Archivist's note: This story was written for a fic challenge.

Contrasting Combination
by Hikari

Shishido's new hair was decidedly unsightly, Ootori thought. After the then-desperate boy had cut off his own hair, Ootori had accompanied him to get it evened out and whatnot, but it was still… unfitting. Maybe just weird, but nonetheless. The spiky look just didn't cut it for him.

"Well, Choutarou? You insisted I get it cleaned up, what do you think?" Ootori cringed at Shishido's expectant voice. He knew Shishido had been proud of his hair, and he had agreed that Shishido did have a reason to be. The formerly glossy brown locks looked so silky, so smooth, it made Ootori want to run his fingers through his senior's hair and just feel.

That texture did not fit the new spikes. No, not at all. "Well, it looks better than what you did," he finally replied, chuckling in an attempt to cover up what the indirect answer implied. It looks awful. "You should've seen yourself. Even Atobe looked startled – that's quite an accomplishment!"

Shishido sighed. "Does it really look that bad?"

OK. So he made one terrible liar. But he did try. It didn't really help matters that Shishido could read him so easily. After spending so much time together, it was only expected. "Erm, no, not that bad... but wait! I have an idea!" Grabbing Shishido's hand, he dragged the shorter boy away from the salon and off in the direction of his favorite accessory store.

"Wait, Choutarou, where are you taking me?" Shishido sounded confused. He really did. Ootori couldn't really remember Shishido ever sounding so confused, but then again, Shishido was a complex character. And he'd never really been that close to Shishido before.

Ootori laughed a little. "You'll see, Shishido-san! Ah, here we are." Stopping in front of a small corner store, he smiled at Shishido before pushing open the glass door and stepping in. "Coming?" Inside was just like any other accessory section of a department store, except, well, more complete. "I got my chain here," he said, fingering the familiar slide of metal warm against his collarbone.

"I see... that's nice and sweet and all Choutarou, but I don't see what it has to do with my hair?" Shishido was starting to sound impatient. Maybe this wasn't the best of ideas... but then again, he couldn't just let Shishido spend the next several months with that, well, that sort of hairstyle (more like nonstyle, his mind added wryly). Especially when he knew how much Shishido prided himself on his looks.

"Well, I thought maybe we could find you something for your head. Like a hat or something."

"A hat? I don't wear hats. Or anything like that. They give me bad hair days." Ootori panicked slightly when the shorter boy turned to leave the store.

"But Shishido-san, that was when you still had good hair to be made bad by hats," he said. And he paused. He did not just say that. Oh no, now Shishido would hate him for sure! "Ah… I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that, I just meant that, well, since your hair's short now, and -"

Shishido laughed, the harsh cutting sound startling Ootori silent in his ramble. It'd been awhile since he last heard Shishido laugh - since before that fateful Fudomine match half a month prior, his memory dictated - and the sound was kind of comforting. Like saying that Shishido was OK again... and maybe, like saying that they were OK, that he hadn't offended. "Choutarou, shut up. I think you're right; I'm just not used to having short hair yet." Ootori visibly brightened. "But I don't think a hat will look good on me either."

"Well, let's go try it anyway," Ootori smiled happily and was by the hat section in under a minute. "Shishido-san, what's your favorite color?" After trying on a decent looking red fisherman hat though, they decided that red was definitely NOT Shishido Ryou's color, regardless of whether or not it was his favorite. "You know, Shishido-san, I always did like the club jersey on you," Ootori finally said, after they'd tried on caps and beanies and various hats of all colors. "Maybe we could find something of a similar color?"

Of course, he couldn't believe he just said that. Sure he'd always admired how the fall of the white and grayish-blue jersey seemed to clash with and yet compliment Shishido's brown hair, in an unconventional, non-aesthetic way that seemed to match seamlessly with his harsh and callous manners and voice and everything about him. Shishido was just a rough draft of a person in that sense, and the blue-brown combination seemed to suit that perfectly. And Shishido was staring at him like he'd grown a second head – or more appropriately, lost his head – and he knew he shouldn't have said that, but it was so true! And then the very voice he'd been thinking about spoke, with a somewhat feeble attempt at sounding gentle, "You really think so?" It wasn't weird. No, it seemed right. Normal. Acceptance, and maybe, acknowledgment? And it came with a smile.

What could he do, but smile in return? "Yea! Let's see... ah! Try this on!" He handed a denim-blue baseball cap to Shishido.

"Ootori, I don't doubt your fashion sense on a normal basis, but even I know this looks awful!" Shishido exclaimed from underneath the blue rim, which shaded his face and covered his eyes from the taller second year.

"No, wait, try this." Ootori reached out, and with a slight tug, turned the cap around. Stepping back to get a clearer look, a smile broke over his face. "I like it!"

Shishido turned to the mirror, and just stared, silent and speechless for once. Ootori looked over his shoulder. A small tuft of brown hair stuck out from between the plastic band and the arch of the cap, providing that contrast that had so intrigued him when Shishido was wearing his jersey. His beautiful face was still obstacle-free and visible, and the soft roll of the cap's structure somehow seemed gentler, subtler, than Shishido's former attention-seeking bangs and ponytail, fitting for his new tennis style.

"I like it," Shishido echoed Ootori's words. After another pause as they continued to look in the mirror, the taller Ootori looking over the capped Shishido's shoulder, fitting in the reflection like two pieces of a puzzle, he repeated, "I really do like it. Thanks, Choutarou."

Ootori beamed. Shishido paid for the cap, and they parted ways at the exit, but not forever. No, they'd see each other again the next day, and the day after that, and the one after that. Because, after all, they were going to be partners, as per Atobe's orders. Different as the two of them were, or maybe because the two of them were so different, they pulled off an excellent combination. And the cap was only the beginning of their time together.

The End

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