males. Bit rough at the edges and in patches.

Vocab and expressions: très– French for "very"; Pavlov reaction: in summary, Pavlov was the famous scientist who carried out studies where he conditioned dogs to associate the sound of a bell ringing with food. So every time the bell rang, the dogs would start to salivate. I'm not sure of the precise term, but I think calling it the Pavlov reaction may not be far wrong. In any case, I stand corrected should it be shown that there's an accurate term for it that I've somehow missed out. Last-- "White Lighter", term for some sort of angel being from the TV series Charmed, who has healing powers. I watch Charmed sporadically...


Title: Most Likely Couple

Rating: PG-13

Part 3: Up On The Roof

Youhei had once called them the Three Stooges of Wako Junior High... and later Shohoku High School. But they weren't merely the Three Stooges; together with Sakuragi Hanamichi and Mito Youhei, they had formed one of the best groups of fighters in a junior high school that was scientific proof of the survival of the (fighting) fittest principle. They were a group très formidable, and where most of them lacked in height in comparison to the redheaded centre of their little bunch, they at least made up for it in skill, strength and spirit. They were indefatigable and no crisis ever stumped them so long as they could use their fists and get in a good kick or two.

As long as they could use their fists...

Up on the rooftop of Shohoku High, the Three Stooges gathered for an Extraordinary General Meeting.

The silence was profound.

There was a shuffling of feet.

A scratching of heads.

A shrugging of shoulders.

A flooding of sweat.

"Psst... so... did you hear?"

"Hmnabmgn..."

"Huh?"

"... do you think... you know... Hanamichi's really... you know..."

The silence stretched even more deeply, seeping into the cracked tiles and aged concrete of the rooftop flooring, wrapping itself around the lugubrious water tanks and occasional dustbin, and generally blanketing the area with a sort of uncertain gloom.

"Well..."

"NAH." Three heads shook wildly from side to side.

"Not possible."

"Can't be."

"He can't stand the sight of Rukawa."

"He hates Rukawa."

"He'd rather kiss Gorilla than Rukawa."

Pause. Green faces all round.

"Ewww..."

"That's disgusting..."

Pause. Light bulb above somebody's head.

"And he likes Haruko-san!"

"Hey...you're right!"

"Yah, Hanamichi can't like Rukawa that way!"

"Yah, he's jealous of Rukawa 'cause Haruko likes him!"

"Yah, he can't be gay!"

A jaw-dropping silence.

"Gay...?"

"...gay..."

"...squeak...g-gay?"

Pause.

Beat.

"...you know, he does pay a lot of attention to Rukawa..."

"...and not only on the court..."

"...he can't stop talking about Rukawa too..."

"And did you notice that Rukawa always talks a lot to him...?"

"... if you can call that talk..."

"For Rukawa, that's carrying on a conversation, man..."

"Yah... Rukawa mostly doesn't talk to anyone...but Hanamichi..."

"Whaddya mean doesn't talk to anyone but Hanamichi..."

"Maybe Rukawa's the one who's gay!"

"And he's going to seduce Hanamichi!"

"We must protect Hanamichi's virtue!"

"... but maybe he doesn't want his virtue to be protected?"

Pause.

Gulp.

Beat.

"... suppose Hanamichi is after Rukawa's virtue?"

Splutters and puking sounds.

"M-maybe it's a sort of revenge? Maybe Hanamichi just wants to make sure Rukawa falls in love with him, so that...uh... so that... um..."

Inspiration from dinner-time soaps: "... so he can have Haruko all to himself!"

"Y-yeah!"

"That's it!"

"Must be!"

They looked at each other nervously, wringing their hands. This was a major problem. They needed more than three brains. They couldn't turn to Sakuragi, of course, but there was still one member of their little group—

"Oi OI!" Mito Youhei was half-crouched at the door which led to the rooftop of the school, with a blank-looking Sakuragi Hanamichi draped all over him. Or, to be more precise, with a blank-looking Sakuragi Hanamichi like an overgrown water buffalo lagging dazedly behind him. Youhei had heroically pushed, shoved, dragged and somehow hustled his taller, bigger best friend up several flights of stairs to get to the one haven where he could be sure that the remnants of Hanamichi's sure and certain future explosion could be effectively contained. Sometimes, being Hanamichi's best friend was a bit like being a scientist in charge of watching a very active volcano that threatened eruptions at irregular intervals.

"Youhei!"

"Youhei!"

"YOUHEI!"

They had never been so pleased to see him before, their saviour, their White Knight/ White Lighter, their Aragorn, etc.

Youhei, on the other hand, grunted in displeasure. He didn't need a warm welcoming chorus, he needed muscles. He raised his voice irritably. "A little help here is all I'm asking..."

"Right, right..."

Pause.

"huff"

"pant"

"Man, he's put on weight again..."

They carefully propped him, doll-like and unresponsive, against one of the large water tanks on the rooftop.

