Netherworld: Chapter 6 Title: Netherworld Fandom: Galactik Football Characters: Rocket, Sinedd, Tia, D'Jok, Warren Rating: PG Summary: Sinedd versus Rocket in the Sphere. Sinedd loses. Rocket … doesn’t quite win. Slashy, violent and very dark Rocket x Sinedd with a mention of Rocket x Tia in this chapter.
Netherworld: Spiral Tangle Success
“Gentlemen, remember:” The robot said, facing Rocket and Sinedd both. Sinedd was in his Shadows uniform; Rocket wore his green-yellow garb.
“In Netherball, there are no rules.”
Rocket closed his eyes and centered himself. Netherball. No rules. Win at any cost necessary.
“Play as hard as you like.”
He opened his eyes and turned his head to the side to look at his opponent. Sinedd had just played a game of Galactik Football in the All Stars team (it should’ve been him there). He’d used the Smog. He’d run his hardest, jumped his highest – and hopefully, worn himself out at least a little. Rocket was fresher but on the other hand, Sinedd had watched him play in the Sphere and knew his tactics. Rocket had no idea what to expect from Sinedd.
“The best player wins and keeps control of the Sphere.”
Only then did Sinedd smile.
“Please, shake hands and let the match begin!”
They turned to each other, and there was a moment of stillness, barely noticeable – it was Sinedd who reached out first, grey-gloved fingerless hand facing palm out to the crowd. Rocket’s gloves were a dark red-brown, the color of dried blood. Not a Snow Kids color. Not a color Tia would ever wear.
The bare tips of their fingers brushed against each other for a moment, and Rocket felt the shock of adrenaline that told him a match had started. He’d never shaken hands with any of his opponents before. Sinedd was the first.
This was the first time that Rocket felt that thrill of power before stepping into the Sphere.
Sinedd squeezed Rocket’s hand as hard as he could, revenge for the bruises that lurked under his glove, patterning his wrist in the shape of Rocket’s fingers. Rocket squeezed back, and his anticipation of a good match grew as this precursory violence.
Such delicate fingers Sinedd had.
If Sinedd had been a goalie, Rocket wasn’t sure he could have resisted the temptation to just break them.
Into the Sphere they went, and waited. In silence they stood, watching each other. Waiting. The Sphere felt like home to Rocket. He’d jumped around it, played in it, won in it. The absolute lack of Flux and complete reliance on innate ability made it even more of a test of true skill than Galactik Football was.
To Sinedd, the Sphere felt like a test. The Smog had made him sick when he’d attempted to go one-on-one against D’Jok. In the Sphere, he’d have no such excuse. He had to win. He had to beat Rocket.
The thrumming tension between them felt like glue, thick and trapping. They’d have to move. They’d have to speak. But for now, all they could do was look at each other. And wait.
Sinedd was the one to break the silence, once-blue eyes still darkened nearly to black from his use of the Smog earlier in the day. “It was a mistake to challenge me to play, Rocket.”
“I like mistakes.” Rocket’s voice was low, confident. It changed when he was in the Sphere; it reflected the person he became when playing Netherball. Tone like poisoned honey, eyes honey-hued too, he finished with a jerk of his head, “I’ve made plenty.”
Challenging Sinedd to a match wasn’t one of them. Taking Sinedd up on his introduction to Netherball also wasn’t. And saving Tia’s life could never be a mistake.
The ball appeared, and Sinedd got possession of it.
Rocket forgot about everything except the game.
A smile, a smirk, and Sinedd kicked the ball behind him. Rocket lunged for it, and instantly, Sinedd stepped into him, hitting Rocket with his shoulder hard enough to make Rocket spin around, then hit the floor unwillingly, barely able to cushion his fall with his arms. It felt surprisingly good. Right. It felt as if of course Sinedd should start out with a dirty move, a shove that was unnecessary and just a way for Sinedd to prove how vicious he could be.
It felt like Netherball, and when Rocket’s body crashed against the ground, it felt like a bearhug (welcome home, Rocket).
It was the first time that Rocket had fallen and enjoyed it.
In Netherball, there are no rules.
Rocket lay there, cheek against the cold concrete, and Sinedd didn’t care.
A hard kick, and the ball went into the goal.
Score: 1-0, Sinedd.
Kicking Rocket in the ribs would’ve been overkill. Sinedd was satisfied to have proven to Rocket that Rocket wasn’t the only one who could push others around.
“Don’t go easy on me, Rocket.” Sinedd threw the words in Rocket’s face, holding up both arms as if to indicate innocence. As if he hadn’t just viciously fouled Rocket in order to score his goal.
Rocket got up, and cricked his neck from side to side, working his body back into a state of suppleness. Where Sinedd had collided with him, his side felt hot, pulsing jagged touches of heat.
He smiled anyway. “Don’t worry. I won’t.”
Their eyes met as they waited for the next ball to drop, and then both of them kicked in unison, whirling their legs to trap the ball between their feet.
Not quite a test of strength, but close.
