Actually, I have no idea what Ohtori and Shishido's families are really like, so I'm bound to get a couple of important things wrong in this fic. But I'll appreciate corrections, and will try to fix the details accordingly.
"Rambo" is a common name for dogs in this area of the world. I think it's cute.
Was listening to "Angels and Devils" by Dishwalla while writing this. Might be good to listen to it while reading, too. ;)
If Ohtori had a complex, it was about being too nice.
He'd spent his entire childhood wearing the tags of "good boy" and "pushover." Was it never going to end?
The coach, Sakaki-san, had even said it himself, in his first year...if he kept up with his intensive training, he stood a good chance of becoming a regular in time for the next division tournaments. Yet Ohtori didn't think his status in the club was improving, even if he was getting better at tennis.
He was still the goody-two-shoes, the easy victim. He'd plodded through middle school with the hope that he would gain a little respect if he became a regular in the famous Hyoutei tennis club. Moreover, during his second year, he'd shot up several inches suddenly. He was no longer small enough to be stepped on by his peers...or even by his upperclassmen, who had delighted in making the "good little freshman" run errands for them.
Still, there he was...picking up the phone at an upperclassman's behest.
"Ohtori-kun," -- it was Takafumi-sempai, grinning -- "Shishido left his schoolbag in the locker room again. Do take it, then call him up tonight to tell him you have it, will you?"
He had said "Okay, sempai" before he could stop himself. And as his upperclassman and his friends were walking off, Ohtori got the impression they were laughing among themselves, finding it amusing how easy the big, broad-shouldered junior was to order around.
He hated this.
He promised himself he was going to do just what he needed to do: call up Shishido-sempai and tell him he had his bag. Then he wasn't even going to think about it anymore.
There was no need to look through his tennis club members directory for Shishido's number. Ohtori had memorized it. He had probably called Shishido up dozens of times already, always at the request of his upperclassmen. Shishido seemed to have a habit of leaving his important things within school grounds. He also seemed to have a habit of not answering calls, in which case his upperclassmen didn't hesitate to task Ohtori to call him up at his cell phone over and over until he caved and picked up.
In the past, Shishido always picked up after the fourth try or so (Ohtori suspected he really made his callers wait. Shishido-sempai was so vain). And he was always annoyed and terse on the other end, as if Ohtori had interrupted something important. "Ah. Got it. Thanks." Then a click, then a dialtone. Conversation over.
That didn't seem to be the case this time.
Shishido picked up after the third ring, on the first try. When he said "What?" in his usual annoyed manner, Ohtori was so surprised that he stammered.
"Ah, se -- sempai, I -- sorry, I hope I didn't disturb -- I mean, I wanted to tell you -- "
"Lemme guess. You have my bag. Again." Ohtori was having trouble hearing Shishido. There were loud voices in the background, occasional shrieks, some crashing sounds. Was Shishido-sempai watching television?
"Well then, come over here to my house and give it to me."
Crash. Shriek. Shishido-sempai should really turn that television down.
"I'm sorry...could you repeat that, sempai?"
"I said come over and -- god!" Shishido's voice slightly muffled, as if he was holding his hand over his cell phone's receiver to cover it. Poorly. "Get the hell out! I was trying to study and now I'm on the fucking phone!" The noise at the background did not change in volume. Ohtori heard Shishido's voice close to the receiver again. "You know where I live, right? It's on the directory. Big white house. Can't miss it."
"Yes, but -- but -- " But my address is on the directory too. So why don't you come over and pick up your bag yourself? "But it might take a while, sempai, and it's time for dinner, and -- "
"I need that bag, Choutarou. I have a big quiz tomorrow and most of my notes are in there."
Ohtori was about to argue further, but he took a deep breath, and his arguments faded into thin air.
"...Hai. I understand."
"Yeah, hurry up." Click. Dialtone. Conversation over.
He put down the phone feeling miserable.
The truth was he did not understand.
Ohtori's mother was not pleased that he had to leave the house just when dinner was about to be ready. He promised her that he would be back soon. He was just going to return a clubmate's bag, and the clubmate didn't live that far away.
She was felt easier about it then, and said she was going to wait until he came home before serving dinner. So he had better come home quickly!
Ohtori never liked having to be out of doors impromptu, and making his mother worry. He liked it even less if he went out of doors at his upperclassmen's request. He told himself firmly, as he slung Shishido's bag over his shoulder and took his bicycle out of the garage: this was the last time.
It was true, Shishido's house wasn't that far from his. Sometimes the two of them came across each other on their morning jogs, and struck up rather pleasant chats -- well, as pleasant as Shishido could make them anyway. Shishido liked to swear. His fiery delivery made Ohtori wince, he wasn't used to standing so close to someone with such a strong personality.
On his bike, Ohtori located Shishido's address in less than ten minutes. Big white house. He wasn't kidding. Shishido's house was HUGE. It had a large front garden. The European-style gables peeked over the tall white walls.
Shishido himself was standing outside the imposing black iron gates, leaning back looking unfriendly. He had his bike with him. He was dressed for going out, which puzzled Ohtori...
"So you made it," Shishido drawled by way of greeting, brushing back long strands of rich brown hair away from his face with one hand. "Thanks," he said as Ohtori handed him his bag. And then he proceeded to act as if Ohtori was not there.
