Rukawa bounces the ball once on the pavement, one quick snap. Then he throws it back, hard as he can.
Sendoh plucks it out of the air without even looking back. He stops and spins it on one finger.
That stupid smile, Rukawa thinks, even though he can't see Sendoh's face. That stupid hair. "I have practice then," he says and walks away.
Rukawa hears the footsteps but it's not until the ball rattles against the rim that he opens his eyes and unleans himself from the wire fence.
"Twenty-one," Sendoh says and throws Rukawa the ball. "No need to toss a coin."
Rukawa walks out onto the court and blinks against the white sunlight. "You'll be sorry."
"I don't think so." Sendoh moves closer, crouching a little and holding his arms wide, like they've already started.
Rukawa dribbles the ball twice, feints like he's going to spin past Sendoh, then jumps for a shot. "One," he says.
Sendoh chases the ball and brings it back to the top of the key. He flashes that grin. "This," he says, "is going to be fun."
Sendoh wheels past Rukawa and lets the ball float off his fingertips. He doesn't watch it bounce off the backboard and roll through the hoop. But his eyes are on Rukawa as he pulls up his shirt and wipes his shining face.
Sweat runs into Rukawa's eyes and he pushes his wet hair off his forehead. Sendoh's hair is still stupid, hardly wilted at all.
"Twenty-one," Sendoh says.
Twenty-one – fifteen. Rukawa hardly remembers the time passing or the sun baking the court but he can still feel each of Sendoh's points like the sting of a wasp. He picks up the ball. "Again."
"I'll buy you a drink first," Sendoh says and claps Rukawa's shoulder.
Sendoh cages Rukawa beside the vending machine, arms on either side of Rukawa's head, and that stupid smile still on his face.
There's one swallow left in Rukawa's bottle but not enough room between them to tip the bottle up. He drops it and hears it roll away.
"Another?" Sendoh asks but he doesn't move away.
Maybe Rukawa can't beat Sendoh at basketball yet but he could definitely take him in fight. Could knock his arms away. Punch him in the face. Kick him in the gut.
He does none of these things, just stares out at the trees beside the court, and doesn't look Sendoh in the eye as his mouth comes down on Rukawa's. But he lets Sendoh push his tongue past Rukawa's lips and when Sendoh finally steps away it's a moment or two before Rukawa picks up the ball.
The next game is twenty-one – fourteen. "Again," Rukawa says, even though he's cramping and thirsty. Tired and sunburnt.
"Keep practising," Sendoh says and holds his hands out for the ball.
Rukawa throws it as hard as he can.
Sendoh plucks it out of the air with one hand. He spins it on one finger and looks at Rukawa until Rukawa can feel his face flushing. "Next week," Sendoh says and turns around and walks away.
Rukawa buys another drink from the vending machine before he leaves.
Next is beltenebra!