It's been long enough since I watched the series that I couldn't remember whether Australian Formation was supposed to be used when receiving or serving, so I went and looked it up. And discovered that actually, Konomi got it wrong. *laughs* What he calls 'Australian formation' is actually called 'I formation'. The real Australian formation has the net player on the server's team stand in the service box opposite the one they'd normally be in. That means the opposing team's net player is standing directly between the receiver and the server's net player, blocking the receiver's view of him so he can surprise them by coming out of nowhere.
But I left 'Australian formation' in this story the same as it's used in the tenipuri universe, since otherwise we'd all just get really confused.
Also I rewrote this tennis match three times. I got most of the way through it the first time and realized it was almost play for play the same as one of the matches in 'Jealousy'. *facepalms* Then I rewrote it, and realized I'd crammed so much play description and technical references in that even *I* thought it was boring. So I redid it a third time, and hopefully it's entertaining this time. ;p
Title: A Lesson in Humility
Series: Prince of Tennis
Pairing: gen, Shishido & Ohtori
Word Count: 4777
Summary: Ohtori is more than happy to bring a pair of arrogant upperclassmen down a notch or two.
Spring had always been Ohtori's favourite season, for many reasons. He loved the fresh scent of green and growing things, and avidly looked forward to the chance to play on the outdoor courts again.
This year he'd been a little less enthusiastic about the season than usual, though. Spring had meant graduation, and while he'd been happy to be a senior at last, he hadn't been quite so happy to have Shishido move on to high school. It meant they didn't see each other nearly as often as they had the year before.
On the other hand, it hadn't been as bad as he'd been afraid it would be. The very first week after school started again, Shishido had invited him over to study, saying that Ohtori might as well get a head start on his subjects. That it had been an excuse to see him had been obvious, and that had made Ohtori feel like maybe they had a chance of keeping their partnership - and more importantly, their friendship - alive after all.
Which was why he was now heading across to Hyoutei High's tennis courts, hoping to catch his partner just at the end of their practice to go play on a street court somewhere. Ohtori figured Shishido would probably jump at the chance to practice after an afternoon spent watching other people play while he had to stand by on the sidelines, and anyway neither of them wanted to have their game deteriorate. Maybe they could even convince some of their other former teammates to play as well, just so they'd have some decent opposition.
The high school section of Hyoutei had a much bigger tennis area than the junior high, Ohtori discovered. And that was saying something. It looked like he'd misjudged his timing slightly; there were still people on the courts, though it did seem as though practice was winding down. Ohtori slowed his pace, hitching his racquet bag a little higher on his shoulder as he scanned the courts looking for Shishido's familiar blue cap.
His attention was caught by something else before he'd glanced over more than the first two courts. Two boys in the uniform of the high school Regulars were taunting a freshman, deliberately serving their shots out over the fence, making the boy run out to retrieve the ball, and then doing it again with the next serve just as he returned. The first year was panting and his shirt was soaked with sweat, indicating that they'd already been at this for quite a while. The miserable expression on his face made anger burn deep in Ohtori's chest.
A certain amount of hazing from the upper-years was only to be expected; freshmen had to earn their place, after all, and many of those coming in from being Regulars in junior high had to relearn how to be at the bottom of the feeding chain again. But hazing was one thing. This was outright harassment, and from the looks of it might well lead to the boy dropping out of tennis entirely.
Ohtori was an idealist, and he knew it. Most of the time he didn't let it interfere with the realities of his life, especially where Hyoutei's cutthroat selection system was concerned. But there were certain things that pushed his buttons too hard for him to ignore, and this sort of behaviour numbered among them.
At their last meeting, Shishido had off-handedly mentioned a pair of juniors who had let making the Regulars go to their heads to the point where they often made the lives of the freshmen a living hell just to prove their 'superiority'. Ohtori had no doubt that he was observing the two in practice.
