Ten minutes is all I ask for
Disclaimer: I do not own Kuroko no Basuke and make no profit from writing this.
Notes: Written for stillskies for Parallelsfic exchange 2012.
First quarter, and so it begins
There is a bespectacled boy that Riko admires.
Her eyes tell her that he is as average a basketball player as they come. Putting it kindly, his physique and his talent can only ever be called decent, never astounding, yet that doesn't diminish Riko's admiration of him.
Hyuuga Junpei, after all, is one of the most dedicated people Riko knows. The hours he spends at her father's gym are no lie. Every extra minute he puts in is yet another minute that confesses his love for basketball. Before school, he is always there on the equipment, training early in the morning when most students are still sleeping in.
He returns later in the evening to train all the way until closing time, all the way until he is the last person left. More than once, Riko shuts the lights on him and has to shoo him out of the gym. Sometimes, she even finds him nodding away in front of his rented locker, exhausted, falling asleep in the middle of changing. When that happens, Riko lets him catch a few winks before she ruthlessly jabs him awake. She has to finish closing up the gym and sleep. Besides, it would do his body no good to sleep in such a position.
Without fail, he trains. Without fail, Riko watches, inspired by his relentless effort. Eagerly, she watches him grow into something more, and they exchange countless quips. She makes suggestions. He takes her advice into account, adjusting his training accordingly. Riko almost feels like his personal trainer. She finds that she's good at this, and even better, enjoys the effort wholeheartedly. Watching Hyuuga's growth sends Riko's heart fluttering; she's never known that raising an athlete would be this much fun.
Oftentimes, he talks about his team. About dreams and achieving them. His words make her consider her own path.
She thinks she might one day want to bring up a team of her own, to raise athletes as dedicated as he is. There is truly nothing better than seeing an athlete grow before her eyes, knowing that she played a crucial role in that athlete's growth.
There is a bespectacled boy that Riko admires, who inspires her, and he loves basketball, or so Riko thought.
Time-out: I've misjudged you
"Why have you stopped coming?" she asks, finally successful in cornering him. It's been too long since he's shown his face at her father's gym. She thought something was up with his strange behavior and his recent lackluster effort in training, but she didn't think he would stop coming altogether. That just wasn't like him.
He proves her wrong. She wonders if she even knew him at all.
"No matter how much I practice, I will never be able to surpass those born with talent," he replies without meeting her gaze. Of all things, he looks bored. As well as unapologetic. He's given up.
Beneath Riko's skin, fury rages. Where has the boy she admired gone? She wants to punch this unrecognizable person before her.
In the next moment, Hyuuga is holding his jaw, glasses askew, and finally, he's looking at her. His eyes are wide in disbelief, but she'll take that over his indifference any day. Her knuckles smart, and she thinks, oh, I actually punched him, but her fury isn't sated. She decides that another punch is warranted. So she punches him again. Pathetically, he doesn't even protest, eyes dropping to the floor, and that infuriates Riko even more.
"I've misjudged you. You are a coward!" Riko bites out. She wishes, how she wishes, that she was able to punch him out of his slump, but the sharp, physical pain she dealt has nothing on whatever scarred his self-confidence.
He doesn't reply, doesn't explain himself, doesn't reach out to her. Riko doesn't know what to do. His actions speak louder than anything he could have said.
He turns his back on her, on basketball, and walks away without a backward glance.
First quarter resumes
There was a bespectacled boy that Riko admired. With his head of black hair and his average physique, he was as normal a basketball player as they came, but Riko didn't care a whit about that. She admired his tenacity and was inspired by his love for basketball. She even discovered a love for bringing up athletes. She thought him to be her first.
Now, there is no such person.
Instead, he grew his hair out and dyed it blond. He tries to make a statement but only succeeds in looking ridiculous. He stops coming to the gym. She bets he sleeps in during the mornings now.
Riko hates people who give up. She thinks she might also hate basketball.
Break: Here's to three years of high school
When she finds out that Seirin High has no basketball club, Riko lets out her breath.
"Here's to three years of high school!" she says to herself. Seirin High is a brand new school and doesn't even have any second or third years. There isn't a better place to start over than at Seirin, which doesn't have any history of its own.
Yet Riko finds it impossible.
Sometimes, she passes by Hyuuga in the corridors, a mop of blinding and distasteful yellow marring the corner of her sight.
She turns her back on him, on believing, and walks away without a backward glance.
Or well, she tries to.
"Stupid Hyuuga," she mutters to herself.
Second quarter starts
There is a towering boy trying to gain Riko's admiration even though he doesn't know he's contending for it.
