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Chapter 11: Bloodstream


‘I think I might've inhaled you

 I can feel you behind my eyes

 You've gotten into my bloodstream I can feel you flowing in me’


Rukawa stares at the house decorated with party lights with the sound of distinct music coming from the inside. He fixed himself before pressing the doorbell. Out of better judgement, Rukawa decided that maybe showing up to the party would also be good to see his friends and teammates again for one last reunion. They were a big part of his life and he really didn’t want to lose that regardless how he might act.

Staring at the heavily decorated lights and the loud music it’s surprising how much it seems that it is less of a ‘little get together’ and more of a frat party. He had doubts about showing up though, uncertain how people would receive him. This is the first time in 2 years meeting familiar faces and considering he never write letters despite trying, would they treat him differently?

If they did, how much would it bother him? If they didn’t, would he regret not trying sooner?

More than anything, he thought about the phone call the night before. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. The raw sincerity from Sakuragi leaves a sense of longing he’s not felt in a long time.

Rukawa sighs, bracing himself for what is to come.

“Hey, don’t touch that!” he heard someone shouted, sounds like Mitsui. “Are we expecting more guests?”

Mitsui opened the door; his body immediately freezes at the sight of the familiar face. Surprised, Mitsui stared at Rukawa dumbfounded. Rukawa seem to tower him slightly now since the last time they met.

“Senpai,” Rukawa greeted, bowing lightly at the older man. “Rukawa?” Mitsui stood still in shock, his pale as if he’s just been greeted by a ghost. Rukawa feels bad for avoiding people the way he did. He realised that maybe it was selfish of him to not have visited the basketball team sooner, despite what qualms he might have with Sakuragi. Mitsui shakes his head and grinned at him, “Haruko didn’t tell me you’re coming! When did you get back!”

“Come in, come in!” Mitsui dragged him in excitedly. Rukawa scanned the house and he was right, it is a little more than a get together. There are a lot of unfamiliar faces and plenty of discarded beer bottles on the floor. He has to wonder if there is more to the sweet and innocent looking Haruko than she led on. The music was pretty loud but not as bad as he thought, you at least can hear yourself think or talk. People mostly sat in the living room and some were on the balcony talking, playing or making out. Not that it matters much since he’s been to rowdier parties but to see his friends and strangers in this state is surprising to say the least.

People stares at him as soon as he walks in, their eyes eyeing him up and down. The girls smile in his direction whereas the boys seem to give him a mix of a judgmental and shocked expression. Rukawa ignores the heavy stares and scanned the surroundings of any sign of red.

“Hey guys, look who’s here!” Mitsui announced. Miyagi who was in the middle of chugging his beer spontaneously spat out at the sight of the blue eyed boy. Haruko jumped excitedly, clapping her hands.

“I’m so glad you came Rukawa!”

Rukawa nodded.

“When the heck did you come back!” Miyagi cleared his throat, trying to regain his composure.

Just as soon as he is about to answer, Youhei chimed in with empty beer bottles.

“Haruko, is there—“Youhei stopped, noticing Rukawa’s presence in the room. The atmosphere becomes thick with tension but ignoring the strain of it all, Rukawa manage to acknowledge Youhei’s presence with a small wave. It’s not that they have a problem with each other per se but it’s not hard to imagine that the best friend of your ex lover wouldn’t be so ecstatic seeing the face of the man who broke his friend’s heart. That is something Rukawa completely understands and he doesn’t blame Youhei for having a negative reaction.

“Hey, Rukawa, “Youhei waved back, his slightly stoic expression melts into a friendlier one which surprises Rukawa. Wow, that was quick, Rukawa thought.

“You should come hang out with the rest of us at the balcony; Hanamichi is making a fool of himself again.” Youhei chuckled.

“He never learns.” Miyagi commented.

Taken aback by the openness of the mood, Rukawa relaxes, his uneasiness gradually disappears.

Mitsui sighs, “That idiot is always showing off.”

Youhei grabs two beer bottles then walked in to the living with Miyagi and Mitsui following behind. Haruko smiles after them then to Rukawa before walking in the direction of the living room.

The mood seems to be too pleasant and that, Rukawa thinks, is suspicious. It’s not that he is superstitious, far from. But from experience, when something is too good it usually ends up being the opposite. Rukawa shakes his head, shaking off the gloomy thought. It’s a stupid concept.



