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29 September 2010 @ 11:59 pm
FicAlert! PoT> Turbulence (Silver Pair) NC-17 Pt1  
Title: Turbulence
Writer: Everlind
Wordcount: 11 906
Pairing: Ohtori/Shishido (Silver Pair)
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Shishido being a bastard, a very angry Ohtori, foul language, Marui Bunta and cakes, Oshitari Yuushi and alcohol. That last rather warrants a warning all by itself. Oh! And rough sex.
Summary: The strength of a relationship is not measured by how little you fight, but by how you get through one. Even bad ones.
Disclaimer: The Prince of Tennis belongs to Konomi Takeshi. This story is based on characters and the universe of The Prince of Tennis, no money is being made from it.
Author's Notes: The long-promised honey-moon smut for my wife namae_nashi.
Also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHISHIDO!!!


*Special:* Number 070 'Storm' for the Big Table of Doom



PLEASE VISIT SHISHIDO'S BIRTHDAY FEST AT tori_shishi!!!




Turbulence


WHAM

It feels a bit too good to slam the door shut behind him as they arrive home. A welcome crack in the stillness, which has been freezing into a gelatin like substance between them during the drive home. They'd known it and held it back as well as they could, even him, though everybody knows that he and anger are an explosive mix. So it's not really a surprise that he blows up the way he does, even before he can kick his shoes off.

"I can't believe you did that!"

He really can't. It's a shock that skewers through the center of him, heart thrumming and cold sweat bathing his neck and palms.

Fuck.

Fuck it.

"I'm sorry!" Choutarou goes for what must be the hundred time already and turns to face him from where he's standing in the middle of the living room. "I just… I missed you. I didn't really mean to-"

"To what?" Shishido exclaims, throwing his hands up. "Kiss me? Your face just happened to slip and land on mine in front of my colleagues? Dammit, Choutarou have you any idea-"

"I do." Choutarou responds. All calm and sincere.

God. Shishido hates that. Hates it. Hates that he stays calm and rational, mature, and makes him feel like obstinate child. But dammit, he's got every shred of right to be upset about this. Every right.

"Oh, that's just fucking great!" Shishido half trips out of his canvas shoes, angrily kicking at them to get them off. The fact that he's too enraged to undo the laces makes getting them off twice as hard and, in turn, makes him twice as viciously frustrated. "Just great. So it was an accident, was it, a fucking really stupid ac-"

"It was not an accident!" Choutarou goes on an exasperated exhale. "I just- it was careless of me. But, be rational, it's a normal gesture. You were gone for a week and-"

"I AM rational!" Shishido screams. "Don't you- Alright. Fine. You were careless. That's freakin' dandy, all forgotten and forgiven, sure, no prob. But what the fuck are we gonna do if I get sacked? Huh?!"

That, at least, makes a nice dent in Choutarou's tranquil surface. He inhales, holds it, looking stricken. "They. They wouldn't-"

"They fucking would!" Shishido hisses. "And you know it. True, we're in Tokyo, not some provincial village. Sure, there's this homosexual fad going on. They're even trying to promote tolerance for same-sex relationships. How sweet. Truth? I'm a goddamn teacher! I sure as hell am pretty fucking sure that my students' parents, not to even mention the committee, won't be happy to hear that their History professor is shacking up with another guy."

That last he flings out with a hoarse yell as he slams down a fist on the dining table. It hurts like hell and that pisses him off even more.

In the stricken silence he can hear Choutarou swallow, thickly. His breathing shivers a little and comes out in quick bursts. "I'm sorry. Maybe it isn't as bad as you think it is. Maybe-"

"Maybe is not good enough!" Shishido yells, not a little desperately. "You, of all people, should know how I had to work my fucking ass off to get this job! I mean, I'm a professor at a fairly well-known university. I get quite a lot referential to some of my work. If I get sacked for being gay, you can sure as hell count on it that I won't be hired to teach kids -amongst which, have I mentioned, are boys- in any other damn school. It will have been for nothing!"

Again, there's silence. Shishido only vaguely wonders if he really should keep ripping strips from Choutarou until he's got him well and truly on his knees. The larger part of him is mostly scared. The silence after Choutarou's little, but quite obviously not-platonic kiss had been one of severe consternation. It just doesn't work like it does on TV. There's no female colleagues cooing about how cute a couple they make, nor even the ridiculous amount of male colleagues suddenly finding themselves attracted and intrigued as inevitably seems to happen in such a series.

"Ryou-"

"How could you be so careless?" Shishido asks, hating how his voice goes almost high-pitched on the vowels, like an ill-mannered adolescent throwing a tantrum. "I worked so damn hard for this. I mean, I had to leave everything behind to go to England-"

"Don't bring England into this," Choutarou suddenly warns. He looks tired and upset in the dreary gray light that comes through the window. "Don't. Because I can turn it around and say you left me behind. I know you didn't. So leave it. England has nothing to do with this."

"It fucking does!" Shishido snarls. "I didn't get lucky. I had to work to-"

"What? And I haven't had to?" Choutarou points out. His eyes flash and the muscles in his forearms are corded with tension. "Please, don't drag unnecessary arguments into this. I don't-"

"I will drag anything I like into this, Ohtori!" he counters, slamming his hand onto the table again. It rattles under the impact. "Dammit, it is your fault that we're having this-"

Quite unexpectedly, Choutarou raises his voice and yells: "I'M SORRY I LOVE YOU, ALRIGHT!"

