Takes place immediately after the Beach Football Interlude in Texas, shortly before the Death March got underway.
And that's all I have to say.
Except: Mangoes. I love mangoes. (Also, I do not own the Eye, the Shield, or the number 21.)
She was a pretty little thing—leggy, slender, lithe, and she had some rather striking features to set her apart from the rest of the crowd: a wide, unguarded smile, fair, smooth features, and a crown of vibrant auburn to off-set and underscore a pair of big, big blue eyes –alternately laughing and sharp, bespeaking easy jollity and fierce protectiveness (the latter apparently reserved solely for the short, fast kid), as well as compassion and intelligence.
And, while she very certainly had no future in football (beach or otherwise), she seemed to grasp strategy effortlessly and understand intuitively where and how to move to exploit her full potential. She was no professional –not by any stretch of the imagination—but she was smart, agile, and gracefully athletic. For whatever unfathomable reason, the small kid seemed unwilling or unable to participate at maximum capacity while she was watching, which initially was somewhat hampering, until she'd realized that the more quickly the plays were over, and the further away from the ball the boy was, the more safe from any incidental harm he would be, and that's when she really started to show her colors. Really, though, he thought her efforts to protect the little kid were fairly endearing, and only added to her appeal.
Now, after the games were over, she was fussing over the aforementioned shorty, who seemed a little uneasy but otherwise gracious for her attentions, while the various other members of the Devilbats team busied themselves with trying –quite poorly—to flirt with American girls, or introducing themselves to a stoic and unflinchingly rigid Tetsuma, or (where the shorties and Kurita were concerned, at the very least) congratulating each other on winning the prize money.
Kid was never one to count his chicks before they hatched, of course, but none of the team's behaviors seemed to indicate anything more than a player-manager sort of bond with the girl in question (with the obvious, glaring exception of the mother-son dynamic she had going on with the fast kid), and for her part, she didn't pay any special attention to one over any of the others (once again with the notable exception of the chibi), so he figured it couldn't hurt, at the very least, to go and pay a few words of congratulations. It was only polite, after all, and so long as he went into it without expectation, then there was surely no problem.
"Anezaki-san," he started, just as the shortie managed to extricate himself from her mothering to go celebrate their victory with Kurita, his apparently-mute apprentice, and the kid who looked remarkably like a monkey, "I hope you won't take offense to my saying that you play a mean game of football." His grin was casual and disarming as she straightened from where she'd been kneeling next to Sena, and he caught the minute, high color in her cheeks. Things were looking far too well, far too quickly.
"Thank you, Kid-san," she executed a shallow bow, hands cupped in front of her in a decidedly feminine manner. Then, more confidently, turning the conversation away from her, "You weren't so terrible out there, yourself." Lightly, playfully, she patted his elbow, once, twice, before her arm dropped back down to her side, and by then he was wondering how he should construe the gesture so as not to overestimate her friendliness.
"I have my good days." Then, chucklingly, "Can't say I've ever bowled over a beach bum in nothing but a bikini, though." She was laughing, which was a good sign, which was, of course, not very likely a good sign. He didn't mind the way her eyes verily glittered while she did, however.
"Guess I don't know my own strength—" She began, but was cut off an instant after Kid realized that the other half of the Super Quarterback Tag-team had suddenly appeared, an imposing-looking semi-automatic strapped to his back as he swooped in and abruptly (almost familiarly but not quite) laid one long-fingered hand on the small of her bare back, nudging her forward just so while the other gently, nimbly glided over the flesh of her stomach, and just as deftly as his fingers brushed away, the hand at her back became suddenly the arm around her shoulders as he began (cackling all the while) to speak,
"You'll have to keep this a secret, of course, but the real source of our fucking manager's strength is…" His narrow eyes slid from Kid's face to Mamori, who looked outraged, put-off, and a little indignant, but also slightly curious, expectant, "…the creampuff. This fucking woman packs them away like she's apprenticed to the porker, but she'll find other junk to fuel her gluttonous needs when there aren't any available. Kekekeke!" Kid blinked a few times as he watched the young lady –now fully blushing—try to smack the Devilbats' quarterback, but Hiruma had already neatly danced out of range, still chortling like a madman at her expense, and almost skipping away from the two of them.
Kid's eyebrows were high enough at this point to be hidden by the rim of his hat, and though it was his only visible response to the scene that had folded out before him, the young manager seemed to catch it just as she'd turned to pursue the cackling demon, and she took the time to bow shortly to and smile apologetically at him, embarrassment and anger now lining the red of her cheeks where before it had been flattery, and then she had taken off to give chase.
"Yare, yare…" He mumbled, and for a moment simply stood there. Eventually, however, he deserted his lonely spot on the beach in favor of the trees lining the outskirts, and with practiced ease and natural fluidity, he rolled his hat over his eyes and made himself comfortable in the shade, arms behind his head, back propped against the bark of the widest tree he could find.
A minute later, maybe two, he heard a gruff weight land nearby, and knew at once that Tetsuma was beside him.
"Things were just goin' too well for her to be single…"
Dedicated to Hiruma and Kid's apparently uncanny (and actually rather perturbing) ability to Read Each Other's Minds. For the sake of this story, we will pretend that Kid and Tetsuma are not inevitably going to marry each other in the Most Ridiculous Wedding of the Century.