That Which Hides

Disclaimer: I own and claim nothing but the plot.

Needs: Beta-reader; PM me if interested, thanks!


Meeting

Being the coach's personal favorite, Tatsuya had evaded the passing glances from his teammates as he further established his name as being Yousen's ace. There was by far no one who could hold a candle to his fluid as silk shooting motion and his dribbling that could come to par with the nationals players'. It was by nature that he had become a first stringer by his second year and the rest of the regulars acknowledged his presence to the point where he had gained their mutual respect.

However, a first year named Murasakibara Atsushi joined their ranks right after their first practice session and Tatsuya was stunned beyond belief by the latter's raw potential. Atsushi was a member of the heralded Generation of Miracles and was known for his uncanny abilities as a center, which befitted his gargantuan frame.

"Murasakibara-kun, was it?" Tatsuya had been the only one who dared approach Atsushi, who was sitting in the lone corner of the club room while munching on a pack of potato chips. There were crumbs all over his kouhai's shorts and Tatsuya had the slightest urge to dust Atsushi off but his restraint won over as he settled for a quick handshake.

Seeing them from some feet away and up close weighed a sea of difference, as Atsushi extended his free arm in response to Tatsuya's offered gesture. "Hm, yes. Please take good care of me, senpai." His grip was firm but Tatsuya's was warm and comforting – so much so that he would prefer maintaining contact instead of resuming his snacking.

Game

"Murasakibara-kun," a bead of sweat traced the outline of Tatsuya's jaw as he drew out a lungful of air, "why do you play basketball?"

In his usual drawled monotone, Atsushi answered, "Just because I'm good at it. Himuro-senpai, we're the same, aren't we?" Given Atsushi's expansive reach, blocking the ball seemed like mere child's play as it rebounded against the chain-link fence with unequaled ferocity. "Do you love basketball, Himuro-senpai?"

There was little hesitation or none at all. "Of course. Murasakibara-kun…" Tatsuya knew that there were things better left unsaid but a question bloomed at the tip of his tongue and threatened to escape his slightly parted lips. He clenched his teeth but it was a futile battle as his innate curiosity made his attempt crumble. "… why do I get the feeling that you don't?"

"That's because I don't." It was Atsushi's turn on the offensive and some breathless seconds, he scored with an explosive dunk after he tore through Tatsuya's defense. In stark contrast to Atsushi's wall of composure, Tatsuya was panting from the physical exertion but he would not lose to someone like Atsushi, never.

"There's nothing to like…" A flash of danger flitted in otherwise world-weary lavender irides as Tatsuya demonstrated a string of fakes, disabling Atsushi's movements and rendering him immobile. Talent and skill were close-knit brothers born from different fathers. "Muro-chin, you're amazing."

Tatsuya won his first basket against the behemoth and for the briefest moment, he saw a sliver on enthusiasm on Atsushi's face.

Realization

Ring.

During the afternoon breaks, Tatsuya had developed a peculiar habit of soaking under the sun and drowning himself in the whipping breeze. The rooftop had been his haven but recently, Atsushi had been tagging along with his signature variation of sweets and pastries. "Murasakibara-kun, your phone…"

Ring. Ring.

Atsushi had a penchant for drifting into a daze while stuffing himself with sugar, and lots of it.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

"Murasakibara-kun…"

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

Patience far stretched, Tatsuya lifted the vibrating cellphone off Atsushi's pocket and waved it in Atsushi's plain view. "Murasakibara-kun, you got a message from an Aka-chin…" The screen displayed a spread of unread messages, some from a Kise-chin, a selected few from a Mido-chin while the remaining were from an Aka-chin.

"Nn, I wonder what Aka-chin says." Fishing his second licorice stick, he watched Tatsuya's expression shift from confusion to downright amusement in quiet wonder. "What is it, Muro-chin?"

Okamura-senpai. Fukui-senpai. Ryuu-senpai. Muro-chin. It was but one of Atsushi's subtle quirks but Tatsuya could not help but feel privileged as he smiled knowingly. This, he thought, would be interesting.

Move (First Name Basis)

Next week's allowance was the least of his concern as Atsushi took a wad of cash from his wallet to pay for the snacks he had just purchased. He was satisfied with his load but he did want to buy the limited-edition banana flavored twin popsicles – he would have, save the fact that he wouldn't be able to eat it all the same.

"Are you planning to eat all that, Murasakibara?" The convenience store was a five minute walk away from Yousen High and consequently, the patrons who frequented the establishment were either students, staff or faculty members. Masako bowed in way of greeting while Atsushi mouthed a doumo in between chews. "Be careful. You might actually get stomach cramps."

"I think Murasakibara-kun knows that full well, Coach," Tatsuya added as he strolled over to Atsushi's side. "Wow, that is a lot."

Atsushi blew his gum and succeeded in making a mess of himself when it popped and ended up matting his cheeks and the tip of his nose. He would have peeled it off but his hands were occupied. "M-Muro-chin…"

"Thanks for today, Coach. I think I'll stay with Murasakibara-kun for a bit." Using his handkerchief, Tatsuya wiped off the bits of blue sticking on a few stray strands of hair as well as the remnants on Atsushi's chin. "Really, Atsush-" It slipped. It finally did.

Study Date

"Murasakibara-kun," Kenichi had spoken with vigor, "study dates should be done as a couple and not between guys."