Shishido blinks.

"Is that what you want to hear?" Choutarou continues, voice low and rough. Anger makes it unsteady, like there's grit caught on his vocal cords. "What do you want from me besides an apology? I am. I just don't know what to-"

If Choutarou had left it at that very first outburst, it would've ended there. But the rest of his angry tirade simply fires his own rage into one twice as consuming.

Instead Shishido screams in what he knows is an unsightly, spit-flying sort of way: "YOU DON'T. You fucking don't GET it. Fuck this I. Fuck. I'm outta here."

He has to. Otherwise he'll do even worse than this. He can't take Choutarou and his heartfelt apology as he stands over the quite likely ruin of his career. Or, at that, the little 'career' he had. Just a teacher.

Fuck.

As he's stuffing a rucksack full with random clothes and things he thinks he'll need, Shishido notices two of his knuckles are cracked and bleeding. Likely from the generous abuse he lavished on the table. Somehow the knowledge that under any other circumstances -any at all- Choutarou would have been there to take of the injury, holding his hand between his own two larger ones, adds a rather white-hot edge to his anger. His hands shake and his jaw aches from clenching his teeth.

Fuck.

He doesn't think he's ever been this angry.

As last he storms into the bathroom to collect his toothbrush, and then out of it again towards the door. Instead of shouldering Choutarou -who stands where he left him, tall and frozen up- aside, he circles the long way around the table, not able to bear the idea of touching each other. Because that would be bad. He doesn't know why or how, just that it would be so damn bad and he wants to hang onto this adrenaline-rush of anger.

He tries to jam his feet back into the shoes he just trampled off.

"Where are you going?" Choutarou asks.

He sounds distant, cold, as he always does when he gets angry. Yet Shishido knows very well that one look over his shoulder would be enough to see fiery anger equal to his behind those eyes. He doesn't. There's another something else there in that familiar voice that he doesn't want to have to look at at.

"Away," he grits out instead.

He grabs his keys out of the bowl, his helmet, and yanks open the door so violently he loses his grip on it. It crashes into the wall with such a bang that he's pretty sure he just put a hole in the plaster. He scrabbles to get a proper hold on it again.

"Ryou-"

And on that, he slams it shut.

***

It is a bad idea to get on his motorcycle when he's angry. Not even to mention when it rains the way it does.

And he proves himself right when he nearly kills himself.

The fact that he's not in fault isn't the point. The point is that he should've been more alert and have noticed some asshole not abiding to the rule of the road and giving up left-handed priority to him.

At the last possible moment he violently swerves, almost crashes right through the road barrier into a ditch. As it is, he can brake and turn yet again, coming to a stand-still at a full one-eighty as to how he started out.

His heart is hammering so hard it is about to batter a way through his ribs to flop into a puddle on the road. Shishido tears off his helmet, pants for air in great bursts. Rain flattens his hair to his skull in mere moments. He's wet trough, having forgotten to grab even so much as a jacket when he stormed out, leaving-

Leaving.

Fuck.

Shishido crosses his arms over the dashboard, leans his forehead on them. He feels ill. Rain patters on the back of his neck, drips down his face.

"Sir, are you alright?" someone asks.

Rain stings at his eyes as he peers up. A young woman who saw the near-miss happen got out to check on him. Behind her there's an orange halo of her car's headlights. A little girl presses her nose flat against the window to see what her mommy is doing.

For an instant he's on the verge of opening his mouth to scream at her to fuck the hell off, yet instead he chokes up and manages a hoarse:

"I'm fine. Thank you."

A bigger, fatter lie has never been told.

***

"Oh no."

Shishido scowls.

Marui Bunta grimaces. "If I close the door and count to ten, will you leave?" he asks, without much hope.

Shishido scowls some more.

"Right," Marui sighs and swings the door wider. "Didn't think so. JIROH! There's a drowned rat on our doorstep for you," he hollers, before shaking his head one last time and shuffling off into the apartment.

Shishido steps inside, makes a puddle in the genkan. Everything is sodden through. The contents of his rucksack probably, too. He shivers, wipes wetness of cheeks and lips. Shivers some more.

"Who is-" Jiroh stops in his tracks. Gapes. "What happened?"

"Rain," Shishido deadpans. "Can I crash here for a few nights?"

There's a loud groan from the kitchen. Marui doesn't like him. That's quite alright: Shishido doesn't like Marui either.

"Ryou… are you crying?" Jiroh breathes. He says it as though the mere vocalizing of the notion might cause a rip in the time-space continuum.

"What? No. I told you, it is pouring buckets outside." He rakes fingers through his hair, sprinkles rain everywhere. "Look. Can I stay or not? Otherwise I'll go and-"

"No, it's fine," Jiroh says quickly, reaching to grab his shoulder. "Come on in."

A small hour later he's dressed in warm clothes from Jiroh (he was right, everything was soaked. It's a small miracle his mobile phone survived, not to mention his laptop) and is leaning against the kitchen counter while Marui unenthusiastically warms up hot cocoa for him.

The kitchen always smells divine here. Marui owns a bakery, one that specializes in pastries and cakes, but it seems that having to whip up delicacies all day long doesn't dampen the urge to just go on baking when he's home. There's batter for cakes resting in the oven, there's cakes under a glass dome on the kitchen table, cookies and homemade jellies in glass jars lined up on the shelves and Shishido glimpsed eclairs in the fridge a moment ago.

