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21 February 2010 @ 07:55 pm
FicAlert! PoT> Love is Noise (Ohtori/Shishido) PG-13 Pt1  
Title: Love is Noise
Writer: Everlind
Wordcount: 23 014
Pairing: Ohtori/Shishido (Silver Pair)
Rating: PG-13 (skirting R here and there)
Warnings: Exceedingly nosy team members, bad puns, spit and Oshitari Yuushi.
Summary: First loves are notoriously difficult. For Shishido Ryou, it is the end of the world.
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: Written for mrs_nott at the silver_swap 2009-2010.

My heartfelt thanks to my alphas neooldetokyo and wolf_of_yoru. My everlasting gratitude to my amazing beta Jules, without whom I'd have given up and tossed this story in the trash folder.



Love is Noise





Okay. This is stupid.

Scratch that; it's not. It's lame.

Nothing much is happening. At least well, there is actually, but sorta not and- Oh fucking hell alright. Alright. Deep breath. Get a grip.

Right then Choutarou leans into him and he feels himself jump physically when their shoulders brush. This has never happened before. He doesn't get it. Why now? Of all the time they've spend together, why the hell now? You'd think it'd happen after a tennis match or during it, or when Choutarou is undressing in the clubhouse, or when he throws his head back and lets out that amazing laugh. No. Of course nothing as completely logical as that.

Instead it creeps up on him as he's watching Choutarou play the piano.

The day had started innocently enough. After tennis practice - the fourth one of his second year as it so happens - the two of them hung out together as per their norm. When dinnertime rolled around Choutarou invited him to stay, which he readily accepted. Then he'd helped Choutarou out with an essay, while he worked on his own homework. They'd gotten distracted and started talking about mundane things but somehow ended on music, and when Choutarou gets started on music… yeah. And that's how he's ended up sitting besides his doubles partner behind the magnificent grand piano the Ohtoris somehow have room for in their home.

There's this thing Choutarou does when he really gets into something. He does it in tennis, too, and even when faced with something as innocent as a race on the ice-skating rink against Hiyoshi. There's something about him that grows quiet, still, as though all of his resolve is crystallizing into the need to excel, but beneath that calm surface is something fierce and confident. His shoulders will square, his back straighten, his eyes focus and then he'll hit a 200 km/h serve or play like a demon on any instrument (or beat him at Tekken, but that's another story).

Music is something he's perfectly pants at, but even he can recognize Choutarou's playing for what it is: incredible.

Shishido can only sit there, awe-stuck, as Choutarou's fingers fly over the keys, too clever and agile to be real.

The music ripples, going from raindrops tickling upon a windowpane to a storm enveloping a whole city as it builds, flashes like lightening, and then scatters into a sweet cadence as though the sun just came through. Choutarou's fingers stop, still leaning on the keys, his back bowed and head tipped down, as though he is hoping to pour his whole being into the instrument. The hair scattered over his forehead is wild. His eyes are narrowed and his teeth are bared.

And then it's over.

Choutarou takes a deep breath, hands sliding away from the ivories and sits up, blinking.

"Wow," Shishido offers, his voice sounding rough and inappropriate after the symphony of music just now. "That was-"

"I screwed up!" Choutarou interrupts, making a wry face. "I always mess up that one part. I go too fast and then I trip over my own fingers."

"Okay," Shishido says. "Shut up. It was amazing. How do you move your hands like that? It's freaky."

Choutarou smiles a bit. "Like this?" he asks and proceeds with an impossible maneuver that must involve dislocating his fingers or something, because how the hell can his ring finger be there while his index finger is cocked that awkwardly and all the way over there?

"Yeah that," Shishido says, a little creeped out. "Just how the hell do you-" he tries to copy it and doesn't even get his ring finger on the other ivory, not without doing an awkward stretch with his hand that has him pressing down on all the intervening keys.

The piano groans in protest against Shishido's abuse.

"Wait-"

Shishido freezes as Choutarou's hand slips over his and raises it, urging him to claw his fingers. "Uhm-"

"Only your fingertips," Choutarou says simply, completely oblivious to Shishido's predicament.

He still doesn't reach, his ring finger now touching the neighboring key. "I can't. My fingers aren't long enough."

"That's not-" Choutarou tilts his head as he looks at Shishido's useless effort at copying him. "Let me see."

He holds up his hand, as though waiting for Shishido to high-five him. "What?" Shishido asks suspiciously. When his partner just waits, he tentatively mirrors the gesture.

Choutarou presses their hands together, palms matching. The tips of his fingers stick up way over Shishido's. "Huh," he smiles. "You really do have small hands."

