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Insignificant

Chapter Text

Rukawa's POV:

Have you ever lied to someone you love? For your own selfish reasons of course. You wanted to end it because at that moment, you were only thinking about yourself and foolishly disregarding the other. At the time, somehow you are convinced over the fact that you don't love the other as much as you know you did. Fact is, you did, you still do but the reality of it is, you are trying to resist the feeling. Then you start asking why. Why you wanted to resist so much when you basically accepted it in the first place. It then becomes a confusing battle between freely wanting and accepting the feeling to succumbing to what people or society will think of it. Don't get me wrong though, I usually couldn't care less about the judgment of others but when it comes down between love and life goals, I can't resist the tempting desire of the court, the familiar sounds of crowds and cheers and the almost mystic dribbling of the round orb known as basketball. With any type of relationships or petty romances, it can only go so far before I know I have to leave. This was just one of those instances where being indifferent towards my encounters with people would really help, it saves me the trouble of dealing with another person's emotion rather than my own since there is nothing left to look forward to if I do at some point decide America is too rough for a guy growing up in simple Kanagawa. However, that is not the case. It would be different if it was just a momentary consolation for the lonely, but I can tell you right now that it is anything but.

Insignificant relationships are what they are, insignificant. And I would be lying if I said I have never had an insignificant relationship before. Besides my very indifferent nature to everything else but basketball, there are moments when you feel a temporary void that needs to be filled. Perhaps you might think that males being males, I would use my overt popularity to take advantage of things. As shallow as that sounds, you are not completely wrong for thinking so but neither are you right. Just like everyone else, I have had my fair share of curiosity and just like any other male, you notice things you didn't before and you get questions you never asked before. Believe it or not, I gave the whole 'blind date' thing a try once and although she wasn't too bad and it was nice, I didn't feel anything particularly special like I hoped though. If anything, it made me think that girls are too much of a hassle to handle. That night I decided that maybe emotions were not something I show easily.

However, there was that one exception with a certain boisterous red head. There was chemistry between us and I am unsure where it came from or how it happened, it just did. Slowly but surely, I also had succumb to the unnatural charms of Sakuragi Hanamichi. I don't know what it is though, he was loud, stubborn, aggressive and not to mention self-proclaimed. Nonetheless, unlike any other growing relationships, the inevitable happens leaving you with undesired choices, choices you think is unfair. Staying in touch was another option but America and Kanagawa is not a car ride away and besides, I like to spare the emotional uproar and commotion that these feelings cause. It is not going to be worth it, no matter who it is.

I remember that day well. It was around June, and I spotted the red head cheerfully walking in in his usual manner.

Flashback: (Normal POV)

"Oi, do'ahou,"Rukawa called out to the red head walking cheerfully infront of him.

"What Rukawa?"he answered with the grin still vibrant on his lips. Rukawa looks at Sakuragi carefully, his eyes holding Sakuragi's brown orbs in a serious gaze, dropping Sakuragi's smile in the process.

"O-oi, Kitsune, whats wrong?" Rukawa continues to hold Sakuragi's gaze, not flinching, blinking once as he did so. A vast ocean of thoughts circled his mind as he continues to stare at the red head.

"Let's break up." Rukawa's voice came out serious and cold, causing Sakuragi to now return his serious gaze to a state of confusion and surprise.

"B-break up?" Sakuragi repeated the hurtful words, asking for reassurance that his ears had not betrayed him. Rukawa simply nodded, confirming his statement.

"We've been together for a while and I have been thinking," Rukawa explained. Sakuragi remained silent and quiet. "I am going to America soon and we won't be able to see each other anyway." he continued.

Sakuragi nodded slightly and bit his lip to resist the coming tears slightly forming in his eyes. Rukawa reached out for t red head's hands as he took it into his.

"I am going to be very honest with you right now ahou, so listen." Rukawa sighed, looking into Sakuragi's brown orbs.

"I don't think I feel the same way anymore."

Silence filled the air as neither spoke but simply looked at each other, hurt clearly visible in their eyes.

Sakuragi stared down at the ground, trying desperately to avoid Rukawa's gaze. He pulled his hands away from Rukawa's firm grip. If he didn't have feelings for Rukawa then yes, this would be a lot less painless and easier. But he does, and he is hurting inside right now. So much.

But its not like he never thought about the possibilities of this happening, he did and it seemed easier thinking about it rather than actually experiencing it.

"I am not good enough?" Sakuragi asked, trying to find reasons to his change of heart.

Rukawa looked carefully at Sakuragi, the question triggered an unexplainable feeling. Was it sympathy? Guilt? Possibly close to it? He cupped Sakuragi's cheeks gently, leaning slowly forwards as Sakuragi leaned back.

"Don't take it personally A'hou..I …" before he could continue, Sakuragi sighed and pulled away forcefully from Rukawa.

"Yarou!" he growled. "Do whatever you want. I Don't care anymore! Go to America and…whatever! "he cursed angrily.

I sighed as I reminisce the bitter and abrupt split between Sakuragi and I. Like I said, relationships become insignificant and no matter how much you enjoyed the sentiment of the relationship, it is better to depend on yourself rather than on someone else.

"Sakuragi…"

It is a principle I am learning to live with and it is a memory that I can live with, at least for now.

Chapter Text

Home

 

Rukawa sat uncomfortably in economy class, cursing mentally at the check in woman for deliberately giving him the window seat after reassuring him on his selected aisle seat. He squinted as he slowly moved his gaze to his side, secretly hoping the seat next to him will stay empty.  Suddenly, as if on cue, a brawny man came fumbling clumsily on the seat, his hands occupied with bags.  His movement practically shook the plane as he hurriedly placed the bags on the overhead compartment. He looked at Rukawa, carefully fixing his eyes on the handsome boy.  His expression was surprised at first but then suddenly contorted into one that of awkwardness. Rukawa gave him a threatening look, one that instantly caused him to move his gaze away from the boy.  

 “Excuse me kid, I need the room.” The man proceeded to shove his giant back pack under the seat, pushing the boy insistently further towards the window, cornering the poor boy in the process. Rukawa glared at the man, his gaze emitted a level of annoyance that seem to caught the attention of other passengers but only to be ignored by the man as he casually flipped through the in-flight magazine. “Moron.” Rukawa cursed mentally. If the space wasn’t so cramped perhaps he would’ve already started a fight. But then again, too much energy would be wasted on such a trivial individual.

Rukawa leaned back against his seat, folding his arms against his chest as he recollected the development that led him to this 13 hour flight back to Japan.  The details were unclear but he remembered the dreams, the smidge of a familiar figure and the flash of red.  It had been consistent now; the remnants of a certain boisterous individual seem to find its way into his psyche.  At first they were just random memories, memories which reminded him of the growing attachments between him and the red head. Awkward stares, silent confessions and unwilling acceptance, all of which took about a year.  But the more he tried to resist his thoughts, the more apparent they come, like a wave of relentless memories suddenly washing over him. 

Rukawa stared down at the ticket in his hand. He sighed; his eyes hesitantly glance up at the screen across him as he covers his face with his hand in a weary manner. Rukawa furrowed his eyebrows, suddenly realizing the suggestion of his decision, as if he intended on chasing his past relationship.  Rukawa shook his head lightly, affirming to himself that that was far from his intention.

It had been 2 years since their split, knowing Sakuragi; the last thing he would want to see is Rukawa’s face back in Japan.

 It had been 2 years since he left Kanagawa and he never once thought about going back. Truth is, he intended to stay in America for as long as he could, or at least until he fulfilled his desired purpose. The decision to come back was a normal one, normal by most standards. Some nights Rukawa stood silently on his balcony, looking out into the iridescent night view of New York City as he took in the loud honking and wailing of sirens of the sleepless city. Some nights he would be reminded of the difference between Kanagawa and America, and some nights he would miss the simplicity of Japan and the more calm nature of the lifestyle.

 It was a month ago when he received a letter from home.  His parents had begged him to come home to visit since they missed their only son and demanded that he show his face for an upcoming family gathering.  He dismissed it at first, uninterested in the plans that his parents always persuaded him to do. 

He debated on it for a while, reassuring himself that going back would only slow his progress down. But maybe it was partly homesickness that made him purchase those damn flight tickets. Or maybe he was possessed. Either way, he promised himself that it would only be a short visit.

2 years was a long time to be away. He wondered about the people he knew, and wondered how much things did or didn’t change.

 “Excuse me,” a light tap quickly snapped him out from his thoughts. Rukawa blinked as he noticed the stewardess smiling at him brightly. “Can you lift your window covers up please? We’re about to land.” Rukawa lifted the covers as his eyes squinted at the sudden blinding light penetrating his window.

“Sir?  Wake up sir.” The stewardess tried to move the man next to Rukawa to wake up. With one swift motion, Rukawa elbowed the man awake. “Huh? What going on?” the droopy eyed man scanned his surroundings and noticed Rukawa looking deeply outside his window while the female attendant points to the illuminated seatbelt sign. “We’re landing now; please have your seat upright.” The man cursed irritably and positioned himself straight.

Rukawa Strapped his Nike bag on his shoulders as he stood amongst the streak of people chaotically reclaiming their luggage. “Excuse me, can you help me please?” A blonde –blue eyed girl helplessly tried to reach for her bag overhead. Rukawa grabbed the bag from the overhead compartment and handed the girl her red luggage bag. “Thanks.” She smiled politely before pausing momentarily to look carefully at her heroic stranger. Her eyes widened in admiration as she noted his handsome features and his strong build. Her cheeks went crimson red, and her eyes sparkle in instant fascination.