"Hey!" Striding up to the fence, Ohtori glared through it at the two juniors. He wasn't a member of the Hyoutei High team, and though strictly speaking manners bade him be polite to two students who were his seniors, he could get away with more than anyone on the team beneath them would dare. "What do you think you're doing to that poor kid? Go fetch your own balls, if you're going to deliberately send them out of the court."
"Oh, yeah?" The two juniors broke off taunting the younger boy and swaggered over to face Ohtori through the fence. They looked him up and down, taking in his casual tennis clothes and the battered racquet bag slung over his shoulder. "And just who do you think you are?" the taller of the pair demanded arrogantly. "You're not even on our team, what gives you the right to tell us what to do? What year are you, anyway?"
"I'm a senior," Ohtori replied, and didn't bother to mention that he was still in junior high. If his height and build fooled them into thinking he meant he was a senior in high school, then that was their problem. "And I've got the right of any tennis enthusiast who doesn't want to see people being driven away from the sport. For all you know he could be the future captain of the team, if you give him a chance to come to love the sport instead of hating the people who play it."
"This brat?" the second of the pair laughed. "You're joking, right? If he can't handle a little hard work like this, he hasn't got what it takes to make the Regulars here, let alone become captain. We're the best of the best, and that means being able to handle anything."
"Being the best means you can beat everyone you play, not that you've learned how to placate arrogant upperclassmen with more guts on their racquets than in their bodies," Ohtori retorted contemptuously. "If you were serious about being the best, you'd be working to improve yourself, not showing off by tormenting a hapless freshman. Why don't you try picking on someone who can fight back? You might actually learn something, even if it's by accident."
"Someone who can fight back, huh?" the first one who'd spoken, a muscled blond, sneered at him. "Like you, I suppose? You think you can take us? We're the only juniors on the Regulars, and there's a reason for that."
"Clearly," Ohtori agreed, his tone implying that he believed the reason had to be that there hadn't been any seniors worth the material of a Regulars jacket, not because of any merit of the two players in front of him. The darker one flushed, but the blond put a hand on his shoulder to restrain him before he could explode.
"You going to put your money where your mouth is?" the taller boy asked him, his tone smooth and dangerous. "Say, ten thousand yen that we can wipe the court with you?"
"I don't have the time to teach each of you a lesson separately," Ohtori tossed his head, almost disappointed that he couldn't take them up on it. He'd dearly love to give these two a lesson in humility. They reminded him of the way Shishido had been before his defeat at Tachibana's hands, only worse. "And beating me two on one would hardly prove anything."
"So?" the blond snorted, and gestured around them. "There's a whole damn tennis team playing out here, if you hadn't noticed. Pick a partner, and we'll see just who teaches who a lesson."
That made Ohtori pause thoughtfully, an idea forming in the back of his head that would have given him away with a wicked smile if he hadn't had so much practice at keeping his expression politely neutral. "Anyone?" he asked slowly, just to be sure. "Anyone at all?"
"If you can convince the captain himself to play with you, we'll take you on," the brunet declared confidently. "Not that it'd help you, the captain can't play doubles worth shit."
"All right," Ohtori agreed instantly. "Ten thousand yen. One set match - I don't have the time or patience to play through three sets with you, and I think that will be more than enough to prove my point."
"Quit flapping your jaw and pick your partner already, and let's play," the brunet snorted. "Unless you're just stalling for time?"
Ignoring him, Ohtori turned and resumed his interrupted scan of the courts. Practice had broken up now and almost everyone was heading for the clubhouse, though a few curious people had begun to gather around their little group. Ohtori saw the freshman whispering excitedly to some people who were probably his friends, and grinned inwardly. By the time they actually started playing, the rumour would have spread and the whole team would be out here.
Spotting what he was looking for, he pointed into the crowd. "Him," he stated firmly. "The one in the blue cap."
"Him?" the blond repeated incredulously, picking out the person Ohtori was indicating. "He's just a freshman!"
"You said 'anyone I wanted'," Ohtori reminded him, a fierce glint in his eyes that belied his pleasant expression. "I don't want you claiming after the fact that I only won because the partner I picked was that good. I want him."