Youhei stepped on to the balcony approaching the red head who is now talking to a blonde girl. Her giggles can be heard from a mile away. Youhei notes how annoying it is, her high pitch laugh sounds more like a squawk more than anything. Youhei wonders why his friend gives her the time of day. Sakuragi doesn’t have the best judgement sometimes.

It’s not that Youhei minds Sakuragi talking to girls, he’s happy for him in fact. The only problem is that he hates seeing his friend so pathetic. Besides, it doesn’t help that the girl, Sayori, is notorious for leading guys on. Youhei knows what Sakuragi really wants, what he really feels. Until Sakuragi stops being immature and actually seeks some sort of closure, he’s never going to feel okay about his situation, no matter how hard he convinces himself.

Sakuragi is still in love with Rukawa, that much Youhei is confident about.

“Hanamichi, “Youhei taps Sakuragi’s shoulder, “I think we should get back inside, it looks like it’s going to rain.”

“I think it’s pretty romantic being out in the rain, don’t you think?” the girl smiles seductively at the redhead. Youhei rolled his eyes at that horrible seduction technique. But of course, Sakuragi agrees.

“Hey, have you seen the guy in there?” Another girl chimes in, whispering and excitedly tapping Sayori on the shoulder. “He is gorgeous! It’s that guy you like from freshman year.”

“You know…Rukawa Kaede.” The girl whispers, giggling.

If Youhei could, he would actually threaten them to keep their mouth shut. He is against violence on women but sometimes, especially when they are this insensitive, they are no different to those mobsters he fights.

Sayori’s eyes widened in interest at the mention of the name as Sakuragi’s eyebrow wrinkled with evident worry.

“You know what, your friend is right, we should get back inside.” Without any hesitation, without even the courtesy to consider the redhead’s feelings, the girls left, leaving Sakuragi to process what just happened.

The atmosphere fell silent.

“You okay?” Youhei moved closer to his friend, offering him a beer bottle. Sakuragi takes it and chugs on it immediately.

“Whoa, hey, slow down.” Youhei panicked, staring at Sakuragi in shock. “Are you that upset that you’re trying to drown yourself?”

Sakuragi swallows the last drop of beer and wiped his lips. His cheek now flushed red, his body emitting warmth.

“I-if I have to go through tonight, I might as well go through it drunk…” Sakuragi mumbles. Youhei let out a heavy sigh. He hates seeing Sakuragi this way, always in denial, always running, never confronting. There are limits to his patience. He understands how much it affected him, how much it took out of him. But if Sakuragi never face his feelings, he will always be trapped in this cycle.

“Hanamichi, “Youhei started, “maybe you should talk to Rukawa.”

Sakuragi turned to him, surprised.

“He must have his reasons for—“

“He was never serious with me, he led me on and now he’s living comfortably in America without any regrets.” Sakuragi’s says bitterly, every word feels like a knife through his heart. It hurts, oh my god it hurts.

“Hanamichi, you don’t know that.”

“Yes I do.” Sakuragi responded firmly as tears starting to build up.

And there it is again, he looks as if he is about to break right there and then.  

“No, you don’t.” Youhei replied back, his tone suddenly serious. “You think you do, but I know you’re just scared to face him.”

Sakuragi furrowed his eyebrows at Youhei, taken aback by the sudden rebuttal. Sakuragi sighs, “Youhei, I know you mean well but I have nothing to say to him.”

“Hanamichi, please, I know it’s hard but---“

Sakuragi rubs his forehead, feeling slightly lightheaded from all the alcohol.

“Can we stop talking about this?”

“Look, I hate seeing you like this,” said Youhei, “I know you still care and just once, I’m asking you, as a friend, to do yourself a favour and talk to him. Even if nothing comes out of it, at least you won’t regret anything.”

Deep down he knows Youhei is right, deep down he knows he should stop running. He wants to.  Why is he making it so hard on himself?

“I know you’re right, “Sakuragi agrees, hanging his head, sighing.



When Rukawa imagined a ‘small get together’, he never anticipated it to be filled with strangers. A lot of unfamiliar faces gawking at him left and right. The girls seem to want to flirt with him endlessly while the guys keep asking him personal questions.

Sitting on the couch, Rukawa tries hard to blend in and to keep himself occupied. He feels so out of place, and suddenly he silently regrets being here. So much for rekindle past friendships, half of them are drunk. He looks around the room, searching for any sign of red only to be disappointed by the lack of vibrant colour in the room.

