Title: Dangerous Highway

Words: 3,787

Summary: /Shishido-centric/ This road he had stepped on wasn't his choice, he wants to believe that everything that happened wasn't his fault, that what he is doing was for a good cause. But what good cause? Telling himself excuses isn't going in get him out of it, he has to end this now.

Authoress: The Wonderful K. Muffin

Rating: T+

Warning: Parental Abuse, OOC(?), AU

[Suspense/Friendship]

Here is one of my short stories that started with an idea from a few weeks ago. It's still a new thing for me to use cursing (blame Shishido and his potty-mouth. And his parents), but I'm getting used to it slowly. This definitely isn't one of my best, but it's decent (and yes, unbeta-ed). This fiction is mostly Shishido-centered, and there is a hint of Silver pair if you make it so, but I was never really good at making romantic fan fictions. The world is a bitter thing…

The Prince of Tennis is rightfully owned by Konomi Takeshi.

--

Dangerous Highway

--

He gingerly touched his swollen cheek, wincing as the fingers reaching their way to his hairline, feeling a warm, sticky substance; after a few moments, he then looked at his blood-coated hands. He was bleeding, head wounds seemed to bleed more than others. The stinging pain would have sent anyone panicking, but all he felt was emptiness, knowing that tomorrow will be the same, and the day after.

All he could do was bear it.

Shishido Ryou was like that, a man of endurance.

Today was no surprise: his drunken father blindly flinging large pieces of broken beer bottles at him. A few of them hit, despite the misshapen mind his father had, leaving dark gashes along his body, and the following punch to his face was rather unpleasant. It was a cycle, the animalistic screams coming from his father's mouth, violent gestures whipping Shishido constantly, happening over and over and won't stop. It had been like that for two crucial years.

"Damn it," he murmured, already into work: placing a clean gauze on his bruised cheek and band-aids on the smaller cuts. For the bleeding wound along his temple, he wrapped a long strip of bandage skillfully and quick around his head under his bangs. The cap would cover it up nicely, but he would need one hell of a excuse for his teachers, which he wasn't looking forward to tomorrow. To convince Ohtori…was another problem itself.

Shishido is sure that no one else had found out about his entire situation yet, and hopefully may never find it out in the future. Mukahi and Oshitari were in his classes and saw him everyday, after-school practice or not, but they never pestered about it once, seemingly accepting the "fights" Shishido gets into on the way home.

The weary boy had to laugh dryly at his own lies. Fights? There is no epic battle if the other doesn't even raise a fist. Oshitari could see through his dishonesty, he could tell, from the short glances that examine that bandages every day, hell, Shishido could be so obvious that even Mukahi could notice. "Damn it," he repeated tiredly, throwing himself unto the bed, messy with the antiseptic tools scattered around. He didn't know why he doesn't ever run away; he could shoot out harsh words, make people cry from his string of ramming sentences, punch a fool with no hesitance. He could do all that.

Yet he could not even strengthen his voice when it came to his parents. He didn't know why, was it to prove who he is? Arrogance?

Fear?

"Ryou-chan," his mother's voice crooned, dipped in venomous poison. "Just obey your father…"

"That's right," a brute voice sneered. "Come to papa."

"No!" It was him, the summer before his third year started. Ignorant, proud, since when did he get that look in his eyes? "I'm sick of you treating me like this, you bastards!" Before he knew it, he smashed against the door, splinters digging deep into his back and he flinched. His father looked down at him with disapproval and anger, flames raging in his thick eyes. Fire against fire.

"What did you say?!"

"Do it." The seductive melody coming out of his mother's red lips, holding so much command. Pain exploded as a large shoe drove down on his head, kicking him again and again and again; he felt his life slowly slipping away. An inhuman cry tore through the house, and he didn't even recognize his own voice. "Yes! Scream out in terror! You deserve it you stupid brat. You useless shit! Wasting time with that idiotic game tennis." He could taste blood, the taste of bitter sweetness, his father had stopped kicking him, as if give him time to be aware of the throbbing pain. Then he felt himself slowly open his mouth. A whisper escaped.

