Disclaimer: Eyeshield 21 is © Inagaki Riichirou and Murata Yuusuke, Shueisha, Viz, etc.. This is a non-profit fanwork. In accord with the time period this takes place in, Hiruma's favorite bit of profanity will be rendered "unprintable."

The Deimon Expedition's Jungle Adventures

Chapter Two: I know how furiously your heart is beating

This, Miss Mamori thought for the umpteenth time, was not a terrible idea. It was the worst idea in the history of ideas.

--

The Deimon expedition, named for their surname, was not, as she had assumed before leaving, merely for her brothers' questionable enjoyment. Oh no, that would have been far too ordinary. It was, in fact, part of the tri-annual Explorer's Club Expeditionary Race wherein teams of Explorers vied for the coveted Explorer's Cup and the glory that came with it by each bringing back a specimen or discovery more magnificent or outrageous that that of the others. The theme this time? Gorillas.

Manabu and Sena thought it was the most wonderful thing they had ever participated in. Mamori thought it was a load of – well, unprintable. Not that she would ever dare say so in terms quite that strong, but in the tiny, dark recesses of her mind she thought it. Often.

She was also not amused to find that the teams they were competing against were the Kingston White Knights, the Banner Spiders, the Stenson Wild Gunmen, the Zimmerman Chameleons, and the five-time champions Sheridan Snakes. The Zimmerman family was illustrious but the oldest son was known to be dissolute and a gambler. One of the Sheridan family's two sons had a different sort of reputation and Mamori still shuddered at the memory of their one casual encounter at a ball. These were the sorts of people her brothers should stay far away from.

But then, their current company was hardly any better.

"Don't worry," Hiruma said often, shining his gun, "there's no way we'll lose to that bloody lot. Not when I'm bloody well in charge."

Mamori wasn't as confident and worried the entire sea voyage, not the least because Manabu had a weak stomach and, apparently, an aversion to ocean travel which manifested itself quite often. "But," he protested weakly every time she fussed over him, "this is the most exciting time of my life!"

Suzuna, whom she had reluctantly permitted to come along as her maidservant, seemed to share a similar view. In fact, she was always chatting with Sena who she was of an age with, and while Mamori was happy Sena had someone other than Hiruma with whom to associate, it made her a little uneasy all the same. Not that there was anyone who would gossip over Sena being so familiar with a maidservant on the ship or even later in the jungle, but Mamori was apt to worry over most things concerning her brothers.

Surprisingly, the situation improved slightly once they reached their African port of call. Hiruma's team of baggage carriers and proved reliable and Mamori had no qualms at all about their two guides, Kurita and Musashi, who, while not upper-class, knew how to behave properly around a lady. The only thing that lead her to question their judgment was their friendship and reliance on Hiruma.

Not that Hiruma hadn't proved his worth several times over so far, negotiating with tribesmen and shooting dead a panther stalking their campsite. She was forced to admit that he was more than capable and got things done efficiently, if a bit ruthlessly. She still believed him heavy-handed in his management of her brothers. He forced them to carry supplies and undergo daily practice with the rifles, even going so far as making them hunt alone in the jungle for their dinner! But Manabu and Sena were still soldiering cheerfully on, and they continued to extol his virtues even when they were too weary to eat.

It was really too much.

It was also too much how Hiruma always had to be right. Like this morning when he had told her to avoid a nice open area of jungle and just to prove him wrong she had come ahead and stepped there. Only to end up falling into something like a swamp.

Would it kill him, she thought, to be wrong, just once? But the clear answer to that was that it most likely wouldn't kill him. The ones who would suffer would be them.

Sighing, she scrubbed at her traveling dress with the washboard they had brought. Suzuna was going through their luggage looking for her spare, but she was afraid it might have been in the crate that fell overboard while they were rafting down the river.