Jiroh's lucky that he's got such an overdrive metabolism, otherwise he'd be as squishy as Marui is starting to be.

As it is, he tucks into the mug Marui gives him (piled high with little marshmallows) with obvious relish. Shishido notes that his own mug has only one pock-marked white lump bobbing on the surface.

Ass.

At least their own dog likes Shishido better than it does Marui: Sushi (and doesn't it figure that Marui Bunta would name his golden retriever after food?) has her big furry butt planted on his feet, giving him a soulful look of utter doggy worship. He fondles her ear, smiles a little against the rim of his mug.

Dogs always like him.

Unlike cats.

Shishido firmly does not think of Pancake and he certainly does not think of Choutarou alone with the ill-tempered beast. He doesn't. He stops smiling, puts down his mug. The smell of the cocoa turns his stomach, for some reason. Marui possibly spit in it.

"So," Marui says in a snide little voice. "What did you do now?"

"Bunta."

"What?" Marui says, arching his left brow at Jiroh. "If I'm putting up with him, I'd like to know why."

"It's none of your business," Shishido says, as calm and collected as he can. See, he can do this without starting to scream. He can.

"If you're kipping here you're making it my-"

"Fine! I'll go," Shishido growls, pushing away with a grunt from the counter. "You probably spit in the cocoa, too."

"What? I did not-"

Jiroh takes his hand just as he's about to stomp out of the kitchen, hauls him back with surprising strength. "Don't go. You don't have to explain. Right, Bunta?" he looks over his shoulder with a 'you-had-better-agree-or-else' tilt to his eyebrow.

Marui mutters something along the lines of "-as if I would spit in perfectly good cocoa. Sacrilege. Got his head screwed on wrong, that's what-" as he adds more marshmallows to Shishido's untouched mug and drinks it himself.

"Right," Jiroh sighs, pats Shishido's shoulder soothingly not unlike he'd pet Sushi into obedient calmness when she's worked up over the neighbor's cat parading along the windowsill. "Just behave. Both of you," he adds, rather pointedly as Marui promptly opens his gob.

"I always behave," Shishido mutters under his breath.

Jiroh -all big brown eyes and blond curls, once the mascot of the team and the pet of the fangirls- snorts and none too subtle at that. "Sure. That's why you're here, right?" he says, with such a cold little smile that butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.

And what can he say to that?

Nothing.

***

That night dosses on the couch.

With Sushi the dog.

For that, at least, he is grateful. To, you know, have something to… er. Yeah, well. Cuddle.

How is it that he forgot that he can't sleep without… without Choutarou? Like that week he went on vacation with his parents and Shishido spend every single night of it roaming around the house like a mourning ghost, unable to sleep though he knew Choutarou would be back. Not even, now that he thinks about it, the week he just spend during the school outing. It wasn't the beds as he'd thought. It wasn't his students' loud, bawdy laughter. It wasn't his colleague's loud snores. No. It was the lack of a certain someone in bed with him.

Yeah.

Seems like coming nights are going to be one big heap of insomnia all around, yet again. Joy.

Shishido shifts, wraps an arm around Sushi's considerable belly. No doubt Marui over-over-over-feeds her as much as he does himself. So, yeah, he's spooning with a dog, which is quite likely a whole previously undiscovered degree of lameness, but he can't help himself.

He's miserable.

Now, in the early hours of morning, all alone in a house that isn't his own, bunking on the couch with a dog, he can admit that he might've overreacted.

A little.

Because, really, this time it isn't his fault.

It's not.

Really.

Choutarou was the one who kissed him.

Fuck.

Shishido buries his face in the dog's thick pelt. How fucked up is it that the person he's been together with for seven years is not allowed to kiss him in public? Huh? Pretty damn fucked up, if you ask him.

But that's just how it is.

Not one particle of him is ashamed of their relationship, if he could, he'd let everybody know. But they can't. This one little misstep can't only be fatal for his job, but also for Choutarou's. Sure, maybe it isn't that bad. Yet if it is, they are both screwed over big time.

I'M SORRY I LOVE YOU, ALRIGHT!

Shishido closes his eyes.

Dear, holy, motherfucking son of a bitch.

It's the first time he's ever heard Choutarou say that.

Shit.

***

As predicted, he doesn't sleep at all. His back aches and his neck has a crick, instead. Sleeping on the couch is not as easy as it sounds. Especially with an overweight golden retriever as bunkmate.

So at six he gives up. It's a Saturday. The apartment is still. Only Jiroh's soft snores waft through the crack of the open bedroom door. Marui went to bed early yesterday and got up at such an atrocious hour Shishido doesn't even want to think about it. The life of a baker.

Instead he's the one to put on coffee and tea, to rifle in the cupboards. The batter in the oven turns out to be croissants. There's even instructions magneted to the fridge for how long they have to sit in the oven and at which temperature. Shishido puts the oven on before sitting down with coffee so strong it might just burn a hole through his stomach. His mobile phone lies next to the mug.

Before flipping it open, he already knows that there won't be any messages for him. If there had been, he'd have heard it. In some sick, needy way he'd been hoping for it, straining to hear for it so badly his ears itched with it. He flips it open.

No messages.

Dropping the phone to the table, Shishido sighs, cards hands through his hair.

He doesn't know whether to be sad or relieved. Because no messages means nothing from Choutarou, but nothing from his co-workers either.

