For: Noel, who asked for nervous, sweet Ootori wanting to ask Shishido to dance...
Notes: ...uh, much spastic? *laugh* Written in Japan, where my English suffered drastically. ^^; Still, it's... a start?

Tsuzuku (To Be Continued)
by Monnie

His Shishido-san's hair wasn't hidden by the cap today; it would have looked very strange if it had been, considering that he was wearing a sleek black suit that pulled over his shoulders like he wore a shadow. But he'd done something with it—some sort of mousse, or gel, that made it behave into a smooth ruffle of straight silk, just a little lighter than his suit—but the way it shone in the soft light, oh. It was just long enough, smooth enough, to shine.

Ootori watched as the girl Shishido-san was dancing with—Emiko, he thought her name was—reached up to pet her fingertips through the very edges of the bangs that fell just into his doubles partner's eyes, and thought for just a moment—just a moment—that he liked Shishido-san's hair better when it had still been spiky-short, or plastered incongruously to his head from being squished underneath that familiar blue denim cap, because... because then, maybe he was the only one who wanted to pet him, run both his hands through that thick, straight hair. It didn't fall to Shishido's shoulders anymore, but Shishido-san was such a cat, sometimes—he still loved to have it brushed, feel fingers running through it, short as it was. He even purred when Ootori did it just right.

He hoped no-one else knew that.

He hoped no-one else knew the way Shishido made little wordless, happy sounds when thumbs pressed hard into the small of his back after a long practice, or the way he sighed, like he had no more breath to give, when those thumbs ventured up his nape and gently parted the thick softness of that dark, dark hair that fell over his nape. Ootori had thought it would be spiky, truly—pricking his fingers—but the soft strands had bent and tickled underneath his palm the first time he'd dared to touch, and he'd laughed, and ruffled Shishido's surprisingly downy hair until Shishido-san had squirmed under his hand and yelled at him.

With a smile on his face, more fierce, more real, than the words had been.

Shishido-san was graduating. He might have been going to the Hyotei university, but... it was a different campus, a different set of activities. A different set of people, and... wait for me, he wanted to say. I'll be there, give me a year, wait for me.

Strange, how he hadn't wanted to say it—hadn't needed to—when Shishido-san had graduated from middle school... Shishido'd just grinned at him, saluted him with the slim black roll of his diploma and the defiant cock of his head, and said, "Hey, see you Saturday on the street tennis courts—we've got a championship to keep!"

But not strange at all, when it had taken him longer than he'd realised to understand that the peculiar warmth in his chest, the flush that rode underneath his cross and up his cheeks, were from more than simple exertion of a match. He hadn't known. Not yet. Not then.

It had taken a Valentine's when Shishido had given him a blank music book, the sheets soft and fine as woven linen under his fingers, and bag of his favorite cinnamon candies—because 'it's not like those stupid fangirls know what kind of stuff you actually like, Choutarou, they're just gonna rot your teeth with chocolate anyway'—and a summer when an arm had draped casually around his shoulders, when they'd gone to watch fireworks together. Strong hands, callused thumbs, massaging the strings of tension from his nape before a violin competition, as if Shishido were tuning him like Ootori tuned his violin—even when Ootori protested, more weakly every time, that he didn't really use his neck when he played—and a fierce, fast smile that shook Ootori's hands all the way down to his fingertips when Shishido-san was feeling really, really good.

Small things. Was that all it took to fall for someone?

He couldn't say the moment it'd happened—perhaps the day when he'd realised that whenever he smiled at Shishido, it was real, not merely polite. Not just sometimes—all the time. Perhaps the day when he realised he liked the rain because Shishido-san always forgot his umbrella, and never so much as blinked, or asked, when he squeezed in beside Ootori, commenting mischievously on how this was probably the only time off the courts that he was glad Ootori was 'so damned tall,' because he made a great rain-block against the wet that slanted in sideways; he hadn't minded the rain, so much, after that, even when it left his slacks wet to the knees and teased the strands of hair around Shishido's face into curling with the humidity.

