hermiones: (pot // hyoutei)
Cat ([personal profile] hermiones) wrote2008-12-16 06:54 pm

PoT Fic: "The Square Root of Shishido" (Atobe/Shishido) Part Two.

Title: The Square Root of Shishido
Pairing: Shishido/Atobe
Rating: R
Summary: As they move from Junior to Senior High, Atobe and Shishido struggle to deal with transition - and what it means for their team.
Warnings: Sexual content, rude language, het and slash.

Part One.



They play football in the middle of the day. Ootori and Kabaji in goal, Shishido and Atobe as strikers. Oshitari pretends to be a referee. As the sun beats down on his back, Atobe reflects on how far they've all come. He remembers his first impressions – he didn't think Shishido would get onto the team, he thought Oshitari was all mouth and no trousers. That Hiyoshi was one of his biggest threats and that Ootori was too nice to survive.

The score is soon 3-2. Shishido is a hellish striker – quick, nimble, rough. He takes no prisoners, just like Atobe. He wanted to be on the football team, back in the day. A hard decision for him to join the tennis team instead. Sometimes, Atobe wonders what would have happened had he chosen differently. He feels, not for the first time, very lucky.

“Yuushi,” he yells. “What the fuck are you doing? Back me up.”

“I'd love to,” Oshitari returns. “But I have leg cramp.”

“He doesn't have leg cramp,” Gakuto says.

“I realise that, thank you,” Atobe says. “Yuushi.”

“What,” Oshitari says. “Nobody understands my inner torments.”

Shishido scores another goal.

“You're going to have more than inner torments if you don't back me up,” Atobe snarls.

“It's a just a game,” Oshitari says.

“No,” Shishido and Atobe say, in unison. “No, it fucking isn't.”

In the last minute of play, Jirou sets up a cross that Shishido taps into the net. Ootori stands defeated, hands on hips. Final score: 5-3. Shishido takes Gakuto, Jirou and Hiyoshi in an enormous bear hug, jumping up and down.

“Urgh,” Oshitari says, wringing out his shirt.

“Better get used to it,” Atobe says.




The problem with Shishido is that he has no concept of personal space. Less concept even than Oshitari, which is a commendable feat. After most of the boys have had showers, Atobe decides to have a bath. He's always liked them when time allows – they give him a chance to lie still and not think. He's just getting comfortably blank when Shishido tramples into the bathroom.

“Excuse me,” Atobe says, opening one eye.

“Gonna have a shower,” Shishido says.

“Not in here you're not,” Atobe says. “What's wrong with the other bathroom?”

“Kabaji's in there,” Shishido says. “Shift up.”

“No,” Atobe says, resolutely not shifting. “Go away.”

“I've seen it all before,” Shishido says.

“Go and wait outside,” Atobe says.

“No,” Shishido argues. “I have dirt in my hair. Just shift up, you stupid princess.”

Atobe spreads his arms over the side of the bath, protectively. He starts to smile. “Ohh,” he says. “And we all thought you'd given up your vanity.”

Shishido's face goes vaguely pink. “I am not vain,” he says.

“Tell me the truth and you can shower,” Atobe says.

Shishido narrows his eyes. “Oh, fine,” he says. “I'm vain. I still love my hair. Fucking move already.”

Atobe shifts up, grinning. “All that talk about you having grown up,” he says. “When secretly you're still as worried about your hair as ever. I love it.”

“Pot, kettle,” Shishido says, climbing in around Atobe's feet and turning on the shower. The bath is far too big to overflow, for which Atobe is for once grateful.

“Good point,” Atobe says, leaning back once more. Somehow it's easy to ignore Shishido's legs by his feet and he closes his eyes. There is comfortable silence for a while.

“We're both pretty bad about our hair,” Shishido says, eventually. “I'm glad yours has grown back. You looked like a moron.”

“Thanks,” Atobe says, dryly. He opens his eyes and is confronted, quite suddenly, with Shishido's ass. It's rather nice, is the first thought that, quite disturbingly, comes to mind. He hurriedly closes his eyes again. “Do you ever think about growing yours back?”

“Sometimes,” Shishido says, soaping his head. “It was a bitch to manage, though. I kinda like the extra sleep in the morning.”

“Mm,” Atobe says, definitely not studying Shishido's ass in any way, shape or form.

“Plus people mistook me for a girl,” he continues. “That sucked. I hated going on trains. Stupid perverted men.”

“Now you're the pervert,” Atobe says. “How ironic.”

“That girl dropped her purse!” Shishido splutters. “I was picking it up for her!”

“Quite the gentleman,” Atobe says. “And copping a quick look.”