She was down to her lacy chemise worn over her corset and her knickers. Everyone else had gone out to the jungle to explore and provide her with the necessary privacy. Not so Mr. Hiruma who was watching her with the excuse that he was "her guard."

"'Sides," he'd said, when he'd walked over from the other side of camp, "it's not like I haven't bloody well seen women wearing less than that."

It was probably true, she thought. Damn him. His coarse language and vulgarity barely gave her pause these days.

"What do you want?" she demanded, wringing out the dress.

He seemed to consider her question for a moment, then he said, "Hell, if I told you, you'd just slap me."

"Most likely," she said, pushing her filthy hair back from her face with wet fingers and reaching up on her toes for the clothespins on the line which Manabu had unfortunately hung just a bit too high for her.

"Allow me," Hiruma said, and pulled the line down. She snatched two clothespins furiously and hung her dress. He let the line spring back in place.

"I'm not going to thank you," she said.

"Like I was bloody well expecting you to."

"Well, what were you expecting, Mr. Hiruma?" She tipped the basin over and watched the soapy water run over and sink into the springy ground.

"This, pretty much. You act like you bloody well hate me, woman."

""Hate" isn't quite the word. May I suggest loathe, despise, dislike immensely as ready alternatives?"

"I said "act,"" he said easily. "You put on a bloody good show."

"And what makes you think it's a show, Mr. Hiruma?"

"I know a place where you can bathe," he said idly, changing the subject.

"Oh? And what would your interest be in divulging such information?"

"Hell's Bell's, you bloody woman! Must you be so bloody difficult? Isn't it enough that you clean up pretty?"

"Do I?" she replied, with the tone of a woman who was well aware of it, thank you very much, Mr. Hiruma.

"Damn straight," he said, not missing a beat. "It makes things a sight better for you to be easy on the bloody eyes."

"And why is that?"

"It helps me put up with your bloody prattle and it gives me somethin' to look at. The view ain't bad."

"Please don't," she said softly.

"Don't what?" And, very deliberately, he placed a hand to either side of her head and backed her up against the tree.

Look at me, address me so familiarly, follow me around, stand so close, smell quite so much of sweat and gunpowder and chewing gum, any number of things, really.

"Address me with that vulgar mouth of yours."

"You like me vulgar," he retorted. "Bloody well admit it. I'm the only one who will talk back to you and give as well as I get. It gets your blood moving."

He was watching her like a hawk. She forced herself to meet his eyes calmly. They were quite blue. Her eyes flicked to his not-quite predatory smile and then away.

She wanted to tell him to unhand her, but he wasn't touching her, not at all, so instead she said, very primly, "You are making me uncomfortable, Mr. Hiruma. Please remember your station and refrain from such unseemly displays."

"You don't bloody well fool me," he said, not moving.

"I don't know what you're talking about!" she snapped.

"Oh?" he said, leaning forward until they were nose to nose. "That's bloody rich. I bloody well know how furiously your heart is beating."

And she wanted to reply, wanted to say, No, you don't, because it's not, but she couldn't because it was.

Maybe it was fear, she thought wildly. But, no, it wasn't fear, had never been fear that made her heart beat like this.

His breath was warm. "Bloody 'ell, you know you want this as much as I do."

As he lowered his mouth to hers and she shut her eyes and leaned up, she thought dimly, I have never been afraid of him.

His lips had just brushed hers making a little thrill of forbidden excitement shoot through her when the jungle exploded into chaos, parrots squawking and flying in confusion.

"Unprintable!" Hiruma swore, then thrust her unceremoniously behind him with a "Get back!" as he cocked his rifle.

She could see the figure stalking towards them through the flapping of the laundry on the line. An ape? No, a man, completely naked save for a leopard-skin loincloth, a wild bird in one hand. He hooted at them, staring intently at Mamori.

A well-bred lady, she knew, would scream and most likely faint gracefully. She clutched the back of Hiruma's jacket tightly and whispered, "What are we going to do?"

"This," he said, and fired.