Disclaimer: I don't own Eyeshield 21, thank God, because if I did Hiruma would probably not be anywhere near as hot. That said, this is a not-for-profit fanwork.

To Hiruma, With Love
by Fushigi Kismet

It all started with Mamori walking into the clubhouse one day after practice then storming right back out and into the locker room (causing a few half-dressed members of the team to scatter in self-conscious confusion) to ask Hiruma pointedly, "What is Sena doing with all that paperwork!"

He gave her a "what kind of drugs are you on" kind of look before his expression cleared and he said with a sharp-toothed grin, "Oh. He's answering Eyeshield 21's fan mail."

"He has an exam tomorrow morning!" she said, as though that too were exclusively Hiruma's fault.

Hiruma put down the gun he had been cleaning and whipped out his threatbook. "Well, if you're going to get this bent out of shape about it we could postpone th-"

She put a hand over the one holding the book and brought both of them down out of his face. "Why don't you just have Eyeshield 21 answer his OWN mail? Don't you think it's cruel to make Sena respond to all of Eyeshield's fans?"

"You don't seem to grasp the situation," Hiruma said, pointedly looking at her hand on his wrist. She jumped back in alarm, holding her hand as though she'd scalded it. He put away his threatbook and picked up the gun and cleaning cloth from where he'd placed them on the bench. "Even if answering the mail weren't part of his job, the fucking shrimp volunteered to do it."

"He did?" Mamori said, blinking, the thought never once having crossed her mind.

"Ask him yourself," Hiruma said, giving the gun one last swipe before chucking it in with the rest of his locker room armory and slamming his weapons locker shut.

"I still don't think it's fair," she argued after a moment. "After all, Eyeshield 21 must be the only one who gets any fan mail on the team! There must have been a hundred letters!" She was too busy thinking about poor Sena to notice the dejected expressions of the rest of the team but Hiruma glanced about at them and said, "Win some more fucking games and see if you don't get some. Besides", he added, turning to Mamori, "it's not like Eyeshield's the only one getting mail."

She looked up. "Oh?"

"Speaking of which, unless you want the fucking shrimp to have more work to do, you'd better start doing your share too. The players don't have the time to fucking pander to the public but as manager you'd damn well better."

"Fine," she said icily. "Where are these letters?"

"Here're today's." He pulled a handful out of his bag and counted them, one-two-three-four-five.

"You mean-" she began, bewildered.

"What'd you think, the fucking fat-ass was getting mail?"

"Who would send fan letters to you!"

"High school girls," Hiruma said, his face doing a good approximation of the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood.

"I don't believe it," Mamori protested. "Are you sure they aren't challenge notices or death threats!"

He gave her a Look. "And who the hell'd be stupid enough to do that, fucking manager?"

--

Despite what Hiruma had said and her own inability to deny the truth of his words (who would be stupid enough to challenge him to a fight?), she was still convinced that most of the letters had to be death threats.

So it was with some apprehension that she sat down in the empty clubhouse (Sena had gone off to mail a batch of letters – it seemed like he really HAD volunteered), set them in front of her, and slowly opened the first letter, holding it as far away from her as possible and shying away with her head ducked down low in case it were to suddenly explode. Luckily or unluckily it did nothing of the sort and she pulled it out and rapidly scanned the contents.

OH MY GOD.

With increasing desperation she tore open the next, glanced quickly at it, then opened the next and the next and the last.

Slowly putting the letters down, she spread them out flat on the table. They were ALL love letters. And what was more, while three of them were from different schools - this she could talk herself into understanding, they were unaware of Hiruma's true personality, the only thing about him that they knew was his ability on the playing field; it was a type of ignorance she could forgive - TWO of them were from DEIMON HIGH. What was more, Mamori knew both of the girls in question - one of them sat one row up and one row over from her in class and the other one was in girl's choir.

Why did she suddenly feel like her faith in humanity had been completely and utterly misplaced?

