Thanks for reading! Special hugs to those who reviewed, fav'ed, subscribed, and C2d the story! They make me so happy. :D

A/N: Ah! To avoid confusion, I'd like to state that I'd be changing Sakuragi's background. I didn't know that this kind of change isn't mainstream yet in this fandom so I decided to point it out. hehe

DISCLAIMER: I WISH I own Slam Dunk and Kawamura Takashi from Prince of Tennis.



CHAPTER 3: Basketball

CHIBA, 8 years ago

Rukawa Kaede, and his family, was having a rare family vacation during a national holiday. Of course, they rented a first-class cottage near the beach and swore to buy one of their own someday. This was a truly rare opportunity for the family- they were barely together- and Kaede (as apathetic as he looked) was determined to make the full out of it.

Unfortunately, he felt like he was the only one who felt that way. His parents claimed they were too tired and needed to rest for a few hours, dismissing him when he was asking them to go to the beach with him.

"Go ask Maya. We'll follow later."

"Bu-"

"We're tired, kiddo. We promise we'll play later."

"Bu-"

"MAYA!"

"Yes, sir!" The old woman barged into the room and looked softly at the poor boy. "Come now, Kaede-kun."

They went outside and headed for the beach. The young Rukawa stepped back by a bit, a little annoyed with everything. He was not in the mood for the beach.

He watched his nana's back and ran away.

Several minutes passed and he was now who-knew-where. He didn't know the place and so he easily got lost. He eventually got tired of running and stopped his tracks. It didn't take long for him to hear a very intriguing sound. It was a ball- no doubt, and he followed it.

He was surprised at the sight. There was a girl with beautiful crimson hair playing basketball all alone in a court. Her movements was so elegant that it really felt like she had wings. His daze was immediately cut by his nana catching up with him.

"Kaede-kun!" she breathed out, panting. "Why would yo-"

BAM!

And the next thing they knew, she was on the floor. She was in a trance- and the noise they made distracted her, inflicting an injury on her. He unthinkingly ran to her, and looked at her wound. He rummaged his pocket- which always had a sort of band-aid.

"What are y-"

"Ahou." He said. He didn't know why, but he did. She frowned at him, and its intensity made him wince. But he continued doing what he planned nevertheless.

"Oi!" she uttered in surprise, as he cleaned in up with his tiny bottle of solution. What's that thing doing in his pocket, anyway? She twitched but he held her leg in place, putting a band-aid there.

He looked up to her face and saw that her face was also red as her hair, and he could not help but blush, as well, for reasons he didn't even know. Maya walked to them and helped her up and apologized for her noise.

"It doesn't matter." She said dismissively, and looked at them. She glared as if it was the most natural thing in the world- and their eyes widened in front of it. "Now, leave me alone."

"D'Aho." He stated again, and Maya panicked.

"Kae-"

She gritted her teeth. "Is that all you could say, teme?"

"Baka."

"TEME-"

"Kaede...!" Maya immediately held him to drag him away. The old woman was confused- Kaede did have an alarming tendency to look down on pretty much everyone, but somehow this didn't seem to be that case. And since she didn't quite know what it was... and considering the scary red-headed girl was fuming- she concluded it was best to escape.

"D'aho." Rukawa muttered, yet again, as he was getting dragged out. The girl was glaring at them the whole time, and-

CLANK!

The two of them froze even more. It was good that the fence blocked her throw, but it left a freaking dent on the metallic fence. Just how strong was that girl?

Maya gulped again and unconsciously looked at her and him alternatively for an instant. Rukawa knew he was wearing an unfathomable expression, while the girl was pure red and she was pointing rudely at him.

"Baka-kitsune!"

Rukawa cringed.

That was the last time he saw her before High School and that red hair and glare of hers gave her away immediately. But he knew something changed… and yet he couldn't quite put a finger on it. But in the end, he shrugged. He shouldn't really care.

He never did about such things anyway, he didn't see why he should be starting now.


SHOHOKU HIGH

The Sakuragi gang was walking pompously by the school gates again, but this time Hanamichi seemed to be back to her old energetic self.

"Shahaha! I'm still surprised you guys were alive. The great me was on a roll yesterday."

"Yea, yeah. So… I'm guessing you ravaged a few cups of ice cream after beating us to pulp…?" Noma said rubbing his palms together with his mustache twitching in anticipation.

"No." she stated. "I went home."

And then a sudden laugh from Okusu, as he held out his hand where Noma begrudgingly placed a thousand yen. Nozomi did, too, and Mito sighed. They bet about everything.

Okay, he would have joined in under normal circumstances. But the causes of his best friend's bad mood were too serious to even treat as a joke. These idiots didn't understand that, and neither he nor Hanamichi would prefer that changed.

