It was when they began yelling that it woke him up.
"You're delusional. The only reason Ohtori's still partners with the likes of you is because he's too polite to say anything. You're the weak link. You always were." Sharp words, hateful words, fired in a semi-petulant tone that seemed to belittle the words themselves. Gakuto had never been in the habit of thinking before he spoke, and even as Jirou was blinking the warm fuzz of sleep from his eyes he could see the ragged edge to Gakuto's smirk, the curve of his lips bitter, bitter.
Shishido snarled, all barefaced ferocity and, somewhere in fathoms of glare, a certain insidious anger. "Hah! Look who's talking, Mukahi. Come back when you've got a victory in the Kantou regionals." At this Gakuto's lips pressed tight, thin and white, and the color that rose to his cheeks stained like the marks of a blow; and even Jirou, unseen and uninvolved, stifled his wince, lowering his lashes in a reflexive attempt to hide. Shishido was crude, and equally impulsive as his opponent, but his jabs were unerring, which made them all the more devastating.
The silence that followed would have been deafening even had there been other members of the club there to break it, and Jirou's fingers tightened against the smooth, featureless plastic of the bench beneath him; he was too frozen even to attempt a yawn. And suddenly, in one of those flashes of impulse that would send him zinging to his feet at the most unexpected of moments, he wished for Atobe-san to be here--surely he could stop this meaningless... dogfight.
It had started out innocuously enough, if any of the clashes between Shishido Ryou and Mukahi Gakuto could be called as such--just another disagreement, albeit a somewhat violent one, to match the violent personalities implicated. But lately... lately the arguments were less routine--everyone had become inured to the pair's screaming matches; they were as much a part of the clubroom as the daily conversation--but they had been growing more and more vicious, more and more personal, as though the two were now determined to rip each other apart at the seams. For the first time, blows were lobbed that landed always where it hurt most, seemingly without thought or restraint.
The murmur of voices was a low hum, like the song of bees in the honey-sweet haze of a half-doze that wrapped around Jirou, warm as a blanket. He didn't quite register everything that had happened, but he had a pretty good idea, because the Hyotei clubroom was never really silent; never quite quiet enough to allow him to actually fall asleep.
"We beat you today. Again. You can't keep that bloated cherry head of yours in the sand forever, Gakuto." Shishido's tone was smug as he never dared to let it become when Ohtori was around. However, Ohtori had had to go home earlier that day, silver head sunk morosely between his shoulders at the impossibilities of the project deadline hanging over him.
"So maybe your doubles play has improved to the point that you can beat me and Yuushi on a fluke," Gakuto had shot back, his face twisting in an ugly mask at conceding even that much, "But that's only because Ohtori stooped to help you. Without him, in singles play, anyone could beat you without even breaking a sweat." Through some bizarre quirk of fate, Oshitari also was not present to exert his usual calming influence on his high-strung partner, and Gakuto had been wound tighter and tighter since their loss in the regionals, till even the fluidity of his muscles was jerky and his grip on his racquet was white-knuckled during practice with the tension that thrummed through him like a string about to snap. And it was just pure bad luck that it happened to be the first time since the regionals that he and Shishido had been left alone together.
Things had only gone downhill from there, until the moments had melded together like a half-dream for Jirou; but that was before the shouts began and the now was Gakuto and Shishido standing several paces apart, two walls of lockers stretching behind them like the heavy, menacing planks of the ring in the bullfights that Jirou's father watched sometimes, with the TV turned low in the living room late at night so his mother wouldn't hear. The former was pale and rigid in the cold wash of light in the nighttime of the clubroom, save for those unnatural splotches of color in both cheeks, as though Gakuto had raked his nails over them like he did sometimes, hard enough to bruise, and the broken blood would flood the spaces between the weals, speckled and red and painful. His proud, pointed chin was up, although he was panting with the effort of screaming his every word. Opposite him, Shishido held his ground though the muscles of his shoulders rolled and quivered with nervous energy, and even in his self-imposed semi-darkness Jirou could see the way the dash specialist was pulling in on himself, lithe frame curved in the powerful bow of the predator about to pounce.