Jiroh wakes up -all by himself- just in time for the croissants to come out of the oven. He's wearing a t-shirt and boxers and is as scrawny as he was in school. His curls look like a magpie's nest. They turn to buttery golden in the early light.

It is not until they are seated, ready to tuck in, that Jiroh says anything more than 'good morning' to him.

Shishido finds out he's ravenous. Last evening he simply forgot to eat and he hasn't had a decent meal since yesterday's breakfast. And a lot can be said of Marui, but his croissants look delicious.

Just as he's about to bite down in one of them, Jiroh says: "So what happened."

Shishido finds he's not quite as hungry as he thought he was. Probably the Marui-vibes the croissant radiates are putting him off his appetite. He puts it down, sighs. "I'd rather not talk about it."

"Ryou," Jiroh says, softly and delicately. "You realize that you have this, ahem, tendency to overreact-"

"I do NOT fucking overre-"

"The noodle incident," Jiroh says.

"That was entirely your own fault!"

"The one time where you locked your brother in the work shed and left him there for nearly two whole days and your parents were frantic and called the police and-"

"He broke my lightsaber! The red one, too, the bastard."

"Or that time where you punched that kid in the playground and knocked out one of his teeth?"

"He called me a girl! And that tooth was loose anyway."

"Not to mention that time where you got so upset that the teacher didn't like your painting and you knocked back a glass of white spirit and you had to be rushed to the hospital to get your stomach pumped?"

"That- that was an accident! I thought it was water!"

"OH! Or that time where you got dropped off the regular's team and spend two whole weeks letting yourself be hit by tennis balls by some kid who has an impossibly fast serve?"

There's a silence. Shishido feels as though Jiroh just cheerfully hit him in the kidneys with a crowbar.

"Well?" Jiroh presses.

And then, slowly and with a lot of barbed pauses between his sentences, Shishido tells him what happened. It feels a bit like vomiting. The words seem gross and chunky and acid on his tongue, get stuck between his teeth, before spewing out onto the table between the two of them in all their disgusting glory. Most of all they leave a bad, baaaad aftertaste.

Jiroh seems to agree. His eyes are wide and he looks rather aghast. "You idiot," is his succinct opinion on the manner. "You damn idiot."

Shishido is kinda starting to agree.

***

Because he can't stand the way Jiroh looks at him for the rest of that morning, he packs his bags and makes sure he's gone by noon. He'll go coach his kids and after he comes back from three hours of instructing tennis he'll try Gakuto's. As he thanks Jiroh for his hospitality, Shishido puts on his shoes, ready to go.

"Ryou," Jiroh says, before he can close the door.

"Hm?"

"Crawl."

"Huh? What, now?"

Jiroh pulls at his curls, rolls his eyes. "You know I love you like a brother right?"

"Uuh-"

"No, don't answer that, stupid stuff will come out of your mouth, I just know it. Anyway, I do. Honest. But you're the biggest, thickest, stupidest idiot ever."

Then the door swings shut, barely a handspan from Shishido's nose, with a snobby little click.

To no one in particular, Shishido goes "Huh?" again.

Nobody in the empty hallway answers.

***

"I'm not sure I wanna let you in," Gakuto says, firmly inserting his wiry body in the small slit of the open door. "Jiroh says you are a stupid-head."

"Great," Shishido says, gesturing with his helmet to the world at large. "Good to know you two are gossiping behind my back! Who else knows? Atobe?"

Gakuto purses his lips.

"You didn't," Shishido growls.

"Not yet," Gakuto says. "But I might."

"Look, can I come in or not?" Shishido demands, more than a little tired of the whole situation. Maybe he should just go home and-

"Ryou!" Oshitari exclaims delightedly. A little too delightedly. He forces the door wider, despite Gakuto hanging onto it. "At last, one step closer to my ultimate fantasy!" He rubs his hands. Leers.

Shishido looks at Gakuto again. "I'm not sure I wanna come in anymore," he says.

"Nonsense!" Oshitari says and grabs the front of his shirt to haul him inside. "There, isn't that better? You can sleep on the couch."

The sight of the couch brings back unpleasant memories of chocolate body paint.

"Uhm," he goes, starting to plant his heels into the carpet. He wonders why he ever thought that coming here was even a remotely good idea. Clearly, one resorts to this as last haven when the only other option left is Atobe (horror of horrors).

"And you can cook. Right?" Oshitari simply goes on, still patting his shoulder. "Since we are letting you intrude on our privacy, disrupting our plans, all that sort of annoyance. I had contrived to try out that new banana flavored body paint. Which, now that I think of it, came with a matching-"

"Alright, I'll cook!" Shishido interjects, fearing what it is that might match something as unholy as banana flavored body paint. He has no intention of finding out, ever.

"Splendid!" Oshitari says, clapping his hands, before reverting to his habitual bland little smile.

Clutching at his chest, Shishido tries to overcome the sudden urge of tucking tail and getting the hell of of there. "How the fuck do you put up with him?" he asks of Gakuto.

Gakuto clucks his tongue. "The same way in which Choutarou puts up with you, I imagine. No! Shut up, Ryou, I don't wanna hear it. If you keep your trap shut I'll get out the futon. Chocolate body paint-free."

Shishido arches an eyebrow.

"Or any other substances," Gakuto adds, with an eye-roll.

Shishido relaxes. Just a bit.

In this household, it's always one big heap of mindfuckery.

Better not let his guard down.

***

It's not so bad.

