First post on this particular comm on lj... but figured what the heck, spread the love to whoever wants it, right?
Reflection in the Mirror
Summary: They both know Tsubasa can't change it. Masaki just doesn't see why it's a problem though.
Masaki, btw, is that tanned guy with the black hair and slanted eyes in Tsubasa's team.
Sometimes, Masaki watched Tsubasa changing in the locker room. Not for any reason in particular, he was just so small. It was interesting to see the almost child-sized body move—with those small forearms, the short legs, the slight torso— it was kind of amusing, really. He’d never tell Tsubasa that, but with his unbearably feminine looks and small stature, he was almost cute. Of course, his attitude more than made up for it, and maybe that was the amusing part.
Today, he was itching to swipe something, anything, from the store across the park. It’d been a while since he’d gotten anything— last time it’d been a piece of candy— and it was like his fingers crawled with ants whenever he passed up a good opportunity to earn his delinquent reputation at school. Still, Tsubasa didn’t approve, even if he didn’t stop them, so more often than not, he stuck his hand in his pocket and walked away.
He shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest, pulling his damp shirt over his head and tossing it in his bag. Today was not one of those days he watched Tsubasa, mostly because the redhead was behind him, so he didn’t have the luxury of raising his eyes to look at him.
“See ya tomorrow, guys!” the twins, Gosuke and Rokusuke, called out as they left. Naoki yelled out some good-humored jibe about today’s practice as parting, and then Masaki heard him grumbling as he scrambled for his cleats, which he’d kicked off first thing coming into the locker room before changing.
“Here’s one,” Masaki kicked back one that had landed near him as he packed up the rest of his things.
“Ah, thanks man,” Naoki took a last gulp of water from his bottle, Masaki heard the swallow, and moments before the door clicked shut, heard a “Later!”
“Later,” Masaki answered, and would have waved had he been facing him. His voice was the only one, and he was surprised that Tsubasa hadn’t said anything to either the twins or Naoki. In fact, he hadn’t heard a sound from Tsubasa’s corner in a while. He zipped up his bag, slung it over his shoulder, and turned around.
Tsubasa, in his everyday clothes, stood staring in the mirror, his lips pressed into a thin, disapproving line.
“Tsubasa-buchou?” his voice echoed in the empty locker room, “What are you doing?”
The redhead didn’t answer immediately, but Masaki was used to having to wait for a response sometimes. Tsubasa always took his time to answer when he was deep in thought, as if the words took him a while to register, or maybe he twirled them around the other thoughts in his head, drawing out whatever he could from them before forming a response.
“… Should I cut my hair?”
Masaki blinked. He certainly had not been expecting this answer.
“Why? Your hair’s fine like that,” he frowned. Tsubasa sighed and turned, giving him a bare glance before picking up his bag, “Though it is kinda long for running around and stuff, but you said it didn’t bother you, right?”
“You don’t think it…” Tsubasa trailed off there and suddenly shook his head, the slightly faraway look replaced by his usual tart alertness, “You going straight home?”
Masaki shrugged, “Yeah. I was thinking of stopping to get some stuff at the store, but I can do that later,” there was something on Tsubasa’s mind, Masaki could tell from the way the smaller boy’s eyes were kept focused on a random point of space as he talked.
“Good,” was all he said, jumping slightly under Masaki’s touch as the taller boy clapped his hand on his shoulder on his way out.
“Of course,” ever haughty and impenetrable Tsubasa lifted his chin and cut in front of Masaki, leading the way out. Masaki suppressed a chuckle and followed the little red head in front of him, tempted to reach out and tussle his hair playfully. He rarely allowed it, but sometimes when there was no one around, all he did was scowl and then laugh a little, and Masaki liked those moments best.
They walked quietly, mostly because conversation between them was a mutual effort, and because Tsubasa wasn’t talking and Masaki felt it was more tactful to be quiet than make small talk, which Tsubasa either tolerated or hated depending on his mood, conversation withered around them.
The sun was still a ways off from setting, and they were still slightly sweaty from practice, which had been particularly rough because they were practicing a new formation and it would be a while before they mastered it, if today’s practice was any indication. Masaki fanned himself lightly, glancing sideways at the redhead behind him, whose gaze was invisible under a curtain of wine-red hair, tilted towards the ground. He debated whether to pry whatever it was that was bothering him out of Tsubasa, or let him bring it up himself. Either way, Tsubasa was a stubborn little guy, and if he didn’t want to share, it would take a lot of prodding from Masaki, and that would result in either majorly pissing off the redhead or finally making him spill. It was probably too much to ask that Tsubasa bring it up himself without the prodding though.
Why can’t he be a little less hard to deal with? Masaki thought with a sigh.
“Lookin’ pretty again today, Princess.”
The voice was far-off, but Tsubasa’s head immediately snapped up, and whirled around. Masaki, who hadn’t really registered the comment until Tsubasa reacted to it, blinked once at the furious look on his leader’s face, surprised to see an almost troubled tinge of something in his eyes. He turned around as well, but there was no one around.
