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Give Me a Reason
(To Love You)

"Partners?!!! I can't believe we've been made parters! Chikusho..."

"Do'aho..."

Sakuragi Hanamichi crushed the soda can with his foot, teeth gritting hard in frustration.

"Why in the world does it have to be you?! I can't believe I'm stuck with kitsune for the whole day!"

Shohoku basketball club had joined in the district program called - Kanagawa Clean-up Environment. It was a special program wherein volunteers were sent out in pairs to pick up garbage litters along the whole Kanagawa district.

Rukawa Kaede caught him square on the face with a tattered boot left in a ditch.

"Teme...kitsune..."

It was just both their luck...err...bad luck that they were "accidentally" paired up.

"Does it look like I wanna spend the whole day with you too, do'aho?"

"What do you mean?! You're lucky to be paired up with a tensai like me! Nyahahahahahaha!!!"

"Do'aho..."

"Te - Are..."

Rukawa peered behind him to see what Sakuragi was staring at.

"What a noisy kid..." he said.

"You insensitive fox!"

Sakuragi went over to the bawling little girl behind Kaede, a genuine look of worry on his face.

"Oi, little girl, why are you crying?"

The girl sniffed and looked at him. "I...I'm lost!"

"Lost?! What's your name little girl?"

"Yu...Yureko...I was walking with 'ka-chan when Yureko saw toy. I looked at it but when I looked for 'ka-chan, she...she wasn't there!" the child wailed again.

"Ah...Yureko-chan, stop crying. Onii-chan would help you look for your 'ka-chan."

"Ho...hontou?" the 5-year-old girl stopped crying and looked at him.

"Aa! Leave it to tensai 'nii-chan! Ah...Ahahahahahaha...After all, you're such a kawaii chibi onna!"

"Waa!!!" Yureko grinned at Sakuragi.

"Yosh...let's go look for your 'ka-chan!"

"Hai!"

('Nani? Grown-ups cringe at the sight of this do'aho but this kid just loves him.') Kaede stared at the odd-pair, eyes wide as saucers.

('I didn't know you have this side of yourself...') Sakuragi bent down and carried the little girl on his shoulders.

('Since when did you become this wonderful?') "Oi, kitsune! Hurry up! Let's go find this chibi onna's 'ka-chan!"

"Aa..." ('Sakuragi Hanamichi...')

Rukawa walked behind the odd pair while Sakuragi belted his favorite song - Ore Wa Tensai.

* * *

The sun was sweltering that humid summer day. All kinds of people could be seen strolling by the park as the trio walked by towards the police station. Sakuragi was sweating hard and little Yureko was feeling faint with the angry glare of the sun.

"Are you hungry, Yureko-chan?"

"Aa, 'nii-chan."

"Do you want to eat before we go the police station?"

"Hai!"

"Oi, kit - oi! Where do you think you're doing, kitsune?!"

"Where do you think I'm going, do'aho?"

Rukawa pulled out a bill from his wallet and handed it to the ice cream vendor they passed by the sidewalk.

"Oi! I'm going to pay for Yureko-chan's food, dammit!"

"Oh?"

Sakuragi pulled out his own wallet and yanked it open...

"Nani?!!!"

...and found out that he was broke.

"Do'aho..."

"You heard the little girl," the blue-eyed fox nodded to the kind-looking middle-aged man selling ice cream.

"Teme kitsune..."

"Why don't you just shut up and eat, do'aho?" Rukawa sighed and handed him an ice cream bar.

('Kitsune's going to pay for our meal?')

"A...Aa...Do you like the ice cream Yureko-chan?"

"Wai!" she raised her spoon and spilled melted ice cream all over her pink cotton dress.

Hanamichi patted the child affectionately.

"Ah...Ahahahahaha...chibi onna hontou kawaii!" The redheaded do'aho held the child's hand and led the way.

