Archivist's note: This story is a continuation of Mayotta (Lost), in the Ohtori/Other section. The pairing for that story is Ohtori/Hiyoshi, with implied past Ohtori/Shishido.
Ootori thought, in the stunned instant of realising whose back was towards him, that Shishido-san looked like a part of Waseda: a shadow against the yellow-edged scrolls ruffling slowly in the breeze against the heavy stone walls, and his shirt was so dark a black it gave his hair a liquid chestnut shine.
The curve of that neck was so familiar even if the length of Shishido's hair wasn't--the way his hip cocked, the slow glide into a back that Ootori knew too well was just as graceful when that shirt wasn't softening its lines to a shadow. Shishido kept his shoulders down, his hip cocked, most of the time--especially when he had one hand in his pocket, only one.
He'd asked a long time ago, an eternity ago, why Shishido-san always kept just one hand there. Shishido had just given him that sharp bark of a laugh, tilting his head just a hint to look up at him, and said... what had he said?
Ootori didn't quite remember.
Shishido wasn't wearing his blue cap--but there wouldn't have been a need for it, anymore. That handful of soft dark sparks that had made Shishido hiss, with indignation, or laughter, when Ootori's fingers brushed through the unruly short strands, enjoying the silk against his callused fingertips--no, that was gone. It had only been a year, but Shishido's hair fell a little longer--a smooth, short ponytail, dark and touchable when it fell in a neat little bob, held loosely at the nape of his neck with... a silver bar, dark and silver and sky.
Ootori's breath choked him; his hand went to his cross, too warm from where Shishido had caressed it too many times. He knew that clip--not as well as he knew the way Shishido's throat curved when he bent his head to focus on something, or the dip of his shoulders because he'd always said he didn't really care if straightening them made him taller, but he knew that clip.
It had been a joke--Ootori only been joking, or at least partly, because of course Shishido-san didn't wear things like clips. He'd said so, hadn't he--laughing, "What the Hell is this, Choutarou?"--at the sight of the curved silver-and-lapis accessory in its little nest of tissue, one year, one birthday. Shishido hadn't had nearly enough hair to wear it then, and they'd laughed themselves silly when he'd fastened it to the little cloth adjuster at the back of his cap. Of course, since he always wore his cap backwards, it had dangled onto his forehead--ridiculous, certainly, but Ootori had always thought that the lapis lazuli stones brightened the surprisingly muted cobalt of Shishido-san's eyes...
He was wearing the clip now, though, and the silver was like crystal on his dark hair--just as strangely, heart-stopping elegant as Ootori had imagined it would be when he'd bought it.
It was strange, how the lines and curves of him, that neck, that smooth hip and smoother flick of hair, could stop every muscle in Ootori's body--jerk him to a halt, send him flying mentally even when he looked down to realise that his feet had stopped moving.
It was strange, how the sight of that profile, focused seriously without a smirk turning at the edges of his lips, could still stop his heart.
He didn't have to go out there--he'd come to look at those long rolls of paper lining the wall himself, but it wasn't absolutely necessary. Honestly--his acceptance letter would arrive in a week or so, wouldn't it? He'd sat the exam, and he'd known that he could do it well; if anything, the years had taught him that there was a time for modesty, and a time for resolve. He didn't truly need to stand by the side of the boy whose head dipped, quietly, to examine the row upon row of names, his fingertips running lightly over the edges of the wind-rustled paper because Shishido-san liked to touch things.
But the fear slid deeply, bitter with the irony that he knew just how far into him it could dig its tiny pinprick claws--and once it was in his bones, there was simply nowhere else it could go. He'd never let it touch his soul, because Ootori Choutarou was... no, that wasn't quite right. He didn't know what he was, no, but he knew what he didn't do: he didn't run away.
Being a coward two times in the past too-long year had been more than enough running for the rest of his lifetime.
Once, when Shishido had told him that he was letting him go, and Ootori hadn't cried.
I'm so sorry, Hiyoshi. I'm so sorry.
