Face of an Innocent
by Kendarath


Choutarou had the face of an innocent, and in many ways, he was one.

He still believed in, and wanted to find, true love. He believed in the goodness of people, even though they were, as he said, trained to be mean. He had few prejudices and wasn't averse to being proved wrong.

However, as soft as he could be, he could also be hard. If you abused his trust, or did something he couldn't forgive, he didn't. Choutarou gave no second chances to the undeserving. If you weren't someone that he cared about, then he had no qualms about telling you, in no uncertain terms, when you were being a dumbass. Hell, even if you were someone he cared about he could still do that. He kicked ass in a fight, both physically and verbally.

He was loyal, kind, compassionate, passionate, cunning, devious, intelligent, creative, seductive, dangerous, sexy, and he hid it all behind that innocent face and soft words.

Choutarou, despite his friendly nature, and tendency to be kind to people until they deserved otherwise, had very few friends. He knew a lot of people, and was friendly with them, but he was friends with very few. But once you were his friend, there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for you.

Shishido knew all this, and he knew it well, because, well, he was Choutarou's closest friend. The only one who got to call him Choutarou. And, well, Shishido knew how loyal and almost protective Choutarou was because he'd proven it before.

It had happened a while back, when Shishido was stupidly walking around late at night, by himself. Shishido couldn't really remember why he was out so late at night, but he couldn't forget what had happened if he'd tried.

A group of boys, Shishido recognized them on sight as Hyotei students, had accosted him on his walk and forced him into an ally. Now, Shishido wasn't a pushover by any stretch of the imagination, but there was only so much one boy could do against what was a group of at least ten.

They'd managed to get Shishido pinned against a wall, unable to move, arms and legs held tight. Shishido had struggled as best he could, but he just couldn't get the leverage he needed to free one of his limbs from this angle. They'd tried to hold his head, but he'd just bitten them until one of them had gotten the bright idea to grab him by the hair—it was just long enough to do this now—holding him so his throat was exposed. It made Shishido feel almost like a cornered animal. The leader of the gang pulled off Shishido's belt with one of the most disgusting smirks that Shishido had ever seen on his face, and was unbuttoning his pants when it happened.

There was a cry from the boys who were closest to the entrance to the ally and Shishido could see out of the corner of his eye as three of them dropped to the ground, so fast that it was almost at the same time.

The only reason Shishido could recognize the new attacker was because he had spent countless hours with this particular boy, watching him move, synchronizing with him.

Choutarou.

The younger boy barreled into the leader, decking him hard in the jaw. The leader's lackeys all moved to protect their leader. The ones holding Shishido moved to help as well, before they remembered why they had to pin Shishido, but it was enough.

Shishido wrenched his arm from the hold of the boy on his right and elbowed him with all the force he could in that awkward position, in the side of the head. He dropped, Shishido twisted his body and punched the other boy in the eye, making him stagger back a few steps.

Shishido stepped over to Choutarou. They stood back-to-back.

The fight didn't take long.

In the end, Shishido had to pull Choutarou away from the boy who'd been leading the gang. Shishido learned later that Choutarou had broken his arm in three places. His racquet arm. His buddies weren't much better off. Atobe told him later that they'd all left the tennis team. Most of them left Hyotei altogether. (Shishido had no idea how Atobe found out about it, because he knew that he and Choutarou hadn't told anyone about it, but Shishido supposed it wasn't impossible for someone to have put two and two together when they'd all come in bruised or broken the next day.)

Shishido had asked Choutarou later why he'd jumped into such a lopsided fight. Even though Choutarou and Shishido were stronger than all of them, there had been a lot more of them. Choutarou had looked at Shishido with that 'you're so dense' look on his face and said simply, "You're my friend."

Shishido had blinked. Admittedly, there weren't a whole lot of people who'd call him 'friend', but he was pretty sure that if any of them had come by instead of Choutarou, they'd have kept walking and never thought twice about it.

Shishido liked to think of that day as the day that he had finally 'gotten' Choutarou. The day that he finally understood what was at the core of Choutarou. Because Shishido knew Choutarou really well, but knowing someone really well wasn't the same as understanding them, wasn't the same as comprehending the values that they held first in their heart.

Shishido knew Choutarou, and he liked to think that Choutarou knew him too.




The End

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