Chapter Five: Devil's Pain
She'd copied out most of the training strategies, and was going over them with Musashi and Dokuroku when the door to the bedroom slammed open. Hiruma stood propped against the door-frame, a pistol in one hand. "You...fucking idiots. What the hell are you doing?"
Musashi blinked at him. "Mamori thought it would be a good idea to see what your plans were for training. We were going over them to see what we could handle."
"Che." Hiruma fired a round into the carpet. "What the hell...are you doing in my apartment?" His eyes slashed to Mamori. "Damn manager, how did you even...get the address?" The gun rose to point at her.
She met his eyes calmly. After all, he wasn't likely to shoot with one of his computers between them, even on a good day. "I called Kurita-kun, and told him you asked me to bring you some information, before you went scouting the other teams." She picked up her notes, shuffling them into a neat stack. "I warned him that you might be gone for a few days, while you gathered your data."
"Keh. Damn manager." His voice was still rasping on the words, and he was pale, even for Hiruma. "Get out. You too, you morons." He raked Musashi and Doburoku with a glare.
Musashi rose to his feet. "We can't." He met the quarterback's eyes, his gaze calm, although his fists were clenched in preparation for a fight. "The doctor said you needed to be looked after for a few days, until the medication begins to work and clear away the infection. Otherwise, you could make yourself worse, or injure yourself."
Doburoku nodded and held up one of the medical forms the doctor had given them. "The orders are right here."
Hiruma moved into the room. He seemed to stagger a bit, as if he were still dizzy from the drugs the doctor had given him. He snatched the sheet from Doburoku and read over it. "Keh." He dropped the gun onto the table, then withdrew his lighter and set the paper on fire. He turned away.
Some of the smoke must have gotten in his throat, because a second later, he coughed, staggering against the table. Musashi moved forward, but Hiruma shot a glare over his upraised hand. "Back off, you...damned old man."
Mamori felt her teeth gritting in frustration. "Geez, Hiruma-kun. This is exactly why the doctor said you needed to have help for a few days." She set the notes aside, then marched around the table to meet his eyes. She waited until the coughing passed and he could straighten, then met his gaze. "You're ill, Hiruma-kun! Acting all tough isn't going to make this go away, anymore than it stopped your arm from being broken. And you know that! So just obey the doctors orders for once and rest."
A sneer crossed his face. "I don't see any doctors orders to that effect, damn manager."
It was her turn to smirk. "Honestly, Hiruma-kun! That wasn't the only copy." She held up a folded piece of paper. "Musashi-kun and I both have copies of the same order." She flicked it open, just enough so that he'd see the kanji on it, keeping it where she'd have time to try and keep it away if he snatched at it. "There's also a copy in Doburoku sensei's truck." She saw the rising frustration and fury in his eyes, and felt a twinge of concern. The frustration looked genuine, which meant he hadn't expected the tactic. But he was strategist enough that he should have, especially if he'd been working with the same doctor for a while.
Hiruma glared at her a moment, then turned away. "Keh." He reached over, unplugged the laptop with a quick yank, then gathered it up and stalked into his room, slamming the door behind him.
Doburoku let out the breath he'd been holding. "Whew. I thought he was surely going to shoot us."
"No." Musashi shook his head. "He would have, if he thought this was unneeded. But it isn't that he thinks he doesn't need help. He just doesn't want to admit it."
Mamori nodded. The kicker was right. She took a deep breath, and found her gaze straying to the kitchen. "Since he's awake...we should probably get him something hot to eat and drink." Musashi and Doburoku nodded.
The kitchen was decently stocked, better than she would have expected for a residence housing a single teen male. Sena, as far as she knew, couldn't manage anything of a higher quality than ramen, if left on his own. There were several prepackaged noodle cups, ramen and other types, and a few take-out containers. But there were also ingredients for a wide arrangement of dishes, various bottles of juice, and water. There was even a coffee maker and real, ground coffee.
She'd wondered what Hiruma ate, since, as far as she knew, he rarely bought school lunches. And he didn't seem to eat much any other time either. He ate some when he took the team out for barbeque or something, but always in moderation. The only time she'd ever seen him really eat what she considered a full meal had been on the Death March, when he'd been replacing the calories he burned running. But it was obvious from the state of his kitchen that he knew how to make his own food. If the stocks were anything to go by, he even ate reasonably balanced meals. Not only that, but a glance on the side of the fridge revealed a shopping list, with various items ticked off, or numbered, as if he were keeping some form of inventory.