"You're more useless than me," he cracked a grin. "Worse than shit." Pride filled the back of his dry throat, dripping off his words, and his parents must have seen it, because then there was darkness.

Shishido opened his eyes, wiping off the sweat on his brow. The incident had been more than seven months ago, it was the only time when he had talked back to his parents. He didn't know why he stopped; he didn't know a lot of things. But everyday he told himself that if he could face the ruthless training from Atobe, he could tolerate this fate.

"Since when did you believe in fate, Ryou-chan?"

Shut up.

-

"It's pointless," Oshitari stated suddenly when they were alone in the clubroom before after-school practice. Oshitari didn't bother changing; only merely standing by the doorway. This was the only time when Shishido felt uncomfortable under the tensai's piercing eyes.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Damn, his voice quavered in the end. He turned around in the middle of putting on his shirt, faking his unease terribly. His head had started to hurt a few hours ago, honestly, he wasn't entirely sure he would make it to practice without going insane. The last thing he wanted on his mind was Oshitari trying to get him on his nerves.

"You can't do everything alone." For a person who reads romance novels, the sentences were pretty blunt. Shishido's eyes narrowed, a bit annoyed and pissed off and a million other emotions.

"This is my business, not yours you know."

"Shishido, you think you are being strong, but you are a coward. Tell Atobe that I'm gone doing something else." And he closes the door quietly, the conversation ends there.

-

"Shishido-san!"

"Choutarou." He groaned inside, when was all this going to end? Right there he slapped himself, anything better than home…

"What happened to you! Did you get bullied again?" Shishido sighed, waiting for Ohtori's endless pampers to cease, forcing himself to hide his cringes when his doubles partner's slender fingers brushed over the bruises. His touch felt like torches.

"Training." The lie scratches his throat, the sun's rays bore down on him and he can feel the heat rising and his head wavering.

"You shouldn't push yourself too far. It's not good for you."

"I'm fine."

"Shishido-san..." Standing in the burning heat, he wished he could skip practice and have Ohtori give him peace for just a few minutes. He would never forgive himself if he let down his guard now.

"Don't you have orchestra rehearsal today?"

"But you messily applied those band-aids, we need to fix it!"

"Choutarou, enough, I said I'm fine!" Shishido immediately regretted yelling, seeing the mixture of confusion and pain shown on Ohtori's face. The throbbing headache hazed his mind, the sun glaring down his neck reminding him, painfully, that indeed, even he had limits. And that he was going to meet them fast if he didn't Godspeed off of the courts.

"Just leave me alone." Those words came out harsher than he thought.

"Please, at least let me tend to them properly," Ohtori said with more strength, grabbing Shishido's thin wrist. "Come on, let's go to the clubroom."

He yanked the grip off, feeling himself stagger. "Since when did you become damn annoying? I can do it myself." The world became dizzying, swirling around him, he only felt the strong touch of Ohtori's hands on his shoulders. "Are you okay? You look flushed."

"Shit, Choutarou. When are you going to leave? I don't need you!" He knows he sounds like a complete bastard, but his head is splitting open and he could care less. "Besides, all you're going to do is to make it worse anyways."

"All you're going to do is cry anyways!"

He halted. He isn't like his parents. This isn't happening.

In the midst of the heat wave, he could still see Ohtori's dropped expression, filling it in with anger and holding back tears. "Don't you trust me, Shishido-san?" his voice is quiet, a sign to give Shishido another chance. He ruins it.

"I don't trust anyone; now get the hell out of my sight!"

He knows that it's the heat that's making him do this. No.

What if this was what he felt?

"Because you're a worthless brat. Even the gods are laughing at you!"

Ohtori is gone, leaving him and the pieces of him that are falling apart inside.

"I-I'll see you tomorrow Shishido-san, good luck in practice."

"No one ever would ever want to be near you, you're a coward."

For once in his lifetime, he believes his parents' words.

-

"Yuushi! Hurry up!" Mukahi moaned, tapping his foot impatiently and chewing his lip. Oshitari chuckled, slinging his tennis bag over his shoulder with ease and closing his locker.

