Atobe did this *grumbles* This plot bloomed when I was finishing 'Practicing Altruism' and stubbornly refused to wither unless I put an effort to write it down. If you read 'Practicing Altruism', it should be rather obvious where this Atobe/Shishido idea comes from. Another reason, I still think Renji owns Sanada so... Anyway, happy birthday to Shishido-san! ^^

by Atthla

It is like reaching out to grasp thin air.

No Physics law, as far as you have learned, allows such illogicality. Air isn't tangible and even if it feeds your lungs, keeping you alive, you can't touch it to show a more palpable gratitude. Air falls in the range of the untouchables to your plain ungifted hands, because you may breath it for free at every second, but if it chooses to no longer give you the privilege, there is nothing you can really do. You have no control on it.

But there are those who have the privilege to be able to touch air.

You had never thought much about your captain before –it isn't your nature to prejudge people in the first place anyway. True that he was practically unparalleled in every aspect life can possibly offer but that was all about him to you, a mere constellation of perfections. Personally, he passed as an emperor who owned everything, yet at the same time, nothing, as if his vanity swallowed every effort he relentlessly endeavors. It was pretty impossible for anyone not to respect him, but it was just how close you could get in your unvoiced opinion. It had never occurred to you that he might have been bequeathed the exceptional, envy-evoking talent to render air touchable.

At least not before you realized how much he actually cared for his teammates. Or maybe teammate –it doesn't really matter because it is about Shishido-san after all.

Then you started to have a better look at him. For some reasons, it didn't surprise you to find that he too had a soul –a gentle, engulfed-in-soft-light-of-his-own soul in that matter– buried under thick layers of arrogance.

But it isn't at any level comparable to your Shishido-san.

You're no connoisseur of beauty –you strongly think that attitude is what truly matters– yet when your eyes swept at the group of senpais on your first day in the junior high tennis club, even you had to admit that you had seen beauty in its most glaring splendor. While his vanity was loathsome, the long swaying hair kept fascinating you, no matter how much you abhorred to admit it. But it was when they danced vivaciously under the brightness of floodlights shrouded by night and stars, sweat plastering them on hideously bruised skin, that you actually saw the luster of your Shishido-san's soul.

He was one to adore as a senpai and to like as a companion, but you had never expected that he had that much, that you had always read him too shallow, too close to the skin which was marred but giving you a fervent impression that the Shishido-san you were looking at that moment was the most striking. He was too bright, brighter than the blinding floodlights to your eyes, and for those reasons, it barely surprised you that he inevitably succeeded in catching your serves.

Maybe, after all, your senpais did have a root for their fathomless pride, and for once you didn't think it was wrong to have it, if there was that big of a price and effort to pay.

Hiyoshi once pointed out, out of the blue, that you had been with Shishido-san long enough to fall in love with him. You think he may be right, because it feels like breathing when you're with Shishido-san. You have always thought that falling in love bear only the slightest difference with breathing –it will come so naturally to you, nothing on pretense or feigned or premeditated, and that person you fall in love with will engulf you so effortlessly like air always do, their presence quietly soothing, nothing burdensome.

While you were aware of your obvious affection toward your senpai, to call it love is something so far-fetched that you chose to dismiss it from your thought, no matter how perfect it lived up your description of love. Your mother named such a 'subtle denial' and it went on until you realized that air was not an object you could just own at your wish.

The realization hit you hard, really hard because you were used to judge your feeling to Shishido-san a friendship-basis. It was somewhere at the beginning of your high school after your first tennis club activity, where you felt good to be able to practice with Shishido-san again even though your former partner was now stuck to Singles at the team despite his being only in the second year. Noticing that you had left your cell hone in the clubroom, you paced your way back, passing the regular clubroom to reach the non-regular's and it was when you saw them.

You know Shishido-san has slept with many ever since he went to the high school, so if Atobe-san is one of them, given your vice-captain's grandiose character, it shouldn't really surprise you. If they decided that in front of the clubroom's door was a spot appropriate enough to share a kiss, it wasn't really your business either.

But it still surprised you and at some points, constantly bothered you, which made you begin to wonder. It had occupied your thoughts for some times, but you had never really paid any heed until now, that if Shishido-san did that with many, how come he had never tried to touch you?

It took you a year to collect enough courage to bring that subject to a decent conversation.