"Um..." Ohtori tentatively began, "is sempai going somewhere?"
Shishido shot him a "none of your business" look. But he answered loftily, "Yeah. Can't stand it here. You can't hear it, but it's a fucking mess in there. And I need to study."
Ohtori glanced over at the big house through the elaborate gates. Nearly all the windows were alive with a soft light, and the whole place was elegant, peaceful. There were no signs of a "mess."
"So...where is sempai going?"
Shishido's "look" deepened into a scowl. "What do you care! Jesus, he brings my bag over, he thinks we're buddies or something..."
"I-I didn't mean it like that!" Ohtori said hastily. "I mean, it is rather late for a student to be out on a school night. And does...Shishido-sempai have anywhere in particular he wants to go?"
Shishido tossed his head up, downright snubbing the lowerclassman. There was a thoughtful look in his eyes, though. Ohtori realized, it wasn't so much snubbing as it was looking away before Ohtori could see his indecision.
"I was wondering if...Shishido-sempai would like to come over to my house. It would be easier to study there."
Where did that come from? Just because of the surprised look on Shishido's face, Ohtori wanted to take back what he said and tape his big mouth shut.
"What do you mean, come over?" Shishido demanded. "As in sleep over?"
"I don't think so. I haven't brought any clothes or anything. And I'm not going back in that hellhole just to pack."
Everything else simply spilled out of Ohtori's mouth. "Sempai doesn't have to worry about clothes! My younger brother is his size, I'm sure he'd be okay with lending sempai some things to wear."
For a moment Shishido's face lingered between resentment and amusement. It was a curious thing to see. Then he just snorted. "Heh. No thanks, I'm not wearing any little brother's clothes." Seriously, again: "I'm just going to your house to study. Just to study, alright? When I'm done, I'm going home. Things should have quieted down by then."
Relief washed over Ohtori. He smiled and nodded.
They rode their bikes back to Ohtori's house, silent all the way. They could have spoken, but all topics would have been awkward. What was that noise I heard, sempai? Was there fighting at your house? I thought that was the TV. Was it your parents? Did you get hurt?
And there was an intense look on Shishido's face, like he was deep in combat with an unpleasant thought. If Ohtori imposed on it, he was just going to end up being pushed away.
Ohtori sighed to himself. So he was setting himself up to be used by another upperclassman, was he...
So why was it that this time, he didn't feel used?
A troop of puppies (just six puppies, actually) greeted the two as they made their way to the front door of Ohtori's house. Shishido jumped back, alarmed, before any of them could reach his feet.
"Wah?! What is this? Who opened the kennel?" Ohtori quickly bent down to pick two gleeful puppies up with one large hand. Then he gathered up a third. But that was all his arms could carry. "Sempai, gomen...please help me gather them up. They shouldn't leave the house..."
Shishido scowled. Ohtori ran into the house and deposited the puppies in his arms somewhere, while Shishido sprinted around the yard trying to catch the three remaining.
He grumbled mightily. He was aiming to be a regular in the prestigious Hyoutei tennis team, dammit. Puppies shouldn't confusticate him like this. They seemed to enjoy being chased, too. The little bastards were darting around, taunting him with barks and yelps whenever he came close.
He caught one, placing his hand under its belly in the gentle way he saw Ohtori do it. He hugged it close while he captured another one. The little devils felt surprisingly soft and warm.
Ohtori emerged from the house and held his arms out for the two Shishido had caught. Shishido was handing them over when Ohtori glanced over his shoulder and cried "Ah -- Rambo!"
Shishido turned. A pudgy black puppy was swiftly and surely making its way to the low front gate, to freedom. In a flash, Shishido was behind it. He swept the puppy up, and it twisted and struggled violently in his arms.
Ohtori saw Shishido's face break into a rare grin while the black puppy angrily chewed his hair.
"Heh," Shishido said to it. "Well you're damn cute, aren't you..."
Ohtori darted back into the house and quickly deposited the two puppies he was carrying into the kennel. Then he approached Shishido again, but didn't make a move to take the puppy back. He couldn't keep from smiling.
"His name is Rambo. He's the rowdiest of the lot," he explained.
"...Rambo." The puppy growled irritably at the mention of its name. "Ii namae."
"Ah...okaeri, Choutarou-kun," came a voice from the doorway. Shishido quickly knew that the slim young-ish woman standing there was Ohtori's mother. The resemblance was unmistakable.
"I'm sorry, Choutarou-kun...your brother was playing with them in the kennel, but he accidentally left the door open. I hope they didn't trouble you and your friend..."
"Not at all. Please don't worry," Ohtori assured her. "Mom, this is Shishido Ryou-sempai. I invited him to stay over and study. Is it alright?"
"Of course it's alright." Her smile was angelic, sad. Ohtori's smile was a frail replica of hers. "You two have to come in now. Dinner's ready."
"We'll be right there." Ohtori glanced over at Shishido. "You haven't had dinner yet, have you, sempai?"
Shishido blinked. The puppy in his arms fell motionless as well. It looked up close-mouthed at Shishido with what seemed to be curiosity. "Uh...no, I haven't. But it's okay, I don't..."
"You'll eat with us, then," Ohtori declared. He made way for Shishido to enter the house, and Shishido did, with a silent puppy settling into his arms.
End of Part 1
On to Part 2
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