"This is a joke, isn't it?" she asked no one in particular. It had to be. Especially that last one. She could not have actually read . . . Mamori picked up the letter.

"Dear Hiruma-sama,

You don't know me but I'm a big fan of yours and I think you should win, like, all the games! I was never interested in American football before I saw you and I still don't know the rules, but I think all the English you yell during the game is just soooo sexy!

I think you are so hot on the playing field! Your physique is so fit and when you throw the ball you look so good it just gets me all-"

Mamori put down the letter, her face in her hands. Oh God, it hadn't been a hallucination after all. She peeked at the letter through her fingers. Oh, for the love of - It had been written by an eighth grader!

She devoutly hoped she had never been like that in Junior High. Rather, that she had never been like that ever. How were parents bringing up their children these days? She really didn't understand. What had happened to girlish innocence and sweet confessional letters? While two of them had been in line with her own idealized version of love letters from shy high school girls, the rest of them were just . . . she was seized with the sudden urge to wash her hands. With rubbing alcohol.

No, she restrained herself. After writing the replies. The sooner the better.

So thinking, she pulled out a fresh sheet of notebook paper and set it in front of her.

I, she wrote, trying to channel Hiruma, have no interest in girls and relationships. I have dedicated my life to American Football-

Darn, she thought, biting her eraser, somehow that made him sound too cool. It wasn't discouraging at all. Not to mention he sounded like Hiruma-the-honor-student which was definitely not what she had been going for here. Crossing out the previous lines she made a fresh start.

The only thing I fucking care about is football. Take your vapid mushy letters and shove 'em-

Ehh, she thought, striking through the second line. While that certainly made her feel better, she didn't really want to make anyone cry. Not to mention she didn't think Hiruma would actually be quite that mean. After all, he was more likely to mine their attention for everything he could get out of it than drive them away.

The only thing I fucking care about is football. If you can't support the team on the field, I couldn't care less.

She paused, tapping the pencil against her lower lip. Wait, while that certainly sounded better, she was filled with foreboding that a bunch of screaming Hiruma fangirls would come to try and steal her position. After all, it happened all the time in books and on TV. And not only would that disrupt the team, it would also be really personally annoying as she was sure most of them probably didn't even know the rules. Plus, she actually kind of enjoyed her job. Not, she hastily added to her own mental dialogue, that Hiruma had any part in that. She just liked being there to support Sena and the other team members.

Right, her brain said. And Mamori nodded. Exactly.

Now, if only she could come up with an excuse that would let these girls down easily yet avoid the potential hazards of doing so.

Too bad no one would believe that Hiruma had a girlfriend already. Wait, she reasoned, what was she saying? These girls were delusional. It was possible they would believe anything. Well, but she wasn't delusional, so that made it hard to come up with anything. What kind of a crazy person would date Hiruma anyway?

Her pencil started moving on its own.

And I already have someone supporting me right now who I care deeply about - Anezaki Mamori.

Wow, Mamori's brain thought vaguely, she hadn't even realized that she was ill, let alone seriously so. Perhaps these past few months had all just been one long fever dream?

Like Hiruma would ever- What had possessed her to-?

Her pencil hovered above the words and she found herself crossing out "deeply" as something Hiruma would be unlikely to ever say and tracing "who I care about." Well, she thought, I definitely have to burn this piece of paper before men in white suits show up at the door to haul me off.

The door knob rattled and she jumped in her seat, slamming the paper and the letters shut inside her scorebook and piling other things on top. Sena walked inside and looked at her frozen midway through gathering everything together and said uncertainly, "Mamori-neesan?"

"Ah," she said, "Sena. I was just . . . heading out! I'll see you later, Sena!" Then she bolted from the clubhouse at speeds that would have done Eyeshield 21 proud but just left Sena confused.