"Fine, it's your yen," the blond laughed, and whistled shrilly. "Hey! Shishido! Get your ass over here, and bring your racquet!"
That shout drew far more attention than they'd yet garnered, and more people started heading in their direction. Obviously confused, Shishido pushed through the gathering crowd towards the juniors who'd called him. Spotting Ohtori standing next to them, his expression turned from irritation to surprise. "Chout..."
Out of sight of the two juniors, since they'd turned to watch Shishido approach, Ohtori shook his head quickly and put a finger to his lips, grinning at his partner. Shishido raised an eyebrow at him, but played along. "Hang on," he changed what he'd been about to say. "What's going on?"
"Guess what? It's your lucky day, frosh," the brunet smirked at him. "You have the privilege of getting your ass handed to you by us. Play your best, you're losing ten thousand yen for him." Both juniors laughed, and Shishido scowled at them.
"Come on," Ohtori directed his partner, as imperiously as any senior might be expected to order a strange freshman. "Give us five minutes to get acquainted and warmed up, and then we'll spin for the serve," he added to the juniors. "You might want to find a ref, just so you can satisfy yourself that I'm not fudging my calls." That the two juniors would do just that if they thought they could get away with it, Ohtori had no doubt. They were that type.
"What are you up to, Choutarou?" Shishido asked under his breath as they walked to one end of the court. Ohtori smiled brightly at him.
"Well, originally I came to see if you wanted to play, and I seem to have accomplished that," he murmured in reply, laughter clear in his tone. "But I stumbled over these two in the process, and decided they needed a lesson in humility. They have no idea who I am, or even that I know you."
Slowly an answering smile spread over Shishido's face, along with a look of vindicated satisfaction. "Serves 'em right," he declared. "Arrogant pricks. They're worse than I was, and they've been making life miserable for all of us. They've already chased off two freshmen in tears, and one of them had looked like he might shape up to be a half decent player with some effort."
They stretched out quickly, Shishido mostly helping Ohtori since he was already warmed up from the practice. "How should we handle this?" Ohtori asked his partner as Shishido leaned over his back to push him further into a leg stretch. "We're only playing one set, but do we stretch it out and make them exhaust themselves chasing balls all over the court, or smash through them hard and fast and humiliate them?"
"Humiliate them," Shishido decided instantly. "Start out strong - you serve first, and use the Scud Serve right off. The more and faster we crush them, the more likely they might just learn something from it. Right?"
"Sounds good," Ohtori agreed. "Let's do it!"
Shishido straightened and offered him a hand up; Ohtori accepted the help and let his partner pull him to his feet. Once there they stood with their hands clasped for a moment longer, their customary gesture of intended victory. "Let's teach them a lesson they won't forget in a hurry, Choutarou," Shishido growled after a moment with a fierce smile, and Ohtori matched the expression.
"Bring it on," he agreed, and they released hands to give each other a high five.
Moving towards the net, they met the juniors there. Shishido and Ohtori won the spin, and after a brief exchanged glance Ohtori declared that they would serve first. The juniors then picked which side they would start on, very obviously manoeuvring to have Shishido and Ohtori most often on the side that would put the setting sun in their eyes, but that didn't worry Ohtori in the least. How many hours had they spent with the sun in one or another of their eyes, when he'd been serving at Shishido and the then-senior had been attempting to perfect his Rising Counter? It didn't bother either of them any more.
They kept their formation simple at first, just the standard doubles pattern with Shishido up in the service box and Ohtori positioned to serve back at the baseline. When using the Scud Serve they didn't need fancy formations to take the service game. If the other pair had been likely to be able to return Ohtori's famous serve, Shishido would have mentioned it.
"One set match, Yamazaki-Hoshino pair versus Shishido-Ohtori pair," the senior who'd been elected to call the game declared from his position in the high chair overlooking the net. "Ohtori to serve!"
