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He should have stayed away, Hikaru thought. Because then he wouldn’t be in this mess.

He really should have stayed away.

That kid was a prodigy, they said. He had natural talent, they said. He beat his upperclassmen to get the captaincy, they said. He was the Head Couch’s son and the current Coach’s little brother, they said. He was—

…on and on the rumor abound.

Hikaru wasn’t interested in this kid his fellow teammates talking about, nor was he interested in idle gossiping. If anything, rather than the point getter himself, Hikaru was more interested in the kid’s Point Guard partner and rumored best friend: Sawanobori Masato.

As much as general public would say about how their team was a One Man Team, the fact remained that basketball was played by five people. And if the Point Guard didn’t do his job properly, there would be no point getter.

So yeah, Hikaru watched Sawanobori because he was interested. And because he watched, he realized that Sawanobori was real attached to that point getter kid, just like that kid to Sawanobori.

“Well, they are friends. Wouldn’t it only to be expected?” remarked Ryunosuke.

Kamakura scoffed. “Friends? In Tendouji? Riiiight.

Hikaru hated hated hated hated to agree with Kamakura, but the guy had a point.

So Hikaru continued to watch Sawanobori, while he himself remained unremarkable—despite being in team B already—among the vast basketball team members.

Except not really.

It seems while he was too busy watching Sawanobori, he failed to realize that he’d been noticed by Sawanobori’s so-called ‘friend’—the much talked prodigy.

“Kisaragi Hikaru, right?” the kid smiled at him. He fucking smiled at him. What the hell. What was this, a grade school? “I’m Aikawa Kazuhiko.”

Hikaru scowled. “I know.”

“Oh. Oh.” The smile turned into a happy grin. “Really!”

He really, really, should have stayed away.


“Be a regular, Hikaru.” Sawanobori says.

Hikaru frowns.

“Don’t let any other people take Kazuhiko’s spot in the team. All this time, you couldn’t advance because you lacked the right motivation to do so. But I believe,” Sawanobori looks him in the eye, “Kazuhiko’s disappearance has just given you the right one.”

Hikaru stares at him.

Sawanobori smiles. “Be a regular, Hikaru.”


“Would you miss me when I’m gone?”

Hikaru frowned. “What?”

Kazuhiko shrugged. “I’m curious.”

He went back to his previous task, not even sparing Kazuhiko a glance. “Go to Sawanobori.”

Kazuhiko let himself fall sideways, his body made a dull sound as it hit the bed. Hikaru’s bed. In Hikaru’s dorm room. It did wonder to the mind, really.

“I’m asking you because I know Sawa would. Miss me, that is. But I can never be sure about you.” Hikaru didn’t need to look to know that Kazuhiko’s eyes were on him.

Glaring at his sociology textbook irritably, Hikaru tried to make sense of the written words, and yet their meanings kept eluding him.

“Even if you don’t, I’m sure you won’t be able to forget me.” Kazuhiko said. There was something final, something grave, in the way he said it that it made Hikaru pause. He gave up altogether on his homework and turned around to face the other boy.

“You sound confident.”

“I am.” He let out a little smile, eyes slowly closing, an arm raised to further hide them from view. “People have always had a hard time letting go of things. And that’s why you’ll always remember me—not because you want to, but because people won’t stop reminding you of me. And for that alone, I… I apologize.”

What are you on about, Hikaru wanted to ask but didn’t. The answers got scary real quick that even someone like him had to think twice before asking any questions to Kazuhiko.

Instead, he sat at the edge of his bed, his hands gripping the sheets loosely. “That’s so unlike you.”

An upward lift of the corners of Kazuhiko’s lips. “No, that’s so unlike you; why, you almost sound like you’re concerned about my well-being.”

In a swift movement, he pinned the hand previously covering Kazuhiko’s eyes beside the other boy’s head, not even giving him the time to react. Kazuhiko looked up at him, eyes wide with surprise.

“What are you doing?” Hikaru asked.

“Cursing you.” Kazuhiko said. He didn’t smile.

A frown made itself known on Hikaru’s forehead. “Even without being asked, I already am gonna hate you. So what are you doing, really?”

