Credits: Slam Dunk was created by Takehiko Inoue. It is owned/licensed by IT Planning, Toei Animation, Geneon Entertainment (USA), Shueisha (manga).

Disclaimer: Slam Dunk characters borrowed for the love and joy of the writing, and not for acquiring profit. The members of the Haneda family and other members of Sachiko's posse are mine. As with all fics, while the goal is to stay as in character as possible, the author cries "mea maxima culpa" to any discrepancies that the discerning reader may find.

Author's Notes: Ryochin thinking about unrequited love...second stanza lyrics

modified slightly to suit the story. Inspired by the song "Crazy" as sung by Patsy Cline.

* * * * *

(Crazy ...I'm crazy for feeling so lonely

I'm crazy, crazy for feeling so blue)

The end of practice sessions is the worst part of the day. Classes -- no problem that, we're in the same room together. OK, OK, so maybe she sits behind me which is just as well, because I know that if I had her back to stare at all , that fruitcake Suzuki-sensei would chew me out in front of the whole class not listening. Not that anyone ever listens to him, but that's a whole other story.

"Ja, Ryota, see in you class tomorrow!" she calls out, and I can only stand -tied as she walks into the early evening, gym bag slung over her . Think I haven't tried to walk her home? Times without number, I've to carry that bag of hers, even if only up to the corner where we go our separate ways. Always met with a polite refusal -- once, not so polite, she whacked me with that idiotic paper fan of hers on the head when I managed to get to her bag handles before she did. I know better than to try that again, for sure.

Dammit. It seems that everyone's got someone to walk home with after practice is over. Akagi has Haruko; Kogure has Mitsui; the freshmen are all bonded together; hell, even Hanamichi has the gundan, for crying out loud! I'm all right until I turn the corner leading down to the street where I live; and then it hits me, all at once -- an empty space where the center of my chest should be, an aching sense of loss for something I've never known.

I walk down the street, footsteps echoing hollowly in the silence, seeing reflections of her face in the pools of light cast by the street lamps. I hear her voice, cheering me on during practice, during the games, giving me the strength to push just a little bit harder. My heart lifts at the memory, and I

smile to myself, seeing in my head the way her eyes sparkle with delight as the game goes our way. Which makes reality bite all the harder as I reach the gate of the house and realize it was all just a dream.

(I tried, to love you as long as I wanted

And then one day /To leave you for somebody new)

K'sou. Busted by ten girls in the space of a year. Rukawa would call me a do'ahou. Hanamichi can relate -- he got turned down by fifty girls over three years. Fifty! It boggles the mind. But in spite of everything, even if Haruko-chan goes all moon-eyed over Rukawa right in front of Hanamichi's face, she still talks to him, encourages him, laughs at him and with him. The best I can hope for from Aya-chan is a swat from that blasted paper fan of hers -- and all things considered, I get precious little of *that*, seeing as how she's bodyguarding Hanamichi through basic training and spending the remaining time between Anzai-sensei and Kogure-sempai.

I tried to forget. I told myself that there was no hope in even trying to get Aya-chan to look sideways at me. I told myself there were lots of other girls, just as pretty, just as lively, just as...

Oh, who was I trying to fool? All the girls I ever tried courting could see that my heart wasn't really in it. How could it be, when I gave it away in freshman year, to the only girl I could ever want? I guess I should be thankful that none of them ever had the idea of taking me for a ride and then dumping me. I've seen that happen to other guys. Not a pretty sight. On the other hand, if I had found a girl willing to take me on, it would hardly be fair to her, would it? To know that she was only a second choice?

Better this way. But that doesn't stop the dull ache beneath the pleasure of being in her company every day.

(Worry, why do I let myself worry?

Wond'ring...what in the world should I do?)

Ahhh, why do I even bother? I love her, and she knows it. She may think it's just a passing fancy, but given the antics of Yohei and the gundan, I'm sure she knows just how miserably I failed in trying to forget her. If that doesn't tell her anything about how much she means to me, then...well...Anzai-sensei would say I have two choices in front of me.

One is to retreat into a shell and shut myself off from life and living just because I can't have the one thing I want most in this world.

The other is to make something of myself, so that even if she never does come to care for me, I'll still have done something worthwhile with my life.

Huh. Miyagi Ryota doesn't run from anything. Espeically not a girl who doesn't love him. So there.

(Crazy ...For thinking that my love could hold you

I'm crazy for trying and crazy for crying

And I'm crazy for loving you)

So, here we are, back to square one. Another day at practice, another day of watching Aya-chan bounce around in training costume. Whoa, but she has really nice legs...oh heck, I let Hanamichi steal the ball! I know, I know, Akagi-sempai, you needn't glare at me like that. But heck, if you looked twice at Aya-chan -- eh, cancel that thought. Bad enough that Kogure-sempai gets her

company up close and personal on the bench; if I didn't know any better, I'd cheerfully strangle him.

Oh, great, now I've slammed into Mitsui. Gomen, gomen...pshaw, Aya-chan's got her fan in firing position. It should be illegal, how a girl can look so gorgeous even when she's miffed at me. I know she is -- her eyes are flashing in that way she has; if I were to cross over to her now, boy, would I ever get it but good, both from the end of that fan and her mouth. That mouth...kami-sama,

what I would give for just one kiss...

"RYOTA!!!"

Kyaa, I've really done it now, I've stepped on Akagi's foot. The injured one. I'm getting to be as bad as Hanamichi here. This has really *got* to stop! I'm supposed to be the lightning fast point guard...concentrate, Miyagi, CON. CEN. TRATE.

There! Did you see that, Aya-chan? Worked out this combination play with Kogure-sempai and Mitsui-sempai one night after everyone had gone home. Just goes to show that I *am* good for something on this team. It's all for you, Aya-chan. Everything. Every practice, every game, every shot. All the work and the discipline, dedicated to you -- because you love the game like no other girl I've ever known, and it shows. You sparkle on the sidelines the way Mitsui sparkles on the court; your cheerfulness is infectious and gives us more than enough encouragement to go on when the chips are down.

Yeah, so maybe it is crazy to carry a torch for a girl this way. All that I have to offer hasn't drawn her to me yet -- and maybe it never will. The only reason I ever manage to sleep well through the nights is because I know I'll be seeing her at school the next morning. Every morning is a new chance, and Anzai-sensei did say one shouldn't give up until the last second, or you lose. So I won't.

Crazy, isn't it?

But I'd rather be crazy in loving Aya-chan than sane without the chance to be a part of the basketball team -- and her life.

//owari//