Hello to the fandom! I'm just humbly offering a HiruSena piece to the collective! Divided into two parts. Long, but bearable hopefully? xD

Disclaimer: Me don't own Eyeshield 21, k?



First Half


Beginnings can be so fucking misleading


The kick off occurred in his second year of college as soon as Kobayakawa Sena returned to Japan.

There was the first match against Koigahama University and Hiruma knew something had changed in that moment when Sena stepped onto the field. It'd been a good year since he'd seen him personally, and the unexpected thrill that went through Hiruma's body at that initial sighting was telling. He told himself it was only because he was looking forward to the challenge—and Kobayakawa Sena would no doubt be the most difficult challenge he'd come across yet—but it was more than that still.

When their respective teams finally came to clash in the finals, Hiruma realized what it was about number 21 that drove him to claim victory so fervently. It was written in the way Sena moved on the artificial field. That seamless run and underlying power had always caught Hiruma's eye, but it wasn't the impressive physicality that had stolen away his concentration now. While part of Hiruma still thought about the game, there was another part of him that desired to face Sena in a decidedly alternate form of confrontation. He didn't know how he managed to lead Saikyoudai to victory that day, but he wasn't even fazed by the post-game celebration. All his attention was on his former running back.

Hiruma had went by his whole life with only the desire to climb to the top as his main objective. Being with the Devil Bats had softened his manner a little, but no form of distraction would have sidetracked him. He had thought for a while that maybe, just maybe, he felt something for a certain Student Council rep, but those thoughts were swept aside as soon as Sena returned from America. Whether or not it was the more pronounced self-assurance or just the gradual procession into manhood, there was something about Sena that had called away all his focus in very unproductive manners.

There had been a celebratory dinner at a sushi bar that night. Hiruma couldn't even remember the name of it since it wasn't him who planned it. Mamori the fucking manager had decided the occasion was worth a little extra partying and the freshmen members of the team were all gung ho for the idea. Hiruma had been unwillingly dragged by Juumonji—the fucking brat reminded him of Musashi a little too much sometimes—and had resolved to spending the evening gathering information on their opponents for the Rice Bowl.

Then fate intervened in the form of Enma University's very finest entering the same restaurant. Even though they had lost the finals that afternoon, the team members were all true sportsmen and didn't begrudge Saikyoudai one bit. The two teams conglomerated around four large tables and began exchanging tales like old friends—which many of them were. It had been a spectacular game. The victor could have easily been Enma if Agon's last kick hadn't got in. The distance had been fifty yards. Agon was a formidable athlete but even his success rate wasn't nearly on par with Musashi or Koutarou's.

Hiruma remembered how the twins came together on the field at the finish of the game. No words were exchanged but there was an easy smile on Unsui's face and Agon's glare wasn't anywhere near as menacing as usual. The first year had been tough for the two. Agon had all but turned a blind eye on his brother as Unsui slowly climbed the ladder to join the top. But with this last game, though… Unsui had made Agon acknowledge him, and Hiruma knew that the only person probably happier about this fact than Unsui was Agon himself. Of course the evil genius would never say anything. He only gripped Unsui's head and mocked him for losing. But everyone could tell the words lacked any real bite.

So there they were. The twins sat beside each other at one table, Unsui smiling and more relaxed than anyone had ever seen him, and Agon with his usual silence—the threatening aura around him temporarily displaced by the presence of his brother. Hiruma recalled how Ikkyuu was cracking jokes with Monta and Koutarou nagging Akaba for playing his guitar in the middle of eating.

And even though Hiruma was all too aware of Sena's attendance, he was still taken aback when the running ace himself suddenly appeared before him. About two hours had passed and alcohol had somehow entered the mix on the table. The result was a mess. Despite Mamori's best efforts, more than half the people were at least tipsy while the rest were simply drunk. She had been trying to stop the flow of drinks for half an hour before finally giving up. Suzuna had more than happily offered to share her drink and a little while later, both of them were laughing with as much abandon as their teammates. Hiruma had barely noticed the disastrous effects until Sena showed up at his side, disrupting his quiet corner.