With one look--just one, he'd only take one into those blue, blue eyes--he'd let Shishido slip from his heart. He had to, oh, God, this wasn't healthy--hadn't Shishido-san let him go because... because he hadn't wanted Ootori to be chained down? Wasn't that what he'd said? (He'd said, but his eyes had been flat marble, not gleaming before he looked away, and wasn't that what had hurt most of all?) Maybe chains weren't as formal as metal, or a relationship, or even the pink, smug bow of a smile.
But even Hiyoshi--oh, Hiyoshi--hadn't had the key to unlock those chains of what-if and maybe--and Ootori hadn't had the strength, or the will, to break them.
Ootori remembered the way Hiyoshi'd looked him in the eye that next day, after it had all happened--the rush of those weeks, and Hiyoshi kissed harder than Shishido-san ever had, not bruising but close to it--fierce and deep without the edge of laughter that would have wounded more deeply than the razor intensity of Hiyoshi's focus. His old friend clawing at his shoulders, under him with his hair almost chestnut with his sweat, and ah, God, ah, God, Ootori still couldn't... quite... believe what he'd, they'd, done.
But they had, and he'd woken up with the chain of his cross tangled and biting into his fingers hard enough that the tip of his thumb was purple as a bruise, an empty dorm bed that wasn't his, and blood on Hiyoshi's pillow. Ah, Lord, how he'd been terrified that he'd hurt him--how, he didn't know how he could have, he'd been so careful, but there had been blood dripping like tears at the corners of Hiyoshi's mouth--
Ootori had sat up, a jerk like his heart starting again, to see his buchou and classmate pulling on his clothes with a distracted, distant look on his face. Perhaps Hiyoshi had heard him, because those too-sharp eyes had glanced at the bed, at Ootori, and his old friend had nodded at him, "Ohayou gozaimasu," formally enough that Ootori had felt his fingers chill with it.
The words had been colder yet with Hiyoshi's skin--he must have been doing his morning training outside; Ootori always loved watching Hiyoshi do his katas, it was like watching a song made flesh--when Ootori reached up, out, to touch his teammate's cheek. And Hiyoshi had grabbed his wrist with his fingers hard, hard, encircling flesh and bone ungently enough that Ootori had felt his eyes widen. "You're not fooling yourself, Ootori. What makes you think you're fooling me?"
Perhaps Jirou-san had been right--there was an honesty before sleep. He didn't quite remember what he'd said before he'd drifted away into sleep, empty and dark and wondering why he still couldn't cry. Shishido had always teased him about the fact that he fell asleep right after lovemaking, but his eyes had been blue and soft whenever he'd said it... and Hiyoshi's eyes had been steel that Ootori couldn't see behind, or around, or into, when Ootori had asked if he'd said something, anything, to hurt him.
"You said what you really felt, Ootori," was all that Hiyoshi had told him, before he'd shrugged on his shirt with one efficient yank.
And after that... he didn't know if it was a relief to be out from under that intense, intense focus--but life was the same, and they'd never spoken of it again--not over coffee after practice, not in the locker room, not over the net. And there was a comfort there that there hadn't been in a bed--in pleasure that, for the first time in his life, hadn't been a release, or perhaps it was the other way around.
But Hiyoshi had looked at him very, very levelly when he'd asked why Ootori hadn't wanted to go with him to Waseda, the day the lists of admitted university students had been posted. The senpai of all the sports clubs would all be there, Hiyoshi hadn't said, hadn't needed to say, to welcome the new admitted freshmen. It was a custom, after all, of many of the universities around Tokyo. He'd thought, maybe, with a touch of disappointment, that perhaps Hiyoshi didn't know him as well as they'd both imagined, if he could ask such a thing.
But then again, Hiyoshi hadn't waited for an answer.
I wanted to see you so badly that I stayed at home, Shishido-san. After a year, I wanted to see you so much, and if I want something so much, it can't be right, can it...?
How could Shishido be here? It was three days after the papers had been hung up--it was a weekday, and didn't the university students have classes...?
Ootori breathed, slowly, and walked forwards.
He was tired of running. Maybe the year had made him more fragile--he felt like it, sometimes, like he was made of silver but stretched too thin into trembling filaments--but how would he know if the strings would sing or break, if nothing ever played across them...?