And then Shishido smiled, panther-like. "Me, Mukahi..." He shook his head. "The way I see it, you're the one most dependent on your partner. Without Oshitari, you'd just be a flashy clown doing racquet tricks."
Jirou never even saw Gakuto move, and apparently neither did Shishido; just a blur of red like the flash of sun in a rearview mirror, then clang--Shishido's back rang the lockers as Gakuto slammed him up against them with his hands twisted in his shirt, his voice shaking, quivering to pieces in his fury. "Bastard. Bastard!" he half-screamed. "Take it back!" And for a suspended moment both of them were flushed and close and panting in a frozen hush--then Shishido, still with that smile on his lips, whispered harshly, "No," and at that, almost at the exact moment, Gakuto surged upward and unleashed his anger, hot and violent and furious against the curve of Shishido's mouth in the cacophonic shades of the lockers.
Jirou watched wide-eyed from his darkened bench, as Shishido pulled back, ink seeping into his gaze and making it into a stranger's, growling something unintelligible with Gakuto's grasping fingers clenched greedily in his too-short hair--and sprang; and this time it was Gakuto's back that struck the lockers as they went careening across the room, his hips lifting off the metal with his moan as Shishido drove his lips against his, dug a roiling tongue past his teeth and invaded his mouth as though he would eat him whole. Pressed close to one dusky cheek, all that could be seen of Gakuto now was one blazing blue eye dusted across the lashes with tendrils like the day melting over the horizon--and he bit down. A muffled curse from Shishido later, they were once again flush against the other wall, Gakuto stealing the breath from him almost as fast as he gulped it past those ravaging lips.
Bastard. Clang. Fucker. Whore. Bitch. Clang.
And it went on, the insults between breaths more and more venomous, but they were matched by the fervor of the kisses, the biting and the licking and the press of their hips till the clamor of abused lockers was almost deafening. And Jirou watched it all, fascinated by the struggle reeling back and forth across the clubroom in an obscure sort of way that dashed sleep from his mind completely, where it had still been hovering even when all this had started. This wasn't a foreign occurrence in the Hyotei tennis clubroom, after all--although, to be sure, he had never actually watched before.
Finally, they had worked themselves into a corner behind the benches, with nowhere to go. Gakuto sat where he had fallen against the foot of the lockers, his legs curled beneath him; but there was still murder in the wide eyes that pinned Shishido, slumped over him in a shadow of hot breaths and narrowed eyes. The echoes still bouncing off the rows of lockers faded, gradually, until the quiet returned, settled between them like tacit permission; Gakuto looked down, breaking away from the uneasy stare he held. And a peculiar thing seemed to come over Shishido--his face tightened, heavy lids falling over suddenly softened eyes, half-moon blue. He slid downwards, fingers scraping gently over pitted metal and rusted locks, till he crouched before Gakuto, their foreheads almost touching when he spoke. "Goddamn it, Gakuto. Why can't you ever just back off?"
"Why won't you?" Gakuto flared up again, trying to shrug off the hand that had tipped gently from the locker to his shoulder.
"Shut up." The last thing Jirou saw, through heavy lashes before the renewed quiet lulled him back into his doze, was Shishido dipping his head, softly into the shadows beneath Gakuto's bangs. Now, wasn’t that just something?
Erm... >>; 'Tis very, very raw, rawer than my usual, even, because it's almost entirely transcribed directly from the paper I scribbled it on... Just headlong writing, I'm afraid. Heh, sorry about this, just a clumsy initial exploration into the dynamic of the pairing. ^^; But this pairing was just such fun to write! X3 I can't help it if I'm an absurd fangirl who thinks kissing can be a form of sparring. :P
Whee! I have no idea of their canon interaction, really. But they seem to antagonize each other a lot in pretty much every fic I've ever come across, and their personalities seem like they'd clash, so on impulse I went with that... And whoo boy, did the sparks fly. X3 <3 I think they could be an OTP. It'll have to wait till I dig up inspiration for more fic for them, because I haven't seen any fic with this pairing at all. D:
Feedback, please! Thankee muchly. ^.^
On a final note, HEMINGWAY, what the hell are you doing in there. --;;;
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