"So, like, Youhei, is it true?"

"What?" asked Youhei absently, as he busily propped open Sakuragi's eyelids one by one, and shone a small pen-sized flashlight into each eye. "Right, keep him like that, thanks. – Hmm. Pupils not responding. Must still be in shock."

Shuffle.

"Well, ya know, Y'hei.... him and... you know..."

"...Rukawa..."

"SHHHHHHH!" hissed Youhei, jerking up his head in fright, but the damage was already done.

"URRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH! WHERE! WHERE! WHERE IS HE!!! WHERE IS THAT KITSUNE!!"

Sakuragi Hanamichi was on his feet, living inferno incarnate, eyes ablaze, body hunched slightly in preparation for full-scale war, fists clenched and feet planted wide apart.

Youhei and the gang immediately waved their arms in alarm, dancing around their redheaded friend in a comical quartet, each trying to get his attention.

"Hanamichi, calm down! Calm down! He isn't here—" taking a quick look around—"it was just Nozomi being silly again!"

"Yes, yes, I was being silly!"

"Yes, yes, he was being silly!"

"Yeah, if you need to find your lover, we'll help you, no problem, just calm down!"

"WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? HUNH?! HUNH?!" It was impossible to imagine anything redder than Sakuragi's hair, but in this case, Sakuragi's face just about managed to achieve it, turning a brilliant shade of vermilion that rivalled the biggest, shiniest rubies in the world. Sakuragi, who was almost suffocated with fury, grabbed the unfortunate speaker by the collar. "SAY THAT AGAIN!!"

This time, it was Ookusu Yuji who had committed the unthinkable, and he was now busy choking at the grip round his neck as he flapped his arms wildly, his brain on vacation. All he could remember was Hanamichi's last command, and he frantically tried to obey it. "Urk—urk—say—it—again—urk—urk—Rukawa—your—love-urk—"

Sakuragi more or less proceeded to throttle Yuji, who flopped like a dying fish in the red-haired boy's grip, and tried to call out to his friends for help. But Noma Chuichiro, Mito Youhei and Nozomi Takamiya were sensibly keeping a safe distance between Hanamichi and themselves.

"SAY THAT AGAIN!"

"—I-I-I-I-I d-d-d-d-d-i-i-i-d-d-d—" quavered Yuji, teeth rattling in his head.

"L-lover?"

Youhei gave a soft groan. More trouble had just reared its ugly head. Damn, damn, damn!

The new voice was soft and girlish, and it trembled. It belonged to the newcomer, a very pretty girl with a sweet face and wide, guileless eyes. This was Akagi Haruko, younger sister of the basketball captain Akagi Takenori, and Sakuragi's 51st crush.

"H-haruko!" Sakuragi Hanamichi all but fell over, eyes wide and shocked— but he kept his tight grip on Yuji. "I-I can explain... it's not what you think—"

A small, round, dark shadow fell between them and grew longer and thinner, eventually forming the shape of a person, and a cold voice cut into the conversation, uttering a single, familiar word.

"Do'aho."

Sakuragi Hanamichi's eyes immediately flew to the owner of the voice.

The hush that fell over the little group congregated on the rooftop was like the calm on the night before an early morning storm, like that moment of brief, tense silence that fell before a shootout at the O.K. Corral, like that frightening minute just before you got your exam results, like that—

Haruko, who had been too busy rivalling Hanamichi for blushes, finally recovered sufficiently to breathlessly stammer out a word or two. "Ru—rukawa..."

Youhei noted that Rukawa Kaede, true to form, didn't deign to spare Akagi Haruko a glance. Instead, the dark-haired basketballer seemed intent on keeping his gaze on Hanamichi, holding the red-headed boy's furious gaze.

Hanamichi, on the other hand, basically appeared to be trying to barbeque Rukawa to a crisp with his eyes.

Chuu and Nozomi looked at Youhei for instructions, but Youhei remained still. He was far more interested in seeing how it was going to play out than in salvaging the situation... which in any case hadn't quite reached disastrous levels yet.

Yet.

Haruko looked from one boy to the other. Whether it was through a flash of woman's intuition or some lucky guess, she somehow picked the right boy. "Sakuragi...?" she murmured nervously.

It was, Youhei observed, a sort of Pavlov reaction, as Sakuragi promptly lost interest in Rukawa and switched his attention to Haruko.

"Um... just now... someone was saying..." Haruko swallowed hard, fidgeting and chewing on her lower lip. "Uh, never mind..." It was, after all, a bit difficult to say what she wanted to ask, especially in front of Rukawa. Did you say something... about Rukawa... being... your...? That picture... I saw... it looked so real. Is it... really...

"Haruko, I—I like you! I—I really like you! I—"

Youhei winced. The situation had just reached the disastrous levels he had been looking for earlier...


End notes: uh, don't go looking for a confrontation on the rooftop. I'm not writing it out for the next chapter. Next chapter is... well, can't give it away.