Before you start reading: this is a sequel of sorts to "Ki wo Mite." If you read this before you read that, you will be spoiled!


Neko ni Koban (Gold Before Cats)


It wasn't so much that Shishido hated asking for help.

Oh, he knew he was a dumbass about a lot of things, but he'd had a doubles partner for three years, on and off and on again. The last time he'd really held back on getting help when he needed it, he'd found himself under the threat of suspension from the tennis team for his lousy chemistry grades. By that time, Ootori had been around to murmur, gently "Shishido-san, wasn't this the whole reason you cut your hair in the first place?"

He was, Shishido often thought with a smile, just about the only person alive who could say something like that without getting a fist in the nose. But then, that was probably because Ootori Choutarou was the only one who could say such a thing smilingly, softly—and with a look in his quiet brown eyes that Shishido had dubbed the 'So help you God' look. And he'd told his partner as much.

The synchronicity hadn't kicked in—Ootori had just blinked at him, once or twice, and the look had thankfully drifted away. Maybe Ootori had thought that he meant that God was gentle and merciful, but helped those who helped themselves, or something Christiany like that. It was plausible--Ootori was kind of Christian, and Shishido didn't think that all of its precepts were wacky. Or maybe he'd thought that Shishido had meant to say 'So help me God."

For once, Shishido was kind of glad he wasn't all that great with words. He sure wasn't going to be the one to inform his partner that when Ootori Choutarou gave Shishido that look, he looked very much like he was saying, "If you don't do something about this, I will not speak to you for a week. You will only wish that you were kneeling in front of Kantoku again, so help you God."

With a sweet, forgiving smile. It was terrifying.

Right. Ootori. Shishido heaved a sigh.

It wasn't so much that he hated asking for help, necessarily… but somehow, asking for help from Atobe always felt like he was digging his own hole to Hell. Voluntarily. And aiming for his personal little circle of The Hot Place, while he was at it. If there had been anyone else… but his friends outside the club were normal. Jirou wasn't coherent unless he wanted to be, and Mukahi and Oshitari were a big fat no. Taki… he didn't know if his classmate still held a grudge, but Shishido never thought it was too smart, turning your back to someone you'd screwed over. He knew what he'd have done, in Taki's place.

And even if he wanted to talk to anyone else in the club… most of the upperclassmen were assholes who saw him as competition, Kabaji just didn't talk, and as far as anyone knew, Hiyoshi was straight. (Yeah. Because that had worked out really well for Shishido, right? He'd have warned the gekokujou mushroom, if he'd thought that it was going to do him any good.)

Atobe, though? Yeah, he was insanely smart. Yeah, he was pretty openly gay. And yeah, he gave really good advice, when he felt like it, and he was still in the clubroom, probably blow-drying his hair or something like that, anyhow. Jirou was asleep in the referee's chair near court A, so Shishido wasn't likely to walk in on anything gross, and he thought that after today's practice, Atobe was likely to even be in a good mood. After a lot of dancing around on the part of their coach, the bastard had finally gotten his way and come up against this year's high school captain—and flattened the senior into the ground.

Humiliating people always got Atobe Keigo in a good mood.

That was kind of the problem—Atobe also had enough embarrassing stories on Shishido from their childhood that he could probably eat out on them for weeks, if he ever started leaking them to Mukahi and Oshitari… and the man was worse than an elephant when it came to never, ever, ever forgetting. There was a downside to Atobe having those crazy brains, and Shishido didn't need to give him any more ammunition.

And if he just thought about this for a little longer, he'd figure it out on his own, right? Other people, he was sure, had worked this whole thing out before—without needing to ask for the advice of the single most arrogant being on the Eastern half of the globe.



Okay, maybe not before he managed to screw things up completely. Damn it. The things he did for the sake of his doubles partnership…

"Hey, Atobe?" he poked his head through the clubroom doorway, and stopped his hands from twisting his cap between his fingers. Cap, in bag—hands, in pockets. He was not nervous about this, damn it all. "Mind if I ask you something?"