That is, as long as he ignores Oshitari hovering in the kitchen, peering along over his shoulder as he whips up some nikujaga. It's all he can make as their fridge only seems to contain take-away leftovers. Most of which he doesn't think are suitable for consummation by living organisms. At least, not anymore.

It's kinda sad to see how happy Oshitari is at the prospect of a real meal.

"It's a small miracle neither of you starves," he points out and whacks Oshitari's knuckles with his wooden spoon when the latter sneaks a slice of chopped carrot.

"Ouch!" Oshitari goes, but pops the pilfered carrot into his mouth anyway. "Well, I never understood how you of all people got to be so good."

"Clearly, I am a natural talent," Shishido mumbles as he pours some sweet sake into the pan.

Reality is much less awesome, though. Basically his mother browbeat aniki and him into learning it. Both of them had to try and cook a meal about two times a week under her stern supervision as soon as they turned fourteen. They sucked at it at first, but being both boys and loving food a whole fucking lot meant that having to eat a crappy meal just didn't cut it. So after a while, they got better at it purely for their own sakes. Then he had to provide for himself in England and as he wasn't able to stomach the food over there every single day of the week -breakfast, lunch, dinner- he went on with experimenting.

Plus, he loves food. The eating of it especially.

It's actually kinda great to be able to eat good tasting things whenever he wants. Despite having to make them himself.

And, of course, girly as it might sound, to see Choutarou enjoying his cooking is a new sort of (and the best kind of) reward all on its own.

"Goddammit," Shishido mutters and closes his eyes. Against the sting of the evaporating alcohol, of course.

***

Now that it is lodged into his mind, he can't get the image of Choutarou -alone- at the dinner table in their house out of his head again. He can cook alright, good enough to feed himself at least. Still. Knowing that he's there all by himself with just a cat for company, well, it makes him feel bad for sitting at the table with two of their ex-teams mates, exchanging playful banter.

Or, rather, listening to them exchange playful banter.

Shishido just sits and pokes at his food. He had the niggling suspicion that the beef had been living in the fridge for quite some time now (he basically had to excavate into a deep crust of ice to unearth the packet) and it's turning him off his appetite. Judging by how Gakuto and Oshitari devour it like two starved hyenas there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it, but Shishido can't bring himself to lift his chopsticks to his mouth to try for himself.

On top of that he's been thinking: what if Choutarou isn't alone? What if he went to his parents, to tell them, yes, they were right, Shishido is not a person someone would spend the rest of their lives with. He's simply not good enough and unreasonable and other bad stuff.

And that in turn makes him want to kick himself, because he knows that thinking like that is bullshit. He knows that what they have is something that only a few people on the whole wide world have the sheer luck to experience. He knows that, but he can't help thinking and worrying. Stuff like: what if he calls his father to complain about me? or what if he runs into an ex-girlfriend at the conbini? or what if he can't forgive me?

After which he always reminds himself: I'm in the right now (for once). I'm the one to do the forgiving (but why does it feel like the other way around? Why?).

"-RYOU!" Mukahi stabs him with the butt of his chopstick.

Shishido jumps about a mile, and squeezes the chunk of potato he'd been pinching between his chopsticks so hard it falls apart into two. It lands with a splatter in the broth of his dish.

"What?" Shishido demands. "What the fuck did you do that for?"

"I've called your name about six times, but you were far of in lala-land, or wherever," Gakuto says. "And also: are you gonna finish that?"

Shishido looks at his now as good as cold food. He pushes the plate towards Gakuto. "Nah, knock yourself out."

Meanwhile Oshitari manages to look both indignant that Gakuto is running off with the rest of the nikujaga and somehow mildly concerned, too. With Oshitari, it is hard to tell. He always looks so vague and guarded, except when he wants to shock/annoy/enrage /flirt/be a pain in the ass towards someone.

"You haven't even touched it," he says.

Shishido scowls. "Look, I'm just tired, alright? Besides, nobody dropped dead from skipping a meal."

The last has Oshitari looking rather doubtful.

"It's fine Yuushi," he repeats. "Trust me."

"Oh yeah, that's reassuring," Gakuto snorts into his bowl.

"Silence, shrimp. Or no waffles tomorrow morning."

Gakuto's chopsticks drop from his lifeless fingers to the floor. "Waffles."

"Yeah."

"Fuck," Gakuto turns to Oshitari. "Can we keep him?"

Oshitari smiles a little. "That's what I've been trying to tell you for years."

Shishido rolls his eyes. But smiles a little, too.

***

Another night spent alone.

Shishido hurts.

He lies under the slightly musty sheets, fabric choked and slightly dusty from being stowed away, and aches.

There's no other word for it. He's exhausted, physically as well as mentally and feels weak and woozy, as though his head isn't screwed on tight enough. His thoughts float left and right, skittish, but always come back down to the same thing: Choutarou.

He's lonely and unnaturally cold. Somehow his skin seems to big for him, too endless.

There's no chubby golden retriever to curl up against and no soft fur for him to kneed his fingers into. Gakuto and Oshitari own only one pet. A guppy named Brutus. Cuddling a fishbowl just doesn't cut it.

With his knees drawn in, cupping around his belly in a fetal position, Shishido wonders if Choutarou is awake, too, this very moment. What would he be doing right now? Would he be lying on his side, like how Shishido usually finds him sleeping without him? And would his right hand be tucked against his face, like he sometimes does? Long fingers loose and relaxed, curling elegantly almost, with the tips of his fingers or knuckles against his mouth. Or is he lying on his back with his right hand pulling slowly up and down at himself, making delicious breathy noises? Or maybe he's at the piano with his teeth bared and eyes squeezed shut as though he's dying and Shishido will miss the incredible, dazed look they have after he opens them, his own talent knocking all sense out of him though he doesn't realize it. But he could also be watching tv with the monster on his lap.

