Challenge: White Day... though I think it might lack... whiteness. ^^

Notes: I don't like this fic. The boys wouldn't behave and talk straight. Even just a little bit. But... I wrote it and it's done, and I figure, might as well... >.<

For: Sharon. Sorry I couldn't come up with something better, mummy... *growls at Shishido and Ootori*



Palindrome
by Monnie


Some stupid girl in his class had told him, once, that Ootori reminded her of a rose. A slim-stemmed rose, so pale that it was almost silver at the tips, flowing upwards and out and maybe just beginning to bloom--or she'd said, anyway. Now, Shishido didn't have any idea why she'd bothered to tell him, of all people--probably just because he'd been standing the closest to her at the time, and she'd just needed to gush over Ootori Choutarou, because girls were just... well, dumb like that, sometimes. Hell, it was almost more irritating than when they gushed over Atobe. And considering that listening to someone fangirl about their team captain sometimes made Shishido want to pull out his hair, one strand at a time, just so the pain of it could distract him from wanting to throw something at them... that really was saying quite a bit.

Okay, well, at least when girls went all pale and squeaky and blushy over Ootori, all the whites showing around their eyes, they did it one at a time. Mostly.

The squeaking so high that it blanched his vision, though, sometimes, and he wondered if his eardrums were just going to go pop and go exploding in silver fireworks of a very pissed off Shishido Ryou. He honestly was going to chuck his racquet bag at someone if he heard "Do you think Ootori-kun will give something to..." fill in the blank, "today? He's so sweet," just one more time today. At least they knew better than to even hope Atobe would give them anything, but what made them think that they were worth Ootori's time? And seriously, they were seniors--didn't they have any pride at all, drooling over a junior? The squeaking just killed him.

Didn't really explain why he was sitting here listening to it, and he was going to miss his train home, and Ootori was going to be standing on that clean shiny train platform with his head back, because he liked to watch the way the wind teased through the little glass chimes they had dangling over the edge of the overhang... and then he'd step onto the train, and Shishido wouldn't have to think about getting him a gift anymore, because the damned day would be over.

Seriously. Shishido never really thought much about White Day--you only gave a gift back if you really liked someone, and sure, the chocolate you got on Valentine's was pretty good stuff, but that was kind of their choice to give it to him, right? He didn't have any obligation to give anything back--and he wouldn't have done it even if he had--and he knew that most guys thought exactly the same--so what the Hell was with the squealing echoing off the whitewashed walls of the classroom during break? Valentine's was over--what in the world made any of the little ninnies think that they were going to get anything if they kept on making noises like that when they were talking about who they might get gifts from?

His dad had always laughed and said it was just a phase when Shishido had wrinkled his nose at the mention of girls, but Shishido somehow... didn't think that he was going to outgrow not liking them. Not unless their voices dropped an octave sometime soon.

Well, not unless their voices dropped an octave, they shot up about thirty centimetres, and had eyes like chocolate and hair that always kind of made Shishido think of White Day, nowadays, because... because the little snow-clean box of Belgian chocolates that had been sitting on top of all his presents when he'd left the club room on Valentine's Day might not have been labelled, but did Ootori really think that Shishido couldn't recognise his handwriting, when they studied together in the library, and Shishido had leaned over way, way too many times to correct something that was labelled strangely on Ootori's so-neat-on-fresh-blank-paper-that-it-was-painful geography homework...? (Fixing up Ootori's homework was always more interesting than doing lit assignments, anyway. Even if he found himself wondering if Ootori ever smudged anything, because if he did, Shishido sure as Hell hadn't ever seen it. But maybe that was because every time he leaned over Ootori's shoulder, he got just a little too caught up in how he smelled, spicy sweet, something like those ylang-ylang flowers they had down south.)

Okay. If Ootori hadn't wanted him to know that it was from him... that meant that Shishido didn't have to get him anything. Except it didn't, really, because, well, it was weird to like his partner like that, even if Ootori was as warm as a scarf so new that the cashmere of it glowed like new snow with the sun on it when Shishido leaned on him on the bus going home, warm as the brief flash of that smile that he didn't give to just anyone, warm as the sound of his laughter on a day so cold that his lips had been chapping, when they decided to go out for some karaoke even though it looked like it might blizzard, and Shishido had goofed off pretending to sing enka all the way to the KTV centre just so he could see if maybe he could make Ootori double over with laughter. (He had. Yeah, it'd been a good afternoon.)

Shishido knew he was good at ignoring things that he didn't like--probably the only reason he hadn't killed any girls in the past fifteen years--and sure as Hell he'd stuffed that little box into the top drawer of his desk when he'd gotten home, done his homework, had a nice long bath and gotten ready for bed--but then he hadn't been able to sleep until he'd taken it out, and sat on his bed, the box brighter than his sheets, and just looked at it, because, well... he was good at ignoring things he didn't like, but he'd never been really much good at ignoring things he did like. Especially when Ootori had called up that night and asked if maybe Shishido-san might want to go ice skating.

Shishido hated ice skating. He really did.

Wasn't it kind of funny how he'd said "Sure, that'd be great," because of the way Ootori's voice lilted just a little when he was hopeful about something?

Maybe he was getting better at ignoring these things, because it'd been a month, and every time he opened his mouth to maybe kind of sort of mention that little no-frills box, Ootori gave him that little puzzled question look, and said "Yes, Shishido-san?" and the words just... crawled white right back down his throat again, because sure as Hell Shishido didn't know anything about relationships, and it wasn't like he wanted to hold hands with Ootori or anything goofy like that. (He'd never really gotten what was so special about hand-holding. Didn't that get sweaty?) Why screw with something that was going right? They didn't need to be... dating, or whatever, to go to the movies together, or out after club for a meal--they did those things anyway. He'd just die if Ootori got all... gushy, the way girls did when they were dating, and that'd screw up their doubles pairing something awful if it happened...