Perhaps when Shishido jumped out onto the dance floor with all that fierce pleasure roaring up into his eyes, then paused, and looked over his shoulder to say, "Coming, Choutarou?" like it was the most natural thing in the world, when who would have ever thought of dragging cool, polite, distant Ootori Choutarou onto a dance floor?

Wasn't it funny how being closer to Shishido, now—four years worth of closer, one step at a time into Ootori's heart, into friendship and best friends and... past, made him feel as if his soul was tearing itself into shreds to let him go?

They didn't need words sometimes—well, they didn't need them most of the time, it was part of the reason some of the team teased them about how long they looked into each others' eyes, but at the same time... there was a pleasure in saying them, even when they both understood already.

Ootori wasn't a fool enough to think that they both understood everything—both felt everything, this emptiness that started low in his chest and hollowed him out in small shavings of fear, because if he said, 'Wait, just wait for me, I'll be ready soon...' wouldn't Shishido just cock that impudent head at him and raise that eyebrow, and say, just a little scornfully, "What the Hell are you talking about, Choutarou?"

And wouldn't he be right to?

Ootori closed his eyes, and ran one frustrated hand through his own plain, rumpled waves of hair—realising only a moment belatedly that he was rumpling it even further—and wondered when he was finally going to be able to grow a spine. Because, if... if he didn't even have the courage to walk out onto the dance floor with his Shishido-san, his own doubles partner, when they'd stood on the courts together and done things so much harder than dancing, well... how could he ever have the courage to say anything that really mattered?

He'd tried to tell himself that that was different. He cared too much, perhaps, and for all that the rest of the Regulars always made envious noises about his height, well... he'd have traded it for the fire, the confidence, to step into the music like that. It was strange, really, because he knew how he could move on a court... so wasn't it funny that he couldn't dance, not well, not really? Not the way Shishido threw himself into the music with that slim runner's body and callused hands, and smiled... oh, Lord, that smile, all teeth and intense pleasure and hot blue eyes from over Emiko's shoulder when he skimmed a hand down the delicate, delicate line of her back, and for a brief instant, Ootori let himself wonder if that was the way Shishido-san smiled when he made love to someone. Shishido-san... he never did anything by halves, not any more, not when he could give something his all.

Shishido was dancing too close to her, he thought, but it tasted a little bit like jealousy.

The music swirled to a stop, and Ootori watched as Shishido sauntered back towards him, a grin on his face and a cock to his hip that couldn't be called anything but arrogant—but he left Emiko leaning, gasping and laughing and fanning herself with a hand, on the table next to the punch bowl. "Damn. Choutarou, you gonna stand there the whole night? Come on." The grin widened, just a touch naughty, and Ootori's blush started even before the words left Shishido-san's flushed, full lips. "S'not like there's a girl on that dance floor who wouldn't jump you if she had the chance."

"Shishido-san—" it had to be the way a wicked twinkle always curved the very edges of his eyes that made Ootori's pulse climb and push crimson onto his cheeks—or maybe the way that mouth looked kiss-damp, swollen, and maybe Shishido'd been kissing with some girl—some girl with long hair and a fierce, fast grin—in the heat of a dance floor moment? Sometimes kisses didn't matter, Shishido'd said, once. Sometimes, they're just for fun. "I can't..."

I can't pretend these things don't matter to me, even if it's just a dance.

The next tune rocked, rather than throbbed; it wasn't the heartbeat pounding of running, racing, sex—Ootori didn't fool himself often, and he didn't fool himself into thinking that Shishido-san didn't know what lovemaking was like, not when there had been so many, many girls who'd watched him out of the corners of their eyes, their smiles so knowing it hurt—but something that sounded like his violin felt in his hands: smooth and warm, something living, punctuated softly with a husky voice which sang in a language he couldn't understand. Slow, and so quiet that he could hear his heart beating in his ears, and perhaps Shishido-san's, still racing with the time he'd spent on the dance floor, beside him.