“I...” Shishido says. “Would obviously never do something like that.”

“Pervert,” Atobe says. There's no heart in it: he likes the way Shishido rubs soap into his skin. He has firm hands, rough, boyish. He pays no attention to what he's doing as he rubs his underarms, his shoulders. Picks one leg up and washes each thigh. Atobe wonders whether it's unusual for him not to quickly jerk himself off – wonders whether it's unusual to be thinking about that.

“You can talk,” Shishido says. “Thought Tezuka was going to have to take out a restraining order against you, you stalker.”

“I am not a stalker,” Atobe says. “And if I were I would choose somebody more worthy of my attention than Tezuka.”

“You sang him a welcome home song,” Shishido says.

“That was not my idea,” Atobe says.

“He thinks you're insane.”

“No, he doesn't.”

“He does,” Shishido says. “If he doesn't, he should. Do you think Seigaku will be the ones to beat next year? Gotta be, I guess.”

“Yep,” Atobe says. “I imagine so. Hard to think of them not being at the top, really. We should be prepared for them. For other teams, too – teams we've not heard of. It feels like a lifetime ago, the last time we got to play new teams.”

“Fudomine,” Shishido says. “That was the last time.”

“Fuck,” Atobe breathes. “Feels like so much longer.”

“It wasn't,” Shishido says, his voice thick.

“Yeah,” Atobe says. He rarely thinks about Fudomine anymore. Shishido's loss had been such a hard one to take. Until then, Atobe had considered Shishido his brightest potential talent – he had wanted to take him under his wing and teach him something about the game. The way Tezuka ultimately trained Echizen. Only Shishido was cocky the way Atobe was cocky and, well. It had been hard to talk to Shishido for some time.

Shishido stands, uneasily. He's finished showering but he doesn't know how to proceed. Atobe has his towels but Shishido hasn't thought to bring in his own. Atobe reopens his eyes and is confronted, not by Shishido's ass, but with the other side. He fights to keep his eyes level with Shishido's face.

“Oh, fuck,” he says. “Sit down. You look like a wet dog.”

“Eh,” Shishido says.

“Seriously,” Atobe says. “I can't look at that anymore, you idiot. Sit the fuck down.”

Shishido sits down. “This is pretty gay,” he says.

Atobe starts to laugh. “Oh, shut up,” he says. “You say I'm a princess?”

“Don't put your feet in my fucking-” Shishido splutters.

“I'm not,” Atobe says.

“Urgh,” Shishido says. “I'm never showering with you again.”

“Fine with me,” Atobe says. In the heat of the bathroom, Shishido's eyes are warm, round, gorgeous. Atobe thinks he hasn't noticed that before. He's not sure how. They sit for a long time in silence, just facing each other. Atobe can't close his eyes, even though Shishido does. Perhaps because Shishido does. He takes it the hard line of his collarbone, the trail of muscle in his shoulders. Shishido's chin is dark. His underarms are dark. His stomach, leading down, is dark. Atobe swallows.

“I never thanked you,” Shishido says. “For getting me back onto the regulars.”

“You did that yourself,” Atobe says. Shishido's throat hitches when he talks about something emotional. It's so fucking erotic Atobe can't stand it.

“You helped,” Shishido says. “He wouldn't have done it if not for you.”

“You deserved it,” Atobe says. “You worked hard and you deserved your spot back.”

“Were you pissed with me?”

“When you lost to Tachibana?”

“Yes,” Shishido says. He opens his eyes and Atobe forces his own back to Shishido's face.

“Furious,” Atobe says. “I felt humiliated. You let me down.”

“Yeah,” Shishido says. “I felt that, too.”

“But you deal well with it,” Atobe says. “You took that feeling and made something good out of it. I struggle to do that. I find losing so hard.”

“You don't lose, that's why,” Shishido says. “I find victory hard to take, because I don't get it enough. We all behave weirdly when we're in unusual situations. Lose more, you'll learn.”

“How do you deal with it?”

“I look in the mirror after the game and I give myself five minutes to get the negative feelings out. Ten if it's really bad. I used thirty after Tachibana. I let myself feel all of the self-loathing and the anger and then when I'm done, I draw a line. And say right, from here on, only positivity. Only moving forwards. You have to let yourself beat yourself up a bit, as long as you know when to stop.”

“I don't know when to stop,” Atobe muses. “Never have.”

“Take up something you'll suck at,” Shishido says. “Ballet or crochet or something. You'll get good in no time.”

“Hah,” Atobe says. “I might take up mountain climbing.”

“Tezuka does that,” Shishido says. “You'll end up dead trying to compete with him. Take up square dancing or something.”

