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Winning isn’t everything. Except if you’re Akashi Seijuro.

The loss against Seirin had subdued over the past months but stings no less upon remembrance. Defeat was defeat, after all.

And he has made it his gospel to never allow himself to suffer such excruciating fate again.

That is why winning against Jabowackeez at their revenge match was an obligation.

Nash swerved to his left, dribbling the ball with impressive agility. His Belial eye had proven sovereign against Akashi’s Emperor Eye but Akashi has learned the hard way that stubborn perseverance begets superiority.

And Akashi Seijuro was no mere opponent. His mind took in problems, quantified them and steadily solved them.

Nash goes for the kill. Akashi jumps to defend, arms raised to block the ball he was 80% sure would score.
The remaining percentage of his assumptions is what pushed him to keep the gaps in their score a single digit and feels a smug satisfaction deep down his gut when Nash realized he wasn’t going to have a clean shot.
The ball touches Akashi’s ring finger barely but it was enough to destroy its course causing for it to bounce on the net and ricochet.

The crowd went wild. Akashi grins. Nash glowers. The two captains fall on mid-air.
Nash maneuverer aerially and landed on all fours like a huge cat with a grunt of pain.

Akashi, not so lucky. He wasn’t quick enough to reposition and his back hits the floor first with a sickening slam! as sharp pain reverberated in his spine and skull before rolling a good meters in the pavement.

Two things happened then: One, all Akashi could register was pain, intense pain. Second, a loud whistle pierced the strangely silent stadium.

A chorus of variations of his name— Akashi, Akashi-kun, Akashicchi, Aka-chin, Sei— ripped through the vertigo that drilled holes in his cranium that made everything look so blurry.

A hand finds his shoulder and he feels himself being rolled to his back.

“Akashi,” Aomine gawks, “Shit, you’re bleeding.”

Akashi touches his forehead. His fingers come out red.

Tremors signified bodies approaching. A form kneels beside him.

“Akashi, are you okay? Are you in pain?” When it was obvious the red-haired was still disoriented to answer, Kagetora summons some help. “I need a medic here. Bring me a stretcher.” He bends to check the extent of Akashi’s injury and asks again. “You all right, Akashi?”

“Y-yes…” Akashi answers weakly. Blood dripped on the side of his head.

You fucking bastard!” Kagami yelled angrily in English. “You did that on purpose, you freakin asshole.

He moved to engage the foreigners, Aomine following suit when Midorima and Kuroko stopped them both.

“Enough, Kagami. Calm yourself.” Midorima says through gritted teeth.

“But they—“

“They’re not worth it.” The usually stoic three-pointer threw a menacing glance at Nash and his goons in controlled fury.

"Midorima’s…right. So, stand down, Kagami. Aomine.” Akashi implores despite the one sprawled on the ground and possibly suffering from concussion. “The…rest of you…don’t make a scene. Someone…please help me up.”

It was Murasakibara who did. Momoi dabs his forehead with a towel as Akashi stubbornly refuses to get on the stretcher and insists he make the trip to the Infirmary on foot.

“You don’t seem to be too out of it but I need you checked by professionals just to be sure.” Kagetora says. Akashi wanted to protest so he adds more firmly, “Let them clarify you’re well enough and I’ll see if you can come back to the game.”

Akashi didn’t miss the implications in his statement—if he leaves now, he won’t be getting back. The revelation reflected momentarily on his face and of course, it would be Kuroko who notices.

“It’s all right, Akashi-kun.” The teal man says, garnering everyone’s attention on him. His eyes were volcanic- churning with burning intensity. “What you did, it wasn’t a mistake. We won’t let it go to waste. We’re going to win so you rest up and we’ll take care of everything here.”

“Kuroko…”

“That’s a promise.”

Just like that, Akashi feels a heavy weight off his chest.

The rest of MiraGen and Kagami mirrors Kuroko’s determination; their anger and drive to win more prominent since their captain would be subbed out. And Akashi felt utterly content.