Shishido-san turning to face him, looking up at him--not too far up; he couldn't tuck his Shishido-san under his head anymore, was the first thing he thought before he pushed it away--jarred against his gaze like a cloud of butterflies. And when he said, "Omedetou, Choutarou," it was like hearing his heart click together again from the four beating, merely functional fragments that it had been.
Ootori knew, then. Hiyoshi hadn't been able to break his chains. Would never be able to, even with that rare, rare smile, and the intensity of him moving slow as one of his katas behind his gaze whenever he looked up over the edge of his coffee cup, flaring brighter on the courts.
But then again, even Shishido had never held the key that could set him free, had he. Perhaps that had been his mistake. Their mistake.
"Thank you," Ootori replied, softly, and his voice was steady with that knowledge.
Neither of them was made for pretense, and he meant to say something to break the silence that hung heavy as a shroud, or Shishido-san's hair, over them both--but then Shishido's mouth curved into the faintest, faintest little smile when he cocked his head. "Want a tour of the campus? The courts are pretty damned sweet."
But when Shishido moved--turned his face to the thin afternoon sun--the shadows licked slowly away--except for one, a bruise under his jaw: heavy, swollen angry as a cloud full of storm, and Ootori blinked. "You--you're... you're not training like that again, are you...?!"
It was an idiotic question--he was certain of it the moment it was out of his mouth, because he had the fastest serve in the Tokyo region, and if Shishido-san could catch his serve, then it wasn't likely that anyone else's would knock him to the ground--but he'd done quite a few stupid things. Like feeling his hand moving, upwards from his side, before he wrenched it back down in a fist--wanting to reach out a hand to that dark patch marring tanned skin so very badly before he could brush the urge away.
But Shishido's hand jerked up to the patch, eyes widening for a moment before--he grinned, a real smile full of chagrin and honesty and maybe just a touch of irony that moved through his face, up through his gaze to shine, cobalt. "Shit. Forgot 'bout that. Uh... no."
The smile, the memories struck harder than any of his serves--oh, yes, Shishido-san's smile, his careless laughter, the way his arms were strong and smooth around Ootori's waist and his fingers coarse with callus when they walked up Ootori's shoulders to cup his cheek--and if Ootori had had any balance left to lose, no doubt he would be on the floor.
Yes, he'd missed that smile. But he'd been stumbling about without his centre for the better part of a year, now, and his voice was still steady when he murmured, "Then... what?"
Shishido's eyes slanted away, catching on the edge of a fluttering roll of paper, and Ootori saw the too-familiar empty look cross over his once-partner's face when he shrugged. "Yeah, well, got into a fight. No big deal."
He'd hoped--no, that wasn't wrong, he'd dreamed, empty as a cup on a bed that, strangely, had felt too small without Shishido sharing it with him.
But nothing had changed. Shishido... he still lied, and Ootori still didn't understand why his Shishido-san felt like he had to ...
How can I... how can I love someone who told me that he wanted to let me go for my sake, when I could see the way his face went blank when he did?
And then something was different, because Shishido's eyes pushed back into his with the force of a key into a lock, and Ootori's eyes moved to follow the glide of a hand raised to run those familiar, blunt fingers through that long, beautifully unfamiliar hair--and Ootori saw it when Shishido's fingers touched the clip, jarring to a stop before dropping back to his side. "Ah. Shit. Shit. Okay. No, not a fight. I got decked, okay?"
Truth. Truth always left Shishido-san's face just a little fierce, his eyes just a little brighter, and Ootori hadn't expected to hear it--perhaps that was why his voice did shake when the words spilled from him, shocked as much by the honesty as the reply. "What? Who? Why?"
Ootori didn't expect the new smile that worked over his once-boyfriend's face, either, pushing too gently up at the corners of a mouth that wasn't gentle, except when it moved over Ootori's skin. Perhaps that was why it felt like a kiss, moving down his spine, coaxing a shudder from him. "'Cause I screwed up, Choutarou. And as for 'who'..." Shishido's shoulders moved, slowly, and the dark of his shirt caught on his skin, pulling tight over the delicate sketched lines of his collarbone when he glanced away. "Let's just say no-one expects their old kouhai to show up and sucker punch 'em. Damned embarrassing, let me tell you."
