UNVEILED LOVE IN WINTER

Standard disclaimer applies. You are warned that the characters might not be in their usual selves (in other words, possible OOCness).

Author's Notes: The setting of this story is in first year high school. Momoshiro and Kaidoh aren't exactly present in this part of the story since they are still in middle school, only in their third year. Ryoma isn't present either as he was residing in America (at least he was in this story). The timeline and original anime plotline will somehow be changed in this fanfic, especially about Tezuka supposed to be going to Germany, Oishi supposedly not going to enroll in Seigaku's High School Division, and Kawamura supposedly going to quit tennis to pursue being a sushi chef. In any case, this is my story so I guess that's one of the changes that I had to do.

This is my first attempt to do a Kawamura/OC fanfic. I'm not sure how this story will turn out but I hope you enjoy reading this one. I know I haven't written anything in months—or maybe even a year (literally). I've been busy with so many stuffs and other writings, that's why. Anyway, thank you!Enjoy reading!

-x-x-

Part 1: What She Noticed

"Good work, everyone! Keep it up!" a voice beamed with encouragement to the members of Seigaku's High School Female Tennis Team as the first years did forehand swings as part of their trainings.

Well, that went to the first year non-regulars.

Practice matches were the second and third year non-regulars's training in order to make sure that they weren't slacking off. Even though they were non-regulars, it wasn't a reason for them not to be in good shape, especially now that the girls' tennis team would be heading to Nationals in two months' time.

As for the regulars, it was that voice that made them stop doing whatever it was they were doing. Most of them were self-practicing while the others were having practice matches. As a result of hearing that voice, they raised their heads and turned their attention to the one who said it.

It was none other than the vice-captain of the Female Tennis Team—Shiraoka Ginga. They soon saw that their captain Hirota Asami approaching and had eventually stopped beside her vice captain.

"Regulars, line up!" Asami ordered.

Of course, they followed and the other eight regulars soon crowded the tennis captain. Asami let out a sigh first before speaking. "I know that Nationals will still be in two months, but I want you to remember that our journey in facing the National champions once more will never be easy. No doubt that Rikkaidai and even Shitenhouji will be stronger than they even were a year ago. Though this will be the first time that the Five Columns will face those two schools, I still want you to do your best and don't let your guard down. So I want to give it your all when that time to face them comes. Facing Rikkaidai, Shitenhouji, and Hyoutei poses a huge threat to us in attaining our goals. But I don't want you to falter because of that. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Asami-buchou!" the regulars replied in unison.

"In two weeks, we'll be having our training camp. Nakayama-sensei arranged it in order for us to prepare. It will be a two-week training for us so I want you to get ready for that. Okay?" After hearing their replies, Asami continued to speak. "We'll still have our training during weekends and after classes. Right now, I want you to focus on that. And then we'll focus on the training camp. Be sure to be in good shape until then."

With that, the regulars were dismissed. A few minutes still went on and the others continued their own drills. But there was one person whom Asami noticed that wasn't actually giving it their all.

She couldn't help sighing. A month ago, one of the Five Columns of Seigaku—to be specific, the "Valkyrian Column" Miyuzaki Kana—was the one who was acting the same way. And now, another one appeared to have been bearing the same (or maybe almost the same) problem as Kana had before. Only this time, it was the Meister Column who was facing that kind of problem.

Maybe she had to talk to Aika later after practice.

xxxxxx

It wasn't actually unknown to Sarasugawa Aika—the "Meister Column" of Seigaku's Five Columns—that her captain already noticed her odd actions. But she didn't know why she couldn't hide it from Asami's observing sight.

Or maybe she could never hide it from Asami at all. One way or another, the tennis captain was bound to know the truth, anyway. But then she guessed that Asami could possibly have thought wrong about it. All she could tell, Captain Hirota Asami was probably thinking about Aika's love life (or lack thereof) that bothered her now.

Okay. Partly it was true. It did concern her love life—err… correction, her non-existent love life—but not in a way similar to that of Kana a month ago. Aika's problem right now had something to do with making sure that her friend—and her secret love—Kawamura Takashi was out of the possible danger that she could inevitably face later on. She couldn't tell but she knew it would come soon.

A heavy sigh came out of her mouth once more. Just how in the world was she going to do her job to protect her?

Though it was a question as to why she was only worried about Kawamura's safety, the answer was something that she mustn't involve her friends into. Kazumi, Miyako, Hanako, and Kana were living normally with the people they cared about and Aika didn't have it in her to ruin it at all cost, in any way possible.

Right after club practice, Aika decided to stay in order to do her self-training. This one involved tennis ball machines and even baseball ones wherein she had to try her best to overcome her lack of power, especially when she had to deal with heavy hitters on the court. This was one training that her captain and vice-captain didn't know about at all. In fact, not even the others knew this type of training that Aika was doing.

Well, okay… She might have to correct that one. There was actually one (and only one) person who knew she was doing this training.

It was none other than the boy she had to protect from the past that would haunt her after so many years—Kawamura Takashi. Only he was the person who knew her intense training and only he was the person she had to protect at all cost, most of all. She didn't have to worry about the other Columns' safety since she had Hanako to ensure that for her. After all, Yamazaki Hanako—who was the former captain of Seigaku Middle School's Karate Club—wasn't her rival in karate for nothing. Because of that, she knew her other friends would be safe from possible harm that they might encounter because of that.