It was probably due to residual energy from that day's earlier game, but it was as if Hiruma's nerves had been electrified when his eyes landed on Sena. All thoughts on the Rice Bowl fled his mind as the younger man stared hazily at him. The collar of his shirt was slightly undone and a pleasant flush colored his face. Hiruma shouldn't have felt so mesmerized by the sight, but there was no taking his eyes off the smaller figure in front of him. It was primal desire and Hiruma had never felt such a strong force in his entire life. But the one to make the first move hadn't been him. It was Sena who closed the distance between them with soft and unsure lips. The smell of alcohol filled Hiruma's nostrils and he could even taste it in Sena's mouth. The kiss was chaste and rough and there was no skill involved at all, but Hiruma felt like his entire body was on fire.

He hadn't been the one who was drunk that night, but it was him who took Sena's lead and went the full distance in the near future.


Because losing isn't an option


"You really are insane."

Those are the first words Musashi says to Hiruma when he graduates from Saikyoudai. It takes him four years to graduate. Four years of college level football. Three years of fighting against the best runner in Japan. When he meets with Musashi for lunch one day after graduating—nearly six weeks after he leaves—his friend has no trouble pointing how stupidly he thinks Hiruma is behaving.

Their coffees sit on the table completely forgotten. Musashi glares at Hiruma and for the first time in a long time, he's actually angry with the demonic blond.

"I'm not surprised you let him go. You would be the last person to stop him from fulfilling his potential. I'm not even surprised you didn't tell him how you feel—that's just how you are. I'm not surprised at all by any of this and yet… I'm still disappointed in you."

The words are brutally honest and Hiruma knows Musashi's not exaggerating. And considering what they shared in the past, Musashi has all the right to feel let down. It's an odd situation for both of them. Their roles are now utterly reversed; it's Hiruma turn to feel like he left something behind. But it isn't what he's left behind—it's what he's let escape. He's just starting to suffer the repercussions of his actions so the shock hasn't really sunk in, but he knows it'll come later.

Hiruma spins his cup around counterclockwise. The black-brown liquid ripples gently with the motion. If time could only go back. Hiruma stops. He's starting to sound like Kurita. God, he really did screw up this time. He takes a slow sip. The coffee is lukewarm, but it does the job in snapping his brain back into real time. He glances at Musashi. The unfaltering gaze is still on him.

"You think I don't understand how you feel?" he asks. His tone is calm but the underlying frustration doesn't go unheard by Musashi. Hiruma wants to slam his fist against the table, but he doesn't. He glares only right back at his friend. "Don't fucking lecture me, old man. I know exactly what I let go."

The uncharacteristic display of open emotion mollifies Musashi's anger. It's rare for him to ever get riled up by anything, but Hiruma's recent behavior is vexing to say the least. He only wants the best for him but nothing is easy when it comes to Hiruma. Musashi sometimes doesn't know how Kurita managed to spend all that time alone with him when he first left Deimon. Hiruma doesn't make it easy for anyone to be close to him on a personal level. Musashi's the only one who came closest. Then there's Kobayakawa Sena.

"Why did you do it?"

Hiruma doesn't look at him. Something tugs in Musashi's heart. A while ago, it could have been him. When they first met, it was like lightning. The attraction was mutual and being as young as they were, they only messed around here and there. But then his father fell ill. Instead of severing the ties, the accident proved only to strengthen their bond. When Musashi returned to the team, all their messing around in the past finally reached a consummation.

It was an easy relationship. Both of them knew it wouldn't last forever and they milked it for all its worth until the Hakushyuu match. By then it was clear to both parties that friendship was the best option. The metaphorical "split" had occurred just as easily as their coming together. It was a wordless agreement and no one suffered any grievances. Musashi doesn't regret the decision, but he can't help but wonder from time to time on what could have been. Nevertheless, he knows that if he and Hiruma had been the real deal, they would have gotten back together a long time ago. Looking at the blond sitting before him, Musashi knows they had made the right choice.

"It's the wrong time. Always the wrong fucking time."

Hiruma grins with all his usual carefree attitude. Musashi can see the strain it causes him.

"But you know… A mistake only stays that way if you don't do anything about it. Have you ever known me to make mistakes, old man?"

It's a subtle statement and Musashi can't help but smile. There it is. Hiruma's the single most difficult person to read—even by his closest friends—but there's no denying that underneath his cool exterior there exists a fighting spirit that drives him to succeed even against the worst odds. Seeing that spirit reignite is the reason why Musashi's here, and he's more than relieved now.

