Notes: I tried to stick to the goddamn Japanese school system [which is annoying and confusing to someone in America], but uh...didn't quite work out that way. So, you lot have to deal with as close to the system as I could get. ^^


Birthday Secrets
by Jaelawyn Noble


The subway was always crowded in the afternoons when Shishido got on. Two stops after he got on, people would pour off, and he could grab a seat before another influx of people got on. He felt it was his due, having to ride this line until he had to get off at the last stop and switch lines and go another five stops before arriving at his destination.

He waited, pressed against the side of the train, watching as the stops flickered by and people almost fall and then catch themselves. He sighed, waiting for his stop to be announced as he zoned out. He didn't really have any place in mind, just a hopeful outcome.

As he wandered around the out-of-the-way, secluded market that was still crawling with people. Street vendors hawked their wares, but Shishido ignored them and just looked. He spent an hour or so looking around at various stores and was discouraged. He didn't think he'd find what he was looking for.

About to leave, he saw a street vendor setting out a new display. Shishido eyed them and smiled, going over and picking one of the items up, inspecting it, before bargaining with the vendor over its price.

~

"I honestly think I shouldn't go to school on my birthday," Ohtori whispered to Hiyoshi as he opened his locker to switch his shoes. "Just hide under my covers in the dorm."

"I doubt it would do any good," Hiyoshi muttered. "You'd still have to deal with the girls giving you gifts the next time you showed up for your birthday."

Ohtori sighed, "Don't remind me."

"What's that?" Hiyoshi asked, frowning as he pointed to a box sitting on top of Ohtori's shoes.

Ohtori blinked, "It's too small to be chocolates."

He reached in and took the box out, frowning at the complete lack of adornment. It was a simple white cardboard jewelry box. No logo, no address, nothing. Ohtori opened the box with a frown and blinked in surprise at the simple hematite ring that lay nestled in the white cotton. Tucked into the side of the box was a little slip of paper. Taking it out, Ohtori set the box back in the little locker and opened the paper.

Printed in simple calligraphy was "Happy Birthday."

"Who sent it?" Hiyoshi asked, curious.

"I-it doesn't say," Ohtori whispered, turning the paper over, and then inspecting the box when no name came up. "But who…?"

"Try it on, see if it fits."

Ohtori picked the ring out of the box and slipped it on his right middle finger, surprised when it slid on easily.

"Someone knows you very well," Hiyoshi said, raising his eyebrow.

Ohtori looked at his friend, confused.

"They especially know your heart," Hiyoshi tapped the ring.

"But…who could have sent it?" Ohtori asked, confused.

~

"That's a beautiful ring," Oshitari drawled, nodding his head towards Ohtori's hand. "Who gave it to you?"

Ohtori shrugged, "I don't know. I found it in my locker after school."

"Really?" Oshitari asked, raising an eyebrow and smirking.

"Better hurry up, Choutarou," Shishido said, narrowing his eyes at Oshitari, whose smirk widened. "Atobe's in a bad mood today."

"How could he be in a bad mood?" Gakuto muttered, changing his shirt and pulling his shorts on. "Didn't his ego get stroked enough today?"

"He, Oshitari, and Shishido tied for the most amount of candy, didn't you?" Jiroh yawned, sleepily changing.

"Shh!" both Shishido and Oshitari hushed, jumping over and slapping hands over Jiroh's mouth.

"Jiroh! Do you want us dead?" Shishido yelped. "He just knows about Oshitari!"

"Oh, trust me, he knows you're even with him this year too, Shishido," Oshitari glowered.

Jiroh tried to say something, but it was muffled.

"So what? He's going to kill us during practice today!" Shishido snapped, removing his hands.

Gakuto went over to Ohtori and inspected the ring. "It's nice! You can wear it during tennis too, wouldn't get in the way or anything."

Ohtori nodded, "I know. It fit perfectly too. I'm rather awed by the whole situation. Most girls would just—"

"I'm going to get this over with," Shishido announced suddenly, standing up and grabbing his racquet. "Might as well start running the laps now."

Oshitari quirked and eyebrow and smirked at Shishido before following, "I'll run those laps with you, okay?"

Hiyoshi and Ohtori frowned at the two other regulars as they walked out while Gakuto and Jiroh shared conspiring grins.

"Hey, Ohtori," Jiroh grinned. "Where'd you find the ring?"

"In my locker, about twenty minutes ago," Ohtori said, confused. "Why?"

"Oh, just curious."

"Shishido went missing around then, didn't he?" Gakuto asked Jiroh, tapping his lips with a finger. "I wonder where he went."

"He said he forgot to copy down the assignment in history," Jiroh said, grinning back, "but he wasn't going the right way for the history classes."

"Maybe he was asking the teacher?" Gakuto suggested, smirking widely as he tightened his shoe laces and then stood up. "C'mon, let's go watch Atobe yell at Oshitari and Shishido."

"That'll be fun to watch," Jiroh said, yawning. "Maybe I won't fall asleep for this practice."

Ohtori frowned, watching the other two leave. "What do you think they're talking about?" he asked Hiyoshi, who was shaking his head.

"How's the water, Ohtori?" he asked with a small shake of his head.

"What?" asked a confused Ohtori as he followed Hiyoshi out of the club room.

~

"So, where'd you buy it?" Oshitari asked as he ran evenly with the shorter boy.

"Street vendor at one of the open markets," Shishido said, making sure no one was listening.

"Going to tell him?" Oshitari asked with a grin.

"You going to tell Gakuto you're the one who's been leaving the chocolates in his locker for the past two weeks?" Shishido sniped back.

