Characters: Kiyoshi Teppei
Genre: Gen, Drama, kinda Angst
Rating/Status: PG-13 / 1,392 words, complete
Warning: References background info that hasn't shown up in the 1st season of the anime so it could be spoilerish for non-manga readers.
Summary: The first time he tells you basketball is fun, his words are so full of enthusiasm you can’t help but marvel at it. (2nd person POV)
Author's Note: Written for basketballpoetsociety's "Basketball" challenge on Tumblr during the Amnesty round.
Love, Iron, and Basketball
"Come on, Kiyoshi, basketball is fun!"
The first time Taichi tells you this, his words are so full of enthusiasm you can't help but marvel at it. He badgers you with a magazine full of orange balls and guys leaping impossible heights, and you find yourself curious despite having never been particularly into sports.
You don't expect much, but you humor him when he drags you towards the basketball club. Because as little as you know about the sport, you've at least heard that your school is well-known for it.
So you tilt your head and you think, why not?
You have no way of knowing, not then, how much basketball will come to mean one day.
"You've got the perfect build for it, you know. It'd be a waste - a waste, I tell you - if you don't join."
He tells you this, all eagerness and admiration, and you still remember the awe in his voice, how it stops you for a moment. Because your huge frame, while convenient at times, has always been more of a hindrance to you than anything truly useful.
And as you suspected, you're clumsy with it — both your body and the basketball and how you all fit together. You shrug apologetically at Taichi after practices, perhaps a little disappointed in letting him down, but he never seems to mind.
It doesn't bother you either, really. Basketball is interesting enough, and you're finding that you like the soreness in muscles you've never quite had the opportunity to use. So you continue to show up, do the drills, shoot some hoops, play ball.
It takes a few weeks before you begin to find your rhythm. Then it's just one more afternoon for it to click in place, when you jump for the ball, reaching for it like any other ball from any other time.
The weight of it smacks perfectly into your palms as though it has always belonged there, and it is this that makes laughter bubble up your throat. It leaves you breathless and giddy and thinking that basketball is something you can do forever and never tire of.
"Let's go have fu~n!"
Taichi laughs every time you say it, and you laugh with him. Because he was right those months ago when he told you basketball is fun.
It's so fun you can't help but play more, practice more, try harder. You want, more than anything you've ever wanted, to protect this thing you've discovered — the joy, your teammates, your love for the game, all of it.
You feel fortunate that, of all sports, it is basketball you love so much, especially when it quickly becomes apparent you're good at it. Gifted even.
And you've never been more grateful for this body you were given, because Taichi was also right about another thing. You do have the perfect build for this. Your height, the strong legs, even the hands you used to think was too freakishly large.
It's like you were born just to play this game.
So, play, you do.
Your junior high days pass one by one, game by game.
Some games you win, some you lose. You win more often than not, and though you have lost, you have yet to learn how devastating loss can be.
You're the beacon of your team, a shield for their dreams. It's a role you take with pride.
The area below the basket is your domain, and you guard it like the king you are, uncrowned though you may be.
"You protected nothing at all."
When it comes, it crumbles. In some ways, your story begins when it ends.
"Let's go have fu~n!"
You say it like you always have, and this time no one laughs.
You say it like a prayer. You say it like a reminder. You say it like you can't bear not to.
When your time at Shouei Basketball Club comes to a close, there is only hope seeping out of your teammates' eyes to bid farewell to. You walk away and find your next path in front of a trash bin, your basketball shoes in hand.
You're standing, so it's funny you're still on your knees, shaky palms flat against the floor, slick with sweat. You're alone, so it's absurd that you see cold, oppressive eyes looking down at you in contempt. And basketball is fun, so it doesn't make any sense that there's no fun to be had. Not for you.
Not for that other boy either.
He follows you around like the shadow he is, this Murasakibara Atsushi. Each time you walk away from the trash bin, hands still full of shoes, he's there. Each night you lie down on your bed and stare at the ceiling, he's there.
You hate basketball. You love basketball.
You walk away from the trash bin one last time and enroll in a high school waiting for lost players like you. The boy's shadow follows you there, and by now, he's almost like a friend.
And so it begins once more.
You go through the motions a little crippled, but no one here knows you well enough to call you out on it. And if the expression on your face falls a shade too dark at being addressed captain, it is just as well. You have no business leading a team, shackled as you are with the shadow of a giant following you around like a ghost you need to send.
Not least because your new team is so full of fire you haven't felt in a long time. Not least because there's a better captain in front of you, with hope far stronger than yours and a determination you only pretend to have.
You bask in all this while you can, because some days, you feel like you're playing on borrowed time.
You know better now, how some games you will win, but some you will always lose.
But this, too, is fine because you've learned you don't need to be the best. You just need to keep playing, keep enjoying the game even if it's not quite how you remember it to be.
It takes your body failing you, your new captain reminding you, just how much you have forgotten — how much you have given up, how much you have never stopped loving this game.
You cry, and it's a mix of pain, joy, and crushing relief.
You finally remember, that while you may not need to be the best, you need to believe you can be.
That while you may not need to win every game, you need to believe that you will.
"Let's go have fu~n!"
You have teammates now who don't laugh at these words, but the look they give you tells you more than any laughter could.
Of course, we're going to have fun, and aren't you the dumbass for saying the obvious, Kiyoshi.
These are the things they don't say, but you hear it in their smiles, their smirks, and the way they roll their eyes at you.
Truly, you have never been more glad to be on this team, so full of dreams built upon lost dreams. And it's with these teammates you walk out onto the court, them by your side and you by their side.
This, you think, is what you came back for, what you'll keep playing for, even if you no longer have quite the right build for it.
"You couldn't protect anything again."
For a moment, your life is on rewind and you're seeing doubles.
You're down on your knees — hands and arms slipping in sweat — and nothing has changed in the least. Not the insurmountable shadow looming over you. Not the familiar anguish rushing up your chest.
But you've done this once before, and you've learned through blood and tears that basketball doesn't ever really end. You're also learning all over again, how it takes just one look at your teammates to remember that the story doesn't finish here.
"So? How is it? Is it still fun? Basketball, that is."
Yes. Yes, it is.
Because you're Iron Heart Kiyoshi Teppei. They'll crush your knees before they ever manage to crush your heart.
And what is basketball if it isn't your heart you play with?
So, one more time.
"Let's go have fu~n!"