Well, there was another (leaning more on self-preservation) reason. His shoulder jolted reflexively at the noise.

BAM! Bam! BAAAM!

And the three's head were once again on the floor after an epic head-butt. Mito stifled a chuckle and went to follow Hanamichi, who was still pretending to be back to normal.

"You'd tell me what happened yesterday?" he asked, and she frowned.

"No."

He stared at her and shrugged, "Mah. You'll still be in trouble for cutting class."

"Whatever." And she opened the door. Mito was surprised that she completely ignored Rukawa. He thought that she'd probably start a bickering session with him in an attempt to probably exchange seats. That was just how stubborn she could be.

Later, class started and Mito watched Hanamichi cup her chin with her palm to blankly stare at a random direction. She entered a complete daze. When he saw the professor get called by a staff member, Mito finally decided to speak with her. He threw a small paper ball and leaned down to start whispering.

"Oi. Hanamichi- Oi." She didn't hear him.

"Psst." He threw a bigger paper ball.

She glared. "Nani?"

But as if on cue, the professor came back staring directly at his friend. "Sakuragi Hanamichi. To the principal's office, now."

"Che."

He blinked, while she didn't seem surprised at all. But what surprised him was Rukawa reacted as well.

"D'Aho." The raven-haired boy said, but Sakuragi just glared.

"Urusai."


PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE

"You are already causing quite a fuss, Sakuragi-san, and it had only been 2 days since class started. We hoped you would change by high school, as your mother begged us to give you a chance."

She turned chibi-mode immediately upon hearing the word 'mother'. "Hmph." Nice of her to say something once in a while. And not directly to her, too.

"We'd like to ask you to join a sports club." He said with his bald head shining annoyingly, distracting her to no end. So she thought she must have heard wrong.

"Pardon?"

"A sports club." He repeated. "Your mother said you used to love basketball."

"She doesn't know anything."

"So the fact that your late father was a pro was wrong?"

"That's none of your business, old man." She snapped. "I'm going."

"Wait!"

She didn't turn. "Make me."

"If you get out of the door before I tell you. You're expelled."

She paused. But her pride and anger were too much.

"Fine." She said sternly and held the knob. She was about to turn it when she heard something.

"Oi, oi."

Hanamichi paused at the familiar (extremely arrogant) voice that appeared after a creaking of the door. It was a door to an adjacent room, and it seemed that person was hiding there. She had short auburn, a frown, but was still very pretty and wore a rather political atmosphere.

"I don't want to have an uneducated child in my family."

"Who said I'm your family, old hag?"

"Teme-" the woman's vein popped and her face was red as Hanamichi's hair with anger. "How many times do I have to tell you I will be 29 forever?! 29 is not old, gaki!"

The woman pinched her cheek and Sakuragi made incessant slaps on her mother's hands. "Itte- How is this educated, then?"

Her mother (somewhat) calmed down at the question and dusted herself, catching her professional composure back and pulling the principal from his befuddled state. "Principal-san." she initiated, as if nothing humiliating just happened. "I didn't say anything about her joining the basketball team. It's her choice if she wants to play basketball once again, to some degree."

Yuko cleared her throat to cut Hanamichi's impending counters. "All I'm saying is that she should start acting more responsibly and she can't mope around forever."

"Urusai." Hanamichi snapped. The pain had cut through deeply that she didn't even want to overcome it anymore. She denied that she could, indeed, play again. But her mother said it herself: to some degree.

It wouldn't be enough.

So she just pompously looked at her mother as if she said something stupid. "Hmph." Yuko's eyes twitched.

"Teme-"

"Act more professionally, okaa-sama, you're embarrassing me."

Her mother's eyes glowed with anger and she knuckled her temples. "Temeeeeeee."

"Itte! Itte!"

The principal stood up in panic. "A-A- M-Mrs. Sakuragi. Let us just speak without phys-ical contact, please? Things would be so much f-faster."

They paused and sat by random chairs very far apart. "Fine." They said simultaneously. And so a tedious debate session started. But then that idiot principal just had to add:

"Can you please ask her to die her hair back to its normal color size."

They simultaneously glared at him, making him turn to a terrified little stone bald-head. "THIS IS (HER/MY) NATURAL HAIR COLOR! YOU IDIOT."

And he might never know why they took such offense over hair color.

1-A

Sakuragi's gang waited for her in her homeroom. They were trespassers, but nobody dared say anything. They encircled the free tables so they could eat lunch there and saved Hanamichi a seat. They were surprised when a pretty girl came knocking with an anxious face.

"Ano… is Sakuragi-san back yet?"

Mito was the one who answered, since his friends were still formulating assumptions. "Not yet."

"I see."

"You must be Haruko-chan." He smiled and she nodded, "She told me about you."