Closely following behind them, Rukawa Kaede was staring hard at his self-proclaimed adversary as if seeing him in a new light for the very first time.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Oi!!! Chikusho! Let this tensai play in the game, dammit!"

"Urusai! I told you to practice your footwork!"

"Oi! You can't treat me like this, Gori! I'm the reason why we won against Ryukufu! Oi!"

"Baka!" The captain used his fist on the head technique on the branded do'aho again.

"Why don't you let me play, Gori?!" Hanamichi glared at the captain.

"The game with Ryonan is near, baka! If you don't practice your footwork you will never get rebounds!"

"Demo, Gori..."

"You play, do'aho..." Rukawa said, walking out of the game and sitting beside Ayako on the players' bench.

"Na...nani, kitsune?" Sakuragi stared at him funny, totally bewildered by his actions.

"I said, you play, do'aho."

"Oi...te...temee...what..."

"Rukawa, are you sure?" Akagi asked Kaede.

The ice king nodded at the burly Shohoku captain.

Sakuragi could not take his eyes off of Rukawa. ('Nani? Why is the kitsune doing this?') He stared at his mortal enemy, until the world around him faded - all he could see is the pale skinned boy and all he could hear is his own heart thundering against his chest like the uneven beat of a drum.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Only sixteen tonight
I start to run while pursued
By a freedom so filled with contradictions
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

('Since when did Rukawa look so...breathtaking?') He could feel his throat constricting from his own ragged breaths, sweat drenching his palms as his heart continued to thump louder with each second.

Rukawa suddenly turned his eyes towards Hanamichi's; he felt his breath catch in his throat and his eyes widen as wide as saucers.

('What is this feeling...It's like...I'm drowning in those eyes...') The two kept staring at each other for what seemed like eternity for both of them. Everyone kept silent, obviously affected by the sudden spark of energy between blue-eyed fox and the red-headed do'aho. The feeling was overwhelming, like they were drawing strength from each other; like there was an invisible exchange of feelings and emotions between them.

"Oi, Sakuragi, come on, let's start the game," Akagi suddenly said, breaking free from the hair-raising silence.

"A...Aa..." Sakuragi said, forcing himself to tear his gaze away from the blue-eyed fox.

"You're beginning to like Sakuragi Hanamichi, ne, Rukawa?" Ayako smiled at him.

"Na...nani?" his eyes widened with what Ayako said.

Ayako laughed out loud, patting her kohai's back. "Don't worry, you'll do just fine," she grinned widely at him.

* * *

*Blang*

The slamming sound of his dunk reverberated all throughout the empty basketball court.

"Kuso..."

Rukawa Kaede clenched his fists against his knees; trying to draw breath into his lungs, sweat dripping from his flushed face.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
While crying out
That I don't want to be tied down by anything
I want to be tied to something, hey
It's not just being protected
I want to protect somebody
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

('Dammit!') he thought. Why did that day have to happen?

He gritted his teeth and shut his eyes hard, trying to think what was happening to him. Ever since that fateful day, his world had gone upside down.

('Shit oh shit oh shit...')

He kicked the basketball hard, making it slam against the gymnasium wall. He thought about the day he spent with the do'aho and cursed himself for it again.

('I am not...')

Why? Why can't he keep himself from thinking about that idiotic redhead? He picked the ball and gazed at it, frowning because he thought he saw that color somewhere before...reddish orange, like...Sakuragi's hair...

('Arrggghhh...Chikusho...')

Finally, he lost all his strength and decided to give up torturing himself and try to think about the matter in the most rational way that he could. He sat down in the middle of the court, and cradled his head with his exhausted hands.

('What is happening to me?')

He thought about his sleepless nights since that day...he desperately tried to sleep but every time he closed his eyes, visions of a certain red-haired do'aho would invade his thoughts.

('Why? Why is this happening to me?')

That day when he saw the other side of Hanamichi, he can't help but feel that flutter in his heart again. It made him wonder what it meant. It was the first time he felt this way...as if he sees the red-head everywhere he turns to.