He closed his eyes.

Shishido just laughed, half a snort, and nudged him, and Ootori thought—perhaps he could feel the exhilarating heat of him, all that silk-bright energy, even through the layers of suit and shirt. Maybe he could draw away just a little of that warmth. "You can't dance? That what you were about to say? Don't be dumb, everyone can slow dance. And, Hell. You'll score lots of points when the other second-years find out that you made it with a senior. Go ask someone."

Ootori hated the smile that curled his lips—automatic, he always smiled whenever he refused anyone anything, and he always refused when he wanted something just a little too badly. But he forced himself to look into Shishido's suspicious gaze—blue and warm and heavy on his face, even in the half-light that dimmed the dance floor. "If you don't mind, I would rather not, Shishido-san." He'd never cared about things like 'points,' but... well, it was Shishido-san, and he wouldn't put it any other way, would he?

Shishido-san grinned back at him, and Ootori wondered for a moment if it was merely the dark that made his smile look genuine, and whether what burned in his chest was the feeling of reprieve—or disappointment that Shishido-san couldn't tell the difference between a real smile and one that was merely refusal.

Then Shishido nudged him with his hip, hard enough to push him a step sideways, stumbling with the pressure and warmth of him as well as the force of it. "It's really weird. You think you're doing anyone a favor holding back like that?"

It startled him enough that he turned, blinked—just enough to catch the way Shishido's wink made his heart feel like it would squeeze itself in two. "That fake smile of yours makes you look like such a nice kid, but I know what you're really like, you know."

For a moment—just a moment—Ootori felt the smile on his lips become real. "Shishido-san! That's not nice!"

"Yeah, well, I'm not the one pretending to be." But Shishido-san's grin looked as real as Ootori's own, and the smooth, cashmere-coated line of his hip rubbed too close and too gently to Ootori's to be anything but comfortable when he reached up and that conspiratorial arm was heavy around his shoulders, Shishido's hand always stronger than it looked like when he squeezed, before that warmth fell away. "I know you've got a crush on some senior, Choutarou. You think I dragged you to the prom to have you standing in the corner just watching all damn night?" Well, actually, he had rather thought that, and he liked watching Shishido-san dance, but... "Come on. Last chance, y'know?"

Did he... did he have to say it like that?

Did he have to be right about it?

The dance floor was no reprieve, not when it was full of swaying grace, and, more endearing still, a somewhat more awkward pair in the center—to all appearances, Jirou-san wasn't merely leaning on Atobe-buchou's shoulder, he'd dozed off on his feet... but Atobe was merely holding him, rocking them both. Smiling, like it didn't matter at all if everyone saw the school's idol practically cuddling the school's sleeping pet to his chest, cheek resting gently on the crown of Jirou's curls.

Well, in Atobe's mind—it probably didn't matter.

An instant later, Ootori blinked when Jirou turned his face just enough to nuzzle against Atobe's shoulder, and sighed so hugely and contentedly that his shoulders rose and dipped, and the slow thrum of Atobe's laughter undercut the music.

"Perhaps sometimes last chances are meant to be missed, Shishido-san," he heard himself murmur, just about in the instant he realised that his palms were slick with sweat, and the imagined feel of holding Shishido-san that close, feeling that fierce, laughing face pressed smiling to his shoulder. And maybe, just maybe, nipping him playfully through the cloth, because Shishido-san... he'd do things like that, wouldn't he?

Maybe it wouldn't be so very different from the rare times when Shishido-san had hugged him—so very rare, and the memory of them, the lemon shampoo smell of Shishido-san's hair, still made his breath catch in his throat—but...

Shishido bumped him again. "Choutarou, you're just full of it tonight." But the words resonated with something warmer than scorn, and he blinked to feel Shishido-san's elbow resting on his shoulder. "How's that follow?"