"Oi," Shishido protests feebly, knowing he's blushing like grade schooler and unable to prevent it. "I've got normal hands. Your fingers are just really long."

"I guess they are," Ohtori says and proceeds with folding just the tips almost completely over Shishido's, holding his hand but not really.

"And ridiculously nimble," Shishido adds, his face burning.


Shit, he thinks.

***

That night he lies thinking about Choutarou's ridiculously long fingers and doesn't know what to do.

His face still burns but now his chest hurts as well, and it is as though his skin is itching enough to crawl off. But most of all there's this roaring sensation between his ears, like a whole stadium full of people cheering at the nationals, not really the same, but just as… noisy.

He's not dumb. He knows what is happening.

Shishido is the first to jump up and proudly declare that he hasn't got a romantic bone in his body (and who would want to? … besides Oshitari that is) but even he kinda suspected that falling in love would have been a bit more, well, mind-blowing.

Instead, there was just the both of them behind the piano. And Choutarou's big hands.

And it is not even like a crack of lightning, or fireworks raining down, or something equally fast and impressive. No, he just feels confused and weirded out, faintly sick even, but there's one thing that finally makes sense.

It didn't just happened today. No, it's been happening for quite a while now.

Shishido thinks about his third year in middle school and how he was half of one of the best doubles pairs on the circuit. He thinks about his freshman year in high school when he felt like a blundering idiot, out of his element and constantly wondering what it was that was gone. He thinks about now and about how the two of them wiped the court with the D1 pair in the beginning of the year, usurping their place.

Shishido thinks about how Choutarou's fingers danced on the ivories and squeezes his eyes shut against the feeling coiling deep in the pit of his stomach.


You'd think that falling in love with another boy would require a lot more than intriguing hands.


Shit, Shishido thinks, covering his face with both hands.

Shit.

***

"Oooooo-"

Shishido crosses his arms over the handlebar and waits it out.

"-oooooohaaaaaaaayooooo!" Jiroh says, happily.

Too happily.

He grunts in response and holds his bike steady as Jiroh clambers up behind. The coach in high school doesn't care if Jiroh is a prodigy; if he wants to play he needs to be there. Even in the mornings. But everybody knows that there's this thing about Jiroh and waking up in the morning (or waking up in general) so he and Atobe take turns picking him up.

"You're late," he accuses as soon as Jiroh has stopped wriggling.

"You're grumpy," Jiroh counters.

Shishido ignores it. "Is it because I'm not driving a limo the way Atobe does?" he demands, standing up on the pedals to propel the bike forward under the burden of their combined weight.

"No. But at least Atobe is nice to me," Jiroh points put.

"Yeah, I bet he just is," Shishido grumbles under his breath, rolling his eyes.

"What was that?" Jiroh demands.

Shishido doesn't answer, focusing on manoeuvring the both of them through the small maze of backstreets instead. The wind ruffles through his hair and stings at his eyes, but it almost feels as though he were running very fast, or if he's being really imaginative, flying. It's relaxing, this physical task, and Shishido's white-knuckled grip eases.

"What's wrong?" Jiroh asks.

His hands re-clench and the bars give a worrying creak. "Nothing. I'm fine."

After parking his bike in the lot, the two of them head over to the courts. There's a crowd already. The whole team shares a clubhouse (Just for now - Shishido knows for a fact that Atobe is trying to change this) and they walk in only to see the members engaged in acts of tomfoolery. Half-naked teenagers traipse about snapping towels at each other and gossiping about whose girl had the best tits.

Back in a corner they find Oshitari, Gakuto and Atobe talking quietly amongst the revelry.

"Morning," Oshitari says whilst shaking out his tennis uniform. "What's up?"

"I'm fine," Shishido snarls.

Oshitari stops and arches a brow, clearly having expected any other response but that one. "Of course you are," he says soothingly.

Atobe and Gakuto exchange looks.

"We're here for you, Ryou," Jiroh says, putting a calming hand on his shoulder.

"I'm fine, really-" he splutters, but then Jiroh keeps looking up at him so sincerely with those big eyes of his. Fucking hell. "Oh, hell. It's just-" Shishido throws his hands in the air and spits out, "Choutarou's good at playing the piano."

There's a beat of silence. Atobe and Gakuto exchange another look.

"An obvious statement is still obvious," Oshitari says. "Also: what?"

"Oh, never mind," Shishido scoffs and turns his back to them to change.

Finished dressing, he grabs his tennis racket and tries to push through two third years giving each other wedgies. As a result, he gets sandwiched between them. And if that wasn't bad enough he can hear Gakuto mumble, "What crawled up his ass and died?"