“I can't see me doing square dancing,” Atobe says.

“Heh,” Shishido says, flicking bubbles. “So how do you deal with victory?”

“I don't,” Atobe says. “I just get hungry for more. Depends on the victory. Sometimes, it's like how I imagine sex to be. Sometimes it's that good. Mostly I just – mostly I just look to the next opponent.”

“People call Hyoutei proud,” Shishido says, after a pause. “I don't think we are. I think we have this weird thing with pride. We don't feel it. Just ambition. We can't feel it – we're always one loss away from being chucked off the team.”

“Yeah,” Atobe says. “I agree. I think when we win the Nationals, maybe then.”

“Yeah,” Shishido says. “Maybe then.”

“Ryou,” Atobe says.

“Yeah,” Shishido says.

“Play doubles with me?”

“I don't think you're good enough for me,” Shishido says, impishly. “Sorry.”




“I'm going to teach you how to lose,” Shishido says, a couple of days later. They're nearing the end of their trip and it's all Atobe can do not to gush his plans all over Shishido every second of the day. Shishido seems to be enjoying the extra attention, but the more they talk about it the more Atobe notices the warmth of his eyes and the curl of his lip. He can't afford to notice either of those things.

“Come on,” Gakuto says. “Ryou, you're not that bad.”

Shishido looks at Gakuto, hard. “You're making a joke about me being a bad doubles partner? Seriously?”

Gakuto sticks his tongue out and goes back to his magazine.

“Okay,” Atobe says. “I'm up for that.”

They go out onto land, though Shishido won't tell him his plans. Once there they stand in a small courtyard. There are numerous orange trees, so wearily full of fruit that it litters the ground. Shishido makes Atobe stand at one end and then, once still, he circles him with a strip of fabric.

“You're not going to strip me naked and leave me here, blindfolded,” Atobe says. “I forbid it.”

“That's not a bad idea,” Shishido says. “But no. Stay still.”

Atobe allows himself to be blindfolded, which is more than he would grant most people. Logically, that's suspect, as Shishido is the least trustworthy person on the team, where practical jokes are concerned. Shishido places a long, thin object in his hand. It feels like a strong, sturdy stick. He hears Shishido walking away and fights the edge of panic in his stomach.

“Where are you going?” he says.

“I'm still here,” Shishido says. “I'm about the length of the court away. Stand still. I'm going to throw fruit at you.”

“No,” Atobe says. “I recognise that you've wanted to do this for years but I will not stand for it.”

“God,” Shishido says. “Do you ever shut up?”

“No,” Atobe says. “Not really.”

“Right,” Shishido says. “I'm going to throw fruit and tell you when to swing the stick, so that you hit it. It's about trust. You can either take my advice or get hit with all this hard fruit.”

“Did you do this with Choutarou?” Atobe says.

“Yes,” Shishido says.

“Right,” Atobe says. “I shouldn't have worn this shirt. Do you know how much this shirt cost?”

“I don't care,” Shishido says. “Buy another one. Buy the fucking store. Shut up and get into position. I'm about to chuck an orange at you.”

“That sounds very wrong,” Atobe says, but he assumes a fighting stance.

The first time, Atobe weighs up whether to trust Shishido or not. Without sight, Shishido's voice is amplified. It's rough, hard, passionate. People call Shishido gruff but when he speaks, when he really speaks, his voice is deep with ambition. With stars. When he calls to Atobe to swing the stick, Atobe does, hard. He's rewarded with the smack of contact and, a couple of seconds later, Shishido catching the orange.

“Your reflexes are something else,” Shishido says. “It took me ten tries to hit the damn thing.”

Atobe smiles. There's no need for words. Shishido starts peeling the oranges, all the while watching Atobe. There's complete trust, which is unusual so quickly – it took him a while to trust Ootori. It takes him a while to trust anybody, really. Only Atobe just stands and puts his faith in people and when it gets abused it hurts him right to his very core. Shishido files that information away somewhere in his brain and tosses Atobe an orange.

After a while, it becomes harder for him to catch the fruit than Atobe to hit it and once every so often, he ends up being hit with something mushy. Atobe laughs whenever that happens because Shishido swears, drops the fruit on the ground. And there's something about Atobe laughing that makes Shishido want to stop trying to catch the fruit at all.

Everybody says that Atobe's eyes are his best feature. With them covered up, Shishido feels safe in his consideration of Atobe's mouth. Atobe's collarbone. Atobe's pale, pale throat. Atobe's eyes see everything – everything that Shishido desperately wants to hide. When his eyes are covered, Shishido can think all of the dark, dirty things he never thinks about, except at night. When it's safe. He swallows, hard.