Oshitari smirked, "Unlike Ohtori, Gakuto will figure it out on his own."

"What do you mean by… Oh, who am I kidding? You're right," Shishido sighed. "He's too adorably dense to figure out that his senpai might like him."

"So, be blatant."

"Hell no!" Shishido snapped. "It'd scare him off!"

"Then you'll forever suffer in silence," Oshitari observed.

"I'll gladly suffer," Shishido sighed. "At least he's happy about the gift."

"Yes, I'd say he's very happy about it," Oshitari grinned. "He's done nothing but run his thumb along it and smile to himself, even if he does look confused about who might have sent it."

Shishido looked at the ground and continued to run his laps in silence.

~

When White Day rolled around, Shishido was surprised to find an unmarked box with a silver and hematite pendant with a leather thong in his locker in the club house. Oshitari and Gakuto exchanged confused glances, and Hiyoshi frowned. Shishido had looked at it for a few seconds before looking for a note and finding none.

He continued staring at it, wondering who it could be from, if it was from Ohtori. Ohtori hadn't even noticed, coming into the club room five minutes later and changing quickly before running back out to the courts.

"Do you think…?" Jiroh asked Gakuto quietly as they watched Shishido put the cover on the box and put it in his bag before grabbing his racquet and leaving the club house.

"Ohtori would have said something," Gakuto said with a frown. "To someone, anyone… Hiyoshi?"

"Not a word," the junior said. "I think he still doesn't know who sent the ring, but he keeps rubbing it with his thumb and smiles to himself whenever I point it out."

"Argh!" Gakuto shouted, messing his hair up. "What the hell? Who sent the necklace then?"

"It wasn't Ohtori," Jiroh yawned. "That much is obvious."

"They got Shishido's favorite stone down, though," Oshitari mused. "He loves jade, onyx, and hematite."

"But who…?" Gakuto moaned.

"Shishido does have a lot of fans," Oshitari pointed out. "Maybe it's one of them."

"Poor Ohtori," Jiroh said sadly.

~

After practice, Ohtori watched as the other regulars started pelting Shishido with questions, asking if he knew who the gift was from, what gift was it, who did he think it was from, was he seeing someone in secret, did he think it was someone on the team?

Shishido had just ignored them, and gotten changed. Ohtori, changing next to him, heard the intake of breath as Shishido found another box in his locker.

"Another one?" Atobe asked in annoyance, raising an elegant eyebrow. "Are you involved in a triangle this time, Shishido?"

Shishido absently flipped their captain off while he opened the long, slender box. Inside were a pair of hair sticks, simple black lacquered wooden hair sticks, wrapped in light blue tissue paper.

Everyone was silent, watching Shishido with rapt attention as he looked for a card. Like with the previous gift, there was none.

Ohtori rubbed his ring as Atobe plucked one of the sticks out of Shishido's hand, inspecting it. "I think this is a hint that you should grow your hair back out," he said quietly, handing the stick back.

Shishido nodded, tilting his head to the side as he considered the gift. He closed it up and slipped it into his bag and finished getting changed.

"Well?" Ohtori heard Oshitari asking Shishido. "Any idea?"

"No," Shishido said softly. "I mean, almost everyone complimented my hair when I had it, but I don't know anyone who would have access to the club to slip it into my locker."

"You found a note for the other one, didn't you?" Oshitari asked.

"Yeah, it was hidden in my towel. Something about meeting at the courts at 9 tonight," Shishido sighed.

"Know who it might be?"

"Not a clue."

"Going to show up?"

Shishido rolled his eyes, "Of course. You never know, after all."

Oshitari shook his head, "Give it up, Ryou."

"Never," Shishido said softly, sadly.

Ohtori wondered what they meant as he finished changing.

~

"Shishido-san!" Ohtori gasped as he saw a slightly banged up, and extremely pissed off, Shishido the next morning. "What happened?"

Shishido looked at Ohtori and then sighed, looking away. "Nothing. Just got into a fight."

A hand reached between them and traced the cut on Shishido's lip. "A fight?" Oshitari asked. "Can you still play?"

Shishido held up his wrists, both bruised dark purple and black, "You wanna see if I can play?"

 

"Shishido-san!" Ohtori exclaimed, taking one of Shishido's wrists and examining it. "It's not broken, is it?"

"No," Shishido sighed. "I went to the hospital, they're just really badly bruised and sprained a bit."

"How did it happen?" Ohtori asked, worried. He knew Shishido could take care of himself and had proved it several times over within the few weeks when he had been dropped. Not all the bruises and scars on Shishido's body had been from Ohtori's Scud Serve.

Shishido was silent.

"How did last night go?" Oshitari asked with worried look in his eyes.

"Some underclassman with a crush," Shishido said.

"Oshitari! Ohtori!" Atobe snapped out, stalking over to them. "Why aren't you warming up? Shishido! Care to explain why you're not—"

Shishido thrust one wrist in front of Atobe's face, causing Atobe's eyes to widen and take a step back.

"Doctor said to go easy on them for a week or so," Shishido muttered, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Gets me out of doing homework for a while since it hurts to write a bit."

Atobe held his hand out and Shishido sighed and let Atobe press and push against his wrist, hissing and wincing every now and then when Atobe hit a particularly sore spot.

"Who did this?" Atobe demanded.

"It's not important," Shishido muttered, head bent as he looked fixedly at the ground.

Atobe's lips thinned before he looked at Ohtori and Oshitari, "Well? Why haven't the two of you started warm ups yet? Move it!"

Both of them jumped and left. Ohtori worried his lip and watched as Shishido talked softly with Atobe, who only seemed to grow angrier by the second.

