Inspired by Shishido's White Day bromide. Translation of the note was done by Leviosa.



An Unexpected Gift
by Miko no da


Leaning back in his chair, Ohtori stretched his arms out in front of him and winced as both his shoulders cracked loudly. Tipping his head from side to side produced more noise as the vertebrae in his neck snapped back into place. One of the real disadvantages to being so tall was that you could never find a desk high enough that you weren't forced to hunch over your books. Long periods of studying were hard on him, and not just mentally.

Rubbing at his burning eyes, he yawned. He'd been up early to get to cram school, and up late the night before studying. It was spring break and he still had two weeks left to go before school started again, but that didn't get him out of studying. He'd finished the break assignments given to him by his teachers at Hyoutei early on, but the teachers at the cram school took advantage of the break to pile a lot more work on their students.

That was the deal he'd made with his parents, though. They'd agreed to let him focus on both music and tennis under two conditions; one, that he not allow his grades to drop below a certain percentage set by them, and two, that he spend winter and spring break focusing on cram school. They'd have demanded he spend the longer summer break doing the same, but since that was when the biggest tennis tournaments were held they knew that wouldn't have been fair of them to ask.

It wasn't that much of a hardship, really. A few weeks of intense studying and some hard work during the rest of the year in exchange for being able to have the two things that mattered most to him. He hadn't broken his end of the deal yet, and when he'd made the Regulars team in tennis last year his father had even taken him aside to tell him how proud he was of Ohtori's accomplishments.

At moments like this, though, when his back was aching and his head felt like it would explode if he tried to stuff one more bit of knowledge inside, it was hard to remember exactly why he voluntarily put himself through this.

Groaning, he pushed back from his desk and stood. He needed a break, just for a few minutes, to rest his eyes and let his brain settle. Grabbing the water bottle he'd drained some time ago he headed for the kitchen to get more.

Going downstairs and into the kitchen was like entering another world. The upstairs hall didn't have any windows, and Ohtori had pulled the curtains over his so he wouldn't be distracted by the temptation to just sit and stare outside, but downstairs all the curtains and even some of the windows were open. Pausing on the bottom step Ohtori breathed deeply and could smell the first hints of spring in the still-chilly breeze. The first flowers had started to push their way up; the cherry trees were showing a few blossoms, though they were nowhere near their full glory. The sun was shining strongly enough that the ground outside had started to dry after the rains from last week.

Looking longingly outside, it occurred to Ohtori that the street courts probably would have dried off enough to play by now. They wouldn't be crowded yet; this early in the year it was only the dedicated players that would brave the outdoor courts. He could grab his racquet and go hit some balls against the practice wall. His parents and sister weren't home; nobody would know that he'd abandoned his studying, and surely half an hour couldn't hurt?

Shaking his head, Ohtori forced himself to look away from the beguiling windows and continue walking towards the kitchen. "You made the deal, you have to keep it," he reminded himself sternly. "Just because nobody is around to know you broke your promise doesn't mean it's okay to do it."

Still, it was one thing to tell himself that, and another thing entirely to actually do it. Ohtori was nothing if not determined, though. If he had the discipline to make it to the first string of Hyoutei Regulars, then he had the discipline to force himself to focus on his studies.

Carrying the water back upstairs, Ohtori sighed softly as he left the bright sunlight and fresh breeze. He was tempted to crack his window open to let the room air out, but he knew if he did he'd never be able to concentrate on his math problems.

A few steps from his door, he heard the muted sound of his cell phone ringing. Muffled by distance or not, he couldn't fail to recognize the short melody that signified a call from Shishido. He hadn't received all that many calls from his former partner, but the notes had long since imprinted themselves indelibly on his brain.

Cursing, he broke into a run and fumbled with the knob of his door. Tossing the water bottle towards the bed, he dove for his bag and dug out his cell phone. It stopped ringing just as he was flipping it open, and for a moment he thought he'd missed it.

"Shishido-san?" he gasped, a question more than a greeting.

