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Loathing

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Warnings: Language, some of it really offensive. But, then again, this is Penny Arcade. Par for the course.

Disclaimer: Penny Arcade belongs to Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik.

Johnathan Gabriel's serve was devastating to his opponents. Under ordinary circumstances, this pleased him to no end. Today, however, he frowned deeply as his current opponent scrambled to return the hollow, white ball only to have it ultimately sail over the loser's head. Was it really so hard to find players with TALENT?

He jerked his thumb towards the door. "You suck. Get the fuck out."

His opponent slumped, dejected, as he threw his paddle into his gym bag. Gabriel could hear the defeated player muttering about his heritage.

Meanwhile, the black-haired young man reached for another ping pong ball, thoroughly bored.

"Want a match, GABE?"

The tone of the speaker's voice grated his nerves, the nickname he'd been given not sitting well with him either. The yellow-clad ping pong player whirled to see another player. This one was dressed in blue, leaning against the wall of the gym, idly twirling his own racket.

He smirked. He liked it when they tried to sound all badass. It made their defeats that much sweeter. "You're on. Get ready to cry."

The newcomer pushed off of the wall, still idly twirling the racket between his fingers. "Should I get you some tissues?"

Somehow, the stranger seemed to push all of his buttons without really trying. If anyone else had said that, the ping pong champ might've blown it off. But he wasn't sure if it was the other's tone or WHAT that made him want to STRANGLE the guy.

As he struggled to return the verbal volley, the brunette smirked, asking with mock sweetness, "Are we gonna talk or are you gonna serve?"

Snarling, Gabriel tossed the ball into the air, striking it with a resounding crack! on its return trip to Earth. The little white ball rocketed towards the other side, clearing the net with ease. The yellow-clad player grinned maliciously. There was no way this guy was going to--

Crack! The ball connected with the other's paddle, sending it flying back in Gabriel's direction.

"The fuck?!" he exclaimed, unprepared but managing to recover in time to return the volley.

"I thought you were supposed to be some kind of ace," the brunette taunted, easily moving into position to return the ball. "What with your so-called `un-returnable serves'."

Gabriel backhanded the ball back towards his opponent. "Just keep talkin', dickwad," he growled.

Another infuriatingly easy return. God, he wished this guy would just spontaneously COMBUST or something.

Back and forth the ball went, neither side having any distinct advantage. Gabriel would slam the ball towards his opponent while the other guy would return it with no problems, all while not seeming to hit it anywhere near as hard as the yellow-clad player did though the ball moved just as fast.

The black-haired young man narrowed his eyes, sweat starting to drip into them and seeing the same on his counterpart across the table. This guy was a pain in the ass. Why couldn't he just miss already?!

"Gabriel! Brahe!" a voice boomed in the gymnasium, startling both players into losing their rhythm.

So lost in the pattern of the game, Gabriel couldn't quite figure out whose distracted hit sent the ping pong ball flying towards the bleachers. Judging by the look on the brunette's--apparently "Brahe"--face, the other young man wasn't sure how to call it either.

"You two hit the showers and get the hell out." The burly, balding man twitched his thick mustache. "We're locking up the gym for the night."

"Yes, coach," the black-haired youth muttered, sliding away from the older man lest the coach start on another of his crazy rants.

Brahe did pretty much the same, ending up walking just behind him as he went to the locker room.

They each showered and changed clothes in hostile silence. However, the relative peace wouldn't last.

As Brahe opened the door to leave, he turned his head to call back over his shoulder: "You're an adequate player, Gabe."

He wasn't one hundred percent sure what that meant, but judging by the smirk on the other's face, "adequate" wasn't a compliment. Gabriel bared his teeth like an enraged bear. "Stop with the fucking nickname, dipshit! What're you, queer?"

Brahe simply smirked and left.

Gabriel wished he could hate him to death.

--------------------

That particular game pretty much repeated itself the next day and the next day and the day after that. It was driving Gabriel bonkers. Every time that asshole Tycho Brahe would play him to a stalemate. Getting just ONE point became an achievement for either of them. Their games usually ended whenever the coach told them to "pack up and get the hell out".

The weirdest part was that the brunette insisted on calling him "Gabe". Not "Gabriel", just "Gabe". As if they were old buddies or something. The black-haired youth had hated it in the beginning, hated it with a passion. But over time, it didn't matter as much to him anymore...unless someone else tried to call him that. No, that was a right reserved for "Brahe the Bastard", and he continued to protest against it lest the smug asshole think he'd won any ground.

They sat on the edge of the bleachers, watching the other students play, the ball usually going back and forth a few times before one player or another missed. Nowhere near the harsh, outright WARS that they held on the tabletop.

Brahe took a sip of his water bottle, swallowing before asking, "Who taught you?"

Gabriel turned his attention away from the games currently in motion. "Huh?"

"Who taught you?"

"To what?"

"Breathe" was the sarcastic response. "Someone had to teach you or that amoeba you call a brain cell wouldn't have enough oxygen to even PRETEND to function."

The black-haired youth scowled, glaring at the brunette. He hated it when Brahe did that the most: talking over his head. "Fuck you."

"Ah, the old standby verbal riposte." The blue-clad player looked so smug that Gabriel's fingers curled into a fist, ready to punch him in the teeth. "But, then again, that`s about as verbose as you get. Isn`t it, Gabe?"

"You shut your fucking mouth or I'm gonna shut it for you. And stop calling me that!"

"Sorry," the other young man said, the smirk on his face showing that he definitely wasn't in the least bit apologetic. "Am I irritating you?"

The smirk on the other's face made Gabriel grind his teeth. "It sounds gay. Like your own little pet name for me." He paused and then sneered. "Is that it, ya damn queer? You made up that little pet name since you secretly want my body?"

Brahe scowled and, surprisingly, left the bleachers. The black-haired young man watched the brunette storm off, clearly pissed. Funny, he normally took the homosexual slurs in stride.

Gabriel watched before shrugging it off, turning his attention back to the other students playing. No skin off his nose. The bastard deserved it.

But no matter what he told himself, it bugged him for the rest of practice.