Characters: Mitobe Rinnosuke, Koganei Shinji, Seirin
Genre: Gen, Friendship
Rating/Status: PG / 1126 words, complete
Summary: These are the things you won't hear from Mitobe. But it actually isn't technically correct, that bit about no one at Seirin having ever heard Mitobe's voice. Some time during his first year, he opens his mouth once and a stuttered 'ah' pops out, very quietly.
Author's Note: Written for basketballpoetsociety's "20 Things" challenge on Tumblr. First hack at writing for Kurobasu, hopefully not the last.
20 Things Mitobe Doesn't Say
During one of Seirin's games at the Winter Cup, a boy sitting in the audience overhears a random snippet of conversation that catches his attention and makes him squint down at the court in surprise.
Seirin's hook shooter who never talks, they call him. Jersey number 8, Mitobe Rinnosuke.
He keeps an ear open to their conversation about this so-called mute player, and by the time they move on to talk about a different player, the boy has already come to the conclusion that he's got the wrong person. Yeah, the eyebrows kinda do resemble the ones he used to make fun of back in third grade, but the likeness ends there rather abruptly.
Chuckling to himself, he spares a brief moment to wonder where the slightly chubby but very loud boy he once knew is these days. Then he promptly forgets about it when that crazy red-haired guy floats through the air and dunks the ball right into the hoop.
Most people at Seirin has long since accepted the fact that Mitobe doesn't talk. Though it doesn't stop Koganei from bringing up (and laughing at) some of the theories the students used to cook up.
Like the one where he's a merperson from the Harry Potter universe and can only speak underwater or risk shattering everyone's eardrums.
Or the one where he's really mute, possibly deaf too, and the other students start trying to sign at him as a gesture of goodwill.
Both of those are, however, preferable to the "brave prince with a tragic past" persona some girls come up with.
To this day, Mitobe still gets a love confession letter in his shoe box every once in a while, waxing poetic about saving him.
It actually isn't technically correct, that bit about no one at Seirin having ever heard Mitobe's voice.
Some time during his first year, he opens his mouth once and a stuttered 'ah' pops out, very quietly. It startles everyone in the room into silence, waiting for words that never come.
Nowadays, no one bats an ear when a tiny croak comes out of his mouth — but it's still his voice nonetheless.
Mitobe isn't really a streetball type of person. When trash talk is as much a part of the game as basketball itself is, his type has the tendency to rub those players the wrong way more often than not. Nevertheless, he goes to the street court near his house to practice sometimes, usually after dinner when it's deserted.
It's his way of winding down, and on some days, he brings a bento with him, because trying to eat dinner at home is like trying to fish in a swimming pool full of children.
It's during one of these outings that Koganei — with tennis bag slung over one shoulder, fingers looping through the links in the wire fence, and a face full of awe — stumbles upon Mitobe playing basketball.
Two weeks later, Koganei attends one of Mitobe's games.
And cheers when he fouls.
It's a while longer, before Mitobe manages to get the rules of basketball to stick. Even then, Koganei will say "cycling" instead of "traveling" nine out of ten times.
Koganei is the first person Mitobe has ever met who doesn't seem the least bit perturbed by his lack of verbal responses. He just smiles, nods, and talks right on, perfectly at ease with carrying a conversation for the both of them.
Much later, when Mitobe meets Koganei's family members for the first time and they speak to him in the exact same manner, he thinks that perhaps it is a family trait. It warms him, and he smiles his appreciation when Koga nudges him with an elbow and beams at him.
Then the family cat strolls into the living room, and Mitobe learns that they all talk to the cat in much the same way too.
Of all the people in the Seirin basketball club, Mitobe thinks he and Kuroko are probably the most alike. He doesn't have Kuroko's misdirection, but they're background people, the both of them. They watch, observe, and support. It's what they do, and Mitobe prefers it this way.
And if Kagami is the light to Kuroko's shadow, then Koganei is the voice for his words.
But Koganei isn't always around, and sometimes that makes for an interesting situation. Hyuuga learns this early on, when he finds himself needing to make an emergency phone call to Mitobe late one Friday night.
"Hello...? You there?"
"Ah! Right. Er... press something if you can hear me?"
"Oh, good. Okay. Listen, ah, I was wondering if you could help us with the bento preparation for our training session on Sunday? The coach was going to make them—"
Beeeeep! Beep! Beep!
"—but I told her we'd handle it... I take it that's a yes?"
"Thanks, Mitobe, we're saved... I mean, we owe you one!"
In the end, they manage pretty well, all things considered.
If given the choice between playing basketball for Seirin and not speaking, Mitobe knows he will choose the former.
But they don't make him choose.
Instead, Koga unrolls a large poster banner and Kiyoshi hands him a thick marker to write his goal for when they all go up to the roof to show the entire school how serious they are.
It's the first but not the last time he's glad that he and Koganei decided to enter Seirin High.
The truth is:
Not speaking isn't something Mitobe suddenly starts doing one day. It isn't even a conscious decision, not at first. Rather, it is something he grows into bit by bit, proportionally to the size of his family.
The truth also is:
Mitobe likes that he doesn't speak. It means he listens more, hears more, and sees more.
Because, words, when spoken too loudly, deafens people.
Mitobe's mother still teases him, reminds him of the way he used to yell just to be heard over the noise his siblings make. She doesn't say it often, but when she does, there's sometimes a hint of apology in her eyes.
So he takes the time to show her that he's happy the way things are, because he is.
And he tells her too, once in a while. Because he does speak. Not often, but he does.
So it isn't that he doesn't plan on ever speaking in front of his friends. He suspects that one day, he will have to, when they need it most.
For now, though, Mitobe is quite content with staying silent.
Besides, the people who matter most already understand him just fine.