And maybe he's complaining to someone about Shishido being not worth it, not worth all the risks and insecurities of being with another man. Telling it to his father, perhaps. Or his mother. If he's lucky he'll talk to Hiyoshi about it, if he's not then Choutarou is currently sitting in a bar with some classy and nice, understanding girl nodding soothingly at him.

Shishido hugs himself.

No Choutarou to do it for him, now. No turning over half-asleep in the blue shadowed darkness, to inch just that barest fraction closer into another hot body. No arms fishing for him in the middle of the night, reeling Shishido in to hold him against a broad chest with his head tucked under a chin. No rhythmic breathing to be lulled by and no good, perfect smell of sweat and soap and him, just him. No sleepy, inaccurately aimed kisses, no soft caresses being exchanged, no murmuring sappy nonsense at each other, no sharing one pillow and rubbing their noses together. No love making.

Nothing.

***

Around dawn he drifts off.

He doesn't dream, but his sleep is restless and filled with tossing and turning so that it comes as a relief when Gakuto decides to check on him at seven thirty.

"Ryou," he whispers, gently shaking his shoulder. "Wake up."

Shishido tries to blink. It stings and pulls, the drag of his eyelids, as though someone has thrown a handful of sand in his eyes. His body feels foreign, remote. His mouth tastes of phlegm, like it does when he's got a cold.

"What?" he grits out. He tries to turn his head, but his body feels frozen solid. His hands and feet are ice cubes.

"You were making noises," Gakuto says, crouching next to him. His hand is still on Shishido's shoulder and it's as though a small sun is touching him there. "We got worried."

With a grunt, he manages to peer up at Gakuto. In the cold light of dawn he looks pale and delicate, his red hair a dark tangle around his face. His eyes are huge, he really does look worried. "Noises?" Shishido asks.

"Like a puppy that's being kicked," Gakuto says, smiling a bit. "I though you were having a bad dream. You okay?"

Shishido thinks about okay, the being of it, and wonders if Choutarou is.

Then he remembers it is Sunday. Sunday morning in fact and something tight and hot lodges itself with a sudden jerk into his throat. Their day. The day the both of them look forward to the whole week, because Sunday is the day that they only care about one thing: each other (alright, fine, and a lot of sex, but it kinda goes hand-in-hand).

Burying his face into his pillow he moans in dismay, like a wounded animal.

He's not okay.

It's not okay.

To Gakuto he says: "I'm fine."

But it is not.

Gakuto knows it and tiptoes around him later in the morning, when Shishido is sitting at the kitchen table with his mug of tea as he watches how his waffles are practically inhaled.

Oshitari, however, is a right asshole and has no scruples about hiding it. Or sparing him.

"So," he says, after he swallows his last bit of waffle and washes it away with a mouthful of tea. "How long are you going to wallow in your self-perceived misery?"

Shishido's right eyebrow twitches. "My what?"

"What will it take for you to realize you are a complete idiot and will undertake steps to salvage the situation?"

His left eyebrow twitches. "Look. It's none of your business, get that, Yuushi? And I am right this time."

There's a silence. Shishido glares at Oshitari, who simply looks back. Gakuto's eyes dart between both their faces, before he pushes back his chair while mumbling about having to clean the windows (though it is pouring rain).

Oshitari dabs at his mouth with a napkin. "And what's that worth?" he asks him.

By fuck, Shishido sometimes abhors Oshitari. So full of himself and nosy, thinking he knows better while he's one serious head case himself. "Worth it? What do you mean?" Shishido asks, despite knowing he should just get up and leave, not falling into the trap and bouncing the verbal ball back. Yet this is what he does.

"Is it worth being right in this?" Oshitari asks him as he collects his and Gakuto's plate (the waffles looked dodgy to Shishido, likely on account of the even dodgier eggs he scraped up out of the fridge) and stands up.

Shishido blinks. Why yes, it is. He's never right. And now he is, for once.

Meanwhile there's the scent of pine wafting through the kitchen as Oshitari squirts a dollop of soap into a sink full of hot water. "Is it, Ryou?" he repeats lowly, back to Shishido and shoulders shifting as he scrubs the plates. "Tell me: did you sleep well this night?"

Under the table, Shishido clenches his hands.

He doesn't think of Choutarou lying in their empty bed and he doesn't think about what Choutarou yelled at him and he doesn't think about slamming the door shut on Choutarou's agonized call of his name. He doesn't think about this Sunday morning, the first in a long tradition of breaking the pattern, of them not making love until their skin is singing with fire that scorches their sense of touch and desire, of rolling around in soft cotton sheets with the person he loves more than anything he could ever imagine and knowing that this is it, he could never be happier, ever. Of knowing that nothing else matters than this, them.

He's not thinking of Choutarou.

He's right.

He's right.

Dammit.

***

Shishido vegetates.

Why, he doesn't know, but he feels weak.

His jeans seem looser, for some reason, and his muscles ache.

His head seems filled with air, his eyes react too fast, but not focussed enough.

He sits on the couch and stares at the tv, but doesn't know what it is that he is seeing. Drawn to it because it moves is all, but actual information or impressions aren't soaked up.