With his free hand, Kazuhiko caressed Hikaru’s cheek, gently, gently, gently. Like he was trying to imprint his face into memory. Like he was trying to memorize him by touch alone. Like he was—

Hikaru grabbed his wrist.

Kazuhiko looked up at him, an indescribable light in the depth of his eyes.

Sawanobori, Hikaru thought, and then stopped thinking at all.

“I don’t lie, you know.” Kazuhiko sighed. “And I’m not clever enough to tell half-truths either, so you’ve got to take me at face value.”

Hikaru stared at him. “Nothing—nothing about you is what it seems.”

Kazuhiko snorted. “Hello, have you actually met Sawanobori Masato, our resident Point Guard?”

“Which is exactly why I said what I said.” He tightened his hold. Kazuhiko didn’t wince, but Hikaru also didn’t miss the way the corner of his right eye twitched involuntarily. Leaning closer, he positioned himself over the shorter boy, one leg between Kazuhiko’s, while both his hands were pinning Kazuhiko’s wrists to either side of his head.

“Over assuming much?” Kazuhiko smiled up at him disarmingly, all dimples and brilliant eyes and—

Sawanobori, Hikaru’s persistent little mind insisted, Nobori Nobori Nobori Nobori Nobori—

Hikaru shut the voices out.

“Only when I know I’m right.”

And then he kissed him.


When Kazuhiko’s nameplate keeps mysteriously appearing on his locker after being put out the night before, everybody on the team assumes it’s Sawanobori who does it. Put it back, that is. Since they used to be the best of friends and all. No one ever suspects Hikaru. If anything, they would think he’s the one who puts it out in the first place—as he’s the one who takes Kazuhiko’s place and all.

If only they knew.

It keeps on for about two weeks, until coach Aikawa – in the rare chance he visits the locker room – asks why his little brother’s nameplate is still there.

“I keep putting it out before I leave the room every night, but by the time I arrive, it’s already being put on. Every time.” Sawanobori explains. “I guess some people still couldn’t believe that Kazuhiko really left.”

At that little revelation, all heads turn Sawanobori’s way, a shocked expression on their faces. He’s the one who puts it away?! No way!

Kamakura whistles into Hikaru’s ear. Loudly.

Hikaru shoves him away none-too-gently.

“I thought it’s supposed to be Hikaru’s now?” Coach Aikawa asks, indicating the locker in question.

At the mention of his name, everybody’s eyes immediately turn on him. Great.

It is.” Hikaru says without preamble, a scowl threatening to break on his forehead.

“Hikaru is already using it. It’s just that the nameplate is…um.” Sawanobori hesitates.

“That wouldn’t do.” The coach says, drawing attention back to his person. “Let me keep it, then.”

Sawanobori does.

It isn’t until he closed his locker—emblazoned with his own name this time, and no longer with that of Kazuhiko’s—and turned around does he realize that Kamakura is still in the room. Staring at him. Waiting. With a look of disbelief fascination all over his face.

Hikaru’s left eye twitches.

“Kazuhiko’s nameplate? Really?”

“Go to Hell.” Hikaru scowls.

“I mean—man, are you for real?” from the sound of it, his voice is just a breath away from snickering. “Never take you for a romantic.”

Hikaru wonders if it would be considered a crime if he killed Kamakura. After all, wouldn’t he do the world a favor by removing an annoying loudmouth, even if said loudmouth does have a knack for shooting unblockable three-point shoots?

In the end, he settles by slamming the door on Kamakura’s face on the way out.

The resulting cursing and swearing sound is the most satisfying sound Hikaru’s heard in a week.


Kamakura had always had a loose tongue, and Hikaru knew from experience that the three-point specialist never meant what he said.


The point was, he knew better than to listen to what Kamakura had to say. Especially since, in a way, Kamakura’s words had been designed to make the opponent teams lose their cool. Not exactly a noble thing to do, but hey, if you were insecure enough to get baited, than it was your own damn fault.

And Hikaru was anything but insecure.

…So why did it sting still?