“I understand.” He smiles at his teammates, channelling his utmost trust in it. “Then, I’ll leave everything to you.”

They answer in unison. “Yes.”

Riko and Hyuuga assist Akashi out, the crowd applauds and shouts at him encouragement and trails of ‘It’s okay’.

“Are you sure you can walk all the way to the Infirmary?” Hyuuga asks when they steered away from the crowds.

Akashi nodded. “Yes, I feel merely light-headed not light-footed.”

“You’re a stubborn one.”

“It’s one of my many assets I’ve been told.”

“If you can joke around your condition then you’re definitely fine. But I worry for that bleeding head though.” Riko said behind them. She jogs forward. “I’m gonna go ahead and inform them to fix you some stuff up.” She turns and bumps into something solid. “Aah gomen.”

The three freezes.

Akashi feels heat creep up his face when the stranger blocking their path casts his stormy grey eyes on them and he feels like the world stopped.

Hyuuga beams in recognition. “You’re that shadow guy, the one wearing jersey 5 in Rakuzan.”

“It’s Mayuzumi.” The white-haired scowled and Akashi almost laughed. He hated that moniker as he mentioned it was a silent comparison to Seirin’s #11 and who was the original phantom sixth man. Akashi blamed himself for that. But he didn’t feel remorseful.

“Mayuzumi-san, are you all right?” The man was panting like he’d run a marathon in a treadmill. “You’re sweating.”

“Well, no shit Sherlock. I was up in the bleachers. Can’t same the say to you.”

He took small steps towards them. Akashi’s heart went toki toki when their skins met. He loops an arm around Akashi’s waist, mildly shoving Hyuuga’s off, and takes his other arm to snake over his shoulders.

“You mind?” He asks the megane.

“N-not at all, senpai. It’s appreciated.”

Mayuzumi hums before Akashi turns to him to say. “And have you asked for my permission if I would’ve allowed this?”

“Newsflash, kiddo: I’ve graduated and ain’t your lil bitch anymore.” Alternate meaning: I do what I want so suck it up.

Akashi chuckled at his frankness. “Touche.”

They reach the infirmary. Akashi was settled on the bed as nurses hovered about him. They cleaned the blood that dried on his head and offered him a new shirt. Apart from the lingering headaches and back pains and possible bruising, he was not in imminent danger. Riko left to relay the news to their team.
After bandaging his head and giving him painkillers, the nurses insist he rest up. Akashi grumbled. His self-diagnosis was pale in comparison to a health care practitioner.

Mayuzumi couldn’t keep the curving of his lips at Akashi’s internal struggle.

“What is so laughable?” He asks, offended.

“You.” Mayuzumi replies bluntly and Hyuuga couldn’t suppress the snigger escaping from him.

“Hyuuga-san,” the megane reflexively jumped, “I have a favour. I somehow feel parched and I happen to saw a vending machine along the way.” Akashi didn’t order but left no room to argue.

Fortunately, Hyuuga understood. “Right. I’ll go get you a soda or something.” He bowed as he passed Mayuzumi and they watch as he disappears in the corner.

When he was out of earshot, Mayuzumi all but takes three strides and gets rid of the space between them , and pulls Akashi and crashes his lips into the younger one’s— Mayuzumi forcing his tongue in with hungry invasion. Akashi letting him in with heated acceptance.

The kiss was fiery and with absolute fervour. It lasted for a minute. Two. Three. Only when Mayuzumi fists a handful of crimson hair and Akashi yelps in pain did their lips separate.

“Shit, I’m sorry. Did that hurt you?” Mayuzumi asks in a rare show of concern.

Akashi straightens. “I am quite fine. Though your eagerness is still quite perplexing, you seemed to have polished some rough edges.”

Mayuzumi snorts. “Well, only for you, your highness.” He sees Akashi’s perfectly obscured look of deject and he sighs. “You don’t need to be concerned for the rest of your friends. You’re not going to go back and see them lose.” Mayuzumi says as he caresses his face.

