Author's Note: So I couldn't shake this idea and had been wanting to write a Himuro fic for a while. I hope you guys enjoy it! I intend for it to be fairly short. Also in case anyone is curious, the title is something random and has no deeper meaning (coughs much like Sugarcane).
One shaky breath, two steps, and three knocks was all it took to enter the gym. Her ears were filled with the squeak of sneakers against the wooden floor, the gentle drumming of a basketball and the swish of the net as someone took a shot. The smell of sweat hung thick in the air, which was already somehow heavy and oppressive. Perhaps it was because of the impending Winter Cup.
"Can I help you?" a voice interrupted before she could slip in any further than the outside edge of the court.
The rest of the team seemed preoccupied with practice and didn't notice her presence. She peered up at the man who towered over her. His most distinct feature, she decided, were the thick, fuzzy eyebrows—but she also noticed an unusual pink tint to his cheeks.
"Uh," she started, feeling a little awkward as she looked down at the camera hanging around her neck. "I'm Hirose Kanon, with the school newspaper. I'm supposed to come here for an interview today."
"You?" he echoed back with a look of surprise. "I thought Hanashima was going to be interviewing us."
So I did I, she thought quietly to herself. "Hanashima has the flu, apparently."
The captain quirked a brow. "It's not even flu season."
A smile stretched across his thick lips as he puffed his chest out. "I am the captain of the team, Okamura Kenichi."
"Yes, I know," she said uneasily, recalling how she had hastily researched the basics of their profiles after having the job shoved into her lap. Kanon lifted a hand and scratched at her forehead, disturbing the layer of dark bangs hanging over the left side of her face. "Anyways, the one I'm supposed to be interviewing is...?"
"Ah, yes. We can't sacrifice valuable practice time to have you interview the whole team. So we nominated Himuro." The man rubbed his thick neck as he relayed the information, a hint of bitterness in his tone. He muttered under his breath about his teammate's luck with the ladies—a comment that successfully flew right over Kanon's head.
"Alright. Then if I can just borrow him for a few minutes for the interview... after, if you don't mind, I will take a few snapshots and be on my way." The disinterest in her voice could not have been more clear—where Hanashima was always energetic and excited about an exclusive, particularly when it pertained to the sports clubs, Kanon had little interest in engaging people at all.
While waiting for the captain to retrieve her interviewee, Kanon took a seat on the bleachers—watching impassively as two of the players faced off in a one-on-one. The echo of approaching footsteps didn't seem to alert her, at least until she heard the sound of someone clearing their throat.
She inclined her head as she met his gaze. Although the two had never spoken, she recognized him from her class—the boy with a mole beneath his right eye whose amiable nature seemed to enchant all the girls regardless of age. "Thank you for agreeing to this interview."
"No, thank you for taking enough interest in covering the basketball club."
There was a long pause where she just stared at him in the face, scrutinizing in an honest attempt to suss out his appeal. Her stare seemed to puzzle him, because he eventually tilted his head.
"Hirose-san? Is something...?"
Her only visible brow lifted a fraction. "We have similar hairstyles," she noted dully.
"Is that so?" He seemed self-conscious, fiddling with the bangs hanging over his face.
"Well, my hair is longer."
For a moment he stared back at her, as though in disbelief that she had made such an obvious comment. Then just as quickly he let out a strangled laugh. "Yes... you definitely do have longer hair."
Kanon felt suddenly uncomfortable with the idle chatter. She motioned to the seat beside her. "You can sit down." As she waited for him to do so, she slipped a hand into her bag, withdrawing a notebook. Kanon wet a finger with her tongue, flipping hastily through the pages until she landed on the right one.
"You're a replacement for Hanashima-san?" Himuro asked as he settled down beside her, just as he had been instructed.
"Yes." Not being one much for conversation, she offered only a short, succinct response before digging out a pen and peering up at him. "Alright, so the first question..." Kanon read through them like a laundry list with a vague inclination that they were generic and boring—but she supposed they were the type of things that anyone interested in sports would want to know.
Himuro was amiable and more than willing to accommodate each of the questions, with a fluid transition that seemed to indicate he was accustomed to the process. There were no stutters or unnecessary pauses.
At least until she arrived at the last question, which was preceded by a frown and punctuated by a sigh. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
He blinked. "Do I have... a what?"
Completely deadpan, she looked him full in the face and repeated herself. "Do you have a girlfriend?" She realized that perhaps it was unclear as to whether she was asking out of personal interest or not—and she quickly clarified. "I'm guessing Hanashima-san included this because you are popular with the girls in school. It's probably a good way to get them interested in the article."
His cheeks dimpled in a look of amusement. "I don't have a girlfriend."
Kanon blinked slowly, the tip of her pen poised to take down the response, and yet she hesitated. "Why not?"
"Is that question for the article?"
Sobered by his response, she shook her head and wrote down what he had said. "No, and it's not relevant. You don't need to answer."