('Damn you, Sakuragi...')

He can't forget what happened earlier that day at practice. When he stared into those copper-red eyes, his emotions surged throughout his body, rendering him motionless. Every part of his body throbbed, and there was this sweet sensation filling his very soul.

('No...then maybe...I really...I...')

He buried his handsome face in his hands.

('I really have fallen in love with you...Why does it have to be you?')

Kaede lay on his back and raised his hands against the gymnasium lights, staring at its imperfections.

('Sakuragi Hanamichi...')

Super-rookie Rukawa Kaede closed his eyes and willed himself to be lost in his own thoughts...even if it's just for today...he'd let himself think of the red head as much as he wanted to...even if its just for today...

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hanamichi slammed his fist against the locker door.

"Oi, Hanamichi, what's with you?" Ryouta asked, removing his sweat-drenched jersey.

"Betsuni..." he grimaced.

"Betsuni? You're tearing things down!" Mitsui frowned at him.

"Yeah...what's going on, Hanamichi? We just won the game! You looked so happy earlier, what happened?" Ryouta walked over to the burning red head and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Daijoubu desu ka, Hanamichi?"

"Daijoubu, daijoubu..." Sakuragi answered, waving his hand in dismissal.

Shohoku just won their game against Ryonan, earning them their ticket to Japan's Summer IH tournament for the very first time.

"Do'aho," Rukawa said in his usual soft and husky voice, stepping into his pants.

"Temee...kitsune..." Sakuragi's anger finally exploded.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Give me a reason to show you
Without any reason, everytime you smile
(Won't you) Tell me why I should try to
Don't try to gaze at tomorrow
Give me a reason to love you
I'll show you I can betray all the laws
Even if that's my destiny
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sakuragi walked over to Kaede and pulled him by the arm outside the locker room.

"What do you think you're doing do'aho?" Kaede scowled at him.

Hanamichi slammed Rukawa's thinner frame against the wall.

"I can't understand you, Rukawa! You're so quiet, but today you talked to Sendoh all throughout the game and acted as if you're old friends!"

"Nani?"

"Since when did you become so close, dammit!?"

Rukawa's eyes gave a flicker of astonishment. ('What the?')

"What is it to you if we are indeed close, do'aho?" he smirked at Sakuragi.

"What is it to me? What is it to me? Why Rukawa, I..." the self-proclaimed tensai stopped in the middle of his sentence. ('I what? What is it to me?') he asked himself. He didn't know the answer to his own question. Why was he feeling so angry at Sendoh? Why?

"...because I..."

"...you what?" Rukawa asked, eager to hear his answer. He didn't want to admit it, but he knew that deep in his heart he wanted to hear the word "jealousy" from him.

"I...I really don't know..." the taller boy released his hold on Kaede and stared down at his toes, admitting defeat for the very first time. "I don't know, Rukawa. I don't understand this...I..."

"Is that all?"

"Eh?"

"Is that why you dragged me outside without letting me finish dressing up first?"

Suddenly, Hanamichi became aware of Rukawa's bare torso and flushed hard at the view of his rock-hard muscles.

"Ahhhh..." he stuttered and pushed Kaede back inside the locker room, closing the door behind him.

He felt his hands tremble and held it against his chest, sighing hard.

"Sakuragi, what's the matter?"

"Ahhhh!!! Ayako-san!"

"What are you doing outside?"

"No...Nothing..." he lied, blood pounding in his head.

"Naruhodo...well, go back in and dress up."

"Ha...hai!" he obeyed the Shohoku manager and hurriedly went back in.

Ayako chuckled to herself. ('Ah...sweet love...it really conquers all...') She thought about Rukawa and Sakuragi and finally concluded that it was true. Love really does conquer all. How it could capture the hearts of two enemies, she doesn't know. Nor does she know the reason behind the attraction of same sexes. Little did it matter to her though; for even if she does not promote nor encourage so; she does not feel revolted with homosexual (or bisexual) relationships, as long as she knows that the love is real. "Yosh.." she grinned at herself. "Get ready, here comes Ayako the matchmaking obaa-san...ohohohohoho..."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Hanamichi did a good job, na, Mitsui-san?"