"His feelings," Jiroh answers sagely.

"His feelings crawled up his ass and died?" Gakuto repeats. "That's just nasty… and potentially painful."

"Shut up," Atobe sniffs. "You're so crass."

"Am not," Gakuto tosses back.

Meanwhile Jiroh is saying, "He needs to talk about it."

"His ass?"

"His feelings," Jiroh says again with emphasis. "And you so too are crass."

"I can hear you!" Shishido shouts back at them.

"Ssh," Jiroh hisses. "See? Now you hurt his feelings."

"The ones in his ass?" Gakuto asks with a wicked little grin.

The others groan as they see Shishido's face turning a vivid shade of red from where they are standing.

"I HAVE NO FEELINGS!" Shishido roars, shoves the two third years off him, and makes a quick getaway.

***

"Shishido-"

"I don't wanna talk about my feelings!" he yells to whoever is behind him.

"Uhm," Choutarou says. "That's alright, you don't need to."

At the sound of his voice, Shishido whirls around and pastes a smile on his face. "Ah, err, Choutarou. Hi.” A short pause. “What?" Shishido asks upon seeing the look on the other's face.

"Are you alright?"

"I AM FINE," Shishido snaps. "What did you want?"

Choutarou gives him a vaguely hurt look. "I wanted to ask whether you wanted to play a match with me, since I don't have to pick up balls today, but if you are busy-"

"NO! I'm not. Busy, that is," Shishido backpedals feverishly. "Let's just play. Tennis. Not music." Choutarou gives him a strange look at the last and he groans inwardly.

They walk towards a free court, Shishido mentally beating himself over the head all the way. It's not supposed to be like this. He only figured it out yesterday; nothing's changed. Nothing.

"Shishido-san?" Choutarou asks very, very carefully, just when he's about to walk off to his side of the court.

"Yeah?"

"You sure you're okay? You seem a little… off. Maybe you're sick-" and then Choutarou's stepping closer, towering over him and putting a warm, grip-tape smelling hand over his forehead. A perfectly innocent way of checking for a fever.

But his hand.

His.

Hand.

Shishido can instantly feel goosebumps rise, as though the small light hairs are reaching out for Choutarou, the same way his body seems to strain towards that touch. His whole body. Shishido panics, backs away frantically, trips over his own racket, proceeds to fall backwards and smack his head against the net-pole.

His world instantly bursts into a swirl of color as a hot, searing warmth erupts on the crown of his head. His stomach heaves, his vision swims.

"I'm alright!" he manages to choke out as his teammates, Choutarou included, rush towards him. "I tripped. I'm fine."

Nice. Real smooth.

Things just can't get worse than this.

***

They can, of course.

Shishido goes to bed with a pounding headache from his battle with the pole. There's a lump the size of Mt. Fuji on the back of his head, but he doesn't tell his mother about the incident. Not that a simple 'I tripped over my own racket' wouldn't suffice because she'd believe that, but he rather feared her internal radar would notice that he's hiding something. And if not that, she'd try to slip him a painkiller or even force him to go to the doctor.

The throbbing in his skull is a welcome distraction, actually. It takes all his energy to ignore it, leaving none to be drawn into the chaos that is his emotional and mental state. Or so he hopes.

His head pounds. Shishido curls on his side, hands clutching at his skull and closes his eyes.

The next time he opens them, there's green all around.

Grass courts? Shishido thinks and digs the tip of his trainer into the ground.

Wimbledon?

He looks around. There's no seats, no stadium, no nothing. Just grass, stretching on and on and on for as far as the eye can see. The sky above is blue, too blue, and there's no clouds. Besides his trainers, there's nothing familiar about his tennis uniform. Only it is not his tennis uniform, but his high school uniform. White shirt, red tie, brown and beige checkered slacks. He's holding a tennis racket, not in his right hand, but his left, and it's not one with a green frame but a familiar yellow one.

"You've got my racket," Choutarou says from behind him.

Shishido wants to acknowledge him but for some unknown reason he's not able to turn around and face him no matter how hard he tries.

"I can't play without it," Choutarou says.

"Sorry," Shishido says, but it sounds weird, like a dog whimpering when being reprimanded.

"Don't you want to play?" Choutarou asks.

Shishido knows that he has to answer yes, yes he wants to play, of course he wants to, but his mouth won't move and his body is not reacting.

"Why won't you give it to me?"

Suddenly, the world spins and Choutarou is facing him. There's a net between them, one that divides not just the whole world but the two of them as well. Shishido looks down at the yellow racket. It has brown strings. No, not strings. Not plastic. Hair. Long, dark hair. He holds out the racket, stretching it over the net, handle first.

