Some Things
by Shi Lin

"It's unavoidable."

To be specific, getting to know a person pretty well after two weeks of smashing 200km/h tennis balls night after night into his face is unavoidable. Knowing his playing style, his strengths and weaknesses on the court; you don't have a genuine doubles partnership without those. But Ohtori's still slightly unsettled when he tallies his knowledge of Shishido-san outside of tennis.

See, it's understandable that Ohtori should know Shishido-san's favourite vending machine drink and his favourite canteen stall, or his preferred deodorant brand. What he wears under his shorts, even. Everyday, visible things like that. They've had a few breaks together, after all, and everyone sees what everyone else uses in the locker room when changing - though he has to admit that it's only if they bother to look, which most of them obviously don't, and it should be faintly disturbing that Shishido-san's the only one Ohtori ever bothers looking at, but never mind.

It gets less understandable when Ohtori realises that he knows the kind of shampoo Shishido-san uses (Shishido-san's head, right underneath his nose while reaching past him for his racket, and the fragrance of aloe vera sparking startled recognition when he next walked past a promotional stand in a supermarket's toiletries aisle.) The subjects he does and doesn't like (having seen what the third-years do for the latter category he knows he could help, if Shishido-san ever asked, but he probably won't and Ohtori doesn't know any tactful way of offering.) His little idiosyncrasies: how he tends to stand with his left hand on his left hip, cocked just there; how he chews his thumbnail when he's figuring out math problems; how he can't whistle any note past an A sharp. Even - and this still makes him feel ridiculous - the way Shishido-san's mouth moves when he smirks.

(He remembers glancing sideways, desperately attempting to be discreet while seeing the left corner of Shishido-san's lips tug upwards, the tilt slide his entire mouth into lopsided sensuality. Remembers the dryness of his throat, remembers trying to blame it on dehydration. Remembers failing.)

These things he knows. Personal things, inconsequential things about a person you don't realise unless you look. Unless you watch, because the person you observe makes you want to. When he's alone, Ohtori doesn't understand himself. When Shishido-san's there, regarding him with amused eyes, or saying Choutarou in that note of exasperated affection both plangent and particular, he thinks he does. Ohtori must remind himself not to read too much into signs of his own interpretation.

(For instance: friendly jostling and hair-ruffling say only so much in male body-speak, and he takes care to quash his pleasure when they occur.)

He wonders what Shishido-san would say, what he would look like, if Ohtori told him. Though Ohtori won't, because he doesn't want to take risks, he doesn't want to push the limits of acceptability. Not now. They're still working around the boundaries of seniority and partnership, still stepping cautiously in defining what and why and the ramifications of whatever it is they'll eventually decide. Ohtori understands that they started playing doubles because Shishido-san was desperate, that there isn't such an impetus for them now.

It's fine with him, really.

There are still doubles matches for them to play; there is still time to watch Shishido-san on the court, and to smile back after completing a good game. Time yet to figure out more of Shishido-san, touchy and temperamental, running beside him in endorphin-soaked exhilaration.

Ohtori smashes a serve into the air, watching it hurtle towards the other side, and thinks: unavoidable. And it feels good.

The End

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