But getting him a White Day present--he could've slipped it into his locker or something, Ootori had told him the combination for it a little while back--didn't mean that they'd be dating. What the Hell was dating, anyway?

Shishido put his head down on his desk with a wince, and winced again when he saw from way-too-close-up the little empty jag of shavings he'd carved into the wood with the tip of an equally empty pen trying to concentrate on class. Considering that he'd spent most of his life trying to keep his neck out of the whole giri and obligation and all that crap pitfall, he was doing a pretty rotten job convincing himself not to get Ootori something if he just couldn't stop thinking about it. It was too late to do something like that anyway.

Ri-ight, sure. That was why he wasn't heading over to the station so that he and Ootori could stand next to each other on the platform while the train left sparks flying over the irons, and maybe Shishido could just watch the way his hair gleamed a little when the day was burnt late and Ootori was a silhouette of smoke against the sky. Like it being late explained why he was still sitting at his desk still listening to girls go squeaky like lab rats over in the corner talking about his friggin' doubles partner... and actually getting pretty damned upset, because Ootori had better not be giving anyone White Day presents...

He was just so damned screwed up in the head sometimes that it made him dizzy.

There were a hundred reasons that having a sort of kind of just maybe a little bit of a crush on his doubles partner was a really, really frickin' bad idea. Which just about balanced out, because, well, there were a hundred reasons that he liked Ootori Choutarou in the first place.

Except then Ootori served even when it was pretty damned obvious that he didn't want to, always bought two matcha frappucinos if he stopped by Starbucks, smiled like it always kind of surprised him, a little, to do it, ducking chocolate eyes behind a shield of papery shyness--and all of a sudden, there'd be a hundred and one reasons and Shishido would remember what it was like to fall, all over again.

And it always felt so damned good.

And for that... for that, maybe, maybe...

Shishido was running full-speed for the train station when a flick of colour from a small peddler's cart caught his eye and he almost knocked himself over, stopping so quickly.

*_*_*_*

Ootori sighed, just a little, and looked out onto a platform that gleamed empty and stretched out to the walls. They'd retiled it sometime a few months ago, and he'd just missed the train--but it wasn't because he hadn't been standing and waiting for it.

It wasn't that he'd been expecting anything from his--no, not his--Shishido-san. It was White Day, yes, but at the same time--he'd never looked for recognition of how he felt in Shishido's blue eyes. He'd never dared. He'd left his name off the box on purpose, and he'd looked down on hands that were bloodless and trembling when he'd left the little silk-wrapped box on the pile of pink and red, but...

But they always went home together. They hadn't had club practice today, it was true, and Shishido-san always practiced after class, yes, but...

But it was their time, as much as the time on the courts, burnt pale and perfect by adrenaline, and oh, he loved watching his Shishido-san running on the courts, loved the way his back arched when he reached for a ball, but people were different when they had a racquet in their hands. There was determination worn into Shishido like marble underneath the tanned skin, but there was laughter there, too, silver under the surface, so easy to coax out, sometimes, that Ootori found himself marvelling at the sound of it, when he was sure--so sure--that Shishido-san didn't laugh that way around very many people...

Shishido-san was beautiful, it was true, but he was silly--he still tried to blow smoke rings when it was cold out, no matter how much anyone told him that it wasn't possible... and maybe that touch of sweetness was what Ootori always reached out to warm his hands in, hoping--maybe--maybe--some day the flame would burn his fingertips in a caress of prismatic light... except he never reached far enough forwards to see if it would.

That was just wishful thinking, though.

It was the familiar rush of breath and steps that had him looking towards the stairs, familiar as the feel of a tennis court and breathless admiration.

"What the Hell are you still doing here, Choutarou?" Shishido stalled at the top of the stairwell, blinked up at him, his hands on his knees, doubled over as he panted, whipping his cap off. His dress shirt--his dress shirt was almost transparent with sweat, and it tugged at his back until Ootori just itched to straighten it, just a little... "Wait a minute. Shit. I'm late. Had to get a present. Didn't the train just leave?"

Ootori was so surprised to see his Shishido-san--what was he doing here? He couldn't have finished practice already--it was the truth on his lips, almost, if he'd let it be there. But the words choked him blind--of course Shishido-san had to get a gift for someone, one of the little red and pink packages that his own little box had looked so colourless on top of, because each of them had a name, a person, a pretty face behind them. "I... ah..." his heart was thick and full and bloodless in his throat because his pulse was pounding in his fingertips and behind his eyes. He should have said something on Valentine's. He should have, because seeing Shishido-san here was like watching hopes gathered angel-winged before they rose away, and Shishido-san was late, but... but it was okay, because he'd come anyway, and Ootori's smile was weak and watery. "Did you have a White Day present to give to somebody?"

"Yeah." Shishido-san was grinning. Well... well, wasn't he supposed to wish Shishido-san well, or something like that?

But Ootori didn't like to lie--he never had--and he closed his eyes, drowned in the blind reflection behind his eyelids, because he'd known it would happen eventually. "Oh. Is... is she someone I know?"

There was a long moment of silence, drawn out like the taste of ashes, or perhaps jealousy was coloured in the reflections off a day where the sky burnt in shades of cream off the dark in front of his closed eyes.

"You know... you're really dumb sometimes, Choutarou."

Something soft brushed his cheek, not a gentle fist like when Shishido-san pretended to punch him sometimes, not a callused rough hand, and Ootori blinked himself into the sunlight again.

His Shishido-san grinned as he bopped Ootori on the nose with one perfect, slim-stemmed white rose, so white that it was almost silver at the tips, petals flowing up and outwards and only just beginning to bloom. "Happy White Day."




The End

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