Hiyoshi. Hiyoshi?! "Wh-what?" But--none of this made sense, none of it. Not the fact that they were having a conversation at all, much less having it standing in the Waseda courtyard surrounded by a thousand five hundred names or so, one of them Hiyoshi Wakashi's, one of them his own. "I--but--"
"I had a good talk with him--though I bet he'd call it a good talk with me, if you could get him to say anything 'bout it--before he whacked me one, though," it was almost humor in those eyes that looked up into his--too deeply, sharp and deep and real as Hiyoshi's focus, sapphire, not the dull cabochon flame that had been in his Shishido-san's eyes the day Shishido had stopped being 'his.' "He told me to stick to being selfish, 'cause that was what I was so damned good at." His smile widened, the briefest flash of pale teeth, full of chagrin. "'Cause if I ever tried to do anything for your sake ever again, he was going to beat me up so bad you'd be visiting me in the hospital."
There had been times before when Shishido-san had rendered him absolutely speechless--but Ootori didn't think it had ever been with shock before. And he was so sure, so sure, that Shishido was laughing at him--and he was, little chuckles that shook through him--by the time he managed to choke out, "He certainly did not!"
And if Hiyoshi had... Ootori had never honestly been tempted to kill anyone in his life, not really, and it was going to be a distinctly strange experience to kill his teammate when his cheeks were on fire, but he would make a good try of it!
"Yeah, okay, he didn't," Shishido was grinning at him, and the moment was warm and real when he laughed, a low rich sound that still had the power to run through Ootori's veins as slowly and sweetly as hot chocolate on his tongue. He relaxed into the warmth--into the familiarity of it, despite the fact that none of this should have felt as good, as here, as it did. Of course Hiyoshi hadn't said any such thing. Why would he have? "Well, he told me the first part. The fist in my face kind of told me the rest."
Ootori's jaw dropped. The familiarity fled, but the laughter on Shishido's face didn't when that hand came up to rub at the dark patch veined through with paler streaks of healing, cocking his head to one side with those blunt, graceful fingers playing delicately over the skin before Shishido winced. "Yeah. See why I didn't want to tell you? I swear to God, Choutarou, if you tell Hiyoshi I told you any of this, I'm going to turn you over my knee and spank you."
Shishido had said it before. He'd said it before, and the response--their response--was out of Ootori's mouth, brushed by a hint of a smile before thought returned to him, before reality wrapped around them rather than the wind that dusted the Waseda courtyard. He gaped in mock-horror, and Shishido grinned back at him. "I didn't know you were kinky!"
Then Ootori remembered, and felt his own smile melt--saw it in Shishido's eyes when it registered in him, too, and was it wrong that it had felt so good to have both of them forget, if even for a moment?
Ootori thought that Shishido said it for both of them when he let his head fall back, baring the smooth, smooth line of that throat and muttered, "Shit."
How could the unsaid fill the air, the answers choking him like ghosts, when a moment ago the laughter had left him feeling so light, so certain?
You never called, but Shishido had never promised that he would.
I don't understand, but Ootori had never asked for the explanation he hadn't wanted to hear.
I want to hold you--to feel that hair through my fingers, like when we used to lie cradled together, skin to skin, and the world all felt so quiet, but he didn't have the right to that, not any longer, and wasn't that exactly what that beautiful new, long hair meant?
Why are you here?
But that answer was a ghost that never rose to his mouth, and so instead the question did, soft and trembling because he'd lost his balance not a year ago, but five years ago on a court flooded by spotlights and spattered with sweat and blood and the way Shishido had laughed and laughed, and slung an arm over his shoulders: bruised, battered, his long hair with blood in it, but his eyes shining with fierce determination as much as victory--the most beautiful thing that Ootori could ever imagine.
Shishido couldn't give his balance back to him, but there'd been a time when they'd both lost their foothold on the world, falling, together. Why was it, then, that he was the only one shaking...?
"Why... why did you..." his fingertips came up to his cross, rose--but holding it couldn't stop the way the words he truly wanted to say were strangling him. You lied to me a year ago, Shishido-san, when it truly mattered--so why can't I forget you? "You lied to me."