“Are you going to take this?” asked Rukawa plainly with the bag still in hand.

She took the bag quickly and proceeded to walk over to the exit as she secretly glanced back at Rukawa one last time, smiling cheekily before departing out of sight.

Rukawa walked steadily along the familiar streets of Kanagawa, secretly thankful that he managed to make it back just before noon. As he took in the sight of the familiar structures he thought about America and his first week adjusting to the energetic streets of New York. The noise, the people, the skyline, and the thrilling lifestyle were a lot to take in for a simple guy.  But slowly, he just became used to the city, the people and the culture. Still, there were times when he had found it difficult to adapt to a place where people were so informal.

For someone as reserved as Rukawa; it was step outside his comfort zone. Sure, he cherishes his personal space like any introvert would, but that does not make him an outright hermit.

 Settling down in a different country was one of the most challenging and awkward things Rukawa had been through in his life. Not to mention the inevitable need to adapt to their use of the English language.  He regretted not paying attention in English class before since he was always caught sleeping instead. Speaking to them was hard enough but speaking to them in a language that feels so distant to the tongue is not only cruel but embarrassing. For a while, it was terrifying but then it became like an option he was able to adjust.

Rukawa yawned, placing a hand to his mouth. His eyes scanned the surroundings as he stopped to see a familiar structure across the street. He approached the open gates of what seems to be a school. On the walls, a sign read, ‘Shohoku high school’. Rukawa stopped and stared at the old looking building. Up until now, he hadn’t really thought about what this school really meant to him. In the past, it didn’t matter where he decided to go; all he cared about was joining the basketball team. But looking at the place now, he wondered if he would have been the same if he went to Ryonan or Kainan instead.

 “R-Rukawa?” a female voice called out, her tone between questioning and disbelief. Rukawa turned to see a brown haired girl with bright brown eyes staring at him in genuine shock. Her eyes widened and her mouth hung open. He looked at her, his eyebrows furrowed as he desperately tried to remember her face.

‘Oh, it’s the captain’s sister…’ thought Rukawa finally, embarrassed that he couldn’t remember her name.

“You’re back!” Haruko stared wide eyed as she approached the tall figure. Rukawa simply nodded and looked down at the small girl. “It’s been a long time hasn’t it?”

“Something like that.”

“How’s America? Did you like it? ” asked the girl excitedly, her eyes beaming with eagerness and curiosity. Rukawa shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck uncertainly, “It’s...different.”

“That sounds exciting!” exclaimed Haruko, clapping her hands in a childish manner.

“How are you Rukawa? We didn’t hear much from you since you left for America.” 

Rukawa fidgets slightly, recalling his many fail attempts at mail posting. “Oh, I was busy…”

Haruko nodded, her smile still plastered on her lips. “Of course, I bet it wasn’t easy. The team still talks about how proud they were.”

“You should come and visit the others. Its Sakuragi’s last season in Shohoku and since Miyagi and Mitsui will stay for a final year; it’s their last season together.”

“Ah, I see,” said Rukawa thoughtfully.

Haruko stared at Rukawa, her eyes carefully trace his features; from his porcelain skin to his jet black hair that always seem to lightly cover his cobalt eyes. She noticed he still remained as handsome as ever and his expression still indifferent as when she first fell for him.  

The girl smiled at the raven-haired boy, happy at the prospect of his return. Rukawa sensed the gaze on him but awkwardly looked elsewhere hoping to break the uncomfortable stare.

Bzzz…Bzzz…

“Oh, I am late, “said Haruko as she stared down at her phone in her hand.  “It’s nice to see you again Rukawa,” she bowed politely, smiling cheerfully one last time before proceeded to walk away. He watched as she walked on, waving frantically as she did so, “Come visit us okay!”  Rukawa only managed to lift his hand up before the girl disappeared out of sight. He stood there briefly, processing what just happened before he continued to walk again.

 Before long, he reached a moderate looking house. He stood there, familiarizing with the house in front of him. He scanned the structure carefully as several thoughts circled his mind. He gripped his bag tightly and heaved a weighty sigh as he proceeded to enter the gate of the house.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

A glimpse into the abyss

 

Youhei sat casually at a cafe; his body slumped as he sipped on his freshly squeezed orange juice. His eyes followed the movement of a tall figure across the room, his gaze glued to the redhead as he attended to different tables, practically sprinting as he shifted from one table to another. ‘They must be shorthanded again’ he thought as he sighed at the sight of the redhead as he repetitively smiled, greeted and wrote down orders for different tables. Youhei couldn’t help but smirk at the unfamiliar sight, never once would he imagine that his friend would actually take up the challenge and take up a part time job. It’s not that he thought Sakuragi was incapable of such task, but considering his attitude he couldn’t really picture the redhead dedicating his time to anything but basketball. But now, look at him, if his friends betted on him years ago, they would’ve lost.

He understands why Sakuragi decided to occupy himself with jobs and activities since the past year had left him emotionally drained. Despite what the redhead might say or what his reason may be, there is no doubt that part of the reason of his sudden exertion on himself was so that he could focus on different things, different people and different environments. His main priority would always and continue to be the sport he loves but even that wasn’t enough to erase a lingering figure haunting his waking existence.

Distraction. That was what this was. Something, anything to divert his thoughts.  No matter how hard Sakuragi tried to bury the memory of a painful past, Youhei could somehow see the glimmer of grief that envelops the boisterous redhead. Even though it wasn’t technically a long relationship, he understood the complexity and influence that both Rukawa and Sakuragi had on one another.

Youhei watched as Sakuragi jokes with another co-worker, childishly snickering at a failed attempt of what could have been a good joke.

Youhei’s expression softened at the view of his cheerful friend. It’s surprising how much Sakuragi have changed, although subtly but the changes are there. He is still as energetic and brash but there is independence and maturity to his friend he couldn’t help but admire.

“Welcome!” Sakuragi grinned as two women entered the cafe; she jumped slightly, taken aback by the tall figure greeted in front of her. She stared at Sakuragi momentarily before she let out a smile, “table for two, please.” She gestured the number two with her fingers. Sakuragi nodded and scanned the room, noticing for the first time how crowded the cafe actually was. Sakuragi hesitated, quickly trying to observe any potential

 

He felt his cheeks tense as he watched Sakuragi repetitively greeted and smiled at customers entering the cafe.  He was scared that if Sakuragi grinned anymore his jaw might fall off.  Suddenly, the door swung open as a familiar figure entered the cafe. Sakuragi turned instantly to greet the person when he stopped, his smile curved wider than usual.

“Haruko!” he greeted cheerfully, waving at her in an excited manner.  She smiled at the redhead, waving her hand at him. “Hello, Sakuragi.”

“Youhei is over there,” he pointed at the table near the window. “My shift is almost done; I’ll join you guys soon.” Haruko nodded then proceeded to walk over to where Youhei is currently sitting. He smiled at her, waving his hand in a friendly gesture as he straightened his posture slightly. “Yo, Haruko.”

“Sakuragi looks pretty busy today.” She said, noticing the almost frantic movements of the redhead. “You know how it is with Hanamichi; he’s always so driven no matter what he does.” Youhei chuckled under his breath, imagining indestructible soldiers of Sakuragi’s marching in a substantial line with a threatening and unyielding scowl etched on his face.

“I’m glad he’s enjoying his work.” Haruko said optimistically. “You mean, you’re glad he managed to forget about Rukawa, right?” Youhei continued which made Haruko’s expression drop, her eyes instantly widened and unblinking as she suddenly remembered her earlier encounter. Youhei immediately noticed this and cast a questioning look at the girl, waving his hand in front of her face.  When Haruko snapped out of her trance her expression gradually knotted into a guilty one, her eyes softened apologetically as she remembered her conversation with the raven haired boy.

“Youhei, “Haruko started as she motioned him to come slightly closer. Youhei cocked his head and leaned his body slightly forward, tilting his head ever so slightly to listen in.  “I saw Rukawa today.” She said in a low whispering tone. Youhei’s eyes immediately widened at the news as he leaned backwards sharply. “What?”

“Rukawa is back, I talked to him earlier.” Haruko repeated herself, her voice still in a hushed tone. “You’re sure it was him?” he questioned seriously. The girl nodded confidently, “I am not wrong, I recognize that face anywhere.” A light blush crept on Haruko’s cheeks as she recalled the familiar handsome features of her past fantasy.  Youhei rolled his eyes at her reaction, detesting the look of admiration on her face.  “Fine, I get it.”  He said bitterly, his voice expressing a light tinge of jealousy.

“We can’t tell Hanamichi...”

“Tell me what?” As if on cue, Sakuragi chimed in as he took an empty chair and sat down. Haruko and Youhei was caught off guard by the sudden presence and tried anxiously to cover the obvious apprehensive look on their faces.

“We can’t tell you that you’re such a genius!” said Youhei, internally slapping himself in the face for coming up such a lame cover up.

“Yeah, because it’s so obvious, who doesn’t know that?” Haruko continued, fuelling the sorry excuse for an explanation.  But for some reason it seemed to work as Sakuragi confidently puts his hands on his waist and grinned proudly and began to laugh hysterically, “Of course, I’m glad you guys finally understand me.” ‘Thank God his ego is the size of his foot’ Youhei thought reassuringly.

“Oh Haruko, did you know Youhei bought a car?” said Sakuragi excitedly.

“Wow, really?” she replied, surprised. “You did? That’s great, it must be expensive.”

Sakuragi nodded, “he worked his butt off at that damn job of his, and he deserved it.”

Youhei smiled at his friend, “It’s time to invest on a good vehicle anyway, and the old vespa couldn’t afford to take anymore abuse.”