When he tosses Atobe one last fruit and he doesn't call it. He forgets to – concentrating on the way Atobe breathes. The water on his shoulders. Atobe frowns slightly, cocks his head and smashes the stick down without a second thought. It goes spiraling to the ground and Shishido curses, loudly.

“Sorry,” he says. “Sorry, I-”

“No,” Atobe says. “Clever. I liked it. Do it again.”




When Shishido removes the blindfold, Atobe spots immediately that he's the one covered in fruit.

“I didn't teach you how to lose,” Shishido says, mournfully. “You're incapable of losing. I hate you.”

Atobe shrugs, wraps a playful arm around Shishido's shoulders. “You tried,” he says, soothingly. “It's not your fault I'm insanely talented.”

Shishido reaches up and rubs sticky orange segments all over Atobe's face. Atobe stares at him, pulp dripping down his nose.

“I don't believe you did that,” he says.

“How long have you fucking known me?” Shishido says. “Seriously, how can you not-”

Atobe flings orange peel at him.

“Wow,” Shishido says, deadpan. “I really felt that.”

Atobe takes a smashed orange and tears out the flesh, rubbing it all down Shishido's shirt as Shishido tries to flee. He picks up a solid orange and hurls it at Atobe's chest, which prompts Atobe to hurl it right back. They skid around the courtyard, sliding on fruit juice, until Atobe slips on a peel and falls down onto his graceless ass. Shishido, contorted with laughter, can't move.

“If my father could see me now,” Atobe says, shaking his head.

“I can take a picture if you'd like him to see it,” Shishido sniggers.

“No,” Atobe says, trying to be dignified. “That won't be necessary. I wish I'd gone to Russia now. I'm sure people don't behave like this in Russia.”

“More fool them,” Shishido says.

“You are a bastard,” Atobe says.

“Thanks,” Shishido says. He slides down the wall and sits next to Atobe, rubbing squashed fruit out of his hair.

“You just want us to shower together again,” Atobe says, without thinking about it. A strange silence descends over them.

“What's that supposed to mean?” Shishido says. This being what he meant about Atobe's eyes.

“Well,” Atobe says, suddenly panicked. He hadn't mean to give away that much. Shishido is looking at him and if he looks hard enough, he'll see exactly what Atobe means. Atobe can't afford Shishido to know that much. “Obviously, you just like the look of me in the showers. Doesn't everybody?”

“Fuck off,” Shishido says, his tone arctic. “You have no fucking right to say that to me.”

Atobe resists putting a hand on his arm. He doesn't think that it would help. “I didn't mean anything by it,” he says.

“I know everybody fucking fancies you,” Shishido says. “My fucking girlfriends always fancy you. Everybody does. You don't have to rub it in. And you shouldn't assume that your friends do.”

“Ryou,” Atobe says. “I'm sorry. Look, I'm sorry-”

“Yeah, well,” Shishido says. The look in Atobe's eyes is like the sun setting on water. A fan of light over soft, deep grey. Absolutely beautiful. The energy just goes out of him. “S'okay.”

“Right,” Atobe says. They sit in silence until the sun goes down.




“We're going into town,” Oshitari says, later, waking Atobe up from a post-bath sleep and some uncomfortable dreams about Shishido and Shishido's mouth.

“Right,” Atobe says, yawning. “Okay.”

“So go get ready,” Oshitari says. “Chop chop. Places to go, girls to see.”

“No girls on the boat,” Atobe says. He watches Oshitari playing with his hair in the bathroom mirror. “What are you doing in my bathroom?” he says.

“Ryou's in mine,” he says.

“He's covered in pulp,” Atobe says. “That's why.”

Oshitari looks at him in the bathroom mirror.

“Don't ask,” Atobe says.

Oshitari doesn't.

Atobe pads down the hallway to Oshitari's room, intent on sorting things out with Shishido before everybody else notices. When he knocks, nobody answers. He pushes the door open and Shishido sticks his head around from the bathroom. He just has time to wrap a towel around his hips. The clean line of his body, unbroken, is in glimpse for a second. Atobe feels like a plug has been pulled out somewhere in his body and his stomach is vanishing down the drain.

“Sorry,” he says. “Just wanted to clear things up before tonight.”

“I'm sorry,” Shishido says. “I overreacted. I'm an idiot. Sorry.”

“It's okay,” Atobe says. He gets the weirdest sense that Shishido is post-climactic. There's a fuzziness about him and his thighs are trembling. He tries not to notice it.

“Oshitari's got some wine,” Shishido says. “Wine is good.”