A deep chuckle greeted him over the line, and he stifled a sigh of relief. It was stupid, really; it wasn't like he couldn't have just called his friend right back if he'd missed the call. "Yo, Choutarou. I was starting to think you'd forgotten your phone somewhere."

"I went to get some water, and heard it ringing as I came back," Ohtori explained, shifting so he was sitting with his back against the bed and one knee tucked up to his chest. He couldn't keep the delighted smile out of his voice, and didn't even try. "It's good to hear from you, Shishido-san."

It wasn't that they hadn't tried to continue spending time together after the Nationals were done and the seniors had retired - again - from the team. Shishido had come to practice with the team occasionally, and he and Ohtori had made a point of playing on the street courts or just going to grab food after school as often as they could.

There hadn't been all that much time to spare, though. Shishido had been absorbed in studying for the exams for Hyoutei High, and by the time they were over it was Ohtori's turn to be frantically cramming for his ascension exams. Then before they knew it the school year was over; Ohtori was a senior now, and Shishido was a freshman in high school. Now they wouldn't even be on the same campus, able to wave to each other in the halls or meet for a quick lunch somewhere.

So it was that much better to hear from him, now. "How's your vacation going, Shishido-san?" he asked.

"Boring as hell," Shishido complained, and it was Ohtori's turn to chuckle. "Atobe's off in Vienna with his parents, you're tied up with all your studying, and there's nobody worth playing on the street courts. I can only spend so many hours a day practicing on my own before I go stark raving mad."

"You could always study," Ohtori pointed out cheerfully. "You may not be bound to it like I am, but it wouldn't hurt you to get a head start on your high school subjects."

"Would you believe I've been so bored, I have been?" Shishido replied, and Ohtori could practically hear him rolling his eyes. "Mostly history, but even that's getting old now. Er, no pun intended." He sounded sheepish, and Ohtori laughed outright. "I don't suppose you could spare an hour or two to come play with me? We could get something to eat on our way back too, if you've got time."

Ohtori didn't even hesitate. "Sure!" he agreed happily. All of the reasons he'd just been giving himself for why he couldn't go spend some time outside were shoved firmly to the back of his mind. This was different; he wasn't just slacking off to go goof around, he was going to spend some time with Shishido. After all, his parents hadn't said he had to completely cut himself off from his friends over the vacation.

"You won't get in trouble?" Shishido sounded surprised and hopeful. "Here I was kicking myself for even asking."

"Don't worry about me, Shishido-san," Ohtori said firmly. "It's not like I'm chained to my desk. Meet me at the street courts in fifteen minutes?"

"You bet," his friend agreed, suddenly all energetic enthusiasm. "See you there, Choutarou."

They hung up, and Ohtori paused for just a moment, leaning against the bed with the phone in his lap. He was closer to the courts than Shishido, so he had plenty of time to get there. First he had to school his expression so he wouldn't reveal just how glad he was to be going to spend time with the older boy.

Truthfully, he was glad Shishido hadn't called often lately, since he had almost no willpower when it came to denying him. Ohtori was well aware of the crush he'd developed on his beautiful, willful, loud-spoken partner. Shishido's fierce determination and refusal to give up had won him Ohtori's rarely-given respect, and at some point in the weeks they'd spent training hard together 'respect' had turned into 'admiration', and 'admiration' into something painfully close to 'adoration'.

He'd even worked up the nerve to say something to Shishido about it a few times, but he'd always chickened out when it came time to actually go through with it. That was probably just as well; fond fantasies aside, he had few doubts about the older boy's orientation. Ohtori had simply accepted his infatuation and the fact that it was something he had to hide, and moved on. At least he could be grateful that Shishido hadn't known him well enough before they'd started working together to see the difference in Ohtori's behaviour towards him.

But here he was, sitting and daydreaming about the past when he had an opportunity to go be with Shishido right now. Scrambling to his feet, Ohtori changed quickly into tennis gear and started shoving things into his racquet bag. This might well be his last chance to spend time with his former partner before school started again, and Ohtori had few illusions about what would happen to their friendship once that happened.

