It happens during the match with the Snow Kids.
The next season hasn't started yet – this is just another 'friendly' that's rougher than most league matches and everything is as it's always been. Except it's not, not really, because D'Jok of all people is now the Snow Kids captain and it's infuriating because Sinedd is still just a striker (even though the rest of the team essentially does whatever he wants) and Artegor of all people has suddenly turned into a good uncle and that's unsettling. Before, he just worked them hard until they couldn't move and then some more and everything that mattered was scoring, fuck fair play and their well-being. He still works them hard, but now he frowns at fouls. He also insists they eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and asks them about their problems. It freaks Sinedd out. A LOT.
He tries not to think about it as he zeros in on the Snow Kids goalpost. They're winning 1:0, soon 2:0, and the first half hasn't even ended yet.
It does end moments later, right after he scores a beautiful goal.
Artegor comes down to see them (this, too, is becoming a common occurrence) to talk strategy instead of staying wherever the hell it is that he always stays (or used to) and barking orders at them through the headsets. One glance at Sinedd and he's all over him, asking if he's alright. Sinedd doesn't understand his concern. He's on a roll today. The way the smog is rolling through his body feels a little odd, as if it was about to burst out, but other than that, he feels stronger and faster than ever before. He's never been better, and that's what he tells his coach. Artegor gives him a worried look that doesn't fit his face at all, but leaves him be, so Sinedd just shrugs him off.
The second half starts.
D'Jok scores and although his team is still in the lead, they're back to a one point difference. One more, and they will come to a stalemate. Sinedd can not, will not allow it. He wants to win, win, to show D'Jok and his little team how much better he is, to crush them like the insignificant cockroaches that they are. Anger is bubbling inside of his chest and it's a little strange because – even if he does have anger issues (he does not) as one of his teammates has once told him he's never been so worked up before. But that doesn't matter, because today, anger makes him stronger.
These are the thoughts that accompany him as he approaches the goalpost again.
He's about to score when a horrible feeling of the Smog being forcibly ripped out of his body shocks him into stillness. For a moment, he feels a surge of panic as his thoughts flash back to the last match with the Pirates, but the feeling doesn't last more than a second. Then, it's replaced with something much worse.
He collapses onto the pitch in pure agony as white hot pain explodes inside his skull, making him nauseous. The Smog rolls off him in waves and Sinedd feels as if he's being torn apart from the inside. He barely registers the worried faces of nearly the whole of his former and some of the current team hovering around him. They are shouting something, probably his name, but he can't be sure – their voices come out muffled through the pounding in his ears. He wants to tell them all to go away, to just leave him alone, but his voice doesn't work – all he can manage are pained gasps and dry coughs and retching.
A blur of red enters his field of vision – it must be D'Jok – and Sinedd is suddenly reminded painfully vividly of the fiasco that their one on one duel has turned into and its humiliating finish. Despite the overwhelming pain, the previous anger returns with double force and his fists clench. He tries to muster his strength and bring one of them into D'Jok's (surely grinning and triumphant) face, but darkness claims him before he can even lift it off the ground.
He wakes up to white walls, turquoise curtains and a blur that looks vaguely like Artegor at his side. Sinedd blinks at it blearily and opens his mouth to speak, but all that comes out is a dry cough. He swallows and tries again, this time more successfully, although his voice is nothing more than a hoarse whisper. "Did we loose?" The blur stares at him for a few seconds (or at least that's what he thinks it does) and then makes a curt movement that can only be a nod. Sinedd shuts his eyes again, feeling bitter, and drifts away again.
The next time he regains consciousness there's a hushed conversation coming from somewhere to his upper left. He cranes his neck to see and even that little movement comes to him with an effort. All of his muscles are aching and feel heavy, like lead.
He sees Aarch and the brown-haired woman whose name he doesn't care to remember facing off, whispering furiously, Artegor between the two of them, looking – he isn't sure, since the shades he always wears are firmly in place, hiding his eyes, but the downward twist of his lips suggests that he isn't very happy.
Aarch, facing in Sinedd's direction, notices that he's awake first, trailing off in the middle of whatever he was saying. The other two follow his line of sight. The woman's face immediately breaks into a cheery smile. Artegor doesn't look happy, exactly, but some tension eases from his shoulders. The woman approaches him immediately and, after a second or two, the men follow.
"How are you feeling?" She asks, her tone gentle and soothing. Motherly. He doesn't remember the last time he's been spoken to in such a manner and he has no idea how to react.
"...Fine." He finally replies simply – speaking comes easier this time – and turns to look at Artegor. "Where are we?" He doesn't look too happy about that question, but answers it after a short moment of hesitation. "Still on Akillian." Sinedd frowns at that. "With the rest of the team?" He asks, disbelieving. He doubts the Shadows would willingly stay on another planet, even if one of their own was hurt. And I'm not really one of their own. It's a bitter thought, but also just a bit rueful. It surprises him.
"About that-" Artegor starts, but a sharp glance from the woman is enough to cut him off. He reconsiders before continuing. "They've already left." It makes sense, he supposes, but somehow, it doesn't sound like these are the words which were meant to leave his lips. Sinedd frowns. "Oh." He pauses. "Why're you still here, then?" He asks, and there's a sharper, accusatory edge to his tone. Artegor looks troubled, but the woman saves him before Sinedd can press on. "That will be enough." She doesn't sound angry – just firm – but being denied his answer is enough to sparkle the anger in him. "You can talk all you want later. For now, you need to rest. To recover."
