It wasn't until a hand touched his shoulder lightly that Ohtori realized he'd fallen into a half-doze over his math textbook. Or rather, he hadn't actually been sleeping, but he'd been staring blankly at the same page for a good ten minutes without taking any of the information in.
Blinking and scrubbing at his tired eyes, he glanced up and was surprised to see a warm brown gaze staring back at him from only inches away. The other boy was so close - and it was so unusual to see those eyes open anywhere except during a particularly exciting tennis game - that Ohtori didn't recognize him for a moment.
"You look like I feel most of the time, Ohtori-kun," Jirou said sympathetically, and it was the sound of his voice that finally made the younger boy realize who had woken him. Inching back far enough to let him see all of his senpai's face, he tilted his head up to face him. Another odd sensation, since Jirou was much shorter than he was, but the older boy was bending over him as he sat against the trunk of a tree.
"Oh, Jirou-san." Ohtori stifled a yawn. Jirou might not care whose face he yawned in, but Ohtori was too polite to do something like that. "I'm sorry, I guess I was drifting. Did you need me for something?"
"No, just recognized the signs of someone about to nod off and fall into his lunch," Jirou grinned at him, and Ohtori had to laugh. The singles player plopped down onto the ground beside him with his usual careless grace and sprawl of limbs. "It is a nice day to sit outside though, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's why I'm out here," Ohtori agreed with a small smile. The snow had all melted, and while the sakura trees hadn't even begun to bud yet, there were definitely signs of spring in the air. It was the last month of the school year; this was probably one of the last times he would casually run into Jirou until next year when he started high school. The thought made him a little sad. "I'm surprised you're not asleep somewhere already, the sun is so nice and warm," he added, and Jirou laughed.
"I don't sleep all the time," the smaller boy protested. "Or I'd never pass my classes." His words might have carried more weight if he hadn't yawned and blinked sleepily in the middle of them. "How come you're so tired, anyway?"
"I stayed up late last night writing a history paper," Ohtori admitted with a sigh. He'd been up until three in the morning, and he still wasn't satisfied with the results. It wasn't like him to put something that important off until the last minute, but he'd honestly forgotten about it in the flurry of year-end tests and projects. The only reason he'd remembered at all was that Hiyoshi had called to ask him a question to verify something for his paper, which had reminded him.
Of course, if he hadn't decided that the game of street tennis he'd promised Shishido was more important than starting the paper, he wouldn't have had to stay up so late. But the weather had only just warmed enough to be able to play at the street courts, and Shishido had been so busy studying recently that they'd hardly seen each other. Ohtori had been sure he could finish the paper quickly enough, and how many more chances would he have to play with Shishido before the older boy graduated and moved on to high school?
He wasn't going to admit that part, though. The slight flush he could feel on his cheeks was bad enough.
"History?" Jirou sounded surprised. "Why didn't you just ask Shishido to help you? That's his best subject."
Ohtori was just tired enough that the words slipped out without going past his internal censors first. "Because if Shishido-san had come over, I'd never have gotten the paper finished." Realizing too late how that probably sounded, he floundered in an attempt to fix his words. "I mean, that is, we don't really study very well together." He'd learned to play tennis without letting his crush on Shishido affect his concentration, but studying was another matter. Mortified at his own thoughts, his face heated further.
To his surprise, Jirou didn't look at all shocked, nor did he leer or crack a joke. He just nodded earnestly, brown eyes wide and sincere with sympathy. "I get it. It's like... oh," he yawned again, barely muffling it behind his hand. "It's like me trying to study with Atobe. It's just distracting."
That made Ohtori pause, just for a moment. Shishido had, on occasion, said some things about his two childhood friends that had made Ohtori wonder, but... nothing had ever confirmed it.
Deciding he didn't really want to pursue the discussion, since it might lead to Jirou asking him equally awkward questions, Ohtori said nothing. Instead he just smiled, and Jirou smiled back, and he thought perhaps they were sharing an odd moment of quiet understanding.
"Mind if I keep you company while you keep studying?" Jirou asked artlessly, blinking sleepily at him again. "I already ate, and Atobe's busy reviewing for his Greek exam. He said I'm not allowed to sleep on him when he's studying, it breaks his concentration. Would it break yours?"
"No, I don't think so," Ohtori replied, a little bemused. Jirou didn't usually bother to ask people if they minded being his pillow, he just flopped over without giving them a chance to object. Then again, even Jirou knew that studying at year end was a serious matter, and some people simply couldn't handle any interruption.
"Oh, good!" Jirou beamed at him. "If you have any questions, just ask. I'm your senpai after all, I should help you study." He shifted to get more comfortable, which resulted in him resting mostly against Ohtori's arm, head pillowed on the taller boy's shoulder. It was a little uncomfortable; after a moment Ohtori lifted his arm, and Jirou slid beneath it, snuggling up against him with Ohtori's hand resting on his shoulder.
"I will," Ohtori promised. He shifted so he could see his textbook more clearly and be able to turn the pages without disturbing Jirou. After a moment, he realized somewhat to his own amusement that he'd lifted his hand so he was running his fingers through the older boy's hair, like he was petting a cat. Jirou didn't seem to mind, but perhaps that was because he was already sound asleep.
Really, the sun was so pleasantly warm after the chill of winter. He wouldn't be surprised if the sakura came out early this year. Jirou was a friendly warmth against his side, his hair soft under Ohtori's hand. Yawning, Ohtori turned his attention back to the math book. He had a test tomorrow, he needed to study.
"Somebody really ought to tell them that scheduling back to back exams isn't fair," Shishido grumbled as he exited the library. His head was swimming with calculus equations, which seemed to leave no room for the English verbs and conjugations he also needed to know for this afternoon.
