Shishido tapped his foot in annoyance, waiting for his classmate to get his act together. From the sound of the soft snores, though, he figured Jirou wouldn't be waking up any time soon.
"Hey!" he yelled. "You're going to make me late!"
Every one else in the class had already filed out, leaving him with Sleeping Beauty. He tried shaking Jirou awake. Nothing. Finally, he just pushed him out of his seat. Jirou hit the floor with a strange squishing noise, and Shishido heard a murmur of "whaaa-fuu" coming from below him. He hated having last period with Jirou.
"Come on," he said, grabbing Jirou's arm and yanking him up.
"You don't have to be so rough," Jirou mumbled, still half asleep though he obediently followed Shishido.
Soon enough, the two had made it to the auditorium, and made their way to take seats with their class. Atobe saw them from his special seat with the teachers and nodded at Shishido, who pointedly ignored him. Shishido really disliked how Atobe seemed to get all the perks at Hyoutei... he swore sometimes, the teachers worshipped the ground that the great Atobe Kiego walked on. Maybe Atobe had paid them all off. God knows he had the money.
"Hurry up." He finally got to his seat and yanked a still half asleep Jirou into the one next to him. He knew the other boy wouldn't last more than five minutes into the assembly.
Every year, Hyoutei Junior High got all its classes together to put on a play version of Cinderella. It was somewhat of a tradition. Every year, the student body got to elect who they would like to see in what roles, and then put together a simple script and costumes. They always announced the roles in an assembly in front of the entire school so that students were less likely to decline the position.
Last year the students had decided to put on a fantastically horrible mime version of the classic play. The tickets always sold reasonably well, considering parents were always excited to come, and all in all it was an amusing fundraising activity. Today, at the assembly, the principal had a few words before he turned the stage over to the secretary of the student government, an outgoing girl with brown pigtails and a too short skirt.
"Now is the moment you have all been waiting for," she said. The crowd cheered, and a few boys catcalled, to which she mock-shyly fidgeted. "The roles for the Cinderella play!"
The girl started out with minor parts and moved up in terms of importance. It amused Shishido to no end that Hiyoshi was assigned the role of a rat. All the other parts were taken by people Shishido knew to varying degrees but wasn't really familiar with, with the exception of Mukahi, who was a wicked stepsister.
"And now we come to the two most important roles in the play!" shouted the girl enthusiastically. "The student body has unanimously voted, and for their Prince Charming, they have elected... Shishido Ryou!"
Shishido blinked. That was unexpected. Not to him, of course, he thought he was the perfect Prince Charming, even without his long hair. He was also one of the most popular boys in school. It's just that Atobe was always elected to the position of every one's favorite prince... but then, maybe Atobe had his fill of playing Prince Charming last year, and had told every one not to vote for him.
"And the beautiful Cinderella will be played by... Ootori Choutarou!"
Shishido looked for Ootori in the crowd, but had no luck finding the lower classman. Oh well, he thought, at least now he had some one to suffer through the experience with him.
Across the auditorium, Ootori was blushing bright red and trying to duck down so that his Shishido-san couldn't see him. He was so embarassed...
"At least you're not a rat," Hiyoshi hissed from beside him.
This had to be some kind of sick joke. Why else would he be voted as Cinderella? He wasn't even a girl... he didn't even look like a girl, unlike Mukahi-sempai. Every one knew he had a crush on Shishido, every one. It's not like he was ever good at keeping it a secret. His classmates, especially the girls, had playfully teased him about it since his first year, and that had only gotten worse after he became Shishido's double partner. Ootori looked over in a random direction and saw Aka-chan giving him a thumbs up sign.
"Go get him, Ootori!" she whispered.
He was so, so terribly embarassed.
The bright side of this was that Ootori didn't think that Shishido knew, because Shishido was oblivious like that. When he wasn't busy being arrogant, he was busy being completely dense. He was too dense to even notice that a girl liked him when she gave him presents of chocolate and other things. Ootori remembered the last girl, a pretty second year that was in his class, and how she had baked Shishido cookies every day for about two weeks before she realized nothing was ever going to happen between them.
"Isn't Noriko sweet?" Shishido had remarked to him one of those days. "I don't know how she has the time to bake me cookies. Shouldn't she be spending time on her class work or with her boyfriend or something like that?"
Ootori sometimes had the urge to make Shishido cookies as well, but he knew Shishido just wouldn't get it, so he didn't.
"Why are you upset?" asked Hiyoshi later, when the two friends were getting ready to walk home together. "You like him. You like spending time with him. So now you get to spend even more time with him, maybe even kiss him a little, so what's the big deal?"