Haruko chuckled at the thought of the old, run down vehicle Youhei had since first year and the sheer endurance of such vehicle even after being able to support five guys on one seating.

 “Do you have practice today, Hanamichi?” asked Youhei. Sakuragi stood up from his seat as quickly as he sat down when he suddenly remembered his usual practice schedule with the basketball club. “I’m late!” he wailed.

“I’ll drive?” Youhei dangled the car key temptingly in front of him as a wide grin slowly stretched the redhead’s cheeks. “Come on Haruko, come with us.” Sakuragi motioned her to follow them. “We get to experience Youhei’s bad driving first hand.”

“Are you sure?” asked the girl hesitantly. Youhei grabbed her hand and gently pulled her over to them, “Yes!”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rukawa yawned as he shifted in his comfortable bed; his bloodshot eyes wearily scanned his surroundings. He sighed as he felt his tired body unable to lift itself up from its natural position. ‘Ugh, jetlagged.” He thought as he glanced wearily at the clock sitting on the table next to him.  The time read: 8:30 am.

Suddenly, a knock came knocking on his door. Rukawa stayed silent, too tired to answer, too tired to care. The door lightly creaked open revealing a middle aged woman with dark black hair, her expression slightly weary but at the same time somehow still carried a sense of youthfulness to her that thread between the lines of old and youth.

“Are you awake yet?” the woman said lowly, careful not to wake her son in case he was still sleeping. Rukawa buried his head under his pillow in an attempt to block out the ray of light penetrating through his room and the sound of intrusion of his mother. He groaned in despair as his mum tiptoed into his room, lifting her head ever so gently.

“Kaede?” she hummed in a cheerful tone.

“I’m up, I’m up.” He said, raising his hand in assurance. His mother smiled brightly at the response of his son, “breakfast is ready for you so come join us okay.” Rukawa nodded, his head still buried deep in the comfort of his pillow. One of the things that he missed about living alone in America is definitely the privacy that comes with it.

He raised himself up and started to pandiculate before hesitantly dragging himself out of bed and headed to the bathroom where he rid himself of the germs that he managed to collect from the flight yesterday. He slipped on his usual grey hoddie and black varsity jacket covering over it with dark blue jeans to match his stylish appearance. If there was anything he managed to take back with him from America, it is definitely the fashion sense. Usually he would go for the simplistic, but since curiosity got the better of him, why fight it?

He entered the dining room and was greeted with two surprised looking parents.

“Wh-what are you wearing?” asked his father in a not so casual tone. His parents know him well enough to know that his fashion sense was usually simple and to the point, but now he looked as if he had finished a modelling shoot and ran way with the clothes.

“It’s American.”

“Well, that’s different.” His mother added. Rukawa shrugged at their reaction and sat down on the chair. They said their blessings and ate an array of delicious food prepared on the table.  

“How long are you staying, Kaede?” asked his mother.

“Two weeks.”

“Oh, that’s short.” She said disappointedly. Rukawa shrugged and said, “I can’t be away too long, I need to get back and train.”

“Isn’t this your home?” said his father as he raised a questioning eyebrow at his son. 

“Yes, but I can’t come home if I’ve not reached my goal.”

His parents looked at each other; their expression mirrored a worried frown. “I’m sure a long needed vacation is ideal then.”

Rukawa shot his father an ominous look as soon as the words escaped his mouth. Without words, his father lifts both his hands up in a hesitant stance and cleared his throat.

“There are other important things than basketball, you know!” Rukawa’s mother shot up suddenly, her eyebrows crumpled in frustration at her only son. Rukawa stared at his mother momentarily realizing the seriousness of the atmosphere and the inconsiderate words that they managed to hurl at him since his arrival. Rukawa stood up, his tall figure towering over his parents. “Thank you for the food.” He managed to say before picking up his bag and headed to the front door.

“Kaede!” his father shouted from the dining room but it was too late, Rukawa had already slipped through the gate and out of the tension filled house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Close Encounter

 

Youhei leaned against the wall of the gymnasium, his attention absentmindedly fixed on the centre of the court where figures move against each other. He watched Sakuragi swiftly dribble the ball, gracefully dodging every other challenger blocking him.

“Sakuragi has been improving a lot, hasn’t he?” a voice chimed in beside him. Youhei looked to the left to see Haruko standing next to him, smiling at the energetic redhead with a proud glint in her eye. Youhei nodded at her words and the improvement his friend noticeably made over the years.

“Sakuragi! Pass!” a teammate shouted, signalling his free hand. Sakuragi nodded and expertly mauver his position, passing the ball to his free teammate.

“Go Takamune!” Sakuragi cheered with confidence.

“And an astounding team player too,” Haruko added with a meaningful curl on her lips. Youhei smiled sincerely at the comment, for the first time acknowledging the truth in the fact that his friend really has changed. It’s a miracle to most to see the difference a year or so could do to even someone as coarse as Sakuragi Hanamichi, but as much as people doubt his potential, he has so much to offer, so many sides to him that surprise people day by day. Confidence is a trait Sakuragi have an abundance of and it’s his confidence and sincerity that ultimately moves people. It even moved the popular, impenetrable icy Rukawa. Okay, maybe moving him was an understatement since it did more than just that.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” Haruko chimed in, turning her attention to Youhei, her eyes slightly concern. “I mean, it’s been 2 years since Rukawa and—“she stopped, unable to continue her sentence. If he was honest, he wouldn’t know how Sakuragi would react if he were to casually bump into him. Sure, it was easy to predict his response before back then but with these new improvements to his character, he couldn’t really tell and that kind of scares him.

“I don’t really know how to answer that,” Youhei answered honestly. “For the first time, I don’t know how he’ll react.”

Haruko stayed silent briefly before turning her attention to Youhei, “whatever happens, he won’t have to face it alone.” Her blue eyes gently reassuring him. Youhei fidgets slightly under the girl’s gaze, feeling his cheeks suddenly emitting some heat. His eyes modestly move down to meet hers as they stood there entranced in each other’s gaze. Beautiful blue smiled at him and he swears to this day that he’s never seen anything as captivating and compassionate as hers.

“Are you guys okay?” a voice chimed in immediately breaking out from their day dream.

“Oh, practice ended already? That was fast.”

“Well, not really, Ryo-chin let us go 10 minutes ago. I kind of just waited for you guys to finish...” Sakuragi eyes them suspiciously, “whatever it is you’re doing.”

Haruko furiously blushed at the suggestion. Sakuragi snickered at their reactions, amused at the tension growing between them. “Come on, I’m hungry,” Sakuragi smiled, walking towards the exit of the gymnasium. “Youhei is paying for dinner today.”

Youhei’s eyes widened at the declaration, “wait, what? Again?”

Sakuragi laughed a boisterously as he walked out of the gymnasium with Haruko and Youhei following behind.

 

 

Sitting on a street bench, Rukawa Kaede finds himself surrounded by the soothing setting of the sun melting into a moonlit star-studded canvas. The air crisp and sharp, an atmosphere he missed after so long. New York was beautiful in its own right but perhaps there was something about Kanagawa that even a fast paced and fancy lifestyle couldn’t replace.  He gazed up the sky, breathing in clear air. “2 weeks...” he whispered, breathing out slowly. “Just 2 weeks” that was all he needed to relieve this inconvenient feeling of homesickness.

He thought about his parents and the squabble they had earlier today. Maybe it was slightly of a dramatic exit but their words really did strike a nerve. Basketball was never an ideal career path his parents planned for him, no, it didn’t hold too much prestige in their mind to merit approval. From a young age, they had exposed him to the idea of becoming someone more ‘relevant’ and ‘respectable’ but he was never interested in the idea of imposed futures or any of the sort. For as long as he could remember, basketball never stopped being his priority, a dream he wanted and promised to fulfil.

He realized that being good enough was never going to be a good enough standard. He wanted more out of basketball; he wanted to play in the big leagues in America, to be better, to be recognized for his skill as a sportsman outside Japan. Few get to experience that success but then again, few had his passion and that was a huge difference.  Besides, being 21 years old now is a mature enough age for him to at least make his own decisions.

Bzz Bzz

Rukawa’s slid his hands into his pocket for his phone, swiping at the one unread text message notification on his screen.

‘Kaede, are you coming home for dinner?’ – Mum

Rukawa looked down at his watch and slides his phone back into his pocket. He stood up, picking the orange ball sitting next to him. As much as he likes to contemplate his life longer, his stomach seems to detest the idea.

 “You always do this Hanamichi!” a familiar voice chimed in. The familiarity of the voice and the name sends a strange sensation in Rukawa’s chest, He scanned his surroundings, trying to pin point the source of the voice.

 “I’ll pay you back if you let me drive your car,” Sakuragi grinned sheepishly at his friend. 

 “Fine,” replied Youhei, dejectedly with his arms folded against his chest. “But you better take care of that car, and don’t tell Noma I lend it to you either.”

“Sure, “Sakuragi agreed. “But you know, I bet Haruko thought you were a real gentleman for paying for dinner,” Sakuragi said teasingly. Youhei blushed at that and cleared his throat.

Sakuragi chuckled at Youhei’s immediate change of colour on his cheeks.

Rukawa eye the two figures from the distant approaching his direction, the distinctive colour of red stood out from the two.