"Be grateful Hyoutei Gakuen is an escalator school," Atobe replied with no sympathy whatsoever. "Else we'd be taking entrance exams like everyone else. Ascension exams are not nearly as difficult."
"Easy for you to say," Shishido grumbled. "I notice your schedule doesn't have any exams close together." He was in a bit of a sour mood; while he'd been frantically cramming, Atobe had been reviewing for his afternoon exam. And Jirou, who shared Shishido's math class, was nowhere to be seen. Shishido knew from previous experience that his friend would easily pass his exams despite having slept through the majority of his study time. It wasn't fair! Why was he the only one of the three of them that had to study so hard?
In all honesty, he had a bad habit of letting his studying slide over the course of the year, leaving him scrambling to catch up at the end. It still wasn't fair, somehow.
"Of course not," Atobe replied loftily to his remark. "That's the mark of superior planning and advance thought. If you'd paid more attention to when exams were typically held for the courses you were choosing, you'd have been able to balance your schedule as well."
"Yeah, right," Shishido shook his head. "I bet you just bribed the school officials to arrange your exams so they wouldn't inconvenience you." A small smirk crossed Atobe's face, and Shishido stopped short in the hall at the sight of it. "You asshole, you totally did, too!" he cried, aiming a punch at his former captain's shoulder that the other easily dodged. "Why couldn't you at least have done the same for me while you were at it? Some friend you are!"
"I have no idea what you're referring to," Atobe said smugly. "I would never stoop to such plebian means as bribery. I can't help it if my teachers appreciated my end of year gifts to them so much they decided to return the sentiment by arranging my exams more to my convenience."
"Bastard," Shishido muttered, but there was no real heat behind the word. After so many years, he was more than used to Atobe's self-centered ways. It didn't bother him any more.
"Anyway, we'd better get to class," he said, stretching to try to relieve the cramps caused by nearly an hour of intense studying. "The bell's gonna ring any minute."
"I need to go this way," Atobe said, indicating the door to the outside that led across the quad to the other wing of the building. It was finally starting to be nice out, but few students were using the outdoor shortcut yet. It was much faster than going around through the rest of the building, however, and at this point was probably the only way Atobe could avoid being late.
Shishido nodded. "My exam's in this wing, upstairs. See you after school, I guess. Good luck with your exams."
As he turned away, he expected to hear Atobe protest that he didn't need luck to ace his exams, or at least to wish him good luck in return. Instead, the other boy simply said, "Shishido," his voice oddly hushed and yet urgent.
Confused, Shishido glanced over his shoulder to see Atobe frozen in the open doorway, staring at something outside. There was an uncharacteristically soft look on the regal teen's face, and a quirky smile on his lips that wasn't quite a smirk. "Come here, you've got to see this," he commanded, looking briefly back at Shishido.
"We're both gonna be late, Atobe," Shishido started to protest. Atobe merely shook his head.
"Trust me, it's worth it. Come here, quickly, if the bell rings you'll miss it."
Curious now, despite his better judgment, Shishido moved to join him in the doorway. "What, did Jirou fall asleep under a bush or something? That's nothing new..."
His voice trailed off as he reached Atobe's side, and finally saw what the other was looking at. Jirou was indeed lying sound asleep beneath the bare branches of one of the sakura trees in the courtyard, curled up with one hand tucked under his cheek like a little kid.
And his pillow was none other than one Ohtori Choutarou - who was also fast asleep, his arm draped over Jirou's shoulder, head resting against Jirou's hair. The textbook half falling off his lap showed that he hadn't intended to take a nap, but had succumbed instead to his own weariness. Or perhaps, to whatever it was that sent Jirou into sleep at the drop of a hat.
Shishido gaped, totally speechless. He understood that soft look on Atobe's face now. While Jirou looking cutely vulnerable sleeping against someone was nothing new, the relaxed look on Ohtori's face was. When he was awake, even when happy, there was always a hint of the steel that was the foundation of Ohtori's personality showing through. Shishido had never seen him asleep before, but he looked no less adorable than Jirou. And the two of them together...
"Please tell me you've got a camera," he whispered urgently to Atobe, his voice strangled with both laughter and the sheer sugar of the scene in front of him.
"Already working on it," Atobe murmured in reply. He'd fished his cell phone hastily out of his pocket, and was now taking a short movie of their two sleeping friends. He could pick out the best shot later and turn it into a picture. "I'll get you copies, don't worry."
At that moment the bell rang, startling Ohtori into at least a semblance of wakefulness. Without quite knowing why he was doing so, Shishido stepped back and pulled Atobe out of sight as well, letting the door swing shut behind them so the two outside wouldn't see them. At Atobe's quizzical look, Shishido flushed slightly and shook his head. "He'd be embarrassed if he knew we saw him. And anyway, they're just..."
"Too cute for words," Atobe supplied with a smirk. "Yes, I think it would be just as well if they didn't know we saw them. You'd best hurry, you're going to be late to your exam."
"So are you," Shishido retorted, but he was grinning. "So are they, for that matter, which Choutarou is going to realize once the sleep clears out of his brain about five seconds from now. So we'd better clear out before he comes bursting through the door."
Laughing, Atobe jogged off, taking the long way around after all to avoid the pair outside. Shishido darted up the stairs, just in time as he heard the door behind him start to open. His grin refused to fade, and as he ran for his classroom he realized that a great deal of his stress about the two exams he had this afternoon had faded away. I'll have to remember to thank him... if I can figure out how to do it without him realizing what I'm thanking him for!
...And Atobe damn well better get those pictures to me fast. Still grinning, he burst through the door of his classroom. Suddenly the day didn't seem so bad after all.
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