Title: Wasted Time
Word Count: 2224
Summary: Kogure welcomes Mitsui back to the team.
Disclaimer: Slam Dunk isn't mine.
Kogure had trained relentlessly while Mitsui had left the basketball team for two years. Mitsui may have been the MVP in junior high, but Kogure wouldn't be left behind any more. They would finally be on equal terms, and maybe Kogure would now be even better than Mitsui. Kogure had the ball in his hands. The rough surface felt good and familiar. He was confident his group could win this training session…
Suddenly, the ball wasn't in his hands any more… Mitsui had just stolen it and Kogure hadn't even seen him coming. So much for becoming better than Mitsui! Mitsui was now dribbling past his opponents with as much skill as before. He stopped in his tracks, jumped as if he were flying and shot. The ball went straight into the basket. Mitsui was so beautiful when he was shooting a three-pointer. Kogure realised he had missed this sight all these years. 'So much for not drooling over Mitsui any more!' may have been a more relevant thought, he decided after all.
"Kogure!" Akagi shouted. He almost missed Akagi's pass, but fortunately, he reacted at his name and managed to catch the ball in time. He dribbled towards the basket, focusing over the game and forgetting his previous reflection.
Mitsui was not very satisfied with his play against Shoyo. He had gotten a lot of points, and yet, he had realised how much stamina he had lost over the years. His training with Shohoku was not enough, he clearly needed to practise more if he really wanted to improve. But training alone was not the most efficient thing to do. It would be more motivating if he could find a partner to train with… especially if Kogure was interested.
They had just finished practice and were all going back to the locker room when Mitsui called the other player.
Kogure turned towards him with interest: "Yes, Mitsui?"
"I think I need some extra training to get back in form. Would you like to help me with that?"
Kogure smiled. "Of course. I'm glad to see you enjoying basketball that much again. Let's take our bags and go elsewhere. It's sunny, it'll be better to train outside."
"You're right, it's stupid to play in the gym with such weather."
They left the school and headed for a basketball court nearby. The slight breeze felt nice on their sweaty skins. Kogure threw the ball at Mitsui. "You attack, I defend."
"Okay," Mitsui answered as he caught the ball. He started to dribble at once and Kogure ran to stand in front of him, blocking him with his arms stretched out. Mitsui dribbled the ball behind his back, then back and forth between his legs. Kogure was watching him attentively. Suddenly, Mitsui stepped back, and then rushed past Kogure. He ran towards the basket, jumped… But Kogure had already jumped right in front of him. Mitsui let himself fall and jumped again, shooting the ball into the basket. He laughed, breathless. "You're putting up a good fight."
"It'd be a shame if I hadn't progressed while you were absent," Kogure answered with a hint of wistfulness in his voice.
Two years ago, they also trained one-on-one from time to time. But it was more for fun than anything else. Mitsui often played easy on Kogure, and Kogure, who always noticed it, scolded him playfully. Mitsui then ruffled his hair, passed his arm around his neck and laughed happily, telling him that it was for his own good and that he wouldn't get better if Mitsui kept crushing him. And sometimes, taking advantage of the closeness, they kissed, not caring if they could be seen from the street.
But things were different now and it was definitely not the right time to think about the past. Kogure was dribbling towards the opposite basket. Mitsui ran to him, blocked him, saw his feint towards the left and stole the ball when Kogure went to the right. He dashed towards the other basket, followed by Kogure, but the other boy didn't catch up before Mitsui reached the basket. He jumped and shot another three-pointer.
"6-0," Mitsui announced with a smile.
Kogure laughed: "I know, I know, no need to tease me about it."
He took the ball and ran towards his basket once again. This time, Mitsui didn't block him in time, but still managed to touch the ball with his fingertips. The ball was diverted and met with the ring. Fortunately, Kogure got the rebound and shot again.
"Eh eh! 6-2 now! See, I'm not that useless!"
Mitsui smacked him on the ass. "I never said you were useless," he said with a grin.
Kogure was joining Mitsui more and more often for his extra practice. Sometimes, they even went jogging together. After all, this kind of training was good for everybody and Kogure needed it as much as Mitsui.
But even when Mitsui was only practicing three-pointers, Kogure was there to support him and write down how many he got right. Mitsui had missed several three-pointers during the match against Kainan. They could have won if he had better aimed, so he had decided to train intensively in order to get a much better ratio during the match against Ryonan. They couldn't afford to lose that match, it was now their only way to the Nationals.
"8 out of 10, that's good, Mitsui. Let's have a break, you look like you need it."
"No, that's not good, Kogure! During a real match, I'll be pressed by our opponents. 8 out 10 here means 6 out of 10 in a real match, maybe 4 out of 10. That's not enough!"
"Okay, I see what you mean, I'll defend instead of just counting, but let's have a break first," Kogure insisted.
He went to sit down in the grass and brushed the earth from his hands once he was comfortably settled.
Mitsui sat down next to him and stayed silent for a moment, looking at his friend. Then, he said: "Thank you, Kogure. I don't know what I would do without you."
Kogure looked at his feet. "Come on, you could train without me. But I'm glad that I can help you."
"It's just like good old times. It probably sounds stupid, but I feel as if my life is finally getting back to normal." Mitsui hesitated. "Maybe we could… go see a movie or have a drink or… I don't know. What do you think?"
Kogure froze. "I… I'm not sure it's a good idea," he said in a low voice.
"Oh… I understand… Well, let's go back to training, then." Mitsui clearly sounded disappointed and he hated it, but he couldn't do better than that.
Afterwards, neither of them had much enthusiasm for practice, so they decided to cut it short half an hour later.