“I know.” Akashi dips his head down though.

“So, what’s got you bummed out?”

“I just…wish I could participate in achieving victory. I feel handicapped and…useless. Sitting this one out with a lousy miscalculation.”

“Hey, listen, brat,” Mayuzumi gazes at him, prompting Akashi to look at him in the eyes, “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Shit happens. And if you didn’t do what you had to do, the team’ll be in deeper trouble. And they owe you that. So, the least they gonna do is whoop those Americans asses because they deserve it.”
He slips arms on Akashi’s waist and kisses his forehead chastely. “I was worried.”

Akashi sighed. Mayuzumi was expressive with his affection as rarely as Akashi would admit his faults. When he does it was endearing and would always fill Akashi with giddy happiness. The rarity of it makes it all the more precious.

"This is nothing. I just had the misfortune of being ousted by a peacock with a blonde head. It won’t happen again.”

“Hell yes it won’t. Those bastards will lose and they’ll run back to god fucking America with ruptured egos. Those shitheads are first-class douche bags.”

“Language.” Akashi scolds but with a hint of amusement.

“The fuck I care.” He cups Akashi’s cheeks. “I can tolerate them dissing and humiliating us but they hurt you, and I won’t stand for shit for any asshole that does that.”

Akashi had seen Mayuzumi pissed before but not to this extent. He was practically fuming. Akashi blushed involuntarily at his proclamation.

“You are severely possessive, senpai.”

“Tsk. Of course. You’re mine.”

“I’m yours? Whoever said I’m yours?” Akashi’s smile widened.

“Not anyone can stomach that bloated pride of yours the size of a skyscraper you in-denial brat, and you have a disgustingly unhealthy king complex that would drive anybody nuts. So, don’t flatter yourself.”

“I am hurt. And I’ve had tremendously altered from my former insufferable self.”

“See? Even you have to admit you are a pain in the ass.” Mayuzumi touches their noses together. “It’s shit like that that gets me to thinking you’re hopeless without me.”

He kisses Akashi again when it was evident he had something to say to that. They said kisses effectively shut people up. And Mayuzumi has had lots of trials with Akashi to attest to that.

“The vending’s ACs broken so nothing’s cold. I hope you don’t mind lukewarm Gatorade.” Hyuuga re-enters just as the two broke apart.

“They will suffice. Thank you, Hyuuga-san.”

Akashi takes the drink without as much as a change in his regal demeanour.

Mayuzumi leans back on the wall casually. No one would suspect some love-making had occurred. And that was practiced too.


 

Akashi comes back less than ten minutes left on the clock. The team was elated at his return and though he would no longer participate in the game—doctor and Mayuzumi’s orders— Akashi contributed by devising strategies, pointing out loopholes and offering mental strength.
He sat with Kise and the others on the bench. As Midorima shot a three that tied their scores he could feel overwhelming excitement at the pit of his stomach. His temple flared suddenly and he instinctively massaged it.

“You okay, Akashicchi?” Kise asks. His golden orbs look at him with concern.

“Yes. I just felt dizzy but it’s going away now. I hope your condition has eased?” He gestures at his feet and the blonde gave him a thumbs-up.

“It’s fine. It’s only a sprain.”

Akashi nods just as a force pulls him behind and he bumps into the waist of Mayuzumi who was standing behind him as support.
Akashi looks up in confusion. “Mayuzumi-san?”

“Lean on me, brat. No one’s buying your flamboyant declaration of being fine and all.”

“Your eloquence is trifling as always, senpai.”

“For you, I don’t bother to filter.” He flicks at his forehead and traces the contour of his jaws. “And stop calling me that when you don’t actually respect me that much.”

“You undermine yourself,” then just to add a playful spite, “Senpai.”

Mayuzumi leans in challenge. “I will kiss you in public if you don’t stop it, you dick.”

“You would not dare.”