Out of nowhere, a figure takes a seat beside him.

“Rukawa,” Mitsui appeared, grinning at him as he hands him a bottle of beer. He takes it, bowing slightly.

“How is America?”

“It’s good, “Rukawa replied, sipping the drink in his hand.

“I bet, “Mitsui winked, “America must be great, I’ve always wanted to visit one day.” Mitsui continued, suddenly excited.

Rukawa nodded, “Yeah, a little bit. It’s just different.”

Suddenly, a feminine voice interrupted them. A blonde haired girl smiled at them flirtatiously, flipping her hair over her shoulders trying to look seductive. She sat down next to Rukawa, trapping him the middle. Rukawa backs away slightly, uncomfortable by the lack of space.

“Can I help you?” asked Rukawa, raising an eyebrow at the girl.

“Mitsui, who is your friend?” The girl smiled, leaning in just slightly close. With this distance he can smell her overpowering strawberry perfume with her make up so overdone he could see the thickness of the powder on her face.

“Oh, this is Rukawa Kaede.” Mitsui introduced, “Rukawa, this is Sayori, she’s a 2nd year in Shohoku.”

Rukawa notes the lack of honorific when addressing Mitsui, he flinched.

“So, “she starts, “you must be Rukawa Kaede. I’ve heard so much about you.”

Rukawa merely stares at her, uninterested.

“You’re as handsome as I imagine,” she continues to ogle him with her big brown mascara-heavy eyes. “Actually, even better.” she giggles as she stares up at Rukawa dreamily.

“Thanks, I guess.” Rukawa shrugs, his tone uninterested, hoping she would get the hint and leave him alone. But of course, that just fuels the blonde woman. Sayori just sat there, deliberately sitting so close so her exposed legs would rub against his jeans. If her skirt is any shorter than it already is, Rukawa swears she would be flashing him right now.

“I can see that I’m intruding,” Mitsui stands up, “It was great seeing you Rukawa. We should all hang out again before you leave.”

Rukawa nods, smiling at the idea. Mitsui smiles back before leaving Rukawa to deal with the burden next to him.

 “Wow, I didn’t know you were so close to Mitsui.”

Rukawa simply looks at her, his face scrunched in into an unpleasant expression; it’s a miracle he didn’t manage to vomit right then and there.

“Wow,” she smiles, admiration in her voice, “you live America? You’re so much better than the guys I’ve ever met. All the guys I’ve been with don’t have anything special to them, but I can tell you’re different.” She winks.

For once, Rukawa feels like running out the door. This sorry excuse for a flirting attempt is atrociously bad he contemplates just chugging the whole beer bottle in hopes to numb the pain, to forget this girl is even here.

Rukawa reach for the beer in front of him, taking a sip, feeling the heat of it glide down his throat. He’s been sitting here for hours now and not even a glimpse of the red head anywhere. Maybe this is all a waste of time, maybe it’s a sign telling him to just leave it. Rukawa stands up, sighing as he puts on his jacket.

He was really hoping he would meet Sakuragi here. He plans to talk, to straighten things out before he leaves so he can leave any guilt he feels behind him. If not, at least to just see him once is enough.

Suddenly, Rukawa hears a familiar voice coming from the balcony door. He turns his head so fast he feels a twinge of pain in his neck. There, wearing a black hoodie and blue ripped jeans stands Sakuragi Hanamichi. Even when he’s standing in a crowded room like this, he is still the only one who seems to stand out.

Just like that, Rukawa feels restless again. It’s not that he’s scared, just tense. Suddenly he has second thoughts about confronting Sakuragi. In the moment he thinks maybe leaving things the way they are, without trying to justify anything is not such a bad thing.

Rukawa shakes his head, snapping out of his foolishness. Since when is he this anxious?

Rukawa is never the one to hesitate like this. But somehow, when it comes to Sakuragi, he learns that he’s a lot of things he’s not.

The sooner he gets over this, the better.

“Where are you going?” Sayori asks, surprised. He ignores her and walks towards the familiar speck of red leaning against the door frame, laughing at some joke.

Rukawa taps his shoulder, anticipating the reaction that will come. Sakuragi turns around and his eyes widened, frozen in shock. For awhile time seems to stand still, Rukawa’s expression remained aloof and plain, countering Sakuragi’s surprised one. The moment between them stretched as if everything has been building up to this encounter.