“You’re lucky we all are a bunch of self-serving bastards who do not care about other people.” Kamakura remarked in the same tone one might use to discuss the weather, a slight smirk in the corner of his lips. “Otherwise, your ass is toast.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m telling you it’s your funeral, man.” Kamakura chuckled, holding his hands up in a universal surrender gesture. “And it’s not like you’re trying to stab Nobori in the back or something, oh no; after all, all you do is steal the one thing he wants most.

Hikaru didn’t reply.

“If only he stops paying attention to our dear prodigy for a second, he would know that he’s not the only one who looks at him that way.” He wasn’t exactly smirking, but it was a close thing.

Hikaru scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Oh my~ and you’re actually still in the denial phase.” Kamakura coughed. Twice. He put a hand over his mouth to stifle the sound, without any success whatsoever. It was then that Hikaru realized that the guy was laughing.

Hikaru’s eyes twitched.

Once the laughter died down, Kamakura looked his way again, only this time there was just the ghost of his previous smirk present. “They’re both scary on the basketball court, yes, but while Kazuhiko is just like an overgrown five-year-old out of it, Nobori is… well, let’s just say despite his model student appearance, I wouldn’t want to confront him outside the court—and he’s scary enough as it is inside.”

Stay away. He’s not someone you want to mess with.

Kamakura was warning him about Sawanobori. The absurdity of it all would be enough to break anyone’s brain.

“I know,” Hikaru says. “I know.”

Kamakura snorted. “Like I said, it’s your funeral, man.”

Hikaru didn’t reply.

As if he could forget.



It takes a week after Kazuhiko’s transfer for the whole team to realize that it is, in fact, no joke at all. That Aikawa Kazuhiko, the first-year prodigy who is also the captain of the basketball team, who secures the title Champion for Tendouji in the previous National High School Basketball Tournament while at the same time also manages to snag himself the title MVP, is really gone.

To describe the situation that follows as chaos would be beyond an understatement.

Kazuhiko leaves not one, but two, open positions in the team: the captain, and the regular slot. One would think these two slots are one and the same, considering to be a captain one needs to be a regular. But they are not; they’re not, and now it’s warzone in the basketball building.

In the end, the captaincy goes to Sawanobori, who proves himself to be a formidable Point Guard none could match. While the regular slot, on the other hand, Hikaru wins through sheer determination only.

“Sheer determination my ass.” Kamakura snorts. “That would be true if your sheer determination is to scare everyone shitless with your killing aura and ruthless, aggressive score-getting method.” Then a second later he adds, “And your Mighty Scowl. Let’s not forget The Mighty Scowl. In fact, I’m truly tempted to make it your trademark.”

Musashi snickers.

Hikaru’s left eye twitches.

“I would tell you to ignore him, except Kamakura does have a point.” Sawanobori interjects in. “Something the matter? You’re ruthless, but never this ruthless.”

Sawanobori is looking at him in that particular way he does, showing concern while at the same time trying to pretend he doesn’t care as much. How a guy this nice could actually survive in a school like Tendouji would do a wonder to curious minds.

“I’ve been cursed,” Hikaru mutters irritably.

Sawanobori blinks.

“Huh…?” is Kamakura’s intelligent reply.

Ryunosuke and Musashi look on, intrigued.

“I’m trying to reverse it.” His forehead creases into something that’s more than a frown, yet not quite a scowl.

Ryunosuke tilts his head slightly, arms crossing in thought. “…Girl problem?”

Hikaru’s left eye twitches. Again.

“Ohh~ That’s a good one, Ryunosuke!” Musashi smiles his scary smile, patting Ryunosuke on the back companionably.

“Ehh?! That asexual guy?!” Kamakura exclaims loudly. Too loudly. “If that was true I’m so gonna eat my sneakers!”

Hikaru glares. “Drop dead.”

“Scary.” Musashi grins creepily. “But that’s definitely not a ‘no’.”

“Something of similar nature, then.” Ryunosuke observes thoughtfully. “Except it’s not with a girl. Per se.”

“Hmm… A fellow team member?” Musashi wonders aloud.

Forget it.” Hikaru grits his teeth.