"Not that," Choutarou shakes his head and takes a step closer. The handle of the racket slides through his chest, the left side, where his heart is. Shishido tries to tell Choutarou stop, that he's gonna hurt himself, but Choutarou is already on his side of the net, saying, "Your hand. Give me your hand."

Something tickles along the fingers of his right hand.

"No," Shishido says, panicking. Choutarou will know.

"Yes," Choutarou insists and winds their fingers together. "Ryou?"

"Yes?"

But Choutarou doesn't answer. Instead he cups a hand along the curve of Shishido's face. A thumb tilts his head back, his eyes close, and he can feel Choutarou's breath. Their lips touch, then cling when Choutarou pulls back. He can feel fingers dust his cheek and slip down to trace his mouth.

The touch moves dangerously south and he comes-

- flying straight up in bed, his heart pounding deafeningly, his breathing choked.

Shishido leans back against the headboard, legs tangled in the sheets, body bathed in sweat.

His mouth hums, feels warm and strange, as though the caress of lips and fingers have made them sensitive. Shishido lifts his hand, touches his mouth. After a moment's hesitation, he mimics the ghost of fingers brushing along his lips.

There's nothing but the rush of desire hitting him low in the stomach.


That was close, too close.

***

"Are you alright?" Jiroh asks during lunch.

"I'm fine," Shishido says.

"Do you-"

"No, I don't want to talk about it," Shishido snarls.

"Our little sunshine," Oshitari says, smirking around the straw of his juice.

"Drop dead."

"And always so charming," Oshitari adds.

"Seriously, you need to shut up," Shishido tells him.

Oshitari does, not because Shishido says so, but because Gakuto arrives and plunks into the seat next to him. He steals Oshitari's juice, sips from the same straw Oshitari just had in his mouth. Gross.

He's about to comment on that when Hiyoshi arrives, Kabaji in tow.

He looks at Shishido, "Where's Ohtori?" he asks.

"How should I know?" Shishido snaps, stabbing his chopsticks viciously through a shrimp in his bento.

Hiyoshi just looks at him. As does Kabaji. Matter of fact, Oshitari and Gakuto do too. Even Jiroh, who's put his head down for a nap, cracks open an eye. Everybody stares.

Cheeks glowing, he stuffs his mouth with the shrimp, adds some rice and lets out a muffled, "He's in the music room."

Hiyoshi gives him a look that clearly says, 'there, was that so hard?,' and takes a seat next to Jiroh.

"Memorize his schedule much?" Gakuto mutters under his breath.

Shishido kicks him under the table.

Predictably, with only ten minutes left of lunch, Choutarou comes racing into the canteen. His tie is half undone, his hair mussed. He's got his rucksack over one shoulder, a tennis bag over the other, a violin case under one arm and a stack of music sheets. The sheets have clearly marked his steps, like breadcrumbs, from the door to the table.

"Sorry I'm late," he gasps out as he dumps everything on the table, scattering papers in every direction.

"S'okay," Shishido answers, both amused and vaguely concerned.

Choutarou doesn't have the usual 'it was an amazing session and I just couldn't leave' feel about him. It's more of a 'I'm starving and they wouldn't let me go' kind of look. On any other person it would translate into a bad mood, but not with Choutarou. He still has a smile for Shishido as he settles down opposite of him, pushing his bags aside to make room for his food.

Most of the team has already left but he and Hiyoshi are still finishing their lunches. Both of them slide their leftovers towards Choutarou as he never seems to feel full. Choutarou smiles and politely declines at first, but Shishido and Hiyoshi just leave their bentos, still half-full with delicious home-made food, right where they are until Choutarou eats them anyway. Over time Shishido and Hiyoshi discovered a strange sort alignment between some of their interests and priorities, one of which is Choutarou. Both of them have his well-being as their foremost priority, which works out splendidly until Shishido fucks up and gets to deal with not only a wounded Choutarou but a snippy Hiyoshi to boot.

It works the other way around as well, but, well… Hiyoshi doesn't fuck up as much. Never actually.

"Tough piece?" Shishido asks, focussing on the lacquered sheen of Hiyoshi's bento box instead of Choutarou's long fingers flitting over the table as he tries to make sense of his notes.

There's an uncharacteristic pause.

Choutarou finishes stacking his papers, his dark eyes distant. Shishido and Hiyoshi exchange a look.

"Something like that," Choutarou says with painfully false cheer into the silence. "Just need to figure out how to- well."

He smiles.

Shishido frowns. "Choutarou-"

The bell rings.

Hissing a curse at the untimely interruption, Shishido leans on the table and says, "Wait for me after class, alright?"

