Disclaimer: Eyeshield 21 is © Inagaki Riichirou and Murata Yuusuke, Shueisha, Viz, etc. This is a nonprofit fanwork.

Wait for me whenever darkness falls
by Fushigi Kismet

When Mamori left with the others three hours ago he had stayed behind to go over strategies for the upcoming game. Realizing that she had forgotten her schoolbag at the clubroom, she had snuck out to retrieve it before her mother noticed that instead of doing homework first she had been working on things for the American Football club.

Approaching the clubroom now, the stars shining through the trees, the moon hanging large and low in the night sky, she was surprised and at the same time strangely unsurprised to see the lights still on. Hiruma closed the gambling down at six-thirty, and it was never open right before a game - Damned annoying nuisances when we're trying to prepare! he'd say - but she thought it was rather like him to stay late to work on things.

His passion for and dedication to the game was something she had never understood about him before becoming a manager. It was true that he took extreme measures which she could not in good conscience approve of, but part of her respected him for it all the same.

When she entered the clubroom, ready for a derisive insult tossed like a grenade in her direction, she was greeted by absolute silence. Hiruma was slumped over the table, papers covered with scribbles that she discerned to be plays in front of him. She leaned over his shoulder and tried to straighten them. "He really does work hard," she said, glancing from one sheet to another.

His arm snaked around her waist and held her tight. "Finally caught you," he mumbled in a voice heavy with sleep.

"Hiruma," she said dropping the papers and prying at his fingers. She peered into his face. "Hiruma, wake up!"

But the eyes looking at her were awake and watchful. "You made the pass, I just caught it."

"This isn't football," she said softly. "It's not a game."

"No," he said softly, "it's fucking not." Then he leaned forward and kissed her.

She pressed her palms against his shoulders, felt his arm around her tighten, responded to the insistent movements of his lips and tongue. Then she bit down.

"Fuck!" he said, pulling away, and touching a finger to his bleeding tongue. "What the hell was that for, fucking manager!"

"Because you didn't ask," she said, flushed and flustered.

"That's it!" he said. "You fucking bit me for that?"

"You didn't ask," she repeated softly, looking away, her hands twisting the material of her skirt.

He looked at her another instant. "What do you want me to do? Signal you!"

She didn't answer.

"Okay, fine. We'll call that a failed pass. Next time I'll, like, fucking signal with my eyes or something."

"No fumbles," she said warningly.

"Fine with me," he said smirking and leaning back in his chair as he propped his feet up against the table. "I like touchdowns better myself."

She glared at him, suddenly furious, suddenly mortified.

But then he said, with that expression he got whenever he was trying to act casual when he was really very serious and kind of embarrassed by it, "No fumbling. Just passes. And no touchdowns until after first down." He looked at her and raised both his eyebrows. "That okay?"

"Okay." She looked around the room and sighted her bag in the corner. "I have to get going," she said, grabbing it.

"Fine." He swung his legs down. "I'll walk you."

"What?" She turned to look at him in alarm. She hadn't bit him that hard. How much was he bleeding? Had the blood loss gone to his head?

"What?" he said. "It's dark and I'm a fucking gentleman." He whipped the safety off one of his handguns. "Wait for me while I lock up."

She waited outside the door, holding her bag in front of her, craning her neck back to look at the sky.

"Okay, done," he said, pocketing the keys.

They walked together in a silence punctuated now and then by Hiruma taking potshots at a raccoon or a stray cat.

"I'm not trying to hit them," he said, affronted the first time she protested, "otherwise they'd be DEAD," so she let him be.

He stopped before she did when they reached her house and she didn't bother asking him how he knew where she lived. She had become well-acquainted with the mysterious workings of his little black book and his informational network.

It was extremely awkward, Mamori thought. Like a first date with a boy or something. Except they hadn't held hands and she could still taste him on her tongue. "Thanks for walking me back."

"Don't be late for the morning meeting tomorrow."

"Of course not!"

He fired at a cat behind her which yowled and ran for its life and she jumped a little out of reflex. His lips twitched like he thought that was funny, but all he said was, "See ya."

She watched him go, and thought that he always looked like he was consciously headed somewhere, and she didn't mean home or to the clubroom. It was more than a destination - it was a purpose.

"Hiruma," she said.

He looked back over his shoulder, his hands in his pockets. "Yeah?"

"I believe you can do it - go to the Christmas Bowl."

He grinned, his sharp teeth showing. "That's damned perceptive of you."

"Of course," she said, smiling, "you've got me with you."

He turned away and raised one hand in a wave. "Yeah. Keep up the fucking good work. Let's go together."

That might, Mamori thought, going inside and running up the stairs to her room, not caring if her mother noticed she had been out, not be so bad.