"Go ahead, Gakuto, I left a music sheet that we're being tested on tomorrow."

"Fine, but I better see you there!" he bellowed, hands cupped around his mouth. Oshitari had already started entering the main hall, roaming through with interest. He reached his destination, hand reached out to touch the door knob until he heard a strange sound like sobbing. Cocking an eyebrow, he opened the door of the music room halfway. Ohtori sat in the corner, buried in his own arms and stifling his cries. The second year looked up suddenly, wiping his face on his sleeve after he heard soft footsteps come his way. "O-Oshitari-sempai."

"Ohtori-kun, we had orchestra practice on the stage you know, you missed it."

"I know, I…wasn't feeling well."

"Are you okay?"

"Yes," but he blinked furiously to draw back the threatening tears. Oshitari heaved a long sigh, "Did something happen between you and Shishido?" Ohtori merely looked in surprise. "How―?"

"I told Shishido to tell Atobe I had violin this afternoon, but he apparently didn't tell and skipped practice today because Atobe was chewing my head out ten minutes ago."

"H-He did?"

Oshitari frowned. "You didn't know? I assumed he at least told you, no one else knows why."

"Not…really, I just left after he s-said me that," Ohtori gulped, trying to keep his voice steady. "he never trusted me, and I was only made things worse." The other sighed again with more sympathy, sitting comfortably beside Ohtori and crossing his arms. "He always wants to do everything alone. That's one of his major flaws."

"A-ah."

"Don't worry about it a lot, Ohtori-kun, he's probably a little touchy today because of that horrendous gash on his head."

"Maybe― wait, what?" Ohtori straightened his back, staring at other's shocked face with big brown eyes. "He's hurt that badly?!"

Oshitari muttered under his breath, "You didn't know that too? I thought that you, of all people..."

"How long has this been happening, Oshitari-sempai?!"

"It's…" Oshitari says this softly, letting the words sink in. "…been two years."

"T-two years? When I was freshman? Who knows about this?"

The Tensai chuckled sardonically at this, expression looking dark. "All the third years, we never really bothered, Shishido is a stubborn fool."

"Why didn't you do something?" The silver-haired boy sank to his knees, numb. Oshitari blankly stares out, "He would never let us, Ohtori-kun." It went quiet for the next few minutes, the uncompleted truth stabbing into their minds. Ohtori looks like he's about to cry until a shrill yell carries itself into the music room.

"Yuushi!" The Tensai suddenly stands up, rushing towards the doorway to see Mukahi panting, huge eyes looking up at him.

"What is it Gakuto? Weren't you supposed to be at Jirou's house?"

"I-I know, but I called Shishido 'cause he missed practice and t-there was yelling―"

-

"Oh, you came home early, is it because you ditched that tennis club? Good choice." An obnoxious laugh only produced a dull collision to Shishido's bruised soul. "I knew you would, you have that bad blood in you the moment you were born." His fiery self wanted to yell out to his father that he was the reason Ohtori left him, he was the reason that his entire existence was nothing but garbage; he forced him to take this ugly path in life. The blame is all his. But he now knows it is all wrong. Everything's changed. It hurts.

"I also heard from your teacher that you failed a test again, trying to bring dirt to our name, are we? Being rebellious?" An accurate, swift blow to Shishido's left cheekbone that left him to his knees.

"Look here?" His father bends down and touches the bandage around his head gently at first, the rips it off and sends a kick with his boot to the temple; hot pain burst like fireworks and Shishido wrings in agony, vision white from the sudden impact. "All patched up, really, you look even more pathetic with it." He blearily opens his eyes, he has to endure this.

A flash of Ohtori's hurt expression lingers in his mind.

No, this isn't about a test of endurance, Shishido slowly stands up, blood coming down from his opened wound in streams. This isn't a game anymore.

"Giving up already? Quite fast, always such a coward."

"I know," his voice was stronger than he had expected, his father stopped smoking his thick cigarette to look at him in state of vulnerability.

"What?"

He turned, feeling his renewed dignity, his back facing the other. "I'm finally leaving this goddamn place."

