He'd never found scars beautiful, before.
Ohtori knew he shouldn't have been looking - it wasn't what good boys did, and maybe he'd have to say it in confession the next time he went - and he'd hated putting those scars there, hated it so badly that it had hurt, twisting in his stomach. After that first night-time practice, when Shishido-senpai had come closer to him, his eyes black, not blue, in the white floodlights... only then had Ohtori been able to see the way his senpai's lip had slipped, split, the way his knees were ragged. God help him, Ohtori had gone home and thrown up.
It hadn't been the scrapes or the bruises, or even the way the blood looked shining and wet on Shishido-senpai's lips and the tip of his tongue when he licked it away and then spat, cursing. Ohtori didn't like hurting people, he'd never liked it, and even knowing that if Shishido had wanted him to - knowing that those balls had come from his hands, knowing that those bruises and cuts and the way that his senpai had been limping had come from the sport that he loved... it had made him sick to his stomach.
He should have said no - should have looked away from the intensity in those sapphire eyes when Shishido grabbed him by the arms and told him - not asked, because Shishido-senpai didn't ever ask for anything - that Ohtori was going to be hitting Scud Serves at him.
But he'd never been able to look away from Shishido-senpai, not even when that too-slim body crashed into the rough green of the tennis courts, over and over and over again like a bad dream he just couldn't go to sleep without seeing, and each time Ohtori felt his breath hitch in a sob because he wanted this time with him, wanted him to win, wanted it so badly, and he just couldn't rip his eyes away because he wondered if that would leave him with more wounds than Shishido-senpai.
But now... the scars on that tanned skin were beginning to heal, and fall away, and some of them left the smallest lines. It had been almost three weeks. There were new bruises - new, fresh wounds that sometimes cracked open when Shishido stretched on the courts, all grace, and left little anemones on the body of his jersey - but the old ones were starting to disappear. It must have hurt, to have them layered on each other like that, and Ohtori always tried to be Shishido's partner during warm-up because that he knew - because he'd never been able to tear his gaze from those wrists, those arms - not to put his hands where Shishido-senpai had all those ugly marks on his tanned skin.
Maybe he was a little too obvious - after the first few days, after everyone stopped watching Shishido at practice like they were waiting for him to cry or explain the new wounds (how could they not look at him, the way his hair was heavy chestnut in a handful of glistening crushed shells, and there was always such intensity in his mouth?) Shishido had bumped him, gently, with a hip. He'd tingled with the contact, surprised - and more surprised at the little cynical twitch of a smile at the corners of his senpai's mouth. He hadn't seen Shishido-senpai smile since he'd been dropped from the Regulars. And he'd have definitely noticed if Shishido-senpai had. "Oi. Ohtori-kun. S'fine. I won't break."
Ohtori knew that. He'd seen it. A thousand times, a thousand balls knocking him to the ground. But in his nightmares, he'd seen Shishido-senpai shatter, and maybe that was why he always watched - because, maybe, if he kept his eyes on those breaks on Shishido-senpai's skin, they wouldn't be able to keep breaking him.
He knew Shishido-senpai was strong, but - Ohtori hadn't been able to hold his senpai when his pride had shattered to pieces. Maybe - maybe he could hold him together here. If he kept watching.
The scabs on the back of his arms were beginning to heal and fall off, and some of them, in the wet trickle of the locker room showers, left scars, but... but they weren't red, or swollen, just shallow little white lines that were painted like silver, dripped with water.
Ohtori had been surprised the first time he'd seen Shishido-senpai in the showers - not because he'd looked, just because he'd seen - because, well, he definitely wasn't skinny. Ohtori knew that Shishido-senpai wasn't short, just shorter than a lot of the rest of the Hyotei Regular team - but he hadn't expected Shishido-senpai's back and shoulders to ripple with long, wet lines of muscle when he brought his hands up to wash his hair. Ohtori had always liked watching his senpai wash that hair - it was almost black when wet, but warmer than black, maybe something like a summer midnight when the fireworks had just ended - because Shishido-senpai was rough with himself, with everyone, a lot of the time... but the way he slid his fingers into his hair, and let his head fall back a little as all the suds made clouds between his fingers, smoke from the fireworks, made him look like he enjoyed it so much. His hands were slow, then, gentle.
Ohtori knew he could be - he'd seen it, felt it, as a freshman, seen Shishido-senpai yell and swear and curse on the courts, seen him sneer at the Regulars... he'd had Shishido-senpai growl and push him to his knees by his shoulders after a particular bad serve, much to his shock and humiliation.
But then Shishido-senpai's hand had been on his, calluses rough but grip gentle, holding Ohtori's hand on the grip of his brand-new racquet - and Ohtori had understood, past the surge of shock and tingles when Shishido-senpai's ponytail brushed against his ears, that he was showing him the exact right way to serve.
Yes, Shishido-senpai had growled. Yes, he'd shaken his head, and said that he was hopeless, and that Ohtori might've been tall but that he was never going to learn any control - but every time he showed Ohtori how to serve, his hands and his grip never hurt... and he kept showing him, over and over, and there'd been that grin - oh, that grin, it was how he knew smiles - when the ball pinpointed the corner for the tenth time.
Ohtori had understood, then. Shishido-senpai was gentle in his own way. It was when he'd started watching him.
It seemed like it was so long ago, but it wasn't - not really, the water carved the same shining lines across the same muscles, painted now with darker purple, and an angry rash of marks that the courts had ripped in Shishido-senpai's body whenever he'd fallen. Shishido-senpai's hands were still slow, and easy, and he still tilted his head back and let the suds find their way down his hair and onto his back, and they trickled into those little silver prints and hid them. It was like nothing had changed - but it had, because the soap couldn't hide every mark that Ohtori had felt being raked onto that too-familiar body.
Slowly, he raised his hand and closed one eye - traced his fingertips down the wet trail of Shishido's hair. He couldn't feel it under his hands, no, of course not - but with one eye closed, it was almost, almost, almost. It was the same way his Oneesan had taught him to cover the moon when he was little, and Shishido-senpai wasn't the moon, but... but Shishido-senpai wasn't like that, either.
Ohtori jerked with surprise when Shishido-senpai spoke, though. "Hey, Ohtori. Thanks for today," Shishido told him, back still turned as he stepped under the shower - and Ohtori watched, greed tight in his mouth, and he couldn't be greedy, but oh, he was, greedy and jealous of the way the water was a curtain and hid those sleek shoulders and stripped away all the clouds from the fire-worked midnight sky - and his hands were rough again as he shook out all the shampoo.
"No, Shishido-senpai," it was always the same answer. It was always the same script. It was always the same way he was watching his senpai, and wanting, and never knowing exactly what he wanted. "It's nothing."
Except then Shishido-senpai looked over his shoulder, and Ohtori's eyes snapped wide. Shishido-senpai never turned around - it was why Ohtori could watch him, his back to the tiled wall as he took his own bitterly cold shower - and...
And Shishido-senpai didn't seem surprised to find Ohtori looking at him.
"Ohtori," there was something in Shishido-senpai's voice. Ohtori didn't know what it was. He didn't understand what the shine was in eyes that were blue, too blue, didn't understand what might have almost been a laugh, and he should have looked away because his cheeks were on fire despite the cold of the water... but he could never look away.
It only took one try for him to get the word out, garbled by the crackle of water. "Y-yes?"
Shishido-senpai... smiled. "You've gotta stop calling me 'senpai.'"
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