"Aa, Miyagi...nobody expected it from him but he can be dependable sometimes."

Everybody thought of Sakuragi's quick action to save Anzai-sensei when he suffered from a stroke before their game with Ryonan. The Shohoku team was going back to Akagi's house to celebrate their victory against Ryonan after visiting their coach in the hospital.

"That's true. He's not such an idiot as you guys think he is," Ayako peered from behind the two Shohoku players.

"Aya-chan!"

"You're right, Ayako," Mitsui grinned.

"Aa...I'm always right, ne, Rukawa?"

"Hn," the ice king grunted.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A vow for one person alone
Softly I whisper it, and sleep
If I could be even a little more honest, that'd be fine
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ayako stopped on her tracks and waited for Rukawa.

"Are you okay, Rukawa?" She continued walking beside him.

"Aa..."

"Well you don't look it."

He kept silent and continued walking. ('I don't feel it either.')

"Rukawa...you sure have been acting strangely these last few weeks. Anything bothering you?"

"Nothing..." ('If you only knew...')

"Ah...I see...so, what happened on our practice weeks ago when you and a certain do'aho were staring at each other was nothing?" She smiled at him knowingly.

"Na...nani..." he turned to look at her, bewilderment showing on his eyes.

"And what happened outside the locker room earlier after the game was nothing too? Or how about the way you were staring at him on the train?"

"H...how..."

"How did I know?"

Kaede swallowed hard and nodded.

She shrugged her slender shoulders and grinned. "The scent of love can't go unnoticed by me, Rukawa," she laughed.

"I...I don't know..."

"It's hard, ne?"

He clenched his fists but kept silent.

('It's more than hard...')

"Why don't you tell him?"

"What?" Ayako had to laugh at the shocked look on his face. It's very seldom that the ice king would show any kind of emotion.

"I know you love him."

"You don't know what you're talking about, sempai." ('You really don't know...everyday...I'm falling deeper...and deeper...')

"I do know...Rukawa, swallow your pride and end your own suffering!"

"I can't." ('I don't know what to do...I've fallen so deep but I can't...')

"Why not?"

"Because..." ('Because I'm afraid...afraid of admitting the truth...afraid that...')

"Because what?"

"Because there's no reason for me to." ('...that I'd fall so hard and hurt myself...but most of all because...')

"Rukawa..."

"Gomen, sempai..." ('...because I'm afraid that he may not love me in return...Hanamichi...')

The blue-eyed fox walked ahead of his sempai, leaving a sad frown on the older girl's face. "Looks like it's not gonna be that easy after all," she sighed.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rukawa stepped out of the car and thanked Anzai-sensei's wife.

"Take care of yourself, Rukawa-kun," the old woman said and drove off.

That day he decided to pay a visit to Anzai-sensei and ask his permission to go to America to train.

"Be the number one player in Japan first..." the old man said.

"Kuso..." If his coach only knew the truth. Sure he wanted to go to the States to train...but there is another reason too.

The answer which I just found changes my shape
And confuses me, hey
Because so far it's frustrating
It's like changing one's skin
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

('I wanted to...to get as far away as I could from you...do'aho...') He can't take it. The fluttering sensation in his whole being whenever Sakuragi comes close...the thundering beat of his heart whenever he would look at him...the endless dreams about him at night...or the fantasies he would have of him at day. He can't take it. It's just too much for him.

('I don't want to see your face again...because when I see you...I fall even deeper...')

He sped up his steps towards the basketball team locker room. He wanted to shed off all his frustrations...he wanted to get rid of his own feelings...he wanted to forget him, to forget what he feels and bring back those old days when what he felt for him was pure annoyance and nothing else.