“Rukawa…?” Sakuragi jumped at the sight of the pale boy.

Rukawa nodded, “Let’s  talk.”


“Yes, now.”

“Fine,” Sakuragi sighs, “let’s take it outside.”


 Out of all the people he thinks he would bump into, Rukawa Kaede would be the last. But here he is, standing outside with his estranged ex-boyfriend. He knows this is bound to happen, but today is a bit too soon. If he knew he would confront Rukawa today, he at least would’ve prepared himself.

But this is good, he needs this.

“You’ve been drinking a lot, haven’t you?” Rukawa pointed out, noticing the redness of Sakuragi’s cheeks.

 “If you wanted to lecture me about my drinking, you could have just said so.” Sakuragi folds his arm defensively, keeping his posture aloof. 

“No, I, “Rukawa looks at Sakuragi, for once feeling like he’s the vulnerable one between the two. “I just wanted to talk about what happened.”

Sakuragi instantly meets Rukawa’s serious gaze, a sudden wave of longing washed over him. This is it; this is the closure he needs. He’s been wondering why for so long, the question that keeps him up at night pacing now can finally be answered. He’s been wondering why for 2 years it feels almost useless knowing about it now. Whatever information he gets from this won’t change facts; it will not stop to erase what the years he spent lost and confused. Sakuragi swallows the lump in his throat; he would be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous.

Standing in front of Rukawa makes him realise how he long he waited for this moment. It made him realise how much time he had wasted on feeling sorry for himself. He had let the pain consumed him for far too long that now after all the endless nights reeling, would it even make a difference?

“Maybe we should just leave things as it is,” Sakuragi said flatly, his voice sounded defeated. “It wouldn’t change anything between us.”

Rukawa looks at Sakuragi sternly, “no, we need to solve this.”

“Whatever we say wouldn’t make a difference.” Sakuragi averted his eyes away; the image of Youhei wouldn’t stop nagging him telling him to talk to Rukawa, to make him understand how much his absence affected him. Sakuragi scoffs at the thought of pouring his feelings to the blue eyed boy.

Rukawa shrinks slightly; his tall posture now slightly slouched.

“Look, I know things weren’t great, “Rukawa moves his gaze to the ground, focusing on the uneven patch of road instead.  “But I was just trying to separate myself from everything. I knew telling you would just make it harder.”

 “seperate?” Sakuragi repeated the word, his voice low as he tries to make sense of the word. Sakuragi feels his heart sinks knowing Rukawa had wanted to separate himself from the relationship. Was he that bad? Had he caused so much trouble that Rukawa decided that it was better to just cut himself off entirely? Was he that bad? Sakuragi blinks; taken aback by the explanation Rukawa gave him.

“You’re joking right?”  Sakuragi scoffs, his tone mocking. “That’s why you decided to leave? What kind of man avoids his problem so much that he’s willing to move just to run away?” Sakuragi clenches his fist, his anger rising. “You said you don’t feel the same anymore without telling me why!” Sakuragi leaned in Rukawa’s space, every word coming out of his mouth is like venom, and his eyes flash with fiery rage.

Rukawa returned his gaze with similar intensity, “It would’ve helped you move on.”

“Oh? Like you have?” Sakuragi snapped, his voice dripping with disdain. Sakuragi turned his head away, moving his gaze away from Rukawa. He can’t look at him, it’s hard to without feeling like he’s going to punch him, and it makes everything unbearable. Sakuragi inhales heavily, remembering the conversation he had with Youhei. Deep down he knows Youhei is right, but standing here at this moment, right now, physically present is harder than he could have anticipated. Sure, he imagines this scene more than a few times. In his head, it wasn’t this heavy, in his head he knew exactly what to say. In his head, Rukawa was the one having a hard time.

Rukawa narrowed his eyes at Sakuragi’s heated ones. He stays silent, letting the redhead vent his frustration. Somehow he couldn’t bring himself to get mad.

“I understand how you feel…” Rukawa started.

“No, you don’t! You want to know how I feel?” Sakuragi raised his voice, the frustration oozing out. “I’ve spent 2 years trying to move on, but I can’t. I’ve spent half of it feeling angry, asking myself why you left the way you did. It was not over for me, you’re the only person that makes me feel like I’m losing my mind!”