Whoever hurt Shishido would pay, and they would pay more than once when the team was done with them.

~

Shishido opened his bag to pull his history textbook out for class and blinked. Sitting on top of all his books was a colorfully wrapped package.

"Shishido? Did you forget your book?" Atobe asked, frowning from the desk next to Shishido.

"N-no," Shishido said, pulling both the book and package out. "I just…"

Atobe sat up and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, now this is interesting," he grinned. "Open it."

Shishido glanced at Atobe and frowned slightly before he carefully opened the paper, making sure not to rip any of it, and blinked in surprise as he held a historical fiction novel he'd been eyeing at the bookstore only two days ago.

"Is there a note?" Atobe asked, smirking.

Shishido flipped through the pages, looking for a note, and then searched the paper and his bag. "No…no note," he whispered.

"Well, now you have something to occupy yourself with during practices," Atobe said with a smirk. "Now, you might want to put that away before the teacher catches you."

~

Oshitari poked Gakuto in the ribs as Ohtori came into the club room. Shishido was already gone and sitting in the bleachers, nose buried in a book. Atobe was standing at the door, and Jiroh was nearly vibrating with energy for once.

"Ah, is there something wrong?" Ohtori asked nervously.

"You're the one who gave Shishido the hair sticks," Oshitari drawled.

"And the book," Atobe smirked.

Ohtori flushed and looked cornered. "I—"

"We'd like to help you out," Gakuto chirped, pulling Ohtori down to his height and slinging an arm around the tall boy's shoulders. "The Drama Queen needs to open his eyes every now and then and see what's right under his nose."

Ohtori flushed, "I don't…"

"What he's trying to say," Oshitari said with a smile, "is that we'll help you try and win Shishido's affections. It's not always easy trying to leave anonymous gifts for people, eventually they'll figure it out."

"But I want him to fi—"

"Let him know when the time is right," Atobe interrupted smoothly. "Meanwhile, let us play…messenger for you. If you need help getting something to him, all you need to do is find one of us and we'll help."

"You already know he sent the ring," Jiroh said excitedly, "so it's not like you don't know if he likes you."

"Oh, trust me," Atobe laughed, "he likes you."

"We're just going to help him realize you like him too," Gakuto smirked.

Ohtori squelched the urge to run and nodded, "Thank you."

"Afraid yet?" Atobe asked him softly.

Ohtori nodded and smiled, "A little, but also very thankful."

"Good answer," Oshitari smirked.

~

Oshitari pulled Ohtori aside during practice while Gakuto and Shishido teased and fought with each other, creating a perfect distraction.

"What were you thinking of getting him next?" Oshitari asked quietly, keeping an eye on Gakuto, knowing that the shorter boy had a flair for taking teasing Shishido too far.

"I…I hadn't thought about it," Ohtori confessed softly. "I usually just go browsing around the city and if I find something, I buy it."

"When were you planning on going next?"

"After practice, I guess."

"Good, wait for me. I'll help you on this one," Oshitari grinned, winking at the flustered junior.

"All right, Oshitari-san."

~

Ohtori paused outside a shop that sold candles and various other odds and ends, looking at some of the displays in the window. Oshitari, noticing, double backed and stood next to Ohtori, smiling as he stuck his hands in his pockets.

"Shishido does like candles," Oshitari said in amusement.

Ohtori blinked at the older boy, "He does?"

Oshitari laughed and pushed Ohtori into the store. "Yes, he does. Atobe found this out about two years ago, which is the reason why he always gives Shishido things that have scents to them."

"The shampoos and…?"

"Mmhm," Oshitari grinned. "Shishido, as much as he tries to hide or deny it, is just as vain in certain aspects as our beloved Atobe."

Ohtori frowned, picking up a glass-blown sun catcher. "I don't think anyone could ever match Atobe-san in any aspect of vanity."

Oshitari shrugged. "He was, with his hair. His eyes as well."

"Eyes?" Ohtori asked, looking over his shoulder at Oshitari.

Oshitari grinned and nodded, "You never saw him when we all used to go clubbing."

Ohtori blinked, "He clubbed?"

"In leather and eyeliner," Oshitari grinned, remembering the first time he'd seen Shishido all done up. "Sometimes it was just tight jeans."

"He doesn't do it any more?"

"No, the eyeliner would look bad, and he's calmed down a bit. We all have," Oshitari said, reaching over and ruffling Ohtori's hair. "When his hair grows back out, take him clubbing and ask him about the eyeliner and leather. He'll probably do it for you."

Ohtori flushed and picked up a coffee cup that had a candle melted into it. "Oshitari-san?"

Oshitari looked up from inspecting a glass blown Witch Ball. "Hm?"

Ohtori held up the candle, "Coffee scented candles."

Oshitari laughed, "Those I think he would very much enjoy."

Nodding, Ohtori picked up the other one in the set and wandered off to pay for them while Oshitari inspected the Witch Ball. With the help the other seniors were giving Ohtori, Shishido wouldn't know what hit him. Since Oshitari and Atobe had paired away with Gakuto and Jiroh, Shishido had indeed calmed down, having no one to go out with. Ohtori was a way for Shishido to stop sentencing himself to being reclusive.

Oshitari knew that in the end, it was the best thing for them all.

~

Shishido sighed and flopped onto the couch in his and Ohtori's suite. He was tired. Two weeks had passed since he had injured his wrists and, while still bruised, they were easier to deal with. He had three papers, seventy math problems, and two tests to study for, all for tomorrow. He hated all the end of the year ascension tests. Of course, those tests were next week, and he would be in high school within a month or so, give or take a few weeks.