Although her analysis isn't completely accurate, not when he has his school uniform on, it is enough for her eyes to tell her that he is a talented basketball player, leagues beyond Hyuuga. That, however, isn't what garners the admiration Riko is trying her hardest to squash down. It's his confidence and good-nature, his contagious affection for basketball that threatens to win her over.
But no, oh no, she's not going to get tricked again.
Resolute, she refuses to help him. Seirin High has no basketball club. Kiyoshi Teppei wants to change that and needs her help, but Riko doesn't see the need for a basketball club. She's quite happy there isn't such a club.
After all, she hates basketball with a passion. She tells him so, especially of how she dislikes basketball players who lack conviction, who give up in the face of adversary. Her voice twists as she thinks of the bespectacled boy she once admired.
It's not like the basketball club is the only club that wants her expertise. Riko turns all of them down. She's been burned once. She's not impressed and won't be easy to convince.
Kiyoshi Teppei, however, is nothing but tenacious.
There is a towering boy trying to gain Riko's admiration, and he just might be able to do it.
Time-out: We'll do it
"We'll show our seriousness during the morning announcement!" says a note from the basketball club. She looks at the note left on her desk but doesn't give it any more than a passing thought. What can they possibly do to change her mind?
During the morning announcement, like the note promised, they show their seriousness. She hears them, up on the roof, shouting their lungs out. She cranes her neck and stares. The entire school is their audience.
"Pledge! We members of the basketball team, with the aim to become number one in Japan, will definitely go to the Nationals! 1-B #7, Kiyoshi Teppei!"
There he is against the blue sky, tall like an iron wall, rising high above everyone, lifting Riko's spirits along with him. The other members pledge right after him, more players than she thought he would've been able to gather. Riko wants to believe, but it's not quite enough-
"Basketball team, same as above! 1-C #28, Hyuuga Junpei!"
Now, Riko stares even more.
The pathetic blond dye job is gone, and so is the long hair that never suited him. There he is, that boy Riko admired, stupidly burning so very brightly against the morning sky, commanding Riko to look at him. She stares, wondering if he's tricking her again.
On the roof, there is some sort of scuffle, perhaps the teachers caught them, and then Riko hears Hyuuga shout.
"Don't you dare look down on us! We'll do it! If we can't, we'll do anything, whether it's confessing bare naked or whatever!"
She can't help it. She holds her stomach but can't stop herself from trembling and laughing outright.
That's the Hyuuga Riko knows.
Second quarter starts looking up until it doesn't
Truth to be told, Riko loves being a coach and can't believe she held off for this long. She dreamed of bringing up her own team. Now there are five, no six with their newest member, healthy males waiting for her to whip them into shape.
She draws up schedules for them with a grin. She pushes them past their limits every single day, beaming a smile when they drop to the floor in exhaustion because she knows it's a day well spent and that they'll soon discover the magic of a well-balanced and well-trained body.
It starts with Koganei marveling about how light his body feels. He has the least basketball experience and doesn't have anything he particularly excels in, but even he feels the difference from their rigorous training. Riko is nothing but triumphant when his complaints turn into wonder, and she doesn't hold back from lording it over them and from pointing out how else they still need to improve, because goodness, they still have a long way to go. She loves every moment of it.
Izuki follows with one of his stupid puns, about how he trained so much he feels like he can catch a train. No one laughs, but Riko smiles widely as she doubles his training. Mitobe takes the training in stride, and Riko can tell he is elated when he manages a dunk thanks to her pointers. He stands there for a moment, looking at his hands and then at the hoop, as if in disbelief that he managed the feat so easily. Tsuchida is the only one to verbally thank her when he begins to take rebounds in much higher success rates. No wonder he is the only one with a girlfriend.
Riko never doubted the outcome, that they would improve. After all, she always puts careful thought into everyone's individual training menus, catering their exercises so that each individual member can grow in the way best suited to them. She watches their growth in delight and adapts their training menus as they improve. Growing boys are such a joy to watch.
Often, Riko talks with Teppei over cold drinks, sipping at her juice as she listens to him talk about their next opponent and how they might counter them. Even outside of matches, Teppei always stands tall, like a beacon of light, so easy to spot, so easy to rely on. He's the heart of the team, the one who brought them together and keeps them together now, an infallible presence. Riko doesn't rely on others much at all, but Teppei makes it so easy for her to speak with him and to ask him for pointers. It also helps that his knowledge of basketball seems to be endless.