“Wine is good,” Atobe says. “Sorry, I'll leave you to it.”

“Okay,” Shishido says, amicably. As Atobe turns to leave, he sees Shishido nudging the floor with his foot. He's kicking Cosmopolitan under Oshitari's bed.

“I can't believe you read that shit,” Atobe says.

“It has a lingerie section,” Shishido argues. “And the quizzes are funny.”

Atobe laughs as he shuts the door. He gets a second down the corridor before it dawns on him. And then, he starts to panic.




“Yuushi,” he says, spinning back into his own room. Luckily, once Oshitari starts fiddling with his hair he doesn't stop again for some time. “Fuck, Yuushi.”

“What, my lovely?” Oshitari says.

“When you did that quiz with me,” he says. “Did you keep track of our answers?”

“Yes,” Oshitari says. “I put a Y by my answers and a K by yours.”

Shit, Yuushi,” Atobe says. “Ryou's been reading the magazine.”

“Ryou reads Cosmopolitan?” Oshitari says. “Surely not.”

Atobe lies down on the bed and looks at him in the mirror. “Yuushi,” he pleads.

“I'm sure he won't read the quizzes,” Oshitari says.

“He says they're funny,” Atobe replies. “Yuushi, he...if he read that, he knows. About my...thing. For people. Who aren't girls.”

Oshitari turns around, leans against the door. “You don't want him to know.”

“Of course I don't fucking want him to know.”

“You don't trust him?”

“It's not that,” Atobe says. “Fuck. Fuck, Yuushi, it's. It's not that.”

“Ah,” Oshitari says. “I see.”

“You see nothing,” Atobe hisses. “Anything seen should not be heard. Got it?”

“Yes,” Oshitari says, turning back to the mirror one last time. He catches Atobe's eyes and then purrs, “Keigo.”

“What,” Atobe says.

“I made the question up,” he says. “It isn't in the magazine. He can't read it.”

Atobe looks at him. Really looks at him. In the mirror, he can see for himself the ways his eyes flash. The way his lip juts out.

He locks Oshitari in his bathroom.

It only occurs to himself afterwards that this is a bad plan, because he can't get to any of his stuff.

But it's worth it, just to have Oshitari locked in a bathroom.




“Where's Yuushi?” Gakuto says, as they disembark.

“He's staying on the boat,” Atobe says. “For pissing me off.”

“Oh,” Gakuto says. “Okay.”

“He's locked in the bathroom,” Shishido says.

“How do you know?” Atobe says.

“I went into your room to find you,” Shishido says. “He asked me to let him out.”

“I'm glad you didn't,” Atobe says.

“What's he done?” Kabaji says.

“Don't ask,” Atobe says.

“Has he got any food in there?” Gakuto muses. “He might starve. He hadn't eaten since 6pm.”

“I'm sure he'll survive by eating his own stupid wit,” Atobe says, and everybody falls silent.

The town is heaving. The lights are dazzling and their reflection on the dark water makes the world look like its dancing. The music is loud and there's a scent of oranges from the courtyards, far stronger at night than during the day. They go from club to club, relishing the relaxed attitude towards ID, towards rules, towards everything. They drink and drink and laugh and know it'll never, ever be like this again.

They end up in a courtyard filled with people and music and life. Atobe is warm and slightly drunk and happy, because he feels as though the night will go on forever. He feels so far removed from Russia, from his parents and the future, that nothing will ever touch him. That his world can be whatever he wants it to be. He dances with girls and with boys and with his friends and everybody is smiling and laughing. Everybody is feeling what he's feeling.

“Let's move here,” he says to Kabaji, who laughs.

“There aren't any tennis courts,” Kabaji says.

“We'll build one,” Atobe says.

“I think I was wrong,” Kabaji says. “About you not being good enough for singles. I don't know anybody better than you. I'm sorry if I sounded pessimistic.”

“You were right,” Atobe says. “Just not in the way you think you were.”

“Okay,” Kabaji says. “You're adorable when you're drunk.”

Atobe whacks him on the arm. Kabaji raises an eyebrow and Atobe, for once, regrets his hastiness. “I don't know how to lose,” he says. “Until I know how to lose, I'll never be good enough. Not to go pro. I think – I think playing doubles is going to make me a better singles player.”

“Okay,” Kabaji says. “I hope you're right. Can you teach Shishido how to win?”

“I don't know,” Atobe says. “All I know is that we're going to fucking win and he'd better get used to it.”

“It's rude to talk about people behind their back,” Shishido says. He's drunk and he has wet lips and mussy hair and he's so indescribably delicious that Atobe forgets how to speak.