It was a matter of a few minutes to start a round of miso soup cooking, and some rice. She prepped enough for the four of them. Hiruma didn't have many dishes, but he had enough for everyone to have a bowl and plate. She made a note of what she'd used, including seasonings, and tacked it up beside his. A quick search revealed he had no actual trays, but he did have a baking pan, for some reason. She set his bowl and plate on that, then added a bottle of water to help him stay hydrated. She brought Musashi and Doburoku their dinners, then took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and went to Hiruma's door. "Hiruma-kun?"
There wasn't any answer. She shifted the makeshift tray in her hands and knocked awkwardly. She waited a few seconds, then twisted the knob and pushed the door open with her foot.
Hiruma was sitting on the bed. He'd changed out of the clothing they'd brought him home in, into a white t-shirt, and a loose pair of sweatpants. He was settled with his legs outstretched, typing on his computer, which was plugged into the nearest socket. He was also chewing a piece of gum from somewhere. He didn't look up from typing as she entered, but after a moment, he spoke. "What the hell do you want, damn manager?"
She fought the urge to yell at him. He was obviously trying to provoke her. "I made some soup and rice for you. You should eat it if you can, to keep up your strength. And I brought you some water. You need to make sure to drink plenty of liquids, so you don't dehydrate from the fever."
"Keh." A scowl twisted his mouth. "I'm not the damn shorty. I don't need you telling me how to handle myself when I'm sick." His eyes rose, lingering on the tray. "I don't need a fucking nursemaid either."
Mamori sighed. "Honestly, Hiruma-kun. I just thought I'd make dinner, since everyone was cold and tired. I made enough for four, and this is just your share. So stop fussing already." She moved forward, nudged a few things aside on the nightstand, and set the tray on it. "You need to eat it before it gets cold." She put a hand on her hip.
Hiruma glanced at it again. "Whatever you used, you're replacing, damn manager."
She sighed again. "I know that, Hiruma-kun." She bit her lip. After so many years of watching Sena, she had the urge to sit on the bed, drop the tray in his lap, and either feed it to him, or watch while he ate. But even Sena had grown past that, and Hiruma certainly was nothing like the shy child she'd guided through school. Trying to feed him, or watch him eat, would only result in a fight. At best, he'd refuse on principle. At worst, he might actually throw the food at her.
She debated a moment, then turned toward the door. "I'm going to check on Musashi-kun and Doburoku-sensei, and get some dinner." She paused, her fingers on the door handle. "I'll come back with your medicine in a little while. Some of it needs to be taken with food, and the doctor said you needed to start taking it as soon as possible, so please try to eat something." She left the room before he made any response and shut the door behind her, to give him some privacy.
Dinner in the main area was a quiet affair. It felt awkward, eating in someone else's living room, particularly when the master of the apartment wasn't even in the same room. All of them were silent, brooding over the difficulty of the task before them.
Mamori ate her portion of miso and rice, then gathered together the dishes to wash. Cleaning up only took a few minutes, and it wasn't that hard. She finished up, then grabbed Hiruma's medicine off the counter and headed back toward his room, trying to think of a way to get him to take what he needed to, without too much fuss. Her fingers had just touched the knob, when a sound from Hiruma's room made her stiffen.
Muffled choking sounds were coming from behind the door. Mamori felt her eyes widen. "Musashi-kun..." The kicker was up in a flash, behind her even as she threw open then door.
Hiruma was doubled up on the bed, computer on it's side beside him, coughing. His face was turning red, jaw clenched, his body spasming under the force of the contractions. He didn't seem to be getting any air. He wasn't even covering his mouth. One hand clenched over his rib-cage and gut, the other was fisted in the sheets as he fought to get his body under control.
"Hiruma!" Musashi was at his friend's side in an instant, hands on his shoulders. It was a mark of how terrible the fit was that Hiruma didn't even fight it, despite his general dislike of being touched. The kicker glanced around, then grabbed the half-full water bottle off the nightstand and held it to the other teen's mouth.
Hiruma managed a small swallow, then choked it right back up. But the interval was enough for him to gasp in a tiny breath of air, then another, between the violent hacking.
Mamori glanced down at the medications she held. One was an inhaler, for emergency use. She tore open the packaging, shook the bottle as the directions indicated, then stepped forward. "Hiruma-kun."
Green eyes came to her. If it had been anyone else, she might have held the inhaler to his mouth for him. But it was Hiruma, and she knew he wouldn't accept it, so she simply handed it to him. He shuddered under another attack, but got his hand off the sheets and wrapped trembling fingers around the instrument. He turned his face away from both of them, but Mamori saw his hand rise, and heard a slight hiss. His shoulders expanded on an inhalation, then another. Another round of coughing hit, but it wasn't as severe, and she could hear him breathing again, though the sound was rough and ragged.
