The Shade of Sunflowers

Upon the retirement of the third years, Kise gets a bit of a shock over his captain’s plans for his future. Drama, I-2

Kise Ryouta stood rooted to the polished floor of Kaijou’s locker room, staring at his captain and coach. “You… but…”

Kasamatsu-senpai gave him faint, tilted smile. “You think maybe Hayakawa is a better choice?”

Ryouta ran a helpless hand through his hair. “Well, no, but…”

“I told you when you joined, Kise,” Takeuchi-kantoku rumbled, “you’re going to be the core of the team. Get used to it already.”

“But making a first-year captain…! Ow,” he added, as Kasamatsu-senpai smacked him on the arm.

“Quit whining,” his captain ordered. “Now we’re retiring, you’re as good as a second-year. And Kantoku is right about this; it’s time you got serious about the club.”

“I am serious!” Ryouta protested, indignant. Hadn’t he proven that during the tournaments, this year?

“Including when you’re not having fun in a tight game,” Kasamatsu-senpai specified, and Ryouta ducked his head, cheeks a little hot. Okay, he guessed he did kind of toy with people outside of games, but it was reflex! His agency had pretty much trained the charm into him, and how else was he supposed to get any amusement out of being a public figure since middle-school, for pity’s sake?

Besides, he mostly on did it to Kasamatsu-senpai, on his own team. Kasamatsu-senpai gave him a look like he’d heard the thought, and Ryouta ducked his head further, hiding a tiny grin.

“It’s not like you can’t lead,” Takeuchi-kantoku told him heartlessly. “Time to step up and do it. Kasamatsu, you said you have the rest of this?”

Kasamatsu-senpai waved a hand. “Yeah, I’ve got it.”

“The rest of what?” Ryouta asked a bit warily, as their coach took himself out, nudging the door shut behind him. Kasamatsu-senpai sat down on one of the benches, elbows on his knees.

“Listen, Kise, you still have one serious weakness. You aren’t experienced enough.”

“That’s what I was just trying to tell you!”

Kasamatsu-senpai stuck a foot out and booted him in the thigh. “Shut up; I said listen.”

Ryouta considered cowering dramatically, but the look in Kasamatsu-senpai’s eyes was serious, so he leaned back against the lockers and listened quietly.

“You have incredible potential, and you’re developing it fast. That’s good. But you’ve still only been playing for under three years. You can’t read the situation on the court very well yet. You need to fix that.”

Ryouta bit his lip; he’d known that was why Kasamatsu-senpai had taken him to watch the Tokyo preliminaries, had brought him to every other match they could manage and talked him through every one. “Is there anyone else?” he asked, tentatively. “Anyone else in the club who knows that the way you do?”

A corner of Kasamatsu-senpai’s mouth curled up, not happily. “Not really, though I’ll tell you now that you should listen to Kataoka; he’ll probably make the best point-guard, after me, for that matter. But no. You’re going to have to learn this yourself.”

“But…!” Ryouta protested. “If it’s a matter of experience…”

“It’s patterns, Kise.” Kasamatsu-senpai leaned forward intently. “And that’s what you do best. You just need to see more of them. So here’s what you’re going to do.” He pointed to a stack of two cardboard boxes sitting by the door. “You’re going to watch recordings of as many different games as I could lay hands on. Watch them like you were looking at a new move to make your own, but don’t just watch the moves. Watch the flow of the game, see what positions people have when plays happen.”

Ryouta calculated how many DVDs those two boxes could hold and quailed. “But…!” This time it came out a little desperate.

Expecting an admonitory kick, he stilled when Kasamatsu-senpai just looked up at him instead, quiet and serious.

“You can do this, Kise. I know you can. Will you?”

Ryouta slumped back against the lockers, helpless in face of that kind of trust. “I…” Slowly he let his breath out and bowed his head. “Yes, Captain,” he said, low.

“Senpai,” Kasamatsu-senpai corrected, pushing up onto his feet. “You’re the team’s captain, now.” He reached up and rested a hand on Ryouta’s shoulder, steadying him the way he’d done for Ryouta all year.

Ryouta smiled, small and rueful. “Yeah, I guess I am. But you’re the one who put me there. In a lot of different ways,” he finished softly.

Answering softness flickered over Kasamatsu-senpai’s face for a moment. “You’re welcome. Now come on. We have time to watch the first match from that set before it’s dark.”

Ryouta made a mournful face. “Yes, senpai.” He collected a reassuringly brisk smack across the shoulder for that, and trailed along obediently as Kasamatsu-senpai rummaged out a disk and pulled Ryouta down onto the bench in front of the team’s DVD player. At least, Ryouta reassured himself, he wasn’t being thrown over the edge of captaincy alone. He had his senpai’s trust and advice to go with him.

How far those would carry him, he wasn’t sure. But he was going to hang on tight to them anyway.

End

A/N: In hanakotoba, sunflowers indicate love and respect.