"Sometimes I don't know why I worry," he comments. He gestures for a fresh batch of coffee. The waitress refills their cups immediately.

Hiruma crosses his legs smoothly. The frustration is gone. Musashi knows that Hiruma's about to enter full tactician mode. He begins to feel vaguely sorry for Sena.

"Get ready for the longest game in history," announces Hiruma, eyes determined.


Happiness is fleeting


Lips trailed over a naked chest, the skin smooth and pale. A small hand cupped him from below. A surprised gasp was released. Then a low chuckle.

"Someone's hasty…"

There wasn't any response—not that Hiruma had been expecting it. These entanglements he and Sena shared… Even he didn't know how and when it started. For a man who treasured strategy and tactics, this affair had come from out of nowhere and should have upset him. But Hiruma had yet to experience any real regret. He ran his hand through Sena's hair, feeling the dark locks slip between his fingers. Then tugging hard, he forced Sena to look up at him.

"You're different from usual," he said bluntly. Sena only leaned up and kissed him lightly on the lips.

Hiruma knew what Sena wanted. But he wasn't going to do anything until Sena said so. The running back had apparently followed him back to his apartment; no one knew where Hiruma lived. He was impressed Sena had managed to keep himself hidden. Hiruma was an expert at hiding his trail—and he always knew when he was being followed. But as soon as he stepped through his apartment door, there he was standing behind him. Cold and unwavering. For a second, Hiruma felt as if he was on the field again with Eyeshield 21 poised to tackle him.

And that was when the fun began.

Sena moved over Hiruma's stomach while tugging on his belt impatiently. Grinning slowly, Hiruma stayed his hand.

"Tell me what you want," he ordered. There wasn't a single edge in his command. It was the gentlest demand Hiruma ever made. It was almost a request.

Sena was listening to him now, though. That was good. As much as Hiruma appreciated the undivided attention Sena had poured over his body since following him back to the apartment, the silence was perturbing. Sena was never completely quiet. He was also never this direct. Five years had given him plenty of confidence, but Sena's reservation was innate and often led him to hesitate before acting—something that had driven Hiruma insane more often than once. He should have felt grateful that Sena was taking control, but Hiruma knew that there was an altogether different reason for his companion's boldness tonight. It was probably for that same reason why he himself was so yielding.

"I want you to take me," replied Sena finally. Piercing eyes hit Hiruma. "Hard. Fast. Don't hold back."

That last bit came out certain. Hiruma felt his heart quicken. There was genuine appeal in Sena's behavior, but this was wrong. He took Sena's chin and tilted that closed expression upwards.

"This is nothing more but a pity fuck. You really want that?" he said sharply. No sugarcoating was necessary. Sena was used to his cold honesty. Hiruma wouldn't have censored himself for anyone in the world. "I don't mind but… I don't like being used, you know. What's in it for me?"

He was trying to get Sena to speak. To get the damn kid to spill his emotions. But Hiruma knew that if nothing else, his former kouhai had learned to retain his composure even under the most severe duress. It was frustrating and admirable at the same time.

The faintest hint of despair flashed in Sena's eyes. It was gone before Hiruma could even blink. The hand gripping him tightened gently. Even through the denim, that pressure was scalding; Hiruma swore to himself as he felt himself growing harder under Sena's careful touch. The look in his eyes was hot and sultry; it sent another invisible chill down Hiruma's spine.

"I'd make it worth your wildest expectations," Sena said in a low tone that didn't sound like him at all. It was dangerous and dark. Damned if Hiruma didn't respond to that.

He was going to regret it. Hiruma knew that even as he abandoned his caution and began to move in on the smaller body sprawled out so openly for him. Not just this time. In fact, this may have been the first time it was okay to do this. Sex offered closure and companionship even if only for a short-lived moment. Sena needed that more than anything right now—and he had come to Hiruma for that sanctuary. And if he was honest to himself, Hiruma would have admitted that he needed a friend right now too. The accident was affecting both their minds and Hiruma needed the relief as badly as Sena. But all the other times…

As Sena's soft moans and gasps filled the night air, Hiruma couldn't help but wonder what the hell he was doing. But then there was that amazing tightness wrapping him from all around and a flash and he forgot everything.

Watching Sena fall into an easy slumber beside him, Hiruma closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Something had changed again, and for the life of him he didn't know if it was good or bad.