"Well... if one has missed so many chances already, that it's gotten to be the last one..." Standing under a sakura tree wet with a recent rain, and picking damp petals out of each other's hair, laughing, because neither of them wanted to go to tennis practice covered with white. Alone and together on a tennis court, long, long after nightfall, when the spotlights caught like fireflies in Shishido-san's hair and made his tanned arms shine. A small, half-empty bar, alternating between secretly thrilled and openly aghast at the fact that he'd allowed himself to be bullied along, that they both had beer in front of them and neither of them was twenty years old yet. The porch of Atobe's cottage, where Ootori could have stared up at a sky undrowned by city lights for hours and hours, the soft, soft strands of Shishido's hair tickling at the edges of his shorts when Shishido-san dozed off in his lap... "Does one really deserve that chance...?"

Everyone would know. Did he care about that? Yes, but... but... did that really matter?

Shishido-san would know, and the thought shook him underneath the sweltering-heavy familiar warmth of his tuxedo, melting away confidence even as it streaked a wet, too-hot tongue of sweat down the back of his neck.

There was very little that Ootori had ever been truly afraid of in his life—it simply wasn't in him to be so frightened of something, whether or not he could understand it—so perhaps it was more or less than fear. Perhaps he was merely afraid because wanting something so very badly did not come any more naturally to him than cowardice did.

The music ended on a quiet, bittersweet chord, a glissando that mocked the way his heart stuttered, once, and Ootori closed his eyes as the chance slipped through his sweaty fingers and the empty space where he could have sworn he'd had a spine, once upon a time.

And Shishido, beside him, snorted, his hand rough on Ootori's shoulder when he gave him a gentle, playful shove, hard enough to push him off-balance. The lights flickered on around them, and groans filled the air of the hotel ballroom, but... that familiar, cocky voice went deeper than that, resonant, and his Shishido-san, who was never still, was still now—energy contained, with his tie just a little askew, because he'd refused to wear a bow-tie. "You kidding me? People only ever really go for something when they think they're gonna lose it. That's what last chances are for."

The words came more easily than he'd ever thought they could, when his eyes slipped downwards to catch Shishido-san's gaze, blue and dark and drowning in... understanding.

"Wait for me, Shishido-san?" he whispered.

He thought, for a moment, that Shishido hadn't heard him. Gods, it had sounded strange echoing in his own ears—even weirder than it had sounded in his head, soft and breathy and so needy that Ootori almost cringed at it. Shishido-san was looking at him so strangely—he'd heard, and he hadn't understood, but how could he? Ootori looked away, "Ah—no, it's—I didn't—it's not the way it..."

But he'd meant the words, just as they'd sounded, and it felt too much like a lie, his lips clamping shut on the falsehood, to say that he hadn't. No excuses. Not now, not when it felt too much like goodbye, when his Shishido-san, his Shishido-san, had danced his last dance at his own prom, bumping and grinding with a girl named Emiko.

Ootori's eyes squeezed shut, miserably, squeezed as tight as his hands flinching into fists—why couldn't he just have... have...

A hand wrapped around his wrist and pulled it upwards, surprisingly strong for how small Shishido-san's hands were compared to his... and he felt something strange, much too soft, brushing against his knuckles.

His eyes snapped open, hand flexing and jerking straight when he realised what that was.

His Shishido-san was... he was grinning when he lowered Ootori's tingling hand from his lips—just enough that he could cock his head over the edge of it. "Geez. What the Hell took you so damned long, Choutarou?"

