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Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Street

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One by one, they woke and dressed and left. All but Mitsui. "I'll wait for him," Kogure said. Akagi nodded and dragged Sakuragi out with him, hand over his mouth to shut him up.

Mitsui was slumped against the lockers, mouth open as he slept. Kogure stood and watched him for a while. Then he went and sat beside him. Muffled talk and laughter came through the closed door, then faded.

There was a clock on the wall. The minute hand moved in jerks, one, two, five, ten. Fifteen more and Kogure would wake Mitsui. Should he get something for him to drink? To eat?

Mitsui muttered something and Kogure looked over. Mitsui was still sleeping, sliding down a little. His head was at an awkward angle and Kogure rubbed his own neck. Mitsui drooped a bit lower. Kogure put an arm around his shoulders, pulled him up so his head was against Kogure's chest. So his neck wouldn't be sore.

The clock clicked ahead another minute. Kogure remembered the weight of Mitsui's body as he helped him off the court, the exhausted breath heaving out of him, the sweat-soaked jersey clinging to his skin.

"You did it," Kogure whispered. He could still feel the elation of the win. After the game, it burst out in yells and cheers. Now it was gone deep inside of him, a quiet core of happiness. "We did it."

Kogure's arm rose and fell with Mitsui's breath. He could smell the sweat of both their bodies. He could see Mitsui shooting threes, the straight line of his back, the graceful arc of the ball. "You did it."

Thank you for coming back, he wanted to say. Thank you for playing with us. He bent over Mitsui's head. I wish you hadn't cut your hair. And something sickening dropped through Kogure's chest and he knew.

He had been so careful for years, so careful with Akagi. Careful to leave some distance between them, careful not to let his eyes linger. Not to feel more than a friend should.

So careful with Akagi he had never thought to be careful with anyone else.

The minute hand jerked. Mitsui shifted under Kogure's arm. Kogure bit his lip. The sickening feeling rose in his belly and flooded over him, wave after wave of a desire so intense, it blotted out everything else. Fatigue, thirst, victory -- all gone. How could this have happened without him knowing?

His arm tightened around Mitsui's shoulders. He was leaning down, closer, closer. Let go, he told himself, let go, get up, leave the room. And he would, he would, as soon as he could catch his breath.

And then Mitsui lifted his head. His eyes were clouded with sleep, his face was puffy. They were only inches apart, Mitsui's breath warm on Kogure's mouth. "We won," Mitsui said and it was half a question.

For a moment, Kogure didn't know what Mitsui was talking about. Then he remembered the game. "We won." The words were hard to hear over the blood pounding in his head.

They were too close together. Too close to be safe. Kogure had to move, to let go. But he didn't. Mitsui frowned and Kogure wondered if Mitsui would hurt him, hit him, shove him away.

Mitsui's eyes were dark. Kogure couldn't look away. Another wave went over him. He couldn't move closer. He couldn't move back. He couldn't breathe. "Mitsui," he said.

Mitsui moved. Mitsui pushed his face into Kogure's face and put his mouth on Kogure's mouth and jammed Kogure's glasses hard against his nose.

And Kogure kissed him back. Opened his mouth and kissed him back. Another wave came up and Kogure closed his eyes.

There had been a few boys for Kogure before, just two really, and neither for long. Neither had made him feel sick inside, neither had kissed him like there were five minutes left until the end of the world, neither had hurt him.

Mitsui was hurting him, his weight pressing against Kogure's chest, his mouth hard on Kogure's mouth, his hand around Kogure's heart, squeezing it tighter and tighter as it tried to beat.

Kogure wanted more. He moved his arm around Mitsui's waist, tried to get closer. Mitsui pulled at Kogure's shirt, got his fingers onto Kogure's back. They kissed and kissed and Kogure thought that if Mitsui would just brush against him once, he'd come in his pants.

Someone knocked on the door. Kogure's heart stopped. "Shohoku?" a women called. "Are you still in there?"

Mitsui sat back. His face was flushed. He looked away. Kogure looked down. It took him three tries to answer the woman. "We'll be right out," he called. Mitsui rubbed his mouth on the back of his hand.

Kogure stood. He wanted to say something to Mitsui, to explain. But there was no explanation. And Mitsui had kissed him first. He wanted to ask why. He picked up his jacket and held it in front of him as he went out into the hallway. He cleaned his glasses while he waited.

On the way to the station, Kogure looked at Mitsui. He was frowning, looking at the ground in front of him. "Mitsui," Kogure said. "You played well."

"I know," Mitsui said. He didn't look up.

They were silent on the train. The next day at practice, things were nearly normal. But Mitsui wouldn't meet Kogure's eyes. And Kogure still felt sick inside.

He started being careful.