“You're rude, period,” Atobe says. “So shut up.”

“I am not,” Shishido says, as Kabaji tactfully moves off. Shishido moves in, his body fluid to the music. They dance but they don't realise they're doing it.

“Yeah, you are,” Atobe says. “You make assumptions and accuse me of all sorts and have big fucking girl strops.”

“You accused me of fancying you, you little shit,” Shishido says.

“And do you?” Atobe says, full of drink and bravado. When he tilts his head the moon hits his eyes. I defy you, stars.

“A bit,” Shishido says, laughing. “Everybody does. You were right. You were fucking-”

Atobe leans in with the crowd bunching around them and the music and the lights and the world at peace – and kisses him hard on the mouth.




Kabaji opens the door to Atobe's bathroom. The keys were, as expected, in the first drawer of Atobe's dresser. Oshitari is sitting reading a magazine about Interior Design.

“Thank fuck,” he says. “I'm starving. Where's Keigo. I'm going to kill him.”

“Down town,” Kabaji says, smiling. “I think Ryou already has.”




After feeding, Oshitari goes out onto the upper deck of the boat. It's nearly morning and he has an eye for a drink and a sunrise. When he pads up, the first thing he sees is Atobe.

“I could throw you overboard,” he says.

“You won't,” Atobe says. He turns around, leaning against the rail. His eyes are dark and difficult to decipher. Oshitari realises that he's upset.

“What's wrong?” he asks.

“I'm drunk,” Atobe says. “I'm in the maudlin stage. Shoot me.”

“No,” Oshitari says. “Though I could. I nearly died of starvation, Keigo. I considered eating your shampoo. It smelt good.”

“That's weird,” Atobe says, turning back around. “I don't understand myself anymore, Yuushi.”

“Why not?”

“I kissed Ryou,” Atobe says, miserably. “Why is my life so troublesome?”

“The square root of Keigo is controversy,” Oshitari says, wrapping his arms around Atobe's waist from behind. Atobe hits his hands but he ignores it. Eventually, Atobe relents. They stand together on the bow of the yacht and Atobe bows his head.

“Listen,” Oshitari says. “Your parents have brought you up in a mould, but it's okay to break that mould. You did when you took up tennis. You will again when you go pro. If it feels right, go with it. It's okay.”

“Hmm,” Atobe says. “You are assuming he kissed me back.”

“Of course he did,” Oshitari says. “Who wouldn't?”

Atobe smiles, pinching Oshitari's forearm.

“Shut up,” he says. “And stop thinking about Titanic. I can hear you doing it.”

“Guilty as charged,” Oshitari says, cheerfully. “Say it.”

“I am not flying,” Atobe says. “Under any circumstances.”

“Spoilsport,” Oshitari says.




Shishido pads into Ootori's room and sits on the bed.

“I'm trying to sleep,” Ootori mumbles. “No crises until morning.”

“I kissed Keigo,” Shishido slurs.

“Oh, shit,” Ootori says, burrowing his head under the blanket. “Why did you do that?”

“He looked good,” Shishido says, miserably.

“Are you off the team, then, or did he respond amicably to this...invasion of personal space?”

“I dunno,” Shishido says. “Use smaller words.”

“Did he respond?”

“Smaller.”

“Did he kiss you too?”

“I think so,” Shishido says. “I should know, right.”

“Yes, it might help,” Ootori says. “What is it with you and situations like this? I've never met anybody like this.”

“I could tell you it's a dream and let you go back to sleep.”

“No,” Ootori says. “I'm awake, now. The images are burned horribly into my brain.”

Shishido grins and rubs the back of his neck. “Sorry,” he says.

“Look,” Ootori says. “I've held your hand through three girlfriends. Time to fly the nest. He seems like a better catch than all of your exes combined and...well, he probably fancies himself as much as they did, but if it makes you happy, go for it. I'm down with it.”

“He looks like a girl, anyway,” Shishido says, happily.

“I wouldn't repeat that to him,” Ootori says, collapsing back into bed.

“Thanks, Choutarou,” Shishido says.

“What for?”

“Being my ever-weary agony something. Uncle? No, that's weird. My person. To talk to. If you ever have any problems-”

“I wouldn't ask you,” Ootori says, smiling.

“You can talk to me about anything,” Shishido says, loftily. “And I shall strive to help you.”

“I gave my girlfriend her first orgasm and now she's become a nymphomaniac,” Ootori says, pleasantly. “Want to advise me on that? With your vast experience?”

Shishido stares at him, his jaw dropping open. “Uhhh,” he says. “Um. I'll go...find Oshitari.”