Holding his God's crucifix in his hands, the metallic edges worn away by years of touches, couldn't stop the words--but seeing Shishido-san's hand push upwards into the warm thick air, as if to reach out and stroke the fingers that Ootori had on his cross, the way he had for so many years--before Shishido jerked his hand back to his side, stuffing it into the pocket of faded blue jeans... yes, that could.
That was familiar. Somehow, even if he couldn't quite remember the reason Shishido-san so often kept one hand in his pocket. Somehow, even if the bitterness--but no surprise--that crowded into Shishido's eyes and took the sparkle from the sapphires made Ootori wonder if this was what it could be like to die. "You noticed. Wondered if you would."
Wouldn't he even try to deny it? Would it have been so bad if he had?
"Were you... did you..." he'd thought the words so many times, so why couldn't he say them now? He'd been teased--accused--of reticence, and eloquence with atmosphere, or words, or people, had always been Shishido-san's gift--never his, but when the words were a blurred clash of dissonance that ran through every thought... "Is she nice?"
Shishido blinked--once, slowly, too slowly. "What? Who?"
Who? "Maybe she was a he?" Shishido had always told him that he was the 'only fucking guy in this world I could feel this way for, Choutarou, don't you forget it' and Ootori had always been an obedient kouhai, hadn't he? He'd never forgotten it, even trying to, with his face tearless in his pillow at night because staring up at the ceiling held too many memories of a dark head with short hair nestled in the crook of his shoulder. But maybe things had changed. Maybe he'd just been the first, and first love was special, but--but it ended.
He'd forgotten too much, but not that frustrated fire, the way that Shishido's hands were just this side short of ungentle, his voice rough when his hand wrapped around Ootori's bicep. "What the Hell are you talking about, Choutarou?"
The tears never spilled, but the words did--finally, a rush, hot and salt-bitter. "The one you left me for. Wasn't... wasn't that why you lied to me? You didn't want to hurt me. I... I understand. Really."
In the silence, in Shishido's eyes filling with fire, Ootori finally did understand--what it must have been like for his partner, standing on the other side of the net, bruised past skin and past bone, and just... just waiting for the serve to knock him down, because he had no speed left in his mind to catch it and file it away, and no hands that had the right to reach out and be held in that strong embrace just one last time, just once--
"You fuckin' kidding me, Choutarou?" Shishido snarled at him, and the hand on Ootori's bicep tightened with a jerk--so tight it hurt, an ache as much pressure as pain. "That's what you've been thinking all this time? You goddamed fucking idiot!"
Ootori had wondered if he'd ever be able to speak again, but... "What?" his voice was a thread, but there, real as paper, real as Shishido running a hand through his hair again, fingers raking furrows too quickly filled by the spill of dark, his fingers jarring on the clip.
"Yeah, I lied. Okay? Yeah. Y'know why?" but Shishido's gaze bored into his, deeper, he'd told himself he'd never let anyone look that deeply into his soul again but Shishido never asked permission for things like this... "What was... shit. Shit, I can't believe you--you never make things easy for yourself, do you, Choutarou?!"
Yes? No? He'd tried--it would have been simple with Hiyoshi, but... "I don't..."
Shishido's hand was on his lips, mouth grim and tight, slammed closed like the lid on a coffin. "No. Shut up. Shut up for just a second, 'cause I'm only gonna be able to say this once."
He'd always been the obedient kouhai, hadn't he; the hand wouldn't have stopped him from speaking if he had anything to say, but he'd never had any defenses where Shishido was concerned. Wasn't it funny, really, how some things went deeper than memory, into blood...
"Yeah. I lied to you, Choutarou, and I don't regret it." Shishido's mouth tightened. "I'm never going to regret telling you that I wanted to let you go."
Yes, he'd always been obedient, but that hurt more than obedience did, and Ootori closed his eyes. He couldn't watch. He couldn't... he couldn't see honesty wash like fire across Shishido's face, fierce and hot and brutal and burning him away before it.
But he was too tired to run, too empty, and he couldn't escape Shishido's voice--rising louder than the wind or the rustle of papers, but just barely. "But yeah, so I lied."
