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Shige stormed into the changing room, doors swinging closed behind him with a loud clatter. He tugged his shirt over his head and threw it into a corner, spun around and slammed his fist into the wall. Plaster shattered, dust falling to the muddy floor as hairline cracks spread through the painted surface of the wall.

Mizuno raised an eyebrow.

"It wasn't. My. Fault."

"I know. But the ref's word is final. We have to-"

Shige glared at Mizuno over his shoulder, eyes glittering through bleached blond bangs. "Fucking don't. Just... fucking don't."

Mizuno shrugged and went back to folding his kit. Placing each item carefully in his bag, aware of Shige moving about but determined not to look. Finally he heard a plaintive sort of sniff and with a resigned sigh gave Shige his attention.

"Not my fault," said Shige. "And now I have to miss two matches. Coach'll kill me."

"He got the same view we did. He knows it wasn't your fault."

"That's never good enough for him." Shige slammed his back against the wall and slid down, ending up a desultory, slumped heap on the floor. "He'll make it sound like my fault for being in the way or something."

"Don't be silly. The guy shoved you, then took a dive. Plain as day."

"Not to the ref, obviously."

"Of course..." Mizuno bit his lip.



Shige's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What?"

"Nothing," Mizuno insisted. "So, what did Shou say?"

"Shou said all kinds of reassuring, encouraging things and told me to take it easy. Which is very nice of him. Fuwa told me I'm an incompetent liability to the team."

"That's harsh."


Something about the way Shige was sitting there, miserable to the bone and sulking, wrenched at Mizuno's heartstrings, however much he might like to pretend it didn't. It would be so, so much simpler if he wasn't so affected. If Shige hadn't got so far under his skin that if he hadn't been at the other end of the field at the time he'd have been tempted to start arguing with the ref. himself, oblivious to what anyone else might think, because Shige was having a hard time right now and he didn't deserve....

"You're not incompetent," he said, going for deadpan but unable to stop a grin appearing on his face.

Shige managed a stifled sort of laugh. "Fair enough," he said wryly. "Coach wins, then."

"You shouldn't.... Shige, it's not your fault. These things happen. Coach might be hard on you but it's only to make a point. To you and the rest of. Sometimes it's fair and sometimes it isn't, but it's all part of the game. If you don't want to risk getting sent off you have to play cleaner than clean, totally clean, Shou-clean."

"I tried. The fucker took a dive, what was I supposed to do?"

"Endure it?"

Shige's lower lip wobbled, and for a long moment Mizuno thought his might cry. Long enough that he'd crossed the room and knelt in front of his miserable team-mate. Cautiously, nervously a little, he reached out and shoved Shige's hair from his eyes wiht fingertips still pink and wrinkled from the shower. "I know it's hard," Mizuno said. "But it's all you can do. There's no point, you can't change it now."

"Still not fair." Shige looked more miserable than ever.

Mizuno sighed. At a loss to what else he could do, he leaned in a little and kissed Shige gently on the lips. A brief, uncertain kiss; this was all to new to him still, but it seemed to do the trick. Shige gave a little moan and tugged him closer, long fingers closing around the back of Mizuno's neck, tongue fluttering softly between Mizuno's lips.

"That's better," he said softly when Mizuno slowly pulled away. "Much. More. Please?"

"Mm. In a minute. You need to get changed and the others could come in any minute."

"After, then? You want to come back to my place for tea?"

Mizuno smiled and nodded before his brain had a chance to remind him there was a test tomorrow he should be studying for.

Shige perked up a bit.

"Seeing as it's your birthday," Mizuno added.

"Yeah." Shige gave a wry grin, but Mizuno was encouraged to see his expression had lost a lot of the anger and bitterness. "Some birthday, eh?"

"Shigeki... I know today you were unlucky, the ref was rubbish and you hadn't done anything, but... it's not always like that, is it? It's not like this is the first card you ever got, and you wouldn't have got a match ban unless..."

"I know." Shige scratched his stomach absently. There was a thin streak of mud across the golden skin, and Mizuno couldn't stop staring at it. "I know. I'm an idiot."

Mizuno nodded.

"I'm sorry." Shige readjusted his bandana. It was blue, covered with gold flowers or something, and Mizuno wanted to grab it and chuck it out of the way and ruffling his fingers through Shige's hair and.. "Put it this way, it wasn't the kind of penalty I was hoping for."

"No. But... it's done now. No point dwelling on it."

"And you'll forgive me?"

And there it was, the cheeky smile, the toss of long blond hair, the bounceback. However much Mizuno tried, it was just.... irresistible.

"Never," he said solemnly.

"It's my birthday, Tatsubon," Shige reminded him.

Mizuno sighed heavily, was about to speak but Shige tugged him back into his arms, and next he knew they were sprawled there on the white tile kissing, a tangle of limbs and fingers and hair and bodies, and there was no point in being mad.

Except, just maybe, at that referee.