('But I know I can't...because I have fallen completely...')

He mentally punched himself for being such a fool and sighed.

('I'd have to do my best from now on...if I want you out of my life entirely...)

Yes...he thought...it was the best decision he ever did in his whole life. That way, no one would get hurt, he doesn't have to go through the process of explaining to his parents why the hell his lover was another man, and Sakuragi would be happy with his Haruko. Yes...he was making a very wise decision indeed.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"You're making us do what?!"

"Come on, sempai...Ryouta, help me convince Mitsui-sempai..."

"Hai, Aya-chan!" the Shohoku point guard nodded with hearts in his eyes. He turned to his sempai with a deathly glare, "Mitsui-san, when Ayako asks for something, it should be obeyed!"

"Ahhh!!! Miyagi! What Ayako's asking is ridiculous! Are you telling me to be a matchmaker for Rukawa and Sakuragi?!"

"Onegai shimasu, Mitsui-sempai! Can't you feel the love between them?"

Mitsui tried to remember the love she was talking about...and visions of basketball flying in the air and angry sparks of electricity entered his head. "What love?" he nearly sweatdropped.

"Mitsui-sempai, don't be dense and help me with my mission..." Ayako's pleading eyes made him soften up a bit.

"But Ayako...what do you want us to do?"

"Just think of a way to get them together, just the two of them for this day."

Mitsui sighed, "Okay, fine. Just this once, na, Ayako?"

"Just this once, Mitsui-sempai," she smiled broadly.

* * *

Sakuragi was fuming intently while watching the kitsune-otoko.

('Who does he think he is, feeling so self-important!')

That day before practice, Rukawa decided to listen to Anzai-sensei's advice to become the number one high school player in Japan first before going to America, so he asked his coach to train him.

('Damn that kitsune...')

Rukawa was performing very well that day, better than he ever did.

('Why...Why did you have to improve, Rukawa?')

"Rukawa is really incredible, isn't he?" Sakuragi heard Yasuda say.

"Iie! He's just showing off!" Hanamichi was furious that he had to practice the basics again instead of playing with the rest of the team.

"Aren't you glad that Rukawa's getting better and better?" the sophomore substitute asked. "He'd help Shohoku win the finals this year!"

"Urusai! I, the tensai would make Shohoku win the finals!" He went back to practicing his footwork, thinking of Yasuda's question. Why wasn't he glad that Rukawa was getting better?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Give me a reason to show you
Someday I'd like to catch up to you
(Won't you) Tell me why I should try to
The closer I get, the farther I feel
Give me a reason to love you
Don't leave me alone now
If I had you
I wouldn't fear even this night
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

('Why? Is it because...I am afraid...')

From the other side of the court, he heard the familiar sound of the cheering of the Rukawa Brigade, indicating Rukawa's breathtaking performance yet again.

('...afraid that...you might leave me behind...or that...') He saw Haruko's eyes turn into hearts when the kitsune made another perfect jump shot. Haruko...the reason why he started basketball. He always thought he loved her. He knew he should get jealous at that very moment, but then, he really wasn't.

('...that your incredible skills might take you away from me...')

He didn't understand his own feelings. He didn't know why he was feeling such attraction to his former adversary nor can he decipher his own emotions. He had asked himself for the millionth time what his feeling for Kaede was, but still...he was confused.

('But there is something I'm sure of though...')

"Sugoi! Rukawa is incredible, ne, Sakuragi?" Ayako sat by the bench beside him.

"Tssss..."

"Oh yeah, have you heard? Rukawa asked for permission to go to America to train."

"He what?"

"He asked Anzai-sensei for permission to go to America."

"Wha...What did Anzai-sensei say?"

"He told him to become the number one player in Japan first."

"He..."

"Oh, but don't tell anyone I told you. I promised Anzai-sensei I wouldn't tell a soul," Ayako grinned inwardly.

"Aa..."

('...it's that...when I'm happy when I'm with you...that's why...')