“You won’t be so pretty-lookin’ after I punch your face in!”
This time, they both saw where the voice had come from. It was a group of kids in the park, or rather, a group of thugs surrounding a younger kid amongst them. From here, though they couldn’t see the facial features in detail, Masaki could see what the thugs were talking about, because if it hadn’t been for the obviously boyish clothing, Masaki would have mistaken whoever it was for a girl. One of the larger guys picked up the kid by his collar swinging him a bit as the kid sniveled and whined.
“Those bastards!” and while he’d been gauging the situation, Tsubasa had stormed off, and Masaki called out for him, only to be ignored, and sighed again before following the short figure.
The humongous thug raised his arm backwards and the little kid closed his eyes and turned away, raising his arms in defense.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing with that kid!” Tsubasa yelled, jumping up and kicking the thug’s side a split second before the blow landed on the kid’s face. The little boy dropped to the floor, tears accumulating at the edge of his eyes. The other guys gaped at the sudden intrusion, and Masaki knew the routine, quickly stepping up as backup for the redhead.
“You bastards don’t deserve to even have mothers!” Tsubasa raged, standing over the fallen thug and kicking him once in the stomach. The other guys finally seemed to come to their senses, and all at once, charged at Tsubasa and Masaki. Masaki singled out one of them, leaving the rest up to the most-assuredly capable Tsubasa, and he could almost envision the series of kicks and punches the redhead would use to annihilate his prey.
It didn’t take him more than a minute, dodging the bleach-blond muscle-guy that tried to aim a right hook at his face before Masaki side-stepped him and elbowed him in the back. The blond crumpled to the ground, lay still for a moment, and then scrambled up, bowing and muttering some silly apology before abandoning his gang and running for dear life.
Masaki turned, expecting Tsubasa to be standing proudly over his victims, spouting off some righteous nonsense, and though indeed, the redhead had the other three thugs on the ground, whimpering and stuttering, Masaki was surprised to see that he was still viciously kicking them, and his speech wasn’t self-righteous and cocky, but purely angry and vengeful.
“You think you can do this to someone just because of their looks?” he kicked the face of the one closest to him, and Masaki watched wide-eyed as blood dribbled down his battered chin. Tsubasa had his back to Masaki, so he couldn’t see his captain’s face, but the tone of voice chilled him because of the sheer raw emotion in it. Tsubasa used words as his weapons more than his fists, even with his short fuse, but this was different. If there was one thing Tsubasa couldn’t stand, it was jerks and bullies, but it just wasn’t his style to continue brutalizing them once they were down. Tsubasa was merciless, sure, but he wasn’t vicious, or cruel, he was too proud to step down to the levels of a regular yakuza sadist.
“Answer me, you pieces of scum! It’s not our fault we look like that! What makes you think you have the right to hurt someone or take advantage of them?! Just cause they’re girly looking doesn’t mean they can’t kick your ass, or that they’re inferior, and I’m going to prove that to you even if it kills you!”
The redhead reared back his leg, and Masaki had no doubt that a kick as powerful as he knew Tsubasa’s could be really might kill the guy.
“Tsubasa! Stop!” he reached out and pulled his captain back roughly, and Tsubasa struggled fiercely against him before reaching back and grabbing Masaki’s shirt instinctively. Masaki knew what was coming, and he also knew he couldn’t stop it at all. In one swift movement, Tsubasa used Masaki’s own momentum to flip him over and throw him to the ground.
Masaki may have seen it coming, but it didn’t make it any easier to take the crack to his head or the impact that left him gasping for air for a couple deathly-still seconds, making his vision darken. He blinked a couple times, regaining his bearings as his sight cleared and his breathing returned, and slowly sat up, turning to look up at Tsubasa, who stood frozen above him.
“Ah… Masaki…” his captain’s brown eyes were wide and terrified, as Masaki had never seen them before, and he quickly realized, as he never wanted to see them again. It didn’t fit Tsubasa at all.
“I’m fine,” he said, wobbling a bit on his feet but otherwise managing to stand up perfectly fine and step over to his captain, “It’s done here, let’s leave before we get into trouble.”
For a second it looked like his leader would either run or rebel. But then Tsubasa lowered his eyes and nodded once, letting Masaki place an arm over his shoulder and lead him away from where the bullies lay dazed on the floor, their faces smeared in blood, the little kid long gone.
Sometimes, Masaki realized that Tsubasa was vulnerable like every other human being, and though he’d seen it before—at their first game against Josuei, for example— it still shocked him every time. Tsubasa’s shoulders were shaking under Masaki’s arm, but he didn’t say anything, because Tsubasa was probably dying of embarrassment right now, and his head hurt a little bit from the impact still.
The sun was beginning to set when they finally reached the little tunnel next to the river, the one they’d made their hangout simply because it was a route rarely taken by most people and granted them privacy from prying eyes, whether of the police, the local gangs, or even teachers.
