Uh... well, let's just say that I decided that I wanted to write a fic for Sharon, and suddenly recalled the zaniest scrap of conversation... ^^; Don't hurt me for the OOC. Pretty please?

Shigeki (Incentive)
by Monnie

"That's game, Choutarou."

Shishido let his racquet swung down to hang by his side. He almost hated saying it--damned, it'd been good to return that last Scud Serve, even if now his shoulder was throbbing like his pulse was trying to jump out of his veins. Breaking someone's serve when they were anyone worth playing with wasn't ever easy--or, at least, it shouldn't have been!--but breaking Ootori's was like fighting for his life, sometimes, when just returning it tended to leave his arm just a little numb for a bit. There wasn't any two ways about it: this game had gone on a helluva lot longer than he'd expected it to, seven to five: a whole lot longer than anyone else would have thought it would, he was pretty sure, just 'cause he was one of the very few people who actually could return Ootori's serve.

Pretty much the only thing that saved him from making a total dork of himself when he was playing Singles against his partner nowadays was the reflexes that Ootori had helped him train, way back in the day. Yeah, there was irony there. Pride, too, 'cause it worked both ways: he'd never have gotten as good as he was without his partner--but then again, Ootori's volley, as much as his serve, would never have been as crisp as it was without Shishido, either. Watching his partner turn from a kid who had a killer serve to a young man whose volley was as dangerous as his serve was brutal, real serve and volley, not just serve... oh, yeah, it'd been like watching someone new come into the world, sleek and beautiful and lethal. When Ootori hit, the clean line of his body when he followed through the stroke rather than jarring it halfway, as he'd used to--the arc of his shoulders, the intensity in his eyes--just made the breath catch in Shishido's throat sometimes, tangling him up. Probably a good reason not to want the match to end.

Then again, Shishido's  favourite  part of the day was just after tennis practice.

Not Regular tennis practice--well, okay, yeah, Regular practice was fun, too--but... it was fun work. He wasn't officially on the team anymore, but there really wasn't anyone stupid enough to tell him 'no,' not when none of the other senior Regulars had quit once exams had started. Playing doubles was just about the best thing in the world sometimes, when they were both just really, really on their game and Ootori's serves sounded so sharp and quick that the slap of the ball against his racquet made the people in the bleachers jump, and Shishido found himself just where he needed to be so fast that even he was kind of surprised... but in the three years they'd been doubles partners, he'd pretty much figured that it couldn't always be like that.

For one, they'd have gotten as spoiled as Princess Gakuto--or at least, he probably would've, much as he hated to admit it, considering it was kind of hard to think of Ootori getting anything even close to spoiled.

Ootori's tennis had changed, slowly, over the years. His shy smile hadn't.

Hell, Shishido was going to be graduating at the end of the year, and after that happened... then what? It wasn't like they were... attached at the hip, or anything. They weren't a... a couple, no matter what everyone had been saying when Ootori and Hiyoshi had joined the rest of them on the Regular high school tennis team, back in tenth grade--and Shishido had found himself wrapped up in a pair of strong arms, practically dragged off the ground by how hard Ootori was hugging him, with the softest sound, like laughter almost, sounding just beside his ear, and he'd found himself a little dizzy with the way Ootori always smelled like cherries, except without the sharper bite.

The upperclassman had teased them about that for weeks, but what the Hell, right? They'd played doubles together in the year they'd been apart--he'd finally managed to convince Choutarou's mom that street tennis wasn't dangerous, really--but it wasn't the same as being on the same team. The senpai-tachi, irritating pre-regulars that they were, probably couldn't imagine missing someone, they were so fixed on getting Regular spots.

Jealous bastards.

Like he'd told Ootori, back then--he was willing to bet half of them were sore because their new Kantoku had given up the prized Doubles One spot on the Regular team to a freshman and a sophomore, without even a fight--and the other half were just jealous because they'd have killed to get a hug like that from Ootori Choutarou.

