A/N: I’d recommend reading this first, as this one is a sequel-of-sorts to that assignment.
He can barely breathe this time, and as he pulls his shirt on, it feels as though it cages him, padlocking him in and obliterating the key from existence. The others are no better this time, he notes, and his throat constricts and burns; it wasn’t supposed to be like this. They were supposed to be confident, because they needed the confidence a lot more than he did.
Once again, when he enters the arena, he can barely hear the screaming. His blood roars in his ears, deafening him from the singing and the screaming and the mutters from them. And once again, the adrenaline kicks in too early. He tries to stand still, but a cold trickle of sweat that has nothing to do with the weather rolls down his forehead, and he struggles to hide the shiver that makes him vibrate.
Somehow, he’s once again missed the entire proceedings, and flailing mentally, he gets back on track, barely. He tries desperately to keep himself calm as he smiles stiffly, shaking the hands that are offered to him calmly before jogging across the pitch to the large white metal frame. He pulls his gloves on, strapping them firmly. At the back of his mind, he reminisces that the sensation used to make him feel better, that it used to comfort him. Now, it was strangling, like it was cutting off all the circulation to his hands.
He forcefully pushes aside the flare of panic that burns harder and brighter whenever the opposition gets too close to him, and the first miss is shy of his finger-tips by a few millimetres. The face that mirrors his doesn’t belong to him, but it might as well have. Panic wells in him, but the hand on his forearm is slightly calming as he gets back onto his feet.
He punches the next one, but it is neither hard enough nor far enough for his action to have been of any use. Subconsciously, he takes a few steps away from the post he’s leaned on to regain his balance, and in that moment, he sees the third shot fly towards him. He leaps and stretches, but it’s too far, and it whips through the air and smacks the back of the net. He lands on the ground, slightly winded, but not by the fall.
The small voice at the back of his head returns, and his heart sinks.
Time flies past him, and he can’t see the other end of the pitch, but the lack of cheers from the familiar colours makes his heart wrench and twist painfully in his chest. Nothing has gone right, and he can’t tell if it is their collective fault, or his alone. Yours, the little voice whispers, and something inside him snaps.
He’s on a vague copy of autopilot now, trying to cover as much ground as he can as the voice mocks him, and he pleads right back. It tells him that he was the first failure, that he wasn’t worthy of sharing any more time with these people that were much better than him. The voice wins, in the end, like it always does. The whistle blows for the last time, and now, he can hear these deafening cheers echoing maniacally around him. There are patches that are silent, dejected, but the vast majority is pleased with the result.
He really isn’t worthy of this, he thinks, and shame blooms in him when he realises what’s happened.
He’s sure that he hasn’t yet unpacked, and that now, he doesn’t have to. The voice agrees with him, and he swallows the burn as he looks up to see the dull-eyed man. An arm goes around his shoulder, and he’s humbled that he hasn’t yet yelled at him. Mimicking the man, he returns the action, and somehow, in all that chaos, they support each other.
The grass under his feet turns hard, and he knows.
He knows that it’s all over.