He scowls at that. "I'm fine." Of course it's an obvious lie, but for fuck's sake, he's not a child. He knows his own limits, and he knows when he can go beyond them. He played a match on a broken ankle once. (And they lost, but that's beside the point.) It's not like something like that could kill him. To emphasize the point, he sits up slowly – the dull ache momentarily flares into a surge of pain and he grits his teeth – and then Aarch of all people pushes him back down, a deep frown on his face. "Simbai is right." So that's her name. Simbai. "You need rest." Sinedd just stares at him, speechless, and then his face twists into an ugly snarl. "You're not my father. You're not even my coach anymore." He hisses defiantly, glaring, but Aarch just levels him with a stare of his own and, finally, Sinedd is forced to look away. The scowl stays on his face.
He is once again woken by a conversation, a louder one this time. He's not sure how much time has passed, but he doubts it's much. He squeezes his eyes shut, listening in.
"-keep it from him." Aarch says, and Sinedd frowns – then catches himself and smooths his expression back into a neutral one. He doesn't really need to – they're too absorbed in the conversation to pay any attention to the patient.
"Keep your voice down." Simbai scolds him, then argues back, much quieter than Aarch, so that Sinedd has a difficulty making out words. "It's still too early, Aarch. It will be a major shock, we have to wait until his condition gets better- Until he's prepared."
"He'll never be prepared, Simbai, and you know it. Sinedd has the right to know – the sooner the better." And that's when he can't keep the act up anymore. He sits up abruptly before Simbai can argue further. The pain is not as bad as the last time, but it's enough to make him wince. Not enough to keep him from asking, though. "The right to know what?" There's something like relief in Aarch's eyes and Sinedd wonders if he deliberately brought the argument to this level of volume, but doesn't dwell on it much. Simbai, on the other hand looks alarmed. All the same, her tone is even. "It's not that important. Go back to sleep."
His temper flares up. "Like hell it isn't!" He snarls like a wild animal and actually gets up. The floor is cold to his bare feet and he has to lean on the edge of his sickbed to stay upright, but he doesn't care. He's sick of being kept in the dark and lied to. "What are you keeping from me? I want to know what's going on!" He shouts, glaring at the two of them and Artegor, who he only now notices. He directs his next inquiry at him. "And why are you even still here?!" He repeats what he's already asked once, except now it's more forceful, like it's a demand, not a question. Once again, Artegor seems at a loss of words. Simbai draws her lips into a tight line, clearly dissatisfied – perhaps for once angry – and doesn't say anything either. It's Aarch who finally clears his throat and steps forward. "You should... Probably sit down." He starts awkwardly, shifting his balance uncomfortably. "Simbai's right, it might be quite a shock."
"I don't care." He crosses his arms stubbornly. "Spit it out already." Aarch looks mildly scandalized by his insolence, but continues anyway. "Very well." He clears his throat again, as if to give himself more time and finally, finally opens his mouth to say it. Before the words can leave his mouth, however, Artegor puts a hand on his shoulder and squeezes – not very hard, just enough to get his attention. "I should be the one to say it."
Sinedd's fingers flex and dig painfully into the flesh of his arms, but he doesn't feel it through barely contained annoyance and impatience. How much longer do they intend to continue prolonging it? But then Artegor looks at him seriously and finally speaks.
"You can't use the flux again."
Sinedd just looks at him for a moment, uncomprehending, and then his eyes narrow and his face twists into a snarl. Teeth bared, he growls. "You're lying." Why Artegor would do that is beyond him – perhaps he's in league with Aarch now (he had changed, hadn't he) and that's just a ploy to take him out of the game and make the Snow Kids' victory so much easier – it has to be, because he couldn't loose his Smog- Not again, not for good... And suddenly he realizes that there's a very easy way to prove them all wrong.
He calls it out, and, sure enough, it appears in a cloud around him- He wants to look at Aarch and Artegor both and smirk in triumph, say 'I told you so', except he can't, because then it hits him like a punch to the gut and he doubles over and falls to the ground. The dark cloud around him dissipates, leaving him slumped on the floor, gasping for breath. Simbai's by his side in an instant, asking him questions, but he doesn't hear it – all he can hear is Artegor's words resounding inside his head, knowing now that they are true, after all. For the longest time, he just lies there trying to catch his breath. It feels as if he just ran the marathon trying to get away from a thug intent on beating him up, only to get caught at the end anyway.
After what feels like eternity, he finally gets up. "Okay." He says, his voice shaky. "Okay." He repeats and takes a breath. "So I can't use the Smog. Big deal. I can – I can find another team with another flux." "Sinedd-" Artegor tried to interject, but Sinedd doesn't let him. He's suddenly glad that the man's eyes are covered, because he knows that whatever he would see in them, he wouldn't like. "Or even better – I'll form a new, better Akilian team." He rambles, a hysterical note creeping into his voice. Artegor tries to interrupt him again, but he refuses to let him say anything. "I mean, if D'Jok and the rest of the losers could get the Breath, then I bet everyone else can do it as well-"
"SINEDD. Listen to me." Artegor raises his voice and Sinedd's monologue comes to a screeching halt. He knows, he knows what's going to come next. "When I said that you can't use the flux, I didn't mean just the Smog." He doesn't want to hear it. He doesn't want to acknowledge it. He can't – galactik football is his whole life, his whole world. If he will, then this world will- "You can't use a flux, any flux, ever again."
His world falls apart.