It wasn't that they wouldn't try to see each other. But high school and junior high were totally different worlds. They would drift apart, and by the time Ohtori got there in another year they would be totally different people. They might well be able to build a new friendship then, but in the meantime Ohtori wanted to store up every memory he could get.

He ran to the courts even though he had plenty of time, just because being able to spend a few hours with his friend left him feeling light enough to fly. The fact that he was out of breath by the time he got there only reminded him how much work he was going to have to put into getting back in shape before the tennis club started again; last summer he'd have been able to run twice that far.

Even though he was early, Shishido was there before him. Blinking in surprise, Ohtori walked up to where the older boy was hitting a ball against the practice wall. They were the only ones on the court, and there were still a few wet places here and there on the pavement. There was one dry court, though, and that was all they needed.

From the looks of it, Shishido had been there for a while already. The pieces of his dark hair that escaped from beneath his cap were plastered with sweat, and he was breathing as hard as Ohtori. He hadn't seen Ohtori yet, so the younger boy took a moment to just drink in the sight of him. Shishido had put on a growth spurt; he still wasn't as tall as Ohtori, but he was a lot closer. His shoulders were filling out, too; he didn't look as much like a boy any more. The sleek muscles moving under his shirt and in his legs didn't hurt the image any, either.

Realizing he was growing a bit flushed, Ohtori cleared his throat and looked away. By the time he had his expression under control again, Shishido had caught the ball and turned to face him, grinning. "Yo!"

"Shishido-san," Ohtori greeted him with a somewhat puzzled smile in return. "How did you get here so fast?"

"Eh, been here half an hour already," Shishido said, shrugging. Ohtori thought the older boy might have blushed, but that didn't make any sense. Why would Shishido be embarrassed about spending time practicing?

Although, it didn't make much sense for him to be practicing here. These courts were the easiest ones for them both to get to, but Ohtori knew for a fact there was at least one practice wall closer to Shishido's home than this. Why come all the way out here before he'd invited Ohtori to join him?

Well, maybe he'd been planning to, and just hadn't wanted to interrupt Ohtori's studies any earlier than he had to. Ohtori's smile widened and the puzzlement vanished. Shishido could be very rough and unmannered, but he was considerate in odd little ways to the people that mattered to him.

Stalking over to the bench where he'd dumped his stuff, Shishido grabbed his water bottle and drained half of it in one long gulp. Knowing his former partner's habits as well as his own, Ohtori revised his opinion of how hard Shishido had been driving himself. He didn't drink that much at once unless he'd been playing hard enough and long enough to have forgotten about taking breaks to get water.

And if he'd been playing long enough to be that preoccupied... "Want me to grab your towel?" Ohtori asked with a grin as he set his own racquet bag next to Shishido's.

"Huh?" Shishido lowered the water bottle and looked at him, then down at the bench. "Nah, I definitely remembered to... where the hell is it?"

Rummaging in his friend's bag, Ohtori pulled out a towel. If it had been anyone else he'd never have dreamed of just digging in their bag, but he and Shishido traded or borrowed equipment so often that sometimes it was hard to tell which bag was whose. "Right here in your bag, where it always is," he said with a snicker as he tossed it to his sheepish partner.

"I swear I pulled it out before I started playing this time," Shishido muttered, rubbing at his sweaty face with the towel. "I reminded myself like three times!"

Still laughing under his breath, Ohtori moved to zip the bag up again. His fingers brushed something inside that was very definitely not tennis gear; it was sleek like magazine paper, but bulky. Glancing inside curiously, he blinked as he saw a little yellow and red striped package tucked into the bottom.

"What's..." he started to ask, but then something inside him froze and his breath caught in his throat. He hadn't even thought about it, but today was March fourteenth. White Day. As a holiday it tended to sort of float by beneath Ohtori's radar, since it didn't have any of the embarrassing or irritating aspects that Valentine's Day had for him and he'd never liked a girl well enough to give her a present.