Things changed. Everything changed. Shishido's voice expanding around him in a slow crescendo, the words he'd never meant to hear--and suddenly, couldn't help but hear--the world narrowing to sound and the hand clenching on his arm, but... "'Cause there isn't a damned thing in the world that would make me want to let you go, you idiot! But... you know how Hiyoshi looks at you? The girls in the stands? Hell, for your sake, yeah, you deserved a chance like that, y'know?"
No, he didn't know, he hadn't--he'd never wanted--Ootori's eyes came open with shock to find Shishido much too close, both hands bruisingly tight on his biceps, with something that was almost tears moving behind eyes that were too blue. Ootori fell into that ocean, into the hot intensity of Shishido's anger. "Going out there--seeing what it'd be like maybe dating some kid who didn't swear too much, someone maybe who was good enough to deserve someone like you--damn it, you'd have waited for me. You would've, and I just... I couldn't let you do that!" Shishido was shouting, now, the push of his presence almost tangible pressure on Ootori's voice, his throat, "So I left you. Yeah. Yeah, sorry, Choutarou, I lied. 'Cause I'm just not good enough to smile when I let you go. But you know what? If it'd been my own world to run, I'd have fucking killed anyone who tried to put their lips on you!"
And that was honesty, too--fire racing through Shishido's mouth and across his eyes--so fierce it scalded Ootori's skin, and the tears that had never come pricked his eyes like tiny stars and he'd never heard his hearbeat in his ears before.
"Shishido-san..." he whispered.
It took Ootori just a moment to realise that it was the first time today he'd said his partner's name.
"I just... I don't know." Shishido's voice was spent, darker--rougher when he bowed his head, both hands sinking to his pockets again and leaving small Shishido-finger-sized prints of bruising fire still racing down Ootori's arms. "Shit. Didn't mean to go off like that." Shishido looked away. Ootori had never seen his senpai's shoulders fall like that before. "Just... when you said... no. There's no-one else, Choutarou. Never been."
Then Shishido shook away the thought, and his hair shone when he bowed his head and pulled something out of his pocket. "I came to say I was sorry. I screwed up, yeah. Shouldn't--but Hell, you're with Hiyoshi now, right? That mushroom had better be fucking good to you, Choutarou."
He raised the thing glittering in his hand, upwards in a quick jerk, like it burned him.
Ootori hadn't had the authority to stop him, not then, but this time--
Ootori snatched the scissors out of Shishido's hand before Shishido could raise them to his shoulders, even when the soft dark hair fell loose like petals around his senpai's firm, resolute face--the clip in Shishido's other hand with a few strands still caught in the clasp from where Shishido had ripped it free.
He had speed enough for this.
"No," Ootori whispered--and then, once, again, more strongly, the metal as warm as the inside of Shishido-san's pockets between his fingers. Shishido-san's hair was warmer when he dropped the scissors to the ground with a slow rattle on the stone, and slid his fingertips into that thick, luxuriant fall. He'd never had the chance to touch it before, not when it'd been long. "No."
He remembered, now.
"Why do you always keep a hand in your pocket, Shishido-san?"
"'Cause I always want to hold you so damned badly, Choutarou. If you ever think of a better way to stop me from grabbing you in the middle of school, lemme know."
Shishido simply looked at him--up at him--with quiet, quiet eyes, and the stillness of them was worse, maybe, than the fire. Shishido-san wasn't made to be still--not a pool but an inferno, and perhaps--perhaps Ootori needed to burn. "What--what are you doing, Choutarou?" but Shishido-san's body didn't lie--Ootori felt the way Shishido's chin jerked towards Ootori's hand in his hair, as if he'd lay his cheek on it if he so much as dared.
God, he was so scared. God, he was so tired of being so, so terrified.
"Taking back my balance," he whispered, in the instant before their lips met.
This time, the words rose like a wind full of autumn in his mind, blowing away the ghosts. I missed you. I missed you, and your hair feels so good like this, your lips... Familiar, the taste of mint gum and the way Shishido-san's lower lip was fuller, softer than his upper--but not, not when the hand on his cheek was shaking, and not when long hair drifted through his fingers as gently as leaves falling to the ground. Not when it had been a year too long, and his lips had forgotten what it felt like, and the touch was sweet as making love again for the first time under candlelight--fumbling and awkward and wrong and so, so right.