"It must be serious indeed you have actually developed a case of manners," their former captain observed, glancing up from where he looked like he was taking every last item out from his racquet bag. Shishido shrugged—he normally didn't bother being polite to Atobe. What would have been the point? "By all means."

Shishido glanced nervously at Atobe's personal big friendly giant—the big fellow never really said much of anything, and he seemed like a good sort, but you never knew. "Um, Kabaji… hey, I don't mind if you stay," he figured that considering Atobe and his whacked-out lifestyle, there really wasn't a lot that could possibly shock the guy, "But none of this leaves the room, okay?"

He thought that Kabaji, for a moment, actually looked sort of startled, in an unmoving and expressionless kind of way. Shishido figured that maybe when most people talked to Atobe alone, they managed to forget that Kabaji was there. How, he wasn't really sure. It was true that the underclassman was very quiet, but if you could ignore a big brown jersey-wearing wall in the middle of the locker room, then you probably had pretty damned big problems.

After a moment, though, Kabaji dipped his head once, replied, "Usu," and started lumbering his slow, leisurely way towards the showers.

Shishido blinked at the large, retreating back. Huh. Kabaji had sensitivity. Who knew.

Well, he wasn't sure if that made it easier, or harder—because now Atobe was actually looking at him like he was seeing him. Atobe couldn't stare all the way into him the way Choutarou did—luckily; if he'd actually been able to, by the time Atobe made captain Shishido would have laps to run until the end of time—but he did have that Insight expression hanging about him, and an eyebrow raised with curiosity.

He'd asked for this—now he just had to suck it up and get it over with. "Okay. How'd you know…" this conversation could go really wrong, really fast. Maybe if he said it quickly enough… no. No, this really was serious. "…How'd you know you were gay?"

"Aahn? How unexpected." Atobe… didn't so much as bat a single long eyelash. And didn't so much as pretend that he was going to. Yeah. Unexpected, my big fat ass. "Why do you ask? I was led to believe—by you, I might add—that you were decidedly… straight, Shishido."

To his credit, Atobe wasn't smirking… or at least, the bastard wasn't smirking more than usual. That really didn't say much, but at least he wasn't on the floor laughing.

Except that there was a little tic flickering at the corner of one of those tilted, vivid eyes, and a curl to the bottom of that smooth mouth—that made it look like Perfect Straight-Faced Atobe was actually biting his lip to keep from snickering his damned fool head off. Atobe wasn't the only one in the room who could see what old friends were up to, no matter what their former buchou-sama thought..

"I'm straight enough to know that I don't want to be screwing around with you, that's for sure," Shishido shot back, automatically—before he scratched the back of his head, sharply, grabbing onto the short, wet strands and tugging hard. Damn it—he'd known Atobe was going to be annoying, but nope, wordbashing with him was not what he'd come here to do. "Ah, fuck. No, I'm serious, Atobe. How'd you know?"

Atobe shrugged one shoulder—long and elegant, but he always was. "I always knew, Shishido. There was really no question about it." He glanced up, and met Shishido's eyes for a brief moment—yes, that was his serious look, thank God—before reaching over to start putting away small, colour-coded rolls of grip tape. Why the colour coding… but… no, with Atobe, it was better not to ask. "I will probably marry, eventually—it is a much more practical way to start a family—but girls cling, and are not very useful."

Shishido would have stared, if it hadn't been such a totally, well, Atobe thing to say. "So, basically…" he began, slowly, "You're saying that you're gay by default." Trust him to put the entire mess that was heterosexual relationships, marriage, and child-rearing in terms of practicality. And utility. There'd been nothing joking or smug about it—he'd been perfectly sincere, and just… matter-of-fact; it was kind of sad, in a twisted way. He wondered, idly, what the Atobe Fanclub girls would think of their idol saying that.