He was trying to close his mouth—truly he was—but it wasn't working very well. Not when there wasn't even the shadow and soft lilting music to conceal what Shishido had done, and the coos that filled the air from the grinning people around them pushed heat onto his cheeks, soft and heady as the way his heart felt like it was learning how to dance. "What—you—Shishido-san, you—"

Those shoulders he'd had his hands pressed into, held onto, so many times, rose, fell—casual, as if nothing had changed, except his hand was still tucked into Shishido-san's coarse one, fingers woven together just so. And Shishido-san—his palm was sweaty, too. "Wasn't sure," he grinned, almost sheepishly. "Didn't wanna freak you out. Hell, didn't even know you liked... well, you know. You're damned hard to read sometimes, Choutarou."

"But... why..." his fingers were tingling again, when Shishido squeezed them, gently, and he felt their calluses slide against each other. "Then..."

The hand in his was hard, and callused, but Shishido-san had the softest mouth, he'd often thought—especially when he smiled just that way, his grin fading until it lingered like a little secret at the corners of his mouth, echoing at the corners of his eyes. "'Cause you were so damned cute, standing there and and squirming and maybe blushing a bit... hey, Choutarou, I guess I've never told you how cute you look when you blush, huh."

Ootori felt the blood rising into his cheeks like he was drunk on alcohol, or the dancing he hadn't done, or perhaps like someone had dipped him into the warm end of the rainbow. "I—Shishido-san, I—why—but—"

But then the hand on his cheek, tracing a fingertip just down his cheekbones—clamped his voice in his throat, hard, when Shishido grinned at him and murmured, "Yeah, see? Cute. Just like that, Choutarou," and he wondered if it was perhaps possible to learn how to speak with his eyes. "Why, huh? Hell, no-one knows better than me that if you've got the chance—you take it, right? When'd you become such a fatalist?"

When I wanted so badly to pull you away from those girls on the dance floor, except I couldn't give you the dance that you wanted—even if I wanted to. When I realised what I felt for you, Shishido-san, and realised that I wasn't ready for the possibility that you might feel the same. Maybe... maybe I'm still not, but...

But they didn't say words that they didn't need to say, and the hand that Shishido had had on his cheek had drifted downwards to squeeze his shoulder, gently. "Hey. Take your time. S'okay, I'll wait."

Oh, the way that made him feel. Oh.

Tentatively, Ootori raised his own to place it over Shishido's—and felt something inside him bloom in the hot, sticky air like lilies opening when Shishido grinned with approval. "What would you have done..." Ootori swallowed, once, at the feel of fingers moving under his—shifting, so their fingers twined, just a little, and Shishido-san's fingers were just a little shorter than his, but he could feel the strength of them underneath that coarse skin when he squeezed, "...if I hadn't said anything, Shishido-san?"

But the grin only widened, confidence and blue and fierce and fast, and maybe Shishido was still dancing inside, because the look on his face had been just a little like that when he'd been out there—like he was making love, like he wasn't ever going to stop, not until... not until his partner did. And it hadn't then, but... it pulled, tight, low in his stomach, when Shishido smiled, and Ootori suddenly wondered if there weren't words underneath the ones his partner said—ones that moved those full, smiling lips over his palms and wrapped them over the tips of his fingers. It might have been simply his imagination—but he'd never had mere imagination make him tingle like that before... "Shown up at your prom next year. I'm going to anyway, y'know. You still owe me a last dance."

He would have laughed, a little—because the idea of Shishido, a university student, bullying his way past the usher at the door was just so... so right. But rather than laughter—Ootori had to swallow again to get the words that he wanted to say out, once, twice—lilting, perhaps just a little higher than he'd intended—but they came. "A slow dance? Maybe?"

Shishido chuckled, low in his throat as a promise, and Ootori blinked when his doubles partner dragged their hands from his shoulder—and pressed their palms together, holding hands, and he'd never truly seen the appeal of it—not really, not really, but it felt as right as his bow between his fingertips—right as music after a long, long practice, right as... right as dancing with the right person, perhaps?

Or, just maybe... making love with the right person?

Shishido grinned up at him, and nodded approval. "Now you're getting the idea."

No, they didn't need words—not all the time.

But... but sometimes, Ootori thought—it just felt good to say them.

The End

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