Well, whether the reason for the teasing was true or not--he damned well thought it was, 'cause who wouldn't want a hug from Ootori, who so rarely even touched anyone?--it'd broken the miserable expression in his best friend's chocolate eyes, and that tiny little bubble of a laugh had popped on Ootori's lips. That was what counted.

Of course, it'd made all the freshman girls stare and start whisperwhispering, which was almost more annoying than the squealing--apparently, none of them had ever seen their tall, pretty Ice Prince Ootori laugh before.

Ice Prince. Seriously. Freshman girls, apparently, didn't get any less dumb with time. Sure, Ootori had the silverhair thing going, and maybe he didn't smile much, but Hell, if Ootori didn't have a reason to smile, then why the Hell should he have? It was the same freshman girls who liked to whisper about shinrui and amae, how trust and dependence were so intertwined they couldn't walk away from each other, blah, blah...

They could walk away from each other when they needed to, or wanted to--Hell, they'd both played Singles for the whole of Choutarou's senior year, hadn't they?

Fact was, he just didn't much want to.

Ootori's hand was sweaty in his as they shook hands, over the net, but he was smiling as they walked over to turn off the floodlights. There was enough moonlight--and besides, what the Hell was there to bump into on a tennis court?--that there wasn't any point to having them on: they walked over to the bench together and Ootori handed over a water bottle. Their fingers brushed, lightly, and Shishido felt something in him tremble at the instant of contact before it settled down into his heartbeat again. "Ahhh. Was I bending my wrist again, Shishido-san?"

Shishido grinned at their old joke. It wasn't really funny--sure, no-one else would've gotten it--but the familiarity of it felt good: the first time Ootori had lost to him after he'd perfected his serve, he'd asked, his eyes wide and anxious. Truth was, Ootori losing--then or now--didn't have anything to do with his wrist, not anymore. Just instinct. Just practice.

"Geki da sa. Don't blame it on your wrist," Shishido pronounced, firmly, as he had, then, and Ootori laughed as he took the towel from Shishido's hand.

They were partners on the court, and in Shishido's mind--it was probably a lot healthier, anyway. They didn't need each other to be good, right? Being dropped from the team wasn't a problem anymore, not when it would've taken a damned stupid coach to not see that they were good on their own--it was just so sad how Shishido was so damned proud that he could keep Jirou awake and jumping for a game about half the time, when Kantoku made them play each other--but together, they were steel as sharp and bright as a sunny, cold winter noon on the courts: just about the best.

It didn't mean, though, that they didn't like being, well, just themselves sometimes--not Hyotei's Doubles One. Not trust, not dependence, not the Ootori-Shishido pair. Just... just Ootori and Shishido, junior and senior, rich kid who'd never turned into a brat, and, well, he'd never really much cared about how much money his family had, not when they were about as comfortable as could be.

Didn't mean they couldn't be together while they were just being themselves, either.

Maybe that was why there just wasn't anything like a game for two, not four.

Hey, they were best friends, right? They went to movies, sometimes. Arcades. Dinner--no, wait, dinner out on weekend nights was probably for couples, or something, though they'd done that a few times, too, but they'd always gone back to what they loved to do. He'd never mentioned to his partner just how, well, he wasn't sure normal buddies were supposed to go out to nice restaurants together with a candle between them on the table that echoed out of his partner's eyes, and reminded Shishido so strongly of the way Ootori's skin shone in the sun after a couple of weeks of summer...

Some people, on Friday nights, went clubbing, or drinking.

He and Choutarou hit the tennis courts.

He'd won this game--he almost always did: they'd both pretty much accepted that he was the better Singles player between the two of them, but it felt so damned good to see Choutarou keep on trying to beat him, even though bracing against that serve late in the game sometimes meant that he had to use both hands to return it, because--seriously, with as fast as that ball went sometimes, he was kind of surprised his arms stayed on. "That serve of yours... I'm willing to swear it got faster," Shishido grinned, nudging his partner's shoulder. He hadn't grown all that much since middle school, but right now, he was pretty happy just to be tall enough that Ootori couldn't tuck him under his chin anymore. That had been embarrassing. "Guess hitting the weight room's been helping, huh?"