Don't bother trying if you think it's not worth it


Hiruma knows without fail this is his most ambitious plan yet.

When he first signed the lease for the office space that would soon become his new company, he almost couldn't believe how much time had already passed. It's taken a whole year of planning and organizing to get even this far and the goal still isn't within reach. He knows Musashi has questions. Even Kurita has commented on his roundabout methods. It's a far cry from his usual forcefulness, and that's why Hiruma is keeping the reason to himself. Sometimes he's not even sure he knows. Plans and strategies have always been his way of life and he doesn't even think about it consciously anymore. But something like this is beyond anything he's ever done. Hiruma enjoys the challenge of course. He just hopes it's not all for naught. Then again, even though this company is for the purpose of obtaining that one goal, it's also a double blessing. Hiruma doesn't want to consider the possibility of losing, but the company will still be standing in the end and provide a stable support should anything happen.

It's funny how every essential thing in his life revolves around one American sport.

What began as a pastime has morphed into a driving force. Hiruma can't contemplate on the risks for long because that's not how it works. He's fought his way to the top and he's not about to topple over any time soon. This game isn't just about him anymore. It's reminiscent of the time when he and Kurita waited for Musashi to return to them, but that game had been a vastly different one. The cards had been placed by Hiruma, but it was his busybody running back and receiver who played them. Thinking about this amuses him. Even back then he had always been unusually lenient with the brat. He never placed so much trust in one person as he did Kobayakawa Sena—and that was even before they met again in college.

He's the only one Hiruma will ever place that much faith in again. It's an irreplaceable gift and not something Hiruma can offer to someone else. Sena has too much of it already so it has to be him. It's always been him.

Hiruma looks over the empty office. The floors and ceiling will have to be refitted. Musashi's already offered him a considerable deal and Hiruma knows he'll be accepting it. He walks over to the window. The summer heat doesn't reach the air conditioned building, but Hiruma can see the air sizzling outside. The cars move sluggishly through the early evening traffic and children are running on the sidewalks with ice cones in hand. Straight ahead the golden sun descends behind the horizon and the sky canvas is all red and purple hues.

He catches his reflection against the glass. The blond is gone. In order to take the big step into the professional sphere, he's had to retreat to his natural roots. The hair is still as messy as ever, but cut shorter. This combined with his sleek suit almost makes him out to be a completely different person. Hiruma touches his right ear. The piercings remain, however. They are the one reminder of his past that he refuses to give up. The tiny studs are barely noticeable but Hiruma knows his business associates talk about them during meetings. He only snickers to himself; he's the boss of his company so it's only fair he's allowed this leeway.

"Muukyaa! This place is empty!"

"Is this really going to be a company? Seems small."

"Ahaha! The small space saves money!"

"That…oddly sounds smart. Something's wrong here."

"Did I ask for any opinions, fucking kouhai?"

Hiruma turns around and sees Monta gesturing wildly at him. "We're not your kouhai anymore!" he exclaims proudly. He crosses his arms haughtily whilst Juumonji shakes his head at him.

Taki laughs and winks at Monta. "Monsieur Monta is confident!"

"For no reason at all," Juumonji adds with a teasing smirk.

Monta coughs into his hand discretely. Yukimitsu looks at Hiruma.

"Why did you ask us over, Hiruma-kun?" he asks.

This question manages to settle everyone and four pairs of eyes land on Hiruma. He shrugs casually. "Why indeed. Let's just say I have some requests from you guys…"

It's like they're back in high school. The wary and semi-afraid expressions that stare back at Hiruma make him grin. He pulls out a switchblade from his sleeve and spins it expertly in his hand. A useless skill, but it keeps his hands busy. Hiruma can't ever stay completely still.

"The recent graduates will eventually form their own semi-pro leagues I'm sure." He looks at Juumonji and the blond nods slowly in affirmation. Hiruma breaks into a full-toothed smile that still manages to send goose bumps down his companions' arms. "Excellent. I could use your cooperation. My company's just getting off its back you know. Online promotions and advertising aren't gonna cut it forever. And since you guys are fresh out of school and probably looking for jobs…"

In the end, they don't get a say in the matter. But it's not the like they were really gonna try anyway.


Peace—it's not as boring as it sounds


It was hot.

