It was always thirteen centimetres, laced with disdain, or resentment. It wasn't that much of a difference, not when the rest of the tennis team was tall enough that it shouldn't have mattered—but the first time he'd met his Shishido-senpai's eyes, it hadn't been a handspan—it'd been a mile.
His father had always told him he'd sprung up in a sudden growth spurt, that it could happen to anyone—but the one time Ootori'd told Shishido-san that, he'd genuinely thought that the senior was going to hit him—knock into him, pare him down to size with the same harsh words that the rest of the pre-regulars tried to use.
Then again, Shishido-san had still been Shishido-senpai, then, and that bit of height between them—just barely enough to span one of his too-big, awkward palms—had been enough.
Ootori hadn't known—not then—that the rest of the team teased Shishido, too.
All he'd known was that Shishido's eyes had looked past him in a way that had hurt—and then his senpai strode right past him and onto the Singles courts with a snarled, "Go practice with your partner."
But now it was thirteen centimetres that had put him at the perfect position to see right past a certain dipped shoulder, the aqua of a Hyotei jersey sea-hued with sweat—Shishido-san never stood straight, even on the tennis court—when they stood in Australian Formation.
And when Shishido-san whooped, almost running up the wall before he stopped to toss his cap into the air, rushing into him for a hug and catching the cap on the way down… it was thirteen centimetres that put his nose right into the soft, wet fluff of Shishido's freshly cut, raggedy hair, because his senpai still moved quickly enough that his weight against Ootori's chest always started him, for a thousand and one reasons—almost enough to knock him over; almost, but it brought them just close enough that he could shyly run the tips of his fingers over a patch of hair where it had been cut too short. Just enough. "We won, Shishido-san."
There'd been the times when he'd wondered if thirteen centimetres was too far between them for a connection—of any sort. For friendship. For a touch. For him to reach out and take the cap from his partner, resting it gently on that dark hair.
But the blue denim was warm underneath his fingers when he lifted it from surprisingly long, unsurprisingly callused fingers, and Ootori realised with just a little surprise that his hand was trembling.
But his Shishido-san was grinning up at him, "Dummy. Duh, we won," face brilliant with sweat and his cap lopsided, bill dangling over his ear, when his hand came up, slick and smelling of sweat and tennis grip tape, and he dragged Ootori down towards him, his lips salt and heady, and thirteen centimetres wasn't anything when he could bend, a little, and Shishido-san could tiptoe, a little.
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