“…Maybe you should wait a little longer? I heard some curses wear off with time.” Sawanobori’s unexpected statement immediately draws everyone’s attention. Shrugging, he smiles innocently. But his eyes—his eyes are on Hikaru. “I heard summer is a season of letting go.”

Something, something flickers in the depth of Sawanobori’s eyes, something that Hikaru couldn’t identify, a feeling he couldn’t name, an emotion he doesn’t dare to recognize. Then Sawanobori blinks, and the look is gone—like it’s actually never there at all.


“Summer? Ohh, I see! Interhigh, huh?” Musashi nods to himself. “You sure know how to pick ‘em, Nobori!”




“Nobori, you—“

“Nobori!” Osawa shouts from across the court, “The coach is calling for you!”

“I’m coming!” He shouts back to Osawa before turning back to Hikaru. “Sorry, you were saying…?”

There’s lead weighed on his stomach, a coal lodged in his throat, and Hikaru wonders if this is what uncertainty (fear) feels like. “…nah.”

Slipping them a wave and a later sign, Sawanobori smiles slightly as he walks away.

Impossible impossible impossible—

Kamakura catches his eyes, and it’s then Hikaru realizes they’re both thinking of the same thing:

He knows.


Kamakura raises an eyebrow at him. “Can you even afford to ask Nobori that?”

Hikaru frowns.

“Right. I don’t think so. Besides, Kazuhiko is gone either way, so I don’t think it really matters. But obviously, you disagree.” The older boy sighs.

Unbidden, the frown turns into a scowl.

“Besides, what are you gonna say to him anyway? ‘Hey Nobori, is it true that you actually knew all along that I used to screw around with your dearest ex-partner?’” Kamakura snorts. “Yeah, I could see it going so well.”

“You talk too much.”

“I’m compensating for you! This world would be a very sad place if all people spend more time scowling than talking! Geez, what a rude guy…” Kamakura mutters. “Anyway, don’t even think about it if you can’t follow through. It’s a waste of time.”

Hikaru doesn’t reply.


The first time it happened, it was a total accident.

They were on cleaning up duty, and therefore had to return the balls to the storage room. One thing led to another and really, it wasn’t exactly anyone’s fault that Kazuhiko tripped on a loose ball and sent everything flying. Just like it wasn’t anyone’s fault that in his attempt to reach for the light switch in the dark, Hikaru accidentally stumbled against Kazuhiko and sent them both to the floor. And it really, really wasn’t anyone’s fault that in their effort to get back up again—amidst the confusion of their tangled limbs and the slippery floor and the rain of dust—Kazuhiko’s forehead bumped hard against Hikaru’s forehead, and when Hikaru tilted his head down just as Kazuhiko looked up to apologize, their lips accidentally brushed against each other’s.

It wasn’t like it was actually planned to happen.


Of course, the second time it happened—or the fifth time, or the nth time after that—it was no longer accident and more like intended incident, but who was counting, anyway?


Kazuhiko might be a monster in the basketball court, but Hikaru will always be taller and stronger both inside and outside the court, and Kazuhiko might also be fast but he’s never gonna be too fast for Hikaru.

So just how did exactly Kazuhiko manage to drag him to the train station?

A vein pops up on his forehead.

“I’m going back.” He turns to do just that, but a slight pull on his top stops him. He frowns at the hand gripping the hem of his top, before sending the owner of the hand a glare.

“Stay.” The owner of the hand says without looking at him.

Why?” he demands irritably.

“My train’s arriving in a second.”

And he’s right; at that exact moment, a train is pulling a stop at the platform right in front of them.

But Hikaru has no intention whatsoever to stick around, and that’s why he starts to make for the exit. Yet upon sensing his movement, the hand still attached to his jersey tightens its grip. Another vein pops up on his forehead. What is he, a kid?! This time, Hikaru doesn’t bother to tone down the intensity of his glare. “Let. Go.”

“Stay.” Kazuhiko insists, still not looking at him. “The train won’t go anywhere for another fifteen minutes.”

Hikaru glares some more.

“Don’t worry.” Kazuhiko says, “I won’t run, and I won’t lose—not to you, not to anyone. Rest assured that I will definitely face you on the Interhigh later. Definitely.”