Probably all go rushing to his side to comfort him, and prove to him by hanging off his arm that girls weren't clingy. Stupid fangirls. If they were Atobe's only association with the double-X chromosome as a whole, it was no wonder he thought girls weren't useful.

Their resident font of ego even had the nerve to look insulted. "Of course not. I don't do anything by default." Shishido rolled his eyes. No, of course he didn't. "I don't find girls interesting, or useful, because I am what I am." Gay. Yeah. He'd have found it really funny that the guy couldn't say the words, if he hadn't had such a problem saying them himself. "It's not very complicated, Shishido."

Maybe not, but that wasn't terribly helpful to him—Shishido liked girls just fine. "So… you just knew? All along?" There had to be something, some defining moment… didn't there? Maybe it didn't have to be an ugly pink love hotel room, and kneeling over his doubles partner and looking down to realise that they were both breathing hard, and that Choutarou had eloquent eyes and the nicest mouth he'd ever seen… but… something.

Atobe picked up a racquet and tested its tension; the soft creak of it filled the room. Then the next. Then the next. How many racquets did he need, anyway? "Mmm. I believe that's what I said."

Which kind of made sense—his old friend was batshit crazy sometimes, but he was always consistent. Except… if Atobe had always known that he was gay, that just put a whole new, very weird spin on the events in middle school. "Wait a minute." Shishido wasn't sure whether to lean forward on the bench so he could lower his voice, or start edging away. "So you knew already, when we…?"

He couldn't remember whose idea the kissing had been—but it didn't seem like the kind of thing that he'd have come up with himself. On the other hand, even though Atobe could be really, really scarily perceptive and managing sometimes, he just wasn't subtle enough to be really manipulative…

Oh, wait. They'd already met Jirou, by then. Oh, freak. Yikes.

Atobe started arranging a sheaf of papers; Shishido would have yelled at him to stop it and look at him when he was talking to him… but he wasn't really all that sure he wanted Atobe to look at him. "Of course. Why are you making me repeat myself?"

No, there was no 'of course' about it, damn it. Shishido shuddered—it was one thing for two guys who didn't know to give something like that a try; Atobe actually already knowing he was gay, and then… ugh. Now he wanted a trip to the dentist for a good, thorough cleaning. "Then why did you…"

Atobe shrugged, already looking bored with the topic of conversation as he started winding extra sneaker laces around his fingers. No doubt he had a small country to manage, or his closet to rearrange, or Jirou to… ew. Gay, not gay, he didn't know, but Shishido knew he still didn't want to think about his teammates having sex. "Because you didn't know."

"But then I—" Shishido grimaced. Hell, that whole kissing-Atobe thing had been exactly what had made him decide that he was straight—it wasn't that it'd been bad, necessarily, but it'd been weird, and awkward, and even though Atobe's mouth had tasted like expensive mints, Shishido'd felt like he needed to brush his teeth afterwards. It wasn't that Atobe was a bad kisser or anything—God forbid—but the experience had been like a cafeteria meal: not too bad, not too good, but with a weird aftertaste. "I thought—no, I knew—"

He had. He had known. Until the moment when kissing Ootori had made him feel like he really, really wanted seconds.

"Ah?" This time, Atobe smiled his slow, amused smile into his tennis bag, gently tucking away a pair of wrist warmers that Shishido knew for a fact cost more than his own sneakers. "That, Shishido, was entirely your own doing, and your own prerogative."

"Dammit," he snarled, throwing up both his hands, "Can you just stop finishing my sentences for a second?! It's really creepy!" It really annoyed him that his first thought was "Choutarou's the only one who's allowed to do that!" It annoyed him even more that he'd had to think twice before he actually said it.

"Ah, really?" That made both of Atobe's eyebrows rise into sharp demon-points, and he glanced up from his slowly filling bag. Atobe's eyes were blue, like Shishido's own—but the wild, clear blue of them seemed a little dangerous when Atobe was smiling like that. It was never, ever a good idea to amuse Atobe. "Ootori-kun does it constantly, and it doesn't seem to bother you."