That was the first thought that came to Hiruma's mind as he opened bleary eyes. He was wrapped in a cocoon of blankets. For a second, he could only stare at the pastel colors in bemusement. He definitely didn't own such bright things. Hiruma began to sit up and started when a cold compress slid off his forehead. So that was it. He remembered feeling a little under the weather the night before, but persisted regardless in coming over to Sena's apartment. Hiruma ran a weary hand through his damp hair. He must have broke into a fever during the night. It must have been bad; he couldn't even remember being moved.

Sena's apartment was a tiny thing, but it was perfect for a college student. His time away in America had given him a taste for independence and he had moved out of his parents' home almost as soon as he came back to Japan. Hiruma was extremely grateful for this. Their late night excursions would have been much more difficult to handle if Sena didn't have his own privacy; Hiruma was loath to let anyone know where he lived even after all these years so he had ventured hard in finding the apartment and making the deal for Sena.

"You're awake!"

Hiruma almost jumped when Sena came into the room. The younger man smiled shyly at him as he placed his hand on Hiruma's forehead. The cool touch was inviting and Hiruma leaned into it unconsciously.

"Seems like you're still running a slight fever," remarked Sena. He started to pull his hand away when Hiruma grabbed it. Running a slim finger over the smaller digits, he held the hand loosely while unleashing a wicked grin on Sena. The younger man bit his lip. "H-Hiruma-san…"

"It's too bad I feel like crap otherwise I'd be much more forward," replied Hiruma, leering at Sena inappropriately.

His former charge only smiled in embarrassment while shaking his head helplessly. Hiruma didn't know when it was that he started to love that smile. It was uniquely his and he was fast becoming possessive over it. Sena didn't look at anyone else like that and Hiruma wanted it to remain that way.

Heedless of his partner's health, Hiruma pulled Sena in for a deep kiss. It was probably because his own body temperature was already elevated that Sena's mouth felt so good against his. He pressed in with his tongue and grinned to himself when Sena opened up to him with no resistance. It had taken a long time for Sena to get used to kissing like this. Hiruma didn't know how it was possible since the younger man had been unexpectedly willing to do everything else. But even though Sena had been the one to initiate their first kiss, every one after that had been started by Hiruma.

Sena withdrew first. He was smiling in his usual humble manner, averting his eyes from Hiruma.

"I wanted to show you something," he said.

Hiruma watched as he went to the other side of the bed and pulled away the curtains from the single window. Sena's apartment was located on the third floor of the complex and from his small window Hiruma could clearly see the snow that had piled up outside. It was a gray morning and fat, white snowflakes continued to drift down slowly from the swollen skies. Hiruma smiled a little and raised an eyebrow at him.

"It's just snow."

Sena shook his head. "It's the first major snowfall this entire season. And I get to share it with Youichi," he said without taking his eyes off the winter wonderland.

Hiruma crept up behind him while pulling a blanket from the bed pile and wrapping it around both of them. He pressed a feathery kiss to Sena's neck and held him tight.


If corporate world is hell, I guess that makes me the goddamn devil


The sun pours through the glass panes like rain. The warm light fills the entire office and bathes everything in a soft glow. It's midday and the streets below are bustling with traffic and pedestrians. The rush below reminds him of something from the past. There's a flash of memory in his mind. Bodies colliding against each other with maximum force, no regard at all for physical well-being. Grunts and wild calls. A pass off to the figure behind him. Then a charging force down a long field and he's staring at that jersey number like it's a lifeline…

The gum pops around Hiruma's mouth and he curses. He spits into the garbage pail below his desk and pulls out another stick. A guy like him shouldn't be daydreaming like a schoolgirl, but memory can be a hard thing to let go. The real problem is that Hiruma isn't sure if he wants to let it go. For two fucking years he's been holding onto this memory. He starts to think that he must be some sort of masochistic idiot.

"Hiruma, the calls have been made. We'll probably have to wait a few days before the Americans respond."

Yukimitsu enters the office without knocking. Here's a fellow whose physical inability is more than compensated by his business sense. It's a talent that even Yukimitsu hadn't been aware of until he entered college. Not that Hiruma is complaining. He's grateful he can have such a reliable partner. Thank God Yukimitsu gave up becoming a physician. Hiruma's a genius in his own right but it would have much harder getting by these two years without assistance.

Looking over the calm expression on his friend's face, Hiruma can't resist from grinning.

"Well, look at you. Have you forgotten your manners, fucking baldy?" he taunts.