Someone must have woken Jirou to watch the match, because as Ohtori moved into serving position he heard the excitable older boy cheering, "Yeah, Ohtori! Cream 'em!" Smiling, Ohtori obeyed.
"Ikkyuu... nyuu... kon!" The familiar chant helped steady him as he served, and the force of his racquet hitting the ball resonated all the way up his arm. The ball slammed over the net, faster than most amateur players could follow. Ohtori had long since broken the two-hundred kilometre per hour limit he'd had last season, and there were few people at their level who could return his serve now.
It struck the ground and bounced out of the court before the two juniors had even reacted, leaving them staring in shock at the spot where it had hit. "Fifteen-love!" the ref declared. Ragged cheers broke out among the observers, mostly from the freshmen.
"Nice, Choutarou!" Shishido called, the grin evident in his voice even though he didn't turn to face Ohtori. Smiling back at his partner, Ohtori changed sides for the next serve.
Their opponents readied themselves, the look on their faces promising that they didn't intend to let another serve go by them. Mentally Ohtori wished them luck, and wound up to serve once more. "Ikkyuu... nyuu... kon!"
This time the receiver managed to take one scrambling step towards the ball - mostly because, Ohtori suspected, he'd started moving the moment he heard Ohtori finish the chant. It didn't help him, as the ball whizzed by him for a second service ace. "Thirty-love!" the ref called, and this time the cheer from the watching crowd was a little louder.
The remaining serves went exactly the same way, and the juniors never got anywhere near the ball. "Game, Shishido-Ohtori pair!" the ref announced. "One game to love. Change court!"
"Don't think this means anything," the brunet junior - Yamazaki, Ohtori thought - growled as they passed each other changing sides. "It'll take more than a killer serve to defeat us. We're just getting warmed up."
"If you say so," Ohtori agreed with a pleasant smile. "I'm sure we'll be happy to see what you're really capable of." The junior glowered at him, and Ohtori walked on as if he hadn't noticed.
"How do you do that?" Shishido chuckled as they paused at the bench to grab a quick drink before the next game.
"Do what?" Ohtori asked, confused. "The Scud Serve?" Surely Shishido had seen it in action more than often enough to know how it worked.
"No," the freshman snorted. "How do you manage to sound perfectly polite and civil, and yet give the impression that you're insulting them worse than I could do if I tried?"
"Oh, that." Ohtori laughed. "Subtext and body language, that's all. And lots of practice. Are they likely to throw anything at us this game that I need to watch out for?"
"They're both strong all-around players, so it doesn't matter who's at the net," Shishido said with a shrug, "but they don't tend to both play up. If we can take control of the net early and hold it, we should be able to keep them off balance."
"Sounds like fun," Ohtori declared, his eyes alight with the excitement of the challenge. He and Shishido were both excellent net players - something people tended to overlook about him, because he most often stayed at the baseline when they played. There was no rule that said he had to stay there once he'd returned the serve, however, and in doubles tennis the team that controlled the net area was generally the team that won.
They took their positions, and Hoshino served. The moment Ohtori had returned the serve he charged towards the net, counting on Shishido to take the next return while he got into position. Having both players up at the net was a calculated risk, and if they hadn't complimented each other so well it would have been a bad idea. It would be relatively easy for their opponents to send a lob over their heads or a line drive fast and deep between them into the uncovered back half of the court.
But Shishido was a dash specialist, and he could turn on a dime and change the direction of his momentum on a moment's notice. Thanks to his training against Ohtori's Scud Serve, it was almost impossible to land a shot anywhere on the court that he couldn't get to in time. And Ohtori's height made him the ideal choice to smash any lobs their opponents tried. Plus both of them had vicious volleys that made them a force to be reckoned with when playing up at the net.
Being able to dominate the net area gave them a distinct advantage, but it wasn't enough to let them take points as easily as Ohtori had hoped. Ideally he'd have liked to finish this in six straight games with as few dropped points as possible, but it quickly became apparent that the two juniors weren't entirely undeserving of their position on the Regulars. They were well matched and their synchronization was good.