She stopped once she was safely out of sight and, dropping her scorebook and papers on the ground, doubled over, hands on her knees, and took a few much-needed lungfuls of air. Things were just getting slightly out of hand now.

Stupid! she berated herself. How stupid can you be! What reason was there for you to run away! It was just Sena and it was just a letter! It's not like you have anything to hide!

Then with more vigor: Mamori, think about this rationally! Are you honestly saying you like Hiruma-kun!

Oh God, she thought, placing a steadying hand against the wall as she suddenly felt dizzy and faint. I did NOT need to know the answer to that question.

--

The next day the reply letters were still in various states of half-written, not-written, and briefly thought about, and Mamori could only groan internally as she followed Hiruma into the school after morning practice only to have him dig out four more letters from his shoe locker and wave them in her face with a demonic smile. "More work for you, fucking manager."

Really, she thought, taking the letters, only a crazy person would find that endearing and reluctantly added "crazy" to her mental list of personal characteristics.

Her mind was on anything but school as she sat staring out the window, and the teacher had to call her twice in English class before she responded, standing and dropping her pencil before reciting a poem from entirely the wrong section of the textbook. Her teacher asked if she was feeling all right and the whole class looked concerned. Mamori thought briefly about scenarios where Hiruma solicitously came to visit her in the nurse's office, then colored and said she was Just Fine, Thank You, before sitting down.

This was ridiculous, she chided herself as she gathered her things after class. Three of her friends had already come up to her to ask if she was sure she was okay and she had smiled and said, just a little tired, really, before waving them off. She officially needed to Get A Grip.

It didn't help that she heard people whispering that she must be overworked from the American Football Club and wasn't it Just Like Hiruma to treat her like that. It mostly didn't help because she wanted to go up to them and defend Hiruma, who, if she thought about it, didn't deserve to be defended. At all. But the instinct to do so was still there and she could only think, I've got it pretty bad.

Practice was even worse as she clocked times, set up equipment, and watched the team with a feeling of complete and utter normalcy until Hiruma was suddenly two feet behind her, yelling directions at the team over her shoulder as he took a swig from a water bottle. She tensed up instantly, hyper-acutely aware of his presence and unable to turn and actually look at him lest she do something that would clue him in.

He glanced at her after a burst of "RUN FASTER YOU FUCKING SHRIMPS!" to the staccato tune of gunfire and said, "I hear you weren't paying attention in class today."

"What," she said, staring hard enough at the scorebook to burn holes through it, "do you have spies all over the school reporting on every little thing?"

"Like I'd need them." He took another swig of water. "Grapevine says the Devil made you do it."

"Ha," she said scornfully, "the Devil gives himself entirely too much credit."

He tossed the water bottle to one side and picked up a football with his right hand, firing a machine gun into the air with his left. "HEY, FUCKING MONKEY! PASSING PRACTICE!" The ball shot out, straight as an arrow, and Monta ran full speed from the other side of the field to catch it (in a maneuver that Mamori personally thought looked rather painful) with a cry of: "CATCH MAX!"

"Heh," Hiruma said, and Mamori chanced a glance at his face just so she could see the pleased glint in his eyes. "Not bad," he muttered under his breath. Then, to her, as he began moving off onto the field: "Don't get rundown, fucking manager. We've still got a fucking tournament to win."

"Right," she said to his retreating form, the thought that he really might have come to visit her in the nurse's office making her pulse dance in strange ways.

Mamori, she chided herself sternly, stop smiling like an idiot. But she couldn't help but be happy about the tiny modicum of concern he'd let slip.

--

Any happiness she'd felt about the situation had entirely dissipated by the time she reached home and was confronted with the drafts of unfinished letters littering her desk. She dumped the four new letters onto the pile of old ones and, rolling up her sleeves, set to work getting a workable version of the generic Reply Letter From Hell done. Because, really, if he was going to continue getting this many all week she was going to go crazy trying to fashion a reply to each and every one.