"I will!" Choutarou answers, still bright and cheerful as he hastens to gather his notes.

Shishido watches him rush out of the canteen, Hiyoshi by his side, worry coiling in the pit of his stomach.

***

This falling in love thing? Yeah, it's kinda the worst thing to ever happen to him.

And the second worst? Being in the same class as Oshitari Yuushi.

How exactly he's managed to land himself with high enough scores to get sorted into the same lot as the tensai of the team has yet to be ascertained. Fact is, he did get high enough scores, better even than Atobe's (HA! Though Atobe was probably too busy getting his v-card - and Jiroh's – punched during exams.. so the epic win was sorta overshadowed), and now he gets to deal with Oshitari. Every damn day.

Who is, not only nosy, but incorrigible as well.

And has a habit of folding his notes into complex shapes, somehow knowing exactly how to use the best aerodynamic constructions to make his notes travel all the way across class and onto Shishido's desk.

Ten minutes after class has begun, a waterlily lands on the open pages of his book.

Shishido sighs.

It takes him more than five minutes to figure out how to unfold the damn thing without ripping it to shreds only to growl at the words (but only after he takes a moment to admire the elegant brushstrokes).

Girl trouble?

Shishido feels the blood rush to his face so fast it makes him lightheaded. He crumples the note and waits for the teacher to turn her back before throwing the note back to Oshitari, hitting him square on the nose.

Thing is, Oshitari is rather immune to Shishido's 'back off or die' attitude. The note comes back.

I could help, you know ;) I know how to charm the heart of a woman.

Shishido is half tempted to keep the note until the end of class and then shove it down Oshitari's throat. Instead he writes back:

Gakuto doesn't count as a woman.

P.S.: Go away.

He doesn't add that the last time he saw Oshitari charming something of Gakuto's it was not his heart.

For the remainder of the hour Oshitari is blissfully silent and Shishido stares out of the window towards the courts. The bell finally rings and he shoves everything into his rucksack, eventually resorting to shoving it into a wad to make it all fit. Looking up, he finds Oshitari waiting for him by the door.

Shishido doesn't like the look on his face. It is far too smug.

"So," he says.

"No," Shishido answers, picking up pace, hating Oshitari's long legs.

"Ask her out on a date," Oshitari says.

"No," Shishido repeats more firmly and contemplates whether jumping through the window from the third floor is worth breaking his legs if it means escaping Oshitari.

"Of course, not like a date date," Oshitari says genially, completely unaware -or uncaring- of Shishido's inner torment. "Not out for dinner or to the aquarium. Subtle. Ask if she'd like to go see a movie with you. Pick something not too romantic, perhaps a comedy. Something friends might go to see together."

"No!" Shishido snarls, darts through a gaggle of girls and then hops onto the banister of the stairs to slide down.

Somehow, impossibly, Oshitari is waiting for him at the bottom. Shishido lets out a frustrated arrgh as he jumps off the banister and then turns around to take the long way towards the exit, hopeful that he might loose him in the swell of students that stream out of their classes.

"Of course you have to buy the food. Popcorn. Big bucket. Oh! And you could pick a scary movie! Maybe she'd need a strong, masculine shoulder to lean on after, ne?"

"NO!" Shishido yells at him and storms off.

Oshitari cheerfully walks by his side, his long stride catching up to Shishido's faster pace instantly. "And if she's really keen for it, you might want to try the yawn-and-put-an-arm-around-her-shoulders technique. It's a bit tricky though, so only use it when you're sure. They tend to twirl their hair and bat their eyelashes if they're welcoming, so keep an eye out for that."

"Did Gakuto really fall for this crap?" Shishido asks at long last, morbidly curious despite himself.

Oshitari smiles some more.

Shishido decides not to ask.

Outside, Choutarou is waiting for him under their usual sakura tree.

"Hello Oshitari-san," he says, making a wry face when he sees their contrasting expressions.

Oshitari overflows with glee. Shishido scowls.

"Thanks for waiting," Shishido mutters, trying to give Oshitari a hint by turning his back to him.

"It's no problem," Choutarou responds. "Senpai, I wanted to ask you something."

"Shoot," Shishido counters and steps none too accidentally on Oshitari's toes.

Something weird happens. Choutarou goes from looking at his face to looking towards the fountain, dark eyes drifting away awkwardly. "I was wondering, well, if you are free tonight and, and don't have too much homework. Or other plans. Well-"

"What, Choutarou? Spit it out."

"Do you want to go and see this horror movie that's playing now? It's- what? What's wrong?" Choutarou's eyes are wide and staring straight at him.