He hated that idea.                

"ARGH!" Shishido shouted into a pillow, trying to muffle his outburst so as not to disturb Ohtori, who was studying for his own finals.

"Shishido-san?" Ohtori asked quietly, poking his head out his door. "Are you all right?"

Shishido flapped his hand at Ohtori, "I'm fine, Choutarou. Just frustrated."

"Exams?" Ohtori asked quietly, sitting  down next to Shishido.

"Yeah, among other things," Shishido muttered. "How's studying for your exams going?"

"Having some issues with English and History," Ohtori sighed. "All the verbs and grammar are blurring in my mind."

Shishido grinned, "You'll do fine, Choutarou. English isn't that hard, and you just need to calm down and take it one bit at a time."

Ohtori flushed slightly, "My study habits aren't what they should be."

"Relax," Shishido ordered with a grin. "Now, what bit are you having issues with in History?"

"International," Ohtori groaned. "America, at the moment. I have learned to hate the colonies with a passion."

Shishido laughed, "Go grab your book! I'll help you on it."

"Thank you!" Ohtori said thankfully, getting up to grab his book.

Shishido watched him go and frowned as someone knocked. Getting up, Shishido opened the door to see Atobe and a bouncy Jiroh waiting at the door. "What the hell?" he asked, frowning.

"A little bird delivered this to me and told me to give it to you," Atobe smirked, handing over a box. "Enjoy."

Shishido took the box, raising an eyebrow. "Not studying for the Literature test?"

"If I read any more ancient Chinese Literature, I'll scream," Atobe said blandly. "Jiroh and I are going out to dinner for a break."

Jiroh grinned, "Open the box!"

"Another gift?" Ohtori asked, curious, as he stood next to Shishido, his history text in his hand.

Shishido glanced at Ohtori, who was rubbing his thumb unconsciously over the hematite ring. Sighing, he opened the box and pulled out a medium sized, tissue wrapped package that smelled strongly of coffee. Cocking his head to the side, Shishido unwrapped the tissue paper from a coffee cup filled in with a candle that was labeled as "Amaretto Cream Coffee."

"Who…?" Shishido whispered, shocked.

Atobe hid a grin behind his hand, "Your vanities are becoming known."

"It smells good!" Jiroh said, taking the candle from Shishido and smelling it. "Almond-y."

"That's Amaretto," Atobe said patiently with a smile.

"Atobe," Shishido demanded, "who gave it to you?"

"A little bird," Atobe answered as he had before. "Gakuto got it from Oshitari, who got it from a mysterious little bird."

"Keigo," Shishido growled.

Atobe held up his hands and grinned, "Honest."

"You're never honest," Shishido sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He looked in the box and brought up the other one, French Vanilla coffee. Both Amaretto and French Vanilla were his guilty pleasure coffees. No one besides a select few knew that.

"Something wrong, Shishido-san?" Ohtori asked.

"Hunh?" Shishido asked, looking up at the taller boy. "Oh, no, nothing's wrong. Just thinking of who knows certain things."

"The sender, you mean?" Ohtori asked.

Atobe was smirking. He knew something. Shishido sighed; now was not the time to focus on this. Once his exams were over, then he could figure this out.

"Okay, Atobe, Jiroh, have fun at dinner. Choutarou, into the living room and grab your notes too," Shishido said, putting both candles back into the box.

"Aren't you going to look for a card?" Jiroh asked with a pout as Ohtori left to fetch his notes.

"Why should I?" Shishido asked, "There's never been one before."

~

"We're in high school, now," Oshitari said softly to Shishido. "Amazing, hm?"

Shishido nodded, "All of us. I placed higher than I did last year too."

"Welcome back to our level," Atobe teased, an arm around Jiroh's shoulders. "May the terror be brought to class 1-1 again."

"Oh, I doubt we'll be such terrors as we were freshmen and junior year," Shishido scoffed.

"No, we'll be worse," Oshitari grinned. "Whole new set of teachers to be impudent to."

"Yes, for three whole years," Shishido said, highly amused. "Where did Gakuto place?"

"1-2," Oshitari said with a grin. "He didn't do as well as he had hoped on the Politics and Literature tests. He's off seeing if he can retake the tests."

Shishido snickered, "I did offer to help him study. He just laughed at me."

"I'll be sure to tease him about that," Oshitari laughed.

"Do you know who you might be rooming with?" Atobe asked. "Since you and Ohtori aren't in the same school anymore."

Shishido winced briefly, "I think I'm rooming with Taki."

"Ouch, good luck with that," Jiroh snickered. "Hiyoshi's rooming with Ohtori, right?"

"Yeah," Shishido said, stretching his arms out to crack his back. "Captain and now second best player on the team."

"You going to tell him before we switch schools?" Oshitari demanded.

Shishido flushed brightly. "I told you, I won't tell him!"

"Why not?" Jiroh asked, frowning. "You're the only one of us not paired!"

Shishido sighed and ran a hand through his shaggy hair. He was glad it grew fast, because in the few weeks they had break, it would be a little longer than Oshitari's, but still an acceptable length. "Look, it's not like I don't want to. It was just a birthday gift, okay? That's all it was meant to be."

"You like him," Oshitari pointed out. "Have for some time, eh?"

"And why not leave a note?" Atobe asked, eyebrow raised.

Shishido glowered at them, "Back off."

"C'mon!" Jiroh begged. "Tell him! Then we can all go clubbing again!"

Shishido raised an eyebrow, "You will never get me into leather and eyeliner and fishnet around Choutarou."