Shishido climbs up onto the deck and Oshitari turns around.

“Aha,” he says, to Atobe. “Your third class boy is here.”

“Oi,” Shishido says. “Fuck off. You're Billy Zane, you are.”

“I am not,” Oshitari says.

“Also,” Atobe says. “That means you paid attention during Titanic.”

“I did not,” Shishido says. “Anyway. Yuushi, Choutarou needs you. He's having a crisis. His girlfriend wants sex too much.”

Oshitari seems to visibly go blank. “This is a crisis?” he says.

Shishido shrugs. “He needs your opinion,” he says.

“I go where I am needed,” Oshitari says. He squeezes Atobe. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Atobe says. “Thank you. Please go attend to your next patient.”




Shishido steps forward, his hands in his pockets. He looks suitably sheepish. His mouth is red where Atobe kissed it, over and over and over.

“Hi,” he says.

Atobe turns to him. “Hi,” he says. A little suggestive. Shishido catches it, and grins.

“So,” he says. “I just wanted to ask you, because I didn't want to assume, or anything – are you up for, er. Y'know. Stuff.”

“Absolutely,” Atobe says. “I love stuff.”

“Good,” Shishido says. “Me too.”

When he kisses Atobe, Atobe feels the first touch of the rising sun on his face. It's trite and silly and absolutely nothing he should put faith in as a teenage boy – but as he wraps his arms around Shishido's neck, he's smiling.




Atobe's parents have postponed Russia. When he returns to Japan, they leave almost immediately, meaning that his intentions of weeks of playing doubles with Shishido are scuppered. He leaves him with a strict training plan and Shishido promises him that he'll think up some new ideas by the time Atobe gets back.

Then, as a goodbye present, Shishido puts his hand down Atobe's pants. He has rough hands, unusual – and Atobe finds himself responding to them far faster than ideally he would like. Far faster than is good for Shishido's ego.




The day after he returns is results day. Oshitari has prepared a party at home in Osaka for everybody and Atobe, having been the dutiful son all over St. Petersburg, is approved to attend. He waits by his 'cell for news of the team's results. Oshitari's come first – he's almost tied with Atobe, no surprises there. He waits all morning but Shishido doesn't contact him.

He considers sending Shishido a friendly message but Shishido will see straight through it. Atobe wants Shishido to succeed for so many reasons he can't keep up – because he wants his faith in Shishido to be rewarded, because he wants to graduate with him and play tennis with him for the next few years, because – simply because he wants Shishido to do his best. Because he wants to see Shishido at his best. The best he knows is there.

Has anybody heard from Ryou? Gakuto e-mails, around late afternoon. I'm worried he's failed everything and has killed himself.

Somewhere in his heart, Atobe knows he hasn't. Can't have done. Can't have done, can't have done, can't have done.

Hey, Ryou e-mails, much later on. Passed everything. Just. Nearly failed literature. No surprises there.

How'd you do in History? Atobe e-mails back. Trust Shishido only to update him with the bad news. Bet you beat me.

91, Shishido texts back.

Fuck, Atobe says. You did beat me.




Oshitari's party is a roaring success. Atobe always loves being back in Osaka – the laidback atmosphere and the food. And Oshitari's family, so warm and so full of life. So different from his own upbringing. Shishido takes pride of place in the celebration, at Atobe's bidding, and he looks happy with it. Confident, finally. Like he's been taught something of winning and something of pride. And when Atobe looks at him smiling, he realises that Oshitari was right, after all.

Feeling pride and allowing others to be proud of you are different things.

As the music starts and the food goes on, Atobe drags Shishido into the nearest empty bedroom.

“I wanted to get you alone and say congratulations,” Atobe says.

“Oh yeah?” Shishido says. “On your knees, then.”

He's joking, but one lesson Shishido has never learnt is not to bluff Atobe Keigo. With a stunning smile, Atobe slides to his knees. He gently, almost timidly, loosens Shishido's belt. By the time Shishido realises that Atobe isn't kidding, Atobe's mouth is cupping the head of his cock. Shishido's eyes lid, gently, and he huffs out breath. He doesn't know how to respond. Atobe thinks a part of him is waiting for the punchline.

“Say please,” Atobe says.

“Please,” Shishido grunts.

When Atobe slides his head down, awkward and uncomfortable, it's worth it for the sound Shishido makes in his throat. Like a whip cracking. Like a racket smashing a tennis ball. Like the world ending. Atobe isn't sure what to do so he just goes with it – he just holds his mouth tight and bobs his head until Shishido's mouth is slack and his hands are tight in Atobe's hair. Until the moans he's making are torn and desperate. Until he can feel Shishido tugging – if that isn't the hottest thing in the world, nothing is. He moans around him, hard and needy and wanting, and slides a hand over the front of his trousers. Not caring that he won't be able to face Oshitari's family if he comes in his expensive suit trousers – he continues to suck until Shishido makes a tight, hoarse noise and shudders.