She takes mental notes, outlines her plans to him, and together they muse. They also talk about Seirin, about how each player is faring and what they need to do next. It's all very technical, all business, but Riko loves it. He smiles at her, tells her to ease up and to have fun. But this is how she has fun. She never enjoys herself more than when she's devising their training menus and planning their strategy against their opponents.
He smiles at her again, eyes crinkling, and says he's glad that she's having fun. The team won't let her down. By the way, what's her favorite color?
Oh, she thinks. Oh, he thinks of me as more than just a coach.
It's kind of nice.
She also wonders how she transitioned to thinking of him as "Teppei" so easily and quickly when Hyuuga is still Hyuuga.
After that, they talk about more than just basketball whenever they meet outside of school. While she doesn't exactly ease up, she tries to remember to have fun outside of basketball and training menus too. She gushes over cute things and Teppei gives her new hairclips when she loses hers, but otherwise nothing has changed. She still has the most fun when she's bringing up her players. She even buys herself a simulation game on her handheld for raising players. It's quite a fun game.
As Teppei promised, the team doesn't let her down. They win, match after match, like champions. Riko watches them, grin spreading from ear-to-ear. These are her boys, and she is damn proud of them.
Victories are accompanied by Teppei's brilliant smile as well as Hyuuga's comedic acts. It is especially hilarious to watch Hyuuga after each match, who is still trying to resist falling for Teppei's charm. There Hyuuga is, turning, looking entirely like he wants to give Teppei a high five for their latest victory, but when he sees that it is Teppei who is next to him, he jerks and drops his hand as if he only just realized what he was about to do.
Silly Hyuuga. She never gets tired of watching him.
Hyuuga comes to her one day and asks her for advice about dealing with pressure. She answers that the best way to deal with pressure is to get used to pressure. Offhandedly, she suggests for him to break one of his Sengoku figures each time he misses one of his shots. She knows how much he treasures his figures. It would break his heart. He actually mulls over her words and says he'll do it after some deliberation.
Truthfully, she is shocked. And he does do it. There goes Sanada Yukimura. Date Masamune. Takeda Shingen. They lie in broken pieces, but Hyuuga's resolve is stronger than ever even as tears leak down his face. Three-pointers under pressure? Hyuuga won't fail.
Silly, silly Hyuuga.
There is no trace of that blond, yankee wannabe in this person before her. This is the dedicated, bespectacled boy Riko used to admire. And now admires once again.
She picks up the pieces for him. (She also breaks the figures for him whenever he can't bring himself to perform the deed). It is brutal, but it works, and he never backs down from his word ever again. This is a reborn Hyuuga, especially trustworthy during a clutch. He gets the job done under pressure better than anyone else.
When they continue to dominate their matches, Riko celebrates right along with them, every bit a part of the team, reveling in their shared victory. She is theirs just as much as they are hers. She doesn't want it any other way.
She feels like they are on top of the world, like nothing can ever go wrong. Victory is right in front of them, right at their fingertips. Winning the championship isn't a dream. It can soon be a reality.
Until that match.
Until Teppei, infallible Teppei, the heart of the team, crashes and doesn't get up.
He tries to play it down, tries to act like it's nothing, but Hyuuga mercilessly tears away Teppei's flimsy mask because it's not doing anyone any good. Riko isn't privy to Teppei's honesty, but Hyuuga is. He's inside Teppei's hospital room, listening to his tears, to his crushed dreams, to his desire of playing all three years with the team. He can no longer do so, not when surgery would take him away from basketball his entire high school career, when the other choice of rehabilitation would still only give him one year with the team.
Riko listens to all of this outside of Teppei's hospital room, mind working in overdrive, going through her previous analyses of Teppei. How has she not seen this? How has she not seen Teppei's old injury, or the insecurity in his heart? What are her eyes for if not for seeing things like these? Teppei's frailty hasn't ever crossed her mind. He has always been strong in front of her, in front of the team. She always thought Hyuuga to be the weak-willed one, but no, not anymore. There he is inside Teppei's hospital room, believing in the dream for them, leading the team like a true captain. He's grown a lot, and a lot of that is thanks to Teppei.
No, none of them are weak, she thinks, especially not Teppei. Together, they are strong. No one is ever going to turn their backs and leave without a word ever again. They are past that. That is why Hyuuga demands honesty from Teppei. Ignoring a problem won't make it go away. They will help each other deal, and they will overcome their hurdles and become stronger.
Just like what Teppei helped Hyuuga do once before.
And this time, Riko won't let anyone walk away.
Half-time: Any other girl would be blushing by now
"Coach," Hyuuga says. "Can I have ten minutes of your time?"