"Why not?" Oshitari purred, pulling Shishido up against him. "You look amazing in all that kinkiness. I'm sure Ohtori would love to see you done up like a package waiting to be unwrapped."

"Yuushi," Shishido hissed, trying to get out of Oshitari's arms.

"We liked unwrapping you," Atobe smirked.

Shishido glowered at Atobe, "Shut up, Keigo!"

Oshitari groped him once more before letting Shishido go. "I'm serious, Ryou. Just tell him. You'd be surprised at the outcome."

Shishido's eyes narrowed as he put some space between Oshitari and himself. "You lot know something, don't you?"

"Whatever could you possibly mean?" Oshitari asked, grinning uncertainly.

"Yuushi," Shishido glowered.

"YUUSHI!" Gakuto cried, flinging himself at his boyfriend. "They'll let me retake the tests!"

"That's great," Oshitari grinned, hugging the little redhead. "Now the five of us can bring terror down up on the teachers again."

"I'm sure they've been properly warned about us," Atobe said archly.

"Are you sure you don't want me to help you this time?" Shishido teased, messing up Gakuto's hair.

Gakuto stuck his tongue out at him, "Why would I need a Drama Queen? I have the Genius right here!"

"Yes, but you two will spend all that study time kissing and fucking," Shishido pointed out mildly.

Gakuto scowled, "Mean."

"Honest," Shishido corrected with a tilt of his head.

"Dishonest in many regards, though," Atobe said, glaring at Shishido. "Just tell him!"

Shishido looked away, "Maybe later."

~

Jiroh lounged in bed with Atobe, smiling happily as Atobe played with his hair.

"I want to go clubbing for my birthday," Jiroh said suddenly. "I want to see Shishido all done up again and all…all…"

"Kinetic?" Atobe asked, a fond smile on his face.

"Yes!" Jiroh grinned. "And we'll invite Ohtori as well!"

Atobe laughed. "I do love the way your mind works," he growled, pulling Jiroh on top of him and kissing him passionately.

"I love my mind too," Jiroh giggled.

~

Shishido stared at Jiroh and Atobe, "I hate you both."

"No, you love us," Atobe smiled.

"It's tonight, at the normal place, at about 9. Dress properly," Jiroh said, pouting. "I want a fishnet, leather, glittery and kohl-smudged Ryou for my birthday."

Shishido sighed, "Fine, fine. Who else is going to be there?"

"Yuushi, Gakuto, Ohtori," Atobe smirked.

Shishido's eyes widened. "I hate you."

"Trust us," Atobe purred, pulling Shishido into his arms and nipping his ear. "You'll love us for this."

~

"You have to come!" Jiroh whined, tugging on Ohtori's arm. "We talked Shishido into coming and dressing like he normally does!"

Ohtori flushed, "Jiroh-senpai, I don't know what to wear to a club!"

Hiyoshi patted Ohtori on the shoulder, "I'll help."

"Hiyoshi!" Ohtori hissed, flushing.

Atobe smirked, "9 o'clock."

Ohtori sighed and hung his head. "Yes, Atobe-san."

~

Atobe watched with a smirk as Shishido walked into the club dressed in bulky combat boots, tight leather pants, a fishnet shirt, and big leather restraints on his wrists. When the lights flashed on him, black glitter shown off his shoulders and off the gold glitter in his artfully messed hair. In short, he was a walking wet dream.

Ohtori stared at Shishido like a man dying of thirst looked at water.

Heh. Everything was going perfectly.

"Yuushi," Atobe said, nudging the other boy. "Let's make this good."

Oshitari looked up and grinned wickedly. "Oh, I ask for first taste," he said, standing.

"Granted," Atobe smirked.

The two advanced on Shishido, falling into their old habit of Atobe pressing Shishido back against Oshitari.

"Well, well, well," Atobe purred, nibbling along Shishido's jaw. "What have we here?"

"Mm, I believe it's a Ryou sandwich," Oshitari said hotly, hands dipping down to cup Shishido through his leather pants.

Shishido could do nothing more than lean back against Oshitari and moan pitifully as Atobe ground his erection against his own and as Oshitari's was pressed against his ass.

"Shall we continue to thoroughly molest you?" Atobe asked. He glanced over to where Jiroh and Gakuto were watching with rapt fascination and where Ohtori was practically radiating pent-up sexual frustration.

Perfect.

Shishido whimpered as Oshitari picked at the laces of his pants. "Yuushi," he moaned. "Don't."

"You don't want us to greet you properly?" Atobe asked, rolling one of Shishido's nipples between his fingers through the fishnet. "Or is it just you don't want us to greet you in such a…public manner in front of Ohtori?"

Shishido whimpered, opening lust-hazed blue eyes to glare at Atobe, "If you're trying to match us, this might not be the smartest move."

Oshitari sucked on Shishido's ear and chuckled, "Look at him, Ryou. I'd say he'd love to come over here and interrupt our little greeting to make his own very X-rated greeting with you."

Shishido whimpered slightly, but Atobe and Oshitari pulled away.

"Oy! No fair doing that when I can't stand!" Shishido complained, looking like his legs were about to give out on him.

Oshitari grinned and wrapped an arm around Shishido's waist and supported the other boy over to their little section in the club. "Can you sit down by yourself now?" he teased.

"This is your faults!" Shishido whined, pouting as he curled his legs under him as he sat down next to Ohtori. "Make them be nice," he told Ohtori, trying to hide behind the taller boy.

"Uh," Ohtori said, swallowing. "I…uh…"

"Brain successfully fried," Gakuto cackled. He reached over and pet Ohtori's head. "That's all right. The Drama Queen always fries brains when dressed like the slut he is."

