Blame lies on Thog, so I suppose it belongs to her.

by Ruebert

He's never minced words with Choutarou before, and he doesn't like the way he is doing it now.

He doesn't like the way it feels when hands descend on his waist, curving around his hips. When his back is pressed against Choutarou's chest, he suddenly feels small, vulnerable; caged in the enclosure of the junior's arms. He doesn't like standing still; he needs to be able to move quickly, he needs to be able to run.

It's not that he's afraid to speak -- it's not that he's afraid to hurt Choutarou -- it's just that he doesn't remember when this happened, when this started. He doesn't like being confused. He knows that things were different when they started this. He doesn't remember when Choutarou started looking to him for approval, when the younger boy's eyes and features started to light up in his presence; his doubles partner is not very good at hiding his emotions, and it's all too obvious to him when they've spent weeks together now.

He wants to say that it bothers him because the Choutarou he knows isn't weak like this, doesn't need his approval, doesn't need his presence to smile and laugh. He's certain that he didn't act this way before. He remembers arguing, he remembers a strong will to match a strong serve. Not this bending, this easy obsequience. This sudden strange need. Choutarou is still strong on the courts -- still works hard, still stands on his own, is still stubborn and intractable, sticking to his position -- but one word from his lips and Choutarou will still, will halt in his headlong rush. One comment, and his doubles partner will fall silent, a smile will disappear, a smile will bloom.

He doesn't remember when this happened, and it bothers him; when this dependency began, when Choutarou stopped being strong on his own and began to lean upon him, when the perfect synchronization of Doubles One changed.

When the brush of fingers as a towel was passed from hand to hand became something more. When the sensation of hands pushing down on his back, helping him in his stretches became uncomfortable.

He doesn't like it, but he doesn't want to say anything either. Perhaps it is fear -- he doesn't want to chase away someone who has become a friend, a real friend. He likes Choutarou. He's never held back his words before, but Choutarou has never seemed so sensitive to his comments, never flinched in pain or self-criticism because of something that he's said.

He wants their old camaraderie back; he wants this uncomfortable hesitation on his partner's part to stop. He wants things to be simple again. He wants to have noticed the first time that this happened, the first time that a simple backrub to ease aching muscles turned into something else. He wants to say something, cut this growing strangeness off before it can go any deeper.

He doesn't like the fact that he's wary of changing in the Regulars' club room when Choutarou is the only other boy there.

The air is electric, the silence stifling, and he senses rather than hears Choutarou approach, knows what is coming as he reaches for his uniform shirt. His shoulders twitch uncontrollably when he feels the touch on his lower back, when palms slide around over skin sticky with dried sweat, when fingers brush over the belt worn low on his hips. They drift no lower, but rise, and while he doesn't lean back into the embrace, he doesn't pull away, either. His breath runs shallow as he closes his locker door, as he stands there with the shirt hanging limply from his fingers. Choutarou's fingers feel strange brushing across the muscles of his abdomen, over his navel; the breath in his ear is even and strong, a sharp contrast to his own. He wants to say something, do something; he doesn't want to lose Choutarou. He should have noticed sooner; things have gone too far already.

His body is pressed back against the taller boy's, and he tries to ignore the heat, the closeness; tries to ignore the shift and caress across bare skin, the soft fuzz of Choutarou's arms beneath his own when he braces himself against the locker, leans away but not enough, not enough to run. He feels like a wild animal being drawn into a trap, slowly -- before he knew it, he was caught. When lips brush against his neck, he presses his forehead against the coolness of painted metal, and he closes his eyes.

Archivist's note: This story has a companion piece, Change, by Hoshi. The pairing is Ohtori/Hiyoshi, past implied Ohtori/Shishido.

The End

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