Shishido just chuckled when Ootori sputtered, "Shishido-san!" because his partner was still blushing when he shifted away from the finger that Shishido poked into his biceps. Not that Shishido could really know, but it really did look like his partner's muscles were getting more... cut, sort of. Good thing, too, considering he'd be playing Singles after this year, and sure as Hell Shishido was going to make certain that Ootori Choutarou could do himself as proud standing on a court on his own as in a pair. "My parents are starting to wonder, you know."

"Wonder? 'Bout what?" Shishido flopped down onto the bench, and reached up to press the blade of his shoulder between his fingertips. Geez, he really was going to be sore in the morning--seven sets of having to return a serve that'd been clocked at two hundred thirty kay... one more set really shouldn't have made all that much difference, but it did. A shoulder-rub would've been just enough to make the night perfect, right about now--

Okay, it wasn't like he'd been subtle about it, or anything, but sometimes, seriously, it seemed like Ootori read his mind, because damn those long fingers felt good rubbing into his shoulders like that, fingertips pushing right into the hurt until it wasn't hurt anymore. Shishido let his head fall back against--okay, that definitely wasn't wood, not unless wood felt like old, worn tee-shirt over someone's belly. Oops. He jerked forwards.

"I--" Ootori's voice was soft, but the fingers pressed harder, digging smoothly into muscles that tightened and ached before releasing all that tension with something that was almost a twang of relief when the fingers slid lower, still stroking deep, and Shishido was so close to moaning that he bit his lip. Oh, yeah, this was, without question, his favorite part of the day--sitting here on this bench, with Ootori, and the only light on the courts the thin  filtered  moonlight and the reflection from the clubhouse a little ways away. The shoulder-rub definitely wasn't changing his opinion. "I'm sorry I--"

"If you... mmm," a sound half-escaped from Shishido's lips when those fingers started to trail back upwards, chafing at the base of his neck and leaving a tingling path of relaxation behind it, like tiny comets' tails. Wow, who would've thought a violinist's slim fingers were so strong? "Ooh... apologise  for your serve, I'm going to bite you." Shishido leaned his head further back to peer up into those soft chocolate eyes, dimmed in the light that was still pouring out of the clubroom, the way Ootori's cross caught the sharp, artificial white glow. Everything looked softer in the reflection of that cross, those eyes, he noted--but then again, he'd noticed that a long, long time ago. "No, seriously, I will."

"Would you?" Ootori's voice was remote, curious, but Shishido didn't need to look up again to know that he'd gotten a smile onto that serious face.

Shishido growled, just under his breath, but it wasn't a growl he meant. Somewhere along the line--he wasn't really all that sure where--Choutarou had gotten into the habit of teasing him. Which was okay, because he teased back. "Nah. You'd like it too much--mmmh," the moan slipped out when Ootori's thumbs slid underneath his ponytail, stroking up the back of his neck to just where his hair started, oooooh. Ootori giggled, and he had to grin. "Mmm, thanks, that's good." Before Shishido did something stupid like flop over right onto the bench. Or lean back against Ootori's stomach again. Or offer his partner a backrub he knew would just be plain torture--for Shishido, not Ootori. "What's up with your parents?"

The hands went away, and he sighed in pleasure and disappointment when Ootori slid around the bench to sit by him, sipping from his water bottle--he never gulped, only took little mouthfuls. Cute, really. "Ah... well, they say... they say we spend so much time out together, on the weekends, and after school... Okaasan thinks, well, that you take such good care of me, and that I should invite you over for dinner more often."

"Aw, Choutarou, it's not like that," Shishido had to laugh. Ootori's family took its obligations so damned seriously. He wasn't all terribly sure he wanted to be an obligation, anyway. "I'm not taking care of you, geez, you're not a little brother or something." Though you took care of me, once upon a time. "We're friends, right? Friends hang out. S'fine."