"GAKUTO!" Shishido snarled, blue eyes narrowed in fury.

"Mukahi-san," Ohtori said sternly, "please refrain from saying such things."

"Yes, Gakuto," Oshitari frowned, pulling the little redhead onto his lap. "Such statements only start fights."

Atobe shook his head and played with Jiroh's hair. "Was the show to your liking?" he asked his lover.

Jiroh purred, eyes closed in pleasure. "We enjoyed the show," he said, opening his eyes and grinning playfully. "Ohtori really enjoyed the show."

Atobe glanced over at Ohtori, who was nodding and smiling brilliantly at Shishido, and arm around the brunet's waist. "He looks ecstatic," Atobe murmured.

"Wouldn't you if you had someone you liked, possibly loved, practically sitting in your lap?" Jiroh asked softly, resting his head on Atobe's shoulder.

"It would be better if they just talked to each other," Atobe grumbled.

"Are you so eager to see Ryou paired off?" Jiroh asked, curious.

"It's better for him if he has someone. We've all grown up together, but until a year or so ago, it'd been Ryou, Yuushi, and me who'd go and do whatever the hell we wanted. You and Gakuto would drop in and we'd make it more fun, but now we've all paired off. He's left alone, and you can't say it doesn't show."

"It shows," Jiroh murmured, sighing. "You've made your point. We're helping them anyway."

Atobe pulled Jiroh closer and kissed him. "Yes, we are. And if you need any proof that what we're doing is right, just look at how happy they are right now, just being near each other."

~

"I am never allowing you to drag me clubbing like that again," Shishido glared at Atobe the next morning.

"You seemed to be having lots of fun," Oshitari grinned.

"You be quiet," Shishido snapped, turning back to glower at an amused Atobe.

"Ryou, what exactly is the problem? You had fun," Atobe said smoothly. "You were practically in Ohtori's lap, and neither of you seemed to mind that."

"We were also drinking," Shishido said, waving it off. "It'd never happen if either of us were half sober."

Atobe reached over and messed Shishido's hair up. "Ryou, you are so fucking dense at times," he said in exasperation.

"Let's get to class, shall we?" Oshitari said diplomatically.

"Before I kill someone, yes," Shishido growled angrily, running his fingers through his hair to right it.

He couldn't believe the high-handedness that Atobe was having with all this. Yes, he liked Ohtori, quite a lot in fact, but the way he'd go about it was subtle. At the moment, he didn't even want to go about it. Ohtori was busy, he was busy, neither had time for distractions. It also wasn't right, in Shishido's mind, for him to even want to start a relationship with his kohai. It seemed like he was abusing the title of senpai then.

Which just frustrated the hell out of him.

He opened his bag to grab out his Geometry text book and blinked as he found another colorfully wrapped package in his bag. The last one he had gotten were those coffee candles back at the end of March. Using a pencil, he sliced the tape off the wrapping, and took out another book.

Flipping through it, Shishido found it to be blank, except for the first page.

"For your thoughts," it read in simple calligraphy.

Not for the first time did Shishido curse how easy it was for everyone's handwriting to be the same. He slid it back into his bag before Atobe or Oshitari noticed it, not wanting to deal with another inquisition and focused on math.

He wished whoever it was would just tell him who they were!

~

The next gift came two months later in July, about three days after Shishido's coffee mug had broken. Taki had startled him, and the mug had fell off the counter, smashing.  He'd been a little less than pleased, but when the new mug showed up he was shocked.

It was bright red with black swirls and dots everywhere and on the front had a yellow message that read in English, "INSTANT HUMAN Just add coffee."

Shishido had just stared at it and then started laughing so hard he had to lean against the wall to keep himself upright.

When Atobe had seen it the next morning when they were studying for end of the term exams, he had snickered and pointed out that the mug had a point, at least in regards to Shishido. He was positively frightful if one cornered him without coffee, or some sort of caffeinated beverage.

Shishido had hit Atobe in the back of the head and continued to drink his coffee with a serene smile as Atobe glared and they began to study.

~

The summer break was fun, but all in all, Shishido was glad to be back in school. Every time he and Ohtori had made plans, one or the other had had to cancel due to some confliction. Now that they were in school again, it made it easier to head over to the Jr. High School campus and pounce on Ohtori for a game of street tennis or to grab dinner on the way to a movie.

"Do you have anyone you like?" Ohtori asked thoughtfully during one such excursion.

Shishido laughed, "Yeah, doesn't everyone?"

"Then how come you're always going out with me rather than going after the one you like?" Ohtori asked, head tilted to the side.

Shishido reached over the table to ruffle Ohtori's hair, "Because, idiot, who else would make sure you'd eat between all your practices?"

"You're avoiding the question," Ohtori pouted, digging into his food and eating while Shishido smiled sadly to himself.

"Well, for one thing, the person I like doesn't know," Shishido began.

"Not like you to be shy, Shishido-san," Ohtori said cheekily.

"Hush, brat," Shishido grinned. "I'm answering your question."

"Yes, Shishido-senpai," Ohtori said sweetly.

Shishido snickered and nodded his head towards Ohtori's food, "Eat, damn you. Anyway, he doesn't know, I refuse to tell him, and my personal terrors would enjoy it way too much. I swear Atobe's trying to match make."

Ohtori choked on his food and coughed, reaching for his water as Shishido worriedly hit him on the back.

"Choutarou?"

"I'm fine," Ohtori managed, eyes watering. "Went down the wrong way."

"The image of Atobe the Matchmaker got to you, eh?" Shishido said in sympathy.

Ohtori started laughing, "Oh gods, yes!"