There was a chortle and Akashi said “Be quiet” just as Mayuzumi mumbled a “Shut Up” at Kise who only laughed louder at their defensiveness.


 

They won. Vorpal Swords defeated Jabawockeez at their home turf.
It was no surprise. The surprise was that, after a brief celebratory meal in the lobby, MiraGen asked Seirin for a friendly game. And the day had ended with yet another victory.

“Damn, we’re not gonna lose next time.” Kagami decreed as he wiped sweats off his face. He looked fiery and thrilled to the core.

“There won’t be a next time, baka. So, consider this a bone-crunching defeat for you.” Aomine flexes his shoulders.

“Hah? I will beat you next time, Ahomine.”

“Let’s see you try, bakagami.”

The two engage in their usual verbal catfight as Kise and Takao tried to appease them.

“No hard feelings?” Akashi asks Kuroko.

The phantom sixth man shakes his head and smiles warmly. “I expected as much. We may have defeated your teams at the Winter Cup but with you together we don’t stand a chance.”

Seirin suffered a massive loss, with the Kiseki on the lead by almost 100 points. However, it didn’t feel like defeat. Not at all.

They began wrapping up. It has been a long day after all.

“Aka-chin, are you going home alone?” Murasakibara asks as they emerged out of their jerseys and into casual clothing. “I could walk you to your hotel. Wouldn’t want you to walk all by yourself given your…” he points at Akashi’s bandaged head.

“Thank you but I can manage. Besides, there is someone waiting for me outside.”

“Eh? Okayyyy if Aka-chin says so. Be careful though.”

Akashi departs with the rest as Kise and Aomine remain to have last minute one-on-ones. Some of the Seirin people leave with them while some stays. They exit the stadium and were startled upon the lounging figure that lay on the steps.

“Mayuzumi-san, good evening.” Kuroko greets the pale man first.

Mayuzumi unfurls from his position and yawns.

"Is he who you meant when you said someone’s waiting for you, Akashi-kun?”

“Yes. Were you waiting that long, Mayuzumi-san?” Akashi didn’t bother denying. He asks as Mayuzumi stretches.

“Been forever, brat. The stone’s cold.”

“On my defense, I asked you to wait inside.”

“No thank you. I ain’t getting chummy with your city folks.” He dips his head at the rest though. He grabs Akashi’s hand and hauls him away. “Come on let’s go. I need to sleep already.”

“You’re such a baby.” Akashi comments but let’s himself get dragged.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m your baby.”

“Unfortunately.”

“Good night, Akashi-kun. Mayuzumi-san.” Kuroko calls after them.

Akashi waves as Mayuzumi grunts a response.

When they were a few yards away, Furihata asks. “That was the phantom man from Rakuzan, right? What’s he doing with Akashi?”

“His name is Mayuzumi Chihiro-san. And that’s an absurd question, Furihata-kun. He’s with Akashi-kun.” Kuroko replies.

Furihata tilts his head, confused. “I can…see that?”

“What he means is they’re together, aho.” Hyuuga slaps his head from behind.

“E-ehhh??????”

Kuroko just smiles. He follows the retreating figures—of red and white, visible in the moonlight and with expert eyes sees the hand of Mayuzumi slide from Akashi’s forearm down to his hand and their fingers laces. “They look good together, don’t they?”

Far-off, Akashi looks at their intertwined hands. He smiles, feeling so happy and so satisfied.

“What are you smiling about, brat?”

“Nothing.” He tightens the grip on their hands.

“Ask me how I know you’ll win.”

“There’s no need for asking. It’s preordained. And No, I am not indulging you.”

Mayuzumi pulls Akashi until he links an arm on his waist. He breathes to his ear. “I want you to say it, Seijuro.”

Akashi shivers. He turned to face Mayuzumi and raises his hands to circle around his neck. He presses their foreheads together.

“Because I am absolute.”

“Damn straight.”

They kiss again. And that too, is absolute.