Shishido was dressed in a pale blue shirt and the ubiquitous white tennis shorts, but there was a white jacket draped over the bench next to his racquet bag as well. Realizing he was gaping into his friend's bag like an idiot, Ohtori jerked his hand back as if he'd been stung.

There was only one reason for Shishido to be wearing white and carrying around a package on White Day. Of all the many girls who had given the older boy chocolate on Valentine's Day, one of them had caught Shishido's attention enough that he'd decided to declare his interest in return.

"You look like something in there just bit you," Shishido observed from behind him, laughing. "What is it?"

"I... uh..." In shock and still reeling from the realization, Ohtori blurted out the first thing that came into his head. "Shouldn't you be out giving this to her?"

"Giving what to who?" Shishido blinked and looked confused for a moment, then turned a bright red colour. Ohtori couldn't remember ever seeing his friend blush like that before, and under other circumstances he'd have been fascinated. "Oh. That. Yeah, I guess so. It's just, you know, I kinda have to, uh, work up the courage first." Shishido tugged nervously at his cap, and half glared at Ohtori. "Tease me and you'll be eating your racquet."

"I wouldn't do that, Shishido-san," Ohtori protested, not so confused that he wouldn't answer something like that.

"No, you wouldn't," Shishido agreed, looking away. "Sorry, that wasn't cool of me. I'm a little on edge about the whole thing. Not like I've ever confessed to anyone before."

Now Shishido's behaviour today made a lot more sense. The older boy always went to play when he was upset, so of course he'd been out here for a long time already. And either the girl lived near here, or he'd just been hoping Ohtori would come keep him company for a while until he worked up his nerve, so he'd chosen this court instead of the one near his home.

Really, he should have seen this coming, Ohtori thought numbly. Shishido had always been popular with the girls; not as popular as Atobe or Oshitari, and some of his fans had drifted away after he'd cut his beautiful hair, but there were still enough of them that the senior had needed a whole extra bag to carry all his Valentine's Day chocolates in.

"You never told me there was someone you liked." Ohtori managed to keep the disappointment out of his tone, but he just ended up sounding hurt. He was hurt, he realized. Wasn't he Shishido's friend? He would have told the older boy if there was someone he liked. Well, other than the fact that he hadn't told Shishido about his current feelings, for very obvious reasons. And he'd even tried to do that a couple of times.

"Aw, don't be like that, Choutarou," Shishido said, looking even more embarrassed. "I didn't even realize how I felt until, you know, Valentine's Day. I don't think I've even seen you since then, have I? And I had to think about it for a while."

They hadn't seen each other since then, largely because Ohtori had been half-subconsciously avoiding the older boy. The closest he'd ever come to actually confessing his feelings had been that day. He'd brought chocolate to school and everything, feeling like an idiot but figuring that would go over better than possibly implying that he thought of his friend as a girl by giving him something on White Day. In the end he hadn't been able to bring himself to actually give them directly to Shishido, so he'd left the unsigned package in the older boy's shoe locker as an anonymous admirer gift. Right alongside half a dozen other similar packages. Shishido probably hadn't even looked at it, just scooping it into the bag with the others.

Now he was fervently grateful that he hadn't had the nerve to sign them or give them directly to his friend. Any lingering doubts he had about the older boy's preferences vanished with the sight of that little package in Shishido's bag. He'd just have made an idiot of himself, and probably lost a good friend in the bargain.

With an effort of will he shoved everything he was feeling deep down inside him and locked it away there, to be dealt with later. Hiding his feelings was something he'd gotten good at early on, covering them with politeness and an easy-going attitude. It wasn't a mask he'd had to use with Shishido for a long time, but he needed it now.

"So? Tell me about her," he asked as he grabbed his racquet and stood, stripping off his jacket to set it next to Shishido's. The faint trembling in his hands was the only remaining sign of his inner turmoil, and Shishido wouldn't notice that unless he actually touched Ohtori.

Shishido blushed again and shook his head, dropping the towel on the bench. "Later. I can't talk about it now, or I'm going to chicken out entirely. I still might."