"Ohforcryingoutloud. You my doubles partner now? Yeah? No, didn't think so," Shishido spat. Atobe was an old friend. Atobe, for all his sporfled farkerness, was actually a good friend, if you could get past… well… just about everything. Shishido was not allowed to kill friends. Not even for reading his mind.

He winced, and leaned back a little onto his hands. Thinking about Ootori brought him right back to kissing Ootori, which brought him right back to… his annoyance running out of him in lieu of sheer horror. "Uh… hey." Shishido sometimes wished he could just stay mad, all the time—it kept him from thinking too much. "You're not… you know, attracted to me, or anything, right?"

He wasn't sure if he was relieved or insulted when Atobe stared at him—then leaned his head back against the lockers and started laughing a deep, hearty belly laugh, not his smug little sniff of a chuckle.

No, that was relief. Definitely relief. Shishido heaved a breath that he hadn't realised he'd been holding. Oh, yeah, his ego could definitely take Atobe not being attracted to him—he wasn't sure his brain could've taken it if Atobe actually had been. "What?" he demanded—but even he had to admit, the thought of it was pretty funny, now that the threat of it was gone. "It's a valid question, isn't it?"

He had to admit, it was pretty insulting that Atobe went on laughing for long enough that he had to wipe a tear away from his eyes before he could talk again. But at least he'd stopped arranging his tennis stuff. "You are nowhere near striking enough for my discriminating tastes," he even said it with a hint of pity. Shishido was sure he'd have been offended on any other day—but he'd seen where Atobe's so-called 'discriminating' tastes ran, and he'd never once wanted to be cute, blonde, or floppy. "And what would you do if I were, Shishido, ahhh?"

Oh, that was an easy one. If Atobe had said it with even a hint of the smooth sliding drawl—the one that he used when talking to someone he wanted something out of—there would definitely have been trouble. "I'd knock you on your ass," he nodded, promptly. Then he'd get the Hell out of Tokyo. Maybe out of the country. Even Atobe's influence couldn't go that far… right?

Atobe rolled his eyes and heaved his familiar exasperated sigh. "Your bravado is very predictable, Shishido. You say that as if you imagined you even could."

Atobe stopped smiling when Shishido grinned, and slapped his right fist gently into his left palm. It made a very satisfying whipcrack smack, echoing through the clubroom. "Atobe, I know I could."

Their first and last actual fight hadn't lasted long—they'd been thirteen, after all. A couple of minutes after they'd started yelling about something Shishido didn't remember anymore, he'd bloodied Atobe's lip with a sharp right. And the weak little snap cross that Atobe had tossed into his shoulder had had Shishido on the floor… laughing fit to bust an organ, and with Atobe surreptitiously trying not to show that he was rubbing his wrist.

Despite the wicked tennis swing, for all that strength and power and speed, Atobe just didn't know how to throw a proper punch.

It just went to show, Shishido thought, that there actually were things that you got out of a perfectly normal upbringing that money just didn't buy.

Yeah, maybe being brought up normal hadn't exactly given him the background to deal with having a hard-on for his doubles partner… but to this day, all he had to do was think about the look that'd been on Atobe's face at that moment to make even the suckiest day start looking up.

Then again, considering how much Atobe hated to lose, Shishido was damned willing to believe that the heir to the Atobe fortune had promptly gone out and hired Bruce Lee's baby brother, or something.

Ahhh, I bet I could still take him.

But what the Hell did it mean that he knew, objectively, that Atobe was a pretty damned good-looking guy, but Shishido was still thinking about how it'd feel to deck him when he got uppity? Okay, not really, but… he really didn't have any desire to do anything with Atobe but play tennis, and maybe a study group now and again.

Now that he really thought about it, Ootori was just about the only guy he'd ever had this kind of weird, whacked, out-there thoughts about… and just remembering that kiss had almost gotten him clocked by a stray tennis ball right in the middle of training.

