Stream of Consciousness

By Lynne

Warnings: Profanity and spoilers.

Part Two-Mamori

"Tape up my arms, damn manager. I'm going back in the game."

That's what he said.

He's sitting in front of me, now, allowing me to bind both his arms without comment or complaint. Only the beads of sweat on his forehead and a slight grimace clues me into the pain he's feeling.

Rip. Rip. Rip.

The sounds of tearing and wrapping echo in the room as I unwind strips of the tape and place them around his wounded limb, binding it as tightly as he can stand it to be bound. There's fever level heat radiating from his bared torso, and his abdominal muscles clench and release as I pull the tape taut.

I work as slowly and carefully as I can without being inefficient.

I need time to think all of this through.

Rip, rip, rip.

It might as well be the sound of what he's doing to my heart.

Hiruma-kun knew this would happen. He told me it would, tried to prepare me for it, the day he made a surprise appearance at my shoe locker. I know it's a vital part of his strategy to anticipate the best and the worst our opponent will throw at us, and yet I refused to accept his prediction or the instructions that he gave me.

I really thought that by tearing them up and walking away from him, I would prevent the inevitable from occurring.

Chalk up another loss for me.

As the manager of the Deimon Devil Bats, I should be completely immune to any of the surprises and the general craziness that this guy perpetrates to win football games. While others were surprised that he dressed up as a rabbit for field day, I thought it was so fitting. After all, he's pulled rabbit after rabbit out of his bag of tricks to help the team persevere up to this point.

There's always been a method to his madness, a solid foundation of reasoning beneath the seemingly irrational and reckless behavior.

But this is too much.

I knew he had a high tolerance for pain. He showed that on the Death March trip. He pushed himself harder than anyone, and to exhaustion, never letting on when he was hurting.

There was never any question that he'd be able to keep going.

To see him lying on the ground, broken and unmoving, is a sight I never, ever want to see again.

And so it's come to this. After being brutalized by that behemoth, after having his throwing arm broken, he's sitting there and calmly telling me to get him ready to go back to the match! There is no way I'm going to allow him back on that field! There's no way he can play with a broken arm! And I'm going to tell him so, in no uncertain terms!

I put the last piece of tape around his wrist. His hurt arm is lying palm up on his leg, and he's not looking at me.

It's a dead giveaway that he knows I'm going to object to what he's trying to do.

I have to wonder why I'm bothering. It's not like I'm his mother, or his sister, or even his-

I push back my chair and jump to my feet.

"There's just no way you can continue with this arm!" The words burst out of me. I'm yelling at him, for all the good it will do! "I will not-"

"Third question." He says quietly.

He's unarmed, literally and figuratively.

And yet he's still dangerous.

Especially to my peace of mind.

"Third...question?" I ask, warily.

"True or False." He says. "There are idiots in the NFL that have kept playing in a game despite having a broken bone."

He's still not looking at me, but I can see that grin, the one that he gets when he thinks he has me over a barrel.

Clearly, the answer is true. I've read enough accounts of professional American football to know that playing with injuries is the norm and even a source of pride for the players. It's the 'warrior' mentality, showing your physical and mental toughness to your opponent while giving your team a chance to win.

But if I give that correct answer, he's going to use it against me as a reason for him to do likewise.

I ask him about that very thing. I don't expect an acknowledgment, and he doesn't give me one, which is an acknowledgment in itself.

"That's false." I say with confidence. Take that, Hiruma-kun! There's no excuse for you to use to justify this!

"Wrong." He says. "It's my win. As promised, you'll work obediently."

I stare down at the top of his head, shell shocked. What does he mean, 'as promised'? I never-

The memory comes rushing into my dazed brain like a Devil Bat Ghost.

That day in the clubhouse.

The Amefuto quiz with the three necessary correct answers.

My only getting to give two of them before his departure.

He's been waiting all this time to use it.

Tears are welling in my eyes.'s not from sadness or anger.

It's because of him.

He's impossible, using his win to keep me from blaming myself should something more happen to him.

"Idiot." My voice cracks with emotion. "That thing from the past..."

I'm giving in. I must be crazy.

He's getting to his feet, but he's still not looking at me.

"Just keep your promise." He tells me in a low voice. "Fortify the first taping, fucking manager."

