A/N For doroniasobi, who prompted me with the words "By a single shattered mirror/Seven years of trust/". Here's the third and probably last installment in my weird Hyoutei head-canon that I make up about the rather unknown Hyoutei characters. Enjoy this Taki story. This is set right after Shishido's redemption of himself and the process of beating Taki into the ground.
Warnings: I have not seen the anime and the OVAs of PoT, I have only read the manga. Therefore, I cannot guarantee any of the timelines used in the story and I apologize if any of these timings don't make sense/do not correspond with the real story of PoT. So please do not rant on how wrong this story is, but I'd appreciate a review on concrit or any review in general.
Disclaimer: Let's be reasonable now, shall we?
I've always loved you, Shishido.
I'm realizing just how painful and hard I've fallen for you while I stand here in the deserted tennis courts, hours after everyone is gone.
My limbs feel numb and my head hurts and I know that I'm never going to be able to go back to who I was just this morning.
In my hand is a broom and in front of my feet are locks of hair. Your hair, to be exact. The beautiful hair that I admired so much, that you were so proud of, it's all just laying there on the cold pavement, waiting to be swept up. Preferably soon, before night falls and the chilly winds take them away.
Coach Sakaki made me stay after school and clean the courts by myself, to show what a disgrace I am to the Hyoutei Team, being defeated by an ex-Regular.
If he only knew how long ago I first lost to you.
I don't know how long I've been standing here, staring at your pieces of hair, and I know it sounds a bit morbid, but there's something stopping me from sweeping them up. Something's tugging at the back of my mind and I just can't bring myself to finish this last task and go home.
Reality slowly seeps into me as I grip tightly onto the broom. I'm not a Regular anymore. I got beaten by you, and I was beaten badly. Maybe some part of me was holding back, but that still doesn't change the fact that I lost to you. My life as a Regular is over, and I know that if I got the chance to get back on I probably wouldn't go for it. Tennis is fun and all but in the end, I was only there because you were too.
I was only there because I could see that gorgeous hair of yours flow in the wind behind you after practice when you let it down, raising catcalls from all the other boys.
I was only there to see your smirk of arrogance that I felt was incredibly charming after you won a game or got away with something you shouldn't have.
I was only there to see the beads of sweat on your brow and dripping off your face and neck in the sun, which made you and I both very uncomfortable.
And when we both became Regulars, I didn't think anything would change. But I was wrong.
I want to kick aside the pieces of hair. I want to scream and cry and shout and sob because that's all over now, and I never realized how hard heartbreak is.
Instead, I just bite my lip; clench my broom and start reluctantly sweeping up the hair into the dustpan painfully.
It's got to be almost dinnertime, but my stomach isn't hungry. Rather, it's a bit nauseous. I feel a bit like throwing up, and then maybe crying in my pillow for a while. My body, usually ready to play a little game of tennis or soccer, just feels weak and if the white of my knuckles are indicating anything, I'm in no shape to do anything physical.
It's cold outside, but there's no wind and I'm thankful for it because if I have to chase your stupidly beautiful hair around the courts to clean it all up I might really hate you for good. I'm on the verge of it, really. You've done so many bad things to me, I don't see why I shouldn't.
First of all, you just had to look so damn pretty with your lovely long hair, eventually charming me with your arrogance, even if I hated it at the same time.
Second, you made me go through all these years pining after you, but we were always just somewhat friends that teased each other a lot. It didn't help that you had the same relationship with Gakuto either.
I suppose the third one wasn't so much your fault, having Ohtori come into your life, but I don't care, since it still hurt me. If I ever called you 'Shishido-san' I probably would've been hit on the head and told to go away.
It's just not fair that you do this to me and then you go to him. It's not fair at all.
My broom stops and I look down at the ground. There are seven locks left. This strikes me as ironic and I carefully count them again. Yes, seven locks.
Seven locks for each year I was in love with you.
Seven locks for each time I almost gave up.
Seven locks for each time I tried to confess.
Seven locks for all the memories I had of you.
And just like the seven locks, my heart was on the ground, in pieces, shattered over something I didn't even know I loved so much.
I really hate you, Shishido.
The first time I saw you, the first thing that came to my mind was girl.
The second: pretty.
The third? Cooties.
So really, it shouldn't have been my fault that I pulled your hair. It was just natural boy nature. However, it was entirely your fault when you turned around, spat in my face and punched me in the eye.
I cried that day, and it was the only time I let myself cry because of you. Let me assure you, it was a freak occurrence, and since that day, Gakuto has never stopped bugging me about it.
Of course, the first thing you did the next day was tell me how much of a baby I was, which only made me pull on your hair harder again. I'd like to personally take credit for your short sprinting skills, because you could have only developed them after chasing me around the playground angrily so many times.
At that time you were just some annoying boy that I liked to see annoyed.
You're not so annoying anymore.
