The Path of Least Resistance
by Belladonna

Shishido-san loves his hair, Ohtori thinks. He must, or else why put up with the bother of washing it and drying it and brushing it? But then, maybe he only loves what it represents: the ability to toss aside the rules, to say that they do not apply to him.

Ohtori loves Shishido-san's hair, but it has nothing to do with pride or rule-breaking. He loves it because it is beautiful and soft and sweet-smelling when Shishido gets out of the shower, and most of all, he loves it for no better reason than that it is attached to Shishido-san's scalp.

It is Ohtori's body that jerks in response when Shishido brushes his hair after a long midnight practice, wincing but not stopping whenever he tries to yank through a tangle. Like when Ohtori serves at Shishido, it is not his pain but he feels it anyway, maybe even worse than Shishido. "Please, Shishido-san," he requests softly, not quite aware of what he is saying. "Let me."

He takes the hairbrush away thinking only of stopping the hurt of watching Shishido-san pull out his hair because he is too impatient for gentleness, or maybe only feels that he doesn't deserve it. But drawing the brush through Shishido's hair is a reward in and of itself, running his fingers through silky brown hair, feeling Shishido relax increment by increment when the anticipated pain fails to materialize.

Finally Shishido slumps back against Ohtori, his body completely limp. Ohtori buries his nose in Shishido's hair, inhaling the scent of sweat and floral shampoo deeply, like a drug, and maybe the smell really is an intoxicant, because it gives him the boldness to lean in just a little more and breathe in Shishido's ear, "May I wash your hair?"

Shishido slowly twists around to look at him, eyes glazed over with exhaustion. It hurts to stare too deeply into those bruised-looking eyes, so Ohtori doesn't. Instead he presses his lips to Shishido's. It is late, and Shishido is very tired, and maybe that is why he forgets to resist.

Ohtori is a little dizzy when he comes up for air, his heart pounding too fast from lack of oxygen and being so close to Shishido. The roaring in his ears is almost so loud that he doesn't hear when Shishido murmurs, "All right."

Almost, but not quite, and Ohtori acknowledges that he has heard by pressing a gentle kiss to the curve of Shishido's bent neck. He gets to his feet, and then helps Shishido stand. Shishido can't even seem to support himself, leaning on Ohtori instead, and Ohtori is honored, in the part of his mind that is not immediately concerned with stripping off Shishido's clothing, to be allowed to witness this moment of vulnerability. He's never seen Shishido look so tired before, or so helpless. Shishido always fights, even when he will inevitably lose, and somehow that indomitable determination to win allows him to keep going until he does.

But there is no one to fight now, and even Shishido needs to stop sometimes and lick his wounds.

Shishido lets Ohtori help him to the showers, where he waits patiently - or maybe he is only too tired to care - for Ohtori to retrieve the usual bathing accoutrements. When Ohtori returns, he is mechanically removing his sweat-soaked clothing, and Ohtori feels sick to his stomach at the sight of the hideous bruises that he has put all over Shishido's once-flawless skin. His nausea mixes oddly with the excitement of seeing his senpai naked, and beneath that there is still the uneasy realization that he has no idea whether the regret he will feel in the morning will outweigh the pleasure he feels tonight. But there is very little Ohtori can do about any of it, so he puts his worries away and concentrates on taking off his clothes, as efficiently and modestly as possible when he doesn't quite want to look away from Shishido, even for a second.

He has to turn away to fold up his dirty clothing, and when he turns back it is to the rushing sound of water hitting tile. Shishido is standing underneath the showerhead, his face tilted up toward the spray and his haunted eyes closed. "Coming, Choutarou?" he asks quietly.

Ohtori can't think of anything to say, so he remains silent as he moves to stand behind Shishido. As he gathers up Shishido's long, sweaty hair in one hand, he kisses his temple. It is a light kiss, as much a question as an assertion, Ohtori's hesitance unmistakable. In response, Shishido catches Ohtori's free hand and kisses the palm. There is a time and a place for hesitance, but midnight in the showers with another naked boy is not really either.

The water is just this side of painfully hot; Ohtori doesn't know if Shishido honestly prefers it that way or if this is another small way in which he is trying to punish himself. There's no way to ask without being intrusive, so he stretches out his arm, once Shishido lets it go, and turns down the heat. Shishido doesn't comment, but then, he wouldn't.

As the water cools down to bearable, Ohtori squeezes out a palmful of flowery-smelling shampoo and works it into Shishido's long, wet hair. Shishido sighs in quiet contentment as Ohtori's skilled fingers - musician's hands, he thinks vaguely - massage his scalp. It has been one of those days, when the weight of his hair just pulls and drags and hurts, but this almost makes it worth it.

"I need to rinse it out, Shishido-san," Ohtori says gently, and tugs him around so that the stream of warm water sluices out the lather. Shishido allows himself to be moved, standing still like a doll waiting to be positioned and repositioned to its owner's pleasure. It might not be so bad to be owned by Ohtori, really - better than being a slave to his own love for tennis. Ohtori never wants to hurt him. Shishido isn't blind, he can see the look of sick winded pain on Ohtori's face every time another tennis ball slams into him. But Shishido has no words suited to comfort, nothing he can give Ohtori in exchange. This silent acquiescence is the only way he can repay him.

Shishido comes back to reality with the feeling of a soft kiss being pressed to his forehead. "The conditioner needs to sit for a while," Ohtori tells him, and offers him a washcloth. Shishido takes it and begins to wash his body in a numb sort of daze. Ohtori watches from the safe distance of a foot or so, erasing the sour smell of sweat from his own body with the clean sharp scent of soap. Shishido glances at him from beneath lowered lashes. He would let Ohtori fuck him, if he asked, he thinks. Anyone who is gentle enough to brush his hair without pulling is considerate enough to fuck him without leaving him in too much pain to play tennis the next day, which is the only major consideration. But Ohtori will never ask. And Shishido doesn't have the words to offer. Maybe, if Shishido gets back on the Regulars, he'll have the words then. Or maybe Ohtori will understand that it is his right to take compensation.

Shishido wonders if Ohtori knows what he may be forced to give up for helping Shishido. Nothing comes free. He reaches up to touch his own hair, still slick with conditioner, and thinks about what he will have to pay.

"Shishido-san," Ohtori says quietly. Shishido obeys the unspoken request in his kouhai's voice, and moves to stand within the circle of his arms. He feels Ohtori's callused fingers running through his hair, washing out the conditioner, and his lips curve in a humorless smile. Yes, this really is almost worth it, sweat, pain, bruises, all of it.

Ohtori slips a finger underneath his chin and tilts his face up. Shishido returns the kiss without really thinking about it - he would let Ohtori fuck him, he would let Ohtori beat him, and he will certainly let Ohtori kiss him. He owes Ohtori this, whether or not he realizes what he will have to pay for Shishido's reinstatement.

He almost says it, when Ohtori pulls back and stares into his eyes. Almost says, "You can fuck me, if you like." It would only be fair. But he can't make his mouth form the words, and when Ohtori turns away and steps out of the showers, Shishido follows, saving his strength until he has no choice but to step off the path of least resistance.

The End

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