The setting was your bedroom and you were sitting behind your desk, scribbling so desperately on a page of your note pad to force your brain to comprehend your Chemistry homework while Shishido-san lounged on your bed, reading his World History's textbook. It was no rare occasion that he spent the evening in your house at weekends, sometimes helping you with your study after playing a game or two at the nearby tennis court. Shishido-san had excellent scores at school and you knew it was because he strived for them, which impressed you more than having a gifted brain with no memory limit like –probably– Atobe-san. Shishido-san always worked hard in everything and you thought maybe it was what drew you to him.

You didn't know how to start since you were hardly familiar with this kind of thing save for what you had heard in the clubroom or from classmates fussing over their first experiences. At the contrary, Shishido-san was obviously experienced, which made it a lot harder to try to fool him. When an idea finally crossed your mind, you abruptly snatched it without second thought before your audacity fled.

"Shishido-san, how does it feel to kiss someone?"

Maybe you had said them too fast because Shishido-san was looking at you skeptically, or worse, perhaps he knew of your true intention. He stared at you for a long time and you could only stare back, trying with all you might not to let your eyes traveling to the slight of skin peeking from the gap your senpai's shirt made with his jeans.

"You have never kissed anyone."

Shishido-san said those words so slowly, almost like he was spelling them and you blushed, not exactly knowing how to reply. You didn't know if it was a bad thing if someone at your age –sixteen in that matter– had never kissed, but you didn't usually think of matters along that line anyway. Technically, the answer was a no, since from your experiences with several girls you had dated, they were the one who kissed you, not the other way around. You had never taken the initiative to.

It took you aback when Shishido-san grinned at you all of a sudden and declared with amusement thickly coating his voice, "You're having a date soon, aren't you, Choutarou?"

It was so hard not to blush, especially when he was looking at you like that. You gave him one of your sheepish yet non-committal smiles, and his grin went wider for several notches, obviously assuming his reckless guess to be impeccably right. He set his book aside, putting it upside down at the bed, and sat up –a choice which, to your relief, commanded his exposed skin to disappear behind the fabric of his shirt.

"Tell me, who is this lucky girl?"

The pair of his blue eyes was a picture of vivid excitement and you found yourself silent for a moment, seriously considering if you should play along since it was safer that way. Your eyes traveled quietly up and down, assessing the person before them as you tried not to blush at his questioning look. Your voice was small and timid when your reply came. "She is beautiful. And kind. And smart."

Shishido-san clicked his tongue, displaying obvious impatience. "Of course. I know you're not an idiot to choose a girl worthless to have your attention. Do I get a name?"

A feeble serene smile introduced your defensive answer. "I doubt you know her, Shishido-san."

"But you asked me how it felt to kiss, eh?" your senpai was chuckling, unaware of the smile which had frozen immovably to your lips. "Some guts you have there, Choutarou. Want to kiss her, I suppose?"

How you hated the fact that you blushed so easily, in particular if it was him teasing you. If only he knew...

"It's not too hard," Shishido-san all of a sudden looked thoughtful, and it caught your attention. But he always managed to catch your attention anyway. "They say the first feels the best, but it doesn't really go with me. My first was a real mess. But I think," there was a brief light flashing across his eyes, softening those marine pools like you had never seen before. And that smile... You knew only one person owned that suave slightly awkward smile those exquisite lips gracefully formed. His voice fell into a gentler tone, gaining a vaguely mellifluous quality in it, when he continued, "It is when you kiss someone you really love that feels the best."

Of course you didn't miss that. Yet it felt so far, like the pain you felt had flooded and swallowed the discovery, so effortlessly like waves stealing pearls of sand from the shores. You couldn't forget the way he spoke about the kiss, the slight slanting of his head which made those strands of dark hair fall, flowing smoothly along the fine material of his polo-shirt, when he remembered the one he kissed.

And you couldn't help but to wonder what it felt like to kiss someone you really loved.

His voice, again, echoed in your mind, and in the boundless sea of throbbing pain, almost foundered in your own grief, you noticed that your lips began to move, but wasn't quick enough to stop the words from slipping out of your lips.

"Can you kiss me?"