Ootori had definitely blushed at a statement like that. He hadn't even thought of the fact that he would have to kiss Shishido.
"I'm not upset," he replied, "it's just so embarrassing! I mean, Shishido-san's probably thinking that this is going to be some kind of tiresome ordeal, and here I am getting all worked up about the fact that I'm going to kiss him."
Ootori yelped and jumped a few feet in the air before turning to see Shishido's bemused face. He really, really hoped Shishido hadn't heard that. "Yes, Shishido-san?"
"Are you alright? You seemed distracted during practice today." Shishido looked concerned for a moment before putting his palm on Ootori's forehead to check for a fever. Ootori melted.
"Ummm.... no, I'm fine Shishido-san."
Shishido looked at him dubiously before caving in. "Okay. Just make sure to get some rest tonight, we have practice tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow morning?" Ootori asked, but Shishido was already walking away. "I thought Atobe said we didn't have morning practices this week."
Shishido raised his hand in a casual brush off as he continued to walk away. "Not for tennis. For the play."
When Shishido was out of sight Hiyoshi decided to scrape Ootori off the pavement, where he had formed a rather nice Choutarou puddle.
"Look," he said, wondering why it wasn't obvious to his friend, "you like him. So tell him already."
Ootori sighed as the two started their trek home. "What if he doesn't like me?"
"He likes you."
"How do you know that?"
"Trust me, he likes you. He just doesn't know it yet."
The next morning, Ootori only had to take one step into the auditorium before he was ambushed by a gaggle and a half of girls.
"Here he is!" said a brunette who was hanging on to his arm.
"Oooh, drag him over here!"
Ootori could only yelp as the crowd of girls carried him to some dark, isolated corner of the back stage area. In about fifteen minutes they let him go, standing there to look at him in a way he was very uncomfortable with.
"You're so cuuuuuuute, Ootori!" One girl finally exclaimed before the others started wholeheartedly agreeing with her.
Ootori did not think he looked cute. In fact, he thought he looked like a prize idiot, standing there in a blue and silver ball gown. He couldn't imagine how this could be any worse.
"Choutarou, you look like a prize idiot in that dress."
Okay, things just got worse. The girls suddenly turned their attention towards the newly-arrived Shishido, chastising him for being so "cruel" and hitting him with rolls of fabric. This did not seem like it was going to be a good day.
"Hey," came a familiar voice, "at least the makeup girls haven't gotten to you yet."
Ootori looked over at Mukahi, who was wearing not only a dress but full makeup, including a prosthetic nose and warts.
The second day of practice was no better than the first.
They had a working script already, and they had to run through their lines. The didn't need to act, per say, said the director, a pretentious third year named Shinko, he just wanted to get an idea for length and positioning and things like that. Ootori was horrified enough to see that the lines actually rhymed, and in his scenes with Shishido, he actually physically tripped whenever Shishido touched him. He was just that nervous about the kiss. It made for a very awkward dancing sequence.
The third day of practice, Shinko wanted to try some new ideas.
"I feel," he drawled out, his chin in his hand, "that this play is missing that certain something. That je ne sais quoi. So I have decided to change the script a little."
At that point Taki had stepped onto the stage, grabbing Ootori's hand and kissing it. "My princess."
"Meet Prince Disarming, Prince Charming's brother. I have decided that from now on, Cinderella will be a love triangle."
Shishido did not seem amused.
By the fourth day of practice, Ootori just felt really tired. He decided to stay home sick. He knew as soon as he had heard the roles announced, that first day in the auditorium, that this whole experience did not bode well for him.
It was hard enough being with Shishido while they were practicing tennis. It wasn't that he didn't like spending time with his favorite sempai; he loved their time together, had been so happy when Shishido had first noticed him and had asked him for help regaining his doubles position. Ootori didn't even realize Shishido knew who he was at that point. It was just hard, because he just knew one of these days Shishido would have to notice the fact that he liked him. He couldn't seem to hide his crush, no matter how hard he tried, and there had to be limits to Shishido's obliviousness. And what would happen then? Would Shishido feel shocked and awkward, so much so that he wouldn't want to play tennis with Ootori any more? Ootori didn't know, but he didn't really want to find out either.
Ootori decided that, instead of risking another day where Shishido might find out his feelings, he'd lay in bed and watch anime. So he was definitely not prepared when there was a knock on his door and, without even waiting for him to answer, Shishido walked into his room.
"Hey," Shishido said in greeting, and Ootori almost spit out the orange juice he had been drinking. "Your mom let me in."