Four days in a row.

He winced, and just barely stopped himself from rubbing the one bruise on his hip that hadn't been an 'almost.'

"You like girls, Shishido—correct?"

Atobe's tone of voice was just brimming with 'I can't even imagine why.' Some people transitioned their way out of topics when they didn't like where something was going—Atobe 'put them on extinction,' as Ootori called it. Shishido had to smile—though, to be honest, he wasn't sure if that was because of Atobe's predictability, or just how awed Ootori had looked at their then-captain's ability to ignore what didn't suit him. "Well, sure."

He did, actually—there was something soft and sweet about them. It was different from how guys could be sweet, but some girls were worth the time and the hassle. Dating them had its ups and downs, but getting brought homemade bentou boxes for lunch was a really big up.

The slow, smug smile was back, in full force. "Are you attracted to every girl that you just happen to be friends with?"

"Hell, no." Shishido narrowed his eyes. Oh, that was where Atobe was going with this. "But I definitely don't go around kissing every girl I happen to be friends with, either, so don't you even start."

Atobe waved a careless hand, and rolled his eyes; he sounded amazingly long-suffering for a guy who had more money than most small countries. "It is so like you to be ungrateful for the favours I do you, Shishido."

Shishido wasn't sure what grated more—the lofty words, or the rather fondly condescending tone of voice.

Yeah, well, if any more of those favours are Jirou's little suggestions, then I'll pass, thanks.

But he wasn't going to say that: there was no way he was going to give anyone any more fine ideas.

He ran a frustrated hand through his still-damp hair—it always looked a mess right out of the shower, all spikes. Whereas Atobe looked like he'd never even stepped on a court at all—life, in a lot of ways, wasn't fair. Case in point being the fact that it seemed he really had expected Atobe to have some kind of answer for him, somehow. "You'd be doing me a lot more favours if you could just cut the crap and give it to me straight, you know."

"Shishido…" this time, Atobe did actually look genuinely insulted. "It is entirely beneath me to mislead you."

Oh, Hell. He'd been afraid of that.

"Yeah. Well." Shishido sighed, and pushed himself off the bench. It figured. It just figured. "Thanks anyhow."

If Atobe didn't know—and if you could cut through all the pussying around, that was effectively what Atobe was saying, that he didn't know how he'd figured out that he was gay—then what the Hell was he doing having this incredibly awkward conversation in the Hyoutei clubroom? There were better things he could be doing. Like his homework. Or washing dishes. Or maybe getting hit on the head by a falling anvil.

Atobe slanted him an pleased, sideward look. "You're very welcome, Shishido. I must say, though, if previous experience is any judge, you need practice."

Oh, gross. "Not for that, you moron!" but Atobe was smiling that know-it-all smile, and Shishido rolled his eyes. "Yeah, whatever. That's funny, ha ha. Anyway. Later, Atobe."

But he'd just picked up his tennis bag and started walking for the door when Atobe's voice sounded behind him, smooth and drawled, casual with arrogance. And certainty.

"Being gay, or being straight, is not about being, you idiot," he sounded amused—Atobe always sounded amused at the plebes—but, well… he sounded like he understood. "It is about who you are being them with. You can be gay—or bi, or straight, or absolutely confused, however you like—on your own… but there isn't much point in that, is there?"

Shishido sat down again on the end of the bench. Hard. Oh. Right. This was why he'd thought coming to talk to Atobe might be a good idea. He swung his legs over and glanced over his shoulder; Atobe's racquet bag was looking really, really well-organised.

The bastard could be a nice guy, when it suited him to.

Atobe caught him looking—and grinned. "Unless, of course, you happen to be exceptionally fond of your hand."

This time, Shishido threw a nearby crumpled jersey at him. "Oh, frickin' yuck, Atobe!" Atobe plucked it out of the air, glanced at the label, and dropped it casually into the open front of Jirou's locker. "You've been spending too much time around Oshitari."

