Adagio
by Wai


Shishido first picked up the guitar when he was eleven. The instrument felt big and heavy and he could barely keep his fingers on the strings let alone press down when he began to strum. The first note he played on his father's old guitar hurt his hearing, as well as his mother's, who happened to be walking by his room when he tried to play.

By the time Shishido was thirteen he was more than adept with the guitar. He practiced every day, regardless the weather, condition and fatigue. It might be a surprise to some, but Shishido stuck to his schedule, refusing to let even illness get in the way. His mother had threatened to throw the old guitar away when she caught him practicing instead of lying in bed, feverish as he was.

It was then that he decided to work, to try and buy himself a guitar. His father's old guitar had seen better days after all and was sure to remind him of that fact whenever he played. Shishido would sneak into the music room to play the acoustic guitar there, from time to time, making sure that no one catches him. And his playing sounded much better on that guitar. He was quite proud of himself actually.

Given, he wasn't Choutarou who is gifted. Shishido didn't consider himself as gifted. He was just very determined. And very bored. After all, that was the main reason he started playing around with his father's guitar after all.

He often found himself playing the tune to some song he heard on the radio. Occasionally his mother would peek into his room, smiling and listening for a while before she went on with her daily tasks around the house. Even his father thought his playing was worthy of praise, a rarity in itself.

So when one day he realized that he would be able to buy his guitar by his next payday, he was more than excited. His work was nothing glamorous, working at the ramen shop near his house, but the pay was pretty good. Besides, the old man who owned the place was actually rather nice and he even gave Shishido some food to bring home, even though his mother would always have something warm for him to eat whenever he came home from work.

"Welcome!" He greeted loudly when he heard the door open. His back to the door, he quickly stacked the menu cards to one pile, grabbing two as he turned around. The sight that greeted him caused the polite smile to widen.

"Shishido-san."

"Hey Choutarou!" He exclaimed, grinning at his partner. "Just sit anywhere, I'll be with you in a second." Ohtori nodded, picking a table for two at the right side of the restaurant, slightly secluded from the rest of the small place.

When Shishido came back he had a glass of jasmine green tea and a plateful of gyoza on a tray. Serving in front of Ohtori with a wink and a grin, he sat down across his friend, tossing a look behind him at his boss. The old man smiled and nodded, the place was rather empty anyway, save for Ohtori and two salarymen who were finishing up their order.

"You haven't been here in a while." Shishido said, leaning back against the chair.

"Ah. Yes." Ohtori chuckled, drinking his tea and smiling appreciatively at Shishido for knowing what he was going to order. "We've both been busy with the tennis practice. And I have the symphony to think about too."

"How is that going? Sakaki giving you trouble?" Shishido asked, raising his eyebrows.

"No, he's been rather tolerable as of late." Shishido snorted at the comment.

"Sakaki? Tolerable? And I'm sure Atobe has suddenly switched personality with Seigaku's Kawamura, minus that burning mode of his."

"Shishido-san!" Ohtori admonished, yet they shared a laugh nonetheless.

"What are you really here for, Choutarou?"

"Am I that obvious, Shishido-san?"

"You're just that predictable, Choutarou." Shishido grinned, leaning forward to playfully cuff his partner in the shoulder. "So what's up?"

"Well, as you know my birthday is next week." Shishido nodded.

"And you still won't tell me what to get you!" He complained. "Give a guy a break, alright? I know you don't need a new racket because your dad bought you one last month."

"Don't worry about that, Shishido-san." His partner said, laughing. "Besides, that's not what I'm asking. There's a concert a day before my birthday and I was wondering if you wanted to come."

"Of course. When have I ever missed your concerts?"

"Never." Ohtori said softly. Not since the first time Ohtori invited him anyway.

It was hours later, when Shishido was helping the old man close the shop, that he noticed the flyer, on top of a pile of magazines and newspapers. It was then that he stopped and began to think, reassessing his priorities. And at that moment, a memory from a not-so-distant past came back with a vengeance.

+++

It had been a grueling practice, more so than usual. Sakaki had insisted on fifty laps around the courts and a best out of three match between the regulars. Which means, instead of the usual one set-win, it was an actual match.

And Atobe, in one of his cranky moods, had used so many Hametsu he no rondo on Shishido, he was sure his wrist was either broken or no longer useable. Not that Shishido had gone down without a fight, returning the Hyotei captain's serves and making him run around the courts. His form was better than before, even Sakaki had commented on that, but he was nowhere near Atobe's level.

But the comment stirred something in him. He was pleased by it, but saddened at the same time. No matter how good playing doubles with Ohtori may be he still missed the singles. It was where he started out, where his love of the game began. It aches a little, sometimes.

That was why when his partner sat beside him, warm hands reaching for his abused wrist, he didn't even protest. From the slight frown, Shishido knew that his wrist was fine. Otherwise Ohtori would have stood up and demanded that Shishido be taken to the nearest hospital or something.