He doesn't like how the apartment smells like Gakuto and Yuushi. It smells not like home. He can't let go, completely, of himself. Some part of his guard is up and will stay up, tireless, even though his body is running low on energy.

All the while something inside of him is gathering into a tight, hot knot of something, something wild and frightening and something he doesn't understand and doesn't know how to get rid of. It is stuck in the center of his body and hums and buzzes like a swarm of bees and it hurts, but he doesn't know where it came from.

It is Sunday and early afternoon and Shishido worries about a million things, but most of all about tomorrow when he'll see his colleagues. Is this it? Will he be fired tomorrow? On account of obscure reasons that skimpily cover up the fact that he'll be tossed out for being in love? Only he loves another man, someone of the same sex, yet to Shishido Choutarou has never been a 'man' to fall in love with, but a person, regardless of the plumbing, a person that was more right than any being should be able to be.

It is frightening, sometimes, to look at Choutarou and feel as though he lacks oxygen, because looking at him invests all of Shishido's being, every single molecule of him, to appreciate Choutarou and the miracle of his existence, of how he is and and functions and the overwhelming knowledge that Choutarou wants him back.

There's that (or currently the lack of it) and the question of what will I do when I get sacked?

It is starting to get dark out when Gakuto and Oshitari start to cast hopeful glances towards the kitchen.

So he obliges with nyumen, which is easy to make, not to mention he can toss whatever random crap he finds in the fridge into it. The smell of the broth upsets his stomach and he leans bodily into the counter as he stirs it. Why does he feel so weak? He's not ill or anything, just worried and upset. Gakuto must see something, because he hovers around under guise of helping him, but he's being a small redheaded obstacle instead of any help.

This time Shishido doesn't even pretend to put out a bowl for himself. The smell of the cooking vegetables and wet meat make his gorge rise and the idea of putting it into his mouth makes him shudder. It is Gakuto who pointedly gets up to fetch him a bowl and it is Gakuto who ladles it full and it is Gakuto who frowns at him as Shishido doesn't take a single bite.

But it is Oshitari who, after swallowing the last of the broth, stands up and pokes his shoulder.

"Get changed into something decent," he says. "We're going out."

Shishido lifts an eyebrow.

Oshitari nods. "Frown and scowl all you want, but if you don't get up and dressed, I will bodily carry you out."

He means it, too. Shishido doesn't care. "I'm tired, you ass, so drop the fuck dead," is what he has to say about it.

Gakuto looks at them both. "What are you gonna do with him?" he asks of Oshitari as he jerks his head sideways at Shishido.

A curl of lip. "Unleash the magic of alcohol on him, Gakuto sweetest."

***

In the end Shishido ends up in some seedy bar full of sad sobs, all looking like he feels: miserable.

Oshitari and his razor sleek looks stands out like a sore thumb. People stare at them as they shuffle inside, wet with rain, and claim a booth. A young looking thing gives Oshitari a longing look, but she doesn't get up. Nobody looks at Shishido twice. Then again, next to Oshitari he's like a wren next to an eagle in most people's eyes.

Oshitari has always been smart. And he proves this by getting Shishido some fruity sort of drink that looks and tastes like orange juice. It goes down smoothly, sweet and zesty, but the after-punch of alcohol knocks the last remaining steadiness out of him.

Everything goes hazy and woozy.

"So," Oshitari says, sipping from his own cocktail. "What happened?"

It's only one glass, Shishido tells himself. Just one glass. You are still in control.

"Nothing," he says firmly. "None of your goddamn business." He nods decisively. Then he adds: "He kissed me in public."

Fuck.

So much for control.

A second fruity looks-like-orange-juice-but-isn't arrives at their table. Shishido looks at it in dismay.

Oshitari nods. Professionally. No judgement.

"I gather it wasn't just a quick kiss when nobody was looking?" he surmises.

The second alcohol-bomb-posing-as-orange-juice is just as tasty as the first. But after two swallows of it, Shishido isn't sure he cares anymore. He sips at it and sighs. "My colleagues were there. I just came back from a week-long trip and he kissed me because he'd missed me."

It's engraved upon his mind's eye.

The bus pulling up at the university and all the students pouring out of it. The exhaustion in his body, edged with anticipation of finally being able to sleep that night. Hanging back with some colleagues as they finish up some paperwork quickly, before heading into the parking lot.

Choutarou leaning against the car, fiddling with the keys. His face had been white and his lips a tight line. He'd looked tired.

He'd walked towards him and had said 'hi'. There' been an uncontrollable grin on his mouth. Slowly Choutarou had turned his head, fair hair white against the gray skies, his eyes dark. Straight nose, full mouth, handsome face. When Choutarou's eyes had landed on him he'd lighted up like a star in the sky and Shishido had known he was smiling stupidly back, happy to see his partner, happy to be with him again, in every sense of the word.

They'd looked at each other and Shishido could only think about how badly he'd missed him, aching for his absence every single moment when they were separated. He'd been so caught up in the joy of just looking, of knowing the loneliness was over, that Choutarou walking up to him and saying "Hey," in that wonderful voice had been perfectly alright and watching him dip his head to kiss him, soft but lingering, had been perfectly alright, too.

Only after, with his colleagues' wide eyes and cold silence, Shishido had felt the punch of shock and realization.

The whole of it pours out of Shishido, what he said and what Choutarou said after, when they fought at home. Every word, every detail, worse and more truthful that what he told Jiroh leaves him, like wrenching dry-heaves after the actual throwing up.

