Title: Failure

Rating: G

Disclaimer: If I owned... well. I just don't.

Failure. The word kept repeating over and over in Shinji's head. He sat with his back to Fudomine's old brick wall. Shinji was on the north side of the building, away from the tennis courts, so far that he could not hear as the others began to practice. Shinji was skipping practice today, because there was no reason for him to be there today. There was no reason for him to practice tennis again, though Shinji still had his tennis bag sitting next to him. He had hoped that maybe, maybe, he would feel the urge to go to practice.

Shinji could not summon up the urge. He just wanted to sit against the crumbling wall, tips his head back and stare at the clouds. That cloud looked like a turtle, that cloud looked like a car, that cloud looked like the little brat from Shitenhouji who had beaten the crap out of Shinji.

"Damn first years." Shinji muttered, closing his eyes so he wouldn't have to see the clouds. "Now I know how our senpai feel, stupid first years who think they're better, stupid first years with stupid fucking skill. Monsters. Geniuses. Idiots, all of them." Pride came before the fall after all. The more they believed themselves to be unbeatable, untouchable, it all hurt when you realized you weren't. Shinji still hurt all over from his match, his wrist sending shooting pains up his arm whenever he put pressure on it, his shoulders and legs aching from the strain they had been put under. Shinji's heart hurt the worst though, a knifing pain that not even his teammates company could cure.

"Hey." Someone was nudging his leg. Blinking his eyes open Shinji glanced upward, momentarily blinded by the sun streaming around the other. "You're a tennis player right? I'm looking for Kippei."

"You're the hippie." Shinji spoke monotonously. "The one who hurt Tachibana-san's eye, though it was to repay Tachibana-san for what he did to you, I don't know why you would do that. Tachibana-san didn't do anything wrong. Eye injuries are stupid. I bet you did it for the attention."

"Hey, hey, slow down there." The Hippie, Chitose, Shinji remembered that Tachibana called him Chitose, knelt down next to him, shrinking his tall form into something that was not hard to look in the eye. "Yeah, I guess you could say I'm a hippie." Laughing Tachibana's old friend run a hand through his hair. "And you're the tensai."

"Not a tensai." Shinji murmured, glancing away from the others bright eyes. Those eyes looked like Tachibana-san's, though Tachibana-san's rarely laughed like that. Usually Tachibana just looked serious and kind. "Not a tensai. I can't take that title, I ruin it, degrade it. I can't beat anyone." Not Echizen, not Kintarou, he wasn't a tensai; Shinji was a mockery. He was better then the other members of his team, excepting Tachibana, what right did that give him to claim the title genius? Not that he had claimed it, the name had been given to him by reporters scooping out Fudomine the 'dark horse' of the tournament. Why did they call them the 'dark horse'? Their outfits might be black, off-black they had not been able to get true black and red at the discount store and had to settle for off-black and pink, but they weren't any darker then anyone else. That second year on Yamabuki's team was dark, or the captain of that team that Seigaku beat, but not anyone on Fudomine.

"Hey." There was a finger poking him in the shoulder and Shinji blinked, his mumbling coming to a halt. Chitose was still there, and the large smile had disappeared. "Who says you're not a genius? You've got some pretty awesome moves." Shinji shot him a distrustful look at the smile reappeared, along with a laugh. "No seriously, I mean, you need work sure, and that 'spot' thing isn't perfect but you're good, better then good actually."

Shinji folded his knees, hugging them up against his chest. He let the hair fall into his face. "I lost the match. I did not even loose, I had to forfeit." He scowled, dark expression hidden by a curtain of satiny black tresses.

"We all forfeit sometimes." Shinji heard movement, and then a soft exhale of breath coming from the side. Glancing through the curtain of hair he saw that Chitose had settled down right next to him. "Loosing is an inevitability, and a lot of times it's better to take the loss." Chitose nodded at his brace a concerned look on his face. "How's your wrist?"

"Fine." Shinji clamped his mouth shut, glaring resolutely on the long fingers that now rested lightly on his wrist. He was glad Chitose had not taken him at his word; any pressure and it would have hurt. Shinji stifled his mumbles though, because he did not want to seem like he was lying, and would hate to be rude to Tachibana's friend, and because that brat from Shitenhouji had never apologized. Shinji had apologized for injuring Echizen's eye, even though it really had not been his fault, and Echizen had won the match anyway.

Chitose chuckled, reaching over and twitching some of the hair away from Shinji's face to confirm that it really was the other speaking. "You do that often? It's an impressive talent."

"It's just mumbling, it's not a talent, it's annoying. Kamio always says so. Even Tachibana-san tells me to be quiet sometimes." Shinji tucked his hair behind his ear. It was beginning to tickle his nose anyway.

"Yeah, well, Kippei's got a short temper. He seems like he's calmed down but man, he used to fly off the handle at anything." Tucking hands behind his head Chitose leaned back against the wall. "Seriously, I was always pulling him out of fights."

"…Tachibana-san only gets mad when there is a good cause, I am sure the fights were just." Chitose shook his head and Shinji found himself pouting, a bad habit he had picked up from Kamio. Kamio pouted a lot, but he also smiled, and glared, and shouted. Kamio was more emotional then Shinji, and pouts looked a lot cuter on him then they did on Shinji.

"Oh right." Chitose shook his head, tone openly patronizing. "Kippei's always on the right side." Tilting his head Chitose looked Shinji over again. "At least the fight he picked with you guys was a good idea. I never thought he'd be able to handle the pressure without snapping."

"Coaching and playing is very tough but Tachibana-san is a gifted player, not to mention an exceptional leader." Chitose was laughing at him again.

"I didn't mean coaching and playing." Chitose wiped at his eyes. "I meant keeping it in his pants, not loosing it whenever he fucked up, and keeping his anger leashed. The guy's like a tea kettle, once he starts boiling you better turn off the flame or something'll blow." Checking his watch Chitose stood. "And hey, he'll blow a serious gasket if you get any later."

"I can't go." Shinji could see the puzzled look on Chitose's face, so the sun must have moved behind a cloud while they were talking. He hoped the glare did not return. "I'm not…"

"Is this the not worthy stuff again? Man, Kippei turned you all into martyrs didn't he." Shinji opened his mouth, ready to defend Tachibana but his rebuttal was waved aside. "Look, you're a second year, you're not one of the monsters out there, but you have serious talent." Chitose shifted, holding his hand out to Shinji. "You'll go farther then them anyway. People who burn too fast and too bright burn out too soon."

Shinji blinked at the hand before grabbing it with his uninjured arm, pulling himself up. "Is that what happened to you?" The much taller boy slung an arm around his shoulders, laughing and walking off.

"You could say that." Spotting the high fences Chitose started leading them towards the tennis courts. "Listen, if Kippei asks, tell him you were trying to lead me here but I got you lost, he'll buy it."

"I shouldn't lie to Tachibana-san, he always says to tell him the truth. People say that the truth hurts but when you lie the lies just keep getting bigger and bigger. Like that time Kamio accidentally took home one of Tachibana-san's shirts, but then he did not want to return it and he said that it must have been stolen and everyone wanted to file a report, but I knew he was lying because Kamio gets this little tick in his right eyebrow when he lies. Ticks are strange things, I thought that a tick used to be a bug, and it is but not that type of tick…"

Chitose's laughter forewarned the team that they were coming.