"Well, if I were you, I'd tell him now, Sa-ku-ra-gi Ha-na-mi-chi..."

"What are you saying Ayako-san?"

Ayako stood up and started to walk away.

"Tell him what you feel," she stopped in her tracks. Looking behind and smiling at him, she continued, "or you might lose him forever."

"Na...Nani...Cho...matte, Ayako-san!"

"Don't be such a wuss, tensai!" She shouted at him, walking towards the other side of the court.

('...that's why I don't wanna lose you...Rukawa...')

* * *

Mitsui washed his face over the sink. The whole day has passed and he and Ryouta couldn't do a thing to get Rukawa and Sakuragi alone together. It looks like he had to endure Ayako's fan from hell on the head technique again.

"Sempai..." he heard a raspy voice say.

"Eh, Rukawa..."

"Sempai, let's play one-on-one," Rukawa said, eyes glinting dangerously.

Former MVP Mitsui Hisashi grinned broadly, "I thought you'd never ask."

* * *

"Are? Micchy...Ru...Rukawa?" Sakuragi was ordered to be left until nighttime to practice his ball handling skills that day, and was surprised that everybody decided to stay behind anyway.

Rukawa dribbled the ball.

"The winner would prove himself to be Shohoku's ace, na, Rukawa?" Mitsui smirked.

The super rookie nodded and got ready to start the match.

Rukawa broke past Mitsui, and leaps up to shoot; however, Mitsui has formed a defense, blocking the basket from Rukawa's view. The blue-eyed fox diverted to slipping the ball under and behind Mitsui and scores.

The former Shohoku ace's face faulted. When did Rukawa become so good?

"Na...nani? Oi, kitsune, you're showing off again! Why don't you fight against me, the real tensai?!!!"

"Do'aho..."

"Urusai, Sakuragi! Why don't you go back to your practice and let us finish the match...it's my turn to attack," Mitsui wasn't going to admit defeat to a freshman.

The moment Rukawa passed the ball to him, Mitsui immediately shot a three-pointer, claiming victory against his kohai.

"That's not a three-pointer, you stepped on the two-point line," Rukawa protested.

"Iie! Micchy won, kitsune!"

"Do'aho..." Rukawa turned around and walked off.

"Oi! Chotto matte! You don't want a match with me because you're afraid I'm going to beat you, na, Rukawa?!" he scoffed at him.

"Nani?" Kaede turned around to face him. "Okay...you want a match, I'll give you one."

Mitsui's eyes suddenly lit up and met Ryota's. An unspoken understanding was exchanged between them and both knew this was their first and last chance to avoid Ayako's fan from hell...err...I mean to get the two together at last.

"Okay, time to go out, minna-san," Ryouta and Mitsui ushered everyone out, closing the gymnasium doors behind them.

"What's going on, Mitsui?" Kogure asked.

"The insult of being defeated is very hard to bear, Kogure," he replied, giving Ryouta a knowing glance.

* * *

Rukawa picked up the ball and started dribbling it. Sakuragi got ready for defense and stood beneath the basketball ring. Without any warning, Rukawa attacked almost violently, slamming the ball on the hoop and knocking Sakuragi down on his back.

"That was a foul, kitsune!" he shouted and stood up.

"Hn..." Kaede grunted and continued dribbling anyway.

"I...I heard you were planning on going to America..." Shohoku's power forward started gently.

Silence...

"Why?" Hanamichi lifted his eyes to look at him.

"What do you mean why?" the kitsune narrowed his eyes at him.

"Why do you want to go to America?"

"What is it to you, do'aho?"

"So that's it?! You're going to leave our team behind?!" Rukawa didn't expect to see Sakuragi so angry at his leaving Japan. He always thought he'd be happy to never see him again.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
A vow for one person alone
Softly I whisper it, and sleep
If I could be even a little more honest, that'd be fine
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Sakuragi clutched the kitsune's collar and held him close to his own face.