This time as he tells it, he hears what he is saying. It's the most ugliest thing he's ever come up against, but he keeps saying those words, telling it to Oshitari (of all people!) who just listens.

"- and then I slammed the door on him," Shishido whispers. His head swims, his eyes burn, the glass between his clenched hands is empty. "I can't believe I… I walked out on him like that… How can- Fuck. I. Fuck. Shit. I'm such goddamn asshole."

"Ryou."

"I knew I wasn't… wasn't good enough. Of course I was gonna screw up. Fuck. I mean, good people like him don't just happen to people like me. It was only a matter of time-"

"Ryou."

"-and then I yelled at him! I didn't even… answer. I just left. He won't want me back. I wouldn't want me back. Dammit, why did he ever want me in the first- goddammit. He hasn't even send a text. He doesn't care anymore. And it's all because-"

"Ryou!" Oshitari slaps him over the head.

Grabbing at the table, Shishido manages not to fall off his chair, but the whole world swims and turns, as does his stomach. He looks at Oshitari in dismay, not knowing why he's being hit. Wait, yes, he knows. Even Oshitari, bastard extraordinaire, thinks he's the lowest of the low. He deserves to be hit.

He hurt Choutarou.

He deserves to die.

The world should be ending.

Oshitari shakes his head. His expression is caught between amusement and pity. "One: Choutarou called earlier today to ask how you were and if you were eating right. Two: when was the last time you ate something? And three: you are a melancholic drunk, I would laugh at you if you didn't seem to mean all that nonsense you're blabbering."

It rather feels like he's been thrown a shining lifeline of hope. He hears only one thing Oshitari told him and one thing only: "He-he... called? Choutarou called? When? Is he okay? Did he say he hates me?"

Oshitari pinches the bridge of his nose. "He doesn't hate you, you complete idiot. He's worried and pissed off, that's all."

He doesn't hate you.

The words sink in slowly, but when they do, Shishido feels like crying in relief. Which he doesn't (still not quite that lame), but he rests his forehead on his arms and breathes in deeply.

On the other side of the table, Oshitari says gently, "Go home."

Home.

Choutarou.

Slowly, he breathes out again, breath expelled against the damp fabric of his sleeves. He lifts his head. "No yet," he says. His voice sounds rough and jagged, but confident.

Oshitari looks at him, curious.

"Not like this," Shishido amends. "Tomorrow, after work. When I know what will happen."

When I know whether I'll get fired.

***

On Monday, he leaves for work with shaking hands.

Oshitari and Gakuto don't say much, though the former seems unreasonably smug and all-knowing. Shishido is a bit hung over, and realizes it's because he's had two glasses of alcohol on a stomach that has been empty for longer than forty-eight hours. Breakfast is grilled fish and rice and Shishido knows he should eat, knows he feels weak and limp like a noodle because he needs to eat, but when he hovers over his plate his stomach protests violently.

So he leaves without eating.

He's careful on his motorcycle, knowing his reflexes will be down, but mostly stalling. At the last possible moment he rushes into the building, not meeting eyes with anyone, just walking as fast as he can without running.

Though he didn't know what to expect, exactly, he's beyond shocked that everything is the same as always.

His students are sleepy and rumpled, as always after a weekend. The few that look up seem mostly intrigued by his hollowed face and the haphazard air about him. So teaches them, waiting for the axe to drop and for one of them to raise a hand and ask whether it is true he's having sex with another guy and didn't he know he was fired?

Nothing happens.

Class is over and the next students stream in.

Again he teaches, again nothing happens.

He has an hour lunch time, at one. Shishido fiddles around with his folders and books, a poor selection and even more poorly prepared, because he couldn't bring everything he needed. Maybe he should just stay here. It's not like he's got any food with him and he's not hungry in the slightest.

That's how one of his colleagues, Shinoe who teaches Geography, finds him.

"Ah, there you are, Shishido," she says.

He jumps, a few papers he was holding crumpling between his fingers. "Hi," he says quickly, pretending to be busy arranging his notes, his agenda, his books. Not turning around.

"Aren't you coming down for lunch?" she asks.

In that moment, she sounds like Oshitari would if he'd suddenly sprouted tits and a vagina. Usually he gets along swimmingly with Shinoe, but the tone of her voice puts him on edge. It's too innocent and there's a curl of lip involved, a foreign lilt.

"I'm not really hungry," he mutters. He puts away a book.

"Shishido…" Shinoe says softly. "Nobody cares."

Her heels clack as she walks into his classroom. The muscles between his shoulder blades crawl and he braces himself. Lightly, she puts her hand on his shoulder. "You're safe. Both of you."

"But-" he thinks about their expressions, the silence, their eyes and the slices of firmly pressed together lips.

"But what? None of us expected that. We all thought you had some extremely hot girlfriend you were too jealous about to introduce to us," she says. There's a laugh in it, too, playful. She shakes his shoulder. "Turns out it was an extremely hot boyfriend. Which also explains why you never reacted when I flirted with you."

"Uhm."

"No, don't answer. You'll say something dumb, so spare me," Shinoe sighs and rolls her eyes. "It's fine. Only Suzuki-san was weirded out, but he had no actual objection to it as long as you continued to do your job as well as you have."

"Oh," Shishido says. Breathes.

"Come down to lunch, you idiot," she says.

He does.







...on to part 2!







Comment on part 2, please.