Disclaimer: I don't own Galactik Football, I'm making no profit off this story and I don't claim that the events represented in this story are canon at all. (But wouldn't it be fun if they were?)

Summary: The Smog changes people for the worse. Netherball changes people for the worse. What happens when you put two unstable boys in close proximity? Sinedd x Rocket, Tia x Rocket, D'Jok x Mei, past Aarch x Artegor referenced. Micro-Ice x Yuki, possibly. Definite slash warning, anyway! Darkish.

Netherworld

Still floating on the high of having defeated Kernor, Rocket stepped out of the Sphere to the adulation of his new-found fans. He raised his arms high in the air and savored the sound of them yelling his name. It felt like Galactik Football but better. This was all for them. Their screaming, their clapping, their praise – it was all for him. Him. Not his teammates. Not Aarch's coaching. Rocket had earned all of this on his own.

He'd been the only one in the Sphere. He'd won on his own.

This victory was his in a way that none of the matches with the Snow Kids had been.

In that instant, standing under the lights and seeing the rows of people that surrounded him, eyes skimming over their faces but taking nothing in except how wide their mouths opened as they cheered for him, Rocket knew that he'd never go back to Galactik Football. What the League thought didn't matter. Even if they reinstated him, he wouldn't play on the Snow Kids again.

He'd already forgotten what the Breath felt like. He didn't miss it.

Playing in the Sphere didn't need teamwork. He didn't get dragged down by other people's mistakes, or have to pass them the ball only to see them miss easy shots.

In the Sphere, he was all on his own. He'd grown up on his own, and now he was playing on his own again.

This was just the way that Rocket liked it.

Here, he could see everyone. All their faces. All their pride. The Galactik Football stadiums were too big. All the on-lookers blurred into a mass of color. He couldn't tell Wamba from Ryker from Shadow.

Here he could see everyone individually. And all of them, every single one of them, could see him.

Rocket threw his head back and basked in their adoration; the crowd roared.

Only Sinedd, leaning against the console, didn't cheer for Rocket. Hip canted, he kept a hand on top of the console, casually supporting his weight as he watched the ex-Captain of the Snow Kids soak in the mob's mad love. His other hand was plunged deep in his pocket as he watched Rocket sink further into righteous bliss, the triumph of his victory in the Sphere making Rocket almost unrecognizable to Sinedd. Harris had told him to get good players into the Sphere. He'd promised Sinedd a bonus for every player he brought in. And Sinedd, orphan, raised alone, was always on the lookout for ways to make a little extra cash. If his career in the Shadows ended soon (but it wouldn't, he was a good striker, much better than D'Jok!), Sinedd wasn't planning on going back to playing cards for pocket change and winning magnet board races.

Bringing Rocket in would earn him a hefty bonus, Sinedd was sure. Especially since Rocket had won, which meant he'd be in the next night as well.

Sinedd didn't know what the Sphere was truly about; he felt no guilt at having taken Rocket down when the Snow Kids had already thrown Rocket away. He was just taking their leavings; Artegor had poached Sinedd and Sinedd had seen nothing wrong with that either.

Slowly, the furor of the crowd died down and the spectators started to make their way out. They were still talking about the match they had seen and the likelihood of Rocket winning again tomorrow. Rocket stayed in front of the Sphere, watching them file out. Glory filled his eyes, and with his hair bound back from his face, the stark lines of his face had never been clearer.

He looked like a young god, handsome and strong.

And alone.

Finally, it was only Sinedd and Rocket left alone.

"Good match," Sinedd said, and the words were somewhere between admiring and envious.

"Thanks." Rocket answered simply, hands in his pockets, amber eyes still aglow. Before Sinedd could brush it off as nothing, Rocket continued, "Thanks for showing this to me."

Rocket's eyes were still so bright; Sinedd remembered vaguely that once, his own eyes had been blue and bright. A long time ago. "Told you you'd be good."

"Yeah." The grin on Rocket's face was too arrogant for a Snow Kid to wear; it looked like it'd belong on Sinedd but never D'Jok. "I am."

Rocket scuffed a foot against the rocky ground, and it's nothing like a Galactik Football pitch. He could already feel where he'll have bruises tomorrow from the Sphere, but the thought made him smirk. Marks of war were fine by him. No more Dame Simbai to fuss over them, or Tia to –

Tia.

The name made a pang go through his heart. Even now, he couldn't regret having saved her. Especially now that it had led to him being introduced to Netherball. But Rocket couldn't picture Tia down here, where it was dark and enclosed and the crowd cheered for fouls. She was too pure. White hair and gold skin and eyes like spring leaves; she didn't belong to the world of Netherball. Rocket could barely hold the image of her in his mind as long as he stood in front of the sphere and still felt his veins flush with adrenaline from defeating Kernor.

He shook his thoughts of her out of his head and asked Sinedd, "What's a cheap place to stay 'round here?"

"…You can crash with me." There was a moment of hesitation before Sinedd offered that, but after all, where else could Rocket go? Netherball didn't pay creds to the winners. Rocket had no sponsorship deals like Mei did. He might have enough creds for a ticket home to Akillian, but that didn't translate to enough for a hotel room for more than a couple of nights. He wasn't sure that Harris would be willing to pay for a hotel room for Rocket either, and Sinedd wasn't about to volunteer his own earnings.

"Why?" Again, Rocket was suspicious, just as he had been when Sinedd had offered him the chance to play Netherball. But that had gone well, hadn't it?

"You have to play again tomorrow. Which means you're going to have to be well-rested and well-fed to match whoever else shows up." Sinedd pointed out. Normally, everyone could just stay with their respective teams. This was the first time that Sinedd had to figure out where to lodge someone. "And I've got a double-room to myself in the hotel."

"Won't your coach or teammates notice?" Rocket had to admit, the idea had merits. Nobody would look for him in the Shadows hotel. And the media tended to stay away from the Shadows, who were notoriously unfriendly and disliked photographs. He could hide out there, and still be in shape for the next Sphere match.

Sinedd shook his head, the forelock of black hair brushing over his eyes for a moment as he did so. Impatiently, he reached up to push it back, "Artegor never comes into our rooms as long as we show up for practice. And the other Shadows are used to me never being in my room, so they don't go looking for me there. As long as you're out when the maids come around to clean the room, nobody'll know."

Rocket thought it over for a moment more. His parents might worry, but his father had all but disowned him when he left to play Galactik Football, and his mother had disappeared for years. And if he called them to tell them what was happening, he'd have to explain about getting suspended. Aarch could do that.

"Let's go." Rocket finally said. He picked up the duffle bag near the console that he'd originally packed to take to the Akillian. Sinedd shut down the console with a final touch to the keys, and the lights went off.

In absolute darkness, Sinedd leading and Rocket following, the two of them left.

They'd be back the next night.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Author's Note: So, what did you think? Review, please! *hopeful look* Are the chars OOC? Do you like or dislike anything so far? If I'd realized that GF had a big enough fandom to write for, I would've been posting stories here a long time ago. (Probably about Sinedd or Rocket or Tia, let's be fair). XD