He should have known better than this.
Right from the very first contact of longer fingers against his own slender ones; right from the very first genuine smile they shared with each other.
Right from the beginning when they made their debut as Hyotei Gakuen's Doubles One pair.
Thing was -- he'd always thought he was smarter than this, cautious enough not to fall back and realise too late that all the things he thought he was... He very obviously wasn't.
The reinforced metal netting of the fence left imprints on his palms where fingers clenched too tightly -- and where pain was anticipated, he only felt an odd tingle, rattling emptily within like a paper clip in a tin can. Fluffy green towel passed from one hand to another with natural ease, and he saw a smile once meant only for him given freely to another without hesitation. He wasn't surprised that crazed, possessive jealousy chose to turn his blood cold then.
He'd accepted it as inevitable before he left for high school, but seeing it hurt a lot more than he would have ever expected. He never did like being replaced; and this time it hurt more than when he was dropped from the regulars many months back after his match with Tachibana. But he had Choutarou then. Now was a different thing altogether.
But such was the grand scheme of things, was it not? Humans adapted and rose above obstacles, to become stronger in the future -- changing when change was due. He had a single fleeting chance to run, to believe what he told himself and the rare opportunity to go on living out his flawed beliefs in oblivious bliss, but trembling hands failed to grasp that one last offered ray of false hope. He could have slipped away unnoticed then.
He wanted so badly to alleviate the hollow hurt in his gut, to throw himself at the fence that separated them and scream, or maybe even punch at the metal where Hiyoshi's face was behind, to perhaps wipe the smugness off the third year's features. Desperately searching, his sole reason for relief eluded him as the younger boy's face bore no signs of triumph at all Just quiet acknowledgement. That fact alone loosened his fingers on linked wires that shifted back into their positions with weary creaks. So what the both of them had was real, was it?
He didn't try meeting Choutarou's eyes. He didn't need more of what? Sorrow? An apology? Pity? Most of all, he didn't want the familiar sensation of tilting his head slightly back to meet soulful brown with his own He never did look at anyone else the same way he did with Choutarou anyway afraid of the expression that would show up on the boy's face. He didn't want to see himself completely replaced. Seeing was believing but if he didn't look, then perhaps he'd still have that glimmer of a chance to look ahead to.
His breath caught then, all he saw before him was the slight gleam of silver in the evening's sunset before him, the intersection of Choutarou's precious cross where it grayed due to age, framed by the dull diamond-shape of the fence between the both of them. He used to like playing with the accessory and its owner would laugh in that gentle way of his and thread long fingers through locks of mahogany.
He never took it as a game at all but he'd lost.
He cut his hair at the time when he first got to know Choutarou and had actually bothered to understand the boy in all the two years of the then-sophomore's existence in Hyotei. It was probably too late to wonder how things would turn out if Choutarou had remained as another faceless team member with an exceptionally strong serve. Then again, he realized that regret wasn't part of the maelstrom of emotions that tore at him.
He'd since grown out his shorn locks into something that resembled his previous hairstyle.
He turned and left, his exit quieter than the appearance he'd made, the strange rhythmic thud of his racket bag against his shoulders seemingly out of place to him the pain inside not quite connecting with something as mundane and normal as the everyday annoyance he faced, now comparatively minute.
He guessed Ohtori Choutarou was entitled to change as well.
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