Rukawa stopped dead in his tracks, finding it difficult to move. It felt as though his legs were frozen to the ground. His first instinct was to act natural and unfazed by the situation. A normal Rukawa tactic. For the first time in a long time, Seeing Sakuragi and being able to hear his voice after 2 long years, he felt a sudden sense of dread mix with longing wash over him. Rukawa realizes the reality of the situation and that this was more than just a scenario he visualises in his mind. No, this was actually happening. Imagining the situation is different from actually experiencing it. Sure, confronting familiar faces was always on the agenda but to see them this quick was frankly quite intimidating.

“Oh, wait, my shoelaces. Here, hold this,” Sakuragi stopped and hands Youhei his duffel bag as he kneels down on one knee to tie his disruptive shoe laces.  

Suddenly, blue eyes met jet black ones as their gaze lock momentarily in a stare.  Mito Youhei, Sakuragi’s best friend caught sight of him with a stern and an unsurprising look in his eyes, a gaze fierce yet protective as if Rukawa was somehow a thief out to steal away  something precious. Youhei’s reaction shows no sign of surprise, instead, it was one that was akin to expectancy. As if he always knew they would cross paths.

“Youhei, are you okay?” Sakuragi said, cocking his head to the side.

“Hanamichi, I think this is the wrong way,” Youhei quickly turned his friend the opposite direction, pushing him forward in a frantic manner. Sakuragi raised his eyebrows questioningly, “But the car park is—“

“I’m still kind of hungry,” Youhei lied, insistently pushing the redhead away from the bench where Rukawa stood. They were so close now that if Sakuragi were to pay attention a bit more he could surely spot the blue eyes staring at them.

“You ate one bowl less than me, how could you still be hungry?”

“Come on, help a friend out.”

“But Youhei, I’m tired after practice—“

 “Hanamichi, please!” Stunned by Youhei’s sudden urgency, Sakuragi nodded and walked towards to the direction of the city. Youhei glanced over his shoulder to still see Rukawa planted firmly on the ground with his eyes fixed on the oblivious redhead. Youhei sighs under his breath and pats Sakuragi’s back, “I’ll buy drinks too.”

Sakuragi grinned at the shorter man as his eyes lit up briefly before he stopped and narrowed them questioningly at his friend, “I’m not washing your car, though.”

Youhei chuckled softly, shaking his head, “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t want you to either.”

Rukawa watched as the two figures disappeared out of sight. He relaxed and heaved a sigh of relief at the close encounter. Whatever confidence or notion he had before this meeting quickly disappeared and in its place was an anticipation of a foreboding future confrontation.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sakuragi stirred uncomfortably under his blanket, grunting groggily at his now ringing alarm clock. Caught in a weird sushi roll of blankets, he grumpily and blindly feels around for his clock to turn it off.

“Nggh, noisy noisy...” he mumbled incoherently, closing his eyes tighter, burrowing his head deeper underneath the blanket to avoid the ray of light slowly penetrating through the windows. Before he could settle peacefully, the second wave of alarm echoed loudly making Sakuragi tense in frustration. He jolted up and glared at the innocent object, his tired eyes twitching slightly.

Sakuragi sighed in defeat, accepting the fact that his own clock wouldn’t let him continue to rest. He yawned, rubbed his eyes sleepily as he glanced at the clock properly for the time. His eyes widened as soon as he read the time on the clock which read, 10:00 am.  Shock ran through him just as quickly as reality sets in.

But before he could move, the phone rang.

“Sakuragi!” the voice was stern and furious, “You have any idea what time is it?”  Sakuragi bolted up at the familiar voice on the other line, his awareness now heightened as he glanced at the clock. Oh great, it’s the boss.

“Uh...” before even finishing his sentence, Sakuragi was cut off by a cold reply, “You’re supposed to start at 8:00 Am.”

Sakuragi winced at the sudden realization. Today, out of all days was a bad day to be late.

“If you don’t come to work this instant, you’ll be working double shifts for a year.” The voice affirmed firmly. “Oh, since you’re late today, you’re going to be taking Ichiya’s shift tomorrow.” With that last threatening response, the line goes immediately dead.

Sakuragi sighs as he groaned at his unfortunate predicament. He was not prepared for this, he had hoped to squeeze some rigorous basketball practice session with Miyagi today since he was supposed to finish earlier than most days today. Not to mention, he was intending to ask for a week off from work but now that seems unlikely. He glanced at the clock again, wondering why of all days was he late for work today. He groaned at the sudden throbbing headache and the dizzy sensation. Wait, a hangover? Sakuragi shakes his head in an attempt to clear his blurry vision. He recalled snippets, disjointed memories of laughter, a glass poured to the brim and him chugging down in one shot. He remembered Youhei, his cheeks red with heat but still able to maintain a cool posture. He distinctly remembers falling down and rolling around happily.

“Oh, that's right...” he thought to himself, remembering last night’s events.

He was never a graceful or cool drunk, though, that was always Youhei. He’s either a careless-bubbling drunk or a giddy drunk which is less classy when you’re on a date. Sakuragi sighs, internally blaming Youhei for his now predicament. It was his idea to get drinks til the ungodly hours of the night. What was his deal exactly? Did Youhei want to poison him something? Youhei was acting uncharacteristically adamant of getting drinks. Typically it’s not strange but there was a particular worry in his expression that bothered the redhead.

He remembered Youhei’s persistence and the almost avoidant gesture he gave off, the kind of non-verbal language he gives when he was either upset about something or he was hiding something. Sakuragi shook his head, “he probably wanted me to be too wasted to forget about borrowing his car.” He scoffed, “Well guess what buddy, I wouldn’t forget even if I am brain dead.”

Sakuragi untangled himself from his blankets and slowly picked himself up. Still, in a light daze, the red head walked carelessly towards the bathroom.

 

 

Youhei entered the cafe; his eyes scanned the room only to suddenly be greeted by a familiar tall figure looking rather disappointedly at him. “Can I help you, sir?”

“Hanamichi?  I thought you’re off today?” asked Youhei. Sakuragi narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Youhei. “Apparently, I was too drunk the night before to even know anymore.”

Youhei scratched his head nervously, “sorry about that, It was fun though right?”

Sakuragi grumbled under his breath, crossing his arms at his friend.  “Since I’m here, can I get a seat?”

Sakuragi nodded and pointed to the table in front of the counter. “You can order from Makoto, I’ll have a few orders to take first. Youhei nodded and walked towards the long table and take his seat. A handsome man with light brown hair waved at him, a bright smile etched on his features. 

“Yo, Youhei, long time no see.” Makoto greeted, waving at him.

The night went on as usual with more customers coming in and out every hour.

He never realized how packed the cafe could be since he’s usually off duty on the weekends. Weekdays could be a handful but Saturday’s was a nightmare to keep track. He could hardly catch his breath when the bell of the door keeps chiming in with a wave of customers waiting and waving for attention.  “I had no idea it was this crazy on Saturday,” said Sakuragi, standing beside his other two co-workers, Makoto and Riku.

“Looks like you’re late for the party, Sakuragi.” Riku raised his eyebrows at him. Sakuragi simply stared at him, confused.

“What he means is that,” Makoto started, “We get a lot of people around this time since we’re the only cafe that close so late. Besides, young couples like our cafe best for their date on the weekends since we close late anyway.”

“couples?” now that he scanned his surroundings, there seem to be more couples occupying the space.

Sakuragi quickly shrugged the thought deciding that it was not his business to run and he wasn’t all that surprised considering how much of a money hungry asshole the owner could be.

 “Don’t you ever take your date to a nice restaurant, Sakuragi?” Makoto pat Sakuragi’s pack considerately.”

Sakuragi stayed silent, unsure how to approach the question. Makoto looks at Sakuragi, his eyes widened in realization.

“Wait, don’t tell me you’ve never...”

Sakuragi blushed at the thought and shot up immediately.

“I-I have!” said Sakuragi defensively, his voice stuttering slightly. Makoto and Riku smiled teasingly at his reaction.

“Hnn...” Makoto hummed, interested. “What did you do on your first date? Knowing you, you’d probably bring her to a cheap diner and tried your best to look cool.”

Sakuragi’s face dropped as he thought about his first real- actual –date. He wished he could say it was Haruko then it would’ve been easier to brag about it in times like this. But instead, he remembers the awkward ‘date’ with Rukawa at Denny’s and his sorry attempt at trying to look cool and put together when he was anything but cool that night.

“I...I guess you could say that.” Sakuragi chuckled, trying to play it off as a funny memory.

“Trust,” Riku commented as he bumps his fist lightly on Sakuragi’s shoulders.

“Hey, Youhei, what was she like?” Makoto leaned in and asked casually. Youhei nearly choked on his sandwich at the question.

“She?” Youhei asked to which Makoto nodded and winked teasingly at Sakuragi who was now standing surprisingly straight and still. Clearing his throat, Youhei gazed up at Makoto.  “Why are you asking me?”

“You’re his best friend, you know everything about him.” Makoto said plainly, folding his arms against his chest confidently. Youhei sat still, eyeing Sakuragi’s defensive body language. He understood full well that the subject is not something he talks about casually, considering the turmoil it left him.

“Who knows, “Youhei shrugged. “He’s been on a few dates; you’re going to have to be more specific.

Makoto frowned, disappointed at the vague answer.

They watched happy couples as they ate, talk and shared awkward moments together. Some couples were successful than others, stupidly gawking at each other and holding hands without any regard to their surroundings.

Makoto sighs dreamily, “Have you ever shared something so beautiful with someone?”

Sakuragi and Riku stayed silent momentarily before Riku commented with, “You mean like when I share that pie with you?”

Sakuragi chuckled and Makoto wrinkled his brows at Riku, “Hey, it's serious question okay.”

Riku shrugged, “I guess I’ve dated a few girls here and there but none really stuck to me.”