It only lasted a moment, being slanted together like that before the seal broke, the gentle nudge of Shishido's nose because they'd both tilted so automatically, the darkness pierced through with the hot red echo of sunlight because Ootori always closed his eyes when he kissed.
But perhaps one moment--just one moment--of truly being happy was better than a year--or a lifetime--of ghosts trying to remember to smile.
"Choutarou," Shishido staggered back, away, shaking when his hand came up to his lips, pressing--not as if he could wipe it away, but as if he could hold in the kiss, hold it to him. Ootori wondered--maybe he'd needed that year. His Shishido-san hadn't ever been this clear in his eyes before--the fear rising in his blue eyes, the pleasure that rose under it. He hadn't recognised the terror before that mirrored his, only the way the lie had risen up into that beloved face and blanked out all else. "You..."
Ootori understood. "I'm not with Hiyoshi, Shishido-san." My body was, once. But even he could see that I wasn't there. I tried to be. Truly, I tried. "I... I..." and then, much to his own surprise, "I don't think you should cut your hair."
Well, it startled both of them--Shishido's clouded gaze focusing on him like light through a dewdrop. "What? You're making no sense, Choutarou." His eyes turned away, like the words hurt too much, before they wrenched back, striking. "I... I didn't come to... to..."
I didn't come to find you again. I didn't think I could. I just... I just meant to show you that nothing had changed.
They hadn't always needed words, Ootori thought; perhaps the kiss had given them back that, or perhaps that was something they had never lost.
"But I like it," the gaiety wasn't entirely forced, to his surprise. "I like your hair like this." I like you like this, just as you are, even when I can't always understand you, even when you don't always understand me. "And... and well... since I'm going to come to Waseda anyway..."
But then... he'd known he would, ever since he saw Shishido standing there wearing a certain clip in his dark hair.
Something flared in Shishido's eyes--surprised triumph; perhaps this wasn't a battle that he'd thought he could win. It certainly wasn't one that Ootori had thought would ever be fought, not again. "Don't. Not... don't do that for me."
"I'm not." Ootori smiled, slowly, slowly, and it was the truth. "Waseda's a good school, isn't it? I'm doing it because I... I want to feel..." I want to feel you over me, feel the way you smile when you see me start melting for you. His breath caught--he'd had practice at saying things like this, the year before--Shishido-san did so love to hear him say naughty things, Ootori remembered the way it filled Shishido with fierceness and pleasure until he bit and nipped and growled with such contentment--but his throat was rusty with them, and embarrassment rose to his cheeks, "I want to feel, again," he ended, instead, lamely.
Except--yes, that was it, that was exactly it, and it wasn't desire that roared up into Shishido's eyes, wasn't lust that pushed in those hands when they rose to cup his face, just a little too hard--but it lit every star in Ootori's body all the same, one by one, like night settling in after a very long day indeed. "Damn you, Choutarou," he whispered, and there wasn't any more voice to him, no more blank pretense, just the rough rasp that moved like a purr down Ootori's back, or perhaps like the calluses on the tips of Shishido-san's fingers, stroking his face. "Damn it, I spent a year trying to get you out of my blood."
Shishido paused, but his grin moved, slowly, before the words could come unstuck from Ootori's chest--Shishido-san saying something like that always had always left him embarrassingly mute for a moment--and he tiptoed for a quick firebird peck on the lips that soared down Ootori's throat and made him wonder if maybe his voice was caught there for good. "And then I spent two days wondering whether I should kick Hiyoshi for socking me one--or kiss 'im for telling me when you were going to be coming to see the lists."
...oh, Hiyoshi. Oh, Hiyo. He should have known.
Ootori closed his eyes, and reached out to wrap his Shishido-san in his arms, the soft loose fall of that hair a tickle over his shoulder, his neck, when he rested his cheek on that familiar dark head. They still fit together. They still fit. "I hurt him, Shishido-san," he admitted, finally, quietly. "So badly. He'll never say it, but..."