She turns, one eyebrow raised. It's their last match, their last half-time of their first year. They already lost their other matches in the finals league. Victory or defeat in this match both mean they won't advance any further.
Ten minutes during a basketball match can mean life or death. It can mean pulling ahead and leaving the opponents in the dust. It can mean closing the gap, evening the score, and snatching victory. Or it can mean falling short, watching in despair as the numbers add up.
Ten minutes is also the entirety of their half-time break, which is what Hyuuga is asking for. Ten minutes has never been enough for Riko to finish speaking with the team, yet now he wants it all.
Riko turns red eyes on him. She wasn't successful in keeping the tears in check. "Does it have to be now?"
Why now? Why, when defeat is right before them? What does he have to say that can possibly be more important than the match?
"Ten minutes is all I ask for. It might not even take ten minutes."
She doesn't know what the others know, but they give Hyuuga a knowing smile as they leave, and they clap him on the shoulder and wish him good luck even though Hyuuga just scowls. Then they step outside and leave the two of them alone in the locker room.
It is very obvious to her that they are all trying to peek in from the window of the door.
What isn't obvious to her is what Hyuuga is planning.
Hyuuga starts taking off his shirt.
Okay. Well, it's not like she hasn't ever seen him naked before. She scans his body, noting his fatigue. It is also impressive how much more muscle he has now compared to the beginning of the year.
Then, he starts taking off his shorts.
"Any other girl would be blushing by now," Hyuuga says, thumbs toying at his briefs. He sounds a little resigned but also a little... fond?
Riko doesn't even blink, but she does look over his leg muscles, calculating how much more distance he can run.
Next thing she knows, the briefs are on the ground too.
She thinks she's blushing now, or if she isn't, it sure feels awfully like her cheeks are warm enough to fry eggs on them, and her heart is pounding crazily. She cares little about the fact that Hyuuga is butt-naked in front of her. It really isn't like she hasn't seen naked men before.
It's just that she's realized why he's doing this and what that means about how he feels about her.
How hasn't she seen this coming either?
She covers her face, because hello, she's a dainty girl after all, and makes a fake sounding "kyaaa" in protest at being flashed, but that doesn't stop her from hearing his words, or peeking through the cracks of her fingers. Hyuuga, she's learned, has become a man of his word, but she never thought she would be the recipient of his confession.
"I like you, Coach," he says bluntly. "I'm sorry we weren't able to become number one in Japan. I'm sorry we weren't able to go to Nationals this year. I promise you though. We haven't given up. We're not giving up. Next year, we will definitely become number one, and Kiyoshi will be there with us."
It's a promise. More than a confession, it's a promise.
She tosses his uniform at him, smacking him in the face.
"Is this really the right time?" she asks, thinking of how their tournament will end here, how the rest of the team is listening just outside, how Teppei should be here with them yet isn't. She should be out there, motivating the team, yet she's isn't. Instead, she's here, being motivated.
"Yes," he says.
And she knows.
There is no better time than now to promise her the future, to show her his resolve, to remind her that he no longer caves under pressure. He can carry all of their dreams for them, and he will do it gladly. He gave his word; now he's showing her that he hasn't gone back on it.
Riko thinks she might be in love.
"Can you stop staring at me now?" Hyuuga asks as he grabs his clothes and begins pulling them on.
Riko snorts. She's not staring, or so she tells him, how dare he accuse a maiden of such a deed, but he just rolls his eyes at her. He knows her too well.
When they exit the locker room, the rest of Seirin whistles at them, their expressions visibly lifted, no longer the somber ones from before. Riko shakes her head at them, exasperated at her boys. Koganei, Izuki, Mitobe, and Tsuchida take turns pounding Hyuuga on the back, praising his courage.
She claps her hands to catch their attention.
"Seirin, go out there and have the time of your life! Let's go have fun!" she yells because Teppei's not here to say it for them. Hyuuga used up her ten minutes, but hey, it was ten minutes well spent. Her boys look much more spirited than before, and that's more than any prep talk could have achieved.
They don't win the match, but Riko doesn't feel like they lost. None of Seirin gives up. They fight until the very last moment, until the buzzer goes off. Hyuuga wipes the sweat from his face and holds his hand in the air. They might not have won, but Riko feels like they are the victors.
After the match, Riko texts Teppei and promises him that they'll step on this stage once again next year. She will make sure of it, and they will do more than just stand on the stage. They will make it theirs. They will become the best. At the moment, their match is only half-way done, far from over.
After all, even ten minutes can mean a drastic change. Their third and fourth quarters yet await.
A/N: Yup, this is the end! Thanks for reading~!