Yui-chan was a pretty girl that I was pretty sure was the centre of the universe. She had long black hair and her eyes were always a soft sort of brown. She was always very nice to everyone and sometimes she brought too much sushi for lunch.
I liked her a lot.
You did too.
I remember quite well how we always glared at each other and showed off whenever she was around. How we slung our bags over our shoulders the manly way and strutted with large steps and small grunts under our heavy bags. How even though we were just seven, we read novels and searched the internet for tips on getting girls.
And of course, it wasn't just us who were after her. All the guys were friends and buddies, but whenever a girl got thrown into the mix, be she pretty or cute, we'd all push each other down and try to show off our muscles to her.
How? By fighting, of course.
You and I were always at it, and I became your new worst enemy of the grade. Gakuto didn't fight a lot, and he was always hanging around Oshtari too much to care for Yui-chan. I was taken from the level of 'annoying buddy' to 'eternal rival' in just a few months and soon, we didn't go a day without spitting in each other's faces.
My hand-eye coordination became more stable. Your dashes got faster and faster. My skin turned rough and not so easily bruised. Your reactions were sharpened with every fight. During the summer, we both got tans that stayed for the entire of winter and our skin got used to being scraped against street concrete.
Our moms no longer worried when we came home bloody and bruised. Instead, they just reached for the first aid kit situated conveniently at the kitchen table and fixed us up.
Your hair was always tangled and messy and my face was always dirty and bruised, but none of us cared. More often than not, we wore the same shirts and clothes to fight each other. My mom started calling them my "fight clothes" while washing them everyday. By the time school started, they were in tatters and the colours had faded so much they looked years older than they were.
Nevertheless, the first day back to school you strolled down the hallway into the same class as me and we smirked at each other. You told me that I looked as ugly as ever and I replied, "Your mom."
The third day of school Yui-chan was rejected by Atobe Keigo. You and I went out for ice cream after school and tried to remember her full name.
In between bites of chocolate goodness, I looked at you and smiled. You smirked back and somehow, we became friends.
Atobe Keigo was the King of Hyoutei. He ruled over each section of the school, from small kiddies to large bullies. Nobody was exempt from his wide reach, and everybody contained themselves in his presence.
He joined the Tennis Club and it became a Tennis Team. He started coming to morning practices and suddenly there were afternoon ones too. You and I were both on the team, but we only were there for fun. Aside from trying to beat each other, there was nothing really special about the sport.
Before I knew what was happening though, I was doing after-school training, weight building and running laps around the school for fun. You suddenly got a boost from somewhere unknown and I wasn't able to play with you evenly anymore. The Tennis Team established a group of Regulars, and even though Atobe was the only one our age on it, I knew I had a little to no chance of being on it in the later years.
Somehow I managed to stay on the Tennis Team without getting kicked off by Atobe, and something really weird happened.
All of a sudden, there were girls. Everywhere.
The girls stayed promptly at their spots in the spaces around the large courts, and most of them were cheering for Atobe. Slowly, though, they spread out their horizons and before I knew it, there were girls hanging around me and giggling and giving me chocolate for Valentines Day. This, I could understand.
What I didn't understand was that you got the same amount of fangirls, if not more. I didn't know why they all gathered around you and flocked at your every movement. You were just a boy with long hair and tough words, what was so good about that?
And then one day after we were doing practice, and you just finished your laps around the courts for swearing in Atobe's face. You shook your head around while grabbing for your water bottle and sweat and a mixture of water trickled down your neck. You fanned yourself with one hand, your eyes closed.
When I, blushing, tore my eyes away to trip over my own tennis bag, I sort of realized why the girls were drooling.
I dumped my first ever girlfriend after a month, thinking her too boring. She was nice and all, but she agreed to me too easily and never represented any kind of entertainment.
My second one was gone after just a few weeks. We were always fighting the whole time through, because she never took anyone else's ideas but hers, and she was just a little too stuck up for her own good.
My third? She was right in the middle, the perfect mixture. We joked around a lot, playing with each other's minds and debated about all kinds of topics, from her hair to my clothes, but there was still something missing.
I didn't understand it at first. We had some fights sometimes, but they were always over after a day or two when one of us apologized and we kissed. She was a good girl and never fooled around with other guys. We often spent our lunch breaks sitting on the hill behind the courts, laying down on the smooth grass and smiling at each other. She told me that she loved me, and I always felt guilty for not meaning as much as she did when I replied likewise.
After that, our relationship became a little more steady and our kisses a little longer. Whenever she smiled that lovely smile at me and told me how much she liked me, I always felt a pang in my stomach because there was something wrong about the whole thing. Something was wrong, but I didn't know what.
Of course, I didn't know what to do about it. I didn't really have any close friends that I could talk about it with, and there wasn't anyone I knew who wouldn't tell her about my anxiety.
So I sat on that hill after practice every day, closing my eyes and trying to think of what was missing, and what was wrong. I tried to figure it out, because I wanted things to work out. I wanted them to be normal and be all okay again.