"Nothing!" Shishido chokes out, hating Oshitari and his romantic truckload full of crap. "Nothing at all. I, yes, sure, no prob."

There's an awful silence behind him. Then Oshitari goes, "Oh! Ooooh!"

"Yuushi. No," Shishido hisses. "Be right back, Choutarou," he adds, grabs and yanks at Oshitari's arm to bodily remove him from the scene.

"So," Oshitari says when they're out of earshot, happily letting himself be towed along.

"No," Shishido says, capital N.

"Yes?"

"NO! End of conversation. BYE Yuushi."

"Wait!" Oshitari plants his feet and no matter how hard Shishido pulls or pushes, he stays right where he is. He paws through his bag. There's a rip of paper, a clatter of pens. Paper crinkles.

Oshitari pushes a crane into his hands. "There. Now I've got to a bus to catch."

And just like that, he's off.

Shishido watches him go, bemused, and then blinks at the crane in his hands. He unfolds it.

Boy Trouble?

I could help ;) I know how to charm the-

Shishido stops reading, rips the note to a bazillion shreds and spends at least five minutes stomping them into the ground.

***

They take the train and the station's flooded with people; housewives carrying shopping bags and students in both uniforms and exercise clothes dragging bulging bags filled with books and sports equipment. Standing on the train is a chore but getting off it is even worse. There's jostling from all sides and eventually Shishido gives up, stepping in behind Choutarou to follow in his wake. People tend to let him pass as he stands more than a head above the crowd and has that broad shoulders-thing going on.

Choutarou suddenly stops on the platform causing Shishido to nearly walk right into his back. He peers around, left and right, eyes flying over the people in the press of bodies.

Shishido taps him on the shoulder, "Behind you."

Whipping his head around, Choutarou blinks into space for second, before looking down and smiling, relieved. "Oh, I thought I'd lost you," he says. "Uhm, do you want to grab something for dinner?"

His stomach grumbles. "Sure, but lets take the bus to the theatre first. That noodle bar will be packed now and s'gonna take ages to get food."

"Alright," Choutarou veers off, heading for the stairs out.

Luckily a bus pulls into the lot just as they arrive and they get on. For five minutes the bus remains stationary, engine purring, and people keep pushing in until they're all crammed together like sardines in a can. Shishido stands close to the rear doors, tucked into a corner. Choutarou starts out standing in front of him, but by the time the bus leaves, he has to step in much closer and brace a hand next to Shishido's head.

The bus lurches into motion and Choutarou rocks into him, giving Shishido a faceful of chest. He's warm.

"Sorry," Choutarou says quietly, trying to make more room. There isn't any. "I hope not everybody on the bus is going to the theatre."

"Yeah," Shishido manages through the suddenly stifled atmosphere, "me neither."

There's something about the way Choutarou is braced over him that makes all the blood in Shishido's body rush southward. To keep himself occupied he digs out his wallet, checks his money. Not much left. He usually gets his allowance on Sunday, so he always runs low on cash by the end of the week. He hopes he's got enough to pay for both dinner and the theatre. There's still some spare yen somewhere in his rucksack, he knows.

Two girls in garishly bright sailor uniforms nearby giggle, ducking their heads together. One of them looks rather pointedly in their direction, whispers something to her friend, and the both of them giggle behind their hands some more.

Shishido swallows.

It can't be this obvious.

Cheeks burning, he looks away from the girls and out through the window. Choutarou's hand is planted barely a breath's away from where he leans against the glass, the muscles in his forearms shifting as he keeps himself steady. His skin is fair, barely marked. Shishido touches his own knuckles and feels scabs, scratches, shiny trails of healed skin.

Their stop comes up and people swarm towards the door, pushing Choutarou flush against him, the worn cotton of his uniform shirt soft against Shishido's cheek, Choutarou's chin brushing the top of his head, their chests and thighs aligned. Shishido's breath stutters out of him, his heart somersaulting into the back of his throat. When Choutarou finally moves, his breath comes out in one fast 'whoosh' and he feels slightly faint as they stumble off the bus.

By the time they pick a spot to eat, Shishido is almost able to swallow again without choking on his own heartbeat. Almost.

They both order yakisoba and decide to share a side of tonkatsu.

There's a small table that barely fits both their food, bags and Choutarou's long legs, but they manage to tuck everything away. Both of them are too hungry to talk much in the beginning, but halfway through Choutarou pauses long enough to dig through his bag and fish out some notes.

Shishido thinks he might be revising for a test or re-checking some notes. Sometimes he asks Shishido questions about some of the more theory-related courses. Shamelessly nosy, Shishido reaches out to tip the sheets towards him so he can get a look.