Not as good as Ohtori and Shishido's, however. Slowly but surely they pulled ahead of the juniors, one painfully won match after another. They lost Shishido's service game, but didn't allow the juniors to keep any of their own. Ohtori's second service game gave them a bit of breathing room, as he once again used the Scud Serve to blow the two juniors out of the water, but then they were right back into the struggle trying to take the next game from the juniors.
By the time it was Shishido's serve again, the score was 5-1 in their favour. Not quite the crushing defeat they'd been hoping for, but it was obvious that they'd rattled the two Regulars fairly badly. On the other hand, conditions were slowly shifting to favour their opponents. Shishido had been worked hard during practice, and was obviously starting to tire, whereas the two juniors had apparently spent most of the practice tormenting the freshmen rather than putting any real effort into their game. The longer it dragged on the more likely it was that the juniors would be able to start keeping their service games, and then it was only a matter of time before they won.
If they didn't finish it with this game, Ohtori realized, chances were good they were going to lose. And Shishido's turn to serve had always been the weak point of their game.
There were ways around that, though, and they'd been practicing them every chance they got. Shishido looked at him, a silent question in his eyes, and Ohtori nodded once. "Let's finish this, Shishido-san," he declared confidently.
"Getting a bit ahead of yourself, aren't you?" Hoshino sneered at them from across the net. "You're doing pretty well, better than I expected, but your choice of partners is starting to work against you. I told you Shishido wasn't the one you wanted. I'm amazed he's held together this long, he never plays doubles."
Ohtori barely managed to smother the laugh that tried to escape him. He knew Shishido had chosen to go back to singles in order not to mess up their combination, and much to Hiyoshi's dismay Ohtori had done the same. But to therefore conclude that Shishido was a bad doubles player? They obviously hadn't paid any attention to the available information on their incoming freshmen.
Off the court nobody else was making any effort to restrain their mirth at that declaration from the juniors. "Boy, are you guys in for a surprise!" Jirou declared, bouncing excitedly where he stood at the front of the crowd beside Atobe and Oshitari. "Go get 'em!"
Smirking, Atobe lifted a hand and pointed at them. "Don't disappoint me, or you'll find yourselves running laps, captain or not." As one Shishido and Ohtori lifted their racquets to their former teammates in an ironic salute, and suspicion began to grow in their opponents' eyes.
"Wait a minute," Hoshino started, but he visibly lost his train of thought as Shishido and Ohtori took their places on the court and he saw the formation they were using. Up to this point Shishido and Ohtori had been using only minor variations on the standard doubles formation, but there was no mistaking this formation.
An excited murmur ran through the crowd as they saw that Ohtori had positioned himself front and centre, bent low to ensure that the serve would pass over him and not strike him. It was a bit of an awkward posture for someone as tall as he was, but he'd practiced it until he'd found just the right combination of crouching and widening his stance to allow him to burst out of the position at top speed. He grinned at the two juniors through the net, the expression wilder than his normal polite smile. Directly behind him, he knew Shishido probably looked positively feral in his burning determination to win.
"Australian formation?" Yamazaki blurted out, incredulous. "Are you nuts?"
Instead of answering Shishido tossed the ball up, and the two juniors scrambled to ready themselves to receive the serve. Ohtori braced himself, preparing to lunge up out of his crouch, and he was moving the moment he heard the ball hit the strings of Shishido's racquet. He pushed off to the left, staying down until the ball had passed over him, and came up out of his low stance just in time to volley the return shot Yamazaki had sent back over the net. Hoshino caught his volley and lobbed it to the right...
...and Shishido came seemingly out of nowhere, leaping high and smashing the ball back down again. It had bounced twice and was out before either of the two juniors had a chance to return it, and Shishido landed lightly on his feet just in front of the net with a grin aimed at Ohtori. They'd pulled off the difficult formation perfectly, each of them correctly anticipating which direction to go, just as Ohtori had known they would.
