Authorly preamble or something: My main motivation for writing this was the idea that perhaps while he acts all cool on the outside, Mizuno is basically freaking out hilariously on the inside. I wrote the bulk of this while I was supposed to be writing an unrelated essay-style article, but let's not tell my editor that... :)

With Friends Like These

Mizuno isn't the type of person that develops crushes. It had always been his strong suspicion that he never would; it's just the type of person he is. Crushes are for giggling girls and boys with no focus and he is simply not interested. He likes soccer and dogs and he thinks that that is plenty, at least for now. He never seemed to have a shortage of girls cheering him on at practice or leaving notes in his desk; he had always assumed that when he felt it was time to attempt a relationship he could select someone who seemed nice from among them and, hopefully with minimal trial and error, do the whole 'meaningful relationship' thing.

That was the plan, anyway. Mizuno starts realizing plans don't always pan out the way one expects around the time Shige starts cracking up every time they're in the same room.

"I can't believe you have a crush on the puppy!" Shige howls, cackling with laughter, and Mizuno can only be grateful he at least had the restraint to wait until the classroom was empty as he contemplates the repercussions for the team if he were to murder Shige with a blackboard eraser and bury him under the soccer field.

"I absolutely do not," Mizuno shoots back flatly and tries to remember just why homicide is supposed to be a bad thing, because he absolutely does too.

"You're a crummy liar, Tatsu-bon, and you're totally blushing," Shige snickers. "Puppy's like the mascot or team pet, this is just too rich. Did you fall for his Sunday morning cartoon hero sparkly eyes? Or was it the speeches about teamwork and not giving up and all that junk that did you in?"

Mizuno glowers because he figures it's better than trying to figure out an answer that doesn't involve the words 'a little of both' and he's pretty sure he really is blushing. Instead of dwelling on that he begins wondering if the three-hole-punch on the teacher's desk is heavy enough to do any real damage to a human skull.

Shige stops laughing quite suddenly and frowns critically at Mizuno. "I think you might be the most uptight, repressed middleschooler I've met in my entire life," he announces, "and I live with a bunch of monastery-dwelling brats." When Mizuno says nothing, just continues to glare balefully, he snaps, "Stop eyeing the papercutter," and rolls his eyes with enough emphasis that he ends up swaying in his seat. "Just tell him you like him! He probably likes you back, the way he looks at you with those stupid sparkly eyes and that dopey smile all the time and whatever."

"That's how he looks at everybody," Mizuno replies doubtfully. "That's just how he looks."

Shige sighs hugely, draping his arms over the back of his chair and hanging his head. "Is it too late to add 'oblivious' to the list? If you don't tell him, I'll just do it for y—"

"Try it and I'll break your leg, let's see you play soccer th—"

"It'll be totally worth it—"

"E-excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt..."

Shige turns to face the door immediately with a big, toothy grin; Mizuno just tries to limit the shades of red he turns as he prays fervently that Sho's nasty habit of overhearing things that make life hard for him is on the blink at the moment.

"Noro-kun said Shige-senpai said you said you wanted to talk to me," Sho explains, and Mizuno sets aside his plans for homicide reluctantly, deciding Sho looks nervous enough already.

"Well he wasn't supposed to tell you I said it!" Shige grumbles. "Kouhai are so useless."

"I don't really understand," Sho admits uncertainly.

"Call it an error in communication," Shige summarizes dismissively. "Point is, Tatsu-bon wants to talk to you."

"I never said that," Mizuno snaps before he can stop himself.

Shige snorts derisively. "Doesn't mean it's not true."

Stuck for a response, Mizuno falls silent and focuses briefly on not looking like he wants to make a dramatic exit via the nearest window.

"Oh, you are too much," Shige mutters under his breath, pasted-on cheery smile never slipping, and he turns back to Sho. "Tatsu-bon's not feeling very talkative, I guess, I think he's mad at me or something." He sighs theatrically, and Mizuno glances quickly at the three-hole-punch again. "Anyway, Tatsu was wondering if you'd want to go home with him. You know, do your homework and hang out or whatever."

"Okay!" Sho responds immediately, and when he quickly checks himself by looking to Mizuno to confirm the offer, Mizuno smiles and nods, powerless against Sho's blindingly bright smile.

"So that's all settled, how great is that," Shige remarks, semi-sadistic salesman smile kicking into overdrive. "I'm nearly done talking with Tatsu-bon, could you give us a minute?"

"I'll wait at the front gate," Sho agrees, smiling again quickly, and leaves.

"So that went well, I think!" Shige exclaims, looking a little too satisfied.

Mizuno presses his hands to the desk and glares uneasily. "What did you just do," he says, "and why did you do it?"

"A favour," Shige retorts, "partly because it's fun to watch smoke come out of your ears, but mostly because everyone is totally sick of Puppy making googly eyes at you and you totally not noticing. The useless kouhai will not stop talking about it, it's nauseating."

"You are absolutely making that up," Mizuno accuses.

Shige rolls his eyes. "If you're really that oblivious, I don't think you're qualified to be captain anymore. You can call me The Amazing Captain Shige from now on, Tatsu-bon."

"Pathological liars don't get to be captain."

"Can you at least use your head for a second?" Shige reasons. "If I'm right, you've got yourself a revolting little date set up. If I'm wrong — which I am so not — you still get to hang out with your darling little sparkly-eyed forward. Where's the down side?"

Mizuno contemplates reluctantly, irritated to find himself agreeing. "It's on the other side of this desk."

"Tatsu-bon, you wound me," Shige shoots back with a wry smile. "Now go on, it's not nice to keep a date waiting."