They're music sheets.

"Still that one piece?"

Choutarou makes a wry face. "I got first chair for violin," he says. "It's a big responsibility."

"Not piano?" he asks and adds a belated, "Congratulations."

"Thank you, Shishido-san," Choutarou says. "No, my teacher thinks I'm better at the violin."

Shishido frowns, recalling snippets of the endless conversations that have gone between them.

"Didn't Sakaki say you were better at the piano?" he asks, setting his bowl down.

Choutarou shrugs, clearly confused too.

"Huh," Shishido turns it over in his mind, matching it against various memories. He's heard Choutarou play both and has him seen perform with both instruments at competitions. Thing is, Choutarou is incredible on both. Hearing him play the violin can give him goosebumps just as well as the piano can, which is saying a lot. But Shishido still thinks he might prefer the piano. There's something… wilder and fiercer when Choutarou plays then. Freer.

"Sensei says I'm too…" Choutarou rolls his hand as he looks for the word, "uncontrolled. But he said it differently, how did- Ah! Wanton. He said I was too wanton when I played the piano."

Shishido paused mid-slurp to blink. Swallowing, he puts his bowl down again, now with an angry clack. "That's bullshit," he says rather harshly.

Choutarou blinks.

"Well," Shishido flushes. "It is. I like the piano better."

There's a pause. Choutarou shifts his legs, bumping their knees together. Then he smiles and blushes. "Yeah. Me too."

And then Choutarou bumps their legs together again, but on purpose. Shishido knows that the remark of the music teacher must've stung badly and while not exactly a compliment, Shishido's opinion has managed to patch it over.

He bumps back, at which Choutarou smiles, grateful.

Shishido drowns himself in his noodles to hide his blush.

Stomachs full and bill paid, they head down the street towards the theatre. Shishido cradles his bag against his front to rummage through the mess inside. He paws through its contents, checks the little bags on the side and eventually stops walking so he can search better. He frowns.

Choutarou walks on a few more paces before realizing Shishido has stopped. He turns back. "What's wrong?" he asks.

"I thought I still had some cash, but- oh." He remembers. He lent one of his classmates some money yesterday who'd forgotten his lunch. "Fuck."

"Shishido-san?"

"I'm sorry," Shishido grits out, annoyed with his own idiocy. Too damned scatterbrained to remember anything since he's too busy getting all hot and bothered over his friend. "I…I haven't got any money left. Fuck, sorry."

Choutarou looks down on him.

"Yeah," Shishido mutters, running both hands through his hair and grinding his teeth. "I guess we'd better catch the bus back."

He turns to go. Before he can take two steps a hand grabs the back of his shirt, hauls him back. That same hand lands between his shoulder blades, gently, to nudge him towards the theatre.

"I'll pay," Choutarou says. He smiles.

Shishido blanches. Shit, he thinks, not for the first time.

Shit.

***

"Popcorn?"

Shishido takes a deep, steadying breath. Damn Oshitari to hell anyway.

After clearing his throat three times he manages a raspy, "Yeah, sure."

He's been to the theatre with Choutarou countless of times. They usually split the costs; one of them gets the tickets and the other, food and drinks. Only this time they didn't, not because this is a date or anything as lame as that, no, but the only yen Shishido found were a few coins hiding in the lint at the bottom of his rucksack. So, no, Choutarou isn't treating him, because Shishido is going to pay him back tomorrow. Still not a date. Of course this could never be a date in the first place, since, well, dates happen when people know they like each other. Like that. Cause he's pretty sure Choutarou likes him, but not like like that.

Shishido knows this. It's a constant mantra in his head. Not a date. Not a date. Not a date. Not-

Yet his palms are sweaty and his chest is feels raw and hollow and too full and that ringing between his ears is back, making it hard to concentrate what's being said to him.

"-ido-san?"

Choutarou pokes him.

"Erg!" Ah, er, what?" Shishido asks, unconsciously clutching his arm where the lingering ghost-touch tingles, burned into his skin through his shirt.

Choutarou blinks down on him. "I got the biggest one," he repeats. "Are you all right? You're pale."

"I'm fine," Shishido blurts out, making a mental vow to end Oshitari's life on Monday. Choutarou getting a tub of popcorn and paying for that and the tickets does NOT equal a date. It doesn't.

"You don't look fine," Choutarou points out. "Are you sure you didn't get a concussion, hitting your head like that?"

"I, eh-" Shishido tries to gather his wits. "What?"

"Your head," Choutarou's hand comes up. Fingers brush trough Shishido's hair, carefully, and then pinpoint the lump with unerring accuracy.