Shishido grinned, "Kimono, rice powdered face…"

"Shishido-san!" Ohtori laughed, "Stop that! I'm laughing too hard to eat!"

"Ah, I'm sorry, Choutarou," Shishido smirked. "I won't mention that Oshitari and Jiroh and Gakuto are probably in on it too. And therefore would also dress the same way."

Ohtori was laughing too hard to even laugh, he just sat there shaking while tears poured down his face. Shishido preened a bit and then pointed to Ohtori's food.

"Eat, you. The movie's in thirty minutes, and we still need to get over there."

Ohtori gasped for breath and giggled at Shishido, "I don't think I can eat anymore, not with that awful image in my head!"

Shishido mock-sighed and stole some of Ohtori's noodles. 'Fine, fine, I understand. You just don't want to eat with me."

"Guilting me into eating doesn't work anymore, Shishido-san, I'm sorry to say," Ohtori said primly. "That stopped about a year ago."

"Oh, phoo," Shishido sighed, calling their waitress over for the check. "You'll eat eventually anyway, that's all I care about."

"Would you ever tell him, Shishido-san?"

"Hm?"

"The person you like. Would you ever tell him?"

Shishido tilted his head to the side with a sad smile and didn't answer.

~

"Why won't he just say it?" Ohtori shouted into his pillow. "WHY?!"

Hiyoshi looked up from his Politics textbook and raised an eyebrow. "He still hasn't said anything?"

"No!" Ohtori wailed. "Why is he being so stubborn?"

"You said you'd tell him by his birthday if he didn't realize who was sending the gifts," Hiyoshi pointed out, closing his textbook. "That's, what, the end of this month?"

"Yes, the 29th," Ohtori sighed. "I just wish he wouldn't be so stubborn!"

"Isn't that one of the reasons you like him?" Hiyoshi muttered, opening his book again.

"Don't be a smart ass," Ohtori grumbled.

~

"Two weeks 'til your birthday," Atobe said, draping an arm over Shishido's shoulders. "What would you like to do?"

"Curl up in my bed and ignore the world," Shishido sighed, opening his locker. A small box was sitting on top of his shoes. Closing his eyes in a pained expression, he gave it to Oshitari and took his shoes out to change. "You open it."

Atobe and Oshitari exchanged worried glances over Shishido's head.

"C'mon now, pretty one," Oshitari said, brushing hair out of Shishido's eyes. "What's wrong? It's an innocent little box."

"I want the gifts to stop," Shishido said stubbornly. "I keep thinking it's Ohtori, but goddammit, I know it isn't!"

"Why not?" Atobe asked, frowning.

"Because it's not his style," Shishido said softly. "It's not my style either, and dammit, I should have just given him the damned ring instead of being a coward."

"What if it is Ohtori?" Oshitari asked gently.

"I'll hit him over the head several times with a pillow and then yell at him loudly," Shishido said. "But it's not him."

Oshitari opened the box and pulled out a jade ring and handed it to Shishido. "Open your eyes a bit, will you?" he asked with a sigh.

Shishido held the ring in his hand and stared at it.

Atobe hugged Shishido around the shoulders, "Think about what you want to do for your birthday, okay?"

~

Shishido picked up his cell phone, looking at the screen and smiling at Ohtori's number. "Hey there, stranger," Shishido grinned. "How's everything going?"

"It's going pretty good," Ohtori said brightly. "The team's doing well, the orchestra is great, and my classes aren't as hard as I thought."

"That's great!" Shishido said, leaning back in his chair and grinning. "So, when should I drop by and get you for my birthday?"

"Oh, that's what I'm calling about," Ohtori said, sounding anxious. "I can't make it."

Shishido let his chair fall forward with a thud. "Oh. Did something happen?"

"Oh, uhm, I forgot I made previous plans with someone," Ohtori said regretfully. "I can't break them now because we made them months ago."

"Oh, are they with anyone I know?" Shishido asked around the lump in his throat. There was an ache in his chest, a feeling that something bad was about to happen, but he didn't know what.

"Oh, yeah," Ohtori grinned. "One of my friends from the orchestra, he plays the cello. We had made plans a while ago, and it seems like it might be more."

"More?" Shishido asked, amazed his voice was steady as the ache grew more and more painful.

"Yeah, I think he might like me. I've had a crush on him forever," Ohtori laughed nervously. "But pretty much thought it was impossible. He kissed me yesterday too."

Shishido felt the world drop out from under him, the ache feeling like a black hole that was eating him from the inside. "R-really?" he stammered. "T-that's…that's great, Choutarou," he said, taking a deep breath and trying again. "I'm happy for you."

"Maybe we could get together during the week? We could go out for dinner and street tennis again!"

Shishido nodded numbly, feeling the lump in his throat disintegrate, only to morph into hot, salty tears. "Yeah, of course. Anyway, I've got to go, Choutarou. Atobe and Oshitari are coming over in a few minutes to study for a big test. I'll uhm, talk to you later then."

"Okay, Shishido-san!" Ohtori chirped happily. "Have fun and good luck on your test!"

"Uh, yeah…thanks," Shishido whispered and hung up.

He put his phone down and pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes, trying to stop the tears from falling. He sat like that for a few minutes until he heard someone knocking. He got up and opened it, looking up at Atobe and Oshitari.

"Oh my…" Oshitari whispered, tracing the tear tracks on Shishido's face. "What happened?"

Shishido swallowed, and closed his too hot eyes. " Choutarou…he…"

Atobe wrapped his arms around him as Shishido's legs gave out from under him and brought them both to the ground, letting Shishido cry into his arms.