Let's be efficient, she thought at herself, without acknowledging the fact that the half-written letter that was most definitely Not A Reply of generic or any other nature carefully buried at the bottom of her desk drawer waiting to be worked on might also be a factor in getting everything else out of the way.

She eventually pounded out a draft she deemed adequate. It had a good smattering of Hiruma's regular abusive language and stated in what she hoped were no uncertain terms, thanks, but no thanks.

He'd better not have been expecting her to line up dates for him, she thought sourly, copying out the reply in her worst handwriting. Hiruma's handwriting was actually sharp and bold, uncompromising like his own personality, but Mamori's was neat and clean and a little too recognizable, so she did the best she could to at least hide the fact that she was the one replying. Best not to give the school gossips anything else to wag their tongues over.

Of course, if Hiruma had wanted dates, he probably wouldn't be making her answer his mail. Not to mention, what exactly had he replied prior to dumping the task on her? She imagined she had done a good job approximating what he might say but she really had no idea.

It was with that thought still ringing in her head that she opened her desk drawer and pulled out her letter. She stared at it, burying her face up to her nose in the crook of her elbow, and wondered if writing the letters she had just replied to had been as difficult? But no.

Because they don't know him the way I do.

She carefully folded up the piece of paper and stuffed it back into the drawer, then made her way over to her bed and laid down, staring up at the ceiling, one arm across her chest, one flung behind her head.

And even I don't know what he's thinking.

--

The week wore on as usual, practice and school blending together into the relatively harmonious whole of her high school existence. The final letter count for the week came to a grand total of twenty-three.

Friday couldn't have come any sooner for Mamori. A half-day of school and a half-day of football practice the next day, then the game on Sunday, and, hopefully, at least a day's break from the tedium of reading and replying to Hiruma's mail which would in no way go amiss. She could almost taste the weekend.

Steadfastly, she refused to think about what would happen to the number of letters once they'd won (because of course they wouldn't lose, not with the amount of training they'd been doing, not with Hiruma's resolve, and not with the whole team determined to win on pain of Hiruma-inflicted death) and she finished up Friday morning's batch of letters during her lunch break with a light heart. Both letters were from first-year girls at the school so she casually popped them into their shoe lockers after checking to make sure the coast was clear (it wouldn't do for people to see her delivering letters from Hiruma anymore than it would for them to identify her writing), and with fifteen minutes left to spare she went in search of the man himself.

Because, obviously, she enjoyed making her own life difficult. There was no other explanation for any of it.

--

Of course, Hiruma proved impossible to find. Her discreet queries to discern his whereabouts (conducted under the guise of avenging angel of righteous anger directed at that jerk Hiruma) availed nothing, so she forced herself to stop, take a breath, and think things through.

--

She walked through the open door at the top of the stairs, blinking a little at the sudden sunlight.

Somehow she'd known that she would find him on the roof. It had just seemed like the Place He'd Be. She tried not to think too much about exactly why and how she knew that – she was having a hard enough time keeping it together as it was, she didn't need to tax her brain with any more unfathomables.

He was leaning against the fence and smoking a cigarette, she noted with disapproval as she walked over to him. "Hiruma-kun."

"It's for stress," he said without preamble, flicking ashes over the edge of the roof.

Stress? Since when did Hiruma suffer from stress? Prepping for games didn't even stress him out as much as it should, and incidentally - "You have a game in two days!"

"And it's my last cig," he said, finally glancing her way. "Happy?"

She didn't think "happy" was the proper response, but then again, she didn't know what the proper response was, so she reverted to her normal mothering instincts as she wrapped her fingers through the fence and said quietly, "You have to take care of your body."

"Oh?" he said, raising an eyebrow. "For the good of the team, hip-hip-hurrah? You really give a damn, huh?"

"Of course!" she snapped. Then, faltering, "For . . . for the team. But it's just important for you to take care of yourself!"

