Title: Metamorphosis
Author: anatagasuki
Summary: It's, at the very least, the start of something. A birthday tribute to Kanagawa's resident ice prince.
Notes: Totally rushed and unedited. But I had to make it before this day ends, and it was a snap idea.

The static waves across the screen

Define this notion

Back and forth and in between

Like my emotion

And won't you slow this down if you can

Kaede Rukawa is a relatively simple person. Everything about him is, well, simple. His lifestyle consists of sleeping, playing basketball, and in all other spaces in between, floating to near-oblivion. He finds that life is easier this way. Whether it is the way he would want to—or be allowed to—exist for the rest of his time in his wide but single-minded world, he does not know. Once he had given it a good thought. After all, every single teenager his age is desperate to find a cause to fight for, a reason to wake up each day, a purpose. Aside from basketball (and at this point, he had begrudgingly admitted to himself that no, life cannot be basketball and basketball alone), he has nothing. But Rukawa had been able to dissolve his pestering self-doubts by convincing himself that there's no need to decide now. What's the rush anyway?

But on that cold night, he realized that the circumstances would push his ultimatum to a more abrupt deadline of December 23rd.

"…you know, you could just, I mean, it would be better if you just went with me up to my folks at Fukushima."

Blue met blue, an almost-palpable sense of apprehension hanging in between. And at that moment, Rukawa became aware of the catch. The catch of this peculiar but conveniently uncomplicated liaison. No matter what rules both parties agree on at the beginning, no matter how straightforward and blatant the terms of this unspoken contract were, the metamorphosis was inevitable. The time when this constant tiptoeing would end will certainly come, and that new phase, itching to reveal itself, would break the walls first established.

But god knows, this wasn't how things were supposed to be, or at least how he thought things were. This wasn't what Rukawa had expected, not from Akira Sendoh.

"Hey," Ryonan's new captain whispered-said, a forced smile creeping on his face. "Man, it's just a week, okay?"

Rukawa opened his mouth once. Nothing. He tried again. Nothing.

Regaining his ever-present, cheerily nonchalant smirk and brash confidence, Sendoh crossed the room in two bounds of long legs and tapped his companion's shoulder playfully.

"Really, did I get you nervous?" A chuckle. "You're so naïve, Kaede."

Sendoh's hand was on the door when he felt a bone-pale hand on his arm. "Seven. We don't want to be caught in traffic."

There was no sound but even breaths and the tapping of fingers on the wheel as the Honda Civic purred in the highway. More than ten times Rukawa glanced at Sendoh's direction. He didn't notice that Sendoh had done the same just as often, if not more. He also didn't know of the strange comfort his rival found in the task of driving at that particular situation.

The silence wasn't comfortable.

It had always been before.

Neither dared to speak a word to each other as busy hands unloaded the car. Sendoh's father had casually put a firm arm around the almost-complete stranger, while Mrs. Sendoh immediately warmed up to the unexpected addition to the family gathering and started peppering the unsuspecting subject with questions regarding her evasive son.

And for the first time since the night before, their gazes met for the shortest split-second. And at that precise moment, Rukawa realized through the chilly night breeze and the strain of the arduous travel that he was not regretting his decision to come.

"Akira says you're his best friend."

There was no flinch, no defining pause, no uncomfortable glance up.

"I suppose you could say that," Rukawa replied smoothly.

"And what kind of friend would I be if I let him spend the holidays alone?" The younger Sendoh casually remarked. "Besides, his birthday's tomorrow."

"But we were so surprised when Akira-chan—"

"Mom," The offended party protested. The adults gave a laugh, and Rukawa's stare informed Sendoh that from now on, the former would have a new weapon against him.

"Okay, okay," Mrs. Sendoh conceded with a wide smile, which, Rukawa absently noted, was reminiscent of her son's. "We were so surprised when Akira told us about tagging you along. Of course, I am quite happy to interrogate you about this kid's basketball and studies and girls, but he has never mentioned you before."

Neither of the two concerned answered.

"About that…"

Rukawa didn't say anything.

Sendoh shuffled his feet, coughing in the most careless manner Rukawa ever thought possible.

"A while ago, at dinner—"

"I'll save you the bullshit if you do the same for me," Rukawa interrupted, the most unashamed stare at Sendoh. The latter's smile slowly died.

"I can't do that," Sendoh said, his voice hardening. "Fuckdamnit, Kaede, I can't do that."

Sendoh could pretend that Rukawa hesitated because he thought the family situation awkward, or because he preferred to spend Christmas and his birthday occupying an empty street court, but he knew. He knew the real story. That Rukawa was afraid to even try to define what this was. He signed up for rumpled sheets and casual morning goodbyes and short phone calls. He didn't sign up for this. He thought they'd both been sure of the definition, and now he had no idea.

And he can't stand it. He can't stand right there, in front of Rukawa, knowing that they're wandering all over the place and burning their toes and never settling.

He turned his back, pulling the door close behind him. Then, all of a sudden, he felt eager hands on his arms, and, riding on a bizarre wave of déjà vu, his addled brain registered that he was being pulled back to the room. Warm, eager lips crashed on his own and he welcomed the intrusion with relish.

When they pulled apart, Rukawa found himself leaning against the wall, Sendoh's fingers crumpling the back of his shirt. It was amidst the hollering countdowns and the exploding of fireworks and against the backdrop of Sendoh's familiar, smug smirk, that he finally understood he had already found his niche long ago. But it took more balls than he had to admit. It was way too big, and he was hell bent on keeping everything simple.

But this, this was simple enough. AkiraKaedeSendohRukawa. Nothing else.

Or maybe, as always, he was just being the king of procrastination.



"Why, why the fuck do you have this habit of turning your back on me when I'm not done talking to you yet, you fucking idiot?"

Sendoh blinked once, twice, and then, he laughed. He threw his head back, laughing. "That must be one of the longest lines I've extracted from you."

Then, the spark of laughter spent itself in his eyes. "And you have to admit that I'm not the only idiot here, idiot. But I'd say we have a start here."

There was a pause. Rukawa snorted.


"What now?"

"Happy birthday."