by Karietta

You didn't expect much, really.

He always looked so gentle; so soft; so sweet. And he acted it most of the time, too. Everytime anybody passed a snide remark about how his serve didn't work, or that he was so tall he was a freak, he would just smile in that cheerful way, and shrug it off.

You never thought much of it.

Until one day, when you weren't thinking, and shouted at him for accidentally dropping his schoolbook on your foot. You didn't even mean the insult; your toe hurt like hell and you didn't think before yelling.

"Watch the hell what you're doing!"

And then you saw the brief look of hurt and disbelief before the apologetic half-smile and shrug of the shoulders masked everything else up; and he hurried to pick up his book and get out of your way.

For once, you actually felt guilty.

For once, you wondered if what you did was right or not.

And from that moment on you began to watch your words more.

You begin to talk to him more often after that, constantly sticking up for him during practices when he gets bullied, and trying to tell him to stand up for himself, but he always replies with that soft shake of the head and his eyes go all sad on you and your insides twist and you want to help, but you know you can't do it for him.

And then after that, the terrible incident when you get kicked out of the Regulars.

The teasing in the clubroom after that is terrible. You step in without the usual 'protection status' as a Regular, and the looks aimed at you have gone from admiring and respectful to disgust and even hatred; for what, you don't know.

You sling your bag over your shoulders and ignore the other Hyoutei members. Then someone slaps your arm as you try to leave; and the bag slides down, and someone trips you at the same moment so you're on your knees on the ground with your things on the floor in the dirt; and then you get a hard kick and pain blazes across your side and leaves you gasping for air.

You get up, only to be half-pushed down again, and hit in the shoulder, and you're close to madness and you open your mouth to curse and swear and god knows what else because all you're thinking; all you're screaming is bloody murder.

And then there's a sudden silence and he's standing there in front of you, and he doesn't say a word, just stares, and his gaze travels from you to your tormentors, and stays there.

And you stare as you see the fury in his eyes, and the way his fists clench and his knuckles whiten and his entire body begins to tremble oh-so-slightly, and the tightening of his lips and the red flush beginning to rise in the pale cheeks.

Your tormentors don't seem to care; and you can tell from their expressions that they know they outnumber him at least four to one, and they are older than him and they've bullied him on more occassion than one as well, and so they begin advancing towards him.

You want to do something to stop them then, because you know they might hurt him, or at least humiliate him as much as they did you, and somehow you don't want it to happen to him, and you get up and try to think of what to do.

And then you look up, at him; and you freeze because all he does is to let his bag drop to the ground, and stand there, and the setting sun from outside seems to cast an ethereal glow on him and his silver hair shimmers into light and his eyes are blazing and you don't, can't move an inch because you know something is happening to him; changing him...

"You bastard, you think you're such a hotshot don't you!"

You start, and try to force your way into their path so that you can block them...

"Don't, sempai."

The soft but firm; gentle but determimed voice echoes in the empty room, and you can sense the underlying current of anger and hatred.

You stop.

As the small group of them make for him, he bends down, slowly, and unzips his bag, and he draws out his tennis racquet.

"Come on, then."

And he holds the tennis ball in his other hand loosely, and his racquet is up and ready, and he stands there shaking but waiting, with his head held high and eyes flashing, and he knows; and you know; and everyones else knows, that he's won.

The pride suddenly flows through you and almost chokes you, because he's finally stood up to those creeps and he's been simply amazing, and you suddenly want to run up to him and hug him tight as you can.

The others leave, but not after they send a few more cutting and vulgar remarks at you and him.

His racquet clatters to the ground as the door slams shut behind them, and he sits on the ground and stares at me wide-eyed and trembling. You place a hand on his shoulder, and look him in the eyes.

"Thank you."

He smiles, and the smile is so bright and so sweet it leaves you aching for more, and you wonder how you ever yelled at someone like him.

You didn't expect much, really. But what he gave was so wondrous; so much more than what you expected, and hoped for. And that's when you decide that miracles do happen...and you're so glad you found one.

The End

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