Before Shishido took another step, he felt large, coarse hands close around his windpipe. He never felt so much pain in his entire life, his back, head, arms, everything ached, the lack of air was getting to him, everything was slipping from his grasp.

"Leaving?" Uncontrolled anger flares up in his father's eyes and his hold tightens as Shishido struggles for air, weakly trying to pry off his father's plump fingers. "Do you think you can leave me?" He doesn't know if he's near his end or not, but his vision is dotted with black spots and his strength is fading quickly.

His phone rings.

The hands lets go in surprise and Shishido falls to the ground roughly, coughing and his lungs feel like someone took them out and wrung it like a washcloth, but he's thankful for the gulps of cold air rushing back to him. He fumbles for the phone. Mukahi. Despite the increasing pain in his head and his sore muscles, he muses why the hell he would call him at this hour.

His father snatches the still ringing phone from him and twists one of Shishido's arms behind his back, snickering at the muffled cries of pain emitting from the other. He flips the phone open, grinning widely at the confused voice through the speaker and tossing it behind him.

"Now that's interesting, you actually have friends."

But all Shishido hears is his heavy breathing and his screaming inner-self. I have to get out of here, fast! He would be damned if he didn't survive long enough to say sorry to Ohtori and to defeat Atobe once and for all.

"…Shi..do…?" He looks back at his partly broken cell phone. No. He wasn't mistaken, Mukahi!

"Get help!" he yells out, knowing that Oshitari wouldn't let him forget this action for as long as he lives. "Mukahi!"

"Shut up!" Another kick, but the burning sensation disappeared under the odd sense of hope he was feeling. The corners of his vision darkened and Shishido panicked, he had to stay awake! The attempt failed as he strained to keep open his eyes, the blood lost was getting to him and the repeating bursts of pain upon his body sped up the process.

"Don't give up, Shishido-san!" Shishido's mind was beyond coherent, but he could see his friends that show up vividly in his mind. And the warm smile that immediately diminished as utter blackness rushed in.

"Chou…Choutarou…"

-

The fast breaths of Mukahi following closely behind, hearing Oshitari dialing Atobe on the other side, the gritty pavement scratching the soles of their shoes, Ohtori didn't think that he felt this much panic in his life.

They reached a two-story house, rusty, old, and he could hear the foundation moaning and the hinges screeching. Shishido never invited anyone to visit to his house, and everyone thought that because he had MA+ content in magazines hidden in the corners of his room. The interested girls would gossip and giggle and laugh and Shishido wouldn't pay any attention. Ohtori by no means ever believed it, of course, but he sometimes wondered aloud. He was always curious.

As they are mere yards from the door, Ohtori wishes he would never find out what was behind that brick wall, he wasn't ready. But a yell changes his mind quickly, and Oshitari gets to the front porch before he does.

He kicks the door forcefully and it obeys his command and swing open in defeat. Mukahi nearly yelps at the sight. A bulky man stops mid-action in the middle of a mess, successfully blocking a limp body unmoving on the ground. But the short, dark brown hair gives it away.

"Shishido-san!" Ohtori cries out, and it barely passes as a squeak. The huge, towering figure snorted and lifts Ohtori's friend, his friend, up by the hair. Oshitari hesitates and Mukahi bites back a snarl, both could do nothing.

"Shishido-san," the man mimics, tone sour. "Pretty weak isn't he? He was out cold for twenty minutes by the time you got here. Could be dead by now." The phrase triggers a reaction inside Ohtori, and he could feel tears burning up in his eyes.

"That's not true!" He rushes towards him, but a large hand swats him away, Oshitari catches him before he falls backwards.

"Are you alright, Ohtori-kun?" his voice is strangely calm and quiet, the latter responds by nodding. "Gakuto!" he calls out and the acrobatic player nods in understanding. He practically pounces and in a flash, drives a foot into the man's thick face.

The sweet victory for Mukahi was short-lived, a grasp tightens on his ankle and he finds himself dangling four feet off the ground.

"Yuushi!" he chokes, and Oshitari's response is fast. Two pale arms wrap around the broad neck of the man and he lets go of his hostage. Oshitari hangs on as the other rages like a wild boar, baring his tusks and shaking his head. Mukahi lands with grace and watches with a terrified expression his partner suppressing the sudden jerks from the man. Ohtori dashes to help his upperclassman by holding back the other arm.

