Notes: The ending scene was slightly inspired by the Sakura Bromide, but the whole story was just me wanting to poke fun at Shishido's hat and what it sort of symbolizes to the two of them. It hasn't been through a beta so I apologise for any glaring errors.
And a Happy Belated Birthday to Shishido!
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis and all of its characters belong to Konomi.
Shishido pulled his tennis shirt over his head, causing his baseball cap to fall to the floor with a thunk. He always forgot to take it off after practice now-a-days because he kept forgetting he was wearing it. In the three years since he'd gotten it, it had become as much of him as the cross necklace was to Ohtori.
Tossing his sweaty shirt into his bag, he turned around to pick up his hat only to see that it wasn't there. "Choutarou." He said knowingly, standing upright and seeing his long time doubles partner sitting on the nearby bench, long fingers holding the hat.
"Hmm?" Ohtori said as he spun the hat around in his hands, looking at it closely as if searching for something.
"Thanks for picking it up." Shishido said with a soft smile even though it bothered him when his teammate was like this. Ohtori's eyes would become distant and he couldn't always tell what he was thinking. But he trusted Ohtori to eventually tell him, or at least give him back his hat. He grabbed his clean shirt out of his locker and waited for Ohtori to say something further.
"You've had it a really long time." Shishido looked up from his buttons, Ohtori's tennis and violin calloused hands were holding the hat by its frayed brim as a long finger gently ran across a small track of stitches. Shishido had sworn loudly when his hat had gotten ripped on a loose screw in his locker and later painstakingly repaired it to the best of his abilities. Which Ohtori would laughingly tease, weren't that great.
"As long as we've been partners." Shishido said, "Three years, right?" Time sure had gone by quickly. In a few months, he'd be graduating from high school and he couldn't quite remember where all that time, from getting beaten up by Ohtori's serves to now, had gone.
"Not quite Shishido-san," Ohtori said, picking at some of the fringe on the brim of the cap now. "There was the year you were here and I was still in jr. high."
Shishido blinked at Ohtori before continuing to do up his buttons, "I don't count that. We were still partners even if we couldn't play in school matches together." They had spent most of their free time together keeping up their combination and challenging numerous players on the court. There was no way Shishido couldn't count that year, and was surprised that Ohtori wouldn't want to.
"You never were one for following the norm." He said with a chuckle, but the laugh didn't reach his eyes and Shishido was very tempted to demand to know what was bothering his partner, but Shishido thought that might be a bit extreme, for now anyway, besides he had his tie to find.
Half inside his locker looking for his tie, he barely heard what Ohtori was saying and wondered if he had heard right, "My hat's juvenile?" He didn't really see how, He still saw Sanada wearing his hat, and that man would never be mistaken for being juvenile. Occasionally dense, and whipped by his captain, yes - Juvenile, hell no.
"Well maybe not now Shishido-san," Ohtori explained with a soft smile, "But when you're at university, I'm sure wearing your old hat would seem a bit silly. Like you're trying to cling onto your past or something…" He drifted off, eyes downcast and staring at the hat in question.
It always made Shishido antsy when his partner was doubtful of himself, he knew Ohtori was no pushover and seeing him like that bugged him. Why was he so obsessed with his hat. "Maybe so, but I wouldn't want people thinking I've gotten too serious." Shishido said in rebuttal, slipping his tie around his neck and under his collar. "Besides, I'm quite fond of my high school memories. What's wrong with revisiting them. Nobody said I had to leave everything behind just because I'm moving on." Stupid people thinking someone can't move forward unless they've left the past behind. Didn't they know it was the past that made and shaped people.
"Ah, I guess you're right. It wouldn't be the hat that's juvenile but the person wearing it." Ohtori replied, having a bit of the usual challenging gleam back in his eyes, but it still seemed shadowed by something else to Shishido.
Finishing off the tie, he loosened it slightly and reached for his shoes, sneaking a look at his partner before disappearing behind his locker door again. "Are you saying I'm juvenile because I refuse to give up my hat?" He questioned around the locker before standing with a pair of shoes in his hand.
"No. I'm just saying you really love this hat, even though it's long since served its purpose." Ohtori set the hat down beside him, almost as if it was too painful to hold it any longer and once again Shishido restrained from beating the answers out of Ohtori. Besides, throwing his shoes at the junior wouldn't help him get dressed in the end anyway. "I mean, you've sort of out grown it." His partner was looking right at him now, and he felt a bit put on the spot. When had this become the inquisition of the Hat.
Shishido sat down on the bench beside Ohtori to put his shoes on, looking over at his friend at his next question. "Out grown it?" How did someone out grow a hat, especially when it still fit his head perfectly?
He watched as Ohtori fidgeted, picking up the hat and looking down at it, and Shishido had to wonder if he was fighting off a blush. "Well, you got it because of your hair." Nobody was ever going to deny that the hair cutting had been planned, but it didn't mean that he wanted to walk around with a bad hair cut for rest of the tennis season. But it hadn't taken that long for it to grow out and start looking acceptable, and by then, the hat had just become a part of his game. As much as Ohtori had.
"What? It doesn't look good with my hair like this?" Shishido ran a hand through his hair that now reached his shoulders, wondering if it did look that bad when he wore his hat backwards if it was bringing up concern from Ohtori.
"No, no, it's not that." Ohtori said, his hand rising up off his lap before falling back down on it, as if he was tempted to touch the longer chestnut locks before remembering it wasn't proper. "But now that your hair's grown out again, don't you want to show it off? Go back to how it was, how you were?" Ohtori knew that the cutting off of his hair had been symbolic of a new start for him, but the growing back of his hair hadn't meant the renewal of his old self. He just liked having long hair. And liked when certain people forgot manners and ran calloused fingers through it.
"No way, the old me isn't coming back, I've evolved to far for that. Besides, I have too much on the line now to act like I did back then. Besides, the hat is good for keeping the longer hair out of my face, it's a pain getting it all to stay back in a clip still." He bent over to tie his shoe and muttered a bit as his hair slipped into his face, exactly why he liked his hat when he played tennis. It was a nice defence against getting an eye or mouthful of his own hair.
"I like the you, you are now, Shishido-san" Ohtori said softly, fingering worn blue material once again, "And you make a lot of good points. I'm sure it means a lot to the hat that you have so much dedication to it." Shishido looked up from tying his other shoe at the one, finally starting to clue in that this whole thing probably hadn't been about the hat at all. "But one has to wonder if it wouldn't be easier to get a new hat." Ohtori spun the hat on his finger before holding it and running fingers along a worn out area. "I mean, sure this hat is worn in but it will probably need a lot of maintenance and up keep in the future. Surely a new hat would be easier." With one last look at the hat, Ohtori handed it over to Shishido who was finally done getting changed.
Shishido carefully took the hat from Ohtori, looking at the old blue thing like it was his first time seeing it. Yes, there was some fraying, a few worn out spots, some dirt marks that wouldn't come clean and a tear that was lovingly stitched, but to Shishido he only saw the memories that came with the hat, to him it looked perfect. "Nope. I like this hat, it's the imperfections that make it special to me."
He stood and slung his bag up on his shoulder, closing his locker. "No matter how old it gets, I think I'll keep it around, even if I have to spend a thousand hours keeping it together." He grinned up at his partner and placed the hat on his head. "Come on Choutarou, enough of this, let's go get some food, I'm starved." And with that he walked out of the clubroom, a chuckling and slightly embarrassed Ohtori following beside him.