So what if that little kiss with Ootori had led to a couple of, uh, weird dreams? Shishido couldn't remember the details of them, but maybe that was his psyche giving him a break, for once. He had to admit—noticing the way Ootori moved wasn't new. He was used to that: it was something doubles partners did. Noticing how Ootori moved, and having dreams about there being way, way too much moving? Yeah, not so much. There were going to be no sleepovers at anyone's house until he figured this whole thing out.

Shishido grabbed his own hair again and yanked. Hard. There was also going to be no thinking about that kiss, or about those dreams, anywhere he was wearing shorts. "So what you're saying… if you're attracted to a guy, it doesn't fucking matter if you're gay or not?"

That… that made… it was crazy. Of course it mattered. But in some weird, epiphany kind of way… it made total sense.

Atobe liked guys, and he wasn't exactly a normal everyday dude himself, but Shishido wasn't sure that he'd have been any different if he actually had been straight. Mukahi was a princess, and Jirou was just too Jirou for comparison to anyone, but Oshitari could've maybe passed, if he'd wanted to. And since when had Shishido Ryou ever given a damn about what names anyone labelled him with, anyway—as long as they were true? If he cared about being gay, then that was his business—but what he did with it, or… who… (the thought made him swallow harder than he'd thought it would) he did it with… well, that was up to him. It wasn't like anyone was going to twist his arm and make him buy into any of the stereotypes.

Sure, he'd kissed his partner. Sure, he'd liked it. Big frickin' deal—that didn't mean that anything had to change.

Unless Shishido wanted them to. And… Ootori wanted them to. That was the whole point—it had to go both ways.

Okay, yeah, that right there was scary enough to make him sweat cold.

The smile that his friend aimed back at him would probably have been proud if it hadn't been so totally patronizing. "Something like." If Atobe tried to pat him on the shoulder, he really was going to lose one of those long fingers. "Crudely put, but yes."

"Why couldn't you just have said that from the beginning?" he growled.

"That wasn't what you asked," Atobe pointed out, with a small shrug of his shoulders. "In any case, that was what I said—it did not occur to me that you lacked the intelligence to figure it out until you looked to be walking out the door. Really, Shishido. Heterosexuality is inferior in many ways, but in this respect, it isn't any different." Well, but being straight was normal, if you weren't on a varsity tennis team—you didn't put a label on it, it just… was. How was Shishido supposed to know how the rules worked in gaydom?

And if Atobe thought that he was going to just let that 'lack of intelligence' comment slide… there were definitely going to be dead shrimp in those expensive blue Fila sneakers, tomorrow.

"However," Atobe ran a hand through his hair, and rolled his shoulders, one after another. Shishido scowled—the 'you make me tired' subtext wasn't even subtext, it was practically dubbing. "You are only confusing your doubles partner by avoiding the topic, and anything even approaching it, whenever he tries to bring it up."

Shishido sighed, and the annoyance tipped out of him when he turned away. Hell, he knew that much; he couldn't blame the team's resident bastard for that. With all the excuses he'd made in the past few days, Ootori was starting to look at him like he was something that'd crawled out of the bio lab. It was worse than 'so help you God'—it didn't even come with a smile.

But then Shishido almost dropped his racquet bag onto his foot.

He… hadn't said anything about Ootori.

When he turned, there was a lingering smile on Atobe's face—a real one. "He's a very attractive boy," Atobe added, contemplatively. "You could do far worse. What in the world he could possibly want with you, though…"

"How'd you know I was talking about Choutarou?" Shishido sputtered. "And wait, how'd you know—"

Atobe cut him off with a casual little flick of his wrist, and a small, almost disappointed shake of his head. "Because I am Atobe Keigo, Shishido." He raised a single eyebrow, and chuckled, softly. "Did you really think I wouldn't know?"

Shishido shuddered. Well… he'd hoped, anyway. Maybe he'd hold off on the shrimp.