Then look at me, Hikaru wants to shout. Look at me, damn you!

“Therefore… just for now, stay.”

The grip on his shirt loosens. If Hikaru really wanted to go, then this would be his chance. He looks at Kazuhiko, at the way his head tilts down slightly, just enough so that their height difference would hide his eyes from Hikaru’s sight.

He’s doing it again, isn’t he? Turning him away without really doing so. Turning him away without giving him a chance to do something—anything—just like any other times before.

Kazuhiko really hasn’t changed at all.

So Hikaru turns on his heels and walks away—because, really, what other choice does he have? He knows better than to impose himself where he’s unwanted. He knows better.

He knows better.

He grits his teeth.

Something heavy suddenly drops on Kazuhiko’s lap. He blinks. And then he looks up, and--


“Take it.” Hikaru grumbles.

But Kazuhiko seems too stunned to move. He keeps staring at Hikaru with wide eyes, like he couldn’t believe his own eyes. His lips part slightly, but there’s no sound. Then he seems to register what Hikaru said, and looks down.

“A diet coke?” Kazuhiko says stupidly.

Hikaru glares at him, silently daring him to comment.

“But of course,” Kazuhiko adds hastily, “nothing better on this hot summer day other than a can of sugar-less coke.” He pauses. And then raises an eyebrow at Hikaru. “I mean, really?”

Hikaru scowls. “The trash bin is right behind you.”

Kazuhiko laughs. An honest to God laugh, with his whole face lit up in amusement and his eyes sparkle in mischief. Oh God, Hikaru thinks, Nobori was right. He does look happier.

For some reason, this thought really depresses him. It’s not that he doesn’t know firsthand how suffocating it is to be a regular member of Tendouji basketball team. But more because for reasons he doesn’t ready to admit, he thought his presence had dampened it some for Kazuhiko – just like Kazuhiko’s did for him. It’s quite presumptuous and arrogant of him to think such a thought, he knows that. But maybe – just maybe, he was hoping that he – that they--

It’s not until he feels a finger poking him between the eyes that he realizes a deep frown has taken momentary residence on his forehead. He bats Kazuhiko’s finger irritably and turns slightly away. Kazuhiko’s chuckle afterwards sounds just as amused.

“Thanks anyway.” Kazuhiko says. “For this.”

What is ‘this’, exactly? Hikaru wants to ask, risking a glance to the other boy. But Kazuhiko’s not looking at him. He’s staring down at his coke, before lifting it to his lips and taking a big gulp from it.

Hikaru doesn’t even try pretending he’s not watching the way Kazuhiko’s adam’s apple bobble as he swallows.

“Seeing something you like?” Kazuhiko says, smiling as he wipes his lips with the back of his hand.

“You wish.” Hikaru deadpans. Then takes a drink out of his own coke.

The rest of the wait they spend in silence. While he wouldn’t call it uncomfortable exactly, it isn’t one he honestly enjoys. He wonders what Kazuhiko thinks of it.

“Announcement. To all of the passengers of the train leaving for Tokyo, the train is---“

Kazuhiko steps into the train’s door, and stops. He turns back to Hikaru, looking conflicted as he does so. “This is it, then.”

“Yeah.” Hikaru says. He hesitates. And then adds, “Don’t forget your promise.”

Face me on the final. Just you and me, ace versus ace. Mizuho versus Tendouji.

“I won’t.” Kazuhiko says, looking down. “Hikaru, I…” he bites his lower lip.


“I…you… I mean—“ then he throws his arms heavenward, muttering “Oh, fuck it,” pulls Hikaru down and kisses him. On the lips. In front of God and everybody.

Oh, Hikaru thinks, oh.

Then he grabs Kazuhiko’s nape and angles his head to the side slightly, biting the other’s lower lip to allow him access and deepen the kiss – which Kazuhiko’s only too happy to oblige, if the sounds he’s making is any indication.

It’s been too damn long.

As soon as it begins it’s over, and Hikaru feels his lips tingle as he watches Kazuhiko enter the train just before the door close in on him. Even through the thick glass window, he could see how flushed Kazuhiko’s face is, and he prides himself on the fact that his own face is still as calm as before – outwardly, at least.

