Convalescence by Halrloprillalar
Slam Dunk, Mitsui/Kogure, 700 words, G.
Kogure visits every day.
Timeframe: first year
The peel curled off the apple, over Kogure's knife, an unbroken ribbon of red and green. He cut off a chunk of the white flesh and held it out to Mitsui on the point of the knife.
"I'm not an invalid," Mitsui said and took it.
Kogure sliced the rest into a dish and set it down beside the bed. His hands were sticky with juice and he wiped them on his handkerchief. "I'll be back tomorrow."
Mitsui leaned back against the pillows, hands behind his head. He didn't say goodbye.
Kogure changed quickly after practice, stuffing things into his bag, hopping into his trousers. Akagi slapped him on the back and he stumbled into the lockers.
"Let's go get a snack," Akagi said.
"I can't." Kogure's fingers fumbled over the buttons on his jacket, just like he fumbled over the ball on the court. Slow down, he told himself. Breathe.
"You're off to see that punk." Akagi looked down at Kogure, brows drawing together under the dent in his forehead.
Kogure looked away. "Why don't you come along?"
"Why do you go every day?"
"It's the least I can do," Kogure said and slung his bag over his shoulder.
The magazine took the last of Kogure's pocket money. He skimmed it on the bus, reading one of the articles and lingering over the photos. They almost seemed to move, players and ball, a split second of action pinned to the page and struggling to get free. He tried to feel his body in each one, twisting on the court, the ball springing from his fingers in a smooth arc, two points, three points, the crowd on its feet. Ko-gu-re!
It was easier to see Akagi, to see Mitsui run and jump and shoot. If he could pass the ball to them, if he could call their names and slap their backs, that was good enough.
The hospital smelled too clean and a little sad. The nurses smiled at Kogure and a few called him by name. He stopped in the corridor in front of Mitsui's room. Breathe. He opened the door.
Mitsui threw a basketball at him and Kogure dropped the magazine trying to catch it. It rolled out into the hall and he scrambled after it.
"I hope the rest of the team is better than that." Mitsui flipped through the magazine and tossed it onto the bedside table.
"Of course." Kogure sat, his knees almost touching the bed. "How are you today?" He couldn't help smiling. It gave him a thrill to see Mitsui, the first time, every time. He couldn't wait to share the court with him, or even just to watch him from the sidelines.
Mitsui's hair stuck up at the back and his shirt was wrinkled. He tossed the basketball into the air and caught it. "Why do you come here every day?"
"It's the least--" Kogure stopped. He hitched his chair an inch closer and leaned towards Mitsui. He blinked slowly and swallowed. "You're carrying half my dream," he said. "I want to support you."
"Just half?" Mitsui said. "You're not depending on that ass Akagi, are you?" But his mouth curled into a smile and his eyes found Kogure's.
Kogure's heart gave a throb and he smiled even wider. "Mitsui," he said and held out his hand.
Mitsui took it. "Believe in me," he said. "Mitsui the MVP won't let you down."
Of course not, Kogure thought. Soon Mitsui's leg would be better and he would come back and play. With Mitsui, Shohoku would fly.
Mitsui's hand was cool and dry and Kogure could feel his own getting clammy. He pulled away. "I should go," he said.
He was at the door when Mitsui called to him. "Kogure!" Kogure turned to see the ball coming at him. This time he caught it.
"You're improving," Mitsui said. "I'll be back before you know it and then I'll teach you the good stuff."
"See you tomorrow," Kogure said. Mitsui picked up the magazine and leafed through it. Kogure closed the door.
He ran all the way home.