"I think she might insist, Shishido-san." His eyes twinkled, and Shishido had a not-so-sneaking suspicion that Ootori-okaasan might not be the only one insisting.

Dinner? In that sprawling compound of garden and house that Choutarou called home? Yikes. "I'm not going to have to dress up, am I?" he queried, suspiciously. "Your dad--"

It was almost impossible to hear Choutarou's laughter during Regular practice, just because everyone else was so noisy, but it echoed, when the court was empty--his voice had gotten deep enough that the sound brushed like fur over Shishido's shoulders, and he shivered. "Oh, Shishido-san. He was just teasing. We don't actually dress up in formal clothes for dinner. But we would love to have you... maybe next Friday?"

Well, that was good. Because, seriously, that'd been just too artsy to be comfortable. "Oh." He hunched a little, and took a gulp of his water. Yeah, Choutarou's father had a weird sense of humor. Must have been the lawyer thing. And the fact that before he'd finally visited, Shishido'd had no idea that his partner lived in something that could've passed for a temple complex, it was so huge, and so yeah, he'd stared a little. "Well... yeah, sure. That'd be good." If terrifying. 'Cause Ootori's parents were such nice people, yeah, but they were kind of like their son in the whole formal and cool and polite thing--Shishido was so damned sure every time he saw them, he was going to say something dumb and offensive and wouldn't it just suck if they decided one day that he was a bad influence or something?. "It'll be nice to tell my dad for once that I'm not heading to the courts."

Ootori cocked his head, and propped his elbows against the backrest of the bench, his hair softer in the moonlight. "Do your parents often ask about it? About this?"

Shishido grinned. There was definitely something pretty funny, looking back, about how he'd hid the nighttime practices, his cuts, his bruises, from his parents those years ago, but now... now they were something he was proud of. It wasn't like they were likely to stop him, right? "Yeah. Every week, pretty much. I get the idea Jiji's kind of disappointed I don't go out drinking." 'Cause, seriously, there was almost a hopeful tone to it whenever his da asked 'You're not going to come home drunk again, are you?' Geez, it'd just been the once. Weeks ago.

When Ootori blinked, his lashes were slow and as soft as the cool light on his cross, pale and frost. "But... but Shishido-san, you're not twenty, yet. How can you..."

And yeah, it figured that Ootori wouldn't think of something like that. Shishido had to laugh, and reach over to punch his partner's shoulder. "Geez, Choutarou. Lots of people drink before they're twenty. It's pretty normal. I'll take you out to a bar, or a club, sometime, if you want." Not like a date, or anything. Just... yeah.

His partner wrinkled his nose, the slightest crease appearing between his silvery brows. "But... Shishido-san, I don't... I don't see what's so good about drinking. Or being drunk. Masayo-'neesan called me late last night, and she was so upset..."

Well, Shishido privately thought that that was probably because Ootori Masayo had gotten all the drama in the family that Choutarou lacked, and being away from her family in Kyoto Daigaku, living in an apartment by herself, hadn't exactly done a lot to alleviate that. Being around the Ootori family was pretty calming. He'd know. "Got drunk, and did something stupid, I guess?"

To his surprise, something that was almost a smile curled its way through his partner's eyes like smoke through the chocolate before Ootori visibly squished it. "She kissed a girl."

Okay, Shishido had definitely not seen that coming.

Ootori probably wouldn't be too happy with him if he laughed--but then again, he hadn't... exactly been able to anticipate Ootori having to tamp down his own smile at the thought, either. "...your sister's...?" He clamped his mouth shut. "No way. She must have been pretty drunk."

"She said that she'd had nine shots, and the girl had had eleven, and they'd been dared..." Ootori admitted. Shishido whistled, raising an eyebrow as his partner glanced over at him. Yeah, Masayo was tall--but skinny as a tennis net, seriously. He wasn't all that sure he could have taken down nine shots without being at least a little off his rocker. "She was so upset about it, but doesn't it not mean anything if you don't really know what you're doing?"

