Drabble written for: Aviy (because, y'know, matched set and all...)

by Gen X

His hair was matted with sweat, but he didn't care. The long strands clung to his face as he moved, but he couldn't spare a moment to brush them aside. As long as he could see the tennis ball, nothing else mattered.

Shishido stopped short, planting his right foot firmly and turning his body. His arm arced up and away; his racket pointed towards the sky. The backhand shot sped away. The tennis ball flew towards the open section of the court. It made contact and continued out of play.

That was one game.

Taki's first serve was easy. They volleyed once, but then Shishido's ball obediently caught the edge of the right line. The next serve was faster, as if channeling some of Taki's frustration. It didn't matter. Shishido knew his serves won't be on part with Chotarou's. Even if they were, Shishido still wouldn't worry.

He's too far beyond nervousness. There was no trace of self-pity on the court. Doubt had no weight in his steps. It had all been stripped away. The last lingers of pride have been lost in the countless nights of practice, his ego crushed the moment he was dropped. It's been a long time getting to the this moment.

All the feelings that had swirled about-consumed him-had ultimately driven him forward. This was his stand, his moment. The only things he had left were his focus and his determination. Even as he readied to serve, there was no room for resentment.

It didn't matter that his muscled seemed to burn. He ignored the aching bruises that seemed to throb from the weight of his jersey alone. To dwell upon the pain would be a distraction, he couldn't afford.

He dropped a game, and his anger and frustration flared. He threw the ball hard against the court, catching, and squeezing it brusquely. The motion repeated, and this time he exhaled as he caught it. He tilted his head, looking towards the stands. Ohtori looked nervous, taut and unable to move. The sight was oddly comforting yet amusing at the same time.

Unnecessary too, Shishido decided, tossing the ball in the air. Tennis, he had learned, is a game of give and take. After everything, Shishido couldn't help but think he deserved a little "take".

Otherwise, it would have been for nothing.

The next five games flew by. With each point earned, the crowd whispered. They shouldn't have been so shocked, but Shishido would admit, a certain perverse pleasure derived from their confusion. However, Sakaki's decision left him floundering as well.

He gaped in disbelief, then argued, then chased.

Whatever he had to do, he would.

He had come too far to quit now.

The End

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