"I don't mind answering. It's because right now there are things more important to me—like focusing on basketball."
"I won't write that down," she told him. "Hanashima would rather the girls think they have a chance." Having cycled through all the questions required for the interview, she finished with a cursory glance through the answers. Satisfied with the end product, she tucked the notebook and her pen back into her bag before standing abruptly. "Well, thank you for your time. I'm just going to take some pictures of the basketball team playing and I'll be on my way."
"Are you not interested in basketball, Hirose-san?"
She stared blankly back him.
"You're giving me a look like you can't believe I would ask," he said with a chuckle.
Kanon expelled a quiet sigh before scratching at the side of her cheek. People normally left her alone—which was what she preferred. Being actively engaged in conversation was something she was unaccustomed to. "I don't really care about sports."
"Then what do you care about?"
Her lips grew taut, and she thought about deflecting the question back at him. No one had ever taken an interest before. "I like photography," she told him, glancing down at the camera now nestled between the two of her hands. "Not people... I like to take pictures of scenery."
"Why join the newspaper club then?"
Kanon peered directly into his eyes and said, "Because to do something you love, you have to make sacrifices." She turned her back toward him and lifted the camera to her face, meticulously adjusting the lens before snapping a shot. "Just a few more shots and I will be on my way. Thank you again for your time."
Perhaps her appreciation seemed insincere since she didn't even bother to face him when paying her respects, but if he thought so, Himuro did not indicate as much. "No, thank you for being willing to take Hanashima-san's place for the interview."
Once they had paid mutual formalities and she had wrapped up the last of her work, Kanon bowed her head one last time to Himuro and the captain of the team, and then she ducked out of the gym. The feature for the newspaper, she hoped, would prove acceptable in light of Hanashima's inability to perform the interview herself.
Scarcely a week had passed when she spotted her name up on the board beside Himuro's, and she supposed that it was thanks to the luck of alphabetical order that the two of them happened to be on cleaning duty together. It was after class had let out that she found herself alone with him, holding a broom in the far corner of the room while he busied himself cleaning the chalkboard.
"Aren't your teammates practicing right now?" she asked. Ordinarily she would hurry through the chore without making any conversation, and yet here she was awkwardly inquiring about something she didn't even care about.
"I expect they are." Himuro answered without looking back, though she could imagine him smiling even as he recognized that he was essentially wasting time cleaning when he could be practicing with them.
"I can take care of this if you want to go."
He froze in the middle of clearing the last quarter of the chalkboard, and he looked back at her in surprise. Just as quickly he composed himself and his lips curled up into a gentle smile as he echoed back the words he had received from her, "To do something you love, you have to make sacrifices."
In that moment, the impression she had of him changed. She clamped her lips and returned to sweeping the corner of the room, not making another mention of him missing practice. It was impossible for her not to feel a begrudging respect for someone who would insist on attending to their responsibility over other engagements.
"By the way... back when I interviewed you, you knew my name." The curiosity had been niggling at the back of her mind, like a pesky fly buzzing around one's face. She couldn't shake it off any longer and finally blurted out the question with her back still turned to him.
"Even other classmates don't know who I am."
He hummed. "Maybe they don't pay enough attention to their surroundings then."
It was at that point that she decided Himuro Tatsuya was an anomaly among high school boys. She had never been particularly attractive nor charismatic—she was the rather plain, gloomy girl seated in the corner of the classroom that kept to herself and had no discernible interest in anything.
For most that would qualify as someone passing under their radar completely, and yet here was someone who was not alone popular but passionately and intensely focused on something so much that it would be unsurprising they weren't completely oblivious of everything else around them. Yet not alone was Himuro perceptive and aware, he held no discriminatory prejudice against anyone for their preoccupations or quirks.
She stared at his back, watching the ripple of his muscles beneath the thin fabric of his uniform. Then she decided, "I don't understand you."
"Do you want to?" he asked without skipping a beat, finally finishing his work on the chalkboard. He dusted his hands off before looking back at her, a grin on his face.
Kanon pursed her thin, chapped lips as she contemplated the question. It made the most sense to say no—it seemed the most logical to be entirely uninterested, as she always had been. But saying that would have been a lie. "Maybe I do," she allowed.
"Then you'll have to talk to me more."
Was that a hint of playful teasing in his tone? She wasn't sure. "Is that okay?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
Somehow she seemed to vaguely recall hearing someone say that he was "everyone's Tatsuya," and that anyone who approached without heeding that would find themselves on the receiving end of some hostility. Kanon wasn't sure she wanted to test those waters. She was perfectly content to continue flying under everyone's radar, going unnoticed through life.
"Talking to Hirose-san is interesting."
She started at his comment. "It is?" Her voice raised a few octaves.
Something in her stomach fluttered, and she found herself thinking that since she had never cared what people thought about her before, it would be silly to start taking that into account now.