"Ha ha ha ha! Look how much progress this genius has made!" Sakuragi boasted.
"Yes, you're becoming very good, Sakuragi," Kogure answered with a smile.
"Ha ha ha ha! Thank you, Megane-kun!"
Sakuragi was suddenly punched on the head.
"Gori! Why did you do that?" he complained.
"Shut up, you idiot! And go back home, I'm going to close the locker room," Akagi shouted.
"But Megane-kun is still here."
"That's not a reason. Go away!"
Sakuragi finally left the room with his usual carefree attitude. "Ha ha ha ha! Good bye, Megane-kun! Good bye, Gori!"
"I'm sorry, Akagi. I'm keeping you here."
"That's not a problem. So, now, tell me what's wrong with you and Mitsui."
Kogure sighed. "I'm sorry if this is affecting the team."
"I'm not worried about the team, I trust Mitsui and you to play well against Ryonan no matter what. But it's obvious something's wrong. I'm not asking you this as your captain, but as your friend. You don't have to tell me anything if you don't want to, but maybe it'll make you feel better."
"Thank you, Akagi. You're right, I should talk to you about it, you're my best friend. Well, you see… Mitsui asked me out…"
Akagi looked at Kogure interrogatively. "Isn't that supposed to be a good thing?"
"Except I said no."
Akagi looked even more puzzled. "You've been looking at him with puppy eyes ever since he returned to the team, so why would you do that?"
Kogure laughed softly. "Puppy eyes, Akagi? Maybe you're right, after all. I'm so happy he came back to the team. We've spent a lot of time together since then and that's great. But… I don't know… when he asked me, I just went still. After all that happened, I'm afraid to make a huge mistake. I don't know what to do, Akagi."
"I see. You need time, that's only fair. Don't worry too much about it. When the right time comes, you'll know."
"But I didn't want to make him unhappy. That was the last thing I wanted."
"Mitsui'll understand. He's tough, he can wait a little."
"I hope so. Thank you, Akagi."
Mitsui looked tired. Despite his additional practice, he hadn't regained all his stamina. But Kogure knew Mitsui could play better in desperate situations, so he cheered him on loudly. That was all he could do from the bench.
But all of a sudden, Mitsui collapsed on the court. Panic seized Kogure. He called Mitsui's name again and again as he was running to him. For a moment, he barely registered that the rest of the team was doing the same. Mitsui wasn't moving. His eyes were still open, but he wasn't reacting. Some first years took him to the infirmary, and Kogure desperately wanted to go with Mitsui, but he was chosen to replace him and had to remain with the rest of the team.
After some long minutes, Ayako announced that Mitsui was feeling better, but that he wouldn't be able to play for the rest of the match. Obviously! Kogure was not as good as Mitsui, but he was certainly not going to let him faint a second time. He wanted to be beside him, but he had to play, and to win, for Mitsui's sake.
Some time after the match again Ryonan had resumed, Kogure saw Mitsui finally coming back to the bench and cheering them on vehemently. He felt a wave of relief and focused once again over the game. They barely won, but they defeated Ryonan, and that was what truly mattered.
After the match, they all went to see Anzai-sensei to tell him the good news. Akagi, Kogure and Mitsui were the last to stay, and Akagi insisted to remain a little longer to talk about the Nationals with their coach. Kogure smiled gratefully at him and left with Mitsui.
"Nice three-pointer," Mitsui said as they were walking along the alley of maple trees that led to the street.
"Thank you. I had a good teacher," Kogure answered with a wink.
Mitsui laughed bitterly. "Well, there's something I did right, then. I'm so stupid… And we could have lost because of that."
"Mitsui… Don't be so hard on yourself. You fainted. There's nothing you could have done against it," Kogure said, trying to be as comforting as possible.
"You don't understand! It's my own damned fault! I wasted two years of my life, and look where I am now! I can't even play a whole game without fainting!"
"Come on, a game against Ryonan is not just any game. And in the end, we won. We're a team, you don't have to carry all the burden on your shoulders. And we're going to the Nationals! The Nationals, Mitsui! I haven't fully realised it yet."
"Of course, that's great! That's always been my dream! But what if I can't do it after all?"
"Stop worrying, we're going to train even more and you'll be awesome! You've made a mistake at the time, but you've redeemed yourself since then."
A shadow passed over Mitsui's face. "Oh yes, and that's why you rejected me…"
Kogure turned towards Mitsui, not knowing what to say. Then, he threw his arms around his neck. "Oh, Mitsui," he whispered, hugging him tight. "I didn't reject you. I would never reject you. I was feeling insecure, I'm sorry. Today, when you collapsed, I was so afraid… I don't want to lose you again. Do you understand?"
Mitsui stepped back a little to look at Kogure. "Are you serious? Or are you just comforting me?" he asked doubtfully.
Kogure came closer, so close that Mitsui could feel his breath on his lips. "I'm very serious, Mitsui. Sorry for making you wait."
And then, their lips met. They tentatively moved against each other, and Kogure soon felt Mitsui's tongue on his bottom lip. He opened his mouth, welcoming Mitsui's warmth. The other boy drew Kogure even closer to him, slowly caressing his tongue. They began reacquainting with each other. This felt so familiar, and yet different from before, since both their bodies had grown up in the meantime. Kogure moaned, pressing against Mitsui's muscular chest. Despite the differences, this definitely felt like home.
Kogure started when Mitsui groped his ass. "Idiot, don't apologise. I'm the one who should be sorry for making you wait," Mitsui mumbled between two kisses.
"Less talking, more kissing," Kogure answered as a reassurance.
Mitsui complied with pleasure.