The question slipped past cut lips, his breath stinging open wound, even as the scarlet liquid this very moment dried on dirt-streaked clothes and skin. He was startled himself, that he managed to voice his thoughts. Voice hoarse and quiet, yet much too deafening in the shared silence, Shishido Ryou waited.
"Why what, Shishido-san?"
"Why you help me like this."
"Well, cause you're my friend. And - And cause you're my sempai, of course."
He didn't expect this. Not in Hyotei, where people used one another to achieve one's own excellence. Not from anyone who willingly associated themselves with him, rude, arrogant, and vain, and knew he had every reason to be so. He was respected, yes, but never liked. No one ever gave him enough reason to befriend them, so why should he?
He wanted to ask Choutarou so many, many questions, and each of them died on his lips, as he stared unblinkingly at the net before them. Pride did strange things to people, they say, and Shishido was one of those victims, too proud and too afraid to let the wall around him crumble, to let light in.
Slackened grip on green racket tightened once again, and he stepped back from the silver-haired junior.
"Aren't you afraid?"
He pointed the racket at the second year.
"Because I'll use this racket to win against you one day, if I ever lose my regular spot again."
Ohtori stared up at him from his vantage point on the floor.
"Think about it, Choutarou."
Ohtori Choutarou beamed, hand reaching up, right past the racket head to clasp the senior's hand, warm and just the slightest bit damp from perspiration, hauling himself to his feet.
Shishido didn't expect this either.
"I know it."
But hell, it wasn't a bad surprise.
"... I do too."
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