You saw the light in his eyes dimmed as your fingers gripped the sides of your chair tighter, fearing that he had come to a conclusion which might demolish your invaluable friendship. It was unbelievably foolish and you didn't think the small amount of hope you dared to put in it was sufficient to pay the price. Because you didn't want to lose your Shishido-san.

The hesitation toning his reluctant voice was enough to make you wish that you had never lost the control of your mouth. "I don't mind kissing somebody when that person is as good-looking as you, but if it's you..."

As amateurish as you were in these matters, you recognized signs of rejection. And Shishido-san... he might be too impetuous, even sassy at some point, but you knew he would never deliberately use his mouth to hurt someone unless that person truly deserved it. You understood what he was doing –because it was only too often that you saw him in this awkward state every time he accidentally upset you– that he was trying to make it hurt less for you and himself while his eloquence had vanished into oblivion once he noticed your unfortunately too honest expression.

"I don't want to steal your first kiss."

He was saying them so fast. And your first response when those words eventually dawned on you was to gape at him, clearly because those weren't what you had been dejectedly expecting.

A moment later, you realized that you wanted to cry and yell at him at the same time. Because he did care. And it mattered so much to you.

For some reasons, you thought that it hurt more than blatant rejection would.

You were trying to smile normally at him, to ease the awkwardness which hung so plainly in the air and to ignore your own discomfort, when you said, "This won't be my first kiss, Shishido-san."

"But you were asking how a kiss felt," there was a frown on his brow and you remembered how much Shishido-san hated to make a mistake. But you also knew, that silently you were wishing that that frown meant something more.

It was getting harder to maintain that smile on your aching lips, but you insisted to carry on, hoping that you would finally find an answer, even if it would wound you to the point of untreatable. Absentmindedly noticing that your knuckles had turned white from clutching the chair too fiercely, you whispered and a moment later, was astonished at how small your voice was, how pathetic it sounded to your ears, like you were begging piteously.

"Does it really matter?"

But maybe you were indeed begging.

Anybody could feel the tension in the air since it was so thick, almost blinding every occupier in the noiseless bedroom. He merely stared at you, probably noticing the oddity in your behavior, but his face was stern, lips pursed in firm resolution.


You remembered how stubborn Shishido-san was if he already had his mind set on something, but you hoped that he too, didn't forget how equally obstinate you could be if you felt the need to. And you could be cunning when you knew you wanted something, completely altering into someone who was not in the slightest as naive as your genial smile advertised you to be. It was unlike the shrewdness Oshitari-san often displayed to carry out many of his plan, yet still you had it your blood. Perhaps it had something to do with the same cunningness your father had, which he often employed when he was playing his role as one of the most prominent attorneys in Japan.

And the fact that you had been Shishido-san's good friend for three years wasn't for nothing when it came to knowing his traits. Concisely, you could guess fairly well which button to push.

"I understand if you don't want to-"

"Choutarou," you could hear impatience and a morsel of desperation in his voice, and knew that your plan had worked only too smoothly, "you are extremely good-looking, drop dead gorgeous, don't you dare to doubt that. And you're also the kindest, gentlest person ever known to the bloody history of human kind, which makes whoever that girl you're going to date is so damn lucky to get this chance. You got me?"

The way he said that train of words, so feisty and forceful, made you want to smile, and so you did. Yet silently, you found yourself wondering why it didn't feel like praise at all.

"Oh, alright," he finally conceded, probably concluding that you wouldn't be convinced if he insisted on not granting you the kiss. For a moment, he said nothing more, giving you his most intent scrutiny as he ran his fingers absentmindedly in those long soft-looking hair, discarding the blue lace that tied them in process, temple crinkling into a frown. It was one of the moments when you wished you could just read his mind.

The wish intensified when he rose from your bed, letting his hair to fall framing his tanned face. You found that your lungs weren't working when he started to advance to where you were sitting as stiff as a stone statue. It wasn't as you hadn't seen him loosening his hair like that –when even the word beautiful didn't do him enough justice– and yet, you still couldn't force your mutinous lungs to serve their function properly.

You practically forgot how to breathe when he settled himself on your lap, vaguely noticing for the first time since you had the chair you were sitting on, that it had no arm. But that blurred thought too was completely thrown out of your mind when he touched the back of your neck.

From what your brain still allowed you to process, you realized that Shishido-san was stifling a chuckle and in the process of failing, which probably sensible. "You said this wouldn't be your first."