"Well... yeah. No. Sort of." Shishido slung his arms over the back of the bench, and his fingertips just brushed against Ootori's shoulder blade. He pulled his hand back. "Depends. I mean... you know what you're doing when you're completely smashed," Shishido shook his head. Telling Atobe that he thought he might be in love with Ootori... he hadn't meant it that way, not really--well, okay, maybe--well, okay, so there really wasn't any other way he could have meant it--but--whatever, Hell, why had he been out at a bar with their bastard buchou, anyway? Going to the senior send-off had turned into a really bad idea. "It's just that, well, you know what you're doing, and maybe it's something you really want to do, but you kind of... can't quite figure out why it might be a bad idea to do it." Though it could've been worse. He could've been sitting with Mukahi. No, wait, Shishido was never going to be drunk enough to admit something like that to Mukahi Gakuto. "The next morning, when you wake up, you  realise  you should have known better. That's all."

"But why kissing someone?" the way his brows scrunched together like that was so cute--Shishido reached out to poke the crinkle, and Ootori went a little cross-eyed trying to watch his finger. "I mean... isn't that weird?"

"Kissing a girl when you're a girl?" No more weird than wondering if maybe it'll be okay to ask out your doubles partner when you graduate. 'Cause then, when he says no, you're gone, you don't have to watch him walking at your side, so beautiful sometimes it chokes you... But he squished down that thought, too. Hard. If Ootori thought his beloved 'neesan kissing another girl was weird... "I mean... well, it happens."

And wasn't that just about the lamest answer possible for him to come up with? Considering... well, it wasn't that Shishido was gay, he was sure that he'd probably be able to like like a girl if he ever met one who had more than nine brain cells (one for each Hyotei Regular) in her head. Maybe it wasn't about being bi or gay or coming out of the closet; they'd both dated girls, and he'd actually really liked a couple of his girlfriends. Maybe it was just about Ootori edging himself more under Shishido's skin every year, shyly like Ootori did everything, until one day Shishido had looked at his partner, a silvery moonlight shadow when they turned off the floodlights--and felt his heart turn over like a motor and start purring.

He could walk away. They weren't a couple.

And maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't even leave bits of himself behind in Ootori's long, too-graceful hands if he did.

Yeah, it was a dumb answer. It happened. Yeah.

On the other hand, it was probably the only answer he could give.

"Beg pardon?" Ootori blinked at him. "Oh. No, not kissing a girl. Just... just kissing in general. Isn't it weird?"

...o-kay, Ootori said some really bizarre things sometimes, but... Shishido stared, searching those familiar clipped, high cheekbones for something that looked like sense. "Huh? You mean you've never kissed anyone? I mean, weren't you dating--what's her name, Shiho-chan, for almost a year?" Geez, he'd known his partner had reserve enough for any ten people, but... that was just a little ridiculous. He couldn't squash down his grin, this time. A junior in high school, with three girlfriends under his belt, and Ootori hadn't kissed anyone? How was that possible? "Geez, Choutarou, you need lessons."

"Shishido-san!" Ootori was laughing, too, now, and this time, his hand came up to ruffle into Shishido's shoulder-length hair until he squawked and squirmed away. "That's not nice. Of course I kissed Shiho. It was still strange." His eyes twinkled, though, darker, filled with night, and private games for two, and milk chocolate. "I don't think people are meant to be limpets."

Shishido choked, before he found himself snorting with laughter. "Choutarou!"

"Well, honestly! Don't you think so?" he sounded so earnest that Shishido was willing to bet anyone who couldn't read the way his eyes were curling at the corners, even if his mouth was completely straight, would have taken him seriously. "I mean, it's all wet, and then you can't breathe because there's someone attached to your mouth--"

Shishido held up a hand to stop his partner from going on before he died laughing at the image of Ootori attached to a sea snail. Which really wasn't fair, because Shiho-chan had been pretty damned cute. "Choutarou, you dork."