“Sakuragi?” Makoto prodded. Sakuragi kept silent, averting his eyes from Makoto, twitching slightly. The question sends a strange feeling in his chest, a sudden feeling of tightness as he remembers his sorry excuse for a love life.  It’s been 2 years now since everything happened, and that’s a long enough time to be reeling from a pathetic heartbreak. If he wants to forget about him and move on, talking about him shouldn’t affect him anymore.

“Oi, “Youhei interjected, “mind your own business, it has nothing to do with you.” Sakuragi stared at Youhei, surprised at his quick interruption.

“I was only --,” Makoto stopped when he saw Youhei’s glare at him, his intense eyes bore into Makoto’s green ones.

“Its okay, Youhei, it’s not a big deal.” Sakuragi places his hand on Youhei’s shoulder, comforting him to which Youhei just look up at Sakuragi. He needs to talk to Youhei about this outburst later.

“Yeah, sure, I’ve been in a serious relationship before, “he said plainly as if it’s nothing important. Both Makoto and Riku watched him silently, their eyes eager for more information.

 “Yeah, and?” Makoto raised an eyebrow, “what kind of woman have you dated Sakuragi? I’m curious.” His lips turned into a mischievous grin.

“Does it matter?” Sakuragi feels his cheeks turn slightly warm, shifting his feet awkwardly, a habit he tends to do when he’s uncomfortable. As much as he hates to admit it, there is a part of him that still feels bitter and heartbroken about the situation. He figures it’s because he still doesn’t fully understand Rukawa’s reasons. I guess he could take it as it is with Rukawa being a jerk and he wasn’t ever serious, but then, somehow, after reflecting on it properly, sometimes Sakuragi wonders if there was more to it.    

“Why are you guys interested anyway?”  Youhei added, eyeing the two suspiciously.

Makoto and Riku froze at the question, “Oh, you know, just curious.” Youhei and Sakuragi looked at each other, their eyebrows raised skeptically at the two.

“Excuse me,” a Man called out, “we need some service, please.”

“Over here too!” a woman raises her hand to get their attention. With that, both Riku and Makoto quickly rush to the customer, bowing apologetically when they reach their table.

Youhei sighs as he rests his palm on his cheek, relieved that the conversation stopped before anything gets out of control. He then steals a glance at Sakuragi who was wiping the counter in front of him, “Hanamichi, “he began.

“Are you okay?” ask Youhei, nothing but sincere worry in his voice. Sakuragi grinned, giving him the thumbs up.

“I’m serious.”

“I’m fine, nothing's wrong,” Sakuragi reassured his friend.

“So you’re fine with....you know?” Youhei prodded. Sakuragi stopped momentarily but shrugged at the question. “Look Youhei,  it’s been ages since and don’t you think I have important things to focus on right now? I don’t have time to think of something that happened years ago.

‘Wow, he’s matured more than I thought,’ Thought Youhei, staring at his friend with a new sense of admiration. Maybe he’s been thinking too much about how past Sakuragi would react that he didn’t even consider how the now, current Sakuragi would think about it. And now, it seems that he’s been worrying for nothing. Sure the past Sakuragi might give head butts and demolish a house but this Sakuragi might accept situations and the outcome of things better.

“Say, Hanamichi,” Youhei continued, biting his lip in indecision. “What if, if Rukawa came back to Japan. You know, if he just suddenly came back. “

“I’ll kill him,” Sakuragi growls lowly, his fist shaking at the thought. Youhei leaned back, surprised. Youhei sweat dropped at that, erasing the too optimistic view of his friend. Oh, where did all the maturity go?

“Okay, you’re pretty clear on that.” Youhei chuckled.

Sakuragi sighs, his demeanor serious, “Youhei, why do I feel like you’re keeping something from me?”

Youhei paused as he considers. Should he tell him? There's only so long before he bumps into Rukawa anyway and letting him know now is better than letting him know later. Whatever his reaction may be, Youhei figures Sakuragi deserves to at least know the truth.

“Hanamichi, there's something I want to talk to you about.”

“Oh...” noticing the sudden seriousness in Youhei’s posture and voice, Sakuragi nods to pay attention. But before Youhei could go on any further, a voice called out to the redhead, “Oi, what are you doing goofing off there! There’s a customer waiting!”

Sakuragi shot up and bowed apologetically, “Ah, sorry, we’ll talk later okay.”

“Someone will be with you in a minute,” Makoto smiled, the customer simply nodded and continues to scan the menu.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, “Sakuragi apologized as he takes out his mini notebook. “So, what will—“his sentence trailed off midsentence as soon as he looks up. A pair of familiar cobalt blue eyes stared back at him, any hint of surprise or shock absent from his expression. At that moment, Sakuragi could feel his soul escape his body; a wave of numbness devoured his senses. All thought, motion ceased as he turned pale at the sight of the man in front of him. His eyes widened in disbelief, “Y-you’re...”

Rukawa’s waits for his reaction, his eyes never leaving the redhead.  He knows confronting this head on and revealing himself was probably silly, it’s like starting a war that could easily be avoided. If he avoided the key places for a bit longer then the chances of meeting the redhead are slim to none. It was doable, but in some sense, that would make him a coward.

“You look just like someone I know,” said Sakuragi finally to which Rukawa lightly scoffs.

“Actually, you look exactly like him.” Sakuragi moved in closer, leaning his head closer to Rukawa to inspect him. Surprised by the sudden proximity, Rukawa leaned back slightly, his eyes trained on the curious redhead. Rukawa swallowed thickly, taking in the familiarity of the man. It’s been a long time since he’s been this close to Sakuragi and he forgets how much that made his heart race.

Sakuragi let out a forced laugh, immediately shaking his head, “That’s impossible, that’s impossible.”

“You’re not him,” said Sakuragi as he patted Rukawa’s back, “he left. There’s no way that-“

Rukawa simply looked at him, unflinching, “D’oahou.”

With that one simple word, Sakuragi feels everything come crashing down. “R-Rukawa?”  A question, a question he wishes he was wrong about. But Rukawa casually replied with a “Humph, took you long enough.”

“Rukawa!” Sakuragi shouted which perked the interest of everyone in the cafe. “What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here!” Sakuragi growled.

Rukawa simply shrugged, “Last time I checked, I live here.”

“Don’t get cocky with me!” Sakuragi grabbed Rukawa’s shirt collar, his fist shaking.

“Sakuragi, what are you doing attacking the customer!” Makoto panicked, shocked by the sight. Riku clasped his hand to his mouth, interested at the predicament before him. The whole restaurant watched on in concern with the girls generally taking notice of Rukawa, obviously completely smitten by his handsome face while the boys look on in curiosity, generally excited about a potential fight.

“Hanamichi, “a voice came from behind that immediately calm the redhead. Sakuragi turned his head and saw Youhei putting a gentle hand on his shoulders, his eyes pleading. Sakuragi dropped his gaze to the ground, analyzing the situation, collecting his thoughts in the process. He looked at Rukawa, his icy blue eyes bore into Sakuragi’s brown orbs. Then, slowly, he looked back at his best friend and suddenly everything makes sense.

Releasing his grip on Rukawa, he turned to Youhei; his eyes spoke the language of betrayal.  “Youhei,” Sakuragi started, “You knew, all this time.”

Youhei kept silent and nodded, avoiding Sakuragi’s gaze.  Sakuragi closed his eyes, taking in the disappointment. Sakuragi sighs and regains his composure.

“Makoto, “Sakuragi called out, “I’m going home.”

Perplexed and confused by the redhead’s bizarre behavior, he opened his mouth to protest but a hand appeared to stop him. He looked beside him to find Youhei shaking his head, a silent indication to just let it go.

Rukawa watched as Sakuragi left the restaurant and ignored his presence. He sighs as he sat back down in his chair. He anticipated Sakuragi’s reaction and didn’t doubt his ability to dramatize a situation but at least he was free from hiding, free from wondering if they’re going to meet the next corner. Sure, it’s a trivial matter, and usually, he would not care but somehow, this time, it’s different.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6:  We don’t talk anymore

 

'I overdosed
Should've known your love was a game
Now I can't get you out of my brain
Oh, it's such a shame'

 

There are only a few things that Sakuragi Hanamichi hates besides losing. He hates being vulnerable, he hates being betrayed and he hates Rukawa Kaede. Well, hate is a strong word but anything less would be an understatement at the moment. Walking on the uneven road, Sakuragi sighs deeply. It’s been a few days since he ignored Youhei’s calls and he had called in sick often enough that he’s sure he’ll be fired by the end of the week.

But he couldn’t go back there. Not after...

A pair of icy blue eyes flashes through his mind, its familiarity scares him. He stared at those eyes too much in the past that he particularly had it memorized. And after all this time, it still affects him.

It shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be affecting him like this, right now. He won that battle, right?

Sakuragi clenched his fist at the thought. The thought of betrayal, the thought of being so vulnerable by the ghost of his past, by the only person you once thought you could trust your soul with. That once innocent and beautiful person tainted by the cold betrayal of a lack of explanation and an abrupt departure.

He admits, the reaction he had at the restaurant was less than ideal. It did occur to the redhead that if he were to meet Rukawa, he imagined his reaction would be calm and suave as if his presence didn’t affect him like he used to. Two years had given him that time and space he needed to weed him out of his life. How could he confront Rukawa now?

If he’s honest with himself, he’s sad than he is angry, more hurt than he is bitter. The fact that Rukawa was so casual about just coming back and meeting proves more than anything, that it was a one sided frustration. Yet again, he is reminded of how much his efforts and his commitment was insignificant, especially to someone like him.