Anyway, since it was her own time for another day of intense training, then she might as well get on with it to the fullest. Going all out even during trashing was probably the best way for her to achieve her goal of helping the team to become number one in the Nationals. This was what she had already chosen to do, after all.

"Do you have any idea that you're killing yourself for doing this kind of training all alone? What if Asami-senpai sees you? How are you suppose to explain this to her?" The voice, even though it was firm as if scolding her, had hints of worries and obvious concern in it.

It made Aika stop whatever it was that she was currently dealing with (which was the tennis ball machines and the baseball machines) before facing the person who said it. Of course, she wasn't surprised—but it still startled her—to find Kawamura eyeing at her with obvious worries that could possibly match to that of Oishi's. As expected, her heart began beating fast and she knew fully well that it had nothing to do with her training.

Aika just showed a lopsided smile and shrugged. "I just need to make see that I'm still in shape to deal with whoever's going to be my opponent in the Nationals. I don't want to fail the team, you know."

"But you will surely fail if you continue to keep this up, especially this kind of training."

"I'm only doing this once a week and you know that."

"Don't give me that kind of reasoning, Aika!" His voice was intense that it made her wince because of it.

Of all things she hated the most, one of them was Kawamura's scolding whenever she tried reasoning with him. Only in the end, she would lose because he was somewhat right. She had the tendency to overdo things most of the time, especially when she was this determined.

Maybe that was one reason why God made her meet him during her 5th grade. Even back then, she really did have the tendency to overdo things like this. She did things on her own way that even her parents couldn't control her anymore.

She sighed. She guessed she had to give in to his worries—just for this time. She couldn't afford to make him worry even more than how he was to her right now. It was the least she could do for him.

"Fine, fine… You win. I'll stop doing this kind of training," she said.

At that point, Kawamura could tell—and he knew—that Aika would do what she had just said. In a way, he knew that she would never go against her words, especially if she spoke of it with the same kind of intensity as her voice was showing right now. But he still needed to make sure.

"You have to promise me that you will never do this kind of harsh self-training again. I don't want you to get hurt even more that this and you know that."

Aika's cheeks was colored in faint pink as her mind digested those words of concern for her. Kawamura's voice still showed concern in it but the way he said it was somehow different. As for now, she couldn't put her finger on the reason as to why she concluded that it was different.

Along with that, she felt stinging in her eyes. She should've expected this, though. Ever since then, back when she first met him, she still hadn't forgotten used to Kawamura's concern for her. Every time he was showing it to her, she really couldn't help but to cry at all that.

It only proved how lucky she was for having Kawamura in her life more than ever.

"This will be the last time you'll know and see this training, Takashi. I promise. I won't do this again." It was the truth. And she would definitely do it.

It was the least she could do for him… for the person who saved her life a long time ago and the one she vowed to protect with her life.

Kawamura smiled with the answer he got from Aika. And he was glad she said that before he forced her to stop doing that hellish self-training of hers. "That's good."

Gentle smiles soon carved on their faces. Well, it looked like those smiles showed each other's relieved feelings for some reason.

"`Wanna go home together?" Kawamura offered sheepishly as he scratched the back of his head.

Now that she thought about it, he seemed to have been doing that more often this school year. She tried asking him about it before, but his only answer was 'I-guess-it-was-a-habit-I-developed' kind of excuse that she chose to let go. It appeared that he didn't want to talk about it to her—even though she was hurt by that fact—and she respected that. He still had his privacy that she must respect in so many ways and it must have been the reason why their friendship lasted despite the odd start they had before.

"Aren't you supposed to be going to your father's shop already? You should be helping him in the shop at this hour." Well, she wasn't making up an excuse for him to leave her already. And she would prove that, if she had to.

"I already told him I'd walk you home today before going to the shop. He was more than willing to allow me to do so, as long as I make sure I had taken you home safe and sound. It was a man's job, you know. Or at least that's what my father said to me over the phone." A short laugh later followed those words with a mixture of amusement, embarrassment, and disbelief at his father's words relayed him.

There it was again. Recently, Kawamura's father was somehow shoving his son out of the shop whenever it was about her going shopping or going home from school. She couldn't help feeling embarrassed because of that. But since it was a good opportunity, as she called it most of the time, she just allowed herself to go with the flow.

After all, it was a really great chance for her to be with him like that… even though she made a resolve not letting him get involved too much on her. He must not get involved with any issues related to her and her past. Although he knew that past which she was afraid of, she couldn't afford to endanger him in any way at all cost.

"Aika? Aika!"

Those words called her out of her reverie and made her look at the person who said them. Once again, Kawamura's worried looked greeted him her that made her heart skip a few beats.

"You're spacing out again. Are you sure you're okay?" he asked concerningly.

She winced at the question. Again? Did that mean he knew she had this 'spacing out' attacks once in a while? "What do you mean 'again'?"

His face was serious. His gaze on her felt like it was delving through her soul. "This is another reason why I want you to stop this training. I know you've been doing a lot of thinking lately, making you space out sometimes. But recently, you zone out much frequently. And it looked like you're using your self-training to drive whatever thoughts you have that bothered you out of your mind. You know you can tell me your problem, right?"

How I wish it's that easy to do, Takashi… she thought sadly and a bit frustratingly. But how in the world was she supposed to tell him what exactly bothered her if he was the reason why she spaced out more often these past days? Not only because it concerned her feelings for him and how scared she was for the truth that would greet her if she confessed, but also because it concerned her extreme worry for his safety from her haunting past.

"Let's just go home?"

She just hoped going home wouldn't be something bad like what she had always wary of from happening.