Fire and Gravel

Guessing gift for Lynn. A moment of tension before a match reminds Ibu of why he fits in with Fudoumine, past and present. Character Sketch, I-3

Shinji listened to the murmurs that followed his team, braiding together into one curious and surprised and speculative strand.

"…first years, come on."

"They made it Nationals that year, didn’t they?"

"Next one too…"

"Only because they didn’t come up against any strong teams. It was a fluke. Only the captain is really good."

Shinji’s head turned, eyes tracking the one who’d made that last, disparaging, comment. He could feel the old, quick rage boil up, the fury that wanted to claw that smug dismissal to ribbons, that raged against the wall of disbelief.

The heat of his teammates closed more tightly around him, and he knew they had heard it too, were also angry with slow-burning memory. He leaned into that; it was the thing that had bound them together from the first, that had made him welcome. All of them were looking in the same direction, now, and from the corner of his eye Shinji saw Tachibana-san’s glare, not smoldering but bright and fierce.

The one who had spoken swallowed and stepped back quickly.

"No need to listen to the howling of stray dogs." Tachibana-san’s statement gathered them back up, moved them forward again.

Shinji’s anger didn’t fade, though; it just banked, waiting for fuel to make it flare again. He wasn’t really surprised when Tachibana-san fell in next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Let it go, Shinji," his captain murmured. "You know you’re better than that."

Shinji hesitated and bent his head. "Yes, Tachibana-san." He supposed he did know. It just didn’t make him any less angry.

The hand on his shoulder shook him gently. "Come on. We have a match to play. Remind yourself how good you are, until you really know it."

Looking up, Shinji saw Tachibana-san was smiling at him, intent and wry with a glint of starting fire. This time, he smiled too. "Yes, Tachibana-san." He straightened.

There were other bonds, and better welcomes, than anger, now. He would try to remember.