For a second, the old Yukimitsu shows himself and he stammers. "I…" Then he catches Hiruma's teasing eye. He straightens a little. "Well, if no one stands up to you at least a little then we're all doomed," he says with a smile.

Hiruma rests back in his seat and stretches his gaze over his office. It's nothing special, but it's more than enough for him. The company is small and takes up only a floor in this tall skyscraper in the middle of Tokyo, but it's growing quickly. The anticipation sets his blood on fire. Hiruma can't remember the last time he was looking forward to something so passionately. But like always, the emotion never shows itself on his face. Only those who really know him would be able to see that simmering spark in his eye. Hiruma knows that Yukimitsu can see it, but the baldy's just as excited as him so it doesn't matter.

"You think we got a chance?"

It's a rhetorical question. Hiruma knows the answer. His company is no small fry and if the Americans turn down his proposal, they would the biggest idiots in the world. Still, there's always a chance for failure. Not everything always goes to plan. Hiruma knows that very well by now. He looks over at his laptop. The webpage lists the stats of one certain player. Hiruma already knows all the facts. The only reason he's on the page is because of the picture, and that makes Hiruma laugh to himself; he can't help but wonder if he's becoming sentimental.

"I don't want to sound too optimistic, but I think we've got a real shot," comes Yukimitsu's practical reply. But there's a hint of eagerness in his voice that Hiruma can relate with all too easily. "I never thought I would go back to American football like this, but… It's great nonetheless—even if I'm not on the playing field."

Hiruma exits the webpage and looks at Yukimitsu. "Don't start breaking into tears on me," he retorts dryly. He turns and looks out the window. The company is located on the fifteenth floor and the Tokyo skyline is outlined in all its glory. Hiruma rests his chin in his hand as he stares at the glittering buildings. "It's only halftime. We still got a long way to go," he says quietly.

Yukimitsu only smiles.


You always gotta lose something before realizing how much you wanted it


Hiruma turned the key and opened the door. He wasn't surprised by the moving boxes stacked neatly in the middle of the living room floor. The air had a fresh pine scent to it. The wooden floors gleamed under the fluorescent lights. Hiruma nudged a box with his foot, a strange smile on his face. He wasn't surprised at all.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner."

He looked up as Sena entered the room. Hiruma stared at him for a long blank moment. The younger man was dressed in sweats and a t-shirt. He looked remarkably the same as he did back in Deimon. Hiruma tapped the box with his foot again. It was light. Probably nonessentials. No difference really. He pressed hard on the side until the box tipped over with a quiet thud.

"I'm just impressed you managed to keep it from me this whole time," he said impassively.

Sena threw him an injured look. Hiruma ignored it.

"I asked Clifford-san to mention it to no one until I was ready."

Hiruma raised an eyebrow. "Ah…that fucking brat."

He was being unreasonably cold. He couldn't help it. He knew their time would eventually come up, but for it to happen so suddenly like this… Hiruma didn't like surprises one bit and he didn't enjoy being slighted by that monster called coincidence. He looked at Sena. He could tell the running back was despairing. Good. At least Hiruma wasn't the only one.

"Awfully convenient timing. Right after our game. Your team finally conquered the finals and you won't even be participating in the Rice Bowl?"

Sena watched him with sad eyes. "I…asked Clifford-san to extend my time. The Rice Bowl just wasn't possible, but I wanted to at least fight against you one more time before I went. That was my single condition."

Despite the situation, Hiruma laughed. "They're offering you a tryout for an NFL team and you asked for a fucking condition?" He was impressed by Sena's gall. Impressed and proud.

"I think even Clifford-san was surprised. And I think that's why he gave me the extra time," replied Sena, smiling a little.

The soft-spoken words alleviated the tightness in Hiruma's chest. It was so Sena to be simultaneously humble and demanding. That contrasting nature of his had always appealed to Hiruma's devilish personality.

His gum was running dry. He spat out the piece in his mouth, watching it land squarely on a moving box, before pulling out a new stick. Catching Sena's exasperated look, Hiruma smiled to himself.

"You better fucking appreciate the opportunity. Most of us will never have the pleasure," he said, voice hard and direct.

Sena nodded wordlessly. His head was bowed. Hiruma knew that stance well. He was going to say something. Some type of declaration. Number 21 was coming out to play.