Atobe swallows, hard, three times, and doesn't even really need his hand. The darkness of the room falls around him and he can feel Shishido's knees weak against his shoulders.

Fuck,” Shishido says. He's patting Atobe's head, so Atobe limply swats him.

Fuck,” he says again.

Atobe rolls back on his heels and collapses to the floor. Sticky and uncomfortable but his body is tingling with pleasure. He lands on something soft and silky and it occurs to him that this must be Oshitari's sister's room.

“Is there anything you can't do?” Shishido says, collapsing onto the floor against him.

“Pick a good room for this sort of thing,” Atobe says, lazily. “This is Rina's room.”

Shishido lies still for a moment, until Atobe can hear him grinning.

“You're sick,” Atobe says.

“You love it,” Shishido says.




The try-outs are the scariest thing Atobe's ever done. Everything is new and he has no reputation and no data to go on. No knowledge. Even with his former team around him, the horde of new players and regulars makes him want to bolt.

Shishido trots up behind him. “It's gonna be fine,” he says.

“We never decided,” Atobe says.

“Decided what?” Shishido says. “We decided everything. Don't make me show you the plans again. Please, no.”

“Shut up,” Atobe says. “Not that. What the square root of Shishido is.”

“Oh,” Shishido says. “Huh.”

“The square root of Yuushi is loneliness. The square root of Keigo is controversy. Yuushi said he thought your square root was temper.”

Shishido chuckles. “Nah,” he says. “Not temper.”

“So what's your square root?” Atobe says.

“Honesty,” Shishido says. “And doing that thing that makes you-”

“Alright,” Atobe says. “Alright, yes. Point taken.”

“Let's go make the team,” Shishido says.

“Let's go make the team,” Atobe agrees.



Epilogue



Atobe has spent the entirety of his 22 year old life breaking rules. As a child, he used to break into his father's study, simply because he knew he wasn't allowed to. At 8 years old, he picked tennis because it wasn't polo or chess. As a teenager, he picked Hyoutei simply because it was his father's second choice. As a young adult, his sexuality veered in a surprising direction. He likes to think he didn't control that one – but it does seem to neatly fit his personality.

The biggest unwritten rule for sportsmen of his calibre is not to have sex the night before the big event. Nobody admits to doing it – plenty do, Atobe thinks, but nobody will admit to it. It isn't very Japanese but sometimes, he thinks if somebody asked, he would. His entire life based on the destruction of boundaries.

He tilts his head back and Shishido bites his way up it from collarbone to chin. His hand is behind Atobe's head, in the nape of his neck. He's gasping little pieces of dirty flattery all over Atobe's earlobe. He kisses as though Atobe's off to war, not participating in a tennis tournament. He kisses as though he's never going to see Atobe again. His hands wring feeling from Atobe's body. His body wrings music from Atobe's mouth.

“Fuck,” he groans. “Oh, fuck, yes-”

He never has to ask, harder. Never.

Shishido's shoulders are hard, tough. Atobe wraps his hands around them as tightly as his legs are wrapped around Shishido's waist. He breaks the rules, pushing his hips up, demanding and demanding and demanding with every thrust that Shishido concede to him. He likes to think that when his hips are in the air and Shishido can't push past them, he's at his deepest. They meet in the middle.

Atobe still doesn't know how to lose. He doesn't know how to expect loss. He only knows how to process it. It's a start and they have a lifetime to go.

Just before he comes, Shishido hauls him into his lap. He hates it, because Shishido likes to have the last fucking laugh and because it makes him feel like a rag doll. He loves it, because nothing is so sexy to him as Shishido being able to drag him over the edge. He loves the concession. He loves that it makes Shishido grunt with final, hard exertion. He loves the look on his face, the way Shishido sucks red the skin where his neck meets his shoulder.

Shishido knows how to win. Knows how to expect victory and to demand nothing less. Atobe would like to think that he taught him that – but Shishido got there all by himself.

They sit like this for minutes afterwards. Atobe can feel Shishido's thighs trembling.

“Are you scared?About the tournament.”

“Yes,” Atobe says, honestly.

“You're gonna nail it,” Shishido says. “You always have and you always will.”



Atobe throws the ball into the air. His first match, his first time at the US Open. And when he meets Shishido's eyes in the crowd, he feels completely calm.

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