Sinedd got control of the ball and shot it into a corner – then he felt Rocket’s legs between his own, Rocket’s calf pressing hard against him and sending him reeling. He didn’t fall, but he stumbled, and that was a long enough delay to let Rocket back him into a corner.
They didn’t touch. They didn’t need to (yet). Sinedd shot the ball back through Rocket’s legs, and spun, expecting Rocket to follow the ball against the wall.
Then he could slam Rocket into the wall, muscled and tall and trapped. Sinedd liked the idea of that almost as much as he liked the idea of outwitting Rocket.
Rocket evaded him by jumping up to grab a ledge; his opponent’s plans had shown in his eyes. Sinedd’s palms smacked against white concrete, and Rocket dropped down into a pose that in another place and time would’ve been an invitation for a fight.
It still was, really. Just not the usual sort of fight.
Rocket got control of the ball and sent a kick towards the goal, the kick having such force behind it that pure instinct took over and Sinedd ducked away from it. It bounced off his back with a jarring thud, and went into the goal, tying their scores.
Sinedd hated himself the moment he’d realized what he’d done.
Rocket didn’t make it any better, jeering as Sinedd straightened up, “Nice assist, Sinedd.”
Sinedd was a striker. Rocket was a midfielder. Rocket should be the one giving assists, not Sinedd.
And in the Sphere, where there was no such thing as a team, no passes were necessary, no assists needed.
Sinedd hated Rocket just a little for being able to rub salt into his wound. But only a little, because it was exactly what he would’ve done if he’d been Rocket.
Walking to the center, he threatened-promised, “This will be your last match, Rocket.”
Rocket’s reply was shockingly cool, the deliberately unimpressed look he gave Sinedd making it clear how unlikely he thought that was. “You’ll be lucky to leave on your own two feet.”
Sinedd ignored the shiver that went down his spine at hearing Rocket say words that fit his mouth better.
The next ball that fell down was subject to a test of strength. Their legs clashed against each other again and again, neither of them willing to give up. Sinedd managed to win the kick with a twist that made his spine seem like rubber, but it was Rocket who scored, making the ball whizz past Sinedd’s face.
Score: 1-2, Rocket.
Breathing hard, Rocket felt the rush of victory hiss through his veins. Like the Breath, but better. Hot instead of cold. His. And his only.
Rocket smiled, mockery giving a lilt to his words, “You see? That’s called skill.”
Sinedd had skills of his own. He’d show them to Rocket before the matchw was over.
Payback came soon as Sinedd slammed his elbow into Rocket’s face – and scored while Rocket was bent over in pain. Rocket couldn’t have kept playing. Sinedd got him right between the eyes, on his forehead. The entire world exploded into pain and for a moment, Rocket couldn’t even see anything.
His head throbbed, balance broken, and Rocket curled up against the wall. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
For a moment, he wanted the Breath, just to clear his head.
The noise that indicated that Sinedd had scored jolted him out of any nostalgic thoughts.
Now it was Rocket’s turn to want revenge.
Two minutes left on the clock; both the boys were playing their best.
Spins and kicks and trapping the ball between their legs as they jumped – Rocket and Sinedd did everything they could to score the final winning goal of the match. The only sound in the Sphere was their breathing, harsh and laboured, and the smack of the ball against the walls, a louder version of the slaps of their sneakers against the floor.
Rocket skidded along the wall then jumped to the ground, scything his leg just above the floor to knock Sinedd down. But Sinedd anticipated the move, and jumped up, above Rocket’s leg.
When he landed, his foot twisted underneath him and the sharp snap of his ankle breaking sent him collapsing to the floor. Pain. Pain! It lanced up his leg hotly, throbbing angrily at his ankle, a vicious pulse of pure agony. All the adrenaline in the world couldn’t cancel out the shock of knowing his ankle was broken (he couldn’t win this match, what if he never played football again?) and that even getting up was beyond his means.
Rocket had heard the snapping of Sinedd’s bones too. The sound, so small, had echoed in the Sphere.
To Rocket’s ears, it sounded like applause.
The knowledge of Sinedd’s injury made him smile as he toyed with the ball in front of Sinedd, deliberately taunting him. “Come on, Sinedd. Get up. It’s no fun playing alone.”
The mock-innocence of Rocket’s tone goaded Sinedd into trying to stand up. He had to crouch, weight distributed unevenly, pain making him hunch over and fight the urge to drop to the floor again.
Rocket wasn’t impressed by the desperate stubbornness of the Shadows player. But he was amused.
A smile curved his lips and in the same light, innocent tone, Rocket commented, “Bye-bye, Sinedd. Nice of you to drop by.”
The ball bounced off the wall, instead of going into the goal, but that was Rocket intended. He ran towards Sinedd, as deliberate as a lion that had picked out its prey, and jumped.
Sinedd saw Rocket’s feet coming towards him and for a moment, thought that Rocket meant to kick him in the face. Instead, Rocket bounced off Sinedd’s chest and kicked the ball directly into the goal – the shock of Rocket’s added weight made Sinedd’s ankle scream with pain.