"But you laughed," Ootori pointed out, before that rare, full smile bloomed onto his lips, the briefest flash of teeth to match the shine in his eyes, and the damned overactive motor that was Shishido's damned poor fickle heart turned over and started up with a roar so fierce it almost hurt. "In conclusion. Kissing is strange. Isn't it?"

That cemented it. His partner had definitely inherited his dad's wacky sense of humor somewhere down the DNA chain. "...yeah, well, when you try to kiss sea creatures, it doesn't go too well," Shishido grinned, past the way that heart of his was thumping loudly enough to pass for a percussion section. "It shouldn't be strange if you're doing it right. With the right person."

Ootori frowned again, and looked over at him, just a little down, and his fingers were in Shishido's hair again, petting the strands back from his face, automatically, the way Ootori had started to do when he'd first cut his hair. Gods. He wished Ootori wouldn't do that, not right now, just bad timing, because... "I don't understand, Shishido-san. How am I supposed to know?"

Damn it. Oh, man, that was absolutely the wrong question for Choutarou to ask. Damn it, he was graduating and heading off to college in two weeks, they really, really shouldn't have been having this conversation, and he was way too sober to be thinking of doing what he wanted to do, so why was it that all of a sudden he couldn't think why it was a bad idea to reach over, slide his hand over the back of his partner's neck, and pull those lips down to his?

He'd half-expected that he'd give his partner a little-boy kiss. Just, y'know, a peck on the lips, or on the little dimple at the corner of Ootori's mouth, something that maybe could've been brushed off with a laugh or a "Gotcha!" or something--

Halfway in the charged, electric air between his mouth and his partner's, something changed--he must have tilted his head or something, because gods, Ootori's lips were slanted against his, his lower lip plush and so soft, salt with sweat but under it just the tiniest bite of sweet from the peppermints that his partner and best friend always kept in his tennis bag. Shishido pressed closer with a soft sound that echoed too loudly on the empty courts, craving more of that, oh, gods, more with a hunger that made him lick his lips, except of course then he was tracing against Ootori's, and they were just apart enough slanted like this that he could breathe, just a little, feel the delicate intake of his partner doing the same--

Ootori's lips slid smoothly against his when they met again, and this time, the tentative, shy little lap that sent stars swirling dizzily behind his closed eyelids was just between his parted lips, and felt like raw, damp silk being dragged over the most sensitive nerve endings that led just about everywhere in Shishido's body that could be filled with cherry-scent and light, hot and smooth and trembling, like Ootori was trembling...

Shishido's eyes jerked open, staring straight into a soft little tuft of silvery hair that looked like it should have been almost transparent in the moonlight, eyelashes so long they fanned over Ootori's cheekbones with his eyes closed like this, and his world swirled strangely when he  realised .

He hadn't moved, had he. Hadn't tilted to match them up like two puzzle pieces that just needed a little bit of a nudge before they could click.

Choutarou had.

Ohgodsohgodsohgods, what the Hell was he doing?!

He broke the kiss that, in his opinion, should have counted as foreplay all on his own, and the night washed into him again, cold and dark as it drove the hot, cream-bright light out of him with common sense and the shock in his partner's gaze.

"...oh," Ootori whispered, but he didn't move away--damn it, the kid was probably too petrified to move, his eyes soft and wide and dazed, his cheeks warm enough to light the night all on their own. "Oh."

Shit. Shit, shit, shit. It was apparently possible to be drunk on midnight and Ootori. Because shit he should have known why this was a bad idea... no matter how good it'd felt. He didn't say anything--he looked away, at the clubhouse, at anything but the pity that would melt into Ootori's eyes, because his too-sweet partner couldn't ever hide anything in his eyes. "Sorry," he muttered. And he was. Gods, he really was. And sure, he could make a joke--ha ha, not too shabby, Choutarou, not bad at all, maybe you have been kissing snails--but he couldn't have met Ootori's gaze to do it.