Ohtori noticed that Shishido was lost in thoughts, that he didn't notice that Ohtori was still cradling his hand. The taller of the two found that his gaze was fixed on the callused hand in his for a moment, fingertips running across Shishido's own fingertips. He raised his head, eyes trained on Shishido's face.

There was a faint blush there but his sempai didn't look away. It seems that he finally realized what was going on. And from the way Ohtori had scrutinized his hand, Shishido knew that his partner must have realized that he had a hobby other than tennis.

"Do you play?"

It didn't take a genius to know that Ohtori wasn't talking about tennis. Carefully Shishido extracted his hand from Ohtori's grip, callused fingertips brushing over callused fingertips. There was a wry grin on his face when he shrugged.

"Just the guitar."

"Really?" The smile on his Choutarou's face was genuine and there was excitement sparkling in his eyes. "Can you play for me? Sometimes?"

"Ah. Maybe." Why would Ohtori want to listen to his lousy playing anyway? His guitar playing didn't sound anything like the heavenly melody that Ohtori plays. Why would Ohtori want to settle for anything less than perfection?

"Shishido-san?"

Shishido looked away this time, pulling off his cap to run his finger through his sweat-damp hair. "Why would you want to, Choutarou? You can hear better music somewhere else. You don't want to hear me play."

Ohtori looked ready to say something but when Shishido's eyes met his, the will to speak died. And that was the end of that conversation and life went on.

+++

A hand on his shoulder hauled him back to the present, blinking at the old man who was smiling at him with a knowing smile.

"If I remember correctly, you now have enough to buy that guitar, right?" Shishido stared at him for a moment, as if trying to figure out what language he was speaking in. He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts.

"Right." He replied, grinning.

"That friend of yours, he has a birthday coming up I hear?"

"Ah. Yeah." It wasn't hard to see the way Shishido's eyes softened when he spoke of his partner. An idea formed in his head, he didn't know if it would work, but he knew one person who can help him. "I'm starting to think that maybe I don't need that guitar after all." Shishido said quietly.

"You're a good kid." The old man said with a chuckle, reaching over to ruffle his hair. He let out a squawk in protest but grinned at his boss anyway. "I'll see you next week, kid."

"Yes sir!"

+++

"Yes?" The familiar drawl grated his nerves, but he figured it was more out of habit than anything else.

"Atobe?"

"Shishido, what do you want?"

"I need a favor." Shishido knew that this little job was going to cause him his pride, his time and most likely his sanity. What he didn't know, however, is what he would have to do in return for this little favor. But that's another story.

"Oh? What is it?"

"You know Masao Ido?"

"If by Masao Ido you mean the artist Masao Ido, then yes, I do. He is only the one of the most respected of contemporary Japanese artist."

Shishido rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation. "Yes, I know that you have extensive knowledge in the fine arts Atobe, spare me the art lesson alright?"

"If you insist." Atobe replied smugly. "I'm merely wondering why someone such as yourself, so uninformed when it comes to the fine arts, would ask me about Masao Ido."

"Well...you're good with negotiations, right?"

"My father has relied on me on some of his business meetings, yes."

"I need your talent for this one. It's for Choutarou."

"Ah. It all makes sense now."

"Can you do it?"

Atobe scoffed. "You insult me, Ryou-kun. I've handled worse negotiations. Is there anything in particular that you're looking for?"

"I'll give you the photograph tomorrow." He tried very hard not to insult Atobe, especially for the use of Ryou-kun. But when you need someone to do you a favor, you better not make them angry.

"Alright then." Atobe paused for a moment, as if contemplating something. "You know, I used to think that you don't deserve to have a partner like Ohtori."

"So?" He knew that Atobe wasn't about to say something along the lines of "Now, I change my mind" because Atobe never changes his mind. And he wasn't about to give Shishido a compliment either.

"I'm starting to think that he might be right about you."

"What do you mean?"

"You are loud, obnoxious and extremely dense about certain things, but you have certain qualities that are redeeming. Somewhat."

"Be careful, Atobe. You don't want me to start thinking of you in friendly terms."

"Hardly, Ryou-kun. I will see you tomorrow."

"Yeah." Shishido stared at the phone for a good five minutes before he shook his head and walked away. "Well that went well." He muttered.

+++

When Ohtori received his birthday present from Shishido, Shishido himself was at home, helping his father set up a nice romantic dinner with his mother. His older brother was out somewhere, probably with his girlfriend. When he was done, it was time to go to work.

Shishido had to apologize to his boss, who merely laughed and smiled merrily, eyes twinkling with certain mischief as Shishido rushed to the back to answer his cellphone. The old man was kind enough to let Shishido keep his phone on, just in case Ohtori called. So it came to no surprise that he received the phone call at around five o'clock.

"Shishido here."

"Shishido-san." Ohtori sounded as if he was torn between bursting with excitement and just bursting to tears. And Shishido knew his partner well. He knew that excitement was rare for his partner and so was tears. But the gift and the gesture behind it was what mattered.

"I take it you like your present, Choutarou?" Shishido asked, a wide grin on his face as he sat down on a crate.

"How?"