"You?" Ohtori had to laugh. "The only person ever to fight his way back onto the Regulars after being dropped? I don't believe it. You'll do anything you put your mind to, and the gods help anyone who gets in your way."

"Believe me, that was easy compared to this," Shishido muttered. "And you said you wouldn't tease me."

"I'm not," Ohtori shook his head, but relented. He didn't really want to hear Shishido go on about how wonderful the girl was, anyway. "Let's play, then, and get your mind off it."

"Sounds good," Shishido agreed, visibly relieved as he twirled his racquet. "Let's see how bad we've gotten."

Their game had deteriorated a bit, but that was only to be expected. Ohtori had been training with other doubles partners since Shishido had retired from the team, and neither of them had played much in the last few weeks. Even so they fell into the rhythm of working together with very little effort, and Ohtori was able to bury his disturbing thoughts in the sheer joy of playing with the best partner he'd ever had.

By the time they were both sweating and winded and ready to call it quits, Ohtori had almost forgotten about the whole thing. It was still there, lurking on the edges of his awareness, but it was easy to ignore it and just laugh and joke with Shishido as though nothing had changed.

"I'm going to miss this," he said impulsively when they'd settled into a nearby restaurant with a tray of burgers for each of them. "I always enjoy spending time with you, Shishido-san."

"You make it sound like I'm moving to America or something," Shishido protested, tossing a fry at him. "The high school's not that far away. We can get together on weekends, or something."

"Mm," Ohtori replied noncommittally. They would both be busy with clubs and schoolwork, and if this unknown girl responded favourably to Shishido's gift, then the older boy would be more likely to spend his precious few hours of free time with her rather than with a former tennis partner. Ohtori didn't think it was likely that she would turn him down, especially not if she'd already given Shishido Valentine's chocolates.

He'd already expected that they would drift apart, he reminded himself firmly. This didn't really change anything. And by the time they met up again in high school, surely he would have gotten over his crush on Shishido and be able to deal with the idea of him having a girlfriend.

Shishido had apparently anticipated the direction of his thoughts; the older boy was giving him a wry and somewhat exasperated look. "You of all people ought to know I don't give up on anything that matters to me, Choutarou," he said firmly. "And if you think you don't matter to me then you haven't been paying much attention."

Now it was Ohtori's turn to blush and duck his head. "Yes, Shishido-san," he agreed softly. There really wasn't much more he could say to that. Not unless he wanted to risk getting stupidly sappy or worse, blurting out something of his feelings.

They ate as quickly as only hungry athletic teenaged boys could, talking mostly about the tennis teams for next year in both junior high and high school. Shishido grew visibly more agitated as time went on, and for all his own emotional upset Ohtori couldn't help but feel bad for him. It wasn't like his friend to be so nervous about anything; determined, yes, but not nervous. Being nervous implied that he thought there was a possibility he might fail, and 'failure' had never been a word in Shishido's vocabulary.

Ohtori did his best to distract him, and didn't mention either the present or the subject of girls again. Even so the older boy was wound tighter than a newly strung racquet by the time they were finished. "Shishido-san," Ohtori said softly as they stood to clear away their trays, and his friend actually jumped. "Don't worry so much. I know she'll say yes. She'd have to be crazy not to."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Shishido shrugged awkwardly, looking away. "Look, thanks for keeping me distracted. I know I shouldn't have kept you away from your studying so long."

"I'm always happy to spend time with you, Shishido-san," Ohtori assured him. "Especially if it means helping you. What else are friends for?" He managed to smile, and make it look more or less sincere. "I won't wish you good luck, because you don't need it." He knew he should have added something about wanting Shishido to call him and tell him how it went, but he couldn't quite bring himself to say the words. It didn't really matter, Shishido should know by now that he could call Ohtori for anything.

"I'll see you around, Choutarou," the older boy said, punching him lightly on the shoulder. "Take care of yourself, all right?"

"See you, Shishido-san," Ohtori agreed past the lump that threatened to close off his throat. This felt horribly like something more lasting than just 'see you later'.