All you could do was to nod mutely as you tried to ignore the warmth of his thigh against your skin. The fact that you both were still fully clothed suddenly mattered so much –for the better, that was.

"Relax, Choutarou."

Oh, God. It was when he said those two words, softly with a glaze of gentleness his regular voice noticeably lacked, that you realized that his face was already that close. His steady breaths were caressing your cheek and you noticed that your own were stirring several strands of his hair, which might as well be unnoticeable if you weren't so desperately looking for a distraction off those captivating eyes. It was so easy to let yourself drowned in them, but if you gave in there and then, as oblivious as Shishido-san could be, no doubt he would realize your feelings to him.

"Look at me," he demanded forcefully, which immediately made you lament your impulsive audacity to ask for a kiss. When your nervous gaze met his, you saw that his eyes lost some raw steeliness in them and he slowly smiled, causing your heart to leap in bright sparkles of hope.

What you learned then was that hope was truly a dangerous thing, often harmful if you didn't recognize where to put the limit.

"You can close your eyes if you want to," his voice conveyed understanding along with a fleeting speck of amusement. It was indeed a wonder how that cordial voice and that warm smile could crash your hope into utter smithereens while the owner obviously had not even the slightest intention to do it. Quietly you bit the inside of your lips, coercing yourself to exert enough strength just to lower your eyelids.

The darkness, you discovered, didn't help much when you felt the warmth of his forehead touching yours and his even warmer breath swept your lips, as he said gently, "But you have to remember the kiss, Choutarou."

By some divine miracle, you managed to refrain yourself from telling Shishido-san that it was needless for him to say so. Because you knew you would have it kept securely at the depth of your mind, away from newer, fresher discoveries that would come to visit. You just knew.

For some reasons you began to hate the veil that hindered your eyes from seeing since the darkness unhelpfully sharpened your other senses. You could hear him breathing softly –and told by the short span of each intake that he was also nervous, despite the fact that he might have done this for more than anyone would bother to count– and every time his skillful fingers moved against the skin at the back of your neck, you could feel your body stiffening, holding back a flinch. It was just not right to flinch every time your senpai touch you, moreover when it was you who asked to be touched.

Perhaps he noticed that, because he was running those fingers repeatedly, caressing the sensitive spots you had there until you began to relax, which took quite a time to endeavor. But your Shishido-san could be patient if he cared enough to and you, his former double partner and teammate, maybe was sufficient a reason to make an effort for. That thought somehow calmed your nerves and your body no longer reacted violently at his light touches.

Shishido-san moved his fingers up once more and now brought them far enough to tangle in your fairly short locks, telling you wordlessly that he was advancing to a new level. Then you felt his other hand tentatively touched your cheek, like you were a china doll that could break under harsher contacts. Who would have thought that he could be so gentle?

"Can I really do this?"

You were surprised, no, shocked –and later thankful to whichever gods that have lent you the control to not literally jump at his sudden whisper– not only by the unexpectedness of it all, but also by the way he said it, so sultry and close, lips almost meeting your earlobe. For a moment you forgot that he was asking you a question, only feeling the same fingers still playing in the thick mass of your hair, before another air that he breathed out encountered the tip of your ear and effectively shook you out of your trance.

The temptation to say 'no' was beyond measure. It offered you an escape route, unquestionably safer than the path you were following right now, which end was still as obscure as the shape of sound to you. Perhaps Shishido-san would find out and consequently persist to keep you at arm's length, or you would no longer be able to meet him in the eye, or worse, like you wouldn't be able to see that grin again. Those grim prognosis were forming a jumbled pile in your head that it took you about five seconds to comprehend that you had nodded.

You had nodded.

All happened so slow to your foggy mind; how his lips met yours, a soothing caress of introduction, how you gasped despite your pathetic attempt to hide the surprise when he swept his tongue across the pliant surface of your lips. But he wasn't holding back this time. A part of his gentleness vanished as he pushed his way in, meeting your immobile tongue which had turned into a lump of rigid steel upon the intrusion. Somewhere at the back of your mind, you noticed that his fingers were tracing the line of your angular jaw, but it almost felt like a vague dream, only a poor trick of your currently malfunctioning brain, thoroughly whitewashed by the skillfulness of his tongue, how it was sliding along your tongue deliberately slowly, quietly yet persuasively rousing yours with each stroke.

