Hi!! if you are still doing prompts: Neil overworking himself and blowing out his arms again? and Andrew comforting him? i'm jumping on the angst train. Also i love your writing! it's so nice to read :)
(thank you darlin, sorry it took a while!)
Neil’s vision judders a little bit, like exhaustion is picking him up and shaking him. He can feel the sharp sting of sweat in his eyes and the open wound of his lungs, and the net looks farther away every time he blinks.
“Again,” Kevin calls. “But without your form crumpling in on itself.”
Neil grits his teeth. “I don’t see the point,” he says for the dozenth time. Kevin’s getting him to run drills with his left hand, and missing easy targets is starting to run cold and tedious. It’s a lesson in humility, maybe. Some sort of sociopathic vindication on Kevin’s part.
“You’re only half an athlete,” Kevin replies firmly. “Half your potential is squandered every time you hit the top of whatever box you’ve put yourself in and just accept it.”
Neil twirls his racquet and tosses it from one hand to another. He doesn’t like the weight of it in his wrong hand. His left bicep is screaming at being used so much, and his stronger arm is twitching jealously. He feels like he’s trying to talk without his tongue for no reason.
“If I’m using the wrong arm I’m just making myself a smaller box,” Neil argues. “It’s not necessary. Just because you have a handicap doesn’t mean you should impose it on everyone else.”
Kevin stiffens in the goal, and Neil can see his fingers spasming from halfway across the court.
“Fine. Limit yourself. You’ve never used even a fraction of your potential.”
“Then teach me,” Neil challenges. “Stop trying to prove something about your own versatility and help me hone my strengths. Or do you want to lose, next month?”
Kevin drops his racquet and it makes a wrenching clatter. “I’m going to win. If you’re not going to put in the effort then you can teach yourself.” He collects his fallen equipment on his way out of the court, the tendons in his neck straining the whole time. Neil looks back out towards the outer court where Andrew is watching, sprawled backwards on his hands with his head cocked.
Kevin meets up with him and jabs one hand back towards Neil, speaking in intense sentences punctuated by backwards looks. Andrew accepts whatever he’s saying by refusing to react, his face a perfect balance. Neil tries to watch the shape of their mouths but he can only see Andrew properly, and he’s not talking.
After thirty seconds of one-sided bitching Kevin makes a production of stalking off, and Andrew quietly follows behind. Something annoyed throbs in Neil’s stomach. He foolishly expected Andrew to come and confront him instead, maybe even end up taking his side.
He tightens his grip on his racquet and seethes in frustration, testing his left grip then right, left then right, until the difference feels too huge to be real, an uncrossable gulf.
He remembers detachedly when his now preferred racquet felt impossibly heavy. He remembers when he would rather have seen Andrew gone from the team than in his bed.
He looks back at the bucket of balls and the empty court, and everything tightens up: the muscles in his left arm, the walls of the court, that uncrossable gulf. Ichirou’s warning — the barbed wire around his heart —tightens too.