Well, not really. Sakuragi was actually mumbling things like 'Why would Haruko-chan be a basketball player?' and 'Such a sweet girl like Haruko-chan just cannot be a basketball player!' as she was beating them up in the alley the previous day.

The cute brunette blushed and asked him to tell Hanamichi to do her best, and left.

"Eh… first time I saw someone look for Hanamichi without asking for a fight. And a girl, too…"

"I haven't seen her hang out with female friends, though. I wonder how many she had in the past..." Ohkusu asked out loud, and the other two nodded in similar curiosity.

Mito smiled. "You guys may not know this." He paused, catching their attention. "But Haruko-san would be (potentially) Hanamichi's first female friend."

Silence

"EHHHH?!"

"But is that even possible? She's 16, already!"

Mito teasingly avoided their prying stares. "Who knows…"

"Eh, no fair Yohei." Ohkusu pouted like a child, and gaped at Mito. "You always know something about the leader that we don't."

"It's a given, already, right? We're childhood friends."

Noma narrowed his eyes and combed his sports mustache. Mito flinched. "If I didn't know better you're keeping these things simply because you want to be the only one who knows."

Mito laughed. "You think so?"

"Just a guess."

"It makes sense, though." Ohkusu nodded.

Mito just shrugged and returned to reading his manga.

"Who knows…"

After classes, Hanamichi finally showed up in front of his friends. She looked more grudging than usual, and she was basically stomping across the corridor with an aura that paved her way without people.

Her gang looked at her from behind and Mito sighed, waving his hand at the other three and signalled them to take a few steps back. He would talk to her again, and they followed. Mito was the only person she really talked to about some things.

"Yow." He said, and she glared at him. She was only an inch shorter than he was, and he knew it for more than a decade, so her glare was less intimidating. "What's up?"

"That woman arrived."

His pace slowed. "When?"

"Just now, and she added to my problems. Now I don't want to go home anytime soon."

"Seriously, Hanamichi. Wasn't it just yesterday when you were in a foul mood because she delayed her flight home for 2 days?" she frowned. "You're a high school student now. Reduce your mood swings."

"I do not have mood swings, you dolt."

"Aha…" she would never admit it. Mah, it wasn't like she'd stay mad for long- she never did. Not with the only family member she had left.

Mito blinked and slowed his steps even more, only to hasten it again when he thought of an idea. "You can come stay with us. Okaa-san would love to have you."

She stared at him, and shook her head. "Nah. I don't think I want to bother her anymore than this." She said. They knew Mito's mother was busy. Her dark aura wouldn't help with her stress.

And yes, Hanamichi could be caring too. It just depended on who the subject of worry was.

"Sakuragi-chan!" a voice from behind them said with a very quick approaching voice. He looked at Hanamichi and he could see her ears twitching in excitement.

"Haruko-chan…" She called, and Mito wanted to chuckle as he looked at the girl. iAkagi Haruko, Hanamichi's very first female friend.

"How are you? I heard you got called to the principal's office."

"I'm fine. I was just warned. Thank you for worrying."

"Ano… I'm glad."

"Eh?"

"You're not mad at me…?" The girl asked meekly and Sakuragi flinched at the blasphemy.

"Why would I?"

"Because I'm a basketball player…" Hanamichi blinked. Oh.

And before she knew it she smiled and patted the meek girl's head. Haruko blushed, but then her eyes widened- along with everyone's- when they saw her smile.

"Wa!"

"N-Nani?"

"You look so different when you smile, Sakuragi-chan."

"I do?" she asked quietly pointing at her face, ignoring everyone else. Haruko grinned and nodded enthusiastically. "Is that bad?"

Haruko quickly shook her head. "You look very good!"

And Hanamichi grinned.

"Then I will smile for Haruko-chan."


GYMNASIUM

Akagi called everyone to line parallel for the introductions, one line for the freshman the other for everyone else. It was their first day of official club activity, and it was the start of his final year to achieve his dreams since grade school.

Bringing his team to the nationals.

With Rukawa on board, their chances had become much greater. And so the introductions started, and he flinched immediately at the girls already watching. It was obvious they were there for Rukawa- even his own sister was a bit, too, but thankfully his sister did like basketball. Too bad there wasn't a girl's team.

What annoyed him the most was that darned red-head with his sister, along with their respective group of friends with them. They were being buddy-buddy again, but as the captain, he couldn't make a fuss. He'll do it later, so he clapped his hand and hence they begun.

Each of the freshmen was required to state (energetically) their names, height, and other relevant but concise information.

When Rukawa's turn came, he heard shameless cheers from the girls. He sighed in relief when his sister wasn't one of them. She was definitely ogling, though, and that Sakuragi was waving her hand in front of her face in an attempt to pull her off her love-sick trance.