Maybe you were too shocked that you didn't bother to gasp again, but that fact, in itself, didn't matter much to you that moment.

It was almost like falling under a spell, how he managed to compel your tongue to intertwine with his. But he did and you could feel him smiling to your lips. Before you realized it, your hand had traveled up along his spine, tasting the smoothness of his long strands you had wanted so desperately to touch, while your other one held his fairly lean waist and realized, for real and as a matter of fact, that your senpai was inexplicably slender for a guy.

As expected, that thought fell forgotten like ashes from the tip of a cigar when he let his tongue to move more aggressively following the contour of your mouth. The way he did it, guiding you to stay on his erratic rhythm, you realized that it was harder for you now to not response.

The next thing you knew, it was you who were kissing him, tasting his moist cavern, battling his tongue in his own dominion. Distantly you heard a muffled moan elicited from the back of his throat and it brought a shiver down along your spine. You had never thought that Shishido-san could make you feel this strong, this pungent, because you could still taste him even while you felt that lightheaded.

It was when he ended the kiss that you figured out, with still a muddled mind, that your lightheadedness might have been caused by lacking of air. You would discover how long you had been engaged in that kiss from the clock on your desk only if your eyes hadn't had the trouble to open. But then he traced your eyelids, feeling the soft lashes under his fingers, and it was enough to encourage you to lift the shutters.

Those blue eyes were a bit hazy but you spotted the bright gleam in them. And he was smiling, affably with a trace of hopefulness colouring it prettily, which left you rather breathless.

"You like it?"

For once, you were grateful that you could just effortlessly blush, since it evaded you from answering verbally. You were not sure how exactly you felt about the kiss although you clearly didn't oppose the idea that Shishido-san was an excellent kisser. You wanted to ask if he liked it too, but it was probably rhetorical judging from the little smirk playing on his lips. You wanted to ask if it was how he kissed Atobe-buchou, but you supposed there were kisses which were in exception, which no one but those who truly deserved them could have.

Even now, you are wondering if it is your buchou who has them.

No touching or any kind of physical contact with properties of Ore-sama; every Hyoutei inhabitants knew, acknowledged, and followed this rule without any thought of resisting. Or rather should to, because you are obviously a Hyoutei inhabitant and you are starting to question them now, why they should be endorsed in the first place. It disturbs you those times when you catch Atobe-san looking at you, countenance frustratingly unreadable like a piece of paper being written over for hundreds and hundreds times.

You may be dense, miserably inexperienced at these things, but you aren't that blind. If only the matter didn't involve you that deep, you might have been amused to find out that your flawless buchou apparently knows what jealousy means. Or if you didn't feel the same, or even stronger, jealousy toward him because he owns Shishido-san.

It may not be love, what they have, but it is precious and you know Shishido-san cherishes it. So does Atobe-san, if you read the flicker of light in his eyes every time his arm encircles Shishido-san's waist and thus makes your former partner scowl right. You know how much Atobe-san cares about him –which obviously means something because it is your arrogant buchou– and you don't think it is really wrong, because you love Shishido-san's smile, love the bed of gentleness it blooms on, even if it isn't you who plants that smile.

You don't know when they began, and more obviously, when they will end, if end they must. But you were afraid, to think that you may not be able to forget your Shishido-san's taste because it have been weeks and it still lingers, often making you blush at the middle of a class or wince in pain when you are only in the company of the shadows in your room.

Air allows you to live and you want to reach out, so badly, to feel the soft caress of those long strands of mahogany, but you know –and it stills your hands to your side– that you cannot grasp thin air no matter how hard you try.

Because the privilege isn't yours.

Author's ramblings: I'm thinking about that nod Ohtori did. If he nodded, did he mean 'Yes, this would be' or confirm Shishido's idea instead, which when he put into words would say 'No, this wouldn't be. I've been kissed before'. It was pretty confusing but I chose to go with the latter. I'm not that familiar with English, so please correct me if I’m wrong and Ohtori should shake his head instead.

That's for the ficlet. Glad to know that I can finish and post it on Shishido's birthday but I already feel the onset of another coming *sighs* Wish I can get rid off them and start a Kamio/Shinji... Anyway, thank you for reading.

The End

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