As much as he’d like to, he couldn’t erase those moments they had, not really. As abrupt as it was, it was still one of the only and longest official relationships he had with anyone. After months of subtle pursuing it feels awful to know it didn’t mean anything considering how much denial, confusion and secrecy they had to endure to get up to this point.

What was it all for then?

Bitter feelings aside, the relationship had been an experience regardless. If he were to reminisce on the good things instead, there had been plenty. Rukawa wasn’t the most romantic person out there as far as verbal communication was concerned but it is evident that he cared through gestures and actions.

“He was always a man of action,” Sakuragi sighs, smirking lightly.

 The small lingering gaze Rukawa would give him never fails to make him shiver, or how he would, without warning, hold his hand. The affectionate contact still makes him swell up with happiness every time he thought about it.

He missed the conversations, however insignificant it is. In his own way, Rukawa did know how to calm him or motivate him. One of the perks of having an above average boyfriend I guess. There is a certain comfort being with him, an unspoken bond that they share. It’s like how you understand someone without having to actually say or tell them.

Sakuragi smiles at the memory, his expression soften as he slowly regrets the reactive aggression towards the blue eyed boy.

“Why is it so easy for you?” Sakuragi mumbled, leaning dolefully against the lone bench. He wonders why he’s so hung up on this; it wasn’t as if they were married. It wasn’t as if he cheated, at least he didn’t think so. It’s not as if he still love him, right?

Right?

 “Ah this is so confusing!” Sakuragi clenches his teeth, cursing at the night sky and the God’s above for being so unfair with him.

“You shouting at the moon again, ahou?” a familiar voice called out. Startled, Sakuragi finds Rukawa Kaede looking down on him, with a bag of groceries in one hand.

“R-Rukawa!”

“I forgot how dramatic you are,” Rukawa smirked at the red head.

Wh-what are you doing here!”

“I’m trying to go home?” Rukawa answered questioningly, “you do remember I live around here right?”

Sakuragi stopped breathing at the familiarity of his surroundings. His cheeks turned a subtle shade of scarlet at the realization. He must’ve accidently wander here when he was deep in thought.

“I...I knew that!”

Rukawa approached the red head and stood beside him to which Sakuragi inched further away.

“Have you come to stalk me?”

Sakuragi’s cheeks turned scarlet red at the suggestion as he frantically tries to deny the suggestion.

“No, what? Are you kidding? It’s a public space I came here to clear my head!”

Rukawa chuckled at the redhead’s reaction, amused at how frantic and flushed he’s being.

“Something on your mind?”

“None of your business,” Sakuragi replied immediately, face turned away with arms crossed.

“Ah, you’re still mad at me?”

Silence

“You’re still mad at me.”

Rukawa sighs at the one sided communication, slightly impatient. He wanted to talk but this rejection is really starting to really get to him. 

“Look,” Rukawa started, “you have a right to be mad but after 2 years I thought you’d get over it”

His words came out colder than intended but he surprisingly has little patience for Sakuragi’s attitude. He didn’t mind leaving without a word at first but the rejection annoyed him more than anything. After the confrontation, he thought that at least there would be some initiation. 2 years was a long time to get over a breakup and even though he knew how stubborn Sakuragi could get, he didn’t think his reaction would irritate him like this.

“Just go away!”  Sakuragi said through gritted teeth.

“You know, I expected better from you.”

“Is that how you did it Rukawa? You just got over it?” Sakuragi shouted back, releasing every ounce of reserved frustration.

“Don’t talk like you know everything.” Rukawa’s tone was low but stern, his sharp gaze penetrated through Sakuragi’s brown orbs. Sakuragi finds himself taken aback by the intensity of it, partly intimidated.

“If you’re going to be like this, then fine, be like this. I’m leaving in a few days so you don’t have to worry about seeing me around.”

 Rukawa walked away, seething inside with frustration. As the sound of distant footsteps fades, Sakuragi relaxed as he let his body tremble. Tears clouding his vision trickle down his cheeks, little by little until it drenched his face. He sobbed quietly under the night sky.  

Sakuragi’s heart aches at the thought, he knew he was struggling with reconciling his feelings alone but to actually confirm it hurts more than he imagined. After all this time, Rukawa didn’t care, never cared and will not care. The worst part is, after all the stubbornness and bravado, deep down he still care after all and that scares him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: The truth is

 

The next day seem to resume normally much to Sakuragi’s pleasure. He entered the café, back slumped and distracted. “Yo, Hanamichi,” Makoto greeted him casually with Riku standing beside him.

“Hey, “He answered, putting on his uniform. “So, are you going to tell us what the heck that was the other day?” Sakuragi sighs, looked at them and shrugged, “He’s just some guy I used to…” “Used to?” Riku perked up, his eyes eager. Sakuragi stops and paused, “used to go to school with! What the heck are you guys thinking?” With that, the co-workers face dropped with disappointment. “You’re lying!” “Why the heck would I lie!” “Then why make such a big deal about it! You caused a drama here,” Makoto said as a matter of factly. “That level of tension could only be explained by some sort of deep hatred or regret or something…” Sakuragi swallows hard, sweating slightly from the absurd accusation. He didn’t really want to tell anyone about his relationship with Rukawa, not like this. “You know who he is do you?” Riku interjected. “Of course I do! I told you we used to go to the same school together!” “Yeah,” Riku waved dismissively, “so then you know who HE really is?”

“What?”

“He’s Rukawa Kaede!” Riku leaned in closer, his eyes beaming. “He looked familiar before but I wasn’t sure but now I am. He is THE Rukawa Kaede.” Sakuragi raised an eyebrow, confused. “I’ve heard stories about him, never met him. But as far as I know, he’s a basketball legend in Shohoku.” Said Makoto, touching his chin thoughtfully. Sakuragi let out a sarcastic smirk, “you guys must be big fans.” “YES!” both boys shouted at the same time with earnest expression in their eyes which immediately caught the redhead off guard. “For a guy, he’s pretty handsome too,” Sakuragi snapped his attention towards Makoto, trying his best to keep a straight face.

“Yeah, he’s really popular with the ladies but I won’t be surprised if he’s popular with the men as well.” Sakuragi’s heart freezes and he feels a hollow feeling in his gut, he feels slightly sick. The words are harmless but he feels like someone is squeezing his heart. He keeps silent, unsure of how he should react anyway. Normally he would deny it all and begin to boast about how he is better but somehow, right now, he couldn’t even shrug it off or laugh it off. He couldn’t deny it because it’s true. Rukawa is popular with the ladies and the men. Women find him beautiful while the men ogle his determination and skills. By all accounts, Rukawa is better than him.

Sakuragi’s known this truth a long time and he’s able to deny and bury that truth every time. But for some reason, today, he couldn’t. He looked down at his hands and remembers the first time he held hands with Rukawa. He noted how warm Rukawa feels despite his cold exterior. It was awkward at first, they were hesitant but after weeks and months of putting it off, they eventually melt together. It was one of the most unexpected things he had experienced, he had always thought that Rukawa would be the cold one but as it turns out, it was the opposite. Rukawa provided that warmth he didn’t know he needed. After all the things they went through, after all the self-loathing and the denials and realization, Rukawa had always been the more patient one. He didn’t know what changed or at what point that all change but re-living that moment breaks his heart all the time. If he is honest with himself, he misses that sometimes. Sure, he’s dated a few times after it ended but no one has ever come close….yet. “Hey, are you listening?” Makoto snapped his fingers in front of the red head’s face.

“Huh?” Sakuragi looked up, dazed.

“I asked, are you jealous?” “of what?” “of Rukawa, of course!” Riku folded his arms against his chest, a smirk already on his face. “Why would I be jealous of that kitsune!” Sakuragi frowned and glared at them. “Because he’s popular with the ladies, isn’t that why you had that reaction that night?” Sakuragi looked away, his eyes still sharp and his brows still wrinkled together.

‘No, not even close.’ Sakuragi thought to himself, finally coming to terms with the reasons why it had hurt him so deeply.

Standing in front of the brown door, he raises his hands and knocks on it gently. “Hanamichi?” “Hi, I know it’s late, but can I come in?” “Of course!” “Thanks,” he took off his shoes and walked in. “Whats up? You okay?” “I don’t know who else to turn to, I just want to talk,” Sakuragi said quickly, his expression still troubled. “About anything, I don’t care.” Youhei looked at him, surprised then smiles at his best friend, “I’ll go get the alcohol.”

Laying down on the pillows in the living room, Sakuragi and Youhei cheered, talked and drank casually about everything they could think of. “Yeah, Haruko said that Gori used to be so awkward with girls it’s actually kind of cute!” Sakuragi laughed. “Look at him now,” Youhei chuckled, “University can sure change you.” “Nah, I sometimes still confuse him with an actual Gorilla.” Sakuragi giggled, sipping his drink. “That’s too mean, don’t you think?” “He knows it,” Sakuragi sips his drink again, taking in more gulps this time. “Yeah, definitely too mean.” “Only because you like Haruko, right?” Sakuragi’s words came out slightly slurred. “When are you going to tell her?” The redhead continued. Youhei stopped and moved his gaze to the glass in his hand, “it’s not the right time.” What? Of course it’s the right time! You have more of a chance with her than anyone in this entire universe. Don’t blow it like I did.” Youhei looks at his friend; Sakuragi is showing early signs of drunkenness. At this state he is more honest and transparent about his thoughts and his feelings.

“I’ll tell her if you admit you still care for Rukawa.” Sakuragi slammed his fist on the table, “I do not care about him!” “Then why did you come here?” “To talk! I wanted to talk to you! You’re my best friend!” Sakuragi shouted, his expression twisted in a confused expression.

