Self Preservation
by sarahofcroydon

It had been one of those normal conversations… casual- yes, stilted- sometimes, full of tentative jibes and teasing that could nurture intimacy or prevent its growth altogether with something as simple as a mislaid word. He wouldn't have bothered, but each time it thrilled Ootori until he was addicted, addicted to this game of words and tiny subtle actions that would slowly pave the path to something which just might be possible. Something incredibly exciting, something undeniably frightening, something that filled his days with intense feeling and hope.

Tiny things- Shishido sempai's bag next to his, Shishido sempai's acknowledging nod at him from across the corridor, Shishido sempai's deodorant falling beneath the benches so Ootori could pick it up and give it back to him.

He played this game so well.

It truly was an addiction- he'd muse on it and dream on it, almost content to let it live only in his head. But since they'd become doubles partners, the notion of letting his inclinations lie was impossible. It was a very unfortunate day when he acknowledged once again that he was addicted, but realised for the first time it wasn't a game anymore.

Initially Ootori had loved it when the conversation travelled this route- Shishido sempai and Taki, Shishido rejoining the team, Taki being an asshole (Shishido would invariably reiterate this part), Ootori and Shishido practising together, Ootori and Shishido having to sneak back into their respective homes at four in the morning because time had flown and really, Choutarou, it was really good fun, wasn't it, and we should probably do it again, sometime, just not this late.

Ootori had known what time it was all along.

Then of course, the conversation was thankyou, Shishido sempai, for taking your time to help me practise, and don't be a dumbass, Choutarou, it's fine, and I know you have other things to do, sempai, and I said whatever, Choutarou, it's fine.

Except today Shishido didn't follow the script.

He was unusually cheerful, (having received 87.5 percent on an English test) and was ready with happy banter. This time the thrill scared Ootori because there was something written in Shishido's posture that indicated some of his aggressive exterior had been shed and the other Shishido was available to the world, the other Shishido that Ootori liked to think was privy to him and few others.

This time the conversation elaborated on fatigue, the effects of fatigue on tennis, the strange fact that even though they had been out till four that morning, Shishido had been energised the next day, and but you didn't have to stay out that long sempai, and of course I did Choutarou-

And then Ootori pushed it-

But why, sempai? Because I like you, Choutarou –

And a grin.

A happy cheeky grin, thrown over his shoulder, and then a saunter back to the clubhouse, whistling an inane tune from the radio.

It should have felt wonderful. It should have been a reward for his efforts. He should have felt that rush of happiness, that pleasant feeling creeping slowly over his body that would fade slowly till he saw Shishido-sempai the next day.

But it didn't.

It felt like a punch in the gut. Ootori didn't know why.

All he knew was that another feeling altogether surged through his chest to dominate his body, and suddenly all these games and pleasant minutiae were rotting his heart from the inside, and two long strides had him next to Shishido sempai and then Shishido sempai was staggering after a heavy blow to his head after sharp contact with the wall.

"Ootori, what the fuck…"

All of a sudden he just couldn't take it anymore, and he knew he was shaking, shivering from cold sweat even though his body was burning. And his body- he felt more horribly aware of it than ever, this tall awkward gangly thing that was all legs and unease next to the powerful grace that was Shishido. It made him feel more desperately out of place than ever. How dare Shishido make him feel this way. How dare he stand there, all hurt and accused when he was the one who stole the last vestiges of control Ootori ever had, and his living soul on top of that.

His overlarge hands were gripping thin wrists, pinning them against a rough brick wall. The skin would be scratched, and Ootori hated knowing that he was causing the damage, not any of the numerous dangers or threats he'd 'protected' his sempai from.

He was dangerous, Choutarou was dangerous, and he wished Shishido would kick him or twist out from under his grip. Anything but that open-mouthed hurt which prevented Ootori from re-entering that dreamland in his head, where Shishido couldn't possibly care for him and there was no such thing as a physical reality.

Physicality was very real at that moment.

If Shishido turned his head partially to the right, his lips would have been on Ootori's exposed wrist.

Ootori began to cry at the thought.

"Chota… ' the fuck? What the hell's going on?"

Any of the things that were on the tip of his tongue – why did you say that, leave me alone, I can't leave you alone, I hate it, I love you – dissolved in a release of tears and he found himself positively weeping, his awkward body collapsed against his sempai and his eyes screwed shut against the soft cotton of Shishido's shirt. He didn't even notice the gentle hands that moved to hold him, or the fact they stood like that for half an hour – all he knew was that this person had taken control of his world to the extent that all he could do to let him know was to stand and weep on his shoulder.

The End

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