He turned away before the older boy could see how upset he really was, waving one last time over his shoulder. They had to go in opposite directions to get home from where they were, so that would be the last he saw of Shishido. Maybe it was superstitious of him, but he didn't want to watch his friend walk away until he was out of sight.

The walk home passed in something of a blur, even though Ohtori did his best to focus on his surroundings in an attempt to ignore the thoughts tumbling over each other inside his head. He felt sick to his stomach, but he was pretty sure that was mostly a result of suppressing his own emotions so much. When he got home, he decided, he would lock his door and cry himself out, and by the time he was done hopefully he'd have purged the worst of it.

Thankfully his family still wasn't home by the time he got there. While he was sure they'd have understood him going to spend the afternoon with Shishido rather than studying, seeing him walk in with his racquet bag would generate questions he didn't think he could answer without breaking down.

By the time he made it to his bedroom he was hardly functioning. He shut the door and flung himself down on the bed, and finally let go of the control he'd been exerting since the moment he saw the present. It was hard to let go of a dream, even one you'd always known was hopeless. Acknowledging the end of any chance he might have had with Shishido hurt more than he could have imagined, but it was something he had to do if he ever wanted to be friends with the older boy in the future.

Finally he'd cried himself out, his eyes aching and head pounding from the force of it. He felt empty and a little hollow, and not appreciably better than when he'd started, but it was a beginning.

Wiping his face roughly with his hand, he sat up and surveyed his room. He'd left all his books spread out over his desk, and his racquet bag was sitting untouched in the corner. Deciding he might as well leave the books where they were so he could return to studying once he felt up to it, he moved to unpack his bag and put his gear away. Chances were good he wouldn't need it again until after school started again.

Elsewhere in the house he could hear voices and movement, and he realized his family must have returned at some point. He flushed, hoping they hadn't heard him making an idiot of himself. But no, if they had then either his sister or his mother would have knocked on the door to ask what was wrong, so he was safe from having to explain everything to them.

Listlessly he unzipped the bag and started pulling his gear out. Racquets, grip tape, wrist weights, sweatbands, towel...

For the second time that day his fingers encountered something that didn't belong in a racquet bag, and he choked. Pulling it out, he saw that it was indeed the same striped package he'd seen earlier in Shishido's bag. "Damn it!" he exclaimed, dismayed. He must have put his racquets in Shishido's bag by accident. It wouldn't be the first time they'd inadvertently switched bags. It was one of the downsides to having matching bags for the whole team.

And poor Shishido would be going to that girl's house, only to discover that he didn't have the gift with him. Cursing fervently under his breath, Ohtori decided the only thing he could do was run it over to his friend's house, and call him on the way so Shishido knew not to go to the girl yet. Assuming he hadn't already been and gone, considering how long Ohtori had been lying in his bed feeling sorry for himself.

Of course, if that was the case then Shishido presumably would already have realized what happened to the present and called Ohtori. So maybe his friend hadn't worked up the nerve yet, or abandoned the plan altogether when he discovered the present missing.

Well, if Ohtori was going to bring him the present then he might as well bring the rest of his stuff as well. He started sorting through the bag, picking out things he knew belonged to him and separating them from anything that was Shishido's.

Except... oddly, there didn't seem to be much of the latter. One stray black wristband, but that was from another time they'd switched bags and Ohtori had been meaning to give it back to him for months. A roll of grip tape that was the brand Shishido preferred rather than Ohtori, but that could have been a leftover from another occasion, too.

It was his bag, Ohtori realized as he sat back with a frown. They hadn't switched, this was definitely the bag that Ohtori had brought to the courts today. So how had the present gotten into it?

A thought struck him, such a ridiculous thought that Ohtori would have laughed at the sheer absurdity of it under other circumstances. Holding the package in his hands, he stared at it and tried to think of any reasonable explanation for how it could have gotten into his bag accidentally.