“That’s right Hanamichi, I know you,” Youhei smiles at him, “You wanted to talk…and you wanted to distract yourself. “You want to talk about Rukawa, don’t you?” Sakuragi sips at his drink more, a sign of nervousness. “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth, Hanamichi.” Sakuragi’s face flush red from the alcohol and he shakes his head lightly trying to shake off the drunkenness.

“I just…I just want to know why I wasn’t good enough.” His voice cracked and his tears build up at the corner of his eyes. At the moment, with that confession, Youhei’s face fell as he immediately reaches over to hug his friend.

 

Staring at the wall in front of him, Rukawa stared at the calendar hanging neatly just above his desk. This is it, just 3 days then he has to fly back to America. To be honest, he couldn’t tell how he feels about it. A week before he would no doubt have said that he is happy to leave. He knew coming back would bring back some sense of nostalgia in him that he rather not bring up. As much as he hates being distracted since he knows he could be practising more in America with his team. But at the same time, he misses Kanagawa. He misses the simplicity, the culture and the way everything is and always will be part of him. Always. The places he grew up seem so small now. As time went by, he matured and his ambitions became too big for it to just stay here. He wanted, more than anything to challenge himself, to live that dream he always wanted. Still, he wishes there was something that he could bring with him. A memory, a feeling, something constant.

“Kaede! Phone for you!” ‘who would be calling me at this hour?’ Rukawa thought as he walked out the door. “Who is it?” “I don’t know but he sounds drunk.” Picking up the receiver, Rukawa hesitantly answers,

“hello?” No answer but he could hear the breathing from the other line. Confused, he attempted to end the call before he hears shouting in the background.

“Oi, Hanamichi, stop! Give me the phone!” Hanamichi? That name shocks the brunette; his heart nearly fell out of his chest.

“Rukawa you bastard! How dare you show your face here again! Why can’t you stay gone!” “Hey, you’re drunk Hanamichi, no don’t go to the—“ There was a loud thud and a click.

“Did you lock yourself in a room, you idiot?” Rukawa chuckles.

“Don’t change the subject!” “I just came back to visit my parents,” Rukawa answered simply, “I didn’t know I was lock out of my own place.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have shown your face! Why did you come to the café?”

“I didn’t know you work there, I can’t eat either?” Sakuragi stays silent, suddenly unsure of what to say. “Are you okay?” Rukawa’s voice came out soft, like a whisper.

“I don’t want to admit it, but this is the only time I will…” Sakuragi’s voice equally soft, sounding more vulnerable this time. Rukawa’s heart beat in anticipation

“After you left, I was a mess. I know we’ve only been together for a few months but I….I never felt that much hurt.” A light sniffle can be heard from the other line and Rukawa feels the guilt weighs in on him. He felt as if someone punched him in the gut.

“It wasn’t love, I know, “Sakuragi lets out a heartbreaking sigh, “No matter how much I try to keep it behind me, to move on like you did, I guess I wanted it to be real. I hoped it would.

At those words, Rukawa feels his heart break. He doesn’t cry but this is the closest he’s been.

“Even if it’s you, I can’t keep on denying how I feel. Maybe that’s why I can’t move on; I’ve just been keeping this inside,”

“I wanted to tell you, I wanted to tell you how I really feel…” Sakuragi’s soft voice tremble and all Rukawa want to do now is run to him and comfort him.

“How do you feel?” Rukawa prompts him. The space between them is deafening he could hear Sakuragi swallow nervously.

“I…” Rukawa's heart beat in anticipation but instead of words, he hears a muffled puking sound followed by the sound of a door opening before the line goes dead.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Serendipity

 

Sakuragi groaned, his head dizzy as if he’s been spinning too much for too long. Adjusting his vision around the room, he sees a glass of water next to him. He grabs the glass unevenly and drinks the content in one whole gulp.

“You’re awake.” Sakuragi look up to see Youhei standing by the door with his arms to his chest and his expression guilty.

“Wh-what happened last night?”

“You came over and we talked,” said Youhei, sitting next to the dishevelled redhead. “Then things just escalated quickly, I turn my back for one second and…” Youhei scratched his head nervously, looking away. “Youhei, what did I do?” Sakuragi’s face grimaced at what he was about to hear. “You called Rukawa, puked then passed out.” Youhei managed to say in one breath. Sakuragi froze in terror, his face shocked and it looks almost as if he stopped breathing. Youhei poke his unresponsive friend, making sure he is still alive.

“What did I say!?” Sakuragi jumped, panicked.

“You locked yourself in the bathroom! You were hell-bent on telling him how you feel.”

“How I feel?”

“Yeah, you were cursing a lot last night, you were really angry.”

Sakuragi sat upright and nodded. “So, was I cursing at him on the phone? Good. That makes sense!” Sakuragi smiled, satisfied.

“Hanamichi,” Youhei leaned forward, placing a palm on his cheek. “Is that how you really feel?” he observed his friend as if trying to figure him out. “Of course!” Youhei sighs and shrugs at the blatant lie. It’s kind of disappointing that Sakuragi calls them best friends and completely forget that he can see behind that false bravado he carries with him. Youhei knows when Sakuragi is lying. But he figures, if he’s willing to insult their friendship like this then maybe he’ll play along with this denial. At least until he is willing to admit consciously to himself that he is hurting.

Til then, Youhei will keep the knowledge of finding his friend crying on the bathroom floor with the phone on his chest repeating Rukawa’s name to himself. It’s sad, Youhei thinks. He wishes that Sakuragi would just be upfront about his feelings. It’s been 2 years after all; it must be such a burden.

“Don’t you have work or something?” asks Youhei. “Nah,” said Sakuragi, combing his hair with his fingers, “But I guess I should get home. I feel exhausted. Youhei hums in agreement. “Don’t forget about tonight.” Sakuragi nodded, “I’ll see you tonight.”

 

Two days. He has two days left. For some reason, he feels hesitant about going back which was odd since he’s been counting down the days since he arrived. Rukawa sat on a bench opposite small shops and café with the road running in between. He looks down at the piece of paper in his hand, an invite. Haruko mentioned about a get-together and apparently, there is a party tonight for the entire team.

He noted how inconvenient a letter would be since she could just call him. But he shrugs it off; the sentiment does feel somehow special. He runs his hands across the neat handwriting contemplating whether he should go. Does he want to go? He does, but at the same time, he just feels like it will just cause unnecessary tension between him and a certain boisterous redhead.

Rukawa sighs, thinking back to last night. The sincerity in Sakuragi’s words caught him off guard, the ache he feels knowing that he is the cause of the redhead’s remaining heart ache. Rukawa knew at some level that Sakuragi would resent him, he would too if someone did it to him. He imagines he would want to cut ties with someone who left him and avoid them as much as they could but unlike Sakuragi, he could learn to let it go. Unlike Sakuragi, after 2 years, he would eventually accept what happened. Rukawa anticipates the resentment he was sure to get when he came back but never could he imagine the honesty and the raw emotion he felt from Sakuragi. He knew Sakuragi, he know what he likes and what he doesn’t. He knows what he’s thinking as if he is a person anyone could figure out. But he isn’t. Just when you think you understand him he surprises you. Rukawa is sure he’s never met anyone as complicated and as intense as Sakuragi. And that is exactly how it started. His irritation for him turned into something more as time goes by. His innocence and his sincerity is something Sakuragi rarely shows but the couple of times Rukawa stumbles on it made him want to get closer, want to know everything about him, to just dive into the complexity that is Sakuragi Hanamichi.

“It wasn’t love, I know”

“I wanted it to be real, I hoped it would.”

The words echoed, and suddenly his heart feels strained at the thought. He remembers butting heads with Sakuragi most of his freshman year but somewhere along the way that changed. Rukawa couldn’t remember exactly at what point it change. Honestly, it wasn’t because he hated the redhead, irritated, sure, but Rukawa tries to avoid anything that wasn’t important. He only has two things he cared about in freshman year and that was sleep and basketball. Anything beyond that was just extra. Love is a strange thing, something obscure that perplex even him. It’s not as if he detest the feeling, despite what people seem to assume. Rukawa has never been the type to waste time, to idly dreaming that things would work out or for someone to come and change him. Sometimes that makes him feel like he didn’t belong. When everyone was ogling the girls or when people around him would go in and out of relationships, he didn’t think too much about it. Maybe because he would be the one girls stare at and that irritated most of the guys in school.

He used to wonder if he was just asexual. If he was, he wouldn’t really mind it but his parents would be the ones disappointed not him. Being the only son he supposes there is some kind of duty that he should fulfil. There is nothing more that his parents want for him than to settle down, get married and have a stable job. After years of being in America that traditional mindset seems so mundane and uninteresting. The exposure to a more individualistic culture was weird at first but he really come to appreciate the freedom that comes with it. American people are assertive, there is no hidden meaning, and people tend to be self reliant.

Love, Rukawa feels, tend to be used around so carelessly. He witnessed ‘love’ from different people and all of them always fall apart.

Rukawa asked a friend once what love meant to him and with a thoughtful tap on his chin his friend answered confidently, “I think if it makes your heart fast and you get that sense like you can’t control yourself, yeah, that’s love.” “When you can’t control yourself?” Rukawa repeated his words, confused. “Yeah, you know when you’re turned on or something.” Surprised at the shallow response, Rukawa simply nodded and accepts the answer. Coming from a place of experience, he supposes that is one way of interpreting love.