The best part about Australian formation was that it was completely unpredictable, at least as far as their opponents were concerned. The two juniors had no way of knowing whether Ohtori would break to the right or the left, so they couldn't try to outmanoeuvre him by aiming to one side or the other. Ohtori went to the left for the second serve, then to the right for the third, and back to the left for the fourth. Shishido anticipated him correctly every time.
Not only did they not lose a single point in that match, but they left their opponents severely shaken. By the time Ohtori smashed the match point home, Yamazaki and Hoshino both looked lost and more than a little humbled, just as Ohtori had intended.
"Game and match, Shishido-Ohtori pair!" the ref called, to much cheering from the crowd. The freshmen were no longer being shy about showing their support, and they weren't the only ones cheering now.
"Yeah, we did it!" Shishido whooped, clasping Ohtori's hand in a high five that they held for several moments, glorying in their triumph. "Way to go, Choutarou!"
"We did it, Shishido-san," Ohtori agreed happily, all but glowing with the joy of it. There was absolutely nothing that could compare to playing a match with Shishido when they were both totally on their game and in perfect synch with each other.
"And I think you said something about ten thousand yen, didn't you?" Shishido added as they finally released their hands, looking across the net to the juniors with a wicked glint in his eyes. "You're treating for dinner tonight, right Choutarou?"
"I suppose that's only fair," Ohtori laughed. "But don't expect to make a habit out of it."
"How did you do that?" Hoshino demanded, staring at the two of them in mingled fury and awe. "Nobody can pull off Australian formation that well with someone they just met. Who the hell are you?"
"Who are we?" Shishido's contempt for the two juniors fairly dripped from his voice, and the condescension in his gaze was equally obvious. "Only one of the top-ranked Nationals doubles pairs last year."
"Which you would have known, if you'd bothered to pay attention to your incoming freshmen instead of boosting your ego by harassing them to prove how superior you are," Ohtori said, his tone softer than Shishido's had been but no less scornful. "Even if you didn't realize I was his old partner, you at least should have been aware that he was a high-ranked doubles player and wondered how I knew to choose him."
"What? You cheated!" Yamazaki almost howled, pointing at Ohtori. "You said you were a senior! You can't have played with him last year if you were a senior."
Ohtori's tone turned gentle and mockingly patient, the way you might speak to someone who wasn't quite working from a full deck. "I never said anything about being in high school," he reminded him with a pitying smile. The two juniors gaped at him, their pride further stung by the idea that the boy who'd just wiped the court with them was only in junior high.
"Aren't you two lucky? That means you'll still be around next year when he graduates, and we'll get to kick your asses to earn our spot on the team," Shishido added with a low laugh.
"Next year? I'll only be a freshman, Shishido-san, I won't be allowed to play," Ohtori pointed out, confused.
A slow, satisfied smile spread over Shishido's face. "Want to bet? I think we impressed the coach," he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. Ohtori looked in the direction he was pointing and saw an older man looking on with a calculating expression.
Hope blossomed in Ohtori's chest. He hadn't been looking forward to having to wait two years before he would be able to play with Shishido again. If he was allowed to play in his freshman year... not only would that mean a year less of waiting, but it would mean two years in which they could potentially play on the school team together.
"In that case," he corrected himself brightly, turning his best too-polite smile on the two juniors. "I guess I'll see you on the courts again next year, senpai." He couldn't help the small ironic stress he put on the word, but it was worth it for the way the two older boys choked and sputtered. Between these two and Shishido, he was going to end up developing a reputation for knocking arrogant upperclassmen down to size.
Well, that was fine with him. Especially if he had Shishido to help him do it.
A/N: I tried and tried, but just couldn't find a good way to translate the switch Shishido made when first speaking to the juniors. He starts to say 'Choutarou' obviously, but changes it to 'chotto', which I translated as 'hang on'. It just doesn't work in English, but I couldn't come up with anything reasonable in English for him to change the start of Ohtori's name to, either.