"Ouch! Hey-" he yowls and even though it doesn't hurt quite so much, those fingers need to go before he does something he's gonna regret. Because y'know, it's still not a date.

Choutarou withdraws his hand, startled. "Sorry, senpai. I didn't mean to hurt you."

"S'okay," Shishido tells him, heart still thumping wildly. He feels stupid for stopping the caress and even stupider for feeling stupid about stopping it.

In the dark of the theatre it gets even worse. Somewhere Shishido realizes he's missing out on a great movie, but though his eyes are locked onto the screen all his attention is drawn towards the boy next to him. He can hear him breathe and shift his legs as he tries to find more space for them. Out of the edge of his eye, he glimpses Choutarou's hand on the armrest between them, long fingers loosely curled and relaxed. If he focuses he can even smell him, the soap he uses and something sharper and more penetrating; turpentine. From painting.

Shishido's knuckles go white on the armrests.

An elbow nudges into his side and Shishido bites his tongue as he starts violently. Choutarou motions with the popcorn, inviting him to take some. Shaking his head, Shishido stares straight ahead. He's both hungry and not, he's nervous, and his stomach churns and what if he puts his hand in the bucket right when Choutarou does and their fingers touch? Because, well, it's still not a date.

The crowing act, though, occurs when they're halfway through the movie.

Choutarou shifts, yawns and stretches.

Flying out of his seat so fast he nearly topples face-first into the row before him, Shishido can only stand there, the ringing deafening between his ears. He feels faintly ill.

"Alright?" Choutarou asks, touching the back of his hand. There's a film of cold, clammy sweat all over his body. Choutarou must feel this and his eyes go wide and worried. "You're not," he concludes and starts to get up, "let's go."

"No, I'm fine," Shishido shakes his head, tries to sit back down and proceeds to stumble face-first into Choutarou's chest, crushing his nose against his partner's collarbone. "Oompf."

Around them people are muttering angrily, telling them to sit down and be quiet. Choutarou murmurs an apology as he gathers their belongings before grabbing his hand and towing him bodily along. Shishido feels his heart shoot up into his mouth and wishes for this madness to pass. Manoeuvring them through the aisle, Choutarou heads for the exit, still holding his hand. The warmth spreading from Choutarou's right hand ignites his body, setting it aflame.

And he's painfully hard.

Outside, on the sidewalk near the theatre's entrance, Choutarou lets go. Shishido has to lean on his knees to make his head stop swimming. And to hide, well... let's just say to prevent awkward questions.

After a minute or two he can stand up again, though his knees feel like jelly.

Choutarou is looking at him, eyes fixed with no shame on his face, searching for clues. "Better?" he asks, nearly thrumming with concern.

"I'm sorry," Shishido manages under his breath. "I just wasted your yen and-"

"Shishido-san," Choutarou says, interrupting him. "Here, or you'll catch a cold." Hands drop a jacket over his shoulders, the cloth drowning him. It's too big and therefore isn't his own.

They don't talk much on the way home, Choutarou positive that Shishido must be concussed while Shishido tries to act normal. The jacket smells of Choutarou and is still warm from his body. Shishido closes his eyes.

That night he lies in bed, the noise a roaring that thumps in time with his heart while his brain tries to make sense of it all. Choutarou and he have been close friends for ages. But for some reason all Choutarou has to do is look at him and his blood starts to hum. And when he touches Shishido, however innocent, it the hum changes into singing, to roaring, deafeningly so, even though this isn't the first time they've touched. And it wasn't the first time he saw Choutarou play the piano. It wasn't the first time he wore Choutarou's clothing. And it definitely wasn't the first time they saw a movie together and shared popcorn.

Conclusion: he's going insane.

Because suddenly all those details that have always rolled by on a regular basis, which have always been insignificant, well... all of them suddenly are. Significant. Suddenly he's hyper-aware of them, second-guessing them, looking for hidden intentions.

Worst of all? He kinda wanted it to be a date.

In the darkness of his room, cocooned under his sheets, he can admit that to himself. He knows it was not and knows that's he's being stupid and lame and girlish even, but he just can't stop himself. His stomach is a knot pressing up against his heart, making it beat in his throat, close enough he can hear a deafening doki doki between his ears. He feels strange, awkward in his own body and mind and he hopes so, so badly that this will just stop.

He's sick of being in love.

Lovesick.

Which is lamer than lame, because he's not some stupid girl, right? He isn't, but… somehow, he's still in love with another boy.

And can there be anything worse than kinda but sorta not wanting it to be a date? If it had been - a date that is - he'd have been the goddamn girl.

Fucking lame.







...on to part 2!







Comment on part 3, please.