With Sakuragi, it wasn’t the easiest of awareness to his feelings. He only wanted to get to know him at first, to get closer, to understand what makes him so….passionate. As it turns out Sakuragi has a lot of layers that even the ones closest to him don’t know about. Well, except Youhei, that guy knows everything. The bravado Sakuragi carries with him all the time is irritating and painful to watch sometimes. Especially considering he does posses the skill he frequently boasts about. It was gradual, they established some sort of friendship and soon enough they were able to see past the unnecessary bickering and actually talk. Well, Sakuragi prefers teasing him more but it was an improvement nonetheless.

The first time they talked seriously was because of a girl. He remembers Sakuragi walking up to him after everyone left the gym. The sky was a brilliant mix of yellow and red indicating the sinking of the sun. It was beautiful, he paused to admire it for a second before a tall figure appeared beside him. Red hair and a tint of concerned look on his face. Rukawa notices the redhead’s fidgety stance and decides to break the odd atmosphere.

“If you have a problem, you should just spit it out.”

Sakuragi jerked lightly and fumble his thumbs nervously.

“I just wanted to ask if you there is anyone you like.” Rukawa raised a questioning brow at the redhead, unexpected of the sudden question.

“No.” Rukawa stated plainly without hesitant.

With that response, Sakuragi breathes out, looking relieved. But then quickly change his expression to a more panicked one.

“I mean, that’s bad!” Sakuragi frantically shakes his head. “I mean, that’s good!” “What?” Rukawa asked irritated at the nonsensical dialogue.

“I promised Haruko I would talk to you about it,” Sakuragi explained, “She really really likes you.” Each word makes Sakuragi’s twinge, he avoid Rukawa’s gaze, embarrassed at level he allowed himself to stoop.

“And you really really like her?” Rukawa didn’t mean it as an insult but the pain in Sakuragi’s eyes lets him know he had gone too far.

“You should tell her how you feel, ahou.”

“I’ve tried! “ Sakuragi snaps defensively. “I’ve tried…” he repeated lowly.

Rukawa doesn’t know whether he should feel sorry for him or to be envious over the fact that he isn’t swamped with girls swarming up to him like bees.

“Wait, “Sakuragi looks at Rukawa, backing away slightly. “Don’t tell me you…you bend the other way…” Sakuragi motions his hand to make a swinging gesture.

“You better stop.” Rukawa glares at Sakuragi, irritated.

“I don’t understand Kitsune,” Sakuragi asked, sincerely confused. “You have all this popularity but not once have you even smiled at a woman.”

Rukawa sighs, “All they care about is looks.”

“But it gets them interested. Think about it Kitsune,” Sakuragi leaned closer, his hand on Rukawa’s shoulder. “You use that to your advantage. You go on a few dates, hold her hand, and walk her home. Then when the mood is right, the moon shining down on you and her, hearts beating fast as you caress her delicate cheeks, you lean in and press your lips against hers.” He could hear the longing in Sakuragi’s voice, swooning at the idea of romance. He was so close he could feel the warmth oozing out of the redhead's chest. Rukawa leaned away from the proximity and fixed his jacket.

“Love, “Rukawa scoffs at the notion. “Sounds like a waste of time.”

Rukawa chuckle sarcastically at the memory. Oh he was so wrong. If only his past self could see the situation he is in he would personally kick himself many times over.

Sakuragi groaned, rubbing his hand on his temples with one hand while brushing his teeth. Staring at his reflection in the foggy bathroom mirror he regrets the poor decision he made last night. He doesn’t know what possessed him to trouble Youhei at 11 pm but all he knows is that he felt unsettled, almost restless with unwanted thoughts. If he didn’t confide in someone or distract himself he would surely explode. The conversation in the café just made it difficult to focus. His co-workers wouldn’t stop pestering him about Rukawa and he’s sick of it. The more they ask, the more it forced him to remember every memory, every detail, every information of the man that he rather not remember. To make it worse, the real icing on the cake is that random women start coming to the café looking for the handsome blue eyed stranger. Sakuragi rolled his eyes and if it weren’t for the rules in his contract he would already push them away.

Seriously, it’s like there is no escape. Is God really this cruel to punish him like this?

Sakuragi washed his face and place his toothbrush in the cup holder. He paused and examined his worn out face, clearly seeing the stress. He sighs, “calm it Hanamichi, he said he’s only here for a few days.”

“Yeah, a few days then you won’t see him ever again.” He reassured himself. “Won’t see him ever again…” he repeated, his voice low and unsure.

This is what he wants right? If it is then why does he feel so unsure about it. He was fine living his life for 2 years not hearing anything about Rukawa, not seeing him. It was easier, easier than this. He can at least pretend that Rukawa didn’t exist and there was nothing between them. But seeing him, in the flesh, it feels as though he never left. It made the break up real, as if he is mocking him about ever making him feel like he cared. He recalls Rukawa regards love as a waste of time. It makes sense that perhaps everything that they felt was also a waste of time and he realised it and left. Without warning, Rukawa suddenly decides he didn’t want or didn’t like him anymore and just end everything without an explanation.

Sitting on the balcony, Sakuragi hugs himself as comfort as he stared at the setting of the sun. He looked down at the road below him and immediately he could visualise his past.

It was a hot summer night; he just ended another unsuccessful date with a girl. At that point he was ready to give up and accept the fact that no girl will like him for who he is. Almost all dates ended up with them using him as a ploy to get closer to Rukawa. There were some that were sincere but it became clear that they weren’t that interested. Sakuragi is a hopeless romantic so without being rude about it, he told them he had work in the morning and left after paying for the bill. Walking home with a slumped posture and a frown, a usual thing habit he does after every unsuccessful date he thought about everything that he did or didn’t do. Sure he was slightly shy but he was just careful, he didn’t want to mess up. But of course, he ended messing up. He kept his gaze on the ground when a pair of sneakers came into view. He stopped and looked up to see Rukawa looking at him up and down with a basketball in one hand.

“You’re dressed for something, ahou?”

“Rukawa! What are you doing here?”

“I came to practice.” Rukawa answered flatly. Sakuragi scanned his surroundings to see accidently walked in the direction of the public basketball court. Before he could make sense of anything, he found himself sitting next to a sweaty Rukawa. Rukawa wiped the sweat from his forehead with his towel, his breathing rough from the intense practicing. He stared at Rukawa, wondered how it would be like if he could have his looks and his skill for one day. Although Sakuragi kept boasting about his own skills, he would be stupid to deny Rukawa's raw talent. No matter how many times he would deny it. “What?” Rukawa asked, noticing the intense stare. “I wish we could trade places sometimes”

Rukawa raised a questioning eyebrow at the red head. “I mean, just for one day!” Sakuragi backtracked quickly. “Just to know how it feels to be popular.”

“Oh, is this about girls again? You want to know how it feels to be wanted by girls that bad.” “Doesn’t everyone?” Sakuragi replied.

“I don’t.” Rukawa said without any hesitation.

“That’s your problem.” Sakuragi grumbles, pouting as he leaned against the wall sulkily. Rukawa smirked at Sakuragi’s cute response.

“Why does it bother you?” Rukawa asked, genuinely curious. Sakuragi regards the question, focusing on the hoop in front of him. “I just want to know how it feels like,” Said Sakuragi with a distant look, “I’ve never kissed anyone.” This love fixation that Sakuragi has baffles him. He’s never seen anyone wanting to experience something trivial as this. Usually if someone is desperate enough they would either quit or really lower their expectations.

“If I give you the experience would you shut up about it?” Sakuragi choked at the words coming out of Rukawa’s mouth, so casually too. His eyes widened in disbelief and he snapped his head towards Rukawa so fast he thought maybe he strained a muscle.

“Look, it’s no big deal. It’s just kissing.” Rukawa shrugs.

“Oh, and you have experience?”

Rukawa nodded and folded his arms against his chest. “You said to put my looks to good use so you’re not the only one who’s been on dates.” For some reason, Sakuragi’s heart felt as though it sank down to his stomach. He ignores it and grinned, “Finally listening to me!”

“Don’t flatter yourself, idiot.”

The atmosphere between them became quiet with nothing but the gentle breeze of the hot wind blowing around them. Sakuragi stared at Rukawa’s blue orbs, noticing for the first time that it is a cobalt blue, a colour like the ocean. They stayed still, nothing but the loud beating of their hearts against their chest. Sakuragi swallowed his nervousness; this is becoming way too real. To be honest he much prefers doing it with girl but maybe this will make it easier for experience. Rukawa leaned in closer, his eyes half lidded and before he knew it Sakuragi is already closing his eyes. “No, keep them open,” Rukawa’s warm breath tickled his skin. “I’m only going to teach you once.” Sakuragi nodded and slowly open his eyes. His cheeks burned like it was on fire, Rukawa is so close now he could almost feel him. His heart is beating so hard and so fast he could hear it in his ears. Rukawa close the gap between them, their lips gently meet and for the first time Sakuragi noted how soft Rukawa’s lips are. It was a soft peck and already Sakuragi feels like he’s losing control. Everything is closing in on him, he feels caught up in the moment. He’s been dreaming of the chance to feel this. Everytime he watched a romantic movie he would wonder how it feels like. How much he wanted to share something private and intimate with someone. Just one time is enough.

In hindsight, this was a very bad idea because without any self control, Sakuragi pressed harder against Rukawa as his hand slowly wanders to jet black hair. Rukawa moaned lightly and that seemed to instantly snap Sakuragi out of the moment. His eyes snapped open and he broke the kiss immediately. His face still burns as he awkwardly cleared his throat.

“Now would you shut up about it?” asked Rukawa, looking unaffected by all this. Sakuragi nodded and he did shut up about it.