Atsushi craned his neck in utter bewilderment because, truth be told, he never got their captain's obsession over the ladies. There was a long list of reasons why he never got another girlfriend after his first but he was too immersed in chocolate-coated Pocky to even start enumerating. Crunch after resounding crunch, Atsushi had taken a seat on the bench, attention elsewhere.

In some point, Tatsuya had joined into the conversation and countered Kenichi's previous statement. "Taicho, I think you mean dates. Study dates on the other hand-"

"You're the ladies' man right, Himuro-kun?" Kensuke supplied as he gave Tatsuya a thumbs up. "Why don't you help your Ken-senpai over here land one?"

"If he can even land one, that is," Wei injected and Kenichi slumped in defeat.

Tatsuya heaved a sigh as he resumed his explanation. "Study dates can be among friends because inviting a girl to go to… let's say, a public library is unromantic."

"Oho! Enlighten me, o wise one!" Kensuke exclaimed while Wei ignored his childish antics.

A couple of shinai hits later, Wei and Kensuke joined their captain as they fell to the floor from exhaustion – due to their tripled training regimen no doubt. Tatsuya was spent as well but a single text gave him an extra ounce of energy.

Received 4:53 PM

Then, would you go out on a study date with me, Muro-chin? No libraries.

- Murasakibara Atsushi

Throb

A heart disease was definitely out of the question as Atsushi reassured himself that he was, and is, a healthy sixteen year old. However, the previous dull throbbing had since escalated to raging thumping and there was a sense of dread that plagued his mind. He cut down on his daily consumption but-

Throb.

Munch.

Throb.

Crunch.

Throb.

Muro-chin.

Thump.

Atsushi excused himself from the club activities and went straight to the infirmary. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for him, the nurse just so happened to be a fujoshi and she confirmed it – he was indeed sick and it was incurable.

Signal

For someone his age, Tatsuya had an exotic edge over virtually anyone with his left eye thoroughly hidden by a thin veil of ebony strands and that conspicuous beauty mark right beneath the other. This made people curiouser and curiouser, but that was all part of the plan as he pinned the famed side bangs with clips as he was in the security and seclusion of his bedroom.

"Muro-chin, you look good with your bangs up," Atsushi remarked as he tended to his dwindling stack of assorted chewy candies, courtesy of his senpai.

Tatsuya admitted that bribing Atsushi was a crude idea but the results far overshadowed the means – it worked and now, his kouhai awaited his judgment in the lion's den. "I do?" He had heard it a couple of times from past lovers, Taiga even, but coming from Atsushi, the compliment had a different ring altogether.

Atsushi nodded as he busied himself with the cake tray, another of Tatsuya's waiting baits. It was Tatsuya's single-minded fervor to learn, or at the very least, grasp what made Murasakibara Atsushi tick and he would stop at nothing to-

"You have frosting on your face, Muro-chin," Atsushi's touch had a tinge of delicacy to it, and to Tatsuya's own chagrin, faint pink trails settled on his cheeks. He swore that the heat went up a notch as an icing-smeared finger disappeared into Atsushi's mouth.

Maybe, just maybe, it was the work of hormones but Tatsuya swallowed hard; this was not simple infatuation.

Admission

Received 5:35 PM

Yoh, Himuro-kuuuun~ ^o^)/

- Sonohara Maki

Received 7:12 PM

Please do something about the captain. He's starting to get annoying.

- Wei Ryuu

Received 7:49 PM

Let's go out on Sunday. My treat.

- Asahina Ino

Received 8:06 PM

Done with homework?

- Mori Karin

In truth, there were several things that came with his move from the States to Japan – adjustment and involving himself with the social circle had been his utmost priority. As soon as he had however, his number was leaked to the general populace and needless to say, he had been bombarded with confessions, invites and whatnot ever since. It was common etiquette to reply to each but on most nights, he would rather not.

Sent to Mori Karin 8:10 PM

Yes, I am. Why the sudden question, Ms. Class President?

Sent to Wei Ryuu 8:14 PM

Haha, don't worry. Captain will get over it.

Mori Karin was someone who had struck a lasting impression on him, since she was the mastermind behind the infamous Himuro fans club. Aside from her pristine school records, she was also the Vice-President of the Newspaper Committee and was pegged to covering the basketball team's every game. Before he knew it, they had become rather close friends.

Received 8:16 PM

Hm, don't mind me asking but… did you get a girlfriend? You're a bit different lately.

- Mori Karin

That, and she had sharp woman's intuition.

Sent to Mori Karin 8:20 PM

No, but I plan on getting a lover.

There was a lengthy pause between the exchanges and Tatsuya found it a bit off and uncharacteristic. The Mori Karin had never ran out of a witty comeback and…

Received 8:40 PM

; A; HOW DARE YOU?! You broke my heart. ; n;

- Mori Karin

Received 8:41 PM

But really…

- Mori Karin

Received 8:41 PM

You and Murasakibara-kun

- Mori Karin

Received 8:42 PM

look good together! wwwww

- Mori Karin

… how did…

Received 8:43 PM

Good luck, 'lover' boy! You're going to need it ;)

- Mori Karin

The following morning, Masako captured him in a tight embrace as she handed him a note: a charm for the bumpy ride ahead.

TBC; edited ver.


Author's Notes: Ah, MuroMura is just the sweetest little thing! I was a bit shocked that the fandom labeled Tatsuya a super M. What the hell's with that? Anywho, I became a human jelly as I wrote this. Atsushi-kun, please eat me now. I REGRET NOTHING. YOLO.