"Sure, yeah, whatever," he said breezily, taking a drag and exhaling. "You're trying too hard, fucking manager. Why don't you go spout all this crap to Musashi?"

"I don't have to. Musashi listens!"

"I listen," Hiruma said, and then he grinned. "I just ignore you."

She sighed, shoulders slumping. "Please, Hiruma?"

"Like I said, it's my last cig until the game. You can fucking nag me about it again before the next game."

"And you'll just ignore me again."

"Prolly."

"Don't you ever get tired of being so difficult?"

"Hell no. Gotta get my kicks in when I can."

She sighed. Well, on the bright side, at least he wasn't shooting anything right now. Maybe this could be considered an improvement? "So what are you stressed about?"

"What?" He looked at her like she'd just sprouted horns.

"Your source of stress," she grit out between tightly clenched teeth.

"Getting too personal, aren't you?"

"It's my job."

"Sure thing," he said derisively. Then: "None of your business. Not like you could do anything about it anyway."

I won't know unless you tell me what it is, she thought murderously. In a voice sweet enough to give Kurita cavities, she said, "So you're going to deal with it all by yourself?"

"S'how I like it."

"Liar." She turned to look straight at him. "American Football's a team sport. You know better than anyone that it's pointless to play by yourself. You can't win any games like that and you can't score any points – all you do is end up getting yourself hurt."

"Maybe I like getting hurt."

"Maybe you're just a liar."

"It's still none of your goddamn business." But the words weren't said as harshly as he probably meant them to be, and Mamori had an inkling that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't ignoring her for once.

He tossed the cigarette to the floor and ground it under his heel.

"Hey, fucking manager," he said after a moment, leaning back against the fence, "did you finish answering my mail?"

"Of course. I mailed them all out too," she said calmly. "Oh. Except for this one."

"What's that?" he said, eyeing the letter she was offering him as though it were alive and going to bite him at any moment.

"What's it look like? It's a letter."

He took it gingerly. "Weren't you supposed to answer them all?"

"Can't," she said blithely. "That one's from me." She pushed off from the fence, brushing past him as she turned and headed for the rooftop stairs. "Take your time and give it some thought."

"Huh," he said, turning it over in his hand. Then: "Anezaki."

It was the first time he had ever used her name and she would have stopped out of shock if nothing else. Instead she stopped because she had never heard that tone in his voice before, not ever, and she couldn't identify it at all.

He came up behind her and stuffed the letter into her open hand. Her fingers tightened around it reflexively as he said, low and against her ear, "You make things too fucking complicated."

She whirled, an angry retort about how it had taken her FOUR DAYS to write that letter, DAMMIT, dying on her lips as she saw his unsmiling eyes. He broke into a feral smirk watching her watching him.

"Well," she managed to get out, cheeks flaming, "sorry!" And then she wondered why she had apologized of all things. He was going to laugh about this, she just knew it, the jerk!

"Hey manager, you're pretty cute when you're flustered," he drawled, an undertone of amusement lacing his words, and sadly (SADLY) she couldn't help but find it kind of sexy. His eyes were slowly giving her a sort of once-over and she couldn't look him in the face any longer. It was all so humiliating; he was going to laugh any minute now, and . . . and OH GOD he'd used her NAME and he hadn't said "fucking" – The world was ending right here, right now. And right before her head exploded from over-thinking the whole situation he said, "Che," bent down, turned her face up to his with surprisingly gentle fingers, and kissed her, which thankfully sent every single stray thought flying right out of her head. Mmm, she thought, and that was about all that her brain could muster as Hiruma did things in the span of two minutes that made all her senses scream something along the lines of YA-HA! Then he pulled away, leaving her hot, flustered, and disheveled, grinning in a way that made her want to smack him, the jerk, and said, "See? Easy."

He strode past her and down the stairs, whistling, as she stared after him, the crumpled letter clasped tightly in her hand.

Well, she thought, then wondered if this meant they were going out.