“You know what,” Sakuragi continued, “we shouldn’t have started anything! At least we were better at being enemies than we were lovers!” Every word spilling out of his mouth feels like a punch to the gut.  It surprises him how much frustration he‘s been bottling up, letting it go like this feels cathartic. He can feel his frustration gradually leaving him.

The atmosphere turns heavy, the space between them further than before. Rukawa folds his arms, unsure how to continue the conversation further.

Rukawa opened his mouth to say something but the words died on his lips. Anything he says now will only make things worse.

The atmosphere fell silent momentarily with nothing but their breathing and the sound of light breeze around them. Suddenly, small pellets of water start dripping down signalling the sign of the rain. Then all at once heavy rain comes pouring down, soaking them both.

 “You have no idea what you’ve put me through!” Sakuragi gritted his teeth, his eyes narrowed dangerously and his fist tight suppressing the tears threatening to burst out. “I was losing my mind when you left!” Sakuragi exclaimed, moving his hands animatedly to convey the frustration with his body, “I blamed myself for never being good enough! I’ve struggled with the fact that maybe if I had done more then maybe you would’ve stayed…” Sakuragi’s voice cracks a little, revealing the fragility he tried so hard to hide as he folds his arms tighter against his chest. The weight of his words feels real now.

“After everything we’ve been through…” Sakuragi chokes, his tears now trickling down his face, “Of course I’m going to take it personally…”

Rukawa feels his heart break, feeling the jab from every word. The reality of it throws him off. For some reason, this is harder than he thought it would be. He anticipated the anger that would come from Sakuragi; he had imagined all the blunt harshness that the redhead would throw at him. But he never considered how much his actions have wounded the person he cared, how much of a coward he must look.  Visualising this scene was easy; actually being in it is harder.

This complicates it further. He only wanted to explain, to justify his actions but he doesn’t know what he wants any more. All he knows is that Sakuragi is hurt; all he knows is that he feels it too. As reckless as it may seem, it was never to intentionally cause this much damage. He didn’t know any better, he ran away because he knew if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to. He never feels this torn about anything or anyone. All his life he was always confident about what he wants but right now, with Sakuragi, he feels confused about what he wants and what he thinks he deserves.

Sakuragi meets his gaze, hurt visible in his brown eyes. Sakuragi’s eyes are glassy with tears as he waits for his response.

 “I’m sorry,” Rukawa’s voice came out low and vulnerable. It catches Sakuragi off guard; he looks at him with sympathy as he lowers his defences slightly. Out of all the reaction he imagined Rukawa to have; this was the last.

Rukawa closes his eyes, breathing in the regret that seems to chase him for too long. It’s always been there, whether he chooses to ignore it or not. After all this time, its clear now more than ever that all he keeps on is denying, repressing every memory. He so desperately wanted to move on, but the truth is he wanted to save himself from his own heartache. He had been selfish up til now, he is still selfish. Sakuragi is right, he only thought of himself.

Being here right now makes it clear that he didn’t deserve being part of Sakuragi’s world, he loved him but he can see now that action without commitment is just as bad as wasted potential. It makes him realise how long he’s been running away and how much the idea of losing scared him. Rukawa never sees himself as someone who gives up on things or people he cares about but it is evident now that he had become the very person he never wanted to be. This confrontation concerns more than just him; it’s about overcoming his mistakes, it’s about making sense of his feelings.

Rukawa swallows the lump in his throat, the sadness seeping in. “I was afraid…” and just like that, Sakuragi hears the frailty from the only man he thought could only be strong.

Rukawa glanced at Sakuragi, moving his gaze slowly from the ground to the redhead’s face as if waiting for the red head to start laughing. Instead, Sakuragi stares back at him, confused. His eyes scan every detail of Rukawa’s handsome face, trying to make sense of the sudden burst of emotion.

“I just thought if I ended things then it would be easier...” Rukawa’s words trail off.

“But I was just thinking of myself.”

 Rukawa rubs his neck, a habit he does when he feels tense. He furrowed his eyebrows, his gaze focused on the ground.

“Truth is, I would’ve stayed if you asked me to.” Rukawa wrinkles his eyebrows upwards, taking in the honesty of his own words, “America, basketball, I thought about giving it up…”

“I was selfish, “said Rukawa, tears brimming at the corner of his eyes “I was confused.”

Rukawa bit his quivering lip, wiping the tears now trickling down, somehow thankful that the rain is able to mask his tears.