"Oh." He seemed to be tongue tied at the moment. "Hello."
"Here. Hiyoshi gave me your homework to drop off for you." Shishido dropped the papers on Ootori's desk. "How are you?"
"No." Shishido narrowed his eyes at him and took a seat at his desk. "I mean, what the hell has been wrong with you lately?"
"Nothing. I'm fine."
Ootori fidgeted under Shishido's stare, really, really hoping the other boy would leave soon.
"Well, I'm sick. Cough. Cough."
"Like hell you are."
He never was a good liar.
"I was worried because I thought you were sick," Shishido finally said, fingering his backpack strap. "But Hiyoshi told me you've been freaking out because you like me. That's not true, is it?"
Oh god. Ootori was so mortified that he didn't know what to say. So instead, he closed his eyes, didn't say anything, and hoped that when he opened them Shishido wouldn't be in the room. His salvation came when the phone rang. Suddenly the picture of perfect health, Ootori sprinted out of the room.
"Ihavetoanswerthephone, pleaseletyourselfout!" he shouted behind him. He answered the phone in the study next to his room, and waited there until he heard Shishido leave before going back to his own room.
A few days later, no amount of coercion could convince his mother that he had to stay home from school another day. He reluctantly trekked to school, where worried fangirls rushed him into the gym.
"Well, if it isn't our Cinderella," Shinko said. "So nice of you to join us today. I've decided it's time to get some chemistry going between you and Prince Charming, so we're going to work on that kissing scene today."
Ootori couldn't even look at Shishido. He let the girls lead him to where he was supposed to stand and position him, hoping that Shishido wouldn't be too repulsed at having to do this. His blood was rushing so hard he couldn't even hear anything accept for his own heart beat. He watched Shishido's feet, covered in dirty and beat up sneakers, as the other boy approached him, and closed his eyes. He could feel Shishido, feel the warmth of his body heat, Shishido's breath on his cheek. His heart was beating so fast now, and Shishido was leaning up, and he was about to get his first kiss from Shishido-san and-
"I can't do this."
Ootori opened his eyes and watched Shishido's retreating back.
"Practice is over today."
In the audience, Shinko was livid.
"I decide when practice is over!" he yelled, running after Shishido.
Taki looked over at Ootori and ran after Shinko. "Hey, if Shishido doesn't want to, I'll be Prince Charming!"
Ootori was devastated. He looked over at Hiyoshi, who at least had the sense to look a little ashamed of himself.
"I'm really sorry," Hiyoshi said at tennis practice later that day, and he really was. "I thought he liked you. I was sure of it."
"It's okay," Ootori replied, even though he felt like it really wasn't. "He was bound to find out eventually."
"Choutarou," Shishido called out from the other end of the tennis court. "We have a game against Mukahi and Oshitari."
Ootori could almost groan. As it was, he pulled himself up and walked over to where his sempai were. At least he hadn't lost a doubles partner.
And at the end of the day, fate, who obviously hated him, arranged it so that he and Shishido were the last ones in the locker room. It was quiet, and awkward, and all the things he feared it would be when Shishido found out.
"Shishido-sempai," he finally said, when he couldn't bear the silence. "I'm so sorry. I'll quit the play, so you don't have to feel awkward and weird any more, and maybe we can forget everything that happened because I still want to keep playing tennis with you and I really, really hope you don't hate me right now and I just hope we can still play tennis together."
Ootori really hoped he didn't sound like a complete idiot.
" Choutarou... don't you dare go back to calling me sempai again... and stay away from Taki from now on."
"Ummm.... okay?" As if Shishido's first statement didn't confuse him enough, the non sequitor that followed that was just mind boggling. He didn't have much time to muddle over it though, because his Shishido-san had just kissed him. Shishido just kissed him. He swallowed, even though his mouth was dry, and something fluttered inside his chest.
"Huh?" He so eloquently articulated.
"Well..." Shishido moved a hand up to brush through his hair before he realized it was scrunched under a baseball cap, looking a little amused and a little contemplative. "I was about to kiss you this morning, but then I realized that was probably going to be your first kiss. I didn't want your first kiss to be something that happened because some one was being forced to kiss you for some stupid play. I wanted you to know that, well, that I wanted to kiss you. Because, Choutarou, I like you too."
Okay, that fluttery feeling inside his chest was spreading throughout his body now. "Really, Shishido-san?"
Then Shishido kissed him again and he came to the conclusion that the fluttery feeling wasn't going to go away. Ever.
Needless to say, the play that year was a hit.
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