~

Three days later there was another package waiting for him in his shoe locker. This time, instead of brightly wrapped paper, it was black, tied with a sheer dark blue ribbon. Opening it, Shishido stared at the cover.

The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop.

A purple Post-It note stuck up from one page, so Shishido flipped to it and looked at the Post-It.

Sometimes, change can be good. All my love.

Tucking the note back in between the pages, Shishido made his way to class and spent the entire day getting yelled at by his teachers for his inattentiveness.

~

"You've got balls," Atobe growled at Ohtori, his blue eyes narrowed in fury.

"You think that was easy?" Ohtori demanded, hurt. "I could practically hear his heart break!"

"So what are you going to do?" Oshitari asked, pushing his glasses up on his nose.

"What I planned to do in the beginning. Tell him on his birthday."

~

It was his birthday.

It was his birthday, and he should be in class.

It was his birthday, and instead of being in class, he was curled up in bed, under his covers, reading the book he had been sent a few days ago.

It was long, but he was enjoying every second of it. Fantasy, romance, and slight eroticism, it was not a book he would have picked up for himself. He tended to lean towards the historical novels, comics, poetry, and plays. Fantasy, science fiction, romance – he wasn't a huge fan of and rarely read them.

This book, though, he enjoyed. The note was right; sometimes, change could be good.

Which was why he wasn't going anywhere tonight. He'd already called Atobe and told him to just cancel whatever it was he was planning, and had emailed all his teachers saying he was sick and couldn't make it to class.

All he wanted to do was read his book, and hope that whoever the sender was, they would show themselves soon. Shishido no longer even had a theory on who it was, since his main hope, thought, had been that it was Ohtori.

That idea had obviously been proven wrong.

Flipping to the last page in which Daemon climbed out of the Twisted Kingdom, Shishido blinked at the folded ticket that was tucked into the binding so it wouldn't fall out. Taking it out and unfolding it, Shishido raised an eyebrow.

The American Dream by Edward Albee.

He'd been wanting to see that for a while, but had forgotten that it was playing around this time. He frowned as he noticed the date and time. It was for tonight, at 8 o'clock.

Picking up the note that the ticket had been folded over, he opened the folded piece of paper and read.

"I know you're curious about me, and I'm too nervous to ask in person. Meet me here tonight? We can both get our answers then."

Shishido put down his book and glanced at the clock. It was three now, so he had plenty of time. Curling up with the book, he set the ticket and note aside and began reading the last book of the trilogy.

~

At 7:30, Shishido showed up at the specified theatre in too long jeans and a long sleeved shirt with a big, oversized t-shirt thrown over it. His hair – just long enough now – was in a knot secured by the hair sticks. Quite a bit had escaped from the knot, but Shishido didn't really care too much about it.

He waited just inside the theatre, near the doors, nervous. This was as close to a blind date as he had ever gotten. And he really didn't like the feeling at all.

"Shishido-san?" asked a nervous voice off to his right.

Shishido's back went stiff, recognizing the voice and not wanting to. Ohtori. Of course he would be here, it would only make sense. The Fates had some cruel joke planned on him, didn't they?

"Ryou?" Ohtori asked, voice soft and hesitant. Shishido still hadn't turned around.

Swallowing down the pain and smiling, Shishido turned. "Choutarou," he said, smile wavering a bit. "I didn't know you'd be here. You here with your friend?"

"There is no friend," Ohtori said.

Shishido's smile vanished.

"I had to have a reason for vanishing on you for the past two weeks, and it was the only thing I could think of," Ohtori explained.

"You could have just said you were busy," Shishido said bitterly.

"You would have wanted to know if you could help, and what it was on," Ohtori said fondly.

"Well, sorry if that was inconvenient for you," Shishido muttered, glaring at the ground.

"Did you enjoy the book?" Ohtori asked quietly.

Shishido looked up, eyes wide.

"I know it's not what you normally read, but change is a good thing. Especially when it comes to reading," Ohtori said with a crooked smile. "You rave on about this or that book often enough that I've read them just to keep up with you. I figured you should try new ones too, since you just like the historical novels."

"You…you're the one…" Shishido whispered.

Ohtori nodded, rubbing his thumb over the hematite ring. "Thank you for the ring, Ryou. I had hoped it was you, and the way that Atobe-san and the others were acting that day just kind of proved it to me."

Shishido rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You sent all those things, and never said a word?"

Ohtori nodded, looking anxious. "You're not…mad, are you?"

"I am going to hit you so hard the next time there's a pillow nearby," Shishido growled, glaring angrily at Ohtori. "That whole thing with your friend?"

"I lied."

Shishido sighed, letting all the air out of his lungs. "Atobe, Oshitari, and the others were in on this, weren't they?"

"They, er, took over it a bit," Ohtori said, flushing. "It would have probably ended earlier, but they wanted to draw it out. I also thought since it started on my birthday, it should end on yours."

"It started on White Day," Shishido pointed out.

"No, it started on my birthday," Ohtori said, tapping the ring. "How did you find a hematite ring that wouldn't crack?"

"They just have to be thick enough, and you have to make sure it's purely hematite, and not some cheap shit they mixed together," Shishido said, looking away.

Ohtori leaned down and kissed Shishido on the cheek. "Thank you, Shishido-san."

Shishido flushed, "Thought you were calling me Ryou now."

"Does this mean you'll…?"

"Well, this is a date, isn't it?" Shishido muttered, rubbing the back of his neck.

Ohtori's smile was blindingly brilliant and as hugged Shishido tightly and lead him to their seats.

How this happened, Shishido wasn't quite sure, but he wasn't one to complain as Ohtori held him tightly throughout the play.




The End

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