Musashi and Mamori watched as the quarterback slowly got himself under control. Mamori saw movement in the doorway, and saw Doburoku standing there, but the old trainer made no move to come any closer. Finally, when it seemed the coughing had mostly stopped, Mamori spoke. "Hiruma-kun?"
For a minute he didn't respond, then a harsh, ragged whisper broke the silence. "Let...go...of me...old man."
Musashi released his friend at once, rising from where he'd been sitting next to him. He surveyed Hiruma's still trembling frame for a moment, then held out the water bottle. "Drink. You need to soothe your throat after that. And take your medicine."
Hiruma didn't say anything, and his face remained averted. Mamori frowned. Then her eyes went to his hand, still wrapped around his gut, and she understood.
Hiruma was in pain. When she considered how hard he'd been coughing, he probably had sore or wrenched muscles in most of his back and abdomen. He didn't want them to see the expression of strain and pain on his face. Just like the game against Hakushuu, when he'd had Doburoku cover his face with a towel.
She considered a moment, then took the water bottle from Musashi and leaned forward to carefully set it just in front of his arm. A glance at the tray she'd left revealed that he actually had eaten a fair amount of rice and soup. She cracked open the rest of his medicine, antibiotics and something to reduce coughing, as well as something to help ward off further viruses and infections. She checked the dosage instructions, then poured out the first dose, capped the bottles, and set the pills next to the water bottle. "Here. This should help, Hiruma-kun."
He didn't respond, didn't turn to face her, but after a moment he shifted silently and wrapped his hand around the water bottle. Then he picked up the pills, slipped them into his mouth, and swallowed. He took a few more sips of water, then spoke, his voice rasping over the words as if he'd swallowed glass. "Happy...damn manager?"
She felt a lump in her throat, but knew he didn't need or want her going all teary-eyed over him. "It's a good start." She glanced at the tray again. "I'm glad to see you've eaten some too. That will help."
Doburoku stepped forward then, moving slowly to the bed, and casually reaching out to prop the computer in an upright position. "I wonder...what would you have done, Hiruma, if these two hadn't been here to help you?"
Hiruma's shoulders tensed. Mamori and Musashi both winced. It didn't matter that they were both thinking the same thing, the bluntness of the approach still seemed harsh. Even if it was about the only tactic that could be used on him.
Hiruma didn't say anything in response to the words. Doburoku kept moving, until he was in a position where he could see Hiruma's face. "You understand, don't you? You will need help, until you have begun to heal. It is not a sign of weakness, merely a fact of life." His finger tapped his sake bottle. "It will take time, until the medicine can undo the damage your illness has caused. In that time, your condition may very well worsen."
"I know that...damned drunk." Hiruma's voice was still ragged, but under the harsh pain of his shredded throat, there was something else, anger and a kind of shame or fear that Mamori recognized from helping him with his broken arm. "The odds are almost a hundred percent."
"Then you understand why you need a team to help you through it." Doburoku's gaze was fixed on the quarterback's face.
Hiruma's shoulders tensed, and the hand Mamori could see clenched into a fist. "Keh."
She sighed. She knew that sound. He knew they were right, but he wanted to fight it, to fight them. The only reason he wasn't putting up more of a struggle was because he was still in too much pain from the coughing to do so. "Honestly, Hiruma-kun, it isn't that bad."
"Shut up...damn manager." Hiruma's voice still had that edge of hard anger. "You don't know what you're talking about."
Mamori huffed in exasperation. "Honestly! It's not as if you've never been hurt before. You didn't have nearly this much trouble when we helped you with your broken arm last month. Why are you being so stubborn now?"
"Damn...manager." Hiruma's shoulders shook, and a rough anger-tinged echo of his manic laughter emerged. "Being sick and being injured aren't the same thing."
Mamori frowned. "What do you mean?"
Hiruma's voice was much quieter when he spoke again. "I can't fucking control it."
Mamori blinked. "Eh?" She didn't understand what he was trying to say, but she felt a chill sweep over her anyway.
Musashi spoke, his own voice thoughtful. "The last time you were sick enough to notice, you took three days out of school, and locked the apartment door so Kurita couldn't see you." he stepped forward and put a hand on Hiruma's shoulder, and the quarterback finally looked up at him. Mamori winced, seeing the faint sheen of sweat, and the flush of fever in the pale cheeks. Musashi studied him a moment, then spoke again, his voice as quiet as Hiruma's had been a moment ago. "You can't control what the fever is going to do to you. What it is doing to you. You can't control the coughing well, or how badly it hurts you to breathe."