"You can't go, kitsune!"

"Oh? Why not?" He asked, his eyes daring him to answer his question.

"What do you mean why not?!" Sakuragi's nose fumed from anger and he tried to knee Kaede's stomach but lost his balance - they both ended up a pile of mess on the newly polished floor, the red head pinning the ice king with his weight.

"Why shouldn't I go to America?"

"Because..." he stuttered, eyes softening. ('I don't know why exactly, kitsune...')

"Because what?"

"Because I..." ('Because I what?')

"You what?" Kaede's eyes were taunting, piercing his own like two ice-cold daggers.

"I...I don't know..." he admitted truthfully, rolling away from him and sitting up.

Kaede shut his eyes closed and clenched his fists. ('Just as I thought...')

He stood up and glared at him. "If you can give me a good reason to stay, I will," he said, more like a challenge than a statement.

"I...I...I can't give you a good reason at all..." Sakuragi lowered his head in defeat yet again.

"I see..." the super-rookie's eyes hardened and he walked away, leaving Sakuragi to his own dilemma.

"Did you show mercy to Hanamichi?" Ryouta asked Rukawa as he opened the gym door.

"Masaka," he said, walking towards the locker room.

Inside, Hanamichi was left defeated by his own emotions...unable to think clearly. What was the reason why he was feeling all these? He had to know or else, things would end up ugly.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hanamichi trashed on the futon, trying to get some sleep. He was tired from training that day but he couldn't seem to get his mind at rest.

"What's the matter, Hanamichi?" Yohei asked, sensing his friend's anxiety.

"Nothing..." he lied, turning to face the wall away from him.

"Aa...anou...Hanamichi...Why don't you...tell your real feelings?"

('Nani? Even Yohei knows?')

"Yo...Yohei..."

"Hurry up or you may lose the one you love."

"But I don't know if it is love..."

"You're thinking about this person when you wake up, before you sleep, every minute of everyday. Don't you think its love?"

"I..." ('Is it?')

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The answer which I just found changes my shape
And confuses me, hey
Because so far it's frustrating
It's like changing one's skin
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Don't let her go, Hanamichi, she's a nice girl..."

"Eh? Girl?"

"Yeah...Haruko, right?"

"Aa...Haruko..." he sighed, Yohei doesn't know after all.

"You know...it's not always that you can have such a feeling...like you've never seen the sky before...that's true love Hanamichi, it comes but once in a person's life, don't let it slip away..."

"Yohei..."

He thought about his own feelings...what Yohei said was true. It had been a while...but since he felt this stirring inside of him for the kitsune, he was seeing the world in a whole new perspective.

('Is this really...')

Maybe it was true all along after all. Maybe he wasn't dreaming it all...maybe it was real, the surging emotions...the overwhelming passion, the desire, the yearning, the thirst, the want...

('...what people call love?')

It had only been three days since the whole Shohoku team went to practice camp with Jousei High and left him behind to practice with Anzai-sensei. He must admit, he missed the fox terribly, but it also gave him time and space to think clearly.

('Oh gods...')

He knew the answer right away...it was true...

('I really do love you...Rukawa...')

He smiled...he finally found the reason why he didn't want the kitsune to go. He had to tell him when he comes back...yes...he had to make him stay no matter what.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"It's now or never..." Hanamichi sneaked inside the locker room knowing that Rukawa was the only one inside. He heard the soft splash of water on the shower room floor, while removing his new 6th generation Jordan shoes he and Haruko purchased earlier. At first he was so thrilled that he was spending time with Haruko that day...but as it went by, he realized he'd rather spend time with Kaede, confirming his conclusion that he indeed had fallen for his mortal enemy.

Hanamichi stepped into the shower room, completely clothed, flushing at the realization that Kaede was standing before him under the showers, completely naked.