There wasn't one. It was that simple. Shishido had to have put it in his bag, because Ohtori certainly hadn't moved it and he wasn't nearly fanciful enough to believe it had grown feet and walked itself over. Given the way Shishido had seemed determined to ignore even the existence of the present, Ohtori didn't think the older boy would have pulled it out to fiddle with it nervously and then put it back in the wrong place. It had to be deliberate.

Which meant...

Heart pounding, Ohtori reached out and tugged at the blue ribbon holding the bag closed. It came loose in his hand, and he opened it to peer inside.

There was a metal necklace, one long round piece of metal that hooked at the back and with a dangling arrow-shaped charm. It wasn't exactly the traditional sort of thing you got a girl for White Day, even though a necklace certainly might be what a girl could expect. It was black, for one thing, and for another it wasn't particularly feminine.

Tucked inside the curve of the necklace was a note that looked like it had been written in a notebook and then torn out. Drawing it out with shaking hands, Ohtori had to snort in amusement. Even when he was trying, Shishido was entirely too pragmatic to be romantic. Notebook paper, indeed.

He had to read the message three times before he could make sense of it, and even then he was sure he had to be interpreting it wrong.

"Thanks for the choco. Only, next year try to find a place where nobody can see it, because I'm not comfortable with this stuff, you know what I mean... Sorry. And I know it was uncool of me to tell you that, but I bought this present thinking of you. I hope you accept it."

That was it, though it was signed with Shishido's name. No fervent declarations of love; well, he wouldn't have expected that from Shishido anyway. It was the sort of gruff roundabout way he'd talked any time he'd been forced to discuss something emotional or private with Ohtori. Shishido had never been good at dealing with that kind of thing directly, he preferred to let his actions speak for him.

Although, he'd never once heard Shishido say anything about being uncomfortable getting chocolates from girls. Irritated by the unwanted attention, yes, but not uncomfortable.

It didn't add up. None of it made any sense unless... unless he assumed that somehow Shishido had known about the chocolates Ohtori had given him, and this present had been meant for him all along. Why else would Shishido have put it in his bag? Why else would he have been so reluctant to talk about the girl he liked? For that matter, Ohtori realized, he couldn't remember Shishido ever referring to the person as a girl.

He had to know for sure. He had to call Shishido and... Ohtori's hand faltered on his cell. No, he couldn't do this over the phone. He had to be able to see Shishido's face, even if it meant giving himself away in the bargain. Over the phone it would be too easy for them to misinterpret each other, miss important clues.

Snatching up the necklace and package, the note clutched in his hand, Ohtori scrambled to his feet and bolted down the stairs. He ignored the surprised and concerned inquiries of his family, shouting "I'm going out, I'll be back later!" over his shoulder as he paused briefly to shove his feet into his shoes. Then he was gone, out the door before they could stop him or question him further. He'd probably get in trouble, but right now he didn't care.

If he'd been out of breath from running to the courts earlier, that was nothing compared to how he felt as he finally climbed the stairs to Shishido's apartment. He wasn't sure how much was from exertion and how much was from nerves, but he didn't stop to let himself think about it. If he did, he knew he'd end up turning tail and running straight back home.

Somehow he managed not to bang on the door, knocking politely instead. From inside he heard Shishido's dog run up to the door and start barking, then a familiar muffled voice snapping, "Shut up, stupid. It's not for you."

The door opened and Shishido stood there looking out at him, absently using his foot to block the dog's attempts to escape. They stared at each other for a moment while Ohtori tried to think of something to say, and then Shishido finally cleared his throat. "Get in here, before the dog gets out."

He moved out of the way, and Ohtori entered the apartment feeling like he was moving in a dream. Shishido's family was home; Ohtori greeted them automatically as he kicked off his shoes and padded down the hall after Shishido towards the room the older boy shared with his brother.

"I was starting to think you'd decided just to ignore the whole thing," Shishido said gruffly, shoving his hands in his pockets after locking the door behind them.

"Then... then it is for me?" Ohtori asked, and his breathlessness wasn't entirely from the run. "How did you know about the chocolate?"