Hiruma looked away, his jaw tensing. "Damn old man."
Doburoku was studying the lean form, his eyes considering. "Hiruma." He waited until the quarterback turned dark green eyes to him. "You don't sleep well, unless you're completely exhausted." It wasn't a question.
Hiruma's hand clenched again, and he looked away. Mamori frowned, trying to understand the implications of the words. Hiruma-kun...he couldn't mean...Hiruma-kun has trouble sleeping? But then...she'd never seen him sleep, really sleep, unless he was exhausted, right after a game or a difficult task. He was frequently up late, later than she was, and he almost always arrived at school before she did. And she knew, on the rare occasions that sleep did overwhelm him...he tended to vanish into a corner. During the Death March, he'd always slept on the other side of the truck, except when rain had forced him to share with the others. When they traveled, he always took a room for himself, alone.
Mamori swallowed. She'd always thought Hiruma was being aloof, from pride, or to maintain his reputation. But though she knew he didn't like to reveal when he was hurt or vulnerable, she hadn't thought to connect it with his desire for privacy, save as another indicator of how proud and stubborn he was was. "Hiruma-kun..."
He glanced at her, then away. "Don't get the wrong idea...damn manager." A brief fit of coughing interrupted him. Mamori saw his hand clench over his chest. Then it passed and he spoke to her again, as if nothing had happened. "My mind's just too damn active. I've been a fucking insomniac since I was old enough to go to school. I just...hate being...fucking disturbed. Or inactive." He coughed again, and Mamori saw the pain and frustration in the lines of his jaw and the set of his shoulders. "This damn fever..." He broke off the words abruptly.
Musashi frowned thoughtfully. "Fever can make the mind wander."
Hiruma made a soft noise of annoyance, grimacing as if even that small noise made his throat hurt. "I can't freakin concentrate."
It sounded like he was telling the truth, but there was an edge of tension to his voice that Mamori recognized from the time he'd given her the emergency game plan for the Hakushuu game. He wasn't telling the whole truth. There was something he was hiding. She studied his face. He was flushed, sweating slightly, but the set of his jaw and the shuttered look in the green eyes suggested that it was better not to push it. He'd only get upset, and they didn't need to agitate him further.
She sighed, adopting an attitude of exasperation. "You don't need to concentrate, Hiruma-kun. You need to rest." She glanced at the tray. "And you need to eat and get plenty of nutrients, not to mention plenty of liquids, since the fever will probably dehydrate you."
Musashi looked a little surprised, but Hiruma's shoulders relaxed. "Che. Back off...damn manager. I'm not the damn shorty." His tone was annoyed, but the angry tension had left his eyes, and she saw the fist entangled in the sheets relax.
Musashi must have noticed too. He leaned back against the wall, comprehension in his eyes. "She's right, Hiruma. And you know it. Do what she tells you, for once."
A sneer curled Hiruma's lip, but Mamori saw the tiredness entering his eyes as the side effects of the medicine took hold, combined with his already exhausted state. She'd seen that look before too, at the end of the Death March, right before he'd gone to his room and passed out. "Shut up."
She sighed again, adopting a tone of annoyance. "Well, if you aren't going to eat more, then I'm taking the dishes. You should just rest, Hiruma-kun. And make sure you drink plenty of water." She reached over and picked up the tray.
"Che. Just get out, all of you." Hiruma sneered again, then grabbed his computer and set it back on his lap, frowning at the screen, shutting them out to all intents and purposes.
Mamori sighed again, exasperation still in her tone. "You're so rude, Hiruma-kun." She glared at him a moment, then turned and left his room. Doburoku followed her.
Musashi was last. He hesitated, and Hiruma glanced up. "Shut the damn door, old man." Then he went back to typing. Musashi frowned, but Mamori caught his eye and gave a quick shake of her head. Musashi studied her a moment, then gave the slender figure on the bed a last look and pulled the door shut.
A scowl creased Doburoku's face as he followed her into the kitchen. "Is it really safe to leave Hiruma alone?"
Mamori considered. "It should be. Hiruma-kun took all his medications. I'll check on him in a little while." Doburoku nodded and rejoined Musashi in the living room.