“I’ve never felt this way before….” Once the first tear broke free, the rest followed in an unbroken stream. Rukawa buried his face in his hands as he aggressively wiped the tears flowing down.  Every sincere statement feels like liberation all on its own. As if it’s the first time he’s ever admitted his true feelings.

“I was afraid of losing you…”

“But you broke up with me.” Sakuragi countered.

“I know,” Rukawa said immediately, “I know, but I just thought that if I ended things, I wouldn’t have to go through losing you when life decides that one day we shouldn’t be together.”

“Look,” Rukawa sighs, “If I didn’t end things I knew it would be hard because I wouldn’t be able to …”

“I thought if I just focus on basketball, it will be okay.” Rukawa closes his eyes, imagining all the times he kept himself busy just so he could put his feelings out of his mind. “But it was not okay.”

I am sorry I never considered your feelings.” Rukawa’s blue eyes meet Sakuragi’s chocolate brown, sincerity looming in his cobalt blue eyes.

“I can’t keep denying how I feel.” Rukawa’s voice is soft like a whisper. Sakuragi’s eyes widened at his words, recalling a particular drunken incident he had over the phone.

“I loved you then, I love you now and I will always love you…” his voice came out choked as if suppressing tears. “But you’re right; maybe it was better if we never started anything. You don’t deserve this.”

Sakuragi stares at him with a newfound empathy, his expression softens at every confession. It surprised him to see Rukawa Kaede so broken in front of him, someone he only knows as confident now so delicate. Sakuragi was so caught up in feeling bitter and vengeful that he never stopped to think how Rukawa might feel. He always assumed that Rukawa was mostly untouchable, aloof and indifferent even when they’re together. But maybe he was blind to Rukawa’s emotions. It would’ve been easier if Rukawa was angry, it would’ve been easier if they succumbed to their aggressive side and left things as disconnected as possible.

Sakuragi continues to stare at Rukawa, speechless and perplexed at what he heard. He had no idea how strong he still feels. A sudden wave of yearning washes over him.

They stayed like that; neither said anything, only their expression visibly covey what their words couldn’t. Rukawa thinks if he stays here any longer, the remaining rainwater would drown him right then and there. Rukawa pushed his wet hair back, feeling the wet sensation on his skin. Every inch of him drenched.

The silence stretched between them, far longer than Rukawa finds comfortable. Feeling the awkwardness of the situation, Rukawa steps aside to walk past Sakuragi. But before he could walk further, a hand grabbed his wrist.

“Wait,” Sakuragi’s voice is soft and his eyes warm. Rukawa couldn’t help but let himself be pulled by the comforting gaze. He was always weak to Sakuragi’s eyes, it never stops being captivating. Rukawa turns his whole body towards Sakuragi, facing him. Sakuragi lets go of Rukawa’s wrist quickly and immediately puts his hands to his side as if he had just been burned.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you, “Sakuragi’s tone is soft and tender, his gaze focused on the ground. “I was just…mad.”

Without warning, Sakuragi wrapped his arms around Rukawa as a way of comfort. The rush of warmth from the redhead sends a flurry of emotions spiralling back like strong waves. Rukawa’s hands fidget slightly before letting his arms cling to Sakuragi’s strong back. The feeling is familiar now as he takes in Sakuragi’s warmth and scent. If he could just stay like this he wouldn’t complain.

“It was hard for me too, you’re the first person that I--“Sakuragi swallowed his words, “I always feel like I’m never good enough for you.”

Rukawa leaned back to look at the redhead properly, carefully tracing his features, from his chocolate brown eyes to his red hair, reminiscing on the days he spent memorizing the redhead. “Do’ahou, “he teases, smiling at him.

Before he could stop himself, Rukawa leans in and close the distance between them. He pressed his lips against Sakuragi’s soft ones. A peck, nothing more, but it is enough to make Rukawa feel the thumping of his heart. It must be the overwhelming openness he allowed himself or the sudden lightness of the atmosphere where their tension had evaporated completely that makes him feel so brave. He couldn’t help feeling swept away by his emotions, the emotions he tried so hard to reject for so long. The emotion now lay open and bare, exposed for everyone to see.

He pulled back slightly; his forehead leaning against Sakuragi’s as he drowned himself in the heat of the moment. Sakuragi’s cheeks flush deep red, his eyes half-lidded and lips parted.  He breathes in heavily at the loss of soft lips against his. They look at each other, their expression mirroring the longing that still lingers between them.