Tsubasa didn’t say a word, but did resist half-heartedly when Masaki sat him down, though in the end, just slumped down, still avoiding his eyes. Masaki sighed and searched behind a mound of tall grasses, drawing out a first-aid box that Tsubasa had hidden there, used often in the case of soccer or fighting related injuries.
“Lift up your head,” he always felt odd when ordering Tsubasa, but sometimes it was necessary, if only because of the redhead’s own stubbornness, that someone take control and force him to do something, no matter how humiliating he thought it was.
“Why?” he asked sharply, still refusing to raise his gaze, and Masaki reached out and gently touched the edge of a slightly swollen scrape on the side of Tsubasa’s face. Tsubasa winced, drawing back slightly, and then raised his own hand, probing lightly, “Oh, that kick…”
Masaki simply nodded and lifted a cotton swab dabbed in antiseptic, tilting up Tsubasa’s chin.
“I didn’t mean to—” the redhead suddenly blurted, and his eyes became suspiciously wet.
Masaki shook his head, “I know, it was just a reaction. I knew it was coming, I just needed to get you to stop.”
“You got pretty pissed today,” Masaki said lightly, even if it was a complete understatement.
“Yeah, and?” he was trying to sound calm and nonchalant, but his voice wavered on the last syllable, and his eyes were still looking to the side, so Masaki simply sighed and placed the cotton swab on Tsubasa’s face. His captain winced and reached out to grab Masaki’s wrist. His hand was trembling slighty, Masaki noted.
“I can do it myself, thanks,” and though Masaki was sure that it was supposed to sound confident and slightly arrogant, there was a meekness that Tsubasa could not retain from his voice at this moment. He lowered his arm, handing the supplies to Tsubasa, understanding that the redhead felt cornered and intimidated, not because of Masaki necessarily, but simply because he’d been exposed. And he’d rather let Tsubasa regain some of the control he needed than to force him into a corner. Tsubasa would bolt otherwise. Maybe not in the sense that most people did, but even his unbreakable captain had limits he needed to keep for his own safety. Everyone was like that. There were simply things that were unacceptable for others to see, and this was one of the things Tsubasa was hating himself for letting through his unshakeable exterior.
So Masaki leaned back against the opposite wall, subconsciously rubbing his head where it hurt the most, and out of the corner of his eye, saw Tsubasa recoil slightly, whether because he saw Masaki’s movement or because he’d just placed the antiseptic on his face, Masaki didn’t know.
“You shouldn’t have come help me, I could have taken care of it on my own.”
“Sorry for caring,” Masaki answered easily, knowing this was the redhead’s way of apologizing. He didn’t need his leader to apologize to him.
“… Aren’t you going to ask what happened?” well, even if Masaki had wanted to, he could tell that Tsubasa was dreading it, and would rather Masaki not. But it didn’t matter.
“I’m pretty sure I know what set you off today. You did say it the day we met, when you thrashed Naoki, even if we didn’t pay too much attention to it,” I got picked on because of my looks when I was little, so I learned martial arts. Yes, it was pretty obvious what had happened there, and Masaki felt sympathetic towards Tsubasa for having to remember what was undoubtedly a pretty hell-filled childhood. If Tsubasa’d had to resort to martial arts to fend off the bullies, it must have been bad, Masaki knew how bullies worked.
“I hate it,” the redhead stood abruptly, throwing the cotton ball harshly on the floor and then grinding it in with the heel of his shoe. His eyes were dangerously wet, the corners of his lips twitching in equal danger, “It was always like that! And even now, the only reason I don’t get made fun of in school is cause they all know I’d kick their ass. But they still talk about me behind my back, and every time I meet someone new, it’s the same. All the teams we play— it’s the same! All the jibes about how girly I am, and they immediately treat me as inferior! No one accepts me! That’s why I want to cut my hair!”
Masaki stood and placed his hands on Tsubasa’s shoulders, his fingers easily settling over the small curves, steadying him, and then lifted his chin up, looking sadly at the quivering lower lip and the defiant, moist eyes.
“I— we— accept you completely as our leader and captain, Tsubasa,” he grinned and leaned down, brushing his lips over Tsubasa’s softly and immediately drawing back , “Besides, even if you cut your hair, you can’t hide your face, and it’s the prettiest part of you.”
“Liar,” Tsubasa muttered, lowering his face into Masaki’s chest, but Masaki knew he only said that out of embarrassment.
They watched the sunset in silence at the edge of the river, because they were both tired, and the heat from their bodies enveloped them in a drowsy daze. Masaki decided he liked this moment best out of all of the others, and pulled Tsubasa a little closer.
“Don’t cut your hair,” he whispered in Tsubasa’s ear, and the redhead wriggled a little closer in response.
“Don’t tell anyone,” he agreed.
I am in so much love with them. And Shige/Shiina ^_^