It was a miracle that Sinedd didn’t fall over. He couldn’t find it in himself to be grateful for that when he was so aware of the fact that Rocket had won the game by using him to score two goals out of the three.
Score: 2-3, Rocket.
Rocket landed facing away from Sinedd, and only turned after the ringing of the bell announced his victory. He swaggered over to Sinedd, amber eyes glinting, and soaked in the spectacle of Sinedd in undeniable pain. This was the best Netherball victory of all. It felt better than beating Kernor, and much better than beating Woowamboo.
Even if it didn’t feel finished, quite yet. They were out of time, but Rocket wanted to continue playing. Maybe a final blow would be all it’d take to slake his lust for his opponent’s humiliation.
“I forgot to remind you,” A shake of his head, and Rocket’s eyes were fixed on Sinedd’s, the glassiness of Sinedd’s gaze that hinted that Sindd was pain-dazed and not properly able to take in what Rocket was saying. Rocket forged ahead with his mockery of the other anyway. It was for his benefit, not Sinedd’s. There was too much pleasure to be taken in rubbing salt in Sinedd’s wounds (and even thinking that made Rocket wonder what’d happen if he kicked Sinedd’s wounded ankle, would Sinedd collapse right there?). “No rules, Sinedd.”
He turned to walk away, raising a hand to Sinedd as he turned his back on him, showing he considered Sinedd no threat. “Get well soon.”
His exist was a triumphant one. Everyone cheered, as they always did. Rocket soaked it in, arms raised into the air, pumping them up and down as he embraced the crowd’s approval. But it still didn’t feel like enough. It still didn’t feel like they were finished.
Dissatisfaction gnawed at him from the inside, even as he outwardly celebrated. He’d won. He’d thrashed Sinedd soundly. He’d mocked him before leaving. What more was there to do?
The crowd’s attention was solely on Rocket. Nobody noticed when Sinedd limped out, each step making his body tight with tension. By the time he reached the console, sweat was pouring down his face. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t walk any further. His ankle was broken. And he had a match against the Pirates tomorrow!
Rocket kept walking without a backwards look for Sinedd; Sinedd stared as Rocket walked away from him, back to the room that they still shared.
And then Warren – Warren, who had scolded him during the All Stars match, who had publicly shamed him – stopped Rocket.
Rage stabbed through Sinedd’s heart. Even now, Rocket was considered better than him. Even shamed, suspended, and reduced to playing in underground matches, Rocket still got the approval that Sinedd never did. Rocket had just broken Sinedd’s ankle, and Warren was willing to overlook even that!
Sinedd knew nobody would ever give him such leniency.
As Rocket strode through the crowd, he heard a too-familiar voice greet him. “Great moves in there, Rocket. Too bad it wasn’t on a GF field.”
Warren was a hero to anyone who liked football. Rocket recognized his voice instantly, but wasn’t happy to hear it. Why should he care about Galactik Football champions? Netherball was all he was interested in.
“In case you haven’t heard, I’ve been tossed out of the League.” The bitterness that laced his words betrayed that Rocket wasn’t as casual about it as he wanted to be.
“I heard you were temporarily suspended.” Warren said, correcting Rocket before he eased into an attempt to coax Rocket away from what he saw as a dangerous, unworthy past time. “This Netherball, it’s not for you. You’re a real champion, Rocket. You don’t need this.”
“I know what I need.” Rocket said, knowing it for a lie even as he spoke. There was something missing. But it wasn’t Galactik Football. “I enjoy Netherball.” That was true. This had been the best match so far. He just didn’t feel as if the match was over. His victory over Sinedd felt incomplete.
Annoyed by that niggling feeling, Rocket turned away, dismissing Warren in a mockery of good manners, “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Warren grabbed Rocket’s arm, unwilling to let go of him so easily. Rocket was too good a player to simply be lost like this. Someone had to try to save him. Sinedd was one thing (traitor), but Rocket? Rocket was the shining star of Akillian. Rocket should’ve been on the All Stars field today with him. “Come upstairs and play. There, you don’t have to kick people around to score.”
Warren said the wrong words. Rocket liked ‘kicking people around’, as Warren had put it. It felt good. The best goals weren’t the ones scored fast and easily. They were the ones that people bruised for, bled for, broke for. Like Sinedd had.
With that thought, Rocket realized what was wrong. Sinedd wasn’t with him. Sinedd was injured and left behind; Rocket wanted to stand somewhere and watch Sinedd limp towards him.
“See you around, Warren.” Curt words, Rocket’s mind already spinning as he walked through the crowd towards the exit.
He’d stop there and watch Sinedd try to make his way out on his own. He knew Sinedd would be too proud to accept help from anyone.
Rocket smiled as he took up a vantage point that would let him track Sinedd through the crowd.
Then the game would continue.
Rocket had beaten Sinedd in the Sphere, but that hadn’t been enough. He could feel it in his bones, the sense of incompletion. The match wasn’t over. It lived in his blood, in Sinedd’s broken bones.
This time, they’d carried the match out of the Sphere with them.
Out of the Sphere would be where the game was finished; by now, it had nothing to do with football.