Wa-it for me, Kazuhiko mouths to him, as the train starts pulling from the station. Wait for me. Please.

Of course he would, Hikaru thinks, as he watches the train getting smaller and smaller until it finally disappear in the distance. After all, you can’t have a match with only one team present.

He ignores the voice in his head telling him that it’s not what Kazuhiko probably means.

Hikaru wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

A coke flavored kiss.

What a bad taste.

Should have just stuck with Pocari Sweat.


They never talked about Sawanobori.

It wasn’t that he never tried to bring it up. It was more like the chance had never presented itself. And it wasn’t like they actually talked all that much. For a guy that was supposed to be all hyperactive and talkative, Kazuhiko sure liked to keep his silence whenever they were alone.

Hikaru tried not to contemplate too much about it.

So Kazuhiko felt comfortable enough around him not to keep up an outward appearance. Sheesh, big deal.

Except it kind of was.


Hikaru glared.

Kazuhiko pouted.

“What gives you the impression that I care?”

“You don’t. That’s why I told you all those things.”

“Go talk to a wall, then.” Hikaru said, much harsher than he intended it to be.

“But you’re much, much better looking than a wall.” Kazuhiko told him with a smile. Then in a quieter tone added, “and you’re also much warmer.”

Hikaru blinked.

But that momentary distraction was all Kazuhiko needed; by the time Hikaru realized, Kazuhiko had already taken residence on his bed and all but made himself comfortable there.

Hikaru glares some more.

Magically producing a textbook in one hand and a manga book in the other, Kazuhiko proceeds to smile winningly at Hikaru and asks, “So, have you done that algorithm homework yet?”

Hikaru resists the urge to bash his head against the nearest wall. Or worse, Kazuhiko’s.

One of these days, he vowed, he was so going to find an effective way to shake Kazuhiko off of him for good.

He never did, in the end.

He also tried not to think about why he didn’t even try.


Sawanobori doesn’t touch Kazuhiko because he loves him.

Kazuhiko goes to Hikaru because he knows Hikaru doesn’t want him.

Hikaru holds Kazuhiko because he’s a fool who never knows better.

So maybe they all a little fuck up.


The whole Tendouji basketball team used to be jealous of this boy. This boy, who snagged the team captaincy when he was still a first-year, effectively put shame on his upperclassmen’s faces in the process. A prodigy, they used to say. It would be hard not to watch him – whether it was to admire him, or for a chance to make him fall. Hikaru would know; after all, he, too, used to watch.

And now here they are, in the final of Interhigh, about to face off against each other.

He looks across the court, where Mizuho team has just slide into position. Noting each face, he realizes they’re going with the original members: no.4 as Point Guard, no.5 as Center, no.6 as Point Forward, no.9 as Small Forward, and of course, Kazuhiko as Shooting Guard.

As he gets into his own designed position, he takes a deep breath, trying to tell himself to calm the fuck down. This is the moment that he’s been waiting for ever since he found out Kazuhiko had left Tendouji for good.

He’s as tense as a string stretched too thin, about to snap any moment. He’s on edge, feeling anxious and excited at the same time and he just can’t seem to get his mind to follow the program.

Kamakura whistles.

That, to Hikaru’s internal chagrin, actually calms him down some. He feels more than sees Musashi’s trademark smirk in front of him, the same way he can feel Ryuunosuke’s intense look from behind. Nobori is, as always, a silent but pronounced presence beside him, his eyes trained forward, at the basketball in the referee’s hand.

A split second before the referee throws the ball into the air, his eyes meet Kazuhiko’s.

Let’s enjoy the game and worry about other things later, Kazuhiko eyes say, face lit up in excitement and promise over a great game.

Hikaru feels himself give an imperceptible nod, barely restraining himself from sending an answering smile.

He feels happy.

Because more than anything, more than his place in the regular, more than Nobori’s approval and worry, more than Kamakura easy camaraderie, more than secretly exchanged kisses behind closed doors, this is what he has always wanted more than anything:

To play against Kazuhiko Aikawa.

Anything else needs to wait.