Mamori washed up the dishes, then made a quick note of the things she needed to purchase to restock Hiruma's supplies, as well as things she'd thought of for meals and to help him recuperate better. Then she returned to the living room, and the three of them finished reviewing the notes they were going over, discussing Hiruma's training strategies, and what alterations they'd need to make, to account for the absence of the quarterback. When they finished, Mamori gathered up the notes she'd made and stowed them in her bag, then went to the bedroom door and opened it a crack.
Hiruma was leaning against the headboard, his eyes closed and his head tilted slightly to one side. His breathing was shallow, but even, and his hands had fallen to his sides. He didn't stir when she stepped softly into the room, not even when her shadow fell across his face.
"He's asleep." Musashi spoke softly behind her. He was standing, watching Hiruma's slow breathing.
"Yes." Mamori reached out, moved the computer gently to the side, out of the way so he wouldn't knock into it or step on it, or the cord, if he woke and got up. Then she pulled the blanket up from around his waist, up to his shoulders, gently tucking it over him. It was a note of how tired was, that he didn't wake when she did so. Mamori considered a moment, then very gently brushed her hand across his forehead, pushing back the damp hair. She could feel the heat of his fever still, but his breathing sounded slightly less labored.
"Here." Musashi had left the room, but now he returned, holding a couch cushion. "He'll be irritable if he wakes with a crick in his neck. And if he starts yelling or cursing, he'll probably start coughing."
"That's true." Mamori studied Hiruma a moment, then very, very carefully edged the pillow under his shoulder and neck, supporting his head a little better. "That should help." She was a little surprised she hadn't woken him, but then...he was tired and sick. She supposed anything was possible. "We should just let him rest now."
The two of them exited as quietly as they'd entered. Mamori took the door and closed it, the way she'd done when she and Sena were children, and she'd had to nurse him through an illness.
Doburoku was sitting on the couch. He looked up as the door shut. "He's asleep?"
Mamori nodded. "Hiruma-kun will probably sleep for the rest of the night, and we should let him sleep as late as he can tomorrow."
Musashi made a soft noise. "Hiruma always wakes early. I bet we'll hear from him before 8am."
"Even so, Mamori-chan is correct. He should sleep as much as possible." Doburoku sighed. "Musashi...you should go home and check on your father. Mamori-chan...return home and rest. You'll have to oversee at least part of practice tomorrow, and you'll probably want to help Hiruma as well, am I correct?"
Mamori nodded. "I thought I'd stay here tonight, and..."
"No." Musashi shook his head. "You have parents who'd question what you were doing."
Doburoku nodded. "Besides, even though your intentions are innocent, and even if we don't intend to let anyone find out...if something happens, people will suspect you and Hiruma."
"Suspect..." Mamori flushed scarlet. "I'm just his manager, honestly!"
"We know. But you do have a close working relationship, and a lot of people think it's more than that. If you stay over...you and Hiruma don't need to risk that kind of rumor going around." Musashi shook his head. "What if Sena or Monta spoke to your family and discovered something? Or Suzuna?"
Mamori nodded, her cheeks still burning. "But...Hiruma-kun..."
Doburoku shook his head. "I'll stay here and tend to him for tonight. You and Musashi can come over in the morning and work out a schedule for watching over him."
Mamori nodded. "His medications are on his bedside table, if he wakes. He shouldn't need any but the inhaler before dawn, but the instructions are on the bottles. Please make sure he gets them if he needs them. And if he wakes before we arrive, don't forget to give him his antibiotics, with plenty of water, and some rice at least."
Doburoku nodded. "I will." He glanced at the bedroom door.
"Don't forget to listen for any coughing. Make sure he's breathing properly. And watch his fever, make sure it doesn't go too high."
"I will." Doburoku smiled grimly. "I've tended injuries and illnesses before. I'll take good care of Hiruma."
Mamori nodded. She was reluctant to leave the sick quarterback, but Doburoku and Musashi were right about the potential for rumors, and her parents. And Musashi was right. Suzuna-chan especially, might take it into her head to investigate. And if she found out what was going on, she wasn't sure the younger girl could keep it a secret.
Musashi saw her expression. "Don't worry. He'll be fine for the night. Doburoku sensei will take good care of him." He shrugged into his jacket. "I'll take you home. It's not completely safe around this neighborhood."
"Musashi." Doburoku tossed the kicker a set of keys. "I won't need the truck till morning, you might as well take it. It's safer and warmer."
Musashi nodded. "Come on." Mamori took one last look at the closed bedroom door, then followed the kicker out into the night.
Author's Note:So...Hiruma is seriously ill. Who here thinks he's going to be a good or easy patient?