"Oi, Haruko-chan." Hanamichi called, but one of her friends- the one with the pigtails and big mouth shook her head. "It's pointless." She stated. "She's head over heels over that guy."

Rukawa?

She's head-over-heels for Rukawa?

"Head-over-heels what?" she asked for confirmation, semi-not wanting to hear it.

"She l-i-k-e-s him."

Hanamichi's eyes widened in shock- her friends' did, too. "NANI?!"

And Haruko was pulled out and covered Hanamichi's mouth when she saw the red-head point rudely towards Rukawa. Haruko was blushing furiously and begged for her not to say anything.

"It's a secret. Please don't tell." She said quietly as well as to the Sakuragi gang. Thankfully, the other girls were too far from them to hear that.

"B-But why HIM?! He's useless!" she squealed. "And he's a chair-thief!"

"Pardon?" she asked, but their attention was pulled back to the introductions. The freshman after Rukawa, a meek-looking guy, was introducing himself shyly and Akagi yelled for him to be more enthusiastic.

"Ara?" Nozomi muttered, narrowing his eyes. "Isn't that Kawamura…?"

"You know him, Nozomi?" Mito asked.

"Well yes, he's our classmate." He nodded along with the other two. "He's really meek. I knew him back in middle school, too, before you two moved in." he said and grinned. "This is going to be interesting."

"What do you mean?"

"He-he." Nozomi crossed his fat arms. "You'll see." He then looked at a random freshman and yelled,

"Pass him a ball!" The poor boy flinched- due to Akagi's glare.

"Outsiders should be quiet." He said, pushing back his irritation. Hanamichi, though, was definitely interested. There was something about her chubby friend's devious smirk that told her this was going to be amusing.

"Just pass him a ball, Gori, you'll see."

He ignored her, but that girl seriously had a talent on making him snap. "Pass- the- ball- GORI-"

Twitch

"URUSAI!"

Hanamichi frowned and ignored him, running to a unkempt ball and threw it to Kawamura. It was a simple pass, but Akagi- with his strong eyes- actually saw it was an impressive one. He shook his head of the thoughts. That arrogant idiot should not be praised.

But then he felt an area near him warm up, and he whipped his head towards it. It was Kawamura seeming to… load... enthusiasm.

WHOOP!

The atmosphere surrounding him changed so abruptly that even Rukawa flinched. Kawamura held the ball tightly and circled it around.

"GREAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTOO OO!"

"KAWAMURA TAKASHI! FRESHMAN! FROM TOKYO! 180 cm tall! I OWN A SUSHI HOUSE!"

And Nozomi's glasses sparkled. "What will you do if the team wins?"

"I WILL TREAT EVERYONE IN THE TEAM AN EAT ALL YOU CAN BUFFET!"

Hanamichi sneered in amusement. "Ehh, I like this guy already."

Nozomi waved his hand. "The cheerios join in, too, ne?"

"SURE! GREAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTOOO!"

But then, the gleeful-over-free-sushi Hanamichi froze. She just realized she was in a dilemma.

Didn't that mean they'd have to cheer the team?

Her eyes jerked and somehow met with baka-kitsune's. To her surprise, he smirked with his eyes- and only she could see that annoying look, she knew it. It was so freaking obvious what he was thinking, and she clenched her fist in anger.

His eyes glistened again.

'D'Ahou.'

.
.

END OF CHAPTER 3

Coming Soon:
CHAPTER 4: Revelations


REPLIES TO ANGELS

Mikage Ceres- Haha. I had this notion that Rukawa's rich... so yeah. XDD Anyway, I hope this chap was worth the wait. You can tell me otherwise of course. XD Thx for the review!

SunShine- (Ch1) Kinda hard to imagine her like that so I just made the fanart I made showing her 'looking' somewhat feminine and made it the coverpage. Haha. Hope it helped! (Ch2) Yep~ It didn't last long, but I suppose it made an impact in their current lives. Thanks for the reviews~

Chibi'prince-sama - It's a combination of my nickname, real name, and a noun I use to describe myself. lol. And their past wasn't that deep but I hope it was enough. XD Thanks for the review!

Akela Victoire- I always imagine you wearing a smile on. XDD Thanks for the review~

Fang-chan- Thanks for the review! This is where totally changing the events in fanfiction comes in. XD You didn't watch the anime wrong, I really did just change things up. Hehe

cloudless- (Ch1)Didn't he from the start in the anime as well? Ahahaha. (Ch2) Wa! Their history was short though. Hope you didn't get disappointed but you can be honest with me. XD Thank you for the reviews. :D

Emma- (Ch1) Thank you~ (Ch2) I'm happy that you thought so! That was a huge relief, mind you. Haha. Thanks again for the reviews~! (:D

Bao- I agree. i kind of condition my expectations now depending on the fandom. XD Nevertheless, this was a fun story to write and I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for the review!


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