They both get flung back harshly and Ohtori contemplates the pain as his back touches the cold tile floor, but nothing could stop his widening eyes as the brute man fishes for a butcher knife.

And points it at Shishido.

"You prove to be enough trouble for me," he says abrasively, his breaths speeding. "So I'll just end the problem!"

"No!" His throat hurts, he doesn't want to see this, but the image is horribly burned into his mind.

Shishido-san!

"Stop what you're doing, drop the weapon now!" A loud, commanding voice snaps Ohtori back into reality. A group of uniformed men charge in, guns pointing at the shocked criminal who drops the knife.

"Come on," one says, and grabs Ohtori by the arm and leads him out to the fresh sun. "You've done enough."

It takes a while to comprehend the situation, but the thoughts vanish as the same men gently set his doubles partner on the ground.

At that moment, the world brightens.

Tears fall out again as he kneels by Shishido's blood crusted face and right there, words couldn't describe his happiness. "Thank God," he gasps, cradling the quiet body. His partner. His friend. Alive.

Oshitari watches from a distance as Mukahi lays a comforting hand upon the crying boy's shoulder, he hears footsteps creeping behind him.

"Keigo, thanks for helping."

Atobe stands beside him, hands deep in his pockets. "It's all I could do for a friend and a teammate, Yuushi."

"You knew, didn't you?"

"I did."

Oshitari observes Ohtori's smile and the calmness that finally befalls; he chuckles softly. "You, always waiting for the opportune moment." The other grins.

"Of course, I am Atobe Keigo."

-

Shishido would never admit it, but he always liked the kind of natural light that you would see in huge Cathedrals. The yellow beam that paints the ground in a golden glow and assorted colors: bright red, blue, and orange that dance through the stained glass. The large rays the shoot from the windows give off a warm radiance that fills the inside of you, all of that is beautiful.

But when he woke up, heavy and drained, all he saw was the blinding white light. His head felt light, but his chest felt like there was a one ton brick upon it. His eyes opened cautiously as if it was the first time he saw the world. He saw a familiar face the moment he was able to see.

"Choutarou," his voice sounds parched. "I feel like hell."

"Good morning to you too, Shishido-san, I'm glad you're up."

"Took your time, did you?"

Shishido groaned out loud at the recognizable voice.

"Be nice! Oshitari-sempai helped you know."

"Ugh."

Ohtori frowned, evident disappointment on his face. "Shishido-san!" Oshitari beamed, "It's okay, Ohtori-kun, that's the closest we can get for a thank you. And a apology."

"Where's Mukahi?" he slurred, bringing up a hand to his aching head.

The Tensai proceeded to flip the page of his book he held in his hands. "He can't visit you everyday you know."

Shishido paused. "…how long have I been out?"

"Three days."

"Shit. That long?"

"When we got into your house, you were sleeping like a baby," a smirk. Shishido could feel his patience dropping down in dramatic degrees.

"You, out the door in five seconds. Now." Oshitari let out a cheery 'Farewell' before closing the door in said time, leaving the Silver Pair in the room, air cold in his wake. And Shishido immediately regretted it. Silence entered as if to fill the empty space Oshitari left, making everything uncomfortable. "Um…well…" he stammered, looking sheepishly (which is an unusual thing) into Ohtori's brown eyes.

"Well?" Ohtori smiles. An awkward moment teased them after that as Shishido considers on what he should say.

"…Iwasbeingabastardokay?" He flusters (which is another unusual thing, Ohtori notes) and takes a deep breath. "I…I'm sorry." Then Shishido looks genuinely pissed off when Ohtori begins laughing. "I never knew you could say that," he says breathlessly, still smiling. "What a wonderful friend you are, how uncool," he mutters, a little pink. Ohtori gazes at him for a few moments.

"Shishido-san, do you trust me?"

Shishido stops his movements; this time, the words didn't seem so hesitantly questioning.

This time, he knows what to say.

-end-