And there it is. The profane nickname I've always hated. He uses it to put distance between us.

But it's not going to work this time.

Not when he makes it sound like an endearment.

I grab another roll of tape before coming to stand before him. It's nice to have to look up at a guy for a change; I'm used to towering over the boys at school, but Hiruma-kun always makes me feel as if my height is an advantage rather than a drawback.

His arms are hanging straight at his sides. I want to make this as painless as possible, so I'll scoot under his arm and bring it over my shoulder, with my back facing his abdomen. This way his arm can rest and be supported while I add another layer of taping.

He's strangely quiet as I begin. I can feel his body heat soaking through the material of my dress. He does have a fever. I make a mental note to get him some more ice and Tylenol, and then force myself to concentrate on my fortification effort. If he's going back on the field, then he's going back with as much protection as I can give him.

I finish the taping job by smoothing down the end of the tape. My hand moves up his arm, checking that the tape is as tight as it can be.

He doesn't move, but I hear and feel the catch in his breathing. Am I hurting him?

I ask him, and he replies in the negative.

He's lying, of course. I can feel his tension.

Holding his arm steady, I slide out from underneath, and then lower it gently back to his side.

When I straighten, he doesn't move or speak.

The warm and muscled wall of his chest is mere inches from my face. I stare at it, feeling a hot blush enveloping my face. A new kind of awareness floods my being.

Being this close to him, I can't help but notice just how good looking he is, and that his blond hair and earrings really do suit him.

His shoulders are broad and strong.

And the ears.

I must resist touching those ears at all costs.

He's the devil incarnate. I should not be standing this close to him or feeling this way.

But the devil is also a fallen angel, isn't he? Doesn't it show in the way he's been sensitive to my feelings all the while he's been saying rude and outrageous things? He's treated me like a partner, an equal, has always asked for my input. He accepted my signaling system without question. He protected me from Gaou's bleacher rampage, and he brought me on my first trip to America.

Along with all the frustrations and arguing, there's no denying that knowing him has saved me from a staid and predictable existence. He's stoked a passion for living life all out and the game that we both love.

I can't imagine losing this game.

I can't imagine not being around him.

I don't want to imagine it or I'll start crying again.

I find the courage to glance upwards. I'm expecting to see the grim and faraway gaze of a warrior who is preparing to go into battle.

Wrong again.

He's looking straight at me, and there's something in his eyes that makes my knees want to buckle. A kind of desperation and...hunger?

I can't even think of protesting when his good arm wraps around me and brings me up against him. It feels...way too good.

My trembling hands find their way to his sculpted pectorals. He must be able to hear my pounding heart.

This is madness. He's just messing with my head. He's not going to do anything.

Is he?

"H-Hiruma-kun? Are you ready?"

"Not quite yet, fucking manager."

That's all the warning I get.

In the next earth-shaking moment, his mouth is on mine.

Oh my God! It's my first kiss!

His lips are warm and bold. They demand a response from me, which I can't hold back.

They part, and I can taste spearmint. that the touch of his tongue?

Oh me...

My head is swimming, my bones have turned to water and the bottom has dropped out of my tummy.

When he pulls back-too soon-my eyes fly open and I stare mutely at him.

He stares back. I can see fire in his eyes before he looks away from me.

I wait, knowing he's going to break the mood.

"That's better! Couldn't have you fucking blubbering all over the bench! Kekekeke!"

I glare at him. So insufferable! Stealing my first kiss for something like that!

This is what I get for caring, this is what I get for falling in-

I turn out of his grasp, and put my back to him, crossing my arms. I don't care if he knows that he's hurt me. "Just so you know, that was my first."

He stops laughing. I feel him come up behind me just before he whispers in my ear.

"That'll be fucking great motivation for the next time."

He straightens as I whirl around. "What next time?"

The grin is back, but it's not scary. He looks almost...happy.

"That's for me to know and you to find out, fucking manager!"

As I silently fume, he turns and starts to stride to the door, then stops and looks over his shoulder at me.

"Let's get going, Mamori."

And then he's gone.

I grab his helmet and follow him out the door.

He's going to need me to help put it on...

Is this...The End?

(Probably, unless people tell me they want an epilogue...^^)

Thank you for reading!