"Idiot." Shishido rolled his eyes at him. "You think I don't recognize the way you write my name by now?" He glanced down at the objects clenched in Ohtori's hands, and looked away with his eyes narrowed. "I know it's stupid. I mean, it was pretty stupid of you to give me chocolates too, that's not what guys are supposed to do. But you did, so I figured... aw hell. If you don't want it then just give it back, and we'll forget it ever happened."

He reached out as if to take the necklace from Ohtori and the younger boy snatched it hastily out of his reach. "No!" he exclaimed, his voice cracking. Taking a deep breath, he managed to steady himself. "No, I don't want to give it back. And I don't want to forget about it. Not if... not if you really mean it?"

The last words came out as more of a question than a statement. Ohtori looked down at his friend, hoping against hope that he'd understood this all correctly, and fearing in the depths of his heart that he was wrong. Maybe Shishido had only meant it as a friendly gesture, not a romantic one. That would certainly explain the total lack of romance in the note. Not to mention why Shishido hadn't just said something about all this before, if he'd known for a month that Ohtori had given him the chocolate.

"Geez, Choutarou, you think too damn much," the older boy snapped. "You make my brain hurt just watching you. If I didn't mean it, I wouldn't have given it to you." He ran a hand through his spiky hair, bare of the cap for once, and looked embarrassed. "I suck at this shit, you know that. It was the only thing I could think of that didn't end up with me looking totally uncool."

Only someone who knew him as well as Ohtori did would have been able to spot the tension in Shishido's shoulders, or the way his hand was shaking slightly as he touched his hair. Swallowing hard, Ohtori did the only thing he could think of. He reached up and fumbled with the clasp of the necklace he was already wearing, the lucky cross that he never played without. His hands were shaking too, badly enough that he couldn't manage the tiny clasp, and he cursed softly.

"Help me?" he asked, and Shishido nodded and moved closer. Together they managed to get the chain off, and then without asking Shishido took the new necklace from Ohtori's hand and fastened it around his neck.

It was just the right size, the charm dangling in the hollow of his collarbone. He wouldn't want to wear it in a game, not with a clasp that was just a pair of hooks, but it was secure enough for anything else.

"How does it look?" he asked. There was a mirror over the dresser, but he'd much rather see the answer in Shishido's eyes.

"Good," Shishido replied, and his voice cracked a little. Clearing his throat, he repeated, "It looks good." Reaching out again, he hooked his fingers over the metal loop and tugged, pulling Ohtori down a few inches. Leaning up, he brushed his lips quickly over Ohtori's.

It was awkward and uncertain; neither of them knew what they were doing, and there was the vague feeling that they were doing something wrong to deal with as well. Even so, and even though it lasted barely a moment, Ohtori felt dizzy by the time Shishido pulled away.

"So stop worrying that I'm going to leave you behind just because I'm going to high school," Shishido scolded him, stepping back with a flush on his cheeks. "You're more important to me than that."

Touching the charm at his throat, Ohtori smiled. It was the first truly genuine smile he'd given since he'd first seen the present in Shishido's bag, and the older boy nodded. "That's more like it. And stop calling me 'san', damn it. You don't call your b-boyfriend 'san'."

With a laugh that was more a release of tension than from amusement, Ohtori's smile widened. It made him feel better to hear Shishido stumble over the word, to realize that the older boy was just as unsure as he was. "All right, Shishido-s... Shishido," he corrected himself hastily.

"Right." Shishido let out a breath Ohtori hadn't realized he'd been holding, and smiled back. Ohtori wasn't used to seeing a simple smile from Shishido; the older boy always had some other emotion attached to the smile, making it wry or turning it into a smirk. When he just smiled, Ohtori decided, it made him look beautiful. Shishido lifted his hand and rested his fingers over Ohtori's on the necklace. "We're partners, and don't you forget it. On and off the courts. Happy White Day, Choutarou."

"Happy White Day, Shishido," Ohtori replied with a happy sigh. This was, he decided, definitely his new favourite holiday.




The End

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