Not that he thought that Atobe would spill it to anyone, or anything, but… damn. His partner was probably a pretty good guess, yeah, considering the way doubles teams went, but that hadn't been a guess—Atobe had known.

That Insight junk went from creepy to scary, sometimes.

This was one of those days when Shishido was kind of glad that Atobe was on their side. And that he'd managed to bite down hard on the growl that had, to his own surprise, roared to his lips when he'd heard that Atobe had been looking at Choutarou… who, while he wasn't floppy, was pretty damned cute, and the soft, silvery hair could be considered blonde, by some people…

He wasn't sure he wanted to think what could happen to his partner if Jirou got wind of this. That was all that sudden urge to punch Atobe right on that stupid little mole was—really, that was…

Shishido sighed. Not being able to even fool himself really sucked.

"Well, then." It was obviously a dismissal: if that tennis bag got any more organised, Atobe was going to start having to label things with the custom-made labeller that Shishido knew for a fact he kept in his locker. "Do keep me informed on how it goes. I will be very displeased if you manage to botch this up, after I have made a concentrated effort to make things so clear for you."

Shishido rolled his eyes, and hefted his tennis bag again. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, mommy." He grinned when Atobe cast him a sharp, dagger-edged look. Gotcha. "Thanks, buchou."

"I am not buchou yet," Atobe replied, haughtily—but on his way sauntering out the door, Shishido glanced over his shoulder, and caught him smiling, too.

He leapt just about a metre in the air, though, when he turned the corner around the building—and a finger tapped his shoulder. For one awful, obscene, terrifying moment, he really, really thought that he was going to turn around and see his partner—because it would be so like Ootori to wait up, even thought Shishido'd told him not to. What would he even say? "Hey there, Choutarou, after some consultation with the only other guy I've ever kissed, I guess I'm straight. But apparently, I kinda want to be gay with you?"

Maybe he was going to need a couple of days to go over this in his head, after all.

Except it was Kabaji was looking down at him, unblinking, Jirou draped like a jacket over his shoulder, and Shishido started breathing again. "Oh. Hey. Kabaji." He ducked down his head. "Um. Thanks, okay?" He was really kind of glad that there hadn't been a witness to that little locker-room disaster—he hadn't expected Atobe to just come out with Ootori's name like that. And just how he'd known … no, Shishido had enough on his mind.

"Usu," Kabaji agreed, blandly. Shishido half-smiled—the big guy really wasn't so bad after all. He didn't know why anyone would agree to be Atobe's portable walking wall, but if there had to be one…

Then Kabaji cleared his throat, once—like he wasn't used to doing it—and added just about the most that Shishido'd ever heard him say, in a deep, hoarse rumble of a voice. "Ootori-kun." Shishido cocked his head. What about Ootori? Was the idiot waiting for Shishido somewhere after all? "He came to talk to Atobe-san yesterday."

His underclassman didn't wait for a response—he wasn't going to get one, Shishido was too busy gaping at him to say much of anything—before tapping on the clubroom door with one big hand, and heading in.

If anyone wondered why Shishido was leaning against the outer wall of the clubhouse, laughing hard enough that he was slowly sliding down it, no-one said anything. He had to admit—Atobe had gotten him. He'd gotten him good. He'd seriously, seriously looked up to him, for just a minute there.

"'Because I am Atobe Keigo,' my ass!"

Start: April 30, 2007
End: May 01, 2007

Ahhh, for the silliness. Ahhh, for writing more spastic silliness on the day of my neuro exam. -laugh- I actually really wrestled with this darned thing—I guess I'm more out of practice than I thought I was. -sheepish- Thank you so much, Missitar, dear, for so gently and generously betaing this! I don't know if I'd ever have put it out, otherwise.

The proverb 猫に小判 (Neko ni koban) actually means 'to throw gold coins to cats.' The koban was an old unit of Japanese currency—an oval-shaped gold coin. The proverb, as you can guess, means much the same as the English 'like giving pearls to pigs…' but to me, it sounds somewhat less insulting.