"Anou...kitsune..." he made a coughing sound, making Rukawa whirl around to face him.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Give me a reason to show you Someday I'd like to catch up to you (Won't you) Tell me why I should try to The closer I get, the farther I feel Give me a reason to love you Don't leave me alone now If I had you I wouldn't fear even this night *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Ah...Ahhh!" He blushed crimson red and looked away, "anou...Rukawa...I wanted to err..."

"What is it, do'aho?" Kaede asked impatiently, placing an elegant hand on his hips.

Hanamichi gulped and tried his best to ignore the fact that Rukawa was naked.

('Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit...') "Rukawa..." he said, advancing towards him.

Rukawa's eyes inquired his, sending shivers up his spine. He placed a hand on the kitsune's shoulder.

"I...I finally found the reason why I don't want you to go..." he smiled at him.

Rukawa's eyes widened. He wanted him to stay?

"Ki...kitsune!" Hanamichi's whole body stiffened when Rukawa suddenly grabbed him and enveloped him in a tight embrace.

"That's all I wanted to hear from you, do'aho...I don't need any other reason...if you want me to stay, then I will," he said against his ears, hugging him so fiercely, Sakuragi was sure he was as wet as he was.

"You...you will?" he stared at Rukawa's deep blue eyes when the other boy lifted his head to look at him.

"Aa..."

"Rukawa...I wanted to tell -."

"You don't need to force yourself to say anything..."

"Iie...let me speak."

Rukawa stared at his eyes for a while. Seeing complete honesty, tenderness and nothing else there, he nodded.

"Rukawa...I know I've been such a jerk to you. Earlier while I was with Haruko-san, I realized that I don't really love her..." he paused for a while and looked at him. He sighed and went on, "Last week when you went to camp with Jousei, I had some self-realizations...I found out my real feelings..I missed you." He blushed at this and looked away to hide his face, " and I realized that...I...Rukawa I..."

And then...Hanamichi's world exploded. His once mortal enemy, his sworn rival, was holding him in his slender arms...and claiming his mouth in a deep fervent kiss.

"I love you too...Hanamichi..." Kaede said, pulling away from the kiss...smiling widely.

"Kaede..." he whispered, though barely audible. "Your smile..." he gasped. 'Your smile feels like a thousand angels are whispering a hymn to my ears,' he wanted to say, but instead, he managed to free his arms from Kaede's clutch and grabbed the back of his head.

"I love you..." was all he could say before bringing down his lips upon the other boy's to engage in another passionate and hungry kiss.

He needed this kiss. Needed this more than anything...needed this to ensure that this was real and not an illusion...needed this to keep him alive.

When at last, he felt like his lungs are going to give out due to lack of air, he hesitantly pulled his face away from Kaede and felt his heart doing a somersault.

"Anou...Kaede...don't you think you should get dressed first?" he looked away, suddenly aware of Rukawa's nakedness again.

"Oh?" Kaede arched his brows, "if you can give me good reason, then I would," he said mischievously.

"Ka...Kaede!" he gasped and to his surprise...Rukawa laughed...yes...Rukawa laughed for the very first time. "Eh?"

The blue-eyed fox sighed and rested his head on Hanamichi's shoulder again. "Let's just stay like this for a while, Hanamichi...don't let go of me..."

Hanamichi felt his heart melting. "Aa..." he said, closing his eyes and encircling his arms around his lover's - his lover's and not his enemy's - waist. "Let's stay like this forever, Kaede...I won't let go of you...ever..."

Rukawa smiled against Hanamichi's shoulder, feeling the warm water from the still-open shower splash against his bare back. At last...he found his reason for living...

('Aishiteru, Hanamichi...') He thought, pulling him in an even deeper embrace.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Give me a reason to show you
The road I arrived at while looking back
(Won't you) Tell me why I should try to
I won't be afraid of standing still any longer
Give me a reason to love you
Actually, I don't need any reasons
Raising our voices like children
Let's run
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

~OWARI~

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Give Me A Reason ©2002 MitsuiSelphie/The Black Iris

SDFA © 2002 fgg



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