"I…" The words faltered but Hiruma only waited. Sena had never let him down. "I really want this."

It was hardly a revelation. Hiruma narrowed his gaze on the smaller man. "I'd call you a liar if you didn't," he replied in an offhanded drawl.

But the eyes that suddenly pierced him offered a different explanation. Hiruma's mouth stopped chewing for a second. "Aah…I see," he said. He chuckled to himself but he didn't know what he found so funny. He turned his back to Sena, unable to bear his face any longer. "You're a real selfish bastard."

The next few minutes clung onto Hiruma like a second skin. He was an absolute coward. When it came to the really important stuff, he could never do anything. First Musashi and now Sena. Maybe he wasn't so different from his father after all. Then slender arms encircled him from behind and Hiruma felt warm breaths brush between his shoulder blades; the tension slipped away from him in an instant. He hated how Sena could do that to him. A strong hand pressed itself against his heart.

"I'm sorry. I'm selfish aren't I? I don't want to choose but I know that I can't…have everything."

It was the most direct reference to their relationship Sena had ever made. It was through conscious choice Hiruma never put any focus on what they shared; he couldn't even begin to comprehend it himself so he wasn't about to place ridiculous labels on it. Sena had always followed his lead. For nearly three years they had danced around the giant elephant in the room. They were lovers but they weren't tied to each other. No promises had been made. No expectations were held. But all of that was already there, Hiruma realized too late. At least it was on his side. He couldn't read Sena when it came to this. He just…always assumed. And it seemed he had been right. The bittersweet victory had no taste in his mouth.

"I won't ask you for anything. This is just…" The wetness seeping through his shirt didn't lie, but Hiruma feigned ignorance anyway. For Sena's sake. For his own. "Goodbye."

The final word was a mere whisper. Hiruma could have laughed if only his heart would stop crying. He wanted to say something. The phrases and sentences were jumbled in his head, but he knew that if he really tried he could've gotten them out. But Hiruma only grasped the hand clenched so tightly around his heart, his own grip just as desperate even if he didn't know it.

"Match end," he said in a hush.

There were no winners.


But those who fall eventually rise


Hiruma stands with hands in pockets. The suit is tailored to perfection, outlining his lithe figure tastefully without standing out too much. The midnight tones swallow up the sun's rays, but Hiruma doesn't mind the heat. His attention is focused solely on the racing track before him. August in Albany means summer training for this particular football team, and Hiruma's been planning this moment since before graduation. There's only one man on the race track. The slender figure circles the track in smooth motions, never stopping, never faltering. Hiruma's eyes are as transfixed as they were that day over eight years ago.

A couple of girls walk past him, giggling and talking. He feels their eyes sweep over his figure and ignores them. College students staying at the university for the summer—he doesn't even acknowledge them. A sense of fantasy falls over him. He's been looking forward to this day for so long that he can't believe it's finally here. Hiruma isn't sure if he's about to piss his pants or jump for joy. People think he's untouchable, but he experiences the same emotions as anyone else. The main difference for him is that he can hide all his insecurities behind the best poker face. Even now he stands among the stained white bleachers in cool glory. Only Hiruma knows that his pulse quickens with each passing second, that the sweat gathering behind his neck isn't due only to the summer heat.

He begins walking down the steps to reach the level of the track. The runner keeps sprinting, his stamina endless. As Hiruma approaches ground level, he can see the face. The runner's head is bowed and he has earphones glued to the sides of his head so he doesn't pay any mind to his observer. That's fine for Hiruma. He doesn't mind watching for a few more minutes. It's peaceful and nostalgic. He loosens his tie and unbuttons the top of his crisp collar. Then he goes back to watching.

It's almost comedic when the runner finally notices him. Hiruma doesn't bother hiding his smirk when he almost trips. But Kobayakawa Sena has learned something of grace in his years with the NFL, and he catches himself with ease. The shock remains in his face, though. Hiruma waits as Sena finally jogs up to him. He catches the beads of sweat rolling down the younger man's neck. He's dressed in runner's shorts and a sleeveless jersey. The sight is intoxicating.

For a while they stare at each other. Hiruma sees Sena's mouth open and then close, utterly flabbergasted. A wicked grin paints Hiruma's face as he speaks.

"It's been two years, eight months, fifteen days, twelve hours, and ten minutes…"

This overtime match is about to reach its end.