"Yeah, well... hate to tell you this, Choutarou, but you'd have hurt him no matter what. You're just damned near impossible to get over," Shishido murmured against him, those lips moving just below the arc of his shoulder, not distant but too close. "Believe me. I'd know."
There was nothing more that he could say to that. Not when Shishido drew him back down, kissing him--not a kiss like first times, but a kiss like knowledge--small, sharp nips that left him too sensitive for words, gasping when Shishido soothed them with smaller licks. And he'd missed this, too, as much as the sweetness--missed the shock that even just kissing could make him tremble, because Shishido-san was just that good--kissing hard without hurting, and the tiny little bites that followed the curve of his mouth, the shy slide of his own tongue onto his lips and then onto Shishido's, to the tune of a low, rasping purr... this was homecoming, too.
"Okay. Guess we're gonna need to find that Hiyoshi a boyfriend, huh?" Shishido's voice was a growl, vibrating against his throat when they broke again, but thick with amusement. "I don't care how sweet and giving you are--and yeah, he's your friend, but sure as Hell I'm not sharing. Know anyone in Hokkaido? America, maybe?"
Ootori gaped, aghast as much about the fact that he wanted to laugh as his boyfriend's callousness. "Shishido-san!" But the words were a startling trill of birdsong invited into his soul, not threat, because Shishido was still in his arms. "We owe Hiyoshi so much!"
"Well, yeah." Shishido looked up at him--full of impudence, insouciance enough for any three, arrogance enough for any ten when he flicked his hair behind his shoulders--but then he pinned it back in one easy motion with the clip still in his hand, patting it into place. He must have... the motion looked so easy, he must have done it a dozen, a hundred, times before... "But he told me to stop trying to do things for your sake. So I'm being selfish. And making sure he stays far, far away from you."
He had to laugh, at that--at the mischief that moved over Shishido's mouth. "But... but Shishido-san, I'm fairly sure that he's going to be coming to Waseda next year..."
Shishido wrinkled his nose, but there was a new warmth in his eyes when he muttered, "I knew you were going to say that. Just knew it. This is going to be hard, Choutarou. The bastard's got damned good taste."
"Shishido-san!" But he was laughing, blushing furiously when he nudged his partner away with his hip, and Shishido came roaring back into him, against him. Ootori's laughter felt oiled to smoothness by the tears he'd never shed, fine and dark as Shishido's hair, and maybe this was his way of crying, because couldn't people cry because something felt so good?
It was only later, sitting on Shishido-san's sofa with their fingers entwined on his lap and that soft, dark hair on his shoulder, that Ootori raised his head, and brushed a kiss over his once-partner's temple. "Shishido-san?"
"Mmm?" Shishido's voice was heavy with contentment--maybe with all the words that hung between them, but Ootori thought that maybe this was a woolen tapestry, not a wall--full of autumn tones and soft, scratchy warmth. A purr rumbled in Shishido's throat when Ootori reached up to brush his fingers through that long, lovely hair, and Ootori smiled to feel the cool silver grooves, the cooler stones, that held Shishido's hair at his nape.
"If you ever try to do anything like that, ever again... I'm going to... to..." he couldn't think of an appropriate threat. "I'll be so angry. Or... something."
Shishido's eyes slanted up at him, so dark in the late dusk that night was setting in them even before it reached the windows, warm with his smile. "Are you. Huh."
"I will!" Ootori tugged, gently, on a long twisting forelock that reached just past Shishido's chin. "I don't share, either, Shishido-san."
And... maybe Hiyoshi was right.
"You don't?" Shishido's grin was only growing wider. "Oooh, that's sexy, Choutarou."
Ootori's cheeks erupted in new little licks of flame, and he tugged, just a little harder, on the twist of silky hair he had in his hand. "Shishido-san!" but the laughter wouldn't leave him behind--not this time, not when Shishido-san was on him, and tickling away with those blunt, familiar fingers that left fire and mirth moving up his throat.
Perhaps it was all right to be just a little selfish.
Oh--and "Geshi" strictly means "Summer Solstice," but frankly speaking, I've always thought "Summer Solstice" sounds like a title I would have used for (my exceptionally bad) poetry back in seventh grade, so... ^^; IN any case. Back to studying for meeee...
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