I was interrupted once by some footsteps coming near me. I kept my eyes closed and just tried to ignore it, but when the footsteps stopped and I heard a flomp sound next to me, I opened one eye to look at what was there.
You stared back at me from your seat beside me, long hair tied up and a smirk on your face. "You know, if you stay out here too long you might burn that pretty skin of yours."
I craned my head up, still laying down with one eye closed, and the sunlight decided just then to play across your features and illuminate your hair and eyes. The tiny sweat drops on your forehead surrounded you like a little halo and your smirk was magnified when I still didn't say anything.
At that moment, with a sickening clench of my stomach, I knew what had been wrong with our relationship.
I also knew that there was no way of fixing it.
By the time I was in my second year of middle school, I was pushed by my mom to start looking at high school choices. Of course, I told her that Hyoutei was the only school for me and that I wouldn't change that for the world.
Then one day Oshitari let it tip out that you were applying for a few other schools due to the wide range of possibilities. Not to mention your family was not quite as rich as the other ones in the Hyoutei Academy.
You just huffed and made your way out of Oshitari's way and stomped off. I knew that your pride was large and you didn't care for jabs at your family's position in the wealth line, but I wondered if the others knew.
As I glanced around, I saw Oshitari smirking, and I knew that he knew. Somehow I fought back the urge to punch him in the face.
It didn't help that he seemed to be smirking at me. Did he know what I had figured out just two months before? Did he know about how I felt? Glaring, I made up an excuse and excused myself as well.
What was he thinking? I didn't care if you were going to the same school as I was or not. It didn't matter to me. You were just a friend, a simple person in my life. I didn't need you. I didn't need your annoying smirk. I didn't need your hair always flipping in my face.
I especially didn't need the butterflies in my stomach I got whenever you passed me.
If the brochures of other high schools in the area were actually read and considered for any reason, it was only because I wanted to gather some information about the surroundings.
That was all there was to it.
I became a Regular in my third year of middle school, something that seems so far away from me now. I remember jumping in joy and launching myself at you, giving you a tug on your hair as you were announced one too. That was the only time you didn't do anything back but grin at me.
I remember as clear as day all the emotions I felt during that first week, wearing that jersey with pride and staring down everyone who got in my path. I felt like a King, and having you there right beside me made it even better.
The practices were tougher, and I found myself whining at Atobe more and going longer into the night with training. The whole team got a little closer and soon we were always joking around with each other in the locker rooms just like old friends would.
That immense surge of power… It was great. However, it was also the thing that destroyed you.
Nothing prepared me for that day against Fudoumine. I was sitting at the bench lazily, admiring the way you commanded the courts with your attention. I know I frowned when you got so boastful, but I just chalked it up to being excited at being able to play Tachibana.
Halfway during the match, I was gripping the edges with silent pain, knowing that you were going to lose. I didn't want to believe it, but something in the back of my head told me it was true.
Even as I opened my mouth to cheer you on, the words stuck in my throat painfully as you stood frozen to your spot as another ball flew past you.
I caught a glimpse of your expression after that, and all hopes of winning were lost. Your face showed that of a loser, someone who had given up and was just lost at what to do.
I kicked the fence and shook my head, not wanting it to happen, but no words came out. By the time the match was over, I didn't know who had been broken more.
There's only one lock left on the ground now and the sun's setting. The rays are glistening on the ground and I know that I have to start hurrying up now. I need to get home before it gets too cold or my mom's going to get worried.
Even though I'm thinking this, I'm still not moving an inch. Your hair is the only thing in my way now, almost like it's barricading me from the outside world. Seven years have passed with me staring at your hair, and it's almost like I can't let it go anymore.
Pretty much my whole life has been revolved around you. I've never given much thought to what I was doing, other than knowing that you'd be there too. Now that I'm out of the Tennis Team, maybe I'll try something new.
I might transfer schools in High School, and try starting over again. I remember we did a unit on soccer once in gym. Maybe I could take that up and try it out. Everything could change.
I lean on my broom and let out a bitter laugh. It's no use, I know. In the end, I'm going to stay on the Tennis Team, even if I'll never be a Regular again, and I'll keep studying in Hyoutei for the rest of my school life. Maybe I'll try to find someone to talk to outside of tennis though, and maybe make some more friends. There's not much I can do about what I'm feeling now, though. Old habits die hard, and I'll always love you somewhere in my heart, Shishido.
Do you understand, my old friend? I'll never be the same person ever again, but that might be for the better. I hope you go on forwards and lose some of your ego. I know that Ohtori will be more headstrong in changing your ways than I was, so I hope you listen to him. Listen to him, because if you ever feel like breaking again, something tells me that he'll cheer you on instead of watching you fall.
I hope you achieve what you want in life. I hope you find yourself a new life and possibly a new kind of tennis.
I grip my broom and a tear falls down my cheek as I loosen my muscles for one last sweep.
I'll always love you Shishido Ryou, but right now I think I'm going to start getting over you.