"Shishido-san, you...?" Ootori's voice was shaking--it wasn't that Shishido thought that his partner was homophobic, or anything like that, because Hell, he definitely had no problems with, oh, the way Mukahi and Oshitari went all PDA after a game, or even stumbling across Atobe and Jirou cuddled up together having a nap under a sakura tree--but maybe it was different when it came to himself.

They didn't always need to finish sentences, not around each other, not anymore.

It was the question he'd been dreading, wondering about himself.

You like me? or You love me? and wasn't it awful how he couldn't... quite... separate them anymore, not when it came to a too-sweet boy who'd always stood beside him, behind him, even when he was standing all the way on the other end of the court?

Shishido shrugged, awkwardly. "It happens."

And it had.

Not for the first time, he'd been absolutely helpless to stop it, there'd been nothing, absolutely nothing he could have done, and it'd been like falling from the Regular squad all over again. Because falling for Ootori had been probably just as inevitable as losing to Tachibana had been, that long, long time ago.

And oh, yeah, some things were definitely worth the fight that it took to get back up where you had to be, but... he couldn't have done it the first time without Choutarou, and this time around, every time Choutarou smiled that tiny, beautiful little smile that had to be coaxed out of hiding, it dragged him further down...

Maybe it was time for him to walk away.

"Shishido-san?" Ootori's voice was so soft, deep and warm and shy despite the way the noise echoed across the empty courts, without even the buzz of the spotlights to distract from the way it quivered.

"Yeah?" Shit, his hands were in fists hard enough that his nails left crescents, not full moons, in his palm--Ootori was going to say something sweet and shocked and placating, and he just didn't want to hear it--

"I think... I think I might be needing regular lessons, Shishido-san." And when Shishido's head jerked up to ask--harsher than he'd intended--what the Hell, more tennis?--he knew he'd have to turn him down. They were seeing each other every Friday night already, wasn't that enough for him when he'd already stolen Shishido's heart somewhere along the way...? "Maybe even after you graduate?"

The words died on his lips when he saw the shine in Ootori's eyes, and the way his fingertips drifted up to brush his own lips; how his cheeks were visibly darker, flushed even under the dim, dim light that made him a blushing statue of shy crystal dressed in an old tee-shirt and brand-new tennis shorts.

How he didn't look away--no bland courtesy, no avoidance, just a tall miracle waiting to happen to some lucky girl, except... except...

No, he wasn't talking about tennis.

Something that Shishido hadn't even  realised  was hard and aching inside him cracked with force enough to make his heart do little backflips in his chest when the fingers that'd been on his partner's lips... reached over, and rested--lightly, lightly, so light he could feel them trembling--on his. Exploring, lightly, with the tips of his fingers, before they slid into his hair again and brushed a long curl away from his face, and wow, it'd always felt good when his partner petted him, but...

But... he'd never bothered to think why Ootori did it, when Ootori never touched anyone else, had he...?

He managed a smile that shook--he was dreaming, he had to be dreaming, and maybe he'd wake up, or maybe he'd never want to--but his hand rose to cradle Ootori's jaw, and his partner was smooth, and shivering--rose-petal real when Shishido's thumb stroked against his cheek and came to rest on the corner of that soft, damp mouth.

"Sure," Shishido whispered, past the dumb grin that was threatening to climb his throat. "What else is a partner for, right?"

This was spawned by a conversation that I had on the way back from tech week rehearsal on Friday: it was very late, we were all supremely loopy from having had hours of singing and dancing, and we had just been on the shuttle with a few extremely, extremely drunk people.

Let's just say that the conversation involved the topic of being drunk, not recommending it, digressed into the topic of kissing--and degenerated into hysterical laughter and lines such as "I don't think people are supposed to be limpets," and "Yeah, it's generally not too good when you try and kiss sea creatures." ^^;

The End

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