"Atobe and his connections, of course. I don't know how he did it, really. I think you should thank him, not me."

"I'll thank him later, but it was your idea, Shishido-san, wasn't it?" Shishido chuckled.

"True."

"How on Earth did you pay for it?"

"Work and allowance, Choutarou." The silence that followed was long and uncomfortable and Shishido thought for a moment that maybe Ohtori fainted from shock or something. But when he finally spoke up again, his voice was tight, shaky around the edges maybe.

"I thought you were saving up for your guitar, Shishido-san?"

"Oh, that? Don't worry about that, Choutarou. I don't really want it." He laughed, scratching his head and then leaned back, a fond smile on his face. "I'm just sorry I wasn't there to see your face when you opened it."

"Mukahi-senpai and Oshitari-senpai took pictures."

"Watch out, Choutarou, that's perfect blackmail material right there." Shishido teased lightly.

"Shishido-san?"

"What is it, Choutarou?"

"Thank you, truly. It might sound terribly cliché for you, but it means a lot to me."

"I know, Choutarou. Happy birthday." Shishido was still staring at the cellphone in his hand five minutes after the phone call ended. The satisfied smile on his face was brilliant and it would remind anyone of the smile he usually wore after a win. So when his boss sauntered towards him to try and remind him that he still had work, the old man decided against it. He left Shishido alone in the back to savor in the moment just a while longer.

+++

When Shishido went to practice that Monday, he ignored the way Oshitari raised his eyebrows. Gakuto's annoying chatter was harder to ignore, but he managed all the same. But he couldn't ignore the smirk that Atobe threw his way, knowing that the day he would have to return that favor would soon come and he was dreading it already. He didn't need to worry about Jirou, because he was sleeping as usual and had missed the whole of Ohtori's birthday anyway.

But when his partner came up to him, all smiles and then proceeded to drag him away, he protested and sputtered and turned back to ask his teammates for help. But Oshitari had a lazy smirk on his face while Gakuto was laughing at the sight of him. Atobe, on the other hand, had that "I know something you don't know" look on his face that Shishido hated.

Then again, this was his partner and Ohtori wouldn't do anything to harm him in any way. Besides, missing practice wasn't really that big of a deal. Sakaki might make them train harder the next time, but that was nothing.

His mind was too preoccupied by these thoughts that Shishido didn't realize that Ohtori was dragging him to the music room until it was too late. He wanted to wrench away from that grip but Ohtori's hand was so warm, clasped around his wrist that he felt reluctant to pull away no matter how much he was dreading this.

"Will you play?" Ohtori asked when they were inside and the door was closed behind them and Shishido realized there were only Ohtori and him in that room. When he turned around to say no, he didn't want to play and he had to go home soon, Shishido found himself face to face with that familiar guitar.

He faltered for a moment. He hadn't touched it in weeks, too busy thinking over whether or not he wanted to buy the present for Ohtori and giving up his guitar playing altogether. Finally, he reached out for it, only to see his partner set it aside and point to one corner of the room.

"This one is old, Shishido-san. Maybe you should try that one?" Confused, Shishido turned around to see what it was that his partner was pointing to. And gasped.

Shishido's eyes widened and he turned to look at Ohtori. "Choutarou, what-"

"I thought that maybe you'd like it better if you had a good guitar at home."

"It's not even my birthday." Shishido said weakly, smiling ruefully at his partner.

"Well think of this as my birthday present. I've always wanted to play with you." Ohtori confessed, smiling brightly.

"I don't know about that, Choutarou. Violin and guitar?"

"It'll be fine, Shishido-san." The warmth of his partner's smile eased some of Shishido's discomfort. But he didn't move a muscle, even as Ohtori picked up his violin, tightening the strings and began to play.

Für Elise began to play, a soothing symphony that Shishido often succumbed to and Ohtori knew it. What Ohtori didn't know-he guessed-was that Shishido played that very same symphony whenever he practices.

He took a deep breath, approaching the guitar that Ohtori had carefully set on the table. It was the genuine article, as far as Shishido could tell. And he should be able to tell, with the amount of time he spent in various music stores, trying to find the perfect guitar.

It was amazing that Ohtori knew the make, knew the exact guitar that he would have chosen. The one that he DID choose and the one he let go, all for the sake of his partner. The very same partner who was waiting for him with a ready instrument and a bright smile.

It was Shishido's turn to try out his instrument, strumming the guitar, checking the strings and making sure that it sounds just right. And it did.

So when he began to strum, Ohtori joined in, making sure to keep at Shishido's pace. It sounded slower on the guitar, the notes complex yet not impossible because Shishido was playing it and had been playing it for some time now.

And the blending of the classical guitar--raw and real--and the violin--soft and smooth--was perfect. Passionate and true, powerful and gentle. Much like the way they play on the court and the way they are in real life.



Background Music: "Wind" by Akeboshi (First Naruto ED) and "Für Elise" (classical guitar version).

And THAT was the longest Tenipuri fic I've ever written. Isn't it interesting that it's a ToriShishi? Wish me luck on my FujiRyo!



The End

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